Archive for the ‘AMERICAN LIFE’ Category

CHARLOTTESVILLE

You know the old saying, “There are two sides to every story.” Donald Trump repeated that last Tuesday. Regrettably, such clichéd adages lend themselves to ignoring horrible injustices.

Last weekend, white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the city’s proposed removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Some carried Nazi flags and wore Ku Klux Klan regalia. Counter-protestors rallied. Tempers grew hot. Violence ensued. One man drove a car into a crowd of counter-protestors and killed a 32-year-old woman.

Trump bemoaned the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides—on many sides.” Is it bigotry to oppose the belief that non-white, non-Christians should be classified as second-rate citizens or sub-human? Charlottesville does not represent opposing but legitimate principles.

Not until Monday did Trump condemn white supremacy and hate groups by name—just as his American Manufacturing Council began to unravel in disgust. On Tuesday, he circled back and again defended the pro-statue protestors. “There are good people on both sides,” Trump said.

Two sides to every story? I once served as a juror on two criminal trials—a shooting and a stabbing—and a civil trial—a suit against a supermarket chain. These properly represented two sides to each story because jurors were mandated to decide the outcome based on facts. At no time did a judge suggest that any party deserved to be found guilty or innocent, or liable or not at fault, because of who or what they were.

In the criminal trials, the District Attorney’s office was required to make a case against the defendants’ actions, not their characters. In the civil case, the plaintiff’s attorney had to demonstrate wrongdoing by the company, not present an anti-corporate screed. The criminal trials led to convictions. The civil case was dismissed. The juries, after lengthy deliberation, based their decisions on the evidence. The characters and beliefs of all parties played no role in those decisions.

Donald Trump abhors facts. His statement about bigotry on both sides offered legitimacy to the grievances of neo-Nazis against Jews because Jews are, well, Jews. Likewise, he offered white supremacists of all stripes a measure of understanding. In doing so, he implied there must be a measure of truth behind their hatred of African Americans, East Asians, Latinos, South Asians—and Jews.

One could extend this kind of thinking to Hitler. Yes, he ordered the killing of six million Jews and millions of others. But he must have had his reasons. Should we thus tolerate statues of Hitler? By Trump’s logic later in the week, yes. After all, Hitler was a historical figure.

For centuries, American whites enslaved blacks. Weren’t slave owners simply capitalists promoting, like any good conservative, the South’s agricultural economy? Therefore, shouldn’t we maintain statues of Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis as icons of a bygone, if misguided, culture? Trump also says yes to that.

Each week, I evaluate topics about which to write. With disturbing frequency, Donald Trump preempts them. I could ignore him. But how in good conscience can anyone overlook the moral chaos continually fomented by the White House? If Mr. Trump truly wishes to drain the swamp in Washington, he can resign and go back to flushing gold-plated toilets in Trump Tower.

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GONG DAY

On June 9, I wrote “Glowing in the Dark” about my treatment for prostate cancer, highlighted by 45 radiation sessions over nine weeks. Two days ago, my final zapping took place. To celebrate, I banged the gong at the cancer center. I’m glowing brighter than ever.

During radiation treatments, I never experienced pain or discomfort. But every weekday, I drove to the Golden Gate Cancer Center on Townsend Street near AT&T Park. A 10:20 am time slot assured relatively light traffic. Free valet parking saved time. Leaving home to returning totaled 90 minutes.

I experienced some fatigue and “suffered” dietary restrictions. But I continued to walk four to seven miles a day, work on my new novel and marvel at the bizarre White House.

As the magic moment neared, “the Beast”—the radiation machine—swung its final 360-degree arc around my body, destroying cancer cells’ ability to reproduce. My PSA (prostate-specific antigen) level has plummeted from 10-plus prior to treatment to 0.2. Since I still have a prostate, it can’t be zero.

As to the gong: When a patient completes his treatments, he gets to bang a gong near the patient lounge, which includes a large-screen TV and pool table. I took advantage of both, though I’m not sure I now shoot pool any better. (I shot a lot of pool as an undergraduate—badly; that’s another story.)

Six weeks ago, I watched a patient bang the gong. At seventy-three—I celebrated my birthday in July—I’ve learned patience. I took each zapping one at a time while creating milestones to enhance my sense of progress.

