Our DEMOCRACY: Past and Future

Our DEMOCRACY: Past and Future

Let’s look at some ideas about democracy and see how it has been woven into our lives from the very beginning, from the birth of the United States of America–until the present, where today, we take for granted such freedoms. Democracy, government by the people, for the people, must always be an integral part of our lives.  

If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent, we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter. George Washington

The system of government which shall keep us afloat amidst the wreck of the world, will be immortalized in history. Thomas Jefferson

The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed incorporations. Thomas Jefferson 

Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments. Alexander Hamilton

As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy. Abraham Lincoln

Nowhere in the world is presented a government of so much liberty and equality. To the humblest and poorest amongst us are held out the highest privileges and positions. The present moment finds me at the White House, yet there is as good a chance for your children as there was for my father’s. Abraham Lincoln

Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Democracy is a superior form of government, because it is based on a respect for man as a reasonable being. John F. Kennedy

The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all. Life in freedom is not easy and democracy is not perfect. John F. Kennedy

Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put up a wall to keep our people in. John F. Kennedy 

The whole world must see that Israel must exist and has the right to exist, and is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world. Martin Luther King

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Martin Luther King 

The United States was born in revolution and nurtured by struggle. Throughout our history, the American people have befriended and supported all those who seek independence and a better way of life. Robert F. Kennedy 

Democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. Ronald Reagan

We must never remain silent in the face of bigotry. We must condemn those who seek to divide us. In all quarters and at all times, we must teach tolerance and denounce racism, anti-Semitism and all ethnic or religious bigotry wherever they exist as unacceptable evils. We have no place for haters in America — none, whatsoever. Ronald Reagan 

You cannot put democracy and freedom back into a box. George W. Bush

It is an idea for which I hope to live and to see realized, but, my Lord, if it needs be, it is an idea for which I am prepared to die. Nelson Mandela

The real legacy of the Founding Fathers is a political process: a system of disagreement, debate, and compromise that has kept democracy vibrant in the United States for more than two hundred years. Unknown, BUT SO IMPORTANT 

The worst thing that can happen in a democracy – as well as in an individual’s life – is to become cynical about the future and lose hope. Hillary Clinton

Democracy works–but we gotta want it–not just during an election year, but all the days in between. Barack Obama 

The strongest democracies flourish from frequent and lively debate, but they endure when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside smaller differences in service of a greater purpose. Barack Obama

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our Democracy; Tonight is your answer. Barack Obama

Democracy cannot be imposed on any nation from the outside. Each society must search for its own path, and no path is perfect. Barack Obama

One of the key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace, good people don’t go into government. Donald Trump

On the occasion of losing our current president to a new one, I pledge myself to believing in our freedoms: freedom of speech and word, freedom to dissent, to argue and thus to continue to claim the freedoms that the fourth estate has always possessed–freedoms given to us by our founding fathers. Concerned? Subscribe to a newspaper or magazine; watch a variety of televised news shows. Keep up to date on what is happening. Don’t become complacent. Ever. Politics is not a disgrace and there are many good people working for us. We must cling to the good that our founders saw in our democracy.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in THE GREAT GATSBY: So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Our DEMOCRACY: Past and Future

That giant sucking sound…

That giant sucking sound...

In the middle of election night, after I had stayed by the television to taste the bitterness of the end, I awoke with these words in my head, “that giant sucking sound.” And I couldn’t identify them for a long time. But lying there I finally did–it’s a line parents in Iowa, where I once lived, would say during spring break, the line referring to most folks leaving the state to go somewhere else. “Oh we all heard that giant sucking sound,” someone would say referring to the lines at the airport. But it really comes from, you guessed it, a political event. “The “giant sucking sound” was United States presidential candidate Ross Perot’s phrase for what he believed would be the negative effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which he opposed.” Bill Clinton won that election. Funny how the mind works!!

Well maybe my mind was going that far back, and then connecting to the election in the dead of night–only this time Hillary Clinton lost. This time folks had voted for a man who just might take us on a ride we could not have imagined–one of fear and hate, one of exclusion and denial of the rule of law. We will see. I am told to take heart from a man whom I have honored for eight years and always will. He is my President, he is POTUS to me and always will be. But he is saying take heart, because he must, even though his heart is deeply hurt and he has to work with a man who worked to delegitimize his presidency.

