Arizona social issues

Donald Trump and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday

Here’s a bittersweet irony: my book Donald Trump in 100 Facts was released in the UK on the US holiday honoring  Martin Luther King, Jr. Just days ago, Trump was reported to have used one or another similar insult to describe Haiti and African nations.

Donald Trump in 100 Facts He Doesn’t Discuss

My book on Trump, written somewhat tongue-in-cheek in line with the rest of Amberley Books‘ 100 Facts series, was an attempt on my part to identify actual facts about the man. I didn’t research rumors or suppositions that had yet to be proven or disproven. Instead, I looked for verifiable items I hoped would provide more solid insights into the man. I didn’t rely too much on his tweets and pretty much ignored outbursts reported from within the walls of the Oval Office. After all, we were advised throughout 2017 that we shouldn’t take what Trump tweets or says too seriously.

That left out words from Trump’s own mouth although I did look at a few of his books to note where he seemed to go out of his way to mislead. The most egregious, I think, comes from his first book (and I might add, a “yoog” best-seller) The Art of the Deal. Here, he repeated the family fabrication created by his father Fred Trump Sr during the Second World War that the Trumps, who hail from Germany, were Swedes. (Fred worried how his Jewish tenants would react if they were to learn of his own father’s German birth, as I discuss in Fact #19.)

Later, Donald participated in a documentary of his father’s hometown, Kings of Kallstadt (mentioned in Fact #16), where viewers are introduced to a cousin who serves as the family historian. By then, of course, Trump was no longer hiding his ancestry. His daughter had converted to Judaism upon her marriage to billionaire boy Jared Kushner. Speaking to a group of Jewish Republicans in 2015, he attempted to link himself to them: he was “a negotiator, like you folks” (Fact #38).

Racism Comes From Within And Can Be Disarmed

Is Trump a racist? I honestly believe he is and that he’s ok with it.

That said, I also believe that most people harbor some racism inside, whether it’s racial, ethnic, even geographic. I certainly know I struggle with this and I was not raised in an outwardly racist environment. Sure, there was pushback against any discussion to integrate the nearly all-white public schools in my hometown with the majority black schools the next town over. But from my point of view, and I was routinely criticized for being “too sensitive” and “too serious,” the few nonwhite kids at school weren’t singled out because of who they were. They were classified like the rest of us: jocks, AP class material, drama/artsy, etc. But again, that’s my point of view. I certainly can’t speak for anyone else.

I’ve worked my entire adult life to catch myself when I realize I’ve seen, heard, or read something that sets off internal alarms that veer toward racist thoughts. I believe most Americans conscientiously work to correct these near-instincts. I say “near,” because racism is learned: at school, at home, on the job, while looking for a job. Certainly, there are circles of “deplorables” who encourage racism and insist it is an instinct, even a protective one. I reject that notion. If we are indeed the creation of a God, higher power, or cosmic conception, we are, as my friend John Kiriakou says, better than this. We are meant to evolve intellectually as well as physically.

Donald Trump has not done so. He explicitly rejects any attempt at self-improvement, believing he is already as close to perfect as one can get. (He may even believe he is perfect!) There is no off switch on The Donald, or an internal editorial board. He “tells it like it is,” people said early in the Presidential campaign. Which we learned means he ignores whatever self-restraint he may have once had and let loose the demons most Americans were working to overcome or at least contain in public. It’s OK, he told a violent minority, to be racist. He even tried to equate neo-Nazis rallying in Charlottesville, Virginia with nonviolent counter-protestors, one of whom was run over and killed by a so-called “alt-right” enthusiast.

I Tried, And Failed, To Find Much Good About Trump

The more I researched and uncovered, the more alarmed I became and I was already pretty high-strung over the concept of President Trump. I made a conscientious attempt to identify a certain number of “positive” facts and fell short of my goal. There just aren’t many such instances to report on the man.

For example, I recalled hearing back in the 1980s that Trump was paying for medical treatment for the young AIDS patient Ryan White. Upon researching this, I found several interviews with White’s mother denying this and a concurring rumor that Trump also offered his private jet to speed White to whatever treatment center he needed to access (Fact #54). I ended up writing about how Trump was sympathetic to AIDS patients at a time when much of the nation was thrown into hysterics—certainly a positive fact—but I wonder how open-hearted he would be today if HIV/AIDS had emerged in, say, 2015.

In 2014, he tweeted:

Trump said in 2014 that helping people with Ebola is good but has consequences.

“The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back. People that go to far places to help out are great-but must suffer the consequences!”

It’s OK to do the right thing but be prepared to suffer the consequences. How unlike Dr. King, who traveled far and wide to lead marches, speak out, and risk arrest (and he was arrested many times) and of course made the ultimate sacrifice—along with countless others like Medgar Evers, Rev. George Lee, Herbert Lee, Rev. Bruce Klunder, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and far too many more.

Arizona Voters Rejected, Then Approved MLK Day

I’ve known for years that Arizona refused to observe the MLK holiday. What I didn’t know until today is that citizens forced two referenda on the issue.

The holiday itself was established in 1983 as a Federal holiday effective 1986. States, including Arizona, went on to approve it. But in 1987 a new governor, the infamous Evan Mecham, rescinded it saying his predecessor, Bruce Babbitt, did not have the authority to declare a state holiday. The state legislature couldn’t agree on whether to re-establish the holiday.

