Why this old lady blogs

“Blog about a day in the life of an author,” a site on marketing books suggests. Okay. I get up, do a Sudoku, read the newspaper, go sit at my computer for several hours.

“Blog about the writing process,” another site recommends. Okay. I compose a sentence, go get a snack, return to my computer, delete the sentence, go to the bathroom, return to my computer, write another sentence.

“Avoid blogging about politics.” Oh-oh.

My new book, Before It Was Legal: a black-white marriage (1945-1987), is due out soon. It’s time to promote it through blogging and tweeting, leave politics to the real pundits.

I doubt that I’ll be able to.

In 2007 I started blogging for the fun of it. I wrote about finding an old photo at a garage sale and having my Sunday afternoon nap interrupted by evangelizing teenagers.

Then came the 2008 election primary. Herman Cain, the pizza guy, promoted his 9-9-9-Plan. Michele Bachmann owned a Christian counseling center claiming to transform gay clients into heterosexuals. Rick Santorum, Senator-in-a-Sweater-Vest, promoted teaching intelligent design along with evolution in schools. I felt compelled to bring an older woman’s wisdom to the political discussion. A dose of common sense, I’d like to think.

In the current political climate, which is even more frightening than the 2008 Republican primary, I probably won’t write much that is unrelated to what our government is doing.

I am a grandmother. I am a woman who pays attention to what is happening beyond my home. I feel an urgency to be in conversation about the potential erosion of our democracy, the reality of global warming, the danger of a blustering, confrontational foreign policy, and the marginalization of groups because of race, religion, sexual orientation, or developmental difference.

I can’t be superficial. Neither, I guess, do I want readers who are.

21 days to make my sign for the Women’s March

I’ve got 21 days to decide what to write on my sign. Twenty-one days until I express in a few words why I’m participating in the Women’s March—though I’m not yet sure I’ll make it all the way to Washington.

Since the 2016 election I’ve felt a closer bond with women. Those of us supporting Hillary have had a hard time recovering, not because our candidate lost but because we fear the future. I’m joining others worried about whether our democracy will survive.

The election brought to light a secret many had not talked about before. Overhearing a conversation in which our President-Elect spoke of groping women reminded millions (yes, MILLIONS) of the trauma of sexual violation they had experienced. Mr. Trump’s words and the fact that some of his supporters considered them inconsequential opened old wounds. Victims of abuse relived feelings of powerlessness and violation. Power comes with women standing together. It’s power that we will be giving each other, reminding our sisters that together we do not have to be victims.

My sign. Who do I want it to speak to? To those who will surround me, for sure. But I also want to assure African Americans, the LGBTQ community, Muslims, and immigrants that I stand against the bigotry that was unleashed in the election.

I also want my sign to speak to women who voted for Trump. Not to confront them or blame them or belittle their choice. I want them to understand that those of us gathered are women of good will. Out of love for our country and its people we stand together. The power we generate is for all women.

(Washington D.C. isn’t the only gathering place. To find a nearby locale, google Women’s March and the city closest to where you live.)

Post-election fears that haven’t gone away in two and a half weeks

I am white, straight, not a Muslim, not an immigrant, therefore not likely to be personally threatened by a Trump presidency. So why am I afraid?

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They’re dying off. Among the living, some lean on walkers, others are stooped over. White men, all of them, veterans of a sort. Not necessarily ones who wore a uniform or fought in a distant land, but veterans of a struggle here at home. Since moving to North Carolina, I’ve had the honor to meet a few of them.

Pastors of white southern churches during the 1960s and 70s, they were among the few white Christian ministers who had the courage to stand against Jim Crow laws and the region’s resistance to racial integration. They invited black preachers to speak at their pulpits. They welcomed black members into their congregations. They preached sermons against racism. As a result they lost their jobs. Their lives were threatened. The lives of their families were threatened.

Meanwhile other white ministers placed peace and security over confronting the evil of racism. They sought justification in scripture.

A friend recently shared memories of that period. Her father, Morris Warren, was a minister in the Presbyterian Church (US). A son of the South, he had ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. Yet during the 1960s he found that as a man of conscience, he had to take a stand against white racism.

