It’s Always About the Children

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Trump continues the four-year tradition of foreign leaders inserting themselves into Syria’s labyrinth-like war.  The chemical attack against Syrian rebel forces, was the worst the area has seen in years. International outrage came swiftly. Trump defined his decision to drop United States missiles and destroy the Syrian airbase as a strong response to this attack.

The international community needed to respond to this horrifying attack against civilians. I don’t agree an attack made solely by the US was the correct answer. If the US wanted a strong response against Assad, a united response including Congress and the UN would have added substance to this decision.

Now, instead of standing together against Assad, the US is forced to defend the attack. Some of the questions facing Trump-Was the attack more political than humanitarian? Trump looks strong while the present administration faces scrutiny about their relationship with Russia and Putin. Or worse, is Trump deflecting the questions on Russia with an attack? A tactic he’s mastered.

The problem I have with the US attack on the Syrian airfield, isn’t the action, but Trump’s response.

If Trump wanted to send a strong response to Assad and the world, why is he hiding behind a child? He told the world  this was a response to an attack on “innocent civilians…even on beautiful babies.” I truly believe the chemical attack moved him. But he must understand civilians and yes, even babies, will forever be the victims of poor decisions made by their leaders.

Does Trump care about the children’s lives? Maybe, probably yes. The pictures were horrifying. Was his reason for invading Syria humanitarian? No, I don’t believe him.

He held the power to save those beautiful babies, but he chose to ignore them. These are the same innocent civilians he banned from entering the US.

If he cares about children, why does he also ignore the needs of the children here?

His proposed attack on the Federal Budget, cuts $54 billion “to large parts of the federal government.” This offsets spending in the defense department. The only agencies not facing cuts or program eliminations are-Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs.  Is this the action taken by a President who cares about children? I guess removing housing, education, medical care, transportation, and food from families will make America great again.

His strong response to refugees, the budget, and the Syrian government ignores the innocents.

This is not the response of a strong leader I can believe in.

Missed Opportunity at New Trier’s Seminar On Race

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The documentary, New Trier: Tip of the Spear is filmmaker and New Trier parent, Paul Traynor’s film about the controversy surrounding New Trier’s Feb. 28 Seminar Day of Race. The subject is how conservative national activists attempted to insert their own agenda into New Trier’s grassroots community.

New Trier compromised and hosted separate locations for opposing views on seminar day. Their answer to the debate wasn’t a solution. It  was a lost opportunity for students to learn how, and why, opposing groups must connect.

This year’s seminar theme was- “Understanding Today’s Struggle for Racial Civil Rights.” Two National Book award winning authors, Colson Whitehead and Andrew Aydin, were the keynote speakers. Students picked from over 100 workshops dealing with such topics as; civil rights activism, housing rights, civil rights in sports, Native American rights, and gospel music. New Trier teachers spoke on specific moments or people in history, and outside speakers discussed their disciplines, and what changes they hope their work would accomplish.

At first, arguments remained local. Some parents argued the seminar reflected an unbalanced liberal view of racism. They wanted more discussions about economic inequality and less about racial inequality.

Traynor showed how this discussion moved from economic inequality and became a heated protest about inserting a ‘different world view’ into the seminar’s agenda.  The Christian-heavy and conservative undertone of this new agenda pitted parents against each other.  Parents siding with the seminar’s original mission argued the day was an opportunity to foster understanding between races. I noticed the issue of economic disparity was dropped from the discussion, and replaced with charges of racism on both sides.

Traynor explained the voice calling for the ‘different world view’ was not the original main opposition.  The push did not come from the parents of New Trier students, but was spearheaded through a few vocal parents backed by the Illinois Family Institute.   This conservative group’s mission is “Promoting marriage, family, life, and liberty in the Land of Lincoln.” After reading the page my opinion is, they will promote you if you are Christian and straight.  Another conservative group, ALEC also became involved in the controversy.   They work with a corporate governing board to pass legislation benefitting corporations at the expense of the public sector and social programs.  Traynor’s film asked-What do these powerful and national conservative organizations gain by weighing in on a local school matter? Especially when the actual number of parents in opposition to Seminar Day was very small?

Traynor believed these organizations took the grassroots approach as the next step towards dismantling our public-school system. The documentary showed it’s not possible to attack a respected and wealthy school, like New Trier, on economics or low test scores. But it is possible to subvert the school system by attacking their politics. This divides the members of the community and gives them an opportunity to insert their own agenda into the community’s politics. Taynor’s opinion is this will eventually lead to charter schools and vouchers; systems and policies which promote the mission and enrich the coffers of these organizations.

