That’s life!


Finally, uteri are no longer political footballs. (Isn’t that a visual?)

Since President Obama signed the order prohibiting the withholding of Title X family planning funds for any reason short of gross agency incompetence, meeting women’s reproductive and health rights is no longer political fodder. Yes, men do receive family planning services from the thousands of agencies that help with birth control, cancer screenings and similar services, but most family planning recipients are women. So there really isn’t an equality issue at stake here. The issue is, and has always been, who gets to determine who’s in charge of life.

The kind of life I’m referring to has little to do with the decades-long war we have been fighting over whether women should have the right to an abortion. Let’s talk about what it really means to be on the side of life.

As I see it, anyone claiming to be pro-life must also be pro-choice. That’s not a contradiction in terms unless you are speaking in capitals: Pro-Life and Pro-Choice. Once you head to the big letters, you arrive at the political screaming match over abortion. I have been listening to it much of my adult life. I’m tired of it. I want it to stop.

I’m talking about the life that we animals and plants live. The essence of life is to be able to choose. Mostly those choices involve what is best for a particular animal or plant, aka survival. It’s freedom from constraint of any kind. While that may sound chaotic, that’s life. Choice doesn’t always mean choosing correctly, or wisely, or in ways I might have chosen. But to live is to choose. Take away choice and you have dictatorship. We humans get in the most trouble when we think, and act as if, we have control over anything other than the person walking around inside our own skin. We can make laws governing consequences to the choices we make, but ultimately choice is up to us.

Being pro-life also means being pro-environment. Here’s a pretty good checklist of where our environmental priorities need to be: Air, water, food. Shelter and clothing are up there, but not at the top of the list. After that it’s pretty much a free-for-all. As it should be. That’s life.

Most living organisms die within minutes of being deprived of oxygen. The end comes a little more slowly without clean water; about 3 days for the average human. Some people, most spectacularly religious ascetics, have been able to live for months without food, although the price they pay in damage to muscle and organ systems is high. But that’s a choice. The point is one doesn’t absolutely have to eat three squares a day to keep going. There’s no argument that air and water are absolutely essential to life.

The nation’s air and water are far cleaner now than they were when I was growing up with a front-row seat to the burning Cuyahoga River. That fire in 1969 captured the national imagination two years after I graduated from high school; Earth Day came one year after that.

Yet, there are now in Congress people who would roll back those basic environmental protections, as if our air and water are clean enough that we can afford to make them dirty again. They say we cannot afford the luxury of continued protection of these essential natural resources. I suspect many of those same people are Pro-Life.

They clearly aren’t reading the current scientific literature pointing to air and water pollution as culprits in our ongoing struggle against a host of diseases that were unheard of 100 years ago.  Fracking, hailed as the savior of the domestic energy industry, is being implicated in rising incidences of breast cancer and other diseases because of the toxic stew of chemical needed to separate oil from the rock in which it is embedded.

These anti-environmentalists are the same people who call climate change a hoax. They attribute the increasing number of catastrophic weather events, rising overall global temperatures, rising seas and increasing numbers of species extinctions all to some natural blip in weather patterns that will soon straighten itself out. They contend that we don’t need to jump through the hoops – pay the cost – of finding renewable energy sources.

Even if that were the case, a couple of questions: What’s the harm in clean energy? And what happens when the oil, gas and coal run out, which they will do? The phrase “renewable energy” is premised on the fact that fossil fuels are one-time use materials. Even if they weren’t so dirty in their production, use and disposal, once fossil fuels are gone, they’re gone. Then what?

Even those in favor of Life might be interested in answers to those questions. What’s the point of bringing a baby into the world if it will only die because the air it needs to breathe and water it must drink are poison and the food it needs to thrive is so adulterated that it kills  long before our God-given expiration date. Unless, that is, they see this planet as a lost cause and really don’t care what happens next. What’s pro-Life about that?

We need knowledge to answer those what-next questions, so being pro-life also means being pro-education. No doubt one can live a rich and meaningful life without formal education. Still, we have this cultural conceit that we are civilized and as such need a system by which many of us can learn a lot of important things others of us have picked up over the millennia. The system is education and what is learned is knowledge.

Answers to  “What next?” questions require more than a little knowledge. A lot of the knowledge we are generating now suggests there really isn’t a “next” unless we change course as a species inhabiting this planet. Now.

In fact, it seems to me a necessary piece of being pro-Life is to be pro-ALL-life. Not just unborn human babies, but plants and topsoil (it’s alive, trust me) and elephants and skinks and followers of certain religions and gut bacteria and Tasmanian devils and, well, everything. There is a reverence for all life that seems to be missing from the political battles waged over Life. Without such reverence, it is too easy to compartmentalize some lives as more precious than others. When that happens, life loses.

