Monthly Archives: June 2017

Our National Shame

Today I watched the chilling dash cam video of the Philandro Castile shooting.   I will be haunted for a long time by the image of his girlfriend’s young daughter slowly emerging from that car after seeing Philandro shot 7 times.  He was shot as he reached into his pocket to retrieve his driver’s license, per the police officer’s request.  While he was en route to the hospital, where he would die of his injuries; his girlfriend was (unbelievably) put into handcuffs and held in the back of a squad car.

Last week the jury acquitted the police officer, just as juries have acquitted a long sequence of police officers  for killing black men  and women.  But, This happened in Minnesota, not Missouri or Alabama. Minnesota for god’s sake.  It makes me ashamed.

Black. Lives. Matter.  As a white woman, I hesitate to co-opt that phrase; but I do so respectfully, to make the point that we are all diminished when men like Philandro Castile are executed for what appears to be ‘the crime’ of being black in America.  The history of race in America is incredibly complex–but there can be no doubt that implicit bias is alive and well in every state of the union, not ‘just’ the south.

Black and brown mothers and fathers all over American face the challenge of sitting their children down to have THE talk; a talk I didn’t need to have with MY children; THE talk about being deferential to the police at all times–how to speak (politely) and how to move (slowly); knowing the likelihood of a brown or black child being stopped and questioned is much higher than that of their white friends; and knowing that sometimes, even if their child does nothing wrong, the result can still be tragic.

Racism in America is one of our greatest national shames, manifesting itself in large and small ways in the pattern of our lives.  I see it at work, with a striking imbalance between the demographics of our technical teams and the all-white faces at the leadership level.  My home state of Wisconsin has one of the biggest (if not the biggest) gaps in high school graduation between black and white students.

In her excellent book, The New Jim Crow,  Michelle Alexander demonstrates that, by targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. This effectively strips the right to vote from a large percentage of African Americans, who have been convicted of even minor drug charges.

I had hoped that having a black president for 8 years would have made a difference, but I was naive. Our current administration is a backlash –from those who felt threatened and disenfranchised by that very hope.  Make America Great Again is a thinly veiled slogan for white supremacy, contributing to a culture of white entitlement and acceptance of violence against minorities.

America cannot be truly great unless and until we address the blight of racism.

Summer Inspiration

Summer is here in full force and I have the mosquito bites to prove it. (I seem to get tastier as I get older.)  June brings transitions as schools let out and schedules shift into summer mode.  For me, June means  outdoor music, outdoor tennis, and the Project Mar:a Art jam.

My USTA tennis team is in full swing (pun intended) and we’ve already had several matches.  We were short-staffed last week, and our captain was desperate enough to put me in on the singles court against a much younger opponent.  Gak – I had my misgivings, but was willing to give it a go.  We ended up having a great match, and after two plus  sweaty hours, I managed to eke out a close victory .  We were the last ones on the court, and our match was the decider among the teams.  Good thing i didn’t know that at the time!

Saturday night was an art jam  sponsored by Project Mar:a.  The use of the semicolon instead of an ‘i’ is intentional.  The Semicolon has become a symbol of a movement dedicated to presenting hope and love to those struggling with a variety of mental illnesses.  “A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to.  The author is you and the sentence is your life”  (from Project Semicolon)

The featured speaker was Dawn Smith-Theodore, author of “Tutu Thin” who spoke of her own struggles, and the pervasiveness of eating disorders among dancers.  There were some local performers and speakers, including myself–I spoke of my experiences as a mother and as an eating disorder advocate.

I was pleasantly surprised.  I had gone to the art jam last year, and it was a nice, but very small-scale affair.  This year, they used the High School stage for several performances, and had about 50ish people in attendance.  It  has been several decades since I was on a High School stage, and I had to fight the temptation to break into a song from Fiddler on the Roof.

After my speech, a lovely young woman approached me in tears, and asked for my phone number.  She’s been struggling for 15 years with anorexia and she wanted to give my number to her mom — so her mom could have someone who ‘understands’ to talk with.  We chatted a bit, and hugged.  You just never know what people are going through.

While I was at the art jam, Dan went to a live rock concert downtown – where he ran into several friends.  All in all, we both had great evenings.

