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Family Secrets

What the hell’s wrong with the GOP?

Throughout my first career as a therapist, I worked with family secrets. Sometimes the secrets had to do with an individual, with a family interaction, with a traumatic event, with a failure. Sometimes the secrets involved sexual misconduct or abuse, a one-time incident or ongoing. 

Always, the secret involved humiliation, embarrassment, shame. Always, the secret clashed against the way the family and the individuals wished to define themselves. Always, someone’s wellbeing — mental and/or physical — was sacrificed to maintain secrecy. If someone spilled the secret, the speaker (instead of the secret) was immediately labelled “the problem.” The person who blew the whistle was treated as a traitor. In an eye blink, the accuser became the accused.  

In 2011, I closed my psychotherapy office and began my second career as a writer. Fast-forward from then to now.  

In several conversations over the past few days, I’ve talked to friends about Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. They’ve all asked the same question: “What the hell’s wrong with the GOP?” Even as I write this essay, more accusations are surfacing. Still, many members of the GOP are determined to plow forward with Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. 

Some of my friends suggested that the Republican members of the House and the Senate might have lived charmed lives, untouched by sexual misconduct. Further, they wondered if this charmed existence stretched to include friends and families of the GOP. They were searching for ways to explain how so many people could be disturbingly, infuriatingly, incomprehensibly lacking in basic empathy and decency toward survivors. 

Considering the number of Kavahaugh supporters — plus their extended communities — I’m talking about a gigantic number of untouched, unscathed, charmed folks. Statistically that’s highly unlikely. Sexual misconduct has reached epidemic proportions. The volume of reported and unreported incidents makes it impossible to believe that the entire posse of Kavanaugh supporters drew the long straw, exempt status from any and every act of sexual misconduct. So again, what the hell’s wrong with the GOP?

The answer: The secret’s out.

Several members of the House and the Senate, as well as the administration, are reacting to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations in the same way I’ve seen in my therapeutic work with families. They’re treating Judge Kavanaugh’s accuser as a traitor. In an eye blink, the accuser has become the accused. The GOP is losing track of protecting the survivor, and instead is angry that the secret itself wasn’t protected.

For too long, the prevalence of sexual misconduct has been our country’s dirty secret — within individuals and families, between and among friends, laced into the fabric of subcultures, interwoven with the tenets of conduct in our country. Recently, that’s changed. People in the entertainment industry blew their cover. And gymnasts. And the Catholic Church. And more. The #MeToo movement skyrocketed. People of all genders, all religions, all racial heritages, spanning the full range of economic circumstances, in a myriad of professions — together they raised their voices. The secret is out. 

Decades ago, I watched Anita Hill eviscerated in similar proceedings during Justice Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings. If the people in power had respected Professor Hill back then…we’ll never know how many might have been protected from carrying their secrets in painful silence, how many might have been spared sexual assault. The way Professor Anita Hill was treated enabled the rape culture to continue. 

Today we stand at a crossroads. People can no longer say “I had no idea” or “I didn’t realize.” Although we may wish to turn away from the ugly reality, we can’t un-know what we know. We The People have to deal with the explicit, implicit, complicit sexual misconduct that permeates every corner of our homeland.

Every person of every gender has the right to choose if and when and how to tell their story.

For survivors who choose to keep their experiences private — you have my respect and support. Private is a choice; secret is a problem. The key is choice, and the responses of the GOP to Professor Anita Hill and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford clarify how choices are taken away from survivors. Nobody has the right to take down the next survivor as a way of avoiding their own issues, or as a strategy for hiding a damaging secret. 

Through my years as a therapist, friends often asked how I dealt with the pain my patients brought to their treatments. I always answered that therapy isn’t just about dealing with pain; it’s about dealing with pain in order to heal. When secrets were revealed, people felt sad, frightened, vulnerable, uncertain how to go forward. But they also felt relief. Even though they still carried the weight of the experience, they no longer carried the weight of the secret. My goal was never to erase the painful experience; that would have been an example of trying not to know what you know, not to feel what you feel. However, people’s relationships to their own experiences can evolve, and that process can loosen the emotional shackles.

Today, although I’m (deeply) saddened and (batshit) furious, I also hold tremendous hope. As my patients showed me, once we own what we know, respect our own emotions, hold ourselves and others accountable — then our capacity to heal is astonishing. 

The United States of America had an opportunity to heal with Anita Hill. Then, my country blew it. Christine Blasey Ford gave my country another chance. My country blew it again.

It’s time to do better.

