Entries Tagged 'Politics' ↓

Mourning Mandela

Imagine you are a 14 year old girl and you are suddenly flown from the U.S. to a small southern African country and dropped off at a foreign international school found far, far up on a hill without anyone but your little brother by your side. It’s 1987, you are wearing a stone-washed denim mini-skirt, far too much hairspray and you are terrified. That was me and that school was a place that shaped my soul in a way I never expected. While I quietly pouted about the outrage of it all, I marched onto the campus that first day, followed thWKe rest of the student body into an assembly hall, slid onto a bench with other 14 year olds and, with arms folded, I waited for something to happen. And it had better be good.

Something did happen.

And it started with assembly every week. Well, it may have even been twice a week, but it always started the same way. We sang the Swaziland national anthem and then we sang the African national anthem. Every student sang loudly and beautifully and with a shocking passion unlike anything I had ever, EVER seen. No one at my old school sang my national anthem this way. What is this?? What is going on? It was so beautiful that I swallowed back tears week after week, deeply overcome.

And then we were taught about what was really going on. You see, I was at a school where we were being taught literature and history and information about current events that may or may not have been banned at the schools less than an hour away to our west, across the border in South Africa. We talked regularly about Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment. Why he was there. What freedom really meant. Why children were shot and killed protesting their right to be taught in a language they understood. I was astonished. They were killed? Police shot students because of this??

I sat there and I listened. At first appalled. As if MY country would ever do such a thing. (Well. It had.) And then I accepted it. And then I absorbed it. And then I found my place in it. There was a fight for freedom happening around me. There was hope and anger and so much passion for change.

At every assembly, I sat and considered all of it. Equal rights were not given, they were a chance happening. A roulette table of skin pigment, culture and nationality. Oh look, she landed on “white girl from America!” So at the border crossing, SHE gets to go to the diplomatic line and get a friendly nod and a smile from the police man with the dog. My friend’s chance at luck got her “black South African,” and she went to the back of a very different line. And I waited and watched and the dog watched her and none of it made any sense. Madness. And never equal.

Nelson Mandela being released from prison was a far-fetched dream in my mind. I’m not sure I thought it would ever happen, let alone witness him become president or live a very very long life afterall. But let’s be real, I’m not sure I fully grasped all of it anyway. I was 15. And while it would be nice to say I was deeply engrossed in political conversation at every moment of every day while I lived in Africa, I was not. I was a privileged white American girl who got to escape to her lovely embassy-issue home after school and watch VHS tapes of MTV and Twin Peaks and drink soda and have sleep overs. I cared deeply, I really did. But… oh my God you guys, TWIN PEAKS. I was 15.

A couple years later, there were rumors. There was excitement and hope at school. Discussion, wonder, it could happen. I don’t know what the reason was but I was in Johannesburg with my family in February of 1990. I was in a fancy hotel downtown and our room was on the 30th floor. It was night, after dinner and I was probably willing my parents to evaporate on the spot while I lost myself in another Stephen King book. But suddenly it happened. The world exploded. I went to the window and looked out. With my forehead pressed flat against the cold, I peered down from my silent glass tower and watched the streets FILL entirely with joy and dancing and people, so many people. And then I could hear them through that thick, extra-paned, super fancy glass. I could hear them! It was true, Nelson Mandela had been released.

Sometime soon after that, Nelson Mandela came to our school. It was a surprise visit and I believe he came to see his grandson (a student there at the time). I secretly like to think he came to thank us for our writing, and learning, and singing so so loudly every week. I think he came on a Sunday. But guess what. I wasn’t there that day. Yep, back home, probably chomping on some newly shipped-over M&Ms and teasing my bangs and… oh my god you guys, TWIN PEAKS. Sigh. I cringe deeply now.

Nelson Mandela wasn’t my leader and he didn’t fight for me. The roulette wheel had spun and already offered me the privilege to chomp on M&Ms and watch TV without one damn care in the world. But he WAS my teacher. He snapped my hair-sprayed, peroxided little blond head to attention and taught me what I had and what others did not and that every single 14 year old girl had the right to NOT have one damn care in the world, no matter which way that roulette wheel turned. He taught me grace, humility and patience. He taught me the power of words. He taught me the power of faith and hope — his release was the first time I saw the truly impossible happen.

