EASTER/PASSOVER 2021

March 31, 2021—Washington, D.C. Responding to bitter invective launched by the America First party, formed after the 2018 midterm elections, Adam Schiff reassured the nation that the White House’s annual Easter Egg hunt will be held this Sunday. “That I’m Jewish and just hosted a family Passover Seder in the White House should not and will not alter a beautiful tradition,” said the 47th president.

During his campaign, President Schiff pledged that being the first Jewish president would not affect his conduct in office “beyond holding to the high moral principles on which I was raised.”

Former president Mike Pence, interviewed on CNN, disavowed America First claims that the annual White House Easter egg hunt would be canceled or that President Schiff would not attend. Mr. Pence, whose 25-month presidency was marked by an inability to move forward initiatives first proposed by his predecessor Donald Trump—including health care, tax reform and infrastructure—has kept a low media profile.

However, he stated, “It’s my duty, especially after last November’s stinging defeat, to speak out against the hateful rhetoric with which a small percentage of Americans assaulted President Schiff during and after the campaign.”

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, himself Jewish, was “gratified that Mr. Pence stood up to this kind of anti-Semitic hatred that dishonors our country.” Blitzer sought an interview with former president Trump. A spokesperson responded that Mr. Trump “was busy.”

Since resigning in December 2018 after Democrats won majorities in both the House and Senate, Mr. Trump has spent almost all his time at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. His wife Melania visits from New York one weekend a month. Mr. Trump is only the second president in American history to resign his office. Richard Nixon did so on August 9, 1974.

In late-April 2018, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington), current House minority leader, spoke out that Mr. Trump’s presidency was untenable following the White House’s failure to respond when Russia annexed East Ukraine. Holding fast, Mr. Trump proposed no U.S. response in early June when Russian agents fomented demonstrations in Latvia and Lithuania leading to the establishment over the summer of pro-Russian governments pledged to withdraw from NATO. “Why does NATO need those guys?” he asked.

Mr. Trump’s resignation proved inevitable when in mid-November, “Classic Republicans” insisted that the nation be spared further congressional inquiry and embarrassment. They responded to the joint revelation of a “smoking gun” by then-Representative Schiff (D-California) and then-Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), who complemented Mr. Schiff’s winning ticket. Both played critical roles in confidential House and Senate reviews of Mr. Trump’s tax returns.

The Justice Department ordered Mr. Trump’s returns made available to Congress in August following media revelations that for over a decade, close associates of Russian president Vladimir Putin made major investments in, and loans to, various Trump companies.

Critics also noted that Mr. Trump wasted more than a billion dollars on the design phase of an unbuilt wall on the Mexican border. A pre-Thanksgiving Gallup poll placed Mr. Trump’s approval rating at eleven percent.

“Easter, like Passover, offers people hope for the future,” said President Schiff. “The United States is beginning a new day. It’s better that we hide colorful eggs children can discover on the White House lawn than bury truth in the Oval Office.”

Reality (absolutely): You can read the first two chapters of my new novel The Odd Plight of Adonis Licht on this website. I’ll host a celebration on Sunday, April 30, selling and autographing softcover books. Can’t be there? Go to Amazon for a copy in softcover or digital format.

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SQUEEGEE MAN

I have a confession. While it’s hard to reveal the truth about ourselves, holding things in just builds pressure and invites a self-defeating explosion. So, I’m going to lay myself bare.

I have a thing for shower squeegees.

Please, don’t let your imagination run wild. There’s nothing unwholesome here. It’s just that San Francisco’s water leaves mineral deposits on tile and glass. I need a squeegee to wipe down—the tile and glass, not me. (Disclosure: It takes me longer to clean the shower than myself.)

Okay, I could ignore my standards and view shower squeegees as merely utilitarian implements. But I want my shower clean. For that, you need the right squeegee. And here’s something that may defy political correctness: not all squeegees are created equal.

I’ve had great squeegees. I’ve had lame ones. The great ones, which are hard to find, share a few common traits. The unit is wide but not too wide, so you can clear water from those narrower areas of tile or glass while your progress remains swift. The blade—don’t overlook the corners—is firm but not too firm, so water flows right down the wall or door with a single wipe. Too firm? You can’t get a good seal. Too loose? Although you squeegee the same area over and over, water remains to taunt you.

