It’s about damn time

Give Mother the vote


There is no way to downplay it. Tuesday, July 26, 2016 is now etched into the American consciousness because a woman is a major party nominee for president of the United States. Moreover, it’s etched into the hearts of millions of American women. This, as He Who Shall Not Be Named would say, is yuge.

It’s about damn time.

It’s only been 95 years since U.S. women have been granted the right to vote. Only. It only took us 145 years from the founding of the nation to get that. Only. The vote came only after women seeking the vote — women, the weaker sex, to be protected because we are so frail — were treated as harshly as any civil rights demonstrators of the ‘60s and ‘70s. While there are many examples in the history books, I refer specifically to Nov. 15, 1917, after a group of women picketed the White House in support of a woman’s right to vote. Thirty-three suffragists were jailed at the Occoquan, Va., Workhouse. That was bad enough, seeing as how these “girls” were only exercising First Amendment rights. The superintendent of the workhouse, W.H. Whittaker, then let loose 40 of his guards to brutalize these 33 women. They beat, kicked, dragged, choked, terrorized and humiliated them. (Source: Barbara Leaming, Katherine Hepburn (New York: Crown Publishers, 1995), 182. via Liana Laverentz’s blog, Nov. 2, 2010). The White House, specifically Woodrow Wilson, sought to have Alice Paul, an outspoken ringleader, declared mentally incompetent. Silence via the sanatorium. The psychiatrist called in to commit her refused, saying “Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.” Would that we knew his name and could honor him.

There’s more ugliness in the historical record to underscore that we American women have been more than patient in our quest for equal rights. But that’s not my point, which is that it’s about damn time men stepped aside and let women get things back in balance before it’s too late.

Men have been in charge nearly forever. There was a brief period in human prehistory, called the Neolithic period, in which women set the tone. Everyone rightly figured out that, because women had babies, they had the inside track to human survival. If women were the source of life, in neolithic thinking, then what makes Mama happy makes everyone happy. While it was a matriarchal society, women weren’t superior to men. Each gender had its function, and there was no need for coercion to keep it that way. It actually did work best when women raised the kids and the men hunted and brought the game home. At the heart of it all was the understanding that Mama made it all come alive. Women were the spiritual heart of these ancient cultures. They were the spiritual leaders. They were the healers. The teachers. Too many archeological relics of fertility goddesses exist throughout the world to ignore that. I’d like to think one holdover of those ancient times is the notion that we live on Mother Earth, and that Mother Nature is still in charge.

For more information on this, read The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler. She has written a lot about men and women, about partnership, about the future. But this book set the stage by explaining how it all got so screwed up in the first place.

Basically, men who weren’t down with this whole fertility culture thing figured out a couple of things: They were bigger and stronger and could take anything they wanted. Women didn’t need to be revered to keep popping out babies, they simply needed to be kept barefoot and pregnant. Oh, and fed. Starving women can’t produce offspring. These guys couldn’t see any farther than the end of their cave entrance, and began to act as if what they owned was all that mattered. Thus was born the primacy of private property and the necessity for women’s sexual suppression. If they kept the same female nearby, she tended to have babies that looked a lot like them. If they let her run free, they never knew whose face might show up on the other side of the fire.

The end of the Neolithic era some 5,000 years ago ushered in a male-dominant culture that persists to this day. With few exceptions since that first caveman clubbing, men have had a stranglehold on the pursestrings, the weapons, the property, the reproductive rights, the theology and the bully pulpit of the human race.

How’s that working for us?

We are in danger, as at no other time in human history, of polluting our planet so badly it will no longer sustain life. We already know we are in the midst of the Sixth Big Extinction. Are we so vain as to think somehow humans are exempt? The oceans are becoming toxic. The topsoil is so degraded it drifts in the wind from one continent to another, having no substance to give it purchase anywhere and no nutrients to give the food it grows. We pump billions of gallons of water from the ground and then are shocked when vast caverns collapse because they have nothing supporting them. We mine precious minerals to make gadgets of wonder but cannot figure out how to dispose of our creations without creating massive environmental wastelands. Some of us don’t even think it matters. We dredge out of the ground pure carbon from the rotted remains of prehistoric jungles, burn it and then wonder why our atmosphere is heating up. Like any child caught doing something it shouldn’t, we deny responsibility for the mess we created, saying it’s just Mother Nature’s cycles. Sorry boys, can’t have it both ways.