Nelson Mandela passed today. I deeply respect the enormous impact he played on this world, even on my humble little easy life in the midst of it all. I wrote a message on my art teacher’s Facebook page today (one of my all time favorite teachers now a world away, still back in Africa) and told her I wish I was there with her mourning this loss. She wrote back and said, “But you were there when he was released and we celebrated!”

I am proud that I witnessed such an important time of transition in southern Africa. I am so proud to have understood the enormous impact of Nelson Mandela’s release. And I am so proud to feel the pain of his loss today, even here in this little home, buried deep in Florida suburbia, so very far from the place where I was taught, the community that changed me and our teacher, Madiba, who has passed away today.

Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika!

Why I Voted For Obama

I guess I feel like it just needs to be said. No, I doubt very much that I will change any minds. So much of this country has already decided. But I still feel like I need to share why I am voting for Obama this year. Take it or leave it, really… but I voted last Thursday in Florida and now I am saying my piece here. After that? As my mother would say with a shrug of the shoulders, N’chala (an Arabic phrase that means “God willing”).

The Economy

Who are we kidding? Could any individual president have fixed this mess in four years? Nope. (No math wiz here but didn’t it take 8 years to screw it up?) Will either presidential candidate independently fix this mess? Ha. NOPE. That takes all of us, it means we ALL collectively need to be responsible and stop pointing fingers and looking out for ourselves above all else. I truly believe it will get better, it already is, but don’t you DARE kid yourself into thinking either guy has all the answers and it will or should change with the flip of a presidency.

Side bar: Taxes

WE NEED THEM. Don’t be greedy. Shut up and pay your fair share. Good grief.

Equal Rights

THIS is what is comes down to for me. Well, there is other stuff… sure. But THIS. I pick the guy who thinks women and men are equal. I pick the guy who believes any human being should have the right to love any other human being. Choosing the guy who DOESN’T would mean I care more about empty campaign promises than I care about my gay friends having equal rights. It’s really as simple as that. For me. My conscience is clear with my vote. And that’s that.

The Supreme Court

We have some supreme court justices who are likely to retire this coming presidential term. I know my beliefs. I know which rights I want to keep. I know I don’t want to see any delicate progress we’ve made slide dangerously backwards. As my husband says, I hope our next supreme court justice nominee has purple hair, a tattoo sleeve and a nose ring. Oh, I make generalizations, don’t I? But let’s get real, people. Do YOU see yourself represented in the supreme court? Just make sure that you do.

The Environment

Warm winters, blazing hot summers, melting ice caps, SANDY. Don’t even BEGIN to tell me you don’t think that global warming is for real. Is it. We need to deal with it. At the very least, we need to stop being so dependent on oil and oil companies and consider alternative energy sources. Yes, yes, there is so much controversy with what works best and what messes with things… but don’t throw in the towel and ignore it because it’s just more comfortable and convenient to do what you’ve always done. Getting comfortable and greedy is what screws us every time (see above under “economy”).


I didn’t trust Romney and his cardboard cut-out smile and un-smiling eyes when he was Governor of Massachusetts years ago. And I certainly do not trust him now. This man said that he couldn’t be bothered with 47% of this country. HE said that. Do I honestly trust that he is looking out for the middle class? Do I honestly trust that he will protect my rights as a woman? Do I honestly trust that he cares more about moving our country forward than protecting rich people’s money? No, no and NO. I do NOT trust that man. At all.

And there you have it for me. I feel better now. I got it off my chest. Again, I doubt very much that I have changed anyone’s mind. But it seems that NOW is the time to pull up my rickety little soapbox, get up on it and say my piece in this public space. Get up on yours. Let’s all have a holler about what we want and what we believe. Who knows, maybe we agree on more than we disagree and maybe, after Tuesday (and after a few wounds have been licked), we can get our asses in gear and come together. Maybe.

Here’s hoping.

We’re down to hours now, people. Make them count.

Standing Up To a Storm of Crazy

I’m looking out of my window right now, watching the first few light sprinkles of Hurricane Isaac begin. Folks aren’t expecting this storm to be as bad as it could be, but preparations are being made anyway. We have water, canned food, ice, batteries, a weather radio, board games at the ready, beer (hurricane party!) and our back porch cleared of projectiles.

While we anticipate this storm coming in, 50,000 GOP delegates are also arriving into Tampa for the RNC. Yep, 50,000 republicans are arriving into my little city while a hurricane gathers strength just south of here and city officials and security folks scramble, on high alert, madly shutting things down and battening down hatches and trying to make this place welcoming ALL at the same time.

