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”

Politics and other awkward stuff

No. . . it’s not OKAY.

247118_2491786_updatesWorking as a fledgling dental assistant, my first job after high school, a patient thought it was okay to suddenly let a hand slide.

Working for an insurance company at 18 , a top sales exec decided (briefly!) that his lap was the proper place for dictation.

Working as an office admin, a manager thought it was okay to aggressively grab a kiss as I reached for copy paper in the supply room.

Years later, I worked for women. I worked for myself. I achieved. Yet, there were still times I knew the woman card would never be a equality get out of jail free card. Even as a partner with my husband in own ad agency, many times our clients would defer to him. My guy was a fierce defender of women who knew it was not okay for car salesmen to bargain with him when I was the one buying the car. And it was definitely not okay when my husband’s client wished the ‘little woman’ fun on a business trip  — on which I was the photographer on the shoot! So many shades of not okay.

Compared to so many more invasive, immoral, traumatic stories of harassment and assault, mine seem insignificant. Even so, for all those who have been debased, insulted or treated as less than, I stand with all for change. A staunch supporter of women’s rights, LGBT rights, Black rights – EVERYONE’s rights, my classy husband  would be more than disgusted that sexual misconduct is both still rampant – and still excused. He was a guy (duh) but he got it.

The dark ages of women’s equality seem never to have seen the light of day. Society still looks the other way – or worse, victimizes the victim. Well, you know, boys will be boys. Right. Evolved as we think we are, the thought that anything that happens to a woman is because of women, still shocks. The myth that the way we present ourselves is reason enough for men’s bad behavior just shoots the other half of the human race in the foot. Bad things don’t only happen to bad people and assaults on women aren’t invited. If you don’t get an invitation, you’re a party crasher. Period.

To those accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression. Continue reading “No. . . it’s not OKAY.”

Politics and other awkward stuff

Requiem for Civility

misbehaving-child-750x500Ding Ding Ding! Survey says – America might have a civility deficit. Duh. It appears rudeness, and incivility have become as contagious as the annoying common cold  — and just as hard to cure. Aggressive language, insults, demeaning words flow like waterfalls from mouths of people from political leadership to the neighbor down the road. What could go wrong?!

We live in a hurry up world. From road rage on the morning commute to high decibel restaurant cell phone conversations, behaving badly has become a hallmark of a ‘new’ world. Self-absorbed communication and demands for instant gratification strain common courtesies to the breaking point. They say a fish rots from the head and this political climate brought a nasty stench. The rhetoric of this past election had no small part in the ever-growing, no-holds barred incivility. But, to be truthful, we all have a part in what has grown with abandon. And, as a Senator, who recently stated that we have ‘normalized’ bad behavior, said, “Enough!”.

Rudeness is the weak person’s imitation of strength. Eric Hoffer

How did we get here? Do we have heftier passions than our ancestors? I doubt it. (Does Henry the VIII or the Inquisition ring a bell?) 2,000 years before us, there was still a heck of a lot of bad behavior. Is there more political division now? Monarchy or democracy, there have always been political divides but social media and TV ‘s in-your-face communication reaches audiences of previously unimagined proportions. Fake news, alternative facts, and blatant untruths roll by without impunity and nonchalant arrogance that do little to make us proud. Continue reading “Requiem for Civility”

Politics and other awkward stuff

Making America ‘Real’

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Immigrant makes good. That’s the dream every pilgrim held as they sailed to these shores and it came true for some — not all. If your eye or skin color didn’t match the Mayflower brand, you had a tougher time and some were often stuck in time; the wrong time. The dreams of today’s immigrants are no different. Armed with culture, appearance and beliefs dramatically different than ours, that big open door often gets stuck. Many Hispanics, Muslims, and Vietnamese find themselves outside looking in, a ‘no vacancy’ sign neatly posted. Many achieve US citizenship but will always seem less than equal to natural born Americans. Most ironic is that many of those ‘less thans’ have fought and died for the country they’ll never achieve ‘same’ status in.
 “The McNichols, the Posalskis, the Smiths, Zerillis, too
The Blacks, Irish, Italians, the Germans and the Jews
Come across the water a thousand miles from home
With nothin’ in their bellies but the fire down below
They died building the railroads worked to bones and skin
They died in the fields and factories names scattered in the wind
They died to get here a hundred years ago they’re still dyin now
The hands that built the country were always trying to keep down”     Bruce Springsteen
Nearly 40 million American neighbors, co-workers are foreign born. Unfortunately, many of us didn’t get that memo. Watching the Charlottesville, VA protests, the often hidden underbelly of American prejudice raised an ugly head. It was hard not to be ashamed and indignant hearing the hateful rhetoric and bizarre beliefs. We are all people whose ancestors escaped caste systems, brutal prejudice, and pillaging to come here. We don’t get to vanquish others and still pretend to be the good guys. Newsflash, people – there is no making America ‘white’ again; it never was in the first place. So those Neo-Nazi flags, the KuKluxKlan torches? Um, no, not in MY America.
I have blonde (helped a little) hair and blue/green eyes. Didn’t put in the order for it, especially as an Italian American, I just came that way. But what if I didn’t? Anyone who’s struggled to pick a paint color for their living room, knows there are dizzying shades of white. We mix different genres of design style and call it ‘eclectic’ and our blended cuisines become chic ‘fusion’.  Yet, we somehow can’t find the coolness in the people variety.
When I was in grammar school, one of the sweetest girls I’ve ever known arrived from Argentina. My town was so white bread, so generational in its population, that her pierced ears alone made her exotic if not suspect. Her parents’ warmth and love each time I visited their apartment made me feel more welcome and understood than I sometimes did in my own home. More than 60 years later (gulp) I still treasure my beautiful Argentine friend, partner in crime at our all-girls high school, bridesmaid in my (first) wedding, and still one of my dearest friends. When my youngest daughter was small, her lifetime friend came from Japan. That little girl learned English with the help of my daughter and her best bud (son of my best bud) who patiently pointed out trees, clouds, and other sights each day in car pool. Now both young moms, they still hold each other in heart, separated only by ocean. Hey, how else would my daughter have discovered those Japanese donuts with potato filling she loves? (I’ll still pass, thank you)