And then Wednesday, it was all about Hillary Clinton and how I had been here before with her, when ironically, she lost the primaries to President Obama in June of 2008, and gave her first “glass ceiling speech.” She had to give another one. WHAT A WOMAN. I am fiercely proud of her and everything she stands for. I would vote for her again should she choose to run for something. But she’s done. Yet, Hillary will always help this country in some way. And if the President-Elect had any guts, he would appointment her to a position, or at least ask her. But he won’t. He’s done too.

Today, I watched the brief look into the meeting that Mr. Trump had with the President. He was calm, though he looked nervous. I guess you could say he was on his best behavior. After everything I have seen of this man and how he conducted his rallies and what he said about his opponent and MY PRESIDENT, it will take me a very long time, if ever, for me to say positive things about him. As a writer, I know–words count and they don’t blow away because you are now smiling a lot.

But there is someone else who needs to examine their American soul in this post-election world. THOSE WHO DID NOT VOTE. How hard is it to take a half-day, if necessary, and vote–once every FOUR YEARS–for the person who can have a profound affect on your life? HOW HARD IS IT to try to get an absentee ballot? If fear kept you away from the polls because of the things Trump said, I get that–he threatened the people of Philadelphia–“those areas” and we knew what he meant. But if it was just laziness or an inability to decide whom to vote for–you have no idea the privilege you have given up. To live in a country where what we saw today–POTUS meeting with the one who won the election, and beginning the HAND-OVER process–that’s our freedom, our democracy, the American way. No coup, no guns, no deaths.

Maybe the lesson from this election will hold over for the next—-VOTE and don’t believe the polling. Don’t let some numbers convince you that your vote won’t count. YOUR VOTE ALWAYS COUNTS. Otherwise you’ll wake up in the middle of the night and hear “that giant sucking sound” your candidate losing, your ability to exercise one of the most valuable gifts on the planet going away, utilized by someone else who did bother to vote.

Photo Credit TIME

Why Hillary Clinton Matters to Me Part Two

Why Hillary Clinton Matters to Me Part Two

I am a woman, voting for Hillary Clinton. And when I look back, I find we have more in common than just our gender. I find connections. I think many women reading this post can. But what makes me hold my breath is that Hillary is running for the most difficult and complicated, as well as important and heavily responsible position in our country and possibly the world. And despite what anyone says, being POTUS requires great intelligence—not just about business, but about how the world works, how the government works, people work and how to sort through complicated problems that might keep some people awake at night.

I was raised on the south side of Chicago, Hillary in a northwest suburb, Park Ridge. Her father worked long hours running his own business. Her mother was a stay-at-home mom. Neither one of us was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. My father died when I was young, so my mother worked to support our family. Both of us have two brothers. I married my high-school sweetheart, worked hard as a teacher, had children, went back to school to become a nurse, worked again. My life has been a very good life.

Hillary’s life has been plain amazing. She is super smart and driven. More than moved by the death of Martin Luther King, Hillary was shaken to her core. We were both in college—I a Democrat and she a Republican. King’s murder moved her to change her political affiliation to Democrat and to determine another goal: she would go on to law school at Yale.

I’ve always prided myself on being smart. My grades gave me self-esteem. Doing well in school or the job I happened to be working –teaching, nursing, raising children, doing medical research—that’s what gets me up in the morning. So in 2008, backing Hillary for president was logical for me. Now in 2016, it’s even more so. As a woman, I believe in my own abilities and after reading about Hillary Clinton, meeting her, evaluating her beliefs and political standards, I know she has the knowledge, empathy and openness to run our country.

Because women have felt the sting of being the quote weaker sex or the second sex, we sometimes do what we should not—put competing with each other on the top of our To-Do list. I did that in college. I fell into competition with my close friend, Carole. We both majored in English and though I would study six hours for a test, Carole would study for two and get an A while I got a B. Always. Like Hillary, Carole went on to become a lawyer, eventually taking on a big political position in the city of Chicago. But Carole can tear up like Hillary–Read WHY HILLARY CLINTON MATTERS TO ME part one.

As an undergraduate, Hillary attended Wellesley, in Massachusetts. The motto of the school was certainly fortuitous: “Non Ministrari sed Ministrare” – “Not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” Hillary Clinton is still that person. If we had gone to school together, I might have spent some time with her talking about class work, but I don’t think we would have been close friends. I had some insecurities that I constantly fought: the battle of beauty versus brains—the one SEVENTEEN MAGAZINE focused on, the one built into our culture. The one Hillary completely ignored.