How do I feel about all this?

I’m not from Tampa originally, but it has been my home for seven years. And right now I am feeling strangely over-protective of it.

I know. Florida gets a lot of crap for being… well… Florida. We are the butt of endless jokes. Some are deserved, many are not. I’m not sure what the hate is about, exactly. Every U.S. city and state has its nasty bits and its beautiful bits. But it’s as if Florida, almost like New Jersey, is allowed to be crapped on.

So, there’s that.

And Florida has had some tough times recently. Our Tea-party Governor’s approval rating is appalling (statistically, Lebron James actually fares better), funding for education has been drastically cut, empty homes are left everywhere, unemployment is a mess, on it goes… But we are trying to fight our way back and we’re seeing some good progress.

Now add 50,000 RNC delegates. And a hurricane.

Now cue MORE Florida jokes, GOP jokes and nation-wide cheers for destruction because that’s what they had coming to them. It’s FLORIDA, after all, with a bunch of republicans in it. HA HA!

Photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Times, Instagram.

Hey, I’m a democrat and I’m not super fond of what these folks stand for but, people, be nice. I even wrote a post about why I welcome this convention to our city. For crying out loud, our little city was just sitting here, hoping to host a party for one side of the political coin, trying to stake out a little spot in the national spotlight… and now all of THIS.

THIS could totally kick Tampa’s ass and give all those convention-goers a bad taste in their mouth when remembering their time here. And it could just keep the rest of the nation laughing at us and making more jokes and not taking Tampa seriously for anything. Because when you try to do something serious here, a hurricane will just wipe it out anyway. So, why bother.


Maybe the storm won’t be a big deal. Just a lot of wind and rain. Hopefully, it just makes for a good story and lots of good times and a whole bunch of hurricane parties. And the sun will come out… and everyone will cheer and see the good… and the damage won’t be so bad… and all will be well!

(My optimism = DENIAL.)

Yesterday, my family decided to spend our pre-storm time with some local beauty before it got crazy. We headed over to Clearwater Beach and took some pics in between periods of rainfall. It was beautiful. Because it IS beautiful here.


I got your back, Tampa. Hopefully some of our visitors — and those tuning in to watch this crazy — will, too. Now, pass the warm beer and flashlights!

*drizzle, drizzle. gentle breezes.*

Er. OK, just pass the warm beer, then.

Making Peace With Chicken Rage

Along with many of you, I’ve been in a cold sweat of chicken rage today. And I don’t like it. It’s not productive. It’s not good for me. It’s not solving a damn thing. So, in the midst of all this floured, battered and deep-fried intolerance, this is my way of reminding myself about what I CAN do.

  1. I CAN chose to eat where I want. Some of us buy local to support small business. Some us shop at a friend’s Etsy site to support her business. Some of us don’t buy food with high fructose corn syrup in it. We hand our money over where we choose to. I CAN control where my paycheck goes. I can’t control where our neighbor spends her money.
  2. I CAN teach my children about tolerance and acceptance. I can tell them how important love and respect is. I can tell them how lucky I am to have found and married their father. I can tell them that everyone deserves the same rights as us. I can tell them that love between two consenting adults is a beautiful, precious, spiritual and, at times, rare thing. Hold on and celebrate it when you find it.
  3. I CAN vote. I can write my representatives and tell them that I believe in same sex marriage and equal rights.
  4. I CAN reflect on the progress that has been made towards equal rights over the past decade. It’s something. Not enough… but it’s moving in the right direction.
  5. I CAN choose to listen and not cut myself off from diverse, open-minded conversation with people on both sides of the table–no matter how difficult it might be.
  6. I CAN walk away from angry, spiteful or offensive conversation. I don’t have to listen to that. Hate isn’t my deal, baby.
  7. I CAN think for myself.
  8. I CAN keep learning and never assume I know it all. (HARDLY.)
  9. I CAN be grateful for a country where I’m not arrested for my beliefs. (We’ve got work to do, though, I know.)
  10. I CAN come home, cuddle my kids on the couch and take comfort that some artery-clogging fast-food chicken chain isn’t going to change my beliefs or the millions of others who share my beliefs. And it’s not going to make gay American citizens, or their deserved rights (no, they won’t make us go backwards, they won’t)  just *poof* go away.

And, as my husband says: “Who the fuck puts a pickle on their chicken sandwich, anyway?”

