My daughter’s friend posted this picture of her daughter watching Kamala Harris on Saturday night. Stella is almost two.
It brought me back to my own life. I tell clients and customers that every person you are selling to needs to see a mirror of themself and a window into that which they aspire to be. Stella will not have the barriers my generation did in terms of what is possible for us.
When I arrived back in New York City in 1975, fresh from the University of Nebraska hinterlands, my dad summoned me to his New York apartment, where he would hold court once every month or so when he had business in the city. He flew in like the Shah on his lear jet, and I still remember pushing the button to the floor of his apartment on the upper east side with a feeling of anxious hope that we would feel good after the visit was over. Both of us. I was still on the Parent Payroll, which in fairness to him I didn’t treat with much respect or regard. It just was. On this particular day, he informed me that he had enrolled me in Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School. I was shocked.
“Why, Dad, would I do that? I have no intention of being a secretary.”
To be honest, I didn’t have much of an intention to be anything at all. Ah, to live those years over again. Seriously. It’s one of my largest regrets. Not searching for anything other than a man.
Dad replied, “Because, Christine, no matter what happens in life, you can always get a job as a secretary.” That is how he saw me. A mirror of all that he knew about where women belonged in the workplace.
“Well that may be Dad, but I’m not going.” I was so insulted. Insulted I tell you.
“If you do not go, then I will cut you off.”
“Frankly Dad,” I said with great bravado, having just finished Gone with the Wind, “I don’t give a damn.” I stood up with every ounce of unearned dignity that I could muster, and I walked out.
I was never on his payroll again. I also immediately found a job answering phones at Marymount Manhattan College. “Marymount Manhattan College, how may I direct your call?” That lasted a few days, until I simply took off the headphones and walked away from the switchboard, leaving an “I can’t do this job, but thank you” behind as I shut the door on my way out. I ended up at a financial management company, where my “clients” included Don Imus, who was in forced financial management for not paying taxes and used to yell at me on the air because the management firm wouldn’t give him all his money to spend on photography equipment, women, and drugs. Until the taxes were paid, he was on an allowance.
But I digress. The point is that I can say I have done all right for myself, and while I do not have a Katherine Gibbs certificate, I think I gained my independence, and a dose of reality that probably saved me from never really trying to earn my own way.
I am so very grateful that Stella will have so many roads from which to choose. I’m so very grateful I had the strength to stand up to the standards that were set for my generation in the early seventies. It’s a new day for us all.
You go Stella! Do whatever you see that excites and challenges you.
I have a country house in what I call “Deliverance.” There is a development not far from me in Dover Plains, New York, that is called Sherman Hill Estates, and there is a Lee’s Lane, Grant’s Road and Confederate Road as well. People in the stores don’t wear masks, nor do my fellow shoppers, and when I ask them to pull them up, they show hostility in return. Lately, more and more signs have gone up for Trump. I mean, a lot of them in every yard. Every morning, Bay, my dog, and I get in the car, and we drive to Dunkin’ Donuts, where I get a large black coffee and an old-fashioned donut for Bay. Sometimes I sneak part of it for myself. It’s the way I start my day. Last week, on Monday before the election, there was a particularly long line in the drive-thru, and I had a moment to contemplate the past four years. I had turned off “Morning Joe”; I can’t stand him or Mika, but I listened anyway because it was the way I found out about whatever horrendous thing had occurred overnight for the past four years.
But this particular morning, there was silence in the car.
I realized how much time Donald Trump has spent in my head over the past four years. I thought about how every single day I was increasingly anxious as a result of some action that he’d taken, like, I don’t know, locking up small children and never returning them to their parents, or — let’s see — mocking the body of a woman who looks just like me, or denigrating anyone who stood up to him, or using executive order to sneak through laws that jeopardizes my daughter’s ability to breathe the air, or, or, or … What’s shocking is that I could go on and on and on.
I realized how many times I clicked on an article to feel the adrenaline rush of mocking him, or the fear and loathing of reading something he did or said that wasn’t something I needed to pay attention to.
I realized how many times a day I heard the sound of his voice and the visceral response my body had to it each and every time.
