Category Archives: Politics

Nope

Art project, by The Girl.

Shared here on the blog with her permission.

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One Year Later: Still Seeing Red, Still Resisting

I admit, I had zero intention of voting yesterday.

None whatsoever.

I had no inkling who was running or for what office. No clue about a ballot question about property taxes and school funding and what it all meant to my dwindling financial bottom line. Retaining judges? Hello, has anyone even heard of these people?

After the disaster of last November, I was convinced my small vote wouldn’t make one bit of difference, that turnout would be pitiful and, really, what did any of this matter anyway, given the bully in the White House tweeting his way to obliterating all of us from the face of the Earth?

And what’s worse is that despite playing a political analyst, pundit and prognosticator every day on Facebook, I. Just. Didn’t. Fucking. Care. And I knew how hypocritical that made me.

Until Facebook’s always-a-double-kick-to-the-heart On This Day feature reminded me that yes, indeed, I really did take the above photo a year ago, on November 7, 2016.

It really happened.

As if I could forget.  As if I – or anyone else – could forget anything about that bizarre, unimaginable week.

I wrote about seeing Hillary Clinton 48 hours before the election in this post (“Seeing Red”). I’ll always remember the glorious, bright blue sky and crisp fall day when she spoke at a final rally on the University of Pittsburgh campus and then crossed the street to say hi to the crowd where I stood.

She looked stunning, confident, resplendent in her red pantsuit.  We cheered wildly, equally confident that we were meeting our next President of the United States.

We were so close.

Election Night 2016 will likely be forever seared on my heart. As long as I live, I will never forget holding my then almost-14 year old daughter, both of us sobbing , my telling her I was profoundly sorry that this is the world she would be growing up in.

That no matter who was in the White House, I wanted her to know that I would always, always love and protect her and her brother.

That despite what people in positions of so-called power said, I will always accept both of you and work like hell to make sure both of my children have every opportunity to reach their dreams, no matter who is President, no matter who tries to make you feel less than.

That I wished so much this had been different.  That I was so very, very sorry.

My daughter still talks about what we refer to as “Mom’s election night concession speech.” As much as it is seared in my memory, I think it’s one of those moments that will be part of hers forever, too. (Which was my intent, so, #winning.)

So, yeah, last year’s ghosts were (and still are) looming large.

But seeing the picture of my all too brief encounter with Hillary show up on my Facebook feed (as I knew, of course, that it would) provided some kind of fuel to my flagging resistance that I didn’t realize or think I needed.

Hillary would want — no, she would insist — that I get my ass to the polls after my after-work appointment despite the dark and cold evening.

That if I was truly serious about everything I had been screaming into the online ether for the past 364 days and before, that this was what I had to do.

That voting was the way that, at least for today, I could still make my voice heard to protect the rights of my family and for others who are less fortunate than me.

Because — at least for today, I still possessed the right to vote.

So just as I did last year, I walked into the same township building, smiled at the same poll worker who was in the same spot from a year ago, and made small talk about the weather and the turnout.

“I hope you win something,” he said, referencing the slot-machine sound that played when he inserted the cartridge that sent my data to Russia made my vote count.

“Well, I certainly didn’t last year,” I snarked, receiving not even a half-smirk in response from anyone in our staunchly Republican town.

This is what resistance looks like, I thought, selecting a straight Democratic ticket and voting no on a referendum question. (And yes, I researched both issues on my lunch hour yesterday so I felt fairly well informed.)

This is still what democracy is.

This is why the fight still matters.

She may not have been on the ballot last night. But as I walked out of the same poll booth where I proudly voted for Hillary exactly a year ago, I knew that once again, I was #StillWithHer.

 

 

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the thing with feathers

It’s funny, isn’t it,  how sometimes the smallest things — like this gorgeous sky over Pittsburgh this morning — are able to lift your mood, even for just a few moments.

I was dropping The Girl off at a workshop this morning and the leader hadn’t yet arrived, so we were waiting in the parking lot. Normally, I would have reached for my phone to check Facebook — undoubtedly to be greeted by a fresh barrage of bullshit —  but something made me look up.

“Wow, check that out,” I said to The Girl. “It looks like a feather in the sky.”

