Category Archives: Politics

2011 recap

On the second day of 2012, I found myself frustrated with the char limit on FB – don’t even get me started on twitter – and thought I’d send a little note on what has happened in the last year which I made no time to tell you.

  1.  After seeing myself in a picture in February and then stepping on a scale, I got serious about getting healthy. I began exercising (10k/day on an elliptical, 5x/week), stopped eating off the Vikilings plates and dropped bread. What a difference I was able to make in my health, and quickly. Confirming that keeping new habits is harder than starting them.
  2. I am 45, but keep forgetting. (Goes hand in hand, yes?)
  3. Perimenopause, in full unpredictable and irritable force. Highly unrecommended, though likely inevitable.
  4. Ben is now 7; Nora is 3. Ben is gentle, perceptive, and a natural athlete. Nora is not gentle but equally perceptive. Her athletic abilities remain to be seen.
  5. Nora had eartubes put in back in April. The full procedure and recovery was less than 90 minutes. Sadly, they are already out. She has also had hand, foot and mouth, Fifth’s disease, two ruptured eardrums (pre-tubes), and assorted boo-boos that far exceed those her brother had.
  6. Ben is more me than the Viking, I’m afraid. I am hoping he can shake some of it off and find a great place in himself, in all of his quiet power. But of the parts of me he has that I hope he keeps are his sense of humor, of accountability, of ethics, and his love of singing. The boy wakes up singing.
  7. This year, I volunteered to be a room parent in Ben’s class. It has been great to be in the classroom with the children every week.
  8. I ran for office in our town on a platform of “The more you know, in context, the better you can make decisions.” I lost 2:1 to a candidate whose slate was, more or less, “Hang the mayor.” All of the candidates who campaigned on that slogan won by huge margins. And yet, I wasn’t sad. It was a great experience.
  9. I don’t think I was able to finish reading a single book all year, thought there are at least 15 of them around the house with bookmarks at different points, none of which are 1/3 of the way. Not good.
  10. I did manage to spend some quality time in the kitchen cooking for neighbors, which was enormously satisfying.
  11. In an effort to broaden Ben’s exposure to different cultural traditions in ways that are appealing to him, I signed him up for a children’s chorus at the local, rather progressive Episcopal church. He enjoys it, and was selected to play Joseph in the Christmas pageant. I’m glad, too, that he is learning and asking questions about God. But the questions that come for me, time after time, aren’t answered in a way that makes my heart feel at home.
  12. I decided to cut my hair but good just before Thanksgiving. Transformative, yes… but who would have thought a haircut could encourage new balances and shifts in personality?

So I came to the end of the year, and I am better in some ways but still restless.  Still a stay-at-home-parent, still looking in consignment shops for clothing that would survive the carry-on bag and go to a meeting. Still missing Boston/Cambridge/Somerville/Cape Cod, and its attendant pleasures. Cooking more, eating less. Next up, what’s in store for 2012 – I hope more reading and writing.

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Filed under children, families, hair, hairdo, health, midlife, Politics, women's health

the agony of disconnection

This draft has been sitting in my box for so long, wordpress thought it was written in 1999. It wasn’t, but it was written well before President Obama was elected. I shudder to think of the examples of how people thrive on demonization now, but think most of what’s here is still the core of the problem we’re facing as people.

This is in memory of all we lost that day, including the opportunity to be better connected as a people. Rest in peace, Fred.

A while back, I wrote about the exceptionally personal experience I had 8 years ago, as someone one degree of separation from the tragedy of September 11. But rather than go on a rant – I do enough of that, and others have already expressed sentiments in ways more articulate and moving than I could – I’m reflecting on a result I would call the agony of separation.

Some thoughtful writers have already talked about the distance they felt from the day’s events, and from the aftermath. After all, there were no calls to reduce consumption of any sort, only to trust that people in the government would act in our best interests, as long as we trusted them. The contrary, that any question or exploration of their actions would be the equivalent of treason, kept many people quiet. Too many people.

From the start, then, we take the tragic events, the loss of lives, and decide that grieving is too much, unless met with unreflective aggression, not just in retaliatory action, but also in words, in thoughts, and what we allow people to talk about publicly. This is more then than the loss one never stops grieving. We move from the commons into a bunker.

But it’s more than applying bunker mentality to communication. It’s also who’s doing the fighting. Economic factors (extra income, the only possible path to college) have put our most vulnerable people into military service. When they return, they’re both damaged and denied the resources they need to recover – not unlike the denial of resources and information they faced on the ground, in harm’s way.