#Vote

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author. Both of Amy’s novels include issues of sexual assault . Amy’s first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, deals with homophobic bullying in high school, racial and economic diversity, and the power of friendship. Her second novel, Tightwire, follows a fictional psychotherapy from three perspectives — the rookie therapist scrambling to build a treatment — the patient struggling to heal — the supervisor working to guide the young therapist through the complex emotional terrain of her first case.

Click on the link to check out reviews, buy Amy’s novels.

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

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Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence is a natural disaster. My home — Chapel Hill, NC — was originally forecast to be much more in the line of fire. But as we all know, hurricanes don’t follow the rules. In a thoughtless gesture, Florence turned first to the south, then followed a circuitous path north and west, sparing Chapel Hill the worst of its fury. Chapel Hill did sustain damage, but nothing like the areas which have been devastated.

Although of course I feel relief, I don’t feel at all good, because this change meant other areas took the hit for Chapel Hill. To help people hit hardest, I will be donating all September profits from the sale of my novels. 

My novels are ebooks and cost only $2.99.  They can be put directly on a Kindle, or on any electronic device using Amazon’s “Free Reading Apps.” I’ve included the descriptions of the novels below, with the links. You can buy a novel for your own library, or give a book as a gift. 

Thank you for helping people recover from Hurricane Florence.

Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable

I wrote my first novel in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. The story follows Caroline Black through tenth grade, as she leaves her college prep academy for the local public school. At Hollywood High, she finds over 40 native languages, gangs, extreme violence targeting the gay students, and friendships that open her world. Parents might consider sharing the book with adolescents navigating the social and emotional mine fields of high school.

Click on the link to read reviews and purchase Hollywood High.

Tightwire

My second novel continues to follow Caroline Black, this time as a psych intern treating her first patient — a stormy, brilliant, troubled young man who ran away from the circus to find himself. The story follows a fictional psychotherapy from three perspectives: the rookie therapist scrambling to build a treatment; the patient struggling to heal; the supervisor working to guide the young therapist through the complex emotional terrain of her first case.

Click on the link to read reviews and purchase Tightwire.

https://www.amazon.com/Tightwire-Amy-Kaufman-Burk-ebook/dp/B00QOE1C12/

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BlacKkKlansman And Rosh Hashanah

Last week, I saw the movie BlacKkKlansman. At sundown today, I’ll be in synagogue for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). Given the state of my country, the film is extremely timely. In contrast, this particular new year is the strangest-timed Rosh Hashanah I’ve known — strange because this year, the High Holy Days will take place during a period in my country that’s anything but holy. 

BlacKkKlansman, directed by Spike Lee, tells the story of a black police officer, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), and a white police officer, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), who infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. Officer Stallworth initiates contact by phone, but when a meeting is arranged, he needs a white man to join his team.

Officer Zimmerman, a Caucasian Jew, steps in as the face for Officer Stallworth’s voice. Stallworth and Zimmerman need to perform the equivalent of a Vulcan Mind Meld for the operation to succeed and as the story unfolds, two-people-disguised-as-one-person turns out to be essential for their survival. At one point, Zimmerman, circumcised, is ordered at gunpoint to drop his pants by a member of the KKK who suspects him of being a Jew; Stallworth throws a rock through the window, causes a distraction, and rescues Zimmerman. In another scene, Stallworth (not wearing his uniform) is attacked by other officers (all white), after he tackles a white female suspect (a KKK wife) trying to blow up a house full of people (all black). The officers leap in, no hesitation, and beat their fellow officer until Zimmerman arrives and intervenes. BlacKkKlansman is a Spike-Lee-film, which means it contains layers of messages. But this one is front and center: without each other’s support, neither Stallworth nor Zimmerman can survive racism.

Jumping forward several decades, the film concludes with White Supremacists marching and Heather Heyer’s death as she protests racism in Charlottesville, Virginia, 2017. Spike Lee’s choice to end with Heather Heyer sends a clear message that racism is not gathering cobwebs in the archives, but is here and now and deadly. No matter what color your skin, no matter your income, you can’t afford to distance yourself from fighting racism. The price is too high. For any Caucasian person who says it’s not my problem — ask Heather Heyer. 

This evening, the sun will set and Rosh Hashanah will begin. As I celebrate, I’m sharply aware of how many in my homeland are suffering. Still, my Jewish ancestors have celebrated their traditions through good times, through imprisonment in concentration camps, in sickness and in health, in comfort and in pain. The High Holy Days will stand long after all of us, including our current administration, have fallen. 

