December 19

Snowflakes in the Garden

The same people who are rejoicing over the Electoral College’s crowning Donald Trump are precisely the same people who constantly post fake news on my social media pages. (Two of them actually posted fake news stories within minutes of celebrating Trump’s coronation.)

Of course, I’m not supposed to point out their fallibility and prejudice. My conservative friends say it’s not nice. My liberal friends say it will backfire and cost Democrats votes in the long run.

At this point, I don’t care.

It’s not nice to point out their stupidity and complete inability to question their own confirmation bias? Whatever. I’ve been studying Russian politics, history and culture for 25 years; I have a minor in Russian Studies. The fact that Trump loves Putin should scare the crap out of anyone with an IQ above 20.

I’ve also been following the “alt-right,” or as I prefer to call them, “white supremacists,” for 15 years. (Long story, but it has to do with a Holocaust literature class I took in my graduate program and the information literacy unit I teach.) The fact that Trump has chosen Steve Bannon for his staff is terrifying.

My conservative friends cry foul. “Does your tolerance not extend to Republicans?” they ask.

Yes, I can tolerate you despite your foolish, paranoid, dangerous and misguided decision. I won’t threaten you (unlike your elected president). I won’t hurt you.

But it doesn’t mean I’m not angry. It doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed in you. It doesn’t mean I won’t hide you on social media and avoid you as much as possible in real life. It doesn’t mean I won’t clam up and/or walk away when you start talking politics around me, trying to justify the mistake you’ve made. You’ve put our nation in danger. You’ve put my children’s future in danger. You put a man in office who reminds me of so many men who have victimized me over the years, a man who truly frightens me. Not because of myths I’ve heard from “the biased media,” but because of things that actually came out of his mouth.

I can tolerate you, conservative friends. I can even love you. But I don’t trust you.

Think of it in the same way you think of gay people –  I can love the fool without loving their foolishness. See how nice that is? You like it? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Now, my liberal friends. I’m not supposed to tell these fools that they’ve made a disastrous mistake? Telling these people that they’ve been sold a bill of goods will hurt Democrats’ chances next time?

Your concern is pointless. It’s over. The Republicans now have enough power to disenfranchise minority voters. They can gerrymander. They can stack the deck even more in their favor. Americans are screwed. In this election, the “loser” got 2.6 million more votes than the “winner.” (In 2000, the Republican lost the popular vote by half a million.) Trump was right: the system is rigged, and it’s going to get worse.

Braver people than I are preparing to fight. Stronger people than I are ready to work against the oppressive wave coming. They remind me of the brave Germans who joined the Resistance when they saw the fascist tide turning toward them in the 1930’s. I hope they reform the Electoral College. I hope they block Trump at every turn. I hope they can reform our broken system.

Sadly, I am a coward. I battle depression and anxiety. And I have a lot to lose. I can’t join the fight.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve felt myself fading, quietly disappearing. Maybe I really am the intellectual elitist, the fragile snowflake I’ve been called. Maybe I’m melting.

Or maybe I’m taking my husband’s advice: “Keep your head down and don’t worry about things we can’t control.”

Or maybe I’m just getting ready to run.

Until it’s time to pull that trigger, il faut cultiver notre jardin.

Category: Current Events, Purely Political | Comments Off
November 11

What You Don’t Know

The election is over, and Donald Trump will be heading to the White House in January.

Get over it.

What’s done is done.

Put on your big girl panties and move on.

By Wednesday afternoon, women who were grieving over the victory of a man who terrifies us were being told (often by fellow anti-Trump friends) that we need to “quit whining.” We have to mobilize, take action, DO something.

No.

For some of us, this grief will take longer to process. Some of us may not get over it until Donald Trump is out of office, and some of us may never get over it.

What you don’t know is that for some of us, this isn’t politics as usual.

What you don’t know is that, for some of us, this election was very personal.

What you don’t know is that many of us are keeping secrets.

Of course you DO know that there are things we don’t talk about in public. There are traumas we endure that we do not share. There are pains that we cannot let go of, nor can we express them to anyone, anywhere, ever. Trump supporters say they are tired of “political correctness” (a.k.a. “kindness”) because it prevents them from saying what they want to say whenever and wherever and to whomever. Imagine NEVER being able to speak about an event that has shaped who you are, that haunts your nightmares, that pops up at unexpected moments and sends you into a tailspin.

Women who have experienced sexual assault, incest, abortion, domestic violence, or harassment rarely speak of their trauma. We know that, bad as our experience was, the fallout from telling our secrets could be worse.

