Posted in activism, history, politics, Uncategorized, women

Throughout her life, Stanton’s father would say, “I wish you were a boy.”

My family is full of strong, successful women. They are teachers, mothers, counselors, translators, researchers, wives, social workers, and change makers. They are brilliant, passionate, stubborn and protective. Growing up amidst their example and stewardship contributed to who I am today.

My maternal grandmother and aunt took my sisters (one younger, one older) and I on a multitude of excursions as children. These trips exposed us to the many possibilities and viewpoints outside of the small town we lived in. When I was around ten years old, we visited Seneca Falls for the first time. Continue reading “Throughout her life, Stanton’s father would say, “I wish you were a boy.””

Posted in activism, history, politics, Uncategorized

In the words of a man named Martin

A lot has been written, discussed, displayed and filmed about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., perhaps the most iconic Civil Rights leader in our history. Revered during his life and immortalized by his tragic death in 1968, Dr. King’s legend has a lot to do with the profoundly insightful things he said.

Martin Luther King Jr. is one of three people who have earned a federal holiday. Christopher Columbus got a holiday for “discovering the continent” (for Europeans); George Washington had an integral role in shaping the country as we’ve known it; and Dr. King called upon the nation to follow through with its “all men are created equal” notion. It wasn’t officially observed in all fifty states until 2000, but the effort to establish a “Martin Luther King Day” began shortly after his death, and was signed into law by President Reagan in 1986.

The almost-six-year-old monument to Dr. King in D.C. features a white granite representation of the leader, cut to create a gap in a half-circle of high stone, where visitors can view some of his quotations. The sixty-foot profile stares with his arms folded out at the Tidal Basin, toward the columned dome dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, a slaveholder, founding father and former President. The side of the block featuring his statue reads “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”

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Posted in history, politics, Uncategorized

No president has ever been a perfect person.

And the White House, for all its revered history and significance, is just a building. A structure constructed by slaves, in fact—along with many of the other historic buildings in D.C., actuated from schematics by hired labor; sometimes to freed individuals, sometimes to slaveowners for use of their “equipment.” It was simply called the President’s house at the time, and wasn’t called the White House until Teddy Roosevelt claimed the title in the 1900s.

Continue reading “No president has ever been a perfect person.”

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What does it mean to lead?

What qualities make someone a leader?

When I was in college, and involved in many groups and the campus paper, we spent a lot of time talking about what is ideal for someone in a position to lead others. I realized then, and acutely so now, that people have vastly different opinions about what is a good for the person in charge.

Being in charge depends somewhat on the organization—a coalition designed to uplift and support black people should be led by a black person; an LGBTQ-action group ought to be led by an LGBTQ person; a group of moms ideally will be led by someone who is also a mother. I understand that sometimes this is impossible or exploitative—but sufficient effort must be made to have the leader ‘match up’ with the values promoted by the group.

When that group is all of us—Americans—it gets a little murkier. How can we select one individual who not only represents all of us, but can embody the ideals that we stand for—especially when those representations and ideals vary so greatly? What skills and strengths must that person have? Has anyone thought about what that list of values might look like?

To some people, sadly, those qualities include being a man; being white; being a Christian, straight, cisgender, upper-middle-class, able-bodied. FDR’s poll numbers would have been dismally lower had the general public known he used a wheelchair for the majority of his mobility needs, despite the fact that he was one of the most influential and celebrated presidents in our nation’s history. Still more would have jumped ship had they known he had been unfaithful to Eleanor—fidelity being a value that, apparently, is not as sacred in today’s society for a president.

To others, those qualities include the cutthroat, tough-as-nails exterior that can reaffirm America’s might (as if it needed that). Often this aligns with capitalistic trappings, shown by the consistent flock of supporters trailing behind those with wealth, which (for so many) is synonymous with powerful—regardless of how this person amassed such wealth, including the potential disregard of morals it took to get there. Although unabashed honesty is an important quality for a president, history teaches us that a successful business model usually involves a degree of deception. Americans desire a strong sense of trustworthiness in their leader, yet turncoats and frenemies are integral parts in thriving white-collar worlds. How do we as individuals, and a country, grapple with that paradox?

While it is necessary for a leader of a nation to be steeled and realistic toward potential displays of force, countless numbers place high regard for experience and ambition in military control. But I would argue this concoction of strength also includes objectivity, patience, decisiveness, and perception—and specifically discourages knee-jerk, emotional (irrational) reactions; operating on a bite-sized, superficial analysis; and premature self-serving aggrandizement.

Those who value the strong often gravitate toward decisive, relentless ambition. Still others uphold a more humble courage balanced with selflessness, compassion, kindness, and understanding. Few individuals are capable of even attempting the balancing act of trying to please all of us. But this discussion about values, and how we align the hierarchy of what we find important, can be a telling exercise indeed.

Perhaps the real reason for all of this is the distorted perception that so many have about what it means to be strong, successful, a leader, or even a ‘good’ person.

Posted in history, politics, Uncategorized

The Farewell Address

Over these eight years, we have become familiar with Obama and Biden as our leaders, President and Vice President—and to a degree we feel as though we know them. Repeatedly seeing these men creates a connection, sure—and to me, their discourse always conveyed a “your parents’ cool friend” vibe.

And we are really going to miss them. Emotionally, I feel oddly akin to many of the newly-liberated colonists who clung to the leadership of George Washington, feeling brokenhearted and stunned when he rescinded his office. As a country we have grown fond of the first family, and cried (yes, you did) when thinking about their impending departure. We have speculated that Michelle Obama might run, lamented that Joe didn’t run, and other fan-fiction-esque POTUS scenarios.

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There’s a word for doing things with the intention of making the beholder seem or feel crazy.

It’s called gaslighting.

Its entry into our vocabulary comes from the 1938 play Gas Light (and the 1940 & 1944 British and American movies, respectively), wherein a husband manipulates his wife into believing she is going insane—in part by his affirmation that the dimming and brightening of the gas lights (evidence of his attempts to pilfer her jewels in the attic) are a figment of her imagination.

The purpose of gaslighting is to get the observer to believe that (1) the speaker is telling the truth and (2) the observer can’t be sure of their own reality. They eventually trust the gaslighter’s version of events without question, deferring judgment because they believe their own perception is distorted, inaccurate, unhealthy or “crazy.” Gaslighting can take many forms, especially in an intimate relationship. Abusive partners can disrupt sleep schedules; manipulate technology, children and access to resources; and threaten or commit physical, sexual abuse or exploitative litigation. But we as people and a society are gaslighted all the time, from other sources than an intimate partner or loved one.

It’s difficult to resist a gaslighter—often they are someone we care about, have respect for, or look up to. We want to believe they didn’t mean it that way; it’s a misunderstanding. Many times the gaslighter is a strong presence in someone’s life, or their “only resource” of something like news, information or family. Sometimes they’re an elected official, or an endeared celebrity, and we cling to the trust that this person can’t really be doing/saying/texting/posting/tweeting that. Giving this person a “free pass,” accepting that our judgment was wrong, is easier and less confrontational. It’s the more polite, neighborly thing to do.

Continue reading “There’s a word for doing things with the intention of making the beholder seem or feel crazy.”

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7 for 2017

It was a rough year.

Amid intense global conflict, a full calendar of celebrity deaths, and a political climate that rivaled The Jerry Springer Show, we somehow have made it to the final moments of 2016. Around this time everyone decides what to carry into the next year—and what to leave behind. The idea of each year as a “fresh start” is a flimsy concept at best, but it gives us a real chance to reflect on what we want to change, and what we will need to continue moving forward. Here are my intentions for 2017:

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