John Edgar and me – Who knew?

By John Gascoyne

November, 1962, aboard the guided missile cruiser USS Topeka, CLG8, anchored off of Hong Kong on a rest and rec stop. The XO comes on the squawk box to inform ship’s crew that JFK had just made a speech about what soon became known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. The XO adds that the ship’s journalist is preparing a short version of the speech for the ship paper.

John Gascoyne started his career in journalism, but then became a lawyer. He retired in 2000 after a long, successful career. Following the 2016 election, he re-activated his license to to defend clients in cases involving civil rights, civil liberties, immigration, and other areas now threatened in America. Learn more about him.

John Gascoyne started his career in journalism, but then became a lawyer. He retired in 2000 after a long, successful career. Following the 2016 election, he re-activated his license to to defend clients in cases involving civil rights, civil liberties, immigration, and other areas now threatened in America. Learn more about him.

At that moment, the ship’s journalist, me, was polishing his shoes for an evening of wanton liberty. I ran to the radio room and pulled the speech off the teletype, wrote and passed out the short version. (I still have the full version—about eight feet long on aging yellow paper.)

Next morning, after a night of intentional debauchery—a function of not knowing when we would next go ashore—we were herded into company formation. Our crusty officer in charge said that some of us were about to receive our first campaign medals. In the last row, I restrained myself from saying: “Hey, college drop-out over here; don’t need to get into anything heavy.”

Bottom line: in the Navy, I went along just to get along. If I had any political or social inclinations they were centrist at best, better described as undeveloped and unexplored.

Fast forward one year: I’m an English major at Colorado State University and, after the Navy, really enjoying the coed existence. A friend of the family, Brendan Walsh, career FBI agent, talked to me about coming to Washington D.C. and working for the Bureau. Fantasies almost bowled me over: going to work in a three-piece suit with a .38 caliber revolver under my arm sounded as good as it could get.

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A few months pass; I was now a trained FBI fingerprint technician and a part-time student at The George Washington University. Life was good then—lots of partying but, according to the rule, only with other FBI employees. I was still managing to not explore a more complex world, one where I might have to be positional.

Things change. On March 11, 1965, Unitarian Universalist and civil rights worker Rev. James Reeb died. Two days earlier, he had come to Selma, Alabama, to participate in a civil rights march. On March 9, Reeb and two other ministers were attacked with clubs and severely beaten by a group of white men.

Late that afternoon our carpool of FBI employees drove by the White House, as we always did, on our way to the late shift with the Bureau. I’m guessing there were close to 3,000 people marching in front of the White House and protesting the assassination. Things became heated in our car. One woman, daughter of the police chief in a small Ohio town, argued that Rev. Reeb shouldn’t have been in Selma in the first place.

Just past midnight, our shift was over and we were in front of the White House again, having picked up the argument as if there had been no interruption. I told the driver to let me out.

Enthusiasm contagious: I walked across the street where the crowd, now about 300 people, was picketing and yelling. A police officer, not unkindly, told me to either pick up a sign and march or go back across the street. Not having the courage of my emerging convictions, I crossed the street to Lafayette Square and began aimlessly walking.

A young black couple was just in front of me, excited about having protested at the White House. Their enthusiasm and certitude were contagious; I crossed the street again, picked up a sign and began yelling at the President. By about 3 a.m., our army was down to a few dozen marchers. Someone yelled out that we should move on to the Justice Department. I yelled back that I worked for the Department and couldn’t join them. A few dark looks and then I was considered okay again.

Another young student and I decided it was time to pack it in. As we walked away, three thugs stepped out of the bushes and wanted to know what we n—- lovers thought we were doing. My friend wanted to duke it out with them. I did the math and suggested we just move along.

That’s pretty much it. Less than three months later my contract with the Bureau expired and I moved back to Colorado. Since then, I’ve participated in numerous marches and civil and political campaigns. I’d like to say that I’ve become seasoned; no longer likely to feel weakness in the knees, roiling of the stomach when it’s time to engage.

That would be a lie. Part of my being is timorousness—I’ve come to accept that. I’ve also accepted that my feelings cannot outweigh the need to keep on doing what seems right. Especially now; especially now.

Canada: Much More Than Hockey

By Bill Mann

This writer has a border. A good one. I can see Canada, as Mme. Palin once said, from my house.

I lived in Canada for several years, and I miss it to this day. It changed our lives forever.

Bill Mann is a columnist who lives in Washington. He has a lifetime of writing experiences, including contributing humor articles to USA Today. Learn more about him.

