Unmasked America: How Showing Concern for Others Became a Political Statement

“Who’s that masked man, mama?”
“Someone who cares about other people, sweetheart.”

Americans in 2020 remind me of teenagers:

No matter the issue, how it’s framed, where logic comes in, or what consequences are attached, there’s always an argument. A debate. The foisting of opinions, drawing of lines, asserting of protests and presumptions. Of course, Americans have always been like this (think Salem witch trials or the movie Lincoln). Certainly since the Internet allowed us to be privy to and partake of everyone’s every thought this reality has been made evermore clear. But in the terrifying age of COVID, when matters are squarely focused on very real possibilities of sickness and death, the caustic noise of debate feels deflective and ill-advised. Especially with over 80,000 dead and numbers continuing to rise; despite disinformation, presidential fairy tales, and hopeful thinking.

Are we “all in this together,” as TV ads and inspirational messages insist?

Given the hyperbolically-armed lockdown protesters, privileged hysteria from beach-lovers denied their “fun in the sun,” overflowing NYC parks even in that COVID hotspot, and the hoots of restaurant diners defying distancing measures to make a point and grab a sandwich, I’d say we are not.

Though, were we ever?

We seemed to be at first, when fear and deep knowledge deficit had us vulnerable, eager for information and instruction. We stayed glued to TV news, social media, the endless articles and videos explaining the circumstances, scaring us straight with previously unfathomable death predictions and admonishments to stay home for our very survival. It felt like a mashup of World War ZInvasion of the Body Snatchers, and The Birds, and we were terrified, confused, and compliant… until the inevitable happened.

Politics creeped in.

As it always does. As it so vociferously does during this unfortunate time of Trump.

The predictable polarization and agenda-pushing of deeply divided partisans then took over what should have been a unified response (think post-9/11 solidarity or Brits during the blitzkrieg), and turned it into a counter-productive melee that, most destructively, dismissed true experts in lieu of political chest-pounding. In the midst of expertise and science-driven guidance and direction, and at the behest and lead of the current president, sensible, cohesive “pandemic management” got sideswiped, ambushed, co-opted and bushwhacked by conspiracy-theorists, right-wing propagandists, Republican enablers and naysayers, and an exceedingly narcissistic and desperate president most concerned about his polling, his pocketbook, and his chances of re-election (as has been the case since 1.20.17).

Which meant that every fact, every truth, every wise recommendation or life-saving precaution was contradicted or dismissed by Fox News and their braying bevy of sneering, glinty-eyed disinformers hellbent on driving the message that all this caretaking, distancing, and quarantining was just the pussified prescription of idiots who bought into hoax and hyperbole. “If you believe in freedom and the American way, people, you’ll strap on your bazooka, get out there in your red hat and unmasked face, and lockstep into any building or American street you wish, COVID be damned!”

And that message was embraced: science and medicine, compassion and empathy, protection of and concern for fellow humans, particularly medical personnel risking their lives to save those of others’, all became LESS IMPORTANT than politics and partisan arrogance. Taking their cues from an increasingly erratic, dishonest, and inept president, the great divide between red/blue factions became strangely emblemized by those who cared enough to wear a mask and those who didn’t, right on up to the Oval Office.

Which is insane.

Because COVID-19 isn’t discriminatory. It doesn’t care if you’re a #MAGA supporter or a “Bernie bro,” Adam Schiff or Rand Paul, Barack Obama or Donald Trump. It makes no distinction between the viewers of Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, and Sean Hannity, or those devoted to Rachel, Chris, and Lawrence. It’s prepared to infect in a restaurant, at the beach, around your dining table, or in the White House. Its viral mandate is to give not one hoot about the tanking economy, your failing business, the stock market, or cancellation of an entire season on Broadway. It’s hearty, indefatigable, and determined to follow its evolutionary imperative like a terminator with spikes, and no amount of partisan-driven bluster and braggadocio will diminish its ability to infect you and/or use you as a carrier capable of infecting others.

We’re certainly all in that together, political affiliation notwithstanding.

So why wouldn’t you wear a mask? Why wouldn’t you hedge your bets of infection, tip the scale towards protection, do what you could to help mitigate transmission of this deadly virus in every way available? What possible rationale defends the act of gathering in large groups with no masks and little space in-between when science tells you how foolhardy that is? Even if you’re convinced of your own imperviousness, how can you justify even the possibility of contributing to another person’s illness or even death?

How does being Republican, a right-wing conservative, or a follower of Donald Trump protect you from all the vulnerabilities endemic to every human being? It doesn’t. It simply deludes you into thinking it does, and that is very dangerous, for you, and for those you come near.

Even if predictions turn out to be exaggerated, even if cases drop faster than expected, even if the virus “disappears without a vaccine” (as Trump so blithely disinforms), it’s here now, it’s infecting now, it’s killing now, and if 80,000+ deaths in three months isn’t sobering to you, enough to compel you to take the simplest of mitigating actions, I’d check both your pulse and soul.

