To My MilSpouse Friends: Politics Aside, I’m Still Me

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Dear milspouse friends,

While I have conservative and progressive friends both in and outside the military, I am speaking directly to you. Why? Because you are my community. Whether you live right next door or halfway around the world, we share this wonderfully unpredictable life; and it’s quite likely that the military will one day plop us in the same place at the same time once again. More than anyone else, we understand that distance can be overcome. We know that by experience, by months measured in tears and worry. And, perhaps, because we share this hard-fought knowledge, we can extend it to other types of distance—like distances in personality, interests, and even that dreaded word: politics.

Don’t stop reading.

I am not going to assail you with my personal beliefs. As a little blue dot in a vast sea of red, I am well aware that they sometimes come across as intrusive. After all, my kind are few and far between in our world. What I want you to know is this: I am still me.

I am still the same person I have always been. I am the friend who dropped off an unexpected bottle of wine at your front door after a particularly stressful day. I am the girl who sat at your kitchen table, laughing and conversing with ease. I am the FRG leader who gave every moment of free time to care for your family—who made meals in times of trouble, happily babysat your children, shared in your struggles and triumphs. I am still the person you cried with as your your husband boarded a plane, unsure of when or if you would see him again. I attended your baby showers—planned them even; or perhaps listened over a cup of coffee as you confided in me the pain of infertility. I am the mother who hosted playdates, attended birthday parties, and celebrated milestones with you. I am who I have always been.

I am still me.

For a long time, I was not forthcoming about my political opinions. Can you blame me? When people find out, it’s as if I can see the gears kicking into overdrive. 

But she seems so nice. 

I don’t understand—wasn’t she in my bible study class? 

Doesn’t she love America?

For the record, I try to be nice to everyone I meet. I identify as Catholic, even if that typically lends itself to different political leanings. And, let’s be clear, no party has a monopoly on patriotism.

But none of that should matter because I am still the same person I have been since the day you met me. You, most likely, are still the same person you were the day I met you, as well. But you know what? I know that and have already accepted it.

Here’s the thing: the fact that you are most likely a deep shade of red, will never make a difference for me. I will never unfriend you on social media. I will never avoid you in public. I will never look at you any differently.

Why?

It was already baked into the cake for me.

When I met you, I already assumed we would disagree on politics. And yet, I loved you anyway. Our similarities far outweigh our differences, and that’s more than enough to bind us together. Don’t undo that binding—please.

I know it bothers you that I have decided to be vocal about matters of state on social media. I know this because some of you have taken a passive aggressive stance, bemoaning the need of anyone to have their voice heard. I know this because, since I have started writing about politics, I have become an “untouchable.” While my left-leaning pieces are understandably ignored, everything outside of my writing has been ignored as well. Some of you have turned your back on me entirely, deciding that my progressive stance is grossly unacceptable—irredeemable even, and therefore unworthy of your friendship.

But I need to get something off my chest. Friends, your voices are always heard—perhaps more than you know. Because your worldview is consistent with most military spouses, your opinions and concerns are understood. They are acknowledged.

Mine are not.

And while it may be frustrating to have this tiny speck of blue dull your red portrait, please understand that it is not painted out of malice. Indeed, I am simply speaking my truth just as you are speaking yours. And—can I be blunt now?—even though you think you have been quiet for the past eight years, you haven’t.

No matter your opinion on politics in social media, I can assure you, your political leanings have been made painfully clear in public. It may feel like an impossibility. It may seem like an impropriety of unconscionable affect. But, nearly to a tee, it is true. In real life, far away from keyboards and Facebook notifications, your beliefs are made evident.

With offhanded comments you could not recall for any amount of money, with eye rolls and physical shudders as involuntary as the day is long, your views are consistently expressed and validated within a deeply conservative echo chamber.

I say this not with contempt, but with the perspective of an outsider.

And as your resident outsider, I can tell you this: I am not offended. While I regularly find myself smiling politely and ignoring inflammatory comments, I try not to let resentment grow. Because I know it is neither purposeful nor personal. I recognize that you are not using me as a punching bag, but rather assuming that I ascribe to your belief system. And who can blame you? The numbers are on your side.

The truth is, in our world at least, you are in the majority. You can assume everyone else agrees with you and ignore the reality that, at least sometimes, they don’t.

But can I ask something of you?

Can you give me the benefit of the doubt, too? Can you try not to be so offended by my differing opinions and pull away as soon as they are made clear? Can you, sometimes, let down your guard enough to let me in? The real me, I mean. Because I am who I have always been. I love you the way I always have. And I am a military spouse, too.

