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.

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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.

Let’s Discuss the Politics of ‘Closed’ Facebook Groups

photo-1417816491410-d61e1546e539

I get it. I get why people want to create “closed groups” on Facebook. “Secret groups.” It’s not hard to understand.

With a closed group, an administrator can control who’s let in and who’s kept out; how it’s done and what is shared. They can keep out the caustically antipathetic and avert the toxicity of trolls. All of which is desirable.

As someone who posts on sites like The Huffington Post, with one of the highest readership ratings of any media site in the world, I have heard — oh, have I heard! — from an array, a confluence, a literal horde of trolls over my writing career, and I mean to tell you, their hateful, hissing commentary can be soul killing. And trolling appears to be an equal-opportunity affliction, as I’ve been bombarded by everyone from gun nuts and political zealots, to angry moms and independent writers.

So, yes, removing that seething demographic’s inexhaustible urge to hijack meaningful conversation is a good thing. Though I do know some pugilistic, well-meaning writers who seem energized by virtually jousting with inarticulate, hateful poop-throwers, I’m not one of them… and my experience tells me most people aren’t. Hence, “closed groups,” with their ability to block trollism, have sprouted en masse, popular amongst those who want a safe space to engage with like-minded people to exchange ideas, information, articles, calls-to-action, etc.

But given that increase, inspired, no doubt, by the shit-storm we’ve just experienced in Election 2016, I do think it would be wise to rethink a few things, not only on the general protocol of any group, closed or otherwise, but the impact of particularly closed groups on public perception. I think these points bear some thought, especially considering what was just lost and what we are now facing.

1. Do NOT put someone in any group, closed or otherwise, without asking first. 

This is a big one, and though I’d have assumed it didn’t need to be said, it does. I have now been “put,” sometimes repeatedly, into various groups without my knowledge or permission, discovering said membership only after getting notification that I was in said group. BAD FORM.

When you do that to someone, regardless of your good intentions, you are not only being presumptuous, you’re now giving that person a task they didn’t ask for: if they choose not to be in said group, they now have to take the time to track it down and remove themselves. Which may seem minor, but it’s annoying and can potentially lead to someone else being miffed that that person doesn’t want to be in said group. Bottom line: it’s messy, it’s presumptuous, and it’s bad manners.

If you’ve discovered or are starting a group you think someone else might be interested in, ASK THEM FIRST. Very simple. Send them an invitation; let them be the one to decide if they want to join. And if they don’t, don’t take it personally. Realize that many people simply don’t want to be in groups; some are already in as many as they choose to be in; some may not want to participate in that group, or, if it’s a closed group, they may have different philosophies about those in general.

2. Allow members to participate as they see fit: 

I have now been in a few groups where administrators treat members almost like errant students: they’re obligated to engage in certain ways, with measurable degrees of visibility and involvement; there are to-do lists and even “homework.”

Typically I hop out of any group that turns voluntary participation into the dirge of academic obligation, because I don’t choose to, or have time to, participate in that way. We’re all adults; we do not need to be scolded, managed, or browbeaten into engaging in specific, mandated fashion. Again, it’s bad form, and it turns the positive experience of that group into something, well… less positive.

Don’t judge what members are getting out of it. If they’re there, they must be getting something. Trust your members. Which means, don’t “guilt” people into signing petitions, donating money, taking actions, sharing stories, “liking: other people’s posts, leaving reviews, etc. Coercion, however gentle, is counter-productive. We all learn, grow, change, and are inspired in individual ways. If you invite people into a group, unless they’re trolling — at which point, yes, they’re uninvited — allow them to participate as they choose. You never know what may be gained from their quiet engagement.

bethanylegg_unsplash

3. As for “closed/secret” groups, are they really the best way to make evolutionary, cultural change?  

I know I’m likely to get some heat for this one, but hear me out:

There are many valid reasons for closed groups: groups that allow abuse survivors to communicate privately; battered women, LGBT groups; any group where privacy is truly survival and mandatory.

But political groups? Really?

