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Category — Politics

Sisterhood is powerful

Sisterhood is Powerful, the book, was the first comprehensive collection of writings from second-wave feminism. Cited by the New York Public Library as “one of the 100 most influential books of the 20th century,” it was edited by Robin Morgan, one of the founders of what was then called the Women’s Liberation Movement. She continues to be an international voice for women’s empowerment, a forever kickass feminist, an in-it-for-the-long haul force of nature.

I’m referencing her today because of her recent long, impassioned, full-of-empowering facts blog about the mid-term election “Blue Wave” and how women surfed it.

For those of us who bit our nails to the quick last Tuesday night, hoping for a tidal wave that would submerge (okay, drown) those who currently have a stranglehold on our country, there were some disappointments. We wanted the Senate AND the House. We wanted Claire McCaskill. We wanted Heidi Heitkamp. Stacy Abrams. But we barely had time to consider what we had won before the hate-mongerer in the White House did his usual “no, look over here” trick of waylaying the media and our attention.

Robin’s blog reminds us to revel in the victories of the 2018 midterm, especially as they relate to women. (Here are other reports about this historic moment.)

Consider that 256 women were candidates for the U.S. House or the U.S. Senate in the general election—a record-breaking number–and as of Nov. 13, 114 were victorious. That includes the Arizona Senate race, in which U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema was declared the winner on Monday. The 116th Congress will see the largest class of female lawmakers ever. (And the number may grow as several House races have still not been called.)

And the women elected are a diverse group. There are two Muslim women, two native Americans, and two Latinas. In all, Robin reports that 42 women of color were elected, and “at least” three lesbians. There are new female members from the red states of Kansas, Iowa, Florida, Texas, Georgia and Oklahoma.

Wow. Just wow.

Also, Robin reminds us that a record number of women ran for state legislatures–3,388 —and according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, more women will serve in state legislatures come January than at any point in American history.

Sisterhood is indeed powerful.


November 14, 2018   No Comments


I know.

Oregon—that’s us on your upper left, you know, above California—is of no great electoral import. In a presidential year, if we go blue (and we go blue), no one cares. Seven measly votes.

We have five members in the House of Representatives, four people who care about the welfare of the state’s citizens and one who voted to take away health care. All five, all incumbents (four Democrats, one Republican) won reelection. So did our Democratic governor, Kate Brown.

I am so very proud to be an Oregonian this post-election day. And it’s not only because of the election results I mention above. It’s because of how my fellow citizens voted on several of the initiatives on the ballot. These victories or defeats speak to our values, our principles and our character. I’m going to mention two. But first, to brag some more about Oregon: We are the originators of the Initiative and Referendum (a Progressive Era reform). You’re welcome.

Oregonians defeated an initiative to take away state funding for abortions. If passed, it would have meant that reproductive freedom and choice would be reserved for those who could afford it.

Oregonians defeated a specious initiative that would have created a constitutional amendment to ban the taxing of groceries. We don’t tax groceries. We do not have a sales tax. But still…sounds good, right? With the amendment our groceries can never be taxed! Vote yes!

But Oregonians were savvy enough to see through this sugary-drink-company funded initiative. Soda is considered a “grocery.” There is a national move to tax soda. It has no nutritional value and is implicated in a myriad of health problems (not to mention dental issues). If this innocent-sounding, protect-us-from-being-taxed on broccoli-and-bread initiative had passed, there could never be a (well deserved) “sin” tax on soda.

Our state motto: Alis volat propriis which translates as “She flies with her own wings.”

And she does.

November 7, 2018   1 Comment

Immigrants All

“We are come to rest and push our roots more deeply by the year.
But we cannot push away the heritage
of having been once all strangers in the land;
we cannot forget the experience of having been all rootless, adrift.
Building our own nests now in our tiredness of the transient,
we will not deny our past as a people in motion
and will find still a place in our lives for the values of flight.

This is from historian Oscar Handlin’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Uprooted, a deeply researched and deeply felt book that chronicles “the great migration that made the American People,” Handlin was born in Brooklyn to Russian immigrant parents, went to Brooklyn College and then Harvard, where he became a professor.

At this moment of purposeful ignorance about our history as a country of immigrants, at this moment of fear of the other, it is important to remember that, once, we were all “The Other.”

Between 1880 and 1920, 23 million immigrants arrived in the US. They were fleeing crop failures and famine, political and religious persecution, war. Between 1525 and 1866, 12.5 million Africans were stolen from their homes and shipped to the New World. We were once all strangers in this land.

