If You See Something, Say Something

see-somethingWhen my kids were small enough for peek-a-boo, they’d sit, a chubby toddler hand across their eyes.

“Can you see me?” they’d squeal, peeking through their fingers. To them, the logic was simple: if they couldn’t see me, surely I couldn’t see them.

A year ago, I found myself in a situation with someone waxing lyrical about his perceived virtues of Donald Trump (which essentially amounted to not being Hillary Clinton). I racked my brain to find a way to rationalize his ideas so that I could continue to be in the shared space we found ourselves in. I couldn’t. So I stopped sharing the space. I stopped doing something I enjoyed because I didn’t want to make others uncomfortable.

That’s what women do. That’s what liberals do. We don’t, in the parlance of my kids, walk all over other people’s feelings. Sometimes women don’t argue for no other reason than a deeply embedded survival instinct. Generations of women can attest that an angry man is often a dangerous man. As I wrote recently, keeping your head down as a woman is not an act of cowardice or consent as much as it is an act of survival.

I’m not one to shy away from confrontation. In fact, I court it most of the time. But I was deeply invested in the idea of allowing room for diverse thought.

I say was because I was wrong. Because racism and sexism? That is not diverse thought. It’s hate. It is some sort of superiority complex masquerading as something else. There is no room for racism. There is no room for sexism. If you feel that your skin color grants you superiority, or the organ dangling between your legs denotes supremacy, if you feel the God you worship or the book of stories you choose to live by outweighs those of others then you are, quite simply, wrong.

I can’t stop anyone feeling those things. I cannot nor should I stop anyone from thinking them or speaking them. But I will be damned if I will not confront the ugly truth of them and let them slide in order to keep a one-sided peace. A one-sided peace which is often mistaken for consent and agreement.

Women are taught, from a very early age, to keep the peace, to compromise, to find a middle ground. We are raised with an unspoken understanding that our role is to make everyone else comfortable, even at the cost of denying our own needs and beliefs. Making those around you uncomfortable? That is to be avoided.

You put your hand over your eyes. If you can’t see it, it follows that it’s not there, right?

Except it’s still there.

I’m a white, heterosexual, middle-class woman. I’m very probably past my child-bearing years. Hell, I don’t even live in the US at the moment. The easiest thing in the world for me to do right now would be to drape something across my eyes and tell myself that confronting it will make everyone else uncomfortable.

But just because I can’t see it doesn’t mean it can’t see me.

 
After 9/11, the NYPD ran with a Homeland Security campaign which urged New Yorkers: If You See Something, Say Something.

As Septembers came and went, the cry became less urgent. The fear of terrorism became something you learned to live with as opposed to something that fell out of the sky one cloudless day. It became a tag line. Black letters running across the bottom of a subway advertisement, sandwiched in between Dr. Z and Brooklyn Community College.

letter-2
Close up of letter sent to mosques in several U.S. states.

If you see something, say something.

What I am seeing, since the morning of November 9th, is evidence of the resurgence of acceptable racism, normalized sexism, legitimized bigotry. A digging in of heels over systematic oppression. A backward sprint toward a notion of “I can say anything now’ in some imagined Trump-landia, as if the election of a president magically stripped away any pretense of civil rights, civility, civilization.

Uh-uh.

Now is not the time to cover your eyes and pretend it’s not there. Now is not the time to worry about making others uncomfortable. Now is not the time.

If you see something, say something.

If you see someone promoting or repeating racism, say something.

If you see someone harassing someone else because of their sex, say something.

If you see someone giving someone a hard time because of their sexuality, say something.

If you see someone targeted because of their faith, say something.

Too many of us have been peeking out from behind fingers. We enjoy the privilege of looking away because it doesn’t affect our day-to-day lives, or it does affect us but somehow we normalize it.

This is not the time for looking away. It’s not the time to bite our tongues in order to keep things comfortable. It’s not time to keep the apple cart upright and moving.

The apple cart needs to be well and truly upset. The apple cart needs to be overturned, dismantled, smashed and burned for good measure.