My wife and I had the foresight to have our first child in Montreal, where I was doing a column for the English daily and a radio show on a French station.

Ergo, our son is a Canadian, and he now lives in Vancouver, arguably the world’s most beautiful city.

We visit often. We wish were were living there…even before Herr Twitler was elected.

Our son is in the same spot we were during Nixon’s reign. We didn’t have to think of him, and our son doesn’t have to concern himself with The Bright Orange Cowbell, but rather, will Les Canadiens de Montréal make the Stanley Cup playoffs? (J’espère que oui…I hope so).logo_fina_150pixels

Now, imagine a country that’s had National Health Care for 57 years. And one that has very few guns. (And the ones they do have must be registered.)

Imagine a country with a charismatic, liberal, youthful and popular leader. Canada has this, and much more.

We have photos of our two Canadian grandkids on the mantle. Both are posing with Prime Minister Trudeau. Where did they meet him? At the Pride Parade in Vancouver.

Why do Americans know so little about their great neighbor? And why do so few care?

The answer is blowing in the north wind.

To Canadians, we are the heavily armed rubes living downstairs. They have to be nice to us.

And they are the unarmed people upstairs with health insurance whom we don’t know. (We don’t even know that Canadians don’t say “eh” any more.)

We need a wall, all right…up here. To stop the increasing number of Americans who want to head north.

It’s Time to Reclaim Our Flag

By Janet Sheppard Duvall

Twenty-five years ago I ran for elected office as a Democrat in a primarily Republican county.  My yard signs proclaimed my candidacy in the proud colors of fuchsia and white. I couldn’t use the colors of the American flag, you see, because red, white and blue had long been claimed by the Republicans.

Janet Sheppard Duvall has worked in environmental and land use planning and work an organizer of a clean air coalition in Colorado. She is a former county commission for Larimer County, Colo. Learn more about her.

Janet Sheppard Duvall is a writer and editor. She has had a successful career in environmental and land use planning, as well as politics and public relations.  Learn more about her.

Today the flag itself has been preempted by the Republican Party and the alt right. They display our country’s flag front and center over all their gatherings, fly it from the topmost extensions of cranes and ladders, and let it flutter from their pickup trucks as they speed down the highway. Silently proclaiming: We are patriots, and you are not!

It’s an insidious psychological trick, but when less conservative folks see the flag waving, we often assume that the flag owner is a person of the alt-right persuasion. But wait! My husband and I fly the American flag from a flagpole attached to the front of our home. OMG! What if people assume we voted for Trump because we fly the flag of our country?

Something is definitely wrong with this picture, and it has been wrong for more than a quarter of a century. Why have Democrats, progressives, liberals and even moderates accepted the far-right Republican, Tea Party and alt-right claim of exclusivity over the patriotic symbols of our country?

My awareness for this deplorable situation was finally kicked into gear when I read an insightful article written by David Frum, What Effective Protest Could Look Like, Perspective from the right on Trump’s political challenge for the left,” published by The Atlantic on February 6, 2017. David Frum is a senior editor for The Atlantic and was a speech writer for President George W. Bush—thus, his conservative credentials.logo_fina_150pixels

Frum points out that left-liberal demonstrations “seldom are aimed at any achievable goal; they rarely leave behind any enduring program of action or any organization to execute that program. Again and again, their most lasting effect has been to polarize opinion against them—and to empower the targets of their outrage. And this time, that target is a president hungering for any excuse to repress his opponents.” In order to scare Trump and to be effective, Frum suggests protestors must be “orderly, polite and visibly patriotic.”

Frum so eloquently reminds us: “Trump wants to identify all opposition to him with the black-masked crowbar thugs who smashed windows and burned a limo on his inauguration day. Remember Trump’s tweet about stripping citizenship from flag burners? It’s beyond audacious that a candidate who publicly requested help from Russian espionage services against his opponent would claim the flag as his own. But Trump is trying. Don’t let him get away with it. Carry the flag. Open with the Pledge of Allegiance. Close by singing the Star Spangled Banner—like these protesters at LAX, in video posted by The Atlantic’s own Conor Friedersdorf. Trump’s presidency is itself one long flag-burning, an attack on the principles and institutions of the American republic. That republic’s symbols are your symbols. You should cherish them and brandish them.”

