Speaking from the Closet of Shame

I know a woman who was raped in college. She did not report it. Nor did she tell her parents or any of her friends. She didn’t speak with a doctor, mark it on a calendar, or write about it in a journal. If she were to come forward today, she’d have no corroboration.  Some people would find it inconceivable that she wouldn’t tell anyone after it happened, and consequently, contend that she can’t be believed.

This woman would explain to those people that she didn’t speak up because of her profound shame.  She chastised herself innumerable times for putting herself in the situation that led to the event, and, thereby, being complicit in her own victimization. After all, hadn’t she been taught that all young men suffered from raging testosterone and what they all wanted? She was a smart person who had been utterly stupid.

Her rapist was the older brother of a boy in her high school, who she didn’t really know, but was a friend of a friend. Their father was a very important person in the state, leading her to believe he came from a “good” family.  The guy, who we’ll call X, was tall but not stocky, wore wired rimmed glasses, and, in general, seemed mild mannered, somewhat immature, and a bit timid with women.

It was the first semester of her freshman year in college where she was taking the last required foreign language credit after placing out of the first four. Accordingly, the class was full of college juniors who had slogged through the preceding four and were anxious to be done with this last requirement. Not too far into the semester, X realized that she had a better grasp of the material than he, and asked her to help him prepare for upcoming tests. She agreed, figuring it would help her prepare, too. Over the semester, they had two or three sessions in a neutral location.

After finals in December, X called her and said he was having a small Christmas party for some of the residents in a mental health facility where he volunteered and asked whether she had any “girl things” he could give the women as presents, e.g., purses, hats, or what not. She appreciated the good cause and brought some things – as he suggested – to his apartment. First mistake.

Upon her arrival, he brought out bottles of tequila and margarita mix that he had recently purchased on a weekend at the Mexican border. She should try some, he urged, and he blended up a delicious concoction, more sweet than citric, making it very easy for her – not a big drinker – to consume. It was like lemonade. Second mistake.

She was a bit buzzed when he suggested they go outside and play Frisbee, which seemed like it could be fun.  Did the physical activity pump the alcohol faster through the blood stream to the brain? As they played, she began feeling very inebriated and slightly nauseous. The Frisbee play seemed to be another mistake.

Back in the apartment, she realized she wouldn’t be able to drive, but had an important errand to run. X agreed to drive her where she needed to be. Along the road, they stopped a few times so she could vomit out the door. Afterwards, they returned to the apartment where he suggested she lay down until she felt capable of driving home.  By this time, her multiple mistakes left her no option.

Shortly after laying down, she blacked out. When she awoke, much of her clothing was off and he was on top of her on the floor. It was like waking from a terrible nightmare to discover the monster in the dream is real and your limbs are paralyzed. She had no strength to push him off and her repetition of “no” and “stop” had no effect on him.  Then she blacked out again. When she next came out of the blackness, she was in a bathtub and X was attempting to wash away the vomit from her hair and body.  Was he being considerate or cannily destroying evidence?

At some point after the bath, she was able to make her way home, although the details of that drive remain sketchy. If asked today, she wouldn’t be able to identify the apartment location except to say it was somewhere south of the river.

In the aftermath, she felt she could never tell anyone what happened because she would have to admit to being an accomplice to her own rape. If her mother had taught her anything, it was that the apartment of a man she barely knew was dangerous territory. Moreover, she had allowed herself to get profoundly drunk (assuming he hadn’t added drugs), consuming the alcohol quite willingly. And since she couldn’t remember much, could it be that she somehow consented? Wouldn’t the totality of her actions lead a reasonable person to discount a rape claim?

Later circumstances convinced her that there was no consensual sex – he failed to contact her ever again and made sure he never ran into her on campus or anywhere else, for that matter. Presumably, he spent a long time worrying about whether she would report the incident. Meanwhile, she worried about whether she could be pregnant with his child.

She spent about six months avoiding close contact with young men, nervous about putting herself into any situation where she didn’t control all of the circumstances. Eventually, a developing expertise in denial allowed her to go on with some sense of normalcy. Since no one knew about it, she could pretend it never happened.

Did she have panic attacks or any long-term debilitating condition? No. Her ability to function in the world was not impaired. But relationships with men were more difficult.  It wasn’t so much because any trust in men had been shattered, but because she lost trust in herself — could she trust herself to accurately judge people for who they really were?

In later years, she would remember that night and imagine how she could have been killed, maimed, and/or impregnated. She could have had a car accident on the way home or been stopped for drunk driving, having to reveal what happened, becoming the “talk of the town,” given the identity of his father.  She erases those visions with extreme gratitude that none of them occurred. Nevertheless, she knows she will always carry the vision of that man on top of her, taking advantage of her utter helplessness.

Now, almost five decades after this episode, she watches as Brett Kavanaugh seeks confirmation to our highest court, and ponders whether she could come forward and tell her story like Dr. Blaisy Ford were X in Kavanaugh’s shoes. Could she withstand suggestions, which would surely come, that she put herself in that position – didn’t she know that boys will be boys, even when they are college juniors and were raised in “good” families? Would she have the strength to testify in the face of death threats and other insults hurled her way by the deplorables (appropriately named by Hillary Clinton)? Would she crater under withering questioning by the gray-hairs on the Senate Judiciary Committee, be reduced to a blubbering puddle on the national stage?

In the final analysis, there is no evidence to corroborate my, I mean, her story. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen everyday in America.  There is a closet of shame where victims live and rarely leave.  That must change.

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How the NRA is Killing Christmas

Even before Charles Darwin explained species survival, our children have always been our most precious assets, our links to immortality. Like others in the animal world, humans instinctively protect their offspring until they can manage on their own. In the last couple of centuries, however, parental protection has expanded from teaching survival basics to obscuring life’s harsh realities. Until we deem their tender minds ready for the nastiness of a dog-eat-dog world, broken hearts, death, and taxes, we cushion them with a world of magic, fantasies, and sweet imaginings.

 

In her captivating novel, Hap & Hazard and the End of the World, author Diane DeSanders’ young girl in post-WWII Dallas wondered why the adults around her were so desperate for her to believe in Santa Claus, one of the many things she was precociously beginning to doubt. After enduring a steady barrage of her third degree, the girl’s father takes her to the movie, Miracle on 34th Street, hoping to establish Santa’s bona fides. It was an unsuccessful effort, as, afterwards, she reports:

It was clear from that movie that if that little girl was going to have a happy mother and a happy daddy and a nice happy house with a swing in front – and you cannot just go around being happy until you have all these things in place – then that little girl was going to have to go ahead and believe in Santa Claus and in all the things in which we’re supposed to go ahead and believe . . . . If only I could have a big brother or even a big sister, someone older, or just someone – I need someone– who will tell me at least what it is that we are pretending.

Of course, the honest broker she sought would tell her that we were pretending the world was a good place full of magical beings like Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Prince Charming, the Easter Bunny, and in general, all sweetness and light. Nothing bad can happen to a child in such a delightful world and there would be plenty of time to learn the sad truths later.