My first squeegee, purchased after our bathroom was redone years ago, might have been the best. I think I bought it at Bed Bath & Beyond. Naturally, the model was discontinued. In fact, all good squeegee models get discontinued. It seems that manufacturers and retailers just can’t leave a good thing alone. New models always seem to be inferior. When you’re fortunate to discover a squeegee that does a reasonable job, you rush back to the store to stock up. You find them discontinued, too. Shop online? You need a squeegee in your hands to make that important a purchase.

Sometimes, a bad squeegee turns out to be a good one if in a completely unexpected way. A few years back, I bought one with a curved, supple blade figuring it would get a good grip on those shower walls. It didn’t. Then I had a thought. Maybe it would do a better job on my car’s windows than traditional automotive squeegees. It did! Whenever I need to clear my car’s windows before driving off, this squeegee makes the task virtually effort-free. I liked it so much, I bought one for Carolyn. Would I let someone borrow it? Fuhgeddaboudit.

We all have our foibles. Some, like the constant tweeting of a president of a major nation, can be foolish if not injurious to the commonweal. Fortunately, others—like mine—are quite innocuous. I rarely find myself in a store that sells bath products, but when I do I always check out the squeegees. If one looks like it will do the job, I buy it and eventually put it to the test. If it performs up to my demanding expectations, I go back for more. But of course, the store will have sold out, and I’ll be lucky to find a new model worth the investment.

Wow, I feel so much better for having shared this!

Now for another foible: I write fiction. Read the first two chapters of my new novel The Odd Plight of Adonis Licht on this website. I’ll host a celebration on Sunday, April 30, selling and autographing softcover books. Can’t be there? Go to Amazon for a copy in softcover or digital format.

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RACISM REVERSED

The recent presidential campaign and Donald Trump’s victory spurred new conversations about racism. Ironically, while America has made great progress, unexpected forms of racism have been cropping up.

White racism, of course, hasn’t disappeared. A week ago, Rep. Steve King (R.-Iowa) represented it by tweeting in support of far-right Dutch prime ministerial candidate Geert Wilders: “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” (Wilders’ party finished second on Wednesday with 20 of 120 parliamentary seats.) King believes non-whites can make no contribution to Holland. This isn’t new for King. In July 2016, he asked on MSNBC, “Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?” Last Tuesday, King predicted, “Hispanics and the blacks will be fighting each other” before white Christians become a minority in America in about thirty years.

Western European and American civilizations have accomplished much. We can be proud of this heritage. But humanity being what it is, they also gave the world the Inquisition, colonialism, Hitler and nuclear weapons. Slavery formed a backbone of American economics for centuries. Jim Crow followed for another hundred years. Meanwhile, major civilizations flourished elsewhere. They, too, committed atrocities.

Our faults acknowledged, a great many Americans believe that anyone of any genetic or cultural background can share our nation’s values and enrich our society. So many native-born people and immigrants have. Yet a new group is under attacked.

In some circles, it’s fashionable to condemn white Americans as racist. Not some whites. All. “Progressive” quarters speak of “white privilege.” Yes, whites often have it easier in a society not yet free of racism, overt or subtle. But the concept of “white privilege” is mean-spirited and distorting. It makes “white” or “Caucasian” an epithet in the way anti-Semites make an epithet of “Jew.”

This week, I discovered another variation of anti-white sentiment on a Facebook post. It’s called “white fragility.” In a 2015 article, a (white) woman named Robin DiAngelo, who holds a Ph.D. in multicultural education, told Michigan Radio, “Racism comes out of our pores as white people. It’s the way that we are.” Given that condition, DiAngelo coined the term “white fragility”—whites simply can’t handle the fact that they are racists.

Must genetics or upbringing condemn every white American? In reality, white Americans hold varying views about race and “the other.” So too, individuals in all racial groups hold varying beliefs—including racist attitudes—about people who are different. The problem: If all whites can be tarred with the same brush, white racists and anti-Semites logically can continue spewing foul stereotypes of all other groups.

