The midterms are coming: what's at stake

I don’t even know what to say, y’all. It hasn’t even been a month since Christine Blasey Ford was summarily ignored by a mean, enraged, entitled group of white men, and a few white women, just because who can ever understand them?! It hasn’t even been a month since a belligerent, enraged, entitled beer guzzler of a high-school-was-my-glory-days dude got a lifetime appointment to the highest judicial court in the land. Despite so many things.

Not even a month. But during?

Yesterday, a 10th grader in North Carolina was shot to death by another student who was angry.

This past Saturday, eleven Jews were murdered in their synagogue as they gathered to celebrate a bris.

Last week, an angry man, mid-50s, sent pipe bombs to 14 prominent Democrats and Democratic supporters and to CNN.

Earlier last week, evidence was released showing that Trump’s Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, was found to have violated, in criminal fashion, conflict of interest regulations.
Megyn Kelly expressed sadness that she and fellow white people could no longer wear “blackface” for kicks.
White nationalist Richard Spencer, one of those “very fine people on both sides” according to our “president” was accused by his wife of domestic abuse.
And Brian Kemp, the Georgia Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate, was found to be actively suppressing the vote of thousands upon thousands of his state’s black citizens.

Nine days ago, Trump screamed to any immigrants watching, “This country doesn’t want” you. People cheered.

Ten days ago we found out that in Dodge City, KS, a majority-Hispanic city of 27,000, NOT ONE  polling place exists. The only place to vote is outside of town, a mile walk from the nearest bus stop.

Y’all, ten days ago does not even take us halfway back to the Kavanaugh debacle.

Returning to the present, Pittsburgh’s Jewish leaders have written a letter to Trump saying that until he denounces white nationalism and the other heinous shit he seems far too fond of, he is not welcome in their city. Naturally, and not least after crassly holding a rally the day after Pittsburgh Jews were murdered by a man who feels Trump isn’t nationalistic enough (justifying the rally by LYING that the NYSE opened the morning after 9/11 [fact: it was closed for 6 days after 9/11]), he has big plans to go there, DISinvited, this week.

I have followed politics since I idealistically, naively, and somewhat brazenly, applied a Ross Perot sticker to my orange blow dryer in early middle school, hit the “high heat” lever, and went to town for four years. If you haven’t witnessed a south Louisiana middle school girl in the early ‘90s attempting to manage bangs, you haven’t the slightest idea what a hair dryer really can do or how any adhesive in close proximity to it will behave. That shit’s there for eternity. I have never seen anything like this.

The past ten days, the past month, the past two years…how can this level of violent degradation go on? How can anyone come out OK?

Have you read The Power by Naomi Alderman? Just after I first read (re: tore through) it, I spent several days thinking about how fascinating the premise and structure were. Women discover a secret power and, besieged by and pissed off after years of mistreatment and subjugation by men, use it; at first with restraint, and then without. As you might imagine, cataclysm approaches, and one by one, every character, regardless of position, of stake, of power, votes to burn it all down.

The further I get from this work of fiction, the closer I circle back to the ways in which it seems all but true. Any power taken to the extreme is fatal, or nearly so, yes? Religious extremism is but one example, nationalism another.

Can we burn things down next month? I doubt it, but I hope we can light a powerful fuse. I am tired of the hate, the fear-mongering, the othering, the demonizing. I am sick of sending troops to the border because hungry, terrified people are marching a thousand miles simply for the hope of a slightly better life.

I am sick to death of pro-lifers carrying on about the rights of cells but crapping all over the rights of toddlers and children to eat daily and learn and get to see the pediatrician. And I’m sick of all that being contingent on their being white. Brown toddlers? Forget it.

I am sick of guns and bullets, purposeful and stray, killing children and adults out for an evening jog or driving home from working at a food pantry (this happened to a friend’s cousin last week here in DC; shot dead at a stoplight by a stray bullet not aimed at him at all).

I am sick of my children detailing the various lockdown drills they do for weather, intruders, or active gunmen. I am sick of my children getting an exceptional education because I can afford it, but others getting lousy or no education because their parents can’t.

I am sick of propaganda TV passing for “news,” and I’m sick of the people who believe it’s news and then kill people because “the Jews are funding the migrant caravan” and other such complete lies.

I am sick to the point of being ill by having a “president” who only slightly cares about being president to a few and who cares not at all about being president to the rest of us. I am sick of a bullshit electoral system that asserts that 3 people in Wyoming are more important than 60,000 in California. They aren’t. Each person is worth one vote. No more, no less.

