CLASS WARFARE

Living with more (or less) in Trump’s America

by Dell Franklin

This kid was my best friend when we were both 12, and he told me his goal in life was to be a millionaire. We will call him Carl C. Today, if you drive along a certain freeway in Southern California in an industrial area you will be hard-pressed not to spot a huge square-block-size building with his name on it. He is a billionaire.

Back when we were 12 in our blue-collar town, Carl was already working in his father’s business, a small manufacturer of construction accessories. Carl took my two prized agates I got for my birthday in marbles and sold them. He had the best rare coin collection in town. He was already better than me at cards and repeatedly took money I earned shining shoes at a local amusement park. In junior high, when we walked around town, he never carried money, only a dime in the change purse of his bill fold in case he needed to make an emergency telephone call.

In high school, he bought a car. When he drove us neighborhood kids around town, cruised the drive-in, went to The Pike in Long Beach, or to the beach on summer days, he made sure we paid for gas. If he loaned you money he charged 20 percent interest. I never borrowed money from him because I didn’t need to, but hanging out with him forced me to be almost as cheap as he was, so I wouldn’t get swindled, but I often did get swindled. He was smart, daring, always one step ahead of everybody, including me. The only thing I was superior to him at was athletics. I started and excelled in all three major sports and ran track. Though he was slightly stronger than me, he stunk and got cut from every team sport.

All through high school and college he worked for his dad, whose business grew and boomed, and he wore a coat and tie to learn finances and sales. He majored in business and languages. I went into the Army for three years, and when I got out he had a master’s degree and enough money to start his own business by living at home and saving. It was 1968, and he was about to be drafted. I advised him to go to Canada to avoid Vietnam, but he felt with his education and his ability to “talk himself into good situations” he would get a cushy job, while those less qualified for language school would fight. He ended up in the infantry and deserted a troop movement to ‘Nam and showed up at my apartment with his passport. He was fleeing to Europe. His dad, already hounded by the FBI, showed up looking ten years older, a decorated WWII infantry soldier who fought in North Africa, Italy, France and Germany.

We watched Carl fly away to Paris from LAX and when Mr. C put his arm around me, and I put my arm around him, he was shuddering. His wife was in hysterics.

Five years later, as the war died down, Carl was back home running his dad’s business after Mr. C had a heart attack. Neither Carl or his dad would discuss how he’d managed to get back in the country without going to jail. I had visited Mr. C off and on during Carl’s absence and he was slowly deteriorating before my very eyes, twitching and shaking, black rings beneath his eyes, his once-powerful body withered. He was a person I adored.

When he died a year after Carl’s return, Carl took over the business and expanded. He lived in a plush two-story home on the beach with his beautiful blonde wife and occasionally came into the saloon where I worked as a bartender in Manhattan beach and carried only the dime in his change purse and a crisp new hundred-dollar bill he never broke. He also refused to pay for his drinks, stating if he was tending bar he’d give me free drinks as his good friend, while I explained I worked for a house and didn’t give away their money. He allowed others to buy his drinks. He was always trying to coerce me and bar denizens to bet on football and basketball games where he was at a huge advantage, realizing he was studious of odds and cold-blooded about who won or loss, having no loyalty to any team, while others were guided by emotions. He won a lot of money. When he lost, instead of paying off, he managed to talk winners into letting what was owed them ride on another bet.

I began to despise him. Just the look on his face and in his eyes as he sized up those with less money, less intelligence, less heart, and manipulated them with his uncanny ability to subtly browbeat, began to eat away at me, especially when he never bought anybody a drink after he took their money on bets. The way he so gloatingly fit those bills into his wallet reminded me of his stashing away my agates years back. Like he owned you.

I finally refused to serve him. We had an argument. He called me a loser, working in a bar for tips and coolie wages at 30 years old. I was a failed athlete and had no chance as a writer. He had everything. I countered by telling him I loved my job, played in two basketball leagues, surfed just about every day, had a wonderful girlfriend and a great cat. He scoffed at me, sneered, said not only was I failed athlete, but that he, a non-athlete, could beat me in tennis and wanted to play for a hundred bucks.

He took lessons from a famous pro in Beverly Hills and owned state-of-the-art rackets, a ball machine and 50 cans of balls in the trunk of his Mercedes. I upped the stakes to two-hundred. So we met on the local courts, and as we warmed up, his face changed. The cockiness disappeared. He began to look craven. He came to the net and stated he wanted to play that afternoon for nothing, until he “felt ready”—this after we had shook hands. I called him a slew of names, cussed him in front of various players on other courts, accused him of being a coward and stormed off, told him to never come around me again. He never did.