These magical creations certainly played their role in my typical American childhood for an appropriate number of years. It wasn’t hard to believe in a world of goodness in my young Austin neighborhood where we never locked our doors and played outside all day, free to wander and pick our playmates. I never feared for my safety, never saw a real gun, and never learned to recoil from a stranger. We rode our bikes everywhere and were allowed to watch anything on television since the most violent show was Gunsmoke or, maybe, Bonanza, with one bad guy antiseptically shot or injured per episode. Watching Saturday morning cartoons was a religious ritual, my favorite being Mighty Mouse. He always came to save the day.

That all seems so quaint as we contemplate the world of today’s child having so much to fear. My grandson, age 7, knows that doors must be locked, stranger means danger, and, is a bit nervous when playing outside unless there’s an adult within calling distance. He will assure me that he’s watching an “age-appropriate” program on my iPad, well aware that violence, gore, and horror are lurking around the corner, ready to give him nightmares.  Even “Tom & Jerry”cartoons are considered “too violent” these days!

Thank goodness he still has Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny!

But how much longer until he learns that among the dark corners and dangers of the real world, there exists the possibility that he and his friends can get shot at school? How does Santa survive in the same young minds of children required to do life-saving lock-down drills so they won’t take a bullet and die?

During the duck-under-our-desks days of my youth, I don’t remember the notion of Russian bombs being scary.  Such attacks were theoretical, unlike the actual school shootings of today that are hard to avoid in any house with a television. Adults can try to screen children from the news and use only the names, Sandy Hook and Columbine, for example, to make the horror of child murder sound less horrific, but they will eventually learn the truth – that they may be the next targets of a deranged shooter at school, church, or any public gathering place.

Equally horrifying are our purported leaders sitting on their hands doing nothing about it (although Florida lawmakers have taken some baby steps). Nothing happens, of course, because the Republican party, that so-called party of family values, is owned – lock, stock, and barrel – by the National Rifle Association (N.R.A.), which deceptively suggests an interest in mere rifles while actually supporting unfettered access to every kind of killing device with a muzzle. As we consider this organization, look to every other country in the world and you’ll see their number of gun deaths are nowhere near our number. These countries have mental illness, guns, children, and politicians. What they don’t have is the N.R.A. It’s not rocket science: killing the undue influence of the N.R.A. is the only way to protect our children from the line of fire.

In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, the surviving teenagers have given me hope this can happen, even when so many have tried and failed before. So far, their voices have moved a nation, turned “N.R.A.” into a dirty word, and spurred others to reject political pablum in lieu of action. They have called out “bullshit” where they see it and who would dare muffle them? After facing a gunman ready to kill with an AR-15, or being deafened by the discharge of round after round exploding into the bodies of fellow classmates, they have earned the right to say anything they want – particularly when it’s the truth! I support them with all my heart, broken anew every time I think of the children, particularly the smallest from Sandy Hook, and imagine their young bodies destroyed by a cheap bullet from a weapon of war, lost to Santa Claus forever. It could be my grandchild next. Or yours.

This country needs comprehensive gun control, just like every other country that calls itself civilized. As the Parkland teens are urging so forcefully, we need to target those politicians who value staying in office more than the basic family value of keeping our children safe. We need to vote, America, like our lives and those of the people we love, depended on it!  We need to donate to organizations working against gun violence.  As these teens have said, thoughts and prayers are bullshit — something politicians say to usher us past the last shooting and back to a state of collective amnesia until the next one.

Can’t we finally refuse to be ushered, reclaim our power, and vote against the N.R.A. everywhere it rears its horror-strewing head until a safe day at every school is restored as part of the American dream? Surely, every sane citizen must realize that Prince Charming will not kiss us awake from this nightmare and Mighty Mouse will not save the day. Unless we go to the polls and vote in favor of reasonable gun control, we might as well kiss Santa Claus and all the magic of childhood, good-bye.

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Austin’s Sickening Cedar Problem

I’m re-posting this blog post from January, 2014 (and 2016), because it’s just so darn timely. If you are in Austin now and still not sneezing and dripping, don’t count your chickens, yet.   Our annual pollination festival is amping up this week and will continue into February.  The swallows might forego Capistrano, but Austin’s cedars are a loyal lot and they will bloom come hell or high water. Here were my words from my original post (more or less), ringing true as ever:

Among the reasons for not moving to Austin, I bet you think our atrocious traffic problem and lack of mass transit heads the list. Or the lack of affordable housing. Or the high property taxes.

cedar.pollenBut you’d be mistaken. The number one reason not to live in Austin is CEDAR, specifically cedar pollen that pollutes our air and induces the truly abominable cedar fever. “Cedar is juniperus ashei,” allergist Dr. Eric Schultz explained.  “It’s one of the worst allergens, or most potent allergens on the planet. Here in Central Texas it’s rampant, especially in Austin.”

You might think I’m talking about a runny nose or some sneezes here and there. Again, you’d be wrong. It’s far worse.  For weeks you can be plagued by sore throat, amazing phlegm production, constant runny nose, watery, itchy eyes, intermittent sneezing attacks, and a hacking cough. A guy who moved from Los Angeles to Central Texas reported that he had to start allergy shots after encountering cedar. “The fact that I can hold a regular conversation and see you five feet in front of me means it’s made a world of difference so far,” he told a reporter.

Sometimes the cedar pollen makes its appearance just in time for Christmas and I can’t count the number of New Years Eves that have been ruined by this menace.  Even if I slide by Christmas because of a late pollen release, I could be sneezing my head off by New Year’s.  Having suffered at this time of year for as long as I can remember, it may explain, in part, my bah humbug attitude toward the whole holiday. Our family Christmas pictures display a girl with a bright red nose, a la Rudolph, and squinting eyes because she’s struggling to stay awake, being drugged to the gills with antihistamines. The best Christmases were those we spent in Dallas celebrating with grandparents.

Like the LA guy, I got weekly allergy injections that consist of ever-increasing doses of the allergens that I am sensitive to with hopes of building up an immunity to them.  You have to go to the allergist’s office to get the weekly shot, and then wait for 15 minutes to make sure you don’t go into systemic shock. If this were to happen, my understanding is that a shot of epinephrine would be quickly administered. (I always envision John Travolta giving Uma Thurman a shot in her heart in Pulp Fiction!) But I digress. How effective are these shots? Usually, they work to minimize my reactions, but with very high pollen counts, I still suffer.  Just not as bad.

So, in the interest of full disclosure to potential Austinites, you must know what else you need when buying Austin real estate.  Your medicine cabinet should have ample room for the following: antihistamines (non-drowsy and drowsy in both pill form and nasal spray), throat lozenges, pseudoephedrine (a.k.a. Sudafed for which you need a picture I.D. to purchase), cough medicine, analgesics, eye drops for allergies, and guaifenesin (Mucinex, Maximum Strength is best). And that’s just the first tier. Second tier drugs are those nasal irrigationneeded after your allergy attack has matured into a sinus infection or bronchitis. Then, you will probably need a steroid injection or prednisone pills, along with antibiotics and perhaps a respiratory anti-inflammatory (e.g. Singulair). Along the way, you may want a Netti pot/nasal irrigator or a bottle of saline solution to wash out your nasal passages and a cold mist humidifier. Did I mention Kleenex? Lots of Kleenex.