One of the biggest criticisms of Hillary Clinton over the entire election cycle, including the primary, was that people weren’t enthusiastic about her; they weren’t as “excited, thrilled, inspired,” as, say, Bernie supporters… and later, as Trump supporters. You remember that, don’t you? And it was strange, that perception, because, in fact, millions of men and women were deeply enthusiastic about her. And where were they, many of them? In “secret” groups, every day touting and cheering their support amongst each other. It was a literal spree of support in… secret groups. Out in the public forum? Not so much.

Back in March I wrote a piece titled, I Will If You Will: Why Clinton Supporters Need to Speak up More on Social Media, based on the fact that so many of them were oddly silent, seemingly cowed from public discourse on media, social or otherwise. And while the piece inspired a fair amount of dialogue, I continued to see more and more “closed/secret” Clinton groups pop up every day, with, still, less open discussion in public forums.

And I understand. Based on feedback I got after the article, it seems countless people, mainly women, were reticent to share their public support for Clinton because of backlash they were bound to receive: in work situations where people might take umbrage; within families where members would be incensed; amongst social media circles where trolls were all too active. Fear, and an unwillingness to set themselves up for that kind of negative response, led, then, to their participation in those many “secret/closed” Clinton support groups.

Certainly those groups provided upliftment and support to the members involved, and that was good. And maybe the group’s mission was just that, and didn’t include any intent or mission to change public perception of Clinton’s enthusiasm quotient, or build greater coalition for her campaign out in the public sphere. Clearly no group was obligated to meet that demand, but I have to wonder: did all the secrecy have an impact, a negative contribution, to the endless mantra that Clinton just didn’t have the same level of support as either Bernie or Trump?

I have no quantifiable statistics, but my gut says yes. The greater lack of public outspokenness amongst her many supporters did her no favors, and at the end of the day, the “silent majority” has never been more painfully evident than in an election where the more popular, more qualified candidate lost in the din of support for her opposition, whose supporters were always out, loud, and proud without any commensurate caution or hesitation.

Additionally, is it possible that all this echo chambering did/does little to help bridge gaps between different, even opposing groups? If we never hear from or engage with those on other sides, isn’t it possible we’re never going to find reasonable coalition again in this country? I’m not talking trolls — they get zero engagement from me and shouldn’t from anyone else. I’m talking about honest, thoughtful people who may have conflicting views as well as the ability to communicate sanely and without invectives and vitriol. They surely exist… don’t we want to engage with them… or at least try?

We liberals got this election so damn wrong on so many levels, I think it behooves us at this point to climb out of the bubble. I realize those with opposing or even just conflicting perspectives have to have the same willingness to put down pitchforks to meet us on the field (will they? won’t they?), but we gotta start somewhere. Someone needs to get out on the dance floor. Not everyone on the other side is a KKK member, a flaming white supremacist, a hate-mongering xenophobe, or a virulent alt-right bigot. Some are just less informed, have been more hurt by problems that exist in this country; have been misled by misinformation, or whose narrow concerns blinded them to the worst of the other side. They make up that BIG red blob in the middle and southern edges of our country. And many of them are on Facebook.

If there’s anything we’ve learned this go-around, it’s that we have to start paying less attention to our own biased media and flawed online polls (oh, how flawed they were!), and more to the people across the street. On the corner. In our hometowns. In those flyover states. In other Facebook groups.

Yes, closed group aficionados, I’m aware that “some of us need, want, demand a safe place to vent, share, speak, write, cry, scream, inspire, laugh, etc., without any pushback or even feedback from those who don’t share our worldview.” OK, but considering the paragraphs above, how about this?

Create the group. Leave it open; not “secret.” Create and post the mission statement. Define parameters: rules against trolling and ad hominem attacks, suggestions for participation, clear awareness of what kind of communication will get someone removed from the group, etc. Monitor conversations. Monitor comments. Monitor threads. Stay vigilant to bona fide trolls; block and delete without apology. And build a group, a circle, a conversation that is open, welcoming, and, hopefully, ultimately, illuminating to anyone open to illumination.