A guy who disagrees with me tweeted today that, “It is 100% about fear. We are all capable of assessing our own level of personal risk and acting accordingly. If you are afraid then you stay home where, ironically, most COVID patients are getting sick.”

He was referencing an article about, specifically, new hospitalizations in NYC, while conveniently leaving out the fact that catching COVID at home means you or someone in the family pod brought the virus in from the outside. I also countered that it’s not “fear” driving smart people to stick to precautions; it’s a healthy dose of self-preservation and an abiding sense of compassion and concern for others you might asymptomatically infect, which is why, particularly, masking is important:

“A cloth face covering is not intended to protect the wearer, but may prevent the spread of virus from the wearer to others. This would be especially important in the event that someone is infected but does not have symptoms. A cloth face covering should be worn whenever people must go into public settings (grocery stores, for example).” CDC FAQs

Sometimes it’s hard to protect people from themselves.

I can only hope that smarter, more caring people refuse to be bullied, insulted, or made to feel small for being smart. We do have to figure out how to bring the economy back to life, but both business owners and other patrons have to look past frustrations, financial concerns, and political posturing to realize that the majority of Americans remain worried that restrictions lifted too early will have a deleterious effect moving forward, and that has to be recognized.

It means the flouters are outnumbered. It means good business owners must explore how to open safely enough to actually bring the majority back. It means the noise and protests and tantrumming of right-wing foot-stompers are drowned out by the silence of those who prioritize safety and health, theirs and others.

It means, people, please wear a damn mask.

Photo by Tobias Rehbein on Unsplash


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

Maturity vs. Purity: Which Will Drive Democrats in Election 2020?

When I was a kid growing up in Catholic schools there was much discussion on the topic of “purity.” We were awash in demands to maintain it, honor it; fight any urge to sully it. “Impure thoughts” were sins, “impure actions” were damnable, but being a sentient little girl with an open mind I was beset by both (albeit of strictly PG nature) even before puberty hit. As you can imagine, I spent significant time in confessionals penancing for those biological curiosities.

“Purity” itself is a curious word. Signifying “immaculateness,” “cleanness” and “untaintedness,” it’s also aligned with “whiteness” (hmmm…) and a slew of other definitions suggesting it’s the condition of being free of guilt, evil, pollution, debasement, and other contaminates that make a thing, or person, one presumes, undesirable.

As applied to political candidates, how does “purity” play? Are those who fail to meet standards of hard-left progressives (as opposed to, say, regular, moderate, or center progressives) deigned sullied and contaminated, unworthy of political consideration? Who decides how pure one needs to be to pass the test; can someone be pure on one issue, “tainted” on another, and are candidates ever graded on a curve?

I ask because, as occurred in 2016, the wholesale slamming of good, decent people running in the Democratic primary is again happening in the name of “purity testing.” Spend any time on Twitter or other social media and you’ll find biblical threads of caustic debate dedicated to the parsing of and pouncing on of anyone who dares tilt from the hardest of hard left progressive platforms, often concluding with familiar foot-stomping assertions like, “if they steal it from us again I’m not voting for anyone!” (insert whichever us applies).

This, at a time when a certified lunatic looms in the White House and exorcising him from our national stage is paramount to the literal survival of many… of the world, at this point.

Perhaps those waving purity flags most vociferously are so dogged in their enthusiasm they’ve missed the unique urgency of this moment, determined, instead, to fight to the death for purist ideals without considering the impact a potential loss to Trump would impose not only on them, but those outside their bubble. Perhaps they’re framing this election as a pivotal moment when activists and socially conscious citizens are supposed to fight for essential, necessary change.

But here’s the rub: this isn’t like any other election. Not even close. This is a fight between good and evil, survival and destruction, democracy and authoritarianism. Rule of law and flagrant corruption. Life and death. Sanity and insanity. Peace and war.

Hyperbolic? Just look around, people… and we’re barely into the new year.

Younger voters can, perhaps, be excused for any confusion or myopia on the topic. They’re newer at this, idealistic as hell, and driven by passions unbowed by historical perspective. They’re activated, plugged in, and convinced about what they want, what they believe the country needs, and won’t accept otherwise. In a normal election, their indefatigability would be applauded. It is applauded, even now.

What isn’t? Tunnel-visioned political petulance. Assailing candidates under the shared tent who are deemed “not pure enough.” The “take my ball and go home” intransigence that is too often bundled with passion. We, as a nation, cannot afford that sense of entitlement, not ever, certainly not now.

But I get the enthusiasm. At the dawn of 2019, I was very vocal in my demand that we finally—and well behind 70+ other democracies—elect a female president. I wasn’t alone: the evolution of culture demanded it, the gender balance of our country demanded it; the logic of who, per countless studies, provides exemplary leadership and management skills demanded it. And though occasionally accused of “voting with my vagina” (thanks to the weary, sexist trope immortalized by purity cultist, Susan Sarandon), I made clear it wasn’t just about gender. It was about who I believed would best serve as president and who I believed could beat Trump.