 

 

Lordy, I hope there are tapes

We are living in surreal times, where truth is treated as a variable and negotiable commodity. The D is unable to distinguish between what he believes (and wishes) to be true, and what is factually and historically accurate.  Unfortunately, his version of the truth is given credence by the gravitas of his position,  and by sheer hubris.  Our communication landscape is shifting:  He that dominates the conversation tends to be most effective, regardless of logic or facts.

I recently read an excellent  VOX Post that posits that the problem is NOT that Trump is lying (although he is); but that he is crowding out the truth by dominating and driving the conversation.   The article explains that liars try to replace the truth, which is hard; whereas bullshitters have the easier task of drawing so much attention to themselves that the truth becomes a backstory.  The media is forced to focus on the bullshit, and the truth is drowned out.  

This rings true, and is dismaying for those of us that grew up with a certain sense of fairness and justice– that working hard, doing your homework and being ‘right’ matters.  Today, the bullies are in control , and we  seem to have shifted to a new level of intellectual laziness from which we may never recover.  We hear and heed the loudest  and most belligerent voices: voices that drown out those of the more well-informed nerds, scientists and rule-followers, who have done their homework and anchor their arguments to facts.

This shift of attention from facts to belligerent bullshit is particularly detrimental  and disenfranchising to women.  It is virtually impossible for a woman to be assertive, let alone dominate a conversation, without being shut down and/or tagged with any one of the many derogatory labels we have for strong women (relatively kind examples are ‘bossy’, ‘nasty’ or ‘unlikable’).   Nevertheless, we persist.

Most schools have a no-tolerance approach to bullying, but those policies aren’t effective if the principal is the biggest bully on campus.  It begs the question: How do we wrestle the microphone away from the bully-in-chief?

Even if the White House DOES turn over tapes of The D’s conversations in the Oval Office; and even if those tapes paint him as a huge liar – will it matter?  Lordy, I hope so. 

A New Venture

A few months ago I wrote that we have an empty nest.  Having a 16.5 year gap between my oldest and youngest child has resulted in a longer-than-usual child rearing time-frame.  Daughter #2, aka Guzzy, moved out last October, and has not (yet) returned.

So – we did the logical thing, and rented out her room.  We dipped our toes slowly into the AirBnB waters… and now we regularly host a variety of guests who temporarily share our rustic (with A/C and other amenities) log home in the woods.   There is a young couple ‘napping’ (or whatever) in the room even as I write this.

It has been really interesting.  In the few months since we’ve been renting the room, we’ve hosted people from many states and countries of various races and multiple generations.  This experience has turned our home into a mini melting pot.

A few weeks ago we hosted a charming young man and his mom, on her very first visit to the States from China,  to see him graduate from the UW.  She spoke no English, yet her pride was obvious and it was endearing to see the young man dote on his mom.

Early one Saturday morning, we had a young and adorable Asian couple in residence.  After returning from taking Cleo from a walk, I heard a surprised squeal from the bedroom–the cause of which was immediately apparent.  Cleo had interpreted the sightly ajar bedroom door as an invitation to go in and ‘nose’ the young woman awake.  I sheepishly retrieved our overly friendly hound and shut their door firmly behind me.    Most of our guests really enjoy Cleo–but this couple did not appreciate her early wake-up call.

Another interesting couple spent several days with us exploring the area.  They live continents apart from each other;  but they regularly meet up at various locations in the US to explore together.   He was a talker!   We’ve had a model stay with us while she had a photo shoot in town (she was absolutely lovely — her legs came up to my armpits) and a surprising number of people stay with us for a one night stop-over in their travels.

Dan is an amazing host, and is generally more engaging with the guests than I am.  I tend to show them the basics and then retreat into areas of the house that are off limits to our guests, such as our den, which is where I am now.  We try to give our guests space, even as we share a space; and some prefer more conversation than others.  Dan tends to be more gregarious than me, and (unlike myself) he has the amazing ability to stay awake after 9:30 pm;  whereas, I am better suited for early morning conversation and engagement.

The extra cleaning and laundry is a bit of a hassle though.  Last night Guzzy spent the  night – but she had to sleep on the couch, because I had already prepped the room/bed for tonight’s guests. Of course, she is always welcome here — but she just might need to make a reservation ahead of time if she wants to stay in her (former) bedroom.