Monday, January 07, 2019

Out of Many, One...

Here in London, the news is dominated far more by the issues surrounding the UK’s imminent crashing out of the European Union;  so the constant tornado of chaos that is the Trump Administration  can seem light years away. Yet Donald Trump’s ridiculous stunt of holding the entire US Federal government hostage for 5 billion dollars has not escaped notice even on this side of the world.

The media here (even the Rupert Murdoch owned media) has pointedly mentioned that the rationales for his “Wall”, trotted out by both Donald Trump and his various mouthpieces are in fact, total bunk. The vast majority (more than two-thirds) of undocumented foreign nationals in the United States didn’t sneak across the Southern border in the dead of night. They landed at an Airport entered the country legally on a tourist or student visa and then just stayed. 

Likewise, the claim a wall is needed to keep drugs and terrorists out is just as much a load of bull-puckey. So much so, that even FOX News’s Chris Wallace wasn’t willing to let White House Spokesperson Sara Sanders get away with it.

The whole issue of the wall is nothing more than a racist dog whistle to Donald Trump’s base supporters. And those who are cheering the idea of that wall are people who respond to racist whistles. People who have fallen for the con-job that somehow America’s multiculturalism, our diversity is responsible for the problems in their lives. 

They have bought into the ridiculous lie that arresting people trying to come here and who are picking lettuce, or making hotel beds in California, Arizona and Texas; THAT is going to make life better in Hancock County Tennessee, Dubuque, Iowa or La Crosse, Wisconsin. 

Let’s get a few facts out into the open, shall we? There is no wall, there never was going to be a wall, and there never will be a wall. A wall on the US southern border is a physical and geographical impossibility. Which is why you have started to hear Trump shift to using the phrase “border security”. 

The key thing Trump doesn’t want you to know is, when you hear him say we need five billion dollars for “border security”, what he is talking about is a massive giveaway of billions of dollars in taxpayer money to the private prison industry. Who are major donors to the Republican Party generally, and the Trump campaign specifically.

 Apparently, there is a lot of money to be made kidnapping children and locking them up. 

I have always held firm to the belief that America’s greatness comes from our incredible diversity. E Pluribus Unum - Out of many, one. It is the story or our Nation. A new nationality as Ben Franklin called it. Like nothing that had been seen before in the history of man.  But it is also the story of my family as well.    In 1987 I was studying in Germany, and my Sister went to study in Hong Kong. 

My mother likes to tell the story of the reaction of one of her friends who upon hearing what we were doing exclaimed; “Have you just given your children to the world!?”  

Indeed, in many ways she had. In more ways than either she, or my Dad could have ever imagined. Now more than thirty years later, Those lessons in the value of other cultures, traditions and peoples shaped not only our paths life, but that of the next generation as well.  As  I sit in London writing this I am in the middle of  packing for a trip next week to India. Where I will  attend my niece’s wedding. My brilliant, beautiful niece. Oldest child of my Sister and her husband, my French Brother-in-law.   She is marring an amazing young Indian man , who grew up in Singapore

Add to this mix her younger Sister, with her Indian-American boyfriend, her younger Brother with his Mexican-American girlfriend, and her Iranian-American best friend with her Latino boyfriend and you have the most American family wedding portrait you could ever imagine. 

E Pluribus Unum - Out of many cultures, languages, religions and parts of the world, we are creating one great global family. One that breaks down walls, builds bridges across the world, and is more truly American than anything. 

Something that Donald Trump, even being a Grandson of Germans Immigrants, who married a Slovenian, will never understand.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Star Trek Musings, 39 years later...

I was browsing on Facebook and saw a note  in a group I follow that marked today as the  39th anniversary  of the preview of  the very first Start Trek movie.  (Star Trek The Motion Picture) Which opened on December 7th , 1979

This movie will always have special place in my heart. I saw it on  that New Years Eve. I was in grade school  so there wasn't much for me to do on New Year's Eve. My older brother and sister were both doing things with their friends and I was stuck at home. 

Then My parents said we were going to go into local shopping mall near our home in  Madison WI and see the new Star Trek movie.Well , when you are in 4th grade just going to a "late showing" of any movie is pretty cool but this was STAR TREK!

So needless to say... I was pretty excited.

Also my parents were not really what you would call Star Trek fans, or the kind of people who went to late movies, so the fact that they were clearly doing this for me was also pretty cool.

