Category Archives: politics

Now

Now it suddenly seems I have another life, one that feels dramatically different in many ways from what came before the election, just two months ago. Now there is a poster in the front window of the apartment letting the world, or my little corner of it, know that “Hate Has No Home Here” and one on the dining room wall stating, among other very basic beliefs, that “Science is real” because now apparently that’s something we are driven to put in writing and declare to houseguests without a second thought as if it’s a radical act. Maybe next it’ll be “We breathe air” framed prettily in the kitchen and “The floor is below us” sprucing up the bedroom.

Now I get up early to start reading the news and signing petitions, making phone calls, and sending emails, depending on the priority actions of the day. I’m strongly imploring those we put in office to oppose or continue to support, and when I read about a Member of Congress standing on the side of good or love or the poor or the sick or the disabled or female or in any way standing up loudly to those who are doing wrong, I find their social media sites and sign up to follow them, taking a moment to write: Thank you.

Thank you. Now I’m thanking politicians I’ve never heard of, newspapers and reporters and TV anchors that I’ve never considered being grateful for, sometimes thanking them simply for being brave enough to say or publish a 3-letter word: lie. After a long day’s work, if the boys aren’t here, I come home to make a few more calls and read more news and then decide if I’ll be knitting more pussyhats for friends and family, or will I read one of the books piled high on my nightstand – maybe the Rebecca Solnit or Michelle Alexander or the 3-part John Lewis series or Howard Zinn. Books my tired news-reading eyes aren’t always up for at night, but that are calling to me. These are not the books that used to sit on my nightstand.

Now when the kids are here we watch Selma on the weekend and listen to the WBEZ radio documentary The View from Room 205 in chapters over several dinners. I sign up for action meetings in hopes of finding a group that seems like a good fit. Our Christmas tree is still standing because I’d rather stay up to speed on the world around us than painstakingly take one ornament down after another and put the thing away. Soon, I tell myself. But there is a fight at hand and it feels a lot more important than any concern over prolonging Christmas into late January.

Now we have a swirl of news day in and day out that feels nothing short of terrifying. We have a tantruming man-child of a fascist rather than a President and we find ourselves repeating to our children This is not normal, this does not happen in our country, over and over and over. But it is happening. It is a constant tornado of Sean Spicer’s lies for his boss and Kellyanne Conway’s alternative facts and the EPA and Rex Tillerson and De Vos with her grizzly bears and a fight over the size of inaugural crowds and rogue National Parks officials daring to tweet after an executive order and conservative legislators calling Women’s Marchers whiny and mentally ill and I keep looking at the source of news articles just praying even one will say TheOnion.com so that I can laugh, relieved, and yet it never does anymore and it just. keeps. coming. like one punch to the gut after another. It’s what passes for the news now, and it’s nothing less than surreal.

And so of course now we Resist. Now we gather peacefully together and show each other, our President, and the world who we really are. I walk into the Chicago airport alone on a Saturday morning, with nothing more than a small purse stuffed with phone chargers, a toothbrush, and clean underwear, and hug strangers at the gate for our flight headed to D.C., one of whom puts her arm around me, crying, as random people at the gate photograph the whole lot of us, and fly myself across the country only to get out right into the middle of a crowd of over a million people to stand up and be counted and make my voice heard. A city I haven’t been to since I was six years old and had my father take pictures of me with a baby doll in our hotel room. But now I’m back and instead of taking smiling photos with a baby doll I chant and cry and sing and laugh with the pink-hatted strangers packed in tightly around me holding brilliant signs, and know that I could trust any one of these people to take care of me if I needed to, and realize that, in fact, I do need to and will for years to come.

