Solidarity, Empowerment, Sisterhood, and Love

 

Me with my daughter on 42nd Street amidst the throng.

Me with my daughter on 42nd Street amidst the throng.

Standing in line to get some food at Grand Central at the end of the day, my daughter, a friend, and I stood chatting. A man in a Metro North conductor’s uniform stood near us. He turned a few times to look at us, and finally spoke. “I don’t mean to be forward, but I wanted to say something to you.” We were listening, unsure what would come next. “I haven’t been doing so well since the election. And today, seeing all the people pouring onto my train to come here to join the march, is the first time since that day that I have felt calm. I want to thank you.”

The estimates vary a bit but it looks like at least 500,000 men and women marched in New York City on Saturday, January 21, 2017 in response to the inauguration of Donald Trump. The purpose was simple enough: to let the new administration know we are here, we will be heard, and that human rights are not to be abrogated, dismissed, or flicked away because they interfere with one man’s fascist agenda. Well, one man plus a lot of other men who see Trump’s ascendancy as their chance to solidify their privilege once and for all. Fat chance.

A group of friends who either went together or found one another.

A group of friends who either went together or found one another.

If you have a pulse and are awake at least an hour or two out of every 24, you probably know that over 600 marches worldwide pulled in upwards of three million participants. All of them were peaceful. What I tuned into while I walked (and often stood still in pause-mode, pressed up against the patient thousands in my immediate vicinity) were: love, empowerment, solidarity, optimism, some fear and anger at what is transpiring in this country at the expense of the majority, but most of all a spirit of activism that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Even the protests against Vietnam, the Civil Rights marches, the Million Man March (1995), and other major peaceful protests have not approached the numbers that turned out this time (around the planet).

As far as the eye can see.

As far as the eye can see.

Thousands of men marched alongside their sisters, wives, daughters, mothers. There were people of every color and all ages. From toddlers on shoulders to teens, the kids who participated were learning the lesson of peaceful activism from their parents—such a valuable lesson to learn by doing. White-haired grandparents, men and women in wheelchairs, straights, gays, transgender, first time marchers, veteran marchers, breastfeeding moms, dads wearing pink pussy hats—so many human beings with common purpose.

I marched with my alma mater.

I marched with my alma mater.

People are realizing that every voice does matter. People who voted for Hillary, and people who did not vote at all, and even some who voted for Trump, are coming together to take a stand against the rich and entitled skewering the rest of us. Take a stand for affordable healthcare for all. For public education. For the environment and the future of our planet. For the rights of women. For the rights of immigrants. For #BlackLivesMatter. For the future of this entire country, not simply the privileged.

Pussy hats prevailed.

Pussy hats prevailed.

There is a phrase in the song “America the Beautiful” that goes like this: “crown thy good with brotherhood.” (Sometimes when I sing it, the word “motherhood” slips out instead.) But what I want to say is this: for centuries, the concept of brotherhood has been accepted as a catch-all to refer to solidarity among people of all genders. The male pronouns and nouns have reigned. Yesterday, a spirit of sisterhood infused the marches worldwide. The men who participated did so joyfully in that spirit of sisterhood. Josh Bauman, a young cousin of mine, wrote this on his Facebook wall: “As today has proven in overwhelming numbers, we are stronger together and we will stand against those trying to tear us apart. And, appropriately, it is WOMEN leading the way.”

Some friends and colleagues of mine in D.C. with their posse.

Some friends and colleagues of mine in D.C. with their posse.

Women are indeed the future of this planet, simply because to continue to marginalize them and the issues they embrace is to alienate 51% of the humans on Earth. The needs, wishes, and agendas of only men will not serve the future. Pretending that a pussy-grabbing, climate-change-denying, racist one-percenter in the pocket of Vladimir Putin is a legitimate and worthy person to lead us into the future is pointless, a distraction, and a very dangerous thing to do. The Trump Zone of “alternative facts” is a parallel universe of lies and hatred that more than 3 million people rejected on Saturday.

Love, assertiveness, and empowerment are far from being mutually exclusive. They strengthen each other and those who embrace them. #whywemarch #womensmarch #resisttrump #pussygrabsback #dissentispatriotic

 

 

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After the Fear, Fall in Love with the World

love-the-frog-kiss

It’s been almost 3 weeks since the 2016 election. Or rather—the day when the people went to the polls to cast their votes. It is, of course, not over until the electors do their voodoo next month. And the aftermath… well the entire length of Donald Trump’s presidency will be known as the “aftermath” I suppose. Like the aftermath of a tsunami, or tragic explosion, or an inexplicable death.

