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The FeMOMist

A Progressive Mom’s Guide to “The Resistance”

 

“Vive la resistance!”

Isn’t that what they shouted during the French Revolution while storming the Bastille?  Or maybe that’s an alternative fact.  Anyway, fast forward to 2017 America: Trump is president even though Hillary won by close to 3 million votes; millions of women (and men and kids) across the country marched the day after his sparsely attended inauguration–raising our voices in one collective roar of “NOT!”  What I hear a lot these days is, “Where do we go from here?”  Fortunately, there is one simple answer to this burning question.  It’s called (she says, mysteriously) “The Resistance.”

What Is “The Resistance”?

While I can’t say for sure who initially coined the term, generally speaking “The Resistance” is a direct response to Trump’s election.  For many of us, Donald Trump is not just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill Republican who somehow snatched victory from the jaws of a likely defeat but, rather, is an existential threat to the very fiber of our republic and its core values and principles.  Our genuine concern for our friends and neighbors, not to mention ourselves and our families, has suddenly made political activism seem necessary even if many of us had never thought so before.  Indeed, many who marched on January 21st have said that it was the first time in their lives they had ever participated in a political demonstration.  This passion and dedication to a cause is what ultimately drives The Resistance and, with continued perseverance and tenacity, is what will help us and our democracy survive the next two to four years of a conservative Republican-led government with a fascist leaning president at the helm.

What to Resist (or What Not to Resist)?

Implicit in the idea of resisting is defining what to resist.  The Women’s March had a simple unifying message that could be embraced by anyone (other than a sexist, misogynistic bigot):  justice and equality for all women.  However, the specific reasons driving each individual who marched could be very different.  Also, it’s one thing to travel to a march site and spend a day in protest.  Continuing to resist the Trump Administration, however, with all of progressivism seemingly under assault can’t help but feel overwhelming.  There are so many issues–from appointments and nominations to the fate of the Affordable Care Act to the Muslim Ban–and the list continues to grow with each passing day.  It is only natural to wonder what to spend our valuable time focusing on now that we’ve returned home to our lives with all of our daily duties and obligations, such as work and raising children and running a household.  Perhaps you didn’t march, but you wish you could have.  You may now be wondering how to proceed, when there are so many options and avenues.

In my view, each one of us needs to decide what issues are most pressing.  What was most heartbreaking to you when you realized that Trump and not Clinton was going to be our President?  What concerns you most as a woman, and a mother, and an American?  For example, after a few weeks of grappling with this question and making a lot of contributions to and joining various organizations, I realized that I gravitated to a few issues in particular, such as gun violence prevention and women’s rights, as well as Trump’s horrid nominations, like Betsy DeVos.  I also realized that I had strengths and skills that I could bring to The Resistance that could be helpful, and that a priority of mine was electing more and more Democrats in Congress and state governments after learning of the alarming eight years of losses during the Obama Administration.  Finally, I considered how much time I could devote on a regular basis.  Like exercise or relaxation, fighting in The Resistance is an investment in yourself and your family, as well as your country.  You should be thinking along these lines if you feel you don’t have any time or energy or resources to participate in The Resistance.  We don’t all have to do all the work all of the time; but we all should do what we can, when we can, and that will be plenty.  Think about how you were just one person in a pussy hat in a mass of people, but that mass of people had power that day, and still does!   In sum, pick issues that matter the most to you and that you are passionate about, and fight like hell whenever, wherever, and however you can.

Does Resistance Work?

The short answer is YES, but the new administration will inevitably do things we don’t like and will get away with it.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to stop it from happening nor that we shouldn’t be pleased with small but significant victories.  Believe it or not, the risk of doing nothing is letting the administration get away with murder (figuratively if not literally).  Conservative republicans and the white supremacists who helped Trump to victory are hungry to decimate the gains of progressivism over the past eight plus years.  It’s our job to minimize the damage and stop the bleeding as quickly as possible.  How so?

The Resisters’ Arsenal

No, not that kind of arsenal!  We progressives are a peace-loving group, yet the analogy is apt.  Here are the various means we have to carry out The Resistance.

21st Century Tools

This is not your mother’s revolution.  We are fortunate to have some cutting-edge tools that have been relatively underutilized by progressives.  Until now.

Facebook:

What?

A social media platform generally used by women for socializing–sharing pictures of our kids and vacations amongst a list of “friends”–has been transformed over time for use in The Resistance.  Unfortunately the dark forces figured out before we did that the tool–used by an astonishingly high percentage of American women as a news source (65%)–could be used for political purposes.  Fake news became an insidious and very real problem in the run up to the last election as conspiracy theories and wholly fake anti-Clinton propaganda began making the rounds in segments of the population that ended up breaking for Trump.

Several moms, however, have been able to parlay the power of Facebook into creating an enormously powerful tool to effect social, political, and cultural change.  Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America–a mother of five who posted publicly to Facebook shortly after the Sandy Hook Massacre–started a gun violence prevention movement that now has active chapters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and goes toe-to-toe regularly with the Goliath-eque gun manufacturers’ lobby known as the NRA.

In the case of Moms Demand Action, the private, social element of Facebook was jettisoned in favor of a decidedly public and political role.  During the campaign, however, a mom (Libby Chamberlain) started Pantsuit Nation, attracting millions of followers, predominantly women, to a “secret” Facebook page where they could share their stories of unabashed admiration for Hillary Clinton, as well as pictures of women wearing pantsuits as they cast their ballot for the person we thought would be our first female president.  While the group transformed into a charitable organization post-election, the power of this group ultimately lies in having created an environment where many feel safe from Internet trolls and can bond together.  Given the deafening silence and animosity that I personally have received from my personal Facebook “friends” when daring to broach politics, this is an invaluable and empowering thing, particularly for those women and moms who live in red district or states and feel isolated and alone in their progressive views.

Most recent, the Women’s March on Washington sprang up first as a Facebook event page where women and the men who support us could go to the page and express that “yes” we planned to go or that we were at least “interested.”  The media began reporting about a group of 200,000 expressing on Facebook they intended to participate, which gave the Women’s March a legitimacy and built momentum that otherwise may never taken hold, resulting in hundreds of thousands more people attending in Washington, D.C. alone.  Moreover, smaller satellite groups by state formed their own Facebook pages to facilitate getting us all to the March or setting up their own sister marches closer to home.

Bottom line:  Facebook is a dynamite tool for planning and organizing a political event or even a movement, and spurring folks on to engage and activate regardless of the views of their personal networks.

How?

All progressive moms ought to be on Facebook, especially since so many of us are already using the platform.  The more politically active you are, the more important it is to consider having a separate Facebook page you can make public.  That way, if Facebook is already an established feature in your life for socializing, you can maintain both uses if you choose.  Once you decide to “go political” you can readily share on your page events action items and legitimate news items that you have come across.  You can also determine what you want to share with your Facebook “friends” vs. strangers.  I find that there is still a way for me to nudge my personal network of “friends” on Facebook, but in a slightly different way than when I post as The FeMOMist.

Indeed, a recent Washington Post article points out that so-called “slacktivism” (a pejorative term for voicing one’s political opinions on social media) for The Resistance does in fact serve a useful purpose.  It helps close a perceived enthusiasm gap, something that Clinton never ultimately accomplished, while Trump supporters were able to parlay social media postings into real life cheerleading, and ultimately pulled out the win in the electoral college.

Currently, my blogger page “The FeMOMist” has over 1000 followers and I generally post to it at least once a day.  Check it out here.

Twitter:

What?

Twitter is another social media platform, one that until after the election I didn’t understand nor used regularly.  Let me be blunt:  I got with the program quickly and all progressive moms should too, pronto.  Like it or not, we are in the age of a Twitter presidency.  Trump didn’t just start tweeting recently–he’s been tweeting for years, building up a massive, loyal fan base.  While women were dominating the Facebook scene, men flocked to Twitter and became an ongoing source of instant gratification for Trump, as he heard positive reinforcement every time he posted about, for instance, his false birther theory regarding Barack Obama.  For years, many women not only shied away from Twitter because they didn’t get its value (why say something publicly in 140 characters or less when you could be much more private and wordy on Facebook?), but also Twitter became known as anti-women in the sense that stating a feminist viewpoint could result in taunting, bullying,  harassment, and even personal threats of the worst kind.  Fortunately, I think we are now observing a cultural shift on Twitter.  First of all, there are many more women who are using pseudonyms or other devices to protect their privacy while speaking their mind.  There is then in turn safety in numbers so the Twitter trolls and bullies are less apt to get a toehold (not to mention that they now can easily be blocked if they become a nuisance or worse).  Secondly, those of us who are on Twitter see that there is a certain art to being clever and witty and simultaneously making a strong and valid point succinctly, in 140 characters or less.

How?

If you aren’t already on Twitter, but you fancy Facebook either for socializing or political grandstanding, you need to sign up for Twitter right away.  Twitter is just as easy to use as Facebook and the learning curve is low for those already Facebook literate.  The true power of Twitter comes in our ability to create buzz and enthusiasm (or widespread outrage) around an issue in a relatively short period of time due to the use of hashtags.  To be a real voice on Twitter is to harness the power of the hashtag. I speak with some authority because I went from having less than 100 followers on my “The FeMOMist” Twitter page in mid December to over 2,300 followers as of this writing, and counting.  Despite that rapid growth, I managed to avoid attracting only the very occasional troll.

So how did I do it?  Hashtags. Hashtags. Hashtags.  And repeat after me:  do not rely on self-made hashtags but rather seek out the hashtags that are already in use and the followers will come.  I began using #TheResistance and #DemForce and #ResistTrump regularly in my tweets.  My profile bio is filled with hashtags like #womensrights and #feminist and #indivisible and #WomensMarch.  By using and searching for these Twitter terms of art, I now have thousands of followers–either because they found me through similar means or I found them through my own targeted searching, followed them, and they followed back.

Whenever I happen to be on Twitter (and truth be told, Twitter does become addictive–more so than Facebook),  I look at whatever hashtags are trending in the short term.  Then I think if there is something I can say using that already popular hashtag that advances the ball politically, even if the hashtag itself isn’t especially political in nature.  This is where creativity and wit is important–something the average Trump supporter lacks (#sorrynotsorry if I offended anyone just then).

For example, last week the hashtag “PaulRyanin4Words” was trending for hours.  I jumped right on that bandwagon, tweeting “Somehow standing without spine,” and got hundreds of likes, retweets (the equivalent of shares on Facebook), and replies.  All told, 46,000 people somehow saw or interacted with that tweet. (Yes, these stats are readily available for Twitter users who want to monitor such things).  Now that’s an impressive number to someone like me who is used to being ignored on her personal Facebook page when posting something political!

