Hate Unchallenged is Hate Allowed

Posted on December 1, 2016

I was trucking along for a while there, reading posts, writing some of my own, commiserating in private groups, but then it became too much. There was a local story about a rainbow Mickey Mouse being ripped from a car antenna and being replaced with a hastily scrawled, “Fuck You Mickey faggot” on a napkin. A comment left on the FB thread, “Get over it, it’s a piece of paper.” I absorbed countless similarly worded comments directed toward people who had fear or sadness over what has felt like a surge in publicly communicated hate. “Why do you even care? It’s not your fight!” Sometimes a rant gets interrupted by heartbreak.

 

I got tired of playing whack-a-mole on Twitter with assertions people make that racism isn’t real, that pussy grabbing isn’t a problem, or that this person’s crime was not as bad as that person’s. I’m lucky because I don’t have outwardly visible things that spur hate. I’m not black, not gay, not potentially an immigrant, not non-binary, not poor. I’m a woman, and while there are things I identify as significant threats to my autonomy and my daughters’ futures, I’m not getting crap scratched on my car or spray painted on my home.

 

I’m also not perfect, none of us are. I wish we could hold on to that, maybe if we didn’t think that everyone thought they were perfect we wouldn’t lunge at them so hard for what they were feeling or thinking, or for how we are different. Unfortunately my wishes aren’t going to get me anywhere, just as our silent beliefs won’t change anything. The thing I’ve realized is sometimes it seems like it isn’t our fight, but in the end it all is. The line I wrote about all the things I’m not and the types of hate I don’t get hit with? It’s what positions me to be a champion for them.

 

I don’t have cement weights on my feet. When we have opportunities to help those who are being bullied, attacked, misrepresented or ignored, I think we ought to take them. I’ve thought a lot about this because for the first time hate really knocked on our door. The girls have received more taunts for having gay family members since the election. Actually, it heated up as kids became more vocal about supporting Trump and calling out the things (people) that aren’t great. I found myself not wanting to force the girls to fight that fight, not because I don’t care, but because I don’t trust the crowd mentality of kids on a bus.

 

I’ve been ashamed that I wanted to help them avoid it, but I think there are times when we need to call on others to help share the weight. I teach the girls about equality and love and tolerance, but I need other people to be in on it too. As parents I think we have a job to work to eliminate hate. I don’t think it’s impossible, but it will take work.

 

. . .

 

“Mom, can I talk to you?” my ten year old asked. It was 7am, not a time that she usually strikes up conversation or offers insight into her complicated emotions.

 

“Of course, what’s up?” I asked as I continued making lunches.

 

“Well, I’ve been thinking about Grandparents’ Breakfast and it’s just…” she trailed off.

 

I looked up from the sandwiches, “It’s what?” I braced for a criticism of not having sent the permission slip and money in yet.

 

She took a deep breath, “I just hope that only Nana or only Jeannie comes. I mean I want them both, but it’s going to mean trouble on the bus if they’re both there. I know I shouldn’t feel that way and it’s not a big deal, I just…” she shrugged and looked at me with tears in her eyes. “They gang up on us.”

 

Nana and Ciocci Jeannie; they have been a package deal since before the girls were born, but they only married a few years ago. Sean and I had a conversation with the girls about how kids at school might take the news. I remember how awful it felt to suggest that they be careful with their excitement, to guard their hearts because some people don’t think like our family. Here we are again.

 

“No, I get it. It is a big deal. You don’t have to feel bad that you are worried about it,” I said. It was the first brush our family has had with hate creating fear, which leads to shame over something for which before there had been no shame.

 

“It’s just that on the bus and whenever I talk about them at school, kids, certain kids are like, ‘Ooh, what do you mean? That’s sick. Weird. You mean they are gay? Your family is gay?’ It’s not everyone and I don’t want you to say anything, just a part of me hopes I don’t have to deal with them—the kids, not Nana and Jeannie.”

