The Broad is Back!

January 21, 2017

March on, Sisters and Brothers

I am not at one of today’s marches. I was invited by a niece to join her in DC, and I thought about it, but I’m doing a charity thing next weekend and taking time off work to do it, so two weekends off in a row wouldn’t work. She’s there, other nieces and my sister-in-law are there, and many former students are marching in NYC.

I’ve marched a lot in my time. I’ve been doing protest marches since the 70s, and have racked up marches in four countries. I’ve been out there for civil rights, police brutality, AIDS awareness, workers’ rights, anti-nukes, and I’m sure things I’ve forgotten. I’ve put in my time, and I’m frankly tired.

I also question the efficacy of marches. I think they had more impact in the 60s when they were something relatively new. But nowadays, I don’t think those in power pay attention to the “rabble.” It’s easy to say, “oh, Hollywood liberals spouting nonsense” or “That one’s always been an uppity troublemaker,” and ignore it. As for the rest, people who agree, agree. People who don’t, mock. I’ve not gone on much social media today other than Instagram, but I did see some “snowflake” comments last night and a wonderful “libtard crybabies” this afternoon.

But today I admit I was wrong about this one, and I wish I were there. This is massive, not only in America, but around the world. I think it would be very stupid and very dangerous to ignore this many women and men standing up for equality for women, for people of color, for LBGTQ+. But I think it was the pussy grab that really capped things.

Marchers today in their pink hats are calling for a stop to women being objectified and sexualized by men, especially men in power, who have a moral obligation to be role models, at least in public. While a reality TV star, Donald Trump said some things to women contestants that could have won him a lawsuit in the real world. Of course, in the real world, many women choose to ignore the overtly sexual comments and even aggressions in order to preserve their careers, though I am seeing a change in the behaviors of some people, which heartens me.

I am a very hard headed and realistic person as well as being the optimistic idealist. I revel in my duality most of the time. To those who say calling America a “rape culture” is hysteria, I say, oh really? I spend much of my professional life with women 18-26. I hear their stories of being groped, fondled, and even threatened and raped. I am 55, overweight and certainly nowhere near my prime, and I still get groped by men at work (not coworkers but customers) who think it’s all “a good joke”. Why do we get groped? Men think it’s their right.

When women use their voices on the internet, along with death threats come rape threats. We teach our young women how not to get raped. When I teach, I tell all my classes “don’t rape anyone. Now you can’t say no one ever told you don’t rape.” They laugh, but it’s uncomfortable laughter.

Young women on college campus and even in high school are raped every weekend. It’s called “date rape” but that’s just a pretty name for being raped by someone you know.

Most of these rapes are unreported. Why? Women have learned that they are the ones put on trial. What did they wear? What did they drink? Did they come on to him? If there is a conviction? Well, the Brock Turner case taught as to keep our mouths shut. It’s not worth the price. His future was considered more important that hers. And he was the rapist.

This is the 21st century. Back in the 1950s, my mother knew a NYC cop who made her go to a rape trial—one in which the rapist was caught “red handed”—and see how she was destroyed by the judge. That, for him, was a lesson she needed to see. That was over 60 years ago. Things haven’t changed and we’re still being shown that it’s best for us to keep quiet.

Sexual name calling, which can lead to sexual violence, is rampant.

Last semester there was a “Christian preacher” on my campus who called my students “whores” because they disagreed with him or wore what he termed revealing clothing. He called others “lesbians” because they wore pants. To him, that was an insult, to me, whatever. But that’s not protected speech under the law yet campus security did nothing about it. He told the young men they’d burn in hell, but he didn’t attack them sexually.

I’ve heard students I teach slut shame fellow students as well as celebrities. I’ve heard people trying to slut shame the new First Lady. I’m sorry. No. Double standards are not allowed.

There are very few sexual insults for men other than dick and maybe faggot, which are words that are also unacceptable.

Phew, I got angry there. I’ve had bad situations in my past, things I don’t talk in about in public not because I keep them bottled up, but because as I’ve seen over and over in society, when someone reveals rape, especially date rape, or sexual abuse, too many people see it as salacious gossip instead of someone’s personal pain. Or they see the person as a victim and pity them. I want no one’s pity. And I’m no victim. I was. But now I’m a warrior.