He served as pastor of a large congregation in Macon, GA. A local task force began to interview white citizens as to “whether or not every effort should be made to prevent integrated schools.” Understanding himself as a peacemaker, Rev. Warren wrote a letter to the editor of the Macon newspaper. He simply said integration was bound to come and would not bring calamity. Yet two church elders took offense and threatened to withhold money for the congregation’s financial campaign.

For several years he kept finding himself at odds with his church and community. The Macon congregation he served split over racial issues and Rev. Warren lost his job. Yet he never saw himself as courageous and downplayed threats against him.

To my knowledge he never got beat up or had his house fire-bombed. This might cause some to consider his stance not all that remarkable. But I’m inspired by him and other ministers who 1) recognized the evil and 2) risked jobs and reputations.

Today I fear what may be required of me during a Trump presidency. As a woman of my generation, I was taught to keep peace. Don’t upset your father, don’t irritate the neighbors. In school, strive for an A in deportment. In church I was taught, “If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone.”

Under a Trump presidency the time may come when the rights of sisters and brothers of color, of the Muslim faith, those who are immigrants or gay will be threatened. I ask myself, will I recognize the evil even though I’m not directly affected by it? I know it has a way of sneaking in and appearing normal. What risks will I be willing to take? My reputation? My safety? My life?

 

(An excellent book and movie along this theme is Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy B. Tyson. Tyson’s father was the pastor of an all-white Methodist church in North Carolina.)

After Election 2016, getting my life back–sort of

I’ve long wanted to blog about the challenge of selecting toilet paper—two ply, always, but do I get the extra strong or the extra soft? And how much should I take cost into consideration? I’ve wanted to use my blog to grumble about young people. I’m not sure what exactly I’ve wanted to grumble about, but aren’t old ladies supposed to complain about the younger generation? And what exactly is this mesothelioma that handsome older men in TV commercials have found relief from? Might it explain the pain in my lower back?

But political realities keep interfering with my light-hearted urges, and for several years now my attention has been on wanting Americans to take notice: notice the environment, the working poor, women’s reproductive rights, equal pay for women, to name a few concerns.

During the 2016 election I put my energy into helping Hillary Clinton get elected. I took a break from my personal blog to maintain a site for a group of “mature” women. When the election is over, I told myself, and Hillary is our President, then I’ll blog about toilet paper and the younger generation.

But that, as you know, did not happen, and I find myself at odds with a state government (North Carolina) and a federal government that feels oppressive and, frankly, ignorant.

So here I go again. Back to my old wordpress site. Back to what I believe really are life-and-death issues for our country.

I invite you to enter the dialog.

Donald Trump, sarcasm, and me

Donald Trump has my sympathy. I’m being sarcastic. But not that sarcastic, to be honest with you. For sarcasm is my default mode of humor too. Over time, though, I’ve learned that others don’t usually get it. Not because I’m more clever than they, but because the distance between sarcasm and truth is usually only a little wider than a hair’s thickness. After 50 years of marriage I still have to tell my husband, “Honey, it’s a joke.”

As a young mother I was often tempted to tell my kids, “Go play on the freeway.” If I had, my husband surely would have interpreted for me: “Mommy doesn’t actually mean it. She knows you like to ride your bicycles, and she’s joking that all that pavement—if there were no cars there, that would be a great place to ride. Believe me, Mommy really, really loves you.” He would have added, “Those Abbott kids, I’ve seen how they’re all the time cheating.”

But I didn’t vent. Well, not in that way. I’ve long recognized that once words come out, whether intended as humor or not, they can’t be taken back. And that my urge to say something sarcastic most often arises out of anger or frustration. A lesson Trump seems not to have learned.

Hey, Donald, if you have to tell everyone it was a joke, it ain’t funny.

If I were you, after you’ve lost the election, I’d move to the desert. You can buy all the land you don’t already own in Nevada. You’re so very, very rich. Invite your 2nd-Amendment disciples to join you. Build a wall around the state, a very, very big wall. But I predict the U.S. government won’t like that in the process you’ve stolen Great Basin National Park and Red Rock Canyon, and the Tule Springs Fossil Beds. The army will bring in its tanks and missiles, and… Just joking.

