Selective Outrage Is All the Rage. Just See ‘Michelle Wolf’

I wonder how many times a day I read an article, note a passing Tweet, hear some frothing nonsense on the news, and mutter to myself, head shaking and eyes rolling, “Oh, dear God, are you kidding me?!”

Often. A lot. More than I’d like.

In fact, the sheer density and degree of nonsense worth swearing about is shock-and-awe inspiring, and if I didn’t hold tight to my policy of “limited news intake,” I swear I’d be swearing like it was the very air I breathe.

Instead, I choose my outrages, the things get me motivated enough to Tweet, post, Instagram; sign petitions, write my congresswoman, or send notes of protest to women-beating pizza shop managers, or elite clothing stores selling “quaint” slave bracelets; Christian bakers unwilling to make cakes for gay couples, or the latest police department defending cops who kill black men for holding cell phones.

These things seem to be worth raging over. As do Trump’s relentless acts of idiocy and demagoguery; a Republican party whose ambitions trump true patriotism and rule of law; a cabinet enriching itself on taxpayer dollars; a partisan agenda wrapped in cruelty, xenophobia, greed, and discrimination across countless demographics. Go crazy on those, yes; there’s plenty to go around and surely (sadly) more where all that came from.

But what I find disingenuous and head scratching during these days of “all outrage all the time” is the selectiveness of what piques the ire of some. What gets them off the couch and over to their computers to defend egregious prevaricators, tweet indignant denunciations of this or that; demand apologies from those skewering politics, or announce ad hominem attacks to come.

Yes, all that happened this weekend. And you might think the brouhaha inspiring such response was Trump’s insane Michigan speech in which he actually said, “If we don’t get border security, we’re going to have no choice, we’ll close down the country.

Or the news that “ICE held an American man in custody for 1,273 days.”

Or the stunning fact that “Neo-Nazis Burned a Swastika After Their Rally in Georgia” a few days ago.

Nah. All the hissing fit to print—on Twitter and elsewhere—was over a very funny comedian, Michelle Wolf, who, hired to do the traditional roast at the end of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, fearlessly took on everyone from Trump, to Democrats, to Pence, to Kellyanne Conway, and, most spectacularly, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the snarling curmudgeon who sprinkles lies like parade candy from her Press Secretary podium on a daily basis. Wolf’s routine set the media, social and otherwise, on fire. Did you hear anything about that ICE case or the Michigan speech? I didn’t either. There was too much noise coming from those who, instead, selected Wolf’s irreverence as the target of their indignation.

Surely, as satire is meant to do, Wolf’s routine was cringe-worthy at times, occasionally caustic, on-the-mark, over-the-line, very funny, and bracingly unvarnished. The transcript and video are everywhere; dive in when you can, but suffice it to say, she called out the chicanery and corruption of the White House and its two cheerleading ladies-in-waiting in ways that those of us who literally scream at the TV every time either opens her mouth have been waiting for someone to do for a very long time.

In a nutshell: she called the liars… liars. And what did the outrage machine do in response? Check the links above: lots of foot stomping, spittle-flying, head-shaking, “well, I never!” kind of “aren’t we above this sort of thing?” foolishness meant to illustrate how noble and hands-off they think a comic hired to do a roast should be when taking on the most corrupt, dishonest, likely treasonous; rude, bigoted, and unfathomably stupid administration… and the media that chronicles it.

Defending Sarah Sanders from a joke that was not only hilarious but bitingly spot-on became the ’cause celebre’ of everyone from Andrea Mitchell to Mika Brzezinski, to, of course, every sputtering journalist on the right, and even some on the left. Apparently they saw this as a red-line dig on her looks. Really?? Did they miss the subtext? Here’s  the joke; you decide.

“I think she’s very resourceful. But she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smokey eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”

It seems to do exactly what satire is meant to do. It’s also funny.

Look, everyone is free to be as outraged as they want by whatever piques their pricklies, but when an entire weekend’s discourse is dominated by the sound and fury of journalists, pundits, and opinion makers who found the candid and irreverently honest routine of a smart female comedian to be worth more wrath than the ICE story or Trump’s mentally unhinged declaration to shut down the country, selective outrage has become its own form of madness.

Considering the cynical, sexist, bigoted, and mendacious remarks often made about Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, or any other women on the left (even the men on the left… thanks, Obama!), a little snark about an incessantly dishonest woman using the ash of her lies for eye makeup seems tame. And, again, funny.

But do let me know when the madding crowd starts demanding, en masse, the apologies of profiling police departments and overzealous ICE agents. Give a holler when justice for the assault victims of the man in the White House becomes a viral trend. Tweet out when journalists start refusing to eat up the Press Secretary’s spoon-fed dishonesty, or when provocateurs like Dennis Miller spend days thinking of ways to attack Nazis burning swastikas, or men drugging and raping women.

When that happens, we’ll all gather in the virtual town square to celebrate the power of our communal outrage… and Michelle Wolf will keep telling the truths that make people laugh.

