It’s Time For a Divorce.


Photo by Darren Halstead on Unsplash

Dear United States Congresspeople,

We have a request.

Could you guys please, please, please just stop screaming at each other for five minutes? Please?

Democrats, we understand. You are really upset because the Republicans won’t participate fairly in your investigations of all the terrible things the Republicans have been doing for the past decade or so. We get it.

Republicans, we know how you feel. Those mean Democrats keep trying to make you look bad and demanding that you self-incriminate. We know. 

We hear you, loudly and clearly. “WE want bipartisanship! But not if it means we have to work with you guys!” 

We hear you. 

But guess what?

We are tired. Tired of trying to keep track of all the ways you are investigating each other. Tired of hearing you accuse each other of destroying our democracy. Tired of the bickering, the name-calling, the finger-pointing, and the constant rage.

Because when you get right down to it, none of what you are doing has anything at all to do with governing. None of it is about democracy.

We hired you guys to do a job. 

According to the Constitution of this nation, that job is pretty specific and pretty limited. You’re supposed to make the laws that govern us. You’re supposed to control the budget.

You’re supposed to work together to get both of those things done.

We are pretty sure that the job description does NOT include running an endless string of investigations on each other. You aren’t the freaking FBI (we pay their salaries, too. We want them to handle the investigations.) And the job description doesn’t include constantly monitoring each other, censoring each other, taking positions away from each other, or tweeting about each other.

We remember the Whitewater investigation. We rolled our eyes through one Benghazi investigation after another. 

At this very moment, we are watching you fight like snarling dogs over a planned investigation into the horrific events of January 6th. Yes, we know. SOMEBODY needs to be digging into what happened that day.

But the FBI is doing that already. DC police are doing it. Arrests have been made, trials are scheduled, a few people are headed for jail. Good.

Why do you feel like YOU have to dig into it yourselves? For justice, you say? For transparency, you declare. 

But we wonder if there’s another reason. 

We wonder if you have all simply come to enjoy the constant limelight? Maybe it’s become kind of fun to see yourselves on TV every ten minutes hurling accusations at each other? 

We wonder if perhaps you hope to raise as many millions of our dollars as possible by convincing us that the other side is trying to “dismantle our system of government” and “end our way of life”? 

Honestly, we are beginning to feel like children caught up in the world’s most dysfunctional family battle. We feel like kids who are constantly being pressured to choose between Mommy and Daddy as they fight all day. We can see that Daddy can be a bully sometimes. We know that Mommy isn’t as supportive as she should be. We get it. Mommy and Daddy are very very unhappy. We feel bad for them.

Meanwhile, though, we need to know that someone is taking care of things. We need our parents to stop screaming long enough to pay the bills so we don’t end up on the street. We need them to work together to keep food on the table. 

In a deeply troubled family, it is often in the best interests of everyone for the parents to get a divorce. To step away from the heat, away from the rage, away from the self-serving focus on the sins of their partner. 

Dear Congress, 

We wish you’d get a divorce. We wish you’d stop playing tug o’ war with our lives long enough to pass some laws.

Seriously.

We’re kind of in a crisis here. We need a REAL plan to deal with the climate disaster. We need a unified approach to stopping this horrifying pandemic. We need the people with the power to make the difficult decisions that will keep us afloat.

We need clean water. We need safe streets. We need healthy, safe school buildings. We need to have our roads and bridges fixed and the pipes under our cities updated. We need access to fresh food. We need healthcare, for the love of God.

We are paying you to do those things. You are living off of OUR MONEY.

So stop talking about arresting doctors. Stop calling each other Nazis. Enough with the threats to lock each other up, kick each other out of office, impeach each other, and shoot each other.

Just STOP.

Honestly.

We’re pretty sure that if you can’t shut up and start doing your jobs, we might need to bring in a third party to mediate this whole mess.

Self Reflection or Self Loathing?


Photo by Albert Dera on Unsplash

When I was a teacher, a great deal of my time was taken up with helping children to manage their social lives. A lot of time was spent helping the kids deal with their anger and frustration as they interacted with other kids.

I have a very clear memory of one intervention. A little boy had been somewhat unkind to his classmate. He didn’t think he’d been mean, of course. He thought that he had just stated the obvious. But his “obvious” was painful and cruel, and his classmate was in tears.

I let each of the kids express themselves, without interruption or response. Then I addressed the child who had been rude.

“Do you think you should apologize to your classmate, and tell them that you didn’t intend to be hurtful?”

His response was unsurprising, but it was also frustrating.

“Why do I need to say that I was bad?”, he asked.

I took a breath.

“Nobody is calling you bad,” I began. “In fact, I know you well enough to know that you are not a bad kid. You are not mean. But your words hurt your classmate.”

It took some time, and a good deal of patience. But eventually, this little ten year old child was able to apologize for the actions that had caused pain. He was able to talk to me about the fact that he hoped he could learn not to say hurtful things.

So.

Self-reflection was a gift to this little boy. Self-reflection helped him, as it helps all of us, to move forward towards a better future. This tender hearted little person chose to look closely at his actions so that he could slowly and carefully become a better human being.

Self-reflection.

The chance to look at our actions, our words, our beliefs. A chance to improve ourselves as human being, in an effort to make the world a somewhat better place for other human beings.

Seems like a worthy activity for a ten year old, right? Stop being mean on the playground. Stop saying mean things. Don’t laugh at your friends when they struggle. Be kind. Be good. Be helpful.

Every adult I have ever met in my 65 years of life would applaud the efforts of this little child, and would congratulate him on trying to be a better person.

