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The Double Meaning behind the blog title 'Dream Follower:'
First, for 14 years I was a ballroom & social dance instructor, and have studied both leading and following. I feel that learning to follow is full of nuance and is often misunderstood. I made it one of my personal goals to become a really excellent follow on the dance floor, and will probably talk a lot about the art of following - both in and out of the context of dance.

Second, I am a huge fan of author Michael Ende, probably best known for The Neverending Story. The book is incredible, and the first film captured some of the essence. (Please don't watch the other two films...I urge you to read the book though!) Anyway, at least twice in my life I have been caught in a storm of my own indecision, and my inner Moon Princess yelled to my inner Bastian...'Why don't you do what you dream?' I tear up even now as I write this little blurb. The tension between being practical, keeping my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds (at the risk of compromising my inner vibrancy, true self, and who knows what else)...and reaching for my true dreams (at the risk of losing everything) is still a very real struggle. In fact, one of those struggles lead to my 14 years of teaching dance, so we can see which voice won the battle that fateful day when I was staring at the want-ad...

And so I strive to be two kinds of Dream Followers in my life. One has to do with connecting with others, and the other has to do with connecting with my inner Moon Princess and the world of possibility that opens when I do...

Saturday, October 21, 2017

#MeToo…#ItWasMe…How Can We All Evolve Beyond Giving Trees and Taking Boys? (TW)

           #ItWasMe is most upsetting to some of the more recent victims of trauma. Maybe my own #MeToo wounds are leathery and worn, but I will do my best.  I was deeply saddened last fall at how a movement I tried to be part of devolved.  This probably is at least part of why I am conflicted about how to share the many thoughts and feelings I had this week.  I’m hyper aware how delicate and fragile this territory is and I want to be careful, but I feel very strongly that this conversation is pivotal.

          In the aftermath of the presidential election, as I tried to be engaged and learn how to be a better ally especially for People and Women of Color, I experienced my own painful awakening.  As a cis-white straight woman I was brought up short by people around me online attacking my attempts to be an ally.  I was quite frankly shocked by their response.  I felt slapped in the face by my own privilege.  I was dismayed at how inadequate and impotent I felt in the face of so much appropriate outrage.  I kept wanting to say things like “How can I help more, we’re in this together, and we’re on the same side.”  It felt like at every turn my weak and insufficient efforts were met with scorn. 

          It seems to me that the men saying “#ItWasMe” are possibly in a similar place, going through a similar painful awakening.  Back then, I learned that asking how I can help is unfair, asking to be educated was just another indication of my privilege, and asking those around me to bear the emotional labor of my awakening was unacceptable. 

          I am hopeful that something radical and important is changing.  I see a dialogue opening up that has been buried deeply for decades.  I see a possibility for conversation that allows us all to grow more self-aware and more conscientious.  Most importantly, I see room for more voices to harmonize, unify, magnify and ultimately (and most importantly) shift things for a better tomorrow.

          The #MeToo movement is an opportunity for all victims of sexual assault, harassment or rape to unify.  When the #MeToo movement began, I hesitated whether to participate or not.  I hesitated partly because it feels invasive and personal.  I also hesitated because it seems redundant.  What woman hasn’t?  I think it is perhaps unclear whether there are degrees of sexual harassment, assault, rape, abuse, and also it is such a public way to treat something that is often so painful or private.  In so many cases women and men who have been victims are re-victimized and re-traumatized by coming forward or by the media or by the courtroom or the forced retelling of every last detail.  So many victims are met with disbelief, or then their behavior is put on trial to the point that many choose to live in secret with their pain rather than endure public scrutiny or debate.  Part of what made this tidal wave so powerful is that it was enough to share or comment those two tiny words.  #metoo.  Some women chose to share vivid details of the horrors they have survived.  Some people whose wounds were fresh had to remove themselves from social media because they were finding themselves triggered without warning. 

          The #MeToo movement is strengthened by including the voices of all victims.  By the same token, #ItWasMe needs to be allowed to have a voice in this conversation.  I am not AT ALL interested in defending narcissistic sociopaths and their feelings here, but men who are waking up to their part in the tapestry, and how they have been complicit should have a space and a voice and also need to be heard.  Within the #MeToo movement there is a debate raging whether to allow male victims of assault and rape to join in, or whether women shouldn’t be allowed to have the floor on this one, and have only our voices heard. 

          While I do understand the importance of gender in this conversation, my stance is unequivocally that all victims of abuse, assault and rape should band together.  I firmly believe that admitting that there are some men who are victims too does not weaken the tidal wave of solidarity…it strengthens it.  In fact, I think that as hard as it is for women to come forward when they have been assaulted or raped it is a hundred or a thousand times more difficult for a man to state publicly that these things have happened.  Gender does not define this movement for me, though it is certainly a root issue in an overwhelming (maybe even staggering) number of cases.  We can reclaim our power best by reclaiming our shared humanity.  In my opinion we cannot afford to splinter now. 