If it seems like a stretch to write about BlacKkKlansman and Rosh Hashanah in the same essay — it’s actually not. Spike Lee (director) and the team of screenwriters (Spike Lee, Kevin Willmott, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel) included in their script a quote from Rabbi Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?”

To all people, all racial heritages, all genders, all religions — I wish you a happy new year. 

L’shanah tovah.

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author. Amy’s first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, deals with homophobic bullying in high school, racial and economic diversity, and the power of friendship. Her second novel, Tightwire, follows a fictional psychotherapy from three perspectives — the rookie therapist scrambling to build a treatment — the patient struggling to heal — the supervisor working to guide the young therapist through the complex emotional terrain of her first case. Amy collaborates with educators who include her books and essays in their classrooms. 

Click on the link to check out reviews, buy Amy’s novels, read her recent blog posts.

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

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For Heather Heyer

Unite The Right. 

UNITE. THE. RIGHT.

“Unite” is the wrong word. Actually, so are “The” and “Right”.

I’ve got nothing against uniting — my homeland can certainly benefit from a bit of unity. But the atmosphere in the USA is growing more fractious by the moment, which leads to my problem with the “The”. THE Right no longer exists. The Republican party is increasingly divided, breaking into jagged pieces, losing its moorings. And as for “Right” —  “Unite The Right” isn’t about uniting Republicans or Conservatives. It’s about uniting hatred and rage. 

By the time we reach adulthood, we all carry plenty of valid hatred and rage. Life can be harsh, unfair, hurtful. Pain rarely hits when you’re standing on sturdy ground, surrounded by support, plenty of lead-time to prepare. The unexpected, for better or for worse, lurks around every corner. Our challenge is figuring out how to channel our personal hatred and rage in a productive direction.

I spent my first 18 years growing up in liberal Hollywood. I lived most of my adult life in the liberal Bay Area of Northern California. I moved to Chapel Hill, a liberal enclave in North Carolina. As a far-left Democrat, all of that suited me just fine. Then the fates intervened. I spent the 2016-2017 academic year, including the presidential election, in Little Rock, Arkansas. When Donald Trump won, I was baffled. I had no clue how to figure out what had happened. Then I realized I was living in the perfect place to gain some insight. Although Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in Little Rock, my temporary home was filled with Build The Wall signs and Make America Great Again bumper stickers. So I turned to my community — in line at the market, filling our cars — and asked if they would help me understand.

During the campaign, I was deeply concerned by Donald Trump’s rage. His hatred leaked out of every pore. I assumed that people voted for him in spite of his rage and hatred. But I was wrong. “He’ll fight for me” was a phrase I heard over and over. After feeling “ignored” and “invisible” for so long, people believed they had finally found a candidate who would hit hard, bare fisted, no rules, ready to throw a punch as a first resort. Donald Trump’s rage and hatred inspired their confidence. In the words of one voter, “No bullshit. No political crap. Just — wham!”

In my years as a therapist, before my second career as a writer, I worked with anger issues in several treatments. A healthy range of anger covers a spectrum, just like any other emotion. Anger can take various forms: mild annoyance, intellectual disagreement, yelling fury, violent rush, murderous rage. Donald Trump’s anger spanned only a limited range: loud to deafening, furious to vicious, brawling to warring. When someone carries an immense, overflowing need to fight — without a healthy range — then specific issues lose meaning. Donald Trump wasn’t fighting for causes; he was fighting because he carried an insatiable hunger to fight. 

As long as he’s our president, the fight will never end, because his rage is a bottomless pit. Rage and hatred in themselves were — and still are — his platform. Worse, a dangerous trend has taken root. People have reacted as though Donald Trump legitimized their own extreme forms of rage and hatred. Too many who had held their rage and hatred in check now feel free to unleash the beast. Case in point: Unite The Right.

This weekend, Unite The Right is having a rally in Washington, D.C., and I’m deeply concerned. I’m afraid that hatred and rage will run rampant. I’m flooded with memories of the news coverage of roughly a year ago, when Unite The Right held a rally in Charlottesville, VA— a rage-and-hate-fest which left damage and death in its wake. 

I hope that this time, folks keep in mind that the First Amendment grants the right of the people (not violently but rather) peaceably to assemble. I hope Heather Heyer, killed in Charlottesville, will always be remembered as a voice guiding us toward decency. I hope that going forward, at all rallies, across partisan lines, people will be safe. 

From everything I’ve read about Heather Heyer, I’m certain she’d hope for the same.

