Tuesday, November 22, 2016


I’m David’s brother. 

David, or "Davy V.", as most of you know him by, is my only sibling. 

I am older by nearly a decade (sort of raised as an “only child,” therefore I was very happy when David came along). 

Over the years our lives have been different, most likely precisely due to the age difference: I was born in Havana, Cuba, during the Cold War (8 months old during the Missile Crisis); David in the U.S., in Rochester (age played a role in this in that our parents had come to the U.S. as refugees by the time my mom gave birth to David). 

I was brought up very religious (now I am a secular humanist), he was not (I think he got the better part of that deal, as I find religion very toxic). 

Anyway, the older brother/kid brother dynamic has been daunting for both of us over the years—technically, we’re almost different generations.

David's style is more like our father--direct, bold and with a tendency towards action. Mine is more like our mother— cerebral, cautious,  and with a tendency towards thought. 

But here’s the thing: just as the body and the mind work together, the fact is any effort, from constructing a building to advocating for social justice, needs both the loud and brash risk-takers who put pressure on the system, and the more quiet, cautious behind-the-scenes types, who attempt to persuade with a calmer voice. 

The best example I can think of is Malcolm X— who spoke of “white devils,” was confrontational, revolutionary, bold, felt “dangerous” to many, and labeled an extremist by critics, both white and black; and Martin Luther King, Jr.,— who spoke of "our sick white brothers,” sought consensus, spoke and wrote thoughtfully, eloquently, and felt “safe” to most…and was labeled an “Uncle Tom” by some critics in the black community (of course, to the power structure, MLK ws also an extremist). 

The fact is, Malcom and Martin had a bit of an uneasy relationship, each believing to some degree that the other was a hindrance to progress. Yet, both learned from each other. 

Malcom changed in his last couple of years, going from someone who  advocated Black nationalism and who at times advocated violence (at least that “vibe" was there) to someone who came to believe in the universal bond of all peoples. 

And Martin, while committed to non-violence, sadly was quite depressed at the end, and wondered if in fact the movement needed to flex its muscle more aggressively, if his style was not as effective as he once thought.

No, I am not directly comparing David and I to Malcolm X and MLK. Their gifts were on a higher level. But, they set an example for us. And, at least metaphorically, I thought their styles could illustrate the differences and commonalities between my brother and I.

I thank David for the guest spot. 

And I thank his readers for your time and attention.


Photo: Google


By MJ Vara

A friend recently asked me the following: "Just looking to get your thoughts. What is your best hope? Are you prepared now to “give Trump a chance” the way President Obama, Hillary Clinton, etc. have urged?

First, it is very much Presdient Obama’s role to be as graceful and calm as he has been. However, I see concern in his eyes… and the latest he has said is that he will speak up if the Trump administration goes too far (Obama is staying in Washington, DC—and Trump not fully moving to DC, spending much time in NYC… the visuals are going to be surrealistic like so much about all this).

While I am still working out my thoughts, and certainly I am always ready for someone, even a hurtful person, to apologize, seek forgiveness, repent and change their ways by doing only good from that point on (the ethics of 1st century Christianity in a nut-shell---and very un-Trump-like, what does that tell you, you naive, Christian Trump voters?), I remain highly skeptical of Trump (boy, that's an understatement.... part of the problem with all this is that words just do not suffice).

My response to my Facebook friend (incomplete and written off the top of my head, I hope to refine it in the days ahead):

I have never before felt this way about a candidate/president-elect--not even Reagan or George W. Bush...nor McCain (who I admire and have shaken hands with, and who Trump savagely dissed) or Romney, etc.

I am well-versed in American history...but have checked my own thinking with trusted journalists, writers, and historians to make sure I'm not wrong; nearly all agree: this was a totally different campaign.

For example, Mark Halperin, a respected journalist known for his sober, cautious style  (a frequently guest on Morning Joe/ MSNBC/Bloomberg, co-author of the book on the 2008 campaign, Game Change --later made into an HBO movie), stated live-on-air on election night on the Stephen Colbert Show (which took on an air of dread as Trump piled up electoral votes) that Trump’s election was a "cataclysmic event" in line with the Civil War, WWII, and 9/11. (link, statement at 9:52 into clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GUvmvsKZII).

