Randi Kreiss

What to write when the center isn’t holding


I had decided to write about cauliflower this week. I imagined a nice midsummer column on a vegetable that’s boring, white and gassy. What a delightful distraction from watching the self-destructive Senate Republicans, who are also boring, white and, well, whatever.

The news sets my heart racing. Politically, socially and culturally, America is twisting in the foul wind blowing from D.C. As we go to press, there is a particularly grotesque array of disturbing news dancing before me. So I’ll have the cauliflower, please, but first we have to cover the bases.

Last week, Donald Trump tweeted an order summarily banning transgender people from the military. How could we not talk about his unprincipled blathering about the “cost” of keeping trans people in the service? Not to mention his mean-spirited prejudice and scary impulsivity. His own military leaders were publicly reassuring trans service people that they would be treated with respect, despite the executive rant. Attention must be paid.

Then, John McCain, broken but unbowed, cast the deciding vote against the GOP “skinny bill” aimed at repealing Obamacare. Just a few weeks ago, I wrote an open letter to McCain, hailing his heroism and grit and suggesting that he wasn’t done yet. Last week he basically got out of a hospital bed, after learning he has a deadly brain tumor, traveled to Washington and broke with Republican colleagues to vote with his conscience and against their bill. The man has nothing to lose, and he is speaking truth to power. The scene on the Senate floor was right out of a movie.

In the meantime, the new White House communications chief, Anthony Scaramucci, let loose a vile, truly disgusting tirade against some of his White House colleagues in an interview with The New Yorker. His tone and choice of language denigrate the office he holds. It raises the question: How low can this administration go?

Then, Peggy Noonan, the Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative Wall Street Journal columnist, took on the president in a powerful column posted July 27. Noonan, who wrote speeches for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, wrote that Trump’s primary problem isn’t that he is “inexperienced, crude, and an outsider” but that he is “weak and sniveling” and “undermines himself almost daily by ignoring” traditional norms of American masculinity.

“He throws himself, sobbing, on the body politic,” Noonan wrote. “He’s a drama queen . . . His wife, Melania, is tougher than he is with her stoicism and grace, her self-discipline and desire to show the world respect by presenting herself with dignity.”

Noonan went on to say that the president’s tweets show “utter weakness.” She characterized his attacks on the media as “whimpering accusation and finger-pointing.” She said that his “public brutalizing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions isn’t strong, cool and deadly” but “limp, lame and blubbery.”

Noonan didn’t hold back. And what she wrote is especially significant because of her conservative politics and long service to Republican presidents.

Trump dropped into our backyard last Friday to talk about the gang MS-13 and to exploit recent incidents of violence to defend his anti-immigration policies. And in case there weren’t enough news “bings” on my iPhone, North Korea launched yet another intercontinental ballistic missile, the second in a month. According to CNN, the U.S. is considering military options. Well, wouldn’t that be a useful distraction from the sinking ship of state at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.?

Keeping calm and carrying on would be the way to go here, in the thick of it, but many of us are too anxious. Thus, the cauliflower distraction. For a few minutes we can let go of all the stress and contemplate a vegetable. Brassica oleracea, the cauliflower, has actually risen to prominence recently because of its low-fat, low-calorie appeal. And we can steam it or bake it or puree it like potato, or rice it for pizza crusts or stir-fry it with its relatives.

It comes in basic white, purple, orange or green. And man, it has antioxidants like you wouldn’t believe. Not only that, but cauliflower has been around. It was first mentioned by Pliny in the 1st century.

Cauliflower has also been noticed by mathematicians for its distinct “fractal dimension.” This means that every branch, or “module,” is similar to the entire cauliflower.

There! I didn’t think about Kim Jung-un for three minutes.

It’s healthier to hold forth about fractal dimensions than the possibility that our fearful leader will launch an attack against North Korea just to change the subject from his mistakes, malfeasance and misanthropy.

The way things are going, heads up. Next week we may have to contemplate the eggplant.

Copyright © 2017 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.