This is not Who We Are

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I am appalled and deeply ashamed of the racist remarks of the U.S. president last week, remarks that are consistent with decades of racist behavior. His comments do not reflect what the United States stands for, what we believe and what we work towards. We do have a dark side from our slavery past, and our treatment of Native Americans, that we are struggling to heal and there are a minority of people who still believe the falsehoods of racism and white supremacy. These are the people that Trump speaks to as his core supporters. Trump does not speak for the 70% who applauds diversity and respects the talents that emigrants bring to our country. He does not speak for the majority who understand that our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents came to these shores to escape threats to life and well-being and to find a better life for their off-spring.

I want you to hear how the majority of U.S. citizens are responding, but more importantly I want to speak to the people who visit my posts, in 2017 from over a hundred countries including nine countries in Africa, most of South and Central America, all of Europe, half of Central Asia, and most of Asia. I want to ask your forgiveness for the hurt and confusion Trump and the people he picked to work in government with him have caused. I am ashamed of his lack of knowledge of history and world politics, his crass* self-absorption, and his lack of intellectual curiosity, humility and compassion.

Yes, I am ashamed because he is the voice of the United States on the world stage, but I am also confident and hopeful. I believe in the values and ideals put forth in our Constitution and I don’t believe that my country will be swayed from them. I believe in our independent judiciary that works hard to interpret and implement the rules of justice, free from political bias. I support our free press that doggedly searches for the truth, works hard to verify facts, and reports the good works of our government along with the corruption and destructive actions of politicians and citizens. And I believe the citizens of our country are taking a hard look at what they value and what they want for our future. We, as citizens who have been charged with making democracy work as we have moved from a government developed and led by small group of white, male land-owners to a sprawling citizenry that is multi-colored, multi-gendered, and multicultural. We are still learning, and what we have learned through the past year is that we need all of our voices, and we can make all of our voices heard, and we need to respectfully listen to all voices. We are learning what isn’t working and are vowing to make changes – for the better. I see it happening and it gives me hope for the future. Mostly we have gotten it right, but sometimes we stumble and fall over our flaws.

I hope you accept my humble apology and recognize that one of the things that we got right is the ability to correct our path. This sorry state of affairs isn’t going to last because already in local elections we see corrections, just as we have in the past. I hurt deep within for the pain and suffering created by the harsh words and policies of the current administration and I will continue to support lawmakers who work towards fixing what is broken and are willing to recognize and support any policies that could work for the common good.

Please keep your eyes and ears focused on the good we have to offer and rest assured that there are good and intelligent citizens and emigrant working here, from your country and other countries around the world, who are speaking up and helping us find solutions that respect all people and build on the best our world has to offer. I listen to a wide variety of people of color, women and men, people with diverse heritages, people who have experience in the cultures of Africa, South America, Middle East and Asia who are invited to express their views in a variety of digital and print news sources. They are informing me and millions of others, broadening our understanding of how we can make our form of government work for all who come to our country to participate in our economy and democracy. We are all in this together and together I believe we will figure it out. Probably not perfectly, but better at each step of the way.

*Thesaurus: insensitive, tactless, stupid, obtuse, inane, ridiculous, gross, blundering,  asinine, thoughtless, vulgar, obnoxious.

Reflections on the March

 

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Why participate in a public march – what do you hope to accomplish? Isn’t it a waste of time – who in power cares? As I browsed the internet over the past couple of days these questions were occasionally asked. Historically, the answer is that well organized marches made a difference in the lives of people who had been denied the rights guaranteed them under our Constitution.

