Finding grace in the second verse

The weekend’s news was filled with the glitter and fluff of New Year’s Eve celebrations around the world. According to several reports, the criticism of Mariah Carey’s appearance Saturday night on national TV quickly dissolved into trashing Carey, her plea to the audience to sing, and barbs between Carey and the show’s producer over sound systems and lip-syncing gone bad.

I was reminded of the incredible grace that Patti Smith displayed, and received from the audience, when she performed on behalf of Bob Dylan’s recognition as the 2016 recipient for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Smith lost her way in Dylan’s winding second verse of A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall. When she realized she was repeating words, tried to find her place, and had to pause again, Smith told the audience,“I’m sorry, I’m so nervous.”

The audience, filled with dignitaries, responded with grace and kindness by offering applause. Smith regained her composure, the musicians helped her return to the song, and Smith finished the song.

The audience at Times Square on New Year’s Eve isn’t there to be somber and sit still. It is due professional respect, the same kind that Smith extended to her audience in Sweden last month, and that she received in return.

Patti Smith writes in The New Yorker on her Nobel Prize performance

Being Present Redux

I thought the hardest day of 2016 was going to be the morning of November 9th. My eight year old grandson, who said a woman ought to have a chance at being president, called to ask me who won the election. I couldn’t choke back my tears. I guessed the worst thing I would do in 2016 was tell him that I was seeing a world I didn’t want for him.

I was wrong.

Less than a month later my 10 week old grandson, Brayer, suddenly stopped breathing, and his 26-year-old parents made the hard decision to remove him from life support.

Brayer
Brayer (the morning after waking his parents up every hour during the night)

There aren’t many hours left in 2016, but after putting part of  Christmas dinner in the oven on Sunday and walking down to the cemetery to find my daughter and son-in-law sitting by their infant son’s grave, well, 2016, I don’t have anything more to give, and those two young parents don’t either.

As November’s disappointments settled in, and the month of December has crept along, I find myself returning to a commitment I made in 2012, which was a promise to myself, and others, to Be Present in 2013.

As the election season sped up this year, I knew there would be lots of work ahead.  I didn’t think the work would be bare-knuckled battles against the Twitter-length ideas of a man with a really bad comb-over, scary illusions of his abilities, the temperament of a tired three-year old, and a failure to understand that facts are facts, regardless of whether they go along with what you believe or want for yourself.

My calendar has dates marked for Being Present. Events are easy because they require setting time aside in advance. The bigger challenge for me is Being Present in some capacity every day. It means living my values every day, and holding businesses, community leaders. elected officials, and their supporters, responsible for theirs. This is not the time to look away from hate, racism, intolerance, violence, and so many isms.

On November 9th I told my grandson Chase I will do my best to build a better world for his generation. I have to Be Present every day in 2017 to do that work. And in doing so, my hope is that the ragged edges of my heart will begin to mend too.

 

Sitting Shiva, Jehovah’s Witnesses wearing safety pins

Sitting Shiva
Since the wee hours of last Wednesday morning I have wondered how long I would leave the Clinton/Kaine sign up in my yard. Over the weekend, my cousin in California, parked in their driveway within sight of their Clinton/Kaine sign, had a car window smashed. Someone with a Trump/Pence sticker on their car leaned on their horn and sped past me last Thursday afternoon outside Atlanta. Violence and rudeness (never mind safety on an interstate road with cars driving at 65+ mph) don’t win any points for Trump/Pence supporters.

With the announcement that Steve Bannon, a candidate for the Mr Anti-Semitic Lifetime Achievement Award, to serve as Trump’s chief strategist, I decided to Sit Shiva with my yard sign, as many Jewish people do following a death (although, to be clear, last week’s election outcome was not a death sentence for diversity and greater equality, but instead a wake-up call). The sign will be put away tomorrow, a full seven days after the election, even though Clinton/Kaine did receive more votes.

Jehovah Witnesses wearing safety pins
This morning I heard someone knock on our front door, and since we are “come to the back door” folks, I knew a stranger must be knocking. I stepped outside to keep the dogs from making a racket, and was greeted by two black women, one maybe in her mid-late 50s and another in her 60s. They were holding Bibles and Jehovah Witness’s pamphlets, dressed in skirts and shoes intended for walking most of the day.