In this bunker culture, there isn’t a lot of encouragement to substantively connect – yellow ribbon magnets repel question authority bumperstickers, and vice versa. I see one of those magnets in the parking lot of my child’s daycare center, and wonder how I would talk to the mom who drives the car. We would talk about our children, I suppose, and I would ask when her family member is coming home, and wish a safe and healthy return. Anymore than that, and there is a serious potential for bunker communications, shutting down, dropping connections. Or would we not even talk at all, as the wrinkled John Kerry sticker (not exactly question authority, but close enough in our media and politically illiterate culture) would serve as an effective deterrent to even the most surface greetings.

Broadband bunker communciations fully support the agony of separation. Information sources that sides rely upon are often suspect, and the louder suspect sources tend to come from one side. You know how it goes; “You’re with us, or you’re with the terrorists.” Who is this “us,” anyway? It is not the citizenry. How do you listen to someone who parrots Fox entertainers? Who has the interest, never mind the time, to read comparatively? Who would raise their hand and claim to be a media illiterate?

At the same time how does that person listen to me about the state of our nation in real time across the table, words at a breathtaking clip, all citations, disdain and by most standards, obscene privilege? How does that person communicate the realities they face

Where do we find the encouragement to stop, listen, connect? Is it even possible? Blogs certainly foster communities of interest, but my limited experience shows the only tangible evidence of crosspollination being the troll. I admit it, I don’t need to read another Clinton-bashing site as long as I live. Not because I think he was perfect – far from it – but because what they say is born of hatred of him, and while the hatred is real, the accusations range from overdone to truly bizarre.

And it is that unwillingness to ask and listen that stops connections from happening, that makes for gaps, for misinformed assumptions, for danger, for a strange sort of agony – one of a nation, unable to look at itself in the altogether.

Unlike the majority of my fellow Americans, I flew within two weeks, across country. And again the following week. And then in a ping-pong trip across central and western Europe. I can’t tell you what a mess I found – a tangled mess of ideas presented to me at every turn by colleagues from all parts of the globe. It wasn’t a bad mess, though many of the ideas were unpleasant, theories from the thoughtful to just shy of deranged, and a lot of anti-American sentiments. But the best part of that tangle was the chance to acknowledge it, and to listen. Not to agree, but to listen. To connect.

Whether it was at home or overseas (I lost count of the number of times I flew to Europe in the last 4 months of 2001), it became even more important to connect. To listen. To not dismiss. To understand, if only a little, and to consider and act on solutions. To untangle misunderstandings, while seeing some snarls were beyond my abilities to know at the time.

In my own way, because of my work and its very nature (I was a Communications Director of an international technical organization at the time), I was serving as an ambassador through listening, responding, asking.

I have to say, I wasn’t afraid of ideas, of people presenting them. I was glad to have the chance to hear it directly. To give a response if I had one, to simply say “I don’t know about that” if I didn’t, and to offer my own views if it seemed as though there was any interest.

Watching some television yesterday, I noticed how tender the wounds still are for people not separated from the events of the day. Whether it was by location, or personal loss, or identification.

Back to that tragic week in 2001 – I was loading the trunk of my rental car in Downtown Boston on the way to my own bridal shower, when my friend handed me a copy of Time she had saved for me. I remember seeing for the first time photos of people jumping from buildings – the scenes broadcast in every other country around the world.  I literally screamed, dropping the magazine into the trunk, and extending my arms, my hands palms up. What I wouldn’t have given to be able to catch even one person – an irrational, impractical, emotional, visceral, true response. It wouldn’t have mattered what they believed, who they voted for, what they watched. When faced directly with the loss of a human being, with suffering, only connect.

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Filed under Complexity, exploitation, france, Grieving, loss, Opportunism, Politics, September 11th, Wars

37w4d, or no limits on term

Now what?

After months of hearing about my risk and unlikelihood of making it to term, here we are, term +4. Flirting with 190 lbs, but never quite staying there long enough to close the deal. Keeping true to my typical low blood pressure (a hoot of a revelation for anyone who has experienced my temper).

Little one spends a lot of time in variations of transverse lie – sometimes, she sits upright on the left side. Other times, she rolls over onto her side, a huge bump protruding from my left with no symmetrical match. Then there are those legs, stretching and kicking to the appendix, the right hipbone, and (I’m beginning to think) into my actual right leg.

Ben pats my belly and asks “Little one, when are you coming out?” then tells me “Mommy, she’s not ready yet.” When H starts to show signs of wear, he takes one peek at my profile, and the caring returns.

I walk into Ben’s school and the coffee shop each day to shocked expressions. “What is going on? When is she going to come out?” I’m left with shrugged shoulders, a smile, and a sore back.

