Sunday, September 27, 2020

Donald Trump Will Not Win

Insulting America isn't the way you do it, buddy

I know what you’re thinking: Wasn’t I one of those people who thought Hillary couldn’t lose? Yup, I was. I seriously, sincerely couldn’t see how Donald Trump, that loathsome clown whose life was completely antithetical to the norms of common decency, that shady businessman without an ounce of knowledge about how government works, would EVER become America’s president.


That was me. And probably you. And almost four years later we’re still shocked. I can’t go into how it happened. I don’t KNOW how it happened, and neither does anyone else. We’re all just guessing. But here we are, and Trump was, and is, far, far worse than we could ever have imagined. We imagined he would be as stubbornly stupid, as bombastic, as ridiculously full of himself as he turned out to be. What we didn’t count on was the Republican Party’s willing capitulation to a moron and a monster.

Trump, it turns out, was a dream come true for them. He didn’t CARE how they did it before. His job was to make the rich richer (including and especially him), and, by God, he did it.

His job, as he saw it — thanks to some friendly nudging from his pal, former KGB expert and president-for-life, Vladimir Putin — was to sow chaos and create division, and he did that.

His job (and he especially enjoyed this part ) was to bring the media to its knees in order to float above any criminal exposure or criticism — and the press rewarded him with some of the silliest whataboutism I’ve ever seen.

But along the way Trump has made some dreadful blunders. I mean, terrible. He’s a happy despot, momentarily, but he’s alienated every sane military, scientific, medical, social services, and educational expert in the country.

He has his fans and followers, and it’s true they’re louder and more obnoxious than the rest of us, but they’re not the majority. Every legitimate poll shows that far more Americans go against Trump's cockamamie decision than agree with them. Every one.

Pollsters are giving Joe Biden a bigger and bigger edge, and we’re a little more than a month from the election. (Okay. Remind me again about pollsters and Hillary Clinton and how that all went down, but (perfunctory cliché ahead) that was then and this is now.)

More than 200,000 COVID deaths, most of them completely avoidable but for Trump’s stubborn pretense that his giant brain is far superior to every scientist and epidemiologist in the land.

Kids in cages. They’re still crying, their parents are still crying, we’re still crying.

Attacks on women, minorities, the disabled, and the disenfranchised.

Name-calling and childish insults, laughable word-salad adlibs thrown in to speeches written by Stephen Miller, as if despots were still in vogue and this wasn’t America.

And now Trump, always so insanely inappropriate for the highest job in the land, has the chance to select a third Right Wing Supreme Court nominee and get her in place before the election.

And he's not done yet.

To the delight of his followers, and, let’s face it, the press, Trump is impishly pretending he might not leave office if Joe Biden should, by some slim off-chance, win. But he will leave, and we even know the date: January 20, 2021.

Donald Trump will not win this election. Joe Biden will.

Has Joe Biden made mistakes? Uh huh. Will he go on making mistakes? Uh huh. But, when it comes to mistakes, Joe is a piker compared to Donald. Trump holds the world’s record for the most hilarious, the most egregious mistakes ever made by a U.S president. Nobody comes even close. And if we’re lucky, nobody ever will again.

So I rest my case. Donald Trump should not, cannot, will not win this election. We’re going to make sure he doesn’t. Joe Biden will win in a landslide, the likes of which we’ve never seen. (Yes, I stole that from Donald.)

He will not steal our pride, our legacy, our heritage, our privileges, our rights.

He will not.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

How to Write Opinions When You're At Your Wit's End

 Political writers are America’s witnesses to history. It’s up to us to tell this story

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

I don’t have to tell you we’re at a level of chaos most of us have never seen in our lifetimes. Every day it’s something new and dire and dangerous, and every day we have to set aside yesterday’s news to try and process this new thing that sickens us and scares us and makes us want to take to our beds.

Every day we watch people give up. They can’t take it anymore. They concede we’re doomed and that’s just the way it is. And who can blame them? It feels doom-like out there. Everything is going against us.

Here in the United States we’ve passed the 200,000 mark in deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic, with no end in sight.

The earth is roiling, showing her irritation at our recklessness, and she’s threatening to destroy humanity before we can do any more damage.

And, for the first time in America’s history, we’re dealing with a rogue government run by a demagogic flim-flam man who sees the presidency as the authoritarian power trip of his dreams, and is already threatening not to give it up.

And there’s more. Much, much more.

This is where the writers come in. We are the witnesses, the trained observers. We watch, we listen, we analyze, we record. It’s what we do. Those of us who write opinions knew going in we would never convince everyone. Our opinions aren’t necessarily everyone’s opinions, so — you might have noticed — we have a tendency to piss some people off.

But we slog on.