Before I could say anything I realized this was a chance to practice some patience and tolerance, which is in short supply in our country. We all said hello, and then I asked them as politely as possible, to not come back, and that I have asked others who came before them to strike us from their list. They said they were new here, our house wasn’t marked to be skipped, they repeated the house number, said they would take care of it.

The older of the two women had a safety pin on her scarf, and I said, “I see your safety pin, and I forgot to put mine on. We’re Quakers here, and you are always welcome if you need to find a bathroom or want a glass of water, but we’re fine.”

The younger woman said, “We all want peace.” They made note again of the house number, we all smiled, and I came back inside feeling a little better about where we can be if we are willing to try. It isn’t about wearing a safety pin; it is about being ready to do my part.

Van Jones put his finger on it last night

Last Thursday I drove to Hendersonville, North Carolina for an annual event called Life Is A Verb Camp. On the way home Sunday afternoon I opted for less interstate and more two lane roads.

In addition to the fall-colored leaves I saw lots of Trump/Pence signs, which really didn’t surprise me as a fellow Southern rural citizen. What had been floating around in the back of mind for a long time began to move more to the front of my thoughts; how are the polls capturing the rural voter? Are they getting to us at all? Am I underestimating the urban turnout?

Last week Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight polling and punditry kept setting aside the poll numbers at a certain point in his figuring, which dogged me about who people say they will vote for and what they will do in the privacy of the voting booth.

Last night Van Jones put his finger on what I was thinking: white-lash. It has been a large and unspoken element in the room on top of the anti-Muslim, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Semitic, anti-woman, my version of Christianity is the only one, anti-choice, denying access to affordable health care, putting profits before our natural resources, loosening gun control laws, and the list goes on and on.

I live among the voters who showed up in force at the polls and elected Donald Trump and Mike Pence; white rural Americans.

It should not be a surprise to readers of Rural and Progressive that I write from a perspective that there are two Americas, an urban and a rural America. Many rural Americans harbor some level of racism. I’ve heard it and seen it. For some people that has been the unspoken driver behind opposition to all-things Obama. And it brought people out in force to elect a TV personality whose favorite line is, “You’re fired.”

Yesterday white rural America told Donald Trump and Mike Pence, “You’re hired.”

I may live in rural America, but the not so subtle racism and divisive values espoused by Trump and Pence are not my values. And they aren’t the values of every rural American.

I’m no less proud of being a Hillary supporter today than I was yesterday, because I believe in a country where diversity is valued and celebrated. That’s the country I will continue to help build.

Trump has no idea how our government works

Today Trump said he would call a special session of Congress to roll back Obamacare if he and a Republican controlled Congress are elected.

He can’t do that until he is sworn in. And duh, guess who else will already be in town and ready to work?

We can’t afford to have a President who doesn’t have a clue on the mechanics of our government. And shame on voters who don’t know better either.

Trump’s word salad with a side of crazy

Yesterday Donald Trump served up a word salad about the rate increases rolling out for 2017 coverage under Obamacare. It raised the question among reporters and pundits about whether Trump even understands the most basic premise of Obamacare.

Trump told Fox News, as Tweeted yesterday by Sopan Deb at CBS, “Well, I don’t use much Obamacare because it is so bad for the people….”

What Trump fails to understand (about this and pretty much anything else in a real world), is that he ISN’T using Obamacare, nor are any of his companies, because coverage through the Affordable Care Act isn’t offered to companies. Instead, individuals buy the coverage themselves.

Trump doesn’t know “he” isn’t using Obamacare at all. He doesn’t understand the very basics of how the plan works or who can use it.

Instead, as reported by Huffington Post, David Feder, General Manager at the resort Trump owns in Miami where the Republican nominee trotted out this absurdity, approximately 95 percent of the employees there are covered by insurance offered by Trump’s company. It isn’t a skimpy plan either,  according to a review of a policy shared with an analyst.

So Trump thinks he’s paying for Obamacare, but he doesn’t use it much, “because it is so bad for the people and they can’t afford it.” He is spending more money on coverage, but not using it. And yet the “people” interviewed are “happy with their health coverage.”