I believed Kamala Harris was that person. So I attended rallies, wrote articles, spread the word, would have done more but then… she was out. After months of strangely vapid media coverage, pushback from purity testers snarling about her law enforcement background (amongst other things); unhelpful campaign blunders, predictable disdain from racist/sexist small-minds, and the burgeoning demand for mega-dollars as billionaires joined the fray, she dropped out and I lost my candidate.

Yep, ball in hand, facing the direction of home, I moped, snarled, and vented. Then I turned back around and reassessed. Nothing had changed in the #1 priority: beating Trump. Nor was there any less urgency to choose the candidate I believed was best positioned to do that. And not just in liberal, progressive enclaves, but out in the wide world of middle, southern, northern, eastern, western, blue collar, lower income, less liberal, more conservative, moderate, centrist Democratic America. The one with voices, experiences, and circumstances as diverse as our population; the one that doesn’t necessarily like Trump but tends to find “socialism” suspect and women presidents discomforting.

Party extremists may choose to ignore that huge, disparate demographic, but it’s at their peril. Mature voters know we need them all to get the job done.

Maturity vs. purity. That’s the stark choice for Democrats this go-around.

Circumstances in 2020 demand that citizens of compassion, empathy, and civic responsibility prioritize “the greater good,” a concept that transcends every other metric on the table. Anyone with a grasp of both history and the power of selective compromise knows our most urgent task at this moment is saving America—the world—from four more years of Trump, front-burning choices and decisions to best ensure his removal, thereby securing the survival of policies and platforms that aid all citizens, not just those who are rich, white, evangelical, or conservative.

It means understanding that purity, like perfection, is unattainable, and certain passions may have to be put on hold until we no longer have a deranged person in the White House. It means understanding that the noble principles many are fighting for—Medicare-for-All, student loan forgiveness, immigration reform, breaking the glass ceiling—can only be prioritized after the basic demand of beating Trump has been accomplished, when the possibility of losing an election comes without tangible risk to the health and welfare of an entire nation…the world.

Joe Walsh, an occasionally teeth-gnashing Republican who notoriously helped elect Trump in 2016 and has often espoused opinions likely to offend any liberal, is currently primarying him. And though who knows where he’ll lean post-Trump, at the moment he’s a Never Trumper earnestly apologizing for his part in Debacle 2016, speaking openly (a rare feat amongst Republicans) against the man and his corrupt administration. And Joe Walsh recently articulated my entire thesis in a 230-character tweet, making it a perfect summation of what’s at stake:

Agreed. Exactly. Bingo. Exclamation point. Read, repeat, retweet.

As I learned in grade school, purity may be touted as an admirable trait, but outside of diamonds, dog breeds, and organic soup, it doesn’t much allow room for life’s vagaries and the demand of circumstances. Maturity does. And being a mature voter in 2020 means prioritizing the “greater good” (urgency made even “greater” by Trump’s warmongering move of 1.3.20). It means supporting the Democratic ticket, whoever it is, and fighting like hell to get them elected.

Because purity means nothing if you have no power, and though protest votes, write-in votes, and third-party votes may feel righteous and rebellious, they will not get you what you want: power or progress.

They will only get you Trump… and nothing could be less pure or progressive than that.


Flag photo by Jonathan Simcoe on Unsplash
B&W voting photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash


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

When Did Being a Republican Become… THIS?

I’ve known Republicans all my life.

Family members. Neighbors. Select friends. Workmates. Maybe even a boyfriend or two. And though my parents were Chicago-bred liberals, and I was most definitely raised with the political sensibilities of the “big tent” Democratic Party, I can’t remember a time when Republicans—their brand, their image, their policies and platforms; their mission, their words and deeds—were something that would make you grab the children and run screaming from the room.

Until now.

We all remember the old Republican Party, grand or otherwise. It was a party that used to stand for small government and free enterprise, with fewer regulations and lower taxes. It promoted fiscal responsibility, ideals of self-reliance and individuality, with a focus on family values and law and order. It emphasized national pride and valor, while supporting notions of human and civil rights, and peace and freedom throughout the world. In fact, it positioned itself as the “grown-up” party of conservative values, certainly in comparison to the freewheeling, wildly diverse, and politically liberal Democrats.

And they pulled it off for a while. At least some version of that idealized branding. They were able to wrap themselves in bright, shiny purpose and actually make their constituents feel that those mandates were being honored. Some Republicans became political stars: Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt; Eisenhower. More recently, Ronald Reagan was a Republican who made them swoon. Despite his background as a “lowly actor,” his paternalistic—sometimes bumbling—oration; despite the Iran-Contra scandal, his lack of action on the civil rights and AIDS crises, even when evidence of his dementia became clear, they called him “The Great Communicator,” and his name was invoked by any member of the party who wanted to be seen as comparable in the slightest. A likeable, admirable Republican. Hey, even Bush Jr., whose administration was a clusterfuck of corruption, graft, and what some would frame as actual war crimes, was often referenced as someone “you’d like to have a beer with.”

Then came Trump.

