This Is Why We March

march
Photo Credit

For those who still fail to understand:

Women aren’t marching because they’re whiny hags who don’t understand the vast privileges we enjoy compared to culturally repressed countries. The expectation of change is not contingent on solving every other worldly injustice first. They aren’t marching because they are hedonists who have waited their whole lives to wear pink hats and scream the word “pussy” on national tv. And they certainly aren’t marching because they want to bash men or use their gender as a scapegoat for every bad experience life throws their way.

They are marching in protest of a man whose ascendance to the presidency normalizes mistreatment of women. You want to explain away his hot mic comments as nothing more than poor judgement? Fine. You want to dismiss the claims of sexual assault as fake? Go for it. You want to pretend Ivana Trump testified under oath that he raped her because divorces are messy? Gross but ok.

Of course, the list doesn’t stop there. This man objectifies women without a second thought. He openly discusses his visions of them on their knees. He mocks the appearance of his female political opponents. He uses their periods as an insult the way middle schoolers do. He ogles his own daughter, proudly boasts of his many infidelities, and claims he could have ‘nailed’ Princess Diana. The man is repulsed by the thought of a wife with an identity outside the home, claiming he gets bored when they become successful. He has called breastfeeding disgusting, instead opting to judge women according to the size of their breasts and deeming smaller chests “pancake tits.” Cute. Every single one of these examples (and countless more) are verifiable and on the record.

So yeah, we will march. We will do it because we won’t allow a bully in his bully pulpit to shame women for their bodies or degrade them by virtue of their gender. And this goes beyond rhetoric. His administration is already looking to cut programs that provide support to domestic abuse victims. On day one, he began the process of repealing the ACA without having a new plan in place. This could, once again, result in women paying more for health insurance simply because they are women. He vows to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive healthcare and preventative screenings to women all over this country. You want to use abortion as your trump card? It would be more effective if you advocated for preventative measures like birth control and sex education instead. Until that day comes, kindly take a seat.

While Donald Trump is busy grabbing pussy, the women who marched yesterday will be busy grabbing back… grabbing seats in the House and the Senate, grabbing attention away from his narcissistic tweeting, and grabbing the microphone so that we can say loud and clear, “We see you and we’re coming for you.”

You call that whiny? I call that powerful.

31638371133_5896402835_z
Photo Credit
  • C

It’s Inauguration Day And, Yes, I Am Watching

the-white-house-1623005_1280
Photo Credit

I wasn’t going to watch it– the swearing in. And for my political science-loving heart, that’s saying a lot. For nearly two years, I watched with insatiable curiosity as the presidential primaries turned into an angry and bitter general election. It turned people off, I know; but not me. I lapped up nearly every moment, setting my DVR to watch every minute of every debate. I watched both conventions with eager anticipation, weighing the political cost of each speaker and misstep in my head. I digested every article on the candidates I could find, eventually finding the nerve to write my own for public consumption. And, being overseas on the day of the election, I woke at the crack of dawn so that I wouldn’t miss a single minute of election day coverage. So how could I not watch the swearing in of our next president?

Easy: It makes me sick to my stomach.

And no, this isn’t about being a sore loser. My candidate has lost before and this acute despair—melodramatic though it may sound—has never been an issue.

I feel sick to my stomach because, even though I respect our democracy and the procedures it enumerates that have brought us to this legitimate outcome, I can’t help but think that the man taking over its reigns does not. The flippancy with which he has undermined our military, discredited our intelligence agencies, and disregarded decorum has proven this. We, as a collective, are nothing more than another notch on his belt. And, sorry puritanical conservatives, he has a lot of those—baby hands and combover notwithstanding. We are nothing special.

I feel sick to my stomach because this will likely be the first president my daughter remembers— a man who brags about sexual assault and regularly objectifies women. Surely, we can’t expect a grown man who openly degrades women as fat, ugly, and dogs, to suddenly change into the sort of role model our little girls deserve. I already mourn for the day that he nonchalantly values a female world leader on the basis of her looks or sexual prowess. He won’t think twice about it. He won’t even notice. But she will, my daughter. And I will be there to pick up the pieces.

This is the first president that my son will likely remember, as well—a man who shrugs off the concept of consent as political correctness run amok. It’s just locker room talk, snowflakes. Take it easy. Except, someday, that little boy of mine will engage in locker room talk. I shudder that this man’s example will make it less likely that such talk revolves around college acceptance letters. This man is not worthy of emulation, but I will raise my son to be a true man in spite of it.