#LeftInLittleRock

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author. Amy’s first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, deals with homophobic bullying in high school, racial and economic diversity, and the power of friendship. Her second novel, Tightwire, follows a fictional psychotherapy from three perspectives — the rookie therapist scrambling to build a treatment — the patient struggling to heal — the supervisor working to guide the young therapist through the complex emotional terrain of her first case. Amy collaborates with educators who include her books and essays in their classrooms. 

Click on the link to check out reviews, buy Amy’s novels, read her recent blog posts.

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

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Quiz Of The Day — LeBron James And Donald Trump

Donald Trump has launched one of his Twitter-Attacks against LeBron James. Take the following quiz to test your knowledge of America’s Greatness.

Donald Trump’s Problem With LeBron James Stems From:

A. LeBron James is using his wealth to help others, which sets an unfortunate example.

B. LeBron James supports equal education for all, an annoying belief which gets in the way of white privilege, marginalization, stomping on the underserved, and a long list of values which make America great again (and again and again).

C. The color of LeBron James’ skin causes President Trump to experience discomfort, and Mr. James should apologize profusely.

D.Since LeBron James is an outstanding athlete, his acting with a social conscience, thoughtfulness, care, generosity, intelligence — well, it’s inappropriate and worse, it challenges the stereotype of a brainless black athlete, which is discourteous to those of us who prefer not to think.

E. LeBron James has expressed opinions which disagree with Donald Trump — which is just plain rude.

F. All of the above.

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. The story follows Caroline Black through tenth grade, as her school’s diversity opens her world. Tightwire, Amy’s second novel, continues to follow Caroline, this time as a rookie psych intern treating her first patient — a stormy, brilliant, troubled young man who ran away from the circus to find himself. Amy’s blog includes posts about the resistance, gender equality, mental health, LGBTQ+ ally support, #NeverAgain, racial equality, parenting. Amy collaborates with educators who include her books and essays in their classrooms.

Click on the link to visit Amy’s Author Page — read reviews, check out the first few chapters, see her latest blog posts.

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

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My Wish For Demi Lovato

From the spring of 1983 when I met my first patient until the summer of 2011 when I began my career as a writer, I loved my work as a psychotherapist. Every time an adult, adolescent, child or couple entered my office, I felt honored. My clients offered windows into new perspectives, kept me open to alternatives, questioning my assumptions, learning from my mistakes. Therapy is hard work, and I’ll always be awed by the courage, perseverance and stark honesty my patients brought to their sessions.

Demi Lovato’s recent overdose is a powerful reminder that mental illnesses — in their many forms — are as real, and potentially as dangerous, as physical illnesses. Both cause pain, sometimes unbearable pain, and deserve validation and respect.  Having worked with people as they struggled with emotional issues and mental illness, I’m astonished that the stigma persists.

I wrote my second novel as an antidote to that stigma. Tightwire follows a treatment from three perspectives — the rookie therapist, scrambling to help her patient — the patient, struggling to heal while consumed by anger and hopelessness — the supervisor, guiding the young therapist through the complex emotional terrain of her first case. As I wrote the story, I hoped that describing the therapeutic process through three lenses would encourage people to rethink the stigma.

In the past, Demi Lovato has spoken about her struggles with mental issues. So have Jon Hamm, Kerry Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Amanda Seyfried, Brooke Shields, Prince Harry, Lady Gaga, J.K. Rowling  — and many more. Every time celebrities allow the public to know they struggle with mental illness and emotional pain, they lessen the stigma, pave the way for people to own their issues and reach out for help.  

Mental illness is NOT the result of “being soft” or “weak moral fiber” or “lack of discipline” — three phrases I’ve heard repeatedly. That approach enables marginalization, a false sense of protection, an it-couldn’t-happen-to-me distance. I sincerely hope it doesn’t happen to you or to someone you love, just like I wish you a cancer-free life. But the powers-that-be grant nobody exempt status from struggles, mental or physical. 

We can all contribute to ending the stigma. We can speak out, offer support, gather information. We can choose to become a mental health professional. We can respect a friend struggling with mental illness. We can respect our own struggles. We can march, donate, raise awareness, write. Tightwire is my voice.

And for Demi Lovato — I hope you find your unique path to healing. I hope you build for yourself an internal and external support system promoting stability, safety, strength and clarity. The road to recovery is rocky and uneven, and I hope you don’t give up. I wish you a journey leading to a healthier way of being you. 

Click on the link to read the first chapter of Tightwire. 

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/tightwire-first-chapter/

DO YOU NEED SUPPORT?

If you are suicidal or fear for the safety of another person, please reach out.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 

The Trevor Project Lifeline 866-488-7386 

You can also call 911 for emergency assistance.