It’s our hearts that spur us on, and, because our hearts are flopping around on the outside for everyone to see, we make ourselves vulnerable. Deliberately. Why? Because we care so deeply about what we believe in we can’t keep it to ourselves. We see it as a duty to try and make readers understand. And we wonder why everyone doesn’t do it.

That’s where you come in, you writers out there who feel that same anxiety and don’t know how to express it. Do I need to say, ‘there’s nothing to fear but fear itself’? What are you afraid of, really? That your feelings will be hurt? They will be. That someone will make fun of you? Someone will. That you won’t get it right and might have to reassess? That could happen. But we need courage now, and before you can advocate for it, you have to feel it.

Our country needs us — every one of us — and our voices together will make a formidable blockade to the lies and propaganda threatening to destroy our message. We have the tools and the talent to make a difference in these next weeks before the election, but we have to get serious NOW.

Whatever you have to say doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be honest. Write from your heart and let your heart guide you. The country needs to know how we feel about the events unfolding before us. We’re not writing for the critics, we’re writing for the people.

As the owner/editor of Indelible Ink, I’ve taken steps to convert my creative non-fiction publication to all politics, all the time — at least until this all-important election is over. I’m looking for writers and I want you to consider getting your equally all-important voice out there. I’ll help you.

As I say in our Submission Guidelines:

We’ll be a political publication practicing the politics of hope, but with our eyes wide open. Be honest about your fears, your hopes, your ideas for a better future. Challenge us with your thoughts about better governing. Name names.
Talk about your own life, your childhood, your parents and your grandparents, if you’d like. Whatever is on your mind, whatever is keeping you awake at night, whatever is needing an outlet so you’re not screaming into pillows all day and all night.
Let’s build a fortress here made up of the ghosts of America’s past. Who are we? Where did we come from? How did we get to this place?

But you don't have to write for me. Writers everywhere are gathering in war rooms, ready to do battle. We can do it, we can spread the word, we can build a community and we can help each other.

We’re almost out of time. November is looming. We’re sending the call out to writers with the skills to help us witness, to chronicle not just the events but the feelings. We’ve never been here before. With Hera’s help we’ll never be here again.

This is a time like no other, and the noisemakers are winning. Our voices won’t get lost if there are enough of us sounding alarms, reminding Americans of our heritage, defending our need to build a country that reflects all of us, and not just some of us.

Opinion writing isn’t for everyone, but if you feel the calling, go with it. The need is great right now. If you have something to say, say it. As Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Gray Panthers, used to say: Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Ramona's Quotes for Posterity

White book page with words, hypothetical dialogue Stock Photo - 127529298

I always wanted to be famous enough to have my quotes immortalized on sites like BrainyQuote or Quote Garden, those places you can go to grab someone else's quote to make it seem as if it's YOU who is that smart or clever or impossibly witty. I love those places! But time's running out and it looks like it's not going to happen. Unless I do something, my brilliant quotes will go unnoticed, unread, ungrabbed, lost for all eternity. I see now I'll have to do it myself.

Not long ago (but not soon enough) I wrote a short thing on Twitter and it seemed so awesome, I thought, Damn! That's quotable! So I saved it to a file. Then I began pasting other Tweets into that file, and soon I had a bunch of quotes I really, really liked. (Note that writers sometimes like things they've written. It's okay. If we didn't like enough of our own stuff we'd stop writing and we couldn't call ourselves writers.)

I had this file I called "Ramona's Quotes" and I kept adding to it, and every time I did I'd read it again and I'd say, sometimes out loud, "Who wrote that? That is so good!"

And here it is. I'll be adding to it from time to time, so don't think this is the end of it.  Feel free to share any of them but be sure to spell my name right. Okay?
(R-a-m-o-n-a G-r-i-g-g. Thank you.)

The media can mold any story, any campaign, any election. Don’t ever think they can’t. And don’t ever let up on calling them out when they ignore their obligations to bring us the truth. They are the witnesses, not the jury.

Democrats on Democrats: It’s like being on a battlefield with your allies, thinking the way to fight the enemy is to find fault with the guys fighting by your side. There! That’ll show ‘em!

Vote as if your country is in grave danger and you’ve seen the enemy. It can't hurt.

Every time one of Trump’s insiders waits until it’s convenient for them to spill the beans instead of doing the right thing the moment they have concerns, the message to the country is, be afraid, be very afraid. Courage comes when you have more to lose than to gain. (On John Kelly’s revelations on Trump, long after his testimony might have helped to take him down.)

Change your shame to pride and it’ll give you the energy to fight against this madness. It’s not our country I’m ashamed of or appalled by, it’s the leaders — and they’re always temporary. The only way we’ll change things is if we go in believing we’re worth the effort.