Those of us who wish to resist the presidency of Donald Trump and the dangerous advances of the alt-right must seriously consider and implement Frum’s critical revelations on how to manage effective protest:

  • Be conservative in order to effectively deliver a radical argument.
  • Be strategic, create goals and have a long-term action plan. Don’t protest just to release anger and emotions.
  • Focus the protest around a single, clear and concrete demand that can be put into political action:  e.g., “Release Tax Returns!” “Investigate Russian connections!”
  • Assure follow up action beyond the protest. Do the hard work of organizing, meeting, and continuing to call/write/email/Tweet elected representatives.
  • Create a movement that enables you to converse with and to recruit people who would not normally agree with you.

Finally, Democrats and progressives, left-wingers and liberals: fly our American flag, use the colors of red, white and blue, and know that you are patriots—“building a movement to protect American democracy from the authoritarianism of the Trump administration.” Thank you David Frum.

Yes, we will continue to fly our American flag in front of our home.

Pot and Copernicus: See You in Court!

By Bear Jack Gebhardt

I don’t smoke a lot of weed these days, though I have old time friends and young time family who make it a regular thing. Can’t blame ’em. Life’s short. Grab a grin where you can. (As the iconic Wavy Gravy once said, “only the jailers are against escape.”)

Bear Jack Gebhardt is the author of eight books and articles that have appeared in Reader’s Digest, The Columbia Journalism Review, Modern Maturity, and other national magazines.

Bear Jack Gebhardt is the author of eight books and articles that have appeared in Reader’s Digest, The Columbia Journalism Review, Modern Maturity, and other national magazines. Visit his website to learn more about him.

I also don’t carry a green card, though again, old friends and new relatives carry their green as a daily obligation. But just because I don’t personally smoke a lot of pot, or carry a green card, doesn’t mean that I’m not locking arms and standing strong with friends and family who do.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer recently suggested that the new administration may be more aggressive in trying to enforce the scientifically baseless, ever-unenforceable, never-appropriate, violently disruptive and blatantly unjust federal regulations against recreational marijuana, though probably not medicinal marijuana. (Let’s don’t make silly distinctions: As all old timers know, “all use of marijuana is medicinal.”)

As with most of the other fear-based, backward-looking proposals coming out of this administration, I say, great, bring it on, let’s test it. As this prez once succinctly put it, “see you in court.”

Seeking the divine: Here’s how I think we should proceed: I’m active, here in Colorado, with the New Buddhist Methodist Church, Satsang and Art Studio. As Buddhist Methodists (but mostly artists) we recognize marijuana use as one of the legitimate “methods” for artistically seeking the divine, e.g., for exploring, integrating and expanding this miracle of consciousness that we all share. Like all methods, including prayer and meditation, pot smoking has its advantages and disadvantages for such explorations. (see “A warning about methods” where we recognize that “Methods make good servants, but terrible masters.” )

As an artistically religious community, we would not hesitate to go to court over any attempt by this administration to restrict our religious freedom. For many years now, (long before smoking pot was legal here in Colorado) members of our communion referred to the imbibing of weed as “taking sacrament.” Many of us, ex-Catholics and fallen Baptists and a few rogue Jews, have directly experienced the uplifting effects of this sacrament much more immediately, much more directly than our childhood experiences of the wine and wafers or unleavened bread.

With the sacramental bud we just felt holier, more open and reverential, more mystical than we generally did with the officially “approved” wafers and bread from our childhood. Is the state now going to tell us what is a “real” sacramental experience and what is not? Does the state have the right to tell us what feels holy and what doesn’t?  Hmm…  What would the courts say?

Hear ye, hear ye: On a purely secular level  (some of us doubt that such a level even exists, but that’s another story) . . . on a purely secular level, we’d love to have the evidence weighed in court by an impartial judge or jury. As a plethora of both physiological and sociological research has consistently proven over the last half century, the current Federal regulations classifying marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance are scientifically baseless. We welcome the opportunity to bring into an impartial forum the scientific evidence for and against. We’re grinning even before the bailiff says, “Hear ye, hear ye…”

To site only one ironic case: As far back as The Shafer Commission, formally known as the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, appointed by U.S. President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s, the scientific evidence has been overwhelming in favor of decriminalization of marijuana possession.

Nixon appointed the Shafer Commission because he wanted scientific evidence against marijuana. They couldn’t find it. So Nixon ignored the evidence, and started the war on drugs,  and more particularly the war on marijuana. Inarguably, the laws against marijuana have proven much more damaging, more costly and socially disruptive than any perceived physical or moral dangers of its use.