So I forgot about him, until I heard he was now a billionaire.

***

Carl was not a creep like President Trump. He was a gentleman around girls. As a kid, he was funny and observant and well-read and curious and good company. But as the years passed, his drive to accumulate money began to change him and control his life, until greed began to win out over humanity, just as today, in  this age, capitalism has won out over democracy, turning us into an oligarchy masquerading as a democracy.

As a millionaire and finally a billionaire, I’m sure, as a person who never liked paying for anything, and coaxed others to pay his way, Carl C has the finest tax lawyers to write off everything. I’m sure he became admired in his own sphere of business and society and eventually worshiped, for in America attaining millionaire and billionaire status is the culmination of the American Dream, so that when one of these people speaks, others stop and listen, as well as catering to and often becoming obsequious to such financial titans, almost as if, as billionaires, whatever they touch turns to gold, whatever they say is the truth, and that because they can make millions and billions they can do anything, even run the most powerful, important country in the world, even, as a young millionaire deserter, beat a trained athlete (who in our society is a poor slacker and loser) in a tennis match for two-hundred dollars because his hubris and ego has no bounds. §

Dell Franklin lives in quiet simplicity, never got rich, and doesn’t lack for anything. He writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif. Visit his website: dellfranklin.com.

The Trump Dossier

This ‘Fake News’ Is Real Enough To Investigate

by Joe Conason

Page of the Trump Dossier

A page from the Trump dossier reportedly compiled by former MI6 officer Christopher Steele.

When Donald Trump denounced the latest hints of his collusion with the Kremlin as “FAKE NEWS!” on Twitter, it was hard not to wonder what he meant, exactly. Having barraged us all for years with fake news about a wide variety of important matters such as Barack Obama’s true birthplace, the charitable work of the Clinton Foundation, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the dangers of childhood vaccination, does Trump mean we should believe the Russians conspired to help him win the 2016 election? Or does he mean that unlike all of his favorite fake news stories, we shouldn’t believe this one?

 Whatever Trump may mean when he complains about fake news, the story of Russian interference on his behalf in the 2016 election is undeniably real. So the president-elect himself finally admitted when, at his press conference, he acknowledged the accuracy of U.S. intelligence assessments of the Kremlin’s culpability in hacking the Democrats. Following a private conversation with James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, he finally stopped trying to deny and obfuscate those nefarious thefts of information by his Russian supporters.

The critical question that remains is how far the Russians went in promoting Trump’s election—and whether Trump and his campaign are implicated in that conspiracy.

Only a series of fully empowered probes by law enforcement and Congressional authorities can uncover the truth, but already there are many investigative trails to follow. Consider the recent stunning news reports of a 35-page dossier compiled by a former British intelligence officer about Trump, his campaign, and the Russians, which provoked his enraged “fake news” tweet.  Mesmerized by the dossier’s references to alleged videotape of a Trump encounter in Russia with prostitutes hired to perform a perverse urination ritual, many journalists dismissed the entire document as mere gossip.

Such dismissals revealed nothing except the ignorance of those who uttered them, none of whom appears to understand the nature and purpose of what spooks call “humint,” or human intelligence (as distinguished from surveillance and other data). The Trump dossier is an intelligence file, not a prosecution memo; its purpose is not to prove a case but to point a direction. And as subsequent coverage in the Guardian and Financial Times indicated, its author Christopher Steele is no mere purveyor of gossip. He is a highly respected and experienced former official of MI6, the British foreign intelligence service, where he oversaw the agency’s work in Russia and Eastern Europe for decades. Nobody who knows anything about Steele doubts his reach into the top ranks of Moscow’s political and business sectors.

Indeed, much of what Steele’s dossier reports about alleged contacts between the Trump camp and the Kremlin (as well as its various cutouts) matches what US and other intelligence agencies learned last year from their own Russian sources. That was among the reasons why the director of national intelligence and the directors of the CIA, FBI, and NSA believed the dossier worthy of briefing to both Trump and President Obama.

The details also match many troubling facts already known about Trump and his associates. It is clear, for instance, that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has worked to advance the interests of the Putin regime for well over a decade, and not only in Ukraine. It is also clear that Manafort and his longtime business partner, Washington lobbyist Rick Davis, have cultivated business ties with major Russian oligarchs in Putin’s orbit.