Trump served up a word salad with a side of crazy yesterday.

screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-6-48-35-am

Try this on for size

Trump supporters, male and yes, female, are burning up Twitter with the hashtag #repealthe19th. The 19th Amendment gave women the vote. Multiple polls show that if only women voted in November, the slam-dunk for Clinton/ Kaine, and probably most Democratic Congressional candidates, would be deafening.

I have a suggestion for men and women who think repealing the 19th Amendment is a good idea: sit this election out and see how that feels.

Trump is NSFW or the Oval Office

Get out the Twister mats! Donald Trump supporters will have to contort themselves into world-class Twister champions to defend their candidate’s comments revealing that he is a perpetrator of sexual assault.

Donald Trump, the standard-bearer of the party President Dwight D. Eisenhower represented, told reporter Billy Bush that he sexually assaults women he considers beautiful (and we already know that Trump describes women he considers to be unattractive as “disgusting,” “pigs,” “fat,” and “slobs.”). As Trump and Bush departed a tour bus, Donald Trump, the man Republicans chose as their nominee for President of the United States said,

“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women]. I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait,”

That’s right. The man who aspires to be President of the United States said he kisses women if he feels like kissing them.

And that’s not all he’s said about how he treats women. Trump also told Bush,

“And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Grab them by the pussy. The Republican nominee for President says he grabs women by the pussy if he wants to, because, “You can do anything.”

That’s not so veiled code for, “I sexually assault women because I feel like it.”

Can anyone imagine a President Trump breaking ranks and grabbing Kate Middleton’s pussy in a receiving line because he thinks she is beautiful? Would he walk past Queen Elizabeth in the process?

If you think it is offensive to write about the Duchess of Cambridge’s pussy, instead of choosing the word crotch, then why is it ok for Trump to volunteer that he grabs a woman’s pussy if he wants to?

It isn’t ok for any man to do that to any woman.

And it is never ok to elect that man to be the President of the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

Git yur guns, boys!

What started after the 2008 election with the election of a black man to the White House, threatens to come full circle to a full-on “take back the government” uprising if Hillary Clinton is elected. Jimmy Arno of Georgia is just one of many who say they will be, I don’t know, marching to Washington, D.C., to lead some type of revolution if the election doesn’t go their way. Militia member Charles Keith Cobble claims they screen their fanatic members to make sure they aren’t KKK folks, but really, this type of “background check,” as Cobble calls it, is a farce.

In his conversation with Ryan Lentz of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, Adam Ragusea of GPB rightly makes note that white people carrying guns are usually called militia members, and brown people are called terrorists.

The fear gripping white people, primarily poorly educated, lower-income men (I am making a broad statement and I am not going to go down a rabbit hole with anyone on it), started with racism, and now it has expanded to include women. Donald Trump fed this type of mindset. He started with birtherism, and has woven in a complete and utter disrespect for women into his mixture of hatred and fear.

It bears repeating: we withstood the resignation of one President, and a 5-4 Supreme Court vote for another one. Electing Hillary Clinton will not be the worst thing to happen to this country. And it certainly won’t be worth starting a civil war over.

 

 

Last night’s greatest hits

As a historian, I am a believer in hearing things for yourself and reading primary documents. Ezra Klein has excerpts from last night’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Ford Motor Company had to fact check Trump on September 15th (below),
followed by some of the greatest hits from the debate:

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-8-51-12-am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-9-15-29-am

 

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-8-29-17-am

 

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-8-44-28-am

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-8-30-00-am

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-8-44-01-am

 

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-9-25-04-am

And perhaps my favorite

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-9-03-58-am

 

 

 

 

The Truth About Interracial Marriage in 2016

Reposted with permission from Grace Kelley. The original post appeared on Tuesday, September 13, 2016 on The Millennial Falcon, All the list-icles that are fit to print.

The Truth About Interracial Marriage in 2016

Yesterday, when the shooting of Terence Crutcher started going viral, I posted this as my Facebook status:

“All my Facebook memories are about how [husband] and I were going to get married in a week this time last year, or how we were about to celebrate our one-year anniversary six years ago, but all I can think about is how I’ll have to hold him a little tighter tonight.”