So.

Why is it so upsetting and unpatriotic when we ask our country to do the same self-reflection? Why do so many Americans see this kind of introspection as an attack?

I don’t know.

But I don’t like it.

As an old white lady, I am certainly full of self reflection when I look back on the beliefs of my childhood. I was raised in an upper-middle-class white suburb of Boston. My parents were first generation Americans who thought of themselves as open minded and accepting. And they were, within the context of the 1960s in Massachusetts.

I certainly believed myself to be a nice, non-racist, good person.

But you know what?

When I went to college and met people from a hundred different backgrounds, I realized that even though I meant well, I had whole lot to learn about the world around me. I learned that the United States was NOT always seen as a benevolent and kind benefactor. I learned that in spite of what I’d been taught, slavery was not a short term, temporary financial system that helped to create the “greatest nation in the history of the world.”

I learned a lot.

And I am still learning.

I am learning about the Tulsa Race Massacre. And the history of the KKK. I am learning about the horrific crimes committed by the CIA in the 50s and 60s.

I am reflecting on the history of the country in which I live. The country where I was born. I am looking at this nation with the eyes of one who wants to be better. One who wants to understand what lead to our triumphs and to our losses.

I am self-reflecting.

Shouldn’t we all be doing that? Shouldn’t every citizen of every nation be looking at their history and assessing what has been good and what has been a mistake? Shouldn’t we all be emulating my young student as we try to become something a bit better than what we were before?

For most of my adult life, every time I’ve questioned the actions of my government, I’ve been met with something akin to the phrase, “America; love it or leave it!”

The implication has always been that if I question any aspect of my government’s actions, I must hate America and I should immediately leave.

I’ve been called a “Russky” and a “Commie” when I’ve questioned the wisdom and morality of the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve been told that I should pack up and move to China when I’ve complained about the inflated power of corporate lobbyists in the creation of our national laws.

Worst of all, though?

The worst part of this, to me, is the fact that I have been accused of “hating” my country when I question her commitment to equality.

Because I believe that Black Lives Matter, I’ve been told that I hate the American dream. Because I have stated my support for gender equality and full acceptance of my gay fellow citizens, I’ve been told that I despise the very ideals on which this country was founded.

And so I find myself troubled, angry and bewildered. I find myself with only one response at hand.

“BullSHIT”

That’s all I have to say to those to want to claim that any self-reflection on the part of this American society is an exercise in self-loathing.

I question the founding principles of this nation, which were based upon the rights of land-owning white men.

I question the legitimacy of our story line, in which we crow about our love of “equality” and “freedom”.

I question the wisdom of pledging allegiance to a piece of cloth, and of demanding that our children blindly do the same.

I am reflecting deeply on the creation of our country. I am acutely aware of all of the good that has been accomplished within our borders. I am grateful for the fact that my grandparents were welcomed here as immigrants, even as I acknowledge the fact that it was their desperation and their willingness to work for pennies that opened that door to them.

I am an American.

I am a teacher.

I am aware that without self-reflection and an honest look at ourselves, there can be no progress, no growth, no better future.

Because I am an American patriot, I believe that it is my duty to reflect honestly on all that has made this country successful. But I believe just as firmly that is my duty to reflect honestly on all of the mistakes, failures, crimes and injustices that have paved our way to this moment.

America: Love it by asking every single day that it become something even better and stronger than it was yesterday.

Exhausted in the USA


Good God in Heaven.

I am exhausted.

I am morally worn down, emotionally defeated, psychologically damaged and socially bankrupt.

Why, you ask, am I so completely done in and unable to function? I’ll tell you.

Politics, that’s why. Way too much of my time and energy has gone toward trying to make some sense of the American political situation. I have finally come to the conclusion that there is no longer any sense to be made here, and any effort to understand and react to what goes on in this government is a total waste of time.

I’ve been a political junkie for years. I follow the news, read avidly, listen to podcasts and get updates from Reuters and the Associated Press. I fondly remember the days of yore, when political news reflected actual facts and real events. It used to be fun to debate with family and friends who felt differently that I did about various laws and policies. Those conversations used to feel like a wonderful exercise in logic.

Those were the good old days.

It’s different now.

Now we are faced with a total absence of reality in our political discourse. Progressives like me find ourselves trying to argue with a stream of lies that come flying at us like bullets from an AR-15.

How are we supposed to respond to statements and accusations that are complete fabrications? How can we use logic and facts to counter ideas that are at the same time illogical, frightening and completely fake?

I know; politicians have always used “spin” to shape public perceptions. I know.

But what we see today is different. It isn’t just one party choosing its words carefully to influence our opinions. No. What we see now is a group of elected officials who are absolutely making up lies and repeating them over and over again with such passion and sincerity that they sound like reality.

How does an intelligent citizen fight back against a phantom? How does a thoughtful person run a sward through a ghost?

It’s exhausting.

I find my mind racing, trying to form a coherent explanation for why everyone needs to stop ranting and screeching about Critical Race Theory being taught in public schools.

I mean……..what the hell?

There are American citizens actually fighting each other, physically fighting, because they don’t want their kids indoctrinated to hate white people. Even though NOTHING LIKE THAT IS BEING TAUGHT ANYWHERE. CRT is a set of legal interpretations, put forward by legal scholars. It’s been debated and thought about for decades.

But hundreds of thousands of people believe that CRT is a new book, or a curriculum, or a sinister plot to brainwash our children. Why? Because political leaders keep repeating the lie. Over and over and over again.

