The Great Leap Forward

January 21, 2017

Yesterday an international joke was inaugurated as the president of a super power, our country, the United States of America.   The country that boasts of freedom is barreling down a highway of restriction, rigidity and governmental control.  The political party that preaches soundbites of small government has an agenda filled with denial of personal freedom and implementation of social control.  Its only allowances for relief slated for the already wealthy and powerful.

Today, we marched.

Actually, I did not march.  But so many of you did and you brought tears to my eyes.  I saw friends join millions, here in Minnesota, in DC, LA, Jackson (Mississippi), St. Louis, Oakland (California), Austin (Texas), New York City and Atlanta.

With great conflict I went to my daughter’s basketball game instead.  It is not like I never miss my kids’ events.  Actually, I do so quite often.  Part of me wanted to march, and drag my other two children along so they could experience that historic event first hand.  Part of me wanted to just be on the sideline watching my daughter compete in the sport she loves.

I felt guilty not going to the march.  I felt sad to miss out on the experience.  Had I gone, I would have felt the same about my daughter’s game.

And that’s how, I think, we women miss out on a lot.  We second guess our choices.  We let guilt stand in the forefront of our thinking.  Both choices had value.  A “right” choice is not always clear, and does not always need to be defined.

But as is often the case, my daughter taught me today.

Her team trailed behind the opposing team for most of the game, finally tying it in the last two minutes, and pulling ahead in the last 30 seconds to win the game.  Effort, errors, effort.  Twisting.  Committing fouls.  Getting fouled on.  Tripping.  Colliding.  Missed shots, and surprising steals.

27-25.  That doesn’t even begin to quantify the complexity of effort, practice and heart, from all the girls on that court.

I saw my daughter get a free throw opportunity, then miss both shots.  The first miss gave way to a sign I know so well.  Shoulders collapsed, game face disintegrated… self-recrimination.  A flood of teammates surrounded her for a second, reminding her to stay in the game, just take the next shot. 

This is how we feel when we are dejected.  And this is what we need.  Stay in the game.  Get up and try again.   And I know after years of watching my kids play sports, this is an education on how to fight the good fight.  This is one way the skills of fortitude and determination are built.

But what do we do tomorrow?

We work.  Marching is only the beginning.

Today the focus was not just about women’s rights, but about inclusion, well-being, freedom and, above all, love.  LOVE, not hate.  To make sure these values rise to the top, we have to work.  We have to speak up.

Not long before the presidential election, I saw Billy Bragg and Joe Henry perform here in Minneapolis.  Billy said, and it has stayed with me since:

“The enemy of cynicism is empathy.  And the antidote to cynicism is activism.”

And in that spirit, I believe great leaps forward still lie ahead.  But we have to make them happen.

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Hope

January 14, 2017

I’m worried. I am fearful. 

I am worried about women losing more control of their lives by losing control of their own reproductive and healthcare options.  I am worried we are following the choices of Texas, with systemic STD issues and high childbirth mortality rates. Planned Parenthood is a Public Health Service. Texas is what happens when you remove such quality, inexpensive women’s (and men’s) healthcare and sex education. 

I am worried we are going to spend money we can’t afford dismantling the ACA, temporarily or permanently removing coverage, or sufficiency of coverage, for many. I worry about such an effort’s impact on any number of public health initiatives able to launch and incubate under this law. Many such programs within the Medicaid population are making strides to reduce expensive healthcare services by increasing access to preventive care and educating patients and families on how to navigate the healthcare system.  These programs also collect valuable data as to ways to reduce cost and illness escalation.  And they are just getting started. 

I am worried we have hundreds of thousands of people laying waste in prisons that don’t belong there. These lives are wasted at great social cost to communities, and great financial cost to tax payers.   Many of those locked away and disregarded will one day rejoin society, with little to no support in their reentry, or in making sense of their incarceration experiences. 

We expect them to shake off that traumatic environment, be industrious, find jobs and pay taxes. But too many policies make employment unlikely. If they overcome all the obstacles, find a legitimate job and pay taxes, they are still not restored their right to vote. In many states, felons are permanently ineligible to have a voice in the government which they help fund. 

I am disturbed that the trend of climate denial is an excuse to make bad energy policy choices that would be better for us all, even if climate change wasn’t real.  (Though it is, of course, real.)  Hmmmm. Why is that?  

Oil and money. That’s why.

Renewable energy would reduce foreign oil dependence, domestic oil harvesting, and wasteful byproducts which do far more than contribute to greenhouse gases. Why on earth wouldn’t we want to move to those more renewable sources?!?  I was raised by parents who survived the Great Depression and WWII, and a mother who washes and reuses her tin foil.   Why are we, and so many of our leaders, so determined to be wasteful?

I am worried that two months later, I am at a loss as to how to respond to this comment from someone I know to be kind and well-meaning. But this reads as someone who cannot differentiate between an experienced political candidate and a mentally ill narcissit. 


I want to have and encourage dialogue with people of opposing viewpoints. But the normalizing language here is deeply disturbing.   Trump had no candidacy record before. He had a strong record of  lifetime wealth, unethical business dealings, predatory behavior in professional and personal life, shameless attention seeking and belittling of others.

“Liberal agenda.”  Which of the statistically validated issues I’ve listed above are so unpalatable?  

Trust in God?  There’s a great joke about this. It has a boat and a helicopter and pragmatism, a parable about using the resources you’ve been given.

 I don’t believe in deities. But no religion I’ve seen paints a greedy, defensive, reactionary, prideful man as a vessel for holy work.  I am horrified that so many people of faith believe he is the answer. 

But I am still hopeful. 

I saw Hidden Figures with my kids tonight. A new story to me, and one of many reminders that we overcame some of our stupidity back then.  We can open our eyes and see our different (and same) stupidities now.  There will always be some, even many, who refuse to seen it. We need work and humility and diligence to keep that moral arc bending in the right direction. 

Recently I read The Road to Character, and now am reading The Social Animal, both by David Brooks. His bias sometimes makes my skin itch, and reading his books pushes my argumentative buttons. 

A conservative-leaning thinker, he has an insatiable curiosity toward human nature, and love for humanity, community and individual well being.  He is not afraid to dig deep into personal stories and character studies, and lay them out for us to better understand each other.   He is not afraid to dissect the role we as a community play in the well being of each other. We cannot have enough voices like this. 

I have hope in the contributions of writers and story tellers and journalists and lawyers and volunteers and healthcare workers and public servants and citizens and the power to change hearts and minds. I have hope that however misguided we are, however ridiculous the lies we swallow, we slowly, stubbornly, begrudgingly learn to be more decent to each other than not.