Racial progress isn’t swift as we’d like, but America will move forward despite those on the far left who, like many on the far right, see genetics as all. In fact, a recent Gallup poll showed that 84 percent of whites approve of white-black marriage. That strikes me not as white fragility but as white flexibility.

It also gives me hope that we might—eventually—realize Martin Luther King’s dream that people will be judged on the content of their character rather than on the color of their skin. That is, if the politics of some Americans’ doesn’t devolve into yet another form of racism.

Now for a purely self-serving word: Read the first two chapters of my new novel The Odd Plight of Adonis Licht on this website. I’ll host a celebration at the end of April, selling and autographing softcover books. Can’t be there? Go to Amazon for a copy in softcover or digital format.

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MUNCH’S “SCREAM” AND SARAH SILVERMAN

Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” is an icon of modern art. A genderless person resembling a space alien with round eyes and hands on cheeks projects a scream from a gaping mouth. Many see angst. I see something else.

You may have witnessed the same expression at a comedy show. Great humor move us because it comes from the truth about ourselves, families and fantasies we usually keep bottled up. Pop the cork, and we laugh. Howl. Scream.

The anonymous character in “The Scream” isn’t walking on a bridge harboring suicidal thoughts triggered by life’s meaningless. Rather, the Screamer has come from a set by the comedian Sarah Silverman. Munch’s character is screaming and laughing at the same time.

Have you ever laughed when you “shouldn’t?” We all have! Take this Silverman joke that appeared in CNN’s series, “The History of Comedy.” And be forewarned. This is adult stuff.

Silverman mentions the time she was licking jelly off her boyfriend’s penis. Yes, that’s what she says. The punchline? As she’s scarfing up jelly, she thinks, “I can’t believe I’m turning into my mother.”

The audience howls. I howl. And for good reason. From the get-go, our brains make important connections. Silverman reminds us that we’re adults. We do “dirty” things and have “dirty” fantasies. That goes for everyone. Why? Because we’re all normal. In fact, we’re so normal that our parents probably do/did similar things. This leaves us shocked. Uncomfortable. But it presents the truth: at some time in adulthood, we realize that our parents are/were also adults like us. We can’t help turning into our parents, ultimately recognizing that our likes, dislikes and foibles are simply human—as are theirs.

Silverman’s joke is deadly serious. In reminding us that we become just like our parents, she destroys the naïve image we hold of ourselves as better than them, their generation and all humanity who preceded us. Looking squarely into the mirror, we can no longer lie. With a measure of pain and possibly relief, we shed self-deception and acknowledge that, like our parents and everyone else, we’re fragile and flawed.

Discovery of our blemished humanity then presents us with a choice. We can scream, as Munch’s subject does—or appears to do. Or we can laugh, which on canvas may be taken for a scream. We can embrace humor to find our balance in a world as brittle as we are. Granted, laughter may not solve all our problems. But by throwing light on dark places, laughter offers us healthy release to cope and keep our balance.

I recently spoke with a friend who is an oncologist. He often takes a humorous approach with patients confronting their imminent mortality. He knows he can’t always help them avoid onrushing death, but he can help them face it with more courage, perspective and grace. I used that approach in my novel The Boy Walker.

Today’s America finds itself in difficult, even terrifying political circumstances. Activism is called for. But I propose that comedy also plays a key role in our response. If we fail to see the humor in a president with hair rivaling that of the three clowns on “The Simpsons”—Krusty, Sideshow Bob and Sideshow Mel—we won’t take him seriously enough. And put him in his place.

You can take very seriously my new novel The Odd Plight of Adonis Licht. I’ll host a launch party at the end of April, selling and autographing softcover books. Stay tuned for details.