I was hoping to give people a little glimpse into my reality, but I’m not sure everyone got it. So let me spell it out for you: I have to hug my husband a little tighter because he’s Black.

***
I have admittedly not been in an intra-racial marriage but I am constantly trying to show people that my marriage and theirs are not terribly different. My husband and I bicker about the normal things: chores, his front seat driving, whose responsibility dinner was on that particular day. We were asked about our biggest, most recent fight in pre-marital counseling and my husband said, truthfully, that it was about Sansa Stark’s character growth, or lack thereof, on Game of Thrones.

But the differences are pointed—notice how I said “front seat” driving earlier? That’s because I drive us everywhere. On paper he is the better driver; I have a few fender-benders on my record, and my husband will tell you that he has witnessed us almost get into many fender benders in the duration of our relationship. The short answer for why I drive everywhere is because he has terrible car anxiety. The long answer is I have terrible car anxiety, for him.

We are fortunate enough to say that we only have one sour experience with law enforcement. When we were sophomores in college, my husband was pulled over. We were running late for a play because the local Chinese restaurant had taken an hour and a half to make our food for pickup. He legally passed someone on the dotted yellow line, not going above the speed limit to pass. (And this was a small state road, so the speed limit was 35. For my husband to pass someone while still managing to go that slowly means the person he passed was going REALLY slowly.) We drove to outside the theater on the college campus, he put his hazards on, and I dashed back to my dorm room to get the tickets to the play.

When I got back, there was a cop car with blue lights flashing. The cop and my husband were arguing, benignly but bitterly, that my husband had been speeding. I sat down in the passenger’s seat and in my sweetest, most innocent Southern belle voice said, “What seems to be the problem, Officer?”

The officer said that my husband had been speeding. I said I was there and I had not seen the speedometer go above 35. The officer looked between us and let my husband go with a warning dripping with racist contempt, even using the word “boy.”

Some people I tell this story to ask me with dramatic wonder if I think my presence saved my husband’s life that night. It’s one of those questions that reveals more about the asker than the answerer. I’m his wife, not his white savior, but I digress. I don’t think it would have come to that, but a dark voice in the recess of my mind says, “So did all the victims of recent police shootings. They didn’t think stopping their car on the side of the road because it broke down or reading a book while waiting for someone would ‘come to that’ either.”

And that’s what makes my bones feel like concrete when these stories come out. My husband and I got the same degree from the same prestigious university. We were both on the dean’s list. We got the same academic awards. He was an RA all four years in school—yes, even as a freshman—and former bosses, from Taco Bell in high school to his current position, consistently say he’s the best employee they’ve ever had. He is a son, a brother, an uncle, a husband, a human being. He loves video games. He is an excellent, inventive cook. He sings as frequently as you or I might breathe. He’s not even aware he’s doing it most of the time. Where there is air, he must fill it with song.

But if the wrong cop feels the wrong sort of way, all of that won’t matter, and my husband could answer for it with his life. All that we have worked for and will work for could be gone in an instant. Marriages that don’t end in divorce end by one of the partners dying before the other, and I am frankly tired of feeling like my days with him are numbered.

It hurts to see friends and family champion “family values” and then go on to use the hashtag “#BlueLivesMatter” or “#AllLivesMatter.” They write about how police officers have spouses and children who worry that their loved one might not make it home tonight, and I want to scream that I have the SAME EXACT FEAR for my family, but no, my fear is “unfounded paranoia” despite hours upon hours of cell phone footage that says otherwise, I and my husband have nothing to be afraid of if we really haven’t done anything wrong.

It’s not that I don’t respect and admire cops. Far from it. I’d say 90% of my interactions with them have been positive despite the fact that cops, like doctors, often see people during the worst moments of their lives. It’s just that people bristle when I demand that cops treat me and my family with the same respect and that seems . . . off.

It would save us all a lot of time if these “family values” people would just come out and admit that my little fledgling family doesn’t have value to them.