He backed up his charges with solid research. I urge you to watch the film, because he explained the process in more detail than I am able to on this post. I applaud Traynor and the New Trier parents for not backing down. They called out the bullies, and refused to let them hijack the mission of Seminar Day.

But I still have my reservations. The goals of the seminar were to help “students better understand how the struggle for racial civil rights stretches across our nation’s history, that people of diverse racial backgrounds were involved in each chapter in this history, and how previous civil rights movements connect with the issues that we are discussing today.” The staff of New Trier tried to reach these goals with a wide range of workshops.

One of the “issues we are discussing today” is race and economic inequality. New Trier compromised and allowed students to opt-out of seminar day and attend a discussion off campus. The day-long, off-campus workshop was led by conservative businessman and pastor Corey B. Brooks. I agree with the addition of another diverse voice into the workshop, but New Trier failed the students by holding it off-campus.

They lost an opportunity to create a connection between “previous civil rights movements with the issues we are discussing today.” They lost an opportunity to listen, to learn, and to discover together.  They lost the opportunity to debate progressive and conservative views in an academic setting. They lost the opportunity to learn how to act as one governing body. Allowing Mr. Brooks to hold his own seminar off-campus physically separated students with opposing views from each other.

My message to New Trier- You were a poor example of the process of conflict resolution.

The Illinois Family Institute and ALEC used the argument of economics to gain a foothold. They promoted the narrow, corporate, and separate Christian views they uphold. These groups are effective because they give the impression they are listening to people who feel shut out. New Trier had an opportunity to point this out, and had an opportunity to show the students the art of listening.

I don’t remember who said this, so I’ll paraphrase, “Conflicts aren’t necessarily searching for solutions. But conflicts arise from the struggle to be heard.”

We need to understand just who is listening. And why?

The One I Didn’t Want to Write

26books.3951xI gave up on moving forward because that meant something gets left behind. I decided to  just move.

Yes, it’s been awhile. I started this blog almost a year ago, with the intention of commenting on the events I saw happening around us. You should have heard from me at least twice a week, but it’s been almost nine months.

I thought of picking up again without any explanation.  Because explanations have a nasty way of sounding like excuses. And anyone who knows me, knows my zero tolerance for excuses. Just get the job done.

My readers supported me through my silence and continued to check in on me. Thank you. You deserve more than a new post, you deserve an explanation. Or as much as I detest this-an excuse.

After a long illness, my mother died on June 11th. My sisters and I expected it, but also didn’t. Together we helped Dad plan the funeral. He continued his independent life-86 year-old and living successfully on his own. We were happy to notice he started to tolerate the extra attention we forced on him.

He downplayed his health problems, but he began to need more attention.  At the end of September he attended my birthday party, and  he sat in my backyard celebrating with a cheeseburger. A month later  he was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He died November 3rd. My sisters and I thank God his heart gave out before the cancer caused him too much pain.

We planned another funeral. We packed up their home. It sold, and we closed on it this week.

I went to work, continued school, leaned on my family and friends, and a part of my life stopped. I kept up writing for school, but I stopped thinking about this blog. Well, not completely. I knew I’d be back.

I wanted to write  a beautiful memorial to them; I know how to do that. I thought writing one would help put it all behind me.

I kept putting it off. I’m struggled to find the words to acknowledge the fact they are gone, but still next to me. Or maybe I’m not ready to see the words. So instead of waiting to move forward, I’m going to just move.

It helps that  my year hasn’t been consumed with sadness. Life does go on thanks to my patient husband, sisters, and friends. And wine.  Our families celebrated weddings, birthdays, and holidays. In other words, I ate a lot of cake! It’s different, but it’s good. We are okay. And I’m learning to make room for  a grayer area in my life; a place for excuses.

I still don’t have the words to properly memorialize  Mom and Dad , but I am ready to write.

 

 

 

 

What Happens Now That Storytime is Over?

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We depended on myths to sustain our illusion of peace. The nightmare of violence these past few weeks woke us up, and forced all of us to face reality.

During the campaign Hillary Clinton stated, “We have to face up to the hard truth of injustice and systematic racism.” Conservatives immediately got to work to disprove the reality of white privilege. In a February 11, 2016 Wall Street Journal opinion piece, secular conservative Heather MacDonald stated, “…almost everything else that people know about police shootings is wrong.”  She came to this conclusion based on  emerging data which ‘proves’ systematic racism is a myth and less of a danger to blacks then they are to themselves.

Rudy Giuliani continued the discussion Sunday morning on Face the Nation by stating black fathers “must teach their children to be more respectful of the police…and not become involved with ‘bad’ influences in their neighborhoods.”

