Yes, We Are ALL Part of the ‘Truth In Media’ Equation

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As most sentient people have noticed, distrust in the media is at an all-time high. It’s not just conservatives who whine about the “lamestream media”; people on all sides of the divide are generally dissatisfied, unconvinced that “all the news that’s fit to print” is actually fit… or even news… and certainly most of it isn’t in print!

In the glory days of good old-timey journalism, the mandate was to report, to chronicle the events of the day, absent of opinion and rife in verifiable fact. Nowadays, as we march onward in our digital revolution to accrue ever-more 24/7 online news/media sources, the sheer demand for content is so relentless that any story, any opinion, any slant or perspective is granted the same status as actual news. Which means much of what we perceive as news is actually an unholy mix of bias, misinformation, rushed reporting, and facts twisted so precipitously as to resemble bias, misinformation, and rushed reporting.

This “news food” (like “cheese food”… as resemblant of real cheese as, well, you get the point) is then put through various delivery systems that render it digestible pseudo-news. And once that gets bleated about by cable/network talking heads, splayed across blogs and online news sites, written/covered/spun by writers (some posing as journalists), or printed in newspapers and magazines, it becomes TRUTH. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t; it’s been given the pedigree of pontification and publication, and, therefore, must be true. Sorta true? Even a little bit true? 

Oh, hell, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it’s believed to be true, that it supports someone’s point of view, and once it reaches that dubious bar, it then becomes “bandiable.” Spreadable. Ripe for sharing, posting, tweeting, blogging, slathering across the media landscape like so much warm butter (or, more accurately, congealed lard). Whatever greasy mess it is, it ain’t pretty.

And where does that leave us, those of us who do want “truth in media”? It’s become increasingly difficult, in a culture that readily serves up this pseudo-news cocktail, to know what, exactly, IS true. What is factual, verifiable, worthy of our viral attention… and what is not. And, sorry to have to say this, but we partakers have been, perhaps unwittingly, perhaps not, collaborators in the metastasizing of this regrettable phenomenon. Don’t think so?  

I bet we’ve all done/experienced some of this:

• We read an article posted by a friend, a family member, someone in our circle. It resonates, we “like” it, we express our outrage/support as appropriate; we might even share it… then we discover it’s a two-year-old article, the event is no longer relevant to the current conversation, or the reported “facts” have been discovered to be false, different, evolved, and therefore, the article is not useful. But, too late; we’ve sent it all over the place.

• Someone in our circle posts an article that is highly critical of some person, organization, political party, etc., they do not support. They even offer accompanying commentary to further fan the outrage. But as readers look a little closer, they discover the writer of the article works for a rabidly oppositional site, or is a fire-breather of known bias whose “reporting” could only be described as opinion, often faulty opinion teeming with dubious “truths.” But, again, it’s too late; it’s already been shared, “liked,” and commented upon as factual.

• A major event occurs somewhere in the world (terrorism, police brutality, plane crash, etc.). As the coverage tsunamis in, we rush to our TVs, our computers, and immediately begin sharing and commenting. Unfortunately, what often gets reported at the beginning of a news cycle, particularly as the facts are still being ascertained in the midst of chaos, is inaccurate and hazy, built on rumor and faulty witness reports. But those faulty reports and false rumors have now been thrown all over the media, social and otherwise, and unless those doing the throwing are quick to follow up with corrected, more accurate information, the misinformation exists online forever as fact, misleading many in the process.

• An incendiary, salacious, click-baity article is posted; it revs up the pitchfork throwers, sending commenters and trolls into a frenzy… only to have it pointed out that the site is a “satire site,” the article was tongue-in-cheek, the content was a joke, and so on. But before this is made clear, hordes of people have disseminated the information to be discussed and debated as fact.

• And, even in the most benign of circumstances, some of us are guilty of posting, say, notices of a celebrity death… only to have someone clarify that the person being mourned actually died months, even years, earlier. (A year or so ago, I—yes, I—posted a bittersweet piece about my favorite childhood DJ from Chicago having passed… only to be informed that he’d died three years prior! That’s the last time I posted something without first checking the date!)

