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Century Village for aging politicians

Our elder leaders should make way, move to retirement village

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Bernie Sanders, gay news, Washington Blade
Bernie Sanders, gay news, Washington Blade, retiring politicians

Let Bernie Sanders run for president of a condo board in 2020 instead of the United States.(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

My coffee group in D.C. meets every morning to debate the political outrages from the previous day. In this age of Trump and the Russians we have lots to talk about.

We also found ourselves talking about why members of Congress and other aging politicians refuse to retire, usually having to be carried off center stage kicking and screaming instead of gracefully making way for the next generation of leaders. There are currently five members of the Senate over 80 and 18 over 70. Recently Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, presidential candidate and DNC chair said, “Old people like Bernie Sanders should get out of politics for 2020.” He called for a new generation of leaders.

My coffee group couldn’t agree more so we tossed around ideas about what these aging politicians could do considering so many of them have oversized egos that apparently lead them to conclude they are indispensable. So as not to be accused of ageism full disclosure requires I report many in the coffee group are themselves aging politicians and over 70.

We came up with the concept of a Century Village condominium for aging politicians. Here they could continue to run for office only now it would be for positions on the condo board. Anyone currently serving on a condo board would agree there are enough issues there for robust debate and in some instances could even be considered appropriate penance for what they did to the country. They could challenge each other for leadership positions and control of their surroundings including everything from the golf course to the gym; the beauty parlor to entertainment choices; to running the pharmacy or deciding on how to decorate the lobby. Instead of the age requirement for admission being 55 as it is in the Century Villages in Florida here it could be 70.

Century Villages in Florida are gated communities with round-the-clock security. Having a gated community for aging politicians could protect them from us and us from them and in addition could eliminate taxpayer-funded Secret Service and congressional protection service requirements some of the would-be residents now enjoy. There are convenient buses providing transportation to local shopping, restaurants and medical facilities. They do have on-site medical buildings along with a pharmacy. Just think of all the fun debates Bernie Sanders, Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch could have over how they should be run.

Think about Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, and John McCain all moving in and mounting campaigns for president of the condo association. Bill Clinton wouldn’t enter the race as he already was a president. But he would ask each candidate for a commitment to let him use the ballroom for an annual Clinton Foundation benefit.

There would be a board big enough to provide for leadership positions for many of the residents and then dozens of committees they could seek to chair. Sanders’s platform would include a promise his wife would chair the Education Committee because of her experience running a college (didn’t she bankrupt one?). Biden said his wife would run that committee if he won because she wasn’t actually facing possible indictment and had extensive real teaching experience. John McCain’s platform initially listed his other six residences but was reminded he actually had seven but then his wife paid for most of them so he was excused for not knowing that. Romney again reminded people about his ‘Binders of Women’ and promised he would use them to name committee chairs. Hillary’s platform was the most extensive having detailed plans for each committee and a 20-year budget proposal. Some of the other candidates felt that was overdoing things as they most likely wouldn’t be around then and who really cared about the next generation of owners. She had the support of another owner, Nancy Pelosi. Nancy felt that it was time for a woman president after having been the highest-ranking woman politician in American history and being elected to that position for the second time in January 2019. She believed she knew what the people wanted. She also reminded people of the ‘me too’ movement and said they didn’t want to face the issue of possibly needing to impeach a president shortly after his election. She reminded people Biden was known to be a hugger and then there was Anita Hill; and Sanders, when he was in his early 30s, had written those weird pieces on what he thought women think about during sex.

We imagined Donald Trump hearing about this new condo and putting in a bid to buy the penthouse. Of course the timing of his move-in would necessarily depend on Robert Mueller and whether he indicts him or whether Congress tried to impeach him. But we could envision a scenario in which he is indicted and then cuts a deal to wear an ankle bracelet and serve time under house arrest living in splendor in the gold gilded penthouse. Trump may have to get around the prohibition of young children living permanently in the community. But like he was he could send his young son to military boarding school or even have him live with Ivanka and Jared if they aren’t in jail. But that could be negotiated with the condo board.

I can imagine some of the deals and negotiation involved to gain someone’s support for their candidacy. Trump could demand Sanders release his tax returns if he wants his vote or instead cut a deal that would have Melania chair the decorating committee. She could then hire former Congressman Aaron Schrock, if he isn’t in jail, based on his experience decorating his congressional office like Downton Abbey. Melania, however, might ask for more of a Versailles motif.

Trump would also likely ask if his young friend Vladimir Putin could reserve an apartment for when he turns 70. This would, of course, generate a debate as to whether you had to be an American citizen, born here, and have to prove it with your birth certificate to be allowed to buy into the building. The board could decide that birth certificates were required of all potential residents. Bernie Sanders sided with Trump on the Putin issue and no one was quite sure why but he also advocated for allowing Jill Stein who will be 70 by 2020 to make a reservation for a condo. Guess he thought they would make interesting dinner companions. He based his request for Stein on the agreement the board had with Elizabeth Warren, who is now a sprightly 68, allowing her to make a reservation for a unit. Part of her purchase contract was she would be guaranteed to be chair or vice-chair of the consumer affairs committee. Sanders said because of that he wanted Stein’s purchase agreement to include she could chair the recycling committee.

