Thursday, May 26, 2022
Tuesday, March 1, 2022
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
I was a journalism major. My first real job, after waitressing, was at the Rittman Press, a weekly newspaper in rural Ohio. I was the only full-time reporter, a lot of pressure. As we’d been taught in school, I followed the rules: find two sources, verify everything, double and triple-check my information. Some sources were more reliable than others. A photo was better than a statement. No one could argue with the facts.
|Shay Horse/NurPhoto via Getty Images|
Here’s what I want to know. Officials in every state have certified the election. Representatives from both parties, and monitors from every walk of life, studied the ballots and signatures and deemed them valid. Courts reviewed 59 charges of fraud and dismissed them out of hand.
One judge, a Trump appointee said, “Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.”
But you think a bus pulled up at a polling place, stuffed with fake ballots, and every single person in the chain of command went along with it? Where is this flawless operation in every other phase of our government? We can’t even dole out vaccine shots. My dad used to be a poll volunteer. He would have decked anyone who tried to cheat. It meant that much to him.
If this election was rigged, why are members of Congress fine with their results? Shouldn’t we throw out their votes too? Could it be they’re using this fiction to raise money? It’s estimated that the Trump campaign and allied GOP groups have raised at least $497 million since he lost.
I’ll be honest. Four years ago, I couldn’t stomach the thought of “President Trump.” His attitudes toward women, immigrants, minorities, the press, disabled and LGBTQ people were disturbing. Not what I wanted for the leader of our country. But as someone told me, “Sometimes you have to hire an assh*le to get the job done.” My dad said, “Don’t worry. He’ll surround himself with good people.” You know why I suspended my judgment? Because so many of my friends and family—people I respected—thought he was a good guy.
A good guy who cheated his contractors, cheated his tenants, cheated charities, cheated veterans at his fake university, and cheated on his wives, but okay.
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
This president has a habit of lying. This is well-known. His supporters enjoy it, I think. He’s playing a game, and they’re winning. Unfortunately, he lost this last election. This is also well-known. But because he couldn’t admit to losing, he lied for two months. The election was only fair if he won. What second-grader wouldn’t recognize this tactic?
He couldn’t win through voter suppression, slowing down the post office, and disqualifying mail-in ballots during the most deadly pandemic since 1918. He couldn’t believe he lost, because all of his tricks didn’t work.
Is it divisive of me to spell out the facts? “Agreeing to disagree” doesn’t fly anymore. I can’t give equal weight to complete fabrications. We were taught to be polite to people with different views, and that worked for most of my life, until Facebook came along. I miss the old days, when I didn’t know my Christian neighbors were kinda racist.A Trump supporter recently told me she’s afraid of losing our freedoms. I agree. The Capitol is locked down so tightly right now, it looks like the Green Zone in Baghdad. She says she’s fighting to protect our rights. As Americans, our rights are protected by the Constitution. Which this president has done everything in his power to undermine.
Tomorrow, we inaugurate a new president. This has happened every four years since 1789. Sadly, it won’t happen with the same pomp and circumstance, due to the death threats from the ex-president’s fans. How do we move on as a nation, rebuild our economy, fight this virus, put people back to work, when half of the country thinks the other half is trying to destroy it? How can this be? We all want the same things: safety, security, peace. Freedom to live our own lives. If your first reaction just now was to think of all the ways the “other side” is doing the opposite, well, that’s part of the problem. We’ve gotten so used to this tit-for-tat, knee-jerk argument, we’ve lost the point. Do we want to win the fight or fix our problems? We’ve been trolling each other for four years, thanks to the troller-in-chief, and that has to stop.
Here’s part of the oath that President Biden will swear tomorrow: “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
We are not the enemy, you and I. We’re Americans.
Thursday, October 22, 2020
My friend list is shorter than it used to be. In 2016, the mute and unfollow buttons became protection. I didn’t want to be that person, ending relationships over politics. This was different, though. Our choices reflect our values, and our character. A red hat is an in-your-face statement. Maybe it means more than you intended, but we can’t look past it. That bell can’t be un-rung.