I feel sick to my stomach because I am a military spouse. My husband is about to serve at the whim of a man who tweets at the whim of his ego. No matter how many times I hear a conservative scream, “Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!” I will never be comfortable with dismissing a candidate with human flaws for a man who lacks the sober mindset of a statesman. “Blow up the establishment,” they say. “Give a businessman with literally zero understanding of geopolitics command of the greatest military on Earth!” they say. Well, cool. I’m super glad you came up with with a half-baked rationale for seating instability with power just to win an election. But you know what? Your “blow it all up” mentality has a very literal meaning for military families. Chew on that for a minute.

Yes, my stomach is sick to the core. No, I don’t want to watch this man take over the responsibilities of the highest office in the land, corrupting it with his infantile grievances and misplaced arrogance. But I will. I will watch Donald Trump become our 45th president. My heart will ache, every inch of my skin will crawl. But I will do it.

I will do it because she is doing it.

Hillary Clinton—who won the vote of the people, endured every false attack, and fought to the bitter end. Hillary Clinton will not only watch, she will be there. Good God.

If she can swallow every ounce of her undoubtedly monumental pain to be an example for our nation, then surely I can follow her example and swallow my pain, as well. I will watch because it is my civic responsibility to take interest in the handing over of power. I will watch because my patriotism demands it. And I will watch because I am still with her.

Donald Trump may not have the celebrity-filled inauguration his vanity-driven-heart desperately requires. But he will have an audience, of that he can be sure. We are all Dorothy’s daughter today. We will watch every heartbreaking moment of this presidency and, in doing so, we will take up her mantle. We will be her voice; we will take up her causes; we will follow in her footsteps.

Oh, there will be an audience watching today, Donald Trump. And we will keep watching. Our eyes are on you. We are coming for you. With our voices, our strength, our determination, and yes, our femininity, we are coming for you. We are watching you today, Mr. President; but, from here on out, you had better keep your eyes on us.

  • C

Why the “Heartbeat Bill” is Bullshit

case-law-677940_1280
Photo Source

I’m going to be honest – I’ve had a hard time writing since the election. Every day, I turn on the news and learn something new about the incoming administration that truly bothers me. I have felt outraged by the ceaseless onslaught of hypocrisy over special interests and “pay for play” allegations that make the concerns regarding Clinton quaint mementos of a historically vicious general election campaign. I have watched, bewildered, as remarkably unqualified people take over cabinet positions that shape our country’s course on a day to day basis. And I have yet to grow accustomed to our future president stalking his Twitter account like an angst-ridden teenager procrastinating on his homework (hint, Mr. President-Elect: your homework includes accepting and absorbing your daily intelligence briefings).

In the midst of all this, it’s been difficult isolating any one thing I needed to say. Indeed, I’ve felt that I need to say it all. And that is exactly what has stopped me in my tracks.

Until now.

Congratulations, Ohio. Your outrageous new abortion law has me so singularly focused that I can at least attempt to bring attention to an issue outside of the general “please God, don’t let tomorrow’s tweet start a nuclear war.”

In case you aren’t yet aware, Ohio passed what is known as the “heartbeat bill” last Tuesday. Governor Kasich has veto power over the extremely restrictive bill but, should it go through, the state could (pending certain litigation) ban abortions after a mere 6 weeks.

Did you hear that? I said, 6 weeks. For those unfamiliar with women’s reproductive health, that may sound like plenty of time to seek an abortion. But the reality is that this provides a measly 2 week window from the time a woman misses her period because, sneaky sneaky, doctors count a pregnancy from a woman’s LMP (last menstrual period). Surprise! You were technically pregnant for 2 weeks before you even had sex! You didn’t find out you were actually pregnant until (at the absolute earliest) 2 weeks after that so – stick with me on the simple math here – what we’re left with is 2 more weeks before hitting the proposed abortion cut off in Ohio.

Ignoring the immense obstacles Republican legislators around the country have placed in the way of women seeking abortions and the time it takes to actually receive care, this is an inarguably absurd and arbitrary cut off; one likely proposed by those who are well aware that such a law would effectively ban abortion entirely. What was that about Republicans having a monopoly on constitutional piety? Seems blatantly obvious this is simply a ploy to obstruct the consistently upheld Roe v. Wade ruling. But I digress…

Here’s why this is, excuse me, bullshit:

Pro-lifers tend to claim that life begins at conception so, in their eyes, all abortion is effectively murder. Such a view makes discussing the topic nearly impossible. But I could respect that position if they could articulate when exactly conception happens. Go ahead, ask any pro-lifer you know. Chances are they won’t have the real answer because they usually aren’t doctors.

(Psstt… that’s exactly why we get angry about politicians making medical decisions for us. They aren’t knowledgeable. They pass their ignorance on. And they harm real people in the process.)

Time is up! Are you ready for the answer?

There is no single moment of conception. 

It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several days for sperm to reach a woman’s egg(s). From there, the sperm needs to burrow into the egg; a process which generally takes about one hour. So is that the moment of conception?

Not so fast.