And hey, a message to a certain set of guys for whom the following shoe fits—think back to those incidents in college when you knew she didn’t want to, or she couldn’t speak for herself, but you did it  anyway. Know what? That was rape. Yes. Yes, it was. And she’s probably still really, really, angry with you. And she may just be ashamed. I remember having to physically bust in and save a friend who was passed out. Those guys who laughed at me trying to carry out the deadweight of a drunk and didn’t help me? I’m sorry, but you’re assholes.

Sorry, I went off on an angry rant there. And that just shows you how much anger is bottled up inside American women. The world’s women as we’re seeing today. I’ve worked very hard to purge the anger inside me, but every once in a while, it pops up and bites me in the ass like it just did now. I’m obviously still angry at those jerk fraternity brothers.

And now American women, at least, have a target for their anger. I hope someone in the government is paying attention. I hope these angry women go home and get to writing and working and watching their government. Maybe even running for office on the local, state or national level to more fully effect change. Politicians work for us, in theory anyway, and if we use our voices, some Congressional representatives might fear losing their jobs enough to challenge or do something positive to make America stronger and better.

To the women marching, I am there in spirit. To my bestie, sister-in-law, other friends and “nieces” and “kids,” you’re amazing, and I love you all. And to my blood nieces, especially, not only all of the above, but I am so proud of you, my darlings. Nana is up there singing and laughing and so proud that she passed on hell raiser genes.

January 13, 2017

Fasten Your Seatbelts…

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged about politics, so I have to start today’s post with some backstory. Sit back and relax. This one’s been brewing for about a year. I’m gonna be wordy here.

The first time I came back to America to live it was 2007, and the country was gearing up for the 2008 election. I blogged quite a bit back then about that race. I was a Kucinich supporter, saw him speak on the campaign trail, spoke to the man myself and really believed in him. Didn’t think he had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the party nomination, but I’m a self-avowed idealist. The good thing about the primary elections in America is that we don’t have to vote strategically.

How the press marginalized that candidate showed me a lot about how things worked. When he finally quit the race, I moved on, reluctantly, to support Obama. His inexperience and relative youth (I’m 6 months older and knew I was too young to run America), were the major problems I had with him as a candidate. But I am much more left than right, as impossible as these labels are, so most times I’m gonna vote Blue on the national level.

I blogged those first four years, but by the time of the 2012 election, I was jaded. I don’t always agree with President Obama’s policies and choices, which is to be expected, and frankly, it is politics as usual in Washington. Gotta play the game. He did it well, but faced incredible racism and obstructionism. Anyone who says race wasn’t an issue must live in white bubble of ignorance about race and privilege. That’s not meant to be an insult. I geographically live in one now. There are so few people of color here that race issues aren’t “real” for most folks. Coming, as I do, from a large, multicultural city, I have a different perspective.

I’ve taught in poor New York City community colleges for many years. I’ve seen systematic, entrenched racism up close and personal, thanks. Those students are mine. I love them and want the best for them. The obstacles that are built in to block their success are things I take personally as well see as insults toward what I think my great country stands for. So to see it at the highest levels, while unsurprising, was enervating in a way.

I left the country again during Obama’s second term, and was thrilled that I wouldn’t have to be here for the 2016 election. I really didn’t see anyone I wanted to support, and being half a world away makes it a lot easier to avoid American politics. Unfortunately, I had to come back to the US to live. I love my country, but love being an ex-pat. And I was here for the worst political campaign in my memory.

Trillions of pixels have been spent talking about the divide in our country this past election exposed. My candidate didn’t win the nomination, but I switched over to HRC for expediency’s sake. She wasn’t who I wanted. Sorry, fellow feminists, but I don’t support women because they are women. HRC has done a lot for women, and she’ll go down in history, which I hope will be kinder to her than America has been, but she’s politically coming from a different place than I am.

