Individuals Feeling Exceptional Have Destroyed American Exceptionalism

Photo by Kyle Mills on Unsplash

I was sitting at the metering light at the on-ramp this morning after I dropped my son at school. I had inched my way to the second position. There were two cars in front of me and one car to my right. As soon as the light changed, the two cars in front of me lurched forward as it was their turn to enter the highway. Then I noticed some movement out of the corner of my eye. The driver in the car that had been next to me decided he’d waited long enough and was merging onto the highway with the other two cars. I see this occur at least twice a day in my travels, and it happens so frequently that I expect it. The metering lights, which are meant to stagger the plethora of cars merging onto the crowded interstate, seem to be optional these days. I shook my head, waited my turn as I always do, and then entered the highway when the light became green.

I’ve tried to eliminate as many fucks as possible from my change purse. I’ve tried to stop caring about jerks who refuse to believe the rules apply to them. I have not been successful. Every time I get into my car, I get triggered by the effrontery of people who decline to abide by the conventions put in place to keep everyone safe and moving in traffic. It irks the shit out of me. There aren’t enough vials of lavender essential oil, cups of chamomile tea, burning aromatherapy candles, or warm neck wraps in the world to relieve me of the tension I feel around Americans who think the rules, whether they be traffic-related or queue-related or common-decency-related, do not apply to them. The “me first” mindset is pervasive and toxic. When there is no perceived negative consequence, people do whatever they damn well please. Their mothers must be so proud.

This morning, as I stewed for the remainder of my thirty minute commute home, I began thinking about American exceptionalism. I understand what the term entails. It refers to the idea that America, with her ideals and her political system and her geography and abundant natural wealth, is a shining city on a hill, an example of the best a nation can be. Here is what I decided about American exceptionalism these days. America has the potential to be exceptional, when we all work together in our democracy and play by the rules. As it stands now, however, we’ve devolved into a country filled with individuals who believe they are exceptional and the exception to the rule. We’ve become so focused on the individual and individual freedoms that we’ve sacrificed the idea of “one nation indivisible” for it. We can’t agree on anything. Believing in the concept of American exceptionalism doesn’t make us exceptional. History is peppered with examples of city-states that believed they were getting it all right. They no longer exist.

Social psychologist Jonathon Haidt hit the nail on the head in an article in The Atlantic on April 11th: “It’s been clear for quite a while now that red America and blue America are becoming like two different countries claiming the same territory, with two different versions of the Constitution, economics, and American history.” It’s this type of righteous mindset that has led us to the place we are now, where every faction and every individual within that faction believes they have cornered the market on what is best and on what they deserve. We’ve become a nation of petulant children, throwing tantrums while doing whatever we want and hiding behind the talking points of freedom and the First Amendment. We’ve forgotten how to adult, how to put on our grown up panties and accept that we can’t always have our way. We tell our bickering children to follow the rules, to play nice, and to compromise, but I’m not confident we’re capable of those things. How can we be a shining example when we can’t even clean up our own house?

I’m not saying that folks who ignore the on-ramp metering are destroying the fabric of our society. I’m afraid it may be a little too late for that.

The Tribalism Inherent In Being A Sports Fan

Last night we attended another Colorado Avalanche hockey game. It was a fun one too. The Avs, who have already clinched their spot in the playoffs, were on fire. The Avs scored 4 points in the first period, while the LA Kings scored none. By the end of the game, the Avs had gone up 9 to 3, and the fans were treated to a hat trick. It was the first time our son got to witness, as an adult, the unmitigated joy of other grown-ass adults tossing their baseball caps onto the ice.

As we were standing there, cheering after yet another Avalanche goal, Luke leaned over and said something to the effect of, “Oh, what a wonderful display of rampant tribalism.” He’s a funny kid. I had never thought of hockey fans as a tribe, but he is correct. There we were in our Colorado Avalanche uniforms (emblazoned Avalanche sweatshirts and hockey sweaters) chanting along and waving our fists in the air after every goal, so I guess we were definitely contributing to the tribe mentality. As part of the Colorado Avalanche tribe, I try to be decent. We had some Kings fans sitting to our left, and I did not do any taunting or trash talking. I let them suffer their humiliating loss in peace.