I stopped cold. I couldn’t believe I had been so stupid. That is all on me, not him. I vowed in that moment that after the election is called, I would never click on any link containing his name ever again.
So, I made a list. Here is what I gained and lost over the four years I dedicated to being “married” to him as my country’s leader. And here is my intention for how I will live my life moving forward, to make sure no one ever again has the power I gave him.
Gained: I learned that I, like Donald, use words like “very” and “really” way too much. It’s really good. It’s very serious. Those words are not necessary, and they only exaggerate the point I’m making, and not for the better. I will never again use them in front of a verb. Never. If you follow me and read my work, and you find out I have used one of those words, email me, and I will send you a dollar.
Lost: I lost approximately 1,500 hours of my life paying attention to someone and what he did, which never once built anything, just ripped things apart. I followed suit and did the same thing in return. I will not do that anymore. It’s time to rebuild, and my thoughts and actions will be devoted toward that end. My daughter, who must be thanked for her amazing work over these past two years for building a better America, asked me to stop posting negative things. She said it just pushed the other side away. I ignored her. OK, sometimes I thought better of what I was going to post, but I sure didn’t cross over to the side of building. Please don’t think this means that I will “choose kindness” all the time. I hate that ridiculous approach. How about “ruthless fairness,” which turns me on? Sometimes “kind” is an inappropriate response, but if I’m going to criticize, I will offer a solution to fix what I’m critiquing.
Gained: I exaggerate too. Sometimes I lie. I’ve read that sometimes we lie more than twenty times a day. I realize I don’t want to do that or be known as someone who does that. My initial response, learned in childhood, to say whatever a person wants to hear or gets me off the hook — as opposed to my own truth — will be no more. I will slow down and do it right. Think before I speak. I will take the hit.
Lost: Friends. My closest one is my BFF for forty-five years, my roommate in the ’70s. I spoke to her or otherwise communicated with her daily. Our friendship lasted through one child, three divorces, four marriages, every secret you can imagine, more laughs than I can remember, and so much more. And now it’s gone, never to be resurrected. We broke up in 2016 just before the election, reconciled last year, and split for good after I read her Twitter posts and realized that we are cut from different cloth. I have deleted her account, and I will not click on it again, but regardless, there is nothing to resurrect. I told her, “It’s not about politics; it’s about core values and your humanity … or lack thereof. We are done.”
Gained: I’m a Diet Coke addict. So is Donald. I promised myself that if he lost, I would never drink another one. I don’t want to share anything with him. It’s a gain because Diet Coke is incredibly bad for us. But it’s also a loss. Diet soda has been a companion since collage (I started with Tab. Remember Tab?) — 58 years, and we have shared a lot. I will miss it. I have none in the house and do not intend to stock up. I have given up D.C. before, and then fallen off the wagon months later, but I am hopeful that this time, I will stick with it.
Gained: My sanity. I have been so tense. So sad. So angry. So afraid. One or more of these emotions has been part of my day every day for four years. Already, yes, already I feel better. Even the cable news shows I’ve been watching since they called the election for him have not made me tense. When they mention him, I can feel he has no power any longer. Maybe he still does — of course he does, actually — but he doesn’t for me anymore.
Here is what I realized today: The impeachment didn’t take him down. The Kavanaugh hearings, his asking Ukraine for help in taking Biden down, his using my fucking White House lawn for political events that are illegal, his ignoring the separation between the arms of government — all these things didn’t bring him down, although they should have. In the end, what brought him down was my vote. And yours. Wow.
It’s over. This dark, dark era is over. I turn to Lincoln. Here is what he said as he took power during a time as dark as this. I will read it every morning until my thoughts and actions mirror its intent.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
I wrote this the day after the election in 2016. I couldn’t have known then how very bad it would get; how bad it has been. The last four years of anger, shock, fear and shame. We have one week to get out the vote. One week left. And, getting people to vote this week instead of election day is really important. Ask yourself what you thought about the day after the election and how you will look back on this week next Wednesday if you are complacent over this week. Vote. Vote early and in person. God bless America and my fellow countrypeople. Christine
November 10, 2016: There is a famous story that when they woke the Emperor of Japan to tell him that the bombing of Pearl Harbor had begun, he responded, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” (There are those that dispute it was ever said, but I have always loved the quote and the sentiment.) He was right. And I will say that after the first hours of fear and loathing and deep despair upon the news of the new man in The White House, his words came back to me.