          This idea is nothing new, even Lincoln said: “United we stand, divided we fall.”  Even longer ago, when the Romans built the Coliseum, they used strategy to control the crowd.  They knew an out of control mob could easily overpower an army, so they built thick, insurmountable walls between the sections. 

Picture the segments of a citrus fruit…and though each section might be unique in many ways, it is all made of the same fruit.  Right now, we need to remember we are all pulp.  The pulp over there might have been squeezed between her boss and a desk.  The pulp over there might have been forced or coerced by his boyfriend.  Abuse can certainly even happen from a woman to another woman or to a man.  #MeToo is powerful because it encompasses all who have been violated.  When we push another victim down or away and say this is not their time or their movement we are becoming bullies.  It may be coming out in our grief, but by doing so we are traumatizing another victim rather than welcoming them to the cause. 

          As the tidal wave grew, I was initially pleased to hear about an answering response by many men using the hashtag #ItWasMe.  I guess I wasn’t alone.   Many women responded to posts like this on social media positively, feeling heard, feeling men finally joining the conversation, feeling them come out from behind the silent curtain.  There was an immediate impulse to shower these men with positive reinforcement, to encourage the confession and to want more and more men to wake up to their own participation in the culture.  Many victims were outraged that men were praised for coming out in a confessional post to state that they had in some way marginalized or assaulted or violated women, and getting praise for their courage in admitting that.  So this becomes complex.  Immediately.  I do not want to defend what they confess in these posts whatsoever, but this conversation will stall if we squelch this part of their response to #MeToo. I'm listening...

          Here is why…

          We are all woven in this messed up tapestry together.  Gender roles have been fed to us on all sides from birth.  I grew up on many children’s books, but one comes to mind that was a favorite: “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein.  This book made a deep imprint in my mind and in my heart at a tender age.  I identified more with the tree than with the boy, because I was a little girl, and the tree in the story was a she.  And she lovingly and willingly gave the little boy every inch of her being.  Shade, her leaves, her apples, her body to build a home with and as the boy grew older even at the end of his life she was thrilled to serve him as a seat when all that was left of her was a stump because he had used her up.  Completely.  And I’m afraid I tried to model myself after this Giving Tree through the course of several of my romantic relationships.  I gave and gave and tried to be everything he might have wanted.  But the story might have been a metaphor too subtle for a young girl’s mind, and might have been intended to show a little boy’s gratitude for his mother, or for the gifts of life, or something else…but it would have been a totally different experience to read if the title had been “The Taking Boy” and I might have lived my life in vastly different ways if I had seen it that way instead.

          I appreciate the men who are now waking up to the fact that they have been Taking Boys.  What touches my heart about this response from men is that they are raw and fresh and sorry.  They can’t help that they are men in this tapestry, any more than I could help being a cis-white woman with privilege last fall.  But they are waking up.  They are reflecting differently on memories of past encounters.  They are asking themselves the most uncomfortable questions.  Did they press their advantage?  Did they make their desire more important than another person’s boundaries?  Did they force someone else to do something?   And in this discomfort, they are not hiding.  They are opening themselves to criticism, making themselves vulnerable too. 

          Is it enough?  No.  Not by a long shot.  But it is a start.  And just as I wished my awakening had been received last fall, I would like to usher them in gently.  Firmly.  I would like to encourage them, rather than pile on or punish.  It would be easier to dive back under the covers, but the next step must come, which is to say No More.  And to teach our young boys and grown men about this fabric, and its flaws.  It is time to share the emotional burden of consent.  Women have traditionally been bearing the weight of the outcome, but we are tired because even when we say no it comes down to what we were wearing, how much we had to drink, whether we flirted or lead him on or aroused him.  Which is a subtle message that oppresses men.  Yes, you think only women were oppressed by this tapestry?  No.  It paints men as helpless victims of their sexual urges.  As though there is some kind of tipping point past which he might not be able to help himself.  This is woven in, along with the guilt-tripping of blue balls and a million other tactics which have worked on young girls and women (and men) for decades.  While it claims to depict men as strong and women as the weaker sex, in actuality this tapestry forces women to have all the self-control, and makes it seem like men are incapable.  It is an awful, unfair and ultimately untrue depiction. 

          I’m sure most of you know that assault and rape and harassment are not about sex - it is so easy to be distracted by this aspect.  These acts are about domination, power, and violation of another human being.  And this, right now, has got to be a tipping point.  All the #ItWasMe awakenings will be needed moving forward.  Thank you for joining your voices to the chorus.  Thank you because without your intention, and your attention, it might have slumbered on being a toxic element of life for so much longer.  Gentlemen, young boys, and men…we need you to be the allies it is so clear many of you want to be.  This shift cannot happen without your help.  I am optimistic these vital conversations may change the behavior between us humans.  It is true, a couple of hashtags cannot be enough.  But it could be the snowball at the top of a mountain, or the threads in the tapestry that - once pulled - change the picture forever.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Right Alone or Wrong Together?