Now when the news is bad I am drawing some solace and energy from the experiences collected that day: the old women marching in wheelchairs, the men loudly claiming their feminist stances, the babies asleep on their mothers’ chests, the waves of cheering moving through the enormous crowd, the awesome young woman holding a sign that proclaimed It’s my bachelorette party and I can march if I want to, the young people energized like never before, the easy buddying up with others whenever needed, Madonna performing Express Yourself in a black pussyhat, the Chinese man who drives my Uber back to the airport who keeps saying, in broken English and in an awed tone, I have been here 10 years. I have never seen so many people before. And it seemed like…it was all mothers?  I don’t correct him because I’m too tired and, well, I know what he means. The feeling of certainty that we are on the right side of history and we are not only fired up but also very ready to go. That simply being there I was communicating my strong values directly to my children. And of knowing, because we felt it in our own crowded bodies and heard the joyful noise and experienced it with our whole selves in ways that were both exhilarating and exhausting: there are enough of us and we can do this. This is not the end but only the beginning; it was the coming-out party for the Resistors, and it happened all over the world that day.

Now I also find solace in an evening at home with my own children. With a teenager who follows the news and wants to talk about what’s going on, who can laugh at the most wicked memes with me and share in my shock at the day’s events, and then play me the awesome music he helped mix in the sound engineering studio at his public school. And with a middle schooler who wants to learn to make the turkey tacos so that next Tuesday he can get them started while I’m on my way home from work, and who chats and catches me up on his life of the last five days while we cook the simple meal together.

Now we remind ourselves that this truly is a marathon, not a sprint. And while we can’t afford to look away or bury our heads in the sand for even a day, we will need to pace ourselves, knowing that if we pause to talk to the children and listen to their music and make dinner together, and yes, maybe even put that Christmas tree away before Valentine’s Day, one of those other joyful noisemakers – one of those women or men who put themselves in the same place we did last Saturday, standing shoulder to shoulder with us in body or in spirit – can be trusted to take care of those calls and petitions tonight. There will be more to do tomorrow. But now we rest.

 

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What Didn’t Happen Yesterday

I wanted to cry.  I wanted to cry when Baxter woke up feverish, shaking with chills, and complaining of a sore throat. And again when, just a couple hours later, the doctor on call during our pediatrician’s Sunday walk-in hours looked at me gravely and said, “This is not a typical situation,” before leaving the room to check the strep test.  And once again when we walked my son over to the hospital for a throat x-ray and a blood draw in order to determine exactly what was wrong with his tonsil – and the rest of him.

I wanted to cry when the vomiting started and we were told that if he couldn’t hold down the strong antibiotic he’d have to be admitted to the hospital to receive it intravenously, and then again when my husband and younger son left to run to Walgreens to pick up the prescription while we were getting the tests done, leaving me to push my exhausted, weak son around the quiet hospital in the wheelchair that he’d requested.

I wanted to cry, not because I was so worried for my sick son.  No, although I felt awful for him, I knew he was taken care of and was probably going to be just fine, no matter what this miserable infection was.

Instead, I wanted to cry for all those without health insurance across this country, those who also woke up that day to find their sons and daughters feverish and clearly very ill but had nowhere decent to turn for care. How did that feel?

Where did they go?  Who cared for them? What kind of care did they receive?

If an abscess on their tonsil was suspected, were they sent to a high quality hospital right across the street for an immediate x-ray?  Did they have easy access to that Walgreens for the antibiotic, the one with the pharmacist who could recommend the grape flavor because it would best mask its horrible taste?  The one that gives out green alligator measuring spoons for the kids?  Was the order put in for a follow-up with the best ENT in the area the next day, with a nurse calling the ENT’s office on their behalf – in advance – to let the office know they’d be calling and that the doctor needed to fit this child in?  Did the nurse call again today to make sure they got an appointment?

All over this country, that’s not what happened yesterday.  But it should have.

I love my kids more than words can say, but their health is no more important than anyone else’s children’s health.  They don’t inherently deserve better care than any other child who woke up with a fever and infected throat. All I kept thinking through this ordeal was, “How could we be so fortunate?”

I’d gladly give up some of our medical perks and a portion of our income to see another child cared for.  Wouldn’t you?

Hope and Peace: Inauguration Day, 2009

 

The Grant Park Report

 

I admit there was a part of me that felt reluctant to join the throngs in Grant Park on Election Night.  In part this was due to the reactions of many people who heard we had tickets, including some who had tickets themselves.  I got stares.  The crowd will be too big. I hope it’s safe. I heard there might be a million people down there.  It’ll take you hours to get home on the El. 