But the prevailing Republican candidate made me wonder what had happened to my country. This was worse than 1980 when Reagan got the nomination. People joked that a bad actor had gotten the nomination, but at least the man had political experience—he’d been governor of one of our largest and richest states, one with a diverse population and warring needs. He had some experience, and while not a genius, he was no idiot. He had principles and morals and loved America with a strong patriotism. No one ever thought otherwise.

But this one? Our new POETUS? As a New Yorker, I’d been subjected to tabloid headlines about this man’s self-centeredness for the past 30 years. He’s shown himself to be sexist, racist and morally corrupt for decades.

He’s a master showman and an expert in smoke and mirrors, I’ll give him that. As good at creating a national fantasy as he was in creating the worlds designed in his casinos, places purposely constructed to keep reality at bay and fleece the suckers. No one ever beats the House. That’s a maxim as old as gambling dens themselves. He sells a dream and gives enough of a taste to build a need.

His promises to America will be as hollow as his promises to Atlantic City. He will suck out the life, destroy the middle class, make the poor poorer and increase crime. Don’t believe me? Look at Atlantic City today. Ask people from there. The casinos promised prosperity. They created it, too, and it was sucked out by the owners who lived anywhere but Atlantic City. Organized crime moved in with its drugs and its prostitution, its corruption. But today, organized crime is the least of America’s worries.

This is a man who has never shown the smallest amount of compassion for his fellow humans, who calls heroes stupid, and glorifies the worst traits of this nation: ignorance, self-glorification, anti-intellectualism, false piety and self-aggrandization.

I don’t actually hate him, though. I pity him. Because while he’s a master showman, he doesn’t run this circus. I truly believe he’s the tool of masterminds, people much better at the game of manipulation than he is. He’s so out of his depth, he even looks lost. He’s not the first US president to have “handlers,” or even a power behind the throne. But I do believe he’s the first to be handled by a foreign power. He’s a puppet. A bold, brash, self-serving puppet, but a puppet in the hands of people so much smarter, so much more in control of themselves and their actions, that our country is in the worst danger it’s been in years.

Rumors about sexual peccadillos and pettiness? Smoke and mirrors. Thirty years of poor education has created an American voting populace with no critical thinking skills. If you’ve read my writing, you know I’ve been singing this song for the past 10 years. A large percentage of American college graduates cannot tell the difference between a fact and an opinion. And they are the “educated” ones. Many Americans don’t know how to find reliable information on the internet. 

Another problem is that our press is no longer free. It’s in the hands of too few controllers.  On top of that problem, reporters too often see themselves as the shapers of news narratives instead of the people tasked with reporting it. The job title kind of says it all.  In Journalism 101, I learned rule one of writing a news story: get verification. Have none of today’s reporters even watched All the President’s Men much less read it? Woodstein went to great lengths to verify, verify, verify. Ben Bradlee, where are you when we need you?

The salacious bits become the focus, comedians mock the politicians (which is part of their job) then the reporters pick up the jokes as news. It’s an endless cycle that leaves many Americans morally outraged or entertained depending on their worldview yet unaware of what’s really happening. The American press has been a weapon of mass distraction for going on two decades now.

Sadly, over three years ago, I wrote about how the American people had to rise up and take control again.  And someone else sensed this need, this anger, this frustration, and tapped into it. An “outsider” who was relatively new to politics, though he had run for president before. A showman, quite literally, who is an expert at “give the people what they want.” But this time, unlike his 2000 run, he had expert backing. Millions and millions of angry, frightened people flocked to his campaign.

Folks who decried the “softening” of America enjoyed his taunts, his violence, his hate, his pettiness. Here was a tough man who put women in their place, knew that “retarded” was an all-purpose taunt, and didn’t take shit from no one. And he was a TV star! He made them laugh and always gave a good show. He didn’t rely on boring facts to make a point. He echoed their desires with his pithy soundbites.

He probably wouldn’t have won if it weren’t for some help from people who needed a puppet in the White House. This man’s narcissism played into their hands perfectly. There were plenty of other, more qualified Republican candidates—one of them surely should have gotten the nod. Ted Cruz was more experienced. And he also had the “angry outsider” schtick down pat.  Marco Rubio was more photogenic and appealed to many of my students. Why not them? Was it just the will of the American people? How long has outside influence been at work? Frankly, I didn’t think the poor Republicans had much of a choice going in, but their ultimate choice surprised many.

