Archive for the ‘AMERICAN LIFE’ Category

WARRIORS AND WARRIORS

I have nothing against athletes making upwards of thirty million dollars a year—or more. The NBA champion Golden State Warriors’ payroll (equivalent to 15 full-season players) came to $101 million. I don’t mind fans idolizing players. But I’m uncomfortable when people see athletes as heroes, and especially when athletes call each other “warriors.” Where does this leave the men and women in America’s armed forces?

Let’s start with money. A marginal NBA player can put away serious cash towards his future. Next year, the minimum salary for rookies (first-year players) will be $815,000. An Army staff sergeant (E6) with 10 or 11 years of service makes $41,000. In our voluntary military, pay is better than it used to be. In 1966, I made $94 a month during basic and advanced infantry training. When I entered officer candidate school at Fort Benning, my E5 pay shot up to $200 a month.

NBA players fly on chartered jets with plentiful food and drinks. Military personnel head to the Middle East on transports with no amenities. Buses take NBA players from hotel to arena and back. Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan leave their operating bases to go outside the wire in armored vehicles targeted by improvised explosive devices and other weapons.

NBA players stay in five-star hotels. Many of our troops in combat and combat-support areas live in shipping containers. During the Vietnam, Korean and Second World Wars, they slept in pup tents, hammocks or foxholes they dug themselves. If they got to sleep.

On the road, NBA players receive $106 a day for meals. That’s on top of their salaries. Today’s troops in the Middle East take what they can with them outside the wire and are thrilled to dine at a McDonald’s or Pizza Hut when they return to base.

After an NBA team wins a championship, it’s feted with a parade and usually—this year may prove an exception; Golden State players and coaches are not fans of the president—an invitation to the White House. Our troops return to the U.S. to be met by their families and maybe a military band. Many are rushed immediately to hospitals and VA centers.

I’m not calling on Americans to boycott the NBA or other professional sports. I enjoy sports, too. But most Americans—including all of America’s NBA players—have never served in the military. They don’t relate to the risks our troops take and the horrific personal consequences of bad government decisions, like invading Iraq. What can we do?

First, urge professional athletes, coaches, the media and fans to stop calling ballplayers warriors. Let’s save that terminology for people who train for or go into combat and dangerous combat-support roles. Second, let’s support our troops beyond wearing cammies to the ballgame or the mall, and posting photos of military and military-style weapons on Facebook as if combat is just another video game.

Today, I made another contribution to Fisher House, which helps families of military members live for a while at no cost near the hospitals which house their recuperating loved ones. Find out more at fisherhouse.org.

Let’s get real. NBA “warriors” face no risk of losing life or limb save from a freak accident. The warriors who protect us face risks daily. They too deserve love.

You can purchase THE ODD PLIGHT OF ADONIS LICHT directly from me or at Amazon. If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too.

To respond, click on “comments” to the right just below the title of this post. Then go to the response space at the bottom of the post.

 

GLOWING IN THE DARK

In my April 7 post, “What I Have and What I Don’t,” I wrote that I have prostate cancer. My urologist provided several options. To minimize side effects, I chose hormone therapy and radiation—45 precision zappings over nine weeks. I’ve begun both. Interesting changes are taking place.

In April, I took the first of six quarterly shots of Lupron to suppress my testosterone. Ordinary men may quake, but as everyone knows, I had so much testosterone that even eliminating it will not make me any less of a sex symbol than I am in my own mind. My exploits are legend. Which Carolyn translates as fantasy. But a boy can dream. Which Carolyn translates as hallucinate.

Fortunately, the decrease in testosterone has barely impacted my life. Yes, I’ve taken up needlepoint, but my mother did that, so it’s probably genetic. Besides, the (truly) legendary New York football Giants lineman Roosevelt Grier did needlepoint. He also became a successful actor. I might start knitting.

Admittedly, I experience hot flashes throughout the day. And night. It’s a great way to keep warm in winter. Is it winter yet? It is in Australia and Argentina, but it doesn’t get particularly cold there. In fact, San Francisco winters don’t get all that cold. Maybe Carolyn and I will go to New York in January if temperatures approach zero.

My radiation treatments are simple. I lie down and a huge machine revolves around me and pinpoints radiation at my tumors. The day before a treatment, I can’t eat gas-inducing foods. No spicy stuff. No beans. No raw vegetables. Carolyn helped me work out a diet for the next two months. Still, I continue to release gas at interesting moments. The technical word rhymes with fart. Wait! That is the word.

On the bright side, I glow in the dark. The other night, I got up to go to the bathroom and didn’t have to stumble around the bed. In fact, Carolyn called out that I should turn off the damn light. The bedroom was pitch dark.

