President Donald Trump and My Dog’s Poop: A Story of Acceptance and Hope

There’s actually a (somewhat) reasonable explanation for why I have this picture.

As I’m sure was probably the case for many Americans, I had trouble sleeping last night. I couldn’t shake the anxiety and dread that grew part and parcel along with Donald Trump’s Electoral Vote tally.

My wife slept uneasily beside me, unaware of the impending doom but, as it often goes with her — somehow still aware. She tossed and turned and groaned and ground her teeth.

My wife is a Latina and a feminist who exited the polls crying yesterday, out of pride at having voted for a woman for President of The United States. I am a white man, and a fifth or sixth-generation Italian-American. I share her values of equal rights and representation for women and for all the races that make up our democracy.

We both suffer from anxiety and depression, and have dedicated much of the last several years of our life to advocating for a greater dialogue on mental health in America, and greater diversity and more accurate representation in the media.

I am not a Democrat or a Republican — in fact, I have no party affiliation. I am, however, a reasonable, compassionate human being who writes this from a place of deep disappointment with his country and fellow citizens.

When it became clear to me, last night, that Donald Trump was going to be elected as my next President, I stopped obsessively, desperately, checking my phone. I gave into fatigue, and slept.

My alarm went off this morning, as the same time it always does, and the first thing I did was confirm what I already instinctively knew — the worst-case scenario had indeed unfolded. A man whose principle political strategy was comprised of hate-mongering, and the exploitation of racial and sexist fears and biases, will soon take office as the 45th President of the United States.

What I did next might sound surprising — or perhaps not — it surprised me, a bit.

I shut off the alarm, I got up, and I went about my day. As I always do.

I didn’t wallow, and neither did I pretend that nothing had changed. Much has changed. I understand this. I also understand and would like to underscore the fact that, as a straight white male, this quick acceptance might come much easier to me than, say, a woman of color.

But I share all this because I think it’s of supreme importance that we accept this outcome and move forward as best we can.

Perhaps this is naive of me, and again, I think I’m only able to say it due to my privileged position — but I do not believe Donald Trump is going to prove to be the fascist that so many of us are afraid he’s going to turn out to be.

More likely, the next few years will reveal to all of us — his specific electorate included — the extent to which the man will lie and exploit fear in service of his own gain. This is how he has won, but it won’t serve him or us well as we go about the business of governing here and working with other countries around the globe in terms of international affairs.

I believe he will do much harm. I believe he’ll prove largely incompetent as a leader. And I do worry that I’m wrong in my estimation of the level of which he’s capable of pushing the hateful agenda espoused during his campaign — that he actually might have come to believe some of the venomous rhetoric he has co-opted from the far right of the Republican party, and turn it against minority populations in my country.

What Donald Trump will never do, however, is stop me from fighting. Neither will the results of this election distract me, for any longer than today, from my mission of doing what I can to make the world a better, more equitable place for the people whose anger and disillusionment I share — no matter their political affiliation, level of education, or how they might have voted yesterday.

I have expressed before on this site my belief that America is an abusive relationship with its economy. That much was made clear to us when this most recession swept through our population, hurting the average American more than anyone else, with little repercussions to those responsible.

Today, given that we’ve handed our Presidency to Donald Trump, and the remainder of our government to a Republican Party that has done little else but obstruct government for the past decade — I have to admit that this observation was incomplete.

It’s not just our economy. It’s our political system. Our culture. We’re so lost and desperate and confused and angry that we’ve just handed the most powerful position of influence in our country over to a man who cares very little about much more than himself and his own needs.

This is not a reasonable or an effective response to our very real — and shared — needs for identity, safety, clarity and fairness. Capitalism thrives on private interest, but capitalists, as a rule, dehumanize laborers and employees  into power and statistics for their own continued gain, with little regard for the health of the individual worker or the communities to which he or she belongs.

We have witnessed Donald Trump doing this to women. We have watched as he worked to establish his predecessor, President Obama, as an other, by calling his citizenship into question until such time as it no longer benefited himself to do so. It is a supreme, tragic injustice that a man with no real understanding or concern for the everyday American has catapulted himself into the White House by the power of millions of people with real fears and grievances, whose energy and voting power has been transmuted by cunning and misinformation in service of their own continued suffering.

These past few weeks, I have been waking up earlier, and taking longer walks with my dog. It brings me peace. Today, I made sure to stick to this routine.

Except, despite my acceptance and general hopefulness, I’ve been distracted all morning.

This is only natural. I’m worried about the lives that will be destroyed and lost before enough of us finally see the truth of all this for what it is. Forgive the silly example — again, white man of privilege here — but because of this distractedness I made an uncommon mistake this morning, and forgot to take a bag with me for picking up after my dog.

This does happen, sometimes. I always feel guilty when it does. I love my community and I try to do my part to keep it clean.