She thought it resembled a surfboard. Feather, surfboard, whatever. The point is, I was filled with a momentary sense of wonder, delight, and hope — elusive emotions for me lately, if I’m being completely honest.

Maybe it’s the anniversary of when we realized how dramatically the world had changed and remembering how optimistic we were feeling this time last year, certain that we were on the verge of electing Hillary Clinton as the first woman President of the United States. My Facebook memories from a year ago are almost unbearable; like many people, I had been hoping that, despite a deeply divided electorate, that goodness would prevail and that the high road wasn’t the dead end it turned out to be and yes, that love would trump hate.

Obviously, a lot of us were wrong about that.

The last few weeks have seemed particularly exhausting. Resistance Fatigue was high; I felt powerless, worried, and resigned that nothing was going to make a difference. It didn’t matter if I called my despicable Senator Pat Toomey 100 times every day; he wasn’t suddenly going to do the right thing and do something already that actually benefitted the people he claims to represent. Quite the opposite.

(I will say that #MuellerMonday certainly helped put a spring in my step. As I frantically refreshed all my news sites this past Monday, I did so with hashtags like #BestMondayMorningSinceNov7. And it was, for a lot of people who have been feeling the way I have been.)

Emily Dickinson famously wrote that “hope is the thing with feathers.” I think the feather in the sky was a reminder that hope still exists, that there are still good things in a world gone so very wrong, if only we remember to look and not be distracted. Case in point: my plans while The Girl was at her workshop were to write (maybe prep some blog posts!) and read. Instead, several friends mobilized online to do what we could to help one of our mutual friends. Another friend posted a photo of a wallet she found on the street — and it turned out to belong to a colleague!

These are the little big things that will sustain us amid the many difficulties and challenges of this world.

These are the little big things that will keep us looking up.

 

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She Persisted: 13 Women Who Changed the World, by Chelsea Clinton

“Sometimes being a girl isn’t easy. At some point, someone will probably tell you no, will tell you to be quiet and may even tell you your dreams are impossible. Don’t listen to them. These thirteen American women certainly did not take no for an answer. They persisted.” 

So begins She Persisted: 13 Women Who Changed the World, written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger, a picture book for readers of all ages.

The book was inspired by Senator Elizabeth Warren’s impassioned, vocal opposition to Senator Jeff Sessions’ confirmation for Attorney General in February 2017 — and the resulting backlash and instant meme from Senator Mitch McConnell’s response to her. (“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”)

For each of the 13 women highlighted in She Persisted, there’s a brief biography (“she persisted” is included in every description) and a poignant quote accompanied by soft, inviting illustrations. While some of the most famous names in history are included (Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Oprah Winfrey), there are others whose accomplishments might not be as well known (Clara Lemlich, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin). All represent diverse individuals who have made groundbreaking achievements and discoveries in fields such as medicine (Virginia Apgar), journalism (Nellie Bly), politics (Margaret Chase Smith), sports (Florence Griffith Joyner), education (Ruby Bridges), science (Sally Ride), the legal profession (Sonia Sotomayer) and more.

There are, of course, countless more women whose tenacity and dedication resulted in remarkable, life-changing contributions to our world — which is exactly the point of this book that celebrates “all women who persist every day.” For young people, She Persisted serves as both women’s history lesson as well as motivation for dreaming big dreams and staying determined when those ambitions seem difficult or are met with backlash from others.

For grown ups, it’s a reminder of how far we’ve come — especially when current events seem otherwise.

Click image below to purchase She Persisted for yourself or to encourage a young person to dream big and never give up. (As an Amazon Associate, I will receive a very small commission from your purchase to help to support this blog and its content.) 

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In Appreciation: Chez Pazienza (1969-2017)

At a moment when this world needs every voice of reason, every champion of quality journalism and every don’t-give-a-fuck resister of the current political regime we can muster up, we have lost Chez Pazienza, someone who was all of these things and then some.

If you’re not familiar with his work, Chez was a brilliant writer and author of Dead Star Twilight, an award-winning journalist and media producer, blogger, podcaster and much more. But first and foremost, he was a father, fiancé, son, and loved one of many others who are grieving his untimely passing. My deepest condolences go out to his family.

Through his writing and podcasting, those of us who enjoyed and appreciated his work felt like we knew him. That’s because of what Chez shared with us, of course–a hell of a lot, as it turned out, from the personal to the mundane–and we also knew how much Chez loved those who were most important to him.