The chaos and corruption that was imagined in the fever dreams of every single person who worked their ass off to see that he was not elected have now come screaming to life in full, horrifying, three-dimensional color. And in the months and years of his almost unfathomably toxic administration, the Republican Party has devolved into a thing so unrecognizable, so pandering and capitulating, so crass and enabling of crassness, that Ronald Reagan is quite possibly rolling over in his grave.

When did being a Republican become engaging in corrupt, criminal, even traitorous activities with foreign adversaries to win elections?

When did being a Republican become wearing a red hat intended to signal bigotry, ignorance, and “fear of other”?

When did being a Republican become impugning, insulting, and negating our national intelligence, justice, and law enforcement agents and agencies?

When did being a Republican become ignoring your constituency to pander to the petulant demands of the executive branch?

When did being a Republican become embracing, enabling, and propagating verifiable lies in an effort to win favor with a corrupt president?

When did being a Republican become running up the budget deficit nearly 50% in only 2+ years?

When did being a Republican become handing welfare (paid by taxpayers) to farmers after imposing tariffs that gutted them, gifting tax relief to the wealthiest among us, and doing everything possible to dismantle a healthcare system that actually works for the people who need it most?

When did being a Republican become disseminating lies, slander, insults, and ignorance on social media, emulating a POTUS who’s lowered every standard of decorum and decency?

When did being a Republican become ignoring protocols and rules set up by your own party to, instead, spuriously attack and defame the opposition?

When did being a Republican become dismissing the party leader’s stated declarations of sexual harassment and assault, while concurrently ignoring the legion of credible women who’ve accused him of the same?

When did being a Republican become agreeing with, sharing, even finding humor in vile, ugly name-calling by the man our children should look up to but cannot?

When did being a Republican become turning a blind eye to the inhumanity of caging asylum-seeking refugees, kidnapping their children, breaking up their families, and denying them legal rights?

When did being a Republican become advancing discrimination against Muslims, Mexicans, LGBTQ, people of color, women, and immigrants?

When did being a Republican become openly embracing white supremacists, Nazis, KKK, racists and bigots who see “America first!” as a battle cry for white nationalism?

When did being a Republican become insulting war heroes, dismissing the needs of vets, and treating national security like a dangerous and badly played game of “Risk”?

When did being a Republican become cozying up to inhumane dictators, even comparing them favorably to former presidents?

When did being a Republican become cowardice, spinelessness; an inability to speak truth frankly, or stand up for integrity and honor?

When did being a Republican become supporting, enabling, complying with, or otherwise propping up the most corrupt, inept person who’s ever been in the Oval Office?

When did being a Republican become something shameful?

Any group, certainly any political party, has its share of criminals, hooligans, fools, idiots, and the ethically challenged. I mean… Anthony Weiner. But as I watched Matt Gaetz and his Mindless Minions march in self-righteous lockstep to disrupt and violate a private impeachment hearing in a secure room, and listened as he and his cabal spewed nonsense about “secrecy” and “lack of transparency,” maligning the very respectable Adam Schiff as a Machiavellian purveyor of nefarious intent all while pretending to forget (or consciously ignoring) the fact that Trey Gowdy himself—the Wag of Benghazi Street—stated that the procedure was proceeding exactly as it should and in compliance with rules that, yes, REPUBLICANS put in place, I saw a Republican Party that had devolved to the very worst of human weakness, corruption, arrogance, and stupidity.

But it’s every day I see a Republican Party willing to ignore facts, lie with zeal,  break laws, gaslight constituents, flout norms and protocols, demean and mudsling with the prattles of insecure bullies tap-dancing either at the behest of the Fool on the Hill or to gain his approval and acceptance. And every day I realize this party is no more.

It’s not “grand,” it’s not even “old,” because the Republican Party of yore is gone. The one that exists today is a mutant version of what came before, and until the snarling head of that beast has been removed, either by impeachment or election, this party will continue to metastasize into a dark, corrupt thing unrecognizable to the two-hundred-and-forty-three-years of Republicans who came before.

Until then, rethink, America. We have a country to save.


Photographs in order:
Jorgen Haland, Roya Ann Miller & Jon Tyson, all on Unsplash


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

Time’s Up: Why America NEEDS a Female President. Now.

Here’s an indisputable fact: There will always be qualified men. Always.

There’s no shortage of them, they’ve been around for ages. Able, intelligent, wise men who know their way around a political campaign, who exude charm and charisma (or don’t), who have the skill set to stir the masses (or at least their fanbase), and who can surely lead the country with the verve of a bona fide, passionate leader. We all know men like that. A few have been our presidents. In fact, all our presidents have been men. It’s the norm. The tradition. The way we do things here in America.

Ah, I love the smell of patriarchy in the zeitgeist.

Now, that’s not an insult to the qualified men; it’s a statement about how patriarchy works. It makes the ascendency of men to positions of power seem the inarguable norm, the expected outcome, the “way it’s always been” reality. It demands our fealty to the notion, without second thought, that these qualified men are, have been, and will continue to be “what presidential is,” asking: “Why would you want anybody else?”