The time it takes for the sperm’s DNA to merge with the egg’s DNA is another 12 hours. Not to mention the day long process of combining chromosomes. 2-3 days worth of creating a genetic blueprint can hardly be described as a ‘moment.’

So the question remains: at what point did those cells become human? Is a zygote human if it has yet to implant itself in the uterine wall? That doesn’t happen until around day 6. Consider that it’s possible for a fertilized egg to split into twins (or other multiples) up to two weeks after implantation. Since we consider identical twins to be separate entities when they are born, could we ascribe “humanness” to any embryo prior to that point? Wouldn’t that mean the same “soul” is attached to two bodies?

There are, of course, many schools of thought on this matter. And they all raise important ethical questions. These are questions to be considered in earnest and not thrown away with a casual, “life begins at conception.” When your vote directly impacts women’s lives, it is your duty to seek information and think critically.

Knowing all this about early pregnancy, my personal pro-choice stance comes down to this:

Should it be illegal to pull the plug on a brain dead patient?

My answer, and the answer of most everyone I know, is a resounding “no.” And it is precisely why I support abortion up to the point of viability or later when profound developmental abnormalities (or risks to the mother’s health) become apparent. If life cannot be sustained without a host (either in the womb or through medical intervention), is it unethical to make an informed decision to “unplug?”

Try to look past the terminology if it offends because I believe it is important to make this analogy clear.

I can already hear the oft repeated and overly simplistic pro-life mantra, “if a woman opens her legs, she must be prepared to deal with the consequences. She chose to have sex.” Vulgar? Sure. Insensitive? I would argue, yes. Intellectually lazy? You betcha. Ignoring the profound ignorance of such a statement, I realize that such people would undoubtedly argue that the baby had no choice in the matter and, therefore, doesn’t deserve to be “punished.”

So let’s follow that train of thought. Imagine a person decides to drink and drive. Said person invariably crashes and is rushed to the hospital, hooked up to life support, and eventually pronounced brain dead. His heart is kept beating by a ventilator and he occasionally exhibits jerky movements despite a measurable absence of brain stem function. The pro-life argument would tend to suggest that he should remain in this state permanently, that we have no right to allow his body to shut down completely even though we know his body will do just that when he is taken off life support.

(Granted, this is not usually a stance taken by pro-life advocates but, if we’re being consistent, it is one they should take.)

But, wait. He chose to drink and drive. Since he is responsible for his condition, like women who “open their legs”, what is the best course of action? Should we “punish” him by continuing to allow his body to linger? What about the physical, emotional, and financial burden placed on his caretakers? Surely, they shouldn’t have to suffer prolonged trauma because of his bad decision, right?

These sort of questions are big. They take time to process. So let’s examine, instead, the science behind what makes a person a living being and, specifically, why the detection of a heartbeat is not in and of itself an appropriate rationale to ban abortions.

Currently, the mainstream medical view of death follows the whole-brain standard. This states that “human death is the irreversible cessation of functioning of the entire brain, including the brainstem.” Wouldn’t it make sense to apply that same rule to the beginning of life? Science tells us that regular brain activity begins around week 25. Prior to that point, irregular neural firing can be detected but is inconsistent and not sufficient to be considered a measure of life. And there we come full circle to our life support analogy. Because even after brain death occurs, patients kept alive by artificial means can display the same sporadic brain activity as a fetus prior to the stage of viability.

Of course, this relies on a willingness to accept science. While I believe science should always be the trump card, it’s an unfortunate reality in today’s world that it regularly loses out to conspiracy theories, literal biblical interpretation, and flat out misinformation. On that point, I offer you this:

If we afford parents (or any next of kin) the respect of allowing them to make choices for their brain dead loved ones, why would we not afford that same respect to a pregnant woman?

And here, we touch on one of the more brutal aspects of restrictive abortion laws in this country. The vast majority of abortions occur in the first trimester. Of those that occur in the second and third trimesters, they are often the result of detected fetal abnormalities. They are wanted pregnancies. They are mourned pregnancies. And we commit an unfathomable injustice to such mothers when we deprive them of medical choices in their greatest time of need.

“But my God is capable of performing miracles,” some say. They may go on to cite anecdotal evidence of women whose fetal scans showed lethal abnormalities but, somehow, went on to give birth to healthy children. Wonderful. Nobody wants to see babies die, pro-choice advocates included! But the very definition of a ‘miracle’ implies that it must be a rare phenomenon as it is an event which runs counter to the established laws of nature. So, yeah, miracles are great. But are we willing to legislate on such a hope, knowing that, for the vast majority of women, no miracle will materialize?