Liberalism gets blamed for a lot of things. But the one complaint about liberalism I agree with is this: we focus too much on inclusiveness. Because in our quest to allow everyone an equal voice, to include all, we left enough space for the nasty stuff to get in. We gave the nasty stuff equal weight. And now it is in danger of spreading like poison ivy all over the skin of a nation.

silence-is-betrayalNow is not the time for inclusiveness. Now is not the time to make allowances for speech or actions which serve no purpose other than hate. Now is not the time to consider the bully’s feelings, to try to understand, to use logic. Now is not the time to let silence be mistaken for consent.

Now is the time to peel the hand away from our eyes and confront whatever is in front of us. No matter how uncomfortable it makes us or the people around us.

 

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The Mother of All Elections

veruca_saltI know I’m not alone in experiencing what’s become known as “election fatigue”. I’m exhausted; head-scratching, rage-inducing, gag-me-with-a-spoon, rant-riddled exhausted. But I think I’ve finally figured out one reason why.

Being a Democrat this election cycle has been like parenting a two-year old.

For eighteen months the GOP has been throwing the mother of all tantrums. Over-tired toddler in the Nerf aisle of Toy-R-Us level meltdown. And while the remnants of a once proud party writhes on the linoleum kicking and screeching, the rest of us have had to draw on every last bit of patience and reserve and the grittiest of true grit just to get the fucker out of the store without drawing too much attention.

Essentially the GOP is all the kids from Willy Wonka rolled up into one  glooped out, bad egg mess.

Parenting is all about love, sure. But it’s also managing and soothing and calming, compromise, listening, modeling behavior and when it comes right down to it, making sure everyone gets a cookie.

I do all of that with my own kids. It’s tiring. The Democratic party has been doing it with a good portion of America for the last year. No wonder why so many of us are  DefCon 4 exhausted.

There are times as a parent when all I want to do is scream “What the FUCK is wrong with you?” at my kids. I don’t….not out loud anyway. It wouldn’t solve anything and it would do more harm than good. And while it might make me feel better for approximately five seconds, I simply cannot justify the potential fall-out that five seconds worth of pent-up release would bring me. Plus, it’s not exactly the example I want to set for my children.

I imagine there are a lot of blue-voting folks out there who have wanted to scream “What the FUCK is wrong with you?’ to a good number of people, but who realize it won’t actually solve anything. Because if the family fall-out is bad, what’s it going to be like multiplied by a few million? Plus, it’s not exactly the example Democrats want or should want to set.

(Though admittedly, it might make you feel better for approximately five seconds.)

There’s been soothing. Yes, we understand you’re frustrated. There’s been empathy. Yes, we understand you’re angry. There has been redirection, bribery, threats, pleas. And yes, at times, even the kind of full-frontal confrontation that is leaning down and hissing into your kid’s face in a voice low enough that no one else can hear.

You know what? Mommy’s angry too. Mommy’s really, really, fucking angry.

willy-wonka-augustus-gloop

For the past year and a half, it seems as if one side has been expected to manage, dissuade, and calm the anger of the other. They’ve been trying to convince Veruca that no, she can’t have the golden goose just because she wants it. Why? Because no one wants NATO calling child protective services called on our asses and though it may seem tempting at times, no one really wants to go and pick half their country out of a garbage chute either.

I’m not sure I’ve ever read so much about one, single topic in my life. Article upon study upon poll of why the angry, white base (yes, a gross generalization) is voting for or supporting Donald Trump. Of how people distrust the political system, the establishment, the media, women. Loss of jobs, fear, too many ‘isms’ to shake a stick at. What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Nation Divided stuff

The Democratic party isn’t dumb. We get it. You’re angry.

You’re not alone.

We’re angry too. We’re angry that we can’t just go to the store and leave without a fuss. That we can’t have nice things in our country like health care and equal rights without someone pitching a shit fit. We’re angry that everyone else in the global parking lot is staring and judging and tsk tsk-ing. And a lot of times we are angry that instead of screaming into your face we’re supposed to go high, be the adult and wrangle this mess into the car seat to get it home.

There is an entire political party in the United States which has been playing Mommy/Daddy to a group of whining brats for the last eight years. Some are whining because they didn’t get the biggest piece of cake. Others are whining because the black kid got the slice with the most frosting. And some are whining because the girl is going to get a piece too, though it’s still probably only 79% as big.

When my kids whine like that I want to smash the whole cake so no one can have any. But I’m a parent. I don’t do that, not least of all because I’m going to have to clean the whole mess up.