But in college, I did begin to GET IT, being really angry when I discovered what steps the administration was taking to lure future college freshmen. On a warm spring day as I walked from the main building, I saw a photographer posing five girls from my dorm. I found out later that they had been selected to represent the entire college. These were well coiffed, well heeled girls who wore too much makeup and the latest Garland sweaters. They were all white and they didn’t represent my college as far as I was concerned. (Sorry but I still get angry when an institution of learning falls into the same narrow gap they were teaching us to avoid!) The ones with the smarts did represent us. Like my friend Carole or maybe even me. But this is the real world and I was learning what pushes people’s buttons. Even as a junior in college with my excellent GPA and many activities, I was still insecure and trying to be the best on all fronts. So I tried out for the college board which at that time meant working at a department store like Carson Pirie Scott or Marshall Fields in the junior department. Do they even have a junior department anymore? I got the job. Was I now beautiful and smart? I needed to move on. Believe in myself, period.

During another summer job, I began to see how marginalized women were and still are. I worked for an insurance agency that handled workman’s compensation. I typed up the information members had written on their claim forms. There was no form for pregnancy. You had to answer questions that indicated you had suffered an injury. Where did the accident occur?  A pregnant woman wrote: in the bedroom.  How did the accident occur? She wrote: In the usual way. 

During that summer, Hillary sought out jobs in Alaska that involved social justice. There were no social justice issues washing dishes in the Mount McKinley Nation Park, but there were when she moved on to the processing cannery in Valdez. She blew the whistle on the awful working conditions there and of course, they fired her. But they were also shut down overnight. Hillary was on her way.

I did discover my own female power and used it—to teach underprivileged students in a high school that broke out in a riot after the Chicago police allegedly murdered black men Fed Hampton and Mark Clark. Later, I become a nurse and helped to deliver teenage mothers and then talk to them about birth control and family planning. It’s not as much as Hillary has given, but I can also claim three grown adult children and their spouses who are all voting for her.

If Hillary becomes our first woman president, she’ll be examined and reexamined on everything a male president would—and more. Think back to when she wore headbands and then grew her hair long. Now it’s all about her pantsuits. The only change a man makes is his tie—or maybe he grows a beard. But men have known for centuries that you can demean a woman if you ignore their brain and focus on their clothing. Let’s focus on her smarts and her diligence. Let’s focus on her dedication. Even her opponent admitted SHE NEVER QUITS.

But during this campaign, he has vilified her, stalked her when she was answering a question at a debate, threatened her with death and imprisonment. Even his followers have talked about assassinating the president of the U.S. if Hillary is elected. She is not perfect. He is not perfect.

But let’s be clear, and look at the source, the very engine of their campaigns. HILLARY CLINTON has a history of working to help children and families. She believes in ALL Americans. She is a lawyer who understands how the constitution works. She also understands rule of law in regards to many facets of government because she has been there–as a U.S. senator and the Secretary of State. Her opponent has a history of not paying taxes, vilifying women, refusing to pay people who build his casinos and having a fondness for Russia and dictators. He supposedly understands how to teach people to become as wealthy as he claims he is, but Trump University only lined up on his “not so much” sheet.

The right to vote is what makes America a free nation. So vote. Choose your candidates and vote. And if you see some older person or person of color or handicapped person being marginalized at the polling booth SAY SOMETHING. This is AMERICA. We citizens have the right to vote. Our voting process needs to be HONEST AND FAIR. Help make it that way and VOTE.

P.S. To find your polling place, you can use google or another search engine, type in Find My Polling Place in (name your state) and they will ask you to put in your address.

photo credit: Hillary Clinton FACTSHEETS

 

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

Love Her, Love Her Not

Love Her, Love Her Not

This post is a review of the above book, but it’s also the first of others that I will be writing about Hillary Clinton and the upcoming presidential election. The editor of Love Her, Love Her Not, Joanne Cronrath Bamberger, graciously sent me a copy of her book. My summary opinion: this book is an interesting collection of 28 short and extremely readable essays, all written by women who have taken an aspect of Hillary’s life or an individual personal view of Hillary’s accomplishments and/or foibles and run with it.

Love Her, Love Her Not will probably not change anyone’s vote. But it does zero in on an historical moment in American politics and history: we might be about to elect the first female president, now, in 2016. That’s awesome in itself. Bamberger writes in her introduction something that many people feel: Our country has a very complicated relationship with Hillary Clinton. 