This is not a political blog. It is my personal blog. I’m one woman, trying to figure shit out. Sometimes I poke fun at myself or maybe you, sometimes I rant about the things I feel passionately about, sometimes I submit pure fluff (well researched or at least backed by meaningful opinions… namely, mine).

So don’t look for any deep wisdom here. In fact, at this point (paragraph three) I have no damned clue what I’m going to write next.

What has it been like for this privileged white woman? Let’s see. First, grief. I don’t know how it was for others, but my grief was partly because I had misjudged so badly. Had failed to see what was right there around me, under the surface… no doubt my whole life. The deep anger. The bigotry, or at least the willingness to let bigotry do its worst. Oh so easily. I thought about minds closed tight. Mainlining Fox news. I grieved that people were so badly informed.

But what did I do? I immediately mainlined my own version of intellectual/philosophical comfort food. Gloria Steinem in The Guardian. Toni Morrison in the New Yorker. Tess Rafferty’s video. Among many others.

Of course, by comfort food, I do not necessarily mean words that lower the adrenaline and cortisol in my blood stream. These people’s brilliant, thoughtful, and inspirational words are the kind that remind me that I’m not alone. That other people feel pissed and scared too. But more importantly, that there is more to be done. That we are not giving up. That’s good comfort, even if it isn’t the easy pablum of “it’s all gonna be okay.” (Cuz it won’t.)

So then I realized I was badly informed too. I can’t bemoan the way people only read what they want to know if I have been doing that as well.

So many of us chose not to believe a Trump victory was possible. Easy for us to be horrified by what was in front of us: the white supremacists at Trump rallies, and the pussy-grabbing, and the ignorant, hateful, reactionary tweets. But did we really believe the danger was real? I’m thinking maybe not. Until it was.

And then, along the way, I realized that, white supremacists aside, there are Trump voters out there who feel scared too. Or they did, and somehow a vote for the Orange One made their fear abate. Still, I don’t really get what they’re thinking. I mean, how scared and angry do you have to be to vote for someone as terrifyingly narcissistic, reactive, ignorant of government in all forms as Trump? How desperate must you be to overlook the racism and blatant misogyny? Because from where I sit, if you overlook it, you are it. Bystander guilt is real. But there was a lot I did not know, and that these folks are scared too, I had to finally admit, with help, starting with Bernie Sanders’ statement the day after the election.

I tend to see the good in people. That’s who I am—no credit can be taken because I guess I just came out that way. But you can see how this tendency is creating a kind of cognitive dissonance in me right about now.

Unable to continue a consistent train of thought in this particular blog, I’ll end with this question: Have you done any of these things?

  • Shared every horrific fact about what Trump is doing, post-election, on Facebook?
  • Wallowed in the “whatthefuck” as, eyes pinned wide, you watch videos of white supremacists heiling Trump at political speeches until you are sure your as-yet-unborn grandchildren will live in a literal and figurative desert?
  • Listened while people you know tell you about how they were ordered to the back of the line (black woman at the post office), told to go home to their “third world country” (American with Pakistani heritage), lunged at by a group of young men saying, “It’s legal to grab you by the pussy now” (girl walking down the street)?
  • Cried real tears for HRC. #imstillwithher
  • Decided to only spread love on Facebook, which lasts about a day? But then you keep deciding that, which is good. (Keep trying.)
  • Decided to leave social media altogether but then you don’t and then you see something truly inspirational?
  • Decided to do something tangible, even if you can’t pour money into Planned Parenthood or the Southern Poverty Law Center (if only you could)? I applied for iMentor, whereby I can actually help kids from under-served schools in NYC apply to and get into colleges.
  • Spent entire dinners with friends NOT talking about the election? Except when you can’t help it for like ten minutes but then someone says, “Let’s not talk about this right now.”
  • Spent entire afternoons doing nothing but talk about all of it with anyone who will engage with you?
  • Sent postcards to Trump? #postcardavalanche #stopbannon
  • Tweeted even though you literally never Tweet.
  • Wondered if you should wear a safety pin or if it’s patronizing and all white-clueless-privilege to do so? The paralysis of NOT wanting to be judged as insensitive sometimes makes us insensitive. (I think I’ll get my safety pin on.)
  • Reminded yourself that #blacklivesmatter, women’s rights are human rights, no human is illegal, science is real, love is a superpower?

I’m just one person floundering around trying to do something good. I almost said “my best,” but I wonder if we ever do the best best best we are capable of and if trying hard to be real is almost as good anyway.

I realized the day after the election that I had (heretofore) managed to banish fear from my life almost 100%. The journey to that state was long and sometimes it was hard work and genuinely concentrated effort and other times it just meant being me, your basic happy, loving person who sometimes gets scared when the internal monologue needle gets stuck in the groove. The reason I realized I had almost entirely banished fear is that on November 9, I felt it. The fear was back.

