I’m Trumped!

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In the summer of 2015 sitting on the deck overlooking the lake we happily mused over the latest invective Donald Trump had spoken. We had house guests staying for five weeks who left for the city at daybreak and returned at supper. So after I had scoured the national pages of the New York Times each morning over tea and toast I set aside the morsels of Trumpisms I had discovered and read them aloud after dinner. This was shortly after his Mexican as rapists and anti veteran comments.

“No, wait…wait…listen to this one,” I would howl with tears running down my cheeks. ‘Hey, I’m not saying they’re stupid. I like China. I just sold an apartment for $15 million to somebody from China. Am I supposed to dislike them?” Trump was there for our amusement and we only prayed that it would last as long as our guest’s visit so we could enjoy the show together. But as I mentioned that was last summer. Those words seem tame now. The incendiary, insensitive, hateful and misogynistic language and commentary has only worsened.  Who needs fiction when reality is so unbelievable.

Donald Trump became the only GOP horse in the race because the media and I let him. The media chased him, licked his bootstraps and begged for more. More ratings, more viewers, more people like me, hating him and loving it. Each time Donald Trump called into a news show they gave him unlimited time, free press and rarely challenged his ludicrous applause lines that he followed up by asinine non sequiturs that spun the talking head. Whenever anybody looked the other way even for a second he said or did something more outlandish so we would come back .We loved it and wanted more and Donald Trump was only too happy to comply. He was rewarded with 2 billion dollars in free air time.

We have blamed the followers who pour into his rallies cooing and cheering this monster, because that’s what he has become, a multi-tentacle monster. Crowds that seem to feed off of his hatred and vitriol and spread that hate out into the world like a plague. They’re convinced that Hillary Clinton is the devil-incarnate and Trump is here to slay her once and for all. There is nothing you can argue to sway them away from feeding their monster. It reminds me of Larry Rhodes in the classic 1957 film, “A Face in the Crowd starring Andy Griffith. Griffith plays the charismatic Lonesome Rhodes who adlibs his way to a menacing popularity.

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My neighbor around the lake boasts a large TRUMP banner off his deck that promises, each time I walk past, that Trump will make America great again. I see into the future and know that my neighbor’s white, and Christian vision of “great” isn’t ever going to be possible due to our changing demographics. At the same time I feel helpless to show him what I know to be true. I overheard him explaining to another neighbor that Trump is going to clean up this country and throw all the deadbeats out. He ranted that the deadbeats are people who take take, take, take from the government. I shuddered thinking about the holocaust.

“The government gives it all away,”my neighbor shouted at another neighbor as I passed by.

This neighbor is a senior citizen entitled to and probably receives Medicare and Social Security. Not things being discussed very much in the campaign right now. I also doubt this neighbor is listening to the drumming assault against women. And who can blame him, there are women not listening to it. So many of them.img_0401

Last night with Friends we discussed this horror show playing out in real time. Someone constantly checking their phone to see if another woman had come forward or better yet a new tape revealed.

“There’s tapes out there.”

“They’re waiting till it gets closer so he can’t have time to defend them.”

“I took a break from thinking about the campaign for two hours yesterday and I felt better.”

We nod and then slip our phone under the table hoping something bad has happened to him. We try not to think about Hillary’s shenanigans.

“What really worries me is if Trump loses what happens to the angry mob?”

“If, you said, if.”

“I meant “when” when He loses.” Pause. “I hope.”

But this isn’t 1930 and there’s more of us than there are of them. We’ve even joined forces with some of the GOP for heaven’s sake.

David Brooks said on the PBS News Hour this past Friday, “This is a sort of psychological question,… say he loses what happens the next day? Is there all the Trumpians saying, no, we were robbed, we are robbed, we are sticking with our man, and we’re going into some sort of revolt? Or is it, like, I was a loser and I’m putting that behind me. My intuition about the psychology is the latter is more likely. That people are just going to throw Trump to history, and then a lot of the sense that mass revolt, this is not legitimate, this is not legitimate, I don’t think that’s likely to happen.”

This is in fact what happened to Lonesome Rhodes in A Face in the Crowd. When he was caught on tape disparaging his fans, he was left alone with just his butler pushing a button on a machine that cheered him on. Like Rhodes, Trump’s fans will only turn when they overhear him turning on them. Because when Trump loses he’ll turn on everyone. Unfortunately me and the news media will probably still be paying attention. At least for a little while.2016-05-01t205655z_1_lynxnpec40135_rtroptp_4_usa-election-trump-protest-800x430

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MY FATHER ON TV

The Waltons

The Waltons

In the early 1970’s my father, sister and I used to huddle around a portable, black and white television set on Thursday nights to watch The Waltons over dinner. My teenage sister eventually fell out of the habit but my father and I stayed loyal fans every week until I left for college in 1976. The Waltons had eleven family members under one roof which included seven children, the parents and grandparents. The great stories and acting felt believable to me, and none so much as Ralph Waite who died last month, as the loving and pragmatic father who refused to go to church.  His obituary in the New York Times wrote…

…Always he was John Walton, the paternal voice of wisdom. He remembered a woman approaching him in a crowd and saying she had been poor as a child and had thought of him as her father. “I went to school and college because of you,” he recalled her saying. “She said, ‘Now I’m a lawyer, and I don’t think I would be if I hadn’t seen that show,’ ” Mr. Waite said. “I’m still amazed by that. It happens all the time.”