Continue reading “Making America ‘Real’”

Politics and other awkward stuff

Under the Big Top

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I never joined the circus. Actually, I’ve never even been much of a fan. Too many rings to watch at once. Too many nail biting high wire acts. Too many animals tethered and tamed instead of wild and free. And the clowns, yikes, the clowns. Maybe I was just a weird kid, but the circus was never a big ‘must see’.

Still, I must say I felt a teeny bit sad when the 146 year old Barnum and Bailey Circus recently pulled up stakes for good. But, hey, even the biggest show on earth would have a hard time competing with the red, white and blue Big Top of — politics.

If, like me, watching more than one thing at a time makes you dizzy, refer to your program and buckle up. There’s enough action under the Big Top these days to make your head spin. Precarious high wire acts. Slights of hand. Tricks that can keep you stranded in the air with no safety net. From acrobats to animal trainers, no one seems to like each other very much but every one is worth watching.

High flying tricks emerge energetically from every spotlit ring. Some are intriguing; others could turn catastrophic in a heartbeat. All the balls are in the air and where they land no one knows – yet. We watch every act with interest or fear, approval or upset. Performers go through flaming hoops or emerge from clown cars. And we’re left to wonder what (or who) is going to bounce off the trampoline. Welcome to life under the Big Top. Continue reading “Under the Big Top”

Politics and other awkward stuff

Shall We Dance?

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I’m pretty sure when I was born, I was rockin’ to the beat in the delivery room. A typical tutu-craving little kid, I started ballet at 4 years old, and made toe shoe status by 10. Today I might be pirouette-challenged but the need to move it, move it is still instinctive, a fact that always (and gleefully) embarrassed my once-upon-a-time teenage kids.

Though I may now groove a little differently, one dance rule will always be carved in stone. When you trip the light fantastic – don’t step on anyone’s toes. From the nervous 13 year-old partners of my youth to men keeping up with my spontaneous footwork, I’ve always tried not to plant my size 7 ½’s on theirs. It’s just well, awkward.

Speaking of awkward, there’s no place more critical for well-placed steps than today’s political landscape. Walking into that minefield, it’s a good idea to tread carefully. The more I read Facebook posts or talk with friends and family, I realize stepping carefully is more than just a decent social tip. No matter how correct your dance moves are, smashing someone’s toe in the process is never the best idea.

Shot through with quicksand and sudden storms, today’s politics have spawned very contentious differences in thought, belief, need and fear. You have to be really quick on your feet to avoid falling into a sink hole. Skillful choreography can help circumvent  a spiraling tornado of words though it might not change the deeper divide. The growing chasm will take real thought to maneuver. I’m not talking about having rational,honest answers, standing up for rights, and even fighting for them. You go! I’m talking about remembering what we valued, cherished before we stepped onto this new dance floor, which can be a really slippery place. Continue reading “Shall We Dance?”

Politics and other awkward stuff

Across the GREAT Divide

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History is a funny thing. Depending on the glasses it’s viewed with, the past is either chock full of not so great things or colored with a romantically soft blur. Me? I think it’s a little of both. History is life, with all its ups and downs, no matter how we’d like to retouch it. Graphic designers like me are cool with that kind of artistic license but history needs no retouched brand marketing. It is what it is.

The words ‘great again’ in relation to America have now become part of our daily lexicon. They are heard nearly every day and are pretty much guaranteed to echo through the next few years whether with hope or huh?  They are meant to be a bold yet nostalgic rallying cry. Each time I hear the phrase I find myself scratching my head. I can’t seem to nail down the period in history when our American lives were perfect enough, great 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? Would we be whisked back to the time we helped our entitled selves to the land of the true Native Americans, elbowing them out of the way? Or when we bought, sold, traded slaves to build a spanking new country where WE could be free? Maybe it was those scary days when we were kids and the Cold War sent us scurrying beneath our desks. Those good ol’ days also included ‘colored’ drinking fountains, gays who were forced to remain in the closet – and women in the kitchen.

I’m in advertising. I know snappy taglines sell things but I’m just having a problem wrapping my head around a ‘great again’ marketing slogan. I can’t seem to pinpoint the glorious golden age when all, regardless of color or gender were peaceful and happy.  Is our country truly great? You bet. But in a country of more than 318 million people of every diversity, having ups and downs, even in a single day, is part of the deal. It doesn’t make us less great; it makes great more fluid.

I’m old enough (not ancient, mind you) to have lived through several wars, from Vietnam and the Gulf War to Iran and Iraq. Living in a different time and different skin, I never experienced Jim Crow laws that brutalized a whole portion of our fellow Americans. They were the citizens sent to the back of the bus, and denied use of the same restrooms and drinking fountains as their white neighbors. As a woman, 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. Continue reading “Across the GREAT Divide”