 

“I know what you mean, babe,” I said quietly. I walked over and we hugged, she wept into my shirt. Finley, my eight year old, and I had a similar conversation. She is a strong-willed, opinionated girl who has a concrete grasp on right and wrong. Yet when it comes to the ridicule and attack regarding her gay relatives, she can’t do it.

 

“Mom, would it hurt their feelings if I only asked one to come? Kids don’t understand and they say stuff that makes me uncomfortable. I know Nana and Jeannie, but I don’t want the kids to be mean. I don’t think they’d do it when they are there, but when it happens I don’t know how to say it’s ok, that they just love each other and I love them. Kids don’t believe me.”

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I feel legitimate rage that other people’s hate and lack of compassion is making my kids feel fear and shame. I’m angry that my best answer was avoidance. I don’t know where the line is between helping my kids have the resources to engage and keeping them safe because the parents of other kids aren’t doing the same work. My eldest, Briar, has intervened on the bus when kids have fat-shamed a classmate, Avery spoke out against Trump, unflappable in her support of Hillary Clinton, and Finley sits with a girl to keep her from the teasing of other kids. This one thing though, it’s seems too personal and too fraught with judgment for them to manage, but it was supposed to be an easy, feel-good thing.

 

I am woefully without an answer, actively doubting my decision to share the girls’ worries with Nana and Jeannie. Seeing their responses of tears and resolute commitment to protecting the girls and indeed only having one attend made me feel complicit in the hate.

 

Bullies don’t just appear in schools as we know.

We won’t allow her pain to continue, and therefore won’t attend the breakfasts together.

Trying to blink the tears away so I can see to drive home

 

 

When Briar and Sean sang Marry Me for the ceremony, out in the open with family and friends in attendance, we were in the clear. I really thought that when same sex marriage passed we were done with judgment. I was not prepared, privileged as I am being a straight, white, college-educated white woman, for the audacity of hate that would bear down upon us in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory.

 

I find the struggle between parent, woman, and human being leaving me conflicted. Balancing the fight for better, the defense of safety, the value of compassion, and the pervasiveness of closed minds has me stumped. I tried to protect my kids and I hurt our family, all because we cannot even enjoy dry pastries and holiday songs in kiddy seats in a cafeteria anymore because there is no pause button for hate.

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Two breakfasts, one grandparent at each. This is a loss for all of us and it is rooted in the campaign of hate, which didn’t end on election day; it began.

 

*Ciocci Jeannie works at Target. Please support Target as they honor all genders with their bathroom policy. Also, buy Kellogg’s products.

So Here We Are

Posted on November 17, 2016

I never felt without a doubt that Hillary Clinton would win. I certainly hoped, but I never took for granted that it was a done deal. I kind of wish I had, just so I could have enjoyed for a time the certainty that she would win and that we would have her at the helm. I feel cheated and bereft, tempted to stop caring almost as much as I am determined to stay engaged.

I think the judgement about how it happened, what needs to happen, and who was responsible is exhausting. I try to look at it in a positive light, “Hey, ok, so everyone seems to care about things now,” but that isn’t true. A film has been peeled away and what’s behind is a near wasteland of hate, despair, and simply not listening. I’m guilty of it myself. I really don’t want to hear why it was Clinton’s fault that she lost or why the votes for Donald Trump somehow slip past racism and misogyny and shimmer as faultless votes for a non-establishment guy.

I get it, we all had different reasons. I’ve stayed quiet here, mostly licking my wounds and focusing on how to navigate this new world. Because no matter who you voted for, there has to be some sort of acknowledgement that there is a more robust appearance of hate graffiti and race-fueled violent encounters. Or maybe there doesn’t.

My heart is broken and my spirit is weary. We went for a mountain biking adventure with the girls on some trails in Vermont. Along the way we happened upon a bird’s nest that had fallen to the ground.

“Mom, please can we keep it?” Finley asked. I said yes and agreed to carry it so she wouldn’t crumple it in her hands as she rode. Briar called to us from a stretch up the mountain from us, “You guys, a skull!” We were all intrigued, but missed it until we circled back. I held the nest in the palm of my hand and walked over to the animal skull that was perched on a broken branch on a stump.