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

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Teachers Are Not Snipers. They Are Not SWAT. Arming Them Is a Bad Idea

“I am a teacher. Arm me. Arm me with funding for a full-time school psychologist. Arm me with funding for mandatory school counselors. Arm me by funding smaller class sizes so I can best get to know every one of my 160 students and their families. Arm us with what we NEED.” Mrs. Heidi Bowman, California teacher

Picture this scene on any day, in any-school America:

  • The rush of backpacked bodies surging from carpools and parking lots through doors to their lockers and homerooms.
  • The pandemonium of kids of bursting into hallways intent on getting to their next period.
  • The volume and pitch of cafeterias at lunchtime, with music, mayhem, and the crowded tables of exuberant children.
  • Classrooms filled with desks and bookshelves, long tables hosting projects and homework assignments… and kids. Kids everywhere.

Now picture into those hallowed, crowded, complex spaces a gunman enters with military grade weaponry and the intent to kill. And placed between that horror and our children, charged with protecting their precious lives, are who?

Their math teacher, their soccer coach; their school counselor, who, we’re told, will be poised to gun down that advancing killer BEFORE havoc is wreaked, without mistakenly shooting any of the fleeing students, and while avoiding being shot themselves by Kevlar-wrapped police with no idea who the bad guy is.

There is NO scenario in which that picture makes sense, and anyone suggesting otherwise has clearly spent little time in classrooms, in schools, with teachers and students.

Teachers are not snipers. They are not SWAT teams. They are not police. They are people whose skill sets lie in the arena of implementing education amidst overcrowded classrooms and tight budgets. Who devote unpaid extracurricular hours to counseling needy students, rehearsing school plays, and running governance council committees. Who work tirelessly on salaries often well below those of other more vaunted professions.

Their required aptitudes include excellent communication skills, compassion, and intellectual curiosity. Leadership is in strong demand, as well as patience, empathy, and solid rapport with kids.

NOT listed in the job description? Combat training, marksmanship, and knowledge of firearms that shoot .223 bullets with projectile velocity of 3,200 feet per second.

It’s a cliché to say it takes a village to raise happy, healthy, honorable children, but teachers are often a necessary, essential bridge between parents and the outside world. Is turning that “village” into a militarized zone, with teachers armed and ready to wage war, really the answer to school shootings?

“Our main goal as educators is to create a safe space for our students, where they can trust the adults to care for them, know them, and pay attention to their needs, leaving them open to learn and grow,” a middle school dean asserted. “Any scenario in which a teacher has a gun would only work against that goal by creating a space that anticipates threat and violence. That’s the wrong way to protect children, and the antithesis of what schools should be for them.”

Her view was echoed by another teacher/coach:

“The thought of arming teachers is crazy to me, not only because innocents could be killed in the line of fire, but because that responsibility would distract them from teaching. Students would be negatively impacted by knowing firearms are in the room, in the hands of their instructors. Is that the kind of school we want?”

EVERY parent of every political stripe wants their children kept safe and protected, but intelligent people know that aptitudes and skills are not automatically interchangeable. It takes training, expertise, and specific temperament to become an effective law enforcement officer, and when even police too often shoot innocent bystanders (an 18% hit rate?), and trained soldiers can react with “friendly fire” in the fog of war, why would we expect a teacher to morph into John Rambo during a moment of deadly chaos?

It’s delusional. It’s also a dereliction of duty by politicians, police, and the current president to deflect responsibility for sloppy gun law enforcement, rescission of essential regulations, and fealty to the NRA and a base of gun aficionados, to abdicate the solution of school shootings to overworked teachers.

It’s doubtful Donald Trump, Wayne LaPierre, most congress people, police, or 2nd Amendment activists have spent enough time in schools—teaching, learning the demands of the job, or studying the nuances and idiosyncrasies of the environment—to know just how ludicrous their proposal is. A good educator would suggest they go back to the drawing board to rethink proper enforcement of existing laws, write new ones that take into account current trends and weapons; even, perhaps, debate contemporary, applicable rewording of the 2nd Amendment.

Teachers? They should be left alone to teach.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

The Politics of Art: Should Artists Keep Their Opinions To Themselves?

“I have always loved the Grammys but to have artists read the Fire and Fury book killed it. Don’t ruin great music with trash. Some of us love music without the politics thrown in it.” ~ Nikki Haley, 29th and current United States Ambassador to the United Nations

The tension between art and politics has long been debated, certainly since the 1960s, when the cultural revolution introduced neon posters, protest music, and lyrics that offered more than “ooh baby baby” to the national conversation. Lenny Bruce and George Carlin made politics and changing mores the bedrock of their humor. Films, TV, art, and music found the incitement of violent unrest, sexual freedom, social controversy, and evolving standards ripe for exploration. All the rules changed and, for artists, that was a glorious thing.

Yet here we are in 2018, once again debating the explosive merge between politics and art, with some sniffing that those who create the movies, TV shows, music, books, images, and comedy enjoyed by a rapacious public should keep their politicizing pie-holes shut. Nikki was peeved, Trump took on Jay-Z, and God forbid a certain red-headed comedienne made tasteless jokes about the man in the White House…satire is dead, color within the lines, banish them from the kingdom!

Some of us aren’t having that.

When Nikki Haley tweeted the above admonition on Grammy night, she threw herself into a social media frenzy that literally exploded with response, opening up a contemporary conversation about what artists are allowed to say, what they are advised to do when it comes to that provocative alliance between creative and political personas.

