She Said: THAT’S NOT HIM–But Is It Us?

She Said: THAT'S NOT HIM--But Is It Us?

There’s a new show that I have been eagerly watching. It was hailed as a series to replace or at least echo PARENTHOOD and so far yes–it definitely pulls us into a family. There’s a couple, pregnant with triplets, but when the 3rd to be delivered dies, they adopt a child abandoned that night and brought into the hospital’s nursery. (That baby’s mother had died; the father felt unable to raise the child.) The child is black, later named Randall. The young parents go home with a son and daughter and this adopted son. Later Randall’s father resurfaces. Oh, but there’s so much more to this complicated tale.

The show is called THIS IS US. Nice title. The highlighted US, in the logo above, might be saying something about the US–United States.

But let me tell you another story, briefly. Three months ago, I was at a party. And a woman sitting across from me brought up the man that was running for president. She was praising this guy and I had to say, “But what about his rallies. He mocks people with disabilities. He mocks minorities. He has people thrown out and then folks in the crowd beat up on other folks.”

She smiled at me across the table as if I were her child. “Oh that’s not him,” she said. It echoed in my head for days:  THAT’S NOT HIM. THAT’S NOT HIM.

So we have: THIS IS US–a family blazing a new trail of love and inclusion. They are all actors telling a story, a story I want to believe in.

And we have: THAT’S NOT HIM, a kinda-actor, who now takes on the role of president of the United States. Was everything I saw during his rallies an act?  Cause I feel as if I’m awakening from a bad dream and would like to turn the channel and keep watching THIS IS US instead. I want to believe in THAT creation. The other, those rallies–to me they are the stuff of nightmares. And I’ve read plenty of books and watched enough pre WWII films to know that presenting yourself as ONE person and then reversing and trying to be someone else is scary stuff. YES, the female candidate yelled and berated him occasionally–she was defending herself, drawn into this entire pre-election period that became its own SWAMP. WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS. I want to believe that all the negatives of the election was NOT US.

So I’m confused and saddened. That’s all I will say. Others have weighed in with their feelings. And I am open to that. One friend quoted RUMI, the 13th century Persian poet:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field. I will meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.

The world is too full–words cannot describe what we have on this planet–the grass, the love between two people, the splendor of birth that occurs between humans and all creatures–birds in the air, seed pods falling from the trees, whales leaping through oceans.

If I had to prize and hold dear something RIGHT NOW that I could say THIS IS US –it would be my family, who shares my love of peace and diversity, who believes in kindness and the power of talk before shouting and belittling. I would also prize my eyes and my brain, because I can read and read some more. I can fill my mind and my soul with the beauty of ideas that is inclusive and free from hate. (there is so much hate and anger on the internet–and yet goodness too).

Here is the poet, Mary Oliver from an essay in her new book UPSTREAM:

I read my books with diligence, and mounting skill, and gathering certainty, I read the way a person might swim, to save his or her life…You must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.   

Here is a father, Aaron Sorkin, writing to his daughter. I think he is saying THIS IS US.

We get involved. We do what we can to fight injustice anywhere we see it—whether it’s writing a check or rolling up our sleeves. …we fight for the families that aren’t (insulated from this fear). We fight for a woman to keep her right to choose. We fight for the First Amendment and we fight mostly for equality—not for a guarantee of equal outcomes but for equal opportunities. We stand up.

The battle isn’t over, it’s just begun. (YOUR) Grandpa fought in World War II and when he came home this country handed him an opportunity to make a great life for his family. I will not hand his granddaughter a country shaped by hateful and stupid men. Your tears last night woke me up, and I’ll never go to sleep on you again.

When each and everyone of us gathers at Thanksgiving, we can pledge that we want all Americans to continue to form the fabric that this immigrant nation wove. THIS IS US, ALL OF US. We don’t want families torn apart or their future being that knock at the door. We can volunteer–one hour a week, one day a week or run an errand for the family we know with two working parents and a hectic schedule or a disabled grandparent.

AND READ. I’ll have more about that to come.

But today I am sharing Andrea Dunlap’s  reading list. SEE BELOW.

She is a writer and these works follow the old saying: Live in someone else’s shoes. LEARN EMPATHY. Maybe that’s what was missing when the woman across the table at the party said to me: THAT’S NOT HIM. Sorry. You cannot be a human being and watch what went down at those rallies and applaud. It was or is at least a part of him with a big lack of empathy and understanding for another’s soul, another’s life. Of course, you can believe anything you want to believe.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi
Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
You Can’t Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole
White Girls by Hilton Als
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

Thanks to Andrea Dunlap; Thanks to the Huffington Post. Read more here.