MEDIA SKEWS and SCREWS THE TRUTH 

I think it’s more accurate to say that THE MEDIA has a complicated relationship with HRC and that we who are reading and viewing get sucked into it. For every candidate. Because politics is dismal these days–full of anger and in some cases hatred. On both sides, with both genders and affecting every citizen with every kind of background.

That’s why I enjoyed Bamberger’s collection–the writing is thoughtful, not hostile. It is honest and covers many aspects of Secretary Clinton’s persona. It feels fair to me and that’s what is missing in a lot of media coverage these days. FAIRNESS. HONESTY. If someone were to thrust me into the spotlight, I’m sure they’d find something wrong with me too. My hair, my clothes, my penchant for enjoying reading rather than sports. WHATEVER. So when reading about Hillary Clinton–ask yourself how you would measure up. That’s exactly what these thoughtful women writers did. BRAVO!!

THE FEMALE AGE QUESTION

Columnist Froma Harrop focuses on age discrimination and how it affects females in her essay Hillary’s Age as Shorthand Sexism. It’s an eye-opener to any woman who dwelling in a similar decade feels the power of the future and that life after child-bearing age is a time to grow, not shrink away. But obviously there are pundits out there who are going to USE it against Hillary. Harrop refutes the writing of Charlie Cook saying: Cook clearly had fallen into the cultural prejudice that perceives middle-aged women as over-the-hill while their male contemporaries remain vibrant, powerful and sexy. Like Harrop, the women and many of the men I know wouldn’t buy Cook’s garbage,

WHY DOES SHE STAY WITH HIM? 

Oh get over it!  The essay, Bill Clinton as Metaphor for America and Why Hillary Is Uniquely Qualified for President was a favorite. Written by Rebekah Kuschmider–she gets it. What person living today, man or woman, hasn’t been “betrayed” by someone or by some situation. And consider this, as Kuschmider writes, Bill Clinton was “the American Icarus sailing so very high and falling in a heap.” But afterwards, he got it–he set up an office in Harlem and paid back many times over. Kuschmider writes: Hillary wrote in LIVING HISTORY that Bill was a force of nature and that she resisted his marriage proposals for a long time because she didn’t know if she could weather his storms. 

Bill Clinton’s “affair” was ignorant and foolish. His selfish actions brought sorrow into their marriage. But how Hillary handled it–that was her business, no one else’s. As Kucschmider writes, Hillary has experienced sorrow in her life: turned down by NASA because she was a female; unable to get national healthcare up and running; the loser in the 2008 election. This is a woman who knows how to pick herself up and get on with it. And here is why. Kucschmider writes: Hillary loves Bill, yes. … But Hillary loves America more, the real America, good and bad, weak and strong, right and wrong. That love, that loyalty, that ability to see the real America–the raw, striving grasping with hope America–is Hillary’s strength, a nearly wifely attitude of loyalty–in richer and poorer, sickness and health, weakness and strength. A steadfast determination to stay…the way she’s always stayed and made it work with Bill.

Considering that if Hillary becomes president the media will still obsess over her clothing, two essays in the collection brilliantly address this. In Worshipping the Semiotic Brilliance of Hillary’s Pantsuits Deb Rox writes: …she forced the debate to the singularity of “what color pantsuit is she wearing today?” In doing so, Hillary degendered the playing field, making her appearance effectively recede to a question almost as innocuous as “what color is his tie today?”

And in No More Glass Slippers, Kim Cottrell explains the history of female shoes and how they hobble movement and become a metaphor for the female inability to keep up with the opposite sex. But Hillary has conquered that for Cottrell: So here’s my idea, Hillary friends. Let’s lace up our own shoes–you know the kind–tie back our hair, and celebrate the badass lines on our faces, the way our countrymen have been doing since forever, and get to work…we will do so (retain our superpower status) when we unhobble women and unshackle men and let them go to work together creating a shared vision of the future–wrinkles, flaws and all.   

Though this review is simply a glimpse into the fascinating opinions by women about Hillary Clinton, I hope it will interest you enough to purchase Love Her, Love Her Not and see for yourselves. Available here. Happy reading.