The zeitgeist on that question has clearly evolved over time. Swinging from earlier eras when artists and celebrities fought hard to keep their proclivities and idiosyncrasies—both personal and political—from impacting any part of their public brand (with McCarthy’s blacklist making it a matter of career life and death), current trends find politics and identity more readily meshed, making public not only what an artist has to offer, but who they are and what they believe.

Of course, that’s not true in all genres of the creative world. It’s well known that country music defines conservatism as the go-to party line and sticking your neck out too far to the left can shatter a career’s upward trajectory (see the Dixie Chicks). Some say that hard line has been softened in more recent years; when big stars like Tim McGraw and Faith Hill can throw their support behind Obama and sane gun control, and still maintain status as one of country’s power couples, perhaps the sharper edges of political witch-huntery have been dulled. Even the TV series “Nashville” has tackled police profiling and the outing of one of its most popular characters.

On the other side of the aisle, actors like Bruce Willis, Kelsey Grammer, and Tim Allen claim their conservative politics have contributed to backlash from liberal Hollywood. Clint Eastwood, he of the famous “empty Obama chair” at the 2012 Republican Convention, has been openly mocked not only for his support of right-wing politics, but the contradiction those views present when viewed against some of his more liberal narratives (Gran Torino or Million Dollar Baby, for example). I doubt that Eastwood gives a hoot about it either way, but it might be true that being an out-and-proud red-hat Republican in the entertainment business requires a certain thickness of skin!

Writers, largely more private and introspective than their performing cousins, seem particularly sensitive to the conundrum, as their commerce and community building rely heavily on the goodwill of virtual readers and reviewers who may or may not share their civic opinions. Some, in service to that readership, refuse to reveal their political views in open forums, often advising others to follow suit for the sake of survival in a saturated marketplace. One author recently asked if I didn’t find it “dangerous” to be as vocal and public as I am about politics, if I might be scaring off, offending, or potentially losing readers who sit on the other side of the fence.

Maybe so.

But for me it comes down to this: the products of my creativity are built on the foundation of my political and social beliefs. The topics I cover, the characters I create, the messages of my stories are all imbued with one aspect or another of my perspective, either by echoing it or arguing it. In fact, it is my worldview—my philosophies, spiritual beliefs, and politics—that contributes to the whole of my assembled persona, and that persona is inexorably linked to my artistic expression. These things are inseparable.

If my views offend, put off, or otherwise dissuade readers, listeners, or viewers from appreciating or buying my work, then so be it. That is the price I willingly pay for authenticity. For me, there would be no point to creating art if it didn’t represent my voice, didn’t inspire conversation, elicit emotion, provoke thought, or offer illumination. Whether comedy, satire, suspense, science fiction, romance, or mystery, one can weave their foundational beliefs into any plot, character, or dialogue. Nothing need be wasted. My Muse, in fact, will not allow me otherwise.

Given that, I’m particularly drawn to artists propelled by the same impulse. I love that J.K. Rowling makes no secret of her liberal views on Twitter, stirring trolls into Voldemort-like frenzy! Chelsea Handler’s fierce politics make her humor all the more pointed. I appreciate that Ken Olin, Rob Reiner, Alyssa Milano, Ava DuVernay, Don Cheadle, John Leguizamo, and Jeffrey Wright relentlessly use their pulpits to push against nationalist hate and right-wing demagoguery.

But I especially applaud lesser known artists, those who have more to lose by boldly going where their politics lead. They are countless and courageous in putting their artistry where their mouths are:

Grace Amandes, a top-notch Chicago graphic artist, is not only fearless about stating her truths, she went so far as to design a slate of astonishingly beautiful protest posters for the 2018 Women’s March and donated them to any marcher or organization who requested them. Whether her more conservative corporate clients might be put off by her public stance held no sway, and she was honored to find her work widely shared both nationally and online.

Women’s March 2018, artist Grace Amandes

Or Aron Teo Lee. An east coast educator/entrepreneur who inspires the innovative thinking of kids and corporations via his company, Deilab, Lee is also a musician and a man of social conscience. Outraged by current political events, motivated to speak out for racial justice and other progressive causes, he and his band, The Funkin’ Rock Rebellion, recorded his song, “Into the Storm We March,” in time for the 2018 Women’s March and February’s Black History Month. Calling it “real funk with a meaning,” Lee describes his music as “sonic fuel to power artistic protest and social activism in response to this president and his cruel administration.” Art. Politics. Activism. No apologies.  

Aron Teo Lee

Or writer/director/filmmaker, Susie Singer Carter, and partner, Don Priess, who took their compassion and concern for Alzheimer’s sufferers, triggered by Susie’s journey with her beloved and afflicted mother, and made a beautiful film short, My Mom and the Girl, which touched a nerve for many, garnering a slate of awards at festivals around the globe. Pivotal to the story was a tender narrative arc involving a trans-woman, not necessarily a topic that plays well in some corners of middle and southern America. But being the dauntless artist she is, not only was Susie unbowed by the potential of offending viewers with more conservative views, she infused the film with a visual embrace of tolerance.