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Rosemary’s Baby And Donald Trump

This year on Mother’s Day, the retro movie channel showed Rosemary’s Baby. The timing speaks to a cultural view of mothers and motherhood which could provide a myriad of thesis topics for doctoral dissertations in psychology and sociology. Strangely, the issues portrayed in this film, released 50 years ago, also provide a roadmap for dealing with Donald Trump’s presidency.  

The film’s plot is bizarre. A young couple, surrounded by Creepy (creepy neighbors, creepy doctor), celebrates their pregnancy. As the story progresses, the mother (Mia Farrow) slowly pieces together a puzzle unfolding around her and realizes she’s carrying the devil’s baby. 

Mia Farrow gives a brilliant performance. Her character knows that a Satan-driven conspiracy, resulting in her womb’s housing the devil’s offspring, is entirely absurd. Reluctantly, she gradually accepts that this crazy idea is actually her reality. She desperately doesn’t want to see what she sees, believe what she believes. She is repeatedly told that her perceptions are off, reassured that all is well. Even as her unease grows into fear, she holds her eyes wide open. As awful as it is (and really, can you imagine anything more awful?), she will not allow herself the luxury of closing her eyes to the truth.

Now, with twenty-twenty hindsight, the Creepy factor is even more disturbing. Early in the plot line, Rosemary is drugged by a cult neighbor (whoa…drugged?) and raped (wait a momentraped?) by the devil. Her husband reassures (reassures?) her that while she was unconscious (unconscious?), he had sex with her so as not to miss their monthly window to conceive (sexual assault much?). To double down on Creepy, this film was directed by Roman Polanski who, decades later, would be expelled from the Academy of Motion Pictures for conduct violations of sexual assault and misconduct with minors. And to triple down, Mia Farrow’s real-life family would eventually fracture over sexual allegations against Woody Allen and his leaving Farrow (his partner of several years) for her daughter. No way around it, this film has Twisted and Damaged leaking out of every pore. 

As I watched the movie, I felt an insidious fog encroaching. Worse, I found no comfort in the usual it’s-just-a-movie or it’s-retro-days-gone-by. The truth is that these issues are chillingly relevant right here, right now, in our country. People don’t want to see what they see, to hear what they hear, to believe what’s in front of them. An eyes-wide-shut approach put Donald Trump in the Oval Office. In the onslaught of our president’s transgressions, our natural, human inclination is to desensitize ourselves to the Twisted and Damaged. 

However, we’ve now reached a point where Eyes-Wide-Shut will be more difficult to sustain. Donald Trump’s statements in his meeting with President Putin drew fire even from his own political party. On a different front, a tape has been released, a recording of Donald Trump and his then-lawyer Michael Cohen discussing pay-offs to hide an affair. This contradicts earlier statements that Donald Trump knew nothing about pay-offs linked to campaign funds — which (maybe? probably?) means our president knowingly conspired to violate federal campaign finance laws and then lied to the public about it.

Facing that the leader of the free world is capable of assault, of hate-speech, of committing federal crimes — that’s disturbing on the level of realizing that you’re carrying the devil’s baby. It’s especially scary if your vote helped put him in office. Still, we all make mistakes (I mean, c’mon, even Rosemary, a strong woman with a rock solid sound mind, chose one hell of a husband). Yeah, voting for Donald Trump was a mistake, and any mistake is painful to admit — but this mistake is a zinger, which means that owning it is proportionally tough. As difficult as I may find it to forgive people who supported President Trump, I have to try, because the problem in my country is much bigger than I’ll ever be. 

I want to broker a deal. Regarding everybody who chooses to rethink their vote, I’m reaching out and offering support. Even though you can’t take back your vote in the 2016 presidential election, I welcome your thoughts and I respect your courage. We can still work together to rewrite our future, but there’s a price to pay. The eyes-wide-shut mentality has to go.

The path forward is complex and even though I’m a liberal democrat, horrified by the Trump Regime, I’m quite aware that this issue can’t be reduced a simplistic equation such as Trump Supporter = Bad. Think about Rosemary’s Baby.  In the last scene, the conspirators gather in the neighbors’ living room, and Rosemary finally has  confirmation that her worst fears are true. So what does she do? Call 911? Run to the nearest church for an exorcism? Nope. Instead, she rocks her baby.