Love Her, Love Her Not

Decisions, Decisions–They Take Us Places

Decisions, Decisions--They Take Us Places

In January of 2007 I went with a friend to North High School in Des Moines, Iowa to hear Hillary Clinton announce that she was running for president. Her slogan at the time: I’m in it to win it. It was a rousing afternoon with people packing the hall and everyone in great spirits. Believing in someone does that to crowds. Making a decision to support someone can take you places. Hillary did not win the Iowa caucus and eventually dropped her run. But her actions had an effect on me and one morning I found myself writing the following: Hillary and I are not dumb old women. I must have been reacting to something I’d heard as I joined the ranks of empty-nesters and faced a future that was full of shadows. And tasks. That same day I made a list.

THINGS TO DO TODAY

1. Sign power of attorney for health papers for my aunt, age 96

2. Call the head nurse at Smith (the facility where my aunt was living) regarding her dementia

3. Submit paperwork for Mom’s (my mother) Medicare D Plan as she requested; try to explain to her the donut hole

4. Work with Andrew (my son) on completing admission forms for application to colleges

5. Research a new health protocol for John (my husband) who has a chronic illness

6. Find a house for a family reunion in the coming August

7. Proofread a master thesis for Christie (my daughter) she’s close to graduation

8. Make phone calls for the Clinton campaign

9. Take some time for yourself: write

That last one–who was I kidding. When and where would I find that time. But I did.

BOOMER HIGHWAY BEGINS

The list sat on my desk for a few days. Maybe I was working on it–it’s all a big haze now. But sometime during that period I wrote to the Des Moines Register and shared the list. Wouldn’t they like a column or a blog that dealt with this craziness, this midlife, this sandwich generation??  No, came the answer. So I started Boomer Highway. It was a way to organize my thoughts, to share with others in my place that though I no longer was changing diapers, staying up late with a fevered child or debating which to do first–clean, grocery shop or shovel snow–it was a busy time in my life and I had to figure out how to navigate it without losing myself and hurting my health.

My very first post was THOUGHTS WHEN I SAW THE CARDINAL. There was no photo when I first posted–I had no clue how to do that. In the post I wrote:

The cardinal against the so pale green grass and just beginning trees has to be something of my father’s soul reminding me to remember him, to hold him in my heart as the day wears along. Because the brightness of the cardinal’s feathers is inexplicably beautiful, like the spirit within all of us that begs for us to be perfect, though we struggle within our human context. And so I look to the garden and the birds of air for mental and spiritual health. And if I’m digging in the dirt and dragging bags of soil and mulch around, it keeps my body healthy too!!!

I must have wanted to channel my father, who I lost at the age of three–maybe he could help me spiritually with the tasks that lay ahead. I went on to research lots of stuff related to my aunt’s and my mother’s dementia and their eventual passing and the sorrows we all experience as life takes us away from a place of comfort and we find ourselves in some new, uncharted territory. And there are lots of joys that go along with such an adventure. I am blessed, my son and daughters living successful lives and my husband healthy and volunteeriing, helping others. My phone calls for Hillary didn’t help much, but now here she is running again.

None of us who strive and care and accept change as we go are dumb old women. No, we are vibrant and flexible, we are full of passion and intent.

Anne Lamott, one of my favorite writers and arm-chair philosophers writes:

Age had deepened and widened our sense of faith–and by “faith” I don’t necessarily mean religious conviction. I’m talking partly about belief in the existence of a divine intelligence but also about faith in goodness, in life, in things mostly working out. And let’s not forget faith in ourselves–the conviction that we are loved and chosen–which is such a component of the spiritual life.

I love her: things mostly working out. That’s key to acceptance and happiness. We have a vision, but sometimes it’s not exactly what happens and then we say–You know, I really like this better anyway. This is what I really wanted.

So on we go. I still make lists and this upcoming week I have a really big one to work through. I’ll share a lot of that list next week. Until then, I wish you the best with your own decisions. They are important and whether we like it or not they do take us places.

PHOTO: thanks to Writing Life List FB, Huffington Post

 

Hillary Clinton and Me Part 1

The inauguration was a year ago this week.  Pundits and the press are saying how far we have come from the positive feelings the country had when Barack Obama became president.  Now we are all hanging our heads and falling into despair.

I hate their commentary.  You keep saying negative things and quoting poll numbers and people begin to feel negative.  Barack Obama has accomplished a lot in his first year in office.  He had a shit-load of tough things to handle.  He had worked hard, passed important legislation and tried to be bipartisan while doing it.  He even offered his biggest opponent to the presidency, Hillary Clinton, an important job, Secretary of State. 

