The Electoral College Should Vote Clinton over Trump because They Can

Clinton won the popular vote. Trump’s supporters’ constant reminders about the Electoral College are designed, whether consciously or not, to diminish the significance of Clinton winning the popular vote but it is significant. More people who voted wanted Clinton to be president. The Electoral College was probably never a perfect system, it was probably arrived at through a series of compromises among people all dead now to balance the voting in a country that looked much different. Now we have people who work for the same 10-20 companies in identical clusters of businesses in different states whose votes have more weight by a factor of as high as five. This made sense when some sparsely populated regions made up most of the nation’s farmers or plantation owners. (Remember, the South used to count slaves, considered property, as three-fifths of a person when figuring voting influence, so clearly this was being patched together as they went along.) It makes less sense now.

This isn’t enough to seriously argue that the Electoral College vote in Clinton over Trump because that’s simply changing the rules after losing, but it’s all important context for the argument. Trump is a security risk to the nation. He is fragile and his response to feeling wounded is to attack. It appears to be his only move. His campaign demonstrated this but people still voted for him based on a combination of his lies and false promises and an attack on his opponent fueled largely by misinformation, we now know propagated, in part, by Russian interference. But here’s what Trump’s done since he became president-elect. He’s claimed he would have won the popular vote but for the millions of people in California who voted illegally. He stated this with no evidence. The CIA said they have overwhelming evidence that Russia tampered with the election to try to help him win, and Trump’s response was simply, no, they didn’t. We learned through his campaign that even little things that hurt his easily hurt feelings he claims are just made up. Now the stakes are higher. He is not holding up well to the pressure. And he’s falling back on his same character flaws and lashing out. Lashing out at the CIA of the country he’s about to lead. Again, with nothing but the fact that what they found hurt his feelings. People have said if his collusion with Russia could be proved that would be enough to prevent him taking office. Well, we all heard him tell Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. I have a friend that likes to say “Words are important.” People want to dismiss Trump’s outrageous comments as Trump being Trump. This is the president-elect. Why are we not holding him accountable? His responses are never measured, they’re all about how he feels, and that is a gigantic security risk. Numerous checks and balances are built into our government. The Electoral College is one of our protections. The Electoral College should recognize that Trump is unfit to be president. What’s missing is public support. Trump’s supporters are cheering themselves for their accomplishment of getting an anti-establishment candidate all the way to the presidency. They view the criticism of him as criticism of them and I’m sorry for that, but an honest evaluation of Trump needs to finally be done by the people who voted not for Trump but against Hillary. A president wins the presidency and becomes a civil servant. He or she may hold the highest office in the land but still serves the citizens—all of them. Trump serves only himself. People who begrudgingly voted for him need to admit that’s true and then voice it. We need them.

A Peaceful Exit

Mom made it easy for her doctors to deliver bad health news. I was with her on one of her scan days when her doctor had to tell her the treatments for her liver cancer weren’t helping. There was such care in the look on her face she gave him to ease his burden of informing her, probably the least favorite aspect of his job but also something he does frequently. She picked him up or she was picking her husband and me up. That was St. Patrick’s Day and on the way home we stopped at Mavis Winkle for dinner and then hit Steak and Shake for Shamrock shakes. I told her despite the bad news I enjoyed celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, and she said so did she.

The doctor offered her a next medication less likely to work and more likely to include side effects. She wanted opinions from all of us but promised to made her own decision. We didn’t give them lightly, not entirely sure our mother would be capable of deciding to discontinue treatment if her children and husband wanted her to continue. We were unanimous in wanting her to take the treatment which wouldn’t be a cure but might give her two or more years more of good quality of life. She seemed to be leaning that way, too. She wasn’t lucky, but she was a little lucky in that her first treatment made her sick but they were able to treat those symptoms and take her off the drug with limited, lingering effects.

We started planning final visits. My sisters and all their kids were out the Christmas before, expecting the possibility that it would be the last opportunity for a Christmas and New Year’s Day with her. They all came again in the summer. Mom worried she’d feel sick and that her illness would pervade and lead to a somber gathering, but she felt well enough or felt well enough to seem well enough that we had a wonderful visit. This is the visit that included the Yahtzee game where Mom scored a few points shy of the max possible in a game whose magic felt symbolic of our union, as you might imagine. (Sometimes real life resembles roll-your-eyes fiction.)

Mom gave these intensely sad goodbyes to things and then let them go. Places, first: a last Seattle trip took place in the fall, a last Florida visit in the spring. (My sisters’ homes) Mom’s basement steps were absent a handrail. We looked into putting one in. Mom was still walking pretty well but was just unsteady enough that I worried about her on those steps, but she didn’t want to give up washing clothes. I asked her not to go down alone at least until we got a handrail installed. But next time I came she had passed this chore on to her husband. She said she was done going into the basement.