But it was one of those things that I just had to do – without over-analyzing it.  Similar to sending the Obama campaign and the DNC more money than we could technically afford over the past year.  And a lot like the moment when I was in Michigan in July, alone in the vacation house, and saw the email announcing the Jeff Tweedy/Barack Obama fundraiser and bought those tickets within 30 seconds because there was no way we could not go to that.  If I’d paused to wonder if Matt was going to be on a business trip that night or to consider that we might not get a babysitter, I’d have missed out on the tickets.  If I’d worried too much about crowd control or the possibility of violence (particularly if our man had lost) on Tuesday night, I’d have missed out on one of the most incredible events of my life and our life as a nation.  So I went, and with great enthusiasm.  Carpe diem.

I was not able to get to the park until 8pm, later than I’d hoped since the gates were to open at 8:30.  As soon as I emerged from the Jackson stop on the Red Line in the Loop, I was impressed by how many people were walking towards Grant Park.  I began to pass concession stands that announced Obama’s win on buttons, posters, and t-shirts, hours before CNN called it.  I had a lot of hope that he would win, but I was still a bundle of uncertain nerves.  I think I will always remember seeing my first “Yes We Did” t-shirt at one vendor’s stand, because the phrase was so incredible and new to me, and it was a shock to see in print before hearing anyone say it.  Matt captured the sounds of the pre-rally streets (including an “Obama” chant) on a short  audio file, which you can listen to here.

I found Matt right away because he is quite tall and was standing on a statue platform on Congress Avenue near the park entrance.  I was thoroughly satisfied with the organization of the event as we passed surprisingly quickly through a few check-points (we were never frisked nor were our bags checked, despite notices posted to the contrary, which really made me wish I’d brought the video camera or our SLR) but we did show ID a couple of times.   As we crossed the footbridge into the park, we had a perfect view of the Chicago skyline lit up especially for the event.  Office buildings spelled out “USA” or created an American flag with their lights, and the John Hancock building flashed red and blue lights on its spires rather than white lights.  It was a beautiful sight, and I turned to take it in behind me a great many times that evening.  I was flooded with emotion, feeling that we’d chosen exactly the right city at the right time when we moved here two years ago.

For much of the evening, we watched CNN on an enormous screen just as I’d left Baxter doing back at home. (And let me add that it was difficult to leave the kid behind, when he was literally bouncing off of his beanbag chair, waving his current electoral prediction map, saying things like, “Yeah, we knew McCain would get that state,” “Why are they projections now and not predictions?” and “This is good stuff!  Good stuff!”  Try tearing yourself away from that.)  The show on the big screen was turned off for periods of time so that we could listen to music, and then was back on each time a state was called.  The crowd booed the states that went to McCain with frequent screams of, “You can have him!” but went wild each time Obama won another state.  People around us were nervously checking their iPhones and Blackberries for online election results at all times.  Cameras were flashing non-stop and enormous flood lights blinded our views. We always knew there was a TV camera heading our way when the screams of the crowd drowned out the sound of the music or CNN.  We were not above screaming and waving in hopes of being on TV.

We were close in that crowd, and could not move around easily.  When I pulled my phone out of my handbag, I elbowed the woman next to me every time because there was simply no room to move.  But I loved it because we were surrounded by people of every race and walk of life there in Grant Park; there were two women in burqas, a group of young African-American men, middle-aged white yuppies, and a couple groups of college students close by.  On the train ride downtown, people were conversing in so many different languages, but I heard a steady stream of “Obama” the entire ride.  It was really beautiful.

What truly stood out for me, however, was the mood of this crowd.  From the moment I got off the train until the end of the evening, I was struck by a certain measure of calm around me.  There was emotional excitement, sure –  tears and cheering and screaming, depending on what was happening at any given moment, but there was something else that was impossible to describe at the time.  The next day, Matt and I both came to it on our own, using the same word to describe it: the crowd in Grant Park on Election Night was reverential.  Respectful of one another, not pushing to get to the front, not behaving in any way that was rude or dangerous or unpleasant.  Even walking through the closed off streets of the Loop at midnight, people walked slowly and even seriously, as if considering the monumental event we had just witnessed.  When someone let out a whoop of excitement, many of us answered it loudly and happily before settling back into quiet.  In fact, the tone of the crowd mirrored the tone that Barack Obama himself had set for us – the way he ran his campaign, and the serious tone of his acceptance speech that night.

