The Importance of Engaging Even When You Don’t Agree

IMG_3541
When I am in the car, I love listening to NPR.  Sometimes, like during one business trip, I listen to the news for so long I start to go a little crazy with all the awful and frustrating things happening (that I want to change) and have to turn it off in order to process.  Other times, there are interviews and stories that keep me flipping the radio to keep up with the changing NPR station as I travel through different regions.  The latter was me on Monday.

As you’ve probably heard, Hillary Clinton’s book “What Happened” released last week.  I’ll be honest: I wasn’t planning on reading it.  I’m not interested in reading 512 pages of blaming and explaining…how, what, where, when, and why (especially when she and the DNC made it impossible for Bernie to get the nomination).  However, after seeing this post on Grok Nation, I’m more open.  Maybe not for all of the reasons listed, but because, despite all the reasons Hillary Clinton did not deserve the White House (issues for another post I may or may not write), she made history becoming the first woman nominated for president in a major party, has pushed through stereotypes and gender inequality during her career, and has inspired women to do more than they otherwise might have believed possible.  I can at least skim it to see where she is coming from (and try and figure out what’s genuine versus political bullsh*t).

**Before you all freak out on me, I am a feminist, I can’t wait for a woman to sit in the White House, but HRC did not deserve to make that particular piece of history.  Jill Stein on the other hand…she’s good.  But, in America we don’t believe in Green Parties.

Anyway, NPR released the interview they did with her (full transcript here) and it was amazing, because it covered many topics in a conversation style of speaking, rather than a speech.  My two favorite topics were (1) when she addressed Donald Trumps patriarchal misogyny towards her bathroom break during a debate and the implications that has for women everywhere and (2) the corporation allegedly pulling-the-strings behind several huge votes and elections in the world.

Hillary Clinton first addressed the time that Donald Trump ridiculed that she was late returning to stage during a debate for using the restroom.  She called out his misogynistic and objectifying view of women and that he did not hold back using degrading language, and implications, when speaking of her in similar terms that he spoke of Megyn Kelly.

We have to keep talking about and bringing attention to the issues of gender inequality and the harassment and abuse that women face.  As we all know, the powerful are often the ones who get away with the most (shall we talk about Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly, not to mention Bill Clinton), but it happens everywhere, and we need to start  making changes (shout out to The Bold Type for using their platform with intention last week).

Clinton had this to say about Trump’s reactionary statement: “He sexualizes women. He objectifies women. He’s more than happy to comment on what women look like and whether they’re too thin or too fat or whatever his particular obsession might be.

But what about women who use restrooms? (Which is all of us.) What about women who give birth? (Which is many of us?) What about women who have all kinds of physical parts of their life? It said to me, ‘No, I can’t be bothered. I can’t even think about that. I want to see you in a low-cut dress. I want to see you in a bathing suit. I want to see whether you fit my standards.’ And I thought it was incredibly weird.”

Another issue that Clinton discussed was corporate backing by Cambridge Analytica and the Mercer family (who are directly connected with Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway), including possible interference into various elections and votes around the globe (Kenya, Brexit, and even the USA). Now, granted, there are some statements in the following quote that make different red flags go off (like, how long have you really thought we needed to get rid of the electoral college?), but she draws attention to some situations that, I believe, require attention.  (Also, I love the French commentator’s remark, because I’ve had issues with the Electoral College since it was explained to me when I was nine years old.)

“You know, the Kenya election was just overturned and really what’s interesting about that — and I hope somebody writes about it, Terry — the Kenyan election was also a project of Cambridge Analytica, the data company owned by the Mercer family that was instrumental in the Brexit vote.

There’s now an investigation going on in the U.K., because of the use of data and the weaponization of information. They were involved in the Trump campaign after he got the nomination, and I think that part of what happened is Mercer said to Trump, ‘We’ll help you, but you have to take Bannon as your campaign chief. You’ve got to take Kellyanne Conway and these other people who are basically Mercer protégés.’