My Mom and the Girl

Artists like these are all the more admirable for making their unflinching contributions at a time when so much around us careens in chaos… when too many of the privileged and socially insulated blithely declare, “I don’t do politics,” despite the growing need for universal and collaborative involvement.

Fortunately, and increasingly, most of us do “do politics,” using the skill sets we have at our disposal to raise the bar, raise consciousness, and raise awareness. For artists, it’s their art. Their music, their books, their films. Their photographs, theater, and poetry. Their comedy. Their images. Their songs.

To answer the titular question: artists can’t be afraid to mix politics and art. The power created by that synergy is what drives revolutions, what makes change, what inspires activism… all of it pushed by the noise of our collective voices. If someone cannot tolerate the volume, they are free to take a seat in the other room.

Banner photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash  
Artists photos by permission of the artists.

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

 

Age Is Not The Arbiter Of Relevance. See ‘Sneaky’ Dianne Feinstein

Whenever I see an article that pits one generation against another, that categorizes the value and merit of any person in terms of age; that wildly asserts that terming-out is how to handle old folks and only youngsters have the sense and savvy to proceed to the route, I find my teeth grinding.

This is not only because I now happen to be in an age demographic that’s considered “old,” but because being in that age demographic has awakened me to the reality that age is not, and cannot be, the arbiter of who has value, who merits allegiance; who gets to stay and who has to go. Because relevance is not based on how quickly one can text, program a tech device, name the highest rated video game, or garner social media virality. Relevance is based on how well one balances their weight of wisdom, their experience and know-how, with pertinent, evolving, contemporary skills, demands, trends and issues of the day. What young people have on one end of that scale, older people gain on the other. It’s about the right mix; it applies to every increment of the age spectrum, and when you find that mix and act on it, amazing things can happen.

Take Dianne Feinstein. Or, as the bloviator in the White House has deemed her, “Sneaky Dianne.”

Born in San Francisco in 1933, a public servant in one role or another since the 60s, she’s at an age that is inarguably considered “old” by every standard, and yet there she was yesterday, changing the political narrative with nary a twitch of hesitation. With her pale face and smartly brunette coif, matter-of-fact and undeterred, she shoved aside the flummoxed of her own party, as well as the obfuscating Anita-Hill-bashing alumnus, Chuck Grassley, and newly minted Trump fanboy, Lindsey Graham, to step out of the Bable of political confusion to do what needed to be done: release the transcripts of the Fusion GPS testimony:

 

“The innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation into potential collusion and obstruction of justice,” Feinstein, a San Francisco Democrat, said in a statement. “The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public.”

Grabbed in a hallway by news reporters after her stunning move, she’s looked at the reporter and flatly declared: “I just decided to do it,” immediately giving women another rallying cry (similar to “But she persisted”) and elevating her status as a very relevant player in the dark drama of the Trump & Russia Show. Perhaps, as history may reveal, one of the most relevant.

Whatever you’ve thought of her over the years, however you’ve agreed or disagreed with her; if you think she’s too hawkish, not progressive enough, behind the times; tired, whatever; you cannot deny the facts of yesterday. Of her bold, shocking, courageous decision to flout political pressure and the Trumpian machinery of threat and blowhardery to do the right thing; to share with the American people what is their right to know; to expose facts that parties on the other side preferred shrouded in lies. No one else did it. No one younger, hipper, more progressive, maler. Dianne Feinstein did it. An eighty-four-year-old grandma who’s been serving the American people longer than some congresspersons have been alive. Just the title of this Los Angeles Times piece says it all: Ignore the critics. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is outperforming many half her age, with old-fashioned civility.

There will be, as there is with anything related to politics these days, particularly Donald Trump, reams written about this event. It will be discussed, debated, denounced, celebrated, parsed, analyzed and argued for weeks, months, potentially centuries to come (will they still be talking about Trump in 3018??), but none of that’s the point of this piece. The point of this piece is simply this:

Age is not the arbiter of relevance. Don’t let anyone tell you it is. Don’t let culture, advertising, Madison Avenue, hipster trendsetters, narcissistic young people, apathetic old people, frothing pundits, clickbait seeking article writers; people so afraid of death they frame anyone past the age of 50 as teeterers at the abyss; any and all of them; don’t let them convince you otherwise. Age is not the arbiter of anything. What is?

Courage, wisdom, experience; a willingness to stay plugged in. A relentless curiosity about evolving life, evolving culture. An interest in every kind of person — young or old. A desire to keep learning, to keep listening; to push against dishonesty and corruption, to remain convinced of and committed to your purpose in life. And then doing it. Doing it all. Whatever that commitment may demand. In Dianne Feinstein’s case, that included releasing the papers because it was the right thing to do.

That is a defining moment. That is relevance.

Meme found on Twitter

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

The Most Effective Form of Protest Is VOTING

“Demonstration without good legislation ends in frustration. To get good legislation you need to be in majorities. You gotta win elections.” ― Rep. Keith Ellison

Every American remotely interested in what’s going on in this country likely conducts a ritual similar to this at the beginning of their day:

They rise, get ready as needed for their particular schedule, then sit down, stand up, turn on, or pick up their media preference to scan the headlines. Some read or watch further, some don’t, but for the majority of Americans, this ritual and those headlines — at least since the current occupier of the White House has been in occupation — are a rage-inducing, gut-wrenching, anxiety-producing litany of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad news of stunning variety.