Another very popular tweet of mine posted the morning after the March.  When women were still very revved up from the day before, the hashtag #FeministToDoList began trending.  A natural fit, I posted with that hashtag, defiantly tweeting “World domination, but first” and listed a few things I think are critical to success post-march, such as calling our members of Congress, attending town halls, and voting for Democrats (more on this later).

Bonus to all of this tweeting by progressives is that Donald Trump himself has been obsessed with Twitter for years, uses it in a blatant attempt to circumvent the media, and is very easily rattled.  It is not a delusion of grandeur to think that one of your postings (or a posting you help stay alive through retweets or what you say in your reply to one of his tweets) could have an impact on our POTUS who is known to become temporarily distracted from his undesirable goals.

Incidentally, if you want to follow my Twitter feed, click here.  I am a regular, daily tweeter.  If you’re not already a member, then by all means, sign up today!

Listservs & Google Groups:

Finally, another highly effective tool for organizing via the Internet is a listserv, such as a Google Group.  Join a community group these days that is committed to political action and more likely than not the means for keeping everyone informed in between meetings will be a listserv.  The challenge to these groups is making sure they aren’t infiltrated so that the free sharing of information isn’t put into the wrong hands.  Moderators can be as vigilant as necessary.

Traditional Tools of the Resistance

All of these means have one thing in common: historically, these actions have been effective because, when individuals are powerless in the face of the powerful, pooling individual action into mass action is empowering.

Boycotts

The hashtag #GrabYourWallet is all over Twitter, thanks to a woman who started the spreadsheet by the same name, designed to boycott businesses that funnel monetary gains to Trump and family members such as Ivanka.  A fairly comprehensive, often updated list is now available that enables us to hit businesses where it hurts and helps to minimize the conflicts of interest inherent in these business dealings that Trump stubbornly refuses to end or relinquish.  Does it work?  To some extent, yes:  multiple businesses have stopped selling Trump products, citing reduced sales and most recently, Nordstrom.

Letter Writing

The first action item of the Women’s March’s “10 actions in 100 days” initiative involved writing scores of postcards to dump on Congress and Donald Trump.  Are these snail mail entreaties effective?  Well, numbers do matter.  If for example a representative in Congress suddenly receives hundreds of letters on a given issue, that is something that is difficult to ignore (especially if they come from constituents).  During the DeVos confirmation process, Democrats read aloud on the senate floor from letters they said they had received from constituents.  (Also, two Republican senators decided to defect from their party and vote against DeVos for Secretary of Education, after receiving thousands of calls from constituents.)

Letters to the Editor

Although so many get their news online now, if enough constituents write to a newspaper about a certain issue, the paper is more likely to take a stand on that issue in an editorial or investigate and report on the subject.  At a minimum, letters to the editor may appear in the newspaper itself and sway a reader who is on the fence about a certain matter or even officials who monitor such letters.  Local and state issues that might otherwise get brushed aside can also be handled effectively in this manner.

For guidelines on writing a Letter to the Editor, click here

Protests & Rallies

We all saw the power of marching and protesting on Inauguration Day, January 21st, and virtually every day since then.  Peaceful protests are as American as apple pie, which is why it is extremely disconcerting that some states are even considering bills to penalize protesters for exercising their constitutional right to freedom of assembly.  Protests and rallies generate enthusiasm (an example on the other side is the power of Trump’s rallies during the campaign season) and enthusiasm leads to ongoing pressure.  There can be no question but that this form of political action can be highly effective, both in the short and long term.

Some major upcoming protests that appear to be picking up steam include a Science March on Washington, scheduled for April 22nd (which is Earth Day) and marches and demonstrations to demand that Trump finally turn over his taxes, scheduled for April 15th .

Strikes

While we normally think of strikes as something an organized union does, there is nothing to stop us from organizing and striking on a given day to get across a point.  For example, although a women’s strike did not achieve tons of traction when it was out-organized by the Women’s March scheduled for the same time, the organizers of the March just revealed plans of their own for a nationwide women’s strike on a date still to be determined.  Imagine for a moment what would happen if women and moms stop doing what we normally do for a day.  The point will be that we are undervalued and unappreciated for what we do and contribute to society and our leaders need to address why that is and work towards a viable solution.

Lobby Days

Various organizations have begun relying heavily on its members to become effective unprofessional (and thus unpaid) lobbyists for their issues.  This is nothing new for a monolith, such as the NRA, who regularly whips its most ardent gun nuts into a frenzy over a proposed piece of legislation and then unleashes them, but progressive groups are getting more and more ordinary citizens to participate in advocacy.  Essentially a lobby day is announced by an organization via the tools mentioned above and members sign up.  The organization does the heavy lifting, setting up face-to-face meetings where you can sit down and converse with your state legislators or member of Congress (or often his or her staffer).  The volunteers receive a briefing beforehand of how to conduct the meeting and make the “ask.”  Lobbying can be extremely empowering for us individually and also extremely effective.  Think about it: how else do our lawmakers learn directly about why the passage of a bill is so critical to our own personal lives?  A constituent sitting in her legislator’s office talking about how the Affordable Care Act literally saved the life of her mother who had been diagnosed with cancer is a priceless tool indeed.  Generally you won’t be alone in such a meeting (small groups with fellow constituents is the norm) so it feels less intimidating than you might imagine.

The author attends a local rally and lobby day for gun violence prevention.

Contributions

Don’t have any time to spare, but contribute money regularly to various organizations and charities?  Consider earmarking some of that money to go to causes known to be working for The Resistance.  For example, if the Muslim Ban enrages you, give to the American Civil Liberties Union, which will use your contribution to file lawsuits against the administration and otherwise protect our constitutional rights.  Other worthy causes and organizations are listed on my webpage with links to their website.  If you know of others who are likeminded, and can afford to do so, encourage them directly or indirectly. (For example, I brag about my contributions on Facebook in the hope that others will take the hint and make their own contributions!)  Incidentally, once you make a donation, you will then hear from the organization regularly on what it is up to or receive action items or invitations to events–and that can be valuable too.

Political Satire/Parody/Humor

Never underestimate the power of a cartoon or comedy sketch to slyly make a point to those otherwise unmoved.  Political satire has been an integral part of our democracy since its inception.  Michael Moore has said it is critical that we use this tool in The Resistance, particularly because of the thin skin of our new president.  Indeed, Trump has tweeted about his disdain for Alec Baldwin’s impressions of him on Saturday Night Live.  Far from stopping, SNL has doubled down like never before on its political satire of a sitting president and his staff (like Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway and, most recently, Sean Spicer).

How can you use this tool?  Share easily obtained video of the skits (such as the one below that aired on February 4th) with your Facebook and Twitter followers.  Samantha Bee on TBS’s Full Frontal, Stephen Colbert on CBS’s Late Show, John Oliver on HBO’s Last Week Tonight, and Trevor Noah on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show also have readily available clips of their hilarious yet blistering takedowns of Trump and his administration.  Add your own barbed and witty opinions and comments.

If creative yourself, you can create your own memes, gifs, or come up with your own humorous observations about the Trump administration, and share them.  There is much material to be mined and while the issues themselves are deadly serious, the use of satire and humor can be another very useful tool in fighting for The Resistance (and also for stress management in these uncertain times).

“Huddling” & Organizing

Huddling is a new term in political activism that has emerged now that the Women’s March organizers have listed it as one of its “10 actions in 100 days.”  It is defined as a small group of people holding an informal conversation, although a huddle also conjures up images of a football team secretly strategizing in the middle of a game how to outwit the opposition.  In practice, huddling is whatever we make of it in our own communities.  Locally-led resistance groups are forming and meeting almost daily since the Women’s March.  The same synergy and collective creativity that allowed us to organize sister marches quickly can now be harnessed in our hometowns to take on the challenges of the Trump administration.

Handbook of the Resistance

Indivisible

If you haven’t heard about Indivisible now is the time to read it–it’s a downloadable PDF of only 26 pages or read it on the Indivisible website.

The value of this guide, which has become the unofficial handbook of The Resistance, spawning pockets of organized resistance all across the U.S., is that it succinctly describes, from the perspective of staffers of progressive members of Congress, how the Tea Party became as powerful as it did in such a short period of time.  Spoiler alert:  They did it by making countless phone calls to their members of Congress and regularly showing up to local offices and town halls for face to face interaction.  These two simple things are highly effective means for getting your lawmaker to either vote one way or the other on a pending bill, or prioritizing a policy with which they may agree, but aren’t planning to champion.  The underlying philosophy of Indivisible is that we as constituents literally hold the key to our members’ of Congress keeping their job and this (in addition to huge campaign contributions) is what motivates them to act or not act for any given matter.  More constituents participating in concerted actions thus makes more of an impact.

To search for an Indivisible group in your area (or register your own), click here.

Phone Calls

Michael Moore made a show out of getting the enormous mass of people at the Women’s March on Washington to recite back to him the phone number to reach the Congressional Switchboard and promise we will call our legislators not just once but pretty much every day.  202-224-3121 is that number (and yes, I have it memorized and on my phone).  However, sometimes that switchboard is jammed (which is a good thing) and you should also know all the direct dial and home office numbers for your senators (each of us has two senators), and member of Congress (each of us has one representative in the House).  Then, when an issue comes up, you have those numbers at the ready and can quickly and easily make phone calls, even while standing in line at the grocery store or on a coffee break at work.

For a list of phone numbers go to these websites, find your members of Congress, and click on their names to go to their websites (with further contact information):

For U.S. Senators, click here and then click on their names.  Once on their website you can generally click on the tab “contact” and then select “offices” for locations of home offices as well as local phone numbers.

For a list of all U.S. Senators, as well as their direct line and office number, click here.

To find out who your representative in the House is, click here and enter your zip code.  Then click on your representative’s name to be sent to their website.    You should be able to click on the tab “contact” and then select “offices.”

For a list of all members of the House, as well as their direct line and office number, click here.

Town Halls

Here is a super-helpful spreadsheet with a list of upcoming Town Halls and local office hours and location.

Also, the website RiseStronger.org has a handy searchable database of events, including town halls, as well as protest and rallies, throughout the U.S.

Get your friends together (or your local huddle or organization of resisters), and pack the room, prepared to ask questions designed to put your legislator on the spot.  Essentially make known that you are their constituent, this is an issue of utmost import to you, and you will not vote for them in the next election unless they do what you want.  If you don’t want to ask the question yourself, make sure you wear homemade buttons or t-shirts and sit with those who do to show you are a collective, cohesive group.