Mourning someone you’ve never met is an odd thing. It feels voyeuristic, like you’re trespassing on someone’s private life. You don’t feel entitled to your sadness or in any standing to offer up a eulogy–yet through their presence on this earth, this person was still part of your life and had an impact on it. Which is why this post is intended solely to be an appreciation of and respect for Chez’s work and how it added to my life. Nothing more, nothing less.

I first discovered Chez’s work approximately a decade ago, more or less, through his blog Deus Ex Malcontent. If his wasn’t the first blog I’d ever read, it was one of them. His was the kind of writing I aspired to–fearless, insightful, no-holds-barred, sharp witted as hell. Chez’s talent was to make you, his reader, feel every emotion possible in a handful of words.

And that’s exactly what he did, time and time and time again, regardless if he was writing about politics or his personal struggles, music or the media. Within one sentence, you could laugh and then be angry, with plenty of cursing in between. That was the case with his pieces for The Daily Banter, of which he served as editor-at-large, as well as his podcasts with Bob Cesca on The Bob & Chez Show. His perspective was on-point, always, and precisely what we need right now.

Free of bullshit and full of anger, Chez did not mince words about the implications of the sinister machinations and horrific incompetence in The White House. His newsroom experience provided him with a perspective of the media — good and bad — that one can only get from having been in the the industry’s trenches. And in a year that claimed countless icons who defined our coming-of-age years, Chez always had a relevant unique angle that resonated with those of us Gen X’ers who have the same cultural markers and touchstones.

His listeners and readers knew this election affected him profoundly and deeply. Maybe we didn’t quite realize how much. In the immediate aftermath of the election, I reached out to Chez via Facebook to tell him how much I appreciated and agreed with his commentary. I never expected him to respond, but he did and I am grateful that we had that brief exchange to commiserate and for me to express how much I thought of his work.

None of us need any more reminders or Hallmark card platitudes of how life is too fucking short or how important it is to tell people we care about how much we appreciate them. We get it. If not, Chez’s death makes that abundantly clear.

What is also tragically clear is that without Chez Pazienza’s voice, we need to make ours count even more. To resist, to point out bullshit, to call foul, to take those perpetuating the many injustices that have become calling cards of this regime to task by speaking out. Chez knew how imperative that was and I feel there’s no better way to remember him and honor his work and life.

I’d like to think he would expect no less.

My most sincere condolences to Chez’s fianceé, his daughters, his family and friends. If you are inclined to contribute, a fund has been established to help with expenses towards a memorial service and anything remaining will go to his fianceé and children.


If you weren’t familiar with Chez’s work, here are some links…

The Daily Banter: http://thedailybanter.com/author/chez-pazienza/

Deus Ex Malcontent: http://www.deusexmalcontent.com
(among Chez’s very best posts were “The Grand Finale,” written in June 2013 one week after James Gandolfini’s death and “15 Years On: 9/11 in Two Parts”, written in September 2016.)

Dead Star Twilight 


…and here are some Internet tributes. (But read the Chez links first. Seriously.)

Goodbye (tribute to Chez by Bob Cesca of The Bob & Chez Show podcast, 2/28/2017)

My Friend Chez Isn’t Gone … He’s F*cking Everywhere (Bob Cesca, The Daily Banter)

The Internet Has Lost One of Its Most Distinctive Voices  (from Pajiba)

Journalism Lost a Giant on Saturday: A Tribute to Chez Pazienza (from The State Today)

RIP Chez Pazienza (from The Tentacles of Yesterday)

 

 

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currently … sunday randomness

My computer time is somewhat limited this weekend, thanks to a faulty laptop power cord. Yesterday I went to the local big box electronics store in search of a replacement; despite the 12 year old salesman’s assurances, the cord didn’t fit and back to the store I went. Another didn’t work, and after calling an incompetent individual at some affiliate of the big box store, we had an unpleasant conversation about why said person needed every iota of data I own before even checking to see if they had the right cord. I finally resorted to ordering one from Amazon which, thanks to a free trial of Amazon Prime, should be here tomorrow and let’s all pray it works.