And that’s the point. We gotta do a better job of checking what we post and share. We do have a role in this “truth in media” equation, an obligation even. Because we—the readers, listeners, sharers, commenters, posters, tweeters, bloggers—are like bees that spread pollen, birds that flit from flower to flower; Johnny Appleseeds with our bags of, well, apple seeds. We may not write the stories, but if we’re out there pollinating cyberspace with our shares, tweets, Facebook posts, blogs, comments, etc., we are participating in either informing or misinforming the reading public.

The fix? Simple: before you post or share anything, apply the following:

  1. Check the date. If it’s old, odds are good the information is as well. Either don’t post it, or—if it’s a topic/person/event you feel strongly about—find a more current source. Or at least make a point of alerting people that it’s an old article. 
  2. Check the site you’re sourcing from. If you’re sharing information from a far Right or far Left site, or any site known for a certain slant or opinion, odds are good the information being shared is biased toward that philosophy. Biased doesn’t necessarily mean not true, but it does mean one ought to share and read with a grain of circumspection. Even caution. Even cynicism. If you post something from such a site, be so kind as to make note of the political/philosophical penchant of the source so readers and sharers are aware and can judge accordingly.
  3. Check the veracity of what you’re posting. This one may be most important, particularly in regard to information that is incendiary, sensational, accusatory, insulting, potentially defaming; possibly not-true. Do us all a favor and get some fact-checking in before you post that sort of thing (or, really, anything). Between Snopes, Politifact, FactCheck, even Wikipedia, you can certainly do your own due diligence. In fact, it behooves us all to either refrain from posting slanderous-type material (particularly from a biased source), or be damn sure we’ve verified the truth of what we’re sharing. There’s enough misinformation and inaccurate propaganda out there without any of us contributing to the muckraking. 
  4. Be upfront when posting from satire sites. It’s all well and good to be so savvy, so culturally hip, that you know all the cool satire sites in the world, but presume not everyone else does. Posting a disclaimer like *SATIRE* is not only appreciated, it goes a long way toward keeping horrified folks from sharing as fact what is meant to be humor.
  5. Do your homework and figure out which news sources post the most neutral, most factual, most verifiable, least salacious news. Then share from those sites. This may take some time to sort out, and designated sites may go in and out of the category, but it’s worth it in the long run to get a decent list together, not only in terms of what to share from where, but what to reference for your own news information.

I’m sure there are other items that would be useful to the assignment (feel free to leave yours in the comments), but for now, these five, if vigilantly applied, would contribute mightily to the stanching of misinformation, and the propagating of more “truth in media.” I urge us all to do our part. Then, when we complain about the “media,” we can do so knowing that we, at least, have not further contributed to its “lameness.”

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Talking With Regina McRae About #BLM and What Else Matters in the Politics of Race

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Regina walks it

Say what you will about social media and the tendency of some to either trivialize or troll it on a far-too-constant basis, the platform has provided a vibrant, interactive forum through which to meet people we might not have otherwise. And sometimes that’s a very good thing.

I met Regina McRae via social media, from far across the country, and from very different avenues of life. And her contribution to my perspective, my greater understanding of what it is to be a black person in America in the year 2015, has been one of those very good things. It’s “schooled” me, in ways that have broadened my view of race and the impact of its politics on both black and white America. 

If you read my three-part Huffington Post series of interviews with Regina, this post will not be news. But for those who have not yet caught up with the discussion, or who’d like to read and share it as a compiled piece, I’m posting it here as well.

Because I believe it’s an essential conversation, one desperately needed in our cultural effort to understand why #BlackLivesMatter, why riots happened in Ferguson and elsewhere, and how activists are inspiring people of every race to raise a ruckus—and our consciousness—in hopes of creating true change. I hope you’ll read all three segments; share them, comment on them, pose your own questions…I promise one or both of us will respond!