We went to the movie and it was after midnight when we were driving home when our car had engine trouble. But right then a WI State Trooper saw us and offered us a ride home so Dad could get our other car and tow this one back. While we were heading home in the back of the patrol car, someone went speeding by the other direction and the trooper hit the lights and siren and swung round and went after the speeder! I was in kid heaven! 

So bash the movie if you will, call it "Star Trek the Plotless Picture" if you must. But for me it will always remind me of what remains to this day is one of the best New Year's Eve's I've ever had.

Thanks Mom & Dad

Friday, November 02, 2018

Wisconsin's Moment of Truth

Many of my friends are shocked when they learn that I, used to be a Republican. How could a good progressive Gay man like me, ever have been a member of the GOP? The answer is found in a conversation I had one afternoon when I was thirteen years old.
I was attending an event hosted at Vilas Hall, on the University of Wisconsin Madison Campus. The event was to promote a media literacy and education organization I was heavily involved with at the time. 

Like many such events I attended, I spoke early in the program, and was the youngest person there. I would then have to sit there while speaker after speaker began to blur together, and my 13 year old mind began to wander. Realizing. I was in danger of nodding off, I quietly excused myself, and ducked out into the adjacent "green room" to get a drink of water.

As I walked into the lounge area I heard the sound of a Television, and saw an older gentleman sitting on the couch watching the University of Wisconsin Football game. With his curly white hair and trademark red vest, I instantly recognized former Wisconsin Governor Lee Sherman Dreyfus.

 I had met him a few times previously, and was friends with his daughter Susan, with whom I worked with on media literacy and education projects. He saw me, motioned me over (remembered my name), and cheerfully announced that the Badgers were up by 7. I sat down next to him, and we watched game for a few minutes in companionable silence.

He then turned to me and asked how I was doing. I. talked briefly about the Media education project I was there to promote. Then I got up my courage and asked if I could ask him a personal question. Governor Dreyfus smiled and said; "So is this an interview Dave?". I assured him we were off the record, he laughed and gestured for me continue. I said; "Why did you want to be Governor?" Dreyfus had recently finished a very successful term, but then not run for re-election. A move that had surprised most, and frustrated many, inside the Wisconsin Republican Party. As the conventional wisdom was had he run again, he would have won re-election quite easily.
Looking back at the television to check the score, he turned the sound down and then asked me if I had ever noticed the murals in the rotunda of the WI State Capitol building. I proudly replied that I had, and eager to demonstrate my knowledge, rattled off the names of the four murals at base of the rotunda.  

Government, Justice, Legislation, and Liberty.

The former Governor of my home state then went on to give me the best civics lesson I have ever had. He explained that he had benefited from the education system and professional and economic opportunities that living in Wisconsin had provided. Consequently, he felt an obligation to "do his part" to ensure that those opportunities and advantages he had enjoyed, were protected and expanded.

He went on to say that our system was set up to make that possible. The executive branch (Government) worked with the Legislature and the State Senate to craft and pass the laws (Legislation) that were then interpreted by the courts (Justice). Combined, this system of checks, balances and cooperation between all three entities, ensured freedom and opportunity for everyone (Liberty).  

 He looked at the television, then back to me, saying, it was to ensure others had those same opportunities he enjoyed, was why he had gotten into politics.

It was at this point his daughter poked her head into the room and chided us both for. "hiding out" and said we should re-join the event next door. I shook Governor Dreyfus' hand and thanked him for taking the time to talk with me. "My pleasure Dave", he said, and we went back into the next room.

It would be a conversation that would stay with me for years, and it was on that day, at the ripe old age of 13, I decided that I , like Lee Dreyfus, was a Republican. I would join the Young Republicans, campaigning for Ronald Reagan in 1984. Two years later, I would cast my first vote. While a student in Germany in 1986, I proudly walked into the. American Consulate in Munich, filled out my absentee ballot and cast my first ever vote, for Republican Tommy Thompson for Wisconsin Governor.
I would go on to become an active member and officer of the College Republicans, even chairing the CR election efforts on campus for. Bush-Quayle '88 and '92. My reasons were clear. It was a Republican who had showed me the power of our system of government to make the lives of Americans better, and by extension, the world a better and safer place.

So what happened? Why did I leave the GOP? The most concise way to answer that question is  to simply say,  the  GOP left me. Or more accurately,  the GOP left me, Lee Dreyfus, Tommy Thompson, George HW Bush, Bob Dole and yes, even left Ronald Reagan.

