New Yorker in White House would cut world down to size

Originally published on September 5, 2015 on San Francisco Chronicle

In this August 17, 2015 file photo, US presidential candidate Donald Trump exits New York Supreme Court after morning jury duty in New York. Trump took aim at Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton on August 23, 2015, contending she could be “very damaged” by an email scandal swirling around the former secretary of state. And amid reports that Vice President Joe Biden was actively exploring a run, Trump claimed that if Clinton could “get over” the controversy both would be equally tough challengers. “I think they’re the same. I think that Hillary may be very damaged, however … because of the email thing,” Trump told ABC’s “This Week” talk show. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT/ FILESDON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images




Donald Trump has been widely characterized as an obnoxious, self-aggrandizing, trash talker. What the media are reacting to and the voters are responding to is that Trump is a New Yorker.

Born in California, I moved to New York City right out of college. What I found was a heavy-handed, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners approach to every single goddam conversation. It was tough to keep up with these guys who would never give an inch. Arguments were taken seriously: Everything was contested, shredded and recast, point by point. I had to up my game. I wasn’t in L.A. anymore.

In New York, no one ever apologized, retreated or conceded points. In New York, you don’t lose the battle to win the war. You win by winning. Californians may be less argumentative or skilled at staying on top, but in California, argument wasn’t that important. How in-your-face you are doesn’t determine your identity. In New York, it’s what matters most.

Telling it like it is

I learned to respect and even emulate these lovable boors who hone a verbal edge that never stops and who are really proud that it never stops. Their demeanor wasn’t mean, just aggressive. There’s a cultural demand in New York that you don’t pussyfoot around. You say what you mean, stick up for it, and stay in overdrive — all the time. By necessity, I recognized the value in cultivating it.

Now America’s deciding the same thing. We want a New Yorker — somebody who’s not afraid to “tell it like it is” — to run the country. Of the two guys who’ve captured our imagination in the presidential race, Trump is from Queens and Bernie Sanders is from Brooklyn.

Trump is just like the guys I worked for when I lived in New York. Guys who ran stereo stores and apartment buildings, who talked big (and might bust your head) but were pussycats. These people have values, of some kind. They are (mostly) not criminals. They’re entertaining. They’re white, male, middle-aged, wear cologne and jewelry, and have bad hair. They live by a code that commingles a strong work ethic with an even stronger sense of pride in the City That Never Sleeps and, in Trump’s particular strain, with an unapologetic set of prejudices delivered with “what me worry” innocence.

If you ask any one of these men: What’s your opinion of a person or thing, they would answer in terms of how nice that person was or how good or bad their experience of it was. There’s no objective reality beyond how it affects you.

There’s this weird, aspirational culture that, before it became mainstream in America, sprang up in Trump’s New York. Its hallmarks, such as bling and purple crushed velour — are the trappings of phony royalty. It’s a crass and materialistic lifestyle, characterized by stretch limos and gold chains and objectification of women. It represents the cheapening of everything, and it’s as American as Trump and the Big Apple.

It magnifies the uber-cynicism that has swept the country and reveals itself in a society that makes fun of the weak, of anything touchy-feely, of any aspiration to come together and sing “Kumbaya.” Nobody mocks better than New Yorkers.

It’s not about how things can be done; it’s only about how things are done. Creativity and taking chances are for suckers. Values are appraised on adherence to the mythic past. Make America Great AGAIN!

And just like The Donald, New Yorkers are notoriously persnickety. They whine. They complain like hell. They interrupt. It’s not about sharing ideas, finding the middle ground. It’s about fighting to make your point and rubbing it in until you win. Every time.

A New Yorker on the world stage

So that’s why Trump’s dominating the right. He’s offering to be our CEO. He’ll get us good deals — screw the other guy. Trump’s message: Let New York drive, and we’ll run over losers. If Trump wins, our country will behave that way to the rest of the world.

President Obama’s nuanced sense of accommodation is precisely what Trump and his New York state of mind want to put an end to. Trump says: When I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.

If we put Trump in the White House, America will be a New Yorker on the world stage. America will take zero guff, and cut everyone down to size. Of course there is the downside to that, even if we don’t start World War III. Our country’s immigration policies might be emulated elsewhere, invoking a dystopian future of haves and have-nots, of border walls and rusted barbed wire, of brutal wars for resources.

And the lizard brain of money worship and conflating love to sex and sex to money and life to winning will get crowned in a way we may never evolve beyond. Badda bing. Forget about it.

Lawrence Axil Comras of San Francisco is a software designer and serial entrepreneur. He runs the website


Federal Budget 2015

As some of you may know, I’ve been looking, along with some of my colleagues, for a touchstone issue that could get all the groovy people and non-profits working for social change to just agree on one thing, for once. And even tho the media is already writing Obama’s budget off as pie in the sky, why not rally around it with a straight face? It is the official Federal Budget for 2015. It is out there representing a ton of work and a giant leap forward. Why not let the budget be that touchstone we’ve been looking for? I think all the orgs and people who are on the side of the angels should come together for a change and just say: Good budget, let’s pass it. As is. So if you are in one of those orgs, please pitch this. Next generation post-occupy. Rallies. Positive not negative. People united. Clear story to sell. ‪#‎passthebudget‬ ‪#‎asis‬ ‪#‎period‬.

Mohammed Cartoon

mohammed cartoon

I am not Charlie. I don’t support being inflammatory when feelings are so raw. But I don’t like being bossed around. What about something more harmless? You know, where the right thing is being rejected. Just as the extremists don’t speak for all of Islam, responding to them by ridiculing what all Muslim’s regard as holy is equally non-reciprocal. But what about meta-irony, like the New Yorker cover showing the Obamas as terrorists fist bumping in the Oval Office? People were up in arms, but that cartoon was reducto ad absurdum making fun of people painting the Obamas as terrorists. So what about a cute cartoon? One that wouldn’t offend me if Allah were holy to me. One that just says: I am a cartoon. And Mohammed, like Jesus or Moses or Buddha, was just a man. And sometimes those guys are in cartoons. And we should help each other to live in a world where that’s allowed, even encouraged. So although the legend of a nation of Danes wearing yellow stars so the Nazi’s could not tell who was Jewish is sadly not true, King Christian did snub Hitler, and his subjects did display various emblems of defiance. The question is what’s being defied. If we all portray silly, harmless, non-malicious cartoons of Mohammed, if everybody walks around with neutral or pro-Islamic symbols of support for expression (vs. ridicule, or even satire), who they gonna single out?


Marianne Williamson’s Open Letter to Hillary Clinton

I have no faith in Hillary or the Clintons whatsoever, but I’m willing to support Marianne’s letter…

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waits to speak at the World Bank May 14, 2014 in Washington, DC. Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim joined others to speak about women's rights. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waits to speak at the World Bank May 14, 2014 in Washington, DC. Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim joined others to speak about women’s rights. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)