I’ve been trying to figure out when we took up opposite sides of the fence, but who has time to re-examine four hundred years of American history? In my lifetime, Rush Limbaugh was the one who built the wall. His radio show went national in the late eighties, but he didn’t reach critical mass until the Clinton presidency. In fact, Rush was honored for his part in the landslide mid-term election of 1994, when Republicans reclaimed the House after forty years. It was a dark time to be a liberal. It was the first time I knew I was a liberal. Here was this man on the radio, braying the ugliest, meanest, most hateful thoughts out loud, and people ate it up. People I knew and loved. It felt like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” One day, I’d be talking to a kind, caring individual. The next, he was calling me a feminazi. As a joke, he said. Ha. Ha.
Rush certainly didn’t mean it as a joke. He’d say anything for ratings, but he tapped into a deep, dark vein of hatred toward women, people of color, and immigrants. By the way, he just received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Up is down, down is up. I don’t understand the country we’re living in. But then, I’ve always been naïve. I grew up on a farm, believing in truth, justice, the American Way. My parents sent me to church, where I learned to Do unto others as you would have done unto you and Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. According to Rush, this made me the enemy. My dad loved his show.
As a monster liberal, what is my agenda? I believe in investing in education, childcare, drug treatment, and affordable housing, rather than paying $40,000 a year to house a person in prison. I believe in investing in healthcare—check-ups, cancer screenings, birth control, blood-pressure medicine—to keep our workforce healthy, and to avoid paying Medicaid to transport a patient to dialysis three times a week. I believe in paying my fair share of taxes, since I reap the benefits of living in this great country.
Honestly, it pains me to write this. America isn’t great at the moment—the slogan says so. I believe in the best of this nation—basic rights and care for all citizens—and apparently, that makes me a radical left-wing socialist. Here are some other socialist programs I endorse: public libraries, schools, roads, fire departments, subways, city buses, Social Security, Medicare, public universities, and hospitals. Lock me up.
But oh, right, I forgot—your taxes. That’s what matters. In a Biden presidency, your taxes will go up if you make more than $400,000 a year. Does that apply to you? If so, you’re buying lunch next time.
Sorry. For a bleeding-heart liberal, I get so mad sometimes. The past four years have been a nightmare. We watch our standing in the world erode. Our allies don’t trust us—they think we’re a joke. Our leader brags about the great job he’s doing. By the end of the year, a quarter-million of us will be dead of COVID-19.
We have a chance to change this narrative, to choose a president who is good, smart, decent, who works with people across the aisle to get things done. Being a politician isn’t a dirty word, unless you think it’s smart to hire a mechanic to take out your gallbladder.
Please, just this once, don’t do something just to own the libs. We’re owned. We’re permanently owned. The joke’s on us. You win.
Sunday, June 7, 2020
when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.
Maybe I shouldn’t say this out loud, but I’ve always been prejudiced against white men. Growing up, they were the ones who took advantage—the liars, the cheats, the thieves. The rapist on my college campus was white. The doctor who conned my father-in-law out of his life savings was white. The lawyer who stole the deed to my neighbor’s house was white. The punks who terrorized my parents’ street, breaking into homes in the middle of the day, were white. The guys who cheated on their taxes, cheated on their wives, cheated on their way to the top—in my experience, they’ve always been white. Call me a racist, but I just don’t trust them.
Frankly, when I see a white man coming, I hide my purse.
All of my bosses were white. The bullies, the harassers, the crushers of dreams and aspirations—you guessed it, white males. To finally have a woman in charge was a revelation. Here was kindness, fairness, problem-solving without intimidation. Sadly, she was the exception. Corporate culture, by and large, is driven by a need to dominate. Capitalism is a zero-sum game. I win, you lose.
The sad thing is, for all the winning that white men do, they’re never happy. It’s never enough. They get the benefit of every doubt, and they’re not even grateful for the privilege. Nobody questions their right to walk down the street, or drive a car, or shop in a store, or voice whatever dumb opinion they have, no matter how ill-informed. Nobody turns them down for a college application, or a loan, or a mortgage. Creditors practically give them money. They’re on the dole from birth, getting hand-outs left and right. Thanks to the GOP tax cuts in 2017, the wealthiest Americans and corporations received nearly two trillion dollars from the government for doing absolutely nothing. Welcome to the welfare state.