Trump’s sycophants and followers are afraid to admit it’s that bad. They’ll go to great lengths to defend Trump, against all evidence to the contrary for one reason only: Reality would mean they might be complicit.

The worst offenders are the ones who voted for Trump but have now disengaged and won’t talk politics because ‘it’s boring’ or they ‘can’t stand all that garbage’. It’s like walking away from their own hit-and-run. No matter how far they run or how much time passes, it will always be their problem.

I know words and I know ‘inhabitant’ is clearly not the same thing as ‘citizen’. The Census counts inhabitants. The law doesn’t require that only citizens should be counted. We want to know how many people live in this country for many reasons and none of them are political.

The worst thing that ever happened to the United States is our slide toward capitalism without tempering it with equal parts of socialism. We should know by now what a disaster it is to run an entire country as an oligarchy, but it looks like we really are slow learners.

Trump is Trump and always has been. He’s incorrigible, irredeemable, and only plays at being president. He should never have been given a moment of power. There, American press, now build on that. For god’s sake.

“Kids in cages”, “Black Lives Matter”, or “Women helping Women”, is like this: When my kids were growing to adulthood my rule was, whoever needs the most help at the moment gets the most attention. It doesn’t mean the others aren’t important or aren’t loved. 
And, bless them, they all understood.

Reagan’s reign was the beginning of the end of our middle class. It’s maddening that he’s treated like an American hero when his first and foremost legacy is the destruction of an economy that favored all classes, not just the upper class. Trickle-down was and is a scam.

Funny how ‘bigotry’ has so many meanings these days. It’s almost as if real bigots have no idea what that word means.

John Lewis set the tone. He won the day by peacefully protesting with words, with empathy, with courage, showing us how we can be fearless in our righteous battles, even when winning is a long way off. It was, after all, ‘good trouble’.

Democracies fall, not because wannabe dictators are out there — they’re always out there — but because there are enough citizens who are willing to pave the way for their particular brand of fascism. It’s those citizens who worry me the most.

We’re not just heading toward a totalitarian government, we’re in the midst of it. We have to first admit the extent of our powerlessness before we can figure out how to change it. They’ve won and they’ve put us all in extreme danger. We can’t pretend otherwise.

Whenever anyone says we have to stop being ‘partisan’ what they mean is ‘Democrats, give in’. The Republicans have no intention of working together. They drew the battle lines. Let the battle begin.

The press is still using polite language when the times require brutal honesty. Racists, misogynists, bigots, etc., don’t deserve to be treated as anything less than what they are. They are not society’s norm, they’re abominations.

(To be continued. I'm thinking, I'm thinking!)

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Medicare and Obamacare: Same Old Story

(Note: When the fur was flying over the ACA (Obamacare) more than seven years ago, I found an early story about the fur flying over Medicare in 1966. I wrote about it for the late Alan Colmes and his website, Liberaland. This is the story as it was published at, October 22, 2013.)
In the next town over from us the recycling station is in a huge semi-trailer.  You have to climb six narrow metal steps to get up into it, but there is an aisle you can walk down and there are huge open boxes in which to throw your stuff. 
The beauty of it is that while I’m dropping off my own recyclables, I can dig through the newspaper and magazine bins to see what’s there for the taking.  Through the years we’ve found some fascinating reading, some of it as current as yesterday, but last week we found a treasure trove:  Seventeen Consumer Reports magazines, ranging from1965 to 1980.