I’m not naive about the downsides of regular pot use. I even wrote a book in which I detailed many of the problems as well as its advantages.  (See The Potless Pot High: How to Get High, Clear and Spunky without Weed.) I spent many years as a drug education and treatment counselor. But as I wrote at the start of my book, “the two biggest problems with pot are: 1.) you keep coming down; and 2.) it’s mostly illegal.” There are other problems with pot, but they are relatively minor compared to these two.

Back to the secular: For an administration trying to turn back advancements in environmental regulations, social programs and sexual equality under the guise of “states’ rights,”  the suggestion that states should be able to determine their own environmental pollution regulations but not their own pot laws is comically hypocritical and patently ludicrous. Again, see you in court.

As Victor Hugo famously observed, “All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”  The basic idea “whose time has come” is not that marijuana should be legal—though that’s a powerful idea in itself. No, the more fundamental idea is that we have the right, and duty, and opportunity to explore new ideas, to develop new ways of seeing ourselves and the world. Pot sometimes helps us do that—to think in new ways (and yes, sometimes pot just makes things fuzzy.)  But whether we use it or not is not a decision that the guy from Oklahoma—the new Attorney General—has the power to make.

“Good people don’t smoke pot,” the Oklahoman said here recently. “And it’s obvious the sun goes around the earth,” he would have told Galileo and Copernicus.

If the Attorney General wants to make regulations about the inalienable rights and free uses of mother nature’s wonderful weed, okay, “See you in court.” Copernicus and Galileo are anxious to present their evidence, for our grinning side.

One Nation, Under God, Avoiding Bigly Crazy

By David Adamson

When I floated the idea of writing for this blog to my wife, she agreed it was a good idea. In her words, “It might be better than talking to the TV.” Normally, I don’t talk to televisions, but after Trump’s victory, I grew so agitated I cursed or babbled at the sight or sound of him.

I take some solace that I am not alone. Each day fellow Trump-crazed Americans express a non-stop howl of negative reactions—angst, anger, shock, desperation, paranoia, depression, fear, panic, insomnia, disorientation, alienation, resignation, despair and distraction. They forward, share, tweet, email every Trump scandal, gaffe, ugly photo, insulting cartoon, and inane remark.

David Adamson worked in high technology and health care. He’s the author of Walking the High Tech High Wire and The Wellness Club. He’s written hundreds of blogs on politics and fitness

David Adamson worked in high technology and health care. He’s the author of Walking the High Tech High Wire and The Wellness Club. He’s written hundreds of blogs on politics and fitness

However, beyond a certain point, much of this is unproductive, frenzied singing to the choir. We all know by now that Trump has dwarfed genitalia and why Melania looks so unhappy.

Repugnant politicians: During my decades of adulthood, there have been plenty of repugnant politicians, but there’s something different about Trump—the bombast, self-aggrandizement, bullying, belittling, incoherence, dishonesty, misogyny, faux-Christianity, hyperbole, racism, impulsiveness, self-contradictions, xenophobia and sexual predation. His dangerous alt-reality in which America’s allies are enemies and our enemies are allies, media invents the news, facts are fantasy, America needs rescue, science concocts global warming, a border wall will save us from bad dudes if it’s built bigly high, bigly high, believe me, believe me…Trump is crazy.

Trump is crazy.

The word “crazy” is used here in a clinical sense, not as a pejorative. He clearly has a severe personality disorder. Recently, a group of mental health professionals co-signed a formal letter to the NY Times expressing their concerns about his mental stability. A Duke psychologist went so far as to diagnose Trump as suffering from “malignant” narcissistic personality disorder (diagnostic code 301.81 in Diagnostic Statistical Manual-VI, if you care to Google it).

Don’t forget to take the short poll at the end of this post.

Others go crazy, too: I wondered as much. Hearing their expert opinions reminded me of the late R.D. Laing, a ground-breaking British psychiatrist, who made a couple of prescient, unsettling observations from his work with schizophrenics that are pertinent to helping us stall the destructive plans of the Trump/Republican regime:

#1 – If one family member goes crazy, other family members will go crazy, too. Worse, as the family members become crazy they make the already crazy person even crazier.

#2 – A person becomes crazy not just because of brain abnormalities, but also because serious dysfunction already exists in the family that precedes triggers it. There is a huge social component to losing touch with reality.

So what does this dead psychiatrist have to do with Trump and the U.S. early in his presidency?

