DO SOMETHING

According to Social Progress Index, a global report card, out of 163 countries evaluated, the United States, Brazil and Hungary are the only ones in which people are worse off than they were in 2011. You can read the details in this opinion piece by Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times, but one of the factoids that stood out to me: “The United States, despite its immense wealth, military power and cultural influence, ranks 28th — having slipped from 19th in 2011. The index now puts the United States behind significantly poorer countries, including Estonia, Czech Republic, Cyprus and Greece.”

My guess is that no one living through 2020 would argue this point. And although today marks the 19th anniversary of a terrible day in our history, with great loss and human suffering, it’s sobering to realize that 9-11 took approximately 3,000 lives (though the toll continues to rise – particularly amongst first responders who have subsequently contracted all manner of illness and disease including cancer), while nearly 200,000 have died of Covid-19 in our country since March…and counting.

It goes without saying that these are tough times. Many people are suffering whether it’s from job loss and financial strain, concern for elderly parents who are isolated, the struggle to help children learn from home while trying to work, or even worse, the illness or loss of a loved one.

My family is not immune and we have experienced several of the above. But we are among the lucky ones. We have the kind of jobs that have allowed us to work from home. We’re fortunate to have a house with a big backyard and a neighborhood where we can walk. We have the means to order groceries online and our children are grown and no longer in school, so the plight of today’s working parents is no longer one we share.

I know there are many in my neighborhood and in neighborhoods around the country that are the same. And I know that many who live in these neighborhoods are also grateful for what they have and for their comfortable situation, despite the circumstances.

But that’s why those of us who are fortunate enough to be healthy, have jobs or the financial means to sustain us during this time, and to be in positions of relative comfort need to DO SOMETHING. And I’m not simply talking about opening our pocketbooks, though that’s certainly one way to help.

During these unprecedented times, we have an equally unprecedented void in leadership that has exacerbated, rather than helped our country. Not only did the federal government play down and ignore, then mismanage the pandemic response, they’ve added fuel to the fire by failing to continue providing financial and economic relief to those who need it most, by ignoring the threat of interference in our election by foreign adversaries, while at the same time, sowing the seeds of doubt when it comes to mail-in voting and tampering with our US Postal Service – not only hurting our ability to safely vote by mail, but interrupting the delivery of important medications, necessary checks, and other important documents to our citizens. They’ve egged on violence in the largely peaceful protests for racial justice that have taken place – going so far as to actually defend a cold-blooded murderer who stormed into a town in which he didn’t belong with an AR-15 and the purpose of gunning down those exercising their constitutional right to protest. They’ve ignored intelligence that shows Russia placed bounties on our soliders’ heads –failing to even raise the issue with Vladimir Putin, and Trump himself, has said terrible things about our military (anyone who heard with their own ears and saw with their own eyes how he treated the late Senator John McCain knows this to be true). And there’s so much more that I could fill a notebook with the criminality, the cruelty, and the rollbacks of important legislation, like EPA and climate-related laws…just ask anyone inhaling the smoke in California, Oregon or Washington, or towns recovering from flooding and hurricanes how that’s working out for them, especially during this pandemic.

Yes, there are those who still support this President and his administration. I will never, if I live to be a million years old, understand it. But most of you, my fellow Americans, are sane and compassionate and want change as much as I do. So my question for you is this, and I mean it with respect and with the knowledge that I, too, can do more:

What have you done and what are you doing to help?

It’s not dramatic to say that saving our country is what’s at stake. Trump’s proclivity for dictators, his questioning of mail-in ballots, and his belief that he and his administration are above the law and not responsible, for the mess in which the country finds itself, are all huge, blinking red flags. “It is what it is,” he famously said about the deaths of hundreds of thousands of our citizens.

So what will you DO?

You may say you’ve given money – and that’s great. But typing in your credit card information on a website takes five minutes and while it’s generous and needed, this is not going to be enough to defeat Trump and save our democracy. I know you will vote. And that’s important. But we have to DO MORE.