Wisconsin was the birthplace of the Republican Party. I used live in the town of Ripon Wisconsin and would regularly go past the landmark where the GOP had its creation. The Republican Party on the ballot next week in Wisconsin bears no resemblance to the that party. Let alone party of Lee Dreyfus.

The Party of Scott Walker sees our great system of cooperative branches of government, with its checks and balance, as an obstacle not an asset. Scott Walker is a man who serves a small select group of corporate and financial interests. The people of the great state of Wisconsin, are at best a nuisance to be tolerated, and in truth, often seen as a threat to the agenda those interests have tasked Walker to deliver for them

The Republican Party is addicted to crazy. It has embraced the darker politics of division and fear in place of faith in our system and public service to our citizens. Like many addicts, the Wisconsin Republican Party, doesn't want to get better.   The only way for the GOP to stop digging the deep dank dark hole it as been wallowing in, is to finally hit rock bottom.

This isn't just an election. It's an intervention. For the GOP, it's time for tough love. A vote for Scott Walker and the GOP is a vote to return to 50 million Americans with out access to health insurance. It is to turn the stunning natural beauty of the state of Wisconsin into a strip mined, fracked toxic wasteland where contaminated water catches fire when it comes out of the tap.

A vote for Scott Walker is to hand what is left of the WI public purse over to unregulated special interests and then gut public education and services to pay their bar tab. It is to sacrifice Wisconsin's place as America's Dairyland in favor of becoming the. Mississippi of the North. An under-educated, under-employed, over polluted gilded swamp of the very rich, the very poor and nothing in between.

Trump Supporters like to scream about how they want to “Make America Great Again!", which is nothing more than code for not wanting a people different from them to have any rights. Well,   I want to make the GOP great again. I want a Republican Party that believes in the synergy of Government, Justice , Legislation and Liberty.

It;s time to give the GOP a time out. It's for the people of Wisconsin to step up and save the Republican Party. How?   By voting for Tony Evers, and voting for the Democratic Party.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

One week from now... the chance to move from Worst to Best.

It is a particularly American habit, this business of wanting to classify the best and worst of something. We are nation obsessed with statistical rankings. Be it who is “the sexiest man alive”, or who made the best/worst dressed lists. Our popular culture abounds with  top ten lists and who is the best or worst at a particular skill. What fan of college football or basketball doesn’t start the day without checking their team’s standing in the top 25 coaches and press polls? We have a real need as a nation to not just quantify, but also to qualify both our successes and our failures.

To call someone the “worst” of anything can be a dangerous generalization. Yet when talking about the American Presidency, the question itself is not so much the issue, as are the reasons for asking it.

The presidency of Donald John Trump has had far more failure than success. During his time in the White House Trump has excelled at dividing this nation, perfecting a strategy of doubling and tripling down on his base, and trying to prevent anyone else from being heard.  It is a strategy that won him 270 electoral votes.  Yet aside from that singular electoral win it has produced no real accomplishments in terms of actual governing.

Presidents at this point in their terms, especially as their focus turns to the campaign for a second term, find themselves obsessed with the need to protect their accomplishments.   In the case of Donald Trump his accomplishments can be summed up in one word: Chaos.  Under the banner of “Make America Great Again”, we are now a nation isolated from our allies, faced with emboldened adversaries, and bereft of the diplomatic credibility and strategic influence needed to deal with both the threats and opportunities of a 21st Century  world.

This administration’s one notable domestic achievement , the Trump Tax Cuts have blown a hole in America’s fiscal security nearly a trillion dollars wide.  The Republican Party’s response to such massive fiscal irresponsibility is to target Social Security and Medicare for highway robbery to pay for their giveaway to the richest of the Rich.  

While keeping a straight face as they out and out lie that it is these programs that are the cause of our budgetary woes.  

The problem with asking if any President is the “worst”, is the implication that the success or failure of our republic hangs on the abilities and flaws of a single human being. Our country has faced the consequences of our leader’s failings many times before and has survived. As we face the third year of this flawed presidency, the question is not is Donald Trump the “worst” President, but rather what do we as nation want from our next President? Therein lays a vision for what a “best” Presidency would look like?

That vision is not hard to find. You need look no farther than a few lines from an old song…

O beautiful for patriot dream 
That sees beyond the years

The best President would have a sense of stewardship, not ownership of the presidency. The best President would strive not just to make life easier for “the base”, but ensure a better life for all our citizens, and the generations of Americans yet to come.