I am desperate for the pendulum to swing back to any sense of stasis. We are so far gone from that that I can’t see the inflection point toward normal. And I’m focusing just on America. Have you looked round the world? Have you seen what’s happening in Yemen? Who just got elected in Brazil?

Literally, and as a writer and human who is really sick of word overuse and misuse I use this one carefully, I see NO hope for the United States if the Democrats don’t take back at least the House next month. Trump Republicans have the presidency, the Supreme Court, many of the lower courts, the Senate, and the House. There is not one check or balance on anything anymore except the protesters who continue to march, call, petition, show up, plead, poster, phone bank, and beg. Literally, there is nothing else.

Please be a part of the Resistance, the protests, democracy, whatever you want to call it. Please. If not for you or for me, for our children. Our children have done nothing but be born into this world that is falling apart.

PLEASE vote on November 6th, if you haven’t already. Please vote your conscience. Please vote for your children and grandchildren and our Earth and all who inhabit it. Your guns, your money, your faith- there’s room for it all when we don’t try to refuse room to all but what I or you or she believes.


Twentieth college reunion!

I’m just back from my twentieth college reunion. TWENTIETH! I cannot even get over that. College feels like a lifetime ago and it feels like yesterday. I feel 42 and I feel 18. I have an almost-teenager and I myself am leaving my teens behind.  

Most of my dearest friends and I have returned to Northwestern for every fifth-year reunion since 1998, but this year’s was the best. I don’t know that I can explain why but it certainly doesn’t hurt that everyone is doing so well. What a joy to watch your friends grow into such successes- in their careers and marriages, as parents, as hobbyists, as adults.

We have all settled into ourselves for the most part, and that, too, is a joy to see and to experience. So many of the concerns of our teens and twenties are immaterial now- figured out, left behind, small relative to things since.

What remains are the sorts of friendships you can only, in my opinion/experience, forge in college. In late nights laughing and talking in cramped rooms in somewhat dingy dorms. In too many beers and cookies and study sessions and heartbreaks. Through too many parties and concerts and all-nighters and the library stacks. That I made on the fourth floor of Bobb-McCulloch, in the Sargent dining hall, in Delta Gamma and in parties at Delt and Fiji. In so many classrooms and bad grades and good ones, in sesame bagels with cream cheese and raspberry jam, in rollerblading along the shores of Lake Michigan.

Then and now (above and below)…

This past weekend, as we visited old haunts, bought new NU t-shirts to replace our worn ones, partied but also went to bed earlier than we once did (except for Alli who retains the ability to stay out until 4am), all the connections we all made so long ago--twenty-four years ago for those of us who met freshman year--proved as viable as ever. Minus some quotidian details, we were good friends who’d simply not seen each other for a while. 20+-year history with others, especially those who’ve experienced such formative years alongside you, is a hell of a relational scaffold.  

I was not academically prepared for Northwestern but I was capable, and I’m so glad I pushed myself to rise to the (somewhat terrifying) occasion and quickly learn so much of what I should have been provided in high school. I did miserably my freshman year- both because of my relative lack of prep but also because I focused primarily on my social life. And while I’m sorry to have squandered a year of classes at an incredible school, I wouldn’t trade for the world the education I got beyond the lecture halls: in those dorms, at those parties, during the long talks and rollerblades and trips to Chicago. In those moments, I shed the many limitations I felt in high school and became an unrefined version of the truest me. It was and remains a thrill, the greatest gift. I wish everyone had such a four-year watershed experience.

In my work with prospective college freshmen today, I respect their school choices completely, but I do urge them to think deeply about why they’re applying where they are. What do they love, or think they love? Who do they hope to surround themselves with? Is the environment of each school truly one in which they feel they can be challenged and thrive?

I urge them to study hard but also to play hard. To cut themselves some break and breathe deeply and embrace more than academics with abandon. I have never once regretted doing just that. My friends don’t either. And we are fuller and richer for it.

Damnit, and next

I spent Thursday morning and five hours yesterday going from Capitol to Senate to Supreme Court. I took the tunnel from Dirksen to Russell twice and was even admonished for inadvertently finding my way to the Senate subway in some subterranean space. With two friends, I visited the offices of Senators Leahy, Feinstein, Collins, Corker, Murkowski, Flake, Manchin, Cruz, and more. I wrote notes to almost all of them, left a not-in-your-fan club note in Cruz’s guest book, and spoke my mind politely but very firmly in front of a crowd in Manchin’s office. I was interviewed by NPR, Splinter, and Arizona PBS, and the only reason I share any of this is because none of it seems to have mattered. But I still think it does.