Trends in The Resistance:

Bursting Out of Your “Bubble”

One thing we all have heard post-election, usually but not always in a negative light, is this notion of living in a “bubble” in this country.  Really this is the idea that we all have a tendency to surround ourselves with people who think like we do, but I also believe that we can pick up our political views by osmosis.   In other words, by living in or moving to a part of the country where seemingly everyone thinks a certain way, some “impressionable” (or perhaps more positively stated “open”) minds will ultimately become more like the majority, both culturally and politically.  This is why breaking outside of your bubble (in addition to being a cheerleader to motivate your likeminded friends and relatives to act on their views) is very important if we hope to turn the tide in 2018 and beyond in favor of progressivism.  If you are reading this and live in a red state or district as a progressive or Democrat or have friends or relatives who do (who are not dyed in the wool conservative Republicans or Trumpkins), you have a very special role indeed to play in The Resistance.  Read on…

Running for Public Office

More and more women are seeking to run for public office following Trump’s election.  Organizations such as She Should Run, Run Women Run, and Emerge America, in addition to Emily’s List, have sprung up to help support progressive women, including women of color, in their quests–whether it be to local, state, or national offices.  This can be a logical next step for those of us who are already immersing ourselves in policy, advocacy, and activism.  Also, the more women elected to public office, the more we can look forward to seeing a day when a white male president, signing an executive order taking rights away from women while surrounded by white men (which happened very recently in case you missed it), is a thing of the past.

Voter Registration & Canvassing

I think it’s fair to say that we progressives learned our lesson the hard way that campaign tools such as voter registration and face-to-face engagement is a full-time pursuit and not just for a few months before an election.  Sign up with your local Democratic organization to go to neighboring red states and district starting now and laying the groundwork for 2018 and beyond.  Midterm elections cannot be viewed as optional (and neither can presidential elections for that matter), and we must engage in outreach over the long term.  (Obviously, don’t even think of not going to vote in every election going forward.  Every. Single. Election.  And vote for the Democrat in every contest.  Every one!)  Likewise, state elections are extremely important given that state governments are very powerful in this country.  Many, many Democratic state legislative seats and governorships were lost (a staggering 900 seats according to Politifact) during the Obama years while, taking a four-year long victory lap to celebrate a great victory in the executive branch of federal government in 2008, and again four years later, we became complacent (and lazy.  There, I said it.)

Red District/State “Buddies”

So, this is a term coined by and the brainchild of my friend and a state Women’s March lead organizer, Stacy Small.  Each of us progressives must commit to locate a select group of friends or family in specific red districts and states and personally provide them on an ongoing basis the information and support they need to become effective members of The Resistance themselves.  I cannot overstate how invaluable this tool can be in terms of winning elections and legislative battles on the state and federal levels of government.  It requires us to start communicating with each other about politics, however, something that doesn’t always feel good or easy.

Even if you don’t have red state buddies yourself, you can still help neighboring swing districts vote blue in 2018 and beyond, by signing up with groups like SwingLeft.

Computerized Phone Banks

Finally, one promising tool of The Resistance to help us break out of our bubbles and make a real difference is utilizing phone banks that put us in touch with folks (albeit strangers) likely to be of the same mind as ours but in other states.  We can then call them regarding a specific issue, educate them, and even patch them through to their legislator in a single phone call so that it is a constituent making the ask or comment.  This exciting tool I believe is the wave of the future when it comes to The Resistance and may be one of the keys to turning the tide back in progressives’ favor in a more durable way than ever before.

Sign left on White House lawn after the Women’s March on Washington. Photo Credit: Jennifer Rand/The FeMOMist

Why I March: Looking Ahead to the Women’s March on Washington

It’s the morning after the election and I can’t open my eyes and face the truth:  Donald Trump won the electoral college and will be our new president.  So I continue to sleep.  For the next week, I walk around bleary eyed, still not quite believing that, not only did we not elect our first female president, but also we elected a man with a complete lack of respect for women, an admitted serial sexual assaulter.  I feel powerless, and hopeless, and helpless.  I can’t bear to watch Clinton’s concession speech.  It’s too painful. (Just between you and me, I only just watched Clinton’s concession speech today.  And yes, I still became emotional.)

Then, about ten days after the election, something occurs to me:  I simply cannot allow myself to accept President-Elect Trump as the new normal.  I realize I cannot avoid news for the next four years.  I cannot check out and bury myself in a bubble-like cocoon.  Instead, I know that I must do what we women have had to do periodically since the beginning of the United States of America:  acknowledge a setback of monumental proportions, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and forge ahead for the fight of a lifetime.  In other words, I forced my eyes to open wide, kind of like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, and willed them to gaze purposefully into the future.

But now what?  Die-hard Clinton supporters like myself were not only experiencing raw emotions–fear, anxiety, anger, profound sadness–in the days following the political upset to end all upsets, but also the loss of an underpinning.  For we had all known deep down that victory would mean an easier path forward for so many progressive goals.  So, we put our collective energy into electing Hillary.  Now that we had lost that critical battle, what could be done to make the best of a disastrous situation?  Well, it turns out that there have been and will be so many things to be done–even before Trump is sworn in and certainly afterwards.

I personally donated money to an array of newly vulnerable progressive organizations, like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, Emily’s List and the National Organization of Women, Trevor Project and Human Rights Campaign, the NAACP and the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America/Everytown and more.

I subscribed to publications that advance honest-to-goodness journalism and investigative reporting, like the New York Times and the Washington Post.

I signed many petitions:  to stop Steve Bannon, to audit the vote, to protest Trump’s appointments, to investigate Russia’s hacking of our election.

I am boycotting NBC for its decision to air another season of The Celebrity Apprentice, and businesses that sell Trump products.

I wrote to all of the electors, imploring them to vote their conscience, and not for Donald Trump, on December 19th.

I didn’t participate in any of the protests against hatred, but cheered on my friends and those who did.

I continued writing my progressive feminist blog and shared noteworthy action items on my Facebook page.

I joined local organizations that promise to band together to fight against Trump’s threatened policies.

Women’s March: The Nuts & Bolts

Somehow, the one thing that has made me feel the best in the face of a seemingly insurmountable setback, was registering for the Women’s March on Washington and helping organize volunteers for what is shaping up to be a massive undertaking.  After some hiccoughs early on, we now know some basic truths about this prospectively historic march:

  • The march has been endorsed by a wide range of organizations, including 1199 SEIU, American Indian Movement, Amnesty International, Black Girls Rock, Black Women’s Roundtable, Brown Boi Project, Center for Popular Democracy, CHIRLA, Define American, ERA Coalition,Everything Girls Love, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, Feminist Majority Foundation, Life Camp Inc., MADFree, MomsRising, Mothers of The Movement, MPower Change, Muslim Women’s Alliance, NAACP New York State Conference, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Domestic Workers Alliance, National Newspaper Publishers Associations,National Organization for Women (NOW), One Billion Rising, Trayvon Martin Foundation, The Gathering for Justice, The National Coalition of Black Civic Participation, United We Dream.  (Martin Luther King, Jr.’s youngest child, Bernice King, who was only five years old when her father was assassinated, has been supportive as well, according to organizers.)
  • The mission of the March is to advance the cause of justice and equality for all American women, regardless of race, religion, sexual identity, gender expression, socioeconomic status, immigration status, age, or disability.
  • Principles of Kingian non-violence pervade the spirit of the march, which is a peaceful testament to our collective concern for our future, and each other, under the Trump administration.

In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us. –Women’s March “Mission & Vision”

#WhyIMarch

#WhyIMarch is an ongoing hashtag on Twitter and I have enjoyed reading the reasons my fellow marchers give for choosing to participate.  At the center of the reason why I am not only marching, but pouring my heart and soul into this march, is that it advances women’s interests as its primary goal and purpose.  It is this march that is dedicated to the cause of justice and equality for all women.  It is this march that I have high hopes will go down in history with some of the greatest political rallies in American history.  It is this march that makes me feel like so many voices will come together and shout loud and clear that while we now know that many Americans were fine with electing a known misogynist to the highest office in the land, the rest of us most certainly are not fine with it.  At all.

So why do I more specifically plan to march on January 21st?  Here are some of the most powerful reasons #WhyIMarch:

  • To honor those female warriors before me–the suffragettes, women’s libbers like my now-deceased aunts, trailblazers like Hillary Clinton–and give voice to their concerns in a new era.
  • To join with likeminded, kindred spirits, and feel the power and sense of community when we merge together for a single purpose.
  • To use my voice to make an impact beyond sitting at my computer keyboard.
  • To forcefully and publicly declare that it is wrong and un-American to be sexist or misogynistic, regardless of one’s station in life, wealth, or fame.
  • To speak on behalf of those who are silenced and marginalized, or are too ill or elderly or poor to travel and attend the march themselves.
  • To acknowledge publicly that we live in a highly paternalistic, inherently sexist, and often misogynistic society, even in 2017.
  • To fight for the rights of my daughter (and her daughters) to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and to not be a second class citizen in the country I hold dear.
  • To make clear that women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights, once and for all.
  • To fight for the Equal Rights Amendment, which failed to be ratified in the 1970s due to anti-woman sentiment, and continues to fail to be ratified by the necessary number of states.
  • To show my understanding that there is (to quote Hillary Clinton’s concession speech) “still work to do” and passionately assert that we will not rest until we ensure that women have the right to control our own bodies, that with hard work and diligence we can break the glass ceilings of our choosing, that we will not tolerate sexual harassment, bullying, and assault by strangers and acquaintances alike, either in person or online, and that working women deserve the same opportunities and pay as our male counterparts.
  • Because I agree wholeheartedly with Hillary when she said on November 9, 2016, “Never stop believing that fighting for what is right is worth” the effort.  I never will.  And neither should you.  Let’s March, Ladies!

For more information on the Women’s March, including how to register (not required but helpful for planning purposes) or to make a donation, click here.  The Women’s March is what we make it.  Let’s make it an epic turning point for women’s rights in this country.

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6 Unfortunate Life Lessons Our Kids May Learn from Trump’s Historic Win (If We Aren’t Careful)

 

A peaceful protest may help with closure for your older child or teen who mourns the loss of his or her chosen candidate. Photo Credit/Maury Feinsilber

Attending a peaceful protest may help with closure for your older child or teen who mourns the loss of his or her chosen candidate. Photo Credit/Maury Feinsilber

Upending conventional wisdom and pretty much all of the polls, Donald Trump coasted to an electoral college defeat of Hillary Clinton this past Tuesday, even as he lost to her in the popular vote.  Wednesday morning, many of us parents were not only shocked and dismayed (and sleep deprived), but also were wondering how could we could explain to our children what had happened.  After all, these were the same children who had watched us rally around the first major party female nominee for president, and had believed us when we said that Donald Trump did not represent American values of fundamental fairness and justice.   How to make sense of the loss?  What messages had been relayed to our impressionable children and teenagers in the process?  And how could we counter them before they did lasting damage?  Given that I wrote a piece entitled “7 Life Lessons Our Kids Can Learn from Hillary Clinton’s Historic Nomination,” it seemed only fitting that I take a stab at the life lessons our kids may now take away from Trump’s mind boggling win, as well as how we might counter and replace those lessons with healthier, more appropriate ones.  Here goes:

1. Bullying Rocks!/Nice Guys Finish Last

The Message:

That our children and citizenry have heard this message loud and clear can be seen by the alarming uptick in hate crimes and incidents being reported across the country. Some of these incidents appear to be perpetuated by our youth.   If our new leader can bully and get away with it, other bullies are bound to be emboldened and motivated to follow suit.