Thine alabaster cities gleam 
Undimmed by human tears!

The best President would never accept that any American lives in hopelessness, or lacks the opportunity to learn in safe schools, or live in safe neighborhoods. The best President would never claim  that mass shootings  were the fault of the victims for not being armed.   The best President would see the environment not as a resource to be exploited, but as a legacy to be protected. The best President would never accept that any American would have to choose between health care and economic survival.

America! America! 
God shed his grace on thee

The best President would never seek to use one group of Americans as a tool of division. The best President would never use race or religion as way to marginalize groups of our own citizens. The best President would never seek to codify ONE religion into civil law as a way to score political points. The best President would not wear faith on his sleeve while disregarding the most basic tenets of that faith. The best President would live his faith far more loudly than he would talk about it.

And crown thy good with brotherhood 
From sea to shining sea!

The best President would understand that true homeland security is collective. Strong friendships are the best defense against strong adversaries. The best President would see our freedoms as our strength not our weakness. The best President would see war as the very last resort to defend our nation’s vital interests, not the first resort to advance any one constituency’s political or economic interests.

The best President would embody our hopes, advance our dreams and embrace our diversity, our “E Pluribus Unum”. The best President would listen, would learn and would lead.

Using this simple standard, we find that the one week out from the 2018 midterm elections, an election that is more than any other in our history truly a referendum on the current occupant of the White House and his Political Party; We are asking the wrong question. The question is not “is Donald Trump the worst President ever?”. The real question is, when will we as nation, stop settling for anything less than the best?

Next Tuesday vote for true American Greatness, Vote to show America is better than this.   Vote to stop the wholesale destruction of American Democracy and our place in the world as the one indispensable nation. 

Vote out the Party of Donald Trump.

This is not about Right or Left.  This is about Right and Wrong.   The Republican Party has lost its mind and  sold its soul to a demented con man who if left unchecked,   will damage our nation beyond repair.

Vote to save America.  Vote to save the Republican Party.  

Vote Democrat.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Remembering Broadcast History...37 Years Ago - Kids to Kids

They say the worst thing you can have in live television is “dead air”. Suddenly in front of a room full of government and media dignitaries, with broadcasting history literally hanging in the balance, that is exactly what we were facing. Dead air.

The date was Thursday, October 15th, 1981. Two days earlier, I had boarded an Amtrak train in Columbus, Wisconsin, along with Mike Daugherty, John Garrett, Tom Gehrmann, Chris Kerwin, Anne O'Brien, Becky Weirough, Glenn Zweig, Steve Funk, and Mike Kennedy, Now in the ballroom of the Capital Hill Holiday Inn in Washington D.C. a live satellite demonstration, linking our group of American kids, and a group of young people in Brisbane Australia had just gone on the air.

We were there along with other young people who shared the unique experience of being media users, not just media consumers. We were from the “Kids 4” television project in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Kids4 had been on the air since 1978, and was an educational partnership between the local public access cable channel and the American Council for Better Broadcasting (ACBB, now called the National Telemedia Council )

Joining us there in Washington, was a group from the KIDS ALIVE! Project in Bloomington, Indiana. Together, we were hosting a live cultural exchange via satellite with a group of young people from down under in Brisbane Australia, who hosted the popular children’s program WOMBAT on Australia's Channel 7.

The kids from the Australian television show went first, showing an amazing video montage of their studio, the gold coast of Australia and the stories they produced there at Channel 7 in Brisbane. Then it was our turn. Or so we thought. 

Kerri Brinson from KIDS ALIVE!, looked in the camera and cheerfully announced; “Well, here’s our video montage!”  And … nothing.

A technician from COX Cable Television, hurried into the room and whispered in the ear of a nearby adult that the Video tape player in the satellite truck, was not working, and therefore none of the prepared footage we had brought with us to Washington could be shown. So we proceeded to do what we always did when doing live television. We improvised. 

The kids from Indiana looked at us like we were nuts. They were not used to working live. One of the great things about the Kids 4 program is we started out doing all of our shows live. It was only after two years we switched to recording them first, then airing them.

Still, with a ballroom full of media dignitaries watching you , plus trying to fill time  with stuff off the top your head, AND cope with at least a 5 second time delay between you and the people you were trying to interview, it was bit tense, even by our standards. The end result however, was amazing. That one technical glitch turned what would have been a largely scripted exchange into an actual conversation.