It is a way of making our voices heard that is guaranteed under our Constitution. I have traveled in Russia and Cuba and was struck by how afraid people are to speak about their governments, how afraid people are of the police in Russia. My daughter-in-law immigrated from Russia as an adult and speaks forcefully about how difficult it is living in fear of serious consequences when people are a disfavored cultural group or speak out in dissent, speak truth, posses banned books that may expand a person’s perspective. Actually she doesn’t speak about that as much as she speaks about how much better it is to live in the free world. I marched for these reasons because I have observed that our new president’s fragile ego and need for constant demonstrations of support make me fear that, even though he says no one respects the Constitution more than he does, his insecurities cause him to act in ways that aren’t consistent with who he believes he is. I have seen way too many good people do really bad things because of their unresolved insecurities. So I decided to march.

I think the strongest reason I marched was because of guilt that I didn’t march in my younger days. I have carried that guilt with me for way too many years, silently. I was silently angry about racial discrimination, and I was silently angry about gender discrimination. Maybe I didn’t have the courage to be angry out loud, in public. Age and politics have given me the courage to be more public in stating my thoughts when I believe that something is wrong, when people aren’t playing fair, when people are being hurt in ways that aren’t right or just.

I didn’t think the sister march in Naples, Florida was going to be very big because this is a Republican strong-hold and Trump won Collier County. This is where a government official said that Occupy Wall Street demonstrators wouldn’t be tolerated here because this is where the 10% come to relax. None of us in the 90% disagreed. I was surprised when I found out that there was a march organized, and speculated that maybe a couple hundred would show up. It took courage for me to register, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to die with a clean political conscience if I didn’t do it. I had to pull up something greater than my “big girl panties.” I had to wear my “courageous girl panties.”

Here are my random observations and thoughts:

It wasn’t particularly well organized, or their organization hadn’t been publicized. They had kept the starting point of the march a secret. I soon realized that this march was much more spontaneous and grass-roots than nationally organized. How powerful it felt. All these people who didn’t know what was suppose to happen, making decisions and helping each other form a cohesive whole. The starting point ended up being 4 blocks away from where we were told to meet. We waited for a shuttle bus that never came. People around us were making decisions to walk east to the starting point, but JB and I decided to walk south to join up with the people who had already started (after all I didn’t expect there to be that many so they would all be gone by the time I reached the start). As we passed people walking to the meeting place, we told them the parade route and they joined with us – and we joined others at the next corner, and more at the next corner to join in the real march. Our little march to join the real march was attracting attention. Someone asked what we were marching for and received several different answers – one a little snarky.

By this time I was getting excited about the diversity of people. Don’t let me miss-lead you – this is a primarily white community with a sizable population of brown and black-skinned people working the service jobs but living further inland. They are living on the edge, literally and figuratively, and they probably had to work at keeping their lives together instead of marching. I guess I was marching for them. I want them to have the same chance at a slice of paradise that I so enjoy, even though I’m not a part of the 10%. Maybe I don’t belong here any more than they do – or they have as much of a right to belong here as I do. There were young families with children, many men walking with wives, people of all ages including old people with walkers, with limps; walking in physical pain but who couldn’t stay home.

I didn’t feel any anger in the march, instead I observed people feeling powerful – speaking out for what they believe is important for the good of society, our common good. People were holding signs on climate change, human rights, reproductive rights, Planned Parenthood, Affordable Care Act, anti-Trump, and my favorite “We shall over-comb.”

There were a few police. I saw a couple of police cars and a couple of police on bikes. Another police was directing the marchers to turn onto 5th Ave., probably more to keep us from expanding the march than to keep us from losing our way. The police weren’t on high alert – they were curious and maybe a little concerned about the large number.

There was no we-against-them. We all cheered and supported all causes. We laughed and talked. In the end, my favorite chant was “What does democracy look like?” “This is what democracy looks like.” (I need to wipe my eyes because I can’t see the screen through my tears.)

There were a lot of people marching. The Naples Daily News estimated that there were 2,500 – a few more than the 200-300 I anticipated. I didn’t think of the people on vacation who wanted to join in because they were away from the march where they live. As I walked along, I thought of the people I knew who were marching all over the country. I felt a connection with those in D.C., but also Lansing and Ann Arbor, Seattle and Los Angeles, Portland Maine and Portland Oregon. When I arrived home I was blown away by the news coverage of all the marches that exceeded expectations.