What struck me as I read through them was how much actual watchdogging went on within those pages and to what lengths they went to explain their findings. Page after page of small print, as if they actually anticipated that their readers would want to take the time to read it all. (No internet, no cable. I get it. But still. . .)
Back in June, 1966, their headline story was about the new Medicare law taking effect in July. The law was complicated.  Every aspect of health insurance, hospitalizations, physician and pharmacy services, and medical goods had to be considered.  Nothing like it had ever been done on such a large scale before. The Government was pouring an estimated $3 billion plus into it during the first year alone. Who would pay for what?  Who would gain the most?  Who would lose the most?  (Sound familiar?)
There were worries about overcrowding of existing facilities.  All of those sick folks who had never been eligible for insurance due to their pre-existing condition (old age) would now be bursting through the doors looking for a chance to live longer.
There were worries about elderly patients not wanting to leave their hospital beds, now that the money worries had been eased.  There were worries about relatives scheming to leave their kin in those happy places rather than to have to take care of them at home.
There were worries about understaffing.   They would need some 20,000 more doctors and more than 70,000 nurses, with a need for another 200,000 nurses by 1970.
But they were nothing compared to the worries keeping the insurance providers, the pharmaceutical companies, the heads of hospitals, and the Hippocratic doctors up at night.  The threat of socialized medicine was upon them.  This was it!
So let’s take a trip in the way-back machine–all the way back to the year 1961 when one Ronald Reagan agreed to make a 10 minute LP record sponsored by the AMA as part of Operation Coffee Cup, the supposed grass-roots plan to keep medicine out of the hands of the Government.
They called it “RONALD REAGAN speaks out against SOCIALIZED MEDICINE”.
This was the same Ronald Reagan who, as president, pretty much kept his paws off Medicare, that dread  portal to full-blown Socialism. I'm guessing the Heritage Foundation, much as they adore The Man, would just as soon forget the time The Best President in the Whole Wide World caved to the forces of the “politically popular” Medicare program and began talking up adding catastrophic acute care provisions for the elderly!
Such was the evolution of a hated, perennially doomed social program.  Which brings us to the Affordable Care Act.
The ACA start-up costs may well be expensive to the point of mind-boggle, but, just as with Medicare, it’s a plan that is essential and long overdue.  It’ll be full of jitters and glitches and adjustments, just as Medicare was. The full effect will be maddeningly slow, there will be a multitude of reasons to doubt it,  and the opponents–those same opponents who have spent years trying to kill Social Security and Medicare–will never give up. (Forbes is claiming the ACA website is crashing on purpose because “they” don’t want us to know how costly the plans really are. It’s also claiming a rise in insurance premiums by 99% for men and 62% for women–a claim already disputed and put to rest.)
But here’s the thing about the opposition:  When they showed their willingness to spend many millions on a Tea-Party-sanctioned hissy-fit against it that went nowhere and benefited no one, they lost any chance to have a voice in the discussion about essential, low-cost Government-sponsored health care.
It will happen, with or without them.  And years from now their cheering audiences will be shouting, “Hands off my Obamacare!”

Monday, July 13, 2020

When There's a Monster in Our Midst it Ain't About Tiddlywinks

Image for post

Let's say there are two villages within yelling distance of each other. They almost never get along, what with cattle rustling and wife stealing and fence moving and all, but now there's a monster in their midst. Village Number Two hates the monster and is afraid of it but thinks it's best to go along with it against Village Number One because, you know, they did those THINGS.

Village Number One sees the writing on the wall or the smoke in the distance or something lost now to the mists of story, and calls on Village Number Two to join them in vanquishing the monster. Imagine their surprise when Village Number Two says, "Only if you admit you were wrong that time you took our Yahtzee table and turned it into a Tiddlywinks board. You know you did it!"

"Seriously?" says Village Number One. "We've got a monster breathing down on us and you want an apology??"

And Village Number Two, really incensed now, says, "And while we're at it, we don't like your village leaders. Get rid of them and put our guys in place or no deal."

So Village Number One, thinking only about the monster and not about hurt feelings, put a collective foot in mouth, and Hera help them, they laughed out loud at Village Number Two. They said, again, "Seriously?? There's a monster out there!"

Big mistake.  Village Number Two said, "Forget it, we're not helping you", and the monster, seeing his chance, ate Village Number One whole.

For a while, Village Number Two (a misnomer, since Village Number One no longer existed, but for the sake of clarity, since I'm not finished yet, let's still call them Number Two) kept a wobbly peace with the monster. The monster grew bigger while they grew smaller and, while some of the villagers stayed awake nights worrying about it, the others chastised them for being such downers when they still had sunsets to watch and cute kittens to giggle over, and so what if they couldn't get coffee or pineapples or couldn't afford whale oil for their lamps? It wasn't perfect but it wasn't sure death, either. 

But, as monsters are wont, this one demanded too much. The Number Twos couldn't keep up, couldn't make him happy, couldn't even feed themselves or keep roofs over their heads.
Image for post

They decided they had to fight that thing.
It was a monster!

But they were only one small village. There was nobody else to help them. They never had a chance. The monster, disgusted with their constant whining, outraged over their inability to grow the size of their rallies, and realizing there was no more money to be made off of them, ate them whole.

The moral of the story is that if Village Number Two had only forgiven their differences and worked together with Village Number One they might have had enough resources to take on the monster, destroy him for good, and live relatively happily ever after. 

By the time they decided Village Number One wasn't so bad, the monster in their midst had taken matters into his own claws and there was no turning back.

If only they had understood that thing Lady Hillary had tried to teach them: 

It does, indeed, take a village.

(Cross-posted at Indelible Ink/Medium)

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Politics of Emotion

We’re scared, we’re confused, we’re enraged — and that’s the way they want it

AFP photo

This last week has been a doozy. An entire thesaurus of emotions bombard us every day, every night, and we’re at the point now where those of us who think, who care, who take the burdens of the world personally, are on sensory overload, dangerously close to imploding. Exploding. Doing ourselves no favors by feeling emotions so raw, so painful they render us, in the end, helpless.