And so we know that there was this connection. So what happened in Kenya, which I’m only beginning to delve into, is that the Supreme Court there said there are so many really unanswered and problematic questions, we’re going to throw the election out and redo it. We have no such provision in our country. And usually we don’t need it.

Now, I do believe we should abolish the Electoral College, because I was sitting listening to a report on the French election and the French political analyst said, ‘You know in our country the person with the most votes wins, unlike in yours.’ And I think that’s an anachronism. I’ve said that since 2000.”

A simple Google search reveals many details that should cause concern about these allegations.  As a journalist, the interview gave me names to research to find out who is benefiting from whom, and what negative impacts will happen as a result. These are important issues, because, as we all know, money talks.  The rich are the ones who make things happen by donating to people and groups who they want favor from at a later date.  It is unethical, and we must raise a voice.

As citizens of a country and the world, it is our responsibility to investigate, educate ourselves, and critically think so that we can tell the “shit from the shinola.”  Yes, there are many people in places of leadership that are not qualified or have done things to disqualify themselves.  However, we have a responsibility to provide qualified candidates so that people don’t find themselves faced with the (fallacy) of choosing between “the better of two evils.”  We also have to open ourselves to the idea of radical change…and choosing to not be afraid of words that we’ve been taught are scary (i.e. socialized/socialism).  If we allow fear to control us and keep us from new ideas in an ever-evolving world, we won’t get very far.

Have you ever wanted to make a change?  Here are a few ways to get involved:

  • Start attending your local council meetings;
  • Find out who the leaders are, what the issues are, and educate yourself;
  • If you think, “I could do that,” run for office;
  • If you have a passion for leadership in government and want to help people, start looking bigger;
  • Consider parties that are not Republican and Democrat;
  • Get out there and volunteer (I’m hoping to find a way to register people to vote);
  • Oh, and make sure you register to vote—and don’t just wait for national elections.
Advertisements

The Stone of American Ethnocentrism

IMG_3599

Currently, there are hurricanes wreaking havoc, potential changes to DACA striking fear in young Dreamers, a president who uses far too many adjectives, and the ongoing battles for social justice in areas of race, gender, and religion.

I told you—it’s a lot.

Today, I am pledging my support and action to those with DACA status.  I say this not out of obligation to sound socially aware, but because I worked with DACA students applying for college, saw their hard work and outstanding records, and witnessed the great disadvantages they have, even with legal and vetted status.

Don’t allow the fear-mongering message of Jeff Sessions be what you think about when you envision Dreamers.  Instead, think about young people, twelve years or older, who were brought to this country by their parents and made the United States home.  If deported, they will be sent back to a place that is their country of birth and (probably) little more.

The Department of Homeland Security and The Department of Justice should consider renaming themselves if they feel threatened by less than 800,000 young people who contribute to the infrastructure of this nation.  They work, they file taxes, and have clean records (read this report from factcheck.org).

In the words of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman: “We understand what’s going on in Washington. And we know that when bullies step up, you have to step to them and step to them quickly. And that’s what we’re here to do today. … By definition, DREAMers play by the rules. DREAMers work hard. DREAMers pay taxes. For most, America is the only home they’ve ever known. They deserve to stay here.”

The United States was created by the invasion of illegal immigrants who terrorized the people living here upon their arrival.  These invaders are many of our ancestors.  How, then, can we do anything other than work to find ways to welcome and empower others fleeing oppressive and dangerous situations—especially when our government is likely one of the reasons they had to leave?  Unlike our forefathers, they are not coming to take over and terrorize.  They are coming to find safety and freedom.

After all, let he/she/they without out sin cast the first stone.

Being Community and Environmentally Friendly: How Do You Do It?

IMG_3932

Today was kind of a big deal.  I got a recycling container from town hall (no more long, stinky trips to the county recycling facility), I went into our local arts center and museum and introduced myself (so many ideas!), and now I’m sitting at my favorite local coffee shop drinking my first ever London Fog (I may be a convert)!