I understand but don’t share the perspective of people whose rallying cry is “Save the Planet.” Frankly, I’m not concerned about Mother Earth. She is the ultimate pro-lifer. If, or more likely when, she gets tired of us two-legged brats running around fouling our nest (and the nests of every other creatures we share this Blue Marble with), she’ll simply wipe us out. Clever lass that she is, she’ll make it look like an inside job. Still, I suspect when we reach the environmental tipping point, we’ll start to disappear. Maybe it’ll be by Big Flood, or Big Disease, or Big Poisoning or lots of little killings. But we’ll be gone. Who says humans as a species is exempt from the Sixth Great Extinction, under way right now?

With us gone or at least greatly diminished, Mother Earth will, as she has for the gazillions of years since the Big Bang, build a world in which life can exist. She’s done it many times before, without humans. She’ll do it again. That’s life.




No More Ms. Nice Guy

Embed from Getty Images

Aghast. That’s the only word for it

Let’s be clear: I’ve been on vacation for the past two weeks, so I have not been bombarded with news morning till night as I can be at home. Frankly, I’ve found that life is so much more fun without a steady stream of politics, violence and natural and manmade disasters that I rarely indulge beyond my beloved daily newspaper. Which has a crossword puzzle, I might add.

And yet, even in Central Europe, the onslaught of stories of men caught doing what seems to be very natural — abusing, harassing and otherwise misbehaving toward women — has woken me from my nap. That makes me very cranky.

Fox News — a mutually exclusive pairing of words if ever there was one — seems to be leading the parade. I just watched a montage of comments male hosts have made, on air, to their female counterparts. Apparently these guys were raised by wolves who had been cut from the pack. I’ve seen more respect toward women among street people. To think that any self-respecting journalist would tell a co-anchor on a news show that she was “hot in leather” is something I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t seen it.

Then there’s the wannabe 4-star general who just got outed by a pissed off girlfriend after an 11-year affair. And no one knew? That’s surely a fiction someone’s  promoting to cover his ass (I am making a statistical assumption that it’s a he). Someone knew; someone always knows. Other than the principals, of course.

Can I add these most recent examples to the ongoing list that includes David Petraeus, Roger Ailes (or should I just add him to the rest of the Fox troglodytes?), Bill Cosby, John Edwards, yes, even our beloved Bill Clinton? These instances are simply easy to reach off the top of my head; the specific list is so long, I don’t even know where to start. Oh, how about the Stanford swimmer who thought it was just fine to rape an unconscious woman? Or the judge who saw nothing wrong with slapping his wrists? Or whoever thought to let him out early? Really?

What is it that gives these, and apparently most, men the idea that women are simply to be played with, fawned over, debased, casually ignored and, in cases too numerous to count, treated as chattel, violated, beaten and killed? I single out for special inclusion on this list those men who believe that women’s reproductive systems are public property, to be regulated and treated as someone’s religious battlefield.

You’d think there was some kind of conspiracy against women. Oh right, there is. It’s called the patriarchal culture. The one that has kept men in charge of everything. Particularly women. For nearly all of human history. (See my July 31 blog, “It’s About Damn Time.”) But the grip that men, particularly white men in this culture, have on things is slipping, and it’s scaring them to death. What will happen if they can’t control everything? We’re about to find out.

If I were certain white men, I’d be scared shitless someone would slit my throat in the middle of the night. Not that I’m advocating violence of any kind. Hardly; violence never solves anything, even though guys think it does. I understand, and often experience, the rage that comes with being seen and treated as property, as a toy, as a being whose only real function is sexual, either as an avenue to male pleasure or as a womb.

That’s the only way I can wrap my head around the abominable behavior too many men exhibit toward women, even — especially — in public. Were little boys taught that because they were boys, they could behave essentially without boundaries, that the world would think it just fine as long as they got rich, won the game, earned the trophy — succeeded? I know I was taught from day one that I had to be very conscious of my actions, that my job was to make sure I didn’t make a fool of myself or discomfort anyone else. Clearly, the men in my examples were not given the same operating manual as I.

I know it’s at least part of the reason that, even though men and women can behave the same, the world judges that behavior very differently. In men, ambition is good; in women it’s “uppity.” In men, leadership is expected; in women it’s being aggressive. Men without makeup are just guys; women are ugly (tired, washed out, plain = look bad). Again, I could go on.

Frankly, I’m sick of it. Of the whole gender farce. Of pretending that men really do know more, can do more, are better at. . . name anything but feats of physical strength. And watching women’s weightlifters and wrestlers, that is about to be added to the list. It’s ridiculous. My experience is that women are at worst the equals of men. In my experience, most women are really much stronger, smarter, more adept, more flexible, funnier and wiser than most men. We have to be, because we do almost everything. As the saying goes, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did, but backward and in heels.

