Hello? Hello? Is Anyone THERE?

I can only imagine what it was like. A new and loud device was installed in the house. It had it’s own table maybe with a beautiful lace doily, just to brighten it up or maybe it was on the wall–you know, with those early adopters. The young people in the home were excited. But the folks who had done just fine, thank you, without one–well, they were not so happy. old-phone.jpg

I know my mom, who was born 11 years after women got the vote, grew up without a phone in the house when she was young.

I know that now she’s an avid Facebook user and can text better than any other person in their 80s, except maybe my hero Senator Dianne Feinstein. Dianne can do anything, including getting a pacemaker and being back at work two days later, but….I digress.

But still. Not everyone adapts. Not everyone gets used to the new things like my mom. Electric lights over gas lights? Electric typewriter over manual? Running water over a hand pump. OK, not that one. Everyone likes that one. But when the telephone came along, I know that not everyone was happy.

It’s like that with social media. Today. Now. With people who should know better.

You cannot post a big, loud, statement that brings huge commentary without curating the comments and spinoffs. If you’re going to make an inflammatory tweet, or Facebook or Instagram post, you have to stay in the conversation.

I am absolutely certain that there were phone calls that went along the lines of a loud lecture and ended with a click of the receiver. I’m sure that sometimes there was not a conversation. There was the delivery of a message. Click. That’s it. Period.

When people told that new telephone user that you were supposed to stay ON the telephone to have some back and forth with the person you had reached out to communicate with; that it was rude and just not acceptable to just holler your statement into the telephone and then hang up, folks didn’t understand. They said “when I write a letter, there’s no back and forth” or “that’s just what you think, this is how I am doing this” there might have been some frustration. Some angst.

That’s what I see today. On social media.

New users, or newish users will throw out an inflammatory statement that brings about hundreds of comments, some downright nasty, and they will just stay the hell out of it.

“I said my piece, I’m out.”

But they’re not. On social media you can’t just post and then check out. When you dump a big, explosive thing onto social media and then just let the flames build, that’s your fault. You did that.

If you don’t want to curate and tend, then do not post. It’s that simple. You don’t have to continue to engage. Lord knows sometimes silence is the most powerful message. But you have to at least answer questions and respond when someone points out abusive trolls and inflammatory language. That’s the bare minimum.

Today I removed an inappropriate comment from a post I made on Facebook. It was a comment that made no sense, by someone who was not a friend or a friend of a friend. They assumed when I said GA I meant Georgia, when almost anyone who knows me at all knows that I am going to New Orleans for an org’s General Assembly–GA. So, not worth engaging. I removed the comment and changed the privacy to Friends. Because who cares?

Later in the day I was tagged in a pretty inflammatory comment about the emerging candidates in our upcoming congressional primary on our district Indivisible Facebook page. Yes, I had to respond to that. I am a huge fan of one candidate (GO TEAM LAURA!) but this page is not the place to campaign or disparage one of the other candidates. So I took some time to reflect and carefully craft my response. I would not have even looked at the comment if I were not tagged, but I was. So I did. And I responded as best I could. Flames doused, tempers cooled. All good.

That’s current common decency. That’s polite public discourse. That is how we behave. Or how responsible, caring, people respond.

We do not write explosive commentary and then check out. That, friends, is not OK.

If you are going to write something important on social media, you must stay in the conversation, at a minimum to reduce the harm you may cause, at best, to bring meaningful dialogue and discourse.

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Women of a Certain Age: Five Ways

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I am two minutes from turning 50, maybe three. I pictured my post-kid world as full of opportunity and new horizons, but here’s the truth: that’s not the way the system works.

It’s rigged.

Women, especially middle aged women, are still clawing our way out of the valley of misogyny and trying to pave over the patriarchy.