I belong to my local Democratic Club and am involved with an organization called Swing Left that is trying hard to both flip the Senate and the Presidency so we can hold this administration accountable for the unprecedented damage done to our country. And through these organizations, I’ve seen many dedicated folks who are working hard for change. But equally, I’ve been rather stunned to see apathy in many corners of my world. “I’m not an activist”, some say. “I don’t have time.” Maybe those of us who live in comfort think it won’t affect us, but even if you’re fortunate enough to have a job or financial security, to have a roof over your head, a well-stocked fridge and a nice backyard, you have already been affected by this pandemic, the economic and social fallout. Maybe you already feel defeated as I sometimes have, watching the Republican party destroy any principles it once claimed, forgoing a party platform and declaring its allegiance only to Trump. Maybe you’re just worried about the sanctity of the election and that your vote won’t count.

But we can’t give up. Each of us has to do more. Now. Today. We can’t resign ourselves to live with this for four more years. We can’t allow this country’s values to be cast aside in favor of allegiance to a narcissist who cares only about enriching himself and his family, who is destroying our democratic way of life right in plain view, in front of us, no matter how many times he tries to say the news is fake and you shouldn’t trust your own eyes, ears and ability to think critically.

So here is my plea to all of you. DO SOMETHING. And then do something more. Write letters and postcards. Make phone calls and send texts. Join a local or national organization that is getting out the vote or ensuring that voters in poor communities can’t be disenfranchised. Write an op-ed and send it to your local paper. Call your family and friends to make sure they have a solid plan to vote – especially if they feel compelled to go to a polling station. Volunteer to be a poll worker, or if you’re older or higher risk, get your kids to volunteer (it’s a PAID volunteer position). Protest (peacefully and safely). And if you’re not a Democrat, that’s ok – you just need to be an American and a patriot who believes that no one is above the law and the constitution means something. You can join Republicans for Biden. Or support The Lincoln Project.

We can all DO SOMETHING. We can all do more. We have less than 8 weeks until the most important election of our lives and our children’s lives. 8 weeks until we know if we’ve done enough to save our country. 8 weeks for you to step up and feel like you tried, you made an effort, you recognized that living your comfortable life isn’t enough anymore and that we all have to be activists if we want change. As Ghandi, said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” 

DO SOMETHING.

It’s Not Just Politics 2: Good People Don’t Continue to Support Bad People

UnknownIn 2016, right after the presidential election, I wrote a blog called “It’s not just politics”. I was dumbfounded, shocked, and utterly despondent that our country could elect such a terrible human being to the highest office of our land. I heard people who either voted for Trump, didn’t vote at all, or who casted a protest vote for a third party nominee they knew couldn’t win, saying “just give him a chance” and “he can’t be that bad” and “I just couldn’t bring myself to vote for Hillary”. I wanted to try. I wanted to believe he couldn’t be that bad. Really, I did.

Three years later, it’s crystal clear that they were all wrong. Trump is ten times worse than I could have ever imagined. And our country – and real people the world over – are suffering as a result. We’ve rarely had a single hour – much less a single day – without an assault of “what did he do?” or “what did he tweet?” or “oh no, how could he say that?”. It has been a constant barrage of awful – and I’m utterly exhausted from it. And I know I’m not alone.

Now, on the brink of another election that may not even be valid because of the Republican leadership’s refusal to put in place any safeguards against interference (which we know for a fact happened last time), an election that is likely to be full of anger and protests because our country is more divided than ever, I want to ask those same people who either voted for him – or couldn’t bring themselves to vote for – GASP – a Democrat, exactly how bad does it have to get before you stand up for your country, our democracy and most of all, DECENCY?

One argument I hear is “yeah, he’s an idiot, but I like his policies”. Never mind that you’re on board with allowing a terrible and wholly unqualified human being to hold the highest office in our land – one who cheats, lies, lines his own pockets with taxpayer money, refuses to show his tax returns, and demonstrates racism, misogyny and constant signs of utter dim-wittedness on a myriad of issues – I can’t get past that, of course – but let’s talk about those policies you like so much (and do check my hyperlinks for factual back-up of all of these points, in case you’re inclined to do as Trump does and question the legitimacy of a free press in a Democratic society).