So now, instead of healing, the crack is getting wider.  Over 65 million Americans out of 200 million registered voters are terrified about what will happen next week. Another 63 million are mostly jubilant (though like Brexit voters last year, there’s a lot of buyer’s remorse being reported). And 80 million registered voters didn’t bother to vote, so who knows what’s up with them.

We’re in for a bumpy ride. I do believe there are ethics violations already in place. The word treason is also not too strong for me. Others, with more powerful voices, agree with me. We wonder what will be done.

Unfortunately, I’m a scholar, far too familiar with history not to have some uncomfortable moments. Things I see happening in my nation’s capital have me deeply concerned and writing my representatives. As I live in a Red State, I know this is like spitting into the wind, but like I said, I’m an idealist.

I will be blogging in the future. Change is coming. Real change. Often terrible change. I tell my students I want them to use their voices. I have one to use, and I will.

April 30, 2013

Tired of the Lack of Integrity

I did it again. I started writing for one blog and realized I was overlapping myself.  Instead of linking you to Patchouli Haze, I’m just going to repeat myself here. Nothing like self-plagiarism!  But the version you’ll read here is a little longer and a bit sharper in tone, I think. Instead of being optimistic, I’m slightly bitter, I fear.

So, here goes:

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.” ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

The more I read things Eisenhower said, the more I think he had great common sense and great moral fiber. I think this is easy for me to say because I wasn’t alive when he was president. Looking at his record, I think we may have had slight differences of opinion.  But this quote? Amen, sir.

I’m thinking a lot about integrity in office today.  I’m not picking on any one sitting office holder. I’m thinking of all of them. Ethics have become “situational” in the 21st century. I’m not saying that politics have been cleaner in the past. Far from it. But I do think that when people transgressed, they knew they transgressed. There was a sense of crossing an ethical boundary for expediency’s sake.

But today, I no longer think the boundary exists.  And it’s not just politicians. I see it every day with students–I’ve been asked when it’s “okay” to steal and lie. When I say never, I am laughed at. Students routinely cheat in their homework. It is so endemic to college classrooms that I have colleagues who have given up even trying to stem it.

But those of us who are striving to “be the change we want to see,” still try to live with integrity.  I know I encourage it as a worthy value in my students.

It’s hard for them to take me seriously, though. They see politicians lying boldly. CEOs lying, sports figures lying, and not only lying, getting away with it! Being rewarded for it!

I know from class discussions that many of them pity me because I am so adamant in my sense of right and wrong.  It’s not all bad. Some I know admire me, and I appreciate that.  I don’t do it for admiration, per se, but I do take my job as role model very seriously.  I am not just teaching my students English. I am modeling a life that I think is well lived. At least I try very hard to demonstrate qualities I think are important for success.

Of course, my students and I often have a very different definition of “success”.  Mine comes from Bessie Stanley in 1905.  It is often misattributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, though he never said it. When I first saw it, it was as an Emerson quote. I’m not surprised he didn’t write it, as it’s not his style, but I still think it’s perfect:

He has achieved success who has lived well,
laughed often and loved much;
who has gained the respect of intelligent men
and the love of little children;
who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
who has left the world better than he found it,
whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
who has never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty
or failed to express it;
who has always looked for the best in others
and given them the best he had;
whose life was an inspiration;
whose memory a benediction.

Many of my students see success as quick wealth and an easy life, and this is what they tell me themselves.  Not all of them, but enough for me to sigh heavily on many occasions.

I know I am not alone in this cry for more integrity in American public life.  And I don’t mean a false integrity hiding behind words like “Family,” “Marriage,” “Christianity”.  I mean real integrity with a value system based on not putting one’s self and one’s desires first.

It’s time for our society to start rewarding integrity more.  It may seem like an impossible task, but society has changed, improved, many times in the past. And it can again.

If we don’t start real reform soon, we are doomed as a nation. I don’t usually use such bleak words, but the hollowness will destroy things.

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