The Aftermath

OK y’all. These are rough times.  Everyone’s mad. Trump’s got us all freewheeling on the end of his unyielding yo-yo string.  Executive orders are flying and the worst of our fears are coming true.  But we can’t live like this.  We just can’t.  It’s not sustainable.  We are all going to have early heart attacks or drinking problems or politics-induced panic disorder or some newly-minted diagnosis that will spring up as a result of these twisted-ass times.

Today I had to take a deep breathe and remember that we are dealing with a crazy person. A literal crazy person who happens to have been elected president or our United States.  We cannot be surprised by any action he takes from this point forward.  He has a mental illness and he will continue to take action on any unwieldy, unreasonable, emotionally-charged whim that crosses his mind and is within—albeit questionably—his democratic power.  So there’s that.  No more surprises.  This is just who he is.  And maybe who a lot of America is since we voted for him en masse.

Here are some thoughts and paths forward I’ve been thinking on:

  • As a person of many privileges, my life will probably not be that directly impacted or damaged no matter who is in office.
  • Having said that, many people’s lives will and already have been torn at the seams and it’s my place to protect and defend those lives.
  • I am done with protesting—for now, at least. And in thinking about where to pick up the torch and go to battle I’ve landed on doing more of what I’m already doing with what’s before me.
    • Writing: I want to do more of this in a way that’s useful for folks on both sides of the aisle. I want to do this to articulate how strongly I think and feel about our shared humanity and pointing to ways in which we do not protect that and how we can do better.
    • Dialogue: I want to create spaces for dialogue. Because I believe that is the only thing that will truly get us out of this polarized mess we’re in. These spaces will be in casual conversations with friends, on social media, through art and through finding people on both sides who are willing to at least engage—not agree, just engage.
    • Work: As a person in a place of leadership at my workplace, I have a responsibility to create an environment and culture that challenges the status quo and flips oppression on it’s head. I want to find new avenues to recruit employees that have been typically left out of the mainstream—those with criminal convictions or disabilities or a lack of formal education. I want to pave the way for people of color to take on leadership positions and advocate for higher salaries of all non-profit workers. I want to make sure we are not only providing services to people, but are offering them ways to connect with and use their own power—through voting or community organizing or knowing their rights.
    • Criminal Justice: While Trump is shutting out refugees, we have millions of men and women in our country’s prisons who feel and are treated like foreigners in their own homeland. In fact, many who have come home refer to themselves as “returning citizens”. We are incarcerating men and women because we have been taught to fear their skin color and have recruited a police force who embrace that fear in the line of duty. Because we have underfunded their neighborhoods and their schools and left them with no other options. And when these men and women have completed their sentences we continue to punish them with supervised parole and withholding their voting rights and finding every excuse not to hire them based on their past convictions. And God knows what this presidency has in store for them. So I will continue to fight their fight until we have a justice system that is, in fact, just.

 

 

Ties that Break

This last trip to Texas was a real doozy and I’m not sure where to begin but here is where I try to make some sense of things. A few realizations I had while I was back in my home state the past week (and I’m sure more on the horizon):

I’ve turned out really different from a lot of the people I grew up with—this may seem obvious but I’ve always held onto a reality that no matter how different the paths life takes my family and I, there will still be that common anchor. That sturdy, wrought iron core of a shared value or belief or whatever that thing is we are proud to boast as “ours” and ours alone. And lately that has felt tested as some of the things I hold core to who I am and how I am in the world are not only different, but in direct opposition to those of my closest kin.

Religion can be a source of great manipulation or great freedom and I think I’ve found the latter in spite of the former. There is a vein of Christianity I grew up around that says “no” to everything in its path. It generates fear of the other and is in the business of creating new “others” on the regular. And there are clearly understood lines drawn to dictate who is in and who is out. Who is good and who is bad. Whose eternity is secured and whose is not. Which words are acceptable and which are not. Whose lifestyle is celebrated and whose is not. Which questions are allowed and which are not. And I have since breathed cleaner air and cannot go back to that suffocating place.

Being a woman in my family comes with limits. Now this is certainly not something that is advertised or articulated in explicit ways (as sexism often isn’t). It is the ever-subtle yet ever-present sense that others hold a limited set of expectations for who you are and what you will be. It comes in the childish retorts from adults’ mouths when you question them on a belief, a position, a life choice because who are you, as a female, to understand such complexities? Who are you, as a female, to know what the right thing is?

It is often communicated through absences—the absence of substantial conversations about politics or finance or career or economics directed at the female members of my family. The absence of women’s voices in mixed company and the absence of male listeners when women do speak up. The absence of confidence I feel in the presence of brothers and uncles and cousins who are male.

And it is sometimes spoken in the ways things play out. Like how the men have managed to plan and attend their annual golf tournament for ten years strong while the women have barely gotten their reunion off the ground in the past couple of years. Like how every one of my female cousins is a teacher, nurse or stay at home mom. Like the fact that my brother owns two houses in two different states. And how the more questions I ask and the more ambitious my dreams get, the more I am looked at like a traitor, a dissenter, a “liberal”, one in need of “prayer.”

And, believe it or not, I am thankful. I am sad but thankful. Because with each look and with each subtle snub I am pushed to be more, to do more, to fight harder for those who feel like this times a billion. To continue to speak truth to power—right now, a particular power who is about to become our president (and all of those that voted for him). I am thankful I live in a city of other fighters and work in a profession where every day I see strong, female, black and brown leaders in action.   I am sad but thankful. Because this anger ignites me. And this anger builds empathy. And empathy builds love. And love is unstoppable.