Trying to form a logical response is impossible.

As a progressive American, I’d like to be talking about our overinflated military budget. I’d like to be gathering information about the benefits of universal healthcare coverage. I know how to find data to support my opinions. I like doing that!

But I can’t fight against the lie that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen by the Chinese who magically substituted fake ballots on bamboo paper for millions of real completed ballots. I can’t figure out how to use logic to point out that multiple audits, studies, searches and lookbacks found NO fraud. Millions of dead people did not vote. Ballots weren’t changed after the fact.

It’s exhausting trying to think of a possible response. I can’t do it.

There is no Jewish Space Force. There is no international group of pedophile cannibals trying to take over the world. Joe Biden is not a Marxist and the radical left isn’t trying to turn our children into mask-wearing robotic automatons. Nobody is coming for the damn guns.

And while we’re at it, the people who violently attacked the US Capitol and tried to assassinate the Vice President and members of Congress were NOT “tourists”.

Lies are lies, no matter how many times they are repeated.

Trying to push back against them is just too much for this exhausted, aging lefty. I think the fight is out of me.

I just don’t know how to respond to the combination of crazy, ignorant and dishonest that has taken root in Washington DC.

Finding Friends in Odd Places


So if you read my last post, you know that we are in the midst of having our kitchen renovated. Finally, after 20 years of planning and 10 years of yearning and 2 years of sheer desperation, we are having our kitchen renovated.

Huzzah!!!!

Naturally, being the overly dramatic Italian woman that I am, I have shed some tears over past memories. But now that the new clean, white, wide, sturdy cabinets are in, I’m feeling a whole lot better.

The process isn’t finished quite yet, as I have no counters and no sink, but it still looks a million times better than it did two weeks ago.

I’m delighted with my new space.

But the best part?

The guys who did the work are now three people we consider to be friends.

It’s funny. The crew who did this fabulous work are all blue collar, red voting, conservative GOP guys. One is a retired cop.

To get to our house, they had to turn in just past the rainbow flag. They parked their cars by the shed with the huge “BLACK LIVES MATTER” banner. They maneuvered past our cars with their “Millionaires Can’t Buy Bernie!” stickers and their “People’s Party” magnets.

The Chauvin trial was on TV while they were here, and I was watching it the whole time.

Should have been awkward to say the least, right?

But these three men were kind, thoughtful, funny and open minded. I gave them coffee, offered them lunch, laughed about getting in their way. They cleaned up every speck of dust they created, thanked me for letting them use the bathroom, and helped with more than one little issue that cropped up during the week.

We shared our opinions with honesty and respect. We laughed about our differences. At one point, I handed out cups of coffee and one of the guys said, “Jeez, who knew socialists could make such good coffee.” I kidded them that if they used the soap in my bathroom they’d turn into commies.

The man who owns the construction company brought his beautiful German Shepard with him every day. He told me that she’d be happy to stay in the truck while he worked, but I have a fenced in dog yard and two excitable young dogs. So every day for a week, that Shepard came into the yard and ran and played and chased with my dogs. The payoff, of course, was three tired and supremely happy dogs every night.

And on a few of the days, that same man brought his daughter with him to my house. At first he was hesitant, and promised that she’d only be there for a short time and that she had a backpack full of things to entertain herself. He said that she wouldn’t bother me.

Welp.

That wonderful young lady and I spent the better part of two full days together and it was the best part of my week. We went outside on a nature hunt. We painted. We sketched. She came with me to my violin lesson. We shared music, and played video games and ate lunch together. She was a shining light who brought me so much joy. I taught her how to say “I love you” in Russian and we hugged each other as we said it. She asked her Dad if she could come back to see me soon, and if I could be her babysitter once or twice.

With our arms around each other, we looked at her Dad, my contractor and simultaneously begged him “Please????”

Life if such a funny thing.

I am just about the most opinionated old lady around. I wear my heart and my thoughts on my sleeve. I regularly yell at the TV when the speaker says things that strike me as wrong.

But in my house, in my kitchen, surrounded by kind and loving humans, all of that political stuff falls away, and friendships bloom.

If only we could find a way to spread that into the wider world, huh?

For Orlando and Aurora and Newtown and Littleton …….


 

I wrote this short story three years ago. I posted it then, and I felt better.  So I’m going to post it again tonight. I’m doing it because I was on Facebook and Twitter. And I am disgusted and disheartened by what Americans are saying to each other.

“Ban the Muslims, keep the guns.”   

“My automatic weapon didn’t kill anyone today.”

“What don’t you understand about the 2nd Amendment?”

So. I am so man and so frustrated.  This story is my fantasy. I wish I had the courage to really do it.  If you like the story, pass it on. Maybe we’ll all feel better.

 

“Righteous Anger”

It was Friday afternoon, an hour after the last kid had gotten on the last bus.  I was packing up some weekend work when my best friend, Betsy, popped her head into my classroom.

“Glass of wine before we head home?”, she asked hopefully. Before I knew it, we  were seated at a table at Joe’s, a bowl of popcorn chicken bits in front of us, matching glasses of white wine in our hands.  We started off talking about the week, as usual.  Which kids were having trouble with the math, which kids were way behind in their reading and which parents were driving us nuts.  We sipped and laughed and ignored the calories we were scarfing down in those greasy little blobs of chicken fat.

It was a typical Friday evening.