I now have a deeper understanding of the delays in emotional processing the children I work with experience.  Yes, I cried quite a bit that night, starting with the “Yes We Did” t-shirt and then again when Obama took Virginia, and certainly culminating with the actual announcement that he had won, and seeing Obama and his gorgeous family appearing on stage still later.  But it was like a strange dream, standing for all those hours and being among 100,000 people to see him win the race and then hear him speak so eloquently.  Talk about sensory overload.  It wasn’t until the next morning that the truly weepy stream of tears started and seemed that they would never stop.  Trying to tell the kids about this historic event and their new president was extraordinarily difficult for us both, because our emotions about it were so overwhelming.

Matt has posted a short sound clip here of Kim Stratton’s gorgeous National Anthem in which you can hear the entire audience singing (another “Oh, wow!” moment – just try not to get goosebumps), and tomorrow he will post a clip (on the same blog) from Obama’s speech, recorded live [edited to include the link: here is the Obama speech audio clip].  My photos are here and Matt’s are here.  (Quite a few of the photos posted here were taken by Matt.)

There is a great deal more to say about how I feel about this election and its outcome, but there’s been such clamoring for me to get a post up here about the rally that I have to do that first.  It was one of the most exciting nights of my life, and I am so grateful to have been there.  I hope it serves as a reminder to me to always, always seize the day.

 

Hope.

I drove home this evening in the cloudy, blue-grey twilight.  As I approached my own neighborhood, I caught sight of two flocks of Canada Geese high above the tree line, making their V-shaped way to warmer climes.

Although I was taken aback, it fit.  I was aware of the early darkening sky as I finished up with my last client at 4:30 pm today; the light in our therapy room felt noticeably different.   It wasn’t just because I had dimmed the lights for a boy who came in anxious and unable to concentrate.  I had helped him make a blanket fort and then turned out the lights, allowing him to calm down on his own until he emerged from under the heavy blanket five minutes later, ready to work.  No, it was the outside sky that was darkening early.

These are dark days in most every way, it seems.  American bank failures and bail outs, hurricane after hurricane slamming us, wars around the world, a treasured writer committing suicide over the weekend, a train crash in Los Angeles, rain flooding my own city that left damp spots on our ceiling, and this damnable Presidential campaign in which far too many people are taking a ridiculous pair of candidates seriously.

I have also become aware of one challenge inherent in adding “cyber friends” to the lively and beloved group of friends I’ve made over the years, and this is that, like anyone else, they have their ups and downs.  This is as it should be – they are real people, after all – and yet it means that I am also tuned in to the fact that Mrs. Chicken’s newborn baby has been in the hospital for the past few days, that Slouching Mom is suddenly dealing with yet another major family emergency, that Niksmom is really struggling to get a decent night’s sleep, and that multiple friends are suffering from debilitating migraines these days.  Riding these waves with our friends is simply something that goes with the territory of a strong friendship, and making connections online has brought more wonderful friends into my life than I’d have ever expected.  Somehow it seems as if many of my friends are struggling at the moment, in sync with the rest of the world.  It’s a lot to carry.

But as the night comes early and the geese are on their way out, I do what I can to bring light, laughter, and stability to my family for a couple hours and I think about these friends I have – from coast to coast, overseas, right next door, with some accessible to me instantaneously in seemingly futuristic ways – and my sadness is gradually replaced with gratitude.  Yes, gratitude: because I know that just as I watch over our world from where I stand here in the middle of America, keeping company with fears at once both enormous and minute, so do they.

So do they.

This fills me with hope.

Enjoy, Wonderfriends.

It’s time to make it as clear as possible that this election matters and the choice of Gov. Palin as Republican VP candidate is S.C.A.R.Y

This little ditty from Micheal Seitzman at The Huffington Post helps.