My goals as I see them right now, November 27, 2016.

#1 Keep fear at bay.

#2 Know that light banishes dark, love banishes hate, and activism works.

#3 Remember that people are good, and those who are not good right now have goodness in them. It’s just hiding behind fear.

#4 I want to talk to people who disagree with me about anything and everything…. The ones who can do that without agenda or anger. And I’ll leave all agendas and my own anger at the door too. I just really need to know a lot more.

#5 Try harder.

#6 Here is one more goal I can think of right now: Fall in love with the world all over again every day from scratch and then again and then again. Pass it on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vote Down Groupthink

rules“[I]t is essential—now more than at any other time in the history of humanity—that we master the art of making good, healthy, and wise choices, based strongly upon an inherent esteem of ourselves and of others. As society is no longer making our choices for us, we recognize that our destiny is now in our own hands.”

–Katherine Woodward Thomas

This quote, from a book about finding love in the 21st century, was written a good decade before the current election season got underway. But its applicability to the current climate within our country now is pretty obvious.

For much of the history of human society there have been rigid guidelines by which the majority of people lived. There really were not a lot of choices to be made. Whether you were a man or a woman, your life-track was pretty clear. Your family’s religious legacy determined how you worshiped. People lived near where they were raised. You married the person chosen for you. Until the mid-20th century a woman would most likely not attend college or have a career except in a few “accepted” fields, and would have no choice about marriage (to a man) or childbirth—they were simply in the cards. A man would not be able to choose homemaking while his wife pursued a career. Although sexual orientation and gender are not choices, people do have the choice now to live openly as gay or trans, though they are still vulnerable to bias and hate.

But aside from our personal lives, we face moral choices now that perhaps people always faced, but it is harder and harder to excuse racist or sexist choices by saying someone is a “man of his times.” The times we live in remove the easy comfort of groupthink. Until recently….

Whereas boundaries were once rigid, now there is choice. There are not as many rules to follow—aside from moral precepts such as “do the right thing” and “act from love.”

Yet certain people seem to crave that rigidity. The monochromatic whitewashed “Pleasantville” of old where someone like Mrs. Cleaver still baked cookies for someone like Beaver and the Mr. Cleavers had all the power.

There are people who don’t want to be asked to help form policy, foresee a better future, or contribute to a society of equals, but rather prefer to be told how it is—and how it will be. They want all the inconvenient and anxiety-producing grays turned to black and white for them. They want this so badly that they’ll overlook almost anything in their desperate quest for non-choice.

Their desire to avoid thinking, making choices, opening their minds, and facing growth and change causes them to overlook blatant and repeated misogyny and disrespect for women including an admission of sexually predatory behavior, unmitigated racism and the welcomed support of openly neo-Nazi groups, numerous facts about cheating at business, being in bed with foreign dictators, the inability to NOT take everything personally, full-out, scary ignorance of the constitution of the United States, full-out scary ignorance of foreign policy, and promises to uninsure the insured, remove protections from the vulnerable, roll back the already paltry efforts to steward the planet safely. To name a few.

In fact, they want to dictate patriotism to our democracy and what it should look like. They are less offended by a swastika than by peaceful protest. They don’t seek to be governed, but ruled, even if it means being belittled and disrespected or belittling and disrespecting others.

To vote is to choose. It is a choice many have fought and suffered and died for.

Vote so that we continue to have choices and will be able to say, “We did the right thing.”

My Mother’s Battle Against White Male Privilege

woman-in-mans-world-3

I’m sure I don’t know the half of it.

Back then, if it was named at all, it might have been called chauvinism. I doubt she even heard the word “sexism” until she was out of the corporate world and battling a different set of demons that dominated the latter part of her life.

She grew up in poverty during the Depression, was the first person in her family going back to forever who went to college, and the first of her immediate family to leave Ohio. She was also the first woman in her family to pursue a career outside of domestic service. She was, I believe, the first to imagine a different life. She had aspirations.

She learned how to “pass” in the world she longed to enter by taking lessons from a kindly aristocrat who lived on the other side of town. As a girl, my mother would visit Mrs. Myers to learn how to speak properly, set a table, pour tea, walk gracefully, descend the stairs with a book balanced upon her curly head. She had aspirations, sure enough.