Then the news came on.  We were sitting across from the bar, and the screen was in full view. We didn’t pay too much attention to the first couple of stories, but suddenly the screen was filled with the smirking face of Warren LaDouche, head of the American Gun Owners Gang.  As usual, he was managing to keep a straight face as he somberly explained all of the reasons why it was necessary to arm public school teachers.  I don’t know how he manages to avoid breaking into gales of maniacal laughter when he says things like, “If every teacher were armed and ready, they would be able to respond to these attackers in a timely manner.”

Betsy grimaced, and took a healthy slug of her wine as LaDouche  went on with fake sincerity, elaborating on his plan to have armed guards standing at recess and loaded guns in every classroom.

“This guy is just sick!”, Betsy hissed, leaning forward across the table so far that she almost landed in the chicken bits.  “I know!”, I hissed back.  “I cannot believe that  NO one out there is calling him out for this crap!”

“Its so obvious that AGOG just wants to sell more and more guns! They don’t give a damn who dies in the process!”

“Everyone knows that they are paid for and supported by the gun manufacturing companies.  But the government just refuses to stand up to them!”

“I can’t believe that people are listening to this crap! They are actually thinking about making us carry guns instead of making the damn things illegal and getting them off the streets!”

We sat there for a while longer, sipping, eating, listening to the bullshit coming from the screen.  The wine ran out just as the news report came to an end. We had lost our happy Friday night mood by then, and we were quiet as we paid the bill and headed out to our cars. I threw my purse onto the seat and turned to give Betsy a hug goodbye.

Uh, oh.  I knew that look.  Betsy was frowning and puffing out her lips in deep thought.  She twirled one lock of greying hair around her finger in what I knew was a sign of concentration.

“Bets,” I began, but she put her fists on her ample hips and launched right in, like she always does.

“What if we do something ourselves?  What if we take some kind of action that just cannot be ignored?  I mean, this is just not right!  I refuse to carry a rifle in my classroom!”

The image of Betsy, armed and dangerous, almost made me laugh, but I knew better.  She was serious, and she was mad.  And she was my best friend.

I sighed, and said, “I don’t know what we could do, hon.  But if you think of something, you know I’m right there with you! I’ve got your back. Have a good weekend.”

By the time I got home and started dinner, I had all but forgotten the press conference and the conversation after it.  My husband came home. We had dinner and talked and then I settled down on the couch with my knitting.

It must have been about 10 pm when my phone suddenly rang.  Everyone who knows me knows that I am usually out cold by 10 pm on a Friday, and I was in fact already under the covers when the call came in.  I would have ignored it, but I always keep my phone close by in case my kids need to reach me.  I picked it up, located my bifocals, and saw Betsy’s name on the screen.  What on earth…..?

“Hey, Betsy!  What’s wrong?”

“I have a plan. Don’t say anything, don’t argue, just listen to me.”

I took a deep breath, settled back on my pillows, and listened to her.

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

And that’s why I found myself on my couch two days later, my laptop open and my credit card in hand.  My heart was hammering away, and I could feel nervous sweat pooling under my arms.  I had gone to several web sites to find the best deals, and now I was ready to order.

“It’s perfectly legal”, I told myself as I got ready to click “Add to cart”.  The fact that what I was about to do was legal was the root of the whole problem.  I sat up straight, gulped, and hit the button.

As promised, my purchase arrived within a week.  I read the little “how to” pamphlet that came with the packages, and called Betsy to see if she had read hers.

“Sarah, this is ridiculously easy!! I can’t wait to try them out.”

“What?!  You can’t try them out!  Betsy, don’t!”

“Oh, I’ll be careful…..”

“Betsy! No! You’re the one who made up the plan! You said we’d wait until the last minute so no one would know!”

She grumbled a little, then gave a sigh.

“OK. Then I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

The next morning, early, I kissed my sleeping husband on the cheek, and grabbed my very heavy bag.  I placed it carefully in the back seat of my car, and headed out to pick up Betsy at her house.  I had told my husband that I would be away for the next few days, the first part of April vacation, relaxing with my dear friend.  I had lied.

After Betsy placed her own very heavy bag in my trunk, we headed onto the highway.  As we headed south, she reached over and squeezed my hand.

“We are doing the right thing, Sara.  Someone has to do this. They haven’t left us any choice.”   I nodded, but kept my eyes on the road in front of me.

We reached our destination without any problems, in just under 5 hours. We parked on the street across from the surprisingly modest house.  We waited.  We ate the last few M&M’s in the bag between us.

“I need to pee.”, I complained.

“Hold on, hold on.  He’ll be here soon, I’m sure.  I called his secretary this morning, remember? I told her we wanted an interview, and she said his last appointment today was at 4.”

“What if he goes out to dinner?”

“Oh, just hold it, will you?  Sheesh. You’re a teacher, for God’s sake. You can hold off for hours.”

Just as I sat back to wait, a big gray car pulled into the driveway.

“It’s him!”  Betsy clutched her chest, breathing hard. “Oh, my God, oh, my God!”

“Calm down!  We have to get over there, quick!”

We piled out of the car, straightening our skirts and pulling down the backs of our sweaters.  As we hustled across the street in our sturdy Dansko clogs, each of had a big “teacher bag” over one shoulder.

We looked like two middle aged elementary school teachers. Because that’s what we were.

We were also two angry old ladies on a mission.

And we were armed.

As we approached his driveway, Warren LaDouche cast a wary glance over his shoulder.  I smiled with every ounce of fake cheer I could muster.

“Oh, my goodness, Betsy, you were right!”, I squealed, “It really IS Warren LaDouche!”  I waved my free hand as I scurried up the long drive.