Another weekend I was over, she asked me to move a chair up to her bedroom. She was already limiting trips up and down the steps in the house and knew she’d soon be done going down those stairs as well and would want to receive visitors from her bedroom. She worried her husband would, understandably, put off taking the chair up feeling like the action was moving us toward where we were going anyway. I was able to isolate these tasks. I could tell myself I was just taking a chair up to a bedroom. I almost took on the persona of a hired furniture mover to accomplish this. My next time over we spent all afternoon up in that room. We discussed spirituality, we looked at old pictures. She had me read a passage from a spiritual trilogy she’d been reading. It was a fictional account of the devil describing how he/she/it talks people out of a relationship with God. Starting with using atheism as a tool and progressing up using people’s religion against them. The essential point being that a relationship with God is the ultimate goal, religion being the tool. So the devil would keep people stuck at the tool stage. This being a Catholic book, the sort of top tier religion, in this devil’s mind, was Catholicism. So the interviewer’s last question was about how the devil managed to keep even Catholics from God. So the devil, who from the dialogue one got the sense had to wipe his horny brow, answers as though these Catholics are his greatest challenge. But gives the same answer about keeping them stuck in the tool stage.

So realizing my mother is weeks from death and spiritually preparing herself for a journey she would rather delay, is afraid of but is also partly excited for, I understand she’s just shared a passage with me because it meant a lot to her and while I mostly liked it, that bit about the Catholics being “a tough nut to crack,” which the devil actually said, in this fictional account, gave me a pretty significant eye roll moment I didn’t think I could leave out of my comments about the passage Mom was waiting for. I did think about it. But I told her the full truth. I told her that I liked it and the idea reminded me of Joseph Campbell but that the part about the devil treating Catholicism as nearly an invincibility shield against temptation seemed a bit much. She grinned. “Yeah, that got a little embarrassing.” We had several nice laughs about that.

When I left that day, I hugged her goodbye. As I was leaving her bedroom, she said, “Greg, this was so pleasant. This is just what I imagined it would be.” I looked forward to a repeat of that long afternoon but the next time I stopped over she spent most of the time asleep. I told her goodbye and she apologized for being so tired. I told her not to worry and get her rest and I would be back the next day. That weekend my one sister was flying in. Both my sisters had flown in since the family visit over the summer and visited with Mom sick but well enough to enjoy visiting. Really she never got too sick to enjoy visiting. They wanted to be there for the end. My other sister was planning to fly in early the next week but a hospice worker told me to have her come now.

Sunday morning Mom woke up wanting hugs. I went in to greet her and I asked her if I could get her anything. She said, “A hug.” I hugged her and asked her if I could get her anything else. She said, “I still need that hug.” I hugged her again. My sister came in for hugs and then she wanted her husband. We called him up. She said after repeat rounds of hugs, “I think I’m going to die today,” with a serene singsong intonation.

I told Mom I was leaving to pick her other daughter up from the airport. I followed up to see Mom’s face light up when she saw her. She was reasonably alert and coherent through the morning but slept through the afternoon and into the evening. I told my sisters mornings were best for catching her most alert. She spoke that next morning and even ate a little. The hospice nurse told us it could be that day or the next. By midmorning she had already slipped into that twilight mode, a combination of the morphine controlling her pain and the progression of her illness. That afternoon my sisters and I were all in the room with her. We’d all already told her goodbye, thanked her for being our mom, and given her permission to leave us. She’d given little indication of consciousness for some time. We had a portable CD player by her bed with her collection of Elvis Presley hymns. I played her favorite “In the Garden.” The three of us laid our hands on Mom, and Mom’s eyebrows lifted. They lifted and fell and lifted but the impression was that they kept lifting. She lightly moaned, a sound that didn’t seem pained and might have been her trying to speak, but she was done with words and we didn’t need any words. I put the hymn on repeat. I’m sure we were all crying and telling her goodbye and that we loved her and telling her it was okay for her to go, but my main memory is of her eyebrows, that illusion of them perpetually lifting.

We all went down to the family room, all of us except her husband who rarely left her side, for a break. Final moments aren’t exceptionally important. Mom felt us all with her and whether she died one moment or the next she was leaving this world with all the love in her life, which is really how it always happens. (Really death isn’t a happening at all, that’s a limitation of language.) Although I told my sisters that would have been perfect timing, had the end of her life coincided with one of those twenty-some repeats of her favorite hymn.

I found in Mom’s journal, from when she had lung cancer way back when her grandchildren were just babies, where she wrote that she hoped she was able to die as bravely and with as much dignity as her father. I hope she didn’t feel burdened by that hope. I told her many times I didn’t want her to feel like she had to be brave for us, but I don’t know that that would have stopped her. That evening, her labored breathing ceased, the quiet waking my one sister, who called me and my other sister up. Her husband said a prayer over her and we all cried and told her we loved her in case she was still there to hear us. It was very peaceful and a lovely memory. We were so well prepared. She prepared us so well, our mother.