By nearly all measures of human existence, we are in trouble. That’s what we get for having one set of brains run everything. It has to stop or we’re done for. Frankly, I’m not ready to let that happen.

I am no man hater. Men and women each have functions in creating the kind of world that supports human life and also makes it worth living. Bricks and mortar. Paper and ink. You get the point. That only happens when men and women work together, celebrating each other’s unique gifts and using them to benefit us all. Right now, most men don’t know how to play nicely with girls. Some do; they’re already busy doing the work.

I am an imbalance hater. We’ve had one way of thinking in charge for too long. Everything is out of balance. It’s time to give women a go. If we weren’t in such dire straits, I’d suggest men and women work on things together, play to each other’s strengths. But we need to drag these stampeding horses back from the cliff. We don’t have time to vote on who should hold the reins or who should jump on the back of the team to stop them. And if sometimes we make mistakes? Men have made plenty of mistakes. It’s time we ladies had a go.

Right now, guys, go play a few rounds of golf. We’ll call when we’re ready. Oh, and dinner? We might get around to it, but maybe you should just grab something. Better yet, have it ready when we get home.

A smart, compassionate, tough woman for President of the United States? It’s about damn time.

Continue reading “It’s about damn time”

101 Days

As the temperature refuses to dip much below 90, it’s hard to picture Nov. 8. It’s too far away to get worked up about. And yet, we have only 101 days left to decide what kind of America we want to wake up in on Nov. 9.

We have seen two people, both of whom are seeking the same office, give us their visions of the country and the road ahead. Donald Trump sees an America that is hobbling and needs a crutch. He sees a country challenged by outside forces and asks us to cower behind walls. And he would declare himself our national savior. Had there been no Declaration of Independence or Constitution, his vision still would have been of an America not worth the ink its map is printed on. But because of the ideals on which this country was founded, his strongman approach repudiates everything we have stood for. His America is not mine.

I have spoken to seemingly normal people who say they love their country and yet think that’s just what we need;  someone who will break through the political gridlock by dint of dictate. Who will sweep our problems aside with a command.  That is the kind of thinking that allowed Adolf Hitler to come to power. I am dumbfounded that people who say they love this country and are old enough to remember World War II can in good conscience go there.

The other candidate, a woman for the first time in our history, painted a portrait of a great yet still flawed country. Hillary Clinton reached out to those who feel they have been overlooked and disrespected. She offered concrete ideas for getting them back in the game. She honored those who have served us, in the military, in the safety forces, as teachers, as doctors, as anyone whose chosen career is dedicated to making other lives better. By uttering the national motto, E pluribus unum, she included those who reject her. It takes all of us to do this job of forming a more perfect union, she told us.

So now to the campaign. It will be ugly, inspiring, hard to watch and harder to say away from. I live in Ohio and dread the avalanche of door hangers, robocalls, junk mail flyers and all the other political detritus that will be thrust in my face because I live in a swing state. We are  small but mighty, us swing states. I suspect a majority of campaign budgets will be spent on us.

The difference in this election is that not only will I vote — Americans who sit out elections lose their claim to their birthright as citizens — but I will work my heart out. This could be the election that comes down to one vote in one precinct in my humble hometown. If the election goes to the unthinkable, and I know that there was any chance I might have been able to do something but failed to act, I will be a long time finding ways to forgive myself.

Not everyone will work. Not everyone sees the stark, frightening  choice we are facing. It is there nonetheless. We are Americans. We say we believe in freedom, justice, fair play, equality of opportunity. We have a chance to put our vote where our mouths are.

101 days. And counting.

A Nation of Cowards?

Full disclosure: I did not watch much of the Republican convention this week. I rarely watch political conventions. I find the drama and everyone’s tendency to showboat tedious. This year I also avoided it because I try to limit my exposure to negative energy. There has been precious little but negative energy coming out of the Q. Except for the positive energy toward the King of Negativity.Declaration 1

I failed. After about 30 seconds, my stomach was in knots and my head was pounding. What I heard in those few moments was enough. It literally made me sick.