The only problem with glowing is, I can’t choose a color to match, say, a shirt I’m wearing. I’ve taken up biofeedback, hoping that when the mood strikes, I can change purple to green or orange to blue. Not easy. Oh, and when I’m out at night, I attract moths.

Still, life goes on. I can work on my next novel. It may take three or four years to complete. I also can promote my new novel, The Odd Plight of Adonis Licht. I’m doing that in this post. Are you ready to buy a copy? I hope so. Not that I’m trying to guilt-trip anyone, although my friends will disagree. It’s just that I have copies left which I’d love to sell and sign. Or have Amazon sell, so I can receive a royalty on each that won’t buy coffee at Starbucks.

Look, I’m only human and therefore self-interested. So, if half the people who say, “Oh, how exciting that you have a new novel out” buy a copy, I’ll probably be featured in The New York Times. Or maybe in my synagogue’s newsletter. Either achievement would be as using my radioactive brain to glow the blue of Adonis’ eyes.

Unashamed reminder: You can purchase THE ODD PLIGHT OF ADONIS LICHT directly from me or at Amazon. If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too.

To respond, click on “comments” to the right just below the title of this post. Then go to the response space at the bottom of the post.

“Hamilton”

Finally, we got to see that hit about our history,

And all the men who, bold, told old King George

We’re out to set our nation free.

We’d seen the news, the interviews, and heard the tunes.

Now our views are: this show’s great and one to celebrate.

We had great fun at “Hamilton.”

 

We didn’t waste our shot. No, we didn’t waste our shot.

‘Cause what we got

Was song and dance within a riveting plot.

 

And, we took a backstage tour.

Repeat, we took a backstage tour.

At “Hamilton,” we know someone

Who made it even more fun.

What’s more, we stood there on the stage

The very place where George-Three raged

While Hamilton talked revolution

And the solution to building a nation

For all. Big and small.

That’s one tall order,

Keeping it real from border to border.

Oh yes, we had a backstage tour.

Ooooh. Ooooh.

 

And ooooh, we met some of the cast,

Young people from all those backgrounds,

Producing all those sweet sounds,

Representing every branch of our family tree:

You and you and you and me.

Reminding us we are family because our colors

Blend into one red, white and blue humanity.

 

We didn’t waste our shot.

No, we didn’t waste our shot.

I thought about my family tree,

A shout out to my grandparents

Sailing into New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty

Welcoming them to the land of the free.

Nothing guaranteed but the will to succeed.

 

After more than a century,

I hold on to the memory and like to think how

Lady Liberty, her torch raised high,

Her eye on all those immigrants,

Welcomes my father Morris—Moishe still—and shy of three.

She sings, her silent voice so resonant

(Born in Poland he can’t be president

But what counts is what he can be):

“Know what you’ve got here, boy. A shot here, boy.

And listen now to what I say:

Let no one take your shot away.

Big shots with small minds seeking any lame excuse

To cut our Constitution loose

And trample on the glory of those who made us great.

Don’t let them be the ones to tell your story.”

 

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s right.

We all have rights. It’s worth the fight

For freedom.

Staying silent would be dumb. We’re all Americans,

Building our nation, reinforcing its foundation,

Seeking to rise up, rise up beyond our station.

Immigrants like Sam and Kayleh, Lyon and Minnie

Came for opportunity.

Not just for them but everyone,

Away from fear and squalor, hollering for just one thing:

Their shot.

Which they got.

 

So, let’s remember sun to sun,

There something more in store than fun

When the lights go on and voices rise.

You better bet we owe a debt to

Alexander Hamilton.

 

The post will take two weeks off and resume on Friday, May 19. Meanwhile, check out the first two chapters of The Odd Plight of Adonis Licht on this website.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too.

To respond, click on “comments” to the right just below the title of this post. Then go to the response space at the bottom of the post.

WHAT I HAVE AND WHAT I DON’T

I have prostate cancer. I also have much to be thankful for. My urologist caught it early. The cancer is confined to my prostate. It’s completely curable.

I have an attentive primary-care physician and an attentive urologist. My primary, at my annual physicals, evaluated a steady rise in my PSA (prostate-specific antigen) scores. A few years ago, he referred me to my urologist. Two biopsies proved negative, but my PSA kept rising. My urologist suggested a new blood screening—the 4K test. It led to an MRI, which revealed several small growths. A guided biopsy proved positive. Radiation and hormone therapy will kill the cancer and prevent new malignancies from developing.

What I don’t have is an attitude of “Why me?” Most men develop prostate cancer if they live long enough. Most die with it, not of it. Many who do die of prostate cancer may not have had regular checkups. Their undetected cancer spread to their bones and/or organs.