Citizens stepped in to voice their opinions, as Kaila White reminds us (or in my case, educates us) in her article that appeared in The Arizona Republic on MLK Day 2018. 15,000 Arizonans marched outside the Statehouse on MLK Day in 1988, a few months before Mecham was impeached for campaign finance violations (he was later acquitted of criminal charges).

In 1990, the question to observe MLK Day was put to the voters, who overwhelmingly rejected it. Voters got a second chance in 1992 and approved the holiday by a comfortable  37% margin. Arizona is the only state to approve the holiday via a voter referendum.

I like to think that in the end, goodness wins out, or as Abraham Lincoln put it, the “better angels of our nature” take over.






Grieving and Pet Death

I found myself in my neighborhood veterinarian office last week for the second time in several years signing a form to allow a beloved dog to be euthanized.

And while I have no doubt I spared Dino the specter of a lingering, painful death, it still hurt to let  him go. Losing a pet—even when euthanasia is the humane thing to do for it—is haunting.

Pets can’t tell you how you feel. It’s all on you to try to divine the right thing to do by them.

Pet Death is Significant

Losing a pet to old age is less traumatic.
Losing a pet: Woody lived to a very old age.

A pet death is a significant emotional event. Pets are like family; many are close companions as well.

I’ve learned about the significance of pet loss through a client devoted to counseling and supporting people following a pet’s death and for “pet parents” caring for a sick or elderly pet.

I can’t imagine anyone minimizing the effect of a pet death. Even people who aren’t pet owners or particularly drawn to animals understand the attachment people have to their pets. It’s a sensitivity that’s shockingly lacking elsewhere in our society.

Is it easier to deal with pet loss after the first time? No.

Several years ago I euthanized my beloved dog Woody (pictured above) after sudden organ failure. He was at least 18 years old, a “Methusala” as one friend noted.

Dino was a few years younger and on good days, quite active. Maybe this is why I found it even harder to let him go. “You get a good day and hang on to it,” my veterinarian told me. But it was clear to me that Dino’s good days were over.

Dealing with a Pet in Decline

Day by Day Pet Support (the client I mentioned above) has been around for several years.

When I started working for them about a year ago, I was aware that Dino was growing old. The fur on his face had become entirely white. His short legs (he was a Chihuahua mixed with Dachshund or possible Corgi) weren’t as fast as they used to be. But he continued to energetically greet everyone and anyone he met, although larger dogs merited stern growls.

I read through the site and was particularly drawn to its plainspoken FAQ page which covers everything from pet suffering and quality of life to euthanasia procedures and grieving, including the question “why doesn’t anyone understand my grief?” This isn’t about lack of sympathy (it’s there) but the fact that grieving is a very personal process.

I was interested to read that pets react to their own decline in similar ways to people. Some will openly try to fight it, while others will hide.

Dino suffered from seizures caused by brain tumors. Medication worked for several months but he eventually suffered breakthrough seizures. He often sought refuge under my bed or against a wall. When he seized in the middle of a room, he searched out walls afterward, blindly stumbling around even as I tried to hold and comfort him.

After a few weeks of this, it was clear when the seizures became painful. Once, he bit his tongue hard enough to bleed. It took longer to recover from them. And in retrospect, I think his kidneys were beginning to fail.

My dog Woody aged stoically. While Dino enjoyed rolling over to wiggle on his back and occasionally chasing his tail, Woody kept his dignity intact. Although Woody slept a lot, he was usually up for greeting visitors and taking short walks.

In the end, Woody died after a tumor burst in his abdomen. It all happened very quickly. He started slowing down over a Thanksgiving weekend and became quite ill Sunday night. I knew I’d need to take him to the vet in the morning if he even survived the night. Much to my surprise, he made it up the stairs to lay down outside my son’s bedroom.

Day by Day advises people caring for sick or elderly pets not to burden themselves with thoughts about how and when the pet dies. Live in the moment with them. Set aside time for mourning. If you find you aren’t recovering, get support from a resource like Day by Day or a counselor.

Will You Get Over the Death of a Pet? Probably.

I guess it really amounts to how you grieve.

I don’t get weepy over Woody anymore although I realize I still talk about him. I have little photos of him around my house. Both were taken by friends, one when he came up to investigate a camera and the other after a romp at a dog park. In that photo, he has a huge and uncharacteristic smile on his face.

There are tons of photos of Dino, who was born and lived in the cellphone camera age.

For me, grieving my pets is quite different than grieving people I loved who are no longer alive. I continue to grieve my mother, who succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease, and my friend Michael who died from a glioblastoma at age 50.

Both went through genuinely tragic circumstances that left all of us bewildered. Some time after my mother’s death, I discovered a notepad she used to write down things she didn’t want to forget. She also used it as an occasional diary and noted that the doctors think she might have Alzheimer’s.

Michael was certainly aware of his circumstances even if he didn’t fully understand the cause. I know because he told me.

I cry when I think about them for too long. It’s much better to briefly reminisce about how funny they were, and they really were funny and smart. (They liked each other, too.)


I was with my mom and both my pets to the end and told both that although I’m not much of a believer, I do hope we’ll see each other again one day.