Trump said he would be the “Law and Order president.” Clearly, he didn’t venture outside his four-day Love Fest inside Quicken Loans Arena to see plenty of law and order being provided by police officers from across the nation. They presided over a relatively  festive atmosphere despite the clear  passions felt by those on all side of whatever event was scheduled during the demonstrations. Police, demonstrators, passers-by, even reporters were smiling, hugging, welcoming. Outside the Q there was no sign of the hatred being brewed inside.

Trump cherry-picked statistics to drive home the point that we are teetering on the edge of civil chaos. Here’s what he couldn’t mention. Overall, violent crime is half what it was in the 1990s. The economy is in great shape. In fact, by most measures, we are far better off now than we were when President Obama took office nearly 8 years ago. Are we perfect? Nope. Do we have serious issues? Yep. But by and large, if we would just relax a minute, take a breath and look at the national landscape, we’d see we’re in pretty darn good shape. And the big problems we do have — national opioid epidemic just to pick  one — are nowhere on Trump’s radar. That reality doesn’t suit the Donald’s need for the masses to kowtow to the Great Protector. So he makes up his own.


In creating this straw man of insecurity, Trump told delegates and the viewing public to be afraid, be very afraid. Be afraid of people who don’t look like them, who don’t worship like them, whose cultures celebrate differently. He asked people to reject the very idea of anything they don’t know or find familiar. He asked his followers to make us a nation of cowards.

If he succeeds, he will reduce the country I love  to one simpering in fear, afraid to venture outside itself and take part in the world. “Americanism, not Globalism, will be our credo.” He would turn us into 322 million navel-gazers.

I am only too aware that the historic narrative we were taught is often at odds with reality. We who came here from Europe summarily appropriated land simply because we wanted it, needed it and the folks who were already here were in the way. While we were building a nation, we appropriated the lives and labor of millions of Africans and others who had no power to resist. We continue to ride that cushion of privilege, often unwittingly perpetuating a system most of us recognize as rigged against anybody but us.

We need to remember this as we move forward.  Still, we cannot lose sight of the greatness that is the idea of America. If we parse the facts, we will drown in petty detail. And Trump has proved himself more than willing to manipulate facts and to tell untruths to rob us of our birthright as a courageous people.

This country was first an idea, one that inspired people to turn their backs on the familiar and to break with an unjust system. This idea attracted people the world over to build the lives they dreamed of. This idea built what I believe is the greatest country on Earth. July 4th, we celebrated that idea. We cannot abandon it.

Trump’s acceptance speech had no room for such words as:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” or

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution for the United States of America.”

We have fought an internal war over these ideals. We have paid dearly for the idea of a country of the people, by the people and for the people. I am grateful it did not perish from the Earth then. It is in danger now.

Trump would have us throw that all away in exchange for law and order. In the name of personal security, we should turn our backs on the notion of a common defense, a general welfare. Indeed, he would have us denounce the very notion that we are all in this enterprise together. Blessings of liberty? What liberty? For whom?

The Declaration’s end captured my young imagination. Thinking of the men in that room in 1776 who had been branded as traitors by their government, who knew that signing the document would likely sign their death warrant would any of them be captured, I wondered whether I possessed that kind of courage.

I  now know the answer. I pray it doesn’t come to that but I’m with the spirit of those 56 founders who said: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Resistance is futile

2016-07-19 12.08.15I keep getting emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and from a variety of groups. While each missive has its own take on the campaign or on a particular issue, there is one disturbingly consistent theme running through them all: Fight Against (Insert Cause Here). Somehow, these folks believe, and ask us to join them in demonstrating, that anger and resistance will help their cause.

From this Cranky Little Old White Lady’s standpoint, that’s all wrong. Fighting is the last thing we need to do.

For one thing, I have spent the past three days in downtown Cleveland. I had a great time. I met some wonderful people. And some who insisted not only in telling me that I was wrong, but in letting me know in very graphic terms exactly what the cost of my wrongdoing would be. Sure didn’t make me want to stop my wickedness and join them. Hate isn’t my turn-on.

Buddha said it best 3,000 years ago: That which you resist persists. It’s a variation on “You get more flies with honey than vinegar.” Mother Teresa said she would never attend an anti-war rally, but she would show up at a peace rally.