 

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It felt eerie to hold a place where life began in one hand and press my face toward a creature that no longer lived. It felt remarkably like how living in a post election world where Hillary Clinton continues to advocate for a unified country and President-elct Trump continues to offer up names for his Cabinet that indicate a future fraught with separation, division, and hate has felt.

I need to keep my palm open, keep my hope safe like that little nest, because it takes safe places to nurture new life.

 

 

 

Tuesday Isn’t the End

Posted on November 6, 2016

I have been writing online since 2003. When I go back to what I wrote in the early days I sometimes cringe, but I also have compassion for who I was and where I was. If we are really all works in progress, then to improve we have to have times, experiences, actions that weren’t the best—they, and we, could be improved.

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Last year I began writing with less restraint about feminism. I left the fear of judgement behind and allowed myself to put out anything that on my deathbed I would have wanted to say. Sometimes it left me feeling naked and nervous. Did I go too far? I would wonder, but then and now I feel that going too far is better than not going far enough. I did make concessions to my comfort, the post I wrote from Cape Cod when Todd Akin said what he did about women’s bodies and rape used to be linked in the sidebar. I removed that. The post is still live and I sometimes link to it, but I wasn’t comfortable with it staying above the fold in my online space.  I have posted unflattering images of myself, talked about my anger about how women are treated in the workplace. I’ve written and will continue to write about the different standards, expectations, and credibility for boys and girls in this country.

I try not to be mean. I don’t say that all people belonging to a party or a belief system are idiots or morons. During the debates I was vicious toward some of the things candidates were saying, but I think I managed to focus on the issues, rather than looks or zingers for the sake of zingers.

I appreciate that not everyone wants to talk politics online and I respect that, just as I believe that I have the right to post, comment, or share the ideas that are important to me. Today, tomorrow, the next day, and quite honestly, for the fours years that follow, I think I’ll still feel the need to do it. Election day is not the end, it’s another starting point. I realize now, seeing how close Donald Trump is the the presidency, there is more I can be doing.

Stay woke,” have you heard the phrase? Yesterday I wrote about vocabulary that can immediately color conversations because the words are linked with certain beliefs. I don’t think that they are radical words, unfortunately the concepts have been so ignored that they seem fringe. I’m not sure I could comfortably say “stay woke” without feeling like an imposter, but I want to live up to the term. I want to be more than aware, I want to be invested and active.

Last night I received two different messages, one asked for me to help in a decision between Jill Stein and Hillary Clinton, the other was an acknowledgement that how I have carried myself has made a difference. I responded to the Stein/Clinton question on FB where it was asked. I was less comfortable than I am when I write here. I don’t want to force my views on people, I want to have them, write about them, and make them available to people. Some will choose to unfollow me or call me an idiot. Others engage, send me private notes that they agree, or say nothing at all. Do I hope that more people come to my way of thinking? Honestly, yes, but on their own sustainable terms.

I am sharing the note with the permission of its author. I don’t do this to suggest that all people should think like this, it’s genuinely a reminder to anyone out there that what we say and how we say it can have an impact.

 

Hello there (I’m Ashley’s friend I hope you remember me!), I’ve been thinking a lot about my political actions over the last election cycle and the things I’ve learned in retrospect…I need to thank you again. You allowed me to sit in your home, share my ideas with you and your husband…even though we were supporting different candidates for the democratic primary, and you helped me better myself in my own journey through politics this year with that kick ass poster you guys made for me…

And here comes the retrospect part…now seeing the damage and potential harm third parties could have on this election, you were still an amazing person to me.

I see now that when you supported Hillary back in February (or January when we first met) that you were the true progressive…I thought Bernie was the answer, and when he wasn’t for the democrats I joined the rest of my generation supporting 3rd party candidates…proving that millennials aren’t happy unless they get what they want when they want it…

The true progressive fights the long fight, the war is not won with one battle…stronger together…finally all this got to me and made me realize that Hillary is the true progressive for America right now.

I’m ranting, I just wanted to say thank you for treating me as a voice that mattered when you could have spurned me for not realizing the truth from the get go…thank you again for the poster that started my own little journey, and thanks for being such a breath of fresh air on FB in the sea of hate I see in my news feed lately.