As a woman who has endured two miscarriages, I am intimately familiar with the pain of losing a wanted pregnancy. It’s a pain that never fully abates. And the trauma of feeling your body rebel against the natural order of things, of its failure to complete a primal need, is rarely discussed. I will never entirely get over that feeling of losing control, of having no say in what was happening to my body. For those women who continue to carry unviable babies, whose bodies do not spontaneously abort as mine did (“spontenoeous abortion” is the medical term ascribed to miscarriage), being unable to safely access an abortion would take that trauma and multiply it exponentially.

Imagine having zero control. Imagine having the government tell you that you must carry an unviable pregnancy to term and then watch your baby suffocate because her lungs were not fully formed. Imagine being forced to give birth to a child you will not be able to touch until he has died an inevitable death. Imagine one hundred other awful, impossible scenarios. But do it. Because when we fail to empathize, we further suffering.

In spite of this, Ohio’s “heartbeat bill” provides no exception for rape, incest, or fetal abnormalities. I ask you – when science is willingly overlooked in favor of scripture, as is often the rationale behind such measures, does the kind of suffering produced advance the Kingdom of God in any way?

I ask this not with contempt but as a person of faith myself.

Since the pro-life agenda consistently fails to safeguard against unwanted pregnancies in the first place, I am inclined to believe that these laws are simply using religion as a means of control. If you disagree, I challenge you to work toward altering their platform on sex ed and access to birth control. Surely, it is easier to stop a problem before it begins than to complain that it exists at all.

Listen, I get it. It can be scary to step away from one’s pro-life label because it feels like an identity; an identity rooted in one’s faith. I totally understand. But push yourself anyway. Push yourself to learn all you can and to talk to as many women who have been affected by these laws as you can. Do your best to contemplate the many ethical dilemmas posed by the question of when life begins.

And if you come out pro-life on the other side, so be it. But make damn sure you can defend your position beyond a weak, “life begins at conception.” Because, God willing, Trump’s irresponsible impulsivity won’t actually start a nuclear war and all our hyperbolic musings are for naught. In that case, your vote really will continue to matter. Use it wisely.

In the mean time, Governor Kasich’s office would surely love to hear from you. Make sure they understand the science behind pregnancy. Make sure they understand the ways in which real women will suffer. But make your voice heard because, as you know, loud is ladylike.

Click here for ways to contact Governor Kasich’s office and to learn about more ways to help.

  • C

The Dangerous Debate Spin You Can’t Afford To Ignore

29901319462_a2f08d0dc5
Photo Source

The first presidential debate of the 2016 election season was shocking for many reasons, not the least of which because Donald Trump managed to (sort of) refrain from directly attacking Hillary Clinton for her husband’s infidelities. Oozing irony aside, it was far more than reality show-grade entertainment. It had a very real impact on our national conversation—as it should.

But, unlike most events of its caliber, this one inspired post debate spin that shunned conversations on policy and implementation in favor of elementary level mud slinging. And I’m not talking about run-of-the-mill political drama. What Trump surrogates resorted to after a humiliating defeat speaks directly to our children and their sense of self worth. In attacking Hillary Clinton for her preparedness and competency, they opened a veritable Pandora’s box with far reaching implications.

Of course, it’s easy to blame Trump. Crass, disrespectful, unapologetic, unfiltered — and no, that does not simply equate to political correctness — he invites criticism at every turn. And he has definitely done his part to elevate this ridiculous conversation. But laying this issue at his feet would be dangerously short-sighted.

The truth is, it’s his surrogates – and, indeed, the Republican party at large – who are at fault for perpetuating this grossly unfair narrative. While the most egregious offenders like Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani acted as veritable cheerleaders for this outrageous line of attack, it’s the leaders of the party who remain culpable in their silence.

To be fair, Christie sincerely believes that fact checkers have an agenda and continually refers to Clinton as “missus” instead of using the more appropriate title of “secretary” while Giuliani seems to have forgotten being Mayor of New York during the 9/11 attacks and has stooped to peddling conspiracy theories with regard to Clinton’s health; so expectations for these two are embarrassingly low at this point anyway. Still, attacks such as these only serve to further degrade the public’s perception of the GOP.

Republican elites have consistently failed to uphold their self-proclaimed monopoly on morality and family values throughout this campaign. And, without question, the burden this year is unusually hefty. Still, there is always a choice. There is always the opportunity to speak up for truth and speak out against absurdity. But they have instead yielded to a short-tempered bully who they know to be ill prepared and uninterested in changing.

Let’s be clear: the President of the United States should be well prepared, should care enough to study, and should articulate policy proposals in detail. These are foundational tenets of the job. The person who leads this country should absolutely be able to demonstrate competency on every level; and because most of us aren’t walking encyclopedias, that takes time and dedication.

It shouldn’t matter whether Hillary sounds robotic and rehearsed. And one’s judgement of her affability should barely register as a determinative factor. Listen, this election isn’t a giant audition for the title of “America’s Greatest Drinking Buddy.” All appearances to the contrary, this really isn’t a reality show.