Since late-evening November 8th, 2016, we have witnessed the bulk of this country convulse through every negative emotion imaginable, with millions around the globe joining in angst as they watched, slacked-jawed, while the most powerful country in the free world handed the keys of the kingdom to the most inept, unqualified, and, as is proven daily, destructive and unethical person to ever grasp the title of “President of the United States.”

And this collective emotional turmoil is not conjecture; it’s fact: anxiety in America is up since Donald Trump became president:

“Post-election stress is real,” said Vaile Wright, director of research at the American Psychological Association. “People are really fearful about what’s going on in the country and are reporting concern about the political climate.”

On behalf of the national association, Harris Poll surveyed about 3,500 people last August in an annual survey about stress. The questionnaire asked for the first time about stress related to politics after hearing from therapists that many of their clients were anxious about the campaign. More than half said the U.S. presidential election was stressing them out.

Given what we’ve witnessed on social media, in coffee-house conversations, in the fracturing of families during dinner-time discussion, and the almost obsessive cultural fixation on “what the hell is going on with this Trump guy?” as one friend put it, the data from the American Psychological Association is not surprising, even if it is unprecedented:

“I’ve been in practice for 30 years,” said Esther Lerman Freeman, clinical psychologist at Oregon Health & Science University. “I’ve never seen people this upset about an election.”

But there was a bright spot in those early days: the Women’s March on January 21st.

It was, and remains, the best day many of us have had since that dreadful November night. An explosion of civic participation in unexpected and historic numbers, it became a communal gathering that not only made clear how tremendous the anti-Trump coalition was amongst liberal, progressive, and Democratic women (and men) throughout every state of the union (even blizzard-blown Alaska!), but around the world. The head-count was so large in some spots as to be incalculable, and observant folks were struck by the notion that there simply couldn’t be enough people who actually supported Trump to make his “win” irrefutable.

In fact, there wasn’t… because then came the Russians.

Or rather, as we recently heard from FBI Director, James Comey, the Russians came a long time ago. And I don’t mean the Cold War; I mean somewhere around July 2016, when the agency launched an investigation into possible (probable?) Trump/Russian collusion to interfere with #Election2016 and any chance of a Hillary Clinton win. Much more is to be revealed on this topic, but the critical mass of information already seems to support the suspicion that had this election been fair and square, Trump would be out hawking Slavic hotels while Hillary Clinton was busy running the country.

So, yes, LOTS of outrage to express, lots of anger and an unwillingness to acquiesce to the political status quo. People of conscience wear “pussy hats” and raise protest signs. We hashtag #Revolution, #Resistance, and #NotMyPresident every chance we get; stay vigilant on social media; write op-eds, call and email state representatives, sign petitions, organize town halls, and attend marches. WE MAKE OUR VOICES HEARD IN PROTEST.

And, yes: WE VOTE!

Right? We vote?

Turns out… not so much.

Like so much else in our recent electoral history that is surprising and self-sabotaging, it appears that far too many Americans STILL abdicate their right and responsibility to vote, one of their most effective and important civic tools. That is astonishing, particularly in this post-Trump era of outrage.

VOTE IN MIDTERMS. Elect a congressional majority willing to take on the White House, rather than behaving like quislings*.” ― Joy Reid (*quisling: a person who betrays his or her own country by aiding an invading enemy, often serving later in a puppet government; fifth columnist.)

On March 7, there was an election in Los Angeles for mayor, various judges, school board folks, and several important and impactful propositions. And yet, just a few short weeks after the streets of L.A. were packed with passionate, politically active people willing to get out on a Saturday morning to show solidarity with like-minded progressives, ONLY 11.45 PERCENT OF REGISTERED CITIZENS VOTED! Only 11.45 percent! Which means in a city of over 4 million people, just over 450,000 voted, which, depending on who you ask, is far less than showed up for the Women’s March on January 21st.

Why is that? Why are we willing to strap on a pink hat, grab a protest sign, and hit the streets to the tune of “We are women, hear us roar,” but not get out to the ballot box at some point during a 12-hour period to make our voices known in tangible, policy-and-local-government-altering ways?

Fact is, voter turnout in America has always been a conundrum. Horrible numbers. Shameful, even, in light of countries where citizens put life and limb at risk to vote. Maybe it’s the “privilege of democracy” that renders Americans civically lazy, detached from the urgency of voting. Maybe it’s the bane of imprinted American competitiveness that determines that only the most exciting, most combative elections bring out the numbers (FairVote). Certainly demographics have something to do with it: young people are notorious non-voters, which makes a clear case for stronger mentor influence and the designation of civics (let me say again) as a required subject in school curriculums.

But even though voter apathy is historically endemic, why, given the clear and vibrant political activism of that memorable January 21st day, didn’t those numbers translate into exponential attendance at the ballot box, the next logical step in the act of active activism? That question is where the political disconnect lies:

“It wasn’t a big election, like, for president or even any senators. I couldn’t figure out half the propositions. I got busy. The ballot was too confusing. I planned to vote but ran out of time. I was traveling that day. Smaller elections don’t matter that much. I have no idea who all those judges and school board and city council people were so I didn’t bother. The power mongers are going to decide everything anyway. Look at what happened with Trump; what’s the point?”