The more we tossed around this idea the more we realized it would make a great reality TV show. We imagined board meetings and the annual condo association meeting would make for great television. The show would get a new influx of characters, and they would be characters, with each new aging politician who moved in. To add interest and keep it current every once in a while one of the next generation of leaders, be they a president or member of Congress, would ask one of the aging politicians, hopefully one who still had all their faculties, to serve in either the cabinet or just come out on the campaign trail for nostalgia’s sake. That person would be the envy of the entire community and naturally be savaged by all the residents until they moved home again.

Maybe Marriott or some other corporation that builds senior communities will like this idea and get moving on it. It was the opinion of some of the millennials in our coffee group it can’t happen soon enough while the aging politicians in the group reminded them experience and wisdom shouldn’t be overlooked or undervalued.

 

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Sondheim’s art will be with us for the ages

Iconic work explored sadness, rage, irony, and love of humanity

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Stephen Sondheim (Screen capture via CBS)

“The only regret I have in life is giving you birth,” his mother wrote in a letter to Stephen Sondheim.

The only regret so many of us feel now is that Sondheim, the iconic composer and lyricist, died on Nov. 26 at his Roxbury, Conn. home at age 91.

He is survived by Jeffrey Romley, whom he married in 2017, and Walter Sondheim, a half-brother.

F. Richard Pappas, his lawyer and friend, told the New York Times that the cause of death was unknown, and that Sondheim had died suddenly. The day before he passed away, Sondheim celebrated Thanksgiving with friends, Pappas told the Times.

“Every day a little death,” Sondheim wrote in “A Little Night Music.”

This isn’t the case with the passing of Sondheim. Whether you’re a Broadway star or a tone-deaf aficionado like me, you’ll sorely miss Sondheim, who the Times aptly called “one of Broadway history’s songwriting titans.”

Like multitudes of his fans, I don’t remember a time in my life when a song from a Sondheim musical hasn’t been in my head.

When I was a child, my parents repeatedly played the cast album of “Gypsy,” the 1959 musical with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents. My folks loved the story of the show, which was loosely based on the life of the burlesque artist Gypsy Rose Lee. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Ethel Merman belt out “Everything’s Coming Up Roses!” When I need to jumpstart my creative juices, I remember that “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.”

In college, I felt that “Company,” the 1970 musical with music and lyrics by Sondheim and book by George Furth, spoke to my generation. 

As was the case with Sondheim’s musicals, “Company” didn’t have a conventional plot, happy ending, or tidy resolution. It takes place during Bobby’s 35th birthday party. Bobby, who is single, is celebrating with his friends (straight, married couples). Bobby likes having friends but doesn’t want to get married.

Sondheim didn’t come out as gay until he was 40. Yet, even in the 1970s, it was hard not to think that Bobby in “Company” wasn’t gay.

Once you’ve heard Elaine Stritch sing “The Ladies Who Lunch” from “Company,” it becomes indelibly etched in your brain.

Who else but Sondheim could have written, “And here’s to the girls who play/smart-/Aren’t they a gas/Rushing to their classes in optical art,/Wishing it would pass/Another long exhausting day/Another thousand dollars/A matinee, a Pinter play/Perhaps a piece of Mahler’s/I’ll drink to that/And one for Mahler!”

In September, I, along with legions of other theater lovers, were thrilled when Sondheim told Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show,” that he was working with David Ives on a new musical called “Square One.”

In his musicals from “Follies” to “Sweeney Todd” to “Sunday in the Park with George,” Sondheim, through his lyrics and music, revealed the internal depths of his characters and the sadness, tenderness, bitterness, rage, irony, wit, and love of humanity. Sondheim’s wordplay was so brilliant that he did crossword puzzles for New York magazine.

Over his decades-long career, Sondheim won every award imaginable from the Pulitzer Prize for “Sunday in the Park with George” to the Presidential Medal of Freedom (awarded to him by President Barack Obama in 2015). He received more than a dozen Tony Awards for his Broadway musicals and revivals as well as a Tony Award for lifetime achievement in 2008.

Thankfully, Sondheim’s art will be with us for the ages.

A remake of “West Side Story,” directed by Steven Spielberg with a screenplay by Tony Kushner, premieres this month.

Sondheim is a character in the Netflix film “tick, tick BOOM!,” directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The movie is based on an autobiographical posthumous Jonathan Larson (the composer of “Rent”) musical. Sondheim is supportive of Larson’s work.

Thank you Stephen, for your art! R.I.P.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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Publish trans employment stats

Not enough corporations that march in Pride are hiring non-binary staff

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On Nov. 10, the top-tier consulting firm McKinsey published a report on discrimination toward trans people in the workplace. The report came out with numbers that we have all known true for a long time and lead to one conclusion: Trans people have a harder time finding jobs, holding them down, and advancing in their careers. 