Then came my turn. The gong rang true, its tone rich and encouraging. Life is finite, but medical science offers many ways to extend it so that, with some luck, our elder years can be full and rewarding. Mine continue to be just that. If you’re a man middle-aged or older, I paraphrase the Scots poet John Donne: “Never send to know for whom the gong rings. It rings for me—and thee.”

Gong Day included more. Carolyn came down to the center. Our oldest son Seth flew in from Baton Rouge to join us.  In a few weeks, he begins a graduate program in digital arts at Louisiana State University. We have two children—Yosi being the other—living in the South. Perlsteins can’t seem to stay put. We also had dinner with Aaron and our son-in-law Jeremy.

The center’s physicians, technicians and admins were great. In thanks, I brought them pastries from the House of Bagels on Geary Boulevard and a card from Trader Joe’s. Carolyn insists that TJ’s offers the best cards for all occasions. This one worked well.

Concluding Gong Day, Carolyn, Seth and I enjoyed brunch at Town’s End Restaurant & Bakery, 2 Townsend at the Embarcadero—great food and great value. (Yes, this is a well-deserved plug for our friends David and Mary Sperber.) Then Yosi called.

What’s next? Four more testosterone-eliminating hormone shots. After the first two, I find myself doing a good deal of laundry, bed making and kitchen cleanup. Of course, without treatment and over time, I’d be incapable of doing those or any other things. So, I enjoy every moment. And I still hear that gong.

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ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT

Several weeks ago, I realized why the president of the United States so often speaks like a seventh-grader. Three old men turned on the lightbulb for me.

I met the first two—elderly African-Americans using walkers—on the 38-Geary bus. They didn’t know each other but chatted amiably about life in San Francisco and growing up in the South. When one stood to get off, his walker’s wheels tangled with the other man’s. I pulled them apart. They offered smiling thankyou’s.

A simple lesson presented itself. As men age, their testosterone levels drop. Their aggressiveness dissipates. Older men—yes, cranks exist—tend to be polite and non-confrontational. They prefer talking over coffee, making conversation on a park bench or just chilling. Thus, the elderly define “cool.”

The third man was Senator John McCain. He recently had surgery for a blood clot above the eye. President Trump praised McCain and wished him a speedy recovery. Then he added, “We also need his vote [on the healthcare bill.]” Trump’s uncalled-for aside sounded awkward and childish, as well as selfish. Yet it represented, I believe, an attempt at humor. The attempt bombed. But I know where the approach came from.

Donald Trump and I grew up in the New York City borough of Queens. He lived in wealthy Jamaica Estates. I lived in middle-class Rego Park. We both developed a very New York sense of humor. As kids, my friends and I insulted each other good naturedly and people we didn’t like with the sharpest (and stupidest) barbs we could hone. Then we grew up. We learned when humor may be appropriate in private but unacceptable in public.

We didn’t abandon humor, though. Men rib their friends in private. It’s a guy thing. But unlike the Donald, my friends and I also love laughing at ourselves. Importantly, we understand that joking about people close to us is fine—if they buy in. And that even among friends, some lines are not to be crossed. That’s why a friend asked if he could joke about my hormone therapy (ending this Wednesday) for prostate cancer. I said, “Of course. I do.” Because we care about each other, the jokes and insults remain confidential and within bounds.

Trump knows no bounds. It appears he suffers from arrested development. While our peers ascertained the limits of making other people objects of humor, Trump continues speaking like an adolescent. Watch his televised remarks about others. They’re uniformly unfunny, tasteless and cruel. No adult, let alone the president, should say those things in public. Yet Trump does and remains clueless.

Last Monday, he delivered a highly-politicized speech to boys at the National Boy Scout Jamboree. He was way off base. The Boy Scouts of America acknowledged that.

With education and mentoring, twelve-year-olds mature and develop judgement. I Corinthians 13:11 offers a sound guideline. “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned like a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”

Donald Trump failed to learn that lesson. It’s sad. It’s also pathetic that so many of his supporters applaud him for “saying what’s on his mind” even when Trump utters remarks for which they’d march their own children off to the woodshed.

And now you know why Trump appointed Anthony Scaramucci as his f*****g White House communications director.

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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.

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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.

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