I began thinking about how many tribes there are. We often refer to our friends as our tribe, but there are other tribes too. You might have a tribe of people you associate with from your church or your child’s sports team or your office. I love the band The National and I’m part of their official fan club, so I am part of The National tribe. There are many tribes to which an individual may belong, intentionally or unintentionally.

I think it’s important, though, to differentiate between being part of a tribe and contributing to tribalism in a negative way. Being tribal, in its most basic sense, is actually a good thing. Tribes foster a sense of community. Ever seen how fiercely a tribe of friends will rise to help another friend who is sick or struggling? Tribes also create a sense of belonging, and that can be crucial to dispelling loneliness and depression. Tribalism provides the feeling that we are all in this together. When politicians speak of tribalism negatively, I think they are missing the point. It’s not tribalism that created our political divide but factionalism. On September 10, 2001, we were a fairly divided country. We’d emerged from a contested election, the outcome of which had been decided by the Supreme Court. We were split into factions: those who thought the Supreme Court should have allowed the recounting to continue to a satisfactory conclusion and those who were happy the court had decided to stop the counting and award the election to the person who had the most votes at that point in the process, George W. Bush. But when the United States was attacked by terrorists the following day, those factions quickly, albeit temporarily, dissolved. We united as one great American tribe. American citizens of every faction came together to aid in the clean up and recovery in New York City, to comfort each other in a time of deep sorrow and loss, and to donate blood. For a brief period of time, we united against a common enemy, terrorism. We proved how strong the American tribe can be.

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian NHL players have been booed and jeered at during games and have received threats against themselves and their families for something they have nothing to do with. This is sports tribalism gone wrong. NHL fans need to do a better job differentiating between the actions of leader Vladimir Putin and the position of the Russian citizens who have been dragged into this war, some of whom are losing their family members in battle. We can do better.

Tribalism is a good thing that can have negative consequences if the power of the tribe isn’t applied judiciously. I’ve seen some impressive, positive sports team tribalism in recent years. When the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Baltimore Ravens on December 31, 2017, it put the Buffalo Bills into the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. As a show of gratitude, Buffalo Bills fans donated $442k to the Andy and Jordan Dalton foundation for ill and disabled children and their families. When the Bills were defeated in the playoffs this past season by the Kansas City Chiefs, Chiefs fans donated over $300k to the Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo where Bills fans had previously raised over $1M to honor Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen’s grandmother after her death in 2020.

All we need to do is realize both the positive and negative powers inherent in being part of a tribe. We can use our tribes for good or not so good. So, when you’re part of the tribe at your favorite sports team’s event and they’re winning, be kind to the members of the opposing tribe. As with pretty much anything humans do, we can unite around good or evil. Make the right choice. As former First Lady, Melania Trump, put it, “Be best.”

Oh, how I love a good hat trick

Shit Is About To Get Real — Can We Handle It?

This kid literally cannot

To protect my mental health these days, I keep most of my news consumption to online articles because when I watch television news and see the strength and resolve of the Ukrainian people as they undertake what may well be an in-vain attempt to salvage their nation, I often have to leave the room to cry. I just can’t. It’s too much. Coming off two years of a global health crisis that kept us indoors and away from the greater community that binds us, my coping strategies have reached their limit like an old, elastic band that has been sitting in a drawer for ages and now will break when stretched. Just when the light at the end of the tunnel came into view, an aging white autocrat in Russia decided to push his limits.

I saw a video today of a four year old who approached his waiting school bus, got within fifteen feet of its steps, bent over to put his mask on, and then fell backwards with dramatic flourish onto the concrete, as if the prospect of the school week was more than he was capable of handling at that moment. We are all that kid right now as we wonder how much more insanity, unrest, upheaval, heartbreak, hardship, and stress we can take both at home and around the world.

