Category: politics

Moving Along

 

I thought I’d tell you about how my life has changed since the election outcome. First, the good news for me, is that I’m white, albeit female so a certain part of my anatomy is apparently up for grabs, but at least I don’t have to worry about Neanderthal types yelling racial slurs or hitting me. So that’s good. But what’s bad is that I am stunned we humans are so tribal, so ignorant, and so full of base hatred for The Other. So I have to try to reconcile that.

But a very good thing has also happened, and it is that I feel united with the majority and I feel a sobering awareness to use my white privilege to stand up for the vulnerable. My sister-in-law told me, “My headscarf is ready if they start registering Muslims.” She is Jewish. But how wonderful to contemplate one hundred million people registering as Muslims in the United States.

There is a power in behaving with decency that is less obvious than the shock-value of barbaric outrageousness, but decency is the far stronger power, since it is based on values that enrich the soul, rather than corrode it.

“Against eternal injustice, man must assert justice, and to protest against the universe of grief, he must create happiness.” –Albert Camus

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Manners, People. Manners

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Yesterday, Richie and I were in Rockport, Massachusetts, a picturesque little town on Cape Ann. There, we got into conversation with a resident. He talked about his work (owning and managing apartments) and how much he missed his wife of fifty-eight years who had recently died. We were three humans, connecting. Then I looked up and saw in his window, a sign: “Proud to be a member of the basket of deplorables.” Oh dear, I thought, a trump supporter. {Still!} We carried on talking in our friendly way and Richie mentioned that we were here for the Gran Prix Cyclocross race. I could feel the man pull back, in much the same way I had when I read his sign. Oh dear, his body language said, one of them. (The Gran Prix is not liked by residents because it tears up the park—although the race hires landscapers to repair it afterwards.) But we continued talking, continued connecting, because we are well-mannered people.

Currently, within the United States manners have been, by some, derided as “political correctness.” They’re not. They are an essential survival tool for a society. When manners go, society goes. Good manners towards another human indicates respect. No, you needn’t agree with their positions on things, but your display of good manners confers to them the respect due to another member of your society and by doing so—and this is key—you also establish to them, your own sense of self respect.

Invariably, rude people are unsecure people. As President Obama recently observed about a certain someone who most decidedly lacks good manners, “he pumps himself up by pushing others down.” When we feel threatened—insecure—our instinct is to hit back to force our threatener to feel worse than we do. Ergo, we are not at the bottom anymore!

Manners prevent us from lashing out destructively while we (ideally) work out within ourselves that which is making us feel insecure. The process of working it out is self-responsibility. Accepting self-responsibility is growth. Growth feeds self-respect.

Courage: grace manners under pressure.

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No More Misogynist Feminists

 

The title of this blog post is thanks to Madonna, who tweeted out same recently.

It took me a long time, I am embarrassed to say, to understand Madonna. I thought her in-your-face sexuality was a cave-in, a return to the subjection of women by sexualizing them. When, of course in fact, she was taking charge of it. Her “Boy Toy” belt buckle particularly rankled me. But just like the LGBTQ community co-opted “queer” to become a statement of power and ownership, Madonna co-opted and empowered her own sexuality by taking ownership of it.

Now Madonna has, in a succinct sentence, captured what I feel about women who aren’t voting for Hillary because they find her “untrustworthy.” Oh for God’s sake. Hillary has devoted her life to public service, her every move is scrutinized. I find it trust-inducing that the only thing her detractors can find to detract is missing emails that have not resulted in anything detrimental happening to our country–unlike the propaganda of WMD that led to the Iraq war, or the deliberate dishonesty that led to the housing bubble meltdown. . . Oh, the Clinton Foundation? The donation detractors point to was signed off by nine separate government agencies, not Hillary.

Ladies, tell me what it is about having a woman in the highest office in the country—a women who is more prepared to do the job than anyone in recent memory—that you just can’t abide. Perhaps it will be the illuminating of women’s rights—just like President Obama’s terms have illuminated the rights of Blacks—that you find disturbing. Equal pay for equal work, the right to decide what to do with one’s own reproductive system, the exposure of the casual, insidious sexism all women live with—these will naturally rise to the surface when a woman is President.

