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.

Resources:

Votesforwomen.co

Sisterdistrict.com

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!

This is what democracy looks like

Yesterday’s heartbreak and rage led to today’s feelings of nausea and fury, and so really, I had to do something. After a meeting and a doctor’s appointment, I met up with a friend -the aforementioned Pilates teacher- and hauled ass to the Supreme Court where we met up with another friend of mine, my Supreme Court-protest buddy, and then saw my forever resister sister.

After a vigorous rally on the steps of the Supreme Court, three of us marched to the Senate buildings for another protest. After walking in the damn front door and politely asking, “Can we come in?” a friend and I led a large group into the Dirksen building with the intention of visiting Lisa Murkowski’s office. Looking over the directory, however, our eyes froze over Mitch McConnell’s name: Russell building 317.

Can you imagine where we headed? Third floor.

On the way we met one of Senator Durbin’s aides, a delightful man who showed us exactly where to go and thanked us for being there. We cheered him with wild abandon. Guards helped us when we were stymied by the many buildings’ twists and turns, and before I knew it, we were marching through one of the underground tunnels and into Russell.

It’s a beautiful, grand place. The marble halls of power, the rotundas of history, the old school formality, the flags and medallions. In some awe, in hushed tones, we persisted. Right to 317.

I haven’t any idea how I ended up as the apparent representative of our group, but before I knew it I was writing a letter -on a red leather bound legal pad embossed “Senate”- to McConnell that we all signed. It ran the gamut from “sir, you serve your constituents” to “we remember the ‘let’s make Obama a one-term president’ obstruction” to Merrick Garland and here we are today.

IMG_2691.jpg

It wasn’t lost on me that prior to my protest I had a GYN appointment and then had to leave the Senate building to get home in time for carpool; what women do. But it all felt so very therapeutic, a way to put rage and fear to work. This IS what democracy looks like, and I will fight to the end for it.

In the cab on the way home, a text came in: Flake has reversed course somewhat and is calling for an FBI investigation. Bless the women that confronted him in the elevator and all the Americans who have called, faxed, tweeted, written, and showed up in person. Murkowski supports his call. We have one week.

Make it count.

Senator Murkowski: 202-224-6665
Senator Collins: 202-224-2523
Senator Flake: 202-224-4521
Senator Manchin: 202-224-3954
Senator Heitkamp: 202-224-2043