For almost 77 years, the world has known peace in Europe. That peace has existed my entire life and all but three years of my parents’ lives. While my parents had a solid concept of the horrors of war through their parents, I had only what I saw in films. Aside from the 1980s era nuclear holocaust fears I had courtesy of our Cold War with the Soviets and “The Day After” television movie that haunts me 38 years later, I have felt mostly safe in our geographically isolated American bubble. That ended the other day when Putin’s army invaded a sovereign Ukraine, and then shit got real when he dangled the threat of a nuclear attack.

In an opinion piece on the CNN site this morning, six global voices weighed in on Putin’s invasion. Marci Shore, an associate professor of modern European intellectual history at Yale, had this to say about Putin: “This no longer felt like a man playing a high-stakes chess game, now it felt like a scene from Macbeth. My intuition was that an aging man facing his own death had decided to destroy the world. Ukraine is very possibly fighting for all of us.” This does indeed feel like the situation. While texting with my geopolitically savvy son last night, we discussed what can be done about the war as Putin begins to feel the squeeze of the joined hands of the free world around his neck. Joe told me, “The goal of the west should be to sanction as much as possible and create a counter propaganda machine to turn the oligarchs and Russian people against Putin.” And while I realize he is 100% correct, it means this war in Europe does not stay in Europe. We are a global economy. People around the planet will feel the sting of Putin’s actions in higher fuel costs, and those higher fuel costs will trickle into the costs of goods manufactured and sold around the world. The sanctions imposed on Russia will touch us all one way or another.

These financial hardships will be our contribution to squashing tyranny and, hopefully, restoring stability to Europe. Are we up to this task? I’m not sure. For the past two years, we’ve witnessed a steady cavalcade of tantrums over wearing a mask. If we weren’t all on board with covering our noses and mouths to suppress a transmissible, deadly virus, how willing will we be to suffer financial hardships for the sake of protecting democracy on a continent across the Atlantic? Are we smart enough to recognize that our peace and freedom are tied to the peace and freedom of citizens on the European continent? Will we be able to channel the ghosts of our American predecessors and adopt the WWII war-effort mindset of “Use it up – Wear it out – Make it do – or Do without”? Will we withstand financial hardship inside our own households and country, however long it takes, to protect the freedom and peace we have taken as a given for three quarters of a century? Man, I hope so. I would like to think we still have better days ahead.

We are a global people now. We need to act in the best interests of others to maintain our own best interests. As long as the majority of us in free nations are able to comprehend and live with that fact, we might be able to vanquish Putin, return Europe to peaceful homeostasis, and avoid nuclear fallout. The question remains, though, do we have it in us to continue living in an uncomfortable and perhaps increasingly painful holding pattern until better days arrive or are we just too soft now?

Prisoners of Geography

We are all prisoners of geography — literally

I don’t normally offer book reviews or suggestions. I stopped being in book clubs years ago when I tired of other people ruining books I enjoyed. So I don’t feel like a free reading expert, and I don’t share often about literature. But today, given what is happening now in eastern Europe, I want to recommend Prisoners of Geography, written by Tim Marshall. I bought it years ago for our oldest son who is a geography whiz. When he was younger, he would zoom into a location on Google Earth and then ask me to guess where it was. He would then slowly zoom out, bit by bit, pausing after each change until he thought I should be able to get the answer about its location. He had to zoom out a lot. I rarely guessed correctly. He was often exasperated by my lack of knowledge about the globe. It was a game on his end, but it made me feel like a dolt. Ultimately, Joe took the book to college, and I forgot about it.

Then, a couple weeks ago we were with some neighbors when they mentioned they were reading that book together. I got intrigued. So I downloaded the book on Audible and started listening. It wasn’t long into the book that I realized I needed the maps the hard copy provided to help me visualize what was being discussed. So I picked it up and got back to work. It ended up being a timely reading choice because the day after I bought the hard copy and started learning about why we are prisoners of geography, Putin invaded Ukraine. For the first time, I began to understand Russia’s position in the world. I may not understand Putin (who does?), but at least I can somewhat comprehend now why Ukraine’s land is important to him and why he is so eager to reclaim it. Russia, both because of and despite its size, has geography issues.