Regina gave me the respect of her candor, her unvarnished perspective, and I not only appreciated both, but am grateful for the education they offered. I hope you’ll find her words illuminating as well. 


Regina-Lorraine 2

I’ve never met Regina McRae. We’ve spoken on the phone, exchanged emails, connected on social media, but we’ve never actually met… which means we have a typical friendship in this 2.0 world! We originally crossed paths when she came upon a piece of mine, No, White People Will Never Understand the Black Experience, which led to our connecting on Facebook, and, from there, regular interaction on various topics posted.

Given her background as a black woman from Brooklyn who built her own bakery, Grandma’s Secrets (notable for being New York’s only dessert delivery company), as well as authored the book, Taking The Cake, The Ultimate Cake Guide, her posts were a feisty mix of culinary insight, humorous cultural commentary, and some very unbuffered perspective on issues of race. I liked what she brought to the conversation, and was paying attention when one post in particular grabbed me.

Since last year’s infamous debacle in Ferguson, MO, the specific issue of #BlackLivesMatter has been a conflicted one for many… including me. Despite being an open-minded, politically progressive person fortunate to have been raised on the principle that “all people are created equal,” I found myself thrown when the hashtag made its cultural entrance. My initial response was a familiar one: “Of course, black lives matter; all lives matter.” I wasn’t clear why we were being asked to differentiate, to specify, as if other categories of lives didn’t warrant the same emphasis. I didn’t object to the hashtag, but I didn’t know how to rationalize the selectiveness.

Then Regina posted something on Facebook, a response directed at someone who was obviously having a similar struggle, and, included in a longer message, was this line:

“We know all lives matter, but our country obviously doesn’t! The fact that we have to put up such an obvious sign and hashtag, there’s the problem right there.”

Simple, direct, but right to the irony of the issue, underscoring the “ideal vs. fact” element of the debate. It struck a chord. It also triggered some thoughts on a parallel that resonated with me:

If I, as a woman fighting for women’s causes, were to say to someone, “Women’s lives matter” and their response was, “Yeah, sure, but all lives matter,” I would immediately feel dismissed and diminished, as if my cause, my fight as a marginalized group, was being minimized. For whatever reason, that helped me understand why embracing the #BLM hashtag mattered. I had to get in touch with Regina…

Click HERE to continue reading….



….LDW: Great change generally takes more than a gentle touch; history has taught us that. So, yes, in this presidential cycle, candidates will be obligated to address the topic of race politics and brutality. It’s good to hear that Hillary Clinton has agreed to meet with #BLM activist, DeRay McKesson, but is there a danger of making politicians’ response to #BLM a superficial litmus test?

Meaning, we know there are several conventionally accepted “tests” for candidates on both sides of the political aisle. There have been hissy fits when candidates were found not wearing an American flag lapel pin (I remember Obama getting grief for that at some point), or demands that candidates publicly declare a belief in God. Personally, I think items of that nature should be off the table of discussion, particularly given how transparent compliance can become.

So do the demands of #BLM activists—for candidates to declare support for the movement—risk becoming another one of those manipulated litmus tests? Candidates make a big show of their support, their “long history of working for racial justice,” etc., but if the rhetoric comes only after a #BLM disruption, how authentic is it?

RM: I believe people’s records will speak for themselves. We know who has been a staunch supporter and who hasn’t. If a candidate professes support for the movement, I’d ask, what side of history were you on during the marriage equality debate? What is your stance on immigration? Do you support free college tuition? Did you support the Violence Against Women Act, even as it contained a provision to protect Native American woman and transgender women from domestic violence?

When you saw laws being passed that peeled back voters’ rights or immigrants’ rights, laws that made filming cops a felony, or Stand Your Ground laws, did you ask yourself: who writes these, who passes them, and what can I do to correct them? Do you recognize that hate groups are a cancer destroying this nation from the inside out, and when you stand up for black lives, you are actually helping to excise that cancer, saving all lives?

If a candidate pledges phony support, they’ll only fool themselves. When they show that all lives matter to them by their actions, not just their words, then we will authentically believe that black lives matter to them too.