“Anybody else” being anybody who isn’t a man.

That exact question proved such a conundrum in 2016 that a huge faction of Americans were more comfortable voting for the male candidate with no experience, no integrity, a history of vile, sexist behavior, and well-documented criminal bent, than the hyper-qualified, profoundly experienced, and “most admired” public servant who, as the media and others made sure we believed, wasn’t likable enough, had a screechy voice, used a private email server, and, most notably, was a female.

We don’t do female in America’s White House.

Not behind the desk of the Oval Office. Not leading the American military. Not executing “executive orders” like so many PTA memos. Oh, they can be First Lady; they can change the drapes, handle the caterers, run interference between the male president and the media. But president?

Nah.

Patriarchy is and always has been an exacting social mandate, one that repeatedly reminds us that all these qualified men floating around are perfectly capable of handling the job without intervention from any outside contingent: Women. Sticking with the guys is neater, it’s more palatable, it’s what we’ve always done, so “don’t you gals worry yourselves, we fellas got it covered. Just step aside and let men do men’s work.”

Sure. We’ve seen how well that’s gone over the last two+ years, a debacle that’s especially galling in light of the assault-and-battery of Hillary Clinton, but, hey, you guys go ahead and make America great again, right?

Putting aside quips and sarcasm, a real question emerges: Why is it that, out of over 70 nations around the world, some of which are less politically progressive than America, we have never elected a female president? Beyond the cultural umbrella of “patriarchy,” under which all anti-woman “isms” reside, what are the specific bugaboos for why we remain entrenched in such antiquated, sexist views of who gets to be POTUS?

I thought this was an interesting take from the New York Times in “Over 70 Nations Have Been Led by Women. So Why Not the U.S.?“:

Some scholars say that European democracies may view women as more suited to high political office because their governments are known for generous social-welfare programs, something that seems maternal. In contrast, the president of the United States is primarily seen as commander in chief, which is a frame more difficult for women to fit into.

“America is still seen as the policeman of the world, the guardian of the world and we still have a very gendered version of what leadership means,” said Laura A. Liswood, secretary general of the United Nations Foundation’s Council of Women World Leaders, a network of current and former female prime ministers and presidents. “Not only do we have to be liked, we also have to be tough.”

Sue Thomas, a senior research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Santa Cruz, Calif., said that unlike political leadership posts elsewhere, the American presidency “is seen as a very masculine institution that for historical reasons is extremely hard for a female to approach.” [emphasis added by me]

That last sentence there, the one I put in bold? That’s patriarchy. That’s sexism. And after the systemic, overwhelming catastrophe that has been the Trump administration, particularly in that “very masculine” role of Commander-in-Chief, the bottom falls out of that argument with the force of a landslide.

But let’s go back to my posit, “there will always be qualified men so we don’t really need women to run” meme. If you think I’m being overly harsh, let’s look, for a moment, at what’s currently happening in the Democratic primary:

Even after the 2018 Midterms, when a battalion of strong, diverse women not only stormed the castle but claimed historical victories in every region; even after the early declarations of brilliant, accomplished, experienced, and viable female candidates like Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Kirsten Gillibrand, even after all that, what is happening? A slew of very qualified men are slowly  jumping in, one-by-one and after these women already declared, implicitly stating that they’re the best person for the job. Them, the qualified male.

And sure, why not? Why shouldn’t they jump in? The primary is a wide open field, everyone’s invited, and some of these are very appealing men. But, still, the message they convey by not getting behind one of the female candidates, by not endorsing and showing their support, is, quite simply, this: “You’re all great, and in another world I might get behind you and work like hell to get you elected, but even, and despite, my desire to change the gender gap so my daughter may one day run for president, I’m not going to coalesce around any of you because I think what I bring to the table is more viable.”

Because they’re a qualified man.

I don’t care about these qualified men. I mean, I care about them as people; I wish them well, thank them for their service (if that applies), look forward to their future endeavors, and hope they’ll use some of their political capital to change the archaic narrative in this country that says, “Women are not American presidents.”

But right now I don’t care about their charm, their platforms, ideas, experiences, and cult fandom. Not enough to negate and, once again, put aside what I believe is a much bigger, much more culturally relevant and urgent issue: the essential and unequivocal breaking of the glass ceiling for (very qualified) American women in regards to the presidency.

It should have happened last time. By all accounts it did happen last time, but patriarchy (and a few other noxious elements) swept in to tilt the playing field, and millions have suffered since.

Someone asked me recently: “Is it just a gender thing for you, a feminism thing? Doesn’t your single-minded focus on electing a female president almost scream of affirmative action?”

You know, it does… because it kind of is. But before Susan Sarandon comes at me squawking about how I’m voting with my vagina, let me assert my rationale. We’ll start with this, an excellent definition of affirmative action:

Affirmative Action is a program of positive action, undertaken with conviction and effort to overcome the present effects of past practices, policies, or barriers to equal employment opportunity and to achieve the full and fair participation of women, minorities and individuals with disabilities found to be underutilized in the workforce based on availability.