If you’ve read this far and can’t wait to argue my baseless generalizations, you might be a white guy. It’s a hard time for you, I know. Your portfolio is down almost ten percent, what with the global pandemic and all. You’re probably losing sleep. It’s not safe to walk the streets. How do you protect yourself, your home, your family? Is it even safe to call the police?
|Photo by Richard Grant, Long Beach, CA|
If you watched the protests on TV and felt more outrage over damaged property than you did about a man slowly being choked to death while he cried out for his dead mother, I wrote this for you. Enough is enough. I look back now and see the fiction we’ve lived, the myth that the American Dream is the same for every American. We’ve always believed that cops were heroes. Sure, there were a few bad apples, but they were the exceptions, the aberrations. If an officer roughed you up, you must have done something to deserve it. After all, cops were always nice to us.
I went to a very nice school, paid for by my parents, along with a zero-interest federal loan. Some of my classmates were very successful weed dealers. Most of them went on to become successful lawyers. Young men of the same age but with slightly darker complexions went to maximum-security prisons for up to ten years. No college kid I knew could have imagined being stopped and frisked on the street. It was not the world we knew. How lucky for us, growing up in that America.
In our America, people worked hard to succeed. If we played by the rules, we were rewarded. We pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps. What a joke, considering that our parents bought our shoes. For many of us, land and money were handed down, generation to generation. Our parents bought good homes in decent neighborhoods, with good schools. They could do that, being white. Nobody stopped them.
Shola Richards, who lives in California. He owns a nice house in a nice neighborhood. He’s tall, athletic, black. As a black man, he never feels safe walking in his own neighborhood because he knows others perceive him as a threat. He always brings his wife or daughter along, and his fluffy little dog. To make us feel safe. How pathetic we are, as a country, to treat our fellow citizens this way.
But let’s get back to you white guys. Don’t get me wrong—some of my best friends are white. I sleep with a white guy. Maybe I’ve judged you too harshly, but then, you’ve been holding the reins of power here for four hundred years. This is your legacy. Innocent people are being attacked and killed in the streets on your watch. If you sit silently by, supporting the status quo because it’s good for business, this is on you.
Why am I off the hook? One, I’m a woman, and two, I voted for the woman. Every time I raise my voice, you say I’m too shrill. Rest assured I’ll vote again come November, braving a virus, martial law or nuclear winter to elect any and all candidates who support criminal justice reform, federal legislation to stop police violence, and programs at state and local levels to combat bias and discrimination. Is it too much to ask that every American be treated with decency and respect? If that means I have to start being nice to white men, so be it. Seriously, I love you guys.
Note: All references to white and/or melanin-challenged men are not meant to perpetuate racial stereotypes. This piece was written as satire, or metaphor, or allegory—I can never keep them straight. At any rate, I didn’t mean you. I mean those guys who tell us how hard they had it, growing up, and how they’re the good guys, and they don’t see color. You know who I mean.
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
|Neuro ICU, Tampa General Hospital|
It happened during his annual camping trip to Sebring Raceway. He wasn’t feeling well. He asked a friend to stop the car, took a few steps and collapsed. Doctors later blamed food poisoning and dehydration. He fell backwards, hitting his head on the concrete. His skull cracked on the left side. Blood ran out of his ear. He turned gray, stopped breathing. His friend Don admitted, “I thought he was gone.”
My brother-in-law was the one who called me. “Graeme’s being airlifted to Tampa” sounded like a stupid joke, even for these guys. “I’m not kidding,” Craig said, and I could hear the panic in his voice. “Alaine’s on her way to pick you up.” Fifteen minutes later, my sister and I were speeding down the highway toward the ER.
When we tell the story in the future, the confusion over hospitals will probably become a minor detail. At the time, it was terrifying. We drove across the state toward Tampa. Halfway there, one of Graeme’s friends reported that his helicopter was headed for the closer hospital in Lakeland, a level-two trauma center. GPS recalculating. As it turned out, the Lakeland helipad was busy that night with another accident. Graeme was rerouted back to Tampa, a level-one trauma center. As I juggled calls, trying to find out where he was, my phone rang again. It was the president of Sebring Raceway, asking what he could do to help. I’d never been more scared in my life.