Her fascinating career path, post-college, included stage acting, a brief hiatus as a travel agent (it got her to Europe), and even her own 15-minute TV show called “At Home with Lee”—a kind of proto-Martha Stewart thing where she (as I understand it) advised about home décor and fashion. That was all out in California. Then, in 1962, when I was two, she ended up leaving my dad behind in Pennsylvania where they lived, to pursue acting in NYC, only to change gears again in the pursuit of enough money so she could feed me and pay rent. A clever writer, she got a job with L’Oreal (then known as L’Oreal of Paris) creating names for lipsticks and nail color and was soon promoted to copywriter. Within five years she was a rising star in the New York advertising world.

I literally had to watch Mad Men to realize how thrilling, and truly horrific, that must have been for a young woman.

She was a strange product of two worlds—the one she was born to and the one she pushed her way into (brooking no argument). She did not think in terms of “feminism” but the constant inequities she faced were, to her, shockingly, soul-burningly unjust.

But she shared little of this with me. Interesting, considering she did not hesitate to include me in way too much information about other things in her life. Perhaps she felt that it was somehow her fault that she could not convince her employers that she was worth more than 50 cents on every dollar her male counterparts earned. Her solution was simply to work five times as hard as they did, achieve 10 times their success… and maybe if she was lucky inch up to 55 cents.

One story she liked to tell—probably because it showed my father in such a good light—was this: My father had recently taken a job as a professor at a small Pennsylvania college. At this point, their separation and her move to New York was still a couple years in the future. Though she’d always worked before they moved back east from California, she was now expecting a child (moi), and didn’t have a job. My father was asked to give a speech, but felt overwhelmed with his new duties, so he asked his wife if she’d help him out by writing the speech for him. The way I understand it, they talked. He told her the gist of what he wanted to say, and she made it happen. It’s called ghost writing (I do it for clients all the time). It was apparently a very good speech. He delivered it, with few, if any, tweaks.

When the chair of his department came up to my parents after the speech and praised my father for it, my dad (bless him) said, “Well thank you! My wife wrote it, actually.”

The professor looked down at my mother with (I imagine) a painfully patronizing faux smirk of uber-unctuous paternalism and said, “You mean she typed it?”

A good story in that the guy was set straight, but very few of my mother’s encounters with entrenched sexism had happy endings. As a single working mother over 30 she was constantly judged as either doing a crappy job of parenting or, inevitably, doing a poor job of everything else.

Still, she earned lots of respect from many people in her field. She always managed to be promoted, or head-hunted for an even better job, and broke through several intermediate glass ceilings on the way. But she had to prove herself again and again in ways that the men in her field did not. She and her team won numerous Chloe awards and, every time, had to correct assumptions that the team was led by the only man on it, 15 years her junior and with less than half her experience or savvy.

Before she left the corporate world, she was making more than anyone in her family ever had, despite the income disparity between her and every guy within ten thousand hectares.

That was the 60s and 70s. One woman: my mom. Multiply that story by a zillion cubed and we might have an idea of how women have had to fight for every ladder rung. Beat off the guys who tried to grab them by the arms and throw them off that ladder with dismissive claims that they belong in the secretarial pool, if not the kitchen. I imagine my mother sitting in meetings with a bunch of men and trying to report on her department while being called “honey” and asked to make coffee. How many times was her ass pinched in the elevator? How many men tried to sleep with her? How many men threatened her job if she did not sleep with them? I mean, I don’t know for a fact. So maybe it never happened.

But it happened.

Here we are in the 21st fucking century. Women have been elected to the highest offices in several countries. Women populate the colleges and universities in the US by over 50%. We’ve crept up to 74 cents on the dollar (average between the 79 cents of white women and the 68 cents black women earn). Do we celebrate those gains or beat our heads on our desks because it’s so insanely not enough? But we keep inching painfully forward. Justin Trudeau makes headlines by having a totally integrated cabinet. I love him, but why does that make headlines? It should be a non-starter, as it would be to splash the front page with two inch letters saying Boys and Girls Being Born Every Day in Local Hospitals.

Still, what I’m saying is that we’ve continued to (mostly) make progress since my mother’s story.

The coming election will mean everything to this continued narrative of women’s rights. Will the tone set by Trump and his followers become the tone of the story of this nation in the future? Will the ugliness of bare-knuckle misogyny be the new starting point with our children, sons and daughters alike—the next generations who will either continue to be incrementally moved toward gender/race enlightenment or have the scaffolding knocked out from under them?

Women still get their butts pinched in the work place, but at least now it’s against the law. Women still have to cope with intrusive, objectifying, sexual, patronizing behavior from men every single day, but they are less and less afraid to come out in public to say, “This happened and it’s not okay.”

Is all that going to change?