Dontcha think?

Oh, the Funny!

If you watch just one thing tonight, make it this clip from Jon Stewart last night.  Seriously.  Put a smile on your face after the RNC.

A Word or Two on Sarah Palin

I feel compelled to say a few things here about McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his VP running mate in this election.

First and foremost, I am uncomfortable with Democrats finding fault in Palin’s choice to run for this important position because it conflicts with her job as a mother.  Of course I realize she has five kids, the youngest of whom is a 5-month old with Down Syndrome, and I would be the last person to say that this is a small responsibility.  But I also hope that I would be the last person to assume that I know the first thing about how her household operates – where the responsibilities lie, how much help she has, what her own needs and wants are as a mother, and how her children are faring.

Most of you don’t know that recently my life was held up (here in ye olde internets) as a specific example to others of the kind of life someone with children would not want to have.  Turns out, my chosen lifestyle as a working mother dedicated to improving the lives of kids with special needs and their families is bad for my kids, but, thankfully, others “instinctively” knew better than to take this “disastrous” path and are counting their blessings back at home as they watch me struggle with work/life balance issues from afar.  I did not respond to this nor did I share it at the time because I know it does not ring true for me and I am comfortable enough with the choices I make not to need to defend them.  I only share this now because when I think of the judgmental, uninformed criticism Sarah Palin is getting, I am personally uncomfortable; I know how it feels to be called out in public as someone who is making choices that are bad for her family.  I feel strongly that we would all be better off if mothers supported one another’s choices, no matter how different they are from our own. Until I spend a week in Sarah Palin’s go go boots, I can’t know what her life as a working mother in public office is like for her or her family and I’m going to refrain from passing judgment on that particular point.

But that is about the only point I won’t pass judgment on, because, really, what the bloody hell was John McCain thinking?!  One article in today’s New York Times seems to claim that this choice was made because Palin was the only one left on McCain’s list who came down hard against abortion, and the evangelicals made it clear that their eyes were going to pop out and their heads might never stop spinning if he didn’t go in this direction.   This article, entitled Palin Disclosures Raise Questions on Vetting, is illuminating when it comes to such details.  C’mon, McCain —  did you think we might simply not notice the following:

On Monday morning, Ms. Palin and her husband, Todd, issued a statement saying that their 17-year-old unmarried daughter, Bristol, was five months pregnant and that she intended to marry the father.

Among other less attention-grabbing news of the day: it was learned that Ms. Palin now has a private lawyer in a legislative ethics investigation in Alaska into whether she abused her power in dismissing the state’s public safety commissioner; that she was a member for two years in the 1990s of the Alaska Independence Party, which has at times sought a vote on whether the state should secede; and that Mr. Palin was arrested 22 years ago on a drunken-driving charge.

While I grant you that all of those things are “a part of life” as Republicans are suddenly claiming (can we expect some updated Family Values?), I can’t help but believe that McCain didn’t quite dig deep enough when he made this choice so suddenly a few days ago.

Like so many, I have also been wondering if McCain is simply fishing for the undecided Hilary votes.  But this doesn’t quite make sense to me, because the more I read about Sarah Palin, the less I believe any sort of comparison could ever be drawn between the two.  I mean, we women are smarter than this, aren’t we?  I loved Maureen Dowd’s Op-Ed piece about Palin on Sunday…try replacing “Palin” with “Hilary” in any sentence – it doesn’t work.

It does appear that there were other reasons, reasons that were still mistakes, but that make more sense to me.  These are outlined by David Brooks in yesterday’s Op-Ed piece.  To quote:

When McCain met Sarah Palin last February, he was meeting the rarest of creatures, an American politician who sees the world as he does. Like McCain, Palin does not seem to have an explicit governing philosophy.

and

My worry about Palin is that she shares McCain’s primary weakness — that she has a tendency to substitute a moral philosophy for a political philosophy.

The Brooks editorial is replete with enlightening information about both McCain and Palin, and I highly recommend it.

