Women, A Strike is Not the Time to Be Polite

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By Brocken Inaglory (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Today the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington officially announced March 8 as a national women’s strike.

Their action calls for “a day of striking, marching, blocking roads, bridges, and squares, abstaining from domestic, care and sex work, boycotting, calling out misogynistic politicians and companies, striking in educational institutions.”
Already online I’m seeing the following responses:
We should get a permit.
We shouldn’t block traffic.
Let’s not disrupt local businesses.
We can make it like a parade!

No.

In fact . . .

Fuck. NO.

This country elected a man to office who openly degrades women, brags about grabbing women without consent, talks about his own daughter like she’s an object to be used for sex, and less than a week after taking office signed an executive order that issued a global gag rule on abortion.
States across the country are defunding Planned Parenthood.

And these are just the issues grabbing national headlines now.

In an op-ed for The Guardian, organizers pointed out the following:

While Trump’s blatant misogyny was the immediate trigger for the huge response on 21 January, the attack on women (and all working people) long predates his administration. Women’s conditions of life, especially those of women of color and of working, unemployed and migrant women, have steadily deteriorated over the last 30 years, thanks to financialization and corporate globalization.
Lean-in feminism and other variants of corporate feminism have failed the overwhelming majority of us, who do not have access to individual self-promotion and advancement and whose conditions of life can be improved only through policies that defend social reproduction, secure reproductive justice and guarantee labor rights. As we see it, the new wave of women’s mobilization must address all these concerns in a frontal way. It must be a feminism for the 99%.

If you are truly committed to getting the nation’s attention, to getting the attention of our nation’s policymakers, then the time for being nice and demure is over.

It’s been over for a long time now.
A house cat trying to get its paw into a man’s soup will merely be swatted off the table.
A lion upending the table and dousing a man with hot soup is going to get his full, unequivocal attention.
We all put on our pussy hats a few weeks ago.
Did you put it on to be a house cat with a soft meow? Or to be a lion with a deafening roar?
I don’t need a permit to tell me I have a right to be heard. I have a right to make noise.

It’s time to be loud. To own our space.

It’s time to take up space.

If that means blocking traffic and disrupting businesses for a few hours? I’m all in.
Whatever you do, when you show up on March 8, 2017, do not do it their way. Don’t be polite and quiet. This isn’t a quaint get-together.
This is a strike. A protest. A national movement to defend and improve our rights.
Roar like you mean it, women.

I’m Your Negative Poll, Mr. Trump. And I’m Very Real.

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By Ted Eytan from Washington, DC, USA (2017.01.21 Women’s March Washington, DC USA 00095) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Trump tweeted this morning that “Any negative polls are fake news.

Oh, but I’m real.
I currently have my period.
Is that real enough for you?
I’ve given birth to children. Two of them came straight out of my vagina. I needed an episiotomy. Let my husband tell you all about that. He almost fainted.
Is that real enough for you?
You can meet my children. They had to have come from *somewhere.* That’s the most miraculous thing about bringing a child into the world. They were never here and then suddenly they are. I brought a human being into the world, so new and original. No other human being will ever be the ones I created.
Is that real enough for you?
I write and read and garden and crochet. I can show you stories and essays and poems that are only there to show you because I created them. I can take you out to my garden and you can eat things I’ve grown. You can come into my house to read one of the books I enjoy. I’ll even wrap a blanket around you that I made.
Is that real enough for you?
I have friends, too. I know they’re real because I’ve been to their homes and met their families, and they’ve been to mine. We go to concerts and movies and parties together. We’ve consumed food together. I’ve listened to them cry and held their hands when needed. They’re so real I’d give a kidney to any one of them if needed.
Is that real enough for you?
If you think that negative polls are “fake news,” does that mean you think I don’t exist? That we don’t exist?
I did not vote for you. I do not approve of you. I do not approve of anything you have done so far in office.
My friends and I have organized. We’ve made phone calls and written letters and marched and demonstrated and scheduled speakers to come teach us and guide us and help us be better people, even stronger people, in the wake of the harmful things you seem so bent on doing to our country.
Calling me “fake news” will not make me go away.
Calling my friends “fake news” will not make us disappear.
We’re going to get louder and your polls are going to get even more negative.
We will not be dismissed as “fake news” or anything else you come up with to try to make us less real to you.
We are all, each one of us, very, very real.
We are your negative polls.
And no matter what petulant tweets you send out about us . . . we’re not going anywhere.
 