The Counter-Message:

Explain to your children that our new president ran a campaign based on hateful rhetoric, and by appealing to adults’ fears of the unknown. Tell them that as unfortunate as it may be, we are now seeing hateful responses by those who are ignorant and misguided. Emphasize that bullies are wrong regardless of what our new president may have done and said, that bullying is cruel and is never appropriate, and that ultimately it is up to all of us to point out when people—our friends, our classmates—are being bullied for their differences. Encourage them not to use labels to describe anyone else and explain how hateful names and labels and slurs can be hurtful even without accompanying physical harm.   Avoid using labels yourself, even to describe Donald Trump (easier said than done, but it helps to be consistent).  Explain to them the meaning of hate symbols and why such symbols are so cruel and harmful to others.

2. Never Apologize for Anything

The Message:

Trump ran a testosterone laden, alpha male campaign where he managed to get away with all sorts of bad behavior by deflecting to his less than perfect female opponent and her spouse. He also used the strategy of the non-apology apology (protesting that someone else did something even worse in the past) when he was caught on a hot mic bragging that he can sexually assault women and get away with it. In the meantime, Trump also managed to appeal to the baser instinct in us that wants our team to win at all costs and believes perhaps that apologizing only shows weakness that can be exploited.  Since Trump won, our kids might see this as a signal that they should dig their heels in when accused of something that they did wrong, rather than come clean and apologize to the person they have wronged.

The Counter-Message:

Remind your kids that it is not a sign of weakness for one to apologize when he or she is wrong.   It is better to do the right thing than to win in the end.  Set a good example by doing this yourself on occasion when they are watching.  Emphasize that it is not just women that are expected to say they are sorry–men must be willing to apologize and make amends as well.

3. Hard Work and Preparation Don’t Pay Off

The Message:

Donald Trump is the logical extreme of the neo-GOP anti-intellectual view that only nerds engage in preparation, reading, and studying. He famously avoided preparing for his debates and the lack of preparation was glaring relative to Clinton, who won all three debates handily. Indeed, Clinton is the quintessential policy wonk, who knows her stuff inside and out. Well, we saw how that ended up for her in the rust belt of this country, and she lost among the uneducated, including uneducated white women who we might have expected would want to help another woman get elected to the highest office in the land. Kids paying attention—especially those who are old enough to listen to commentary and watch the debates—might come away from all of this thinking that hard work and dedication are not virtues in the end.

The Counter-Message:

We must get the message across to our kids that hard work and preparation is a good thing worthy of their time and effort. Even if Hillary Clinton didn’t win the presidency in the end, she has accomplished so much over her lifetime, which is no easy feat as a woman, and that has been the result of all of her hard work and effort. Tell your kids that even Donald Trump had to work hard to get into an Ivy League college and build his business empire. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

4. Experience Means Nothing

The Message:

Donald Trump ran as an outsider and that meant that he has zero experience in either the government or the military. This is virtually unprecedented and yet lo and behold he got the job he was seeking. Some kids might view this as a sign that jobs grow on trees and experience is irrelevant if one is brash and bold and arrogant—like our new president.

The Counter-Message:

Tell your kids that Donald Trump is quite the exception to a general rule that employers require pertinent job experience. If he or she wants to succeed in life and grow up to become, let’s say, a scientist, he or she will need to study and get a degree and then get an internship working in a lab to gain experience. He or she will have to pay some dues. Trump is not the norm, in other words. The American public gave him a job for which he isn’t prepared.   We will now see how that works out for us all.

5. It’s Bad to Be Different

The Message:

Trump campaigned on a highly divisive, racially charged platform where he mocked a disabled reporter, called Mexicans immigrants rapists and drug dealers, threatened to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, and singled out “my African American” at one of his rallies. His “build a wall” battle cry and threats of mass deportation reeked of xenophobic nationalism. Trump also surrounded himself with some pretty racist characters, such as Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon, who is his brand-new Chief Strategist. Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate and our new Vice President, is a man who believes that homosexuals choose to be gay and can benefit from cruel and discredited conversion therapy.   But guess what? He won the campaign despite all of this, so what child wouldn’t be thinking it is a bad thing to be anything other than a straight white Christian male.

The Counter-Message:

It is super important that we tell our kids that it is ok to be different and we need to be supportive of our friends and neighbors who are. Wear safety pins and explain to your child the symbolic nature of the gesture.   Encourage them to read books and watch movies that stress messages of acceptance and tolerance.

6. Women Are Not Worthy of Respect (Boys Will Be Boys)

The Message:

Our children have heard throughout the campaign Donald Trump say mean, vile things about women. He has said things about his own wives and daughters that show he views them primarily as objects or possessions. Older kids have likely seen or heard the infamous videotape where Donald Trump brags he can grab women by the pussy and move in on a married woman like a bitch. They may have heard reports of the more than 14 women who claim Trump had sexually assaulted them. They may have even listened to the Howard Stern shows where Trump rated women on a scale from 1 to 10 or heard that Trump called a former Miss Universe—the most beautiful woman in the world—“Miss Piggy.” All of this together showed a staggering degree of misogyny and disrespect for women—both those he knows and total strangers. Despite all of this, Trump is now our leader. What girl or boy wouldn’t be thinking that women in this country are second-class citizens and not worthy of respect?

The Counter-Message:

It is critically important that we treat women in our lives with respect. Set a good  example by refraining from making comments about other women’s appearance or even your own figure flaws. Avoid using the term “bitch” or similar words with negative connotations about women.   Do your best to raise your sons to respect girls’ and women’s personal space and explain to them that there are no blurred lines when it comes to sexual consent. Tell your daughter that she is valuable because of who she is and what she does and not because of her body or appearance. Make sure she understands that she is in charge of her body and it is her decision completely about whether she will allow another person to touch her. If your son does something wrong in this regard, do not dismiss it as “boys will be boys”—make sure there are consequences.

 

Women/Moms: It’s High Time to Dump Trump & Just Say No to Misogynists

 

For women/moms, the choice is clear. Donald Trump can't be our next President.

For women/moms, the choice is clear. Donald Trump simply cannot be our next President.

By now everyone who isn’t in a coma knows that Donald J. Trump, the Republican nominee for President of the United States, has confessed to being a serial sex offender.

We’ve listened to the 2005 tape of him bragging to Billy Bush that his wealth and fame enable him to do whatever he wants with women, including sexually assaulting them.

We’ve heard him declare proudly how he made the moves on a woman, who also happened to be married, despite being married to Melania (who at the time was pregnant with their son).

All the spin in the world is not going to change those two facts.

Trump and his surrogates have called this “Locker room talk.  Locker room talk??  If that’s the case then there are far more rapists and sexual predators hanging out in locker rooms than I had even imagined was possible.

The reaction to the so-called Trump Tape was swift and certain. Democrats and many Republicans condemned the statements he had made on the tape. On Twitter and Facebook, Trump’s supporters continued to hold on and dig their heels in deeper, if anything, because as it turns out, Trump really can do absolutely anything and they will stand by their man. (See the comments to my Facebook post below for some prime example of this).

While it may come as a surprise to many of us that female Trump supporters are just as strident as male Trump supporters in the wake of this most recent bombshell, they really and truly are.  I have heard from women who are blindly loyal, almost to the point of religiosity.  (Incidentally, I would argue that sticking up for and defending an admitted sex offender is misogynistic and therefore deplorable, and the overwhelming majority of Trump supporters are sticking with him, so it would seem to logically follow that, if anything, Hillary Clinton underestimated the number of “deplorables” in that basket of hers.)

Anyway, I digress (which is what Trump supporters, led by Trump himself, are so good at doing to try to distract us from the truth).

Here is my point:

Since the Trumpettes are not abandoning him despite his lying, cheating, raping ways, it is up to the rest of us women to pick up the slack and show the rest of the world that we will not tolerate a man like this as our leader, and the leader of our daughters and sons.

See, here’s the deal with the American public and our most pressing socioeconomic problems. Something beyond horrific happens. It can be almost anything:  young children are gunned down in their classroom (Sandy Hook massacre), a woman is raped on a college campus and her convicted rapist gets off with a slap on the wrist (Stanford swimmer rape), an unarmed African American man is shot dead by a police officer (Eric Garner, et al.), or even a natural disaster of epic proportions like a flood that devastates disproportionately the poorest members of the community (Hurricane Katrina).

What happens next is that the vast, vast majority of American people are saddened, even outraged. Then, there are the people who immediately try to explain it away. They say to the rest of us: there really isn’t a problem; these things happen; it was an accident; you are misinterpreting the situation; boys will be boys; the victim is a sleaze or has a criminal record, etc.; something else has happened before that is worse.

It’s always for these people: “Yes, but . . . ”

The sympathetic people do what they can to help in the immediacy of the event: they contribute money for displaced and devastated flood victims to rebuild their lives; they write letters or make phone calls to Congress calling for stronger gun laws; they post on Facebook articles and comments reflecting their beliefs and condemning sexual assault. It really and truly bothers and disturbs them—and this is the important part—at the time. Then, real life (for the sympathetic people) takes over. We have to raise our families, go to work, run a household, etc. Maybe part of this is human nature. Maybe we are so deeply wired to be resilient that it is the norm to reset to normality.

What remains, however, in the wake of these watershed events are two groups of people:

  1. The direct victims of the tragedy who probably will never get over what has happened to them or their loved one(s), and
  1. A group (of varying size, depending on the tragedy) of determined citizens who can’t let it go. They are saying to themselves, “Wait a second—not so fast—this is really important.   This is crucial for the well being of Americans as a whole. We need to do something about this. There is an injustice and inequity here.”  Those people may never stop feeling that way. They join groups and engage in peaceful demonstrations, circulate petitions, and continue to pressure Congress. They know that maybe they won’t be able ultimately to make a change but are hopeful enough to think that maybe change really is possible and it’s worth it to at least try. They are often up against great odds—a recalcitrant Congress, powerful lobbyists, big business—who resist change.  Thus, change is most likely to happen when there is a groundswell of support that is intense and prolonged.

With that backdrop, we need to look at Donald Trump’s tape and the reaction to it.   I wrote a piece for the Huffington Post that ran a couple days prior to the release of the Billy Bush tape. My piece provided a litany of examples of Trump’s sexism and misogyny, all gleaned by looking to readily available sources, including episodes of the Howard Stern show (which CNN began running over the weekend as a “breaking” story— but it was BuzzFeed that actually broke this story, way back in February by pouring through years and years of tapes).