Male CEOs have one job, being CEO. They have vice presidents and assistants doing everything else. Female CEOs, unless they are single and without living family, have several jobs. Sure, they have the same cadre of minions to take care of the business that male CEOs have, but who handles their personal lives? They have to run the company, satisfying the board and shareholders. And still they have to take care of family and the myriad other things that women just do because that’s their job. Men are not expected, as a function of their gender, to fret about day care or meal planning or where their parents are going to spend their final years. Men can — and usually do — have hobbies. But life and death, quality of life issues are rarely if ever, on their to-do lists.

Men in the military can be soldiers, or sailors or Marines or whatever. They don’t also (often) have to  protect themselves from their fellow soldiers. Female soldiers do, all the time. In combat women have not one enemy, but two. There’s the bad guy, and then there’s the guy in the next foxhole who “just needs a little relief” from the stress. Hello, GI Jane.

And yet women succeed as CEOs despite the double workload. They do it because women have always had to do it. No matter their level of success in the world, no matter what they make (or most often don’t), women have managed because that is what they do. Excellently in most cases. If a woman were to fail, the board would be perfectly justified in never hiring a female CEO again, right? Funny, men fail all the time but the boards just keep hiring men all the time. What’s up with that?

Frankly, to my view, if survival of the human race had been left up to men, we’d be extinct. We’re heading there now. Yet men have the gall to treat women so abysmally my mouth drops open at their chutzpah.

No more. I won’t put up with being treated badly, and I intend to challenge any male I see treating another woman badly. We have to start making a stink. Being nice has not had the intended results.

I need to enlist men who agree me. I know you’re out there, I’ve met many of you and you have friends. I need you to challenge these cavemen. Even if every confrontation I have results in permanently changed male behavior (when pigs fly), the problem is just too big and the behavior too entrenched to change how things are very quickly. Men who are inclined to bad behavior will pay attention to another man before he’d listen to a woman telling him he needs to shape up.

Good men have to challenge this endemic behavior in their fellows.  I suggest we start with the wannabe Troglodyte in Chief.

We can’t afford to give these assholes a pass any longer. To let them off leads them to believe their behavior is in any way acceptable. They need to made pariahs until they learn to behave as human beings.

We can’t afford to meet the challenges of the future hamstrung because half the people we need to solve our problem are tied and gagged and kept in the basement, barefoot and pregnant.

It’s time. No more Ms. Nice Guy

Donald and his Deadbeats

Tea Party stampDonald Trump loves America, right? Wants it to become “great again.” Funny sentiments from someone whose behavior suggests he’d rather see it starve. He made an economic speech earlier this week that, if economic experts are to be believed, would give little if anything to the poor and middle class but would dish out  juicy new tax loopholes for his billionaire cronies, adding trillions to the national debt.

I will leave the actual details to the economists. But the net effect of his proposals is twofold: He would allow those with the fewest resources to continue to foot the bill for living in this country, and he would give the people best able to support this so-called greatest nation on Earth a pass.


Full disclosure: Because I am the descendant of a low-level robber baron, I can be considered among that dreaded 10 percent. I live comfortably, not lavishly. I appreciate the freedom my resources provide me. I also  accept the idea that, because of my good fortune, I am obligated to help others as  I am able.

Money is energy, nothing more, nothing less. I can use  that energy trying to make things better  or I can spend that energy trying to make my life better. How I direct that energy demonstrate my priorities. As they say, follow the money.

I pay taxes. Willingly. Of course, I take every legitimate deduction I can, but I don’t go out of my way to seek shelters or to avoid paying what I legitimately owe. I see taxes as the price I pay for living in the greatest nation on Earth. My accountant looks at me with bemusement when I sigh and pay a particularly high bill. I’m not thrilled to pay it; I’m as prone to greed as the next human being. I also know I am not going to starve. I pay the bill. Willingly.

Donald Trump and his ilk seem to think that living and working in the United States should be a free ride. Of course, we don’t know how free a ride Trump has been having because he won’t release his tax returns. But by spending so much time and energy avoiding taxes, it’s clear they don’t care what happens to the rest of us.

I have been reading the thoroughly delightful and well-researched book, Lafayette in these Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell. It is the story of the American Revolution told via the words and letters of the people who actually fought it. She reminds me that this nation was founded on a, shall we say, skeptical attitude toward taxes. The Tea Party, those rascals who have managed to convince a sizable portion of Congress that brains have no place in politics, take their name from the incident that fired the national imagination and led almost inexorably to the war for independence.