Nothing is logical

Dating sucks and men suck and I don’t think that too many other women my age would disagree with me on that.  I changed my Bumble profile today to say that we should be friends until we figure out what it is we’re both looking for.  Because, let’s be honest, 99.9% of men on dating sites are not interested in this thing called a relationship. I think maybe we are living in an age where people don’t think relationships have capital so why invest?  It’s the best I can deduce.  Which is unfortunate because going deep with people is a beautiful, humbling, life changing thing.  As one who’s had the same roommate for 12 years, this much I know.

In other news the 49ers Colin Kaepernick is a total courageous badass and, as much as I would like to try to understand the other side, I can’t even entertain that kind of ignorance.  He is using his position and power and leveraging America’s sports obsession to say  (yet again) that we continue to kill and oppress black and brown people and (yet again) there continues to be not a damn thing done about it.  Because, apparently catching it on video is not enough and hearing story after story after story of the same shit happening everyday around the country is not enough.  Colin, I salute you and kneel with you in spirit.

 

 

Stupid

People are stupid.  They tell you what to do and how to do it and that you should write if that’s what you want to do and not think so much about it.  That you should write for yourself and not for other people.  That you should just post your dumb first draft full of mistakes and incoherent thoughts and nonsense and then post your second and your third and your fourth and….

Like I said, people are stupid.  That is all.

Alexander and the….

Sometimes nothing is right.
You can’t sleep.
And the errand takes 2 hours longer than it’s supposed to.
And the keys go missing
Just in time to need to move your car to evade a parking ticket.
And your hour haircut turns into three (making you late to work)
And no customers come
Because winter finally remembered its role.
And they forget the lettuce and tomato on your burger
After you waited an hour for it to come
And you’re so hungry because that errand took 2 hours longer than it was supposed to.
And the coffee lady is always so cheerful….but so damn slow.

And then, at the end of the day, you layer up, put your music on
And you run

Right foot
Left foot
Right foot
Left foot
Breathing
And running
running
running

And all the things that weren’t right
Are now specks behind you
Days behind you, even
And now, it is just you
And the ground
And the cold
And the music
And the river
Whose water you can actually smell
With each breath

Lady Liberty greets you with her steadfast confidence
Torch still burning after all these years
As if to stay
“I am still standing, still burning brightly.”

And her surety reminds me
And I too
Burn brightly

Me
and my breath
and right foot
left foot
the river
and this body
running and running and running

And at home
There is no hot water.

 

Women in Politics

Tonight I attended a workshop by the Women’s Campaign School at Yale aimed at women who want to run for office or get involved in campaign work.  WCS is a non-partisan leadership program aimed at increasing the number of women in elected and appointed offices.  I had flashbacks of my Catholic all-girls’ school education with so many smart and passionate women in one room, all nodding our heads in agreement to the specific barriers that women face in the political field.  It’s so good to be with other women and together remember that it’s hard.  That people will never give mention to a man’s outfit or say he’s talking too much or take his words with a grain of salt simply because he’s a man.  Solidarity, sistas!

Patti Russo, WCS’s president, had some good basic questions to ask for women who are thinking about running for office:

  • Are you healthy?  Do you try to live a healthy lifestyle and look like someone who does so?
  • Do people like you?  (because, if they don’t now, they certainly won’t once you’re in the public eye)
  • Are you emotionally stable with a generally peaceful life?  Do you love yourself? (so important for women)
  • Is your spouse and/or family supportive?
  • Are you a thoughtful and conscientious person?  Are you willing to work hard, tackle tough issues & do your homework?
  • Are you getting into this for the greater good?
  • Do you have a real chance at winning?
  • Are you willing to give up everything?
  • Do you have a compelling message and know why you’re running?
  • How much money do you need and can you raise that amount?

Like I said, very practical yet important stuff to consider.  Next we heard from Emily Donahoe-O’Keefe of WOMENSPEAK Training who is a dynamic and fabulous woman and gave us some equally fabulous tips on messaging. She said that, after a speech, people typically only remember three things that you said.  She gave us a simple format for doing a 30 second pitch on any issue of our choosing:

What is your take-away message / what do you want your audience to do?  (i.e. to Vote for Emily, to buy an iphone, to support immigrants, etc.).  Once you know your take-away, here are three steps for getting people on board through your speech:

  1. Definition— define your take-away
  2. Problem-solution— state the general problem and proposed solution
  3. Accomplishment— give a specific example  of how the problem has been solved using your specific solution

I must admit that I did not get up and practice mine (I was freakin’ scared!), but here is one I came up with:

Take-away: More social workers should be hired to work in politics (side note: this originally started as “You should hire me” but I made it broader, mostly to deflect so much attention to my current situation)

Definition: You should hire more social workers to work in politics.

Problem-Solution: Very few politicians and their staff have a personal understanding and first-hand experience with the issues on which they are legislating.  For example, those who are passing drug laws and sentencing terms have most likely never set foot in a prison or known someone who served time.  Social workers such as myself have worked in and with the city’s most marginalized and underrepresented communities and have a genuine understanding of how our policies play out in the lives of the citizens they most affect.

Accomplishment: While serving as a manager at The Doe Fund, my team and I helped over 200 formerly-incarcerated men find full-time employment.  Daily we witnessed the discrimination experienced from having to check “yes” to the criminal conviction question on job applications.  Without our advocacy, these men, many of whom went on to be top performers at their companies, would have been overlooked soley based on that question.  Instead of navigating around unjust and unnecessary laws, social workers can be creating such laws and contributing to the research behind them.  Hiring social workers in politics will bring a more holistic understanding of policy and, ultimately, more humane legislation.

So, that’s what I’ve got, folks.  I hope this framework is helpful and I hope that all you women out there will be inspired to do something political.

Peace!