Click HERE to read full interview…



…Before we continue, a quick comment about the photos used to accompany the series: Those of Regina are obvious, but I wanted to point out why I intentionally selected the two-shots I did.

I wanted to depict Regina and me as the women we are: our races, our professions, our everydayness; our similarities and our differences. It felt important to illustrate how individuals who live on opposite sides of the country, with different backgrounds and career paths, and certainly disparate ethnic and cultural influences, could come together with interest and compassion to discuss “that which ails us.” A message, perhaps, that it can be done, it should be done, as often as people can come together.

Now let’s get on to our final segment:

LDW: First of all, Regina, thanks again for working with me on this. Simply put, it’s been a good thing.

RM: Thank you for giving me a voice. When I see trolls on the #BLM page and am sickened by the extreme hate, I know how important this conversation is. We have to all move past this.

LDW: Agreed. So let’s continue. Here’s something I’d like your perspective on: Despite our country’s mandate against segregation, it’s a fact that many communities gravitate toward neighborhoods and enclaves made up largely of their own ethnic or racial groups. Particularly in cities, we see whole sections defined by their largest populations. Busing students may diversify schools, but even then real connection becomes problematic when kids can’t spend time with each other because their homes are so far apart. Many small towns offer little or no diversity; consequently, people have few opportunities to engage and interact with other races.

How can we, then, best promote empathy for the many reasons behind the #BlackLivesMatter campaign when too many whites in America still do not have meaningful experiences with blacks; still do not fully grasp the history and legacy that’s led to this point in our culture, and still see only what they get on the news, which is largely negative? What, in your opinion, would best promote greater empathy and understanding amongst communities, on all sides of the racial divide, so that mistrust and knee-jerk stereotypes are not the go-to response?

RM: In this day and age of the Internet and social media, the world is a much smaller place than it has ever been. If someone is truly interested in bridging a gap, it’s as easy as making a friend on Facebook or Instagram. Want to learn more about slavery, segregation, Jim Crow? Just Google it. The only reason for ignorance these days is comfort. As with yourself, those who truly wish to know, reach out and ask! A person who asks a question is only a fool for a moment. Those who never ask are fools forever.

LDW: That’s a good line.

RM: It’s true! You don’t have to know a single black person to understand the #BLM movement. Read the Department of Justice’s scathing reports on corruption and racism in the Cleveland police department, or the Ferguson police department, as mentioned last week. Read Amnesty International’s report on the use of lethal force in New York City’s police department, in which they were compared to the secret police in a Third World dictatorship…and that was just 20 years ago under Mayor Giuliani!

Things have not gotten worse over the years, they’ve become more evident with the proliferation of cellphones, iPads, and security cameras. The world is coming to know what we have always known: that some in law enforcement are protecting and serving only themselves. And because this cancer has not been excised, but been allowed to grow unchecked and untreated, it is now spreading from the inner city into the ‘burbs…

Click HERE to read full interview…

As I concluded in the final piece, I hope everyone will take the time to read all three segments to get the full arc and balance of what we’ve discussed. I also hope everyone who has taken that time will let the ideas, the concepts, the calls-to-action, seep into their consciousness and propel them forward toward a new way of looking at things. We can keep dismissing and denying, keep trying to frame the conversation in cliches and tropes that avoid painful realities, and our witting, or unwitting, complicity in a society that marginalizes some of its members, but to do so would only perpetuate a system that has fractured and hurt far too many.

We can’t wait any longer. The time is now. We can’t pretend we’re “post-racial,” or rest comfortably in the assuagement that “things have gotten better.” We have to take this moment of awareness and unrest and do something substantial. Lives depend on it. Yes, all lives. Because all lives matter. But to create a society in which that is truly fact, not just an ideal defined by lofty thinkers, we must be willing to state, unequivocally, and with comprehension for the reasons why, that #BlackLivesMatter. From there, we move forward together.

Regina_tagIf you’d like to get in touch with Regina McRae, you can do so via her Facebook page, at Twitter, or her bakery, Grandma’s Secrets.

