Politics and other awkward stuff

The Pandemic that Ate the World 2.0

Once we’ve dialed back the epidemic, what will we bring to the world it left behind?

Photo by Branimir Balogović on Unsplash

What is ‘the good life’? Everyone defines it differently. For me, it’s pretty much every day I’m alive, can see friends, squeeze grands, talk to my kids and my wonky belly feels decent. The good life isn’t always exciting, but if we’re fortunate, we’re living the one that feels good to us. That life can seem boring, hectic, or aggravating, depending on the day and our frame of mind. Our kids drive us nuts, ditto the spouse. Jobs seem like an endless Lucy and the Chocolate Factory conveyor belt. We dream of taking that great trip that doesn’t materialize, of having more money, more time, and more of well, life. Still it’s our life and it fits us.

Just when we thought we were in control of that life, the coronavirus arrived and shook everything up like a vengeful snowglobe. Fear replaced anticipation, excitement with anxiety. Homeschooling replaced lockers and classrooms. We Netflix binged instead of going out to movies meetings, baseball practices, lunche  — or visits in with grandma.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. . .” Ecclesiastes

This, indeed, has been a hell of a ‘season’. An epidemic from across the sea, rolled in like a tsunami, leaving a deadly season in its wake. Social distancing became the new lexicon as we desperately worked to thwart the virus’ deadly rampage by our separateness. Yet, no matter where we stand in the collective narrative of this deadly virus, we all are connected in the fight to survive it — and what happens after. That’s where yin yang comes in.

Yin yang, the symbol of crisis/opportunity, is what we’ve experienced after wars, wildfires, monster earthquakes and yes, pandemics. Incredible crises have sparked incredible heroism, sacrifice and generosity. They also create opportunities for growth and change. We can either travel through hellish journeys, bitching all the way, or find our moments, however small or elusive, for positive growth.  We can get swallowed up in the sadness of a world gone incognito or use these uncertain times to evolve. We can lament our vitally changed individual worlds or discover, with gratitude, new ways to navigate them. When we look in the rear view mirror after this difficult time, we’ll also hopefully find that:

Technology can be an uber good thing. When social distancing separated us from friends, relatives and colleagues, technology enabled us to stay connected. We Zoomed our way into face to face chats with other isolated family and friends, discovering new channels of being together. We telecommuted, realizing we can be just as productive virtually. In turn, we decreased traffic, improved air quality, while increasing precious family time. Win win.

We trust science; politicians not so much. Desperate for information on COVID-19, our ears opened to everyone who had some. But we quickly discovered that political gain and re-election hopes can overshadow actual facts from medical professionals. Whether it’s climate change or pandemics, trust the experts.

Continue reading “The Pandemic that Ate the World 2.0”
Copy that., Politics and other awkward stuff, View from the Shoe

The SILENT SPRING of a Pandemic

The world, as we know it, will change. So will we.

Photo by Claire Mueller, UnSplash

Change is pretty much innate to living. No matter how evolved and enlightened we think we are, nothing is more intrinsic to nature and humanity than change. From hurricanes and earthquakes to fires and pandemics, nature can transform our world in a nanosecond. We can try to control it but nature will always tell us who’s boss. The current pandemic is deadly proof that when humanity and nature collide, things will change and not in a good way.  Hello, COVID-19.

Scheduling a big family reunion? Nada. An out of town vaca? Nope. Planning dinner with friends? Well, dining out – is out. Those quick little errands will have to wait, too, maybe for quite awhile. Being ‘up close and personal’ has become a little too personal – and risky. (And no one misses hugging more than an Italian girl!) We’ve entered a Rod Serling universe and we can’t just change the channel. Social distancing has become a thing, the ONLY thing that can help slow the spread of the virus and save lives. Will it eliminate risk? No, but it’s critical to lessening the upward curve, a curve that can lead to worst case scenarios.

We change jobs, houses and hairstyles but changes that create sudden empty shelves and streets, one that mandates social isolation? No, there’s nothing ‘normal’ about this kind of change. Our connected society is suddenly off balance. Schools, parks, stores, and jobs are shut down. Stocks have been in free fall. Healthcare workers are begging for beds, supplies, and critical equipment. Why wouldn’t we be upset, anxious as hell and complain about all we take for granted being put on hold? But, if we can be resilient enough to manage a few weeks sheltering in place to care for ourselves and one another, we will do more than just wade through a pandemic. We will have learned, like the Velveteen Rabbit, to be ‘real’.

A few months ago, I wrote a blog about ‘first world problems’, and while being in isolation certainly isn’t a walk in the park, for most it’s hardly ‘worst case scenario’ either. We can feel depressed and anxious when we look at our daily lives and barely recognize them. Other than missing hugging and smooching my kids, grands and friends like crazy, I may be luckier than most. Working remotely for many years was a type of training wheels for living in place. And often, after my husband’s procedures, we hunkered down for an isolated recuperation. That’s not to say, I’m also spoiled with the ability to hop in my car and run to the library, post office, and grocery when the mood or need hits. Those times will come again and when they do, I’ll consider them with different eyes.