Give me a measure of patience. If willing, lend me your ear. But, more than anything, offer me your unconditional support and I will do the same. Because we are in this together, always.

 

  • C

 

 

 

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The Insidious Nature of ‘Nice’

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Growing up, I was your quintessential ‘nice girl.’ Teachers liked me. My parents trusted me. The mere thought of detention was enough to give me a panic attack. I smiled at people in the halls, served in student council, and mediated disputes between friends. My idea of trouble was sneaking a single wine spritzer from the garage on New Year’s Eve senior year and promptly blaming it on my sister. You get the idea…

For a long time, I derived a lot of my self-worth from that descriptor: ‘nice girl.’ And it wasn’t until I had a daughter of my own that I began to understand how truly sad that is.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that I have since thrown decency and decorum out the window—far from it. What it does mean is that I have come to realize how much value I ascribe to others’ opinions of me, and the many ways in which it has held me back from my true self.

When you’re a ‘nice girl,’ you don’t want to rock the boat; you hate confrontation; you are a born people pleaser. So it’s been hard taking those first tentative steps toward finding my voice and summoning the courage to make it public. But I have reached a point where it no longer feels optional. My kids need to know what it means to stand for something and I intend to be their teacher.

So I write.

I write about anything and everything that moves me. I write to be a voice for those unable or not yet ready to use their own. But I always write sincerely, with the intent of furthering an idea, a cause, or fractured dialogue. And, yes, sometimes—in fact, oftentimes—that includes writing about politics.

Trust me, I fully understand that a large percentage of the population has an aversion to it. Our elected officials, on the whole, make it pretty easy. And it’s hard to escape the pervasive belief that political opinions ought not to be shared. But I think there’s a danger in keeping silent about policies that change the fabric of our country; and I think we do a disservice to our children by modeling apathy and actively ignoring intellectual conversation. It’s okay to disagree. Our kids need to understand that.

And yet, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately. As it becomes ever more clear that our country is heading into turbulent times, as the average citizen feels more of a pull to weigh in on matters of state, there are those waiting in the wings to casually dismiss such commentary with empty platitudes.

Be nice, they plead.

Can’t we all just get along? 

I love everybody. Just agree to disagree.

If something doesn’t affect you, leave it alone.

Nice people of the world: I see you. I know your hearts are in the right place. But the world is not always as nice as you are. Bad things happen. Cultural turbulence and political unrest don’t bow down to adorable pictures of kittens and puppies. I mean, we all love them and thanks for reminding us of the good in the world, but don’t dismiss the voices you hear—from either side. Your reminders to be kind and compassionate are helpful and needed, but assuming passivity is the path to those ends is a dangerous mistake.

Listen, playing the referee and toeing the line is exhausting. I know; I did it for years. Just understand that it’s okay to allow yourself to be drawn into serious topics because they speak to your values and your vision for the future. You can be both polite and passionate. Your opinions matter. Your words matter. You matter.

So stop being ashamed that you are a fully functioning human with valid opinions. Don’t preface that lone partisan post with any variation of, “I promise, this is the only thing I’ll say about politics.” Just don’t. Stop. It is not your responsibility to make everyone happy.

And you know what? You’re still a good person, even when you shed the ‘nice girl’ image. I promise.

But, in the future, try not to worry so much about it. There’s something insidious about that word: ‘nice.’ It’s not always enough to be agreeable and pleasant. In fact, it’s not always appropriate to be those things.

‘Nice’ implies deference. It demands the quiet acceptance of completely unacceptable things. ‘Nice’ requires your silence so as not to ruffle feathers, to honor hazy rules of decorum. ‘Nice’ says, “honor congeniality above all else, principles and passions be damned.”

‘Nice,’ it turns out, is not very nice at all.

What you can be? Empathetic, respectful, informed, brave, and even outspoken—every day, without apology. Because when ‘nice’ demands your silence or shames you from civic-mindedness, it’s no longer a flattering descriptor.

These days, I’m not sure others would still describe me as a ‘nice girl.’ But these days, I grab my own damn wine spritzers whenever I want. Things change. You can, too.

  • C

This Is Why We March

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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.

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

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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

The Dangerous Debate Spin You Can’t Afford To Ignore

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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

10(ish) Facebook Pages You Need to “Like” Today

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Admit it: you find yourself scrolling through some form of social media on a daily basis, sometimes mindlessly. We all do it – well, most of us anyway. We do it for a variety of reasons and in numerous ways but its influence is undeniable. It has simply become a way of life for many of us. Of course, we’ve all felt that tinge of guilt from time to time, too. After all, is it really worth quality time with friends and family to sneak a peak at the vacation pictures of a classmate you haven’t spoken to in a decade? Probably not.