Regarding #1, understand that the more we disparage and embarrass him, whether in satirical SNL skits or scientific Pew Research polls showing his unpopularity, he’ll get crazier. He’s shown no indication he’s able to modify his behavior; therefore we can expect more and more maniacal night tweets, conspiracy theories, and random outbursts and insults.

If we immerse ourselves in his craziness…We’ll remain stressed, spellbound and powerless.

Daily assaults: If we immerse ourselves in his craziness by spending all day sharing, reacting and refuting his latest crazy behavior, whether in social media, work or the coffee shop, we’ll squander valuable time and emotional resources. His daily assaults on political normalcy will logo_fina_150pixelsdivert us into ineffective, ridiculing, bitching and complaining. We’ll remain stressed, spellbound and powerless.

Regarding #2, Trump is a symptom, not the disease. His presence in the White House is the result of dysfunctions in our economic and political system that will take focused, creative efforts to fix:

  • An electorate more polarized than any historic period since the Civil War.
  • Gerrymandered congressional districts and an obsolete electoral college that tilts federal elections towards the Republican Party before a single vote is even cast.
  • A Democratic Party that lacks vision, is bureaucratic, and falls back on outmoded New Deal/Great Society approaches to solving the novel challenges of a diverse and rapidly changing population in urban and rural areas.
  • Extreme income inequality that is sustained by soulless corporations and the 1 percent who own and control them, along with our two major political parties.

These are why Trump and a minority of Americans were able to hijack the U.S. government. At some point, Trump may be impeached, but not because he’s crazy. Many prominent leaders were mentally ill (read the book A First-Rate Madness by Nassir Ghaemi, M.D.) Trump and his inner circle of zany ideologues and congressional enablers can only be excised through the mundane, grunt work of politics and elections. That’s where we need to expend our passions for revenge and justice.

Dr. Allen Frances, the psychiatrist who chaired the task force that identified narcissistic personality disorder for the DSM, wrote that the diagnosis does not apply to Trump because he does not exhibit enough “distress and impairment.” In fact, Frances concluded:

“His psychological motivations are too obvious to be interesting, and analyzing them will not halt his headlong power grab. The antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological.”

What we can do:

Therefore, it’s time to limit our fixation with Trump’s antics, minimize his time in our psyches. Let’s substitute some of our hours squandered obsessing about him with small, simple daily actions.

You’ll find an arsenal of grassroots action ideas at Rogan’s List. Another really innovative organization is The Sisters Project, which bypasses the ineffectual and expensive Democratic Party apparatus in Washington D.C., and funnels resources directly into supporting candidates and developing voting constituencies in the places Trump and other alt-reality candidates usually win.

And don’t worry–you’ll still have plenty time to stick pins of anger and moral outrage in the pudgy voodoo doll with the blonde hair out in cyberspace.

 

More ideas on how to deal with Trump stress: First step to resistance: A peaceable daily routine by Bear Jack Gebhardt.

Assault on our environment rages like a tsunami

By Gary Kimsey

I wasn’t a big Nixon fan. But, as millions of other Americans did, I applauded when he and a bipartisan congress created the EPA in 1970 to respond to major environmental problems in communities, rivers and wilderness areas.

As Nixon said at the time, “We will reap the grim consequences of our failure to act on programs which are needed now if we are to prevent disaster later. Clean air, clean water, open spaces—these should once again be the birthright of every American.”

What do you think? Take a short poll at the end of this article.

Now, under Donald Trump and a one-party congress, we are witnessing the horrific dismantling of “the birthright of every American.” Events of the first month of his reign showed how easily Trump and congress can sweep aside progress:

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On Feb. 17, congress approved Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA. He represented the oil industry in lawsuits against the agency and will be Trump’s attack dog which tears apart the agency. Like Trump, Pruitt does not believe in science that shows we’re already feeling global warming.

On Feb. 21, Pruitt laid out a vision for the EPA which undercuts the agency’s mission to protect “human health and the environment—air, water, and land.” In his introductory talk to the EPA staff, he focused on protecting jobs, industry and the marketplace but gave little nod to environmental protection. The word “climate” was not included among his words, a sign that indicates such issues as climate change and global warming will plunge to the wayside in his administration.

On Feb. 16, Trump signed a bill that repealed a federal measure restricting mining companies from dumping waste into streams. The measure was a protection for 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests.

Trump said he repealed the measure as a way to jump-start a return to coal mining. He forgets to mention how outdated and environmentally dangerous the use of coal is. Coal miners, however, voted for Trump and their votes are more important to him than the environment.

How will the assault on the EPA impact states? Read this insightful article about impacts in Colorado.