Focus. Focus on what really matters.

Our kids are listening. They are receiving these carefully crafted messages and absorbing them. How are we to justify attacks against a candidate for preparedness while simultaneously extolling the virtues of hard work and studiousness to our children? It’s an indefensible position but one for which we must take up arms anyway.

The truly worrying aspect to this sinister spin is that it won’t die with this debate or the next. It won’t fade into oblivion once the election has been decided or when the next oath of office is taken. The problem with this particular attack, this public contempt for intellectual stamina and disciplined study, is that its insinuation will follow every prominent Republican until a new generation takes their place. That leaves years, even decades, during which they will be continually forced to defend this position, allowing its poisonous message to saturate our media.

Damage has already been done, for sure, but its depth remains to be seen. With two debates left in this election cycle, there’s not doubt the Trump campaign will continue to malign competency as unappealing. I urge you to really focus. Forget the spin. Forget the drama. Focus on the facts, on what drives quality dialogue. Because if we allow ourselves to be distracted by the weak defense of a disastrously unprepared candidate, we strip the other of the well deserved opportunity to contrast that ineptitude with truly presidential traits.

As members of the electorate, we deserve better and should demand as much. Recognizing the danger in this post debate debacle is important but so is using your own voice to elevate the conversation. Indeed, without momentum, the spin will stop.

 

  • C

A Vote Against Trump Is A Vote For My Daughter

14582840014_68bc36ac20
Photo Credit

I’m not usually a single issue voter and I would be lying if I said the sum total of my political views doesn’t place me squarely on the left. Still, I can usually differentiate those views from the opposing party’s candidate. I can see in him (or her) a person with a vastly different understanding of the world while also seeing an actual person. I can evaluate policy platforms on merit without hideous character distractions. And, normally, my commitment to vote is more an observance of civic duty than a moral and practical imperative. Usually, the stakes don’t feel quite so high. There is nothing usual about this year.

This year, a vote against Donald Trump is a vote for my daughter. It’s a vote for integrity—for respect and possibility. It’s a vote for the the preservation of her bright future and all the values my husband and I are working so hard to instill. It’s a vote born of love; because when she was first placed in my arms, I made a silent vow to protect her always and I intend to keep it.

Perhaps that sounds excessive and maybe it is—but I’m not willing to take that chance.

Every morning I watch her step onto a yellow school bus, carefree and confident, trusting that I will be standing there when that same bus drops her off in the afternoon. Each evening at dinner she begrudgingly eats her vegetables, trusting me when I explain their importance in helping her body grow strong. And when she lays her head on her pillow, enveloped in darkness, she trusts that I will be the first thing she sees when her eyes flutter open once more.

She trusts me with her whole being. And on that matter alone, a vote for Trump is out of the question.

It’s no secret that election seasons are not just messy but, often, hard-fought, low-down, grimy brawls. Insults are flung. Facts are distorted. Lies are finessed into palatable soundbites. With time, every issue, every platform, becomes a sticky web of convolution. Nothing makes sense because months of masterful marketing force us to question even our most basic principles in the name of a vote.

It’s an easy trap to fall into but we don’t have to take the bait. Please, allow yourself the dignity of stepping outside this moment in time. Picture yourself one year, four years, and ten years from now. Will you find shame in your vote this year? Will you be able to explain your vote to your daughters, nieces, granddaughters—even the ones who don’t yet exist? Will you be able to tell them honestly that you considered their futures when stepping into the voting booth?

Declaring oneself a single issue voter can usually be described as short-sighted. We all have positions that we hold dear, that seem to define our political outlook. But, on the whole, we are taught to simply factor them into the bigger picture. Usually, this helps maintain party unity and we inevitably rest our feet along whatever side of the aisle has always felt most comfortable. This is not a usual year. There should be no comfort found in casually towing party lines. This year, you owe it to every woman in your life to become a single issue voter.

My daughter is four years old today. She would be eight—or even twelve—at the end of a Trump presidency. Those are years I refuse to sacrifice. They are formative years, too important to ignore when choosing between our current nominees. Today, my daughter happily plays make believe and snuggles with her blankie at night. She is impossibly innocent. But, over the course of the next administration, she will undoubtedly gain a much clearer understanding of the world around her. What kind of world will it be?

A 2015 report by the child advocacy group Common Sense Media found that body image issues begin as young as five years old. Let that sink in a moment. Five. Yet we have a presidential candidate who routinely and repeatedly degrades women, calling them fat pigs, gold diggers, and dogs. He is a man who happily declared in a 1993 interview with Howard Stern that he does not respect women and who spent the better part of the 90’s crowing publicly over his infidelity and sexual conquests. This is a man who has given the American public every reason to believe that he sees women as objects for personal gratification, amusement, and exploitation. A Trump presidency is an invitation for my daughter to see herself in the same light. Am I willing to risk that? Absolutely not.