Now, I hear some of you saying, “This is not going to happen to me – I’ve never had any allergies, so I’m probably immune.” Not necessarily so, I assure you.  Sensitivities to pollen can occur at almost any time.  And if you think you can predict anything after a single cedar season, again, you are misinformed. It takes about seven years before new residents fall prey to Satan cedar.  But, at least you can say you had seven good years.

But wait! It’s not all about you. If you have children, why would you subject them to this torture? They can get cedar fever, just like I did, and if they are miserable, you will be miserable. And if you are in cedar fever hell already, you will be doubly miserable when your kids are sick and you are washing out their nasal passages and sucking out nasal production (polite word) with those bulb things. There’s nothing more pitiful than a sick kid. And if you have a sick spouse? Quadruple agony!

In short, cedar is the most evil tree ever allowed to spread anywhere.  Moreover, there seems to be a controversy about whether cedar trees suck more water from the ground than other trees. Water sucker or not, I think it’s time to start a cedar removal movement.

But Austinites will not advocate the destruction of a single tree, even if it were the last source of hardwood planking for West Austin McMansions. In Austin, we protect all of our trees without discriminating on the basis of color, country of origin, ethnicity, or costs to society.

But cedar deserves that an exception to Austin’s tree loving.  Its pollen makes life miserable for at least half of the city’s populace. Imagine the loss in workplace productivity and the other trees that must be killed to produce more Kleenex and replace the printed page I just sneezed all over.  And public safety is surely in danger with so many people driving under the influence of cedar or all the meds we must take to survive it.

But there could be a silver lining to this cedar fever misery.  If we make a concerted effort to publicize it, maybe fewer people will move to Austin, and this horrible tree can serve a higher purpose. How about a new city moniker: “Cedar Fever Capital of the World?” And then, let’s consider a Cedar Fever music festival at Zilker Park, giving our city leaders another opportunity to authorize the trampling and destruction of park grass.  Only certain musicians could participate — those who are roused from their sick beds to perform, all the while sneezing, sniffling, and tripping on antihistamines. Just like Woodstock!

austin trafficDo you think that if more people around the world heard about our cedar tree problem they’d stay away, find other places to live? If so, I could start tolerating the tree (albeit from a distance). And just maybe, this could be the ultimate solution to our god-awful traffic!!  Let’s spread the word!

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Keep the Cleats Off of Austin’s Parkland!

Have they lost their collective minds? I’m talking about Austin city council members who recently announced they are considering a plan from Columbus, Ohio’s professional soccer team, Crew SC or Crew Soccer Club, to move to Austin and build a stadium on downtown lakeside parkland – Butler Shores Metropolitan Park. This kick-to-the-groin plan includes eliminating the three historic Little League ball fields and fails to provide for parking, among other things that don’t make sense for this council to endorse.

Aside from the destruction and giveaway of city parkland, what confounds me the most is how this idea materialized. Specifically, in my six decades of living in this town, I’ve never heard anyone say, “What Austin needs is a professional soccer team.” Anyone who has lived here 30 minutes knows that Austin is a football town that bleeds arterial orange for the Longhorn football team and bursts a capillary or two over Longhorn baseball and basketball. If soccer were a money-making sport worth an investment, UT would have bulldozed the Engineering building to build a stadium for a university team. Since they haven’t done so yet, I rest my case.

Mind you, I have nothing against soccer. It’s a fine game that my children played when they were young, learning teamwork and physical coordination skills. Soccer also provides  an opportunity for the young and energetic to run up and down a field almost non-stop for sixty minutes without parents having to worrying too much about concussions or lost teeth from errant bats.

In fact, if this company wanted to put the stadium over by the Travis County Exposition Center, or almost anywhere that doesn’t involve gifts of prime city parkland in a very congested area, I’d be applauding the deal. It seems, however, that the team’s owner, Precourt Sports Ventures, has its heart set on a downtown location so that television viewers “would know exactly what city the game is being played [in].” Let me just say, Precourt, I don’t think anyone watching the drama on the soccer field cares a flying flip about which city’s air those players are breathing. If using the city as a prop is truly a necessary element, I would urge them to watch episodes of Austin City Limits where the skyline was just a big mural on the wall. Maybe something like that could be rigged up. And by the way – Austin doesn’t need more advertising! We’re full.

Another disturbing issue is judgment. If I were looking for a business partner, Mr. Mayor and council, I’d wonder about the reasoning capacity of a company deciding that Butler Park, off Toomey Road, just a block north of Barton Springs Drive and within a stone’s throw of Zilker Park, is a great location. To access such a stadium, fans would have to hope that neither Zilker Park, Auditorium Shores, the Long Center, or Palmer Auditorium are having big events.  Not only would attendees have to contend with congested streets both coming and going, but competition for parking in that area is stiff, spilling into the adjacent neighborhoods that already have to endure ACL for two weekends a year and the Trail of Lights during the Christmas holidays. Precourt wants to make their ordeal more permanent.

But wait, you counter, Precourt doesn’t think parking is necessary for soccer fans. They will use mass transit. Isn’t that what they meant when they said, “Fans can access the stadium just like they travel to their jobs in downtown Austin?”  (I hope you aren’t choking on a swallow of coffee like I was when I read this!)

Have these people ever been to Austin?!!! Are they confusing us, as many often do, with Portland? Let me save you the research, Precourt, Austin workers travel to their downtown jobs by CARS!! And I don’t mean Priuses and Fiats – I’m talking about sports utility vehicles and pick-up trucks!  Our bus system needs several more decades to become a viable mode of transportation and our train “system” sporadically drops people off from the northern hinterlands to east Austin. Simply put, there is no mass transit.  And despite the miles of bicycle lanes you may have seen, not that many drivers have been convinced to ditch the cars and start pedaling.

So, let’s get serious. Where will the 20,000 (planned capacity of stadium) soccer fans park besides the aforementioned neighborhoods? Maybe half of them will use some sort of park-and-ride system the soccer team arranges, but I suspect that thousands more may try using the garage at the Long Center/Palmer Auditorium. Others may look for spots at Shady Grove and the other establishments along restaurant row on Barton Springs. Will soccer fans have a few drinks or a meal at one of them and then, just casually walk by their cars to the stadium, figuring that lunch was enough to buy them a place all day? Okay with you, Shady G?

And then there’s the Zachary Scott theater complex adjacent to the proposed stadium that has weekend matinees and evening performances. Will they need to hire people to police their lots? Will screams of “GOAL!!!!!!!” by 20,000 fans rock the walls and invade the theater performances? Precourt says it intends to lower the stadium a few feet into the ground as a sound containment feature, but will it be enough? I’d say the jury is out on that one.

And let’s not forget the razing of the three baseball fields used by South Austin Little League that date back to 1951? These fields accommodate about 250 families and no one wants to move them unless a new site with upgraded facilities can be found nearby the one on Toomey.  Maybe the Save Muny folks can lend some expertise with historic designations and save these fields.

As for good faith dealings with this team, Precourt seems to be holding the city of Columbus hostage, threatening to move to Austin unless Columbus can come up with a downtown locale for a new stadium. In response, an Ohio legislator has filed suit against the team alleging that a 1996 Ohio law requires the owner of a professional sports team that uses tax-supported facilities or gets public financial assistance to give six months advance notice of an intent to move and provide the city or local individuals the opportunity to purchase the team.  The soccer team seems to be covered by this law by virtue of its below-market rate to lease state land for parking, having a stadium sitting on tax-exempt land, and benefiting from a State appropriation of $5 million for parking upgrades.  Representative Mike Duffey says, “This is our team, our town. We’re not going to go out without a fight!”