Tweedledum or Tweedledee for President

The title of this post is meant to seem topical but I’m actually sneaking in a history lesson I learned from Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. In the close election of 2000 that came down to Florida, Ralph Nader ran as a third-party candidate. His platform was that voting Democrat or Republican was a choice between Tweedledum or Tweedledee. He had a fairly successful showing as a third party candidate. Analysis after the voting showed had he not run, Gore would have had the votes to win Florida. However they figure these things out, whatever the margin of error, they don’t guess. Nader’s position that both candidates from the two major political parties are working for the system, just to varying degrees, is a common feeling among the population and why Nader got so many votes and probably why so many Americans don’t vote at all.

I immediately recalled a passage from earlier in the book that I copied out on a note card:

To give people a choice between two different parties and allow them, in a point of rebellion, to choose the slightly more democratic one was an ingenious mode of control. Like so much in the American system, it was not devilishly contrived by some master plotters; it developed naturally out of the needs of the situation.

This election year it looks like we’ll have two choices again. After strong runs from candidates with “anti-establishment” platforms, we’re left with the “anti-establishment” Republican and the Democrat who beat her “anti-establishment” opponent. We’re also left with Never Trump’s on the Republican side and Never Hilary’s on the Democrat side.

There is a saying in baseball: “You’re going to win sixty and lose sixty, it’s what you do with the other games that makes you a good team or a bad one.”

That’s kind of true without saying anything. What if you play really well for those other games but, oops, lose forty of your sixty you were going to win? They say every election year that the undecided voters will swing the election based on what they decide. That’s also kind of true without saying anything. This year the election will be decided by how many of the Never Trump’s vote for Trump and how many of the Never Hilary’s vote for Hilary. Again, kind of true without saying anything.

If it’s accurate that the two party system is used as a mode of control, and Howard Zinn certainly made a great case for it being true all throughout American history, then I guess it’s cool Trump made it as the Republican nominee and I do think it’s cool how far Bernie made it. My question for the Tweedledee or Tweedledum contingent is, do we want this to be the election year we break out of that mode of control? By writing in Bernie or refusing to vote if Hilary or Trump is the only choice. Is that mode of control something we can realistically break out of through a single election?

If the two-party system developed naturally as a mode of control then it developed as a result of pressures and it’s those pressures that need addressed before the two-party system can be abandoned. Gary Johnson might have some great qualities that would make him a great president but most of us don’t know about them. He feels picked out of a hat. Clinton or Trump will be the next president. Voting for a third-party candidate is one path to fighting out of our two-party system but it’s not the only path and it, alone, won’t be effective. I would rather see people accept the two-party system for this election and then begin the next day campaigning for a way out of that system. This election is too important.

This election might be closer than anyone expects and what I’m hearing is people working really hard to hate Clinton enough to rationalize voting in Trump. I liken it to hiring someone for a job. You have their resumes and an interview process. Clinton’s resume includes being a senator and the Secretary of State, which is fourth in line for the presidency. Trump inherited a fortune and invested it in questionable business ventures, many of which failed, and starred on NBC’s The Apprentice. Their respective campaigns have been the interview process. Does anyone think Trump has been nailing his interview portion or Clinton failing hers enough to make up for that giant, very real gap in employment history?

Of course no one does. Trump’s supporters are people who will vote for him because of that resume which proves, to them, he won’t be “more of the same.” What will he be instead? How many of them are looking that far?

“Politics as usual” is another vague criticism we use. A criticism of a system clogged up by too many pressures to be fixed by plugging in one “anti-establishment” participant, even if placed at the highest position in the country. Clinton’s resume might make her seem like “more of the same,” but it also shows a track record of experience with diplomacy. Trump’s approach, his only play, which he’s consistently demonstrated through this interview process, to other people who don’t think exactly like him—basically everyone he’ll deal with as our primary representative to other countries—is to lash out. That might sound like toughness to unsophisticated voters who actually consider “closing our borders” an option in an age when borders are more and more an illusion, but it could bring us to the brink of war.

And unsophisticated isn’t an insult, I guess it’s an opinion, but voters who are hearing “Benghazi” and “emails” and deciding from those buzz words without any independent research that those words prove Clinton can’t be trusted and that Trump would be a better choice as our next president fit the description pretty well. We’re all relatively unsophisticated voters because we have hundreds of concerns beyond politics, which makes us easy to manipulate, but this election will be decided by the people still working hard to think Trump is okay enough to elect because of a hatred of Hilary Clinton that feels largely manufactured.

I haven’t even touched, yet, on the effect misogyny will have on this election but I will. For me, “I wouldn’t mind a woman president but not this woman,” is the new “I’m not racist but…” almost always followed by something racist. I’m not accusing anyone of blatant misogyny but anyone not admitting our history of misogyny is gumming up their decision making in this election would probably benefit from a little reflection on how a woman is being perceived by all of us for daring to want to be president. Ambition would never be quite the mark against her that it is if she weren’t a her.