The book also covers China, the United States, Western Europe, Africa, the Middle East, India and Pakistan, Korea and Japan, Latin America, and the Arctic. The author, a journalist and leader on foreign affairs, has reported from forty countries and covered conflicts in the former Yugoslav republics, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Israel. His vast geographical and political knowledge, combined with his journalism skills, make the book not only highly informative but also accessible and interesting. I now have a better understanding of China’s treatment of the Muslim Uighur population in Xinjiang province. I understand why the concept of manifest destiny was important to the creation of the United States as we know it today. I also have a far better handle on how and why wars have been fought in Europe and why some countries have fared better than others. (I’m looking at you, Poland.) I’ll have to finish the book to learn more about Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.

If you are looking for a greater understanding of the politics of countries, their prosperity or lack thereof, or the ways they are constrained, I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s a little outdated because it was published in 2015, but it is still useful. If you’re a big-time history or geography geek, this might be too basic for you; but for the rest of the hoi polloi, it is an education in geography, history, and our current political dilemmas in 277 pages. It isn’t going to make you feel any better about the humanitarian nightmare developing as Putin’s army rolls into and bombs the free and innocent people of Ukraine, but it will help you make a little more sense about why Russia is the way it is. Because of the Internet, we are more a global people now than we have ever been before. If you want a way into understanding that world, this is it.

The Ukrainians Know More About Freedom And Patriotism Than We Do

Photo by Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash

I have spent some time over the past couple days sitting with and slowly digesting the news coming from eastern Europe. We’ve known for months that Putin was amassing three-quarters of his army at the borders of Ukraine, so the invasion was not a surprise. The exodus of citizens from Ukraine into its free, bordering, neighbor countries like Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania is likewise not a surprise. What has surprised me is the defiance of those Ukranian citizens who are taking on this David vs. Goliath fight. The soldiers on Snake Island who told the Russian warship about to bomb them to go f*** themselves. President Volodymyr Zelensky who, when offered evacuation by the US, told us he needed “ammunition, not a ride.” These acts of bravery are an attempt to prove to the world that, even without NATO membership and support, Ukraine is a sovereign nation worth defending. And this, while devastating, is also amazing.

The news of the invasion made me livid. Maybe it’s my Eastern European ancestry that pushes me to this anger. It’s in my blood. You can’t be of Polish and Baltic descent and not be triggered by Russia and its habit of rolling over entire peoples for the sake of territory. I find solace in knowing the people of Poland are leaving clothing, toys, and food at the border where Ukrainians are crossing. The Poles, who know a bit about being dominated and upended by Russian invasions, are acting from a place of empathy and concern. This morning when I read the Polish national soccer team is refusing to play Russia in their World Cup qualification playoff match, I reflected that it’s these small acts of pushback against Russia’s aggressions that matter. Putin is an authoritarian leader, poisoning and imprisoning his opposition, while masquerading as a duly-elected leader of a “free” nation. Putin will do with the Russian people what he wants. He will use them to invade countries with territory he believes he has some claim to because of history. But the rest of us don’t have to act as if this is normal. We can support the oppressed and push back on the oppressor.

The people who have disappointed me the most during the first few days of this war Russia has instigated with Ukraine are the Republicans who have found a way to defend Putin’s actions. It’s been clear for years that the Republican party we once knew has jumped the shark. When did the party of Reagan become pro-Russia? Would Reagan have been as fond of Putin as Trump is? When Republican political leaders and media provocateurs posit that Putin’s actions are justifiable because Putin was feeling penned in by NATO, I call bullshit. The little man has nukes. The only reason no one has gone against Russia is because of its nuclear arsenal. No one has tried to invade Russia, change its borders, or turn it into a true democracy. Putin didn’t invade Ukraine because he is fearful for his country’s security or because Biden is president and not Trump. Putin invaded Ukraine because his goal is to put the old gang back together. He wanted to test NATO and its resolve. And he wants whatever else his sordid brain can scheme up. He probably does want to continue to divide our democracy, and the Republican rhetoric plays right into that. The Republicans can continue to stand and point fingers at liberals as the cause of this attack, but that is not the reality. The reality is Putin will do what fits his end goals because that is who he is. He cares only about his power. Perhaps that is why Trump lionizes him so?