It’s how I’ve built and curated my own social media and, yes, it takes vigilance, but it works. It will be more work for administrators, it will take more vigilance from members to keep administrators aware of anyone breaking the trolling rules, but it might go a long way toward creating both a safe space and a public forum that allows the positive energy, thoughtful dialogue, and inspiring debates to more usefully and productively enter into and impact the pubic sphere.

We need that. If anything taught us that, it was Election 2016.

Table & chairs photograph by Jonny Clow @ Unsplash
Studying man photograph by Bethany Legg @ Unsplash

LDW w glasses


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.

LDW w glasses


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

We’ve Reached That Point: This Election Is Like Fighting With Your Boyfriend

Or girlfriend. Or that customer service rep at the insurance company, your cable provider, or any one of those monolithic corporations that cyclically make your head explode.

You know that point in a fight:

You’ve exhausted all worthy material but you keep going just for the sake of “principle.” Every known argument has been made, debated or deflected to no avail, but you can’t keep yourself from hitting even lower below the belt. Any reasonableness or respectfulness of earlier has devolved into epic flinging of invectives and epithets, some you didn’t even know you knew. The mantra of “wait… just LISTEN!!” comes with increased decibels of volume and venom to the point that neighbors call, dogs bark; walls are up, minds are closed, stress chemicals flow, rational thought exits, and no one can possibly win because it’s a zero sum game. But still… you keep throwing that mud until someone finally collapses under the weight.

Welcome to Election 2016, the Democrats.

(I’m ignoring the Republicans until we settle this mess.)

We’re there, folks. We Democrats are at that point. It’s ugly and wounding and has absolutely no value, but still people are out there trying to draw blood any way they can. They’re posting propaganda, screaming “fuck yous” at opposition rallies, ripping up kids’ posters, sharing unsubstantiated slander and gossip, and acting like the very worst the worst has to offer… and couching it all in the nobility of “fighting for my candidate.”

Witnessing this insanity as a sane bystander — one hoping to stay politically involved without being sucked into the maelstrom — is as soul-killing as that awful road trip your sophomore year when the couple in the front seat screamed at each other from Redding to Lake Tahoe and later demanded that you take sides if you were “a true friend!”

That kind of soul-killing.

We Democrats probably reached the zero sum game months ago. Or at least after the New York primary. When the idea of trashing the winning candidate to aggrandize the other just made the entire ticket seems as nuts as the Republicans. Beyond the math, beyond arguing the math; beyond delusion and fanaticism and revolutions and glass ceilings and wishful thinking and slogans and hashtags and conspiracies and finger-pointing and idiotic celebrities and Westboro-style harassers and sexism and ageism and all of it, the jig is up. Whatever you think the ending is going to be isn’t the point. You can have hope, you can have faith, you can keep fighting the good fight, but fighting the bad fight gets us nowhere.

And we are fighting the bad fight. And it is getting us nowhere.

Let’s be honest: we’re deep enough into this thing that odds are good everyone’s taken their positions. They know where they stand, who they’re supporting and why, so preaching from here on out is only to the choir. As long as folks are happy with that harmony, keep on a’preachin’! But anyone who thinks there’s anything to be gained from the incessant posting of the most incendiary, salacious stuff they can find on the other candidate in hopes of — what? convincing someone to jump on their bandwagon? — has missed the trajectory of this narrative.

Even if — in the most random of circumstances — there really is anyone left who doesn’t feel informed enough to make a choice, that person has to know they aren’t going to get an unbiased, objective education from the posts of oppositional supporters. Let’s start with that truism.

So, given that, may I suggest to ALL who continue to post ridiculous things like videos screeching, “If you would still vote for Hillary Clinton after watching this 4-min video…,” or anonymous blog posts by someone who’s talked to someone who knows a doctor who says Sanders has Alzheimer’s, or scurrilous and slanderous propaganda from sites run by known Hillary-haters, or unsubstantiated dirt on Jane Sanders, or slimy posts about Chelsea Clinton’s mothering, or…STOP. JUST STOP.

It’s over. The fight is over. It no longer has any merit whatsoever and continuing it will only toxify any good thing that still exists between you and the other side and what’s the point of that? There’s still Trump out there.