Photos by permission of Regina McRae.

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I Did It Again: I Watched the Emmys… And I Still Hate Award Shows

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Waiting to win

Not because I don’t think people deserve to win awards. Awards are lovely. I’ve won a few myself and they’re a wonderful acknowledgement of work well done, of community and/or peer approval; a fabulous reminder that people are actually paying attention to what exactly it is you do. But still…

I swore a while back that I was going to retire my tiara and not watch award shows anymore, and I meant it. But it was a slow night Sunday, I was feeling too lazy to work, and I was invested enough in a couple of shows and performers that I worked up a little curiosity. But not even minutes into the whole thing I was reminded of what remains the same for me: my resistance to the sheer cruelty of this entertainment tradition. 

When I sit and watch that moment, the one before the announcement is made, when the five (or whatever) amazingly talented people are all, still, of equal importance, waiting breathlessly to hear if they got the prize, their faces set in what is, no doubt, a considered non-expression that belies the anxiety they’re feeling, I get a little queasy, I can’t help but think to myself: why on earth are these accomplished, talented people who have all done stellar work being put in a position where they’re essentially pitted against each other like beauty contestants? All so just one of them gets to feel that “special acknowledgement” while the rest walk away as non-winners. Why do we do that to our most talented performers? Why?? 

I dunno. It seems crazy to me. I mean, I was delighted to see the wonderful Olive Kitteridge win a slew of awards, including one for Frances McDormand, whom I adore, but when I think about how stunning Maggie Gyllennhaal was in An Honorable Woman, I wonder why she has to feel passed over in any way, shape, or form, when she, too, did amazing, kudo-worthy work. Is it lesser work? NO!! Not even close. It’s just the work that did not get picked by a subjective bevy of voters who chose a “best.”

It would be one thing if there were actually some tangible, quantifiable criteria to winning these things—whoever hits the most targets with a bow & arrow, or whoever jumps the highest on a trampoline, or which one correctly answers the most trivia questions asked by Al Roker—then, maybe, the winner would be clear-cut and undeniable. As it is, once you’ve got five equally extraordinary actors and performances nominated, it’s about any number of arbitrary things: popularity, public relations success, who’s trending, which person has been nominated more and not won; which show is going off the air and deserves a nod; which person brings the highest level of good will or political approval, etc. That’s all it can be, because there’s no way you can look at the work Ben Mendelsohn did in Bloodline, or Alan Cummings in The Good Wife, and say either was not as worthy as Peter Dinklage’s wonderful work in Game of Thrones. Nor are Tatiana Maslany or Claire Danes any less worthy than Viola Davis. 

As thrilled as I am for those who won, as deserving as they each are, I can’t help but feel a pang of empathy for those who did not, as they are all, surely, as deserving of the win as the ones who actually won. Or something like that. 

But we love our awards shows and they will go on and on, with pomp and circumstance, winners and not winners (we don’t say “losers”), oddsmakers and party planners, a tradition built around arbitrary choices about who’s “the best.” And while many will watch with anticipation, surrounded by good friends, prodigious snacks, and the occasional cocktail, cheering whoever makes the cut with authentic enthusiasm, we all know that everyone up there is completely and equally deserving, equally appreciated, for giving us incredible performances while working at the top of their game. Cue the applause. For all

Related article: Why I’ve Retired The Tiara And Won’t Watch Award Shows Anymore

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Damn. I Was Supposed To Get Famous Before My Face Fell

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5. BIO_Little Lorraine

My favorite picture of me…at five-years-old.

I’m joking. My face was never supposed to fall. :)

I’m writing this today because, after a recent commenter accused me of being “too old” to grasp the finer points of whatever it was they were schooling me on, I got to thinking about the currency of age and aging as an insult. It is one strange sword.

