Politics and other awkward stuff

Red is Not My Color

Jazzy red cloak. Wacky white bonnet.  The perfect outfit for women in jeopardy. As political climate heats up, The Handmaids Tale is becoming a little too close for comfort. Thought Margaret Atwood’s book was dystopian fiction, real life is often much, much stranger. Inspired by the sociopolitical issues of the early ‘80’s, I’m sure Atwood never imagined it could become a playbook for current events. But for years, politically and religiously radical movements have been brewing a perfect storm.

The surreal fiction of The Handmaids Tale depicted women in reproductive slavery. They were forced to bear the children of the elite, where their scarlet cloaks and crisp bonnets underlined their subservience. Most of the unlucky women had become infertile due to environmental toxins (yikes) except for a few like the iconic protagonist, Offred.

Atwood wrote that “the heavy-handed theocracy of 17th century Puritan New England, with its marked bias against women, would need only a period of social chaos to reassert itself”. Chilling? Well, put on a sweater because politics has woven its way to the bedroom. Once again, legislating womens’ rights has become more than rhetoric and waving a righteous flag. It’s gotten teeth and bitten into state rulings, deciding by male jury what is best for womens’ bodies.

Newsflash. Getting pregnant is generally not a solo activity. Even if you hail from Gilead, it still takes two. Perhaps men need to be reminded, before they rule on what a woman can do with her own body, how procreation works in the first place. Unfortunately, like in Gilead, women are considered responsible for whatever happens to them and men are free – to judge.

“Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance; you have to work at it.”  The Handmaid’s Tale Continue reading “Red is Not My Color”

Politics and other awkward stuff

UnGREATful History 2.0

Before you yearn for ‘Great Again’ — take off the rose-colored glasses.

History is a funny thing. Depending on the glasses it’s viewed with, the past is either cringe worthy or really, well, great. In truth, it’s a combo platter of both to the max. No matter how we’d like to retouch it, history is life, with all its scrapes and bruises. The words ‘great again’ in relation to the good ol’ USA are meant to call back a time when we were mythically perfect. But then, who believes in fairytales?

In advertising, I knew snappy taglines when I saw them but ‘great again’ hearkens back to a country across the pond when the words “Machen Deutschland wieder groß” were a rallying cry. We all know how well that turned out.

When, in our history was America ‘great’ enough, perfect enough for an encore? If a handy time machine could transport us to the past, where exactly would we land? What era would our GPS point to as great enough to repeat? Should we go back to when we elbowed out the first inhabitants, elbowing Native Americans out of the way for us bad white selves? Was it when we bought, sold, traded slaves to build a spanking new country where WE could be free while enslaving others? How about those scary days of our childhood during the Cold War when we scurried beneath our desks with arms over our heads? (like that would have helped) Oh, and who can forget the good ol’ days when brown skinned peoples drank only from ‘colored’ drinking fountains, gays stayed tucked in the closet and women remained silent and in the kitchen.

So when was that glorious golden age of ‘great’? When were we all, regardless of color, culture, religion or gender, peaceful, successful and happy? Can’t remember? Neither can I. Even so, in a country of more than 318 million people of every diversity, we don’t always stick the landing. I’m old enough to have lived through several wars, from Vietnam and the Gulf War to Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. Having been born with white skin that burns easily I never experienced Jim Crow laws that brutalized a whole portion of our fellow Americans. I was never sent to the back of the bus, or denied use of the same restrooms as my neighbors. As a woman of the 60’s, I was lucky enough not to have lived in a time when I couldn’t vote because of my ‘weaker’ sex. I was a young mom by the time Roe vs Wade signaled the end of back-alley abortions and same sex relations were taken off the list of criminal offenses. Our land of opportunity didn’t always gift those opportunities to everyone. For many — it still doesn’t.

But to all those who wax euphoric over the ‘great’ ol’ times, I get it. It can be really scary to lose your place, especially when you’ve always been assured of one, right? Women, people of color or LGBT people can’t identify, never had a golden ticket to economic and political power as destiny. When you have, it can really suck to realize you might now have to share your place in line. You might even feel like — well, everyone else. Imagine that. Continue reading “UnGREATful History 2.0”

Politics and other awkward stuff, View from the Shoe

The Kid Next Door

If this past week showed us anything, it was that you never know. You don’t know what anger, depression, resentment or embedded racism hides behind that typical teen’s grin or the neighborhood crank’s frown. We don’t know what propels a person to grab a gun and take target practice on unsuspecting other humans with a vengeance.

You just don’t know.

This week two more shootings happened, one in El Paso; the other in Dayton. They say the flip side of anger is fear though it’s hard to imagine such calculated, heinous acts by those scared and afraid. Yet, these terrorists are definitely frightened, just not in the way you think. You see, for them the bogeyman is not something that goes bump in the night but the ‘tired, hungry, and poor’ that giant green lady in the NY harbor welcomes. The bogeyman — is the ‘other’.