A few years ago, in this situation, before my own strides in acceptance and before I saw to the improvement of own my mental health, I would have either left my dog’s poop on the ground or attempted to pick it up with a leaf or a piece of trash. Either way I would have castigated myself for my mistake, all the way home.

Nowadays, instead, when this happens I keep an eye out for other dog-walkers. I ask if they have an extra bag. Much of the time, they do, and they’re happy to offer it. In this way, we’re collaborating to keep our neighborhood clean.

This morning, I was just realizing my mistake when I saw a young woman walking a black labrador just ahead of me. She was about the cross the street, moving away in the opposite direction. I asked if she happened to have an extra bag.

The woman stopped. She looked me squarely in the eye, and instead of answering the question she asked me — quite sincerely, in accented English — how I was doing. I got the sense that she was European, and not a citizen.

I told her that I was…distracted.

She expressed sympathy and gave me the bag. It was a simple gesture of solidarity and compassion, and I’m grateful for it.

But I’ve also been wondering at my answer — distracted.

Not terrible. Not hopeless. Not angry.

I feel distracted.

Because I have accepted the reality that Donald Trump is going to be my President. Whether we want to admit this or not, it’s the truth. And, while I am afraid of the damage he’s inevitably going to do — I have hope that not all is lost.

I’m going about my life.

In the process, I continue to feel my feelings. It’s not that I’m not angry, or struggling with sadness and disappointment. But I’m processing these emotions — at my own pace, to be fair to anyone still reeling from the results of the presidential race. To be honest, though, I’m starting to get the sense that this travesty is going to at least provide me with some extra fuel for the coming fights, of which there will likely be many.

As a realist, I never had much invested in this election in the first place. With the exception of a brief moment wherein Bernie Sanders seemed to have a shot, I never had much hope for an optimal result. That doesn’t mean that I don’t care, or that I wasn’t able to identify the clear better candidate when voting.

And yet, that doesn’t matter now, does it?

What matters now is that I  — and we — exercise caution. This mess we’re in has expressed itself numerically, in terms of the results we now have to live with. But, as time goes on and things inevitably get worse for the majority of Americans over the next few years, we must instead turn our attention not to remastering the numbers but the recovery of our collective spirit.

For myself, I plan to continue to work as a mental health advocate, as a resource for practical tactics and results-driven personal growth, and as a champion of diversity and or compassion.

There will be more pain. There will be more hate. We cannot allow it to distract us. There’s work to be done — hard work that we won’t often want to do, or that will seem hopeless. But it’s imperative that we show fortitude and courage.

It’s the only thing that can work.

profpic_squareMy name is Michael. I am a Writer and Filmmaker 
of hopeful stories for complex people. Lately, I have been sharing some reflections and stories every morning. Once per month, I send a special note to those on my email list. They get exclusive stories and advanced (sometimes free) access to my work. You can join this exclusive group here. Thanks for reading.

What I Liked This Week: Spitting Satanists and Struggling Students

I do not like struggling students. But, first, let’s talk about the spitting satanist. Well, she may not be a satanist. But she’s at least looking for one. I think.

Yesterday, I got up, threw on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, leashed the pup and went out into morning. I was tired. I don’t remember any part of the walk except the end of it, when I was re-approaching the entrance to my building.

A young woman was also approaching the building, from the opposite direction. She was a little closer to the entrance than me, but I wasn’t sure if she was going in or just ambling in the direction of the door. She was moving slowly and veering a little and…well…occasionally, if I’m up early, I pass drunks who have just woken up somewhere and are now on their way home or somewhere else. She wasn’t necessarily lumbering, though, and she was a young female (not your typical early-morning drunk), and she didn’t seem to be carrying anything with her to keep the buzz going or to wind it down (also a typical sign).

She may have been high. I hadn’t had my coffee yet so I wasn’t going to be able to tell. All I know is that she stopped short of the entrance, leaned over the railing that separates the sidewalk from the thin strip in front of the building that at one point might have been called a garden, and spit a spit that was made of more spit than any spit I’ve ever seen — when not on a baseball field.

Now, just to be clear — I don’t have much of a problem with spit. As hinted in the previous sentence, I spent a lot of time on baseball fields when I was younger. Spitting, in this context, was a often sub-game within the sport. Similarly, in my younger years I spent a decent amount of time here and there riding along delivery routes with my father, who was a spitter — though only really in this context. Also, a lot of my neighbors come from cultures where spitting is not a big deal. I won’t say I’m thrilled when they spit inside — or when I have to steer my dog around multiple scattered yolks of human DNA stretched along the sidewalk, but…when, for instance, I see an old man or woman rear back and drop a fresh one…I don’t mind. Old people tend to veer off to the side when they spit. Then again, many of the old in New York are living perpetually off to the side already, are thus perfectly positioned to grant this courtesy. Finally, I still spit sometimes, when my wife isn’t around.