Isometric exercises involve pushing one part of the body against another or against something immovable in the expectation that stronger muscles will result. In this case, that which you resist becomes stronger. I’ve read of experiments with kids where each was handed one end of a piece of rope. With no prompting from adults, these kids somehow intuited that the object of holding the rope was to pull against the other person. The minute one kid pulls, the other automatically resists. And vice versa. Voila: With no encouragement, two people who don’t know each other will try to vanquish the other. How to end it? Drop the rope.

That’s all well and good, you say, but we’re talking about REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF here. The Future of our Democracy. The. End. Of. Civilization. As. We. Know. It.

I get it. I am no less worried than you about what’s going on in this country. That’s why I started this blog. However, I am more worried about falling into a mind set that plays into the hands of those we wish to weaken.

Two things come to mind: First, it keeps us thinking negatively. That’s not a place I want my mind to dwell. Those who would steal our beloved country have scads more practice at thinking and planning and anticipating “The Fight” than we do. Going toe-to-toe only plays into their hands, and our equipment isn’t up to snuff.

Second, and more important, is that such thinking feeds bad juju. Science is becoming clearer that thoughts are things. The ideas and energy we put into the world will turn up again in some way. If we dwell on negative ideas, those ideas will continue to manifest. And the reverse is true: If we focus on positive thoughts, good things will show up. That’s not being Pollyanna, that’s being scientific.

Are there alternatives to fighting? Mahatma Gandhi. Martin Luther King Jr. Nelson Mandela. Jesus. These great spiritual figures taught us that love, and only love can, conquer hate. It was, at least for a time, a very effective way to protest the Vietnam War and, I believe, contributed to its end. (Of course, exposure of the lies that underpinned that war helped.) Does it work? Indians are independent. We have the Civil Rights Act (for a time longer, at least). Apartheid is ended, and Nelson Mandela is a beloved world figure because he found a way to move people ahead without violence.

I’m not saying there wasn’t violence involved in those pivotal epochs. Ask Jesus. He knows about violence. Still, those monumental events were not ended by war. Their leaders did not lead armed forces. They led people armed with ideas: Freedom. Justice. Peace. Love.

Thousands lost their lives in those struggles. That’s what happens when power is confronted with weapons the powerful do not have. They resort to violence because that is what they know best.

Some of us may not come out of this unscathed. I’d like to think my little white head would keep someone from taking violent exception to my words and actions, but there are no guarantees. And after what I’ve seen in Cleveland this week, there are some who would delight in making an example of this cranky little old white lady. Still, I understand that reaching beyond personal comfort zones into the realm of the soul can make a person feel vulnerable. And for many people, that’s a dangerous place to be. To them, a good offense becomes a great defense.

I have not forgotten World Wars I or II. My dad and uncle both were Marines in the Pacific. In that case, I believe Germans and Italians saw the dangers posed by Hitler and Mussolini but most of them just couldn’t believe these people were as dangerous as they turned out to be. And so things went too far. Once the killing began, there was no choice. A soldier either kills or is killed. In this case,  we had to meet violence with violence.

I don’t have the answer to the glut of mass shootings. I do know that carrying more guns is not the solution.

I am asking anyone who shares my view that a Trump presidency would be a global disaster to please stop fighting. It’s not about what we are against, it is about what we are for. Search your heart and then work for that. Start talking with people. Find a way to have someone tell you his/her story. Sit down and search for commonality rather than difference. Show your humanity to that person and become human in their eyes. It could win a heart. If we win enough hearts, we can do this thing.





A Cranky Little Old White Lady says. . .

IMG_7630Thus begins the Cranky Little Old White Lady blog. Here I will share periodic observations of a 67-year-old white woman (as of July 2016). I’ll be ruminating on life, love, patriotism, race, gender, gardening, food, whatever is on my heart/mind that day. I intend to be seriously light-hearted. I will speak my truth; if it resonates with you, fine. If not, remember it’s just the meanderings of one cranky little old white lady.

Labels are all but inevitable. They can damage, especially when doled out by others based on  stereotypes, assumptions, experience, fear, whatever. They’re handy when adopted intentionally. I picked each of my labels and believe you have the right to know something about the person behind them.