Instead of following a script,  we talked.  Asking each other about school, about hobbies and what was it about working with television that interested them, as well as sharing our own experiences as kids learning to use media and not be used by it.

Of course at the time, it felt like a disaster.

Looking back on that day, thirty-seven years ago, I marvel at how much the world has changed. At the time, what we were doing in Washington DC that day was not all that remarkable from a technical standpoint. Live satellite broadcasts were hardly unusual in 1981. Yet from a cultural and educational standpoint, the Kids-to-Kids interconnect was nothing short of revolutionary.

As much as I say that live satellite television was commonplace in 1981, that isn’t to say the mechanics of it were simple. The path of the satellite interconnect - from Washington, D.C. to , Brisbane, Australia was a complex series of relays starting with a signal carried by cable to a Cox Cable production truck parked just outside in the courtyard of the hotel.From there, the Mobil-Video Company (MV) picked up the signal in its truck parked next to the Cox truck, and carried it via microwave across town to PBS Headquarters .

PBS then took over sending the signal to its satellite ground station  and  up to a Satellite, 22,300 miles above the Earth. Which THEN transmitted the signal to a satellite receiving dish in Sans Francisco. From there, the signal was transmitted it up to another satellite which relayed it down to the an earth station near Sydney, Australia.

Finally from there the signal travelled via land lines to the studios of Channel 7, Brisbane, where the Australian children received it and responded. Their messages back to the U.S. travelled in the reverse direction using landlines and satellites to Jamesburg, CA and back to San Francisco via microwave. 

Then back to Washington via another satellite, to the on-site satellite dish located in the courtyard of the Capitol Holiday Inn, which fed the signal back into the conference room where it was seen on large screens by all of us there.

Whew! Did you follow all that? Don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz. But here is what you need to know, everything that I just described, in all its complicated glory, the average teenager can now do with the phone they carry in their pocket. No trucks needed, no delay and now we don’t even think twice about it.

The Interconnect didn’t radically change the media landscape, or advance broadcast technology. What it did do, was in the space of a few short hours make the world a remarkably smaller place. It showed that live satellite broadcasting could be used for more than breaking news and sporting events.

More than that, it laid the foundation for the type of personal inter connectivity that today, we take completely for granted. I know this, because I do it nearly every day. At least three times a week I will facetime, or skype or  or Facebook video call with friends and family scattered all over the globe. From my in-laws in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to my parents in Madison, Wisconsin,  and friends  from London to Oakland and scores of points in between.

The interconnect was the first global face-time session .

The greatest take away from that day for those of us fortunate enough to have been part of it, was the power of broadcast technology to bridge distances and connect people in new and exciting ways. It was, at least for one thirteen year old, a life changing experience. A live demonstration of the power of broadcast technology to connect people and be a platform for sharing experiences and ideas, in (nearly) real time.

Those lessons of the Interconnect are even more important today than they were three decades ago. In a world where if kids in Sun Prairie, WI  want to talk to kids in Brisbane, Australia , all they need is a smart phone and a decent Wifi signal;  Media Literacy is more crucial now than ever before. Teaching young people how to harness the power of media, and connectivity as tools for education and empowerment is more important today, than it has ever been.

Teaching young people to be media users, not just media consumers has always been at heart of the mission of Kids 4 and The National Telemedia Council . That mission, which took a gigantic step forward in 1981 continues today. You can find out more about the NTC and it's mission and legacy at :

Thirty-seven years on, it remains an experience that played a tremendous role in shaping my path in life I am so very grateful to have been a part of it.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Remembering a Very DIfferent Life...

The following is a updated repost of  one of the first blog entries  in Oct.  2006.   

I was bouncing around the web a couple of weeks back and stumbled on It is a site than helps you locate addresses of people. So out of curiosity I typed in the name of my best friend from High School. Sure enough a result for his name came up. Not sure if it was the right person rather than call, I sent a note with my business card attached saying, if this was who I thought it was, to please write back.

A couple of weeks went by... and I forgot about it. I honestly didn't expect to hear anything back. Then the other day I got an email and it was indeed from him. It is an interesting experience in a way. I really have not heard from him since I attended his wedding. At the time I really envied him. He was marrying a wonderful gal and starting to build a life. They now have a five year old son with a daughter on the way due in December. He said it was amazing to hear from me couldn't wait to hear all about what I have been doing over the past few years.

I will confess, I have mixed feelings about that.