Do you like his idea that he can order American businesses to do what he says? You used to call that “socialism” (though most of you don’t even know what socialism actually means nor have you ever lived in a country that practices it) and you railed against it constantly when Obama was president. But I guess you’ve decided you like it now?

Are you a fan of the tariffs and trade wars he has initiated that are causing rising prices and damaging our economy? Funny, I thought you conservatives would never want to do anything to harm farmers, businesses, the American consumer and the precious economy, but I guess you’ve changed your mind.

Perhaps you fiscal conservatives are fond of the record deficit that this White House occupant has driven up during his past three years in office? You complained continually that we had no money to pay for education, infrastructure, healthcare and other priorities that might help America lead in the 21stcentury because you said they would cost too much. But the tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% were cool and so is funding all those Mar-a-Lago and Trump resort trips and don’t forget that border wall that Mexico was going to pay for! $1.067 trillion in debt – the highest the debt has been since 2012, in the aftermath of the financial crisis? I guess you must have changed your mind on those fiscal policies you claimed to favor.

I’m guessing you must be a big fan of the idea to hold secret meetings with the Taliban – a terrorist organization that harbored and helped the people responsible for 9/11 – on U.S. soil?And the timing – just before 9/11- was impeccable, right? Remember when some of you called Obama a Muslim and thought he was in bed with the radical extremists? Even finally doing what the Bush administration couldn’t and killing Bin Laden wasn’t enough to convince you that Obama had America’s best interests at heart, but I guess Trump convinced you that he did when he ignored the pleading of his third and now departed National Security Adviser, his Vice President and I’m guessing nearly everyone else who tries their best to advise the unadvisable, and invited the Taliban to a little get-together on American soil…then tweeted out his cancellation of the meeting. Maybe you ought to start reading something into the fact that this administration has had a record number of job-holders vacate their positions just three years in? Maybe you should also take a look at how many of these folks related to the Trump campaign and administration have been indicted – by Robert Mueller…a Republican. Perhaps you should also remember that the only reason Trump wasn’t? Because Mueller and his team came to the conclusion that a sitting president cannot be indicted. They never said he wasn’t guilty.

I guess like most conservatives (and – you’d be surprised – a lot of liberals), you think that we need to reform immigration policy. But I guess if you like Trump’s policies, you’re in favor of separating young children from their parents, putting them in terrible conditions that will undoubtedly affect them not just physically, but mentally, for years to come – something other countries have clearly called out as a human rights violation – and doing so indefinitely. Yeah, big fan of cruel and unusual punishment to helpless children, myself…

Perhaps you like the shifting of $3.6 billion in military construction initiatives towards building that border wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for? Oh, I know, you’d be out in the fields picking strawberries, doing your own damn gardening and sending your housekeeper on her way if it wasn’t for all those Mexicans taking those jobs you so want for yourself. But do you really believe building a wall that requires taking away land from private citizens and will only be possible if we take funding from the military that conservatives profess to love so very much is a good policy? I guess you aren’t convinced that this is a supremely bad idea – not even after the U.S. Air Force report that shows that diverting funding from the 51 targeted projects will actually pose national security risks? I guess not.

Maybe your favorite policy is the introduction of that rule that says those serving in our military – serving our country and living on military bases abroad –  now cannot guarantee U.S. citizenship for any children born to them abroad? Because you’re a patriot and you stand behind our military, don’t you? So you’re certainly on board with taking away their rights as citizens of the U.S. when they’re – you know – serving the U.S. interests abroad.

Maybe you’re just a big NRA fan and not part of the 90% of Americans who are tired of watching mass shooting after mass shooting take innocent lives and want better background checks and gun controlI can certainly understand that you like the Trump policy of doing whatever the NRA tells him to do. And you probably forgot that even under your conservative hero, Ronald Reagan, we enacted gun legislation that worked.

Speaking of Reagan, who must be rolling in his grave at this point, you must have forgotten that he was actually quite an environmentalist because it seems you’re in favor of all those Trump roll-backs of anything Obama’s EPA did to ensure our water and air stays clean, that polluters are punished, and that we try to move into the 21stcentury by using things like energy-efficient lightbulbs. Well, but he has such a good argument, that you’re surely in favor of, right? The lightbulbs “make him” orange, after all, and well, if Obama did it, it must be bad. I guess you think policies should be based on good reasons like this and we should enact them via tweets.