                I believe that pass or fail is a false duality. But how can that be when sometimes in life there is such a clear right/wrong, win/lose, on time or off time construct? Well it comes back to priorities.

                 As a dancer and a dance teacher, being on time seems like an absolute. And this is empirically true, you can’t both be dancing on time and off time to the music at the same time, and ideally we would be on time. Imagine my surprise when a profound lesson came through as I was teaching one of my couples.

                In this example, Mr. X was having the devil of a time hearing the music and getting his feet to move on time with the music. Mrs. X could hear it just fine and was trying to help. Her version of helping was undermining his leadership and also was not actually helping, since all it did was cause his pride to take a hit and he went into an inward shame spiral and if that’s not enough pressure, this is not a private struggle, he has two witnesses (his wife and his dance instructor) so there is no hiding the “failure” to find the beat, step on the beat, stay on the beat.

                And then it hit me. She was getting a high from being right, from winning, from being better than him at this dance skill of finding the beat and stepping in time with it. And while my dancer-self wanted to validate her correctness on the one hand, my following-self wanted to pull her aside and school her. So was born a phrase I’ve often used since then but came through to me then for the first time. I pulled her aside and asked her “Would you rather be right alone, or wrong together?”

                 It forced us all back on track…why were they here to learn to dance together, if not with the purpose of uniting forces? She shifted her purpose, her goal, and her mission was no longer to be the A student and impress her teacher with her own ability to learn the material. Now her goal was to be supportive, an A+ partner, and get in the same boat with her husband. She still complained to me sometimes non-verbally because dancing off time can create a profound dissonance for a follower with a keen ear for music, and a deep desire to do things “right.” And you know something? He still struggled to find and stay on the beat, but now the struggle had one name – timing, and was no longer compounded by the inability to unify with his partner. Now the partnership had a hope of one day being able to move together as one – with or without the timing element. And resolving that dissonance between the couple was a bigger deal than forcing them to come into alignment with the music. In fact when they practiced their patterns without music they were often together on most things.

                So here was born a surprise for me. I never in my wildest dreams before this lesson would have expected myself to tolerate, let alone encourage dancing off time. I pride myself in doing things right, well, and also on being an excellent instructor which means my results can be felt and seen by my students being great dancers also. I had to set aside my ego and recognize that her need to be right about timing, and my need to be an effective and successful teacher were in this moment causing more of a problem. I suggested that instead of paying her attention to the rhythmical underpinnings of the song she might listen instead to the singer or melody, to help alleviate any dissonance. It can be a real challenge to dance off time when you have a good ear. But this suffering and that adjustment she was willing to make, while a sacrifice on some level was the lesser of the two sacrifices at stake. Do you think they would have continued dancing if she was constantly rubbing it in his face that she was on time and he was wrong/off time? Not likely. The human spirit can withstand many things, and perhaps he would have dug in his heels and become stubborn and tried to best her rather than quit, who knows? Maybe he would have had fun with it and risen to the occasion eventually. But the signs were everywhere that he was instead internalizing his anger and frustration, and would more likely have thrown in the towel or suggested she take the lessons without him. The way forward together was to let her know there was another way…a way neither of us would have imagined possible.

              Now, perhaps some of you reading this would say “I would much rather be right alone than wrong together.” And that is a wonderful and powerful awareness to have of yourself, and important to keep in mind when you are forced to work in teams or have to plan things with family or friends. You might have the option at many times to choose to be right alone…but there may come a time, or a person, or a project where you will now be in a position to consciously choose to prioritize the relationship or mission above accuracy or the inner joy you feel at winning. 

               Listen, I get it. I love acing a test, coming in first place, setting someone straight by teaching them or correcting them. But there comes a time when you take a breath and evaluate whether what you are about to set straight will benefit someone in the long haul before you tell them about their misuse of an apostrophe. Is it going to enrich their life or make them feel small? Am I sharing knowledge to build someone up or to make myself feel more significant, smart, or superior? Am I feeling threatened by this person? Am I puffing myself up? Is the correction going to preserve meaning or save lives? If not, maybe it is better to bite my tongue and preserve our friendship.

Monday, June 5, 2017

some updates are on their way!

I know I haven't been on here much lately, but a few things are very exciting in my world right now.

Once again my blog title has a double meaning, and I am following several of my dreams right now!

I am committed to writing a book, which might mean not a lot of posts for here, or maybe lots more, hard to say right now!

Also I launched my new company, Empowered Partnering and you can find my fan page on Facebook until I am ready to launch my own website.