For way too long, I and so many of us have taken democracy for granted. It’s what America is, right? No. It’s what America can be if enough of us fight for that. Right now, we’re fast luges on an icy decline to an authoritarian state run by white Christian men (and not a few women) of the GOP. That would NEVER be a country that represents me or my husband or my children or most people I know and love. And, as such, it is unjust and intolerable to me.

Yesterday at the Senate, I heard a rape victim share her story as well as the fact that in doing so earlier that morning, she had been laughed at -laughed at to her face!- by a group wearing Women For Kavanaugh and I’m With Brett shirts. The cruelty in that renders me speechless. I am still speechless.

And today, when I listened to the roll call of senators casting votes for Kavanaugh, I wasn’t surprised but I was crushed.

I know that so many of us feel hopeless. That we should just give up. But to do so is to abdicate our democratic duties. To do so is to prove the naysayers’ point that democracy is but an idealistic figment, a farce.

If all I witnessed yesterday and Thursday and last week and all the days I’ve protested and marched and rallied and called and canvassed is any indication, democracy is tenuous but worth desperately fighting for. There are so many of us out there demanding change. What needs to happen now is that ALL OF US VOTE. Change can happen only if we storm the voting booths and make our voices heard.

Yes to every doubt you’ll likely raise: gerrymandering, voter suppression, cheating, PACs and other dark money, toxic everything, politicians who only care about their own positions of power.

But also: the rising tide of furious women who will not go back to anything except what we choose to; folks like Beto O’Rourke and Stacey Abrams and Jacky Rosen and Jahana Hayes; the people who have already done what everyone said they couldn’t (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example); the people who will (whoever runs against Susan fucking Collins).

We saw in the Senate signs I never thought I’d see (see photos) and met so many staffers who thanked us and thanked us some more for being there. One of my dear friends flew in on the red eye from Portland so she could protest all day Friday. Another dear friend essentially moved onto the Capitol steps last week and may finally return home tonight.

All of us, regardless of what side you’re on, deserve better than what we’re getting. We deserve better than mealy-mouthed cowards (like Jeff Flake whose office door we found locked on Friday) and Lisa Murkowski who talked a big game but pulled her vote today because “Gaines would vote Aye if he were here so our votes would cancel each others out anyway.” We deserve better than old pissy white men like Grassley, Hatch, and Graham, who never bothered to take Dr. Ford or the FBI “investigation” remotely seriously but instead impeded both at every turn and in every way. We deserve better than the two-bit cheating imbecile who is our “president.” And we certainly deserve better than the angry liar who was just given what is arguably the largest honor with the greatest amount of sway in our country: a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

We have FOUR AND A HALF WEEKS until the midterms. How will you spend your time?

If you care at all about our democracy, you will do everything in your power to register and get people to vote. You will make calls, write postcards, knock on doors, and donate what you can. You will talk to neighbors and friends and people in the carpool lines and you will politely beg them to vote. If you’re uncomfortable, do it anyway, or do it quietly or with your checkbook. If you have daughters, do it so they won’t have to be assaulted and then disbelieved. If you have sons, do it because you want to raise men who would NEVER treat women as sub-human toys. If you’re an adult, question the ways you were socialized as children. If you have any hesitation, consider the rest of your life being run by people like these:

 H/t Daily Kos

H/t Daily Kos

Change the narrative, y’all. Demand better. Demand different. Demand more. If you’re angry, stay angry. There’s a fuckload to be angry about, and as so many people have correctly noted, from righteous anger can come enormous growth and change.

We have four and a half weeks. Focus. If the Democrats don’t gain back at least the House, I think America buys itself a second Trump term. I do not think we can afford that in any way. Everything you feel now? Use it.


Host a Flip the House postcard-writing party: Flip the House

Swing Left

Some great candidates to support:

Beto O’Rourke (TX/Sen)

Kyrsten Sinema (AZ/Sen)

Jacky Rosen (NV/Sen)

Joe Donnelly (IN/Sen)

Heidi Heitkamp (ND/Sen)

Bill Nelson (FL/Sen)

Andrew Gillum (FL/gov)

Stacey Abrams (GA/gov)

Sean Casten (IL-6/House)

Mike Levin (CA-49/House)

Jahana Hayes (CT-5/House)

Let me know of folks you support, too!