When politics should take a back seat to reality…

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 10.39.01 PMHow can we pretend that what is going on isn’t going on?

Terrorist attacks every week – more than 950 since New Year’s Day.

Rampant hatred.

Madness so severe that it would lead a man to drive a truck down a crowded street, murdering 84 people as they celebrated Bastille Day in Nice, France.

The United States is at DEFCON 3, and we aren’t paying attention. The world is at DEFCON 2, and we’re doing other things.

You know what DEFCON means. You’ve heard of the U.S. military’s defense readiness condition that ranks alert levels based on how much danger we face. It ranges from DEFCON 5 at its lowest to DEFCON 1 at its highest. I first heard it while watching “War Games” with a young Matthew Broderick saving the world from a playful computer.

But this isn’t a movie.

And we’re not paying attention to the reality unfolding before our eyes.

Has World War III already begun while we conduct business as usual?

As politicians in countries around the world, including here, fight for power, hatred is rising rapidly. Rather than pay attention, we are making our way as if the globe were not in crisis.

If there ever was a time that politics should take a back seat to our need to fight for our world – together – it is now.

ROCHELLE RILEY’s essays on this blog are personal. No reprints without permission. You can read her columns at www.freep.com/rochelleriley and follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.

We went too far when we ridiculed Clint Eastwood

She’s now 23, but my daughter’s voice sounded like it did when she was 11.

“Mom, they’re making fun of Clint Eastwood!”

I figured that wasn’t the time to tell her I had also shaken my head and chuckled at the many tweets and jokes that came after the actor interviewed an empty chair onstage at the Republican National Convention.

“I think that’s wrong,” she said.

And, of course, as she has been many times, she was right.

America has spent five days making fun of an elderly man. We didn’t think about it because that man was once the lean, tough, handsome cowboy and cop who had made our day many times. Except we weren’t talking about Rowdy Yates from “Rawhide” or Harry Callahan from “Dirty Harry.” We were talking about a real man with nearly 60 years of acting experience, who has spent decades giving us a persistent persona that made him seem invincible.

We would never have made fun of an 82-year-old man sitting on a bus or eating at a restaurant. But let him take a stage with no one to tell him he shouldn’t, and Katie bar the door.

We shouldn’t have done it.

Not for politics.

Not for entertainment.

Had Clint Eastwood not been a performer, an entertainer, who took the stage on his own because of what he believed, we never would have laughed.

Or would we have?

I can’t help but remember Rachel Maddow’s nearly speechless reaction to the interview with the chair. All of us should have stopped and thought for a moment.

That would have been me when my daughter was younger, always worried about how things looked to her.

I should still worry about how things look to her.

We spend years teaching our children. But what we don’t remember is that they spend years teaching us.

My daughter wasn’t happy about how Clint Eastwood was treated. And in hindsight, neither should I have been – because when you think about it: We made fun of a senior citizen, of an old guy.

Shame on us.

Rochelle is author of “Raising A Parent: Lessons My Daughter Taught Me While We Grew Up Together” – available by clicking the box at www.rochelleriley.com.

Romney turns presidential moment into pandering minute

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney missed a huge opportunity during an appearance before thousands of supporters in Michigan Friday.

Rather than be presidential and rouse the crowd with his plans for a new America, Romney instead chose to make a crack about how no one asks for proof that he was born in Detroit.

It was a comment that pandered to some of the worst in his party – radical conservatives who believe that President Obama wasn’t born in America.

But by aligning himself with extremists, Romney insulted some of the very government employees he seeks to supervise as president.

Yes, those are real people who work for the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the CIA, the Secret Service and the Department of State. It is those employees that the extremists believe either are all inept and somehow allowed a noncitizen to run for President or believe that they are part of some vast left-wing conspiracy to cover up a noncitizen running for President.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties have extremists on the periphery who utter things that push their colleagues away.

The shame of this presidential campaign is that the candidates still haven’t realized that they don’t need to pander. They don’t need to offer negative assessments of each other’s careers. They don’t need to tell jokes.

All they need to do is explain what they want to do for America – and let America decide who it believes.

And they should have some respect for their constituents the same way that a presidential candidate should respect prospective employees. The extremists don’t think much of the employees who vetted a candidate four years ago. Neither does Romney, who used a single golden moment in front of 10,000 supporters to insult them again.

A reminder of patriotism

There are plenty of things I like about visiting a Rotary Club meeting: the singing, the updates from members about their children and careers. But near the top is an opportunity to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Simple words written 120 years ago this month, it became a country’s mantra when it was adopted by Congress in 1942.

As I recited the words I learned as a child, it dawned on me that I probably say the pledge about once a year – when I visit a Rotary Club. That’s not often enough.

We sometimes get

mad at our country, especially during presidential elections, major Congressional debates and times of war. We question our leaders. We wonder why we sent some leaders to Washington. We decry the lack of civility and the problems we have, as Americans, getting along.

But what the pledge does is remind us that no matter what else bothers us or how much we fight, we remain one nation, indivisible, where we fight every day for liberty and justice for all.