An avid reader of the WW2 period, (go figure) helps me put a little perspective to these current times. There is little comparison to the rationing, blackouts and terrifying bomb shelter life people endured during those long years. The spirit of community, embracing uncertainty and the greater good shown in that era is an enduring example of how people ramp up in times of crisis. With fear and sacrifice as constant companions, people kept living each day, as best they possibly could. What their ‘can do’ spirit, resilience and sense of gratitude accomplished earned them the title ‘the Greatest Generation’. We’ve only experienced a drastically changed lifestyle for less than two weeks. What will future generations say about us?

When COVID-19 eventually lessens its stranglehold, the country will slowly return to a new normal. But, in some areas, the more things change the more they remain the same. The wealthiest 5%, remain at the head of the line, to be saved once again with bailouts, while the other 80% will struggle exponentially from job loss, and financial difficulties. Some will still have no healthcare, live from paycheck to paycheck, often in abject poverty. Those people will see complaints about missing happy hours, gym time or trips to the mall as alien as those of another planet. In a country divided by affluence and lack of it, political party, race and gender, this pandemic is proof illness does not discriminate; only the way we treat it.

Continue reading “The SILENT SPRING of a Pandemic”
Politics and other awkward stuff

A Woman’s Place is in the House. . . The Peoples House.

Forget rocking the cradle. It’s way beyond time that women rocked the system — and the Oval.

Play like a girl. As a challenge to our country, this seems a timely invite to up our game and finally put a homegirl at the helm. Seriously, it’s been three hundred years, people. Don’t you think it’s about time we made there’s a woman in House (the one with the Oval Office) where she belongs? It makes me just a tiny bit outraged that, though women are the other half of the population, they still haven’t been able to sit behind the desk in the Oval. We pride ourselves on being an enlightened country, of having an advanced culture, yet other mainstream countries have boasted women leaders for decades. Where is ours?

Yes, we finally have women candidates but the welcome mat has repeatedly been askew. The ERA, a critical step towards equality, is still waiting, along with a host of other approved bills, to be passed. When it finally does, how much it will erase both the mindset of ingrained patriarchy? Yet, can the reservations about having a woman leader really surpass all that their male counterparts have wrought for decades? In my mind, for one thing the ‘hand that rocks the cradle’ would be less inclined to slam it on the nuclear button. A woman, especially a mom, would be more than hesitant to send their own and other mothers’ sons, as fodder to fight endless, escalating battles.

We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly. Margaret Atwood

Helen of Troy. Indira Gandhi. Golda Meir. Margaret Thatcher. These iron maidens didn’t bring the warm and fuzzy. They brought their A-game, exactly what their countries needed in their time. They led their countries to war within a male hierarchy, conforming to values that allowed them to lead in the first place. Today’s Angela Merkel of Germany, Britain’s Theresa May and the European Union’s Christine Lagarde know how it’s done because they, too, had to overcome gender bias. At times, they had to outmen the men – in heels.

I’d like our country to have the chance, to see for ourselves in this critical moment in time, what America would look like with a woman in charge. It certainly couldn’t do worse than the current appalling incompetence.

More than 50 years ago, tiny Sri Lanka was the first to break the political gender barrier, with India following a few years later. As of November 2019, 15 women leaders serve their countries as president, prime minister or chancellor. Shocker, those countries are thriving — and none of them are in the Americas. Today only 56 of 146 nations have a female head of government. The fact that we still have not reached that point is in itself cause for a collective head scratching!

In business, there are still more leadership seats where the glass ceiling is neatly intact. Apparently, the idea of women as true equals seems as surreal as aliens landing in NYC. While it’s true we are hardly the only place in the world where patriarchy rules, we should be committed to putting equality, in all dimensions, on the menu. Even in my own little world, I saw lines drawn within the advertising agency my husband and I partnered jointly. I created and ran the business, was its creative arm, social media and promotion maven; my husband was the PR counsel. Yet, I had to constantly remind clients, who insisted on talking to ‘the owner’, that I was their person. Even in our less than big business, the ‘boss’ meant male.  

Some leaders are born women. Geraldine Ferraro

If women did man the Oval, perhaps infant mortality wouldn’t number among the highest in the civilized world. Maybe 1% of the population might think twice about wallets equaling finances of 3.6 billion people. A mom Potus might be more concerned about climate change when it could end the world as we know it for our children. And as women, who represent 80% of consumers, a female leader might better address sustainability, food technologies and pharmaceuticals. 

In this land we call home, we have certainly seen much change, although gender stereotypes, repression and omission still exist in spades. Women represent half of law school graduates; but only a third are lawyers, 15% are federal judges or law firm partners. Half of med school graduates are women but only 25% become doctors. Women make up a quarter of the US Congress, ranking us 97th among 193 nations worldwide in the percentage of women in the lower house of Congress. Currently, women comprise 6 of the 50 state governors, 20 of the 100 US Senators, as well as the first woman Speaker of the House. Women vote more than men, which is understandable since we had to fight ferociously for the right men took for granted. More women than ever are participating in the political process, but still the operative word is participating – not leading.