As I read this, I immediately related to the sentiment. I never thought of John Walton as my father but that didn’t mean I didn’t see my father on TV, and often.

In September of 1965, when I was seven, my father’s likeness appeared in two television

Eddie Arnold

Eddie Arnold

series: Green Acres and Gidget. My friends told me that my father looked just like Eddie Arnold, and although I wouldn’t say he was a spitting image, there was a strong resemblance and I thought so too. But the character of Oliver Douglas was a cranky and frustrated lawyer trying to become a farmer while living with his exotic wife in a shack down South. Not what I wanted in a father so I pretended the actor was my Dad, but not the character.

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Don Porter

My dad

My dad

The character of Russell Lawrence, on Gidget, lived in a suburban home as a college professor who presided over his two daughters with sage, even-tempered advice. Gidget lasted only one season but it endured in reruns and each time I settled in to watch it I imagined Don Porter was my father. It wasn’t that I didn’t like my own father, it was just that I thought life would be terrific if I looked like Sally Field and my Dad always acted like this TV dad. It helped that my father greatly resembled Don Porter. Once the credits rolled the introjections ended. During this same period, best friend Mary Kay confided that she thought that her father, who was a dentist, was the same dentist who lived next door to the Petries’ in the Dick Van Dyke Show. Who was I to dispute this?

In 1982 I went to graduate school in New York and left television behind for the next decade. My new roommate, Wendy, announced that Contadina Tomato Paste was changing their label and went out and bought a can with the old label before it disappeared for good.

“When I was little I thought this was my mother was on this can,” she said pointing to the dark haired woman holding a basket of tomatoes in a field.

The new label

The new label

“Does she look like your mother?” I had asked.

“A lot,” Wendy nodded. “But I also I thought my mother was Judy Garland.”

We were living in a depressed area of Brooklyn and Wendy, who hailed from Wichita (her favorite movie was The Wizard of Oz) brought new meaning to the phrase, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,” each time we ventured down a somewhat sketchy street.

Wendy took a Polaroid SX-70 photograph of Judy Garland from a television screen and when her actual mother came to visit us Wendy asked her Mom to show me her impersonation of Judy. Her mother put on a pair of sun glasses, tipped her head back shook it slightly and smiled. I had to admit they not only looked alike but her Mom shared some of the same iconic mannerisms of the late singer.

That same year Wendy introduced me to my future husband, Rob. One thing people who grew up with television often connect over is a shared TV experience from childhood. Each of us were raised in different states but the television programs were much more limited than they are today so we basically watched the same things. I mentioned that All in the Family, which ran throughout the seventies, had been one of my family’s favorite shows. Rob shook his head in utter disagreement.

“I hated that show,” he exclaimed.

“What? But it was so funny!”

“Not to me,” he said. “I never considered it comedy.”

He went on to explain that the main character, Archie Bunker, reminded him too much of his own father. Archie was a working-class World War II veteran living in Queens. Rob’s father, also a veteran, was an uneducated house painter from the Bronx who was dismissive of anyone not in agreement with his view of the world. Both men could be irascible and fly off the handle without knowing all the facts. They both had wives who placated them but were actually much smarter than they let on.People like Archie Bunker were so foreign a concept to me that I never thought about the actual people the character might have been based upon. The same way that fathers who wore ties were an alien concept to Rob. Fathers on television in the fifties, sixties and seventies gave us a glimpse into what fathers were all about. Our own fathers lead mysterious daytime lives away from us and finding a surrogate on TV helped fill in the blanks of what fathers really did.

Edith and Archie Bunker

Edith and Archie

 

 

 

TV Guide created a list of the Top Fifty TV Dads of all time based upon input from fans. I’m attaching the link to the list so you can go and compare these choices with your own conclusions. Maybe one of the names will remind you of a time when your younger self thought your Dad was on television. (TV Guide never made a top fifty moms list.) I’ve determined that making connections between fictitious characters and real people in our lives is fairly common.  I asked my daughter if she ever had this experience and she told me she used to pretend she was a member of the Little House on The Prairie family when she watched it on TV.

In my convalescence on the lake this winter I spent a few days binging on season two of House of Cards. Although the show entertained me I had an empty feeling at the season’s end. There is not one character in the series I could identify with or relate to. Almost everyone is self-serving and unlikable except the President who came across as unbelievably stupid. There are some great television dramas on today but I haven’t discovered a current character who might motivate me to make a life change. In my favorite current show Mad Men, there isn’t a redeeming father in the bunch. Or in another favorite, Downton Abby, a father refused to attend his daughter’s wedding to an Irishman. Also none of the parents spend any time with their young children. Today, most TV is a glut of fake reality. Keeping Up with the Kardashians, The Real Housewives of…(insert city here), Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Jersey Shore and Duck Dynasty to name a few of the shows that have supplanted deep meaningful characters as role models with baseless reality TV people.

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Sally Field and Don Porter on Gidget

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me and my dad in 1965

The beauty of shows like The Waltons was it came on once a week and you had time to process the difference between the TV lives and your own. When faced with a dilemma you might stop and ask, “How would John Walton make this decision?” Ralph Waite brought poetry and beauty to the character of John Walton which is why he inadvertently inspired someone to go to college.