During this past week, I have vacillated between furious and tearful. Angry at Putin. Angry at the people in our free nation who believe Putin’s aggression is acceptable. Tearful because of the thousands and thousands of families torn apart by an unconscionable war. Tearful because of the outpouring of support from the free world for those families and the nation of Ukraine. I have no idea where this will go, but I do know you are not a patriot if you think Putin’s invasion is justified or if you wish for the region to devolve into a quagmire because you think you can then claim this was all Biden’s fault and “own the Libs.” This war is not a talking point for American politics. It’s life or death, freedom or tyranny for the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians would rather die than be under Putin’s rule. That is what freedom means. Get your head straight or this nation truly is lost.

Hawaii: The Big Island – December 27, 2021

Even in paradise on vacation, there are days when you have to face reality and do the things. This was that sort of day.

I started the day with a leisurely morning jaunt outside to relish the sunrise and the uninhabited beach. Most people will tell you they prefer sunset. I’m a sunrise gal, myself. Maybe it’s the quiet morning. Maybe it’s the effort it takes to be present for a sunrise. Maybe it’s the promise that lies ahead in a fresh day. Or maybe it’s just that I like to be contrary to popular opinion. Anyway, it’s the sunrise that captures my attention.

After sunrise, it was time to attend to chores. I washed and folded clothes and towels, cleaned up the kitchen, made our bed, and fed the feral kitties that have chosen this as their home.

hey kitteh kitteh

After that, Steve and I had shopping to do since it was our turn to prepare dinner. We picked up some opah (moonfish) at the seafood market, and then hit the store for groceries before making our way home. I thought I would sit in the sun for a bit and as I was about to make my way to the beach, I was slapped in the face with a harsh reminder that there really is no escaping reality, not even in paradise. I’m not sure what makes people visiting a beach decide they need to bring the American flag and a f*** Joe Biden message along to make a statement, but I could have done without it. Not because I begrudge anyone their First Amendment right to express themselves freely, but because I was hoping that I could escape partisan political bullshit while on vacation. Luckily, there is a reminder off the front lanai to find inner peace. So I decided to go there instead.

A little while later we were treated to an entire pod of dolphins swimming ahead of a boat. I didn’t have my phone on me, so I missed the photo moment. But a little while later they headed back and I was able to capture (from a considerable distance) this tiny bit of dolphin proof.

For dinner, we prepared fish tacos. I made a fresh pineapple salsa while Steve grilled the fish. We served the tacos alongside some white rice, black beans, and a green salad with sundried tomato dressing. After dinner, I sat in the spa while Steve and the boys alternated between swimming in the pool and warming up in the spa. Their antics made my heart happy.

It was a chill day at the house, but one we needed to get caught up and ready for the last days of our visit. Our next days will be more active with trips to other parts of the island, a helicopter tour, some long overdue professional family photos, and a swim with the manta rays. Stay tuned.

A Stone’s Throw Away From Compassion

I’m a little riled up over the continued erosion of the constitutional right guaranteed to women in 1973 courtesy of the Roe v. Wade decision. I can’t believe we are still talking about a woman’s right to manage what is going on in her own reproductive system. It’s 2021, but we seem to be moving in retrograde.

In 1973, there were nine men on the Supreme Court. Seven of them voted in favor of Jane Roe, and six of those men were Republican. But, for the past 48 years, conservative religious groups have made it their steadfast goal to overturn the decision of those men. And each and every year in recent memory, conservative states have worked to make obtaining an abortion virtually impossible despite its legality. From instituting mandatory counseling and mandatory waiting periods to discourage women, to slowly diminishing the number of abortion clinics (six states currently only have one abortion clinic) to create a logistical obstacle, women’s right to choose is slowly slipping away state by state. Outlawing abortion, however, does not solve the problem of unwanted pregnancies. We could greatly reduce the number of abortions in this country if we made reliable birth control widely available and affordable. But since many religious groups also believe any form of birth control is anathema and instead promote an abstinence-as-birth-control stance that simply does not work for most humans at sexual maturity, it seems to me that abortions must remain legal.