Stop Speaking For Me

It seems all sorts of folks have been speaking on my behalf about a few things. And I am referring to myself in the general “just your average mom” kind of way. But as a typical, average mom who believes in equality, choice and, well, love (I know, sooooo feminist of me), these folks seem to have me wildly misinterpreted and misrepresented. And that’s not OK.

Let’s start with a group that subtly titles itself “One Million Moms.” (I’m not linking to them because I don’t want to. Go find them for yourself if you wish.) People look at that name, however, and say, “Oh hey, that’s a whole lot of moms! That must be every mom! Let’s hear what all these moms think.” Ok. Well, this group of a “million moms” has recently waged war against JC Penney. Why? Here’s why:

“Recently JC Penney announced that comedian Ellen Degeneres will be the company’s new spokesperson. Funny that JC Penney thinks hiring an open homosexual spokesperson will help their business when most of their customers are traditional families… By jumping on the pro-gay bandwagon, JC Penney is attempting to gain a new target market and in the process will lose customers with traditional values that have been faithful to them over all these years.”

Wait a second. I’m a traditional family. I mean, I have kids and a mortgage and I want them raised to be nice, lawful people. So, JC Penney is going to LOSE customers with these values because their new spokeswoman is a woman who loves another woman?

Nope. Stop speaking for me.

And stop speaking for so many other moms and bloggers. Thankfully, bloggers and mothers never let things lie. We listen, and share, spread awareness and, most importantly, shop at JC Penney. And we take pictures of our shopping. And spread them all over the internets.

This ragtag collection of one million moms need to check their hate and get the hell off my lawn. My values are about equality and love and I’d like to think those values are pretty damn traditional in a certain “What Would Jesus Do” kind of way.

But wait, there’s more.

I choose to use birth control. Funniest thing, that. If I don’t, I get pregnant. I’ve tried it, twice. So, I know I cannot afford to pull the goalie because we can’t feed more mouths, we need me working and, dammit, I’m getting kind of old for that stuff. Deciding to provide for my family is far more productive than reproduction — but apparently this is questionable.

Oh yes.

One of the current GOP candidates running for President (of the United States, yep, the whole country), Santorum,  has said this:

“One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.’ It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”


And people are supporting him. Like this bozo, Santorum’s billionaire backer, who actually informed us that:

“Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”

Yep. He said that.

People are bringing Santorum’s views on contraception up, why? Because our President thought that maybe women might need some help affording birth control. You know, since healthcare is kind of expensive? And because poor women are more than 3 times as likely as middle class women to have an unintentional pregnancy due to birth control costs. So, every woman has the same rights as I do to choose NOT to have babies and go back to work, right?

Ask the GOP. They are scratching their heads and aren’t really sure how to respond. And democratic folks on Capitol Hill like Senator Boxer are left reminding us that “This is the 21st Century.” And:

“Ninety-nine percent of women, including 98 percent of Catholic women have used birth control. And 77 percent of Catholic women voters support requiring insurance plans to cover contraception for free.”

What’s the problem here?

Well, did you see what Congressman Issa decided to do today? He called a panel of men (yes, men) to to discuss the possibility that religious views might actually trump women’s health.

Men are talking about this.

Who care more about their gods and fathers than whether or not their wives have the right to choose when they want to have a family. Or go back to work. Or help pick their families up out of the financial hole this country dug us all into.

These guys HAVE to stop speaking for me.

Because none of this is about equality or choice.

And I’m in the middle of my own local school politics war about a potential 4 day school week in my county. An “impartial” task force was formed to discuss the possibility. At last night’s meeting, it seems this group is speaking for me, too. They seem quite ready to neatly — and fairly quietly — nudge this option along and sweep the deficit under the carpet by taking away my children’s school time.

Oh you guys had better stop speaking for me. AND my children.

I’m all kinds of fed up. Because people are speaking for me and treating my values — equality, choice and love — as if they were outrageous, anti-family values, and something that actually needs fixing.

Our political leaders speak for all of us. Because we hired them and we put them there. Write your congressperson, make noise and take this opportunity to speak for yourself before we’re left with a bottle of Bayer aspirin and so many fewer rights than we thought we had in (what century? Oh that’s right, the 21st, thanks Senator) the first place.

This Florida School Supply Tax Break is a Joke

Behold the bounty of our school supply shopping escapades.

And this doesn’t include the pile of clothes and underpants that we bought either.