The purpose of affirmative action is to establish fair access to employment opportunities to create a workforce that is an accurate reflection of the demographics of the qualified available workforce in the relevant job market. Affirmative Action policies and programs are tools whereby additional efforts are made to recruit, hire and promote qualified women, minorities and individuals with disabilities. [emphasis added by me]

I could basically highlight and bold that entire thing.

Because there is not “fair access,” the presidency is not an “accurate reflection of the qualified available workforce in the relevant job market”; there is certainly not a level playing field for women running for public office.

We already see it in the way media is covering the current race; while they gush over Pete, get starry-eyed about Joe, and titter about Bernie’s fate, they’re castigating female candidates for how they eat, what they wear, how they manage their staff, who they marry, what their heritage is, what music they listen to and when. Sadly, I don’t expect that to change much as things ramp up. Patriarchy rules the media, too.

Another fact? An incredibly salient, pertinent, critical fact in this Trump era of caustically stupid leadership? Women are better managers, better leaders. That’s not just me saying that; it’s been documented.

During the 2016 campaign I wrote an article on the  topic, You Say You Want a Revolution? I Do Too. It’s Why I Support Hillary Clinton, and since quoting oneself is unseemly, let me at least re-share this paragraph from the Harvard Business Review study that found, by a comprehensive list of metrics and significant percentages, that women were better leaders, better managers of staff:

“Specifically, at all levels, women are rated higher in fully 12 of the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership. And two of the traits where women outscored men to the highest degree — taking initiative and driving for results — have long been thought of as particularly male strengths.”

Yet, as of 2019, those strengths and competencies have been given short shrift in presidential politics. Time’s up.

Much like ethnic and racial minorities yearn to see themselves represented fully and fairly in every facet of culture, so do women, particularly in the arenas of business, academics, and, certainly, politics. The “old boys’ club” legacy found in the vaunted halls of political power is as dated and regressive as sexist attitudes and behaviors from the pre-#MeToo era. As cultural evolutions and a changing zeitgeist dismantle the tolerance around those issues, so do those influences change the acceptance of patriarchy, misogyny, sexism, and gender negation. Women have worked long and hard to take their rightful place on a level playing field, but until that field is, indeed, level—which it is not—a form of affirmative action must step in and demand it.

Which means, at this moment in time, that every man throwing his hat into the Democratic presidential ring must reconsider.

That every man who cares about uplifting society, who desires a world in which girls can aspire to the highest office without fear of personal evisceration and political annihilation; every man who wants to provide the world, the country, with the very best leaders, the very best managers, the most compassionate, empathetic, inspiring communicators, must pull their hat out of that ring, take a step back until another time; put their political egos in a lockbox (remember that?), and jump full-bore into supporting one of the supremely qualified women running for president.  To help ensure that she wins and, in doing so, inexorably change the face of American culture.

Will you help us accomplish that, you progressive, thoughtful, qualified men? We’d appreciate it. And, hey, being VP of the very first female president in American history has a nice ring to it too.


Three women photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Girl with flag photo by Joe Pregadio on Unsplash


LDW w glasses

Lorraine’s third novel, The Alchemy of Noise, has an April 2019 pub date, with pre-orders currently available at Amazon and elsewhere.

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

Despite It All: What I Loved Best About 2018

End-of-year lists. I love them. The “best of” ones, anyway. They’re like small-plate nostalgia buffets, filled with tidbits of all the stuff you loved, distillations of an entire year from the various points of view of clever writers, of which there are many. I’m not sure how clever Iam, but as I watched the last sunset of the year dip into darkness, I thought about making my own.

This would not be announcement-worthy except for the fact I’ve found myself damn near speechless this year, particularly in terms of political opining, quiescence brought on by a combination of outrage exhaustion, a sense of swimming in an overpopulated stream, and the fact that so much of what I think and feel is amply covered by the countless other writers op-edding on a daily basis—and for media sources with far higher profiles than my little blog (I still haven’t forgiven HuffPost for shutting down the contributors’ platform!).

Add to that the “churning machine of political horrors”—also known as the Trump Administration—which pumps out ceaseless vomit with such perpetuity one would have to write five articles a day to stay current, and I ain’t got it in me right now.

But as I got to retrospecting, I was reminded that though these last twelve months have been truly nuts on so many levels, they were also replete with tremendous progress, solid wins; the evolution of new voices, and hearty activism. Enough fabulous things happened, both personally and more expansively, that I became compelled to compile.

In no particular order, not listed by virtue of gravitas or merit, the select things, people, and events that helped make this year a wonderful one… despite it all:

What I Loved Best About 2018:

• The Women’s March, Los Angeles, January 21, 2018. We were almost a million strong (750,000) just in LA alone. The numbers worldwide were astonishing. And beyond the sheer power of that many people gathered to protest racism, sexism, corruption, and sexual assault, the event marked the first time in many years I gathered with all five of my sisters (we call ourselves “The Sixters”) to march together. With matching signs designed by our youngest sib, Grace, it was a phenomenal, empowering moment of familial and global solidarity. I do hope whatever pulls and tears have come into the Women’s March group from various quarters of late can be transcended in 2019 to keep the momentum going. We’ll see. But 2018’s event was unforgettable.