I met Hillary Clinton at the Drake Diner in November of 2007.  It’s a local eatery in Des Moines, Iowa, and 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 there was a break in the interviews, she came to our booth.  I leaned over, shook her hand (I had met her once before after a town hall meeting that previous January) and 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 dramatic Irish Catholic family.  His mother used to light blessed candles during a thunder storm.  Tear in her eye?  Hillary?  I don’t think so.  I was sure he was exaggerating. 

 Then came the iconic moment in New Hampshire.  In Portsmouth, Marianne Pernold Young, a photographer standing behind a table where Hillary was talking with 16 women voters, asked her a similar 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.  Difficult and impossible odds.  Talk about having to have thick skin.  But that’s what you need to be in politics, especially today when the color of your pantsuit can deflect from the important words you are saying or the actions you are implementing.     

 I am Hillary’s age.  We both graduated from high school in 1965.  We graduated from college in 1969.  We heard the news about Martin Luther King being shot under the same circumstances—away at school, struggling with course work and social stuff and bam—the world changes in a second.  And then in June, 1968, I’m doing final exams and Bobby Kennedy is assassinated.  How do you cope?  What makes any sense?   We both had those same questions.  But they took us down different pathways.

I got a job right out of college teaching English in a secondary school.  I needed money and had to turn down two scholarships to get a master’s degree, because I wanted to get my life going, I wanted to get married. 

I come from a family of English majors, readers, poetry lovers and classical music fanatics.  That is the richness that I inherited.  It swirled around me from the moment I could breathe.  But we did not have money.  My father died of a heart attack when I was 3.  I have an older and a younger brother.  My mother typed in our dining room to pay the bills.  She was tough and took good care of us.  By seventh grade she was working in downtown Chicago and I was in charge of laundry and cooking.  I also looked out for my younger brother.  And the widow-factor worked on me big time.  “Make sure you can get a job after college, that you can support yourself and a family.  Be a teacher.  You’ll have the summer off and you’ll be home in time to take care of your kids.” 

Make sure.  Make sure.  So there went the idea of going into advertising or just being a writer.  The widow-factor blunted the master’s degree goal.  And so did the Catholic-factor.  My mother not only raised us to love music and literature, she also raised us in the Catholic Church.  Hillary was a Methodist so she didn’t have nuns telling growing bodies that French kissing was evil.  She didn’t have an acne-faced priest tell a roomful of girls not to masturbate, that the temptation was always there.  How could he be sure about that temptation, someone asked?  Because he knew, he said with a soft smile.  Yikes.  

Senior year we all had to assemble for a sex talk given by a married couple.  Four girls asked what 69 meant and the couple kept evading and evading.  Hell, maybe they didn’t even know!!  Those were different times.  While Hillary was attending the Maine East and Maine South co-ed high schools, earning her National Merit scholarship and experiencing the highs and lows of the debate team, I was buried in the library at the Academy of Our Lady, again Catholic, all girls.  There I worked to get A’s to earn four scholarships and deal with the widow-factor.  I did sing in the Chorus and worked on the small yearbook.  Hillary was already becoming politically conscious.  I was already dating my future husband and writing in my diary about that.  But who could blame me?  My mother sang the praises of marriage and family, pined for my father, had no interest in meeting someone else.  She worked hard and worked for little pay because she did not have a college degree.  My pathway was really chosen for me: and I was a good Catholic girl on top of it.   When it was 1969 and the boomer world was exploding, I was not doing drugs or burning my bra.  I was planning a wedding as soon as I could afford it.      

 While I lived on the south side of Chicago, Hillary came from a northwest suburb, Park Ridge.  She had a hard-working father who did well in his own business.  Her mother was a stay-at-home mom.  She has two brothers as I do.  Neither one of us was born with a silver spoon in her mouth.  I married my high-school sweetheart, worked hard as a teacher, had children, went back to school to become a nurse, worked again.  I’m living a good life. 

Hillary is living an amazing life.  She was more than just moved by the death of Martin Luther King.  It shook her to the core.  In time it changed her political affiliation from Republican to Democrat and made her certain that she wanted to go on to law school—Yale Law School.     

I’m smart.  That’s always been my big thing—I am smart.  It gives me self-esteem.  It’s something to get up for in the morning.   I know who I am and what I do well—writing, medical research, parenting—so backing Hillary in her run for president of the United States was logical and true for me.  I believe so much in my own abilities, why wouldn’t I believe in another woman’s abilities to run this country. 