This is not on Donald Trump. (I vow this is the last time I’ll write his name.) This is on you and me. I now head to the Andrew Shepard Speech by the great Aaron Sorkin in An American President. “America isn’t easy. It’s advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, cuz it’s gonna put up a fight. You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man who makes your blood boil who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.” And so it is today: My countrymen have voted into office a man who represents everything that I would spend the rest of my life protesting at the top of my lungs.
Here is the thing: Eight years ago, close to 50,000,000 people felt as bad when the man of color came to call as I do today, now that the man without character has come to call. They went underground. They simmered on the stove without us even knowing the stove was lit. For eight long years they simmered. And then he came along and opened a doorway to bring that rage to light, and told them that Hillary Clinton was to blame for their lot in life, and that he could fix it. He gave them answers, not with facts and foresight, but with vitriol and distrust. And me? I was clueless that they really felt this way in the first place. Why was I clueless? Because they hid under the landscape and only came out when someone lured them. Cowards. It has to be said. Cowards. And while I want to be positive now, I think the pied piper to the vipers is a bad guy. Actually, I’m confident he is. And, the people riding on the plane with him are bad guys (and one woman) too.
But here is the 411 on the results of an 11/9 that feels as bad to me as 9/11.
You have awakened a sleeping giant. A giant, I say to you. We were sleeping these past years, taking for granted our role in making the country we want … and we have learned our lesson. Who is the we of which I speak?
There are roughly 300,000,000 people in America. Twenty percent of these people are under the age of 18 and unable to vote, but that leaves approximately 140,000,000 eligible people who didn’t vote. Guess what? I believe that they are with me. I believe they want character in the White House, and kindness, benevolence, intelligence, steady hands and heads, and poise. I believe that my friend E.J. from Michigan, a passionate guy who is big on cheerleading from texts and facebook, will actually dedicate some real time to real action now. And those of us who haven’t done enough will step forward.
A pundit said today that never in our history have we had such an imbalance of power running the country. We weren’t set up to have one party running all three branches of government. Oh, my. Gotta get to work.
So, we have two years until we can fix part of it, and we must. I am working in my head on some plan for myself to make a difference in the direction of my country. In the last few months (and for the first time, really), I’ve started posting strongly about politics on my blog, Freesia Lane. I have lost close to 800 subscribers since then, and I’m good with that. This is not the time to be silent. I talked earlier about how my friends and family keep telling me to stop talking about it. How did that work out for us? I am unmuzzled, and I believe the sleeping giant of American people will come forth now.
Just a few things on my to do list to start.
1. I will not click on articles about “him,” or his Stepford family on the Internet. It only makes the media do more and more of them.
2. That said, I will read about everything that is happening in Washington, and I will do what I can to make sure it’s legitimately for the good of our people—all our people.
3. I will look around and see who should be running for office. It is time for us to lure them to center stage. Now. I would run but my past wouldn’t pass the first door of examination.
4. I will not click on the “suck you in” titles (also known as clickbait). I will click on links from respected journalists and periodicals, not headlines that beckon me like Kit Kat bars at the movie theater. They get larger reach and increased advertising dollars every time I do. I want to put them out of business.
5. Speaking of out of business. Fox News. I’m not going to buy any product sold on Fox News anymore. Let’s let the advertisers know they’d best put their ads elsewhere and why. Here is a list from A to L. Let’s begin there.
I know it’s a paltry beginning, but it’s a start. And starting is the only thing I can do to make sure I get up tomorrow morning. Game on, America. You have awakened a sleeping giant. Me and my posse of 140,000,000 people are ready.
I write this to you with the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearings going on in the background. A woman has been nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States of America to take the place of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a justice who worked so fucking hard to give everyone equal rights in our country and who will now be replaced by a woman who will do what she can to take those rights away. How could this have happened?