When I watch and listen to what is being said, how I’m meant to empathize and sympathize and understand? I want to smash the whole thing so the other side can’t have any. But I’m a Democrat. I don’t do that, not least of all because, at the end of the day, it would make me no better than those who are pitching a fit about me having some cake too.

violet_keeps_growing_redux___5_by_faridae-d8cuqstAny parent will tell you that logic doesn’t work in the face of pure emotion. Sometimes the only thing you can do is let the thing play out and hope it doesn’t do any lasting damage.

Even if it takes eight years.

With any luck we’ll get a nap in before the next fit starts. Because if you’re a parent….or a Democrat….you know damn well there’s always going to be a next one.

Pssst…Millennials–Gen X Here. Can We Have a Word?

10e0ca10f66a0b8442b7f31e3a68ebc7Dear Millennials,

I keep reading about your disillusionment with the political process, about your lack of enthusiasm for the candidates you have to choose from.

I get it.

Try, if you will, to cast you mind back to the 80s. We were a generation that came of age at the height of the AIDS/HIV crisis. We were living under a thinly veiled threat of nuclear fallout. The Berlin Wall was still standing. Nancy Regan was consulting her astrologist and pleading with us to “JUST SAY NO!”

1988 was the first year I was eligible to vote. My choices for president? George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis. I can already hear you asking, Michael Who-what-is?? Yeah, I wasn’t very excited either. Neither was the rest of the country. Bush won handily.

I thought the whole country was going to hell during the first Bush administration. I worried the draft would be reinstated, I worried my male friends would be shipped off to the Middle East to fight a war none of us believed in. I was convinced of a lot of things.

Many of us were disgusted with the government. We protested the war. We marched on Washington for reproductive rights. We marched in NYC to take back the night.

It didn’t do any good. No one was listening. And so we started to distrust the system. The same way the flower children started to distrust the system during Vietnam. The same way some of you do now.

I get it.

For all our quaint John Hughes movies and bad hairstyles, all our James Spader rich boy sneering, we were you once upon thirty years ago. Faced with political choices that fell flat. Trust me. It was really hard get excited about Dukakis.

polbhem1fed-bldg-sit-in-1991

Gen X wasn’t all Duran Duran and parachute pants. There was a momentum. There were movements. LGBTQ rights were on the horizon, women in shoulder pads were, if not busting into boardrooms, then knocking at the door. There was fire and crackle and sizzle. Rage at the fuddy-duddy process. Demands for faster progress.

So what happened? In the most boring predictable of clichés, we grew up. The economy boomed. We fell in love. Got jobs. September 11 came along and upended the way we viewed the world. Kids were born, parents died. We got divorced, remarried. Lost jobs. Battled cancer. You know, life.

Life happened. And on that spectrum of life you realize things aren’t always as cut and dry as they seem.

I read about the fire in your belly paired with a sense of  helplessness, the feeling no one is listening to your (mostly spot-on, legitimate) demands. Here’s the thing: That feeling’s not new. I think the folks who write these articles forget what it’s like to be in that 18-25 year-old age bracket. Or perhaps they just haven’t left the bracket yet themselves.

But, damn you guys! You have ushered in an era where it is not only easier for LGBTQ youth to come out, but one which supports them, both socially and legally. Don’t think that’s big deal? Go check out those John Hughes movies Generation X are so fond of. There aren’t any gay characters in them. That is a seismic cultural shift. You showed the country there was room in The Breakfast Club for the “gay one” as well.

You did that.

You live in a world where you don’t understand why it’s such a big deal that a woman is on the top of the Presidential ticket. The year some of you were born I sat in stunned silence as Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. And then watched as Congress approved him for the Supreme Court of the United States anyway. Yeah, we’ve still got a long way to go on that one, but we need your help.

Your detractors call you lazy, entitled, apathetic. I think you haven’t had time to live yet.

Life is experience and experience is nuance. You get older and you live longer and you realize, quite clearly, there are terrible things out there in the world. As a young adult there is love. There is war. There is right. There is wrong. There are clear lines in the sand. And that is as it should be. You need that clarity, that focus. If at eighteen you realized how many different ways you could be truly fucked, you’d never get out of bed. We’d lose an entire generation.