The most notorious of those oligarchs is Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire aluminum magnate of dubious repute who was barred from entering the United States. More than ten years ago, in 2006, Davis was preparing to launch the nascent presidential campaign of the leading Republican candidate – Senator John McCain. As The Nation and other news outlets later reported, Davis and Manafort introduced McCain to Deripaska on a yacht anchored in the port of Montenegro, where the oligarch hosted a “birthday party” for the Arizona senator. If Deripaska and Manafort were attempting to gain a White House foothold, their initiative evaporated when Obama defeated McCain two years later.

 But with that shady episode behind him, McCain probably understands better than most of his colleagues why the Steele dossier—which he personally delivered to the FBI director—demands much more than snarky repartee about “watersports.” Not everything that Steele heard is likely to be true. But if even a fraction proves accurate, the Trump campaign’s Moscow connection will become the biggest political scandal in American history.

@JoeConason is editor-in-chief of , and co-editor of . This article is posted with permission from The National Memo.

Trump’s undiplomatic Twitter diplomacy

It isn’t a joke – it’s a catastrophic risk

Brian Klaas, London School of Economics and Political Science and Jennifer Cassidy, University of Oxford

Throughout the US presidential election campaign, many Republicans assured the electorate that once inaugurated, Donald Trump would “pivot” and begin to act like a more conventional candidate. This never happened. Some find that refreshing, others alarming. But the new world of a classically unpresidential president is most dangerous when it comes to Trump’s shoot-from-the hip Twitter diplomacy.

Diplomacy is the art of foreign policy signalling, a delicate craft of nuance, protocol, subtlety. Trump is the antithesis of those attributes. In salvos of 140 characters or less, he has already come close to upending decades of American foreign policy, torpedoing compromises carefully carved out through years of negotiation with a single click. From Taiwan to North Korea, he has recklessly trampled into some of the world’s diciest diplomatic minefields, Tweeting first and thinking about the consequences later.

This is obviously deeply disturbing on a moment-by-moment basis, but the longer-term damage that Trump is inflicting on American diplomatic power is far subtler and far more worrying.

Whichever way you look at it, the destabilising effect of his cavalier tweeting is profound. If foreign leaders take his tweets seriously, with all the obvious risks that entails, conflicts could suddenly escalate whenever Trump wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and turns to his phone to vent. If foreign leaders learn to ignore the mercurial volatility of his day-to-day tweets, then that may be a boon for short-term global stability – but in the long run, that approach will ensure that the US is no longer able to send clear and credible diplomatic signals.

Diplomatic signals can prevent wars or start them, and mixed signals are particularly risky. In the early 1990s, on the same day that the State Department stressed the US’s strong commitment to “supporting the individual and collective self-defence of our friends in the Gulf,” another State Department spokesperson stated that “we do not have any defence treaties with Kuwait, and there are no special defence or security commitments to Kuwait”. Saddam Hussein believed the latter and invaded Kuwait, sparking the First Gulf War.

The lesson is that diplomatic signalling is already fraught with risk even when communicated through the most careful channels – and Twitter is just about the least careful channel imaginable.

The high road

There are already signs that foreign powers plan to ignore Trump’s 140 character rants and instead focus on concrete policy changes. During a recent press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang made a thinly veiled reference to Trump’s tweets: “We don’t pay attention to the features of foreign leaders’ behaviour. We focus more on their policies.” Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency added that “an obsession with ‘Twitter foreign policy’ is undesirable”.

These sentiments might sound reassuring, but they don’t mean the risk isn’t there. So long as foreign powers are unable to distinguish Twitter bluster from official US government policy, the world will over time become a more dangerous place.

The line between a boastful tweets and an official warning about trade policy or military manoeuvres is one that should never be blurred. Diplomatic protocols exist for a reason: they are the fruit of years of effort to find common ground among countries with varied interests, some of which converge and many which do not. These protocols have for centuries functioned as a guiding compass for diplomatic agents worldwide, dictating how they should act, around whom, and in what setting. They also help mitigate the gravest risks of cultural misinterpretation and linguistic misrepresentation.

When these lines are crossed, the consequences are immediate. George W. Bush famously failed to take off his gloves to shake hands with Slovakia’s president in 2005; the incident overshadowed the entire state visit and noticeably chilled the two countries’ relations.