 

 

Country, Not Candidates.

Posted on November 4, 2016

This morning I woke up to read the story about Harvard immediately canceling the remainder of the men’s soccer team season as the result of a revelation of ongoing sexual harassment. It is a bold and unequivocal move, penalizing some who may not have participated. Or did they? Is not speaking up complicity? Was it only the soccer team or is it more prevalent as one female soccer player said? This behavior is unfortunately new, what is new is the effort to address.

I have been grateful for Kirsten Gillibrand here in New York who has worked on how sexual assaults on college campuses and in the military are handled. You don’t have to look very hard to find the accounts of women who bravely strode up to police stations and campus offices to report a rape only to be told they were less victim than they were cause.

 

The last couple of years have brought up a lot of unfamiliar vocabulary that some people refuse to embrace. It’s hard, I get it, embarrassing even. As I parent I have to go back and relive some of the decisions I made, I am not proud of all of them, but they are a part of who I am, who I have been, and who I can work toward becoming. The truth is some of these words and phrases are hard for me to use precisely for the way I know certain people feel about them.

 

What I’d like to do is offer places to go and read about them. You can do it privately, you can disagree, you can process, whatever it takes. What happened at Harvard and what happens at colleges and conferences all across the country is a part of why we need to acknowledge these words.

Feminism

Rape Culture also see here

Privilege

Trigger

Cultural Appropriation

Ally

Intersectionality

Macroaggressions

Micoraggrressions

Systemic Racism

Narrative

Gendered

I’ve even struggled with posting the Hillary 2016 bumper stickers I have. We have them displayed at home, I have tweeted the hashtag #ImWithHer , but even as I finally put the bumper sticker in the window of my car two days ago, I have feared what people would think or do.

Then I saw this:

 

 

I am very comfortable saying that I am not him and furthermore that I do not want to contribute to a world that encourages, even silently, people like him.

I want to be like Harvard.

Brooklyn Community Foundation

Mila Kunis

Jen Hatmaker 

This means that all these words that make us uncomfortable need to get normalized so that we can truly see what we are supporting. Donald Trump will lose his cool, he will continue to rewrite the rules, evade the truth, make rash decisions, and take women’s rights and racial issues back decades. Hillary Clinton has demonstrated a commitment to public service, expertise in conflict resolution, listening, and maintaining superhuman calm in the face of attacks, lies, and the general drag that being a politician in America has.  Donald Trump is full of hate and rage, but this isn’t about candidates, it is about our country and the people in it—all of us. We need to look toward what the person voted into office will do to/for our country in 2017. Tax breaks mean nothing if the environment is ignored. Immigration means nothing if our foreign relations become weak. Homelessness, poverty, and mental health issues can never get the support they need if the richest among us continue to leverage every loophole to keep their wealth and blame people for their circumstances. Eliminating abortion access will not save babies, it will kill mothers. Double standards on the law, sexism, intelligence, and credibility will leave us with a lemon. Voting for a third-party candidate in this race or writing in a name will not help the broken system we have now.

 

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Thanks, Jessica Shyba!

 

 

We need to avoid a 2017 with a commander-in-chief who does not put the country and the individuals in it first. We need to care enough to vote. We need to continue to care in 2017 with local elections. Let us build up third-party candidates and demand more of those representing the two major parties.

We all contributed to getting us where we are today, but we can also work together to change our course. We can be more than great, we can be a United States of America.

 

 

 

 

 

From the first breath

Posted on November 3, 2016

I remember the way it felt when the ultrasound tech put the gel on my belly. I was not yet accustomed to the frequency and casual way that I would be expected to undress. Looking back I realize it was good preparation for a kind of naked vulnerability that never goes away once you are a parent. Fear, hope, longing to make things right and have everyone happy, it strips you bare.

