Tag Archives: politics

Anger

Anger is a powerful force for change.

That’s what Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach told me yesterday.  Well, me and a room full of a few hundred people.

It was a message gratefully received, because good Lord am I angry.  I have anger to spare. 

The world seems to be on fire — literally, in the case of the UN climate change report — and I am irate.  It feels sometimes like anger is impotence, like I am screaming, both mentally and physically, into a void of indifference.  Like nothing I can do will change the problems I see all around me.

But sometimes you just need a reminder: your anger is justified, it is not useless, and with it you can change the goddamn world.

We live in a society that values men over women.  This is a BIG PROBLEM.  It’s a problem that fuels my rage.  This problem makes me the Hulk, a rage monster of superhuman size that just wants to smash everything.  Every single thing. 

I have spoken to men in the last few weeks who quite easily give a man the benefit of the doubt when accused of sexual assault, but refuse to see that in doing so, they deny the woman accusing him that same benefit.  I have spoken to men who say they “believe” that the woman was a victim, but that they don’t believe she knows who her assaulter was even though she says she knows it with 100% certainty. These men are fools enough not to be able to see that those two things are mutually exclusive: you cannot believe the woman if you don’t believe the woman.  MEN WHO SAY THESE THINGS ARE SEXIST AND MISOGYNISTIC AND I CANNOT FIX THEIR BRAINS AND THAT MAKES ME FULL OF RAGE.

I have spoken to women in the last few weeks who say things like “what was she wearing? what did she expect would happen going off with teenage boys who were drinking?” in reference to a woman being sexually assaulted. WOMEN WHO SAY THESE THINGS ARE BRAINWASHED BY A PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY AND I CANNOT FIX THEIR BRAINS AND THAT MAKES ME FULL OF RAGE. 

So instead I turn around and I look at my family to make sure I am raising a generation that knows freaking better.  That I have a daughter who knows that she even if she were to walk naked and drunk down Broadway, no one has the right to touch her without her consent because her body is her body.  That I have sons who understand that they must respect every. other. body. on. earth. and keep their hands to themselves and that no means no and that they will always, always be the only ones responsible for their actions and nothing anyone else says or wears or does will excuse them if they act wrong.  That I have children who know that not all other children will have been taught these things and that it might be up to my children to tell their peers if the things their peers say or do are not okay. 

I cannot fix the broken people who believe that victims are to blame for the actions of assaulters, but I can make goddamn sure that my own children will be better than that. 

(And I can vote out every last representative who doesn’t support the Equal Rights Amendment, who gives the benefit of the doubt to assaulters instead of victims, and who doesn’t actively and overtly call out and work against the misogyny and sexism inherent in the system.  My kids aren’t old enough to vote yet, so they can’t do this.  This is my job.)

The world is facing catastrophic climate change in the next decade.  This is a BIG PROBLEM– maybe the biggest of all because if we don’t fix this one, the rest won’t matter.  Bridget and I were talking about the UN report on climate change and I told her that it said we basically have until 2030 to reverse the course of doom we’re currently on, and even then we can only do it with massive wholesale societal changes worldwide.  In 2030 she’ll be 26 years old.  This is her life we’re talking about saving, and the lives of her brothers.  The lives of any grandchildren I ever hope to have.  It seems insurmountable and the reality of it brings a huge heaving wave of anxiety and hopelessness and rage up in my body that I can taste.

But thank god for the sense and rationality of my daughter, who said the best thing to do is just start: we examine what OUR family can do to change any habits we have that might make even the most infinitesimal difference.  And then we mention to our friends what we’re doing and maybe they make a few small changes.  And maybe it adds up.  We start small and we scale.  She is smarter than me and maybe a bit naive, but her response gives me a chance to breathe.

(We also vote out every last candidate who doesn’t include as a foundation of their electoral platform a larger-scale plan to address the very real threat we face.  But Bridget can’t do that; she’s only 14.  That part is my job.)