In this book I’m reading about John Adams, John Adams, a political life was considered service to the country. Adams didn’t want to go to France as a diplomat but when he was sent he went. I admit that was a different time. After his presidency Adams returned to his farm and struggled to make a living. These days politicians acquire significant wealth. Yet we have to count what she has given as service. In this age, to be travelling the globe as Secretary of State, she assumed a great deal of risk. From my admittedly little research on Benghazi, she was one of many responsible people who failed to address security opportunities there before a terrorist attack. Probably everywhere could benefit from increased security in this age of terrorism, but beefing up security everywhere isn’t possible. We offer soldiers slack in incidents of fratricide because we recognize they’ve put themselves in tough situations at great risk to themselves and we honor that commitment to their country. I think it’s reasonable to put Hilary Clinton in that category. Certainly it’s unfair to put all our country’s foreign policy errors on her and use them to prop up a candidate whose personal history demonstrates he’s cared about little else than his own wealth and fame, for all his life.

I want to cover everything in one post so I can have my views expressed. Whatever I say or don’t say, the outcome will be the same. This is for my peace of mind, and I love everyone who’s read this far. Trump has said terrible things. He makes sometimes the oddest, almost surreal, attempts to backpedal on them without apologizing for them but they’re all real, they’re all his words. Maybe the oddest part about his debate performance was when he genuinely seemed hurt that Clinton attacked him in her ads. “I don’t deserve that,” he said at one point, but the “attack” ads I’ve seen are all just Clinton airing Trump’s words.

Running for president is viewed as a farce, to many. We think of politicians as people who just try to say, over the course of their lives, things that will make them electable. I get that. It’s glad-handing obnoxiousness, it feels insincere, but the opposite of that as the next leader of our country isn’t some guy who’s been on Howard Stern and talked, on air, about how disgusting overweight women are. We can imagine the glad-handing obnoxious woman who’s dared to want to be president, maybe most of her life, isn’t who she’s portraying herself to be, but it’s a much better bet that the obnoxious man who has spent his life trying to use his inherited wealth to accrue more wealth (and largely failed) at the expense of anyone and everyone under him, who is willing to insult anyone and everyone if it will win him a moment’s air time on TV, who is playing to the unsophisticated faction of the country who imagine walls and xenophobia are easy answers, is exactly who he’s been all along.

It would feel pessimistic to end this post with Trump being the reason I’m voting for Clinton, though he’s more than reason enough, in my mind. I’m not a huge Hilary Clinton proponent. I expect the only president I will ever admire and want to have a beer with is about to step down after his two terms. But I think Hilary Clinton will make a good president. I think she will emulate her successor more than her husband. I think she wants to be a good president more than she’s arrogant and simply expects to be a good one. She cares what everyone thinks of her, which is a quality we want our president to have. She doesn’t just support The Affordable Care Act but plans to improve it. I could write a whole blog about how the idea we can keep getting by without a single-payer health care system is a lie perpetrated by the people who reap huge profits by our lack of one, while the sick can’t receive proper healthcare and so, sometimes, die. (I actually already did write that blog.)

She has experience and she’s learned from her experience. She has reasonable potential to be a good president. She’s not a bad choice just like the other, no matter how hard anyone works to view her that way.


Is pre-grief a thing? My sisters and I wondered this many times over the last year plus. We weren’t always sleeping well. We were stressed out; at times, unhappy. I would tell them we were pre-grieving, we were beginning the work that would lead to our acceptance of our mother’s death and her return to us in memory. Then I would realize I was guessing. Maybe the actual event of her death would bring that same acute pain of grief we remembered from our father’s death.

Probably too soon to tell but dreams are a great insight into how you’re feeling. My one sister and I both had recurring dreams of our father, corpse-like, wandering around and seeming not to know he had died. In one of mine, someone down the road was shooting off fireworks. My dad and I got into his truck to drive down to watch. I turned to him in the passenger seat and had to break it to him. “Dad, you can’t go. You’re dead.”

I wasn’t telling him, I was telling me.

I only cried once over my mom in pre-grief, after watching Inside Out, but I cried a lot after she died. I cried but I slept pretty well. I ate fine. I had my normal appetite, which I didn’t have after my dad died. Three nights in a row I’ve dreamed of my mom. She is her usual, cheerful, helpful self in my dreams. She had an opportunity my dad didn’t have to prepare to die, to prepare her loved ones for her death, and to say and hug us goodbye. She had that opportunity but she chose to use it and she gets the lion’s share of the credit (i.e., all of the credit) for any early peace we’re experiencing at her loss.

Love You Mom!

Mother died today. Or it might have been yesterday. I only don’t know because right now I’m enjoying morning coffee with her while she receives therapy from one of her Hospice nurses. I’m preparing this blog ahead of time linking some of the blog posts I’ve made over the many months since her diagnosis of terminal liver cancer. Months we’ve managed, following her lead, to make the most of. Sharing her through my writing is likely to be my path through grief.

I’ll link them short to long. If you feel like reading any, please do. I’m grateful for your thoughts, your comments, and your time.

1. Compiling A Reading List I Hope not to get to soon

2. Awakenings

3. Dreaming of A Living Funeral

4. Bulk Popcorn

5. Hearts Connected by String

7. Integrating Sadness and Joy:

8. Scan Day:

9. Keeping An Eye on Her Grandchildren

10. This post I wrote about my father four years after he died:

11. My Mother’s Simons:

12. Yahtzee:

Make America Becoming Again

I have a Trump theory that’s weirdly optimistic. Trump’s function is that of the trickster. Joseph Campbell says, “No matter what system of thought you have it cannot possibly include boundless thought, so just when you think you have it all figured out, here comes the trickster to show you it’s not quite that way, and then you get the becoming thing again.”