I was touched when I learned that people marched in Toronto, London, Paris, Germany, Australia and lots of cities in between. Thank you if you marched in support for us, but more so for marching for those issues that are important for you. Are they any different?We are a global community and whatever happens to one of us, impacts all of us. There is no way that we can be selfish in order to keeping ourselves safe and comfortable and prosperous. The only chance we have of protecting ourselves is to work with others to protect all peoples and the environment we live in.

As we left the march at the end of the route, JB and I held hands, and he said he was glad that he marched.

Me, too!

 

I’m also joining in The Travel Theme: March. See you there.

 

 

 

Can I Forgive?

This post is for women. Male readers can continue to read but you will have a hard time relating to what I will be saying, unless you are a male who is of the wrong color, or nationality, or gender orientation, or religious heritage, or have a body that is somehow defective. But this essay is about me, a female, being wounded by this election. I think there are many women who have been wounded by Trump and I hope that telling my story will help them find their voice. I have compassion for the men who have been wounded, but I can’t tell their story. I only have intimate knowledge of my wound and am troubled because I don’t know how to heal and forgive.

This election created a cesspool of emotional turmoil for me. Many people would describe the election as a nightmare, but I had nightmares – something that hasn’t been a part of my sleep for many, many years. I have also been having memories intrude on my waking thoughts. Memories that I don’t want to rerun, but I can’t find the stop button. I felt assaulted by the words of Donald Trump and this assault triggered memories of assaults I experienced in years past. I have felt traumatized by his words that bragged about how he can assault women just because he has the power of fame. Just typing that last sentence triggered a swell of anxiety reactions in me. He scares me. I am afraid.

Trauma has a way of triggering memories of past traumas in our brain circuitry. Those of us who have lived long enough know that when we experience the trauma of losing someone we love, that trauma triggers memories of all our previous loses. There is a cumulative effect. I bet you have experienced how these types of traumas can pile up.

I experienced several assaults by men, some of them pretty heinous and some of them run of the mill assaults. I know other women who have experienced different assaults. When we come together I think the one thing that we find is that we share a common experience of how the assaults impact us. The trauma doesn’t go away, even if we have years of therapy to better understand that the assault wasn’t our fault, even if we have a phenomenal ability to use denial, even if we work hard to gain more power than the men who over-powered us, even if we move far away to create a new life.

All we need to hear is some man, especially a man who is running for one of the most powerful positions in the world, to say that he can do anything he wants, he can even grab us by the pussy. When this happens all our defenses against the memories fail us – because he failed us. And we feel fear – we know our daughters, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts and nieces aren’t safe. We don’t feel safe. Safety is a delusion for females when men think like this.

When I say I don’t feel safe, it is hard to say it in a way that fully defines and describes the multiple levels on which my sense of safety has been assaulted. Only personal stories can do that, even though those stories are so hard to tell.

When I was 14, I was raped by a family member. It wasn’t the first time, it happened 10 years earlier by the same person. But this time it had consequences reaching far beyond the shame and helplessness we feel when we are violated in this way. I became pregnant and an abortion was arranged. The whole experience was an assault, so much so that I blocked it from my mind for many years. Slowly I have let myself remember details, like going to the basement door in the back of the small hospital. It was owned and run by a doctor who I later learned did illegal abortions while law enforcement didn’t look, didn’t ask. I was lucky – my mother-in-law’s sister died as a result of an illegal, back-ally abortion.

They were doing something illegal so they were distant. They had a job to do and they didn’t want to know me. No one explained or comforted. I was put on a table and told to spread my legs. I was 14. I wanted to vomit from fear. It was painful and they took me home. Funny, but of all the memories the hardest ones were of going back to school in the Fall. Their problem was solved and I was all alone – having to face friends while clothed in shame and guilt. I was all alone because no one knew and I couldn’t tell anyone. I couldn’t tolerate being more alone. I was living in exile in my familiar places, while fearing further exile. It was unbelievably hard.