I held my first official event back on May 21st, another reason I've been busy and preoccupied, so yes.  I'll post again on here with more photos and details soon!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Congressman Swalwell Town Hall Notes

These are my notes after attending my first ever Town Hall meeting, held by Congressman Eric Swalwell:

I appreciated Congressman Swalwell's opening statements, giving texture and depth to my perception of him both as an individual human (a lone democrat in his family, apparently his wife and her whole family [from Indiana if I'm remembering correctly] are republican. he has two brothers and other family members who are part of the police force, and he was the first or his was the first generation in his family to attend college. he served for 7 years as a prosecuting attorney which has informed some of his opinions with regard to undocumented immigrants and their inability to or reluctance to report on crimes against their own person, and also the possibility they will be deported before being allowed to testify against those who have robbed them, for example.) I personally came away from the meeting feeling he is a compassionate, reasoned, well-spoken, compassionate individual committed to many of the things that happen to align with my own beliefs and priorities, but also extremely respectful of and willing to hear out constituents with concerns that reflect a more diverse population [for Alameda County this means inclusion of DT supporters and their concerns as well, which I feel he demonstrated a willingness to hear and represent today, in spite of one very vocal and rude outlier who seemed to mainly be there to ruffle feathers] I took note of many of the topics that were raised during the Town Hall, and made particular note of anything he pledged to particularly fight or oppose. 

In no particular order: He is opposed to the gutting of Dodd-Frank, because he saw his own parents struggle to finally be able to buy a house when he was 14 and he is currently a renter himself, and he specifically mentioned not wanting interest rates on loans to sky-rocket or fluctuate unfairly. He is vehemently opposed to the proposed voucher system and the push to privatize social security, but rather would like to see social security reflect the rising cost of living. (He did not make clear how he would accomplish that, just that he feels it should be supported.) 

He opposes wars being conducted in foreign lands under false pretense, and wants to prioritize diplomacy in our dealings with foreign affairs. He mentioned being in favor of universal background checks, while also stating that recreational shooting at the range or for hunting, or even in general gun ownership is protected but that there is no reason for civilians to own military style assault weapons. 

He is in favor of taking outside money out of politics, and now I'm jumping out of order, because the topic of the possibility of Russian involvement came up later, but he came out very strongly and said we need to set up an independent group to examine that possibility because it should concern each of us (Republican or Democrat) that it might even have been *possible* and we need to examine and introduce legislation to prevent any foreign influence on our democracy going forward.  

One gentleman asked regarding one of the ways we can work with a DT administration with respect to infrastructure specifically for southern Alameda County, and Mr. Swalwell shared his intention to prioritize the BART to Livermore.  He went on to expand on this later stating he will work with his Republican counterpart in Tracy to that end. 

Next someone inquired about the confirmation of Merrick Garland and he cited there is a precedent to even allow an appointment for a period of one year. [This was also close on the heels of another question regarding bi-partisanship not only with regard to infrastructure but that he needs to represent even the 27% of Alameda County that did not vote HRC, which is a fair requirement and he seems up to the task, to me at least.] 

He is against the privatization of student loan debt, and cited that the generation behind the IT boom Silicon Valley, bio tech in San Diego and aero-space in LA were ones that graduated college debt-free, and he seems to believe that investing from our own high schools all the way through college and making a debt-free public college education possible could yield another such boom of innovation. The next person brought up her concerns with regard to elder care, and he said it is up to between $8 and 12K per month for in home elder care or assisted living facilities (I nearly dropped my teeth - mom take good care of yourself!) and his response to that was that he felt that medicare could and should be expanded to cover those necessities. 

He is in favor of overturning Citizens United. He is in favor of bringing back the Voting Rights Act (I was not aware it had been compromised, but he shared a horrific story I have not had the chance to fact check yet citing a Texas polling place was put inside a country club, and if you were not a member you could not go in and cast your ballot -- I'm still recovering from that concept even being possible in 2016...). 

Someone asked if there is any way to combat false news and misinformation, but if he answered my mind did not capture the solution. Someone mentioned the potential (multitude of) conflicts of interest our President Elect has, and his response included a mention of the phone call to Taiwan, and he also said he would like to introduce legislation to *require* the release of tax returns from any presidential candidate. [again, I was not aware it had been a show of good faith up until now, and am still appalled that he has not done so...] 

Someone mentioned California seceding from the union, which he dismissed, saying we should fight to make it a more perfect union, and engage in the democratic process. Someone asked also about becoming a sanctuary state, and he made his stance known several times during his initial address as well as in his responses: any person who wants to be here, live the American dream, work hard, contribute to society, and be willing to sign up to fight for this great nation (he mentioned an immigrant who signed up for the military) is welcome in his mind, but any criminal with any skin color from here or as an immigrant should have their rights limited [which I'm not sure I understood correctly, and might disagree with him if I did understand him correctly] and be sent to jail or back to their country of origin. 