 

 

 

 

For those who have been Feeling the Bern

If you’ve been Feeling the Bern, I share your heartache over not winning. For I have memories.

1968. Images still clear in my mind: the film clip of a South Vietnamese officer putting a gun to the head of a young Viet Cong and pulling the trigger; a sign saying, “The Vietnamese didn’t fight in our Civil War.” President Lyndon Johnson had escalated a war in southeast Asia that many Americans, especially young people, demonstrated against. In opposition to the war, Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota had the courage to challenge the incumbent Johnson for the presidential nomination. Male students cut their long hair and shaved so they could go door to door rallying support for McCarthy. Largely because of young people’s passion, Johnson announced he would not seek reelection.

Who knows what might have happened had not the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., been assassinated four days after Johnson’s announcement? Or had Robert Kennedy, who had entered the Democratic race, not been shot and killed in San Francisco?

Hubert Humphrey became the Democratic candidate. Many young people felt so disillusioned they refused to vote. Richard Nixon was elected, and we all know how that turned out.

What did I learn from this period of disillusionment? That Americans will elect a crook before they’ll elect anyone veering far to the left.

This doesn’t mean we should disengage from politics. It means we need to find new ways to bring about change. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Work for progressive candidates down list. Even school boards are political entities. In North Carolina, where I live, our state representatives have enacted legislation abhorrent to anyone concerned about justice issues. A Democratic president and democratic governors need legislators who will work with them, not obstruct them as Republicans in Congress have done.
  2. Get informed on issues you care about and work for the candidates who share your concerns.
  3. By working I mean contact candidates through their staffs, ask what needs to be done.

In 1968 many of my generation lost our innocence. But we came out of the tragedies and disappointments wiser. And of course, older.

Is Hillary so dishonest?

Mom was the nurturer, greeting us when we came home from school, preparing our meals. Dad was the boss, the enforcer of rules, often with the palm of his hand. This clarity of roles gave us a sense of security.

Nowadays Mom goes to work and Dad has relinquished much of his authority. The old order has shifted in other ways. If we’re white or heterosexual we’ve lost assurance of our superiority. Black and white intermarry; homosexuals marry. On the global stage the clear issues of the Cold War have vanished, replaced with a militant Muslim enemy that strikes unexpectedly. Our lifestyle of big cars and unlimited use of electricity is affecting Earth’s climate, a science beyond our comprehension.

We older folks yearn for Mom and Dad—as they once were. Enter Donald Trump, the authority figure who’ll return our country to how it used to be.

But Hillary—she doesn’t behave the way a mother’s supposed to. She’s not a national nurturer but a trained lawyer who as a senator voted on complex issues; who as Secretary of State negotiated with leaders of other countries. She’s been hardened by battle.

Anyone who’s seen TV commercials, even if they’re muted, recognizes the little green creature advertising Geiko and associates the Statue of Liberty with Liberty Mutual. The purpose of repetition in advertising is to keep a product in the viewer’s mind, to repeat an idea so often that it’s finally accepted as truth

So it has been with Hillary’s reputation. Since 2008 Republicans have anticipated her candidacy in this election and committed themselves to eroding the perception of her character. They exploited the Benghazi attack, sponsoring multiple investigations and repeating the message that she couldn’t be trusted to tell the truth. They exploited her using a private email server, though other government officials have done the same. All the while the press allowed itself to be manipulated into continuously analyzing opinions about her integrity—until her dishonesty was taken as fact.

I’m not suggesting Clinton is beyond reproach. Her experience is so broad there’s something in her voting record or foreign policy actions to offend anyone. I am convinced, though, that public perceptions of her dishonesty are the result of a non-stop propaganda campaign.

Our job as voters in this election isn’t to choose the most nurturing mother or the most intimidating father. It’s to select an individual who understands and supports the Constitution, who appreciates the complex web of international relationships, whose knowledge is respected worldwide.

A person who firmly believes in “liberty and justice for all.”