Does Austin really want to jump into the middle of this love affair/law suit for a sport we don’t really care much about? Are we just being played to get leverage for the stadium the team really wants in Columbus? And don’t forget, if they hold one city hostage, nothing prevents them from doing the same thing to us. Professional teams tend to do that once they get a foot in the door, I’ve heard.

 

So, here’s my bottom line: we don’t need no stinkin’ soccer team, especially one owned by people who don’t have a clue about Austin, its culture, its infrastructure and have already shown their stripes in another city.  Precourt doesn’t seem to understand that we love our parks and other recreational facilities, demonstrated by voters’ approval of two bond issues for our parks in November.

So, let’s tell Mayor Adler and the City Council that this is not the right team to welcome to Austin especially if they want to get their mitts (and cleats) on our parkland.   Precourt has betrayed the people of Columbus.  Let’s hope our City Council doesn’t betray us . . . for a soccer team, of all things!

And in case anyone asks what Austin really wants?  Tell them we could really use a world-class art museum.  Maybe we could strike a deal with Fort Worth to send us one of theirs, you think?

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O Democracy, Wherefore Art Thou?

Once upon a time, I truly believed that I had a voice in my government, maybe not directly, but certainly through my elected representatives. Even while my preferred candidate in a particular race didn’t always win, I had more than a smidgen of faith that my preferred candidate could win in the near future.

I had little patience for my fellow-citizens’ excuses for not voting. I considered “I’m too busy,” or “My vote doesn’t matter,” to be lousy excuses for eschewing their duty as a citizens. These non-voters were risking the very underpinnings of democracy with this irresponsible behavior! Only confinement (be it hospital or jail) and death were acceptable excuses. Imagine, if we all decided our vote didn’t matter!

And yet, recently, my passion as a true believer is flailing. I have a new sense of apathy exacerbated by an ever-filling mailbox of messages urging me to sign petitions and contact my Congressional representatives to help sway their votes in favor of an issue. I’m confronted daily by the futility of my participation in our democracy. That’s because the men who represent me in Congress were not elected by my votes, don’t need my votes to win again, and ergo, don’t care about my opinions.

My congressional district has been drawn so its current occupant (or one with similar leanings) can win even if all the progressive voters in the district vote against him. In fact, he doesn’t need any votes from my urban area since the district has been drawn to run from San Marcos to south of Fort Worth, including Killeen, Fort Hood, parts of the hill country and only a smattering of Austinites. In other words, this man from bustling Weatherford is guaranteed a conservative vote majority from the largely rural Congressional District 25. So, while cattle ranchers in Lampasas may be happy with their representation, I’ve been drawn out of an opportunity to cast a meaningful vote. This is what political gerrymandering looks like.

The U.S. Supreme Court has said that racial gerrymandering is unconstitutional, but, thus far, its next best surrogate, political gerrymandering, has escaped court review. That will change this term when the Court takes up a case that brings political gerrymandering squarely before them. Ironically, the principle of “one person, one vote,” will come down to the vote of one man, Justice Kennedy. As the swing vote on voting rights, he will decide upon the constitutionality of a process that allows candidates to pick their voters instead of the other way around.

Yet, while gerrymandering of any type is an outright assault on democratic principles, in my opinion, our method of choosing Senators – two per state – seems to strike a bigger blow to democracy. Unfortunately, the election of senators — a tragic compromise to buy off the smaller states — is baked into the Constitution and off-limits to a judicial fix.  Proportional representation based on population in both House and Senate was the original goal of George Washington, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton, among other delegates to the Constitutional Convention who sought to create a strong national government. As powerful as their voices were, the delegates of small states threatened to walk out of the convention over that proposal.

Accordingly, the convention adopted a split-the-difference compromise that most delegates would swallow, i.e., proportional representation for the House based on population, but equal representation in the Senate wherein each State legislature selected two senators (later amended in 1913 to be elected by voters of each state). Allowing the states to maintain some control of the legislative process through the Senate was key to the Constitution’s ratification by the states.

But the compromise that birthed a nation packs a bigger wallop today than in 1787, when states like Texas and California were unimaginable. The smallest state, Tennessee, had a population of about 35,000, while the largest, Virginia, claimed 691,000, about 20 times greater. Compare that with today’s Wyoming with a population of 586,000, while California, with almost 40 million people is 68 times greater. So, when a citizen of Wyoming contacts one of their senators, there’s a higher chance that citizen’s opinion will matter to that Senator, compared to the possibilities for a voter in California or Texas, with a population of 28 million.

In fact, Wyoming has 262,719 registered voters, about the same number of people who live in Laredo, Texas. Conceivably, a Wyoming senator could know every voter in the state – or at least a member of their family! In contrast, when I’m asked to write my senators about abortion issues, health care, judicial appointments, taxation, gender equality, etc., I have to choke back a silent scream: “I am nobody to them!!” Actually, instead of sending anything to Senators Cornyn and Cruz, I might as well send a missive to Mars!!

And the situation is not going to get any fairer. Rural states are shrinking, as deaths outpace births and young people are abandoning rural life in search of better opportunities. Yet, their representation in the Senate will remain constant no matter the Census, resulting in an over representation of rural, conservative interests in a country that is largely urban and progressive.

The internet seems to be the key to understanding the disparity between rural and urban attitudes.  It allows for us to have friends on the other side of the planet, pay bills without a stamp, run a business at home in our pajamas, or read books without ever visiting a book store or library. The more we change our habitual ways of doing things, the easier it gets for us to embrace novelty and new information.

Yet, rural America has much less internet access and seems to be standing still amidst the digital revolution. They don’t see the world through the wide eyes of Google, don’t know anyone who is LGBT, needs an abortion, or is trying to escape the cycle of poverty. Successors of the Luddites who protested change some 400 years ago, they are, in effect, holding us hostage to their uninformed and short-sighted ways. Their short list of political interests include having guns to kill critters that threaten the chicken coop, ostracizing anyone who doesn’t look like them, and making sure their crop subsidies (corporate welfare) keep coming. Their suspicions about government (except for its aforementioned crop subsidy system) means they oppose most everything else government could do to improve the lives of the rest of their countrymen and women.

The unfortunate reality is that we are stuck with a government that gives folks in Wyoming and other small or rural states more than their share of representation in the Senate. As much as I wish otherwise, I realize it’s crazy to think that senatorial allocation could ever be realigned so that it more realistically reflects our evolution to a more urban America. A constitutional amendment would never pass Congress, since the small and rural states would block it just as they did in 1787. And no one wants another civil war – certainly not any of us urbanites. We’re too involved in living our busy, interesting, and diverse lives. Did anyone say “pumpkin spice latte?!”

I’ll try to content myself with the fact that I’m not living in a dictatorship, or Wyoming, for that matter. But, I liked believing that my vote and my voice mattered. I miss that.

So, where’s that email address for Mars?

Posted in History, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Untwinning from the Rich and Famous

Anyone who knows me wouldn’t be surprised to learn that I suffer from periodic bouts of conversation deficiency, particularly as a retiree without an office full of coworkers.  I recognize that I’m in the midst of such an episode when I allow small exchanges at the grocery store with fellow-shoppers to blossom into more than an “excuse me,” as I side swipe their carts.

