Our Liberal Creed

Recently someone asked me, derisively, what we liberals even believe in. Last night over drinks, my sister and I answered that question:

  • We believe most people have good intentions, no matter what country they were born in.
  • We believe in bootstraps. We also believe no one pulls them up on their own.
  • We believe in faith—in gods, in trees, in the sun…whatever floats your boat.
  • We believe in the scientific method.
  • We believe intelligence is a good thing. We view this as formal education + street smarts + a good amount of reading the newspaper.
  • We believe in the fundamental importance of journalists to a republic.
  • We believe conspiracy theories are conspiracy theories.
  • We believe family tradition is good for stuff like Christmas pajamas, cookie recipes, and Sunday night dinners, but born-and-raised gets you only so far. At some point, you have to step away and decide what you believe on your own.
  • We believe in hard work.
  • We believe “the common man” is all of us, whether you are a white rancher in Montana or a black nurse in Baltimore.
  • We believe Real America includes the coasts.
  • We believe in the dignity of the presidency.
  • We believe people deserve second chances. But not many.
  • We believe in the gray areas.
  • We believe in the 2nd amendment. We also believe no private citizen needs a military-grade weapon and that people who buy guns should be vetted, just like teachers, politicians, and babysitters.
  • We believe in hunting. By this, we do not mean: trapping, using dogs to corner an animal, using a guide to lead you to an animal on a reserve so you can shoot it and hang its head on your wall, sitting in a blind waiting for an animal to cross your path while you drink beer, or anything else that is not hunting.
  • We believe people who work 40 hours a week should be able to feed their children, support an ailing parent, pay their bills, and have something left for popcorn and a movie. If not, then the minimum living wage should be raised.
  • We believe government can’t solve all our problems but it should also be judged by how well it treats its weakest members.
  • We believe sick people should have the medicine that will help them get better, chosen by their doctor based on need and not the insurance companies based on cost.
  • We believe in quality childcare and support for new parents. This includes paid maternity leave that is on par with the rest of the civilized world.
  • We believe college graduates should be able to afford groceries and their student loan bill.
  • We believe the world isn’t always fair, but you change what you can.
  • We believe in helping others. We don’t care if the beggar on the street is lazy or an addict. He is on the street and we are not.
  • We believe in renewable energy. We could power up this whole country using the sun. And it’s just sitting there, free.
  • We believe in the entire Shakespeare quote: “To thine own self be true, and it must follow…thou canst not then be false to any man.” And when you get to the top of the ladder, whatever ladder you’ve climbed, lend a hand to the person below.
  • We believe in contraception and teaching people how to use it. We would love to believe our children will remain abstinent until 25 but that’s not the real world.
  • We believe women should have the choice whether or not they want to become a mother, and whether or not it is safe for them to do so.
  • We believe in life, including the hundreds of thousands of U.S. children waiting to be adopted.
  • We believe love is an emotion that should be celebrated no matter who is doing the loving.
  • We believe in freedom of speech but we also believe that comes with the responsibility to not be an idiot. Or a racist.
  • We believe political correctness is synonymous with kindness.
  • We believe we are connected, irrevocably, to the natural world. As the most intelligent creatures at the top of the food chain, we have a duty to Manage. This. Shit.
  • We believe jails should contain violent offenders and the people-with-more who screw people-with-less on purpose. Everyone else needs either traffic school, rehab, mental health care, or a living wage.
  • We believe our Irish immigrant ancestors, who were spit upon and denied jobs (“No Irish Need Apply”), were just as American as we are today, seven generations later.
  • Finally, we believe in the words of Benjamin Franklin, who, upon exiting the Constitutional Convention, told gathered citizens that the founding fathers had just created a republic, “if you can keep it.” Being an American citizen is a privilege and a responsibility. Don’t complain; do something. Don’t ignore the news; read it. Don’t stay home; vote. Honor America. Keep it.

The Emotional Roller Coaster at Trumpland

Some of you will read this because you want to hate everything I have to say. Some of you will read this because you want to love what I say. Some (a small fraction, unfortunately) will read this because you are curious and want to understand a different point of view.

