The Politics of Nasty

For a number of years, I’ve tried to avoid discussing politics within the realm of my various blogs. I’m not the type of person who enjoys conflict and really, who am I kidding? Most of my readers are already members of my own choir.  Occasionally, however, I’ve received emails or comments from random strangers who either agree or disagree with my assessment of the world. I enjoy those because all said, my world is pretty small. I enjoy a healthy debate about issues. Not the “I’m right and you’re wrong” sort of debates but the type where the debaters have an actual clue what they are talking about.  Having said that, it’s appropriate that with the inauguration of a complete lunatic occurring tomorrow, it should be known that I did not vote for Mr. Trump nor do I in any way accept the outcome of the 2016 election in the United States.  Since my web sites tend to get recurring hits from various Ukrainian and Russian web bots and script kiddies, I just want to make sure all readers know that I am a US citizen and I have a vested interest in the politics of my country.  So then what do my politics consist of?

I voted for Bernie Sanders in the Michigan primary this year.  It was the first primary election I had voted in and this year I felt I really needed to be sure and do it.  In Michigan, we don’t have a requirement to declare a party affiliation.  I’ve always voted for the Democrat in most elections but that doesn’t really mean I don’t have a few “Republican” view points.  I also like and support Capitalism but that doesn’t mean that I can’t support aspects of Socialism.  Bernie sort of fit into the middle of that.  To be honest, I really had no major issues with Hillary Clinton and would have been proud to cast a vote in the primaries for a career politician with a habit of making cronyistic men uncomfortable.  In the end, when it was election time, I did cast my vote for her since Bernie had been beaten off the ticket.  It was a tough choice for me and in the end, I’d have been happy with either one of them as president.  That’s not how things played out.

Holly Hill Estate Parlor
The main parlor of Brooke Astor’s Westchester Estate

Tomorrow, January 20, 2017 our country will swear in a man who I first met in person when I was 13 years old. As this blog progresses, readers will pick up various bits and pieces of my past through my story telling. This story is pertinent and should be recorded at least for posterity. Back in 1988 I was in a choir and we had been shuttled to upstate New York to perform at the then sprawling estate of (Lady) Brooke Astor. For what it’s worth, the Astor Estate has now fallen into disrepair and that’s only slightly sad because it was a beautiful home in it’s day.  For those not in the know, Wikipedia describes her as an American philanthropist, socialite, and writer who was also chairwoman of the Vincent Astor Foundation.  If you still don’t know her, it’d be a good idea to brush up on your American History and read about the Astor name and legacy.  In short, she had some bucks and lots of friends in very high places.  Myself, I didn’t really grasp that or care all that much at the time, this engagement was just another concert for someone important in hopes of getting some financial support. We were told to be on our best behavior and that our little soiree mattered because we were singing for some very important people.  That instruction can be a little complicated for a group of 25 pre-teen boys to get their heads around but we knew what we needed to do because we had done it hundred times before and so we silently got on board with the adult’s request.

I can say with certainty that there are few things that older women like more than watching and listening to angelic little boys sing. When we arrived at the estate we were taken into a parlor (pictured) where we would eventually be singing various Americana selections and we were told to walk around and socialize with those who had gathered. It was then we found out who some of the guests were.  Two individuals who stood out to me were Malcolm Forbes and Donald Trump.  I knew of Forbes because he had a magazine with his name on it (and was rich). I knew of Trump because his name was plastered on a big golden building on 5th Avenue in New York City.  The first thing that struck me about this dynamic duo was that neither of them really looked or behaved like the rest of the “dignified” (and shall we say older) men attending this event. Mr. Forbes was wearing a tie but Mr. Trump was sporting a casual pink pinstripe shirt with the top several buttons undone and a sportcoat, also unbuttoned. It was notable to me that many of the other folks were in more formal attire. Both men had a drink in their hand when I was able to introduce myself and shake their hands.  Both men left an impression on me.  It wasn’t a star-struck “WOW I can’t believe I just met Donald Trump and Malcolm Forbes” impression either, it was pretty much a “what the fuck did I just see” impression.

Choir engagement at the Astor Estate in Tarrytown, NY. 1988

The picture to the left shows both Malcolm Forbes and Donald Trump along with the Headmaster of my school and 4 of my classmates.  Even at 13 years old I had pretty good idea about what it meant to be a decent human being. Trump didn’t fit that image for me (Forbes really didn’t either) and skipping ahead now 30 years later, he certainly does not match up to my image of a decent person in 2016. I just couldn’t fall in line behind a man who thought it was somehow appropriate to dress down at a formal fundraising event I went to as a kid and I absolutely can not get in line with a man who today has the audacity to “grab em by the pussy” and laugh about it. I get the whole celebrity culture thing but for God’s sake, even gangsters know what a tie is. Because Trump could not bring himself to at least pretend to have a little class and dignity the image of meeting a misogynistic dirty old man stuck with me. Trump entered my field of vision every now and then throughout my growing up years and into adulthood.  Whether it was another story of a failed Casino or another bankruptcy or the image of an angry wanna-be blond man sitting in a board room chair that was very clearly too big for him telling kids my age that they were worthless human beings on his TV show, he just wasn’t a believable or even a likeable person.  Over the years he continuously struck me as someone who cared very little about anyone but himself. Someone who didn’t have the sense of self to understand that the world didn’t and shouldn’t revolve around him. Someone who, even 30 years ago, could barely put together a coherent sentence and who now we will have the pleasure of watching him fumble his way through State of the Union addresses, embarrassing everyone in America along the way.  So, reflecting on my own personal experiences with our soon to be president, there was no way he was going to get my vote.  Sadly, my vote against him didn’t matter.

We left the Astor’s Estate that day in a formal double line still wearing our concert attire. While we were waiting to board the bus, as boys tend to be, a scuffle broke out, complete with hitting, tears, and a boy on the ground. Two of my classmates had quite enough with each other, folders were slapped out of hands, music was strewn about on Lady Astor’s driveway and our choir director and manager were distraught with this scene that was unfolding in front of them.  There’s always one right?  The fight was broken up and we were quickly moved on to the bus and for the next 3 hours we were intently and loudly schooled about what exactly our place was in the world and how expulsion from school was a very real and looming threat that we all needed to think about really hard.  We sat in silence for the rest of the way home reflecting on our childish inadequacies, something not entirely lost on me today.  The choir got its check and the world kept turning.