After World War II, the European refugee crisis was all consuming. This is how President Truman responded: “I urge the Congress to turn its attention to this world problem in an effort to find ways whereby we can fulfill our responsibilities to these thousands of homeless and suffering refugees of all faiths.”

The photo is of my paternal grandparents, European refugees who came through Ellis Island in the early years of the 20th century.

October 31, 2018   3 Comments

Power and Powerlessness

The way a person takes power is not just by grabbing power. It is by disempowering others.

And the way that person disempowers others is by telling them that they cannot trust anyone, that they should be afraid of everyone.

Don’t trust journalists to report the facts.

Don’t trust scientists or their research.

Don’t trust teachers.

Don’t trust people whose skin is browner than yours.

Don’t trust women who love women, or men who love men, or humans who are both or neither or something else entirely.

Don’t trust the electoral system. Don’t trust democracy.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

This is the path to fascism. And we WILL NOT walk this path. We will be intelligently, healthily skeptical. We will embrace nuance. We will talk to each other. We will be citizens and neighbors.

We will vigorously exercise the power we have: the power of love and inclusion, the power to act ethically and empathetically, the power to care.

And the power to vote. Do it. Now. Cast your vote against fear.

October 24, 2018   No Comments

Route 20 Report #7

It’s been one month since we returned from our Route 20 cross-country “rediscover America” trip that took us Pacific to Atlantic on the only remaining unbroken non-freeway road that traverses the country. I’m still sorting through what I learned. I thought there would be an ah-ha moment as we explored the 3000-plus miles between the coasts. I was looking for insights into how we, post 2016, find ourselves in a country so deeply divided, so unsettlingly, unremittingly nasty, so angry and hateful to each other and to the rest of the world. I thought I’d find answers on this journey through the heartland.

What I found was prosaic, not revelatory, Or maybe, because it was prosaic, it was revelatory: People value their families. People love their communities. People work hard. People trust more than they fear. People respond to kindness with kindness. People generally like to be left alone to live their lives.

The divisions I was looking for, the divisions I thought I knew all about after two years of staring at Red State/ Blue State maps, after reading endless post-electoral musings about The Coasts v The Interior, were not the divisions I found.

What I found, instead, were overarching commonalities that have been obscured by hate-mongering from on high. What I found were friendly people. What I found was more diversity, more tolerance than I ever imagined. I am thinking about the gay Latino baker who sold pastries in an alcove of a Grange hall as he chatted with VFW guys in camo hats. That should be the image we see. Meme that.

This morning I awoke – and I mean that both literally and in the vernacular — to read David Brooks’ op-ed, in the New York Times based on this eye-opening recent report about who we really are, Hidden Tribes. The deep, searing divide that I thought of as Our Country is really just at the edges and represents less than 15 percent of us. It is the divide between the “progressive activists” and the “devoted conservatives.” It is, as Brooks’ calls it, “The Rich White Civil War.”

Here’s a bit of what the report reveals: 90 percent of devoted conservatives think immigration is bad; 99 percent of progressive activists think it is good. Ninety-one percent of progressive activists say sexual harassment is common; 12 percent of devoted conservatives agree. Seventy-six percent of devoted conservatives think Islam is more violent than other religions; 3 percent of progressive activists agree. And so on. Meanwhile 86 percent, what the report calls the “exhausted majority,” are not nearly as divided. In fact, they are mostly busy living their lives and making ends meet and taking care of their families. These are the people I encountered on Route 20.

(Me? As a “progressive activist,” I am part of that 15 percent. I went looking for deep divisions. I should have just looked in the mirror.)

October 17, 2018   3 Comments

Let’s do what’s hard

How do I stay (relatively) sane these days? Almost every night, I temper my temper, I calm my nerves, I lower my blood pressure, I (temporarily) blot out the previous 24 hours of egregious, sociopathic tweets that comprise US public policy these days by…watching The West Wing.

Yes, my days end with one episode of the political drama that ran for seven seasons, from 1999 through 2006, on NBC. And yes, I know no one except actors speaking crafted dialog are as clever and quick-witted as those West Wing characters. And yes I know Aaron Sorkin did not know how to write women. (Quelle surprise!) And yes I know the incessant walk-‘n’-talks can get old. And yes I know Jed Bartlet is an inveterate mansplainer.


Just for a minute, join me in a world inhabited by a smart, compassionate, decent, literate president who sees himself as a public servant. Who surrounds himself with other smart people whom he treats with respect. Imagine a leader who listens carefully. Who agonizes over doing the right thing, the ethical thing, the good-for-the-people thing. Who knows he makes mistakes and takes responsibility for them.