Some will just be wondering why I write at all. (Who the hell is she?) Boy, I hear you. This compulsion to write has been with me since third grade and I have a very close love/hate relationship with it. Mostly love, rarely hate, often annoyance. My sister smokes (still!) and for me writing is kind of like that, without the disgusting smell.

In the near future, I hope to write about my conversations with others—including those who don’t agree with me, because that’s important. I’m not a “I’ll stay in my corner and you stay in yours” type of person. But this post is not about them.

On election night, I wrote on Facebook: “America gets through things. We congratulate the other side and move on.” Don’t get me wrong; I was devastated. But I’m also pragmatic.

Frankly, I feel like what I’ve gotten from Trump in return is a big “F*** You.”

To recap:

Stephen Bannon: runs an online news site that has little to do with journalism and, as Bannon himself said, serves as the platform for the alt-right movement (read: white supremacy plus a lot of phobias about people who don’t look like them). Trump appointed him chief strategist. He’s the guy who will be leading Trump’s vision on foreign and domestic policy. There’s been some justifying going on (He’s well-educated! Trump appointed mainstream Priebus, too! He’ll unite the Republican party!) All of that, simply put, is bullshit.

Sen. Jeff Sessions: His middle name is Beauregard. Names don’t usually mean much, but I think that adds a nice touch for a man who was deemed too racist to serve as a low-level federal judge. Trump nominated Sen. Sessions for Attorney General, the country’s chief law enforcer. Has his heart changed? I’m not the one to say. I can look only at his record, and that doesn’t look promising: he’s called the Voting Rights Act of 1965—you know, the one that allowed blacks to vote without being taxed or beaten—“intrusive.” Last spring, he said, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” He voted against a bill that prohibits bringing children to animal fights. He voted against the Violence Against Women Act—that last one is tricky. There were some provisions in the bill that were arguably ineffective.

Senate majority is needed to confirm, so call your senators if you’re so inclined.

Alex Jones: Trump loves nothing if not media attention, and this radio host was a big supporter. Described as a sort of fringe show but with millions of followers, it was important enough that Trump appeared on it during his campaign. And it was important enough that, according to Jones, Trump called him after he won the presidency to thank him for his support. The problem is that Alex Jones thinks, among other extraordinarily ridiculous things, that the mass shooting of children at Sandy Hook Elementary is a conspiracy and a hoax. I’ll just leave it at that.

Twitter: You read a lot about his tweets in the media. How he goes on these tweet storms of anger and acts like a two-year-old. But reading about it is different from reading it first-hand. Let me tell you, it’s cringe-worthy. Reading Trump’s tweets is like watching an episode of The Office. Supremely uncomfortable.

I literally just went on* and here are the three at the top of his feed:

  • The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior
  • The Theater must always be a safe and special place.The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!
  • Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!

This is our president-elect. And I’m hiding in the corner. But I’m not laughing. I encourage you to go on his Twitter page and see how you feel.

He also regularly re-tweets (sends posts from other people to his own followers, for those reading who might not be sure what a re-tweet is, ie. my dad) fake news that is verifiably inaccurate and takes credit for things he didn’t do. This week’s example: he tweeted he “worked hard” to keep a Ford plant in Kentucky, and that the Ford chairman had just called him to tell him the good news. The problem? The plant never planned to leave.

News flies fast, especially in Trumpland. Fake news and factpinions fly even faster. Who doesn’t like a bright and shiny meme? I know I do. The problem is memes, while appealing to emotional truth, too often don’t tell the actual truth. You know that one with the map of the U.S. showing red and blue voting patterns? Much of the country is awash in red, signifying Republican voters. The problem is it confuses geography with population. America is not land mass; America is people. The miles upon miles of uninhabited land out West don’t vote; people do. A map of voting by district is actually quite colorful.

Truth is complicated, and we have to be willing to find it.