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This year I had to get an inhaler, my stress levels make it hard for me to breathe. It’s funny because all my life I’ve been so strong and healthy, and it’s literally my insistence to do it all that I cannot breathe. You’d think that would knock me into better behavior, but it doesn’t. I carry an inhaler, but the truth is it doesn’t make me breathe any easier. When Avery got sick earlier this year she had to use a nebulizer. It was my first dance with treatment or medication being a part of our daily routine. Even as it helped her breathe, it felt like a failure. Then they prescribed an inhaler—one for school and one for home, “For when I can’t breathe,” she said with a serious face.

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Last week when I was in Chicago (Yay Cubs!) Sean took Finley to the doctor. The night before I left she’d said, “Mom, sometimes my heart hurts me when it beats. Does that happen to you?” I tried to keep panic at bay, there I was, defenseless from fear; naked. I knew shortness of breath was a moment away, just breathe. Ha!

Sean called me in Chicago to tell me that the doctors found nothing wrong with her heart, “Maybe we check her for asthma is what they told me,” he said.  I find myself struggling to breathe even as I type this. Air is essential for all of us. When it comes to my girls, I can’t bear the idea of their breathing being compromised. Our issues aren’t even that complicated. We lead active lives. We have access to and the means to enjoy quality health care. Breathing though, I can’t control it. They are going to need to be able to breathe long after I’m around to help them.

 

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I don’t think this is exclusively a parenting issue, seems to me it’s more of a human issue, nor is the sensation of being naked in the face of all the danger and hurt the world throws at us reserved for parents. I was compelled to action by Clean Air Moms Action and my own experiences related to trouble breathing. This election has made my stress spike, my daughters’ breathing difficulty has impacted my breathing, and through it all I have become more aware of my own responsibility. It isn’t just my daughters’ health or the conditions where I live, it’s everywhere and everyone.

It’s my responsibility to advocate for a healthy environment and I can do that with my vote. When it comes to voting I am focused on the welfare of people, particularly children. We ignore the issues of Clean Air, Climate Change, and Toxic Chemicals at our peril. Focusing on emails or even sexual misconduct is not the most pressing thing. Itty-bitty lungs, tiny dimpled hands clutched at delicate necks, parents in cities we’ll never know gasping for breath at the idea that their children cannot or should not breathe; this is what we can influence by supporting candidates who care about these issues.

 

Air pollution from fossil fuels leads to bad air quality in too many communities. Increases in smog can trigger asthma attacks and exacerbate other chronic health problems. Don’t let children’s health be voted away to protect polluters’ profits. Instead, vote to protect little lungs from toxic air pollution.

The same harmful pollution that is making our children sick is causing rising temperatures and extreme weather events. Our changing climate is making smog worse. It increases respiratory health threats, particularly for people with allergies and asthma. Also intense heat waves exacerbate heart and lung conditions. 

Dangerous chemicals are found in our daily lives. They often enter our homes and bodies without our realizing it. In fact, these chemicals may not even have been disclosed, identified or studied. Thousands of toxic chemicals found in everyday products are linked to potential reproductive and developmental toxicity, endocrine disruption, birth defects, cancer, asthma, headaches and skin irritants. Children are among the most vulnerable to such chemicals.

We can vote to protect little lungs from toxic air pollution.

We can vote for candidates who support proposals to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. And vote to put our country on a clean energy path while protecting American jobs.

I am using my vote for a candidate who is undeterred by attacks and continues to brave a hostile environment in order to press the most important issues. Donald Trump does not have the safety and health of our children in mind, nor does he have plans to support women.

 

 

I know for a fact that there are many women out there who have every intention to vote, but are not comfortable talking about in online or in person. If this post does one thing, I hope it’s that it convinces anyone still on the fence that their vote matters. Will you take the pledge to vote? You fill in three boxes. That’s it. Oh, well, I mean then you go and vote next week, but that’s it. It will matter.

 

 

Clean Air Moms Action is canvassing the country to document real life stories from moms. You can watch more of them on their Facebook page.

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Check out their pictures on Instagram.

Get involved in the coming days by using the hashtag #CleanAirMomsVote

Please vote.

This post was produced with support from Clean Air Moms Action. All opinions are, of course, my own.

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