In the meantime, the Howard Stern syndicated radio show began way back in 1980s as part of the so-called Shock Jock genre—emphasis on the shock. Stern’s show took off with its particularly lewd approach to the talk show format. The FCC finally chased Stern from regular radio airwaves in 2006, however, Stern continued to have a voice on satellite radio, where he was completely uncensored and a huge hit for SiriusXM. His show had an even broader reach once he negotiated  a deal with E! to have his show videotaped for viewing on the cable network.

Donald Trump was apparently a natural fit for Howard Stern, calling into or appearing on his show about two dozen times over the years. Each time, Trump proceeded to engage in sexist, misogynistic banter with the host, saying outrageously lewd things about famous women, his wives, and even his daughter (Sure, he said to Stern, you can call Ivanka a “piece of ass”). Publicly. There was clearly a market for his particular brand of unbridled misogyny and Stern and Trump catered to it. As for the rest of us?  We either changed the channel and didn’t listen, or at least we certainly didn’t stand up and say it was wrong, sexist, hateful, misogynistic.

All of this is to say just this: If you are offended and outraged by Trump’s tape and the things set forth in my article: Don’t. Let. It. Go. Instead of being one of the people who returns to your day-to-day life, que sera sera, say enough and let’s fight for the rights of women in this country and our daughters and granddaughters, including the right to be free of men who think they can treat us like objects.

In 2016, we have laws against sexual harassment, but successful politicians like Donald Trump, who has basically said (about the Fox News sexual harassment case) that rather than enforcing those laws against perpetrators, we should quit our jobs or be grateful for all that harasser has done for us.  Perhaps this outmoded view of an appropriate employer/employee relationship explains why, on the set of The Apprentice, Trump himself engaged in sexual harassment, according to many cast and crew members.

In 2016, we have laws against rape, but when people are caught bragging that they sexually assault women and get away with it, Trump and his supporters call it “locker room talk.”

In 2016, we still blame victims of rape because of the way they dress or their backgrounds rather than keep the focus on the perpetrator. We say things like Donald Trump did when his friend, Mike Tyson, was convicted of rape.  Well, you know, Donald said at the time, she was dancing with him and went to his hotel room.  When victims of sexual assault do come forward, we either don’t believe the accuser or we identify with the perpetrator. We worry about a convicted rapist’s future more than the often shattered life of his victim.

With all that said, my fellow women and moms, you have a choice, and you have the right to vote your conscience when you cast your ballot:

Do you vote for Hillary Clinton, who has been fighting for women’s rights her entire life and really and truly “gets” what it’s like going through life as female in the United States, or do you vote for the man who is a known sexist, misogynistic bully, that brags about sexually assaulting women, and who has absolutely no respect for women.

Together we have the power to make this decision and send a message to the rest of the country and the world that we respect ourselves and our daughters and love our country too much to allow a Trump presidency.  We can stop Trump and set ourselves on a path forward to an America where misogyny is no longer tolerated and accepted.

Moms4HRC volunteers travel to PA to canvass for the Clinton campaign

Moms4HRC volunteers travel to PA to canvass for the Clinton campaign

Talking About Racism Matters: A White Mom’s Perspective

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Cover of book written by an African American attorney for African American men.

At Monday’s debate, the issue of systemic racism and race relations came up and how the candidates handled it is telling.  While Donald Trump hammered away at the concept of “law and order,” bringing up stop and frisk as a desirable way to reduce crime on the streets, Hillary Clinton’s response was much more nuanced.  She acknowledged the breadth and depth of the problem of systemic racism in our criminal justice system, something that is unusual in a candidate running for the presidency.

Stopping and frisking every person as suggested by Trump is not a viable solution to crime in this country.  Aside from the way it tends to be carried out by the police (disproportionately targeting African Americans in a manner known as a racial profiling), it only furthers the legitimate view by many African Americans that our system is unfairly set up to discriminate against people based on the color of their skin.  Indeed, a federal judge determined New York City’s own stop and frisk law was unconstitutional because it violated African Americans’ civil rights.

In the meantime, Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, recently said that we talk too much about institutional racism in our justice system.

Too much, Mike Pence?  I couldn’t disagree with you more.

Maybe my own personal history of race relations is not the norm.  I grew up in the 1970s in suburban Philadelphia, and went to a K-12 Quaker school where equality and justice were part of the curriculum.  Although a private school, it was a completely desegregated one in the sense that we all grew up together–black and white boys and girls–and were genuinely friends.  We ate lunch together, played and hung out at each other’s houses, went to parties together, etc.  It all seemed very normal and natural and that’s the environment in which I grew up.  It certainly helped that my own parents never once used a racial slur or made racist comments in my presence.  Indeed, my mother, very progressive in her own right, joined the NAACP.  In 2008, I cheered President Obama’s election in part because I viewed it as progress in our country–a sign that we had taken another step towards equality.  Yet, I am not naive and know that I am, like all Americans, a product of a culture that over hundreds of years has taught us lessons, stereotypes, and prejudices that are deeply engrained in our fabric and are stubbornly difficult to shake.

In any event, I believe that the problem with denying there are issues with systemic racism in this country (and make no mistake, there are still serious problems with racism in this country) is that like with every difficult dilemma, the first step towards solving racism is to admit it exists.  In my mind, it all starts with understanding.  Understanding and empathy.  Not only hearing a black person who says, “Black Lives Matter,” but really attempting to empathize and understand what that means–and not what it means to myself as a white woman, but to that black person.

During the aftermath of the killing of Keith Scott by police in Charlotte, North Carolina, I became deeply aware of this.  On Facebook, reading the stream of articles in my news feed, and opinions posted by my (mostly liberal) Facebook friends, I came upon this comment:

My girls said, “mom, I’m scared for daddy. What if he has car problems? He can’t even call the police for help!” My heart is just breaking, I’m angry, I’m sad, I’m hopeless! People will look at my husband, and just think he’s a bad dude because his skin is brown and he’s six feet tall! And what of my brothers, cousins, uncles! What are these cops thinking?! But yet look at how black men are portrayed on tv and everywhere and so we are subliminally taught that black is bad and black men are the ultimate level of bad!! 😢😢😢

The poster of this comment, Claudia (not her real name), is a married African American woman and mother of four kids, who are now 16, 15, 8, and 5.  I know her because she was in a social group I joined shortly after the birth of my first baby, my son.  Ten first-time moms and our babies met, first in a church, and then at each other’s houses, every week for well over a year.   Knowing that these other women were going through the same sort of issues as I was as a first time mother gave me comfort.  We talked about all sorts of things and became friends, going to each others’  birthday parties for our kids and holiday parties.  Then, many of us drifted apart.  We had our second babies, and even our third or fourth, and we didn’t live around the corner from each other.  Some of us returned to work full-time or moved out of the area.  In retrospect, it’s noteworthy we met for as long as we did as a complete group.

Facebook brought a lot of us back together through throwback postings of pictures we had taken of all ten of the babies when they were only a few months old.  And then Claudia and I became Facebook friends.  We discovered that our daughters both were dancers and watched each other’s dance videos.  I learned that Claudia had moved to Charlotte, North Carolina–with her husband of 20 years, and kids–but it sounded like all was well.  Claudia and her family are, quite frankly, no different from the rest of my mom friends and their families.

Then came the Scott shooting and that post on Facebook.  Soon after, I watched on cable news the video taken by Scott’s wife, Rakeyia, of the shooting (apparently because she had the wherewithal and courage to obtain her own evidence of what transpired as her husband was shot to death by a police officer).

My heart broke into pieces.  Why?  Because I really and truly empathized with Claudia, whom I had known well, and with Mrs. Scott, who was a total stranger but is also a wife and a mother.  I imagined the concern that Claudia had not only for her husband, but also her daughter who is the same exact age as my son.  Unlike Claudia’s daughter, my son doesn’t have the worry that he or his father–my husband–will be shot and killed because of assumptions and snap judgments made based on the color of their skin.   I don’t have to worry that I will ever have to watch my husband being shot and killed before my eyes while I capture it on my phone as proof.

I know that there remain questions to be answered about the particulars of the Scott case.  Nevertheless, there will always be another case like it just around the corner with different facts, but with the common denominator of police using lethal force against a black man unnecessarily.  The bottom line:

That a wife had to beg and plead for police not to shoot her husband dead and have it fall on deaf ears;

That she had to be a witness to the deadly shooting when the police ignored her even after she said he had a traumatic brain injury;

That a 16 year old girl who I knew as a beautiful baby has to be scared for her father’s life;

That her mom, Claudia, has to comfort her kids knowing full well they are right to be concerned;

That the book depicted above, entitled “A Survival Guide: How Not to Get Killed by the Police,” must exist in 2016 America;

These things do matter to me, and should matter to all women and moms, regardless of their skin color.

Sorry Mike Pence:  President Obama was right about what he said at the White House reception just prior to the opening of the National Museum of African American History and History.  We have come so far with race relations and institutional racism in this country, and yet we have so very far to go.  And the only way we’re going to get there is by truly seeing each other, listening, trying to understand and empathize and, finally, by working together to find a solution.

Why I Trust Hillary (& Why All Women/Moms Should Too)

trust

 The media keeps reporting polls that show Hillary Clinton has a
trustworthiness problem. I personally don’t get this. To me, trustworthiness in a candidate means that if elected he or she will follow through and keep as many campaign promises as possible. I think that voters may be confusing trustworthiness with transparency. Yes, some politicians—especially those who have been burned for being frank and blunt—may tend to keep things closer to the vest. Hillary Clinton in particular has been in public spotlight at least since 1992 when her husband ran for the presidency. A trailblazer on many levels, she was often scrutinized in a particularly harsh and unfair light and many people hated her for rebelling against the status quo while First Lady. As a result, it really isn’t so surprising that she has strived to keep an element of privacy in her life, as difficult as that may be. Now this has prompted charges that she is not as transparent as people would like. I would argue, however, that when it comes to her trustworthiness to serve the American public, superficial transparency is largely beside the point. Why? Again, what I look for in a candidate for president is whether he or she will strive to fulfill his/her promises and get things accomplished. In this sense of the word, there can be no question but that Hillary is “trustworthy.
 