At its heart, the current abortion debate centers around the religious views of some being imposed upon all women, whether or not they hold those same beliefs. When Governor Abbott of Texas signed their latest, most restrictive anti-abortion legislation on Wednesday, he said, “Our creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion.” What does the “Creator” have to do with citizen rights in a country that was built around the separation of church and state? Religious communities have decided that life begins at conception, making abortion akin to murder. As a non-religious woman, however, I believe that life begins when the fetus is able to survive outside the uterus, which falls somewhere after 24 weeks in most cases. And, even then, a baby delivered at 24 weeks will need medical intervention to thrive. If we agree that a fetus is dependent upon the woman serving as host for its survival until it can viably exist outside the womb, then its rights should not surpass the rights of the woman carrying it. In this case, the chicken comes before the egg.

A plurality of Americans support Roe v. Wade, and a minority are pushing to expunge it. That seems undemocratic to me. If you think abortion is murder, don’t have one. No one is forcing you to abandon a pregnancy you would maintain. And unless your religious group is planning to financially support all the future babies it wants to save from abortion, then we’re kind of stuck because it seems the people who are against abortion are also against creating a welfare state or funding Medicare for all so the baby will have guaranteed healthcare or ensuring affordable childcare so women can work to support the life they must keep. Children are expensive.

I believe in the separation of church and state. I would deny no one their right to practice their own faith according to their beliefs. If you follow Jesus or Buddha or Allah or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it’s no business of mine. If your faith says abortion is a grievous sin, you are free to make your sexual and reproductive decisions accordingly. That said, however, I’ll need to you to keep your faith off the body of anyone who isn’t you. You have a right to your religious beliefs, but you don’t have a right to impose them on anyone else, least of all a woman who needs your faithful compassion rather than your judgment. After all, wasn’t it Jesus who said let he who is without sin cast the first stone?

This Wouldn’t Have Happened If A Mom Had Been In Charge

A mom would get everyone their own easy-to-spot but still coordinated luggage

A couple weeks ago, I was watching MSNBC and saw an interview with Marine Corps Major Thomas Schueman and the young Afghan interpreter who had worked with him when he was commanding troops in Afghanistan. Major Schueman has spent years keeping in touch with Zak (code name), trying to make sure he would get the US visa he was promised in exchange for his putting his life on the line to aid and protect American troops. Major Schueman said Zak had saved his life several times. Zak spoke on camera from behind a mask. He was in hiding after he had recently received a letter from the Taliban reminding him that they knew his whereabouts and would be coming for him shortly. Zak sounded terrified, and for good reason. He and his wife have four children under the age of 5. Zak knew they would not survive if Afghanistan fell and the Taliban took power. And then this week they did.

As good journalism will do to a person, I became invested in Zak’s story and the thought that there are thousands upon thousands of Zaks in Afghanistan who helped us and deserve their shot at freedom. When Kabul fell, the impending doom for these interpreters became palpable. Tonight Rachel had Major Schueman on again. He has spent the past couple days trying desperately trying to get Zak and his family out of the country. Texting Zak and his contacts in Afghanistan, Schueman tried to coordinate an escape for the young family. Twice he got close, but no go. Then finally today Zak and his family were able to board a plane out of Afghanistan. Major Schueman isn’t sure where they are headed, but they are safe. Zak might at last get the freedom for which he risked his life.

I write about this tonight for two reasons. One: It’s crucial that we as a country remember those who help us and that we honor our word to them. It’s the right thing to do. The interpreters left behind will be killed by the Taliban if they are unable to escape. That is unacceptable. And that is on us as a nation. Period. Two: This story has a happy ending for Zak and his family, and there isn’t enough good news in the news lately.

Beyond this, though, I’ve been thinking about what an absolute mess our withdrawal from Afghanistan has been. And this is what I have decided. There are not enough women involved in these types of decisions and operations. Fine. We needed to get out of Afghanistan after 20 years. It is unlikely that staying there longer or investing more money would have changed anything. But, the timing and planning for our withdrawal seem haphazard at best. I mean, even if Afghanistan fell to the Taliban at a rate far quicker than most experts imagined it would, why hadn’t we planned better how to remove the over 15k American citizens still there and why hadn’t we done more to secure the safety of our friends, the interpreters who risked their lives to save American ones? We’re the United States, goddammit. We have resources and money and trained professionals. There’s no excuse for this crap.

