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Mother's Day Manifesto

1952-2019

“The air was thick with hate.”

I read those words as a nine-year-old boy in Los Angeles, in an article my mother was writing for the now-defunct Colliers Magazine. In it, she described her experience at a local PTA meeting, where she voiced support for an international studies curriculum provided by the United Nations. It was the 1950s and McCarthyism held sway over many LA families. In a time when it seemed there was a Communist under every bed, learning to appreciate other countries and cultures was itself seen as subversive.

Those who dared to advocate for anything international risked being condemned as “pinks.” While my mother spoke, other parents shouted her down. One man menacingly asked why she was wearing a red dress. She was so frightened by these verbal attacks that she eventually asked someone to escort her to her car in the parking lot.

On Mothers’ Day 2019, I find we still live in a nation where the air is “thick with hate.” The xenophobia and paranoia of the 1950s has never completely disappeared, but it smoldered beneath the surface for years, roaring back to life after Obama was elected. This time, its banner was not anti-communism, but racism. And by 2016, Donald Trump had become its champion. As the protégé of Roy Cohn (McCarthy’s right-hand man), Trump knew exactly how to use fear of the other to divide and manipulate Americans.

My mother was my childhood hero - even greater than Jackie Robinson or Ted Williams. She became the first activist I ever met when she surprised herself by suddenly standing up to confront hate in that PTA meeting. My mother died before she could see a more harmonious and diverse America, let alone the inauguration of our first black president.

But she lives inside her children and grandchildren, as well as those she touched through the years with her courage, patriotism, and generosity of spirit.

On this day, it’s through her eyes I see a president who wants to make America great again by eradicating 70 years of hard-won, but real, progress in our nation and the world.

I’ve been a fulltime physician and psychoanalyst for many years, as well as a political activist whenever possible. But now it’s time to combine my priorities and stand up in the face of hatred. Writing books about the psychology our recent presidents linked my professional training to my political concerns. But I feel my mother’s bravery welling up in me and it calls me to do more, and to join with so many others who are now standing up - both against Trump’s hatred and the GOP’s active complicity to undermine our system of government.

As America faces a constitutional crisis, it also faces a crisis of the collective unconscious. Like Trump (and the average two-year-old), we are so busy splitting the world into good and bad that we are losing our capacity to think about what is really happening. I plan to honor my mother (and Mother Earth, while I’m at it) by standing up against hate, against racism, against xenophobia and against destruction of the environment. This means standing up for the Constitution and for one another.

As Americans, we can start with impeachment of our president. In all the heated rhetoric, we have forgotten the definition of the verb “impeach.” We have the right and responsibility to call into question Trump’s integrity and validity. We have the right and responsibility to charge him with misconduct when we see it. To stand by and do nothing is no longer an option. Pressure Congress to act, and act now!

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