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.
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.
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!”
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.