The Tiny Green Pig I Keep Giving Away

8603999856_8930354694_bPhoto Credit: Thomas van de Vosse Flickr via Compfight cc

“We knew something was wrong when he asked for Mommy. He never asks for you.”

I’d just arrived to pick up my three year old from daycare and that’s what his teacher tells me. I laugh, and she apologizes, but it’s fine because I know what she meant.

He’s my tough guy. I held him the first time and couldn’t get over this sense thatsomething was wrong. A week after his birth I couldn’t shake it and told my mom.

“He just doesn’t seem as hearty as his older brother always seemed.”

We agreed it was just because his brother was born a mini linebacker and so the 1.5 pound difference was throwing me for a loop.

Over the next three years he was chronically sick. Thankfully nothing life threatening. But by the age of three he’d already had two surgeries and anitbiotics were becoming a concern. He’d had so many of them, so frequently, that we were worried about him building an immunity to them.

All of which solidified for me the trust I feel for my intuition when it comes to my kids. The connection I feel to them.

He’d been relatively well though the previous six months. “He doesn’t have a fever,” his teacher said, “And it was almost time for you to arrive anyway, so we didn’t call.”

He was lying on a cot, all mushy and tired. I scooped him up and, together with his older brother, we made our way home.

Once there, he seemed fine. A bit tired. He was resting on the couch but laughed and played with his brother. I was getting ready to cook when I heard it.

“Ow. OwowowowowOWOWOWOWOWOWOW!”

I ran into the living room in time to see him leap up from the couch clutching his right lower back.

Within two minutes we were in the car and I was on the phone with my husband telling him we were headed to the hospital.

My gut reaction was that it was his appendix. The whole ride to the hospital I only half watched the road. My eyes pulled to the rearview mirror that I’d aimed at his car seat in the back. I hated that I really had no idea where the appendix was in the human body at that moment. What kind of mother am I? It’s in the general lower back area, right?

That voice returned. Loud. Something is wrong with him. Relentless, the entire ride there. The entire time we waited to be seen. Even as he perked up in the waiting room and started horsing around with his brother. Climbing up the plastic burnt orange chairs and leaping off to land in a squat on two feet.

When we were called into triage the nurse gave me side eye. “His appendix, you say,” she said with a smirk. Then she asked him to stand on the table and she held his little hands. He was never afraid of people. Of anything really. He took her hands without hesitation and she asked him to jump in place. He obliged, with his grin that lit up any room that tried to hold it.

The nurse looked back at me as he hopped like a kangaroo while holding her hands. “Typically the first sign of an appendix problem is that when they jump, they scream in pain.”

I gave her a wan smile. He didn’t have a fever. He didn’t have any pain. Right now. Yes, he’s got quite a bit of energy for a sick kid. But I repeated what happened, from the daycare pickup to the living room.

“Always trust your gut, Mom,” she said. “We’ll call him back soon.”

Once called back he was given a gown and we waited. My husband arrived and I told him to go home and eat with our older son because I was sure we’d be waiting. And I was half sure we’d be sent home with a diagnosis of neurotic mom.

A doctor examined him and at this point he’d started to run a bit of a fever. They drew some blood and gave him some tylenol.

A family arrived in the next bed. A grandmother who’d fallen ill, with her daughter, son-in-law, and grown granddaughter. We exchanged smiles whenever our eyes met. All of us waiting for test results or more tests ordered. They thought the grandmother may have had a stroke. They couldn’t get my son’s fever down. His blood tests came back normal. Hers came back inconclusive.

The doctor returned to tell me they wanted a CAT scan. Despite thinking it wasn’t his appendix, they wanted to be sure. He would have to drink half a bottle of oral contrast. A thick, white, chalky drink that I kept trying to convince him was a milkshake.