Do tell which of these policies exactly allow you to continue to put blinders on when faced with the despicable behavior of a man that – if you’re honest – you would NEVER associate with in your everyday life. Had your sister met this guy in high school, you would have, as Joe Biden says, taken him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him. If your brother was friends with this guy, you would have gone right to your parents to let them know that you were worried about the crowd your sibling was hanging around. If your parents said they were thinking about going into business with this guy – a guy that has bankrupted nearly all of his endeavors – you’d tell them they were crazy and to stay away from the con man. The guy has been married three times, dumping his previous wives for the one that came after, he has paid off porn stars, and there is video evidence of him saying horrifyingly sexist and misogynistic things. He has called Nazis “fine people” while refusing to call out white supremacy. He has told more than 12,000 lies or misleading claims since taking office. But I get it. Those policies you love are worth having this guy lead and represent our country and be a role model to young children across the country. After all, you’re for family values and boy does Trump model them like no other, right? The saddest thing – I’m how many pages in? And I have barely scratched the surface of the awful things Trump has done in just three years.

Let’s be honest: both the man and the policies stink and you’re afraid to put aside your partisan views and vote for your country, its democracy and ideals first. Stop telling us the lies about loving his policies. You didn’t love them before. You don’t love them now. You only love the idea of blind loyalty to a party and hatred for the one that opposes it.

I’m a life-long Democrat and liberal (though I have voted for a Republican before because, when faced with a bad person, I vote for the good one). I didn’t vote for Nixon, Bush the first, Reagan, or Bush the second. But I lived through them. And I’m no worse off today because of any of them. And while I vehemently disagreed with many of their policies, I never for a second doubted that they loved their country and had its best interests at heart. You know that’s the same for you with Carter, Clinton and Obama whether you voted for them or not, whether you liked or hated them, whether you want to admit it or stubbornly refuse to do so.

I don’t know how much worse it has to get before good people (or what I thought were good people) decide that a very bad man should not be allowed to sit in the highest office of our land and represent our country on the world stage. I don’t know how much worse it has to get before these good people recognize that no policy is worth allowing a liar and a cheat who demeans people constantly, to get richer and more powerful at our expense. I don’t know how much worse it has to get before these same people admit that they were wrong, that they’re just clinging to a party-first mindset and ignoring the fact that none of these policies are actually things they want or agree with. And I don’t know how long before they will see that by accepting this man, these policies, they are allowing our country to lose its way, allowing our democracy to be threatened, and our place in the world to be diminished, and that these things pose real danger for real people everywhere. I don’t know how long before good people realize that history will look back on them some day with shock and horror that they allowed a criminal to sit in the White House and spread corruption across our Nation.

Good people make mistakes. But if they are truly good people, they are big enough to admit them and do all they can to correct them. If you’re one of these people, and faced with all that we’ve seen in the past three years, still can’t bring yourself to vote for anyone who runs against this corruption and criminality, then I have to say, I just don’t know how long I can call you “good people” anymore.

 

An Ode to 2017

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Remember at the end of 2016, when the combination of Trump’s election and a seemingly unending series of celebrity deaths had us declaring that 2016 was “the worst” and we couldn’t wait for it to be over?

Then 2017 came along and said “hold my beer”.

It has been a historically difficult time for America. And around February, it seemed like our family’s personal journey might mirror the difficulties facing the country. But when I look back on 2017 now, I see that there were many wonderful moments to embrace and be thankful for and lots of great memories to cherish. Since one of my resolutions for 2018 is to start focusing on the positives, I took a look back at some of the wonderful things that took place in 2017 and realized that there were plenty of moments to appreciate and that, if anything, the tide has turned as we approach 2018 and hope (and change) is close by.