I found this picture of you when you were 7 years old during the Anita Hill hearings, which I guess I should call the Clarence Thomas hearings, although they really weren’t about him. They were about slandering her and diminishing her and the story she told with such dignity.
Now, twenty-seven years later, you’ve graduated from Harvard Law School, worked on the Innocence Project, been awarded by the ACLU for your work, served as one of the authors of the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, worked as a volunteer legal advisor to Joe Biden’s campaign, and served as one of the founders of The Early Vote. I watched you on MSNBC last week: sure-footed, clear, and selfless in your appeal to get people to vote early and in person. I watched you transition from a little girl selling T-shirts on 84th and Broadway which was my pinacle to a force in the world of American progress, trying, always trying, to do right for those less fortunate than we are. I could not be prouder of you.
Someone once told me that he wanted to put his kids on his shoulders so they could see further than his horizon had been growing up. I think that’s a wonderful aspiration, and while I didn’t have it in my mind when you were young, it is certainly what I can see now. Oh, the horizons in front of you! If only you knew how far you have already been able to see, and what that means to your future. Please learn the lesson of looking at what you have accomplished, rather than what you haven’t. It clears the path to move forward without your getting hung up in the rearview mirror.
There are twenty-two days left until the election. I can’t conceive of anything other than success for all the things so many of us are doing to make the outcome one where we can start to build a new future for this country from the ashes of what was destroyed. I’m not just speaking of the destruction that has taken place over the past four years, but also the explosion of what had been simmering throughout all the previous years.
I hold on to the image of you when you were 7 and what you have done since. I hold on to the images of the young girls I see on social media, now reaping what you and your fabulous women friends have planted over these past months.
How can I, on behalf of my generation, thank you, apologize, and move on, recognizing that what we weren’t able to do, you are trying to clean up now?
I have a photo of you on MSNBC last week and the one from when you were 7 on my computer screen and in my heart. They will carry me through the next three weeks with hope and certainty that every single thing that can be done is being done. The future of women in America? It’s in our hands. It’s our votes that will determine the outcome.
God bless you, my dearest child. Godspeed on your journey over the next three weeks. I will be right behind you, ready to shoulder whatever you give me to help you lead the way. I love you,Mom
There is always a tipping point — that moment in time when everything changes and you “know” deep down inside that the trajectory of something has changed, and the train wreck that you thought couldn’t be stopped, can, in fact, be stopped.
Remember Howard Dean? Remember when he unexpectedly lost in Iowa, and he went on the television the night of the primary and screamed into the cameras and sent dogs and cats scurrying under couches, and Americans thought, “No way, Jose, is that guy going to get my vote. He’s not stable”? That was the end of Howard Dean. It was a split second in time, but it cost him dearly. They called it the scream that doomed Howard Dean.
Then there was that moment in August 2008, when the markets crashed and impending mortgage crisis doom and gloom hit the stage. John McCain pulled a Howard Dean moment himself. He went in front of the cameras and in a breathless panic said he was canceling his presence at the debate a few days later and suspending his campaign to immediately return to D.C. to deal with the financial crisis. Then cool, calm, and collected Obama said he too was going to D.C. to work on the fiscal situation. He said he could do more than one thing at a time and would attend the debate to continue his campaign. “Oh, one more thing,” said Senator Obama, “don’t worry; everything will be OK.” In my mind, that was the tipping point.
I have thought things SHOULD have been tipping points with this maniac in the White House. Grabbing women. Charlottesville. Gassing people in the street to hold a bible upside down. And oh, so much more. But I’ve never FELT they were tipping points.
Then, this outrageous human being without a semblance of shame or empathy toward others waved to a few dozen people in an SUV with two men who had to risk their lives to do that little dog and pony show sitting in the front, ostensibly holding their breaths for as much of the ride as they could manage. Combine that with his outrageous videos talking only about himself, without an ounce of empathy toward the more than 200,000 dead who didn’t have the care he is getting and presenting it all as if he has cured the virus for all by merely getting it. I FELT as though that was it. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I know that camel is as tired as I am.