We live in a country where nearly 100 people die every single day as the result of gun violence.  We live in a country with a population of 300M people and an estimated 393M guns in circulation.  There are more civilian-owned guns than people in the United States. We live in a country where my children do lockdown drills during school and tell me that they stand near the red dot on the floor because, as Owen says, it’s the place least visible from windows and doors so the shooter wouldn’t have a good line of sight to shoot them, and Quinn adds in that they have to be really, really quiet when they stand there so a shooter can’t hear them.  My imagination plays pictures in my mind of bullets ripping through the bodies of my babies in their classrooms and I have to leave the room to take deep breaths and wipe the tears off my cheeks before I continue our conversation. 

That there are people who believe that their right to own any weapon they choose supersedes my children’s right to LIVE IN SAFETY fills me with enough blind rage that I know I should never own a firearm myself.  So I joined Mom’s Demand Action and I will go to meetings and stand in the State House and host events teaching people how we can respect the second amendment and still create a safer place to live for every person. 

(And I will vote out every single elected official who doesn’t have an F-rating from the NRA, and who doesn’t support common sense gun laws that would mean my children don’t have to stand on a red dot and wait to be shot in school.  My kids can’t do this yet, but I will do it.  And everyone I know will know I am doing it and will know that if they aren’t also doing it, I believe they are actively putting my children in daily danger.)

Since I can remember, I have looked around and wondered why other people weren’t as bothered as I am by the problems all around us.  Why everyone isn’t constantly enraged too.  I have no memory of not feeling like this and I have absolutely no ability to turn it off.  I learned to hide it in order to operate like a normal human in an abnormal world, but all that does is push my rage down inside, it doesn’t extinguish it.  I don’t have anxiety over small things, but I have massive anxiety over the big things: the societal problems, the global issues.  The things I’m least able to change.  I swallowed my rage for decades in order to not seem like a crazy person.  But the state of the world has made me realize, along with the thoughtful and inspirational words I hear from women and men who want to create change: my anger is my power.  And it’s time to use it.

Families Belong Together

I’ve spent the last few days arguing with assorted people on various social media platforms that children should not be separated from their parents and kept in cages.  That this is a thing people might support is grotesque.  That anyone I know, anyone I’ve ever known, could defend this policy is mind-boggling to me. 

For just thirty seconds, put yourself in the position of those parents fleeing violence and poverty.  What would you NOT do to keep your babies safe?  What law would you not ignore if it meant there was even a small chance that your children’s lives would be safe instead of threatened by violence or extreme poverty?  WHAT WOULD I NOT DO TO KEEP MY BABIES SAFE?  I can think of nothing.

Imagine YOUR child or grandchild in the position of those children currently living in cages in tent cities and abandoned box stores.  IMAGINE YOUR CHILD THERE.  Do it, I’ll wait.

Imagine that they don’t know where they are, they don’t know where YOU are, they don’t know how long you’ll be gone, they don’t know any of the people “caring” for them.  Imagine how scared they would be.  Imagine how you would feel in those moments and hours and days and weeks knowing your baby was somewhere, scared and alone, and you could not get to them and you could not help them.  I cannot honestly comprehend it.  It would break me.

Yesterday, Bridget asked me what would happen if they split our family up when we move back to the U.S. next month.  Gratefully, I was able to assure her that because we’re already citizens, we are safe.  But the fact that she even had to worry about that – that the thought crossed her mind and gave her an instant of fear – fills me with rage.

Find your empathy and compassion. Find your humanity.  Find your freaking soul.  Dig deep, it’s in there somewhere.

When the existing law was enacted is irrelevant. 

Whether this has been happening for 20 years or six weeks is not the point.

Whether the parents of these caged children broke a law by entering the U.S. is not important.  What’s happening right now, because of the “zero-tolerance” policy enacted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April of this year, is child abuse, cruel and unusual punishment, psychological warfare.  It is inhumane. 

If you defend it, I don’t know what to say to you other than you have lost your humanity.