The same sensitivities are there with communication through text. It may sound pedantic, but colloquialisms, idioms, and even spelling mistakes can and do spark real and serious conflicts, and these risks are in fact magnified when they occur in a few dozen publicly disseminated words rather than a carefully thought-through diplomatic communiqué.

It’s even more terrifying to consider what might happen if Trump’s account were hacked. At the end of 2016, the Pakistani defence minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, issued a provocative warning to Israel after he saw a fake news story on social media that appeared to contain a nuclear threat from Israel’s government. Imagine if a similar threat came directly from Trump’s account.

Yet, in spite of these obvious risks, Trump shows a monumental contempt for the convention and protocol on which diplomacy depends. His failure to grasp those rules and norms will have profound consequences for international relations. The more he flouts the basic norms of diplomatic signalling, the more unsafe the world will become. §

The ConversationBrian Klaas, LSE Fellow in Comparative Politics, London School of Economics and Political Science and Jennifer Cassidy, DPhil Candidate in International Development, University of Oxford

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

When facts don’t matter

Reality becomes a toxic mess

It’s hard enough to find agreement on simple things like what color the sky is, or the grass. Image: Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory,” 1931.

by Stacey Warde

Much of what we believe—whether online, in social media, politics, family gatherings, travels, among friends or sitting alone on the toilet—is colored by our own peculiar blindness.

Nothing is quite what it seems. We make up worlds of our own, hoping they will survive the onslaught of life and reality. We build castles in the sand and, in time, they all come crashing down on our heads.

The world is much different from what we imagine, or claim, or fight and argue over, through all of our personal filters and belief systems. The way the world is and the way we see it are not the same—definitely not when rigged by our religious, political or personal beliefs.

All that, of course, can lead to discord with others, especially those who do not share these beliefs.

It’s hard enough to find agreement on simple things like what color the sky is, or the grass. But, unless delusional, contrary, or hurt in some way, no one would claim the sky is brown, not a clear sky anyway. One might say the grass is brown but that, at least, is debatable.

You can believe whatever you want, and I can do likewise, but that doesn’t make any of it true, or move us closer to agreement, and definitely won’t help us accomplish much.

Finding common ground with others can be a challenge simply by virtue of the fact that we all see things differently. Still, we try to connect, build tribes and communities. To do so, we find healthy ways to talk, disagree and grapple with our common interests without diminishing or destroying one another.

We find common ground through observation and reflection and conversation. Common ground is the place where ideas and action take shape because we can agree on something, even if we don’t share the same beliefs. We don’t have to believe the same thing to agree on simple, observable facts and from those accomplish amazing things.

It takes a civil society, able to reason, to make good things happen, not one that stays blindly devoted to fanciful beliefs and false ideas, which in turn encourage malignant behaviors and purposes. A civil society doesn’t scuttle facts to suit selfish or greedy aims, nor does it distort truths to reflect a reality of one’s own making. A civil society fosters reasoned discourse. When facts don’t matter, reason quickly slips away from the discourse and society collapses into discord and rancor.

When facts don’t matter, we risk falling into the dangerous habit of turning reality into a slippery unmanageable mess, a hazardous wasteland, in which we ignore truth, blind to observable phenomena, creating chaos and leaving scars everywhere we go, crashing and burning, making fools of ourselves.

When facts don’t matter, we have nothing to discuss. What matters is who can be the most brutal and the most clever, promoting lies and propaganda, claiming exclusive rights and privileges, including the right to violate and harm others.

When facts don’t matter, only two possibilities arise, it’s your way or my way.

Facts don’t matter when we cling to shrouds of prejudice, ignorance, and damaged egos. These shrouds—filters against reality—keep us from seeing clearly, the faces of others become threatening, and we embark on a path of destruction.

We inherited these shrouds from well-meaning but ill-informed elders, or we developed them as defenses to protect ourselves against brutes, or they were cultural standards we embraced that proved in the end to do more harm than good.

We maintain these shrouds through a stubborn refusal to accept things as they are, by seeing the world in only one way, the Archie Bunker way. “This is the way the world is…” Never to let ourselves see through the eyes of another, choosing in fact to scorn, mock or obliterate that person or that person’s vision. Lastly, we join others who share these views, complete falsehoods, clinging precariously to fictions we hope will protect us from ideas and truths and people we don’t like.