Just for a minute imagine the staff this president has chosen to support—and challenge–him: talented, bold, hard-working, ethical people who respect each other, people who research every issue, who strive to understand the nuances, who strive to create policies that do good, who agonize over doing the right thing.

A tonic, my friends. A tonic.

Last night, I watched season 4, episode 2 which ended with a scene of three exhausted staffers walking back to the White House hours after midnight. They are talking about Jed Bartlet’s bid for a second term. This is Toby Ziegler, White House Communications Director:

“If we choose someone with vision, someone with guts, someone with gravitas who’s connected to other people’s lives and cares about making them better, if we choose someone to inspire us, then we’ll be able to face what comes our way and achieve things we can’t imagine yet. Instead of telling people who’s the most qualified, instead of telling people who’s got the better ideas, let’s make it obvious. It’s gonna be hard.”

Josh Lyman, White House Deputy Chief of Staff answers, not missing a beat: “Then we’ll do what’s hard.”

Let’s do what’s hard, my friends.

August 1, 2018   No Comments

Concept Creep

Is everything completely terrible – or is the world actually getting better? I just read an interesting take on this in The Guardian.

I know what you’re thinking. I’m thinking the same thing: How can this even be a question? Of course everything is completely terrible. Here in the US of A things have gone to shit in a big way. Every day brings new horrors, new rips in the social fabric, new threats to the values so many of us hold dear. Every day there is new evidence of the brutishness and stupidity of the man in the White House, and the cowardice and hypocrisy of the people who surround him. Every day there are new harms being done (or planned, or threatened, or tweeted). So what in the world is The Guardian, a thoughtful and intelligent newspaper, talking about?

Here’s how New York-based Guardian writer Oliver Burkeman poses the question: Are things getting worse or does it just feel that way? The article is not about the shit show that is contemporary America but rather about our broader perceptions about the world in which we live. Are we safer or less safe? Healthier or sicker? On one hand, the statistics show that, globally, poverty, hunger, violence and disease are actually decreasing. On the other hand, it sure the hell doesn’t seem like that.

Maybe, posits the article, we are suffering from what’s known as “concept creep.”  An Australian professor of psychology argues that concepts like abuse, bullying, trauma, mental disorder, addiction and prejudice “now encompass a much broader range of phenomena than before.” Thus, the argument goes, we think more is wrong not necessarily because more is wrong but because we’ve expanded the definition of “wrong.”

Now it’s common to call a behavior like excessive shopping an “addiction,” or consider transient, situational unhappiness “depression.”  This is not to say that new problems or concerns are fake or are overreactions. That’s not the point of the article or the research on “concept creep.” It is to say that our universe of what to worry about seems to be constantly expanding because our definitions expand. Which does not mean that the world is getting scarier and more brutish. It just means, as one researcher put it: “When problems become rare, we count more things as problems.”

Or, maybe it means we are getting increasingly sensitive in a good way to what we used to ignore or sweep under the rug? I’m not sure. Is this indecisivenessness of mine a problem? IDS (Indecisive Disorder Syndrome)?

July 25, 2018   No Comments

Declaring independence

You say you want a revolution?

Yes, said the colonists when on July 4, 1776, they declared their independence from England. In that same document, which we celebrate today and very few of us have read, the colonists listed 27 complaints against King George III, whom they viewed as a tyrannical leader. To wit: “He has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our town and destroyed the lives of our people.”

Among the 27 complaints, this one that I thought was particularly relevant (and chilling):

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws of Naturalization for Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

Apparently, the King heard reports from his colonial agents about the great influx and rapid growth of German immigrants. The Germans had strong principles of political freedom and their military was very respected. The King tried to prevent them from gaining any positions of power in the colonies by placing barriers to prevent immigrants from owning land.

You see where I’m going with this, right?

Our current president declares us not the nation of immigrants we are –and so many of us are proud of — but rather a country of walls and fences (literal and otherwise), of deportations and separations, of quotas and bans. Of fear.

As King George cited anonymous reports from his agents, so our president cited “public reports” that “routinely state great amounts of crime are being committed by illegal immigrants.”