Women and moms should examine Clinton in this light when deciding whether to vote for her and, also, must scrutinize her trustworthiness as compared to her opponent, Donald Trump. In other words, how consistent has Clinton been over the years in making promises to get things done and then at least striving to get those things accomplished? How consistent have her positions on policy stayed over her years in the public spotlight? Is she more trustworthy than Donald Trump when it comes to many, many issues of import to women and moms? I think it is crystal clear that she is more worthy of women/moms’ trust, and here are six reasons why:
 

1. Women/Moms Should Trust Hillary More Than Trump to Keep Us All Safe

Hillary Clinton knows a great deal about foreign affairs and is respected at home and abroad for her work as Secretary of State under the Obama administration. She has made crucial decisions under great pressure and our country stayed safe during her tenure. Among her successes as our Secretary of State, Clinton restored our reputation in the world after George W. Bush’s presidency, championed the rights of women and girls around the globe, negotiated the toughest sanctions ever against Iran, negotiated a cease fire between Hamas and Israel, stood up for worldwide LGBT rights, reinvigorated American diplomacy with Asia, and took on the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. Clinton’s stated policies on national security are designed with the primary goal of keeping us all safe.

 On the other hand, Donald Trump has no experience in foreign affairs. He has shown himself to not have a firm grasp on the details of foreign policy, has unnecessarily inflamed our relations with countries such as Mexico, and has criticized our nation’s able generals. He lacks the steady judgment and temperament necessary to be commander in chief over the U.S. and the free world. Don’t believe me? Well, then take it from the GOP experts, such as
Michael Hayden (former CIA director under George W. Bush), who have said the same thing, despite the political ramifications. Indeed, 50 GOP national security officials signed on to a damning letter stating that Trump would be “the most reckless president in American history.” Trump’s statements about getting rid of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an alliance of nations that helps us avoid nuclear war, are also very troubling. Former Special Forces and CIA Operations Officer Michael Vickers, former GOP Senator Larry Pressler, Bush Administration vets John Stubbs and Ricardo Reyes, GOP foreign policy advisor Brent Scowcroft, and Bush Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, have all said that it is Hillary Clinton, hands down, who will be more likely to keep us safe in a dangerous world.


 2. Women/Moms Should Trust Hillary More Than Trump to Fight for Equal Rights for All Americans, Including Women

Hillary Clinton has been fighting for the rights of women and minorities her entire adult life. She believes that women should make an equal amount of money as do men for the same job. She went to a conference in China 21 years ago, and boldly proclaimed that women’s rights are human rights. She has fought for a woman’s right to choose throughout her years in public service. Hillary believes that we are a great country that will become greater still if we treat all of our citizenry equally.

 Donald Trump? He has become the
darling of white supremacists, a fact that he was very slow to acknowledge or denounce. He demeans women at every turn and has said creepy, offensive things even about his own daughter. He has also said racist things about Muslims, Mexicans, an American judge, and our own President. In fact, here are 13 prime examples of Trump being racist.  


3. Women/Moms Should Trust Hillary More Than Trump to Help the Sick, Disabled, and Downtrodden in Our Society

In the early 1970s, Hillary Clinton sought to ferret out segregation and discrimination against African American schoolchildren by posing as a housewife. She fought for the laws that now require public education for disabled children. Today, Clinton has concrete proposals on how to help the disabled in this country, including autistic kids. Clinton also has proposals to assist the mentally ill and Alzheimer’s patients, as well as stop the Zika virus.

 Donald Trump? In the early 1970s, Donald Trump’s father and he were refusing to
rent housing to African Americans in violation of the Fair Housing Act. He mocks the disabled and seeks an end to “political correctness” (aka civility) as we know it in this country. Trump has also been sued multiple times for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, including a variety of accessibility issues at his Atlantic City casino, Taj Mahal, which recently shut its doors after filing for bankruptcy. Trump has no concrete plans to help the sick, disabled, and downtrodden in our country.


 4. Women/Moms Should Trust Hillary More Than Trump to Reduce Gun Violence in This Country

As a corollary to #1 above, Hillary Clinton has been an ardent supporter for common sense gun safety laws. Her critics say, without any evidence whatsoever, that she aims to take away guns or abolish the Second Amendment but, in fact, she just wants enactment of laws that will operate to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, the severely mentally ill, domestic abusers, and convicted felons. Not only is this reasonable, it’s essential to protect Americans from mass shootings and other fatalities due to gun violence. Her goal of expanding background checks is supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans, including gun owners.

 Donald Trump? He has been
endorsed by the National Rifle Association for his views on guns, including the elimination of gun-free zones at schools. He also likes to tell jokes about gun violence, which really are not funny. At all.


 5. Women/Moms Should Trust HIllary More Than Trump to Help Families, Children, and Young Adults

Hillary Clinton has policies on K-12 education in this country that will ultimately benefit all of us. She wants to make pre-Kindergarten universal for all children, and has a plan for debt-free college. She is committed to fighting for paid family leave, and has done so both as First Lady and as a United States Senator. Starting with her work on the Children’s Defense Fund, Hillary has made children’s rights a priority. Also, most everyone knows that Hillary unsuccessfully fought for universal health care before it was Obamacare, but did you know that she helped pass the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which today insures millions of American children? She gave an interview to Parents Magazine in which she promised to help families and provided specifics.

 Donald Trump? As a lifelong businessman and entrepreneur, he is a relative newcomer to the question of education in our country and, since announcing his candidacy, has offered little to no specifics regarding how he would address or tackle the problems we face today. Most recently, his proposals to focus more resources on charter schools and voucher programs
seem likely to weaken or even gut our current public school system. When Parents Magazine reached out to ask Trump the same questions about families as were posed to Hillary, he declined to be interviewed.  Just this past Tuesday, he finally elaborated on his proposed childcare and maternity leave policies with daughter, Ivanka, standing beside him.   The maternity leave policy has already been criticized for being 50% shorter than Clinton’s proposal (six weeks vs. twelve weeks) and sexist as well (Clinton’s plan includes paternity leave for fathers; Trump’s is solely for working moms).  Trump’s childcare plan calls for a tax deduction that would benefit wealthy working mothers but not the average working mom who is struggling to make ends meet.


 6. Women/Moms Should Trust Hillary More Than Trump to Protect Our Environment

The graphic below makes clear that when it comes to protecting the environment for our kids and grandkids, there is no comparison between Clinton and Trump. Hillary understands the dangers of climate change and will work to protect our planet while creating jobs. And Trump? He has called the policies of the Obama administration, such as the Clean Power Plan, “stupid” and, like many Republicans, denies that climate change is a concern, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. 
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All In for Hillary! A Progressive Mom’s Back-to-School “To Do” List

The FeMOMist and her 16 year old son registering voters in Falls Church, VA.

Jennifer (aka “The FeMOMist”) and her 16 year old son registering voters in Falls Church, VA.

After a summer of family fun, my kids both went back to school on Monday, giving me a few minutes of peace and tranquility.

OK…that’s over.

It’s less than 10 weeks until Election Day!   Now that I have more time, what can I do to help Hillary get elected (and keep Donald Trump far away from the nuclear codes)?!

Here is one progressive mom’s “to do” list for this election season, which is shaping up to be one of the most important presidential elections in our lifetime.  The great thing is that many of these things can be accomplished with your kids by your side so you can set a good example, while getting them involved with the political process early in life!

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My Back-to-School “To Do” List

1. Join (or Start) a Group

Grassroots organization has become one of the most effective way of mobilizing folks to support a cause, often from the comfort of their own homes.  Stay-at-home (or well organized) moms can benefit from this empowering way to get involved.  The group can stay social media-centered, but occasionally goes viral and takes on a life of its own.

Some examples of moms organizing at the grassroots level?  Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America started a movement in the wake of the Sandy Hook mass shooting that resembled Mothers Against Drunk Driving in some ways but had all the markings of the modern era:  Watts used social media to build up her massive following (now over a half million followers on Facebook alone) in a relatively short period of time.

More recently, Julie Zebrak started Moms4HRC (over 13,000 followers on Facebook) with the goal of electing Hillary Clinton as our 45th president.  Julie uses her electronic bully pulpit to send out (via social media and e-mail) pro-Hillary content from legitimate news organizations that she reads and digests before disseminating.  She also provides content on how to get involved with the campaign, has hosted a phone bank, is fundraising for the campaign, and just launched a website devoted to the group.  A lawyer and mom of two teenaged girls, Julie quit her government job to devote herself full-time to Moms4HRC.

No need to reinvent the wheel if you aren’t the organizing type (which I’m not), or simply don’t have the time.  All you have to do is like/join/follow groups like Moms Demand Action and Moms4HRC and there is genuine power and clout in numbers.

A Moms4HRC chart designed to inform moms about ways to help in various states.

“To Do” in Virginia for the week of August 26: Follow Moms4HRC on Facebook/subscribe to emails to receive these helpful charts on a weekly basis.

2.  Canvassing

While I personally haven’t done this yet, according to the research, canvassing is probably the single most effective way of getting out the vote.  Canvassing involves knocking on the doors of voters and encouraging them to vote for Hillary.  If you don’t feel comfortable doing this alone, bring a friend along or your kids.  I know of multiple women/moms who have canvassed for the Clinton campaign, and they say it’s a great experience to connect with real people and talk about the issues.

To get involved with canvassing in your town, especially in key battleground states:  (1) go to hillaryclinton.com, (2) click on the “more” tab, and (3) enter your zip code under “events.”  You can then (4) select “canvass” as a filter to see upcoming opportunities and get additional information.

3.  Voter Registration

I registered voters on a scorching hot day in Virginia with my kids (see above pic with my 16 year old son taken by my 14 year old daughter), and plan to do more now that it’s not as hot outdoors.

Basically, voter registration involves:

(1) Going to a group information session where you will learn about the voting requirements of a given state, and what you need to do to help a person register to vote.

(2)  From there, going to an assigned location (typically outside of supermarkets or other public places)

(3) Asking people who pass by if they are registered to vote and, if not, would they like to register.  

(4) Volunteers also help folks fill out the paperwork, which can be challenging for some.

Note that we do not ask anyone to vote specifically for Hillary.  The purpose is to make sure that everyone who is unregistered but is eligible and wants to vote is registered before their state deadline.  

In Virginia, for example, that deadline is October 17th, but every state is different.  Since different states also have varying requirements for residents that can make registering to vote more or less challenging to accomplish, voter registration can be a great civics lesson for older kids who are learning in school about the history of the civil rights movement and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

4.  Go to a Phone Bank

Not a face-to-face people person?  Have physical or other challenges that would make canvassing and voter registration (which generally involves walking and/or standing for periods of time) difficult?  Consider attending a phone bank event or volunteering for the virtual phone bank.  I did this beginning with Iowa during the primaries and it was so easy.  Yes, this is “cold calling,” but typically as the general election approaches you will be talking to a Clinton supporter and either asking them to volunteer or commit over the phone to voting for Hillary in early voting or on Election Day.  Whatever you are tasked with accomplishing during a phone bank session, you will have a script in front of you, and all the information you need.

Go here for more info about the campaign’s virtual phone bank.

For info about phone bank events near you, (1) go to hillaryclinton.com, (2) click on the “more” tab, (3) enter your zip code in the space provided under “events,” and (4) filter by “phone banks” along the sidebar.