If we are to live peaceably, however, we have to find ground upon which we can agree, ground we share in common. The most basic common ground would be facts, observable phenomena, that we agree upon, that make progress possible. Without facts, we’re more likely to impede progress by fighting over who’s right and who gets to dominate.

I know how hard this is, but also how easy, to hold back prejudices and beliefs, and take a moment to listen, to attend the pertinent information and stories that come to us, and seek the deeper, darker, loamy truths about life, and learn to confront our common difficulties in a dignified way, creating a common ground in which most, if not all, of us can thrive, the sole purpose of a worthy tribe.

I know how difficult it is to remove the filters of my own blindness. Just when I imagine that I’ve got things figured out, and think that I shall remove the final shroud to reveal the “uncorrupted truth” of all things personal, human, otherworldly or otherwise—the unfiltered core, finally!—a blight, a corruption of the mind, say, a bruised ego, a past hurt or slight, throws itself into the mix. The shadow emerges and, like a Dali painting, reality once again turns into a slippery gooey toxic thing in which I lose and risk destroying myself.

Even with the best intentions, I have to fight hard to keep a clear picture before me, to set my focus on what is actual and real rather than imagined or believed.

I cannot see the pure light or truth without the correspondence and cooperation of another. I’m as blind as you, and anything that I might say can be perceived as simple nonsense or bullshit—unless there’s some way to observe and confirm and verify. With your help only, will that become a possibility.

So do not believe me when I say that I speak for truth, or know something that you don’t, or pretend that my mind has reached the heights, and that you should come along and see things my way. But please do consider the facts. Let’s discuss and agree on those for a start, and not diminish or destroy life’s possibilities by believing in or embracing a lie.

Falsehoods, lies and treachery lead to death. Even our meagre grasp on tiny bits of truth fail to rescue us from our mortal end, tainted as they are with what is false and misleading.

“There is a way that seems right to a person but it’s end is death.” That’s true for all of us.

I’ve traveled many roads, thinking that I had chosen the best course, only to wind up lost in a pretzel of circling around and around, going nowhere but getting confused and frustrated and angry, making a fool of myself, injuring others, my life spinning furiously out of control. Fortunately, I’ve had friends, family and a tribe to bring me back.

Have you heard of “death by GPS”? That’s where you get stranded in the desert and die because you trusted your cellphone’s map application more than your common sense and ability to observe facts and make well-informed choices. Through a failure of technology and belief, you observe the wrong data, believe a lie, make a bad decision, and get lost and die. It happens, even when your intentions are good.

The most well-meaning, the earthiest and most righteous among us, are prone to lose their way and stumble, missing the path that leads to a better, more secure life, if such a thing is possible. We end up in deep shit as much as as in the golden beam of bliss, all the more reason to enlist the support of our tribe and community, even those whose beliefs do not match our own.

Fortunately, my tribe and community have kept me on course, challenging me to maintain a clear vision, to think correctly and reason from a place of wisdom and strength rather than from foolhardy and fantastical versions of reality based on my prejudices and blindness.

To thrive and advance, we need a tribe and a common ground, a landscape observable by all, out of which come shared ideas, stories and practices that move us forward, where facts matter and can make all the difference in whether we live or die. §

In Election 2016, the media taught Americans how to love a dictator

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet. For a majority of Americans, feeling traumatized and terrified are reasonable responses to the words “President-elect Donald Trump.” But even if his inauguration marks the demise of the star-spangled mythos we grew up on, being catatonic is no way to spend the next four years, especially if we’re lucky enough to… Continue reading

Mutually Assured Destruction: Trump Wishes Us All A Happy Thermonuclear New Year

Now that the presidential election is over, will it ever really end? Not if Donald J. Trump and the cable news networks get their way. Having made the election into a pro-wrestling spectacle, the Twitter-addicted president-elect and his ratings-hungry enablers at CNN, Fox News, etc. appear determined to turn the United States government into an endless… Continue reading

On the run after Trump win

It’s not easy being Muslim in a country that thinks you’re Mexican

Poet and author Ibrahim Ahmed, a Muslim who has been mistaken for a Mexican, went into hiding soon after Donald Trump declared he would banish Muslims from the US. He was last seen heading for Mexico.

by Ibrahim Ahmed

Now that fiction counts as news it’s getting harder to know the difference, or why it even matters.

I doubt anyone knows when I’m reporting news or creating fiction that traffics as “news,” and it doesn’t seem to matter, not when you can create your own story, your own version of the “facts,” and make money and increase your followers on Twitter. I do it all the time.