It boggles the mind that anyone could ascend this far up the political ladder being so blatant in his misogyny, to say nothing of his indisputably shallow understanding of American policy and foreign relations. But, then again, this is an unusual year—terrifyingly so.

Trump lackeys claim that his public persona is merely that—a simple media ploy. They claim he can assume the dignity of the office should he be handed the keys. They say his employment of women somehow negates his offensive comments and that the success of his daughter Ivanka provides an irrefutable testament to his character. All these assertions require a type of mental gymnastics I simply don’t have the stamina to entertain. The truth is, he has shown his hand—repeatedly, vociferously, and unapologetically. The flagrant misogyny he boasts has not abated throughout this campaign so why are we to believe he could maintain the dignity of the office?

Because my daughter is my entire world, I refuse to look the other way. I will not stand idly by and hope he magically transforms into a better example for our youth. To do so would be to betray my daughter’s trust and void every empowering word I have ever uttered in her name.

In an election season wrought with intensity and confusion, I do know this:

Words matter. Actions matter. Kindness matters.

I may have never considered myself a single issue voter before but, hey, this is an unusual year. This year, the only thing that matters when I cast my vote is the future of my daughter. She will be taught the value of words, the impact of her actions, and the virtue of kindness. And my sincerest hope is that her next president—likely the first she will remember—reinforces those lessons. That future remains in our grasp but only if we all decide to vote for our girls, to be their voices in this darkness.

My daughter trusts me and I refuse to let her down.

 

  • C

Last Night Matters

DSC_0072

I don’t care what your political persuasion is. I don’t care who you are voting for in this election. And I would certainly never suggest that any single issue, demographic or otherwise, is enough to constitute a vote for a particular candidate. But last night was important.

As a daughter, a mother, a woman — last night matters.

I am a Millenial. My generation has grown up in a multicultural, seemingly post-patriarchal society. We have watched as women of all creeds and colors reached extraordinary heights: in athletics, in business, and even in the political arena. Of course, we have also watched as women continue to earn less than their male counterparts and face sexism in the workplace with alarming regularity. This is not new to us. We know our history. We are aware of the continued need for change and activism. But we’ve also anticipated this moment. And, yes, we have taken it for granted.

It’s not shocking to us that a woman has been nominated as the presidential candidate for a major political party. Many of us never thought twice about this moment because, for us, it never felt that far out of reach.

But it affects us. Undeniably. And, more importantly, it affects our daughters.

When I was in 5th grade, my class did a  group project coinciding with the ’96 presidential election in which we were to create a candidate and present him to the class. My quiet, generally reserved self, took charge for perhaps the first time in my young life. Something about the assignment energized me and I quickly assumed a leadership position. Our ‘he’ was a ‘she’ and her name was Molly B. Glad. Don’t judge – just laugh with me.

I don’t recall thinking it was abnormal for our candidate to be a woman. We didn’t feel as though we were doing anything profound. My group mates and I simply felt compelled to create a fictitious candidate who represented us, who looked like us. It is the same reason why this photo of a young black boy touching President Obama’s hair has so deeply resonated with people throughout the country. Seeing someone in a position of power reflecting you and your identity is incredibly validating and motivating. It means that nothing is out of reach, that no circumstance of your birth can prevent you from accomplishing your greatest ambitions.

And that’s why last night matters.

Because where the concept of a female presidential nominee was once a vague hope, it is now a visible reality. And nothing will ever change that.

For my generation, the glass ceiling was less a reality in need of breaking and more a non-entity. We simply never felt its presence in the palpable, menacing way that our mothers and grandmothers did. And that is a testament to their own hard work because those preceding generations paved the road, however rocky, for this moment to arrive.

During the course of that group project 20 years ago, I vividly remember declaring that I wanted to be president someday. I said it proudly and with conviction. I would  be president. I would make a difference.

Well, I did not become president. What I did was become a school teacher, a wife, and a mother — all things for which I am just as proud and grateful. And while public office was not to play a role in my future, I have never lost the conviction that anyone can make a difference in the world.

And, perhaps, that is the tale of my generation. We were told we could be anything we wanted to be. We were filled with the greatest of intentions and the loftiest of goals. We were inspired… but we were not empowered.

And that is why last night matters.

Empowerment thrives on visibility. Show a girl a successful woman and you have set her on the track toward a brilliant future. We’re finally there, on the biggest stage in the world; and, as of last night, millions of little girls were given the gift of a new future. Because that glass ceiling, the one I was privileged enough to have been able to ignore for most of my life – it’s been shattered. And now the next generation of girls will have the even greater privilege of growing up free of its shadow.