Aging is a weird thing, though, no getting around that. Yes, it’s universal, it’s inevitable, and even your three-year-old is doing it, but the term seems only to apply to persons of a certain demographic…and is rarely offered as a compliment. A baby is “getting so big!” A toddler becomes “such a big girl!” A kid is “all grown up!”; a teen, well, let’s face it: a teen couldn’t be happier than when hearing, “you look so much older than your age!” Twenty-, thirty- and even forty-somethings are “coming into their own.”

The rest of us? We’re aging.

The Aging Demographic (or “AD”) is loosely comprised of those past their “prime” years, the years when most people look the best they’re ever likely to look, when sex drives every conversation (consciously or unconsciously), when everything seems possible, and when people admire you without the addendum of “for your age.” I knew I was in the demographic when a record producer commented (as he was rejecting me in lieu of a much younger singer), “you’re just not current anymore…though I bet you were hot in the 80s.” Really. He said that. To my face. My old, sagging, AD face.

Fuck ‘im… I was hot in the 80s!

But despite the raggedy edge of age’s cutting tool, I think I’ve surrendered to the process rather graciously, with humor, acceptance, and a certain appreciation for its cloak of invisibility (there is freedom in knowing hardly anyone’s looking at you anymore!). Then again, what are the options?

Being ungracious, for one thing. Fearing it, denying it, defying it in ways that reek of desperation: silly clothes from Forever 21, surgery from the “best of Beverly Hills,” inordinate obsession with all things trendy. Many of our demographic have undergone the microscope and knife, leaving us with peers whose gently aging faces now have jawlines so sharp they could cut paper, cheeks that give Alvin a run for his money, or, God save us all, those duck lips that turn even the finest face into something oddly inhuman. It seems we’ll soon have whole generations of aging men and women who resemble Katherine Helmond in Brazil and I don’t mean the country. This, apparently, is our culture’s misguided answer to the conundrum of aging.


But I get it, too. It’s tough to stay relevant in our overcrowded and viciously, vacuously viral world. It’s work, it’s effort, and it can be soul-crushing. As the old saying goes: “If you wanna dance, you gotta pay the piper,” and those who dance in the world of business, media, music, movies, TV, or even literature (if you can’t look hot you better write hot!) have been forewarned: payment is the currency of youth and beauty… even for those who are still young, particularly women. As controversial hip-hop artist, Iggy Azalea, all of twenty-five, explains:

“It’s hard to be a woman in 2015 with social media. There’s so much more emphasis on taking pictures of ourselves and the ‘likes’ or people commenting on them. There’s a lot more pressure to look beautiful. Some days I just want to look like s**t and feel okay with that.”

I hear ya, Iggy! When the front pages of even the most esteemed news sources lede with stories about who lost their baby weight the quickest, whose butt is breaking the Internet, or “can you believe these stars are in their 50s??” (when we all know they have seen Dr. Beverly Hills!), it’s clear we’ve lost our way on this topic.

But even everyday people are more pressured than ever to stay uber-competitive in jobs where management’s bleats about “fresh and cutting edge” are most often code for “watch your step…your old ass can be replaced any time.” I have friends in their fifties and sixties who are smart, vibrant, and rife with expertise and know-how, but worry daily about when the “aging axe” will fall.

Ice floe, anyone?


But, on the flip side, there’s an interesting thing that happens once you get past the indignity of no longer being seen as “hot,” whether sexually, creatively, or commercially, perks to aging that no one tells you much about. There’s little emphasis on the fact that (forgive the cliche), much as it does with fine wine, artisanal cheese, or expert haircuts, time can season and perfect a thing, evolve it into its finest incarnation, its best version of itself. Things like a mind, a heart, a worldview, a sense of self… a person.

They don’t tell you how much calmer and less frantic you’ll feel, or mention the well-spring of patience you might discover within yourself. They forget to make clear just how philosophical and accepting you may become; how circumspect and objective about the minutia of life that tends to drive younger people crazy (that drove you crazy). Infrequently mentioned is how you’ll feel less apologetic, less beholden; more independent, and certainly more irreverent. You’ll care less about what other people think and more about what feels right to you, what resonates in your gut… even if your gut is bigger than it used to be!