It was a tax-free weekend for school supplies here in Florida. And, since school starts in two weeks, we figured we would take advantage.

But even after so very much money spent (tax-free = throngs of shoppers out and about = price inflation, just saying), somehow it doesn’t seem like enough.

It seems so ironic, you know? A tax-free holiday offered to residents to get geared up for a year ahead at public schools that are barely intact after our governor decided to cut more than $2 billion dollars from education. Why? He doesn’t want to — GOD FORBID — raise taxes. Schools in Florida will have $700 less per student than they did before. Because, you know, their cups were just running over with spending surplus in years prior…

Ask a Florida teacher how much he or she made last year. Ask a Florida teacher how much he or she makes this year.

The education cups have never run over here. Never. And the only reason we have teachers still teaching at our schools is, well, because they don’t have much of a choice but to take the cut. Or, they are just awesome men and women who care too much about their kids to bail out and try for something else. Or maybe they aren’t teaching at all anymore, because they were fired due to these “tax-saving” budget cuts.

I’ve heard rumors of 4 day weeks. We got letters home about “many changes” expected in the coming year and to “please be understanding” as they adjust to drastic budget cuts.

So, looking over at this pile of expensive school supplies doesn’t really feel so great. Because I think we should be giving so much more. Something is very wrong with our system when cutting back on education to save a buck in our paychecks is morally acceptable.

My husband and I are hardly rolling in it. We’re upside down on our home thanks to an already shaky Florida economy. We have stacks of bills and 10 year old appliances kicking out on us just like everyone else. But if it would help our schools to buy this stack of school supplies once a month, I would.

But somehow I don’t think a monthly drop-off off clorox wipes and reams of paper will solve our budget problems.

So this tax-free weekend I don’t feel like we saved anything at all, really. I’m just afraid we’ve lost too much already.

Becoming a Mother of Intention

There was a time when I was a mom home with babies, and all sorts of ideas and thoughts about the world were rolling around in my head. But I had no where to go with these thoughts. No one to share them with. No community for a thinking mom. Just diapers to change and baby vomit to wipe off the floor. And such is parenting. There would be time for thinking later.

Jump ahead to the year 2008. I was a very new blogger. I had just discovered (and started stalking) all sorts of mom bloggers and political bloggers and – gasp – political mom bloggers. One in particular rose to the top. Her name was Joanne, otherwise known online as Pundit Mom. And when she wrote, I just… got it.

That summer fate stepped in and determined my path as a blogger I very randomly won a contest through BlogHer to go to the BlogHer conference in San Francisco. It was my first overnight away from my children and I arrived there wide-eyed and ready to stalk myself some amazing bloggers. I listened intently to Lesbian Dad on a panel and pushed my way to the front to meet her. I fell off my seat laughing, tackled, and forced an introduction on Deb on the Rocks. I cried listening to and (via a couple glasses of wine) jumped in front of Moosh In Indy to tell her that she was so F-ing brave. And then, it happened. The last morning, at breakfast, Pundit Mom happened to sit down at my table. We introduced ourselves. She gave me a pin with her logo on it. Oh. My hero. That conference had officially been made.

Since then I have come to realize the power of the internet and the many super amazing smart women who live there. Pundit Mom and the Momocrats and various writers at BlogHer gave moms like me at home with their babies access to real politics happening in the moment. Before heading onto CNN to debate some topic or another, Joanne would tweet and ask what questions we had for the panel. The Momocrats would ask their readers what questions we had for Hillary Clinton before heading into a press conference. Moms, just like me with no way to be where they were, had access. And a voice.

And, since that morning over a bagel, my friendship with Joanne has grown. More conferences came. More conversations over meals. More shared ideas and ideals. More smart women, both online and off. She had a book she was writing, she said. I was thrilled for her. Could she use one of my blog posts? Oh my goodness, of course.

Honored is not even enough of a word to describe how I felt.

Joanne’s book has recently been published and in it she describes the extraordinarily influential political space women are carving out for themselves through social media, preconceived notions of women and mothering be damned. And she does it with the help of an incredible network of women she calls “Mothers of Intention”. Mothers, like me, who are not official political experts but actually, whoda thunk it, HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY.

This morning I opened up a PDF file from Joanne. It was the final draft of the book. My hard copy was in the mail. And there I was, amoungst these unbelievable women whom I have looked to as my conduit for change and voice and action for years. I am only one voice amongst so so many. But, once again, SHE MADE MY VOICE COUNT.