People are people.  They deserve to be treated humanely, regardless of where they’re from and what they’ve done.

Children, most of all, deserve care and love. They deserve to be free of fear.

Here are some articles that explain some U.S. immigration laws and what’s happening right now if you feel like you need more information:

Are undocumented immigrants committing a crime? Not necessarily (CNN)

The facts about Trump’s policy of separating families at the border  (Washington Post)

Youngest migrants held in ‘tender age’ shelters (AP)

Here is a link to a petition you can sign demanding that the families split apart by the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy be kept together, and a link to where you can donate to help these families:

Keep them together! Stop separating children from their families at the U.S. border.  (change.org)

Families Belong Together: Help Fight the Separation of Children and Parents (crooked.com)

I feel like screaming and raging and crying with every additional thing I read on this, but that won’t help.  What can help is calling your senators and representatives (especially if you are represented by a Republican) and expressing to them that you want this policy stopped and that they are in a position to stop it.

Call this number – it’s the U.S. Capitol switchboard – and ask to speak to your representative or senator: (202) 224-3121

Don’t know who that is? Go here to find out:

House of Representatives

Senate

It doesn’t matter if you “don’t care” about politics.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve never gotten involved with this sort of thing before.  Do it now, for the children and parents whose lives are being destroyed by an inhumane policy enacted by the U.S. government.

Do it because if it were you in that position, you’d hope someone would try to help you.

Steer Your Ship With Positivity

The movie “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” is a favorite in our house.  In the movie, Steve Carrell as Alexander’s dad has a line where he tells his son to “steer his ship with positivity”.  I use it on my kids all the time when they’re being negative or whiny or cranky.  They roll their eyes, but they usually laugh too.

It is really, really hard for me to follow that advice right now though.  I want to be a positive person, both in real life and online, but man, the current state of the world is making that difficult.  I am just pissed off, like, all the time.

There are a few things that have helped me get control of my moods lately, though, and I thought I’d share for anyone else in my same boat in need of some sanity.

First, I’ve been listening to the podcasts Pod Save America and Pod Save the World.  They are completely liberal-leaning, but so am I, so the content is right up my alley and the derision for the current administration helps me feel like I’m not the only person on earth in a constant state of what-the-f**k right now.  And I’m learning a lot.

Next, I’ve been horseback riding every week.  On the mornings when I ride, I don’t think about Muslim bans or racist attorneys general or education secretaries that have never been to public school or presidents who use Twitter to conduct foreign affairs.  I groom the horse and saddle him up and work on my canter and jumps.  I work physically hard for a solid two hours and when I’m done I feel calm.  It’s one of the only times in the whole week where I feel that way.  So, if you don’t ride, find your substitute and for at least one morning a week, turn off everything else.

Third, I’m trying to actively work on opposing what’s going on in politics now instead of just complaining about it.  It’s a little harder to accomplish from England than if I were in America, but I am doing what I can.  I’ve paid for subscriptions to the NYT , WSJ (both online) & The Economist (print & online) to support the press rather than just reading free articles online. 

I’ve  donated supplies for Syrian women refugees to the organization NuDay Syria using a link their Amazon wishlist.  (I trust this link as I got it from a college friend who works with the group called Boston Friends for Refugee Support.)  I’ve done it twice now, and it was too easy — just a few clicks to add the wishlist items to the cart, then select the Gift Registry address for NuDay Syria from the shipping address list.  The supplies are sent directly to their New Hampshire office and then shipped to camps where they are needed.  I can certainly spare a few dollars each week to make a direct difference to women in need.

I’m also making purchases more thoughtfully in order to support the larger companies and smaller brands that that take a stand about those causes I care about.   I’ll be glad to support Nordstrom and Starbucks with my business. I also love these shirts shown above from Brave New World Designs — 20% of the profits go to Emily’s List, and this book about the Women’s March — all royalties go to Planned Parenthood.  I can make a statement with my wallet, and I intend to.