On another note: yesterday in our house, we all celebrated the impending arrival of a smart and gifted president, grateful to those who waited in lines in the last month, and those who took on more dangerous challenges in the decades that preceded us.

I remembered ’04, taking Ben in a carrier to the polling place, and crying through Kerry’s concession speech. I swore I would have traded the Sox WS victory for the 04 election. So a few weeks ago while watching Garza pitch circles around the Sox in game 7, I whispered to God – ok, can we make a deal? I won’t complain about the Sox getting knocked out if my guy wins in November. Who knew God was also a broken-hearted feminist red sox fan?

Last night, I started whispering to Little one, patting her and telling her, “It’s ok, you can come out now. You’ll be safe. We have a chance to make a better world, from the bottom and the top. So it’s ok – it’s ok – we’re going to make it better, and we need you to help.”

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Filed under mother, Motherhood, Obama, Politics, pregnancy, pregnant after 40, reconciliation

yes we can (hold babies)

After seeing too many videos of the unbridled hatred encouraged to fester at McCain-Palin rallies, I sought refuge in the blog of a college student called “Yes We Can (Hold Babies)“. Too cute for words, yet not treacly. And definitely deserving of your support.

Late update, for ralph: My favorite, right here:

the happiest boy in the world

the happiest boy in the world

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Filed under babies, children, cute, Obama, Politics

maternity store chats, the economy, and voting

Last week, in search of pants that would accommodate the biggest belly ever to house a petite powerhouse, I ended up in discussions about the economy, neglect of veterans and their families, and the struggle to find good skilled workers.

The new boutique in our increasingly upscale mall is a bit of a surprise – independently owned, unique merchandice, totally upscale. Lots of moms from the Eastside are going to beat a path to their door with the glamorous choices they offer. There’s no discount rack here, so I would look at the pretty items and figure by the time they have such a rack, Little One will be out, kicking ass and taking names.

The owner was at the desk of the little gem, helping me with bras that clearly were not up to the task in spite of their sizing and beauty. We talked a little about the new shop – I had seen her original place and thought it was great – and she started describing the challenges of finding staff.

The pattern of mall employees is often migrant – traveling from shop to shop, not much in the way of wages, often young, often somewhat unpredictable. She knew that she would need to work closely with any new staff and not just train them. The whole issue of getting them invested in working in the store, in a similar way to herself. She was already looking for ways to make it easier for women who already had small children to be able to work and have the baby around. Or to find other flexible ways to accommodate good workers, but it was tough. She was building the business entirely with her own money – a big gamble especially in this economy – and she needed to make sure it would work.

I also went to the chain maternity store. Their merchandise runs from Target pricing to midrange. All kinds of women come here to shop, and there are always markdown rounders for both the bargain and more professional-level clothing. (I know those rounders intimately.)

The women working there are wonderful. Almost always young, many young mothers themselves. From the ones I have met and talked to, it’s often not their only job.

The young woman I met today – let’s call her Mrs 4, for her 4 children (including a niece she adopted) – is like many women with young families. She and her husband struggle to make ends meet – to get their children the things they need, to do well in school, to do well for themselves. Both she and her husband are from military families – her husband enlisted at 17, and did two tours of duty in Iraq.

Tour 2 was devastating. He lost 5 men in his unit, and it took a tremendous toll on him. When he ended his tour, he was in desperate need of psychiatric care. So, after he was placed in a psychiatric inpatient facility, the family received a letter telling them that since he would require more than 6 months of inpatient treatment, they would no longer qualify for military housing. They would need to find a new place to live, stat, but the army would pay to move their things to wherever they managed to find housing. Is this supporting the troops?

Walking away from the register, she kept saying “Go vote! You’ve got to vote! Do you know who you’ll choose?” When I told her there was no question, she smiled and whispered, “Vote Obama! Vote Obama!”

These aren’t people who have time to watch conventions or get bloggy. They are (over)working mothers, trying to make ends meet. They want to see a change in the economy and in the world their children inhabit. It was Mrs. 4 who said “I don’t care what anyone says. We’re in a recession – I see it here in the store.”

With all the media coverage, it’s easy to lose track of what is really at stake in the election. The antidote to tabloid politicking is talking to a real person about what’s going on in their lives, and figuring out what needs to be done, or at least, which direction to take.

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Filed under Motherhood, Politics

It won’t be your idea of change, but you should still vote for it.

Here’s another one that’s been stewing around for months. I hope it was worth the wait, though it may still be the equivalent of bathtub wine in terms of sophistication of thinking.