He knew I was straight up lying to his face after the first sip.

With every sip he looked at me like I was nuts. “It will help the doctor figure out how to make you feel better,” I told him. The moments between sips started lasting longer. It became harder and harder to convince him to take just a few more.

Before long, the young girl from the family in the next bed area joined us. Her mother soon after. The three of us laughing and cajoling my son into drinking the heinous substance. Performing like circus monkeys.

My stomach turned watching him struggle to work up the fortitude to bring the bottle to his mouth once more. The mother would sneak off to go check on her elderly mother in the next bed. She’d tell her mother, in Spanish, about the little boy and how cute he was, even though the old woman never responded. The young girl would translate for me.

It felt like days, but I’m sure was just 20 – 30 minutes or so, before a nurse came by to say he had to drink just a little bit more. At this point he was lying back on the bed, his cheeks flushed. Despite the tylenol doses they had repeated, his fever kept rising. They needed him to consume enough contrast to get into the CAT scan as soon as possible.

The young girl leaned in and told my son about her tiny green pig.

She held up her key chain so that it dangled before him.

There, among the keys and a few other random keychains, hung a squat, almost circular, see through plastic pig the color of emeralds. It was a thick acrylic, solid, but only about one inch in size.

She told my son that it was her favorite thing in the world and that it had always been there for her, ever since she was a little girl. But if he drank just a bit more, he could have it.

As long as he promised to one day give it to someone else who needed it more.

So he did. He promised and he gulped down more of his drink. She handed him the pig and she and her parents celebrated, clapping and gushing over what a brave, big boy he was being.

Minutes later we were wheeled in for the CAT scan. They shot dye through his IV and the very second it hit his arm he started screaming. My boy who hadn’t uttered a peep through the blood tests and drinking that awful shit they made him drink and getting an IV and taking tylenol, was now screaming blue bloody murder.

By the time we were wheeled back to our bed area, he was spent. Flushed, exhausted, whimpering, and with a fever they couldn’t bring down. The nurses took the blanket off him, pushed his gown down past his shoulders, and brought him ice pops he had no interest in. He sat and shivered, silent fat tears rolling down his bright red cheeks.

The family from next door cooed over him and frowned. He clutched the green pig in his burning hand, but didn’t have any smiles left to offer them when they tried to make him laugh.

A few minutes later the grandmother was wheeled away. We all wished each other luck, and the young girl told my son she knew he would be fine. “Take care of the pig,” she said. “But give it away when he’s needed.”

The doctor returned with the CAT scan results.

“It isn’t his appendix,” he said, “But we did find something.”

Only a split second between that statement and the next. Between the vague we found something and the reality of that something. Between my life as I knew it and what could possibly come next. Between my son, the beat of my heart, andsomething.

“The scan ended up picking up the very, very bottom of his right lung and it’s filled with fluid. He has pneumonia.”


He stayed in the hospital for three days, as a precaution they said. Over and over again, nurses told me what a tough guy he must be for him to have pneumonia like that and not complain. That’s just how he was. Brave and stoic. Through all the illnesses he had up to that point. The two surgeries. All the medicine, some of it vile, that he’d taken in his short three years.

He held the pig the entire time he was in the hospital.

After getting back home, when the newness of the pig wore off and I frequently found it laying around, I took the pig from him. We kept it on a shelf in his room and often he’d ask to hear the story of the pig. Of the young girl who gave up her “prized possession” and what it meant. How she thought of him even while she was worried for her grandmother. How she trusted him to give the pig away when he decided someone needed it.

In the years since, the pig was lost. I admit to being upset when I first discovered it was missing. But I’ve never, ever forgotten about that pig. We still tell the story of the pig. And I know now the pig itself doesn’t need to be in our hands. We don’t need to give it away.

We just need to never forget it. What it meant for her to give it away and for us to receive it.

I give that pig away every chance I get.

Until writing this, I’d never thought before of googling “green acrylic pig keychain” just to see if actually popped up. Google never disappoints. Same pig, minus the lettering.