The catalyst this time? Another Black man’s senseless death at the hands of the police — say his name: George Floyd— and it’s almost more than we can bear. The Minneapolis cop who killed him did it in front of us, in broad daylight, gloating, smiling for the cameras, his knee pressing harder against George’s neck as George pleaded for his life, called for his mother, said I CAN’T BREATHE.

Three other cops stood watch over the killing. According to witnesses, at least one of them helped to hold George down. The crowd around them pleaded for the cop to stop but he didn’t move, didn’t ease the pressure, didn’t consider the minutes it took for the life to seep out of George Floyd’s bones. There were nine of them. Nine minutes. Two of them were probably a waste of time. At seven minutes George was already beyond help.

As reports of George’s death began to surface, sorrow turned to rage. And rage turned to helplessness. It happened again. We couldn’t stop it. That portion of our nation who feels these things sat back and cried. Some of us did it in public, in front of the cameras, as we tried to grapple with emotions so out of control we couldn’t put words to them.

We watched as people who built their reputations on giving us the words that eased us, motivated us, energized us, fell apart before our eyes, reduced to weeping out of sheer frustration.

And Donald Trump, seeing us as pitiful, as vulnerable, as easy marks, grabbed at the chance to twist the knife and make it worse. The president-in-name-only didn’t rise to help a nation get through this, didn’t give the speech that would comfort or settle us or make us believe justice would be served. No, he took to Twitter and instigated. He teased, he taunted, he threatened. (“When looting starts, the shooting starts.”)

Inevitably, the outrage took over and the protests devolved to riots in the streets across the country. Stores looted and burned. Some would say emotions blew it all up; others saw it as rank opportunism. Whatever it was, fire lit the skies, entire buildings were reduced to rubble, and we were left to feel. What the hell is happening?

After a few days we were back to protesting for the right reasons — because George Floyd was dead and because black lives have to matter. Thousands of us marched peacefully, without incident, and the rest of us, watching from home, rejoiced at the numbers, at our unity, our solidarity, our humanity.

But Donald Trump wasn’t done with us. He spent the riot days hiding in a bunker beneath the White House. We got wind of it and we let off some steam by making fun of him. So he put on his “I’ll show them” face and upstaged us by marching a few hundred yards, in broad daylight, looking for all the world like a tinpot dictator, a coterie of sycophants marching a few steps behind him, along a route lined with armed guards, to St. John’s Episcopal Church, where rioters had done some damage, and where he then stood, unannounced (and unwelcome, it turns out), muttered a few unintelligible words, held a bible over his head, and walked back to the White House.

AFP/Brendan Smialowski

It took maybe 20 minutes, but in order for Trump to make that walk, the crowds lining that street had to first be dispersed. Nobody knew it was coming. Suddenly the police came from out of nowhere and began forcing the crowds away, pushing, shoving, spraying them with tear gas, spattering them with rubber bullets.

Those of us watching in real time at home were horrified. It made no sense. They were more than a half hour from curfew. They were protesting peaceably. They had the right to be there. And uniformed men in riot gear came at them as if they were mad, snarling dogs.

Our hearts were in our throats. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. Was this it then? Was this the battle we’d long been afraid of? Would we now be fighting for our very lives?

No. It was just that Donald Trump wanted to make a show of walking those few yards because we made fun of him hiding in a bunker and because a damaged church made the perfect backdrop for his phony piety in these times of crisis.

Or something.

And we come away from this scared, confused, exhausted, wondering how many times we can go through this without just coming apart or just giving up. Knowing that’s what they want. They want us to come apart. They want us to give up.

And we can’t. When our emotions get the best of us we have to stop a moment and rewind. We owe it to ourselves. But quit? Can we? You know we can’t. Because this is who we are. And that’s who they are. And it’s either us or them.

(Cross-posted at Medium)

Friday, May 29, 2020

I Have No Power

And I'm powerless to change that.

The pain I feel these days is existential. It’s not about the crunching in my knees or the flatiron pressed against my chest as I breathe, it’s harsher than that. It’s the pain behind knowing the world around me is a dangerous place and, as hard as I might try, I can do nothing to make it better.

This is new for me. I am the resident Pollyanna, the believer in great things coming from ordinary people, the pusher of positivity when everyone else sees darkness ahead.

People come to me looking for answers, and if I don’t have the answers I think I can at least comfort them with my positivity. As if all it takes are a few sunny words accompanied by a knowing smile. As if those few moments of respite will solve anything.

What bullshit.

I was a picky eater and when my mom told me about starving kids in China who would give anything for even a bite of what I was refusing, I would cry just thinking about them, their poor, wasted bodies — skin and bones. But I still wouldn’t eat it. And when lunch was over I skipped away, on to something else.