You might react in many ways (starting with What The Hell???).  You might say that this is ultimately a reactionary film, because it illustrates that motherhood is so strong an urge that a woman will suckle the devil’s spawn rather than be childless.  Or you might say that this is ultimately a subversive and progressive film because it’s about Rosemary (originally entitled and coddled in the way that men try to and often do infantilize beautiful women) resolutely overcoming every contrary force to discover some ugly realities, and then achieving independence and agency by choosing to embrace them. Or you might say that it’s alarmingly anti-parenthood because the ending claims that choosing a traditional role–being a wife and mother–is literally a pact with the Devil. Whatever you choose, it’s debatable and complicated.

As I’m watching how people reconcile their approval of Donald Trump with the ugly enormities of who he is and what he does, I’m looking to Rosemary to help me understand. I see in the thoughtful interviews that a lot of Trump supporters say they don’t particularly like him (the lying, the sexism, the racism, the cruelty) — but they do like the direction the country is going (a strong economy, taxes, deregulation).  Listening to the average Trump supporter (not the white supremacist or the extreme nationalist), the message seems to be he may not be a good president, but he’s my president.  And I can imagine Rosemary saying he may not be a good baby, but he’s my baby.

So what do we do now?

Whatever my interpretation of the underlying messages in Rosemary’s Baby, I can follow certain guidelines as I try to navigate this terrible chapter in my homeland. Like Rosemary, no matter how disturbed I feel at what I see, I’ll hold my eyes wide open. I’ll work with what I’ve got. In practical terms — in November of 2018 and in the next presidential election of 2020, I’ll get behind the strongest candidate, even if I don’t believe that person is the best candidate, and I’ll check the box next to their name. I won’t allow anyone to tell me that I don’t see what I do see. When my president acts crazy, while I’ll do my best to deal with the fallout, I won’t accept his crazy as my normal.

In Rosemary’s words, “This is not a dream! This is really happening!”

Actually, it wasn’t really happening. It was a movie with a fictional plot line. Donald Trump, however, is extremely real.

 

*Credit to my husband, Bernie Burk — lawyer, law professor, writer — who watched Rosemary’s Baby and described, in thoughtful and clear language, the misguided views of women both then and now. He suggested I use the movie as a catalyst for this post. 

____

Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, follows Caroline Black through tenth grade, as she leaves her college prep academy for the local public school. At Hollywood High, she finds over 40 native languages, gangs, extreme violence targeting the gay students, and friendships that open her world. Tightwire, Amy’s second novel, continues to follow Caroline, this time as a rookie psych intern treating her first patient — a stormy, brilliant, troubled young man who ran away from the circus to find himself. Amy’s blog includes posts about the resistance, gender equality, LGBTQ+ ally support, racial equality, March For Our Lives, parenting and a Rolling Stones concert. Amy collaborates with educators who include her books and essays in their classrooms. 

Click on the link to check out reviews, buy Amy’s novels, read her recent blog posts.

https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B00R0S66Y4?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true 

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Treated Like Cattle

Since the public outcry began over Donald Trump’s immigration policies, I’ve heard people say that the children and parents wrenched apart at the border are “treated like cattle.”

That’s not true.

One of my grown children works at her college’s student-run dairy farm. Every human knows exactly where every animal is at every moment. They know each animal’s name, medical condition and specific needs. They know which cow gave birth to which calf. If any animal shows signs of distress, they figure out the issue and attend to it immediately. For instance, when a heat wave hit, the students (already working shifts round the clock) took extra time to hose down the animals, making sure they were as comfortable as possible in the high temperatures. Each animal is treated with kindness, respect, care. 

I wish the people who tried to immigrate to the United States had been treated as well as the cattle.

 

Another Piece On Immigration, Posted On Donald Trump’s Birthday:

“Happy Birthday Donald Trump”

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2018/06/15/happy-birthday-donald-trump/

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. The story follows Caroline Black through tenth grade, as her new high school opens her world. Tightwire, Amy’s second novel, continues to follow Caroline, this time as a rookie psych intern treating her first patient — a stormy, brilliant, troubled young man who ran away from the circus to find himself. Amy’s blog includes posts about the resistance, gender equality, LGBTQ+ ally support, #NeverAgain, racial equality, parenting and book reviews. Amy collaborates with educators who include her books and essays in their classrooms.

Amy’s Author Page

https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B00R0S66Y4?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

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Grit And Humanity — Book Review

Since I was a kid, I’ve had a quirky habit. When I find a book I love, I can’t put it down — so far nothing out of the ordinary. But when I finish (and here comes the weird), I pause, then immediately flip to page 1 and begin again. And again and again and again. On the first round, I immerse myself in the experience of the story. Then I want to figure out how the author pulled it off — how they used words, sounds, syntax, rhythm — how the story took on a pulse and a heartbeat — how the novel took me by the heart and by the throat. I happily read my favorite books ten, thirteen, twenty times. Now I’ve found four new favorite books — Gennifer Choldenko’s Al Capone series — Al Capone Does My Shirts, Al Capone Shines My Shoes, Al Capone Does My Homework, Al Capone Throws Me A Curve.