If you say you “distrust” Hillary, please form a thorough, coherent, fact-filled argument as to why. Vague intimations about her “corruption” or “untrustworthiness” are not facts. And when you’ve gotten your argument down and you think it’s a solid one then do a little more thinking and determine why this makes her uniquely unqualified to lead. Unlike, say, the generations of men in government, whose lives, when the rug has been lifted, have been rife with mistakes, corruption, and cronyism. I believe Hillary’s life of service is more committed, honest, and authentic than her peers. I believe she is more intelligent and prepared than anyone else has been for the job. If all you can muster against her is “untrustworthy” then your attitude is misogyny, plain and simple.

 

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A Little Something Called Self-Responsibility

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There is something weird going on this week. Nothing is running smoothly. The propane company, after 8 years of filling up the propane tanks on schedule, now can’t seem to fill up the correct tanks. They have filled up the shop tank twice now, and left the house tanks unfilled. Not a good thing in the middle of winter. I even put a big sign on the shop tank that said “NOT this tank, the tanks at the HOUSE” with a big arrow pointing toward the house, and they STILL filled up the shop tank.

Then just this morning, a whole passel of ice fisherman glibly trespassed across our property sliding their sleds 10 feet from our house and when Richie told them it was a private pond, they said, “So call the police.”

What is going on here? Is the repugnant presidential campaign persuading people that incivility and incompetence are acceptable ways of behaving?

There is a little something called self-responsibility. We all have power and that power is the power to behave decently. Let’s try that for a while and see where it gets us.

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Not One More

We drove past Sandy Hook and Newtown on our way home from Virginia this Memorial Day and next to the exit sign was a hand-lettered placard: “Free coffee and doughnuts.” This community had twenty first-graders and six teachers and administrators massacred by a man with an assault weapon. And what were they doing on this Memorial Day? Trying to keep drivers alert…and alive.

I hear people defend their right to own assault weapons because they say they need to be safe from “bad guys with guns.” I hear people say they need to protect their own. I never hear them say they want to protect their neighbors. I never hear them say they want to help. I hear them only expound on themselves and their rights.

But Sandy Hook, a town whose children did die from a bad guy with guns—they care about keeping you, anonymous you, alive.

Who has the bigger heart? Who has the richer soul? Who holds the future of our species? Do you want higher walls, bigger guns, more rampant paranoia? Or do you want the compassion of a town trying to keep holiday drivers alive, even as they continue to mourn the senseless slaughter of their children?

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2014/05/christopher-michael-martinezs-father-gets-it-right.html

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The Fetish of Individuality that is the United States

I wish I had thought that up, but I confess I heard it in an interview and I can no longer remember who said it.  At any rate, for me it gets to the heart of a warped belief system in this country.

The other night I watched a documentary on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, where girls and young women burned to death because there were no laws in place to make their workplace safe. The staircase door was locked, the elevator could hold only a few people at a time and the fire escape was so decrepit, it collapsed. Girls as young as 14 jumped to their deaths, while others died wreathed in flames.  Predictably, public outrage was great, and that outrage led to federal laws being passed to protect workers in their workplace. At the end of the documentary, the narrator said: “but before this could happen, women had to burn.”

When I heard those words, a chill ran through me, because it brought to mind Sandy Hook and the massacre of 26 people, 20 of them first-graders. Public outrage was great then, too. But not enough to pass new laws to protect other children from the same fate.

We have sunk to the level of making our children pay for our fetish of individuality. We think our personal freedom to carry an assault weapon is far more important than the lives of our children.

If a society cannot keep its children safe from itself, then it has failed its primary purpose—that of perpetuating itself—not to mention a certain reverence for life. Fetishizing personal freedom spells the end of a civilized society.

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Just a Thought Re: Congress and the Space Station

I’m not getting the impression that our Congress is feeling the effects of their own incompetence. What can make it more real for them, I ask myself? Then I think: Let’s send them all to the Space Station.