There were several self-proclaimed DT supporters, one of whom brought up that she pays $50K per year in taxes and is law-abiding, and her concern was that there was a double standard, allowing "illegal" immigrants to be here breaking the law while she is law-abiding, and we afford them as immigrants the freedoms and they are not paying taxed and this seems unfair to her. He made a worthwhile distinction, explaining that he prefers to call them undocumented because though many of them are undocumented they are not technically an "illegal immigrant" until or unless they have been deported and then they return. 

There was a brave Muslim woman who stood up and shared about her program, called Meet a Muslim, and she said she has lived here peacefully 34 years but within the last 6 months during one of these "Meet a Muslim" meetings was told by the person that he wanted to slit her throat, and she asked about safety and his response was measured, and one of the 3 times we were moved as a group (partially) to give a standing ovation was when he thanked her for having the courage and though saddened by the need for this program he thanked her for creating the program. 

Just under the wire, we got to question number 25 and she asked about climate change and he made a commitment that by 2050 we as a state should be 50% renewable energies. 

Which reminds me when he was asked earlier about jobs, he said we should be sure not to abandon those whose livelihood is linked with outdated technologies, or coal, or oil - that we should invest in educating them so they can be the ones to build the next better faster machines, the ones who can service them. 

I'm also reminded of the gentleman who changed career paths at age 39 to become a teacher and because of a CA program that amounts to not being able to keep his SS from previous jobs held, would otherwise be required to teach 30 years (until age 69) in order to receive his full pension, rather than being able to retire at an earlier age - and the congressman said point blank that was wrong...I'm sure I'm leaving out a ton of things, and though I've added a smattering of commentary I am intentionally leaving out the bits with the contentiousness because it was relatively short-lived and distracting and not productive, and it was important to see it, and see the effect, and also see how it was handled - with grace and humility in my opinion - by the congressman. I apologize this is so long thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Challenging Thought Experiment...bear with me, while I struggle through this...

Some minorities have the luxury of being able to commiserate publicly, while any attempt to unify by my ilk is met with raised eyebrows, news media coverage we never asked for and all the condemnation you might expect from a lynch mob or a firing squad.

Some minorities are met with bleeding hearts and open arms.

Some minorities write poetry, and are encouraged to find their voices, raise their spirits, and heaven forbid anyone threaten their freedom of speech.

But there are some thoughts you are not even allowed to whisper, except in vetted company.  Some jokes will even cost you your job.  Some ideas are so taboo you will be publicly vilified, mentally crucified, humiliated online, paraded and sullied and impossible to hire.

So there is deep-rooted anger, envy, rage, sadness, isolation for some minorities that cannot be assuaged or addressed or comforted...or even publicly allied...until recently...and even now it is unsafe to hold certain opinions or say certain things...

But now we have a very large, very public shield to hide behind.  And some of the members of this shield say and think things that are worse than what I think or say.  I can feel superior, since I would never mock a disabled person, while feeling a stealthy relief, and a quiet gathering hope that there are many more of us than I ever hoped or dreamed.  I see more than 60 million people voted with me, and I will never know if any of them agree with my specific brand of thoughts, or the taboo things our family taught me to keep away from "mixed" company.  (Pun intended.)

I can pretend in public, because the closet I am in protects me in such important ways, and the necessity of my closet has been bitterly woven in with our beliefs to fortify our anger and our hatred of whichever "others" have the public privilege, and government programs, and protections.

This secret can and must stay secret, unless we have established safety.  There are signals and code words, secret handshakes or phrases.  We are united online in new ways you cannot imagine, and now we have been validated.

We cannot seek refuge, so screw immigrants and refugees.  We cannot gather together in public, in protest, even peacefully, without being labeled a hate crime.  So we find each other, and we let off steam through private e-mails, private messages, secret groups, in person get-togethers.  We see hypocrisy all around us, and we are the unsung, unprotected, most misunderstood minority.