All the above were communicated to me in one way or another, and I get it: who are all those judges and other folks? And why are those propositions so damn confusing (and, really, did that many trees need to die to glut our mailboxes with contradicting mega-postcards)? And yes, not all of what’s there to be voted on by each resident affects that resident… but SO WHAT?

The civic equation, the societal formula, that desperately needs to be considered is this:

First, local laws affect the well-being of people by either attending to their needs, or by ignoring them to the point that they’re motivated to change those laws. That ability, that power — to change local laws via the electoral process — is designed to engage and inspire citizens to take responsibility for their own government. The thinking follows: if they get involved locally, they’re more likely to get involved nationally. Local voters beget national voters.

Secondly, local politicians become identified, known, as they move up the political ranks. They build loyalty while becoming effective spokespeople for their constituents. Those regional and local leaders — mayors, judges, city council and school board members, etc. — often go on to become state and national leaders; governors, congresspeople… even higher. Hence, getting to know those leaders locally puts voters ahead of the curve if/when those same people move into national positions. Voters are already invested; they already know something about that person; their voice and vote will be more educated because of that local history. Engaged local voters beget engaged national voters.

Whatever your interpretation of “all politics is local” (usually attributed to Tip O’Neil, etymologist, Barry Popik asserts that the phrase was coined by Washington AP bureau chief, Byron Price), I think we can all agree that local elections have tangible and pivotal influence in building and nurturing the foundation of all politics. So, again, why do so many people ignore them?

One popular post-mortem of election 2016 was the “exit interview” of Trump voters. Social scientists attempted to discern why they voted — sometimes against their own self-interests and often in the face of facts that should have sent them running to the hills — for a guy who couldn’t be more unlike them. The take-away, putting aside documented xenophobia, racism, and the rest, was that they felt their government leaders ignored them: “They don’t listen to us, those elites. Our needs aren’t considered. We’re invisible.” Whether or not that is quantifiably true is not the point; they believed it to be true and they believed Trump would be different. Which leads back to the chicken/egg equation: did local/state politicians drop the ball or did local citizens abdicate their own civic responsibility? Given the evidence, I’d say both the chicken and egg are guilty.

When it’s suggested that gerrymandering and voter suppression could subvert the Democrats’ ability to make gains in the 2018 midterms, shaking voters out of their entrenched apathy becomes all the more urgent. We need to engage citizens early in their political life (let me say this again: civics must become a high school requirement), getting voters of every age inspired, educated, and out to the polls. The default position should be that every election is a “big one.” Because, ultimately, that is true.

Lastly — and perhaps prosaically — there is simply no excuse not to vote; not any more; not these days. Regardless of gerrymandering, insufficient polling stations, long lines, bad weather, work conflicts, babysitting snafus, car problems, travel schedules, bad knees, simply not having enough time to get to a polling place, there’s this: 37 states allow early voting, all states will mail absentee ballots to those requesting them, and three states provide mail-in ballots for all elections. Everyone can figure out a way to vote.

The Midterm Elections of 2018 are the next major elections; many important state and city elections are unfolding as we speak, some of which may have powerful impact on turning the tide against the Trump machine. VOTE. Don’t abdicate. Don’t dismiss. Don’t listen to those who tell you it doesn’t matter. Grab a rain coat, pull on your pink hat, take your protest sign, jog from work, register for mail-in ballots; whatever it takes: VOTE. That, more than any other form of resistance and protest, has the power to change the world. If #Election2016 taught us anything, it taught us that.

“Holding America” photo by Samuel Schneider @ Unsplash

To find out what your specific state provides in terms of early voting and mail-in ballots, check HERE.

Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

What He Said: John Scalzi Has a Plan for How To Stay Creative in the Age of Trump

photo-by-nik-macmillan

It’s rare that I repost a piece from the Los Angeles Times, but the general thesis of this one has been rolling around my own head for weeks, and it seems John Scalzi beat me to it! So rather than wrangle my own version–and since he covered it so well–I’m linking his piece here. Take it to heart… it’s important that creative folks stay creative, even when it seems like the entire world has turned upside down around them!


John Scalzi’s 10-point plan for getting creative work done in the age of Trump

John Scalzi

IT’S NOT A GREAT SECRET that Donald Trump and his incoming administration are not hugely beloved by America’s creative class — the difficulty Trump is having in finding performers for his inauguration is only the most obvious manifestation of this. What’s probably less known is that Trump election put a number of creative people into mental tailspin. Not only for the fact of his election, but for what his policies mean for creatives: The possible disappearance of the Affordable Care Act, through which many creative people were able to secure health insurance, is just the tip of the iceberg for many.

People who don’t make their living through creative endeavors often suppose turbulent times make for great art, but the truth is that for many artists, being worried or anxious or depressed steals away the ability to create. The new reality of Trump’s America means a lot of creatives have to readjust — find a new balance to get back to creating.

How to do that, if you are creative person knocked for a loop by the election? Here are some of the things I’ve done, and that other writers and creatives are telling me they are doing.

[Continue reading at the Los Angeles Times….]