In the story, a trickster god walks through a town wearing a hat with different colors on each side. He walks through one way and then turns the hat around and walks back. So the townspeople are all talking about the god who walked through town but they argue about what color his hat was. After a big row, the trickster god comes forward and says, “It’s my fault. Spreading strife is my greatest joy.”

“Spreading strife is my greatest joy” would work as Donald Trump’s tagline. Not only is it his greatest joy, it’s his only play. He’s not playing the role of the trickster but as a nation we can allow him to perform that function. “Make America Becoming Again” would fit neatly on posters.

By the Discretion of the Judge

Apparently our judges get a great deal of discretion during sentencing. This went viral when a judge recently reduced the sentence of a convicted rapist to three months in jail. People were justifiably appalled, but according to the research Jon Krakauer did for his book Missoula, judges have this discretion in rapes where there is no accompanying physical injury to not require convicted rapists serve any jail time at all. This obscenely ignores the emotional trauma of being the victim of a rape. And is really just obscene enough to stand without comment.

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, also by Jon Krakauer, included an incident that occurred when Pat Tillman was nineteen. It turned out to be a regrettable moment in his life that he used to motivate himself to be a better person, which he successfully accomplished, so I don’t love describing it with him gone. Long story shortened from the book, he basically put a younger kid in the hospital and knocked teeth out and was still at it when cops dragged him off the kid. He was no bully. He mistakenly thought a friend of his was being bullied by a group, so he picked out the biggest guy from the group he could find and started fighting him. As happens with vigilante justice, he misread the situation completely and had actually picked out a guy who wasn’t even in the group. (Besides not realizing his friend had actually approached and antagonized the group first.) He could have been convicted of felony assault which would have cost him his scholarship to ASU but the judge reduced the charges to a misdemeanor.

A friend of the boy Pat Tillman beat up, Erin Clarke’s comments are worth copying out: “At the time I didn’t agree with the sentence at all. It seemed like the judge was more worried about Pat losing his scholarship than what happened to Darin.”

Later she heard on the radio Pat Tillman had been killed: “I remember the air being sucked out of my lungs. He was the first person I knew who had died in the war, and that morning the war suddenly became very real to me. What I take from Pat Tillman is that you are not who you are at your worst moment. After what Pat did to Darin, it seems like he really turned his life around and became quite an honorable person. That judge held Pat’s future in her hands. She had the power to send him down one path or another, and she decided to make what turned out to be a really good decision. She said ‘I’m going to believe in you—I’m going to believe you’re going to take this opportunity and do the best you possibly can with it.’ And you know what? It sounds like that’s what he did. I don’t think there are many people on this planet who would have done as well with that kind of second chance.”

I couldn’t agree with everything she said more because I know what a heroic and honorable life Pat Tillman lived. But the judge made what turned out to be a really good decision. The last sentence of her statement might be cynical but is probably accurate. How many people take these second chances and do good with them and how many shake off a close call but continue to live with huge entitlement issues? If the Stanford rapist turns out to do something wonderful and selfless with the rest of his life we might all say his judge made what turned out to be a good decision, but none of us think he’s a very likely candidate for living an especially honorable life.

So what are judges going by? Pat Tillman’s judge believed in him, but what’s her track record? Maybe she just believes in the good in everyone that comes before her and gets burned by most people on the planet. What did the judge see in the Stanford rapist? Maybe he felt pity for a young man who enjoyed cooking out and having prime rib, just like the judge does, but doesn’t anymore since what happened. Whereas a young man who cooks out and has hamburgers and hot dogs like most of the population of the country the judge wouldn’t relate to as well and therefore wouldn’t have his empathy invoked.

My two problems are we all like the idea of second chances for people. In fact, we’re rather obsessed with people making it on their second chance. But second chances after minimal or no consequences for the initial mistake probably don’t show improved behavior as often as we like to think. My second problem is I’ve lost a lot of faith in our judicial system. I grew up believing judges were impartial, which meant purely objective, above making decisions based on partisan leanings. I’m rather embarrassed that I held onto that as long as I did since learning it at age eight, probably. In the same book, I learned Bush’s 2000 election was helped along by a 5-4 ruling from the Supreme Court on a Florida recount decision. Sandra Day O’Connor, one of the five, had stated on several occasions she was eager to retire and didn’t want a Democrat to nominate her successor. That doesn’t prove she didn’t cast an impartial vote but, like I said, I’ve lost faith in the impartiality of our judicial system.

I suppose this blog would be better if I could end with an answer to it, but I don’t have one. Maybe one problem is the huge swings in sentencing. A person can get from no jail time to twenty years in jail for a conviction of rape. Maybe judges shouldn’t get that much discretion. Maybe we should be more clear that court TV isn’t court at all. Court TV is third-party arbitration. These TV personalities have all the discretion in the world and most kids and probably a lot of adults think that’s court, which it’s not. Maybe we should do close studies on how judge’s discretion correlates with race or gender. I know not everything is about race and gender but a lot still is about race and gender.