For example, a few weeks ago, the purslane in another shopper’s basket prompted a conversation about its beauty, hardiness, and whether she was going to eat the leaves, which I’ve heard is a big thing. After exhausting purslane, we branched out to other topics, including her feeling that I looked very familiar.  Had we met at a certain workshop she’d attended recently?  No, I hadn’t been there, so we exchanged other potential meeting places, to no avail. We ended up concluding that I had a twin somewhere.

I was glad to finalize the conversation there since I couldn’t help but remember my brush with celebrity about three decades ago that began when a department store clerk, looking over my check and driver’s license, told me, “If we were in New York, I would just assume you were Nikki on the Young & the Restless. Of course, I can see here that you aren’t.”  I had never seen the show and didn’t know who Nikki was, but I was having a good hair day, so I assumed I should take her comment as a compliment.  I thanked her good-naturedly and left the store thinking the poor young woman needed glasses.  While I was blond,  skinnier, and made an effort to look nice most days, I didn’t see television material in my mirror.

But strangely enough, not too long after my encounter at the department store, a couple of employees in my office copy center mentioned the resemblance and began greeting me as Nikki, even yelling “Hey, Nikki,” down the hallway to tease me.  Other employees would ask me what was going on.  When I explained, an extraordinary number of them would say, “Now that you mention it, you do look like Nikki!”

What bamboozled me the most about all this was how so many 8-to-5 working people were so knowledgeable about a daytime soap opera.  These were the days before ubiquitous  VCRs and streaming was a next generation phenomenon.  I had to wait for a work holiday to get an opportunity to watch the soap opera and see my “twin.”

And as you’ve probably been thinking to yourself,  I looked nothing like Nikki!  Not that I wasn’t very flattered, but aside from my hair and the fact we are both Caucasian women, I couldn’t see any resemblance. Just one of the many differences I noticed was that Melody Thomas Scott (a.k.a. Nikki) has a cute uplifted nose – mine just sits on my face waiting for a nose job.  Don’t take my word for it:

Even so, my Nikki-ness seemed to grow like a cancer. At restaurants, waitresses would regularly note my resemblance and launch into the particulars of her character, her love life with Victor, etc.  Sometimes, other diners would stop by my table, interrupt any conversation, and ask me whether I knew of the resemblance.  Fast food counter people would ask me, “Do you watch the Young & the Restless?  You look just like Nikki!”

Some encounters would begin with “You look so much like someone . . . ” as they struggled to remember who. If I were in a good mood, I’d helpfully provide, “Nikki on Y&R?” “Yesss!! That’s it!” If I were lucky I wouldn’t have to hear about the latest Y&R plot twist and could get on with whatever business I had with that person. When I didn’t have time for a potentially long Nikki chat, I’d try to prevent any exploration of the subject with something innocuous like, “They say we all have a twin somewhere!”

Dealing with my Nikki-ness had already become an annoyance when I finally had my fill of being a celebrity.  On that particular day I was transporting a large un-crated German Shorthaired Pointer in the back seat of my new car while trying to find a kennel that was supposed to be on Brodie Lane (virtually uninhabited back then). Did I mention the dog drooled profusely?  When I spied a convenience store on the corner, I stopped to ask the clerk for help. (No google maps or cell phones back then.)

Here’s the short version of our conversation:

Me: I’m lost and looking for a dog kennel. Do you know of one nearby?
Her: Don’t I know you from somewhere?
Me: I don’t think so. Do you….
Her: Do you live around here? Where do you work?  I recognize you from somewhere.
Me: No, I don’t live near. I work downtown. I don’t know you. I need to find….
Her: (pensively) But I’m sure I’ve seen you . . . someplace.

This went on for a little longer, but I was determined not to mention Nikki, all the while imagining the saliva I’d be cleaning off my new back seat. I wanted to scream, “Lady, where’s the f….  dog kennel??!!!” But I controlled myself. And she finally said she didn’t know of any kennel, anyway. I eventually found it, fuming, frustrated, and understanding why Sean Penn would blow up at the paparazzi.

Fortunately, my life as a Nikki lookalike, seemed to die soon thereafter, mainly because I left my job, started law school, and didn’t get out as much.  None of my fellow law students and new friends ever mentioned a word about Nikki.  It was nice to put that behind me, but after two years in school, I started to worry that the Nikki thing might flare up again once I left the rarefied world of legal studies. I could imagine juries or court personnel seeing me and thinking about the soap opera instead of listening to my words.  Dying my hair could work, but it seemed a bit drastic.  After two Nikki-less years, I almost convinced myself that I shouldn’t worry about it.

But, one day while chatting about our hair with a classmate who had new highlights, I mentioned I was considering a change.  Red heads, I theorized, seem to get more respect than blondes and that might serve me better as a lawyer.  Expecting to share a good laugh over something quite ludicrous, I added, “You see, there’s this soap opera actress . . . ”

She didn’t even let me finish. “Nikki? Oh, I’ve always thought you looked like her!”  I couldn’t believe what I heard!  Had she and how many others been holding back all this time?  After all, it’s not like we only talked about Marbury v. Madison during our many days together.  Shortly thereafter, I threw out the peroxide and didn’t look back — I went red.

Since then, I’m happy to say that no one has mentioned Nikki to me. In fact, I would caution against anyone wanting to do something just to be famous. Anonymity is normal — it’s the way most of us are most comfortable (except for our current president and other narcissists). In this celebrity-obsessed culture, being famous is a major inconvenience, an artificial construct that we must work around in order to do what we want to do and be ourselves.

In the movie Notting Hill, I hear Julia Roberts channeling herself a bit as she was playing a famous actress trying to explain to Hugh Grant, a non-famous book seller, why he should overlook her celebrity and its attendant difficulties and be her beau.  She says plaintively: “The fame thing isn’t really real you know? . . . and don’t forget, that I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”

So, I didn’t tell the purslane lady at the grocery store anything about my brush with fame as Melody Scott Thomas’s twin.   First, she would have looked me over and thought me insane; second, the Young & the Restless will have to pay me some of those big diva bucks to promote their show this time around. And the biggest reason of all:  I prefer to remain mostly anonymous.

Best wishes to Melody.  We were sisters for a while.

 

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The Core that May Always be With Us

Donald Trump, master of chaos, commander in crazy, continues to spiral out of control, and yet he continues to maintain a group of base of support among base of 35-40% of Americans. It’s hard to fathom how these core supporters can remain immune to facts and vulnerable to every conspiracy theory that gurgles up from questionable sources. Some people explain this phenomenon by pointing to the advent of cable tv, internet access to fake news, and the elimination of basic civics education in our high schools, but I’m wondering whether the arc of history toward a more enlightened citizenry has some intractable obstacles?

Specifically, after reading an excerpt from the The Uncensored John Henry Faulk, published in 1985, I was struck with the notion that there may be a baked-in suspicion of facts in some of the American DNA.  Faulk, well-known humorist in the vein of Mark Twain, hatched much of his humor from memories and observations of characters and family members from his 1920s South Austin childhood and traveling around the South. In this piece called, “Defending National Security,” he brings his mother’s cousin, Ed Snodgrass, to life in a conversation about Nixon and Watergate. [Feel free to substitute our current president and the Mueller probe into Russian collusion.  And maybe Ted Cruz for Tower.]