5.  Host a Fundraiser

Yes, this can sound a little daunting, but fundraisers come in many shapes and sizes.  Even if you aren’t the PTA type, you too can raise money for Hillary!  For example, what about setting up a lemonade stand and donating all proceeds to the Clinton campaign fund?  Not only are you getting the little ones involved at a level they can understand, but also you can chat with people as they come by and say why you are voting for Hillary and why they should too. Another example:  Zebrak’s group is hosting a family friendly, back to school event in the backyard of a friend’s home.  Be creative!

A Florida mom sells lemonade to raise money for Clinton campaign.

A Florida mom sells lemonade to raise money and awareness for the Clinton campaign.

6. Attend a Fundraiser or Campaign Event

For a campaign contribution of varying amounts, you can go to an event to hear and sometimes meet interesting celebrity speakers.  Occasionally there are even big name performers/Clinton supporters like Katy Perry or Barbra Streisand.  Fundraisers like these tend to be centered around major cities such as Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, and Boston, but there can also be similar events going on elsewhere, particularly in battleground states such as Florida and Pennsylvania.

For a list of official campaign fundraiser events, (1) go to hillaryclinton.com, (2) click on the “more” tab, (3) enter your zip code under “events,” and (4) use filters to find the event that’s best for you.

If you are in the DC metro area, and can’t afford a major fundraising event, consider going with your family to Moms4HRC’s back-to-school party on September 17th for a smaller campaign contribution.  For more info, click here.

Women for Hillary Fundraising Event on May 4 in Washington, D.C., featuring a panel discussion with Eva Longoria, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, NARAL president Ilyse Hogue, and Clinton aide Cheryl Mills.

Women for Hillary Fundraising Event on May 4 in Washington, D.C., featuring a panel discussion with Eva Longoria, NY Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, NARAL president Ilyse Hogue, and Cheryl Mills.

Hillary Clinton speaks at fundraising event attended by the author.

Hillary Clinton speaks at fundraising event attended by the author.

7. Spread the Word

This has become much easier in the Internet era.  I personally enjoy writing and have a background as an attorney/litigator, so I decided to start a blog entitled Musings from the FeMOMist.  While my blog covers many topics of concern to moms and women, a number of my posts are about Hillary Clinton and why moms/women should vote for her over Donald Trump.  Writing is a kind of a hobby for me at this point and my favorite way of supporting Hillary.

Not into writing?  That’s perfectly fine–you can send out a short email blast to your networks and quote or link to other sources (give credit as appropriate) or share content with your Facebook friends.  If you have a Twitter account you can tweet occasionally or share content that way.

8. Stay Informed

It’s hard to spread the word about Hillary’s accomplishments and what she intends to do as POTUS unless you are informed yourself.  There are many ways for a busy mom to do this.

Read articles about Clinton from reputable news sources that you feel confident are not biased against her.  (An example of a so-called news source not to trust is Breitbart since its editor-in-chief is now running the Trump campaign.)

Moms4HRC does a great job of gathering information and news and posting on its Facebook page.  If you don’t follow the group on Facebook, all of the posts are here.

Here is a link to a reasonably comprehensive list of Clinton’s jobs, experience, and accomplishments.  Print it out and carry it with you to show people when they tell you Hillary hasn’t “accomplished” anything.

A recent interview of Clinton by Parents Magazine reveals what she plans to do specifically to help families.

Go to Hillary’s website to see her concrete proposals to address an array of issues that face our country.

Follow these links to some of my entries as a contributor on HuffPost to know how to respond when people say they are considering voting for Donald Trump over Clinton, say that she is crooked/a liar, bring up Benghazi/emails, or mention that they dislike her.

9. Adopt a Campaign Office

One great idea proposed by Moms4HRC (see graphic below) is to adopt a campaign office.  Basically, you provide food, drinks, and supplies to the volunteers who are working away to support the campaign.

Ideas on what to contribute to your local campaign office, courtesy of Moms4HRC

Ideas on what to contribute to your local campaign office, courtesy of Moms4HRC

10.  Volunteer at a Campaign Office

Local campaign offices welcome volunteers and can have a variety of jobs for you to do, both at the office and in the field.  As one example, during the primaries, I volunteered to stand outside an early voting poll venue and hand out flyers about Hillary.  If your kids are old enough, you can bring them along and get them involved too.  As we get closer to the election, there will be opportunities to drive voters to the polling place, and help watch little kids while their parents vote.

The author handing out literature at a polling place during early voting, with Jamie Raskin, a Democrat running for the US Congress in Maryland.

The author handing out literature at a polling place during primary early voting.  To her left is Jamie Raskin, Democratic candidate for the US Congress.

Clinton v. Trump: A Referendum on Morality, Civility & “Political Correctness”

I don’t think of myself as having an alarmist type of personality.  So please give me a chance to explain exactly why I think that the upcoming presidential election is nothing short of a referendum on morality and civility in the United States. In fact, I think that it isn’t enough for Donald Trump to lose this election. He needs to lose badly.  Like in a landslide badly. Like Walter Mondale badly. I think Donald Trump needs to lose so badly that no one will ever again dare spend the time, and money, and effort to run a presidential campaign predicated on a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic platform. My concern, frankly, is that Donald Trump has—with his dismissive talk about the role of political correctness in a civilized society and his encouragement (incitement?) of violence against his rivals such as Hillary Clinton–uncovered a very ugly underbelly of American society that find in him their grotesque hero.  Now that Pandora’s box has been opened, the only way we can hope to close it up again is with a resounding loss of epic proportions.

It’s not that I didn’t know that this element existed in our society. Of course I knew that there are white supremacists, neo-Nazis, bigots of all ilk living in this country, and that there are people who have shrines in their homes devoted to the Confederate flag and what it represents. It’s just I felt in my almost 50 years of life that in my country–the country to which my own ancestors fled to escape hatred and persecution over 100 years ago–no one in a position of power and authority would ever sanction those views.

We all know the story of Trump’s unlikely climb towards the GOP nomination.  First, we laughed at his candidacy, taking it as seriously as we would if Ryan Seacrest or any other reality TV star suddenly said he was running for POTUS. Then, we recoiled when he doubled down after Megyn Kelly called him out at the GOP debate, asking him to explain sexist, misogynistic language he has used in the past to describe women.   We thought that no one would continue to support him after he said that Mexican immigrants were rapists and criminals or after he mocked a disabled reporter. Of course, we now know all too well, we were wrong. Despite the 16 Republicans running against him, all vastly more qualified than he is for the job, Donald Trump went on to win the GOP nomination handily.   Since then, those in his own party who hoped he would suddenly transform himself into a “new” Donald Trump have been sorely disappointed as he continues to disparage Muslims—even Gold Star families, and weave farcical (and completely false) tales that President Obama and Hillary Clinton “founded” ISIS.  Even as GOP leaders have started to distance themselves from him, with some prominent Republicans going so far as to say they will vote for Clinton, there remains a solid base of Trump support that seems to be indestructible.

You see, I subscribe to the theory that nothing much distinguishes angry and frustrated Trump supporters from the Germans in the 1930s who were searching aimlessly for a scapegoat to blame for their troubles. Like 2016 America, Germany was a highly civilized country and we all know who came to power there and what he went on to do to those that he and his followers decided to scapegoat—the Jews, homosexuals, the disabled. Once we strip away what Trump and his supporters call with no small measure of contempt “political correctness,” but in fact is decency and civility, we are set adrift in a sea that has no boundaries. For if Trump can speak so freely and be so successful in the political arena, and if his supporters–previously closeted bigots–feel free to openly express hatred for their fellow Americans and not face any social or political ramifications, then where does it end?

This is why I am so disappointed when people I know who are pro-Clinton and anti-Trump talk as if Clinton has the election all wrapped up so why bother making an effort.   Yes, yes, I have read the articles about polls in battleground states and dire portraits of Trump’s campaign becoming the proverbial sinking ship, but no matter. First of all, voters can be fickle and Clinton’s support to date has been said to be less than exuberant.  But more to the point, it is not enough for Clinton to win this election. When Clinton’s platform is the most progressive in history and touts equality as an ideal to which we must continue to aspire, and her opponent is steeped in nationalistic jargon of going back to a bygone era when minorities and women had even fewer rights than they do today, then how can Americans view this election as anything but a referendum on equality, core American values and, yes, morality and civility?

All of this is to say:  no one who cares about making America even greater than it is today, by continuing to pursue the ideals that made us great in the first place, can afford to sit out this election (or even to vote for a third party candidate who has no chance of winning in November). If you believe that we, as a nation, are made up of people who are very different, but that we are stronger when we band together than we are when we build walls—physically or metaphorically—to keep out those who are different, then there is no choice.  Vote for Clinton, volunteer for her campaign, contribute to her campaign, and speak out loud and clear against those who try to tell you that a vote for Trump isn’t a vote for racism and divisiveness in this country. Because the only thing standing between an America that continues on the path to a more perfect union, and one that goes backwards in time to the days when it was perfectly acceptable to openly hate others, is all of us.

7 Life Lessons Our Children Can Learn from Hillary Clinton’s Historic Nomination

You have probably seen the Clinton campaign ad.  You know, the one where Donald Trump disparages women, encourages violence against protesters, claims he could shoot up Times Square and his supporters would still vote for him, makes racist comments about Mexicans, and mocks a disabled reporter.  (If not, click here or see below.)   We have all heard Trump say these things, almost to the point of becoming desensitized to them.

But what about our children?  The ad is particularly devastating in that it shows the faces of children watching Trump on TV.  It shows that they are listening and taking in the words and the message.  Trump, in essence, says and does things that we as parents try to teach our children not to do.  The ad (entitled “Role Models”)  next displays this message “Our children are watching.  What example will we set for them?”

And then, the ad concludes with the words of Hillary Clinton herself, who is saying during a speech (again, as children watch on TV), “Our children and grandchildren will look back at this time, at the choices we are about to make, the goals we will strive for, the principles we will live by.  And we need to make sure that they can be proud of us.”