“Mr. LaDouche!  Oh, my goodness!  Please, can we have your autograph!” That was Betsy, huffing and puffing with excitement as she hurried up behind me.

Just as we had predicted, ole Warren was so full of self-appreciation that he fell for our story right away.  What could be less threatening than a couple of chubby older ladies? He smiled at us, showing yellowing, uneven teeth.

“Can we have your autograph? Please? We’re teachers!  We’ll just be so excited to show your signature to our friends back at school! You’re, like, the hero of the schools!” As we chirped and fluttered around the smiling man, we had maneuvered him closer to his back door, and the car was now between us and the neighbors.  It was nearly dark, and we knew that there was very little chance that anyone would see what was about to happen.

I gave the signal that we had agreed upon. “Let me just grab a pen from my bag!”

Warren still stood there smiling as Betsy and I simultaneously reached into those big canvas bags and pulled out the semiautomatic handguns that we had purchased on line.  Mine felt like it weighed a thousand pounds as I swung it up into the shooting position that I had seen in the pamphlet.  My arm hurt already, and I was pretty sure that I was about to have a heart attack and wet my pants, all at the same time.

“Open the door and walk inside, Warren.”  Betsy sounded slightly less panicked than I felt, but I knew that this was the key moment. If he believed us, we could pull this off.  If he laughed in our faces, it was all for nothing.

The thought of having spent almost $2,000 for nothing sent a jolt through me.  The thought of this man allowing ever more deadly guns to be brought into our schools sent a wave of rage right behind it.

I surprised myself by jabbing the muzzle of the gun right into Warren’s pudgy midsection.

“Open the damn door, Warren.  NOW!”

He was breathing fast, and his beady eyes were scanning the street, but Warren reached for the door.  He inserted a key and took a step.  I kept the gun firm against his waistline.

“You two have no idea what you’re doing.”  I was gratified to hear that Warren’s voice was shaking.

“Oh, you’re wrong, LaDouche.  We followed AGOG’s advice to the letter.  We have our guns, two bags full of ammo magazines and all the time in the world.  You were right! It does make us feel more powerful to have these things in our hands.”

As we had planned, I held the gun on Warren while Betsy checked him for weapons (ew…..).  We were slightly amazed to find that he was carrying a handgun under his jacket!  Yikes!!!  He hadn’t even tried to reach it!  We exchanged a look of terror as Betsy emptied the chamber and put the gun in her bag.  I pushed Warren into a kitchen chair, then Betsy pulled his arms behind his back, and attached him firmly with two pairs of handcuffs (also purchased on line without a problem).

We stood looking at each other, our eyes huge, our mouths hanging open.

I was still flooded with adrenaline, but I was starting to shake.

Betsy dropped into a chair that matched Warren’s, her gun clanking against the table.

I suddenly remembered my earlier problem, and gasped, “Betsy!  Keep the gun on him!  I gotta go!”

Somehow, I managed to find the bathroom and use it without shooting myself.  I washed my face and made my way back to the kitchen.

Warren was sitting quietly, looking steadily at Betsy’s gun.  He looked smaller cuffed to his kitchen chair than he had on TV.

For a moment, I just stood there.  All three of us seemed slightly stunned by the events of the day.  But time was moving on, and I knew that we had a lot to do.  I gave myself a little mental head slap, and turned to Betsy.

“OK, kiddo. Get the iPad out.”  She looked at me blankly for a minute, then smiled.  Betsy loves new technology, in spite of her age, and she was excited about the video we were about to make.

We spent a few minutes arranging the items on Warren’s kitchen table, finding a good spot to prop the iPad so that the sound and visual quality would be as clear as possible.   We sat ourselves at the table, with Warren in view behind us.  We had explained our plan to him, and that’s when he had finally come out of his stupor.

“You stupid bitches!”, he had snarled, “You can’t do this!  No one will believe you.  You can never outmaneuver AGOG!”  We finally had an excuse to do what we had been hoping to do all along.  We were teachers. We had been teaching ten year olds to recognize and appreciate symbolism in literature.

We gagged ole Warren with an ugly green dishtowel. How’s that for a metaphor?

At last we were ready to go.

Betsy started the recorder and I began.

“Hello, my name is Sara Williamson, and this is Betsy Manchester. We are elementary school teachers with the Braxton Public Schools.  We are armed.”  (The camera cut to the two guns, and the huge pile of ammunition clips and magazines beside them.)

“We have just kidnapped Mr. Warren LaDouche, chairman and spokesperson for the American Gun Owners Gang, commonly known as AGOG.”  (Betsy moved the iPad camera to Warren, who by now looked both ridiculous and apoplectic.)

“This…….man…..is trying to convince the American people that we will all be safer if we allow every citizen to own as many weapons as he can carry.  He wants you to believe that by carrying a weapon, you’ll be protecting yourself from so called bad guys.”

I held up the gun and clip that we had taken from Warren in the kitchen.

“Well, he was carrying this when we grabbed him.  We pulled out our guns before he pulled out his, and that was the end of his resistance.

Being armed with a dangerous weapon did not do one single thing to keep Warren here any safer.  As you can see, we took his gun away, and now he’s handcuffed to a chair.  We can shoot him time we want to.”

That last line made me gulp a bit, but I grimly went on.  Betsy was handling the filming, saving each clip and keeping the camera pointed accurately.

“Ladies and gentleman, you can see that Warren LaDouche and his friends at AGOG are full of….” I paused to find a proper word.  After all, I am a teacher of young children.  “Full of horse manure.  They are lying to you.”