I’m gonna fill you in on five ways that this tired old system is keeping the good woman down:

  1. The Glass Escalator: Men, especially young men, especially young WHITE men ride the glass escalator to top positions, both paid and unpaid, bypassing women with advanced degrees and decades of relevant experience. Some of us stand two floors down pounding on that glass ceiling only kind of hoping that the whole thing shatters. Kind of.
  2. Silenced: We speak and people look straight through us. I have even swiveled my head all the way around to see what someone is looking at behind me. But no, just straight through. Our opinions are viewed as worthless.
  3. Lumped: OK, I know that some middle aged/older women get opinionated and preachy. But I once saw a young professional post on social media something about being done with all middle aged white women on Twitter, forever. When you name a group and lump us all together, you might be missing some awesome, wise stuff. Or at least some awesome wiseass stuff.
  4. Workhorses: Middle aged women run most churches, political organizations, nonprofits and schools. Yes, sometimes because we can’t get through the damn gatekeeping in other places with higher stature (and PAY!) but also because we know how to get things done and those are the places that NEED us. Shut us out or shut us up and you’re hurting the orgs that need the most love.
  5. OTHER Women: No need to tell a woman “of a certain age” that sometimes the worst enemy is another woman. Threatened? Jealous? Power trip? Marginalized? Whatever the reason, when I see a woman in power turn on me, I know to either run or roll over. There is no good way out. They know the soft spots to aim for and they are lethal.

Change the system? Nah. I’m old enough to know it’s not gonna happen. At least not in time for me. And knowing this is the way it is helps, a little. It’s not just me. There’s a fix on. The biggest proof was the 2016 US election.

Me? I’m staying to the safe zones and hanging with the other crones, making coffee at church, and calling my congresspeople. You know. Doing what we’ve always done. Taking care of the things that need doing and having fun poking at everyone else while we do, and yeah, sometimes all over Twitter! Ha.

Never, Ever, Ever, Ever, Never Read the Comments

I read the comments. I know I’m not supposed to. I know that proper mental health hygiene calls for never reading the comments. I think this advice applies to not only press articles online but also on the “stand up and have your say” commentary that people post these days on social media.

Because of my job and well, life, I have a lot of ministers who are friends on Facebook. There have been a LOT of “stand up” posts lately. My gosh. I almost have to set a filter for “preach” or something. No offense, some of them are really good. But my gosh, it can get exhausting!

Today I followed one of the comment threads. It was about using the term “white supremacy” and it went round and round with different people from many different walks of life. I read some of it outloud to my husband, who is, so it happens NOT white.

“So, why don’t people just use a different phrase if this is too much. I mean, move on.”

This brings me to the point where, as a White person trying to follow the lead of people of color want to throw things.

What?

I know I know, it’s not simple, easy or straight forward. And here’s the thing. There are many paths forward.

I, myself, believe that using the term “white supremacy” to mean something other than lynchings and the clan allows us to not just talk about THOSE people. It allows me to really examine the ways that I am complicit in holding up the systems oppression as part of the continuum of behavior. And if we are going to work to dismantle these systems the most important place to start is here, in my own being.

I hear the argument that the folks doing the most harm and the most damage are those on the side of overt white supremacy. And we should come together to fight them.

But I am not so sure. I mean, I can see those people wearing hats and carrying flags, making their beliefs known. Yes, they are dangerous, but they are not hidden. The 2nd Reich flags and hate speech at a recent “Make America Great Again” rally right here in my sunny beach town were a pretty clear sign that some evil people were there. Are here.

But what about my congressman, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who says he “loves Mexicans” and it’s ridiculous to say he’s racist. And yet, he was willing to speak standing right in front of people holding an anti-semitic sign. 

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Are those of us refusing to examine our own beliefs not part of the problem? Because that’s what I see in the comment threads when people don’t want to use the term “white supremacy.” They want to fight the bad guys. They want to fight the racists. They want to do the right thing, and make the world a better place by working against the racists. The racist people over there.

Those people.

When the really hard work begins right here, within us.

Within me.

Oh, no. Hate Mail.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom! (2).pngI got my first hate mail today. It’s 2017 so it was hate email. And it was really only a little hate-y.

It’s not bothering me. I have been taught that the discomfort that I feel as a White person when I am confronted with the hard truth about the prizes and kickbacks I get in this world for having the heritage of a well-traveled Viking ancestor is nothing compared with the discomfort of having the very worth and dignity of your being assaulted on a regular basis when you are a person of color in this world.

That is to say, I have learned that the feeling of needing to defend myself around race is a sign that I need to stop and pay attention to which internal biases are running in the background like a slew of cookies from a clickbait site.