If, despite the math, Sanders supporters want to continue to promote positive information about their guy as a way to keep the team going, great. If Clinton supporters want to shout their enthusiasm from the rooftops, they should be able to do that without enduring a gauntlet of verbal abuse. But beyond in-house, in-candidate, to-the-choir pumping up, there is no where else to go with this fight.

We’re at that point. It’s obvious, everyone knows, let’s not get the neighbors on their phones again.

When you hit the wall-of-no-return with your customer service rep, that call is terminated (either by you or them), services may be cancelled, grievances may be filed. When you reach that point with a significant other, one of you has to have the wherewithal to shut the f**k up, leave the room/house/apartment, walk off the adrenaline, and detach until both parties can manage rational conversation, sincere apologies, and a willingness to let go of past rancor (that’s a big one!).

And at that point in a party primary, everyone on oppositional sides has to put down the swords, eschew further debasement, and attempt to reframe the debate. There has to be a willingness to reconsider whatever indoctrination has been amassed or allowed to flow freely, to change the filter to look at the bigger picture, to see past preconceived ideas, and find a way back to party unity.

That’s what grown-ups do. That’s what this party needs to do. Now. Not later. Now. Whatever happens at the convention is another moment. This moment is the one where we acknowledge the zero sum game we’ve been fighting and step off this battlefield, to rejuvenate and rehabilitate to take on the bigger battle ahead.

Are Democrats and those in their camp willing and able to do that? I don’t know. I hope so. We’ll have our answer when the intra-party, click-bait, poop-throwing mud-fest on social media finally stops. That can’t happen soon enough… I swear I hear the phone ringing.

LDW w glasses


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

No, America, Everything Is NOT a Conspiracy

– or is it?
– or is it?

Some days I sit back from my selective scan of the day’s news and shake my head at the persistent, perplexing perceptions of my fellow Americans. At a time when media coverage of events — any event, all events — is not only ubiquitous and never-ending but usually completely redundant by the 24-hour mark, we remain an epidemically suspicious and conspiracy-driven culture that either doesn’t believe anything or, paradoxically, believes anything.

Depending on one’s allegiances, one’s belief system; one’s depth of distrust or disdain, there seems little that happens that isn’t ultimately ascribed some nefarious intent, from matters large or small, absurd or provocative, profound or ridiculous. Two stories today struck me as emblematic of the trend on several sides of that swinging spectrum.

Jared Lee Loughner, the Arizona parking lot shooter who permanently injured Gabby Giffords and killed six people back in 2011, has now filed a $25 million lawsuit claiming that, not only is he innocent, but Giffords is a member of the Illuminati and her case against him has caused him “emotional distress,” warranting millions from the women into whose head he shot a bullet. Yes, he’s insane, but still… he’s actually put together the paperwork for this repugnant action and someone’s now going to have to spend their precious time dealing with it before it gets thrown into whatever trash bin it belongs.

Obviously that’s an extreme case, along with Loose Change, the Alex Jones-produced fever-film about a supposed 9/11 conspiracy, the Sandy Hook truthers, who believe the deaths of 27 people at Newtown were a hoax meant to further Obama’s anti-gun agenda (another “gift” from the heinous Mr. Jones), or even the generalized and persistent hysteria surrounding the moon landing or Elvis’ death.

Certainly there are some theories that persist due to a not-illogical incredulity with their “talking points” (Kennedy’s assassination the most prevalent of that category), but there’s undoubtedly a contingent of slightly unhinged humans who are prone to seeing dark secrets and dubious intent behind any events that don’t match their political or personal agendas, are complex or unusual enough to provoke suspicion, or happen to involve elements that lend credence to their preconceived beliefs. And some days it seems like that contingent is outnumbering the rest!

The other conspiracy angle I made note of today is related to the election (yes… the election), with a situation playing out in ways that is, frankly, disturbing, certainly from the standpoint of our ultimately having to find unity and solidarity as a country.