Now, of course, maybe we are all overreacting…even the experts, the historians, etc. But, obviously it isn't just a handful of liberals and progressive who are walking around with a sense of dread about the future.

You should take people at their “first word” (revisions to earlier statements are suspect); especially psychopaths. 

If a psychopath threatens you, you shouldn’t say to yourself, “Oh, he is so colorful. A bit of a drama queen. I’m sure he doesn’t mean it.”

Trump has said a lot of scary things over the last 18 moths.

Trump's lack of experience, his seemingly "bipolar" and highly Narcissistic, unstable presentation do not bode well or engender confidence. 

We've had many ugly campaigns before (including the 1800 Adams vs. Jefferson and the 1884 Blaine vs. Cleveland races)...however, no other campaign compares to this one, for the attacks were not on the opponent only, but on the citizens themselves…on vulnerable groups….on the parents of soldiers killed in action….on a war hero (McCain)....on our nation's dignity...it has frightened people....it has made public discourse coarse and uncivil.

I could go on and on…

I believe and always have believed in giving a candidate other than the one I voted for a chance if they won the election.

But keep in mind: the first real "chance" any president-elect has is during the campaign itself as a candidate...and immediately after winning, with their first words (or silence), and appointments to the cabinet, etc.

So the campaign was the "overture" of their “symphony” (administration), and it sounded jarring and discordant. So far, it's not looking good (Bannon, a white nationalist, in the White House???!!!).

I feel all the candidates got their chance from me (and the nation) during the campaign itself. Even if I was at no point going to vote for them (since going in we all have our political principles and I was not likely to vote Republican) at least I listened and considered them.

Some of the 17 or so Republicans seemed dignified and intelligent (Jeb Bush, John Kasich, etc.)...at least they came across as “normal,” part of the American mainstream (not that I wanted an "establishment candidate," as I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primaries---but "mainstream" in their demeanor, look, temperament— and mentally healthy and balanced…is that too much to ask for?).

Trump had his chance during the campaign itself....his chance to get me to listen to him...and consider him---or, at a minimum, to get me to not fear him, not piss me off, not be actively opposed to him from the start.

He blew it.

He continues to blow it now: while he may not yet be entitled to the presidential seal on his podium, he should deliver a speech ASAP to calm the nation's nerves, genuinely admitting to an ugly, fear-mongering campaign, and sincerely addressing in detail, people's concerns, giving us concrete reason to not be fearful.

His words should not be simple platitudes or “believe me” type assurances, as he did on 60 minutes with his “stop it” bit (a weak, 10-second “band-aid” that is infuriating). 

He has been so adamant and passionate about “Crooked Hillary,” about Muslims, about rigged elections, etc., he must bring that passion and energy to healing the wounds he himself caused. 

Of course, it’s all problematic: we generally wouldn’t want the person who stabbed us to also perform the healing surgery. But, we’re stuck with him (for now) and he should rise to the occasion.

He will, most likely, keep blowing it (Bannon's appointment and other recent actions is a huge statement of continued turmoil and hate).

Let me add something essential---it boils down to this:

It is important to engender good will---even during a competition, even with our opponents. Whether we win or lose, we should treat opponents not as enemies, but as competitors; if we treat them as enemies, then we are, in fact, making enemies of them.

(Here is a class act--McCain confronting folks who express fear or fake info about Obama during the 2008 campaign: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrnRU3ocIH4)

I feel Trump has made me his enemy, at this point.

Much as people like to say Trump doesn't owe anyone anything, not the Dems, not the GOP, not donors, etc., I feel I do not owe Trump anything, either. 

He did not win me over even as the "loyal opposition," if you will, the traditional "vibe" in campaigns.

He did not treat Hillary---or voters like me---as political opponents -- again the norm; he treated Hillary and voters like me as enemies...as virtually un-American....(btw, he was a protege of Roy Cohn, if you know who he is (in the 1950s he was a principal, toxic force in the witch hunt against good Americans, who were called un-American at the time, what history has called McCarthyism after its originator, Sen. Joseph McCarthy).

I wish I felt I owed Trump basic respect, a grudging admiration for a successful campaign, a "sportsman-like" attitude, etc.

I'd like that very much.

But I do not owe him anything.

Perhaps that is the worst part of all this.

MJ will be a regular contributor on The Davy V.  Blog. Please be sure to check back to read his column.