Photo by Nik MacMillan

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

When You’re Trying To Do Christmas and Politics Get In the Way

santa-by-caleb-woods

I remember the good old days when I could find all sorts of fun, quirky things to write about at this time of year: cheerful vignettes about childhood holiday memories, charming seasonal facts long forgotten, the ten worst Christmas traditions ever; you know… meaningful stuff like that.

The holiday season just seems to lend itself to warmth and whimsy, the exploration of themes related to love and gratitude, our favorite recipes and the funniest Santa Claus pictures. Unless one is truly a curmudgeon, it’s almost impossible to not have least one happy memory attached to this time of year. I was—and am—no exception.

In fact, I love Christmas. I’m one of those. It makes me happy. I feel no compunction to spend money I don’t have, plans trips I don’t wish to take, or attend events I’d rather avoid. I’m very protective that way. It’s all about designing a season in which the only obligation is to create happiness for those within the circle. In fact, my husband and I began our marriage by making our first Christmas a thing of joy, and those handpicked ornaments and table decorations, cookie traditions and family gatherings, favorite meals and notable activities, sustain to this day, as precious to us as anything we hold dear.

scary-election_mikeyBut still, I’ve been more serious lately. Life got more serious. I blame the election. The damn, interminable election that sucked the air out of our nation starting a little over a year ago and ratcheting up every day since. It’s been a war of sorts, one that’s left us battered, bothered and bewildered. As one friend put it, “I hate that I’m actually in fear for our future. I’ve been disappointed in election results before, but I’ve never felt terrified about where this person might take us, or how and if we’ll survive.”

I’m not one who lives in fear, but I feel her pain. I share the concern. Despite previous political conflicts, rancorous partisanship, and caustic disparities amongst the parties, I, too, have never felt quite the level of darkness and toxicity that permeates this particular election… and this particular person. That the man entering office is doing so despite his opponent winning almost 3 MILLION MORE VOTES, and despite the fact that the wisest, more experienced, most admirable and honorable men and women in the country/world believe he’s an unmitigated disaster, means little at this point. We are here. Where we are. And at this moment there’s no changing that (later moments…we’ll see).

Dealing with the daily litany of horrible, idiotic, hateful, head-shaking, corrupt, indecent, and just plain stupid things the next presi— (I can’t say it… I won’t… #NotMyPresident… ever), occupant of the White House says or does has been exhausting and unnerving (that’s a tepid word… how about TERRIFYING?!). I have no idea where it’s all going either, how long the trainwreck will be allowed to smolder before someone gets it to the scrap yard, or if we’ll be teaching our children how to desk-dive in “nuclear drills” before the year is over. But I won’t live in fear. I prefer the sentiment of this section of the poem, Protest, that Dan Rather shared:

‘Protest,’ by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1914

To sin by silence when we should protest
makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance and lust,
The inquisition yet would serve the law.
And guillotines decide our least disputes.
The few who dare must speak and speak again,
To right the wrongs of many.

I will live by that. I will continue to raise my voice, as Ella suggests, to “speak and speak again,” however loud and long is required of me. I promise you that.

But still… there’s Christmas.

And Christmas is important. We human beings need the rituals and traditions of our holidays, those times when we can collectively acknowledge and experience celebration and joy. Without them we might end up spending all our time wailing on social media, and that’s not a good thing!

But to those for whom loss or grief keeps them from finding the joy… those whose loneliness and isolation occludes their ability to embrace the happier aspects of seasonal celebration, I say this: I understand. I do. I’ve been there. I know how tough it can be, when you’re in those particular places, to carry on about “jolly St. Nick” and the proper temp for Christmas roast. My beloved grandmother died the morning of Christmas 1979. I had some of the loneliest days of my life over Christmas of 1988. I went into the season of 1989 having just lost a job. I got dumped once right before Christmas. My father died in early December of 1999. I know how those seminal events, those states of being, can impact one’s ability to celebrate and be happy, Christmas or no Christmas.

I hope, though, that through friends, through social media, through whatever connections you can make, can find and feel in your world, that you’re able to glean at least a moment or two of warmth and holiday spirit this season… I wish that for you.

family_friends-xmas_w

As for me this year: I’m fortunate. My family is healthy and doing well, my work is moving along; I’ve got a new theatrical adventure to begin this coming year (more on that soon); the house looks magical, the gifts are wrapped, the cookies are baking, every gathering has met expectations, so we’re doing it up right. But yes… at least a few times a day, as I do my work online, I check social media and various news sources to see what the hellfire is going on, and dammit if I don’t have to tweet or post or write or share or comment or yell about one damn thing or another because that little orange mother—BUT WAIT!!

It’s Christmas… I’m mellow and jolly, wrapped in reds and greens, nutmeg and cinnamon wafting through the air; Music Choice is set to “Sounds of the Season” and it’s so, so, so lovely… so NO! Donald Trump does not get my holiday! He may have shattered my belief in democracy, lowered my estimation of human decency, made me question how deep my coffer of disdain can go, and raised my level of revulsion beyond good health, but he is NOT going to ruin my damn Christmas!