We currently exist in a political climate where Republicans are being bamboozled and bedazzled by a carnival barker charlatan, while Democrats are acting-out like Sharks and Jets over their two candidates, one of whom is a registered Independent, the other a woman. And while it doesn’t seem that anyone — even those trying — can sort out the three-ring circus over there on the right, we on the left are, unfortunately, having our own challenges.

It would be funny (well… sort of) if the stakes for this election were not so high, but we have Supreme Court justices to appoint, terrorism wreaking havoc on a regular basis; an immigration conundrum that requires serious and thoughtful solutions; civil, gender, and basic human rights that need immediate intervention. The list of heavy-hitting issues requiring focused attention is long, yet, instead of approaching this election like intelligent adults ascertaining who of the bunch is best equipped to deal with this prodigious and profound list, we’ve got one side cheering (and jeering) as their candidates insult each other’s wives, while the other, despite having two good candidates, is reduced to flinging insults at each other while some behave like cultists and hooligans.

I won’t speak to the GOP kerfuffle; personally, I think they’re all nuts and cannot fathom a world in which either of their two front-runners have anything at all to do with leading the country. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit how disappointing and dispiriting it is to see those on the left behaving in ways that are equally counter-productive and fractious. I’d like to pass it off as “campaign fervor” (as some do), but when supporters of either Clinton or Sanders take to each other on Facebook like teeth-gnashing hyenas, when sexism becomes a defended tool of political “trash talk,” or when Sanders supporters frame every loss (either perceived loss of a debate or actual loss of a primary) as a conspiracy of malfeasance by the DNC, the media, the nebulous “establishment,” the Clinton campaign, or that ever-evil Debbie Wasserman Schultz, I have to take pause.

What is the point of all this finger-pointing and victim-mentality? Where is the integrity and intelligence we on the left are supposed to embody? Come on, people, we are better than that…right?!

When a line at a polling station is held up for hours, when other polling places run out of ballots; when any kind of shenanigans occur at any kind of polling place, we should all be deeply concerned. But why are those events immediately framed as conspiracies against Sanders specifically (a theme seen over and over again on social media)? Why are they not considered endemic failings of a system that is inefficient or poorly managed? Why on freakin’ earth would one Democratic campaign create a negative scenario that could impact their voters as much as the other candidate’s? There is no logic in the thinking, but then again, logic is rarely a factor for those who traffick in conspiracy theories.

I realize it doesn’t matter what I, or anyone, says about the way people comport themselves in this election. For whatever reason, and with whatever cultural explanation, this cycle seems hell-bent on being ornery, irascible, uncivil, and just plain nasty. Sure, all elections trip down some version of that rocky road, but this one has an edge of ugly with a stench all its own.

Maybe it’s because a woman is running and, much as Obama’s presence in the ’08 and ’12 races triggered the latent (or not so latent) racist tendencies of some, it seems possible a similar reaction is happening for those who get twitchy at the thought of a female president, particularly one called Hillary Clinton (that ball-busting, speech-screeching, non-cookie-baking harridan). I don’t know…but I’d guess that’s a good guess.

There are also many who blame the ugliness of this race on the “anger so many Americans feel,” but given my own observations of the most vitriolic amongst us (who are usually bouncing somewhere between the political spectrums of Sanders and Trump), they seem less angry about anything/something in particular and more immersed in the idea of being angry…and having a candidate who stokes and supports that anger. Call me cynical, but when comment threads can devolve into some of the most hateful speech you’ve ever heard over things as banal as pop stars or gluten, I suspect anger in this era doesn’t need much substance to create combustion.

But here’s the thing: for all the “Bernie or bust” cacophony, the campaign bullies; the fist-pumping “bros” (trashing Elizabeth Warren…really??); the “uneducated” mobs sucker-punching protesters, the sexist digs disguised as campaign rhetoric, the mud-slinging, misinformation-passing, lie-embracing, agenda-thrashing, conspiracy-theory’ing behaviors of far too many, there are millions out there who are quietly, sanely, smartly, and considerately supporting their candidates, doing their research, sharing perspective when asked, but, amazingly, not denigrating or demeaning those with another view. Those people? We don’t hear from them as much as the louder folks, but don’t think for a moment that the louder folks are running the show… they’re just louder. The rest of them are getting the job done with integrity and civility… and less volume.