Shoveling Shit Against the Tide: How the Politics of Bruce Springsteen Make Me Confront My Shortcomings. And Yours.

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By Craig ONeal (The Boss~Live!), via Wikimedia Commons

Recently someone wrote to me letting me know he is also a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. He went on to say that Springsteen is a great lyricist and I agreed.

He wrote back again.

Not a bad guitarist or showman either. Actually the only thing I don’t like is his politics.

I responded, I’m very much a fan of all that. Including his politics.

The response I received was that this person opposed Springsteen’s decision to cancel a concert in North Carolina after they passed the HB2 Act ordering people to use the restroom that corresponds with the person’s gender at birth. The law also eliminates anti-discrimination protection for the LGBTQ population.

My inbox correspondent stated that the only people Springsteen “hurt” were his fans. Also, liberals call people names when they lose arguments.

My response is copied below, and I indicate where I’ve edited it:

I would probably be considered liberal, though I prefer not to label myself. I’m sorry if you’ve experienced liberals calling people names. I’ve experienced the exact opposite. Conservatives calling me “libtard,” telling me to “suck it up,” and “quit being a whiny bitch.”

I applaud his stance on cancelling concerts in North Carolina and I hope he continues to do so since that state’s government seems bent on eroding people’s rights. He didn’t just hurt his fans, a risk he took that alienated some fans of his. He also took business away from that state. Which will hopefully encourage business oweners there to take a stand and encourage their legislators to get rid of that law.

It may be easy for you to say, “If you have a penis, use that bathroom.” But I encourage you to remember that you (I assume) don’t have to wonder what it will look like if you use a bathroom that someone else decides you have no right being in. You have never experienced that fear. Neither have I. And so I read and speak to and listen to those who have so that I can try to understand exactly what is the big deal.

HERE I REFERENCED A PHOTO OF A WOMAN WITH WHAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED A TRADITIONALLY FEMININE BODY, WHO ALSO HAD A PENIS. I AM NOT LINKING IT HERE BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO DRAG THAT PERSON INTO THIS DISCUSSION.

What bathroom should she use?

If she walks into a men’s room looking like that she runs the risk, just as I would, of being groped, harassed, or worse. If she uses the women’s room in NC, she runs the risk of being called a pervert and being arrested. That’s if she’s lucky. If she’s not, she’ll end up harassed, beaten, or worse.

I’m a woman. Listen to what I, and other women, have to say about “perverts.” They’re everywhere. I’ve been harassed, groped, called disgusting names. Other women I know have been assaulted, raped, beaten.

It doesn’t happen in the women’s bathroom. It happens everywhere. On the street. In stores. At work.

If you’re worried about your daughters, I encourage you to focus on educating men about how they speak to and treat women.

I am not going to quote the person. I just don’t feel like asking permission to share his words here. Plus, I’m not in the mood to edit for spelling and grammar.

His argument back was protect the children. They are all in danger from bathroom pedophiles and while he feels bad that this might negatively impact transgender people, he’s going to protect the little girls of the world. And that doesn’t make him a bad person.

No matter what I said, that’s what he kept coming back to. Sorry, but kids are more important in his book. Besides, he sometimes gets the shit end of the stick. Like when he gets searched a lot by the TSA because of his Irish name. (Something about the IRA.)

I said things like:

But your life isn’t in danger at the hands of the TSA. That example doesn’t really align with her experience.

And

They aren’t pervs. They are transgender.

And

Pedophiles don’t generally dress as women to get into the ladies room to attack children.

Which, I think, can give you an idea of the things he was saying. Oh, except at the end when he asked if we could discuss something less depressing. Like, how about something kinky?!?!

Uh, no. Actually, fuck no.

Finally I asked for his bathroom attack statistics and he said I could google them. He admitted it’s a low number, but it’s on the rise, according to him, because of these bathroom laws. Then he wished me well.

What can I say to that?

I hear what you’re saying and I know nothing of what it is like to be transgender and not feel safe using a restroom in public. I hear that it is humiliating and dangerous. I hear you when you say women are more in danger out of a public restroom than in it because of how men treat them. I hear all of that. But I am going to stick to my original position of saying I don’t give a rat’s pink ass because I’m protecting the tiny child wimmenz.