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SWEDEN CLARIFIED

Two weeks ago, President Trump cited a terrorist attack in Sweden. No such attack took place. Mr. Trump backtracked, saying he’d referred to a report on Fox News. Trump opponents leaped on the issue. But there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

Sweden has undergone major changes since admitting large numbers of refugees. That includes growing anti-Semitism, partly from right-wing ethnic Swedes but mostly from Muslim immigrants. In April 2015, I wrote two posts on the issue, “Should the Jews Leave Europe?” I asked my Swedish-Jewish friend for an update. He emailed this (slightly edited for length):

“It’s not that Sweden is a more dangerous country to live in than any other country (Sweden is probably more safe). However, I do think Sweden is becoming more similar to other countries (like the US) with segregation, “bad neighborhoods,” gang violence, etc. When I grew up in the 80s there were very few neighborhoods like that, now there’s a lot. I think our country is moving in the wrong direction in many respects.

“The welfare state (which we are all very proud of) is only sustainable if there is a low unemployment rate and if the majority of the people feel like they are a part of society. That’s not the case right now in several neighborhoods and cities throughout the country. One reason is that we have had a large influx of immigrants over a short period of time (largest number of immigrants per capita in the EU), many of whom have very low education, don’t speak the language, etc. We have relatively few “easy jobs” to offer, partly due to the fact that we have very strong unions and high thresholds to the labor market. This creates parallel societies which is not good for a country. I think the anti-Semitism is the same as before, although there haven’t been any new attacks lately (thank God).”

What about immigration to the United States? We should continue taking in immigrants, including refugees. Much larger than Sweden and far more heterogeneous, we do a good job of turning immigrants into Americans. But it’s time for a rational discussion of immigration policy. The m idle ground: We can fulfill our moral obligation to take in some refugees while retaining the right to choose what kind of immigrants we want and how many.

Middle-ground positions remain unpopular in this political era of far-left battling far-right. Last Sunday, speakers at an “Empty Chair” town hall meeting in East Oakland condemned California Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, as too centrist and thus unable to oppose President Trump. Nonsense. Swinging to the far left rather than seeking common ground only further polarizes the nation. Harmful Trump initiatives should be opposed without question. But common sense should prevail over ideology.

Exodus 23:3 offers the commandment to not favor the rich in legal matters, “…nor shall you show deference to the poor man in his dispute.” Every deliberation should look at the facts and lead to an objective solution. Analyzing Sweden’s challenges and our own regarding immigration obligates us to step back, take a breath and view the situation as it is, for good and ill. Only then can we arrive at policies that are both practical and humane—and that people of good will can support.

One highly partisan opinion: You’ll enjoy my new novel The Odd Plight of Adonis Licht coming soon.

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THE PERILS OF BELIEF

A famous dictum, espoused by Aeschylus and repeated by former U.S. senator Hiram Johnson (California), states that the first casualty of war is truth. In our time, social media, faux news organizations and politicians have rendered truth a severe casualty. They’ve bombarded it—even shredded it—with belief. Even basketball stars have joined their ranks.

Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers stated that the earth is flat. “This is not even a conspiracy theory,” he said, although an unknown “they” want us to believe that the earth is round. The Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green gave his own take, surmising that the earth could be flat. “I don’t know,” he said, desiring to appear reasonable. “I haven’t done enough research.”

Research? Gazing out the window of an airplane at 35,000 feet on a clear day—NBA players don’t always fly at night—reveals the earth’s curvature. Or does that mean the earth is merely bent?

Don’t look just to some athletes, though. Donald Trump claimed his inauguration crowd was the biggest ever. Photographs and other evidence disproved that. White House press secretary Sean Spicer replied, “That’s what the president believes.” Will presidential beliefs—heedless of fact—commit the United States to domestic and international policies ranging from reckless to disastrous?

Often, truth is a click or two away. Many people refuse to go there. A widely circulating email purportedly by Warren Buffet claims that members of Congress receive their salary for life. FactCheck.org reviewed these claims two years ago. Its conclusion: false. Members of the House and Senate qualify for retirement benefits after five years and only for a portion of their salaries, which max out at 80 percent after virtually a lifetime in Washington.

Belief has a cousin called deception. Making the rounds of Facebook is a video from NumbersUSA demonstrating that U.S. immigration policy cannot solve global poverty. Roy Beck, the organization’s founder/president, uses gumballs in glass containers to colorfully demonstrate that America’s taking in one million of the poorest of the poor each year will not put a dent in the problem.