The Disney image of all those colonists running around in Indian garb smashing tea chests and dumping them in Boston Harbor may not historically accurate but it is deeply rooted in the national psyche. Lest we forget, however, the issue wasn’t taxes per se. It was taxation without representation. Last time I looked, we have plenty of representation when it comes to our taxes. Of course, what passes for representation today might not fly  with the discerning taxpayer, but we always have the opportunity to change  representation. The point is this is not 1773 and this is not pre-Revolutionary America suffering the dictates of a Parliament on the other side of the Atlantic. The issue is who should support this country? As I see it, all of us  have a piece of that bill.

A friend in the counseling business decries the drastic increase in the numbers of fathers who, at the end of a marriage, walk out the door without the slightest intention of supporting their children. It’s particularly galling among those men with means. They don’t accept that feeding, clothing and educating their children remains their responsibility even after a divorce. They don’t mind being known as deadbeats. Worse, they have the means to avoid the nasty consequences rightly heaped on poorer parents who abandon their kids.

It’s the same mentality among those individuals and corporations (I know corporations are not people, and you know they’re not people, but so far, corporations seem to be getting the people treatment, so allow me a little anthropomorphism here) who blithely take their profits and stash them where Uncle Sam can’t touch them.

By hiding their wealth, they are saying it’s OK to freeload on all the benefits of living in this country and exploit the economic, security and educational infrastructure of this nation to get incredibly wealthy. To hell with the rest of us.

The light company doesn’t  give away electricity. The gas company doesn’t give away the methane it rips from the ground. Even Donald’s deadbeats charge for whatever widget they manufacture, or hedge fund they set up or idea that catches fire. They don’t give their things away yet they gladly skate on their obligation to the rest of us.

The government doesn’t always get it right. There have been too many documented IRS abuses that have destroyed lives. There is a lot of room to fix the way we pay for this national enterprise. But unless you’re Grover Norquist and really want to see an emaciated national government drown in some giant bathtub, we have to keep the enterprise afloat in order to make things better.

The Donald and his Deadbeats can’t see any farther than the end of their noses. They have come to believe that because they are rich, we owe them. We should be in such awe of their accomplishments that they are relieved of the obligations of citizenship.

Au contraire. Because they have benefited so greatly from this magnificent country, they should be first in line with their thank you gifts. These supposedly smart people (and corporations) should be able to see the connection between their prosperity and the place where they created it. They have a stake in making sure it stays healthy; to keep the good times rolling

Deadbeats delude themselves by thinking wealth is somehow an indicator of self-worth. On the contrary, wealth is simply a measure of accumulation. How it is used is a measure of character. It’s not what you have but what you do with it that shows the world how you measure up as a human being.

As far as I can see, these deadbeats are big fat zeros.







Have you no sense of decency?

I wrote this to U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan earlier this year when it was clear Donald Trump was unfit to be president. I received no response.

Paul Ryan Constitution

June 13, 2016

The Hon. Paul Ryan
U.S Representative, Wisconsin
Speaker of the House of Representatives

Dear Rep. Ryan:

There comes a time in history where choices matter. You now have another opportunity to repudiate Donald Trump and his vicious and, frankly, increasingly mentally incoherent hate speech for good. I urge you to do that because of your position as the man people view as leader of the Republican Party

Endorsements can and should be withdrawn when the candidate no longer merits support. While I don’t believe Trump ever warranted an endorsement, you said you did it in the name of party unity. No political party is more important than our national soul. If you continue to endorse him while pussyfooting around his post-Orlando rant then you have put party above country and you will rightly lose whatever respect you may have retained after you tossed your hat, and the GOP’s, into Trump’s ring.

We do not agree politically but the beauty of our system is that people who disagree can find common ground and move us ahead as a country and as a people. Trump cannot do that. Frankly, if he goes unchallenged within the GOP at the convention, then the GOP has forfeited its right to any support.

I urge you publicly to repudiate Donald Trump, and soon. It’s been done before in this country when Joe McCarthy, another Wisconsin Republican, threatened our willingness to tolerate dissent, ruining many lives. He cast any opposition as Communist and clearly believed that all Democrats started at least at a light shade of pink bleeding to scarlet. His blatant run at our constitutional freedoms to dissent, to free speech and freedom of association collapsed when Edward R. Murrow publicly exposed him for what he was: a petty tyrant who relished his ability to blackmail people into submission. I include here the transcript of the last three paragraphs of Murrow’s March 9, 1954, broadcast “See It Now, A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.” Substitute Donald Trump for the references to McCarthy and the threat is crystal clear:

“No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one and the junior Senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.

“This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.

The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it — and rather successfully. Cassius was right. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Good night, and good luck.”

One senator from Wisconsin brought our country to the brink of disaster, but people of conscience stood up in opposition. Will you continue to endorse Trump or be like that Army lawyer who finally stood up to McCarthy and asked, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”?
Sarah Vradenburg
Akron, Ohio

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.