[I weep, because a part of me instantly celebrated when the West Virginian, Pamela Ramsey Taylor, and the Mayor, Beverly Whaling, both wound up losing their jobs or resigning after a tasteless racist joke exchange on Facebook.  In the aftermath, I tumbled through a series of mental gymnastics.  Ms Taylor and Ms Whaling were absolutely out of line, and now I begin my horrific gymnastics.  How would I feel if I had to resign after making a horrible joke about DT?  Did the punishment match the crime?  What sort of limitations are there on freedom of speech?  I disagree with their joke and banter, and I have every right to voice my concerns...but don't they also have the right to make their opinions known?  It is illegal to shout "Fire" in a crowded movie theater if there is not a fire, because it presents a public safety hazard, and would diminish the effectiveness of such an alarm in case of actual emergencies.  That is pretty straightforward.  I don't think anyone is protesting the limitations on freedom of speech in that case.  But if we want to rise above the times of internment camps, and McCarthy-ism, how can we create a safe space for the people to express themselves without fear of losing their jobs?  I want to make it Crystal Clear that I am not advocating for racism, sexism, xenophobia, anti-semitism, or anti-LGBTQ, or any other hateful speech.  This thought experiment is my attempt to imagine what it might feel like to hold certain beliefs - maybe because of a religious belief for example, and be blocked from safely saying those beliefs publicly.  I am still processing these thoughts and finding it very challenging.  There seems to be a swath of undefined territory between the "Fire" in a theater version of speech restriction, and the freedom we take for granted.  In that gray territory are statements that are considered politically incorrect, outright lies, and opinions that are highly charged.  I know people that are adamantly pro-choice, and people that are adamantly pro-life, and they can have a passionate debate, discussion, or choose to avoid the topic...but there is no shame in expressing either opinion.  One of the things that has happened during this opening of the floodgates is that it has come to light that there have been quite a few people who feel their opinion is unsafe to express, and this suppression has broken wide open, for better or for worse, and now we have to face it, learn from it, evolve.  (Best case scenario.)  I have learned more in the last 2 and a half weeks about pockets of privilege than I ever realized and it has been eye-opening, but this one...the one that I am trying to find empathy for above...has been the most challenging one to even consider.  Maybe it's because I am Jewish, and I find it extremely difficult to imagine anyone associated with neo-nazi/white nationalism as a fellow brother or sister in pain, hiding in plain sight, spending the last 60 years huddling in secret.  I do not want to call for empathy.  But my soul requires I consider it, because we must stop calling to squash entire races of "others" based on religion or skin color or sexual orientation or anything else.  And calling for Unity means considering this minority painful as it might be.]

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Why I'm with her

I think my grandmother might have wanted Bernie to be our nominee, he aligns with so many core-values I know she holds so very dear.  A lot of us still do love him and what he stands for.  But if we can't have Bernie as our nominee, I know that she would have been fiercely in Hillary's corner.  And now, for the first time publicly, so am I. 

She is certainly flawed, no doubt about it.  Maybe she comes across school-marmy to some, or triggers mom-thoughts in others.  Maybe she's not relate-able enough.  Maybe she is kind of boring, or a stickler.  Maybe she smiles too wide, or not enough.  Maybe she tries too hard, or not hard enough.  A woman being scrutinized for showing too little emotion (cold-hearted b*tch) or too much (hormonal and hysterical) emotion.

Sound familiar?  Being measured not on our content but on our delivery is so frustrating, I wrote a whole blog about it.  In case you missed it, here's a link: Just a Little Uptalk(?) with a Side of Vocal Fryyyyy

And all the avoidance of the topic of gender, all the while hinting and strumming the patriarchy.  We haven't asked ourselves out loud in a long time, but the question of a woman's place in society, a woman's strengths and weaknesses, a woman's temperament, a woman's judgment is hovering around the outskirts of this whole campaign like some kind of toddler asking why who won't be silenced by "because that's how it's always been." 

Maybe she is boring.  And steady.  Willing to take calculated risks, such as the (from his perspective anyway) low-blow about DT looking for tax loop-holes, which so famously provoked his "such a nasty woman" comment, which has fired up - finally (and hopefully not too late) - a *lot* of women.  I did not watch the Benghazi hearings, but I understand they went on for many, many (11+) hours.  I did sit through 2.5 out of 3 of the Presidential Debates. 

Maybe she will compromise on something that makes me very unhappy sometime in the future during her term.  Maybe she will continue hemorrhaging money into our military, rather than education, veterans, social services programs, or building a stop-gap so that Obamacare does not increase the premiums as much as is being predicted.  I would hate that, for sure...but I don't think our newsrooms would be able to keep up with the daily back-pedaling or weekly gaffs and scandals.  DT has bragged about being predatory/inappropriate with women and taking advantage of his celebrity status.  Whether you believe he was egged on or not, no one forced him to say the words, and no one forced him to feel this way toward beautiful women...oh was their beauty, right?  He had no control their beauty - it's like a magnet...

My paranoid mind is thinking the predictions about increasing premiums for Obamacare were released at a suspiciously pivotal time in our election cycle - was it to create fear and influence the voters to choose DT?  Of course the audio of DT's unfortunate bragging about violating women's personal boundaries also was released at a pretty strategic time to influence voters to choose HRC.  So this paranoid mind of mine begins to wonder what is at stake and who stands to benefit and who is pulling the strings, whipping the media's nose this way and that?  Have we all seen Wag The Dog, a brilliant political satire?  If not I highly recommend it.  But who is producing this shit-show?

At the end of the day, I am a lot of things, but I am also a woman.  I went to a highly-intellectual college where I tried every day not to allow my gender to be a factor...but it was a factor more days than I care to admit.  It was a factor when the young men around me would debate each other and dismiss my question or contribution to the discussion, or ignore me altogether.  It was a factor when my emotions made my voice shake with passion and conviction but my peers heard that shaking as weakness.  It was a factor when I started to slowly swallow my own voice, and hope someone else would say my thoughts.  And not just in college, because there have been times in my career as a manager that I had to get creative in order to get results.  I found a male counterpart to speak to a male staff-member because at the end of the day I didn't need to be perceived as powerful, I needed to get a job done.  I had to be willing to be underestimated, undermined and side-lined sometimes, and swallow my pride to get a result.  I am still learning to control how my face shows my emotion, and electing to navigate waters that don't require me to fake a stone face.