At last I understand what national security means.  That is, what it means to Cousin Ed Snodgrass and his friends.  He explained it to me the other morning about daylight when he came over to have a cup of coffee with me.

“Got a letter from Senator John Tower’s office yesterday,” he remarked as he blew on his coffee.  “Really was an eye-opener, too.  Tower understands the whole thing!”

“What whole thing does Senator Tower understand?” I asked.

“All this plotting and conspiring against our national security,” he answered.

 “Tower’s on to the whole shooting match.  Them conspirators ain’t got John Tower fooled for one minute.”

“What conspirators are you talking about, Cousin Ed?”

“Sam Ervin and his committee, the New York Times, Washington Post, and them high and mighty TV commentators that’s plotting against national security.  That’s what conspirators I’m talking about!”

“What kind of conspiracy are they in against national security?’

“They are conspiring to git Dick Nixon!”

“Did Senator Tower say that the Watergate investigations were a conspiracy against national security?”

“No.  He just pointed out that they were all so prejudiced and one-sided that it amounted to a conspiracy to git President Nixon.  I figured out the rest for myself.”

“You know, Cousin Ed, you and Senator Tower and your friends amaze me.  In fact, you dumbfound me.  Here we are a self-governing people, a society that boasts about the fact that we control our government and that it does not control us.  Teach our children that.  Then we discover that the men whom we have entrusted with power have lied to us and deceived us.  And right off, you raise the howl that it’s unfair to investigate the wrongdoing!  You even call it a conspiracy.”

“Now wait a minute! Me and Senator Tower ain’t defending no wrongdoing.  We believe everybody that’s done wrong ought to be punished.  We just say leave President Nixon’s name out of it.”

“But he’s head of the administration that’s perpetrated all the wrongdoing and deception that caused such a crisis!  How do you think they can leave his name out?”

“They ain’t proved a thing on Nixon yet!  He’s pure as the driven snow.  That’s why it’s so unfair to go ‘round accusin’ him.”

“Hogwash, Cousin Ed.  What do want them to prove?  His own aides, members of his administration have publicly confessed to perjury, obstruction of justice, burglary, and God knows what other crimes.  His own staff now admit that he instructed them to follow a ‘basic policy decision’ to keep secret the gross misuses of the taxpayers’ money to the tune of ten million dollars on Nixon’s private homes.  That’s not speculation.  That’s now admitted fact.  Add to those things the fact that last week the Pentagon itself was forced to admit that it had systematically falsified records of bombing in Cambodia in order to deceive the American people.  At whose instruction?  Nixon’s!  And you sit there and say the Senate committee and newspapers are unfair to President Nixon.  What nonsense.”

“I said, and I repeat, I ain’t’ defending no wrongdoing.  I’m defending our national security.”

“Then why are you claiming that the investigators are all conspiring in a plot against national security?  Our national security isn’t dependent on official misconduct.  To the contrary, lying and deception threaten our nation’s well-being.”

“Son, anything that threatens Dick Nixon threatens our national security.  That’s just a matter of common sense.”

“What’s common sense about that?’

“If you was smart as me and Senator Tower, you’d know.  Dick Nixon is national security.  Anybody that goes around criticizing Dick Nixon is undermining our national security.  If you don’t believe me, ask the president.”

Seems like some things never change . . . arc of history be damned!

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Holding Hands in the Times of Trump

Hours before Montana’s special Congressional election, the Republican candidate, Greg Gianforte, assaulted Ben Jacobs, a reporter from the Guardian. He actually threw him to the ground and started beating him after Jacobs asked an innocuous question about the health care legislation, a question that generally doesn’t trigger a no-one-questions-my-manhood reaction. It was reassuring when everyone above average on the sanity scale, began questioning Gianforte’s mental stability.

And yet, voters in Montana rallied to Gianforte’s defense, apparently, more enthusiastic about his candidacy than they were the day before, sweeping him into office. As Gianforte extended an apology to Jacobs at his victory speech, some of his supporters could be heard yelling “We forgive you!” in voices that reeked of “Awww, no big deal, Greg,” in homage, it seems, to Donald Trump’s oft-repeated belief that he could get away with shooting a New Yorker on 5th Avenue. Indeed, I got the distinct sense that Gianforte could take another swing at a reporter and face no electoral repercussions.

Sadly, this country has been bleeding civility since President Obama’s election unleashed right-wing partisans who felt it was acceptable to demean the President simply because he was black. But Donald Trump’s campaign took hate to a new level with his rants against reporters, in particular, but against all who ran against him, disagreed with him, or were of the “wrong” color, ethnicity, or religion. He inflamed passions against peaceful demonstrators and showed an appalling contempt for governmental institutions, the military, the intelligence community, judges, our foreign allies, the disabled, and even Gold Star families. With an alarming ignorance of history and science, he insulted anyone wedded to facts, truth, and science. And let’s never, ever forget the graphic details on how he thought women should be treated.

But, he got away with all of that. Enough people in this country said “We forgive you, Donald,” at the ballot box, so that, now, politicians, particularly those in his own party, feel emboldened to act out their baser instincts, too. The coarsening of our politics may not have been started by Donald Trump, but one can’t argue with how effectively he’s spread the contagion of his boorishness-on-steroids to a certain party’s political class.

In Texas, for example, our wheelchair-bound governor, Greg Abbott, threatened reporters with a display of his pistol target practice results. (He now says it was a joke.) Within days of that episode of gubernatorial malignancy, Texas House member from the Dallas area, Matt Rinaldi, also adopted a page from the Trumpian playbook, turning a peaceful protest of a bill banning “sanctuary cities” into a major scuffle on the House floor. Rinaldi was heard to have threatened an Hispanic colleague with a bullet to the head. Unfortunately, he’ll probably get re-elected despite this.  Trumpian logic is you can “get away with” almost any loathsome behavior as long as you still get the votes, which is pretty easy in gerrymandered Texas.

But, I sure hope events like these aren’t becoming the new normal and “getting away with it” isn’t the new standard for behavior.  After all, what kind of people beat up someone for no defensible reason, whether or not they can get away with it? Who fails to say “excuse me” when they bump into someone? Don’t most of us feel compelled to cover our coughs or help someone overburdened with packages open a door? Whether or not we can get away with assaulting or being considerate of others is really not the point.  The point is that somewhere on the path toward civilization, we figured out that life is better if we show consideration for our fellow human beings, e.g., the Golden Rule. As Sigmund Freud pointed out, “It is impossible to overlook the extent to which civilization is built upon a renunciation of instinct.”

And yet, it has become ever more apparent that there is a group of Americans — Donald Trump being a prime example — who believe that their needs, whims, and desires are the only ones that matter. Whether it is a congenital condition or lack of good parenting and education, these me-firsters failed to mature into individuals who respect others and understand the benefits of acting collectively. Robert Fulghum would probably suggest that they failed kindergarten and never caught up. In his words,

All I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Flush.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life –
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world,
Watch out for traffic,
Hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.
Remember the little seed in the plastic cup? The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.
And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

 

I’ve seen many of these lessons taking root in my grandson, Kyler, this past school year of kindergarten, along with what he is learning from family members.  I witness my son teaching him how to greet others, shake hands, and say please. My daughter-in-law has imparted lessons in gratitude, insisting on thank yous and the concept of writing thank-you notes. I’ve watched my other son, wearing his uncle hat, coaching Kyler to express interest in the health/well-being of others, reinforcing a relinquishment of his childish egocentrism.  Like other parents, it warms my heart to see my own children committing themselves to raising another decent human being for this world.