We need more of that and less of the chaos. More action and less anger. More listening and a lot less yelling and screaming. More productive protest and less fisticuffs. More logic and less conspiracy theories. We need, at some point, to come together. How about we start now?

“Illuminati is real” by Peter Taylor @ Wikimedia Commons

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

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

Regina walks it

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

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

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

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

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


REGINA AND I TAKE IT ON, PART 1: TWO WOMEN — ONE BLACK, ONE WHITE — DISCUSS RACIAL POLITICS, ‘GOOD WHITE PEOPLE,’ AND #BLACKLIVESMATTER   

Regina-Lorraine 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click HERE to continue reading….


REGINA AND I TAKE IT ON, PART 2: PROFILING, POLICE BRUTALITY, AND THE POLITICS OF #BLM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click HERE to read full interview…


REGINA AND I TAKE IT ON, PART 3: VIOLENCE ACROSS COMMUNITIES, MEDIA COMPLICITY, AND FINDING COMMON GROUND

Regina-Lorraine_3

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

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

Now let’s get on to our final segment:

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

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

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

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

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

LDW: That’s a good line.

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

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

Click HERE to read full interview…


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

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

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

Photos by permission of Regina McRae.

 

LDW w glasses


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

But Men Can’t Have It All Either

It’s not a new conversation. We’ve been having it since women broke out of the shackles of 1950’s thinking and began carving lives for themselves outside of hearth, husband and home. Finding balance, advancing ambition, spinning plates, and determining how we do it all without destroying the family paradigm – or driving ourselves nuts at the fear of doing so – have all weighed heavily on the minds of women now out in the work force yet still trying to be the best possible wife and parent they can be. It’s a tall order.

The women’s lib movement declared that women not only could have it all, but should. Some in the movement even went so far as to say that struggling with the pull between family and career was the mark of a woman not fully liberated, but many became confused when the “have it all” mantra proved rosier in theory than in practice. Certainly there has been progress: gender roles have been redefined, doors have been opened, glass ceilings have been shattered in industries, career paths, and institutions that, heretofore, had only been regarded as bastions of men (even the venerable, vaunted, slightly musty Augusta National Golf Club has opened its doors to women, though only a couple so far, Condoleeza Rice being one). Like many other cultural evolutions, advances are quantifiable and, yet, problems remain; even as new ones spring up.

The conversation came into full relief recently when Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director of policy planning for Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, unexpectedly quit her post – a job she loved and excelled in – and explained why in an article in The Atlantic titled, somewhat to the point, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.

…for the remainder of my stint in Washington, I was increasingly aware that the feminist beliefs on which I had built my entire career were shifting under my feet. I had always assumed that if I could get a foreign-policy job in the State Department or the White House while my party was in power, I would stay the course as long as I had the opportunity to do work I loved. But in January 2011, when my two-year public-service leave from Princeton University was up, I hurried home as fast as I could.

A rude epiphany hit me soon after I got there. When people asked why I had left government, I explained that I’d come home not only because of Princeton’s rules (after two years of leave, you lose your tenure), but also because of my desire to be with my family and my conclusion that juggling high-level government work with the needs of two teenage boys was not possible. I have not exactly left the ranks of full-time career women: I teach a full course load; write regular print and online columns on foreign policy; give 40 to 50 speeches a year; appear regularly on TV and radio; and am working on a new academic book. But I routinely got reactions from other women my age or older that ranged from disappointed (“It’s such a pity that you had to leave Washington”) to condescending (“I wouldn’t generalize from your experience. I’ve never had to compromise, and my kids turned out great”).

Her article goes on to analyze, through her experience and that of others, how deeply the notion of “having it all” can clash with the reality of work demands vs. the primal desire to be there for the children you’ve brought into this world and feel a grave responsibility toward. She discusses the rigid work schedules (as she had) that often put many women at odds with their roles as mothers (and wives) and leave them attempting to wear all hats at the expense of their health and emotional well-being, as well as that of their children. She champions the concept of “flexible working hours, investment intervals and family-comes-first management,” but also acknowledges that, outside higher level professional positions, the average working woman cannot expect those accommodations, nor do her financial responsibilities give her the flexibility to demand them. Slaughter concludes that both men and women in positions of leadership must work together to create working conditions that address these concerns not only for those higher in the food chain, but equally for “women working at Walmart.”