There they will eat freeze-dried food and be in uncomfortably close quarters. They can talk to each other or not, but until they work something out, they have to stay there. Maybe they will stare at the round globe of Earth, pushing and shoving each other out of the way to get the best view from the little portholes. And maybe, after a month or so of this, they will notice that the Earth intrinsically does not have borders or blue states and red states or Muslim countries or Christian countries.

And maybe after another month of being in the dark vastness of space, they will perceive the miracle of this planet that sustains life and how fragile it has become. Eventually, sick of eating freeze-dried ice cream, they may (the more with-it ones) come to grasp that, actually, there’s isn’t any other place we can live. And that to destroy the Earth, is to destroy our species (not to mention many others.)

Then maybe they will begin to talk and to compromise and to learn to get along. And that’s when we will let them come back, to join us at the adult table.

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I thought about using a photo of the monkey that Russia sent into space here, but then I realized that would be maligning the monkey.

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Strong Men Marry Strong Women

There is a trend I’ve been noticing in the public forum lately–that of men publicly respecting their wives. Not the age-old, rather patronizing professed admiration for their mothering skills, but a real respect for them as partners beyond gender stereotype. It is perhaps most noticeable in Barack Obama. He clearly and publicly respects his wife and perhaps this has given tacit, sub-conscious permission for all strong men to publicly respect their wives. My own husband is a case in point, although he didn’t need the permission of the commander in chief to extol my virtues (as he sees them, others may disagree). He has been on my side since day one and made it no secret.

Another notable respecter-of-their-wife is mega-author Stephen King. I don’t know him personally, but I did read his “On Writing,” a book that is part memoir, part writing advice and a paragon of clear thinking. He doesn’t go on and on about how his wife, Tabitha, is the “wind beneath his wings.” He just tells it like it is, inserting her contributions into his success where they belong. There are plenty of them and they are pivotal. In this way, he is paying her the compliment of genuine respect—he’s not overstating it, and not understating it.

It’s a good trend—this trend of men being strong enough to be vulnerable enough to give someone else the credit they deserve. Women are strong. That’s just a fact. And as more and more men stop trying to ignore that and more and more women accept their own strength, we become the partners we’re supposed to be.

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Growing Pains

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Trained to look at the bigger picture and to deconstruct what seems to be apparent; I am pushed to apply these ideas to the massacre of children. As a forty plus year resident of Connecticut who only recently moved to Massachusetts, I still feel like a Connecticut-er, and the killings in Sandy Hook affected me in a familial way. These were my people, my state. Any news of people being slaughtered will shock and tear but these were my babies. That is how it feels.

Beyond the grief, then anger, comes a desire to make sense of it all. Make sense of our society, our nation. Why, I ask myself, are we like this? Why do we need to have guns, and more basically, why is ‘personal freedom’ so pervasively core to our priorities in this country?

Religious freedom (which, ironically, became intolerance to anything differing from the new religious practice) is the historically taught cornerstone for the establishment of many settlements in the colony of America. But the idea of a place to go away from King and class restrictions had to have been appealing to many of this country’s first settlers. And then there were the amazing natural resources of this country. People came here for opportunity. This is how most, if not all human societies start. One culture usurps another and then works out how it will establish itself and grow. As it matures, it faces and addresses the growing pains of being a society.

The United States, as a nation, is a young society. I think of us as adolescents. We are not children anymore, but we are not adults either. We still think our personal freedoms are more important than what is good for our society as a whole. Like adolescents, we are the center of our universe. Our wants and needs are the most important thing to us. This is not a bad thing, it is the way things grow. Before you can look beyond yourself to establishing your place in the world at large, you must first figure out who you are. That is the role of adolescence.

In the United States,  we are figuring out who we are. And like individual adolescents, our black and white ideas are being challenged. Some of us need to feel we are free by being able to own guns, and others of us need to feel free by feeling safe from people owning guns. Whose freedom is the right one? That’s what we are wrestling with now. I have no doubt that, as a society, we will grow and mature like all successful societies have. And that means limiting personal freedoms for the general good of the society as a whole.

After all, if a society cannot keep its children safe from itself, then it has failed its primary purpose—that of perpetuating itself. All successful societies have realized this at some point, and it is at that point that personal freedom has grown up and become collective good.

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