But, as we mold and shape the young people who will replace us, we also need them to see positive role models in the real world. I wish I could believe that 6-year-old Kyler will remember the man who for every day of eight years, unfailingly exhibited the class, grace and dignity that we want all of our children to emulate – President Barack Obama. It’s a sad reality that most parents today will want to shield their kids from our current president.

In fact, we may need to regularly adopt the “cup and cover” procedure – cupping the ears and covering the eyes of our children — as an increasing number of leaders spew statements of intolerance, hate, and violence. How will these kids ever learn to respect government if they must be protected from those who lead it?  Yes, we should talk to them about it.  But, how can parents logically explain their uncivil utterances and behavior as contrary to the values of most decent Americans, and, in the next breath, explain that they can get away with it because they are elected and re-elected by a majority of voters?

Since civility is truly the only currency that makes the world go round, is it really too much to ask our leaders to stop acting like Trump and show some respect and tolerance for others?  Can’t they see that without it, we risk blowing up the planet? As I heard CNN Commentator Van Jones say, “Civility isn’t just some optional value in a multicultural, multi-state democratic republic. Civility is the key to civilization.”

So, for everyone’s sake, let’s all hold hands, stick together, and make America civil again!! Resist, resist, resist!

 

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My Roaring Resistance to Donald J. Trump

I confess: I’m one of the sore losers. I have skin that crawls when I hear the word “president” preceding the name “Trump.” And I simply cannot abide people who say we have to “move on” or “get over it.” They suggest this as if the election were like the Dallas Cowboys losing to the Baltimore Colts in the final five seconds of the 1970 Super Bowl, thereby marking the precise moment when I stopped caring about football. But electing a president is not a game. And while I can still watch football with detachment, I can not regard the upcoming Trump presidency unemotionally.

My mind whirls trying to explain his victory. In one of the most significant elections in our history, American voters were asked to choose between a man who knows nothing about government and a woman, widely acknowledged as the best prepared candidate ever — and the know-nothing man was elected. Was it just an aversion to a woman who isn’t wearing an apron, offering food, or one who’s not clad in underwear and wings? Was it that this woman didn’t “look” presidential (code for “not a man”)? Was she too smart?  Did the anti-Hillary voters even know what a server is? Did they really believe that having a computer apparatus in a basement is worse than a crotch-grabbing letch who would assault their daughter, sister, wife, or herself, if he found them appealing?

To those who say move on, I say the loss of Hillary Clinton (in the electoral college) is simply unlike any other election loss. It signifies the death of an ideal that I wanted to be true: that respect for our democracy would motivate American voters, as a group, to choose reason over ignorance . . . to choose love, tolerance, and inclusiveness, over meanness and hate . . . to choose in accordance with their religion, remembering an American president singing “Amazing Grace,” in a voice from his soul, at the funeral of the Charleston Church victims.

 

But equally significant, this loss represents the end of a personal dream of mine and many other women across this country. It wasn’t a dream of unimaginable proportions, like space flight to another galaxy. It was the dream of seeing an American woman – one of admirable credentials, intelligence, and experience – finally breaking through the highest ceiling and taking her place in the Oval Office.

While this is now a vanquished dream of many women, it’s particularly heartbreaking for women of my age because this President Clinton would have been the crowning achievement of our struggle for gender equality, begun in the 1960s. Like other young girls at the time, I grew up while the idea was being brewed that we could do anything, that our mothers would be the last of the 1950s housewife model, and that it was totally reasonable to expect gender equality. We had birth control, after all, that saved us from being accidental and serial producers of offspring and allowed us to actually plan our lives independently of a man. We’d go to college, take jobs, become professionals, and wait to marry until it was right for us. We could belt out the words to Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman, Hear me Roar!”

reddy-roar

And, throughout the 70s, the evidence kept piling up that equality was within our grasp. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), passed in Congress in March 1972, would become an actual part of the U.S. Constitution (as soon as 38 states ratified it). In 1973, Roe v. Wade wrested control of our bodies from the government in abortion decisions. The 1974 passage of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act allowed married women to apply for credit without the signature of husbands. Beginning in 1977, a woman could bring an EEOC complaint of sexual harassment in the work place. And in 1978, pregnancy was proscribed as grounds for dismissal from the work place.

Who suspected that we were being set up for heart ache?  The backlash began almost immediately after Congressional passage of the ERA, spearheaded, in part, by women themselves — Phyllis Schafley, in particular (recently dispatched to that special place in hell for women who don’t help other women, as Madeline Albright would say). Her “Pink Ladies” flooded state legislatures spouting their parade of horribles, including single sex bathrooms, the drafting of women, gender integration of the Girl and Boy Scouts, to name a few! By the end of the seven-year deadline for ratification of the ERA, only 35 states had ratified it, and five of those subsequently rescinded their ratification. Congress extended the deadline for 3 more years, but no more states stepped forward to ratify.

As for Roe v. Wade, the last 40 plus years have witnessed countless politicians attempting to whittle away at abortion protections.  We’ve cringed as Republican legislatures across the nation have done everything possible to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship relating to abortion. We’ve monitored, with bated breath, the challenges to these interferences making their long, lumbering trek to the U.S. Supreme Court.

While most of these challenges have been successful, politicians intent on controlling women’s decisions keep thinking of new ways to impede us. After losing in the Court, Texas – it’s Governor, in particular – wasted no time coming up with the most preposterous ever. Pursuant to new rule, an aborted fetus must be given a burial or cremation based on the rationale that a fetus deserves more dignity than the disposal provided for an amputated limb or other excised body part. Forget the silliness that women, like most people, are more attached to our limbs than any grouping of cells in the uterus! No dignity for arms and legs? But more seriously, what about women being accorded basic human dignity when deciding for their own bodies, their own consciences, their own gods! The level of audacity and arrogance of these lawmakers using the word “dignity” in the service of harassing and denigrating women defies measurement.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court is still holding relatively firm to the Roe precedent, but how much longer will that last? After this election, all it would take is a couple of Supreme Court picks by the groper-in-chief to swing the court in an anti-Roe direction. So, I ask, after 44 years of watching sustained attacks against the principles of Roe, am I really supposed to “get over” the loss of a Hillary Clinton presidency, a woman who has known all along that women’s rights are human rights? A woman who fervently supports equal pay for equal work initiatives, believes in the work of Planned Parenthood and other women’s health clinics, and who’s made us proud on so many occasions while supporting our rights?

hillary-pp

The results of this election bring to mind Ann Richards, another woman who made us proud, and her famous observation that Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in heels. Hillary, like Ginger, did everything that a male candidate would do, only she had to contend with Russian government-backed hackers, Julian Assange’s Wikileaking, and a rogue FBI director all working against her. Imagine the victory, if with all those aligned against her, Hillary could have scraped together the small number of votes in those three states that narrowly went to Trump! I can still taste the possibility of her victory when I close my eyes at night.