Something I learned while working as a newspaper journalist is the value of connecting with the people in a community—on all sides.  Whether you live in a cute, small area or are navigating your way through an amazing and huge city (I’ve done both), building a community is important—we all want to belong and have those spaces where we can enter and be known.

A few ways I’m doing this is attending monthly town meetings, going into places and intentionally meeting people, and doing my work in a public area instead of in my bedroom.  Also, I’m trying to make environmentally conscious decisions while I’m out and about (a real coffee cup!).  Here is to taking steps for an environmentally and community friendly lifestyle.  Here is to getting involved, meeting people, and becoming known.

What techniques do you use to get to know people in your area?  Do book clubs work?

How Did You Choose Your Name?

I was one of those little girls who pretended to get married starting at age three or four.  I’d wear my lace slip with the pink bow, stick a piece of lace fabric on my head as a veil, and carry a giant coloring book as a bouquet (yes, you read that correctly).

Over the years, my life and views changed, and I’m very thankful I didn’t get married in university or immediately afterwards.  Instead, I had time to work, continue figuring out myself and life, make some questionable decisions, and get published(!).  However, once I started dating A, I began to ponder my last name.

Historically, I couldn’t wait to take my husband’s last name, but, like I said, I changed.  I liked my last name, it was my identity, and I valued the connection I felt to my family (granted, my father’s side).  Thus began my ongoing internal (and external—ask my colleagues) argument for keeping, changing, or hyphenating my name (I’ll save the subject of women changing their name for another post).

*Spoiler* I decided to hyphenate.

It allows me to stay connected to who I am and embrace my new family.  But, now I’m facing the conundrum of deciding what my “writer’s name” will be from this point—and I have to decided ASAP (I have a new article coming out next week!!!).  Do I continue with my published name for continuity and to honor the career I started and the work I did before marriage?  Should I hyphenate, to stay current with who I am and recognize my husband (after all, he is my biggest fan and pushes me and celebrates my victories)?  I’ll let you know what I decide (actually…through this process, I think I’ve decided)!

Have you experienced this situation?  What did you do?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Finding an Inspiration, Choosing a Cause

IMG_3899

Current mood: slightly depressed and lacking get-up-and-go.

These past few days have been very emotionally charged.  I’ve felt it.  You’ve felt it.  Goodness, the whole world is feeling it…though, not all because of Charlottesville (because THAT would be incredibly self-focused).

A while back, A suggested I choose a cause to invest most of my “activism energy”, rather than spreading myself across so many areas.  I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about his words, and I agree.  Focusing on one thing, while still caring about other issues and supporting them, is healthy and, likely, more productive.

I haven’t decided 100% what it’s going to be…but I have a good idea.  I really care about the plight of women around the world.  Sexism and patriarchy are very real things.  It varies in degrees from place to place, culture to culture, religion to religion, and race to race, but it is there.  In fact, feminism is directly related to so many other issues because women are everywhere, involved in so much, and, frankly, are the reason each of us is here.

Lately, I’ve found myself especially inspired and motivated by the new Freeform show The Bold Type.  It’s about three mid-twenties women, working for a women’s magazine, and trying to figure themselves out.  It’s amazing.  Each episode deals with a subject that is going to be, at some level, slightly to more-than-slightly uncomfortable, but it energizes me in so many ways!  Of course, I connect to the writer because I want to be her—finding my niche in an awesome publication, having my voice be heard, and making a difference.  But, each of the three main characters represents a part of my personality and characteristics.  It’s like The Devil Wears Prada but with an AMAZING boss—you know, who actually cares about you as a person.  So, check it out if you’re looking for a fun and deep show to inspire you to rise to the occasion…wherever you are!

What’s your inspiration?  What’s your “issue” where you focus your energy?  I think, as humans, we all need something in which to invest that goes beyond a job.