What I don’t have, as well, is a loss of spirit. I’d probably feel differently if I’d been diagnosed with brain cancer, pancreatic cancer or leukemia. I’ve had family and friends who died from all the above at an early age. They suffered. I have no symptoms.

What I also don’t have is a sense of lost invincibility. Both my urologist and radiation oncologist mentioned that even with a prognosis of full recovery, many men with prostate cancer are rocked on their heels. They discover their own mortality. I’ve never thought I wouldn’t die. My grandparents died. My parents and all but one of their generation died. A cousin died of leukemia at 12. A friend was killed when the Medevac helicopter he piloted in Vietnam was shot down. A client died at 27 many years ago in a car crash on the Golden Gate Bridge. There were others.

The biblical story of Adam and Eve reminds us that death is inevitable. Denied the fruit of the Tree of Life, no one enjoys immortality. The story of their sons Cain and Abel alerts us that death may come before its time—and at our own hands.

Unfortunately, here’s something else I don’t have: faith in our government as presently constituted to help millions of Americans obtain and/or maintain the healthcare they need—the healthcare I fortunately have. Further, I don’t have faith in a president who only discovered in his first weeks in office that the issue of healthcare is complex.

Added to that, I don’t have faith in many members of Congress, who approach healthcare in purely ideological terms, eschewing compassion and compromise in the name of politics. For that matter, I don’t have faith in pharmaceutical companies who develop life-saving drugs but make it difficult or impossible for many Americans to afford them.

I won’t be updating you on my medical story, such as it is. I’ll be fine. The story that is on my mind is a new novel that will take three or four years to complete. I’ll have the time. I wish I could say the same for potentially millions of Americans whose health and very lives may be forfeit because Washington would prevent them from obtaining the healthcare coverage and medical assistance they need and deserve.

I also have a desire to be read. Check out 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.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too.

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

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.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too.

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

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.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too.

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

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.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too.

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

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.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too.  

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

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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LIFE IN THE BUBBLE

After Donald Trump won the presidency, many San Franciscans declared, “We should have seen this coming. But we live in a bubble. We didn’t know what people out there were thinking.” They were right. And they were wrong.

A bubble around San Francisco? Not all San Franciscans live in mansions and luxury condos, dine at expensive restaurants, drink fine wines and vacation overseas. San Francisco consists of many bubbles. The rich? We have them. The struggling middle and working class? The poor? They’re San Franciscans, too.

Yes, political and social attitudes in San Francisco are overwhelmingly liberal while many parts of the nation are equally conservative. As Robert Leonard wrote in the New York Times (1-5-16), people in rural areas have a different worldview than those who live in big cities and wealthy suburbs. He quotes Baptist minister and former U.S. congressman J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, “The difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans believe people are fundamentally bad, while Democrats see people as fundamentally good.”

Different ways of seeing the world, often formed by the Christian belief in original sin, can be found in what coastal Americans often term “flyover country.” Those of us who’ve gotten to know conservative parts of America—for me: Western New York, Georgia a bit and Texas a lot—understand that Americans live under a variety of conditions and hold a variety of views, often complex. California coastal “elites” tend not to relate to the desolation (and rays of hope) I’ve seen in Detroit and the desolation (without apparent hope) I’ve seen in Gary, Indiana and much of Baltimore. But here is where those beating themselves up for living in a bubble go wrong.

Out-of-work coal miners in West Virginia, struggling farmers in Iowa and low-paid service workers in Arizona all live in their own bubbles. They see life through the lenses of their upbringing, religion, cultural background, education and economic condition. Life is real there. Life is real here. How good or bad remains subject to individual interpretation.

In his farewell address, Barack Obama asked Americans to get out of their bubbles. If he meant that we should no longer live in communities with those whose backgrounds and interests we share, he got it wrong. People often feel most comfortable with others like themselves. But I don’t think that was Obama’s intention. I believe he asked Americans to expand our horizons, talk to each other across red and blue lines, and listen.

Despite our differences, our “civil religion”—the idea that every American should play by the rules and get a fair shake in return—can unite us. It has in the past when we’ve faced major challenges. Yes, religion and ethnicity often divide us. Only the naïve think that this nation is perfect. But we often find common ground in not just in the tenets of our Constitution but in ordinary things: sports teams, music, Mother’s Day flowers, July Fourth barbecues, Thanksgiving dinner, and visits to national parks and urban tourist attractions.

America is a nation of numerous bubbles. We’re not all the same. We never have been. We shouldn’t be. But if we can peer through our bubbles, respect legitimate differences and open ourselves to all that binds us, the United States will do just fine.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too. And may we respond to another challenging time with hope rather than fear, truth rather than falsehood, love rather than hate.

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