Beck is right. Poverty must be solved locally. However, the video represents a political shell game. U.S. immigration policy has never been about alleviating global poverty. We accept people who can contribute to our economy along with refugees. We limit their numbers, which is our right and obligation. But this video imitates a magician drawing attention to one hand while the other prepares to pull a coin from your ear. It can lead many Americans to want to shut off immigration entirely or support draconian measures for reasons having nothing to do with the reality of American immigration policy.

I have no problem with belief in the religious sense. I demonstrate that each Friday night in synagogue. Faith enables individuals and communities to discover and reinforce meaning in their lives and connect to something greater if not entirely knowable, even as science dramatically increases our knowledge base.

Still, faith must co-exist with reason, not replace it. In secular matters, belief offers a poor substitute for rational analysis based on facts. And facts do exist. I pray that we demonstrate the wisdom to know when each approach is appropriate, particularly when individuals explore cyberspace and Washington makes decisions involving the economy, human rights and geopolitical policy.

Want to take something on faith alone? Believe that you’ll enjoy my new novel The Odd Plight of Adonis Licht, available soon.

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NORMAL VS. USUAL

Recently, I asked a doctor if a small matter was normal. He answered, “You mean, is it usual?” Regrettable remarks by a multi-class boxing champion bring that comment into focus.

I reference Monday’s comment by Manny Pacquiao, also a senator in the Philippines. He spoke against proposed legislation protecting transgender Filipinos: “Even in the Bible, we read that the woman should wear women’s [clothing]; and the man, for men’s wear. That’s what I believe.” One year ago, Nike ended its relationship with Pacquiao after he called gays “worse than animals.” He apologized.

Pacquiao’s quoting the Torah puzzles me. Christian conservatives habitually cite such commandments as, “A woman must not put on man’s apparel, nor shall a man wear women’s clothing” (Deuteronomy 22:5). Yet this is not one of the Ten Commandments, which Christians revere. It’s one of 603 other mitzvot given the Israelites at Sinai. Christians believe them obsolete because Jesus established a new covenant with humanity.

Does Pacquiao’s defending one of those 603 other mitzvot give his position credence? Leviticus 11:7-8 forbids eating swine. Other passages forbid eating shellfish. (For the record, I don’t eat pork or shellfish.) These commandments are addressed to Jews. Does Pacquiao follow them? Is he a closet Jew?

I’m not writing to beat up (figuratively) Manny Pacquiao. Rather, I want to emphasize that many mitzvot emphasize separation. This includes keeping the seventh day, Shabbat (I do but not to Orthodox standards) and forbidding the wearing of clothing made of both wool and flax—animal and vegetable fibers (easy to follow). Often, the mitzvot don’t mesh with twenty-first century modernity.

For example, many people believe that gender identity comes in only two types, male and female. And that sexual preference consists of only one type, heterosexual. They see this as normal. But science and observation—I’m the father of a transgender son (born a female), a gay son and a straight son—demonstrate that gender identity and sexual preference flow along a spectrum.

My trans son isn’t acting out or deliberately flaunting society’s norms. He has long identified as male and felt uncomfortable as a female. I wish Carolyn and I picked up the cues earlier in his life, but the issue was unexpected and public knowledge scarce. Over the years, I’ve learned that society inflicts considerable and unjustifiable pain when it dictates how people must identify their gender and sexual preference—demands that nullify the very soul of an individual.

Reality is, straight male and straight female identities aren’t normal. They’re usual. The majority is straight—or seems so. To what degree is an individual matter. Still, the world contains a sizable LGBTQI community. Its members may not be usual, but they’re normal. Moreover, they are all human beings who deserve respect.

If Manny Pacquiao wants to quote Torah, he might study Genesis 1:27. “And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” The Sages of the Talmud propose that Adam was a hermaphrodite. Separation provided Eve. The discussion is complicated but fascinating.