Not only do Giuliani and MacDonald’s opinions ignore the fact systematic racism exists in our country, but they further stigmatize and isolate blacks by stating they aren’t victims. Does Giuliani actually believe the source of the violence and prejudice against the black population is themselves? Victim blaming diminishes the voices of the people who are searching for long lasting and healthy solutions for their communities.

A diminished voice is a silenced voice. If we don’t take the time to listen, we rely on experts   who draw their own conclusions using statistics instead of people. Numbers are skewed in these reports to ‘prove’ anybody’s claim. Reports and solutions based on statistics is the root of the myth of black-on-black crime.

This fairy tale has become the bedtime story which comforts us and helps us to sleep at night. We don’t have to worry about prejudice or think about our failing neighborhoods. We don’t have to face the economic policies, like the War on Drugs, which diverts much needed funds from mental health care or Head Start.

Black Lives Matter forced us to rip off our mask of hypocrisy. They have shown us it’s not enough to be against racism, we have to listen. They force us to listen to people, not statistics. They are asking; where the promised jobs, affordable housing, and the safe environments are? It is time for honest conversations because the bedtime story has turned into a nightmare. It’s time to wake up and face reality.

The reality of racism is not statistics, the reality is black men and boys are brutalized and killed. The police officers sent in to do an impossible job are brutalized and killed. They are all indispensable human beings, they are someone’s son, father, lover, child. They are not percentages. We can only wonder what the world would have been like if they were alive, because today, it is a sadder place without them in it.

Very soon, the funerals will be over. The flowers and candles from the shrines will be swept away. The protestors will go home. What will we do now? For one thing we stop expecting the police force to perform an impossible job. We expect them to clean up after the fallout of our economic failures, and then unfairly make them the scapegoats in our tradition of systemic prejudice. These failures silenced the black community and the police officers. They have been telling us all along what is needed, but their words were twisted. They asked for help, and what did they receive? Better social services and jobs for the community or safer infrastructures. No, they were given body cameras and military weapons.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown entered law enforcement “to become part of the solution”, and most officers feel the same way. When Chief Brown was asked about gun control, he refused to give his opinion. Instead, he begged the legislators to do their jobs. “We are doing ours…the other aspects of government must do theirs.”

Chief Brown is right-it’s time to stop blaming, get to work, and do our jobs. It will be messy. We will argue, we will learn to compromise, and the solution will be found. Together.

 

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!

 

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I think this picture of my parents was taken at a party in 1954, right before they were engaged. I recognize the look on Dad’s young face. When he is sincerely happy his contagious smile lights up a room. The woman leaning into him is the reason for his smile. I know this because Mom loved to tell my sisters and I the story of her lipstick.

It’s hard to see in a black and white photo, but she’s wearing ‘Love That Red’ by Maybelline. Shortly after they started dating, Mom told us she was browsing the lipsticks at the make-up counter of the Five and Dime, when she spotted the name. Since Dad’s nickname is Red, she took it as positive omen and impulsively bought the tube. She never willingly wore another color. I say ‘willingly’, because there was an unfortunate period when Maybelline suspended production of ‘Love That Red’ for a short time.

A short side note about Mom. She was never the type to pick out a lipstick because of a shared a name with her boyfriend. That would have been silly. Mom is a lot of things; kind, loving, sarcastic, but never silly. Silliness irritates her, but she was compelled to buy it.  When we still could talk together, she told us, no matter how angry she was at Dad, she still smiled when she reapplied her lipstick.

In the photo Dad is confidently smiling because he knows he’s loved. (I can hear him now, “No, it’s the beer.” Don’t believe him. I’ve seen him smile after a few beers. It’s not the same.)  He is a jokester who deflects compliments with funny comments.

I love this picture because I’m able to see the beginnings of a bond, a choice, and an eventual promise made before wedding plans, in-law compromises, honeymoon, planning for future, first child, saving for home, brain tumor, blindness, putting house planning on hold, second child, third child, raising family, home buying, vacations, holidays, teenagers, daughter’s wedding plans, deaths of parents and brother, grandchildren, retirement, now it’s our time, recurrence of brain tumor, nursing home, great-grandchildren, deaths of dear friends…

Yes, nestled in between the life altering events most couples face is the brain tumor. Two years after their wedding, and four months after I was born, mom needed brain surgery to remove a benign tumor. Thank God she survived, but she never regained her sight.

Although her brain tumor was a defining moment in their lives, they NEVER allowed it to define them.

Our family grew, loved, argued, and went on. Dad still smiled, and mom wore her lipstick.