Long story short, Graeme spent eight days in two different hospitals. The impact of his fall caused a brain bleed and seizures. He was in critical condition for a while. When he finally woke up, his short-term memory was gone. He remembered everything and everybody pre-fall, just nothing we’d talked about five minutes earlier. It’s funny now—we told him the helicopter story at least twenty times, and he was always impressed—but what did it mean for his career? His phone filled up with anxious messages. Alaine and I scrambled to do his work and ours between hospital shifts.
|Graeme and his sister, Gayle|
Speaking of driving, let’s go back to the president of Sebring Raceway. Wayne Estes called that first night and every day after to check on Graeme. I asked if we could leave our van at the track—it was locked, full of camping gear, and the keys were in Graeme’s pocket—until we figured out how to get it home. Wayne said not to worry. The next morning, his wife appeared at the hospital with a gift bag full of snacks and treats. (It fed us for weeks.) Rita held out her hand and asked for the key. Then, she drove back to Sebring, and she and her husband brought the van north, where Craig and Alaine picked it up. That’s eight hours of driving by people we’d never met. I’m still in awe of their kindness.
So many people to thank. Highland County EMS. The Aeromed pilot and crew who kept Graeme alive on the way to Tampa. The staff at TGH, one of the best trauma centers in the country. The neurology team at ORMC. Thanks also to my cousin-in-law Ellen, a former EMT, who gave us some invaluable advice, along with chocolates, puzzles, and a book on traumatic brain injury. At first, I hid it from Graeme, not wanting to traumatize him with the TBI label, but now, he reads a little every night. It helps, he says, to understand his new normal. Headaches. Dizziness. Fatigue. Insomnia. Bouts of fog and frustration. He wants to be better yesterday. He’s learning patience. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that pain means you’re still breathing.
My cousin Laurie and her husband Wallace have made three trips from Jacksonville to cheer Graeme up. They come, deliver hugs and lunch, and leave. That’s my definition of love. Graeme’s friends have been here from the start, although he doesn’t remember the first time Don, John, or Loredana visited him in the hospital. I took pictures, just to be safe.
|Staff Meeting with Alaine, Graeme and Cato|
Thank you to everyone for the flowers, fruit, cheese, crackers, cookies, candy and Whoopie Pies. Glucose is fuel for brain recovery, so sugar is exactly what Graeme needed. There will be personal thank-you notes when life settles down (did I mention tax season?) but in the meantime, please know that we’ve been blown away by your thoughtfulness and prayers.
One last thing. Thank you to the stranger in the elevator of the parking garage at two in the morning, who leaned over and whispered, “Don’t you worry, honey. Everything’s going to be fine.”
Friday, March 30, 2018
The first argument my husband and I ever had was over voting. He wasn’t registered. Didn’t see the point. It was kind of a deal-breaker for me. Long story short, he joined the electoral rolls and canceled out my vote for the next 20 years. Be careful what you wish for.
|Russell Means at Wounded Knee, 1973|
The first speaker I remember was Russell Means, an Oglala Sioux activist who championed the American Indian Movement. Among many protests, he led the 71-day occupation at Wounded Knee. He was a tall, impressive man with long, black braids—like the Indians I’d seen on TV, only much, much angrier. When he talked about poverty and despair on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and his vow to “get in the white man’s face until he gives me and my people our just due,” I was right there with him, shaking my fist. It didn’t occur to me that my face was white.
|Dick Gregory and Muhammad Ali, 1968|
That’s how you inspire change—by changing the minds of people who don’t know any different.
|Kent State University, May 4, 1970|
|Senators Baker and Ervin, Watergate Hearings, 1973|
|Atty. Gen. Kimberlé Williams & her staff with|
Ohio Atty. Gen. William J. Brown, Girls State, 1976
|25,00 people at the March for Our Lives in Orlando|
A friend recently said, “Politics isn’t my thing,” as if he didn’t care whether the police come when he calls 911, or how much he’ll pay in property taxes, or whether his son and daughter will be drafted into war. Every one of those decisions will be made by an elected official. We take our government for granted, except to complain about it. One of the silver linings of the 2016 election is that a record number of women—nearly 34,000—have filed to run for office across the country. Maybe we’ll finally get something done.
Protest, register to vote, call or write your representative, contact Emily’s List to start your own campaign—these are all rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Be a patriot and get involved. Research the issues yourself—don’t let a web site or TV station tell you what to believe. If I sound too strident, well, that ship has already sailed. As my husband will tell you, I’m not kidding around.