  • 2017 started with the Women’s March and we flocked to downtown L.A. with friends and strangers, alike, to show that we wouldn’t be silent and wouldn’t give up. It was an inspiring beginning to this challenging political year. On January 20, 2018, we will do it all over again.
  • We had visits from our family in Nor Cal and San Diego, Birmingham, Alabama, and even some of the Hultin clan from Sweden. I loved time spent with a college friend visiting all the way from South Africa, work friends during trips to San Jose, CA and Nashville, TN, reconnecting with a friend just “down the road” in Pasadena, and attending book signings for two great friends and authors – one local and one from Vancouver – to feed my literary longings.
  • We enjoyed celebrating one niece’s wedding and with the engagement of her sister, have yet another happy occasion to look forward to in 2018.
  • One daughter completed her first year on the job, while the other completed her freshman year of college. They are both healthy, happy and generally thriving and as a parent, you can’t ask for much more (although, I know I do – READ A BOOK, GIRLS!).
  • Per and I celebrated our – GULP – 31st wedding anniversary. The time flies. Clearly, I was a child bride, because I cannot be old enough to have been married this long, right? We are fortunate that we still love hanging out together, still laugh together and of course, I credit myself with taking our relationship to the next level by finally deciding a few years ago to become a crazed hockey fan.
  • In 2017, I was fortunate enough to watch the UCLA Bruins, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Kings in action, see U2, Lady Gaga and the late, great, Tom Petty, live, at some of my favorite venues (Rose Bowl, Forum, Hollywood Bowl, respectively), experience some new L.A. restaurants (Yamashiro, Alta Kitchen) and some old favorites (Saddle Peak Lodge, Otium), watch outdoor movies on the rooftops of Los Angeles and even in a famous Hollywood Cemetery, tour the Norton-Simon, Japanese American and Broad Museums (the latter including the fabulous and freaky Infinity Mirrors) as well as the Museum of Ice Cream, attend a free concert in beautiful DTLA’s Pershing Square and drink coffee at Grand Central Market (G&B is a MUST try if you like coffee).
  • I read a lot of great books. Among my favorites: Bear Town by Fredrik Backman; Gangster Nation by Tod Goldberg; Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang,; Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty; Moonglow by Michael Chabon. Also, sorry to say that I actually liked the movie version of Hidden Figures much better than the book (which almost never happens!).
  • Most every day of 2017, I got to walk by the beautiful lake and neighborhoods of Westlake Village. Most times, I was accompanied by the sweetest yellow lab on the planet.
  • A Dem won an election in Alabama for the first time in 25 years and he defeated a crazy pedophile. If that sounds like something that shouldn’t be remarkable or shouldn’t need to be celebrated, you’re right, but we’re living in a new age, so celebrate we will (‘cause life is short, but sweet for certain). Other year-end election results looked promising and Mueller is still employed, so I remain hopeful and optimistic as the new year dawns.

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I hope this day finds you all looking back on some cherished memories and good times. Happy New Year, everyone, and may 2018 bring you all health, happiness and joy!

 

 

 

It’s Not Just Politics

The past few days have been tough. Following what will likely go down as one of the most bitter elections in U.S. history, America has elected Donald Trump – a morally (and literally, six times over) bankrupt man with no experience in governing or world affairs who ran a hateful and divisive campaign.

I’ve been posting to social media. A lot. At first it was the only way I could process and make sense of the situation. And then it actually became somewhat comforting to share thoughts and feelings with all of the other people I know who are equally dismayed about the future of our country.

Many people misunderstand the sadness and anger. No, it isn’t because “my team lost”. This is not a football game. This is real life, the future of a country and its people, what electing this kind of person means not just in terms of policies he might set and enforce, but the kind of climate we live in – what is acceptable and what is not.

I’ve battled with the fight or flight syndrome. Stay and put up the best fight I can? Or move to a place like Canada or Sweden that better suits my values? I realized that while flight could be a long-term prospect (and I’m awfully thankful my daughters are dual citizens), at least I’m fortunate enough to live in a state that overwhelmingly voted against Trump and is filled with people who believe in equality for all and many other values I hold dear.

So what do writers do in these times? Write. Write to make sense of it all. Write for purposes of release and catharsis. Write to share with others and perhaps, gain understanding.