“Let’s think about background checks, shall we?  AGOG and its supporters feel that there should be fewer required background checks.  We are here to tell you that even the ones we have now are not anywhere close to sufficient.”

I held my gun up to the camera and said, “No background check can keep you safe if guns like these are out there in public.  We bought ours from a licensed gun dealer online.  We both went through the required background checks.  We passed with flying colors. You see, we have no criminal history and we have never been diagnosed with a major psychiatric illness.”

Now I stood up, gun in hand, and walked over to Warren.  I pointed a shaking finger at him.

“This man wants you to believe that we should bring guns into our classrooms!  He wants you to believe that we can kids keep safe, we can keep our families safe, we can keep our movie theaters and grocery stores and neighborhoods safe as long as there are guns flooding all those places.  As long as we run background checks to look for criminals who intend to do harm.”

I was working up a head of steam now, thinking about the little ones in my classroom, thinking about those babies at Newtown, thinking about Aurora and Columbine and the streets of every city in the nation.  I held up my gun one more time.

“I’m here to tell you, right now, that more guns will NOT keep you safe.  Background checks will NOT keep you safe.  Anyone can get mad enough and desperate enough to use one of those guns for its intended purpose.  Even two aging fifth grade teachers can get angry enough to buy guns and use them to kidnap and threaten someone they hate. We passed the checks, we paid our money, we bought these guns legally.  And we can use them right this minute to blow Warren LaDouche to bits.

Think about that when you consider whether or not we need to ban guns like the ones that my friend and I are holding right now.”

I nodded my head to Betsy, and the camera went off.   I started to cry.  Betsy came over and put her arms around me.  We held each other for a few minutes as we cried.  Our guns lay forgotten on the kitchen floor.

Three hours later, Betsy and I walked into the police station in Warren’s home town.  We had spent the time at a local Starbuck’s, fueling up on lattes and scones.  Betsy had spliced and edited the movie clips into one short film, running for about two minutes in length.  Then we had uploaded it to Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo and Twitter. We had emailed copies to all of the major news outlets, including CNN.  We finished our drinks, ate the last crumbs of our last desserts as free women, and headed out the door.

As we entered the police station, we were recognized almost immediately.  We held our heads up high as the buzz raged around us, and the Captain was summoned.  We remained silent as we handed him our note, giving the location of one angry but unharmed Warren LaDouche and telling him that our guns were unloaded and stored in the trunk of the car. After he had read the note, the Captain scratched his head, told his men to go get the guns and free LaDouche.  Then he escorted us, fairly politely, into his office.

“Weren’t you ladies scared about what you did?  Aren’t you worried about the consequences?”

I gave him a withering look, and smoothed out my wrinkled skirt.

“Captain, we teach fifth grade.  Nothing scares us.”

History and Morality


This has been a very stressful time for political junkies like me. My conservative friends have been aghast watching the Republican Party devolve into civil war. They have found themselves facing the awful thought they’ll need to either vote for Donald Trump or defect from the party.

And they can’t stand the thought of voting for Hillary.

And my progressive liberal friends have been disheartened to see Bernie Sanders come So. Close. and yet fail (in the absence of a miracle) to get the nomination. Now we are faced with the same distasteful choice. Vote for Hillary or defect from the party.

In my world, this has lead to a lot of arguing and quite a bit of bitterness.

“If you don’t vote for Hillary, you are voting for Trump!”

“If you vote third party, you are wasting your vote!”

And on and on. I get it. I do. I profoundly fear living in a country lead by an egomaniacal, power hungry, delusional tyrant.

But after a LOT of thinking, soul searching and historical research, I am convinced that I just cannot vote for either candidate. I want to try to explain why.

First of all, I do not believe in a two party system. The Constitution does not mention political parties at all. In fact, George Washington said this in his final address as President:

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

So political parties could allow greedy, power hungry people to take over the democratic process and use it for their own power?  Huh.

And John Adams said this in 1789:

“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”

I humbly agree. Two parties in opposition to each other means total gridlock, constant swings back and forth, no compromise. Which describes our government perfectly.

But of course, the U.S. doesn’t really limit itself to two parties. There is a Libertarian running for President. There is a Green Party candidate running.

So why aren’t they in the news? Why haven’t you seen Gov. Gary Johnson on CNN? Why hasn’t Dr. Jill Stein been on Meet the Press?

And why haven’t they been at even one televised debate?

Here is my second reason for not voting either D or R.  These smart, capable, sane candidates are not being heard because the two parties are owned and operated by Big Money. And Big Money wants to keep its Big Profits.

There is an election debate commission that is dominated by Democrat and Republican leaders. THEY decide who gets on the debate stage.

And here is my third reason. The media and the two parties are completely enmeshed and intertwined. You can find stories about huge media company donations to Clinton on conservative sites and you can find the same about donations to the GOP on liberal sites.

I went to the site “OpenSecrets,” which I highly recommend. It exposes the donations made to all candidates by all donors. There are a whole bunch of articles about the ties between media and the two big parties.

So here I am. Faced with pressure from the left to vote for the Democrat. Faced with the fact that I truly fear a Trump Presidency.

But also faced with the fact that as long as I continue to play the game with the two corrupt parties, I am part of the corruption. As long as I refuse to stand up and say “Enough!” and cast my vote for the person I believe will be best for the country, I am part of the problem.

I wish that the millions of people who plan to “hold their nose” and vote R or D would join me in choosing a third option.

We do NOT have to be stuck in this corrupt system. But we have to work together to take the process back.

John Adams would thank us.