That’s a strong refusal to experience any type of empathy for a human being.

And I don’t know how to deal with that. I don’t know how to deal with someone who dismisses me during a calm, respectful conversation the minute I ask him to back up his claims with facts.

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I take my kids to an indoor pool fairly regularly. A few weeks ago while there, the lifeguard, an older man with a long ponytail both in his hair and in his beard, popped in a CD.

The first song was an uncommonly heard Bruce Springsteen song that I adore. It has very personal significance to my life, so of course my ears perked up. When the song ended, other songs by other artists came on, making it clear the CD was a mix and leading me to believe he probably made it. He probably chose that song himself.

The CD played on repeat while we were there. When the song came on for the third time, he had gotten up from his lifeguard chair and was standing near me, so I bit.

Are you a Springsteen fan?

I used to be.

Now, I know I’m biased, but used to be? What is that shit?

So I reply, Oh. I just assumed because of the song. That’s not a song of his you typically hear from a casual fan.

He smiled. Yeah, I love his work. I’ve seen him live. Incredible show. I just can’t stand his politics anymore.

At this point, I’m already done. One, because I do like his politics and I’m not looking to debate this guy. I’m here to swim and play with my kids. Two, because I’m typically able to disconnect the artist from the person. I realize not everyone else can, and that’s their choice, and also not something I’m looking to debate.

But he continues.

I don’t know if you’ll remember this, but years ago there was an incident with the police in New York City . . .

Let’s come to a full stop here for a moment.

Because my head, at this very moment, sounds like the inside of a church bell with all its ringing. I know exactly where he’s going with this, not just because I’m a Springsteen fan, but because I grew up right outside NYC.

I want to make sure you know where he’s going.

Super long story short:

On February 4, 1999, Amadou Diallo, a black man and undocumented immigrant working as a street vendor, stood outside his Bronx apartment building shortly after midnight.

Four plainclothes NYPD officers in an unmarked police car drove by, decided he was either a possible serial rapist suspect or maybe just standing there as a lookout (he was neither), and jumped out of their car.

He started running up stairs and pulled his wallet out of his jacket. The officers decided the wallet was a gun and the four of them fired their weapons 41 times, hitting him with 19 bullets. Diallo was unarmed.

He died. None of the officers were convicted. For one of them, Kenneth Boss, this was the second time he shot and killed an unarmed man. He still retained his job with the NYPD, given desk duty for a few years until his gun was returned in 2012. In 2015 he was promoted to sergeant.

Bruce Springsteen wrote a song in response to the incident titled “American Skin (41 Shots).” It premiered at a concert he performed in Atlanta on June 4, 2000. From there, he and the E Street Band headed to NYC for a ten show run at Madison Square Garden.

As word of the new song spread, PBA President Patrick J. Lynch wrote a letter to the association’s members. “The title seems to suggests that the shooting of Amadou Diallo was a case of racial profiling — which keeps repeating the phrase, ‘Forty-one shots,’ it read. “I consider it an outrage that he would be trying to fatten his wallet by reopening the wounds of this tragic case at a time when police officers and community members are in a healing period.” He also “strongly urge[d]” that officers neither attend the concert nor moonlight as security at any of his shows.

Lynch wasn’t the only one upset. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir also condemned Springsteen, while Bob Lucente, the president of the New York chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, took things a step further by referring to the singer as a “dirtbag” and a “floating f–.”

(Read More: How Bruce Springsteen Angered the New York Police Department)

I’m going to go a step further and clarify for you exactly what Bob Lucente, head of the New York chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, stated.

“He’s turned into some type of fucking dirtbag. He has all these good songs and everything, American flag songs and all that stuff, and now he’s a floating fag. You can quote me on that.

Sounds totally like a guy I want leading a police organization.

Let’s forget about the fact that the song actually takes a nuanced look at the incident, singing with empathy for both sides of the coin. The NYPD did not want him playing the song in New York. Because police officers were trying to heal.

Springsteen played it anyway.