For the most part, I have not kept in touch with anyone from my High School days. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed High School, had great friends and good memories. Yet it really was a whole different life. Like many LGBT kids in the mid to late 80's I was closeted and terrified of coming out. On some level every day had some undercurrent of fear of my "secret" being discovered. The ultimate put-down was to say something was "gay" or to be called a "fag". You saw the kids who were even slightly effeminate or "different" getting tormented on a daily basis.

So you kept your mouth shut and your eyes closed. When you watched those 80's brat-pack movies, while your friends oggled Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy, you didnt admit to anyone, not even to yourself that you thought Rob Lowe and Emilo Estavez were really hot.

Add to that, the media was full of stories of this new "gay disease" called AIDS, and the Reagan and first Bush Administrations were not interested in getting any information about it out to the public. So like a lot of gay kids I didn't know what to think. Could I get AIDS by coming out? By even holding hands or kissing a guy? Was it really God's way of getting rid of homosexuals? The fear you felt was this huge cloud that hung over you every day. You really did wonder if you were destined to be miserable and alone for your entire life.

And of course at time I thought I was the ONLY gay kid on earth. Now I know that there were in fact more than a few. Even at my own school. But at the time, the sense of isolation was overwhelming. But then, time moved on. I left and in many ways never looked back.

I moved to Europe, studied there, came back to WI and went to college, after graduation worked, traveled back to Europe, then even moved to Asia. Eventually, I came back to the US and settled in Chicago, and then I came out.

Like many people, for me coming out was a frightening and painful process of self-discovery and acceptance. I think back on the fear I felt in those days and it seems like I am watching a movie of someone else's life. A life that I would not ever want to revisit. Yet in truth it was MY issue, not my friends. They had no way of knowing what I felt. The whole traditional High School experience of the first date, first dance , first kiss, first umm... "whatever", while a given for everyone else, was just not possible for a lesbian or Gay kid in South Central Wisconsin in the 1980's. Or at least not for me.

Many Gays and Lesbians who should be my age never lived to see today. The statistics on suicide for LGBT youth in the 1980's and 90's will give you nightmares. I am so amazingly fortunate to have the family that I do. My parents are the two most incredible, supportive and amazing people in the whole world. Coming out to them while scary as hell, was truly the end of an old life and the beginning of a new much brighter and happier one.

( Just in case I haven't told you - Thanks Mom & Dad.)

I marvel at many of today's LGBT kids with "Gay Straight Alliances" and alternative proms. When I read about kids taking their same sex partner to a high school dance, I can only smile and be amazed at how, at least in some places how far we have come. Though certainly for thousands of LGBT youth in America the reality has not changed from the one I knew .

Over the years I didn't stay in touch with people back from "back home". One wedding, an occasional Christmas Card was pretty much the limit of my contact , and even that soon stopped. Someone recently asked me why I didn't keep in touch with people from those days, and honestly I didn't really have a good answer. Hence my card to my friend.

I know what you are wondering. Will I tell my old friend (s) that I am gay? Will I open up my life now to those people from my life "then"? Does it even matter?

Honestly? I don't know. I'll keep you posted...
FLASH FORWARD  Twelve  years...  October 11, 2018

It is worth noting,  the friend I wrote about  in  2006 , like so many other  amazing friends from my life  have shown me  in words and deeds  what I have always suspected,  my friends are in general, a lot wiser than I am.   As  I mark today's  National Coming Out Day there are straight allies in my life who  I still cannot thank enough,  

From the friend who answered that  letter in 2006,  and reminded me  why were friends in the first place, and  still today  reminds me to laugh at life  more than  30 years on.  Then there is  the Lawyer in Dallas who challenged my own  stereotypes of how I thought friends  would react to my coming out,  and instead ended up teaching me invaluable lessons about  acceptance and true friendship, traveling half way around the world to surprise me at my wedding.

There are the  Police Officers in Youngstown, Ohio and Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, the Sheriff's deputy in Madison  and the Lawyer in  Las Vegas.   All of whom through the years have reminded me to not take myself too seriously,  and  whose friendships have been the the most incredible gift.

There is the couple in Georgia whose friendship has literally spanned two oceans and three decades, who always knew, didn't care, and have always loved me for who I am.  The Career Air Force officer and his wife in Germany, who I had the honour of being a Groomsmen at their wedding, and years later are still sharing their adventures with me. From the Career American Diplomat in Brussels, to the High School math teacher from Boston, who lived a remarkable  life of  always seeking the best in people, taught me to do the same  and  whose passing has left me  missing him every day.   All these amazing people, along with so many others I am blessed to call my friends.