It was hard, but the alternatives wouldn’t have been any better. My father didn’t make enough money for me to go to a home for unwed mothers in another city to wait for the birth, and give the baby up for adoption. My 14 year old body wasn’t capable of supporting another developing body – a child having a baby. There was no educational support for pregnant girls – they dropped out of school, dropped off the face of the earth. Girls who got pregnant were gossiped about – they were sluts, whores, bad girls. Parents of good boys wouldn’t let their sons date those types of girls. I don’t know if I could have gone back to school as a slut while holding my head high and getting good grades so I could go to college. You see, we were a middle class family, living in a middle class suburb. My parents taught us middle class values and I worked hard not to disappoint them.

I have those memories, along with being groped at the county fair and seeing a man expose himself as I opened our front door. I didn’t say anything because, well, I had heard people say ‘boys men will be boys men.’ This is why I find it so repulsive when men and r women diminish what Trump said on the bus by saying ‘boys will be boys.’ I have memories of men saying on television, during the cold war, that a woman could never be president because women’s monthly cycle makes them ‘unbalanced’ and thus not to be trusted with the nuclear button. This is why I find it so repulsive that Mr. Trump said that Megan Kelly had blood coming from wherever. This assaults all women, and reminds us of how our body has been degraded by men. How this degradation has been an excuse to keep us from accomplishing our dreams, of becoming successful, of becoming President of the United States.

Yes, I am afraid. I am afraid for my daughters Carol, Sharon and Natalia, for granddaughters Emily, Sarah, Lindsay, Maggie and Allison, for great-granddaughter Eevee. I am afraid that the degrading words of our President-elect will give his followers permission to say what he says, to act as he says he has acted. His supporters seem to believe his behavior is okay – I don’t. I am afraid that females will be deprived of basic reproductive services as our Vice-President elect destroys Planned Parenthood. I am afraid that our reproductive freedoms will be taken away through the appointment of Justices. I consider myself pro-life but defined as supporting a life of dignity and opportunity and justice for all people both born and unborn. And sometimes we have to make really difficult choices. Life is messy.

Yes, I am angry. I am angry at Trump supporters who are calling me a crybaby. I am angry at Trump supporters who are telling me to shut up. Yes I have cried but I’m not going to shut up. I will not support the new administration’s policies if they are destructive to who we are as individuals and to our country. Trump will not be my president.

Yes, I am angry and I am not ready to forgive Trump and his campaign team for their degrading and dangerous stances about women, Blacks, LGBT, Latinos, Muslims, Jews, the physically challenged, the press, science, and others I can’t think of right now. I am angry about the people he brings to the table – I was taught that people are defined by the company they keep. I am not ready to forgive him for inciting violence at his rallies because he loves the roar of admiring crowds. I fear for people who this man, his associates, and his followers hate so much. I know forgiveness is difficult but also know how to do it because I have forgiven the men that assaulted me. Forgiveness comes only when we know there is honest repentance and a desire for forgiveness. Honest repentance can only happen when a person is able to take responsibility for their acts, understand how their actions hurt others, experience the guilt of having done wrong, and face their victim wearing the cloak of shame. This hasn’t happened. Trump doesn’t apologize because Trump doesn’t admit to doing wrong.

Once upon a time I felt helpless, but not any more. Even if I am able to forgive with time, I will not forget. I will be vigilant. I will be listening and watching. I will be speaking out and acting. I have made a donation to Planned Parenthood in Pence’s name (click in honor of) and having the notification sent to him at the White House so there will be some transparency. I have notified companies that carry Trump products that I will not purchase from them until they make a public statement that they have dropped Trump products. And as the issues change I will look for ways of supporting other organizations that can do what I can’t do because of age.

The United States will only be as great as its citizens. Let’s make sure all people are protected and supported.