Let’s cut back to me and the lifeguard.

He said, I don’t know if you’ll remember this, but years ago there was an incident with the police in New York City . . .

I looked him in the eye and said, Amadou Diallo.

Huh?

I continued.

I grew up in New York. The man’s name was Amadou Diallo. I assume that’s what you’re referring to.

Oh yeah, he said with a snap of his fingers. Yeah, I didn’t like that. The cops asked him not to play that song and he just wouldn’t listen. Just made more trouble for them at a time when they didn’t need it.

I walked away. I’d already crossed my arms as he was speaking, and then a second prior to him even finishing that sentence, I walked away.

What can I say to that? I gave up before I even began, and I’m ashamed of that.

An unarmed man was fired upon 41 times and shot 19 times and died on the steps of his apartment building but don’t sing that song because you might hurt somebody’s feewings.

That’s a strong refusal to experience any type of empathy for a human being.

And I don’t know how to deal with that.

I slipped back into the water and half heartedly played with my kids a bit longer, then left.

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While these two examples are very similar, they actually illustrate two different things that frustrate me.

In the first instance, I was writing. I didn’t feel the need to back down. I was calm and the conversation never got nasty. But as soon as I mentioned statistics, he shut the conversation down.

It happens to me all the time.

In the second instance, I was quiet and walked away because I hate confrontation and I feel as if I don’t articulate as well when I speak as I do when I write.

I hate that I do that.

Both things frustrate me to no end. I feel damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

I get frustrated when I back down, and even more frustrated when others shut down once they realize I’m intelligent and am going to want to discuss actual facts.

Ultimately, I’m trying to figure out how to get through a willful, stubborn refusal to see anything but a person’s own experience. That’s all I seek.

The wisdom and strength to know how to navigate these conversations. I don’t know how to get people to listen. I don’t know how to refuse to be dismissed.

It feels, in the end, like I don’t know how to be taken seriously.

Or how to be brave.

 

Seriously Though . . . Now What?

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By Ted Eytan from Washington, DC, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I just came back from a political action summit that was thrown together last night by a local politician. I’m a bit shaky and have a screaming migraine. Probably from lack of oxygen. Attending was so far outside my comfort zone and then I ended up speaking. Into a microphone. In front of a room full of people.

So yeah. Shaking.

But I am determined to spit out all of these thoughts I have right now because I don’t think I’m the only one who is thinking, “OK so that happened. We marched the next day. Now what?

It’s going to be a long four years. One woman in attendance made a really great point. When Barack Obama won two terms in office, people on the right went batcrap crazy. But more importantly, behind the scenes, they mobilized. In ways I don’t think a lot of people really imagined possible. They’ve been winning local, state, and national elections and judgeships and if we are truly committed to preserving Democracy (which appears to be perilously close to becoming a failed experiment) we need to be ready and committed to fighting for the next four years.

Starting now.

Here are some ideas I came away with from the summit:

Get a Now What? Summit started in your area

  • Contact a local politician and tell him/her that you would like an event hosted that encourages and helps steer people who are looking to get involved more in community and/or political action but aren’t sure where to turn or how to get started.

Reach out to immigrants and/or refugees

  • If you live near a sanctuary city and can get involved, DO IT NOW. The new White House website states that Trump is dedicated to “ending sanctuary cities.” on their page supporting Law Enforcement Communities. If you don’t live near a sanctuary city, contact local refugee resources in nearby cities. Refugees and immigrants are already marginalized groups that now are being targeted directly.

Meet them where they are

  • By them I mean all of the people currently marginalized and under an ever-increasing threat. People of color, LGBTQIA, Hispanic/Latino, immigrants/refugees, etc. Whomever it is that you would like to support in some way, do not expect them to show up in your neighborhood or attend your events. I looked around the room today and saw zero people of color. So I pulled up my polka dot knickers (in my mind anyway) and when it came time to propose topics for action groups to discuss, I proposed, “How do we meet POC and other minorities where they are and provide support to their events and groups?” Step out of your bubble. Contact local churches or community organizations. Find groups on Facebook. Subscribe to newsletters and event calendars. THEN SHOW UP in whatever way you can. Send donations. Attend protests/marches. Link arms, figuratively and literally, in actionable ways so that you are demonstrating your real support of these groups/people.