I have spent the last few years saddened whenever I have seen my flag, the American flag. I have felt no pride of late when I’ve come across it. I have even felt shame or embarrassment; I’m not sure which. It was a first for me in all my years of being a citizen of what I thought was already a great country. This morning after I got my coffee, I saw this flag that is always there, but which I’ve avoided. I turned around, came back, and took a picture. I think I will begin to have pride in America again. I believe for the first time in four years that we will get through this, and that Trump will no longer have a platform from which to do what he calls leading and I call destroying.
I have learned a lot. I realize that a good number of my fellow citizens are disenfranchised and don’t believe in their own future or that of their children. I realize now that we have not come as far as I thought we had in our race relations, and that it’s my own personal responsibility to work toward getting there myself. I have learned that I have to watch and evaluate my country’s leaders and pay closer attention to those who get my precious vote. I have learned that I have a larger responsibility in what happens in this country than I’d realized, or wanted, actually. I have heard the wake-up call, and I will do better.
We do the best we can, and when we know better, we do better. That’s Maya Angelou’s sentiment and my new responsibility.
I wrote this with my friend and author, Kathy Aspden. If you haven’t read her books, have a look. She is a great writer.
By Kathy Aspden & Christine Merser
In a speech in August 2016 in Kentucky, McConnell would say: “One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.”
Thirty-two Republicans put out positive statements in 2016 to support Merrick Garland’s nomination.
When McConnell stamped the it’s not happening on it all, Democrats came out full force— with words. Schumer called it a travesty, and others said the sitting president should fill the empty seat. But as in most things, Democrats had no tool in the tool box to change what Mitch chose to do. So many words, so many referenceable quotes from 2016.
Mitch broke the law. Or if you are generous and sit on the outside of liberal views, he ignored his responsibility to run hearings and put the process in place—which is his fiduciary obligation as majority leader. And so here we are, four years later, and McConnell is saying the court seat will be filled by this sitting president. Everything he said last time no longer fits into his agenda. Yet, he has no shame, no qualms, no fear in reversing what was a bad decision then.
So now, all the Dems will reverse what they said four years ago, and the Republicans will follow the pied piper of corruption and change their tone as well. Lindsay Graham is interesting. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, he actually brought up this scenario in 2018 during a forum with The Atlantic, and said, “I’ll tell you this – this may make you feel better, but I really don’t care – if an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait until the next election.” All lies.
But this is not the time to call our people to the streets. This election will be decided by those who are already hesitating to put their toe in our waters—fearing it might look okay, but perhaps it’s boiling after all. Law and order, as an issue, is not working well for Trump, and a full-out protest will give legs and fuel the fire. And, then there is the hypocrisy of every Democrat from 2016 changing their stand when it suits them in 2020. Do we sink to the basement level that the Republicans have renovated as the penthouse? No we do not! Not on our watch.
Let’s do this with intelligence and integrity. Let them nominate some half-qualified person. Fight it on the stage during the hearings, smartly. Ted Cruz (one of the Trump short-listers) as a Supreme? Make our day.
If we do this well, we will win this election—which takes precedence over everything else right now. Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death could surely give Trump what he needs to change the course of a conversation that’s currently not working for him. Let’s kick the legs out from under his potential unrighteous fury.
Oh and later, when the senate is won and the presidency has a reasonable, capable, semi-honest working body (which we’ve come to realize is the best we can hope for in government), we can up the Supreme Court seats to eleven and wave at Mitch McConnell across the aisle.
I was 15 when I watched Ted Kennedy eulogize his brother Bobby, and I was struck to the core when he said, “My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.” I remember thinking that one day a woman will die, and she will mean so much to me and others of my gender that words like this will be written about her.
And so tonight, 52 years later, it has come to pass. Ruth Bader Ginsberg has died, and one of her final acts was to send a message to her lawyer granddaughter, saying, “My most fervent wish is that I not be replaced until a new president is installed.” She always chose words carefully, our RBG, and I wonder if it was not lost on her that she might be asking for four years of not being replaced.
I have no idea what comes next. My phone is buzzing with text messages. But I’m not answering any of them tonight. For me, tonight is a moment in the midst of the chaos, fear, and loathing that make up my days of following politics, when I stop and look at my gender’s supreme of all Supremes.
My mind is running, running, running.