And if I am smart, Hillary is smarter.  That’s one of the reasons I showed up at the Drake Diner.  Out of all the candidates, Hillary was the most electable in my mind because of her smarts.  She is on it.  She gets the entire picture of things that go down.  People use their votes for different reasons: he’s from my state, he’s a lawyer, she went to high school with me, he is a born-again Christian.  After GWB, the only thing I thought we should be focusing on was to get someone in the oval office with brains.  We did that.  Barack Obama is extremely bright.  I love the guy.   

Hillary reminds me of my friend Carole Doris, who is also a lawyer.  Carole and I went to  Mundelein College, a school that no longer exists.  Many all-girls schools collapsed because of economics and because girls wanted a coed situation.  Mundelein was subsumed under Loyola University, the next door neighbor on the shore of Lake Michigan, the big school just waiting to take over the small one.     

Carole and I both majored in English and minored in education.  I would study six hours for our Victorian Lit test.  Carole would study two.  She’d get an A and I’d get a B.  Always.  I’m smart.  But Carole Doris is Hillary-smart.  She is now Chairman of the Metra Board in Chicago—that means she’s a big wig in transportation.  But Carole can tear up like Hillary and she cooks like a gourmet.  I saw a different side of her when she planned wedding showers the summer we both got married—1970.  She was all about making favors and playing party games.  I’m sure Hillary has spent time in the kitchen preparing food for a birthday party or a family dinner.  She says she’s familiar with the heat of the kitchen.  Hillary is a wife and a mother who doesn’t always have a chef with a big white hat working the stove.        

Hillary’s school, Wellesley, in Massachusetts, is still going strong, an all-girls school with a population of 2,318 students.  The school motto is: “Non Ministrari sed Ministrare” – “Not to be ministered unto, but to minister.”  How fortuitous.  In New Hampshire, was Hillary thinking of those words when she became emotional and talked about wanting to reverse what has happened in this country?   

Or was she worrying about her hair?  I can answer that—no. 

Hillary Rodham was all about course work and career and using her smarts.  Hillary Clinton is still that person.  If we had gone to school together, I might have spent some time with her talking about the spiral helix or the true meaning of Faulker’s THE BEAR, but I don’t think we would have been tight close friends.  My insecurities dictated some of the friend-moves I made.  In college I fought the battle of beauty versus brains.  The Mundelein was preparing materials to send out to high schools to lure young women to our programs.  Five girls were selected from my dorm for photographs.  Coming and going to class in my tattered raincoat or my one special Garland sweater, I saw them posing: on the college steps, sitting on the porch of the old library, reading in the lounge.  It made me sick.  These were the rich, well coiffed, well heeled girls who wore too much makeup.  They didn’t represent Mundelein as far as I was concerned.  The ones with the smarts did.  Like Carole.  Or maybe me.  But I was learning what pushes people’s buttons. 

Even as a junior in college with my 2.5 out of 3.00 and other activities I was trying to be the best on all fronts.  I was kind of obsessed.  I tried out for the college board.  In the sixties that didn’t mean I was going to be on a quiz show or that I would be honored at my college—it meant that I had a friend take my picture and I filled out a form that I picked up at the department store Caron Pirie Scott in downtown Chicago.  Carsons hired 100 female college students to work in the junior clothing departments at the downtown and suburban stores.  College board girls wore the same outfit and had their pictures up on the walls at the store. We were featured in an article in the newspaper.  What were we really?  Salesgirls.  But at that time of my life, being on the college board was huge.  When I was accepted I not only had a good summer job, but I had glamour and praise for my looks.  I hate admitting that.    

Hillary certainly did not work on the college board.  I imagine that her summer jobs dealt with social justice.  I know that after we graduated, in the summer of 1969, I worked for an agency that handled workman’s compensation.  I pulled cords on an old switchboard and typed up the information that members of the various unions had written done on their claim forms.  Where did the accident occur?  Answer: in the bedroom.  How did the accident occur?  The usual way.  These labor people needed to create a different form for women who were applying for aid because they were pregnant!!

While I was slowly learning that women were still on the sidelines in so many ways, Hillary was doing odd jobs as she traversed Alaska.  There wasn’t much social justice in washing dishes in the Mount McKinley Nation Park, but there was in the work she did at the processing cannery in Valdez.  When she blew the whistle on the awful working conditions, they fired her.  But they were shut down overnight also.  I don’t think Hillary was thinking about glamour.  Her consciousness was definitely raised.