And so, in the end, I am left with the feeling that Palin is a huge mistake for the Republicans, but for a very different set of reasons than I’ve been pondering for these past few days.

Not that I’m complaining.  No, siree!  Bring on the crazy, McCain!

Thinking of New Orleans

Does this and this prove that God is a Democrat??  Just wonderin’…

In all seriousness, I am following updates from NolaNews on Twitter and worried about New Orleans today.  My thoughts are with them.

[Edited to add:  Apparently, I wasn’t the first to think of this – phew, at least I’m not in a position that would require me to apologize publicly!  Because if I did, then I’d feel compelled to explain that I’m not even a believer, so obviously this is a meaningless joke coming from me, and then how many people would I offend and have to apologize to??]

Dear Senator Obama,

An amazing thing happened in your home state of Illinois today.  Right here in Chicago, in the Rogers Park neighborhood, a fantastic display of political activism took place.  A small group of friends decided to organize a garage sale in which at least 50% of the proceeds would be donated to your campaign.  Many within our circle of friends and relations volunteered to donate items to the sale as well, believing it to be a great idea.   We were hard at work for days, clearing out our closets, cabinets, and garages around here, pulling together as many items as possible to donate.  I know I speak for more people than myself when I say that there were items I never would have been willing to part with were it not for the benefit of this campaign – and therefore, the benefit of all of us.

We were all up late last night, organizing, sorting, and deliberating over pricing of our sale items, and then up at the crack of dawn to begin setting up before people arrived.  And arrive they did.  Those who had seen our ads began shopping well before we were prepared for them, but no matter; we were happy to collect their money.  We decided on the spot that we would all simply donate 100% of our earnings to your campaign to increase the impact of our work.

For the next 10 hours, there was a steady stream of shoppers.  Neighbors, friends, and garage sale buffs arrived, ready to buy.  We sold books, children’s clothes, furniture, shoes, costumes, toys, sheets, blankets, rugs…you name it. There were no hecklers – no McCain supporters stopping by to challenge us. There was also very little negotiation: not only were most people happy to pay the prices we had set, but those who were able to, rounded up.  This is not a wealthy community on the whole, Mr. Obama.  Money doesn’t grow on trees here. One elderly woman returned three times, each time choosing one item that cost her a single dollar.  As she walked toward home pulling a $1.00 suitcase behind her after the third visit, she told me, Those campaign callers, they want so much money.  I can’t give them $15 or $25 or $100.  But I can do this.  Many of our customers were Spanish speaking and some sent their children to ask us how much certain items cost.  We sold the vast majority of our items for $3.00 or less.  For so many people to say “keep the change” is a very big deal.

As the day went on, a trend developed that we did not expect.   A surprising number of shoppers were inspired to run home and collect a pile of their own giveaways to bring to us.  One woman came back half an hour later with a brand new pair of high quality roller blades and laid them down next to the shoes.  A young man, probably a college student, returned with a huge stack of clothing and books.  A woman in her 20s returned multiple times, once with brand new board games that had never been unwrapped and then with an entire box of unopened cosmetics.  The women of Rogers Park will be wearing Mary Kay for the next ten years.  Every time she left to get more, she ran across the street shouting over her shoulder, I’m all about Obama!

I did not understand how empowering this event would be.  What started out as some friends putting together a little garage sale became a true community event in which some of our neighborhood’s most disenfranchised members were proud to participate.  We know many more of our neighbors now as well, which leads to a safer, friendlier community.  With this type of event, everyone wins.

You can see in the photos shown here that we had a beautifully diverse crowd, representative of our neighborhood.  One thing that we all had in common was a belief that our country can do better; can be better. We believe that sending you and Joe Biden to the White House is the first step in creating this change.  And we all worked together to make that happen.  We have the honor of sending your campaign a check in the amount of $925.00.  We raised that money dollar by dollar, 25-cent beach ball by 50-cent pair of flip flops, $1.00 potty training seat by $5.00 box of terra cotta tiles.  But we raised it, all in one day, and it’s on its way to you.  It comes with the love, dedication and hope of the people of Chicago, right here in your own backyard.

Go get ’em, Obama!