While I will be voting for Obama in the upcoming election, I’m not in the league of his acolytes. I’m choosing him because I think he is smarter – on the whole and politically – and that he will make better decisions, better appointments and better policies than any of his opponents, an admittedly low bar. In truth, I think he’s more likely to make good judgments and take actions that are constructive on their own merits. And because as a scholar of the good-old-boy school of politics, he’ll get things through without having to change DC, the very last task he’d take on once in office.

What? Isn’t Obama all about change? Isn’t that the mantra of millions of hopeful voters? Well, mantra, tagline, slogan, servicemark, it’s marketing. A close read of his rewarding, well-written books not only brings the reader through the narrative the senator has chosen to create, it also reveals more about his traditional positioning and why no one should be surprised that politically, there’ll be no new blisters on his hands, given his adeptness at hardball.

The conversation I’ve had with his supporters who feel that personal connection, that sense of promise for overwhelming change, has minor deflationary impact, but resonates with most of the feminists I know. It goes something like this:

“Y’know, I hear all about this change thing, but I have to say, after reading his memoirs and interviews – the majority of which lament the somewhat sainted father who left behind 4 women’s children and barely made time or resources for him and his mother, and noting the deliberate choices he has made in his own life – I think he longs for a traditional patriarchical model – of women in perpetual service. One where man exists to serve god, or country, or at the very least his own personal ambitions, justified in whatever way he chooses. And that woman exists to serve man. Is that change? To me, not so much.”

The feminist women who may be voting for him but who aren’t suffering from tinges of fanaticism – or sadly, the ones who still haven’t let go of the mundane misogyny of the primary race and thus claim to be staying home – nod knowingly.

(I didn’t have to support Hillary to know there was something truly ridiculous afoot with coverage. All I needed were eyes and ears. I think it’s interesting that Obama never said a peep about it – in fact, kept staffers on who made some of the most ridiculously sexist and personal accusations, while letting go of people who said unfortunate but not sexist things and yet who could contribute real leadership and intelligence to his campaign. Oh, until he reported that his grandmother told him she thought the coverage and treatment of HRC was unfair and obviously sexist, and that her remarks made him think there may have been something to it. Was it light dawning on marblehead? Nah. Hardball. Why waste cycles condemning the first and last acceptable public discrimination?)

The dudes are speechless, then try to tell me I must be secretly awed by his oratory.

“Oh, no, no secret that I admire him and his gift with language – especially in contrast to the last four years of unintentional Orwellian malapropism. But I’m 41, and I’ve heard enough smooth talking in my life to appreciate and enjoy it for what it is.” They’re left stuttering. I assure them I know how to vote, but I’m well aware of what I’m getting, and it isn’t change, unless you compare it to the criminal operations of the last 7.5 years. Which is welcome.

Why is it that Dems have to fall in love – blinders and all? Is it any better than the blinders one must live with as a Republican in order to fall in line? One doesn’t have to fall in love to make the best choice for office. Just make an informed choice. And given the freakish behaviour and position of Grampa this week in light of the Russian invasion of Georgia, you have all the information you need. Having an administration that is not warhappy and doesn’t break the law is the next necessary stage for our citizens and for those of the world. Vote with your brain, not your brain in love. Vote Obama.

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Filed under 2008 elections, accountability, ambition, Feminism, feminist, Politics

Feministe: Why Calling Out Misogyny Matters

Writing what has been gnawing at me for months, Feministe blogger zuzu  expresses it perfectly.  Please read “Why calling out misogyny matters“.

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Filed under backlash, constructive critique, Feminism, institutional misogyny, misogyny, Politics

when the “b” word is as unacceptable in public discourse as a substitute for “woman” as the “n” word

The WA state caucuses left me a bit drained – a mix of happy and dissatisfied faces with how I handled chairing our precinct, the unease I felt at seeing such hatred for Hillary, and so little knowledge of Obama. I was challenging Hillary haters to give positive, fact-based rationale for Obama, even trying to feed them some of the answers, and was sad to see the commitment so melded in race, religion and gender.

So, after reading Frank Rich’s pillory of Hillary, I felt compelled to respond. I was honored to find my comment tagged as an NYT editors’ selection, errors and all. Maybe someone at Obama’s campaign will have a look and make some real change happen.

And just in case the permalink isn’t really permanent, a cleaned up version here:

Everyone is fighting nastily here. It can be a tough choice for an informed voter whose candidate left the stage. I left the WA caucuses today having chaired my precinct to a Obama landslide, but keeping my own vote profoundly uncommitted. A landslide, I’d point out, distinguished in no small part by a remarkable amount of male spokespeople who could barely conceal their contempt of Hillary for reasons they couldn’t quite express, even when pressed.