By the way, I cannot imagine DT ever had to swallow his pride to get results.  Just saying.  And maybe some of you are voting for him because you believe his show of strength will get results...and maybe they would get short term reactions/responses because he is basically a bully.  But I also think he would burn too many bridges, and stuff it to too many foreign dignitaries and we would be left cleaning up the mess in 4 years...if it can even be repaired.  No.  I cannot allow for that possibility.  The risks are simply too high.  We need someone more moderate.

I have never been married, but I have been cheated on, and maybe a part of me resents the fact that she didn't choose to leave Bill during or after the harrowing humiliation and public proceedings of the mid-'90's.  Maybe I thought staying was a choice that showed some kind of weakness in her, or that she in some way sanctioned his behavior by not divorcing him, or separating from him.  On the other hand, maybe staying takes more strength of character than leaving does.  Maybe staying gave their marriage a new dynamic.  It is not my place to judge, really.  But in a way we are being asked to judge who might be best at leading this country, and aside from policy their lives are also sort of on trial.  But why oh why is her marriage on trial while he has had three marriages, two of which began as affairs??  Is it still high school where if a boy is promiscuous he is some kind of stud-muffin and a girl who gives it up is a slut? 

I know that any political figure will have gaffs, and need a spin room.  But electing a reality superstar like DT whose sole purpose seems to be to stay in the headlines as much as possible (for better or worse) would be a COLOSSAL MISTAKE.  He has demonstrated to us in the last year that he does not have self-control.  He does not keep his cool under pressure, and he takes pride in being unscripted, but the things that come out of his face unscripted are nearly always offensive to someone.  He has not demonstrated a willingness to admit wrong-doing or wrong-saying, has no desire to compromise because he is only interested in winning, or screwing his opponent.  And he certainly does not have a shred of humility.  He is the classic abuser, in the sense that he tells you what to expect and also tells you you're gonna like it, and then delivers, and then if you object he starts calling you weak or sensitive or whiny and suggests you're over-reacting.

I hear the Donald might get his own channel on television...and that would be perfect.  People can choose to tune in and watch All Trump all the time, let him rant and rave and rally on the telly.  Like the evangelicals, he'll probably have quite the following and they'll probably even open their wallets for him, and fund him.  Let them make a program where they address him as President Trump and he can afford to build his own little pretend Oval Office and be like a little critic jabbing at all the mistakes being made by the actual current administration.  He could get rich doing more of that for a very specific audience of neo-nazis, KKK members, and other white-supremacists.  Let them have their outlet, they clearly need one.  Let them voice their intolerance to each other.  Let it end there, safely, in a make-believe TV-land...there could even be a children's show called Mr. Trump's Neighborhood.  (I shudder to think, but let them have their slice of the universe...just leave the rest of us alone.)

Hillary is imperfect, as we all are.  And she is not pretending to be otherwise.  She does not claim infallibility, or make so many promises of greatness or winning.  She is not as exciting to watch, perhaps.  But I think we've had enough excitement.  She is capable, and she is steady, and I believe she will win this race, and more than that - I believe she will guide this nation through some treacherous waters, while keeping a few important priorities straight, not the least (nor the most) of which is Roe v Wade.

And though I do not know HRC any more than I know DT, I see in her a breadth and depth of experience and character.  I see in her self-control.  I see her ability to keep her cool under pressure.  I see in her the ability to rise above conflict.  I see in her the impulse and desire to reach across the aisle and compromise - to find common ground.   She has demonstrated a willingness to learn and evolve, a willingness to admit wrong-doing or wrong-saying (famously recently the basket of deplorables comment, which she has apologized for) and the steely determination to soldier on through the thick and thin.  She has the ability and humility to shoulder the awesome responsibility of being this great nation's leader.  And I'm with her - 100%.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Donald Trump: The Accidental Gadfly

My own political leanings aside, I have to encourage all my readers to look up Plato's Apology.  (I am linking to a browser version rather than a PDF, but you can find several available by searching, and I am not vouching for this particular translation.  Full disclosure, it is long, but worth reading...) Before sitting down to write this, I had several interesting conversations which made me think back to college days when we read and discussed Plato.  We had on our campus a college paper lovingly named after one of Socrates' most famous nicknames: The Gadfly.  For any who are unfamiliar with this name, it is both a literal flying bug that is a nuisance, and in intellectual circles represents a willingness to be disliked - a willingness to play devil's advocate - a willingness to go against the majority.