 

Values, Facts & Judgement

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Friend Lynn and I spent some time standing at this busy corner in Buenos Aries near this subway entrance one late afternoon, as people were heading home. We watched people, looked at buildings, and I was working to understand this culture I was visiting for the first time. But what captured our attention the most was this family.

I earned a Masters degree in Social Work – and I was responsible for creating a curriculum and teaching in the social work program at a private university for many years. Our curriculum, in part, guided student learning in child welfare, human development and the family life cycle. We worked hard to teach students information based on research instead of the popular trends of the day.

For example, at this conservative Christian university we shared research that suggested children develop as well with same-gender parents as with heterosexual parents. We also tried to help students work through how to make decision about how to help people when their personal values and information from research conflicted. Do they support agency policies and state laws that allow for same-gendered adoptions when they believe that homosexuality is a sin but research says that homosexuals are equally good parents as heterosexuals?

Watching this working mother and her children brought so many thoughts and struggles back to me, the ones I struggled with as I faced my responsibilities for guiding student learning. Our reality in middle-class US culture is so different than in most of the world but our culture has such a strong influence on what we “know to be true”. My knee-jerk reaction was to judge this mother because she had her children with her on this very busy intersection where she couldn’t supervise them. She should make arrangements for them to stay with a neighbor or hire a sitter.

Then I pushed judgement aside and just watched. The children would run off together to a place out of my view. They seemed to know how to navigate their urban playground – they had been taught. Shortly they would return to talk to mom – who listened and responded as she did her work. She was laughing with them. If she had a customer, the children stood quietly until she finished or worked with her as she taught them to take payment and make change. Watching them filled me with joy – and the lead photo is one of my favorites of the trip. She was parenting them with love and discipline – what experts say are key to successful parenting in all cultures.

I was quick to jump to conclusions and judge this mother, until I started thinking about them, and the reality of their circumstances, and the facts that I know.

We are living through problems that are complex and difficult – and scary. Isis has proclaims to be at war with the Western world and has a well-trained, indoctrinated army – similar to what we saw with Hitler’s in Germany. There are millions of refugees fleeing unthinkable savagery, flooding into Europe, over 50% of them children.

Think of the unimaginable horrors that would make becoming a refugee, making your children into refugees, a better option. I can’t imagine what would have made me want to take three young children on a camping trip lasting two years or longer, in cramped and inadequate conditions, requiring that we walk the whole way, and without adequate food or water. And they don’t know whether they will have a home to return to.

I’m 71 so I’ve lived through quite a few scary times and I have learned about other scary times before I was born. ( have learned a lot by reading well-researched historical novels. There haven’t been many times in written history when men haven’t been waging wars for power, principles, revenge and/or greed somewhere in the world. I remember being afraid of bombs during the cold war, and even more afraid of what was happening under the witch hunts of McCarthy. I just remembered that men were proclaiming that we could never have a women as president because with her monthly hormone fluctuation she would be sure to hit the red “bomb them” button, starting the destruction of the whole world. And now we are hearing male presidential candidates yelling “Bomb the shit out of them.”

I am mostly discouraged, but also have a couple of hopes and dreams. I am keeping them simple and close to home: the big ones for Isis and the refugees are for later. Here they are – just two:

  1. That our presidential candidates will stop spouting off fabrications and lies and beliefs presented as facts because they hope it will get them votes and start dealing with facts and presenting humane solutions.
  2. That the electorate will start asking themselves if what the candidates say is true (if you need help, Google Fact Check – nonpartisan and very good), and if their policies are feasible and consistent with what is moral and just and will support the common good. If you don’t hear facts and policies from your current favorite – ask for them.

I saw a blog comment by a man who was willing to admit that Trump may not tell the truth and may be offensive to a lot of people but he would still vote for him because he didn’t want our country run by big corporations. As I was told when I was young and in school – children, it is time to put our thinking caps on.