You might even find yourself feeling sorry for those with the burden of youth: the pressures to be trendy and hip, the intensity of expectation for success and wealth; the confusions around how to be caring and compassionate in a culture built on snark, smartphones, and mindless “feuds” amongst privileged pop stars. I watch younger women work so damn hard to meet every beauty standard demanded of them — from managing body hair and high heels, to posting the appropriate number of selfies — and it all looks so exhausting. Clearly I’d have never made it as young person today…too damn culturally lazy!


As for young men, I observe many struggling to find the exact right balance between affecting cool and competence, romantic and non-committal, devil-may-care and well-employed, and I know how delicate that youthful branding exercise can be. It all matters when you’re young, self-obsessed, and certain all eyes are upon you. Which they often are.

Then you’re aging and nobody’s eyes are upon you. How freeing!!

Well, sorta. I mean, it is freeing in all the aforementioned ways, but occasionally I walk into a room where I would’ve caught glances in the past and notice how few look up these days. That’s OK, I say to myself, you’ve got other things to offer. Then I see the woman in the mirror and wonder, when did that happen to my neck and where did my jawline go? Or wince at candid shots that don’t involve the elegant lighting required by an aging face. I find I’m uninterested in posting TBT pictures, because, at this point, I prefer to focus less on what I was, and more on my ongoing journey of embracing and accepting what I am. That’s the journey we are all obligated to: the present… with its not-so-distant cousin, the future.

Sure, it would have been swell if my lifetime of creative effort (so far) had led to my fullest vision of success while I still held the flush of youthful exuberance; it would’ve been fun to take that ride while still so eager and inexperienced. But should those big-picture goals be met in years to come, I hope to be gracious and graceful about openly sharing my AD self — lines, wrinkles, sags, and all — without apology, without self-consciousnes, and with the newly-acquired exuberance of age and its many gifts.

Because damn if we ADers didn’t work hard to get where we are, a place replete with wisdom, experience, and, yes, our aging, fabulous selves. It’s a good mix, I’ve discovered, one that every lucky person, even Iggy Azalea and that bouncing three-year-old, will, hopefully, one day discover.

forever young Little Lorrie @ LDW family archive
Forever Young by Francesco Romoli

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Flag Waving and Other American Pastimes

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4th of July, 1888, by Neil Boyle

4th of July, 1888, by Neil Boyle

We clearly hadn’t thought it out…

We were headed to a 4th of July parade with an enthusiastic youngster riding high on holiday excitement. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and we were all looking forward to the revelry of red, white, and blue. As said youngster took note of the countless American flags flapping in doorways, waving from passing cars, or clutched in the hands of other like-minded kids, his eyes lit up. It was the 4th of July and he had to have a flag.

Why we hadn’t anticipated that probability, or at least thought of it earlier, say, before every store within a 50-mile radius was all out, was inexplicable. I hate to say we’re bad parents, but come ON! Still, foresight be damned, it was Independence Day and that bubbling little patriot was getting’ a flag!

We must have hit every party, grocery, and CVS store in Claremont, CA, the town hosting the events of the day, and there was not a single star or strip to be found. And just as we were about to endure a full-blown “I don’t have a flaaaag!” meltdown, the friends we joined at the parade miraculously snagged an unclaimed (albeit small and plastic) flag, and fireworks of the not pretty, popping kind were preempted.

Tread Flag 2My point is: people love their flags. They love ’em. They love to hang them in doorways, march with them down streets; wave them as symbols of pride, alliance, and attachment. America has, in fact, been cranking out some version of the American flag since 1775 and, in looking over some of the earlier contenders, it’s good we didn’t settle too quickly on a design: this one here with the stripes and snake on which we were not to tread lacked, I think, artistic gravitas. But surely our current flag is a worthy choice, a stately symbol redolent of so much history and national passion.

Which brings to mind certain cultural events of late, brouhahas centered around the topic of flags. Interesting that, shortly before our most patriotic and all-American holiday, we’d be widely, and wildly, debating other flags that hold great meaning—good and bad—for our eclectic and often polarized citizenry.