Cranky: Right now, I’d be cranky no matter how old or what gender or color I am. We are witnessing the systematic takeover of our beloved country by ignorant, fearful, hateful power mongers who cannot or, I believe, choose not to act in the best interests of this country. I’m mad as hell that we all have – myself included – let these shenanigans go on so long that it’s come to this point: The Republican Party – the party of Lincoln – at its national convention in Cleveland this week is about to nominate for president of the United States a congenital narcissist whose only real interest, as far as I can see, is to aggrandize himself and increase the value of the Trump brand. There is not an ounce of public servant in the man. Most who flock to him are desperately seeking answers to question far more complex than can be addressed in one or two words. But he gives ’em what they want. Those who support him out of a stated desire for party unity have lost any right to my respect. Not that they give a rat’s ass about folks like me. But people in positions of leadership who choose to turn a blind eye to the viciousness of his words and the way Trump calls forth the basest of our natures have relinquished their birthright to a nation that stands for something much more ideal. Those among us who see the problem but think there is still time to sit back and watch, or who say, “Really, this isn’t happening. Not to us,” are nearly as bad. It is happening, now, in this great country. We once believed in “give me your tired, your poor.” Today the party of Lincoln (I intend to use that phrase a lot to irritate Republicans who might still have souls) has actually endorsed a political platform that calls for building a wall across our border with Mexico. Although, as things stand, Mexico might pay for it just to keep us out.

Little –I am short. After having been the tallest girl in fourth grade, it was downhill from there. Everyone else kept growing until I was average among my peers. At the same time  I began my expansion into clinical obesity, although most of the kids just called me fat. After years of dieting, with more failures than successes, after a lifetime of wanting just about any one else’s body but the one I was in, and after, in despair, convincing  myself small was never an adjective that would describe me, I found the magic of real food. Now I am little. Five-feet three, down from 5’4-1/4. I wear a small in anything. Even my shoes are a half-size smaller than they were. Little fits.

Old – I started receiving Medicare two years ago andSocial Security last year. Officially, that makes me old. I don’t feel old but I watch how people react to my short white hair and the clear evidence that I haven’t been carded in decades. To them I’m old. Young adults call me ma’am. Whether 67 is young-old, middle-old or old-old are hairs I don’t care to split right now. I don’t have enough hair to waste on such a silly exercise.

White – I have come to refer to my ethnic background as Northern European mutt. There’s British, Irish, Scots, Welsh, French, a little Italian (I’m thinking the Alps region) with a dash of Spanish and North African. I look white and I’m white according to census criteria. That makes it official. This is an important descriptor because those of us who have been floating on the luxury barge SS White Privilege are the only ones who can get up and give someone else a comfortable seat. We need to get over ourselves and welcome everyone else on board. And only someone with membership in that exclusive club can tell them the truth. Not saying they’ll like it. But someone needs to start THAT conversation. I’m here.

Lady – This is the identifier I had the most trouble with, simply because there has been, as long as I’ve been alive, a distinction between being a woman and being a lady. Actually, I’m female, although that is only a biological classification. My being a woman is a biological fact of life. I’m a female who at one point in my life menstruated. The past tense confirms the old part. In our culture, to be called a woman is not necessarily a compliment. To be called a lady is always a compliment although not necessarily for the right reasons. As I have been taught to see things, a woman is her own person, which is seen as dangerous. A lady can be her own person but not out loud. She earns the appellation by being beautiful, demure, graceful and above all, appropriate. A woman farts; a lady passes gas (and only in the confines of her own bathroom at night when everyone else is asleep). A woman shakes hands; a lady touches fingers. A woman laughs; a lady titters. In those contexts, I am no lady. But I learned long ago from the most womanly lady I’ve ever known that a woman with class is very much a lady. She won’t go out of her way to make others look bad even when she knows she’s the smartest person in the room. She understands the importance of compassion and empathy and seeks to laugh with her companions, not at them. I’ve known many conventional ladies who smile at you and watch you walk away in shreds. A womanly lady can show up in sweats and a T-shirt and still look good, because being a womanly lady is an inside job. She’s confident, light-hearted, absolutely committed to her friends and family and the things that matter most in her life. She doesn’t take shit from anyone, but isn’t compelled to rub your nose in your bad behavior.IMG_7630.jpg

So that’s me, the Cranky Little Old White Lady. I have some things to say. Take your earplugs out. It’s going to be fun.