To be fair, I am afraid, too, not of immigrants but of ‘shadow’ Americans. I don’t want to be scared of my homies but religious fanatics and sycophant politicians who dance for a divisive Puppeteer while raining hateful diatribes like confetti grenades, do the job.

I have grandsons – 5 of them. I know all about the sometimes crazy video games (though my kids keep rein on what the nuggets can or can’t play). But to blame mass shootings on said games is nothing short of absurd. When I was a kid, my brothers played with cap guns and toy rifles, pretending to be soldiers, cops or bad guys. To my knowledge, my remaining brother never grew an interest in shooting up a theater.

Let’s face it – WORDS MATTER. How we talk to and about each other matters. It matters how we frame those who were brought here on slave ships and those who seek asylum from torture, painted as murderers, rapists, and an invasion. White supremacists are dubbed ‘fine people’ and even American born elected officials are told to go back to where they came from. (Brooklyn?)

I agree, that most likely some level of mental illness rendered every perpetrator unequipped to process hateful rhetoric with less than deadly actions. I also agree, that if identified, those people should be treated before catastrophes happen – that is if mental health budgets have not been slashed. But the truth is — GUNS KILL PEOPLE. Period. That being said, knowing people are the ones pulling the trigger doesn’t let gun regulations off the hook. Nor should anyone look the other way as AK-47s are blithely utilized as a mass shooter’s weapon of choice. These economically speedy killing machines have no place anywhere but the battlefield. Full stop. Continue reading “The Kid Next Door”

Politics and other awkward stuff

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Ah, mirrors. Can’t do with ‘em; can’t do without ‘em. Sometimes they’re pretty darn handy when you need a close look at that bump on your chin, pesky roots growing in or a tooth that’s been bugging you. But sometimes, mirrors show a little more than we would like because, unfortunately — they don’t lie.

I can’t say that for a lot of other things today.

The media, even in its earliest form, is a mirror of our lives. Though the first newspaper made its debut in our fledgling country in 1704, it took a few years to for all the colonies to have their own versions of press. Still, it didn’t take long to incite some tension between media and government. In time, Benjamin Franklin published one of the first editorial cartoons, joining other colonial printers and editors who realized early on they held a perfect mirror to criticize the local governers. Of course, the governor then discovered — he could shut down the newspapers. Sound familiar?

“Freedom of the press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose.”            George Orwell

Early media provided critical news of local happenings, publishing arguments used by the patriots to voice their grievances like “No taxation without representation!”.(Remember that one?) Since the first two political parties were formed in the 1790’s, newspapers lined up on both sides to provide a flow of partisan news and information, sometimes vehemently. At the height of the barb slinging, the Federalists passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which included one that made publishing “false, scandalous or malicious writing against the Government of the US with intent to defame” a federal crime. Luckily, that cute McCarthy-ish law expired in 1801.

Yet, editors representing both parties were important political players in their states, stuffing their papers with their party’s major speeches and campaign platforms. Throughout the 1800’s, newspapers proliferated and party lines were behind every line of news copy and editorials. That is until, people like William Randolph Hearst, found he could make more moolah expanding his media’s base by becoming non-partisan. Undeterred, journalists still continued to expose social and political sins of corporate monopolies, crooked political machines, urban poverty, and child labor. Times change but news is still news.

“Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in the government”.   Supreme Court Judge Hugo Black

Media is a lot like a mirror, at least when it’s done right. What’s reflected is born of truth, not magic. Sometimes it shows more than we want see but then it’s not a mirror’s job to assure anyone they are “the fairest one of all”. It reflect what’s real, pimples and all – not a photoshopped version. Mirrors reflect who we are, in all our human frailties.

I don’t love mirrors yet my vanity (sounds cringe worthy) table sits in front of my bedroom window lest I get any ‘whoa, there’s a surprise’ when I leave the house. I guess I just like to know what I’m ‘facing’, no pun intended. which is pretty much the same reason I read news and blog posts or watch trusted news stations. Ya just gotta know what’s going on.

“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. That we need the media to hold people like me to account. Power can be very addictive, and it can be corrosive, and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.”   George W. Bush

Like a mirror, the media is only your enemy if what you see or hear isn’t true, not if it’s merely not what you like. Even when they don’t agree with what we believe or want, facts aren’t any less true — unless they aren’t facts. My mother used to say, ‘the truth hurts’ and sometimes it does. I tell my peeps to always tell me the truth, even if I don’t like it. I mean, how else would I know, that all the while I was yucking it up, I have poppy seed in my front teeth? Yes, the truth can hurt but it can also heal. It can make us think, incite us to act, and, at the very least, trip some changes in the way we view things. Continue reading “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall”

Politics and other awkward stuff, View from the Shoe

Not In Kansas Anymore

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Boy, has this place changed, Toto. Some days our America seems as unfamiliar as Oz. We’ve seen odd characters with no brain, heart or courage in abundance but enough about politics. We’ve been in twisty, scary situations before. In fact, history is full of times when the red, white and blue was as divided as the Hatfields and McCoys, complete with messy family food fights.