The first point I’ve had to battle with friends or acquaintances who either voted for Trump, voted third party or simply – and worse – didn’t vote at all, is that it’s just politics, it’s only four years, move on and come together. That he’s just one man.

  1. Point One: It isn’t just politics this time, folks. It’s the future our children and grandchildren and it’s the kind of country we want to live in. When you elect someone to the highest office of your land,  you’re saying that this person – and all they say, do and embody – represents your country to its children and to the rest of the world. You hold the person to a higher standard and you hold him or her accountable for his or her behavior. To elect a man who ran the most hatred-filled and divisive campaign in history, someone who demeaned and assaulted women, who threatened to ban all Muslims, who referred to immigrants as rapists and criminals, who has offended African-Americans, Jews, the disabled and LGBT people, says something about your country and who you want to lead it. It isn’t just politics. The electing of this man to our highest office is not just politics as usual. It is unprecedented.
  2. Point Two: It isn’t just four years, but let’s talk about those four years. In those four years, so much progress could be rolled back and so much damage could be done. Trump will likely appoint several Supreme Court justices. These Court appointments are for life and those justices could make decisions that affect the present – and future – of every American. If you’re a white male living in America, you may not see much at stake. But already we’re seeing the effects of electing someone who has spewed racist, misogynistic, homophobic and xenophobic rhetoric, seemingly making it “normal” and “ok” when it is anything but that. We’re seeing a rise in hate crimes, bullying and excitement among groups like the KKK, who suddenly feel their positions have been legitimized and they can operate as if they are normal – rather than unwanted and despised elements of society. I hear people claim that Trump is not responsible for that, nor are the good people who voted for him, voted third party or didn’t vote. I beg to differ. Trump spewed the rhetoric, incited the violence, called his comments about grabbing women’s genitals just “locker room talk” and because we as a country did not reject any of this, we have given the signal that all of it is ok – more than ok , he somehow deserves to hold the highest office in our land. This is beyond despicable. Yes, I’m having trouble coming to terms with the fact that not only did people in this country vote for him, but many people did not do all they could to stop him.  I have gay, immigrant and Muslim friends, and at least half of my family are Jewish and women, and you’d better believe that we are all worried and fearful of what the next four years hold. Only four years? For a white male, perhaps. For the rest of us, it isn’t just about the policies a Trump administration could put in place, it’s about the climate of our country where it is suddenly ok to hate and discriminate against all of these groups of people.
  3. Point three: Move on and come together. I see the wisdom in not spending my days posting on social media. I can’t be angry forever. I can’t cry many more tears. But I will not “move on” and “come together” under someone whose message was the exact opposite. Trump and his supporters drove a hard line of division into this country and his election lit a fire under all those who would hate and discriminate against people of color, immigrants, women, Jews and Muslims and LGBT -and I will NEVER come together under anyone who holds those views. Instead, I will do everything in my power to fight against the views and policies of Trump and those who support him, I will do everything I can to protect innocent people from falling victim to anyone who hates, bullies or tries to discriminate against them. Many think we are overreacting. Open your eyes, turn off Fox News and look at a variety of news sources both in and outside the United States right now. You will see exactly what I’m talking about. It’s ugly and I, for one, will not accept it.
  4. He’s just one man. Certainly. And we have a congress – now fully in control of the Republican party. Again, this isn’t about politics. While I am a registered Democrat, I have voted for Republicans in the past and I have many moderate Republican friends (most of whom wisely voted for Hilary Clinton) with whom I share both differences and similarities. I never felt the world was imploding when Ronald Reagan or George Bush the first were elected. Indeed, I was upset by the second election of George W. Bush and was horrified by the Iraq war quagmire, but I never thought our basic humanity, decency and all of the tenets our country was founded on were at stake. With this one man, they are. It’s possible that even without the checks and balances of Democrats leading the House or Senate, sane Republicans will curb Trump’s desire to radically change policy. But regardless of the policies – again – this isn’t just politics. It’s about human decency, equality, the way we behave with our fellow man and woman. I buy the argument that many good people voted for him because they wanted change or hated Clinton, but they still knew the full package they were getting and those who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for anyone or at least not for Clinton, knew what Trump brought to the table. They knew he was endorsed by the KKK. They knew David Duke rallied for his election. They knew Putin and the Russians were hacking the DNC and rooting for Donald Trump. They knew that Trump was guilty of saying and doing horrific things against women and people of color because they HEARD and SAW it with their own ears and eyes. And yet – they still elected or allowed him to be elected. He’s just one man, but he has changed the climate of our country for everyone – especially those who are not white males.