Specifically, McKinsey cited the fact that cisgender people are twice as likely to be employed as trans people, and that more than half of trans employees are uncomfortable being out at work. Meanwhile, cisgender employees make 32% more than trans employees in the workplace, even if those trans employees hold the same positions or higher positions. 

On top of this, trans people are 2.4 times more likely to be working in the food and retail industries, which pay entry level wages that are much less than decent pay. 

These statistics are true based on a number of factors. For one, many trans people have a harder time passing at work, and people who don’t pass well face worse job prospects. (As a side note, on top of that, the study pointed to the fact that many trans people exert undue emotional and psychological energy into trying to pass really well and not be discriminated against, which takes a toll on their mental health.) 

So what is a concrete step that corporations can take to make the trans experience in the workplace better? It’s time that corporations step up their game by publishing and making transparent the number of trans employees that they actually hire. Such numbers can be published in any kind of company document: a pamphlet, online report, or even annual shareholder’s report. As it is, most corporations do not publish numbers on LGBT employees. 

“Rainbow capitalism” is a term we know all too well: major corporations and multinationals flaunting a rainbow and trans pride flag during the month of June, but seemingly doing little to hire more trans people or give back to the community during other months. 

Every corporation surely has the time and company-wide infrastructure to get statistics on their trans employees. All they need to do is implement a company-wide survey to new hires. This takes extremely little effort and time in the grand scheme of company workings. 

If major corporations like McKinsey, Bain, Deloitte, defense contractors, and hundreds of other huge companies published statistics on trans employees, they would be held accountable for their actions and words.

If these statistics were to be published today, we would probably find out that not enough corporations that march in Pride parades are hiring trans and gender nonconforming employees. 

Turning the numbers against corporations will ensure that these same corporations finally live up to their words about workplace inclusion and diversity. It won’t cure everything about the issue of being trans in the workplace, but it’s a step in the right direction. 

Isaac Amend (he/him/his) is a trans man and young professional in the D.C. area. He was featured on National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ in 2017 as a student at Yale University. Isaac is also on the board of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia. Find him on Instagram @isaacamend.

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Should we be scared of Omicron?

A reminder to stay vigilant against latest mutation

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It’s Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend when I sit down to write this column. The craziness in the world continues but other than the scare of the new COVID mutation, which has been named Omicron, there isn’t one headline to grab attention. Instead, there are many, including some manufactured by the news media to gain viewers or sell papers. Some like the car rampaging through the Christmas parade is frightening but incidents like this seem to be happening all too often.  

The stock market went down 1,000 points on Friday because market players freaked out about the new COVID mutation coming out of South Africa. However that didn’t seem to stop people from spending their money on Black Friday. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) was again on the attack this time against fellow Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) accusing her of being a Muslim terrorist. She apologized, or pretended to, but again the Republican leadership wouldn’t condemn her statements. These things seemed to be grist for the news media with no one else unfortunately really voicing concern. 

Boebert’s comments were taken as old hat. They are disgusting, offensive, and dangerous, but as long as her constituents reelect her we will have to live with them. She is joined by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.),  Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), and Paul Gosar  (R-Wyo.) who represent the worst in Congress and the worst of the American people. Yet again until their constituents throw them out we have to live with their stupidity and the absurdity of their being where they are. 

The new COVID mutation out of South Africa is potentially a game changer. But it will be important for scientists to look at this carefully to determine how quickly it spreads and whether or not the current vaccines will offer any protection against it. Countries around the world, including the United States, have quickly instituted travel bans for South Africans and those in countries surrounding it. The World Health Organization at this time has suggested this should not be done as it will have limited impact on its spreading and could have severe and detrimental economic impact on countries whose people are being banned. One thing we must learn from this is how important it is to ensure everyone all over the world has access to vaccines as we know the more people who are inoculated the harder it is for the virus to mutate. It is not time to panic yet and by Sunday there was some reporting this new mutation may not be any more difficult to deal with than the current ones and not lead to any more severe illness. The takeaway from all this is we need to keep vigilant, get vaccinated and get booster shots, and make sure we vaccinate our children. Continue to wear masks indoors and wash our hands. 

Now the other interesting stories last weekend were about what will happen in the Senate in the weeks leading up to the Christmas holidays. Remember the House of Representatives passed President Biden’s Build Back Better bill as a reconciliation measure, which means it can pass the Senate with a simple majority. That would mean every Democratic senator and the vice president. The focus is on two senators: Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sinema (D-Ariz.). In reality we need to look at a number of others who will fight to either take out or put something into the bill the House passed. It is clear it will not pass in the current form and then it has to go back to the House again. 

Another issue that will be taken up is the debt ceiling. It may be a little easier than thought because as recently reported, “After taking a hard line and refusing to negotiate with Democrats during the last standoff over the debt limit, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is quietly looking for a way to get the issue resolved without another high-profile battle.” Then there is the budget and since none is passed Congress will have to pass another continuing resolution since the one they passed in September expires on Dec. 3. 

So for the next few weeks there will be a focus on the Senate to see what they do and how obstructionist Republicans want to be. Seems while things change, they somehow remain the same.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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