Tell a friend you’ve been raped? We know what happens to accusers in courtrooms and in the media. We’ve seen how pointless and painful that drama is.

Admit you’re being harassed or abused? Well, what are you wearing? Are you leading him on? Did you say something to upset him?

Confess you’ve had an abortion? Fire and brimstone! Murderer! Baby killer! You’re going to hell!

We remain silent.

We are silent in the face of a man who brags about sexual assault, who sexually harasses women on national television, who suggests sex with his daughter would be a real conquest, and who believes women who’ve had abortions should be punished. His election is a bit like running up behind a military veteran with PTSD and lighting a firecracker several times a day. Every day. It’s shattering and cruel and painful and infuriating and maddening and bewildering.

So don’t tell us to “get over it.”

What you don’t know is which of your friends has been raped.

What you don’t know is which of your friends has had an abortion she may regret.

What you don’t know is which of your friends is being sexually harassed or abused.

What you don’t know is that the face of our pain looks an awful lot like Donald Trump.

And everything you don’t know is breaking our hearts.

Category: Popular Culture, Purely Political | Comments Off
November 9

An Open Letter to the President-Elect

Donald Trump,

You’re scaring the women and children.

The day after the election, I found myself sobbing in a co-worker’s office with several of our female colleagues. Our shared pain was not necessarily that Hillary Clinton had lost; most of us were not huge fans, though the prospect of our first woman president was exciting. No, our pain came from our shock and fear that we lived in a country where blatant racism and misogyny are not just tolerated, but rewarded. To the highest office in the land, our fellow Americans had elected a man whom we would not trust to babysit our daughters.

My 11-year-old daughter is terrified of you.

You might think that’s my fault, that my husband and I made a bogeyman out of you. We did not. In fact, we spent months tiptoeing around politics at home, not mentioning the campaign if she was in the room and begging our guests to do the same. But she heard things at school. She’s in a high-ability class, and they watch news. They discuss current events. She was suddenly seeing worrisome changes in her classmates. Some of her Hispanic and Muslim friends were scared. She’s been having nightmares for months. You are the monster under her bed.

The morning after the election, I had to go upstairs to wake her for school. To help her sleep the night before, I had lied and told her the election results were tied even though you were already ahead. I didn’t want any more nightmares for at least one more night.

Walking up those stairs was like walking to the gallows for my own execution. I dreaded the moment I actually had to tell her that the monster in her dreams had been elected president. I stood in the doorway and looked at her peaceful sleeping face for a minute. When she opened her eyes and asked, “Do we know?” I had to tell her yes, we did, and Secretary Clinton had lost.

I tried to do it the same way I would pick her up after a tumble when she was very little: keep the tone light, brush her off, make it no big deal.

Or the way I do when she finds a big, scary spider, and I have to get rid of it without freaking out because I don’t want her to inherit my fear. Keep the tone light, eliminate the spider, no big deal.

She cried anyway.

So here is my plea, Mr. Trump:

Stop talking about women in terms of our genitalia or physical attractiveness. (Including your own daughter, please.)
Stop threatening to shoot or bomb random people.
Stop exhorting your supporters to shoot people.
Stop bullying people on social media.
Stop mocking people with disabilities.
Stop threatening to build impossible walls and deport people because of their religion or ethnicity.
Stop spouting off and listen to the advisers and veteran public servants we’re all now counting on to keep you from sending nukes to some country because one of its citizens looked at you the wrong way.

In short, stop scaring the children. The mothers of America thank you.

Category: Family and Kids, Purely Political | Comments Off
June 3

Well, Back in MY Day…

I suppose most Americans think of “their decade” as special. It explains the popularity of timepiece coming-of-age movies like Stand by Me, Almost Famous, and The Sandlot. It explains why each decade has a dedicated “oldies” station on the radio. It explains all your obnoxious uncle’s stories that begin with “Well, back in my day…”

You know your decade. My dad (now in his 70’s) relates to the 1950’s. For my mom, 7 years his junior, it’s the 60’s. And though I was born in the early 1970’s (a decade I cannot imagine anyone feeling fondness for), my decade is the 1980’s.

I was 8 years old when Dick Clark announced on “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” that we could now “say goodbye to the 1970’s.” Most of the childhood I remember took place during the Reagan era. My family got a $1500 VCR. We got an Atari. We got cable TV. I fell in love with Duran Duran. I watched Remington Steele, Knight Rider, and The Cosby Show. We saw The Empire Strikes Back, Ghostbusters, and Back to the Future. We played Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Frogger. We wore parachute pants, Coca-Cola shirts, Calvin Klein jeans, and jelly shoes. We worried endlessly about the Soviet Union, the Cold War, the impending nuclear holocaust that would end us all.