As King George passed laws targeted against German immigrants, creating barriers to their success in the colonies, so our president finally, with the aid of the Supreme Court muscled through a proclamation (shot down twice by lower courts) that restricts entry into the US from (now) 7 countries. Our president continuously calls for a wall to be constructed across our southern border (a border created when we fought a war with Mexico and took their land). Across that border come bad people, criminals and rapists, he says. Also, our new America under this president doesn’t want people from shithole (his words) countries like Haiti, El Salvador and certain African nations.

We cannot let the daily assaults to civility, factuality, common sense, compassion and sanity dull  us to the monstrous activities and hostile actions of this administration and particularly our “king.”

We need a Declaration of Independence. Now. Help write it by contributing in the comments section ONE (yes, only one) grievance. The colonists had a list of 27. How long will our list be?

N.B: King George was determined to “keep the rebels harassed, anxious, and poor, until the day when, by a natural and inevitable process, discontent and disappointment were converted into penitence and remorse.”





July 4, 2018   2 Comments

Stand your ground

Well, I won’t back down
No, I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down

No, I’ll stand my ground
Won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground
And I won’t back down

I am discovering, in this stony-hearted, toxic, blatantly cruel and aggressively harmful country we find ourselves living in these days, that “standing my ground” means more than I thought. I thought the only way to stand your ground was to take action: Make those calls and write those letters and send in those donations. Keep telling those untold stories. Keep volunteering at Food for Lane County and the Oregon State Penitentiary. Stand up for what you believe and cherish by taking overt action.

But there’s an emotional/ psychological—dare I say it? spiritual—component to this standing your ground process that I wasn’t paying attention to, that I was, in fact, dismissing. I thought that anything other than activism harkened back to Me Decade horseshit. You know “visualize world peace” rather than, say, work in the trenches for world peace.

But, after a few days in the presence of a group of compassionate, tender, open-hearted and seriously (and playfully) spiritual people, I am reminded of how important it is to gather energy and act with grace, to nourish your own soul, especially in a time of darkness, to create positive forces within that can help you withstand the negative forces without, to surround yourself with those who care lest you forget that the world is actually full of those who care.

And so standing your ground for me now means more than just upholding and working for the egalitarian, democratic, communitarian beliefs I hold dear. It means keeping myself buoyant, finding a place of peace and energy and, well, groundedness within so that I do not lose hope in our essential goodness. So that I am able to act from a place of hope not rage.

June 27, 2018   7 Comments

Life in the no-Trump zone

Here’s the weird thing. Whenever I’m way from Oregon, even for just a few days, even if I’m just up in Seattle, I get heart-sick. I don’t mean that metaphorically. I mean I really get sick. I get a pain in my chest and a lump in my throat. It’s a love-ache, like when you pine for somebody who’s not there.

But on the other hand, whenever I’m away from the United States, as I have been for the past week and a half, I feel joy and a lightness of being. I am exhilarated. And I am desperate to stay away, to distance myself from the madness, to make someplace else my home. A few days ago, strolling down a several-mile lane that cuts through the leafy length of The Prater (an extraordinary park in the heart of Vienna), breathing the sweet spring air, humming off-key, it suddenly occurred to me that I was not bludgeoning myself with thoughts about the sociopath in the White House and his lily-livered and unprincipled henchmen/women, or agonizing over school shootings, cop shootings, the NRA, or which new cowardly piece of shit had been called out for his cowardly piece of shit aggression toward a woman or, more likely, multiple women. You know, the new normal back in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

It wasn’t that I was ignorant of the goings-on state-side. I wasn’t on a news fast. The New York Times is delivered to my phone every morning, and I read it. I knew. But I had apparently entered into some meditative state where I acknowledged the information but achieved detachment from it. That’s what being 9 time zones away will do. That’s what being in a country with national health care and virtually free higher education and thirty paid days of vacation every year will do. That’s what being in a country with an incarceration rate ten percent of ours will do. What being in a country with a 98 percent literacy rate where the average amount of time spent READING A NEWSPAPER is 57 minutes will do. This alternate reality has Zenned me out.

And so, I will forgive this country its fat, white, soggy, cheese sauce-smothered asparagus and its Pay to Pee (few and far between) toilets. I will even forgive it for coining
Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft, a single, 79-letter word that means Association for subordinate officials of the head office management of the Danube steamboat electrical services. Because this a no-Trump zone. Almost. This morning’s der Standard had a (small) front-page story (no photo!) about our fine and thoughtful president and the Iran nuclear deal. It also included the photo that illustrates today’s blog, featuring two sane, well-spoken world leaders who appear to actually like each other. What a concept.

If it were not for Oregon, my Oregon, I would never return.

May 9, 2018   No Comments