There might also be a sense that what happened to the victim of a rape or an assault can’t be undone. What’s about to happen to the person convicted of the crime can be done or undone, right then by the judge. Presumably judges get to be judges because they’re capable of handling that pressure moment fairly but maybe we’re terrible at deciding who gets to be our judges. Maybe there’s too much inconsistency. Maybe we don’t give enough consideration to how these instances of light sentencing leave victims feeling victimized again. And not just the specific victim but anyone who’s been victimized and people who worry about being victimized in a society where people convicted can receive such light sentences. That may explain why the Stanford rapist case went viral. People weren’t reacting to how that didn’t seem fair. They were reacting to how that wasn’t fair based on circumstances in their own lives, either traumas of their pasts or their biggest fears.

My Cavs Family

Cleveland will remember crowding into the Q to watch games played at Golden State on the big screen, drinking beer or pop and eating wings in packed sports bars, filling the streets to celebrate a game seven victory, RJ Smith with his shirt off. I watched every finals game at my mom’s house. For most I left at halftime and watched the second half at home. Once or twice I fell asleep in the third quarter with the game on the radio. After we went down 0-2, my mom texted that we’d be home the next two games: “Go Cavs!” After we went down 1-3, I showed up at her house for our pregame chat and she said she had a good feeling about game five. I did, too.

LeBron came back and the Cavs won a title. My Cavs I shared with my mom and many others, people I chatted with about games, who chatted with others about games, a network of conversations that spread throughout the region and the rest of the country.

I remember World B. Free, who never missed a jump shot, in my little kid memory. My earliest basketball memories were watching Ohio State with my mom on channel 67 that came in all fuzzy. Brad Sellers wore 00 as a freshman. He led the team as a senior with Dennis Hopkins a year behind. When Sellers left, I figured we wouldn’t win a game. Then Dennis Hopkins led them deep into the tournament as a senior. I couldn’t believe it when we came out ahead of Georgetown early. Were we going to the final four, whatever the hell that was? No, we lost but I knew we’d had a hell of a season. My favorite player, for a while, was Kip Lomax. “Kip Lomax from the top of the key!” I used to say, shooting after practice back in my CYO league days. Before that was a three-pointer.

I posted this blog when LeBron came back to Cleveland:

I reread it, this morning, and nothing that happened changes my mind, but I did enjoy watching my Cavs win a championship, after all those great Mark Price, Brad Daugherty, Hot Rod Williams teams came up just short. (Yes, just short. A few of those years we gave the Bulls their toughest competition.) I enjoyed it with my mom and with fellow fans. I’m not grateful to LeBron, though his performance was the most impactful among all the players. The Cavs are a team. He came back to the team. Every time LeBron was interviewed, practically, he commented about “his guys,” and my mom would pop halfway out of her chair, “They’re not ‘your guys,’ you’re part of a team!”

This is how I managed to get my Cavs back. I don’t have to have an opinion about individual players to enjoy watching my team and to enjoy rooting for them with my friends and family and random people like the woman who came into the store where I work the morning after the Cavs won and just wanted to chat sports. We want to admire people who we watch excel at sports but we’re asking for a big coincidence if we expect people put on that stage almost solely for their athletic performance to then also be people we admire. Which leaves us to luck or to forge goodness out of them. I noticed people praised LeBron for an interview when the Cavs were down 1-3 and some of the Warriors players made snide remarks. LeBron took the high road. We know because he said it three times during the interview. LeBron, it’s not still the high road when you say you’re taking it.

Anderson Verajao is a great example. A beloved player in Cleveland, traded away through no fault of his own, but we saw him in a different light as a Golden State Warrior. Still have to love his hustle, but he’s a flopper. He purposely entangles himself with opposing players and then when the opposing player moves to get free, Anderson launches himself across the court and looks up at the refs like he just got shoved for no reason. We might call it gamesmanship, if we felt a need to like him, but rooting against him he looked obnoxious.

I forgot how freshly annoyed I still was with Richard Sherman when I posted about LeBron returning. Sherman was the player who made a spectacular defensive play to send Seattle to the Superbowl they won a couple of years ago. He was aggressively defended by fans for the poor act of sportsmanship he displayed in a postgame interview, after the NFC championship game against San Francisco, that took attention away from his team and the city he played for to put it squarely on him, where he parlayed it into endorsement deals. Since, I’ve seen him turn to visiting fans and taunt them. Some of the fans had likely taunted him first, but they’re taunting an adult. A player taunting a stadium is taunting children. In those stands is an eight-year-old who loves his team and hasn’t developed ill feeling for the opposing team but feels a little kid desperation to win. And you’re taunting him. If you forget to think of it that way, use your millions of dollars as a reminder.