Kick the guilt and tailor your social media in more positive ways instead. I’ve given you a head start with these 10(ish) Facebook pages to start following. Ranging from practical to educational to inspirational, they make your social media world a little more worthwhile and a lot more capable of changing your real life for the better.

1.)  Special Books by Special Kids

You may not be familiar with his site, but you have probably seen the videos of him complimenting his students as a daily ritual. A special education teacher, Chris Ulmer is on a mission to bring awareness and empathy to the joys and struggles of special needs individuals. To do so, he now travels the world interviewing children and adults, bringing much needed visibility to the community. Check out the Miracle Baby video where he talks with a family who is near and dear to my own heart.

2.) I fucking love science

Don’t let the language deter you. This page is definitely a keeper! They bill themselves as “the lighter side of science” – a description that fits well. From technology to astronomy to archeology, there’s something here for everyone. And if you’ve ever wondered why nipples get erections, you’re in luck! Bizarre and informative, this site is sure to teach you something new everyday.

Honorable mentions: LiveScienceScienceDump, and Science Channel.

(Like ’em all and watch your brain grow!)

3.) mental_floss

We all have that one annoying person in our lives who can whip out the most random piece of trivia at any given moment. If you’re me, you have two. But you love them anyway and secretly wish you could be like them. Well now you can! Keep your curiosity satiated and your pockets full of winnings from your local bar’s next trivia night. This is a page you can’t afford to pass up!

4.) Buy Me That

Guys, we are 116 days away from Christmas. If you think that sounds like a lot, you are either way more organized than I am or don’t have kids… or both. The truth is, we all know Santa is going to sneak up on us like the shifty home intruder he is so it’s time to start preparing! Check out this site for some truly unique gifts. It takes the stress out of store shopping and even gives you a heads up on all the best deals. I particularly love their ever changing “Can You Get Through This Post Without Spending $50?” And the answer is no. No, I cannot.

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You know you want it! (not the dysentery)

5.) Politifact

I realize this election year might be making you wish you were a fish or an alien or anything else that would negate your duties as an American citizen BUT it’s always important to stay informed of the world around you, even if that world seems to have been lifted straight out of a poorly written and confusing cartoon. Politifact saves the day with their easy to understand graphics and in depth explanations of statements made by government officials. Some cry bi-partisan reporting but since they have been accused by followers of both major parties, it’s safe to assume that the truth does, in fact, hurt. Their Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 2008 election ain’t too shabby, either.

6.) Tasty

One of the first things my husband learned about me when we moved in together was that I’m a terrible cook. Oops… I guess I forgot to mention it! Years later, I still feel uncomfortable in the kitchen but I truly love this page. Their quick videos provide dinner inspiration in our house at least 4 nights a week because they are so delicious and so easy. This will become your go to meal planning site, for sure!

7.) The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

When life gets you down and the news becomes too depressing to watch, you’ll be glad you’ve added this page. In addition to uplifting stories, they provide resources for teachers and concrete ways to make a difference. Their website opens with the following:

Imagine a world.
Where people look out for each other.
Where we all pay it forward.
Where success is measured in selfless acts.
Where kindness is the philosophy of life.

You need this in your life. Trust me.

8.) Weird History

Your textbooks didn’t cover cover it all. Not even close. This page takes an entertaining and informative approach to history that will keep you coming back for more.

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Because if you didn’t giggle before when you heard the name, President Johnson, you definitely will from now on.

If history is your thing, consider these as well: History In PicturesHistory Uncovered, and HistoryBuff.com

9.) FiveThirtyEight

Nate Silver is a renowned statistician who buoyed his original site into the larger umbrella of FiveThirtyEight. Dissecting politics, sports, economics, and a variety of other issues, it provides mere mortals, like me, with a data-driven understanding of the world in which we live. You’ll be intrigued by their predictions and appreciative of the follow up. In a world where we have such difficulty knowing who and what to believe, this page is refreshingly analytical and uncompromising.

10.) George Takei

You’ll come for the content but stay for the puns because George can always make you laugh.What I appreciate most about this page is that he constantly encourages discussion and healthy debate, just like we do here at Loud Is Ladylike. Trust me on this one, Sulu and his presentation of current events are out of this world.

….See what I did there?

Happy interneting, friends!

  • 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**