I met Gennifer Choldenko years ago.  Our kids (now grown) overlapped in middle school for a few years. We were the new family, and Gennifer kindly invited us to dinner. She radiated a crackling energy —  warm, funny, bright — the same energy that leaps off the pages of her books. We’ve lived in different states for years, and we’ve exchanged a few brief emails, but that’s been the extent of our ongoing contact. Full Disclosure: I have met Gennifer, but she had no idea I decided to write this review. 

Actually, I had no idea I’d decide to write this review. I’m 59 years old, and I usually don’t read books recommended for ages 10-14. When I do, I often become frustrated, finding the stories unidimensional and predictable. But these books took me by surprise. Gennifer’s stories are the perfect cocktail of grit and humanity.

These four books track a family living on Alcatraz, in the 1930s, when the prison was in full swing, housing Al Capone. “Moose” Flanagan moves with his mom, dad and sister to Alcatraz Island, off the coast of San Francisco, when Mr. Flanagan takes a job as an electrician and prison guard. Moose’s sister is four years older and she’s a handful. She pitches fits, is barely verbal, doesn’t like eye contact, obsessively counts buttons. Autism was barely understood at the time, and the Flanagans move to Alcatraz hoping that Natalie would be accepted into a nearby school trying to help kids with her sort of issues. In the meantime, Moose’s mom struggles to keep their home in order, but she can barely keep up with Natalie’s needs, and responsibility often shifts onto Moose’s shoulders. Moose’s dad is up to his eyeballs in one situation after another with the prison, while trying to remain a loving father.

In contrast to Natalie, the four novels portray Moose as alarmingly perfect. Kind, mannerly, gentle and a good baseball player. He’s huge for his age, but never uses his size as a weapon against others. He tries to look out for his sister, and fields continuous challenges created by living on a prison island, housing some of the most dangerous men in the country. Juxtaposed with the unique culture of Alcatraz are situations familiar from our own childhood-to- adolescence journeys — Moose’s first kiss, the smack of a baseball in his glove, the aroma of Italian cooking in a neighbor’s kitchen, the bonds of friendship. 

Gennifer has meticulously researched the depression era of the 1930s, life on Alcatraz when the prison was up and running, and autism. Her stories are peppered with descriptions of the inmates — some sociopaths, some troubled, some angry, some narcissistic — and their relationships to the guards, the administration, the families. Scattered throughout are vivid anecdotes that pull the reader into the time and the place — a man licking ice cream from the ground in San Francisco, starving in The Depression — the ferry connecting the isolated Alcatraz community to the world beyond  — the starch of laundered shirts (because yep, true to the title, Al Capone is on laundry duty and cleans Moose’s shirts).

As the novels progress, Gennifer’s psychological astuteness emerges and creates multi-dimensional emotional layers — which turn the stories from just entertaining into some kind of wonderful. Slowly, the reader realizes that Moose is too perfect. In his family, Natalie and her needs fill every crevice. There’s no room for Moose to be anything but flawless. His parents are dedicated, loving, and scrambling every moment to ward off being overwhelmed by their daughter’s condition. So Moose deals with his problems and his triumphs on his own. Sometimes he gets it right, and sometimes he creates a mess. 

Gennifer pulls off a curious hat-trick. She conveys her story in a way that’s engaging and accessible for young teens, that’s complex and layered for adults, that’s both deeply meaningful and just plain fun for all ages. Her sense of humor is warm, kind and honest. She offers, in equal parts, the grit and the humanity of autism, of Alcatraz, of parenting, of growing up. The result is a joy to read.

Gennifer Choldenko’s Author Page

https://www.amazon.com/Gennifer-Choldenko/e/B001IGSM0K

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Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. The story follows Caroline Black through tenth grade, as her new high school opens her world. Tightwire, Amy’s second novel, continues to follow Caroline, this time as a rookie psych intern treating her first patient — a stormy, brilliant, troubled young man who ran away from the circus to find himself. Amy’s blog includes posts about the resistance, gender equality, LGBTQ+ ally support, #NeverAgain, racial equality, parenting and book reviews. Amy collaborates with educators who include her books and essays in their classrooms.