And as always, my incredible family who just by being themselves  encouraged me,  and gave me strength  to just .... be myself.

And yes,  to those who,  for reasons political,  social,  and religious  felt they could not  continue our friendship,  I thank you as well.  Not because  I don't miss you,  for believe, me,  I  do miss you , every day. Yet  I owe you my thanks for  showing me that the choice to live authentically does not come without cost, and therefore must not, ever be taken for granted.  

Lastly,  to my amazing husband  Eric.   Who without even trying,  provides me with  living proof every day  that taking those steps to come out of the closet were by far, the best ones I have ever made.

Twenty Years later... Remembering a Dark October Night.

Wednesday October 7th, 1998 was a fairly ordinary day in Chicago. I was working for a small consulting firm in the near West suburb of Oak Park, and had spent the day in a series of fairly productive meetings. So I felt pretty good when I got home from work. I was puttering around my apartment making dinner when I picked up the remote control for the TV and turned on CNN.

The lead story was a brutal attack of a young man in Laramie Wyoming named Matthew Shepard. Shepard, age 21, had been beaten into a coma and left tied to fence along a rural highway outside the city. The news report noted that the victim was a young gay man and was not expected to survive.

I remember walking down into “boystown” (the north Halstead area of Chicago, and the center of the city’s Gay community). There were lots of people standing around outside the bars, and restaurants along Halsted Street, talking about what had happened in Wyoming. A makeshift memorial had been set up on the corner of Halsted and Roscoe.

I walked into the 7-11 there on the corner and bought a small votive candle, lit it and placed it with the growing number of candles, handwritten notes and flowers that were being placed around a picture of Matthew that someone had printed off the internet. I stayed for a little while talking to people who were gathered there. Some people were angry, others sad, but we all knew that something in our own community had changed as a result of what had happened,  hundreds of miles away in field outside Laramie.

In 1998 I had just moved to Chicago after being overseas in South Korea. I was in the middle of my own “coming out” process,  and was gathering up my courage to have “the talk” with my parents when I went home for Thanksgiving in a few weeks time. I will admit the news of Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder shook me up. Suddenly the decisions I was making to live openly and honestly as who I was, had potentially fatal consequences.

On an intellectual level you always knew that there were “gay bashers” out there. People who were so conflicted about their own sexuality that they felt the way to “cure” themselves was to attack others for what they feared most about themselves. Yet now those hypothetical risks, were not so hypothetical.  What's more, those consequences now  had a face, and a name.

As I walked home, my thoughts turned to Matthew Shepard’s parents. What must they be thinking and feeling? Had they known Matt was gay? Did it really matter? Years later I would have the great honor of meeting Judy Shepard,  and hear her tell her own powerful story .

Now 20 years later, I marvel at how my own life has changed. I am married to an amazing man, we have incredible friends and loving families who remind us every day,  that the world is not as bleak and dark a place as it seemed,  on that October night in 1998.

Yet I am still saddened and angry that there are many people in America who honestly feel that Matthew Shepard got what “he had coming to him”. That demonizing , discriminating against, and even murdering Gays and Lesbians is somehow “doing God’s work”.

People with a vested interest in keeping LGBT people as the one group it is still safe to hate. People who seek to profit, personally, politically and even economically from fomenting deadly hatred and fear of others. Bigots whose actions and beliefs are the farthest thing from being Christian, yet claim to have a monopoly on what they claim God thinks and who they claim "God hates".

I really don’t have a point to make here, other than to say it’s important to remember Matthew and so many others like him who have died as a result of hatred and bigotry. If you want to get involved, here are a few great places to start...

The Matthew Shepard Foundation:

The Trevor Project:

The Ben Cohen Stand Up Foundation:

The We Give a Damn Campaign:

The "It Gets Better" Project:



Tuesday, October 09, 2018

It's Time to Vote...

While living in Denmark, a well known American humorist and author once wrote that a common experience shared by many  American expats living abroad, was having to regularly defend U.S. foreign and domestic policy at the dinner table.  Even when you personally agreed with those criticising your country.