With a new baby and a husband fighting cancer, she attended Harvard Law School, doing her homework and writing research papers, taking care of her child, and typing her husband’s papers. And she still managed to get the top grades in her class. But mostly what I thought when I read about that was that she didn’t complain; she just did it. I marveled at the fact that she didn’t just give up law school and switch to writing books on time management, because she was an expert.
Then they screwed her. If she’d been endowed like a man, she would have been sought after by the top firms, and the clerkship she applied for would have been a no brainer. She didn’t complain. Not our RBG. She stayed the course. She had to wait a long, long time before she got on the road leading to the Supreme Court of the United States.
She had a great love. Marty. A successful marriage. A love of Opera. Children. Grandchildren. She cooked Passover Seder herself. She loved movies. And, she was funny.
Her humor was often laced with verbal brilliance. Here’s an anecdote from her granddaughter, Clara Spera, as quoted on glamour.com in 2018: “Once, though, I had to email her about her opinion in a voting rights case, Evenwel v. Abbott, because I thought the strong language in her analysis did not match up with the eventual, more reserved, holding. I was frustrated that she seemed to be holding back. I won’t reveal her response here, except to report that she told me, ‘I once spoke to you about not being queen when one writes for the Court.’”
Mostly, though, I will never forget the on-screen reenactment of her closing arguments in front of the Supreme Court during Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue. I wonder if she could have seen herself on that bench with nine white men who looked and acted nothing like her. I hope you will watch it, even if you have seen it before.
You see, as women, we haven’t had the opportunity to lead in a game where gender has no role. Eleanor Roosevelt was beloved, but she got her leg up from being the wife of a beloved president. Our road to greatness in this country has never been a direct line based on our own attributes. Women in other countries have managed to accomplish quite a bit without a male connection. Golda Meir comes to mind. But in this country, white men seem to have center stage, and our access to that stage has mostly been walking next to them, not in front of them.
So my beloved Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who I never saw in person (how could I have let that happen?), is now gone. Her white-lace-collared robes, which showed humor, femininity, and a bit of FU, have shown me the way. Her total commitment to excellence, incredible time-management skills, and brilliant mind made her our hero. She gave us (women) the map, if you will, to staying the course and committing to not giving up, no matter how far on the horizon.
She is my Bobby Kennedy, my JFK, my MLK, and if anyone, anywhere even thinks of not erecting statues of her wherever women roam, I will finally take up arms.
I’ve encountered this mantra on my Instagram, Facebook, and just about everywhere:
“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”
At first, I embraced it. I can do more “kind.” Yep, I can be known as kind. “You know Christine Merser; she’s so kind.”
No one says that about me. But that’s not to say I don’t do kind things. Say kind things. Bleed with empathy and reach out with kindness for those in pain or less fortunate than me. I’ve done those things. Many times in my sixty-seven years. But that is not the first thing that comes to mind when people think of me. I know this because I called a few friends and asked them to quickly describe me.
Here is what I heard: “Funny.” “Smart.” “Helpful.” “Political.” One friend said, “a great driver.” Huh? No one said, “kind.”
So then I spent considerable time thinking about it. Pondering the words they used to describe me and questioning whether or not I’m a good person with those adjectives as my personality foundation. Then I second-guessed everything that I am, much of which I was born with, not that which I worked to acquire.
And, then I got angry. Defensive? Maybe, but nevertheless, I really started to look at the word “kind” and ask myself if that was a word I want in my epitaph.
Kind (adjective): Having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature: “She was a good, kind woman.”
Then it hit me. Of course I am kind. I am friendly, generous, and considerate. Actually, I am those things often.
I have someone I’m very close to. He is kind. The kind of kind that suggests that if you were to ask people to describe him, they’d probably use the word “kind.” Good for him. He has accomplished great things in his life, perhaps more than I have. But they are different things.
I watched AOC’s speech on the floor of Congress yesterday. Twice. It was many things. It was inspiring. Revealing. Articulate. Powerful. It was not kind. Kind would have been ridiculous.