But he posts thank yous to his fans and Christmas pics of his family wishing everyone happy holidays, he does charity work for the city, so of course his fans excuse his behavior. LeBron buys bikes for kids at events, which is great. Although how generous is it when it’s also a necessary part of being a superstar and nabbing endorsement deals? An NBA star with no charitable contributions to show would risk getting dropped from deals with Nike, McDonald’s, whoever else, that net them far more than they give away.

LeBron’s not my favorite Cavs player. I like Kyrie. I always called Kyrie the leader of this year’s Cavs team and LeBron joined. Winning it all was more fun for me because while we couldn’t have done it without LeBron, we also couldn’t have done it without Kyrie. But really we couldn’t have done it without contributions from all the players and coaches and trainers and all the fans who showed up and gave them an advantage in their home games.

What I really learned by easing my way back into rooting for my Cavs is that the players are ephemeral magnets for our focus and attention that really belongs to the team. The players come and go but the team is what we put our love in. And what is the team? It’s not something owned by Dan Gilbert. It’s a transcendent entity that encompasses our discrete loves joined together, through our chats about games, our texts and facebook posts, the thousands of fans high-fiving each other in the streets of Cleveland after gave seven, the million-plus who gathered for the parade. The players made an appearance at the parade, but people didn’t go to that parade to catch a glimpse of the players. They went to have a parade in Northeast Ohio celebrating together a first major championship in fifty-plus years. The players were ephemeral catalysts for that joy transcendent of them, transcendent of the team. That’s why we call it team spirit. My team was me and my mom watching every game without ever giving up hope. And we did it!


My mom had the Yahtzee game of her life over the weekend in May when we were all together, both my sisters and their kids flew in from their respective corners of the country. We looked it up on the internet and her score was maybe a dozen points shy of the highest possible in games without multiple yahtzees, which is how we play because our scorecards from the game my mom inherited from her parents don’t have spaces for bonus yahtzees. She got everything, obviously, but even her three and four of a kinds were in fives and sixes, she got more than three for most of her bonus numbers, she was….well, on a roll. Maybe even more incredible was her efficiency. All she needed for her last three turns were her ones, her twos, and her chance. We knew we were witnessing a miracle, already. Then her chance was in the high twenties (around twenty is a good chance). She rolled for her ones, already with plenty enough points to get her bonus, got two or three, rolled again and got one or two more, and then on her last roll, hit that final one for a yahtzee of ones to end her magical game.

We were cheering and laughing. At the same time, my nephew was playing for the first time and rolling with zero luck. I was across the table from him and helping. Now what? he would ask, and I’d say, Well, you have two fives, so you could go for fives. Now what? Well, you still only have two fives but now you have two threes with one roll to go, so I would switch and roll for your threes. Now what? Now I would take your ones. You only have one but you’ll be down less for your bonus that way. My sister and I discovered that it’s poor strategy to ever go for your ones. Go for something with more point value and treat your ones like a scratch. “Never go for your ones” is on a list of notes we keep with the game, along with “always take a full house” and “never go for a full house.” We, one time, dug through the old score cards in my mom’s game and discovered reams of the tiny sheets with Rex and Kate’s, my mother’s parents, scores on them. Grandpa Rex’s ones were almost all 0’s and 1’s. He clearly played with the same strategy. I won’t reveal my nephew’s score, in case one day he reads this, but let’s just say if he’d been bowling it would have been under fifty. I felt awful because he was mostly following my advice. Now what? Well, you’ll have to scratch something. You’re having unlucky rolls, some games are like that. The cards just weren’t falling for him, to borrow an expression.

We’re a competitive clan of board gamers. Even now we all play wanting to win. We don’t get mad and refuse to clean up when we lose anymore, the feeling dissipates as soon as the game ends, but we all play with intensity. My mom famously took a firm position against ever making concessions to the grandchildren during games, stating that they should play by the rules and learn what winning and losing games is about. (We’ve caught her making them, though. She’s Sorry’d her own kids when clearly the better strategy would have been to Sorry one of the grandkids who were begging please Grandma with their hands covering their vulnerable pieces on the board.) Despite that, we discovered on this trip that our Yahtzee games are a constant stream of sincere advice. The decision is made by the player but anytime a roll of the dice doesn’t point in a clear direction, the rest of the table will lean closer and questions come: “Do you have your small straight?” “How are you on your bonus?” Then “I would go for your three of a kind in fives and then if you don’t get it you still have your chance.” or “Go for your sixes and if you don’t get them scratch your ones.” And because we’re helping each other we’re also rooting for each other. So many of us were playing, we introduced a second set of dice but we stopped using it because we realized we wanted to be able to watch everyone’s turn.

Someone private messaged me when I posted last week about enjoying our weekend with our mother, who is terminally ill with cancer, how nice it is we’re able to enjoy that time. I guess it is, but I often forget because it seems so simple. We’re all, as human beings, enjoying our lives that will end, we just rarely think about it. We “keep it on the back burner where it belongs,” quoting Jonathan Franzen from an essay, a line that stuck with me. Except, each in our own way, we’re using our awareness that we’ll die one day to remind us life is precious, to experience our lives as important or as having meaning, to make life signify, however one puts the same idea. This isn’t as different as people might think. We sometimes talk about what’s happening, maybe slightly more often than groups of friends, during late night chats, will discuss their mortality. If it comes up. We’re following my mom’s lead. Our ability to enjoy our time with her under these circumstances is to her full credit. She’s leading us to making the hard but simple choice to appreciate knowing what’s happening ahead of time so we can value this time with her.