• We got a cat. That may sound silly but it’s not. I’ve watched this fuzzy little creature, who came to us from a shelter on January 5th, literally change the tenor of our habitat with her inexhaustible energy and character. I’ve watched a husband who deals with Post Concussion Syndrome become the warm landing spot for an animal who loves him, who follows him around like a puppy; engages with him in absurd games of fetch, and with whom conversation often ensues (on both sides, mind you!). She is a delightful little being who’s brought particular and unique joy to our home and has made walking in the door an event. No small thing. We call her Georgy Girl. She occasionally likes me too.

• The Parkland Kids: While caustic contrarians like Louis C.K. and Dana Loesch persist in using them as target practice for their bile, those of us who’ve been frustrated and horrified by stagnancy within the “gun reform” debate saw a group of high school students who’d survived a mass shooting take their rage, fear, and sorrow and turn it into one of the most powerful political movements of recent years. I don’t care what minor critiques are dragged up, I don’t care how young and occasionally callow they may be at times; I am not remotely interested in David Hogg’s SAT scores or Emma Gonzalez’s sexuality. There is NO ONE who has more quickly, cogently, and fearlessly dragged the convoluted issue of guns into the spotlight and onto the political stage than these kids. On top of that, they rallied thousands of young people to get registered and to the polls during the midterms, activism which contributed to record-breaking turnout, and they are continuing the movement forward from there. I do believe they will create real change… because no group has ever stood up to the corruption and callousness of the NRA with such earnest and passionate fervor.

• Attitudes about Climate Change & Conservation Continue to Evolve: Despite America having an idiot president who denies science, along with the other money-grubbers who can’t see the forest for the green (lining their pockets), short-sighted dismissal about the longterm assignment of saving the planet is becoming less and less acceptable, not unlike how attitudes about smoking or littering evolved. Reports detailing the dire circumstances that inexorably face our planet, horrific fires we’re told will become the norm, droughts, pestilence, and changing tides, all remind us that we’re a finite element in a grand universe that needs, demands, our immediate attention. And more people are paying attention. While Trump and his toadies temporarily regress America on this issue, this detailed breakdown from Quartz shows there is hope across the international stage. Please read it and do continue, however you do, to challenge and lessen your own carbon footprint.

• I found a publisher. This may not resonate widely, or with anyone who hasn’t pursued a creative career, but it was a game changer for me in ’18. As one who has pursued the arts from the time I was told I could sing or cobble a story together of some merit, I have largely been an indie artist “doing it for herself,” as Annie and Aretha might sing. I’ve had scads of people throughout my time—managers, producers, collaborators, agents, etc.—who pushed things in directions I wanted to go (and sometimes arrived), but despite tremendous wins and scores of incredible experiences, no part of my particular journey has been a slam-dunk. I wasn’t the actress plucked from a coffee shop, the singer pulled on stage by a rock star, the novelist garnering literati applause. I was that other one. The one making my own stage. Working with indie film and record producers, self-financed productions, self-published books.

So this year, when publisher Brooke Warner of She Writes Press, a small but innovative and emerging force in the publishing industry, said she wanted to publish my upcoming novel, The Alchemy of Noise, despite it being controversial, despite my independent resume, despite industry resistance to off-trend voices, I felt the embracing welcome of an opened door. I don’t know how it will go when the book’s finally out (April 9th)—I’m hopeful, they’re expert, early reader reviews (so far) are good—but just to have a group of experienced pros choose to work in tandem with me to achieve this goal is a balm.

• The Midterms: In all my life I have never been more concerned, more involved, or more invested in Midterm elections than I was this year. Anyone who knows me, reads me, converses with me, knows what I think about the current administration, so it’s no secret that I believed the outcome of this election truly was “life or death.” The urgency of implementing checks and balances into what has become a blatant flouting of rule-of-law and all manner of integrity felt tantamount to pulling a drowning society from a raging swamp. I spent hours, stamps, and handwritten agony (can anyone handwrite anymore??) sending out hundreds of campaign postcards for candidates around the country, and the unbelievable turnout, the overwhelming wins, the feeling that we now have a most amazingly diverse and capable group of adults stepping into the cult frenzy, is overwhelming. We did good. Let’s PLEASE make sure we do good for 2020. That’s a whole other article. But I think you know what I mean…

• Social Media Activism:  Say what you will about Twitter and Facebook (and there’s plenty to say), in 2018 both platforms became an even more powerful outlet for righteous anger and social activism, particularly on issues related to racism and white privilege. When New York lawyer Aaron Schlossberg bombarded a group of Spanish-speaking customers in a sandwich shop with his vile, racist nonsense, Twitter and Facebook outed him without mercy, and before long he was out of a job and had mariachi bands serenading his apartment building. When Barbecue Becky called the cops on a black family “committing the crime” of grilling in a park, Dr. Jennifer Schulte faced an onslaught of pushback that went all the up to her place of employment and had police considering her commitment. The list of perpetrators from every walk of life assaulting good men, women, and children of color is long, unfortunately, but there continues to be conscious, compassionate, and justifiably angry people with smart phones and social media platforms to take them on, giving activist citizens the empowerment of knowing silence is not an option when faced with hate and bigotry.