Amy’s Author Page

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

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Filed under Al Capone Book Series, Author Gennifer Choldenko, book review, Uncategorized

Happy Birthday Donald Trump

I’ve been trying to write a post on Donald Trump’s immigration policies. I sat down several times, determined to find that perfect mixture of edge and balance. Instead, I stared at my laptop and failed to find words. I tried music, pacing, watching Grey’s Anatomy reruns, eating frozen yogurt. Nothing was powerful enough to unlock my writing process on this topic. So I’m trying a new approach.

I’ll begin by wishing our president a happy birthday.

Since Donald Trump took office, he has provided ongoing motivation to write. Sometimes I struggled to find words, because posting I’M REALLY MAD AND REALLY SAD (while momentarily satisfying and extremely true) wouldn’t offer anything useful. However, the administration’s policies regarding immigration have catapulted me to a new level of inadequacy. The stories of a baby wrenched from the mother’s breast — the photos of inconsolable children — the descriptions of frantic parents…I have no words.

During my previous career as a therapist, my job was to help people find words. Language allowed their treatments to begin, then take off, then soar. The roadblocks to finding language often traced back to the core source, and finding those words unlocked the deepest holding cells storing the most primitive emotions. The challenge: If the source traced back to a place so basic that it was preverbal, then the structure of language was too elevated to match the primal character of the source. 

And that’s my problem now. When I think about Donald Trump’s immigration policies, the feelings evoked are too deep for words. If you want to make a parent do anything, say anything, absolutely anything — don’t target them. Instead, target their children in front of their eyes. Tear their children away. Use their children as leverage. Torture the kids. It’s cruel and inhumane and primal and terrifyingly effective. 

As a therapist-turned-writer, I’m trying to come up with a way to meet this problem head on. But this is beyond a problem. Donald Trump’s approach to immigration is evil, and I’m without words. 

So again, happy birthday President Trump.

Still, I will not give up or give in. When I need bolstering, I think about Pride Month. I see people of all ages, folks in the LGBTQ+ community — who have been attacked repeatedly, whose inalienable rights have been assaulted —  who join hands, stand shoulder to shoulder, march tall. I turn to Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg and Sam Fuentes as role models for taking a traumatic event and using it as a motivator to guide our troubled world. I look at those in the House and the Senate, the minority fighting for decency, running a marathon at the speed of a sprint. I stand in awe of the free press, journalists reporting with care and accuracy, while facing unprecedented hostility. 

When I need more to restore the fight and the hope, I turn to other writers. Maya Angelou’s poetry takes impossible pain and somehow, against all odds, makes it sing. John Pavlovitz, a Christian minister, writes for inclusion and acceptance, offering a path to spirituality based on compassion. Daphne de Marneffe’s new book is about bringing down emotional barriers in relationships — directly opposing the Trump Regime which answers all conflict, all disagreement, all problems with divisions and walls. J.K. Rowling created a series of novels showing us how to fight evil, beginning with the first crucial step: Call it by its name. 

In time, Donald Trump’s reign will end. But make no mistake — the road to recovery will be long, uphill, jagged. A wave of mental health issues will hit like an emotional tsunami. People will face recurring nightmares, post trauma stress reactions, intense grieving, depression, anxiety. But even as I prepare for the rough terrain ahead, I feel tremendous hope. I’ll work to find different paths to healing for diverse emotional styles, and I know I won’t be alone. A strong team is gaining momentum every day. For now, I’ll take my next step by following J.K. Rowling’s guidance.

Happy Birthday Donald Trump.

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Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, follows Caroline Black through tenth grade, as she leaves her college prep academy for the local public school. At Hollywood High, she finds over 40 native languages, gangs, extreme violence targeting the gay students, and friendships that open her world. Tightwire, Amy’s second novel, continues to follow Caroline, this time as a rookie psych intern treating her first patient — a stormy, brilliant, troubled young man who ran away from the circus to find himself. Amy’s blog includes posts about a variety of subjects including gender equality, LGBTQ+ ally support, racial equality and parenting. Amy collaborates with educators who include her books and essays in their classrooms.

Amy’s Author Page

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

Maya Angelou’s Author Page

https://www.amazon.com/Maya-Angelou/e/B000AQ8Q00

John Pavlovitz’s Author Page

https://www.amazon.com/John-Pavlovitz/e/B0768J9N6Z

Daphne de Marneffe’s Author Page

https://www.amazon.com/Rough-Patch-Marriage-Living-Together/dp/1501118919/ref=la_B001HD3SYE_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1529007595&sr=1-1

J.K. Rowling’s Author Page

https://www.amazon.com/J.-K.-Rowling/e/B000AP9A6K

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Filed under Donald Trump, Immigration, Uncategorized