Kind is a tool in the toolbox. It is not the box itself. Always being kind in all circumstances is not a goal. There is a time for kindness and a time for strident confrontation. There is not kind confrontation. There should be honest confrontation. AOC did not say anything that wasn’t true or clearly her opinion over fact. It was without bitterness. It wasn’t whiny. She did not make herself a victim. If anything, she made herself a hero, the master of her own universe.
So, it’s not the word “kind” that I have an issue with; it’s the entire message, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”
I think it should read, “In a world where you can be anything, be appropriate to the moment in which you are responding.”
I have watched AOC’s speech around men bullying women on the floor of Congress (oh happy day!) a number of times since she delivered it. I wept the first time, became proud the second, and grew enraged during part of the second and part of the third. I’m not sure what I will feel next week when my calendar pop-up reminds me to watch it one last time.
AOC surmises that Rep. Ted Yoho spoke to her that way simply because he believed he could do so with impunity, that he believes it’s OK to speak to women that way.
I surmise that while he might have thought he could get away with it (and, in fact, might have done just that if his comment hadn’t been overheard by a member of the press), that is not why he did it.
I think he saw her, was filled with the kind of rage that doesn’t have forethought or fear of reprisal. I don’t think he thought for that split second anything other than the fact that he can’t stand that she exists, let alone that she is a sitting congresswoman. He reacted without the ability to not do so and without thought of impunity, which is what makes it a pattern in his behavior. If you can behave that way over and over again, and it works by intimating those around you, it’s a tool in your tool box that serves a purpose.
I’m not sure which is worse: The fact that childhood-learned uncontrolled behavior of men works with women, or the fact that they can do it with impunity.
Weinstein. Yoho. Epstein. Trump. Barr. Should I go on?
Here is the thing: It becomes an uncontrollable response. I assure you, Yoho has lost it with his daughters and wife as well. I know this because just as AOC is the daughter of a man who gave her an unfettered voice nurtured without fear of his reprisal, a voice that I admire and need, I am the daughter of a man like Yoho, who, when challenged or made to feel “less than” by me or someone else, responded the same way Yoho did, without restraint. They can’t control it. And they have impunity. Both things can be true.
AOC gave me so much yesterday. My dad is gone, but I will write him a letter today, with her voice inside my new voice. It’s a voice she gave me, one that she got from her father, a different voice from the one inside my head. I am a better person, a stronger person because of her speech. No one will ever intimidate me that way again.
During Obama’s first inauguration, he made one stop on his way to his seat. He stopped and hugged John Lewis . After he took the oath, on his way out, John Lewis went up to him with a blank piece of paper and a pen. He asked Obama to sign the paper. Obama wrote, “Because of you John. President Barack Obama”
His first signature as president. And, a recognition that he stood on the shoulders of men like John Lewis to get where he got. (Obama has said on numerous occasions that he stood on the shoulders of men like Martin Luther King and John Lewis.)
Because of you.
I have thought a lot about that moment since I read it yesterday. I have thought a lot about the words, ‘because of you.’ I think it’s worth a moment to ask ourselves what has happened in this world, or in our sphere of influence, ‘because of me.’
Silence means nothing will happen because of you. Negative comments about our president and those that enable him also mean nothing happens because of you. Actions we take, words we repeat, stories we tell, will build our ‘because of you’ legacy.
Will your ‘because of you’ build or destroy?
God I love the adrenaline rush I get inside when I see someone brilliantly taking down those that are my enemy in my country. A meme, a combination of words that cuts and devours. I feed off it. I know that it builds nothing – that moment of righteousness, and then forwarding it to create the same worthless ‘high’ for my likeminded friends. It’s a waste of time that could be better spent forwarding information about a great candidate running, or something that someone did that was building back that which we have allowed to be destroyed as part of the fiber of our country.
Because of Obama, and his oratory skills, and his amazing use of language, I have become a better person. Because of him. He reminds me whenever he speaks now, that there is no benefit in ripping things apart.
I will miss John Lewis and his rich history of taking actions that leave a legacy his future generations can hold in their hands with pride. I am grateful that I took a bit of yesterday and learned some things that I can use to emulate his fine example of how to be a great American.
I will strive moving forward to ask myself each night before I lay to rest what happened because of me today.