Hate crimes:

This week, I read in my personal Facebook feed about women having their hijabs yanked off their heads; a “No Ni**ers” sign in L.A.; a swastika and “Trump” spray-painted on the wall at a neighborhood park; devil horns and beard markered onto the face of a black boy on a poster outside a store along with the name “Trump”; “Trump That Bitch” bumper stickers and Confederate flags; a swastika scratched into a car driven by “brown people with head scarves” in the parking lot at a Costco; a man in a Milwaukee coffee shop in a white hooded coat embroidered with a noose; and others I can’t even remember. Again, this was in my personal feed (including a few from a larger group I belong to), as opposed to my news feed, which included many more.

If you think these things aren’t happening or don’t matter then you aren’t paying attention.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which has been keeping track of hate crimes since 1971, collected 701 reports of hate crimes in the seven days after Trump’s election. They are not all verified and the number will drop off, but it is still highly worth noting. Most were anti-immigrant and FORTY PERCENT happened in K-12 or college educational settings.

And our president-elect is tweeting about the cast of Hamilton.

I get that these people do not represent all Trump voters; just as I understand a small group of Trump protesters who smashed windows and burned things do not represent all Trump protesters. But Trump fostered this hate, he ran on it, and now, as president-elect, he has a duty to quell it.

A bully ran a hateful campaign, a bully won, a bully is adding racists to his inner circle. A bully thinks words don’t matter. “It’s just words, folks,” he said, in response to the world finding out he said he could grab p***y whenever he wanted.

So yeah, I’m worried. I think words matter. Of course they do. That’s why good people say, “Do you wanna have sex?” instead of “Shut up and take off your pants.”

And yeah, I’m emotional. My love of country is fierce and I won’t just give it up to a misogynistic, racist bully with thin skin who cares more about his reputation than serving the people. I thought his obsession with his own reputation would actually help those of us who didn’t vote for him, since we’re the majority. Nope. Not so far.

I don’t want this crap to ever be normal. It already is for too many people. I don’t like the road we’re heading down.

Clinton lost four states by a combined total of about 100K votes. I and millions of others will be watching.

Yeah, we’ll calm down. We’ll still get our children ready for school, but we’ll remind them more often to be kind, especially to the victims of bullies.

We’ll still go to the grocery store for milk, but we’ll make a point to smile at those who don’t look like us.

We’ll still post pictures of our dogs on Facebook, but we’ll also post facts and spread truth.

We’ll still call our friends to chat about Fixer Upper, but we’ll also call our senators.

And we’ll still gather to eat, drink, and be merry, but we’ll also gather to organize. We’ll volunteer, we’ll write, we’ll donate.

We progressives might not always agree and we might not yet know how to work with the nation’s top bully, but you can be sure as shit we know how to organize.

*I wrote this at 6am Sunday morning. I’m scared to check Twitter again.

It’s Not About Policy, It’s Not About Losing, and It’s Not About Clinton

A few years ago, I told my friend, Melanie, who is black, about a black family, all adults, I’d encountered on a plane. The family shouted in glee as the plane took off. I asked the father if this was their first time flying and he said no, they just loved it. I commented to Melanie that it was an example of a difference, broadly speaking, between white and black people. No white people I knew would ever whoop it up on takeoff just for the fun of it. We’re generally too reserved.

She asked me had it been a boisterous white family, would I have thought, “Hmmm, first time”? I answered that I would have.

But that question stayed with me. I didn’t know why. I’d find myself reminded of it, and turn it around in my head. I’d picture a boisterous white family on the plane, and I’d re-confirm that yes, I would have assumed it was their first time.

Still, I’d find myself thinking of it again a few months later. I finally began to think it was just one of those things we writers do. We’re interested in human nature, we ask difficult questions and noodle on the answers obsessively.

Then, a few months ago, four years after she first asked me the question, I realized I’d been wrong. And it came down to the clothes.

The black family on the plane were dressed up—suits and ties, dresses, heels. The white family in my mind, the one I was sure I’d also assume was flying for the first time, were dressed like poor people. I can see them now: a housedress, frayed t-shirts, jeans. When I re-imagined the white family dressed like rich people, I realized no, I wouldn’t have wondered if it was their first time flying. I would have wondered if they were drunk.