It’s been said this past election didn’t divide America – it revealed it. Racism and xenophobia are hardly new; they are just more butt naked than we’ve seen them for awhile. Did we think political paranoia left the building when Joe McCarthy did? Ha! We might have been a teeny bit convinced that we made healthy improvements in womens’ rights and sexual choice tolerance, but no. And immigrants? Fear of the ‘other’ is stoked daily, as you wait. Every culture has gone through a purgatory of prejudice and alienation when they arrive on our shores, but, these days, the Statue of Liberty hides her face in utter shame.

For 243 years, America has invented, innovated, inspired and banded together for better. We’ve dominated both outer and cyberspace. Baseball, blue jeans, jazz and rock ‘n roll are as American as too many guns, slavery and the atomic bomb. Everything is big in America – buildings, landscapes, cars, business – and dreams. To many, their dream is elusive along their respective Yellow Brick Roads.

But few things in life are linear – and history isn’t neat.

Over the decades we’ve seen riots, scandals, assassinations, world wars and cold wars. We’ve struggled with healthcare, financial reform, racial strife, taxes and political mayhem. There’s little we haven’t seen. When elections were over, protests were heard, amendments enacted, and we usually went back to business as usual. No matter how politics, cultural roots or societal platforms differed, we united as AMERICA, not a polarized land of misfit toys. Continue reading “Not In Kansas Anymore”

Politics and other awkward stuff

Make America . . .

“America is back”. That was the opening line of a recent commercial, and all I could think was “Really? Where was it?”.

As far as I can tell, America hasn’t taken a trip anywhere, though it has meandered a bit. These last few years, the poor country has been pulled in so many directions, it must feel a little like Gumby. With only days left before the mid-term elections, I have to wonder if America is trying to hide until the worst is over. But then, what is the worst? We’ve certainly seen a whole lot of bad behavior, that’s for sure. If America was a kid, it would have been sent to its room for days. But then, it’s not one kid – it’s millions and where do you send them when they’ve been busy setting little fires everywhere? I’d send them to the voting booth.

America belongs to EVERYONE. Yup, sorry to break it to anyone who thinks only the anointed few get to lay claim, but that’s the truth. Of course, the original inhabitants found out the hard way when new guys (English refugees otherwise known as Pilgrims) pulled up, grabbed the land and all THEY got was a tee shirt and nifty reservations in the middle of nowhere. Didn’t they welcome the Pilgrim dudes, give them corn pudding and help them survive first winters? Sure, but who’s counting. We still make those cheery construction paper feathers to honor them on Thanksgiving, so it’s all good, right?

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it.

Mark Twain

For 241 years, America’s been stepping away, and coming back. We’ve been to war, to the moon and to the polls. We’ve raised the flag, our voices, our fists, and our leaders. We’ve seen the best and the worst of times. We have been and are a great, beautiful land with fierce spirit and big hearts. We fled a monarchy, started a republic, became a democracy and today waffle between them, with some resurgent populism and nationalism thrown in. (we know how well THAT worked out!) Continue reading “Make America . . .”

Politics and other awkward stuff

Divided We Fall

There’s an elephant in the room. In fact, there’s an entire herd. Our country is divided in ways not seen since the Civil War and that divide goes past party, right smack into a giant morass. This land of the free and home of the brave has been steadily careening toward a constitutional crisis and no one seems to know where the brakes are.

Uh oh.

Yes, I know jobs are on a steady rise and so is the stock market. The economy continues its 7-year recovery. So far, so good. But things like incivility, racism, gun violence and moral equivalency are ramping up to unseen levels, too. The gaping crevasse of division has been magnified, in no small way, by the man whose very position is supposed to bring us all together — not fuel a growing turmoil. Under his reign, politics has morphed from that of my parents’ voting climate to a near monarchy. Party has become loyalty to a man, not the law or the values it once held firm. The aura of ‘presidential’ has become a myth as has national unity.

I am proud to be American and always will be, even though, like many relationships, ours can go off the rails sometimes. The relationship can get testy, make you worried and upset, but, like every family’s version of the drunk uncle, we accept it as part of a tribe we love. While we can’t disavow some frankly ugly parts of our American history, we are rightly proud of its multitude of shining achievements, generosity of spirit and so much more.

Your vibe attracts your tribe. Continue reading “Divided We Fall”