• Movies with/about music: I don’t mean musicals—thought I love musicals—I mean A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody. I mean movies that climb inside the life of singers, songwriters, and bands, and bring us with them to watch the music evolve, see the excitement and anxiety of the lifestyle unfold, feel the power of creativity. I’m not interested in critiquing these films—plenty of reviewers have done just that—but both the films mentioned had me energized, engaged, entertained, and moved throughout. That’s always an amazing moviegoing experience. And A Star Is Born, particularly, not only resonated with me for all sorts of expected reasons given my band singer history, but the telling of its story touched me deeply. Both stars are phenomenal, and though I have wearied of drug & alcohol related “Behind the Music” narratives, Bradley Cooper did an extraordinary job of bringing vulnerability and true sorrow to the inexorable trajectory his character experienced. It showed a side of addiction rarely seen. And Lady Gaga… well. What can I say: listening to the fragility and crack in her voice on “I’ll Never Love Again” before it transforms into a soaring power ballad wraps me in tears and goosebumps every time.

• Political transcendence: Allowing a corrupt and amoral conman like Donald Trump into the White House has been one of the most egregious errors in American history. I fought with everything I had—my activism, my voice, my articles, my vote—to keep that from happening, but the power of corruption, the short-sightedness of one-issue voting, the collusion and involvement of foreign adversaries, the willingness of too many to ignore blatant bigotry, lack of intellect, and a classless, corrosive worldview, toppled the good sense of an entire nation. We have paid, and will continue to pay, a very high price for that folly. Yet, while the carnage of Trump has shaken us to the core (and when I say “us” I mean anyone who cares more for humanity than stock prices, who believes all people are created equal, who respects and embraces science; who leads with compassion, empathy, consideration, and love), it has also awakened American consciousness in ways we might not have expected. It struck me that my upcoming novel is called The Alchemy of Noise, a narrative exploring the notion of pulling the good, the gold, out of the very darkest of situations, and I do believe America is finding its own alchemy in this era of Trump. (Read this piece: The halfway point: What have two years of Trump’s wrecking ball done to America?. It is quite brilliant and hopeful… I love the line, “democratic renaissance.”) 2018 has been a “democratic renaissance.” That will only continue to evolve. I have faith in that. Don’t you?

• My circle, real and virtual: As I traverse life on a day-to-day basis, whether meeting friends for lunch, gathering with family; singing songs for my mother in hope of shaking her fog, or spending time in virtual conversations with the many incredible people with whom I engage on social media, I am reminded of how lucky I am to have such evolved, conscious, caring, active people in my global circle. The list is long, you know who you are, and though I would need another blog to name each of you, please know how grateful I am for your hearts and minds, your anger and activism, your humor and good-will, your pictures and silly videos, your articles and reviews, your generosity in helping me with my work, writing me blurbs, commenting on my articles, or simply sharing your own thoughtful perspectives either privately or on my pages. It all means something. You have helped me endure the insanity of our times; you’ve made me laugh, shared cakes I want to eat, brought brilliant art to my attention, and appreciated mine. Thank you. Let’s keep doing it all of that. It brings joy.

Photo by Cristina Cerda

• The power of love: That may sound treacly, but I don’t mean it that way. I mean it in the most transcendental, soulful, joy-empowering way. This year I had the pleasure of, once again, performing music with my brother, Tom, who I adore, and three other people I adore as well: Ben (his son/my nephew; Jeff, and Erik), and the love shared and experienced in putting our Sixth & Third shows together could light the grid for years. I also spent about six weeks putting a milestone birthday video together for my beloved husband, and, in the process, was reminded of every moment of our lives together, filling my heart beyond words. The family, the friends, the projects, the labors of love, our children, our pets, our closest friends… it was an overwhelming 18-minute blast of love, and it reminded me to remind myself to always remember and never forget… you know what I mean?

There are more, but these are the highlights, the things that made this year resonate and stand up to the opposite side of this list. I don’t want to enumerate the opposite side; I don’t need to. I only need to keep moving forward wrapped in the power and solidarity of the good side, the “renaissancing” side! I have faith in us. I have hope for us. I know love will drive us. Which is good, because, like Todd Rundgren, I do believe love is the answer.

Happy New Year, my friends! And welcome, 2019. Let’s make some history together.

All photos, except where attributed, by LDW.


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Lorraine’s third novel, The Alchemy of Noise, has an April 2019 pub date, with pre-orders currently available at Amazon. Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s other books, music, photography, and articles.

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.

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

LDW w glasses


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.