All these small things add up to make me slightly less stressed out about the current state of the world.  Although I still wake up to bad news seemingly every morning, it helps to know I’m doing my small part to make things better.  It’s not enough, but for now, it’s what I can do. 

Any other suggestions or ideas?  I’m all ears!

We Are Immigrants

Matt was admonished last week by someone who told him that he shouldn’t talk to the kids about politics.  In my biased opinion, his response was perfect. 

He said that it is his most important job as a father to teach his children not WHAT to think, but HOW to think.  He said that if he doesn’t talk to them about politics and the state of the world now, when they’re young, he’s not equipping them to be thoughtful and responsible and engaged as adults.  He said that he must, as a good father, make sure they think critically, consider different view points, decide what THEY believe in, and then stand up for those beliefs.

God, I love that man.

We sat at dinner last week, on the day that Trump announced his Muslim ban, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, and we talked to the children.  We told them what people who support the ban think.  We told them what we think.  We asked what they thought.

The kids wanted more information.  They couldn’t really understand what the ban DOES, how it works.

So here’s how I explained it to them:

Right now, we are American citizens living in a different country.  Imagine if, while we were living in the UK, the British government decided that any American citizen was banned from coming in to England.  Now imagine if they passed that law while we had been on the way back from Germany.  When we got back to the airport in London, at the point where we always have to show our passports and have our fingerprints checked, instead of letting us pass to get our luggage and go home, they would have stopped us.  Some people might have been handcuffed.  Then imagine if they made us wait, in a room maybe together or maybe separated from each other, you guys in one place and Mommy and Daddy in another, with no information about why or what was happening.  Maybe for hours and hours.  And then they said we couldn’t go back to our house in England, couldn’t get our stuff, couldn’t go back to school.  That is what is happening.   

But, Gabe said, we didn’t do anything wrong.  That’s not fair.  Why would they say that just Americans can’t come back?

Why would they split the parents and the kids up?  The kids would be scared,  Quinn said.

What if it had just been Daddy who was on the trip for work? Owen wanted to know.  Would they let him come home if we were still here?

Bridget said, I don’t think that’s right.  They already said we could live here, they shouldn’t be able to take it back once we’re already here.

WHY do my children get this and there are grown adults who don’t?

You can say to me that the ban is an attempt to make America safer.  I will ask that you show me when a citizen of any country on the list has committed an act of terror in the U.S.  And I will ask you why you think other countries with Muslim-majority populations were omitted from the list. 

You can say that the vetting process needs to be stronger.  I will ask first, if you even know what the vetting process currently consists of.  I did not.  I researched it though.  It’s a process with more than 20 steps.  It can take two years to complete.  And the mere fact that no one who has gone through that process has committed an act of terror on U.S. soil since that process was put in place tells me that it is probably fairly effective.

You can say that radicalized terrorists will try to use the cover of refugee status to gain entry into the U.S.  I will again point out that no one who has gone through the vetting process has come to the U.S. and committed an act of terror.  And I will ask what you think is happening to the children we turn away and leave in refugee camps to live in horror.  They are not learning to love America; the opposite is happening and will continue to happen.  We are creating a new generation of our own enemies.

You can say that it will stop illegal immigrants from coming in to the U.S. I will ask you what about the green card holders who were detained, are they illegal?  What about the people who had already received visas, are they illegal?  What about the refugees who had been vetted and approved, then denied entry in the end, are they illegal?

I went through the visa process when we were moving to the UK.  It was confusing at best, and I am a college-educated, native English speaker.  So is my husband.  And still, Matt and I messed it up.  Twice.  It’s not clearly explained on the website or in the documentation.  I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to understand it in a language that is not your first language. 

What is happening in America right now is not good.  It is not representative of the qualities that America is most admired for, WAS most admired for, around the world.  It is not the America I was proud to defend as a soldier or the America I loved as a citizen.

And I can not, will not, should not pretend it’s not happening or that it’s okay.  Silence is approval.  This is not okay.

My children understand that.  I wish more people did.

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