My point is that, if I observed yesterday’s spitting woman more closely, it wasn’t out of some need to illustrate my disgust, or in order to judge her. I was literally just wondering if we were going to intersect (my dog likes to play with everyone) and then found myself momentarily transfixed by the volume of what was coming out of her mouth.

Still, when she turned to look at me, I felt a little embarrassed. I didn’t know this woman, and I wasn’t going to explain all of the above to her in the span of seconds, while on my way through the door with my dog. Also, all of this is clear to me now only in retrospect. At the time, again, it was early and I hadn’t had a yet had a drop of coffee.

I confirmed to myself that she didn’t seem to be chewing tobacco. I faintly recall trying this explanation out seconds after I saw her spit — but the spit had been clear. She also didn’t seem to have too much of a problem stepping right up to me. The woman was short and thin, maybe twenty or a few years older. She wore thick black glasses and had a few piercings and was dressed in tight-fitting clothing that was mostly black and red. If she weren’t where she was and didn’t also give off an air of actually owning her appearance rather than renting it it out, she might have passed for a sort of goth-hipster hybrid who was actively pursuing the look. But that’s really just conjecture, engineered by a tired mind. And I didn’t really have time to think about it because she started talking to me.

She asked if she could ask me a question. I said sure. Then she asked me if we were living in a New World Order. I said I didn’t know.

“Are you Illumunati?”

I also said no to this question, and I began making my way to and through the door, because it seemed silly. Then she asked me, finally, as I was leaving her behind, if I was a Satanist. I said no again and lingered a moment inside until the door closed behing me. I wanted to know if she was planning on entering the building as well. She hadn’t entered, and for some reason it suddenly occurred to me that she had asked me three questions rather than the permitted one. I thought that this thought of mine was funny. I wondered what a fourth question might have been like. Where do you go after satanism?

I went upstairs and had my coffee and ate breakfast and thought occasionally about what had happened. I wondered who the woman was, whether she was crazy or high or just fucking with me or all these things. I wondered if the experience would have gone differently, if I had already had my coffee upon meeting her or if I wasn’t being pulled inexorably — as I usually am — towards the mundane responsibilities of the coming weekday.

Shortly after, I glanced in a mirror, while on the way to my bedroom to get undressed for my shower. I realized that I was also wearing black and red, as well as a gray military-style jacket, and that I looked just haggard and rough enough after a long week that there may have been a slight possibility that the woman’s questions were, in relative terms, somewhat serious. Then again, I was walking a terrier on a pink leash, who only acts satanic when you’re trying to trim her nails…so…

For serious — the experience, however brief and uneventful, was fun. It seemed an intersection of the mundane with the exceptional, with neither element necessarily appearing more ridiculous than the other within the particular equation. When it happened, I remember feeling a little on edge, unnerved. Then: amused. And, now, finally, obviously…interested.

I like it when my interest is piqued. Hail Satan.

On to the rest of What I Liked This Week:

I liked that Rhode Island, the original hometown state of The Furious Romantic, passed legislation recognizing marriage equality for all. This actually happened a few weeks ago, so I apologize for failing to write about it last week. Still very proud of my state, however. I also like this op-ed that RI Governor Lincoln Chaffee, a former Republican, submitted to the The New York Times, as it symbolizes a thoughtful, measured approach to solving this rights issue despite the practical impediments thrown in its way by conservative politics.

I liked this video, in which Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren introduces a piece of legislation aimed at reducing interest rates on student loans subsidized by the government, so that they match the interest rates currently paid by banks also borrowing from the government. Sounds, fair, doesn’t it? Currently, interest rates on student loans are set to double if Congress does nothing to change this. Since Congress isn’t capable of doing anything that doesn’t help Congress and/or The Elite, because Congress has been held hostage by Republican extremists for years, it’s a safe bet that — unless we raise a ruckus and, possibly, even if we do — Congress is going to do nothing. If Congress does nothing, students will soon be paying nine times as much interest on government loans as big banks. Apart from being unfair, this makes little sense in terms of addressing the root causes — and especially the serious effects and the long-term health — of our stagnant economy.

While bankers and the elite continue to have it easy, young people (especially young people who don’t come from or sell out to the elite class) continue to be punished for their mistakes. We are literally in danger of becoming permanently indentured to the (rigged) system. Ultimately, this legislation (if it were to ever pass) is a drop in the bucket. The issue is much bigger than interest rates, but this is at least something — something measurable that people can see and grip.

Students saddled with burdensome loans have to take and keep jobs that already exist or exist in dwindling numbers, at least in terms of quality positions. If they get jobs at all.