But when I awake, I see the little girls who will not grow up with the shining example of a woman president encouraging their success. As I ache for them, I also mourn for the promise surrounding the start of my own womanhood some 45 years ago, and lament that I don’t have another 45 years to wait for a woman who has the fire in her belly and who has been sufficiently hardened by the trials and tribulations of Hillary Clinton. Who else could run the almost impossible presidential gauntlet and get elected? When will HER time come and permit us to rest from the constant struggle and yearning for real equality? I’m pretty sure I’ll be gone before that dream can be realized . . . and that saddens me.

So, I won’t “get over” this election or “move on.” I plan to resist Trump because his views regarding women are abhorrent to me and even if I accept the reality that we aren’t moving forward, I will resist any movement backwards. The war continues. I will not opt out. I am woman, hear me roar.

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Hillary Time is Our Time

Friday, July 29, 2016. Grocery store. Strange sensations.

I had to wonder why my face seemed stuck in smile mode as I maneuvered my shopping cart through the aisles.  Why did my step seem livelier, my back a bit straighter, and, implausible as it sounds, why did I feel like I had grown an inch or two taller?

As I tried to account for these oddities, I flashed back to a vision from the night before – that of a woman on a national convention stage being applauded by thousands as she beamed and opened her arms in an expansive welcome to the millions of us watching and wiping away tears. Like so many, I had no idea how much my eyes had hungered to witness this event until it happened – Hillary Rodham Clinton standing on that stage, accepting the ultimate validation of a woman’s worth and sharing it with us all.  It will go down in my books as an unforgettable moment, as it will for many women and, I suspect, many men who respect women and admire accomplishment.

convention.hillary

I can only imagine how it must feel for Hillary, the woman who has withstood more attempts to destroy her than any woman in history, I suspect.  The criticism has always seemed so unfair when she has consistently shown herself to be a woman with an amazing heart who from a young age made it her life’s mission to work on behalf of the disenfranchised, to be a spokesperson and advocate for those without voices, even while having other opportunities. For example, upon graduation from Yale Law School she could have taken a lucrative job in a silver-stocking law firm, but instead, she went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). Her mentor, Marian Wright Edelman, sent her into impoverished neighborhoods to interview residents and collect data for a report that eventually prevented school in America from pushing out disadvantaged, minority, and disabled children. She joined the CDF board in 1978 and chaired it from 1986 until 1992. Hillary also stood up for voiceless with her founding of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families even before Bill Clinton became governor.

In fact, it’s Hillary’s commitment to making life more fair for everyone that has made her public enemy number 1 among the business-as-usual crowd and the right-wing that doesn’t cotton to helping those whose boots don’t come with bootstraps.  When she started her efforts to provide universal health care in this country, the insurance and medical business interests aligned with the right-wing and went full throttle with their public relations and intimidation machines to sidetrack her efforts and besmirch her personally. They even weaved a conspiracy theory that Hillary was behind the death of Vince Foster, her former law partner, family friend, and White House counsel, which many still brand her with, despite the ruling by special prosecutor Ken Starr that Mr. Foster’s death was a suicide.

Remarkably, Hillary’s head has never bowed and she has unceasingly displayed her competence, intelligence, and pride, even while experiencing true heartbreak. She has not broken stride in her efforts to continue serving her country in various capacities. Now that she is attempting to reach for the highest rung in our government, the vitriol and criticism has become proportionately more intense and ugly.

Benghazi has been the most ludicrous of all the attempts to diminish her. As anyone who watched any portion of her 11-hour grilling before the Benghazi investigating committee knows, she came out looking more capable and less guilty of any wrongdoing than before it started. She made her inquisitors look small in comparison with her rational, unflappable demeanor.  Quite reasonably, she reminded them that after other attacks on diplomatic facilities during the Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush administrations in which hundreds of Americans were killed (see chart), members of both parties “rose above politics” to examine what had gone wrong in partnership with the State Department – not as antagonists.

graph-attacks-on-US-diplomatic-targets

But despite, once again, being exonerated of wrongdoing, she has been equated with Lucifer, an accusation that demonstrates the right wing’s sheer terror of change and Hillary’s ability to make it happen. They scream for her imprisonment and propose her death by firing squad, thereby committing a murder far greater than any of which they accuse her: the cornerstone of our criminal justice system – innocent until proven guilty. Without the imposition of any court’s judgment or verdict, they declare that everyone “knows” she is guilty, so a failure to nail her with a crime is proof that investigators are themselves accomplices to her evil acts. (That means you, FBI Director Comey and Ken Starr!)

And as long as I’m pointing out the absolute lunacy of the attacks against Hillary, what’s the deal with damning her as being “inauthentic?”  How can people say they don’t know “who she is?” Are they confused by her hair styles?  Is that code for wanting to know how many tears she’s shed over Bill’s strolls along the “Appalachian Trail?”  If so, those folks need therapy.  To know who she is, all one needs to do is take into account the causes and projects to which she’s devoted her professional life, along with being a wife, a mother, and dancing in heels. Maybe it’s hard to recognize the unassuming workhorse who for most of her life has toiled unflaggingly in the shadow of her more dazzling and politically-gifted husband. But just consider what she has aimed to accomplish and you’ll know who she is.

I have a vivid memory of seeing Hillary up close in 1991, when she came to Austin to officially open the campaign headquarters for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign. I was invited to attend the occasion by my friend, Tony Proffitt, who had worked with Bill and Hillary on the 1972 McGovern campaign in Texas.  After he educated me about who the Clintons were, I agreed to go and see whether I’d be interested in the candidate. It was a mid-afternoon, low-key gathering of about 25 or 30 people standing around in the former living room of an old downtown house, but I’ll never forget the dynamic woman, dressed casually and sporting a head band, who spoke that day about her husband’s agenda. She was so compelling and forceful that I told Tony afterwards, “I’m not sure about supporting Bill, but I’m sure ready to vote for her!”

Hillary 1992

And, now, 25 years later, I’m even more ready to vote for this impressive woman who continues to show us what true grit means.  She embodies the women’s movement — the quest for equal rights, equal pay, and equal representation in boardrooms and the halls of government.  After watching state legislatures and the judiciary chip away at Roe v. Wade and remembering the loss of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) by three states, Hillary brings us hope.  She will be our living proof that when a ceiling collapses, it opens up opportunities for all.

So, on July 29, 2016, I felt taller as I savored the vision of Hillary standing tall on that stage in Philadelphia! While she told us that she is the daughter of her mother and mother of her daughter, we know her to be the sister of millions of women everywhere. Women around the world remember China, 1995, and still hear her voice proclaiming, “Women’s rights are human rights!” She’s our Rocky, our fighter, all bloodied and bruised, but still powered by her own two feet, saluting the suffragettes of yesterday in dazzling white and embracing those of us today with her radiant smile and open arms!

She claimed a victory for us all and – while the music was never played at the convention – I couldn’t help but hear its strains and reflect on the prescience of President Clinton’s campaign song, “Don’t Stop Thinking about Tomorrow!”

Yes! Tomorrow is her time!! Tomorrow is our time!! Hillary. Rodham. Clinton.

Hillary.2016

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