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Why I Feel That Bern


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Sometimes I think about an old Chinese saying that I read about a long time ago. The first time I saw it, it was called a blessing.  The second time it was referred to as a curse.

The saying is this one: “May you live in interesting times.”

Yup. So you can see, can’t you, how it could be both a blessing and a curse?

I think that the current presidential campaign season sums up this idea very well.  We certainly do live in interesting times, don’t we?

I don’t want to go into all of the horrors and threats that are coming to us from the right. Nukes in Europe, women in jail for abortion, war with China…..you get the idea.

I just want to talk about how excited and impassioned I feel about one candidate.

I feel the Bern.

But you know what? I am a Bernie supporter because of Bernie, not because of Trump, or Cruz, or even because of Hillary.

I am a Bernie supporter for a whole bunch of reasons that I think the people in power are failing to recognize. And I am having  So. Much. Fun.

Last night I went to a gathering of Bernie folks.  I listen to mainstream media, so I expected to find a house full of hipsters and hippies. I thought I’d be the oldest person in the room.  But I was really, really wrong. Out of 18 people at the meeting, only 2 were under 30.  5 of us were retired. 10 were gray haired.

Hey, CNN? You are SO WRONG about our age!

I though that most of the people there would be in the lower middle class, worried about their own financial situations.  Ha. No.  There were three lawyers, a couple of small business owners and a few other professionals.  No one was there looking for “free stuff”.

Hey, NBC, CBS, ABC? You do NOT GET who we are!

We talked about why we were there.  About why we support this cranky old man and his crazy quixotic campaign. And we all shared certain thoughts. We are all tired of believing in a perfectly balanced two party system. We are all wondering why this country can’t seem to have an open and honest debate about anything important. We wonder why we are unable to provide healthcare coverage for our sickest citizens. We don’t understand why no matter how hard we work, our kids can’t get through college without giant mountains of debt. We wonder why more and more of the nation’s wealth is going right into the pockets of the big corporations. We are pretty pissed off about what happened in 2008, when so many of us lost our life savings, but the people who gambled it away walked off with millions.

We are not Democrats.  We don’t believe in that whole party loyalty thing. We don’t feel beholden to Debbie Wasserman Schultz. We don’t think that we should hold our noses and vote for the lesser of two evils.

Many of us talked about how empowered we felt when we first heard Bernie asking, “Why can’t we provide maternity leave to our new mothers? Why can’t we take care of our elderly? Why can’t this country manage to educate its brightest young people?”  We agreed that we had all been asking ourselves the same damn questions, but hand’t thought that anyone was listening.

We talked about how stifled we’ve felt over the past decade, at least, as the word “liberal” became a pejorative term. We shared out stories of feeling diminished, demeaned, ignored as progressive thinkers.

And we talked about our true and deep belief in Bernie’s kind of populist revolution. We shared stories of frustration, anger, passion, hope.

So this is why I am hosting a phone bank for Bernie Sanders. This is why I have canvassed for him. Why I wear a T Shirt with his name on it when I go out in public.

I don’t give a rat’s ass about the Democratic party. I don’t care about the people in power now.  I don’t feel represented or recognized or heard.

I used to teach history to fifth graders. Sometimes I think of the words of Thomas Jefferson:

“I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.”

Call me naiive. Call me foolish. Call me an aging hippy with no sense of reality.  For the first time since Jimmy Carter came on the scene, I feel inspired by a political candidate.

I am not a millennial. I am not a Communist. I am not looking for “free stuff”.

I am a middle aged, retired professional. I believe in my country. I believe in peace. I believe that it is the purpose of government to protect and preserve the health, safety and prosperity of the people.

I believe in Bernie Sanders.  I will support him all the way to the Democratic Convention, and if necessary, beyond.

Do the Right Thing


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“Do the Right Thing”.  I always thought it would be so easy.  Just do what’s right.

Easy!

Except that life doesn’t seem to work that way.

Take the situation with Mr. Trump and the protesters at his rallies.  On one hand, I strongly believe in the first amendment to our constitution. You know, that “Freedom of Speech” thing.  I believe that the hallmark of a healthy, basically democratic nation is that everyone has a right to speak his mind.

I like to believe that as a “card carrying member of the ACLU”, I would grant everyone that right.  I believe that the KKK has every right to assemble and to speak out.  And of course, I believe that right minded people have every right to assemble in protest against the KKK.

I was very upset when the Occupy Wall Street camps were shut down and when protesters were kept away from the sidewalks in front of the banks and hedge fund offices.  “Free Speech!”, I said.

So far, so good.  “Do the Right Thing”.  Let everyone speak his mind.

But then there is the old adage, “Your right to free speech ends at the tip of my nose.”  Meaning, I guess, that you can speak up as long as you aren’t harming anyone with your speech or your actions.

And we have to remember that we are not allowed to say just anything we want.  We can’t, they tell us, yell “Fire” in a crowded theater. That would be dangerous.

OK.

So what am I to think about the events at those Trump rallies?

First point: Trump and his minions have every right to speak their minds. They have the right to assemble.

But don’t those who oppose him also have the right to assemble in that place, to speak up against him?

Well, yes, of course they do!

Trump’s right to free speech, it seems to me, ends when he tells his people to physically hurt those who speak against him. “Beat the crap outta them. I’ll pay your legal bills.” That’s the “tip of my nose”phenomenon.

So his speech, when it is violent, SHOULD be shut down.  The “Right Thing” would be to protest and assemble and to shut him down.  Right?

But if those who protest against Trump’s hate speech yell threats, or carry out those threats, or throw punches, then they have give up their right to free speech in that place.