So, I started thinking that maybe we need more moms involved in planning the actions of our government. Moms plan for contingencies. Moms think of everything. I guarantee that you have seen this in action. You have been on a picnic where utensils were forgotten and your mom conjured up six sets of plasticware with napkins from the depths of her car. Or you’ve been to the pool and your kid got a scrape and a mom who was sitting nearby pulled a bandaid and Bactine from her purse. Or you’ve been in a parking lot before a concert and you realize your beer is not a twist-top bottle and you have no bottle opener, and your wife grabs the bottle from you and removes the cap using the door catch on her car. Women are amazing that way. We’re undaunted and resourceful. It’s the reason we’re often the last one out of the house before a family trip. We’re thinking about disasters and contingency plans. We consider potential rainfall or diaper blowouts or sunburns and we turn around to grab the plastic ponchos, clean onesies, and sunscreen. With women, it’s not just leave no one behind but also leave nothing to chance by making assumptions. So, should we have had a momma bear or six involved in preparations for our withdrawal from Afghanistan? Definitely. We’d have had Plans A through Z lined up and ready to knock down. And we probably would have had snacks and matching luggage too.

Hell Hath No Fury Like Thousands Of Women in Pink Hats

fullsizerender
This is what democracy looks like 

Yesterday was one of the most memorable days of my life. It was not my first political march. It won’t be my last. But this one, completed with my husband, sons, sister, brother-in-law, sisters-in-law, and mother all united in this cause with me, was life altering. As we stood in the sunny cold of Civic Center Park waiting for the march to begin, people near us sang. An impromptu band formed when trumpet and trombone players found the tubas in the middle of the park. Signs were ubiquitous and mostly filled with positivity and love. Some were a little cheeky. Some were outright funny. Some displayed beautiful imagery and artwork. My fellow marchers were courteous, peaceful, and patient. The mood was ebullient. As more and more people gathered and the crowd swelled to well over 100k people, we realized were weren’t just witnessing something incredible. We were part of it. We weren’t demonstrating. We were showing the world what democracy looks like.

I’m not sure what I thought the new administration would say about the marches, but I guess I thought they would say something. Anything. My eternally hopeful side kind of thought we’d provided the president with an ideal opportunity to prove what he had said at his inauguration. He wants to unite us and he is giving our country back to us. It was a perfect moment to say a simple, “I acknowledge you and I hear your concerns.” I expectantly turned on the national news and waited. After Sean Spicer spoke bitterly about the dishonest media representation of the numbers gathered for the inauguration the previous day and left the podium without mention about the millions of marchers who had assembled, reality set in. The Trump administration had sent its own message. The president didn’t care about the millions of us who showed up to share our collective concerns.

 

I read a lot of negative responses to the marches during the hours that followed the press briefing. Comments like:

This is a one-time thing. They got their attention. It’ll end here. 

There is in-fighting among the Democrats. They’ll never come together enough to organize a real political movement. 

What a waste of time.

What was that supposed to accomplish? 

Comments like this might once have dampened my spirit, but now they have the opposite effect. Now that the march is over and we know haven’t been heard, now that I’ve had a chance to sort through some of the reactions to our organized actions, I understand how much easier it’s going to be for me to continue forward. I will engage in peaceful protest and political activism because mouthpieces like Rush Limbaugh think it’s okay to belittle women, by referring to us as “broads” and by dismissing our efforts as “nothing but a golden shower.” Because Michael Flynn Jr., our new National Security Advisor’s son, tweeted “What victory? Women already have equal rights, and YES equal pay in this country. What MORE do you want? Free mani/pedis?” I plan to show up regularly at my conservative senator’s doorstep to check in. And I will use my liberal elite education, status, and dollars to affect change because of inane comments like this one too:  “This public display should’ve been called the PMS PARADE  instead, more spot on and pissed off liberals at their most stupid! Poor Trump lit their tampon strings. God Bless Trump and family!” And shit like this and this and, especially, this will keep me fired up and ready to go.