Get local and vocal

  • Someone there had an amazing idea and this is what I’m running with. Local and Vocal. Essentially, a group that meets twice per month (or more) in a fixed location to write letters to politicians and other leaders encouraging or discouraging them from taking certain actions. I envision it as a starting off point for political action, as well as a place for people to connect. Especially when frustrated by the political process. I also want it to, at least once per month, visit with minorities and underrepresented groups in THEIR location. Churches, community centers, etc. The person who mentioned it has already started one in the city in which the summit was held. I’ll be starting one up in mine. Search for one near you!

You don’t have to do any of this

  • But if you can, you have to do something. If none of these ideas appeal to you, pursue what does.

Overall, the message I came away with today is this . . . the time for crying and lamenting and wishing and bashing are over. Shaking our fists at the TV or computer screen will do absolutely nothing to change what is coming or preserve what we hold dear.

If you hold something dear, do what you can.

I’m still physically shaky from attending. I legit have a migraine. I know that attendance at something like this is not possible for everyone.

Just do what you can.

If that means making one phone call a day, do it. If that means writing an email or letter a day, do it. If you can march or attend protests, do it. If you can donate money, do it. If you can in any way support a cause that matters to you or support people less privileged than you, do it.

I’m writing to you from day two of the next four years.

This isn’t a battle to be won. It’s a promise to be kept.

Now what?

Dig in. That’s what.

The Fate of the Flag

under-distress
Image created by Allison Bedford

I spent Inauguration Day 2017 with a large group of homeschooled kids. They were all busy going on about their day, but we’d set up a computer to C-Span’s livestream of the inauguration in a common area for anyone to watch if they wanted.

I couldn’t. It seemed so dismal. I appreciate the peaceful transfer of power and what a privilege it is to live in a nation that does that.

But I kept myself busy elsewhere.

At snack time, we all met in the common area.

I noticed, not for the first time that day, that every time the kids started to gather round and watch, it got very quiet.

One girl, about eight years old, turned to her mother and asked, “Why is he the President? I thought more people voted for Hillary?”

Her mother hemmed and hawed a bit, trying to figure out how to explain the electoral college. She finally answered, “That’s true, but not enough people whose votes counted less voted for her. There were too many people whose votes count more who voted for him.”

Her daughter was quiet a moment, nibbling on cheese and crackers.

She finally looked up at her mom and said, “But that doesn’t mean he’s a good person.”

“No,” her mom responded. “But he is the president.”

“Will he be a good person when he’s president?”

Her mother was quiet.

“I’m not sure,” she finally said with a shrug. “I haven’t seen many indications that he will be. Not just during the election, but in the years before. But honey, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a good person in there. It doesn’t mean he won’t be a good person now. We just have to watch and see.”

My heart broke.

I stood to retreat into a different room because my throat felt thick and my eyes started to burn. It is always emotional for me to watch a mother answer difficult questions for her child. I know what that’s like and how it often churns your soul up, wanting to be honest but not wanting to frighten. Wanting to protect while also wanting to be realistic.

I gathered my son’s things and turned to walk away when a quiet 12 year old who’d been watching the ceremony piped up. He asked such a random question, so surprisingly apropos, and with such an air of genuine curiosity, that I almost fell over laughing.

“So does this mean the American flag is going to get a spray tan?”

History Repeats Itself, While I Can’t Even Look at the Pictures 

History repeats itself. We’re told that pithy little phrase and I think too many of us never truly get to the heart of understanding.

Image collage found here

I remember the first panic attack I had.

The thing is, I don’t think it was the first panic attack I ever had. I think it was the worst one I’d had at that point. Which meant that as it was happening, as I was crying and heard a high-pitched, frantic gasping for air and realized it was coming from me, I thought, “I hope this is what people call a panic attack. Otherwise, I’m dying.

I was driving home from work, listening to Howard Stern on satellite radio. I use the word driving loosely. This was New York during rush hour.