***
On Saturday, my husband and I leave for our honeymoon. I will drive. We are visiting relatives in Selma, where the Edmund Pettus Bridge is, and then we will get to the beach. We’ll agree that he should stay in the car if I have to get gas in rural south Alabama. He doesn’t need me to “save” him like the person I wrote about before seems to think, but my white bullshit-tolerance is higher than his.

A couple of months ago, I had a dream about our son. We don’t have kids yet but there was no mistaking that this child was half mine, half his. He had dark ringlets the size of pencils. Big brown eyes that will just make you melt. A dimple in his left cheek like his father and I both have.

I woke up in pain, not normal-stiffness but those concrete bones. Something has to change before we meet this kid. Something.

Black men aren’t the problem

Last night I went to bed knowing that an unarmed black man was shot in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This morning I woke up to a news report of yet another black man killed by police in my hometown, Charlotte, North Carolina. Police say Keith Lamont Scott, age 43, wasn’t the suspect they were looking for in a search near UNC Charlotte. Right now the police say he had a gun, and his daughter says she didn’t.

Black men are being shot by police officers whether they are armed or not. Standing by a broken down car, waiting for a child to get off a school bus, or simply waking up as a black man, is a danger to that man’s safety every day.

It is life-threatening to wake up as a black man in the United States.

But, f you are a young privileged white man like former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, you can wake up, get crazy drunk one night, rape an unconscious woman, and then blame your actions on the party culture of Stanford University, where you were enrolled on a sports scholarship. The judge who hears your case, Aaron Persky, will sentence you for a scant six months because,”A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” Persky said. “I think he will not be a danger to others.” And then you’ll get to go home after serving half of your “sentence.”

Brock Turner’s cakewalk with the justice system is one reason #blacklivesmatter is a very real issue in our country. It has been a long time coming. If you are a white person who feels threathened by what is happening in our country, imagine how it feels to wake up as a black man every day.

This is not ok. Ever.

Our country withstood the resignation of a President, and nine judges holding the fate of an election in their hands. Kentucky’s Governor, Matt Bevin, calls for violence if voters choose Hillary Clinton as the next President.

This is not ok. Ever. Jay Bookman spells it out in his column today.

 

Women don’t get to call in sick

Hillary Clinton has pneumonia.

Richard Nixon drank too much and took powerful prescription drugs while he was in the White House. Ulysses Grant drank whiskey throughout the Civil War and two terms as President. FDR and Winston Churchill stayed up all hours drinking together. Georgia W Bush choked on a pretzel, fainted, and scuffed up his cheek while watching a football game in the White House private residence. Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, threw up and fainted during a state dinner in Japan. Ronald and Nancy Reagan consulted astrologers throughout Reagan’s political life. Their son, Ron Reagan Jr., wrote that he began to suspect his father was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease in 1984.

Could Hillary skip out on memorial services for September 11th victims and claim she was doing it on doctor’s orders? No. Short of her own death, she had to put on the mandatory Kevlar vest, add a shirt and dark pantsuit, and head out into warm weather for a service. It didn’t matter that her doctor told her to take a break for a few days.

Like millions of other women, she doesn’t get a day off to be sick. Women step up every day to care for aging parents, their children, and grandchildren while they undergo chemo, recover from surgery, and work multiple jobs. There aren’t many “sit this one out” passes for women. Today’s world doesn’t allow that. After all, women make 79 cents on the dollar compared to men, so we can’t afford time off.

The grueling schedule required for a candidate is exhausting. Fatigue is brutal. Hillary got sick. She’ll get over it. We should too.

Tuesday’s Trumped-up conspiracy theory

Over the weekend Donald Trump demonstrated his lack of, well, connection to other humans, by Tweeting that the murder of Dwayne Wade’s cousin was exactly why black voters should support him.

Today he was spinning trumped-up (no pun intended, but it sure is easy) terrorists conspiracy theories about Huma Abedin, a key staffer to Hillary Clinton.

This stuff isn’t new. Michele Bachmann tried to discredit the native-born American in 2012. The slurs were so unpalatable that Senator John McCain took to the floor of the Senate to defend Abedin.

McCain deserves credit for the times when he has stepped up to speak the truth to the birthers, “Obama’s a Muslim”, and their cronies. What he said in 2012 merits repeating.