Last night was monumental. As my own little girl drifted off to sleep in her bed, the course of history shifted. And when she awoke this morning, it was to a world full of possibility. She will grow up being told, like me, that a woman can be anything she wants to be. But she, she will believe it. She will feel it. She will have seen it. And my sincerest hope is that she will achieve it.

Because, as of last night, anything is possible.

  • C

**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.

Please visit www.pompusa.org for more information**

 

 

 

Divisiveness in America: Where We Go From Here

hands-956652_1280

My kids are still young. They don’t yet understand the difference between a Democrat and a Republican. They are oblivious to the terms “ISIS”, “Black Lives Matter”, and “crony capitalism”. They don’t know what it means to protest, to be murdered, or to grieve. Their short lives have been blissfully unaffected by the external violence that keeps the American flags they are surrounded by at a seemingly perpetual state of half-mast. They have yet to question it.

But they will.

And while part of me would love nothing more than to shield them from the incessant violence and sorrow this world has to offer, I realize it is my responsibility to cultivate awareness and understanding. Of all the blights upon humanity, ignorance remains the kindling that keeps the fires of hate burning.

So when they ask, I will answer. And I will listen; because if I’ve learned anything from parenting, it’s that very young children are masters of observation. They have yet to apply the biases that forever cloud one’s judgement and lack the sort of filter that keep even the most well intentioned of people from speaking up for what is right. It’s a magical combination that, at times, produces an almost unnerving wisdom.

We don’t give our kids nearly enough credit. Because if we did, if we really listened, we could change the world.

Our current state of affairs is a sad one, seemingly irrevocably broken. Every issue, every newsworthy event, comes complete with cantankerous derision from warring factions. We have become accustomed to aligning ourselves according to our values, our life experiences, our hard-fought beliefs. We pick a team and fight for it with passion.

None of this is surprising, of course. Social psychologists have long understood the evolutionary advantages afforded by tribalism and recognized the inherent need of humans to belong. It’s why we take pride in attending good schools, of being chosen for varsity athletic teams, or being designated as first chair in an orchestra. The desire to belong, and to do so in an exclusive manner, is simply a function of our humanity. It’s written into our DNA.

But if this somehow absolves us of blame, it certainly does not relieve us of accountability.

We live in a world rife with culture wars and yet we are somehow shocked to discover that racial tensions still exist within this country. It’s led us to confront an uncomfortable truth:

Prejudice is a reality and not confined to the backlogs of American history. It’s here. It’s now. It lives in you.

Yes, you.

Pretending it doesn’t exist or scoffing at the notion that the most heroic among us harbors them is counterproductive.

In this supposed post-civil rights era where schools often focus heavily on multiculturalism and tolerance, many of us simply didn’t realize this was a battle that still needed to be won. We honestly didn’t know. That’s ok – but ignoring it now, when entire communities are raising their voices and demanding to be heard, is not.

Is it possible that a police officer could feel, however unjustly, more threatened by a large black man than a petite white female given the exact same set of circumstances? Of course. Does that threat perception affect an officer’s judgement for better or for worse? Of course. Is that an excuse for brutality? Not one bit.

Is it possible for entire groups or communities to experience life differently than others, to feel threatened by situations in which others feel safe? Of course. Can those threat perceptions engender resentment and even outrage? Of course. Is that an excuse for vigilante justice? Not one bit.

Admitting such things is not a step backward. It doesn’t undermine 60 years of civil rights progress. It simply acknowledges the biases that inform all our decisions, from the most trivial to the most consequential. In matters of life and death, we simply cannot afford to play the virtuoso.

This same reflection must then extend outward so that recognizing the humanity in others, regardless of how different they are from ourselves, becomes habitual. We are all multi-faceted beings. Every life decision, every experience, has colored our perception of reality. My reality is different from yours. Insisting that they are the same is both short-sighted and dangerous. Let’s choose to listen to one another, to be open to changing our world view in the face of evidence – anecdotal or otherwise; because here’s the bottom line:

Validating the suffering of one group of people does not require turning our backs on another.

It’s as simple as that. You can stand with the black community and genuinely believe reports of systemic abuse while also fully supporting law enforcement and the sacrifices they make on a daily basis.

These are not diametrically opposed ideas despite what we have been led to believe. They are, in fact, concepts the youngest among us understand without any of the confusion with which we infuse them.

It would be taking a giant step in the right direction to actively question our knee-jerk reactions in these situations. But we don’t want to question. We don’t want to feel uncomfortable or to face what was previously unknown. We don’t want to – but we must.

Working to heal this particular wound would serve to unite us on other fronts, as well. A cursory glance of any comment section on a political news story published to social media is enough to make one lose all hope for the future. They are virtual garbage dumps of the most crass uninformed verbal vomit that one can imagine. It’s easy to write off such gross negativity as the crazy rantings of ambiguous internet moles but, the truth is, they are part of our collective voice. The only way to drown out their noise is to speak up; but to do so for the greater good.