On Feb. 14, Trump repealed a rule that required oil, natural gas, coal, and mineral companies to disclose royalties and other payments made to foreign governments. The rule was an effort to fight corruption. Now American energy companies can bribe their way into other countries.

On Feb. 3, four Republican House of Representative members introduced H.R. 861 which calls for an end to the Environmental Protection Agency on Dec. 31, 2018.

Supporters argue the EPA isn’t needed because states and cities can regulate their own pollution. However, their argument doesn’t take into account the realities that most communities and states do not have the wherewithal, or political bravery, to monitor and regulate pollution. Nor do polluted air and rivers respect city or state boundaries—a fact that necessitates the presence of a federal agency like the EPA.

What do Americans think? A national poll released Feb. 8 found voters believe 2-to-1 that Trump should not cut regulations which combat climate change; 59 percent think more should be done to address climate change.

On Jan. 24, 120 Republican representatives introduced H.R. 637 to curtail the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases. They believe the EPA does too much regulation of polluting companies.

Shortly after he was inaugurated, Trump ordered the EPA to freeze all grants and contracts. The move affects local efforts to improve air and water quality, curtails climate research projects, and halts environmental projects that help poor communities.

Almost before the glitter was swept up from the floors of the inaugural balls, a bill was introduced in congress to sell 3.3 million acres of public land. The legislation prompted a loud outcry from residents of states, particularly Montana, that would lose those lands to private developers. The bill was withdrawn in early February due to public opposition.

Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled congress has set its sights on opening part of Alaska’s fragile Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. This is in a pristine wilderness where no roads, campgrounds or trails exist. It is a nursery for polar bears, musk oxen and Porcupine Caribou. Migratory birds from every U.S. state nest there.

As a nation, we now face danger to our water sources, air quality, renewable energy efforts, environmental research, water and wastewater management, superfund cleanups, regulation of vehicular emissions, and global warming.

Be ready for the rest of the tsunami. It’s coming. And it’s going to get worse, a lot worse.

I believe most Americans are wise enough to value a clean environment. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

Here are important steps to take:

Government workers must refuse to obey unjust orders

By Bear Gebhardt

In the first week of the new administration, Sally Yates, who was then our acting U.S. Attorney General, acted like a true hero when she said yes to her conscience, yes to the constitution and no to her boss. She set the high moral standard for what more and more government employees will be asked to do.

Although Ms. Yates was quickly fired (she already knew she would be replaced within the month), she was also quickly vindicated. She was proven right when within days various federal judges across the country agreed with her: The “orders” she had been given were deemed unconstitutional.

Her actions of refusal (resistance!) set a powerful example for what more and more government employees are now forced to do, from local police officers, immigration agents, teachers, welfare, and food inspection officers up through the ranks to cabinet political appointees.

Again: say yes to your conscience, yes to the constitution, no to the boss.

The international courts at Nuremberg, after World War II, made it plain: Our own conscience and our personal sense of human dignity and humanity always, always (always!) take precedence over orders from above, if those orders require us to engage in acts of human cruelty.

“We must say no to orders from above when those orders impinge on human dignity.”

“Orders from above” never justify the immoral, illegal or even questionable imposing of harm or abuse on fellow human beings. When the term “never forget” came out of the holocaust, what we were encouraged to never forget is this exact lesson: We can say no, we must say no to orders from above when those orders impinge on human decency.

Immigration officers at the NYC airport who refused to acknowledge a valid court order which temporarily suspended Trump’s Executive Order denying the rights of legal U.S. residents to return home were acting in a cowardly or at least ignorant manner. They were following the orders of their bosses, rather than their conscience or the law.

In an era when it seems that much executive policy—in spite of current laws or accepted precedent—springs from irrational fears, a sense of personal privilege and mean-spirited retribution, it is imperative for all of us to see quite clearly, quite simply this creed: If it violates the constitution and/or goes against our conscience, we are free to say no, we are obligated to say no, even if it’s our direct boss who demands our obedience. (Read Bear Gebhardt’s Gandolph Nuremberg Strategy for details.)

Again, the Nuremberg Trials established the international law that supports always acting according to our own conscience, and our own sense of the constitution, and particularly the Bill of Rights.

We each have the right and obligation to say no to unjust or inhumane orders from above. Such a “no” may cost us in the short run—as it did for Sally Yates. But in the long run, we’ll be standing on firm ground, having done the right thing.

As individuals, and as a society, saying “no” will ensure: never again.