Here is the relevant quote by Socrates: "For if you kill me you will not easily find another like me, who, if I may use such a ludicrous figure of speech, am a sort of gadfly, given to the state by the God; and the state is like a great and noble steed who is tardy in his motions owing to his very size, and requires to be stirred into life. I am that gadfly which God has given the state and all day long and in all places am always fastening upon you, arousing and persuading and reproaching you. And as you will not easily find another like me, I would advise you to spare me. I dare say that you may feel irritated at being suddenly awakened when you are caught napping; and you may think that if you were to strike me dead, as Anytus advises, which you easily might, then you would sleep on for the remainder of your lives, unless God in his care of you gives you another gadfly."

I told one friend on the phone that Mr. Trump might be a gadfly to us all right now.  I caught myself off-guard loosely comparing this unpredictable man to Socrates - a man characterized as having both humility and wisdom.  So I started re-reading Plato's Apology, and I was immediately struck by the similarity of some of the language to that of our unlikely candidate for president.  The name Apology is a bit misleading by modern terms.  In ancient times, Apologia meant "reasoned defense," and that is appropriate since it is an account of Socrates' defense at the trial which ultimately resulted in his death sentence.

I don't intend a side-by-side comparison, I certainly don't think of Trump as an intellectual, and there is no way of knowing whether any of the similarities are even intentional, or if they are merely coincidental.  On the one hand it's hard to imagine there is a calculated agenda or plan, but on the other hand it is also dangerous to underestimate the man, as our recent history has proven.  One small and unimportant similarity is that they are both 70 years old.  Another is that Socrates talks off the cuff, not implementing rhetoric that would have been customary.  And yet another is that he claims to have many enemies because of his truth-telling.  (Telling it like it is since 399 BC!)

Now, I have some friends who have talked about unfriending Trump supporters from their social networks and I implore you do not limit your news feed in this way!  We must reach past the distasteful memes and articles and quotes into dialogue.  The danger of removing all those who disagree with us from our social circle (either virtual or literal) is real.  One danger is a false sense of security, feeling all the world agrees when it fiercely does not.

We cannot afford to surround ourselves with the comfort of only like-minded individuals.  This goes for Conservative and Liberal and Green and Independent parties alike.  We must talk to one another if we are ever going to find solutions to problems.  If nothing else we can all agree there are problems.  As uncomfortable as it is, it is healthy to entertain opposing views, and search for common ground.

I am finding myself ultimately challenged.  How is a person who preaches tolerance most intolerant?  When confronted with an intolerant person!  If I cannot tolerate intolerance, then am I a hypocrite?   I may struggle to tolerate certain belief systems.  But if I reject those belief systems and the people who hold them I am no better than those I judge to be intolerant.  So it is easy and virtuous (some might argue) to extend sympathy to refugees.  And at the same time I am disgusted by the thought that I might share my country with people who believe in white supremacy, or any number of other hate groups.  It is a physical revulsion I feel towards a person or group of people that might be Nazi sympathizers.  And yet part of what makes our country amazing is that one group is not superior to another, so I cannot advocate for expelling white supremacists in the same breath as I advocate for allowing well-vetted refugees into our country.  (At least not without calling myself a hypocrite.)

And as broken and imperfect as our legal system is, I appreciate that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty.  I want to live in a country that has freedom of speech, and the bile in my throat rises as I attempt to state maybe that includes hate-speech...?  We certainly need to continue to have freedom of the press.  I want to live in a country that won't lock up our journalists for reporting the truth, even if that truth is unflattering to our other imperfect candidate, Hillary Clinton.

But planned or unplanned, we cannot deny the result.  There is something irresistible, we cannot ignore Trump or his words (whether we agree or disagree) and so many of us are whipped into a frenzy of either agreement or disagreement.  Either way his controversial nature and devil-may-care delivery demands a response - so visceral.  If nothing else he has become a catalyst for erupting thoughts, and many who have been silent before are finding themselves compelled to speak up.  And that is a good thing.

It is messy, America.  But maybe we needed an atrocious series of unfathomable quotes to come from a popular (!?) culture icon to shake us awake, and make us bubble it all to the surface.  All kinds of previously unmentionable commentary has found a reason to shout - some I find abhorrent, but all needed to find the light of day.   In that way we owe a deep debt of gratitude to Donald Trump, our very own accidental gadfly.  At the end of the day if these discussions and conversations have the opportunity to enrich our point of view, increase our curiosity, allow for educational cross-pollination then it could be an enormous benefit.  Conversely if it merely validates and galvanizes racist sexist neo-nazi or KKK beliefs then we might be in a scary place - but even if that is the case, AT LEAST WE KNOW ABOUT IT NOW.  Let the healing begin.  Who knew there were so many oppressed white supremacists, sexists, and racists just hiding their voices?  I happen to disagree and feel threatened by some of their particular rhetoric, but if I "cleanse" my friend-lists and social media of all Trump supporters I am sticking my head in the sand...and maybe I would be guilty of a social media version of the very thing I'd like to condemn hate groups for - intolerance.