I know there are men and women in this country who found the marches silly, pointless, infantile, and unnecessary. And I respect their right to express those opinions. I just don’t happen to agree with them. So, I took to the streets yesterday with a husband who thinks I’m his equal partner and who treats me with respect and decency. And I brought our sons because there were lessons to learn there about the price and the privilege of being a United States citizen. But I also wanted them to experience firsthand what happens when you marginalize, ignore, threaten, dismiss, denigrate, and in every other conceivable way piss off women, especially liberal elite women, the kind of women they will encounter in higher education and the workplace someday, the kind of women to whom they are related, the kind of women I hope they marry.

If there’s one thing I know about these women, it’s that underestimating us solidifies our determination and ignoring us increases our volume. This was not the end of it. We are not going away. Mock, ridicule, doubt, and chuckle about us all you want because you’re adding kerosene to our fire. As one clever marcher’s sign succinctly put it yesterday…

If you didn’t like my feminism under Obama, wait until you see my feminism under Trump.

 

 

Fired Up, Ready To Go, And Not Ready To Make Nice

 

fullsizerenderI have known since November 12th what I would be doing tomorrow. Since the moment I learned there would be a peaceful march for women’s rights the day after the inauguration, I knew where I was heading. I will be walking through downtown Denver with my friends and hopefully tens of thousands of other people who might not be friends yet but are comrades in arms.

Since election night and on the way to this day, a funny thing happened to me. I have found some traction. For a while, I had been slipping around, wanting to experience some gains in self-esteem and to make some forward progress but not having any luck. I’d been reading books, talking to a counselor, and doing some emotional work around that goal, but I hadn’t made much of a dent. It was a continual case of one step forward and two steps back. But in thinking about and mentally preparing myself for this march tomorrow, something at long last clicked. Years ago when reality television was novel and I watched The Apprentice, I never could have imagined that Donald Trump would be a catalyst for my personal growth.

I’ve heard ad nauseam that those of us whose candidate lost on election night just really need to get over it and move on. We need to embrace the new administration and give them a chance. My father said yesterday that I have no reason to put the cart before the horse or jump the gun on what might happen, no matter how things appear to be shaping up at this time. But, if I recall correctly, there were deeply concerned conservatives after Obama’s election and re-election, and they didn’t sit idly by and keep their mouths shut for the sake of unifying our nation. There were protests, marches, and loads of signs with photos of Obama and catchy phrases like “Undocumented Worker”or “The zoo has an African lion and the White House has a lyin’ African.” So, my dear conservative friends, please excuse me if I fail to take heed as you tell me to suck it up and deal with my loss as your party so gracefully did when Obama was elected twice.

Still, even with my myriad concerns about the newly inaugurated president and his chosen cabinet, my march tomorrow is not entirely about what you might think. It’s not about losing the election or being angry how that came about. It’s not about refusing to move on and pouting like a big baby, as I’ve been accused. And it is not about delegitimizing our new president. (I will leave that in his capable hands.) My march tomorrow is about legitimizing myself and validating my beliefs and my opinions through my actions. I spent the first 48 years of my life being a “good girl” and keeping my mouth shut. I grew up being told children should be seen and not heard. I learned early not to rock the boat, to be grateful and keep my problems to myself, never to trouble anyone, and not to think I was a big deal. And that is how I have carried on during what I hope is just the first half of my life, as if nothing I thought, said, or did was important or necessary.

Early this morning, I saw this video and it reinforced my desire to move forward boldly with belief in myself. Tomorrow I usher in a new phase in my life. Tomorrow I make my existence felt. Tomorrow I speak my mind publicly because I believe what I have to say is valuable and important even if others don’t appreciate or agree with it. Tomorrow I prove to myself that my views on love, patriotism, and our world matter, and that I matter too. I can channel the energy, strength, and activism of the suffragettes and merge my voice with theirs as we together continue our fight for equality. Although I am part of something much larger than myself tomorrow and every day, what I do matters for something. I am fired up and ready to go, and I am sure as hell not ready to make nice anymore.