Let’s say loan payments go down at the same time as a few heads pop out of a few asses and we (young people) get a few other bones thrown to us (or we sniff out our own bones), resulting in a handful of new or additional work opportunities here and there. Fewer students shackled by higher loan payments means more entrepreneurship and more small businesses, which is where real job creation and economic growth comes from — especially in an economy where large corporations continue to sit on record profits rather than invest in domestic growth. It’s also far easier to take a “risk” by selecting or pursuing a job in an innovative company or sector, or holding out for a job you’re passionate about (and would perform well in), or leaving a job you are not passionate about (in which case, you’re probably at best an adequate performer) when you aren’t anxious about mounds of debt.

Something else I liked this week was this fact sheet on Youth Unemployment in the US, compiled by the Center for American Progress and emailed out this morning by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. If all this nonsense upsets you, or gets you thinking, I would suggest reading through this (short) document as well. Want to do something about your anger, after that? Sign this petition by the Working Families Party, which asks Congress not to let student loan interest rates double. Again, it’s something. Something that takes seconds to do.

Have a good week, Furious Faithful.



What I Liked This Week: 3/2/13

Greetings, dear readers. And thanks to those of you who made The Furious Romantic feel a little less furious this week, not only through the birthday wishes but the “good lucks” with Sophia.

  • The first thing I liked this week was this article about a team of physicists who created the first multiverse in a lab. It’s cute, that they think they were first. IT WAS ALREADY CREATED IN THE LAB OF MY MIND. If you haven’t “Liked” our short film #Multiverse on Facebook already, click that link and get on it (please). For anyone who doesn’t know or is wondering, #Multiverse is currently in the late stages of post-production.
  • This progressive deficit reduction plan, by Senator Bernie Sanders. Because it focuses on reducing the deficit by introducing more equality-based legislative measures into the politics that currently keep our economy weighted in favor of the wealthy. Few, if any, of these measures will see the light of day — at least not for a long time — but I like them anyway. I like that someone is trying.
  • This ScriptMag column by Clive Frayne, titled: “You Are Not Tarantino or Kevin Smith,” which is itself a response to this blog post by Bitter Script Reader, titled “You Are Not Tarantino.” Because they make me feel even more certain a shift is on the horizon, and that my impulse to craft my version of an anti-film…has me on the right track.
  • The fundraiser I went to this week for OnTheRoad Rep. It’s never not fun, drinking and carousing with actors. OnTheRoad has been doing great work, with more to come. Keep an eye out for future shows, NYCers. Disclaimer: I’m in love with one of their awesomely talented members.

Have a good week, my furiously romantic friends.

What I Liked This Week: 1/19/13

I liked a lot of stuff this week. Also, the 5,000 combined words of Regaining Equality By Reaching Out Through The Screen pretzeled my fangers into a gnarled mess (I’m supposed to eat pizza today!) so I’m going to keep this post short.

  • I liked The Sessions, written and directed by Ben Lewin and starring John Hawkes and Helen Hunt. While Hunt was nominated for an Academy Award this year for Best Supporting Actress (deserved) Hawkes gives an equally fine performance and might have been legitimated “snubbed.” In addition, the film itself is better than some of the other Best Picture nominees, in my opinion.
  • This article, How the Creative Response of Artists and Activists Can Transform the World, by Antonio D’Ambrosio. In addition to being smartly and passionately written, many of the ideas expressed by D’Ambrosio align with those I expressed this week. Many of the historical facts he cites similarly come from a truthful rather than a cynical or reactive place. And he’s an Italian-American with a unique perspective on democracy and community based in no small part on the same sort of immigrant experience that once led my family to economic success and to which I owe almost everything. So I like that about him too.
  • Two songs, neither of which are new but this isn’t called What’s New This Week That I Liked SO BACK OFF. I Need A Dolla, by Aloe Blacc. This song reminds me of the artistic tradition. Also: Ida Maria’s Devil, from her most recent album that for some stupid reason I didn’t get around to until years after her first swept my ears off their feet, kicks all sorts of ass. All sorts. Non-discriminatory ass kicking.
  • This article, Ranks of Working Poor Increasing, from the Washington Post. Because…I AM NOT MAKING THIS STUFF UP. Actually filed under: What I Liked This Week That Secretly Makes Me Want To Punch People While Crying.

The Fury appears to have crept into this post.

Anyway, I also got that last link from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a crazy old man who feels like it’s his job to help the American people rather than help keep them in their place. Follow him on Twitter. Support him. Because he supports us. I liked Bernie Sanders this week.

Oh. Something else I liked this was Senator Sanders speaking out against media consolidation, which is the first and biggest way in which those in power attempt to control us through The Screen.

Have a good weekend, readers. Speak out against one little thing today that you were afraid to speak out against yesterday.

Thanks for reading. Tell your friends.

EDIT: I failed to notice that there’s a petition attached to the page with the videos of Senator Sanders speaking out against media consolidation. It’s on the right. I signed it. You should too.