I’m not sure this person has learned that the defensive feeling = pay attention yet. That’s OK. We all gotta get in when we can. If we don’t start speaking out until we are fully “woke” there is no hope of fixing white supremacy.

We have to start where we are. All of us. Each one of us.

This email came to me at my work address. The organization I serve recently backed a Teach In about white supremacy. Well, this woman was not happy at all with me about that choice of phrase: white supremacy. She found it to be angry and not showing interest in dialogue.

Damn right.

This is not about a dialogue where one side talks and then the other side talks. This is a calling in of White folks. We are letting this happen, this continuing practice that all Whiteness is standard and anything else is inferior, abnormal, aberrant. We white folks need to stop it. We don’t need dialogue. We need action. Action! Like a teach in.

I didn’t tell her that.

I’m just a lackey, anyway. I serve a board who makes decisions. I don’t even get a vote on what goes out. (I DO get to actually send the emails/tweets/fb posts and stick things all over the website though….)

What I did tell her was that while I am just staff, I wholeheartedly endorse their decision to support this white supremacy teach in. And then I told her that I had looked her up on Facebook, and we had a mutual friend, so I told her I was going to invite her to be my Facebook friend and I hoped that she would keep an open heart and join with me in a dialogue about this important issue.

Because I’m not “woke” I’m not even out of REM sleep, I think. But I’d like to talk with my hate-mailer about this: that it’s OK to be ANGRY about how the culture of your world devalues you as a human, it’s OK to work against that, that it’s OK to use words and phrases that make the people who hold the power uncomfortable and while I would like to tell her that sometimes dialogue isn’t the right answer, but listening is, that’s maybe too much to lead with.

I hope she accepts my invitation to be friends. We all have a lot to learn. Me, too. Probably you, too–although maybe not about this. Maybe about macrame. Or the literature of Scandinavia.

Whatever.

May we learn and grow and get better at this being human thing. May it be so.

 

 

FIGHT LIKE HELL!

I’m wearing my favorite Hillary campaign t-shirt. No, not because I live in some dream land where Hillary is president. I don’t. I live right here in Trump’s America where the time I spend in lovely downtown Huntington Beach, California is with a protest sign and a threat that the police will arrest me if I step foot near the office of my member of Congress.

I suited up in my Hillary gear because I need to feel like there is hope for my country. Post-election I was sure that what had happened had to be some massive mistake. How could people vote for a candidate with the values of a carnival huckster?

On the day the electoral college met and did NOT do their civic duty, I cried in the grocery store and bought the really good lavender fabric softener to sooth my soul.

I marched in the Women’s March and signed up with my local Indivisible group and, because I was the first person to click “Join” on the congressional district page, I got to be an administrator.  A month of speaking before groups about Indivisible, being interviewed by the LA Times, local ABC radio and ThinkProgress was heady and exciting. I felt like we were making a difference! We were visiting our MoC, people were joining us in droves, we were on the Rachel Maddow show!

Then my dog got sick. Really sick. I had to step back from everything I could possibly step back from. For a long time I couldn’t feel anything but dread about my pup. And then, just when we thought she was going to be fine, she had an awful relapse and we had to let her go.

Here I am now. A week out from losing my girl. The news is awful. Terrible. I mean, isn’t what we are talking about from the Trump campaign called treason? Does it not come with the death penalty? Am I seeing most of the Republicans, including my member of Congress who calls Putin a “Chicago Mayor Daly-style politician, fall in lock step with a traitor?

Hillary had to re-invent herself at age 50 out of the ashes of the Lewinsky scandal. Hillary had to pull her husband out of a horrific loss and put him on the right path so he could be governor again after he lost. Hillary had to give up the dream of what she always wanted to be because people didn’t believe in her. Hillary did it. She still smiles. She still reads books and goes for long walks in the woods and enjoys her grandchildren. She still believes in this messed-up damn country.

Lily and I miss Noodles, but we are fired up.

Today it’s not about politics for me. It’s personal. I may not have always agreed with Secretary Clinton’s stand on all the issues. But one thing we can say is that this woman knows how to fight like hell. Fight like hell. If she can, maybe I can. This country is not for the haters. It’s not about keeping people down, it’s about lifting each other up. We can’t stop working for each other. It’s too important. There is too much on the line.

I still got a lot of fight left in me. And I got a t-shirt to prove it.