I don’t think anyone could deny that the Confederate flag incites tremendous emotion, both from those who believe it’s a symbol of racism and national disdain, and others who insist, “it’s heritage and not hate,” as Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd remarked recently. And while that sentiment may be true for some southerners, it’s getting harder to accept the assessment, particularly since the “flag of Dixie” has been held high by some of the most heinous characters in history, as recently as the tragedy in Charleston, S.C.

In fact, even Patterson Hood, founder of another proud southern band, The Drive-By Truckers, asserted this about the flag known as the “Stainless Banner”:

“I’m from Alabama,” says Patterson Hood, “I lived in the South my entire life. I have ancestors who fought in that ill-begotten war, but it’s way, way past time to move on … That [Civil] War was what, 150 years ago? It’s time to move on. It should have been a moot point years ago. The flag represents an act of war against the United States.

“The flag was put there to antagonize and intimidate,” he says, about its initial erection over the Capital. “During the Civil Rights era, Southern states started flying those flags and putting the logo on their state flags to remind black people what they thought their place was. It was just that simple…

“People say ‘The South will rise again,’ Hood says. “The South will never rise again as long as we keep our heads up our asses. I feel very strongly about it. I’m from Alabama. I lived in the South my entire life. I have ancestors who fought in that ill-begotten war, but it’s way, way past time to move on.”

Which makes sense to me. When some in this country talk about “taking back America,” demanding a “national language,” or bemoaning the “denigration” of the country by illegal immigration, how illogical is it, then, to defend a flag representative of so much pain and national antipathy? Particularly at a time when Americans of all stripes are (or should be) looking to bridge chasms, not create them.

reb_gay flags

There’s another flag that’s been waving around lately as well, one held high by those in our country fighting for equal rights for all: the Rainbow flag. Surely you’ve seen it. It’s the colorful symbol of gender and orientation diversity. No one near any kind of media these past weeks could have missed the wildly polar response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on constitutionally protected marriage equality. It was telling to watch the viral sharing of images showing the Confederate flag coming down as the Rainbow flag rose high. Wherever one stands on these issues, it can’t be denied that, yet again, it’s a flag that holds the symbology of so much passion and belief.

Which gets us back to the 4th of July: kids and flags; mom, dad, and apple pie; stalwart patriotism, and all things American. Each of these iconic concepts stirs warmth and nostalgia; optimism and hope, particularly as we look to strike a balance as individuals, stalwart in our beliefs, who also allow others to experience their own lives with dignity and respect. When I think of true American ideals, that’s where my mind goes.

Flag Waver

“Flag Waver” by LDW

Our 4th of July will be spent with family in the bucolic surrounds of Ferndale (whose downtown looks very much like the iconic Neil Boyle illustration at top!). Our daughter, who hasn’t been able to get up here in recent years, is visiting with her two children. They’re excited to partake of of the many Humboldtian wonders, particularly highpoints we’ve identified in and around Ferndale (i.e., feeding grass to kindly horses and getting rides on a local fire engine). We’ll gather at our beloved home, raise a glass to family and community, raise eyes to the wonder of sparklers and fireworks, and hold hope that we can continue to raise awareness in the evolving country we all celebrate on this holiday.

I think the American flag has the spirit, the history, and the heart to be a proud standard for everyone moving toward that noble goal.

“Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order. If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion.” — Supreme Court Justice Robert J. Jackson, 1943

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Original version published July 2, 2015 @ the Ferndale Enterprise

The illustration at the top, “4th of July, 1888” by Neil Boyle, is one of the many iconic and incredibly beautiful pieces of Boyle’s illustrating the book, Notes From Abe Brown’s Diary by Tom E. Knowlton. I was delighted to be gifted five limited prints from that collection by Boyle’s daughter, Kay Jackson, who has become a friend since we connected over an article of mine called Neil Boyle, Molly Malone’s and Pretty in Pink. I am honored to have both her friendship and her father’s prints, all of which now beautifully hang in our Ferndale home.

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