Do you see what this must mean to me? She changed my perception of motherhood. I, like a crazy woman, thought parenting meant my ideas and ability should be back-burnered. I thought you can’t parent AND think. She switched that all around and made me realize that, as a parent, I had a unique and important perspective. I had the same concerns as many mothers and we should pick them up and put them out there and get them heard, dammit. We are raising this country and that actually matters. She spelled it out quite clearly to me that mothers are kind of a big deal, even way over on Capitol Hill.

So. The book is in the mail. And I’ll be back here, of course, to freak out about it some more when I have resting here next to my laptop. Until then, check it out on Amazon. And, of course, you know… buy it. And maybe find your inner Mother of Intention. She’s in there. I swear she is.

Now What?

Written in haste during my lunch break:

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can drive out hate: only love can do that.”–Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I’ve seen that post up on Facebook a lot recently. And it feels about right. Because I’m not sure what I think about Osama’s death right now.

Yes, of course, I’m glad he can’t carry out any further injustices. What he did to our country isn’t forgivable. And I understand that his death was inevitable.

But I’m not sure where it leaves us.

His death doesn’t bring back the thousands of lives lost. However, his death symbolizes some sort of victory, some sort of exacted revenge that we apparently deserve in exchange for those lives. Whether he’s been an active Al Qaeda leader recently or not. He was the big boss then. So he needed to go.

That said, whether or not he’s been an active Al Qaeda leader recently or not, his death is most likely equally symbolic to that faction. And his death could mean that we deserve some sort of revenge for taking his life too.

This evil man. Who may or may not have had any power over the last few years. Whose been hanging out in some suburb in Pakistan. Who we blew away for committing horrendous acts a decade ago. His death may or may not signal the start of something new and equally horrendous.

Symbolic gesture for symbolic gesture.

So now what.

When Obama announced his death, he looked grave and focused. He wasn’t in the same partying mood those outside the White House gates were.

I get why those people were partying. I do.

But I just don’t feel like partying. I don’t feel much better about 9/11 either. And I don’t feel any real resolution. I just feel kind of grave and focused too.

Because. Now what.

Back to remaining vigilant I guess.

Which, like freedom, is kind of a permanent American state of mind now I suppose.

RIP Geraldine Ferraro

Geraldine Ferraro ran for Vice President when I was in 6th grade. And I shocked my father by flaunting my sudden budding liberal tendencies by wearing a Mondale-Ferraro button around school that year.

Thanks to Geraldine Ferraro, I was brought up assuming a woman could eventually be president someday. She made that possibility real. She opened my eyes to women vying for positions in male dominated fields. She unveiled inequity while she stepped forward to dismantle it.

She seemed so smart to me, so fearless, so “who cares if no women have done this before, I’ve got some issues that need addressing”.

Thanks Ms. Ferraro for being the example that you were for me at eleven years old. Your candidacy was my first ever feminist agenda. And your example will remain until a woman  is finally sworn into the presidency. Your years of public service have changed the the face of politics. Thank you and rest in peace.

Finding Encouragement

I felt pretty discouraged when I hit “publish” on my post yesterday. To sum it up, I said something to the effect of: We live in a free world full of self-serving politicians and ratings hungry journalists and crazies and egocentric maniacs that want to tear us down and its up to us to be nice to each other and make it right if we want it right. But when I hit publish I wasn’t exactly sure that anyone really wanted to make anything right.

Last night, I was curled up ready to listen to the President’s speech when I got a phone call and missed the whole thing. So a few minutes ago I went back and reread it.


It’s like he read some of my post and spoke directly to my concerns. I suppose that’s his job, to address what people are worried about. But (and check out this new feeling that I haven’t felt recently) I felt encouraged. He said some really, really good things.

Granted, people actually have to take them to heart, of course.


So anyway, with what few remaining bits of hope I have left hanging in the wind here, I thought I would quote the parts that encouraged me most. Because at least someone gets it. And I’m just glad that person is my President.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.

After all, that’s what most of us do when we lose someone in our family – especially if the loss is unexpected. We’re shaken from our routines, and forced to look inward. We reflect on the past. Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder. Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices they made for us? Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in awhile but every single day?

So sudden loss causes us to look backward – but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us. We may ask ourselves if we’ve shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives. Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order. We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others.

If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.

I believe we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved lives here – they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.

– President Obama, Tucson, January 12, 2011