Currently, in this country, we have a disagreement about what racism is.

It’s not just the obvious list of people who spray-paint swastikas on synagogues and won’t let their daughter marry a Mexican.

Racism is also quiet, the silence that doesn’t call someone out for using the word “nigger” in a joke, or assumes black people, like poor people, can’t afford to fly, or allows a candidate to perpetuate the myth that President Obama wasn’t born here and many illegal immigrants are “rapists” who bring “tremendous crime” to America.

It’s this allowance, this acceptance–this refusal to noodle on the question–that is as dangerous as any guy in a white hood.

People voted for Trump for all kinds of reasons, I understand that. I want change, too. I want lower debt, manufacturing jobs, less gaming of the welfare system. I have more in common with Republicans than many of them think, and I voted for one on the ballot this year.

As someone who didn’t vote for, or like, Clinton the first time she ran, I can also understand that some people didn’t want to vote for her.

I can understand why it’s hard to self-reflect on racism. No one besides proud racists thinks they have racism in them, including me.

What I haven’t yet been able to understand, no matter how many conversations I’ve had or articles I’ve read, is how people were able to ignore some of the more objectively unacceptable of Trump’s offenses. The ones that can’t be nuanced or finessed or explained away.

None of us—literally, none—would be okay with some old guy peeping at our daughters in a locker room. How, then, are some of us okay with our president-elect doing it? This isn’t some crazy liberal accusation. Trump admitted he did it.

None of us would be okay with a man grabbing our genitals without asking. Even if you believe Trump was simply bragging on the bus like a drunk nineteen year old (and believe all the women who have accused him of sexual assault are lying) the Republicans I know would knock out the sonofabitch who talked like that about their daughters, not elect him president.

How do we tell our daughters it’s what is in their hearts and minds that matters, not the shape of their bodies, but support a man who rates women using a number?

How do we promote kindness and tell our children bullying is wrong, that mocking the disabled student in a wheelchair is wrong, when we allow it in our candidate?

It’s this disconnect—the refusal to put up with it in our private lives but the willingness to endure it in a president—that have many people stunned.

The deepest disappointment I feel–the one some on the right are telling people like me to get over–isn’t about policy and it’s not about losing. It’s not about “what might have been” if we’d elected a woman president.

It’s about my core values, the ones I impart to my children, and knowing that my future president undermines them. Since I was a 4th grader devouring biographies on Lincoln, I have admired leaders who appeal to the better angels of our nature. Trump didn’t do so as a candidate. I hope he can rise to the occasion as president.

Meet: My Mom

I saw my mother today and then came upon this old post. It gives a pretty good summation–though nowhere near exhaustive–of who she is.

Three years later, three more years of being a mother myself, and now I can add some important things to it, things I recognize as so very mothering:

–She dove fearlessly into the world of BRCA surgeries, going last (after me and my sister) so she could care for us through our difficult recoveries.
–She once waved a cheerful goodbye to me and my sister as we drove off on a three-week road trip across the country by ourselves, and only told us once we got home that it was the worst three weeks of her life.
–She is the first person my sister calls when there’s a rabid raccoon in her yard, the first person my brother calls when he is sick, and the first person I call when one of my children is sick and I’m unsure what to do.

Happy Mother’s Day, every day.

True STORIES.

For Mother’s Day, an early Monday Morning Meeting:

My mom…

  • Was born and raised on the northwest side of Chicago and attended Catholic school there. (She will forever say the word “nun” with some disdain.)
  • Lost her mother to pancreatic cancer when she was a freshman in college; afterward, she dropped out to help at home with her younger siblings.
  • Became the first flight attendant instructor without a college degree at United Airlines by walking into her boss’s office and insisting she could do it, back when female employees were weighed and had to be single.
  • Earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s in Psychology while raising three children. She now works with mentally disabled adults and runs her own consulting business.
  • Forced us to sit and wait on the stairs Christmas morning until she’d made her first cup of coffee.
  • Loves ham. And also Red Hots.
  • Let us take one “mental…

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8 Years Later: Why I’m Voting for Hillary This Time

Eight years ago, I read an essay by Gloria Steinem urging young women to vote for Hillary Clinton. At the time, young people overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama. Steinem wrote something along the lines of: If young women knew better, they’d vote for Hillary. If they’d been around forty years ago and really understood the women’s movement, they’d be making the right choice.