Some of the criticism Ms. Slaughter has endured since writing this article has been swift and, in some cases, cutting; not unexpected when you’re taking on the veritable foundation of a movement designed to champion women along the “I am strong, I am invincible, I am WOMAN” lines. Even Hillary Clinton was asked to weigh in on the thinking of her former employee, and her comments, recorded in recent Marie Claire interview, stirred up their own controversy. In the portion of the interview in which the interviewer asked Ms. Clinton about her former employee, Marie Claire attributed the following quote to Ms. Clinton:

“I can’t stand whining. I can’t stand the kind of paralysis that some people fall into because they’re not happy with the choices they’ve made. You live in a time when there are endless choices. … Money certainly helps, and having that kind of financial privilege goes a long way, but you don’t even have to have money for it. But you have to work on yourself. … Do something!”

However, shortly after this interview came out, a State Department spokesperson took Marie Claire to task for “taking Clinton’s comments out of context.” According to the interview transcripts, Ms. Clinton had discussed Holden Caulfield with the interviewer’s daughter and made her statements in relation to that. As the NY Daily News reports:

The former State staffer Anne-Marie Slaughter was not the person Hillary was slamming. It was Holden Caulfield, the fictional character from the cult favorite novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” who happened not to be mentioned in the article.

“With all due respect to JD Salinger,” Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines said in a release about the resulting confusion, “it’s clear as day from the transcript that the only person being called a whiner is his fictional character Holden Caulfield.”

And then, of course, the Marie Claire interviewer came out with her own quote in The Huffington Post defending her article and whining about the whining about the word “whining.” Dear God, how can we “have it all” when we can’t even talk about having or not having it all without having a hissy fit?!

But this is not just a problem for women. Men can’t have it all either. Men who think they can because they have powerful jobs, loads of money, and wives who take care of the expensive house and those privileged children? Odds are they know better than anybody what they gave up to get there. Perhaps relationships with their children that go beyond the cursory and superficial. Perhaps a level of emotional intimacy with their wives that’s been lost along the way. Maybe they wish they could shuck off professional responsibilities to hit the road in a camper but wouldn’t think of it for fear of losing position. Likely they’ve missed important family events, school plays, occasions when their absence was sorely missed for the sake of job demands, the relentless need to stay on top of things, stay ahead, be one step ahead of the next guy. And the men who didn’t jump on that gravy train so they could have a more involved role with their families? Likely, like any woman who made the same decision, their professional trajectory was commensurately stunted. It’s the way the game is played. The only gender difference is this: working men often have working wives who also do the laundry, clean the house, make dinner and take care of the kids; most working women rarely get that kind of partnership equity in return. Now, if working women could have wives too…

Forget having it all; no matter what they say, that’s not possible. It’s all about trade-offs and anyone who faces life with a modicum of candor and honesty knows this. Decide what you want, decide which of those things is most important, then go for it. Understand that the demands of one will impact the other and choose accordingly. Don’t kid yourself; be honest about what you can provide to a family before you have one; be as honest about what you can contribute to a job before you take it. If you have kids and go back to work, understand how that will feel for you and for them. Whatever your decision, man up, own it, and do the best you can. And if you discover conflicts after the fact, adjust your decision and make the necessary changes. Frankly, I admire Ms. Slaughter for doing exactly that. She adjusted. Regardless of what it looked like on the outside, regardless of the browbeating she took from feminists, others in the field, or women and men who might be afraid they’re in the same boat as she but don’t, perhaps, have her courage to make such a phenomenal change, she recognized the problem, acknowledged her priorities, and took action. I admire that.

I can also think of no more liberating a move. Acknowledging your priorities and making a choice. That is, after all, what the woman’s movement was all about: the freedom to make choices. Let’s stick with that.
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