Right?

So. What is the “Right Thing”?

It isn’t as easy as it seems, is it?

Why Trump Makes Me Happy


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If you have been following this blog at all in the past 9 months, you will know that when I retired last June, it was with a great deal of sadness and a fair amount of regret.

I loved teaching. I loved spending my days with children, helping them to grow and to think and to learn about themselves.  As I moved into the fall with no classroom full of children around me, I found myself somewhat adrift.

But then Donald Trump happened and I was able to view my new life, sans classroom, with more relief than regret.

And here’s why.

Because this country has focused so intently in the past few years on ending the epidemic of bullying in our schools, that’s why.

And if I was still teaching, I would have to find a way to explain to my group of tender young children why it is suddenly acceptable and even admirable for an adult to be a bully, while they are expected to show more restraint, kindness and humanity.

If I was still taking care of 25 ten year old children, I would have to answer questions about why so many Americans choose to elect a man who publicly curses as he talks about his plans to kill others. (“I’d bomb the shit out of them.”)  I would have to somehow find a way to explain, if not excuse, the adoration that so many adults in our country are showing to a man who announces his desire to “punch that protestor in the face”.  I would have to find a way to explain lies, name calling, insults, racism, sexism……

I don’t know what I would do.  I don’t how I would respond.

So for the first time since my sudden decision to retire, I am truly relieved NOT to be in a classroom any longer.

I was listening to my XM radio tonight as I drove through the rain to go grocery shopping. I was listening to the POTUS radio station, which features “Politics of the United States for the People of the United States.”  The show that was on was called “Steele and Ungar”, and its usually one that I truly enjoy.  It features a man who once served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee (Michael Steele) and man who came through Hollywood and entered the world of progressive political talk (Rick Ungar). I love the show because the two men clearly enjoy each other’s company and respect and understand each other as they debate the day’s politics through their very different viewpoints.

Tonight the topic of the Donald was the featured discussion on the show.  Michael Steele, while not a supporter of Trump, kept repeating that he knows the man personally, and doesn’t think that he will be as terrifying or as inept as so many of seem to fear.  Rick Ungar, on the other hand, repeatedly stated his own discomfort with the idea of Trump as President.  Here was his main concern: he stated his firm belief that no matter whether or not Americans agree with their President, they must respect him/her out of respect for the office. “But what do I tell my Grandchildren if Trump becomes President?”, he asked. “What do I tell them when the most powerful man in the world says things that I tell them they must never say?  What do I tell them when he behaves in ways that I tell them are wrong?”

I understand Mr. Ungar’s discomfort and confusion.  I don’t know what I would tell my students if I had to try to explain all this to them.  But I do know this:

I would NOT tell my children that they need to respect the person who holds the office of President.  I would do my best to make it clear that differences of opinion are not enough to warrant a lack of respect.  But I would make it very clear to them, as I did so often when I was raising my own children and teaching the children of other parents, that respect must be earned.

Respect. Must. Be. Earned.

We do not merit respect because of our wealth, or our position of power, or our fame or our ability to out shout or out insult those around us.  We earn respect by showing ourselves to be thoughtful, kind, caring and respectful of others.

If Mr. Trump is elected, I will not respect him.  I don’t respect bullies.   I won’t respect them.

I would never ever ever ask children to respect someone who fails to behave as well as they do.

Sorry, Rick Ungar.  But Respect. Must. Be. Earned.

 

The Roots of the Revolution


I might be biased. I understand that.    First of all, I once joined the Communist Party at my urban college.  I later came to understand the weaknesses in the communist utopian idea, but I didn’t swing too far to the right.

I have voted Socialist in several local and national elections. I have voted Green Party.  I am a card carrying member of the ACLU.

Yes.

I am a lefty.   A wicked far to the left Lefty.

But that’s not why I am writing tonight.

I am writing tonight because I keep hearing the word “income inequality” as I listen to BOTH parties in this Presidential election.   I have heard many references to the 99% and to the 1%.

I have heard candidates of both parties speaking with passion about universal health care and reducing student debt and limiting the influence of the corporate elite.

And all I can think of when I hear these things is this:

“Wow. Occupy Wall Street really made a difference.”

And, once again, I am biased.

Because, look:

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Yep. That’s my son in the background.

Occupy Wall Street October 1st

Yep. That’s my daughter.

And there was another kid who got arrested with Occupy that night on the Brooklyn Bridge.  He just managed not to make it into the New York Times.

Still.

Anyone who has followed any part of the Occupy Movement must recognize the themes and the slogans that have been adopted by the Presidential candidates.

I am in equal parts amused and annoyed when I hear the candidates talking about the dangers of income inequality and the need to make higher education more affordable.

I mean, really?

I am amused and excited when I hear these ideas being touted by everyone from Bernie Sanders (a real live lefty who talked about these things way before Occupy happened), to Marco Rubio, who honestly sounded like he wasn’t sure of what he was saying.

I am excited when I realize that maybe for the first time in my life the idea of a corporate oligarchy is carrying some weight in a national election.

And I am hugely, enormously proud when I realize that my three children, as well as my son-in-law, were involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement.  I know that without even casting a vote, these four young people have had a huge impact on this Presidential election.

This activist, lefty Mom is very very proud.

And very very hopeful.   Maybe something will finally change in this country.  Maybe we will finally begin to realize that this is in fact supposed to be “government by the people, for the people”.   You never know.

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And one more note about Occupy Wall Street.  My daughter met her future husband when they got arrested together on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Now that’s romance.