While on the topic of nasty tactics, I’d like to ask where is the outrage over the consistently sexist treatment of Mrs. Clinton by the media at large and Obama proponents in particular. I’m thinking about the remarks by Jesse Jackson Jr, falsely accusing her of crying over her appearance instead of over Katrina victims. Is he looking for freelance work? Hardly. His position as a spokesperson for the Obama campaign is safe and sound, while remaining as dry eyed on camera over Katrina victims as any other pol, including his boss.

Apparently, sexist behaviour is just part and parcel of American political life, to be questioned only if the women derided aren’t white. (Just look at Imus and Rutgers, and what got him canned, as opposed to what the players found primarily offensive. I wrote about it myself in an ironic copy of Carville, as, “it’s the misogyny, stupid.”)

Massachusetts Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral summarizes it best: “What would never be said about race is the sport of kings when it comes to gender.”

What a world it will be when the “b” word is considered as unacceptable to refer to women, regardless of race, as the N word is today. And how I wish John Edwards stayed in the race.

— janet, outside of Seattle

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Filed under 2008 elections, Feminism, John Edwards, misogyny, Politics, scared men, sexism, Voting, WA, WA Caucuses, WA-08, WA-48, women

tear analysis, and the sorry state of gender in today’s media

Let’s get something straight, vis-a-vis the media overanalysis of Hillary’s verklempt moment. Women, anecdotally, are more likely to cry in FRUSTRATION than men. Anyone who doesn’t know that should offer to put a webcam on my office wastebasket for a year, and count the tissues. It doesn’t mean all of us cry, much less cry frequently, but it happens. And when it does, it’s mostly out of frustration.

We still get the job done, we still finish the project, we still clean up nicely. It’s worth noting that the moment, if it happens, is usually private – at home, or in the ladies room, or perhaps in the car. Every once in a while, you’ll get to see it. Unguarded, the tears come… and then they go. It’s just that most of us don’t do it on camera.

So, why might Hillary be frustrated? Because she watched a lead disappear? The money disappear? Any hope of a non-partisan, mature press corps disappear? (In the interest of full disclosure, I am for Edwards and Obama, in that order.) That she had worked hard, followed the script and it still wasn’t working? I could see having a teary moment, and then rearming. Could it have been planned? Maybe, but the truth of the tears of frustration is undeniable.

Which brings me to the media discomfort and attempts to find a new reason to bash Hillary in the face of the moment, and her victory – albeit relatively small in such a volatile race.

I don’t believe for a minute that race is the penultimate divide in our culture. It has been, is, and god willing for my child’s future will not be gender.  Don’t believe me? Check out any socio-economic grouping a demographer can offer, and see if men and women are granted the same status, rights, roles, expectations, wages… the gender line is drawn right down the middle. I don’t know how it works for queer-identified people, but my own anecdotal and admittedly limited experience is that gay men, particularly white gay men, seem to fare best of the bunch.

Race is not an additive – it’s a major multiplier, but let’s be honest. It all comes down to the boys v. the girls, and those who play in the broadband media space, regardless of the equipment they came with, tend to favor one team over the other. And before you get all “it’s about the money” on me, keep in mind that misogyny appears to pay its spokespeople very very well.

And yes, Chris Matthews is a raging misogynist (thanks, Rachel, for putting it out there) but he’s only one of many who continue to work unedited and unabated. His history of remarks on Hillary and her husband could fill a very spiteful, hateful book and sequel. But don’t expect him to lose his job over being called out.

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Filed under bias, clintonophobes, Feminism, gender bias, media, media bias, misogyny, Politics, women

all politics is becoming glocal

I’ve lived in this timezone for 6 years – voted in as many elections, paid property taxes, learned where to (and not to) eat – and I haven’t yet felt like a real resident. Culture clash and remote employment play an equal role in my disconnectedness, but it wasn’t until a recent political action that I realized how strange it can be as a netizen first, resident second.

It’s political season again, and our despicable US Congress Rep is being challenged by a principled opponent – but the first place she (and other hopefuls in other districts) are going is out of the district. It makes me think that all politics is now glocal – a challenger goes to a global to get the money she needs in order to prove herself to the locals. So, if you’d like to help me get a good rep in Congress, consider giving to Darcy, and tell her you learned about her at my kitchen table.

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Filed under 2008 elections, accountability, activism, glocal, Politics, strategic communication, the big picture, US Congress, Voting, WA, WA-08, women, women's rights