For me this thread has run through all of my experiences living, studying and working overseas.  Going all the way back to my fist time abroad as an exchange student in Germany in 1984, and again in 1986-87 .  Where I routinely  found myself  stubbornly defending  Reagan Administration  policies like the Strategic Defence Initiative (aka "Star Wars")

To  trying to explain the impeachment of Bill Clinton to friends while living and working in South Korea in the 1990's and how Americans hold the President to higher standard.  (Those were the days, huh?)   To  staunchly defending the decision to "take out Saddam Hussein" to my ABN AMRO colleagues in the Netherlands in 2002.

Or most recently here in London,  dealing with questions about Republican obstructionism to Barack Obama,  and the Birther movement and its clear racism.  That along with  how Hillary Clinton won nearly three million more votes than Donald Trump but didn't win the election.   

In all these conversations  you find yourself saying things like; " have to understand... America is a big and complicated country.".etc..etc.  When in fact you are in full agreement that it is all pretty much insane nonsense.

But now since the 2016 election, I will confess,  I .... got nuthin.  Zip... zilch... nada.

I have been completely unable to find any rational  justification for the actions  and inaction of the Trump Administration.    Like when Trump tried to kill the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") with nothing whatsoever to take its place. 

Friends here in the UK were  bewildered.  Asking me  why would the US Government  take away heath insurance from millions of Americans and have absolutely nothing to replace with with?  I had no response. There was no rational justification.

When Trump said that  Nazi's and a mob of  white supremacists  were  "good people" and  those protesting the Nazi's were the problem.   Friends here in the UK were bewildered and asked  what did US President really mean by that?    I was speechless. There was no rational justification.
Likewise,  when the Trump Administration decided the best way to deal with the Immigration issue in the US was not to have comprehensive immigration reform, or to engage with other countries to try to address the core issues that were causing their citizens to seek refuge in the US;  But rather,  to kidnap children from their parents,  throw then into cages and camps.   Threaten the parents and  break up whole families  for the sole purpose of terrorising immigrants as a "deterrent" to future asylum  seekers.

Friends here in the UK and around the world were horrified  and asked how such a thing could possibly happen in America? I was just as shocked and dumbfounded.  There was no rational justification.

Or,  when the overwhelming public evidence began to emerge that Trump lied about his campaign's contacts with the Russia, and when his behaviour  towards Putin was not that of the leader of the free world but rather that of a weak and toady sycophant;  

Friends here in  the UK were  (again)  bewildered,  asking me.  Why would  the  US President abdicate global leadership to Vladimir Putin?   Again,  I had nothing,  there was no logical  justification for any of it.

For all of this, I was at a complete loss to defend or justify the actions of my own government. And now with the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation travesty, we have the latest example of American dysfunction. 

Where the political party that  hyperventilated about "higher standards"  while trying  to impeach Bill Clinton in the 1990's gleefully gave a man with multiple accusations of  sexual misconduct a lifetime appointment the  Supreme Court.  This,  after having blocked President Obama from filling a court seat because....??  Yeah,  good luck rationalizing that.

Once again  here in  London friends are looking at me and asking what is that all about?   I still have nothing to justify what Trump and his political party have done.  But I do have an explanation and ...  a potential remedy.

The explanation is simple. The Republican Party as most Americans have known or thought of it since its inception in a schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin as a new anti-slavery party, on March 20, 1854,  no longer exists.   

The GOP is dead,  what has taken its place is a political party  of  Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell,  where the good of country doesn't enter into the equation at all.   Its only about  the political victory.  Nothing else matters. 

American Constitutional Democracy is no longer functioning.    In 2018 under Trumpublican rule, the sole purpose of the Legislative and Judicial branches of government is to protect the executive branch.   (Checks and Balances are for losers.)  But the good news  is.... I have a remedy, and so do you.  In less than a month, we will have a midterm election in the United States.   So I have a  VOTE,  and so do you .

So here's the deal...

If you believe that  Insurance Company profit margins should be the determining factor in who gets health care in American - Then vote Republican.

If you believe that the best way to address immigration issues in the United States is to  kidnap children and  lock them up in cages and camps,  terrorise their families so others will be too scared to come the US.-  Then vote Republican.

If you believe that Vladimir Putin has America's  best interests at heart and should be a prime influencer of American foreign policy -  Then Vote Republican.

If you feel that the founders of our American Republic were wrong when they designed the Legislative and Judicial branches of government to be a check against the power of the Executive branch. - Then Vote Republican.

If you believe that women and people of color are less American than white men - Then by all means,  you should vote Republican 

If however,  you think all those  thing I just cited are bat-shit crazy  then  you clearly  are a rational thinking human being and like me, will be voting against the Republican Party.