I’ve been telling my wife, for example, all kinds of stories, some factual, some not, and she, in turn, has been making up stories about me. I’ve been cherry-picking bits and pieces of these stories and posting them as “news,” some of which have gone viral.

My wife’s not impressed, however, and she’s started sending me turd and foot fetish emojis in response.

Recently, she got pissed about my drinking and bar-hopping, and turned me over to the feds by telling them I’ve run off to Syria to meet with ISIS recruiters. She thinks I’m hiding out in Fresno. She thinks I’m a no-good bum, drinking, carousing and running from the law.

She threatened to vote for Trump if I didn’t come home immediately. I told her she’d regret it, and she’d get deported, and she’d just have to wait until I take care of some personal business before I come home.

“Personal business?” she mocked. “You call masturbation ‘personal business’.”

My wife’s not impressed, however, and she’s started sending me turd and foot fetish emojis.

Contrary to rumors, I’m not working the streets of Las Vegas, posing as a high-rent hooker and robbing people once I get them into their motel rooms, nor have I given up my manhood, nor do I plan to come out as the world’s first Muslim transvestite who’s about to have the “procedure.”

In fact, I’ve been hiding out in Orange County, Calif., living briefly with a Mormon couple that took pity on me after the election. I’d been haunting Laguna Beach bars, sleeping in my car, when I decided to try a bar in Irvine.

I met them at the bar down the street from their home. I could tell right away they were good people. Nice shoes, nice clothes, prim and proper, hair in all of the right places, although they’d come, they told me, to let their “hair down a little,” even though Mormons don’t ordinarily drink.

“Are you from Mexico?” they wanted to know.

“Ah, no, I’m recently from Fresno, where I lived in a ramshackle trailer for a few weeks and worked with a crew of Mexicans as a farmhand because the rancher thought I was…”

“Oh, you poor fella!” the wife interjected. “You’re a migrant worker!”

They told me about their love of canning and building a family, and the husband winked, after his second beer, when he hinted at the possibilities of a heaven populated with many wives. He seemed to know I’d like that idea. We downed a few more beers and pretty soon they were inviting me to come stay with them “until the heat dies down, maybe after they build that wall.”

I moved into an extra room, which they had turned into a pantry, its walls lined with canned goods and basic staples. I quickly scored a job with Uber. The couple thought I was a Mexican immigrant until, after a week of living with them, they saw my “morning prayers.”

I’d left the door cracked a little and was on the floor, kneeling down, looking under the cot for my car keys, and blurted out in a panic:  “Please, Allah, just let me find my keys and get back home to Grover Beach before my wife, or some alt-right kook, kills me first.”

The wife was standing there and she was horrified. “Would you mind handing me that bag of flour above your head, please?” she asked, pretending she hadn’t seen me kneeling on the floor or heard my pitiful supplication. Then, “Are you Mexican and Muslim?”

“Well, sort of….” I didn’t know what to tell her. I’d made up so many stories, I didn’t know where to begin. If Facebook can destroy the world of thought and conversation by doling out unfettered lies and fake news, I mused, then I will start by telling the truth. “…I’m on the run, actually.…”

“OH.MY.GOD!” She dropped the bag of flour on the floor and it burst into a white Jackson Pollock mess all over the tiles. “You’re a Mexican terrorist?!”

“No, ma’am, I’m not a Mexican and I’m not a terrorist, I’m a Muslim, a not-so-good Muslim, on the run from my wife, who’s turned me into the feds, and now she wants me back…”

“Get out!” the husband shouted. He stood behind me, shotgun cradled in his arm. “GET OUT!” With his free hand, he waved me out of the house. “Get your things and get out!”

“But…”

“Leave! You’re not welcome here anymore.”

I grabbed my belongings and I as walked out the door, I heard the wife on her phone, “Yes, homeland security?”

I drove straight to the nearest used car lot and made a quick transaction, trading in my Honda for a VW bus and headed south to Laguna Beach to have a few drinks at the Marine Room Tavern where a live band was playing the blues.

I found a place at the bar and ordered a whisky.The place was jumping and between songs an old man playing the trombone slammed down his vodka tonic, grabbed the mic and shouted: “Let’s all get drunk and be somebody!” §

Ibrahim Ahmed is a poet and essayist who has been hiding from the feds, sending dispatches from the road about what it’s like to be a Muslim in America.