I grew up in the 80’s. I look back fondly on them now, but I try to remember what an anxious time it was. We were just beginning to hear about scary things called the “greenhouse effect” (now known as global warming) and GRID (which would later be more accurately named AIDS). As the USSR went through a rapid succession of elderly premiers with a penchant for dying, our country elected an elderly actor who barely missed assassination. And a new drug was on the streets – crack cocaine. We were all supposed to “just say no.”

You can relive all this nostalgia on MTV’s I Love the 80’s or CNN’s The Eighties. The nostalgia is big right now, and I certainly enjoy indulging now and then. After all, in some ways it really was a great decade.

Except when it wasn’t.

And that’s my point. We shouldn’t sugar-coat or rose-tint our decade. It wasn’t all Rainbow Brite and the Last Unicorn. It was a time of tremendous anxiety and change. We went from 8-tracks to DVDs. We went from single landlines to portable phones with call waiting and even proto-cellphones. We went from shorthand and steno pads to the Commodore 64 to Windows 3.0. We went from a Cold War to the end of the Soviet bloc. If we could embrace all those changes and look back fondly on them now, why can’t we do that today?

I grow tired of my peers’ social media rants about how lazy, entitled and rude young people are today. The ridiculous memes about how lucky we all were to have grown up before this or that. The complaints about how today’s television is terrible, and the music sucks. How much scarier the world is now than it was then.

Our modern world is just different. In many ways, it’s exactly the same or even better. In other ways, sure, it’s worse. But I encourage my fellow forty-somethings not to turn into our obnoxious uncles. Let’s be honest about our decade and fair to the current one and vow never to start a sentence with “Well, back in my day…”

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May 10

Toxic

Toxic – adj.  1) containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation  2)  extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful (merriam-webster.com)

“By definition, a toxic relationship is a relationship characterized by behaviors on the part of the toxic partner that are emotionally and, not infrequently, physically damaging to their partner. While a healthy relationship contributes to our self-esteem and emotional energy, a toxic relationship damages self-esteem and drains energy.” (Thomas Cory,  http://www.healthscopemag.com/health-scope/toxic-relationships/)

 

I’ve been thinking about toxic relationships a lot lately. Thankfully, I’m not a participant in any myself, but they seem to be on the rise all around me this spring. Spouses, siblings, parents and children all spouting nasty venom in various ways, hurting the people who love them and often shocking those of us who are just observing.  I’ve seen so much of this stuff lately; I’m starting to recognize patterns.

Pattern 1 – Observers can usually see both sides of the situation. At first.  Both parties usually start off looking justified. Those around them begin discussions appraise both sides equally. He’s a hot mess; she’s an enabler. She’s mentally ill; he’s trying to keep the family together. Initially, both parties strike observers as contributing equally to the problems.

Pattern 2 – One of them goes off the rails. Cheats on the spouse and abandons the family. Goes off on a terrible rant and starts talking about the other person behind their back. Runs off and spends the family’s entire savings.

Pattern 3 – Once Party A goes around the bend, they usually lose the support of people around them. In most of the toxic relationships I’ve witnessed, Party A is the one who comes off as the cause of the toxicity. Maybe he/she didn’t start it, but they go too far. They become so self-absorbed and self-justified, they indiscriminately hurt everyone around them.

Pattern 4 – Party B tries to salvage the relationship, often at terrible cost to their own self-esteem, physical health, financial well-being, or other relationships.

Pattern 5 – Party A moves on and tries to cover his/her tracks. They break past connections and attempt to keep new friends from knowing about their previous behaviors. They may also try to vilify Party B to deflect any blame.

Pattern 6 – Some people, even some who are Party A, never have another toxic relationship; they were just part of a bad combination. Other people are just toxic themselves. They repeat these patterns over and over again during their lives. They leave a wake of destruction, divorces, broken hearts, arrests, bankruptcies, and abandonments wherever they go.

 

I would never presume to offer expertise on this topic. I am no psychologist, plus I’ve had little personal experience with these types of relationships (just lucky, I guess). If you need help, the internet is actually a pretty good place to start.

If you do a little research and realize you are in a toxic relationship, take steps to protect yourself. But don’t fall into Pattern 2! You can back away from a toxic person without hurting everyone around you. And remember – if Party A walks away, they are doing you a favor. Yes, it will hurt. But think of all the future pain you will avoid. Let them go.

 

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