Whatever position you take on this Torah verse, it makes clear one critical idea: all human beings are created in the image of God.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too. And if you feel it’s more appropriate, remember Jesus’ words: “Do unto others…”

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TRUMP THE UNITER

Many Americans view Donald Trump’s presidency as off to a rocky start. Yesterday’s Gallup’s daily poll showed Trump with a 43 percent approval rating, quite low for a president two weeks into the job. But one day, if courage overtakes ideology, historians may see Mr. Trump as having rescued America from political stagnation.

Last June, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called Mr. Trump’s comments about federal judge Gonzalo Curiel, a Mexican-American born in Indiana, “racist.” Still, he supported, if nominally, the Trump candidacy. On January 31, however, Ryan acknowledged the ineptitude of the implementation of Trump’s immigration ban. But Ryan withheld comment on Trump’s recent statement that the U.S. murder rate was the highest in 45 years. FBI statistics show the murder rate just off its lowest point. Will Paul Ryan ever take a stand?

Last Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vehemently disagreed with Trump’s comparing the United States with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, as did Arizona senator John McCain. As to Trump’s calling federal Judge James Robart a “so-called judge” because Robart issued a stay of the “Muslim ban,” McConnell said, “I think it’s best not to single out judges for criticism.”

Yet two days ago, McConnell said of congressional Republicans, “I think there is a high level of satisfaction with the new administration. Our members are not obsessed with the daily tweets, but are looking at the results.” Note that McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, former labor secretary under George W. Bush, serves as Trump’s secretary of transportation. Will McConnell ever draw a line in the political sand?

Some Americans with conservative credentials have been more forthcoming. Michael Mullen, retired navy admiral and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, wrote in the New York Times about Trump’s adding Steve Bannon to the National Security Council: “Having Mr. Bannon as a voting member of the principals committee will have a negative influence on what is supposed to be candid, nonpartisan deliberation.”

John Yoo, White House legal counsel under Bush and a defender of torture, wrote in the Times: “Faced with President Trump’s executive orders suspending immigration from several Muslim nations and ordering the building of a border wall… even Alexander Hamilton, our nation’s most ardent proponent of executive power, would be worried by now.”

And last Wednesday, Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, called Trump’s remarks about Judge Robart “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”

Bernie Sanders sums up the situation: “I would hope that people like Sen. McConnell and other Republicans have the courage to stand up to Trump’s movement toward authoritarianism. We’re a democracy, not a one-man show… We’re not a business run by Mr. Trump.”

Whether Republicans (and in other situations, far-left Democrats) will put the nation above personal political concerns remains to be seen. But it’s not far-fetched to believe that Mr. Trump will, in a fit of pique or hubris, step over Constitutional boundaries. In response, Republicans and Democrats in Congress may feel compelled to reach across the aisle and demonstrate a renewed sense of common purpose.

Congress and all Americans have the power to put aside partisanship, listen to each other and embrace a truly United States of America. The willingness to exercise that power will determine the nation’s fate.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too. And have faith in America. People of good will can, even if late, find common ground.

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BRAIN SURGERY AND NATIONAL SECURITY

I retired from advertising several years ago and devote the bulk of my time to writing fiction. But I couldn’t have dreamed of the phone call I received from a major hospital’s president asking me to come to work for big money and in a most unexpected way.

“We’d like you to chair our committee overseeing our department of neurosurgery,” said the President. “I’m flattered,” I said, “but I was an advertising copywriter by trade. Wouldn’t Dr. Ben Carson be better suited?” The President reminded me that Dr. Carson is unavailable since he’s been nominated as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in Washington. “Besides,” he said, “I want you!”

“Let me think about this and call you back,” I said. “Just remember,” said the President,” I know more than the doctors about what makes brain surgery effective—and profitable.” After we hung up, I gave the matter considerable thought. I realized that the President might be on to something.

Admittedly, I’ve never been a doctor. Or a nurse. Or a medical technician. Or an orderly. But I had the common people’s association with healthcare that would offer new and vital perspectives on matters I knew nothing about—like putting people to sleep, opening skulls, cutting up brains, sticking electrical thingies into gray matter, zapping cells with ray guns, post-op nursing stuff and getting people back on their feet—or at least on their tushes.