It made me angry. I was an Obama supporter. I liked his message. I didn’t like the way Clinton ran her primary campaign. And I wasn’t going to vote for someone just because she was a woman—wasn’t that the opposite of equality? Talking down to people is never a good idea, especially if you’re trying to persuade them, and Gloria Steinem should have known that. If anything, she alienated me from the women’s movement. For a time.

This election season, I filled out one of those questionnaires about government policy that supposedly matches you with the candidate you’re most aligned with. I am in 99% agreement with Bernie Sanders. I like him. And yet, I think I’ll vote for Clinton. Why?

It’s a serious question. I’ve been a bit stumped. Admittedly, I’ve paid little attention outside of the headlines this campaign season. Something about hearing or reading the name, “Trump,” in almost every campaign story has turned me off. I decided awhile ago to ignore it all until it started to really matter.

imgres Yet, one thing has been clear to me: I feel a strong urge to vote for Hillary. What has happened in the last eight years to change my mind?

Sure, Clinton has gained even more experience. This didn’t use to matter to me as much. I think probably eight years and two children later, with a 40th birthday looming, I now value life and work experience all the more. But Sanders is experienced, too. They’re both intelligent and capable public servants.

It’s not about the issues—I’ve never been a one-issue person. I won’t cut off my nose to spite my face, and both Clinton and Sanders represent my basic ideals. I might be in 99% agreement with Sanders, but I’m in 97% agreement with Clinton. I do think Clinton has a stronger chance of putting her policies into place, of “getting things done,” as they say.

As far as I can tell, my affinity toward Clinton these eight years later comes down to two things:

  1. Someone close to me was raped.
  2. I had a daughter.

I now see the world differently. The women’s movement used to be intellectual for me. Now it’s personal.

I have new eyes, so when they see women ignored or shamed because they were raped, it stays with me. I have new ears, so when they hear a man talk to me about house maintenance issues like I’m a kindergartner and then ask me, “Can you remember what I said so you can tell your husband when he gets home?,” I file that away in my brain.

I can remember. Oh, yes I can.

The world hasn’t changed; I have. Women are still objectified, vilified, paid less, patronized, underestimated, raped, assaulted, and beaten simply because they are women. We are still told to “Be quiet” and “Be nice.” It is still assumed that having boys means you’ll have an energetic household but having girls means you’ll have a quiet one. A woman news anchor can still be called a bimbo by a presidential candidate and people will adore him. I still have to fold my body in and look around me when I walk alone at night, anywhere. The world hasn’t changed—now it all just means more to me.

Actually, let me be honest. It means more to me sometimes. But other times—when, for instance, a man gives me a proverbial pat on the head and tells me, “You’re alright, kid,” after he finds out I know how to use a shovel to dig a trench, I feel pride mixed with my anger. A part of me still likes those pats on the head.

Electing a woman has become a priority for me and I’m not ashamed to say it. Too often, I think, women cower to the finger-pointers and respond with, “I support her because she’s qualified, not because she’s a woman.” Why can’t it be both?

Now, would Sanders help women? Sure. Maybe. I can’t know for sure. Does Clinton being a woman mean she’ll always do right by women? Sure. Maybe. I can’t know for sure.

But I do know that figureheads are important. I do know it’s high time we elect a qualified, dedicated woman to the top office. And I do know I don’t want my daughter to like having her head patted—not by a handyman, not even by Gloria Steinem.

So the bigger question isn’t, Why not Bernie? The bigger questions are: What took me so long to put a woman first and what is the women’s movement going to do to recruit my daughter, not alienate her?