I came of age during the turbulent ‘60’s. With all my  bratty twelve-year old fury, I let her know I didn’t’t understand how she settled. Getting dinner done on time, changing clothes, combing out her hair, and putting on that lipstick. All this preparation to celebrate dad’s nightly return home from work. She was an embarrassment.

All you do is stay home and take care of us”

I wished for a mom more like Gloria Steinem, or at least Joan Baez.

After school one day I announced,

“Sister Celeste told me Dad is a hero.”

“Really, why?” Mom asked.

“Because he stayed with you even though you’re blind.”

I can still see my apron clad, ‘Love That Red’ wearing mom. She flashed her eyes, stood up straight, put her hands on her hips, and with quite confidence replied,

“Noreen, he’s also lucky I stayed.”

In that moment she replaced Gloria and Joan and became my hero. She never  allowed the label of ‘handicapped woman’ to represent her or diminish her in any way. She wore her lipstick and strongly set a confident example for us. We watched how Dad respected this about her, and their example  taught my sisters and I to expect mutual respect in any of our own relationships.

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Even though she doesn’t wear ‘Love That Red’ anymore, mom is still able to smile when she hears,

“Red is here.”

And he confidently smiles back.

Today, May 26, 2016 they are holding hands and happily keeping the promise they made to each other 61 years ago.

A Lesson I Learned From Donald Trump

WHY LISTEN TO THIS MAN? Like him or not,  he defines the problems the USA faces now. Censorship obscures the solutions to the issues.

Donald Trump’s campaign… What else can possibly be added to the conversation regarding this tsunami of stupidity?

Has it only been ten months?  June 15, 2015 seems like a lifetime ago. I snorted when I heard who was announcing his 2016 campaign for President of the United States. I thought it was a replay of a “Saturday Night Live” skit because the announcement seemed better suited for NBC’s “Weekend Update” than the “Nightly News” show.

I wondered if he realized elections are won through a democratic voting process, and not by proclaiming ‘You’re Fired’ to the people running against him.  I was convinced this was a publicity stunt to boost ratings for ‘The Apprentice’ and soon he would drop out. Because, really, WHO would vote for him?

It turns out a lot of people would. I was shocked. Not in a grrrr…. raise my fist in anger way. But in a hard to breath…how is this happening way. I listened to his ridiculous quotes which masqueraded as answers during the debates.   The daily comments against women, Muslims, and immigrants never stopped…. I looked into the crowd of his supporters and wondered who ARE these people? Since they hopelessly agree with his tactics, I stopped listening because I figured they were all crazy bigots.

I was wrong, because his supporters aren’t crazy or bigots. Okay, some might be, but mainly they are angry and scared. They unashamedly laugh off his chauvinistic bigotry and forgive his lack of knowledge of economics and foreign policy. I also noticed they don’t defend him. When I talked to his supporters, the conversation ends with some version of the statement:

“I don’t know really what he stands for, but he’s different. And something just has to change.”

I realized, they aren’t voting for Trump, they are voting for change. His supporters aren’t hopeless. They’ve lost hope.

Their world has changed.  The only jobs left for them are temporary (AKA consultant) or part-time. The promised pension evaporated.  The home they saved for has become too expensive to keep, but they owe too much to sell it. They keep hearing the economy is getting better, but it isn’t for them.

Trump gets angry for them. He says the same stuff out loud they don’t dare to. It doesn’t matter if his supporters don’t understand how he’ll fix things, because they can’t understand how things became so broken in the first place. Trump feeds into this hopelessness by placing blame instead of creating solutions.

Will transforming our neo-liberal economics and learning to develop sustainable global relationships build a healthier future? No! Build a wall. How should we decide if a candidate is able to successfully manage the responsibilities of the office of President? Look at Carly Fiorina’s face, or Trump’s hands, then decide!

My basic instinct is to run far away instead of listening to Trump and his supporters, so I  understand why protesters blocked access to a Trump rally in Arizona. But I don’t agree.  History has tried to teach us the danger of silencing voices we don’t agree with.

The solutions to the complicated issues plaguing our economy, race relations, global interactions, and gender issues are found during   open discussions. A problem cannot be solved unless all the voices are heard and valued.  It is the silenced and neglected voices which turn to anger and violence.

Blocking access to difficult viewpoints shuts down the avenues which leads to solutions. We have so much more to lose than an election if we refuse to listen to uncomfortable views. Trump makes us cringe, but he shows us the ugly truth of how our economic uncertainty is creating a culture of divisive prejudice.

It’s impossible to make any advances towards justice without listening to some very uncomfortable viewpoints. Our nation’s problems can’t be solved until we honestly listen to the explanations of all the views.

I won’t vote for him. But he has explained our problems in no uncertain terms to us, and we must listen.