For example, I see my doctor for annual checkups. Before I do, I get lab tests. I’ve even had a few minor surgeries. One resulted in my spending a night in a hospital. Encouraged, I thought more deeply. I’ve taken people to the hospital and picked them up. I’ve also visited family and friends in hospitals. That includes holding my father’s hand as he lay dying. I even had a friend who wanted to become a neurosurgeon. I think he did. After college, we lost touch.

I also understand healthcare’s financial side. Long ago, I had employer health insurance. After I started freelancing, I paid for a series of health plans right out of my pocket. I also paid for some procedures my plan’s deductible wouldn’t cover. I have Medicare now.

Still, when I called back I was hesitant. “I suppose I have a pretty good background in healthcare for a guy whose college major was English,” I said. “But I’m still on the fence, neurosurgery being kind of like rocket science without all that fuel that goes boom and spews flames on the launch pad.”

The President countered, “Think about this. Donald Trump recently named Steve Bannon to the National Security Council and eliminated from the NSC the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence. Since the National Security Council deals in matters of utmost importance to our country’s security and the risks faced by our military personnel, doesn’t that tell you something?”

I took a beat pause, since in college I minored in theater and pride myself on my timing. “It does,” I said.

The President chuckled then said, “So you’ll chair our neurosurgery committee?”

“Looking at the example you just gave,” I said, “I can’t help but give you a clear, unequivocal answer. Hell no!

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too. And keep asking yourself: When is thinking out of the box simply not thinking at all?

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MY ALTERNATIVE FACTS

What’s all the fuss about President Trump calling his inauguration crowd the largest ever? And why bother with photos comparing Mr. Trump’s crowd with those of former president Barack Obama? Last Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” presidential counselor Kelleyanne Conway set us all straight. There are alternative facts. I find that comforting.

Alternative facts get down to ultimate truth. For me, that’s particularly important. My family and friends only think they know me. My alternative facts reveal someone else:

More people attended my bar-mitzvah than any of the fifty Super Bowls. The value of my gifts exceeded the combined ticket revenue and beer sales of last year’s game… When I attended Infantry Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning back in 1966-67, General William Westmoreland, commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, called me weekly for consultation.

My hair is so beautiful my stylist tips me. So other men won’t get jealous, I die it gray… I’ve won more literary prizes than Meryl Streep has acting awards… My manhood is so large, New York’s American Museum of Natural History requested that it be exhibited there (after my death)—if they can find a room large enough… The Nobel Prize committee intends to honor me in three categories they plan to create just for me.

I not only coached the post basketball team at Fort Sam Houston, I played. In a twenty-point exhibition ass-kicking of the NBA’s New York Knicks, I held Hall of Famer Walt Frazier scoreless… When Carolyn and I visit London, we stay at Buckingham Palace. Queen Elizabeth thanks us for giving two weeks’ notice so she can find alternative accommodations… Three of the Bible’s most compelling characters were modeled after me.

My Koenigsegg CCXR Trevita is the world’s most expensive automobile. After a pigeon left a white spot on its hood, I donated my first to charity and had another made… In Churchill, Canada, I didn’t just feed wild polar bears out of my hand. I rode them… I once toured with the Rolling Stones, singing side by side with Mick Jagger. Calls rang out from adoring crowds: “Who’s that guy with David?”

I have more Olympic medals than last year’s publication totals of romance/erotica novels… My home is so palatial I have views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Las Vegas Strip… The New York Times’ Sunday magazine plans a book-length profile of me—unless the New Yorker wins its Supreme Court case claiming exclusive rights to my story… I star in the world’s top-rated video game. No one plays. They just stare awestruck at the screen.

Dos Equis beer based its advertising campaign, “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” on my life. For credibility’s sake, they underplayed everything… The President of India greeted Carolyn and me when we arrived last October. Three times I turned down his request to rename the capital, New Delhi, Davidpur… Cosmopolitan magazine named me to their “Sexiest Men in the World” list—not just number one but also spots two through ten.

There’s more to a person than meets the eye, an organ prone to repeated failure. When we want the truth plain and simple, all we need is alternative facts. Which make it easy to live in an alternative reality.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. And please don’t support my running for president in 2020. The office would be a demotion.

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