Empowering women can change everything. But first, we need to change minds. No, we are not the weaker sex. We are not run by our hormones nor do we run away from confrontation or difficult decisions. We communicate differently not less effectively. We have more estrogen than testosterone, but that enables us search for solutions first instead of knee jerk physical reactions. Hey, but if you want to talk physical, I dare any man, if indeed it was biologically possible, to go through childbirth. Then we’ll chat about who’s the weaker sex.

Winning the popular vote, Hillary Clinton got closer to the presidency than any other woman in history. The jury is still out on this year’s election. We’ve all heard the running commentary about whether the US is ready for a woman president, yet my answer is always the same ‘When WILL it be?’. Every man on this planet was born of and nurtured by a woman. I think the time has more than come to at least place her at least next to him.

“Men can boast about occupying top slots in history’s long list of conquering maniacs, bloodthirsty tyrants, and genocidal thugs.” said Steven Pinker of Harvard University. “Women have been and will be a pacifying force. Traditional war is a man’s game.” Amen.

I’d like to think if women held an equal share of leadership, she and her international sister leaders would find more creative, persuasive and collaborative ways to solve conflict. Are woman always steady as they go? Nah. We’re human. Sometimes we won’t be on our game (and no, not because of hormones).  Still, domestic pressures, geopolitics, economics, and a million other global issues have existed throughout history. It’s unrealistic to expect either male or female would bring an overnight change.

In the future there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders. Cheryl Sandberg

Trust me, this is not a diatribe about men. I’ve had a dad, a wonderful husband, gave birth to a male I adore and I have 5 little grand men I love to the moon and back. Boys are urged to behave one way and girls another yet stay at home dads can be as nurturing as women, some even more so. Men have invented incredible things; they’ve walked on the moon. I’d never suggest a world without them (well, maybe sometimes). I never claimed the globe would spin perfectly on its axis if women ruled it, but you have to admit it ain’t working well at the moment, right? John Lennon sang ‘Give peace a chance’ and women are way overdue for their chance. Having a chance at anything men have had inborn should never have been a question in the first place.

Would a woman in the White House cause the world to suddenly link arms and sing Kumbaya? I doubt it, though it’s a nice thought. I’m certainly not in government and I’m hardly perfect so I have no expectations that just installing a sister girl in office would transport us to Utopia. I’d like to believe, though, that there might be better, more innate ways of changing war, terrorism and poverty narratives. Certainly all the dudes who’ve ruled the world until now haven’t exactly done a bang up job and at the moment, the bar is so low, my youngest grandboy could limbo through it. 

After 300 years, have women more than earned the right to take a shot, and their rightful place in the best seat in the house. The White House.  

Hell, yeah.

Politics and other awkward stuff

The Year That Was

Confetti and noisemakers are so yesterday. But maybe that’s just me.; party animal was never in my DNA. Luckily, my husband was also more into cozy over carnival New Year festivities. Except for an early Chinese nosh, our couch, movies and snacks were our go-to gala though I admit funky party hats were occasionally worn on said couch. Some might think we were either too lazy or minus the imagination to celebrate the night with abandon. But, the cancer elephant in our room was more than enough excitement in our lives. It made more mucho sense to do happy over hoopla.

I suspect I’m plain not wired to do the full New Year’s monty. Having a low-key mindset is not such a bad thing, however. In fact, it came in handy in widowhood. Being able to ‘adapt’ to revelry without my handsome dude in the blue glitter top hat, was an asset. Come to think of it, my kids and married granddaughter must have also inherited some of the New Year homebody genes — so mea culpa in advance for that, guys.

What the new year brings to you depends a great deal on what you bring to it.” Vern McClellan

In the end, the New Year’s Eve ball will never need my help to make its descent into the next year. No liquor store will miss the sale of my one glass of wine and while my comfy jammies don’t fit the red carpet dress code, they are their own microfleece party. My snacks are obscenely healthy. And my out-of-control revelry consists of journaling, movie bingeing and phone gabbing with friends. It works.

When you give yourself space to think about the year that went bye-bye, all kinds of observations pass through your mind. Me? I think about the wide eyed, sweet little New Year’s baby who, by the end of each year, morphs into the weathered, tired Father Time. As each year closes, that long bearded dude passes the torch back to the diapered newbie who takes tentative steps into the next 365. Are we as innocently optimistic about a brand new year as that little tyke? Maybe not but I suspect none of us are ready to be a cynical Father Time either.

 “An optimist stays up until midnight to see a new year in; a pessimist stays up to make sure the old one leaves’”.  Bill Vaughn

Politics can tick us off big time. This past year, walls and homegrown gun deaths went up; morale and trust went down. The rich got mega richer while the poor still poorer. That daily crazy alone can make us doubt we’ll ever be spinning on an even axis again. But, things have a way of turning around. Finances, ditto. Illness? Grief? Those are the toughest of all. When either touch us with the heaviness of a well thrown brick, it’s hard to see any good in the year that passed. I get it. Boy, do I get it. It’s hard to be Pollyanna discovering a silver lining to anything that rips our heart out. Sometimes the digging is hard to find the beautiful moments, the ones that touch that same heart that is also broken.

Continue reading “The Year That Was”
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”