“Momma, I’m sorry to say that all the work you did will come to nothing in the end” is not something I want to say to the urn sitting on my bookcase. I want to say, “The asshole got his comeuppance and the first woman president has been sworn in. And she’s badass, Momma. You’d love her.”

Love Trumps Trump

Healing-Heart

Some things I know and feel no need to explain how I know them:

  1. Complaining is not healthy, even though we really want it to be. It can be addictive. It can even feel good… at first. But it’s bad voodoo. (Although I know I don’t need to provide a citation, this is a good article on the subject.)
  2. Love is the shit. Like, The Thing. Like… the ONLY thing. It heals. It feels good. It fixes the world.
  3. All humans on the planet deserve all their human rights, regardless of skin color, genitalia, who they want to love, be, or become, where they live, what god, goddess, Bodhisattva, tree, or higher or lower being they worship, whether they worship anything at all, or don’t.
  4. Generalizing may be convenient when running statistics but it sucks when you are talking about actual humans. It’s called bias. It’s called “don’t be stupid, just because a black gay Buddhist was mean to you in 6th grade does not mean all black gay Buddhists are mean.”
  5. The U. S. of A. has some very powerful and wonderful things about it but it’s in big trouble. Still and all, I love it. (see # 2)
  6. The Maharishi Effect is legit. (Again, here’s a cool article about small meditation groups affecting an entire city’s crime rate!) When you get enough people focused on one idea or feeling, things change. Shifts happen. People feel different. And it affects the world beyond and outside. When people feel different, they behave in different ways.
  7. Our thoughts do change us. Our thoughts—and the thoughts we surround ourselves with—permeate us until they change the grooves in our brain (to use an image from vinyl records) so that the needle now goes in those grooves and can’t, as easily, find the groovy grooves. The groovy grooves are where you find love and self-love, acceptance of others and acceptance of self, optimism and fortitude, joy and courage and laughter. Change your thinking, change your feelings, actions, and outcomes.

Many Americans are disappointed in the folks who hold political office right now, and also in most all of the candidates vying for their respective nominations. The majority seem to be ruled by money, and/or racist/misogynistic/reactionary agendas, and/or a lust for power. Is a single one of them ruled by love (see #2)? Maybe Bernie. But he’s pretty pissed off, too, so I’m not sure.

I started to write a blog that was veering towards complaint, anger, non-love. I was going down the path of “we’re kinda fucked” that would create a groove in my brain if I’m not careful. I could become that person. The person who lives her life from the “we’re fucked” point of view. Who wants to be that person?

Don’t want to hide my head from the facts either, though.

What I was going to write, was about how shocked I am that our country is a place where a hater like Trump has a groundswell of supporters. I guess I’ve been fooled by the veneer of civility that has (barely) covered the actions and agendas of politicians who have been spewing hate for years…just maybe not as openly as Trump does. Maybe there are a lot of folks grateful to have someone just come out and say it. Say the stuff that they want to say, hate the people they love to hate. I’m thinking they don’t like the groups of non-them people who get in the way of their special privilege—or maybe that’s what they’re scared of.

But I want to STOP complaining about the candidates—it’s not good for me. I want to acknowledge that everyone has the right to speak, even if the ideas being spoken are about taking away everyone else’s rights. I want to be part of a GREAT BIG HAPPY GROUP THINK that is about love and acceptance. Then imagine a world where the tsunami effect of love will be so huge that it will push away all the hate.

So here’s my question. If I don’t want to become the hopeless, angry person coming from a place of reaction to evil, and instead want to be the person who operates from a place of love, how do I love Trump? How do I love Cruz? How do I love all those who love them? People who, consciously or not, disrespect me for being a woman. Long to take away my rights, so painfully fought for over my lifetime by people who would not accept the oh-so absurd status quo. People who want to build walls to keep out immigrants (not unlike their own immigrant parents or grandparents who made this country what it is today). People who mostly just hate. Hate people not like them. Hate progress towards equality. Hate having to give up their privilege so the underprivileged can get a break. Hate thinking about what they don’t want to think about, like climate change, gay marriage, domestic terrorism, to name a few.

So I’m looking for a way in. A way in to love.

When my children were little and behaving badly I’d say, “I love you with all my heart and always will, but I do not like what you are doing right now.” It was easy to make that distinction. The person has my love, his or her actions do not.

I am resolved. I will send love. I’ll put it out there into the universe, directed at Trump and all the rest of the haters. I will say to myself, “I love this human being. I love this person who was born to a mother like me. Someone loves this person, so I can too.” If we can love a sister or uncle or friend who makes mistake after mistake simply because we choose to go on loving them, then I can choose to love Donald Trump. Love will be my trump card and I’ll play it every day.

(lovelovelovelovelovelove….)