 

WHY HILLARY MATTERS TO ME Part One

WHY HILLARY MATTERS TO ME Part One

I don’t have any personal history with Donald Trump—I’ve never watched his reality TV shows or read his ART OF THE DEAL. And though now I read about him daily—its unavoidable—he’s still not rising up on my radar in any way, because he opposes everything I believe in. I do have a history with Hillary Clinton—for two reasons—we share some history and we definitely share some future. To me she symbolizes one thing that ALL WOMEN should consider—Republican, Democrat, Independent—she exemplifies what an American woman can do.

(Note: Phyllis Schlafly also exemplified the power that a woman can wield. But she stopped the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, sidelining advances for women. I believe she was wrong.)

If Hillary becomes POTUS, she will forever wipe out that wrong, just as individual women who fight for an ever-expanding role and position in this country do every day. Glass ceilings are breaking-up everywhere. I wonder if my mother would be proud. I hope so. The irony is that though she didn’t realize it, my mother was one of the first who in her own way expanded the role of a woman.

Widowed with three children, my mom had to work to support us. But more than once I heard her say that it was okay that men make more money than women—her reason—they had families to support. She knew she did also, but she was expressing what “the majority” needed—because in my childhood, in the neighborhood where I was raised, men were the main supporters of most households. Her statement was still puzzling, considering that her sisters, my two single aunts, worked hard for the money they made in the publishing business. But Mom condemned feminist thinking and would get up and walk out of the room when the conversation turned in that direction. She was a product of her time.

Maybe my mother should have been angry that her salary in downtown Chicago did not compensate her to care for three children like it would have if she were male. But life had pushed her in a direction she really didn’t want to go. She wanted to be married and raise six children. She got three and a dead husband. She had no degree. She could have gone to school part-time, worked her way up in the business world, but her focus was always her children, so she held on—her free time devoted to us. I think a lot of women make that choice. And despite it, my mother rose to chief secretary at the Chicago insurance agency where she worked for 45 years, becoming a business success. In the end—she  was proud of her accomplishments.

All of this is not to say that I am not fiercely proud of what my mother accomplished and forever grateful for the sacrifices she made for my two brothers and me. I became an English teacher, made a great marriage, was gifted with three children and then went back to school to earn my RN. Through my working years, I discovered the value of unions, the muscle of numbers. I picketed for higher salaries and benefits. I worked hard at my job and never felt guilty that I was asking for more.

But much earlier than I did, Hillary Clinton saw that women were not on equal ground and needed to fight for their place. She has one daughter. I have two. That galvanized both of us—our daughters should be able to enter the working world equal in every way to their male counterparts.

Considering Hillary Clinton and I were both raised in Chicago at the same time, her consciousness was definitely raised sooner than mine and the trajectory of her life amazes me and makes me proud to be a woman: Hillary has always been about helping women and children—even if that means working the system and knowing how to handle the slings and arrows of the opponent who is eager to stop her.

When I had the chance to meet Hillary Clinton she was running for president. It was 2007 and we met at the Drake Diner, a local eatery in Des Moines, Iowa. We were both there at five in the morning—she to be interviewed by all the major networks, me to sit in a booth in the background and drink hot coffee. I guess you could say I was window dressing. But I wanted to be there and I did get to meet her.

When a break in the interviews occurred, she came to our booth. My husband sat on the end, so I leaned over him to shake her hand (I had met her once before after a town hall meeting that previous January.) I told her I was worried about her. Was she getting enough sleep? How did she do it every day? She knocked the so-called wood of the shiny booth table and said so far she was hanging in there, doing just fine. My husband John told me later he thought he saw a tear in her eye. John is from a large Irish Catholic family. Tear in her eye? Hillary? I was sure he was exaggerating.

Then came the iconic moment in Portsmouth, New Hampshire when Marianne Pernold Young, a photographer standing behind a table where Hillary was talking with 16 women voters, asked her the same question. “How do you do it? How do you keep upbeat and so wonderful?” And when Hillary replied about having help with her hair and then just went into the major guts of her life, her face pinked up, her armor crumbled, she got emotional.