You may look at us, slightly pudgy and graying, comfortable shoes reminiscing about our youth and think the fire’s gone out. But the thing about fire is that if you can’t control it, it burns the whole place down, the good with the bad. The trick is learning how to tame the flames enough to make them useful.

I guess what I am saying is don’t give up. You have the elasticity to bounce back. We may be living life with our slightly less radical and slightly more centrist ideas, with our boring policy talk, doing things the only way we know how. But you? You have the opportunity to live the lives never offered us. Use that gift to tame the flames in a way to make them work for you.

act-up-phila-on-broad-stI know you won’t listen. I know because I wouldn’t have when I was eighteen, nineteen. I would have looked at the middle-aged person trying to give me advice as a relic of the past. A pudgy fossil on their way to Shady Pines.

I’ll say it anyway. Don’t throw a bucket of cold water on your fire because it’s not burning in the direction you hoped.

You can’t fake experience. You have to live it. So sure, we may seem stodgy and middle-aged now. It may look like we sold out, became complacent, gave up. But really we’re just getting ready to pass the baton.

It’s up to you to run with it. Don’t sit down on the track before you even start.

Love,
Generation X

Apology Not Accepted

trump-1Warning: Explicit language below

I woke this morning to the news of (yet another) Trump scandal. Despite the nastiness he’s been spewing about women on the record for the last 18 months, it took the nastiness he said off the record ten years ago to finally get Donny to apologize. Sort of. Not only him, but many members of his party.

The problem is, it’s not just too little too late, it’s a lot too little, a lot too late.

So sorry, Mr. Trump, your apology is not accepted. Sorry senators and chairpersons and those of you so utterly desperate to garner votes or toe the party line that you’ve sat by like a bunch of wimps and let this person walk all over your human-ness. Your apologies are not accepted either. 

Hey, Reince Priebus, guess what? Women have been telling you for two goddamn years that no woman should be referred to in this way, but your half-apology holds no water with me. This from the man who watched as Roger Ailes, a man accused of sexual harassment, multiple times, was hired to consult on a Presidential campaign.

Your limp, “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever,” apology sucks. As if you didn’t know how women are described? How the hell do you think men like Trump and others describe women? 

Yo, Paul Ryan! Asking Donald Trump not to attend your rally? Too little, too late. And screw you, women don’t need to be ‘championed and revered’. We need to be treated like fucking equals.

Even when you’re apologizing you still don’t get it.

Your apologies are not enough. Do you know why? Because they mean nothing. They mean nothing because none of you have a single plan in place to change this kind of systematic sexist bullshit backroom behavior from happening.

Instead of making boardrooms and Congress and life a more equitable place for women, your plans serve only to get women out of  the boardroom and Congress all together so you can back to your cigar-smoking, back-room dealing, grab-some-pussy ways.

Women have been screaming about this crap for years. The overt and covert harassment and systematic, excused sexism that runs rampant through industry, politics, life. We’ve been talking and screaming and trying to fix it and you just send us off with a pat on the head telling us that women in Saudi Arabia can’t drive or that we need to get our priorities straight. We’ve been documenting it, recording it, writing about it, singing about it for years and what do you do?

You go and hire the very people who have done us harm to run your campaigns. Or run for president.

What.The.Actual.Fuck?

All of that and you still have no plan to do anything to change the dynamic. You have no policy that is going to do anything at all to help women. NOT ONE. 

So that’s why your bullshit apologies don’t mean anything to me. You’re not sorry, you’re only sorry because Donald Trump got caught. You’re only sorry because it might influence your elections. If you were truly sorry, you would have distanced yourself from your crass, spray-tanned, clownish charlatan eighteen months ago. But no.

Perhaps it’s your deep-rooted fear of a pussy which is responsible for making us endure this buffoonish, disgusting, and yes, deplorable behavior from a PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. Not only that, but his “spectacular role-model” behavior has given legitimacy to large chunks of Americans who feel free to spew their own crass bullshit at the other PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. Not because she tries to ‘grab some pussy’, but because she is in possession of one.

cat-sorrySo take your half-assed apology and shove it up half your ass. My eight year old has better sense and manners than the lot of you

You don’t need to grow balls. You’ve got plenty of those between you and you still screw it up. What you need to do is grow a pussy.

This one knows who her vote will be cast for in a few weeks.