So, despite politics, I will revel madly, enjoy friends and family to the utmost, occasionally hug my big Santa statue by the doorway, all with hopes that you can do some version of the same (the big Santa is pretty exclusive but, I tell ya, he’s quite something!). And please know that—if you’re reading this— you’re likely one of my circle, those chosen few with whom I vent, debate, inspire, exchange ideas, share important articles, post unimportant but utterly appreciated videos of pandas playing with snowmen, or just, in general, grant outlets and venues and canvasses upon whicchrismas-carh to commiserate. Our mutual and connected attempts to makes sense of this crazy world have literally kept me from feeling alone and insane during this “Annus horribilis,” so THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!

And Merry Christmas, dear friends. Let’s make 2017 a year that “trumps” the year we’ve just had… in all the good ways in which that word can be applied. Let’s reflect on the poem Dan Rather shared and make sure we are not those who “sin by silence.” Let’s be loud, and make COURAGE the word most spoken this coming year.

Until then, have a Christmas cookie… mmm, so good! ❤

Santa photo by Caleb Wood at Unsplash
Scary Election by Mike (Mikey) @ Unsplash
Christmas Car photo @ Pinterest

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

The Power of Solidarity Trumps the Fickleness of Fanaticism

Senator Sanders endorses Hillary Clinton
So, Senator Bernie Sanders has officially endorsed Hillary Clinton.

It is the dawn of a new day; a day in which those on the Left (or even sorta Left!)—Democrats, progressives, liberals, lefties, democratic socialists, humanists, greeners, even some libertarians—could, if they choose, come together to coalesce, compromise, and collaborate to bring progressive, compassionate, socially responsible ideas to fruition under the leadership of Secretary Clinton with great progressive fighters like Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders by her side.

There is power in that solidarity, especially against the inane, idiotic, and utterly irresponsible demagoguery of the Orange Man on the right… OR even the hate-filled about-face denigrations and attacks on Sanders from some of his most rabid “former” supporters on the Left (the politically faint-of-heart may want to stay off social media for a bit!).

Those of us who care about such things as solidarity and forward motion—who care more about our fellow citizens than “election ego,” who see incremental progress (usually the only kind that happens in the real world) as worthy of our efforts and commitment; who reject the lies and misinformation of oppositional mudslinging, and who understand that no candidate is perfect, no candidate has all the answers, no candidate can get everything done they wish to get done, and that the best candidates come together to offer the best outcomes toward changing the world for the better—are applauding Senator Sanders’ endorsement.

Because we understand that, regardless of campaign rhetoric and its de rigueur focus on all that divides, post-campaign reconciliation comes with the putting down of arms (so to speak), the dismissal of previously bandied bad-mouthing, and the rejection of oppositional dialogue. It embraces the Venn Diagram of platforms and ideology, and accepts that the attention once put on differentiation is now put on common ground and the solidarity of shared priorities.

I was not a Sanders supporter, but I understood those who were, and shared many of their causes and concerns. I believed then, as I believe now, that Clinton and Sanders are far more aligned than that notorious campaign rhetoric suggested, and I found it extremely disheartening when the most rabid, the most vitriolic and aggressively fanatical of supporters on the Left, chose to make this an ugly, hate-filled war instead of just a “feisty campaign.”

I lost respect for many I knew who were “in the mud” in that ugly war, who insisted that “pointing out differences” meant spreading lies and misinformation, sharing debunked and salacious gossip and propaganda, promoting the worst they could scrape up of the oppositional candidate rather than focusing on celebrating and supporting their own. It got ugly, real ugly, and much has been written (some by me) about the unfortunate, unnecessary, and, in some cases, “friend-ending” nastiness of the haters and mud-slingers.

But now we can leave all that to the Right… right?

We on the Left can celebrate the fact that those of us who refused to grovel in that mud can now bone fidely unify around the Democratic ticket, can join hands to fight the true battle against the profoundly unqualified candidate on the right, and can gird ourselves for the ugliness and idiocy that will no doubt be a part of the general campaign up ahead. But at least we Dems are unified…

… though it seems we’ll still have to endure—at least until their venom peters out or their slinging arms weary—the ugliness of former Sanders supporters who have now turned on their heretofore hero. Sadly, it was expected, particularly after witnessing the mind-boggling attacks on Elizabeth Warren after she endorsed Clinton, but still… the fickleness of fanaticism is showing its hateful head in Tweets, Facebook comments, Reddit hysteria, and general online trolling attacks on Sanders (along with implications that he’s a pathetic, spineless puppet squirming under the thumb of the Clinton machine… yes, H.A. Goodman actually went there!). It remains disheartening. Predictable, shameful, counter-productive, and disheartening.

Which makes it all the more inspiring and energizing to see the loyalty, the support, the passion, the belief, and now the coalescence of those jumping in to support the Democratic ticket… which will only get more exciting when Clinton announces her VP choice. I’m choosing to ignore the haters, the naysayers, the foot-stomping “unrealists,” to, instead, focus on the positive forward motion currently in play. I suggest—I urge—everyone who understands the stakes, the incremental nature of progress, and the value and power of compromise, coalition, and collaboration, to do the same.

Because that’s where the power is: in solidarity and coalescence. And that’s how we’ll ensure that progressive, compassionate, big-tent, open-hearted governance continues in the White House.

Photo from Hillary Clinton’s Facebook page.

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.