“I just don’t want to see us fall backward as a nation. I mean, this is very personal for me. Not just political. I see what’s happening. We have to reverse it. Some people think elections are a game: who’s up or who’s down. It’s about our country. It’s about our kids’ future. It’s about all of us together. Some of us put ourselves out there and do this against some difficult odds.”

My God, yes. And I wonder how she would respond now, if I could ask her that question. Probably in the same way. And certainly after being Secretary of State, and the email server mess and having DJT call her crooked Hillary (like he’s as clean as new fallen snow) her skin has gotten even thicker, her ability to keep her calm the first thing on her agenda.

That’s good for being president. Your life is not your own from DAY ONE. You need that presence to be in politics, especially when the color of your pantsuit can deflect from the important words you are saying or the actions you are implementing. But even though I would like to ask her again how she does it every day, I already know the answer: she does it all for us, for Americans and probably especially for women and children. Even Donald Trump when asked to say something nice about Hillary at the second debate acknowledged that she never quits.

So I am proud to say, I feel like I am a small part of Hillary Clinton. I’m the part she hides. I’m the part she doesn’t let people see. But regardless, I want people to know me—I am an older woman and despite what people might say, I will survive. It’s the combination of those words, older woman, that tear at some media people and some voters, make them fly into a rage they can’t really name.

It’s the hidden part out in the open. It’s so there people don’t see it. Hillary Clinton is a woman hitting her head against the ultimate glass ceiling and women all over the country are pulling on their panty hose or selecting their Manolo Blahniks or the latest knock-off pair from TJ Maxx and secretly smiling. She can’t do it. She’ll never do it. If I can’t do it, neither can she. So lose Hillary, lose.

“How do we beat the bitch?” a finely coiffed and decked out woman asked John McCain at a campaign stop during the run-up to the 2008 election. That woman wanted to stop a Democrat and I get that. So just say: “How do we stop Hillary?” And John McCain should have pointed that out to this woman. Or someone should have. You can watch the thing on U Tube!

The point is—Hillary is not a bitch. How dare a woman use that term when describing another woman. That John McCain supporter degrades herself. Hillary is me. Hillary is that woman too. Her pantsuits don’t hide that we are females, the softer sex. When Hillary showed some décolletage it was a headline. I’ve no problem with that, show us some breast, because you have two of them and you gave birth to a daughter, and I have a uterus and breasts and I have two daughters and a son and I thank God for them. Final note: I am privileged and proud to be a woman.

And I know Hillary is too. She showed us the full spectrum of womanhood in the five minutes (though it must have seemed like an eternity) that it took her to walk from the White House rose garden across the green lawn to the helicopter that day. Chelsea was with them, in the middle, Hillary on one side of her and Bill on the other. A natural falling into step for the husband and wife falling out. A moment of belief and strength in the midst of unbearable pain.

Because pain is a private matter. Hillary wanted to go into a small room or hide in a corner or under a blanket. She didn’t want to walk in front of TV cameras and photographers. But she did and held her head up, held Chelsea’s hand because she needed her and Chelsea needed her mother. The pain was excruciating, worse than a broken arm, a shattered femur bone. A lot worse. “How can we beat the bitch?”

You cannot. You cannot stop a strong incredibly convincing woman, a mother, a wife who kept her family together despite his betrayals.

“She should have divorced him. I won’t vote for her because she should have divorced him.”

Translation: I would have run away, hid in a corner, divorced the blankety blank and she should have too.

Wrong. Hillary Clinton has strong beliefs and morals. She fights for what she believes in and that’s why she will make an excellent president. She gets up every morning and fights. She does not give up. One commentator, Eugene Robinson, said that the dictionary should have her name next to the word resilient. She defines the word.

Hillary Clinton did what few women in our present culture have the strength to do—she stayed in her marriage and she worked it out. Operative word that suits Hillary just fine: work. Divorce is painful and messy. Working it out can be even more so. There isn’t a marriage in the country that hasn’t had some sadness, fighting, anger, misunderstanding which often leaves spouses wondering about their choices. And many have suffered betrayal on the part of either spouse. Let’s be honest, every women in this country knows this.

“How do we beat the bitch?” We don’t. She is us. She is all women who want their special place in the sun. Some of us are stay-at-home moms and some of us are CEO’s and some of us presidents of large corporations or possibly in the future the United States of America.

I’d really like to find the woman at the John McCain rally and ask her about her marriage and her career and her relationships. I would really love to know who she is voting for this election.

P.S. Don’t forget to vote!!

Photo credit: New York Times