It’s easy to get carried away by our own interpretation of right and wrong, to huddle amongst those who continually reaffirm our own life decisions and who reflect our own self-interests. There’s nothing like the belligerent combativeness of an election season to make that clear.

But we have a choice. We always have a choice.

While those social psychologists who study tribalism have established our inherent need to build up groups of like-minded individuals, they have also observed our ability to transcend them. In other words, evolution is on our side here. We can override that primal system promoting exclusionary and ethnocentric behaviors but it requires a level of self-reflection that most have yet to achieve.

The truth is, we’re all angry about the same thing: extremism — people on either side of the aisle abusing power, partaking in vigilante justice, excusing deceit and obstruction in the name of some greater good. We don’t have to pick and choose which disgusting act makes us the most upset. We can express outrage at it all; and we should! The vast majority of us don’t want this. And if, in fact, you were to accuse the average person on the street of partaking in such activity, they would be scandalized and insist upon their innocence.

But take a step back and really think.

Are you without fault? Really? Chances are, you have been complicit in a multitude of these acts — the very things you rail about and fight against. The only thing keeping you from recognizing it is your own perceived righteousness.

Of course you aren’t at fault, you think. You vote for platforms that encourage hard work, capitalistic integrity, and militaristic might. Or maybe you vote for platforms that prescribe economic equality, a strong social safety net, and civil rights. Either way, you are absolutely convinced of your moral superiority, whether it’s a conscious realization or not, and therein lies the problem: we see the end goal but we see it while wearing blinders.

Like Olympic sprinters dashing for that coveted gold medal, we push ferociously toward the win. We may be aware that another runner is nipping at our heels but we certainly don’t look around to notice the cheering fans around us. In fact, we likely don’t hear them at all in our heavily focused state.

This is fine for athletes, imperative actually. But it rings the death knell for any worthwhile social cause because nothing can be accomplished in this complex multi-layered society of ours without cooperation and open mindedness.

It’s simple enough for the preschooler learning how to navigate a classroom for the first time. Why is it so difficult for us?

Whatever happened to our childlike altruism, our innate sense of camaraderie? Why do we insist upon sweeping generalizations when almost everything in our world requires a thoughtful, educated approach? Somewhere along the way we have become too self-assured, too set in our ways to achieve anything but gridlock; and for that we have paid a hefty price. Plunking down those gold coins was our own doing. It is something for which we must all take responsibility.

But here’s what the ringleaders of division don’t want you to know: convoluted and intricate as world affairs may be, the antidote is often astoundingly simplistic and frequently boils down to seeing the humanity in the “enemy”, of putting oneself in another’s shoes. Notice I do not posit that the answers themselves are easy. Even the most elementary understanding of American politics or the middle east make such a claim laughably inaccurate. But the pain itself, a pain that seems to linger hauntingly over this country, can be dulled by applying what was once as well understood as our ABC’s: The Golden Rule.

The uncomfortable truth is that we are all responsible for the rise of fanaticism in this country. And if you aren’t actively advancing it then your silence, at the very least, enables it. There will come a time to parse out exactly what led us to this place; and it will be important to do so since failing to learn from our mistakes will only ensure that future generations continue to fight our battles. But what’s most important in this moment is figuring out where we go from here. Step one, I believe, is taking responsibility; because without the moral fortitude to recognize our own shortcomings, we only undermine our own efforts for change.

Perhaps we all need to take a time out – the same kind of punishment we often levy upon our children – and really think about the ways in which we are individually responsible for the current state of divisiveness within this country. Do we repeatedly acknowledge just one side of any given situation? Do we share inflammatory memes that do nothing to elevate productive conversation? Do we listen for confirmation of our own beliefs while blatantly ignoring additional, if contradictory, information? Are we cherry-pickers in a world desperate for critical thinkers?

It’s interesting that we so easily recognize extremism when it is cloaked in a foreign face or an unfamiliar religion, yet we so often fail to see it in ourselves. It’s easy to stick with our own tribe, after all. But, in these trying times, it is absolutely essential that we begin paying attention to the ways in which we enable fanatical ideologues to shape our conversations and divide us into our respective corners.

When reflecting on divisiveness in this country, it’s easy to blame a figurehead like the President or a major party candidate. Surely, we aren’t personally to blame, right? Right…? So we fix our targets on anyone whose worldview does not align perfectly with our own and unleash our fury. But those verbal assaults miss by a mile – because, frankly, we aren’t even speaking the same language – and end up wounding both ourselves and this great nation. The time for accountability is at hand and every one of us must take note…

…Because our kids will ask where we stand and our answers will shape the future.

 

  • C