I was inching home from work.

The New York market was ripe for someone like him to make it as big as he has. We’re all begging for someone to take us out of our heads for the hours we spend inching along in our cars.

That evening I was listening to the replay from that morning and Robin was doing the news. I was half-listening in that way you do when you’re driving. Sort of like when you arrive somewhere and don’t remember the drive at all. It’s happening, but you’re not truly dialed in. So I knew the story Robin was sharing was about a woman who’d thrown her toddler off a balcony.

I must have heard, in some distracted part of my brain, the part about the mother doing it during a hysterical call to 911.

But my brain didn’t make the connection. Didn’t pay attention in time to figure out that they were playing the recording of the 911 call.

She was screaming. The child’s cries and screams could be heard in the background. Loud at first, then quieter as it was tossed away. Then, still quiet, but closer when the mother, still on the phone with 911 dispatch, went down the stairs to sit beside the child as he cried and whimpered on the ground.

That’s the first panic attack where I pulled over. Full stop. Pulled over because driving was no longer physically possible.

The best class I ever took was a Humanities elective on the Holocaust during college. The professor was amazing. The readings were stunning. It’s the only college class I ever took where I kept all the texts and still revisit them. I still own them among my most cherished books.

During the course of the class, throughout each topic we touched upon, he kept returning our focus to the people of Germany.

When the Jews in that village were rounded up, what did their neighbors do? The night of Kristallnacht, what did non-Jewish business owners do?

These are the questions he asked. Our answers were always the same.

Nothing.

They did nothing.

Which isn’t to say there weren’t heroes scattered here and there. But the majority of people, the majority of those not under direct threat from the Nazis, did nothing.

They looked away.

It wasn’t our final assignment, but somewhere towards the end of the semester he asked us to write an essay telling him what we would have done.

I don’t want to hear what you would do now. The you who sits before me. I want you to transplant yourself into the stories we’ve read. The eyewitness accounts we’ve read. Find yourself in our readings. Do you own a business? Go back and read what the business owners did. Are you a single mother? Go back and read what other mothers did. Maybe you’re just a student right now. We read about college students back then. Find a version of you in what we’ve read and be honest. No matter how difficult your answer is, I want you to be honest when you write to me of what you would have done as a non-Jewish German citizen during the Holocaust.

Nothing.

That’s the answer I put in my essay.

The truth is that, for as many times as we questioned in that class how they could have done nothing, we would have done the same. They were fearful. They felt impotent. They were brainwashed. What happened was a slow, systematic approach to destroying a people that almost succeeded.

Because mostly everyone did nothing.

The big lesson I took from that is that we can’t do nothing if it happens again. History repeats itself. We’re told that pithy little phrase and I think too many of us never truly get to the heart of understanding.

That’s the marrow of the lesson imparted to me in that Holocaust class.

We cannot sit and do nothing the next time.

There will be a next time.

I had a panic attack late last night. I’d been anxious all day. I tried going to bed early. I slept for a bit, but woke and couldn’t get back to sleep. I logged into Facebook and it was the third item in my feed.

The pictures.

One after another of children crying. Blood running down their faces. Eyes, haunted and too large for their tiny faces, set in stony expressions of shock. Cradling other children and weeping.

I had a panic attack on my kitchen floor.

I couldn’t look. I’m so sorry, but I can’t look.

As a mother, it’s the worst thing I can do. Not bear witness. I think of my children, silent and bloody and two-dimensional, in a photo from which people turn away and there’s never a way I’ll forgive myself.

For if it were my children, I’d scream. I’d scream for the world to keep looking. I’d never stop screaming. Until my cold, lifeless body were carted from the Earth, I’d never stop screaming for the world to look at my children.

Don’t you dare look away.

I’d never stop screaming.

But they aren’t my children.

So I cry and I hear the high-pitched gasps for air, frantic and riddled with guilt.

Because I can’t look at the pictures.

Because I’m impotent.

Because I’m doing nothing.

I learned the heart of that lesson, yet still I do nothing.

Except have a panic attack, while history repeats itself.

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