Later, when I had my own kids, I did the same thing, only it was poor starving kids in Africa. It was a lousy way to teach about awareness — as if filling their bellies was all it would take to remove the awful images of wholesale, planned starvation and death.

I came into this world thinking I could save it with sympathy and empathy. I can’t remember a time I wasn’t feeling sorry about something I had no control over. But feeling sorry can’t take the place of actually doing something. It’s why we’re so sick of “thoughts and prayers”. It’s too easy. It’s a brush-off. It’s “Oh, poor you! Here — let me hand you a posy. Feel better now? I know I do.”

I wanted to do more. I threatened to do more. I promised to do more. I did what I did and it wasn’t nearly enough.

I’ve been a liberal activist for more than 60 years, calling, marching, protesting, singing, writing — all without once feeling violated or threatened. Throughout my long years of what I called ‘activism’ I was never in any danger. I’m not saying this out of guilt. I’m saying it because now I’m aware. I chose activism over complacency, but if I had been active enough I would have, at some point, felt the sting of fear. I never did.

No matter how incensed or enraged I become when I find out about terrible actions against individual or groups, I can’t begin to understand how it must feel to be in the middle of those danger zones. How it is to have to live with it throughout my entire life. I’m not there. I’ve never been there. I never will be there.

I’ve been a writer for more than 30 years, much of it dwelling on rights issues, but I’ve been safe there, too. For the last 10 years I’ve focused on writing to change minds, but that hasn’t happened. All the while I’m writing to make a difference, I’m marveling at the writers who get it. Those writers who spoke to us so vividly, so masterfully they made us gasp at the majesty of their words. Surely this would do it. This, this amazing piece of writing would change the world, or at least our country, or at least… But it didn’t. It doesn’t. They couldn’t do it, either.

I’m writing this now because yesterday I saw Bakari Sellers break down and cry on CNN. This man who sought to change us, to make us aware, to use his often brilliant prose to bring us to attention and DO SOMETHING, broke down out of a feeling of frustration and pure, agonizing helplessness.

The catalyst was yet another murder of an innocent black man, in broad daylight, with cameras rolling. The killer was a member of the Minneapolis Police Department. He put a knee to George Floyd’s neck and kept it there for nine minutes, as George pleaded for his life, called for his mother, said he was in pain, said “I CAN’T BREATHE”.

Other police officers stood there for those nine minutes and did nothing. They could have saved George Floyd, who wasn’t resisting, was crying out, was barely breathing after a few minutes of that pressure on his neck, but they didn’t.

Once again, the police officer wasn’t put in handcuffs immediately, wasn’t taken into custody for murdering a black man. We were assured that he would be fired. The authorities would look into it. They would ‘look into’ an incident that was witnessed by dozens of people, was filmed and sent out to the airwaves, was clearly, without a doubt, without provocation, a deliberate killing of an innocent man.

And Bakari Sellers wants to know how he’s going to explain this to his son. How does he keep his boy from being afraid when this same horrible scene happens over and over and over?
“There’s just so much pain,” Sellers said, sobbing, “I get so tired.”

Add Bakari Sellers to the long, long list of activists who work so hard, who try so hard, and who, when another tragedy happens, end up having to acknowledge how little they can actually do.
Then there are the rest of us. We have no power. The reality of our powerlessness is hard to take. All we can do is howl.

(Cross-posted at Medium)

Sunday, April 26, 2020

What Happened Between Joe Biden and Tara Reade?

Nobody really knows. And that’s the problem.

Photo: Liz Roll, FEMA. VP Biden consoling hurricane victim
I consider myself a feminist. I support the Me-Too Movement. I’ve written about women’s issues for decades. I was a charter Ms Magazine member, joining up before the first issue was even printed in 1972, and it was as if Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique, was written just for me.

I hated what Bill Clinton did with Monica Lewinsky and I said so.

I hated what Anthony Weiner and so many other powerful men have done, sex-wise, and I’ve said so.

Still, much to the consternation of many of my friends, I defended Al Franken. (Full disclosure, no shame.)

I’ve spent most of my writing life looking for an honest man and constantly being disappointed. (Don’t even get me started on the Republicans.)

I worked hard to get Hillary Clinton elected in 2016, and I’m not over the trauma of the outcome yet. Before I kick off, I want to see a woman sitting at the Resolute Desk, owning the Oval Office. This year I wanted it to be Elizabeth Warren.

I voted for Warren in this year’s primary and hated how badly she lost her chance at the presidency. Joe Biden wasn’t even in the running for me. But, as I wrote after she dropped out, I’m going all out for Joe now.

There are things about Biden that bother me, but there were things that bothered me about each of the candidates, including Warren. That’s as it should be in a country where we still have free thought and are allowed our opinions. In a profession like politics — where ideas are a dime a dozen and purity is in short supply — a certain amount of tolerance is a necessity. The way we get things done is by working on them from the inside, not the outside.