To quote Dylan Thomas “do not go gentle into that dark night”. Or to quote my favorite NHL coach, “We will not go quietly.” I will not go gently or quietly. I will speak up. I will use my voice. I will use my actions. I will watch where each dime I spend goes. I will fight against Trump and everything his election says about this country and everything he stands for. Most of all, I will fight for those people who are endangered not just by potential policy changes but by the horrifying change of climate in this country where it’s suddenly ok to bully, hate, exclude and discriminate. In short, Trump’s vision of America? This will never, ever be my America.

Upholding Freedom of Speech in Suburbia or Why We Shouldn’t Let the Bullies Win

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m pretty opinionated. I have no problem sharing my views with anyone who asks (and, admittedly, sometimes with those who don’t ask). I have a healthy respect for the freedom of speech we all have as Americans which allows me to state my opinions freely and without fear of retribution, and I absolutely believe in the right of others to do the same, even when their views differ from mine. But as I found out in my lovely suburban enclave this past week, the unprecedented partisanship and pettiness in this country is threatening our ability to enjoy that freedom of speech without fear of someone trying to take it away.

I was walking with a friend the other day and she asked me what bumper stickers I had on my car and if I’d noticed any of them missing. I told her that one of our cars has three stickers – one promoting clean energy initiatives, the now-ubiquitous suburban sticker “My child is an honor roll student at INSERT YOUR SCHOOL”  and an Obama 2012 sticker.  I told her I certainly hadn’t noticed that any of them were missing and asked why. Apparently she was on a walk with her daughter in our neighborhood a few days ago and witnessed a man, late forties or early fifties, walking ahead of them, stop at our driveway, look at our car and then take something off of the car. My friend’s daughter stopped in her tracks and said, “Mom, it looks like that guy is doing something to the Hultin’s car!”  My friend wasn’t sure what was happening, but the man was at least ten feet ahead and by the time they reached my driveway, he  was gone and she wasn’t sure what he had or had not taken.

I told her I would check my car after I got home from our walk. Sure enough, the Obama 2012 sticker was missing.

Now, I realize that stealing a bumper sticker from someone’s car is not equal to stealing their actual car or a valuable piece of jewelry or robbing their home. But, in fact, I felt the same way and possibly worse; I felt completely violated. Someone trespassed on my property, touched my car and stole something from me.  The bumper sticker? We’ve already replaced it. What this bully really stole was my right to freedom of speech and the right of every American to have that freedom upheld and respected.

Personally, I cringe when I see someone with an old Bush/Cheney sticker on their car, or a McCain/Palin sign.  But I would fight for that person’s right to post that sticker or sign and state their opinion freely and without fear.  I hate to be cliché, but seriously: what is this country coming to?  I can’t have a bumper sticker on my car, in my own driveway, on my own property, without a neighbor walking by and ripping it off?

For the person who committed the crime (and again, making me feel unsafe and violated for expressing my opinion is the bigger violation here), I have a small bit of sympathy. I’m guessing this guy is too insecure in his own thoughts to have others freely express their opinions around him, too full of hatred and intolerance to uphold the freedoms we enjoy in America and at the end of the day, a good-old fashioned bully  – the kind that I teach my children never to be and never to interact with. Mr. Bully, I’ll just put another sticker on the car and every time thereafter that you decide to remove it and just remember – by removing it, you are not removing my right to my opinion and you’re not changing my opinion – in fact, if anything, you’ve probably made me even more steadfast and stubborn in my support for President Obama, given the way in which you’ve chosen to represent the other side.

I hate to think what this kind of incident says about my neighbors, my city, my state, and my country, but at the end of the day, I will keep expressing my opinion and keep teaching my kids to do the same – after all, upholding freedom in the face of bullies is really what our country is all about.