First world problems in a country that’s on a fast-track to becoming part of the third world, I know. No doubt my curtailed computer access (and a migraine today that had me in bed for part of the afternoon) is the universe’s way of giving me a much-needed commercial break from the 24/7 reality show hosted by President Shit-gibbon. I do think I need to incorporate shit-gibbon into my vocabulary more frequently, don’t you? Perhaps I can work it in next time I tweet the newly-secretary of education Cruella DeVos, which I did in response to her dumb-ass comment the other day about not being able to find any pencils.

Don’t even get me started on that incompetent bitch’s bought cabinet position. This week I let my spineless piece of shit Senator know how I felt in my latest voice mail message, one that probably landed me on some watch list, assuming anyone in his office actually listened to it, which is doubtful.

Ironically, we had an IEP meeting the day after Cruella DeVos was confirmed, during which I asked one of our team members (The Boy’s autistic support teacher) if he anticipated staying in that capacity for next school year. He said he would and I replied, “If not, we can bribe you. We’ve heard that works well in some educational circles,” which brought down the house.

It was a really good IEP meeting. Really good. This is a wonderful team, and the outcome of that meeting was a major highlight of the past week and a much-needed pick me up.

Like almost everyone else I’m still on speaking terms with, it has been difficult during the past three weeks (Jesus God, how the hell has this only been three fucking weeks?!) to stay sane while speaking out against the danger this regime represents. At times, it’s difficult to focus and I’m more distracted than usual because so much is happening so quickly and as someone who finds it really hard to tune out from the news (not so much in a fear of missing out (FOMO) regard but in an oh-fuck-some-serious-shit-just-happened regard), it’s not a healthy way to be.

I’m trying to find some balance, though. I like the suggestion of focusing on a few key areas. (As you may have guessed, mine are disability rights, women’s rights and LGBTQ issues.) Everyone’s spouting the mantra of self-care these days, suddenly discovering the benefits of eating healthy and getting more sleep and exercise. As if these became new concepts on November 9. The irony is all this yoga-ing and social media fasting will make us the healthiest doomed society ever.

(That’s not to say I’m not doing or don’t support any of those sorts of things. I am and I do.)

What I haven’t been doing is much reading.  So far this year I’ve read three books. Three. All were review books, as is the one I’m reading now, so I can’t really say much about them until the reviews are published.

How about you? What are you reading, watching, doing?

 

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bring to a boil

Worries go down better with soup.
~ Jewish proverb

Since the election, I’ve been attending our nearby UU church more regularly. (It’s helping.) The Girl also has been getting more involved with the teen youth group. For both of us, being among people who believe in the principles of acceptance, love, justice, equality, dignity and peace is providing some much needed sustenance during this tumultuous time.

On Sunday, The Girl and I helped out with a soup sale to raise money to support the youth group’s activities. That’s a picture of their efforts above: nearly a dozen slow cookers and stock pots simmering with Moroccan Chickpea Spinach soup, Potato Corn Chowder, a lentil soup and (our contribution) a gluten-free vegetarian Pasta e Fagioli.

The symbolism of many single ingredients commingled together to make this selection of delicious soups–ones based on ethnic flavors that are centuries old and that have been consumed by people throughout history and generations and under tyrants and dictators of their own–resonated with me on a weekend when the Celebrity President extinguished the lamp and slammed our country’s once-golden but now tarnished door on innocent people who had gone through the arduous legal process to come to America. Not to mention people living here legally and who happened to have the misfortune to be traveling home from visiting family or burying loved ones when they learned they were no longer welcome in the place they call home.

As I ate a nourishing bowl of vegetable soup and watched the teens serving the congregants steaming bowls of pasta, broth, chicken and beans, I thought of the analogy of the United States being a melting pot.  The teens are a composite of different life experiences and personal histories, of genders and of ethnic backgrounds. They themselves are a collective melting pot.

Barbara Mikulski, the former Senator from Maryland, once said that America isn’t a melting pot but a sizzling cauldron. She said those words in a speech about immigration in 1970. Almost half a century later, her words seem especially apt.

The funds the teens raised from their soup sale will support their participation in several activities–events for them to understand others’ stories and perspectives and to participate in social justice volunteer efforts to make our community stronger. Ingredients for a sizzling cauldron of a society at its boiling point and one where these kids are among our best hope and sustenance for the years ahead.

 

 

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