We don’t fall in love with politicians. Giving full and absolute loyalty to a single person who may ultimately hold power over us is anathema to most Americans. Most of us look at people and issues with our eyes wide open and react based on their performance, not — I’m just going to say it — on their likability.

So about Joe Biden: Joe can be likable. Millions of Americans like him and those who know him well like him a lot. Still, he’s a public figure, so we’ve seen, too, that he can be silly, irritating, confused, and confusing. But we’re in troubled times now and what I see in a Biden presidency is the kind of calmness, experience, and sanity we’re craving. And — here’s where we may part ways — I see an innate sense of decency.

I’ve heard all of the reasons why Joe can’t be trusted with the presidency: Plagiarism, Centrism, Anita Hill, voting for wars and corporate livelihoods, riding on coattails, cozying up to the GOP, senility, flagrant linguistic sloppiness, goofiness, handsiness— and now sexual accusations.

The oppo stuff is typical — build a case against your rival by exaggerating the things that might make him look bad and ignore any good he’s done. But sexual accusations are something new. These we have to take seriously.

Which brings me to Joe Biden’s accuser, Tara Reade. I’ve read both sides and I don’t know what to believe. I should be able to concede that she believes Joe thrust his fingers into her vagina when she was interning for him in 1993, but I’m going to be honest here: I’m not even close to that point yet.

Most women I know — me included — want to believe every woman. We desperately want to make up for all the times women weren’t believed, and give full support to the women who aren’t believed. But the truth is, women have lied about being raped. We know it happens. Our gender does not prevent us from lying, even about something as serious as rape.

I went along with “Believe all women” for a time, because our goal was to make a point: There were too many men who got away with serial sexual abuse because for too long women were led to believe they couldn’t win by telling the truth. One by one, we watched big men fall — Bill Cosby, Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein — and the length and breadth of their abuse was stunning. It was as if they knew there was no chance the woman would be believed. And why would they worry? Women weren’t believed.

But this story has an odor to it. It didn’t come out until after Joe Biden became the presumptive nominee, and it’s being pushed hard by factions known to be hostile to Democrats and the Biden team. The latest, thrown out there as a ‘bombshell’, is that Tara Reade’s mother called into the Larry King Show in 1993 and told the whole story. Except she didn’t. The caller, an unidentified woman, complained that a certain nameless senator was causing unspecified problems for her unnamed daughter and she wanted to know who she could contact in the Senate to complain about it. That was the extent of it. There is video of the call.

In an article in the Intercept, disingenuously entitled, “New Evidence Supporting Tara Reade’s Allegations Against Joe Biden Emerges”, Ryan Grim manages to prove just the opposite — that there is no supporting evidence — then soldiers on, working up to the burden being on Joe Biden to prove his innocence:
In interviews with The Intercept, Reade also mentioned that her mother had made a phone call to “Larry King Live” on CNN, during which she made reference to her daughter’s experience on Capitol Hill. Reade told The Intercept that her mother called in asking for advice after Reade, then in her 20s, left Biden’s office. “I remember it being an anonymous call and her saying my daughter was sexually harassed and retaliated against and fired, where can she go for help? I was mortified,” Reade told me.
Later in the article, Grim shows clearly that the King Show transcript says no such thing.
Congressional records list August 1993 as Reade’s last month of employment with Biden’s Senate office, and, according to property records, Reade’s mother, Jeanette Altimus, was living in San Luis Obispo County. Here is the transcript of the beginning of the call:
KING: San Luis Obispo, California, hello.
CALLER: Yes, hello. I’m wondering what a staffer would do besides go to the press in Washington? My daughter has just left there, after working for a prominent senator, and could not get through with her problems at all, and the only thing she could have done was go to the press, and she chose not to do it out of respect for him.
KING: In other words, she had a story to tell but, out of respect for the person she worked for, she didn’t tell it?
CALLER: That’s true.
King’s panel of guests offered no suggestions, and instead the conversation veered into a discussion of whether any of the men on set would leak damaging personal information about a rival to the press.
There is nothing there that I can see. Still, it’s being used as proof that Biden has a lot to answer for. There are no Senate records showing that Reade filed a formal complaint; there is no evidence that the attack took place, no witnesses, yet the internet is awash with hashtags accusing the Democratic nominee of being a rapist.

I’ve thrown my full support behind Joe Biden for reasons I’ve already described and won’t go into again. I’ve made no bones about it on Facebook and on Twitter, and the response, not just from Republicans, but from purported Democrats as well, is wearying to say the least. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been shouted down after being told that I’m supporting a sexual predator.