At my father’s funeral, a man who knew my dad but didn’t know me talked to me. His talking to me and a neighbor couple my dad had helped out with some yard work showing up and bringing their young baby were the only two things I recall really reaching me through my grief. He was telling a story about my dad, but I think he saw I was grief struck and barely listening. I suspect he was familiar with what I was feeling. He said, “All those memories of your dad that are bringing you so much pain, now, are going to return and bring you joy again.”

The memories from that Yahtzee game, beyond that the weekend, and beyond that our lives, will cause us pain after she’s gone. Then as time passes, as grief does its mysterious work, those same memories will bring us joy again. That’s the process of grief and there’s no circumventing grief.

Viral Shaming

Opinions aren’t the problem. Opinions are the solution. The problem, in my opinion, is that most of the posts on social media aren’t opinions, they’re positions taken against others’ posts, which were positions taken against others’ posts. We’re not precise with our opinions. Before I start on a gorilla, I’m going to discuss a lion.

I hate the guy whose kill of the lion went viral some months ago. He’s easy for me to hate. He hunts for sport, he hunts endangered species for sport, and he killed a lion from a sanctuary, named “Cecil.” That’s a helpful narrative if I’m eager to fuel my hatred, for him, which I am. What really happened is likely more complicated and it wouldn’t be precise for me to leave that out. This rich dentist maybe always wanted to hunt and kill a lion. He found a safari tour that offered him that opportunity, for a large fee. They probably didn’t advertise the questionable practices they used to sell that product to him, i.e. luring a lion off a sanctuary into an area where it was no longer protected. I could dismiss that and say he should have known, but how many items do I buy at stores that if I investigated how they got to that store would leave me feeling guilty for purchasing them? I can still hate the guy, but when I bring in these possibilities I start questioning if his punishment fit his crime. The organized viral shaming he endured was severely damaging. The dentistry business he spent his life building closed. A few dental hygienists lost their jobs, too. (I would guess.)

Now we have parents who are being virally shamed for a moment of losing close eye on their child. However lax their supervision might have been, they did nothing deliberate. Now at a time when they would be basking in relief that their son is alive and well with ‘what could have happened’ teaching them a valuable lesson, they’re instead having to endure blasting from the internet about what horrible parents they are. The gorilla and the kid are innocent. The gorilla had to be killed. We’re not going to let a four-year-old wander into a gorilla exhibit at a zoo and not take the safest action possible to protect him, even if that means killing the gorilla. Between the zoo and the parents, I’d call the fault a coin flip. If I’m at a zoo with a four-year-old, I’m going to keep a watch on the kid, as best I can. I’m also going to make the assumption that him crawling into an exhibit with a gorilla isn’t in the realm of possible trouble he can get into.

We tend to assume we’re safe. I’m going to bring one more example into this post, that’s been on my mind. A few years ago, there was a tragic internet story that deeply upset me. A fan at a baseball game in Texas, while leaning over a rail for a foul ball, fell and died. I was highly sensitive to the story because I was grieving for my own father and I remember the man had a ten-year-old son. Then despite knowing that few things cost you your faith in humanity more than reading internet comments, I dragged past the story and read numerous responses from people who would have been smarter and not risked death over a baseball. They created a simple narrative that made ridiculing him possible, I suppose to avoid the anguish of empathizing with him. An obviously false narrative. He didn’t risk his life to catch a souvenir baseball. He lost track of where he was when he leaned over a railing and lunged for a foul ball, which every fan dreams of catching. His focus had been on the game and not on the drop past the railing, because we tend to assume we’re safe.

I don’t know all the details of the zoo incident, but I don’t need to know them to keep the possibility in mind that the parents were watching their kid but expected him to wander off in any other direction except into the gorilla exhibit. So they probably looked everywhere else first, after he slipped out of sight as kids sometimes do. The point is we don’t know what happened but we can imagine a variety of circumstances. So because an innocent gorilla was shot and killed and that sucks we become highly motivated to choose a scenario that gives us someone to blame, because we’re angry and we imagine that if we have a place to put our anger we’ll feel better, which we actually won’t. The problem is worse because this story has gone viral and so has our directed anger at these parents, who have no identity outside of the assumptions we’re making about them.

The counter to the line of thinking I’ve tried to present here is usually the argument for holding people accountable. Which doesn’t apply, at all, to the baseball example, but certainly does to the lion one and, maybe, to the zoo one. But while we’re holding people accountable, we’re also missing our opportunity to contemplate us finding ourselves in similar circumstances and how differently we’d feel then and how much more understanding we would be of those mistakes, which ironically is our failure to hold ourselves accountable in the way we, first, think and then present what we think on social media.