Charlottesville, VA: A Symptom, Not the Root

18922601_470531393289776_4669336588844077026_o

Two and a half months ago, my husband (A) and I were sitting in our car one block from the Historic Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, VA when we saw a group of people walk across the road and into Emancipation Park.  We could tell it was a protest of some kind.  Grabbing our things, we jumped out of the car and ran to see what was happening.  Little did we know the gravity of events that would occur such a short time later in the exact same spot.

I have so many words, thoughts, and feelings about what happened on Saturday, August 13, 2017.  Anger, sadness, disbelief, and incredulity are a few of them.  I have read countless articles, scrolled through Facebook far too much, and engaged in deep conversation about the events with A.

What makes my blood boil is the inconsistency of people.  Numerous first-hand accounts confirm the counter-protesters fought back in self-defense…yet so many choose to believe the contrary.  They condemn violence “on all sides”, as if what happened was equally evil.  Violence is not equal.  In the case of Charlottesville, videos and individuals’ stories line up—the police stood back.  They did not engage like they would have if a Black Lives Matter protest had turned violent.  People did not die at the hands of police like they might if the groups had been filled with black and brown people.  Yet, some still insist that the counter-protesters were the instigators.  Of course, when the nation’s own president takes 48 hours to denounce the racist groups and their violence by name…it makes a bit more sense why so many refuse to condemn them.

People continue to defend Donald Trump, claiming he is not the reason these violent and racist events are occurring with rising frequency…yet statistics show that in the past two years, since he declared his candidacy for president, that racist crimes and actions have risen (here is a report citing incidents since Trump’s election).  That leads to the many who don’t understand the root of this problem (because it’s not DT).  They claim the decisions to take down Confederate monuments is starting these riots, but that is only a symptom—a side effect—of a centuries long problem called racism and white supremacy.  People are taking a stand and saying these monuments do not belong in our town squares and in front of government buildings, places of honor and recognition.  They need to go in a museum, as a relic of the past mistakes the United States made in allowing white people to lord over black people, as masters and murderers.

I have often asked myself how I would have responded to the rise of Nazism in 1930s Germany.  Then, I wondered if I would have joined the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.  Now, I no longer have to wonder: I am part of the movement to the fight against racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, ethnocentrism, and much more.  It is wrong.  There is no place for it if we are going to love each other.

What keeps running through my mind is: if we love others and desire change/equality/etc., we must be willing to sacrifice our preferences, desires, and privileges.  Without sacrifice, our selfishness and pride will prevail, and hatred, violence, and death will continue.  Therefore, if we believe love must win, it means putting ourselves in the shoes of others and thinking about their experiences, their history, and their lives and asking ourselves how ________ will affect them.  It means placing someone else above ourselves…especially when we (white people) are holding the flag of privilege.

Conspiracy Theories and a Movie Review

fahrenheit-9_11

December 2014.  The first time I was really introduced to 9/11 “conspiracy theories.”  Did I squabble and rebel against the idea?  You better believe it!  I was more progressive than ever before in my life–but that was too much.  The US government knew the attacks were coming?  Possibly were involved?  No way!

Fast forward to now, and I am much more open to this possibility.  So much so that last night I watched the 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore.  It is well worth two hours of your time.

If you’ve ever wanted to know the details of what built the “Bush Empire”, the connections that spun a web behind the Bush family, the Bin Laden family, and Saudi Arabia, the timeline in which actions took place, the justification of invading of countries that had no connection to 9/11, the slaughtering of civilians in those countries, the recruitment and, consequently, killing of U.S. troops, and the pain and sorrow of humans in many countries…go watch it now.

One of the greatest qualities of the film was the way it gave the history of how we arrived at 9/11 and then showing the humanity of what it is to lose someone (or multiple people) to war.  It showed humanity in the worst of lights, killing other humans.  But, it showed they had to psych themselves up to do it–and that they felt part of themselves dying with each person they killed.

As we enter a new presidential era, where we awaken each morning wondering what new executive order will be passed down from on high, let’s remember that we are all humans and we need each other.