So, as I defend his public record, or give the reasons why we have to go with Joe (to keep Trump from winning and to bring bona fide expertise into his administration), more often than not anything I have to say has no validity because “Joe Biden is a rapist”. End of story.

But it’s not the end of the story. The story is the accusation. That’s all we have. He’s the Democratic candidate for the presidency and there is an accusation of rape hanging over him. I don’t know whether or not it’s true. Nobody does except the two people involved, and they’re telling different stories.

Is it likely? I find it hard to believe, but anything is likely. Who would have believed Dr. Huxtable would be capable of truly sickening sexual assaults?

Rape accusations are, of necessity, highly sensitive. Physical evidence is rare, witnesses are even rarer, and the accusations can surface long after the alleged attack. Most often it’s the woman who has to do the proving.

I’m keenly aware of all of it, and my heart goes out to every woman faced with having to deal with the reactions to any accusation of a sexual nature. But the fact is, we just can’t destroy a reputation if there isn’t enough to go on. And right now there isn’t enough to go on.


(Cross-posted at Medium)

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

It's a Pandemic. You'll Have To Change The Way You Do Things.

I don’t have to tell you we’re in the midst of a near-total shut-down, trying to save as many citizens as possible during an already deadly pandemic. People who aren’t sick yet are hurting, too, trying to maintain their lives, trying to stay safe. Workers are out of jobs and struggling to stay afloat. Businesses are suffering, many of them already in their death throes. They may not survive this. Our unemployment rates are pointing toward astronomical. This recession may turn into a full-blown depression. And the worst part: People are suffering and dying in numbers that grow exponentially, without signs of slowing. We’re all terrified, and I’m not making it better by reminding you of just how much.
But here’s the thing: We have a chance now to show the country who we are in a crisis. It’s our make-or-break moment and it’s up to each of us to rise to the challenge. We’ve done it before. This is all sounding familiar.
“We Can Do It” — National Museum of American History

I lived through rationing during World War II. I know — I was only a kid — but I remember things. I was in charge of collecting and cleaning bottles and tin cans. I peeled off labels, washed them, cut off the can bottoms, stuffed them inside the cans and stomped them flat. (That was the best part.) I bundled newspapers and cardboard and listened to my parents complain when there wasn’t enough coffee. (They were allowed one pound once a month for each of them. I didn’t count as a person yet.)
We kids brought our dimes to school and bought War Stamps and pasted them into books. My parents bought Victory bonds when they could.


The idea of rationing was to make sure everyone had just enough, but not too much. The problem with rationing — just as now — was that they never figured how to stop greed. We were warned against black marketeers almost as often as we were against ‘loose lips sinking ships’.
Hennepin County Library — with permission
Wikimedia Commons

We saved grease and took it to the butcher because it could be used for explosives. In some parts they collected garbage to feed hogs. People grew Victory Gardens and shared what they grew.

National Archives

We stopped traveling when gas was rationed, and rubber tires were as valuable as gold. Our giddy idea of wealth was a spare tire and a patching kit. 

Library of Congress

When Nylon became a commodity used for parachutes, women took to wearing leg makeup and drawing fake seam lines down the backs of their legs. (Because working women were required to wear skirts and ‘hose’ at all times.)

Source: Smithsonian
Poster source: Foundation for Economic Education

There were posters on walls and in magazines reminding us that our days of being wasteful were behind us. We had to be good citizens or Hitler and Tojo would win. And we didn’t want that, did we?

National Archives

Yes, much of it was propaganda meant to scare us, but it did the job: We were scared. It was our government at work, doing everything they could to keep the armies of the world safe and efficient against our common enemies, and, as good citizens, we were required to help.
Notice a pattern in these posters? It was all about shaming. It was all about being proud to be an American. You want to be a good citizen? Then do what you can to keep our boys alive. Let’s win this thing!
And we did. There is no question that too many Americans died in that war, but we did what we had to do to keep even more Americans from dying. And we felt good about it. That was key. We weren’t sitting on our hands waiting for something to happen, we were a force. We had it in us to make simple sacrifices that ultimately made the difference.


So here we are again. We’re being asked to take stock and see what we can do to help. If it takes shaming, I’m all for it. If it takes constant reminders about what you can do for your country, remind me. Constantly.
But what if we could do this by just thinking about it and doing the right thing?
What if we didn’t hoard?
What if we didn’t gather in crowds?
What if we learned new ways of doing things?
What if we conserved food so others could eat, too?
What if we came together in hundreds of thousands of communities and looked out for each other?
And what if, when this is over, we kept it up?
Every life lost is a tragedy. Everyone is in danger. If we can do even a little to help the cause, we must do it. If we can do more, we must do more. We’re citizens of the world and the world is hurting. It really is up to us now.
(Cross-posted at Medium)