We have heard a lot about the horrifying things that Donald Trump has said and done–both during his campaign and over the course of a lifetime.  It almost goes without saying that these things–bullying, incitement to violence, racism, misogyny, xenophobia–are lessons we do not want our children to learn.  But what about Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and the things that she has said and done over the course of her lifetime?  What does her historic nomination teach our children (and us) about life and the principles we want them to learn?  The media has done little to distill these for us (except to note the self-evident, highly significant truth that at least one woman has been able to achieve the previously unattainable).  So, here are seven other life lessons (the first being that kids should dream big, that even a girl from a middle class upbringing can grow up to be president) that our kids can take away from Hillary Clinton’s extraordinary life and nomination.  It wouldn’t hurt to point these out to our sons and daughters and show them how Clinton’s story is, in many ways, a model well worth following

1. Perseverance Pays Off

Clinton is the poster child for the motto, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”   Her perseverance has been one of her most important character traits over the course of her adult life.  When she took on as First Lady, the thankless, impossible job of tackling universal health care and failed, she could have given up and retreated into a more traditional role.  Instead, she worked with members of Congress to find common ground and enact the Children’s Health Insurance Program, providing health care insurance to millions of children.   When she lost the nomination in 2008 to Barack Obama, she could have thrown up her arms in despair and lived out the rest of her life in comfort.  Al Gore did just that in 2000 when he narrowly lost the election to George W. Bush.  Instead, Clinton picked herself up, dusted herself off, and returned to public service, working directly for the man who had defeated her.  And then, put herself through the same grueling schedule and withering criticisms by running for the nomination again four years later.  Lesson taught?  If you give up, there is no chance at success, so why not persevere and try again.

2. Nobody Is Perfect But That’s OK/Own Up to Your Mistakes

Clinton has been around the block–many times.  She has been in the public spotlight since the early 1990s and, as a woman ahead of her time, has endured a particularly harsh, brightly lit, and cynical spotlight at that.   Could anyone come out of that without making some mistakes?  Of course not.  Do we expect our kids to be perfect and never make mistakes?  Do we never make mistakes ourselves?  Of course not.  Clinton has made her fair share of mistakes and her political enemies have always tried to make hay of those mistakes.  However, Clinton has also been unusual on the political scene by keeping an open mind and when she sees she was indeed wrong about something, she will admit it.  She will grow and learn from her mistakes and change either her way of thinking or try to make things right.  Male politicians on the whole seem to struggle with admitting to mistakes and instead dig in deeper and double down.  Changing one’s mind in the face of reason or admitting you made a mistake and sincerely apologizing for it is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength and it’s a great lesson for our children.

3. Ignore Naysayers

How is it possible that Clinton holds her head up every day and forges ahead despite people yelling “Lock her up!” (and that’s just the Bernie-or-Busters)?  How can she work towards making a change to a deeply entrenched idea (like, disabled children can’t be educated in the public school system, or a woman’s place is in the home with her husband) when people all around her are saying it’s impossible, it’s not worth the effort, it’s just plain wrong?  Somehow she can block it out because she is secure in her values and in her heart knows she is doing the right thing.

4. Stand Up to Bullies

Clinton spoke during her acceptance speech at the DNC about how her mother–herself a tough cookie who had to fend for herself at a very young age–taught Clinton always to stand up to a bully.  When you’re relatively small, or weak, or female, it’s easy to be intimidated by those who seek to shut you down through force–physical or emotional.  Clinton’s defiance in the face of men–most recently, Donald Trump–who seek to bully her is another great life lesson for all of us.

5. Listen to & Learn from Others

While Clinton can block out a lot of unfair, politically motivated noise, she somehow maintains her ability to let in voices of reason and constructive criticism.  She also has never become so powerful that she forgets to listen, or has stopped listening, to those people who are weak and powerless and downtrodden.  Those who are closest to her and her advisors marvel at how she can truly listen to the plight of individual men, women, and children while on the campaign trail and immediately try to help solve their problem.  She does this by listening and not just hearing what they have to say.

6. Have Confidence in Your Abilities/Dare to Be Different

To be a college woman in the 1970s, the first student commencement speaker at your school, a student at an old boy’s club like Yale Law School, a political activist that poses as a housewife and mother to uncover school segregation in the South, and a First Lady that pushes the envelope like no one before her, etc., etc., etc., you have to be both very confident in your own abilities and also willing to go out on a limb and try another pathway.  Girls and women have always struggled with these things.  We allow ourselves to be talked over at meetings, needlessly apologize for our words and actions, doubt ourselves at every turn.  Clinton’s life history teaches all of us that we shouldn’t psych ourselves out and rather to trust our instincts and values to make change when we feel something is wrong and needs to be fixed.

7.  Empathize with Others

Clinton gave a speech when she was First Lady saying that what the world needed was more “love and kindness.”  She was crucified in the press for it.  This was yet another of her ideas that was ahead of its time.  She was right, of course.  What an antidote for the hatred and divisiveness peddled by her opponent than some love and kindness for our fellow humans.  When Clinton talks about “love and kindness” what she really means is that we need more empathy.  We need to be able to step into the shoes of a single pregnant mom living in poverty or the child of an illegal immigrant who is terrified he will be deported.  We need to see that saying racist things leads children who are African-American or of Mexican descent to feel devalued and ashamed of themselves and their ancestors.  We need to understand that “Black Lives Matter” because all lives should matter but do not, even in 2016.  We need to empathize more and judge less.  What a great life lesson for all of us.

 

The Case Against “Bernie or Bust”: 7 Reasons to Vote for Hillary Clinton

OK, full disclosure:  I am a Hillary Clinton supporter.  I like Hillary Clinton and have since she was our First Lady.   I voted for her in the primaries in 2008 and was disappointed when she didn’t get the nomination (though I did end up voting for Obama–twice).  I trust that Hillary will continue fighting for progressive causes in a way that will actually get things accomplished, just as she has her entire adult life.  She’s a pragmatist, but she’s also an idealist who has always had lofty goals for what can be accomplished in America if we don’t give up.  In case it needs to be expressly stated: she is the Democratic party’s nominee.

That is to say, I am in total agreement with Sarah Silverman when she said last night at the DNC that “the Bernie-or-Bust people are being ridiculous.”   Why?  Well, let’s first define the “Bernie-or-Bust” movement as I see it:

These are supporters of Bernie Sanders during the 2016 primary season who believe so ardently that Sanders should be our next President that last night they went to the Democratic National Convention (or sat home in front of their TV) and booed almost every speaker in protest.

These are people who claim that they will either sit out the general election in November, write in Bernie Sanders name, vote for a third party candidate such as Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, or even vote for Donald Trump.

These are people who say they will never vote for the Democratic nominee even if a readily available assault-style weapon is held to their heads.

Bernie Sanders stood for some very basic progressive principles and I’m going to make the assumption that this is why Bernie-or-Busters wanted to support him in the first place (and not because, let’s say, he reminded them of their adorable great-uncle Marvin).  Last night at the DNC, he reiterated these principles as if giving a stump speech.  Generally speaking, Sanders wants to overturn Citizens United, and make absolutely certain that people who aren’t at the top 1% of wealth distribution in this country earn and keep enough of their money to support themselves and their families.  He wants to restore fairness to our political system (assuming it was ever fair) and to our capitalist society.

With all that having been said, here are 7 great reasons for the Bernie-or-Busters (you know who you are) to put down your pitchforks, stop booing at your TV, and start supporting Hillary Clinton for the presidency.

1. Clinton’s History on Progressive Issues

Many of the Bernie-or-Busters are too young to remember or have never learned the honest-to-goodness truth about Hillary Clinton’s background.   The truth?  Clinton has been a champion for progressive causes her entire adult life.  She was a trailblazer on issues like universal health care and worked tirelessly to help get the Children’s Health Insurance Program enacted.  While First Lady in the 1990s, and against conventional wisdom, she dared to march in a gay rights parade and went to China to announce to the world that “Women’s Rights are Human Rights.”

2. The Fate of the Supreme Court

Whoever is the next President will get to determine who will be the all-important, tie-breaking ninth justice on the Supreme Court.  Clinton will choose someone who will be most likely to overturn Citizens United, support women’s and minorities’ rights, support LGBTQ rights, and interpret the Second Amendment consistently with its plain language.

3. Clinton and the Democrats’ Platform

Sanders delegates claimed victory after victory during meetings held to determine the Democratic platform.  If elected, Clinton will seek to carry out that platform.  Bernie himself enthusiastically stated last night that this platform is the most progressive in the history of the Democratic party.

4. OK, She’s Not Donald Trump

Well, I had to throw this in there.  For every single issue that Bernie Sanders cares about, for every progressive concept there is, Donald Trump is the anti-Bernie.  Trump would love for the Bernie-or-Busters to vote for him in a frenzied rage of “I’ll show those Democrats!”  Don’t. Fall. For. It.  If you for one second think that Donald Trump will even attempt to tackle, much less achieve any of Bernie’s goals, then you really haven’t been paying attention.  I’ll admit that I made similar threats when my candidate lost to Obama in 2008.  Then I woke up the day after she conceded and came to my senses.

5. Be On the Right (Correct) Side of History

There is a political cartoon making the rounds on Facebook that depicts a man in a tattered suit sitting around a campfire with three children, who are presumably his children, and he says to them:  “Yes, a homophobic, Latino-hating, racist, sexist pig won the US presidency, but for a beautiful moment in time I got to stamp my feet and refuse to vote for Hillary. . . .”   In other words, if the Bernie-or-Busters do not vote for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump will win and the Bernie-or-Busters will be to blame for this.  Just imagine what America would be like then.

6. Vote Democrat Now, and Buy More Time for the “Revolution”

I get it:  Bernie-or-Busters do not want to be “sellouts.”  They hate the idea of selling out and want a perfect end to a perfect “political revolution.”  This all-or-nothing approach, however, could not be more self-defeating.  If Donald Trump wins in November and Congress does not change overnight to a strong majority of Democrats, there is no hope–none–that the Political Revolution championed by Bernie will succeed.  On the other hand, if the Bernie-or-Busters go to the polls in November and vote Democrat up and down the ballot (federal, state, local), then they hopefully will have four years to try to make some real changes to a system that is either “rigged” or not.  Even assuming Jill Stein or Gary Johnson would support every single proposal of Bernie Sanders, these two are so far behind in the polls, a protest vote for them will help result in a Trump presidency (see Reason #5).

7. Listen to Bernie (and Elizabeth Warren, Michelle Obama, President Obama, etc…)

Bernie-or-Busters listened intently to Bernie Sanders during the primary campaign and not surprisingly heard a message that was very positive about Bernie Sanders and neutral to negative about Hillary Clinton.  That’s called “politics.”  But did Bernie go to the DNC and give a lukewarm or non-endorsement of Hillary Clinton?  He could have been the Ted Cruz of the DNC but chose instead to throw his support behind the Democratic nominee (who had accepted much if not all of his agenda as part of the platform).

Last night, Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, NJ Sen. Cory Booker, NY Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, immigrants, disabled people, and others, all spoke passionately about Clinton and her devotion to progressive causes.  President Obama couldn’t wait to get on the campaign trail to champion Hillary Clinton.  Both he and the First Lady were impressed with how she handled losing to Obama in 2008.  She could have faded away and cashed in.  It would have been so easy for her do that, the First Lady pointed out.  But instead she has risen to the occasion and will be our first woman president, a real champion of progressive causes in the White House.

If only progressives like the Bernie-or-Busters vote for her in November.