It’s About the Cat…

Yesterday my husband was approached by a neighbor regarding a stray cat in the area.  “Don’t touch the cat with that brown patch on its back,” she said.  “It’s sick and dying and real mean.”  And with that she launched into a tale about teenage boys watching her and how she had to scare them off with her cane.  Nothing escapes her paranoid leanings  but she likes my husband and always alerts him about the shady dealings that are (not) going on in the neighborhood.  We thought we were going to lose her due to apoplexy the time the library across the street hired “black thugs” from VisionQuest to do their remodeling or the time “criminals” were breaking into her car at night and switching the wires around so she couldn’t escape (from the raping and robbing that was sure to come). But she lived.  And voted for Trumpp [sic].

The cat story was just the opening she needed to start the usual conversation about how people on welfare are sucking up all the money from the “good ones” and how Trumpp [sic] is being harassed by the media and that we just need to give him time to learn the job.  “He’ll make it work,” she said with confidence. “You’ll see.”

My husband is never confrontational with this neighbor but politely nods and gently inserts some benign statement about the affairs of the nation and the general goodness of people.  He acknowledged that our new leader needed some time “to learn the job” but added that he worried about some others like Jeff Sessions.

Who’s Jeff Sessions? she asks.

Yep.  About that cat…

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A Tribute to Cookies and Kindness

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Amy Krouse Rosenthal (April 29, 1965 – March 13, 2017)

As a former second grade teacher, I can say without a doubt, second graders are fun. They are wise and brave and malleable.  They are independent enough to ease off on the neediness and needy enough to remind you of their dependence. It’s the perfect age.

Second graders love to test their independence… a lot. They experiment with their physical world, their growing mental cleverness, and relationships. They are willing to take risks in order to learn something new.  And with the adults to guide them, second grade is where they learn how to fit into society, operate democratically, and practice good social manners.

Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal offers a window to those concepts and more in the most delightful way.  Apparently cookies have a lot to teach us about cooperation (you pour the chips in while I stir), patience (are those cookies done yet?), respect (giving Grammie the first cookie), generosity (offering some of your cookies to others), courage (admitting you ate the cookie) and wisdom (understanding that there’s a whole lot more to learn about cookies).  Introducing children to the nuances of “getting along” and practicing kindness is what Amy Krouse Rosenthal brought to the world.

Lately, I’ve been wondering if using children’s books to teach adults would work as well as it did for second graders because lately, I’ve been thinking there are way too many adults who don’t know how to fit into society, operate democratically or practice good social manners. And lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about Amy Krouse Rosenthal who died recently leaving us with yet another life lesson. She did so much to make the world a better place as a children’s author, writer, short film maker, wife, mother, and she did it all without being the president of the United States.

Perhaps I should send a copy of Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons to the White House.

Or maybe I’ll just make some cookies for the Trumpers in my life.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cookies-amy-k-rosenthal/1103713621?ean=9780060580810

Rosenthal, Amy Krouse, and Jane Dyer. Cookies: Bite-size Life Lessons. New York: Harper Festival, an Imprint of HarperCollins, 2016. Print.

5 Calls

 

Yesterday the House of Representatives passed their version of “repeal and replace” ACA.  As expected the vote split along party lines with  100% of the Democrats (and those that caucus with the Democrats) voting ‘no’ on the bill.  The 20 Republicans who voted ‘no’ as well brought the vote to a hair-raising finish at 217-213.  The GOP celebrated their win with beer on the White House lawn while the Dems sang “hey, hey, hey, good-bye” thinking those that voted ‘yes’ for the wildly unpopular measure were unlikely to get re-elected in 2018.  Both celebrations smacked of smugness with a dash of churlishness, and I find myself doing more eye-rolling and sighing…

Obviously, I tend to be naive in many ways.  Certainly I root for the underdog and often get fooled into thinking that good will always triumph in the end.  This last year has, without a doubt, made me more wary:  Good doesn’t happen on its own apparently. Just believing it so isn’t enough.

That said, I am making a move to become more pro-active politically.  My Indivisible group has helped immensely in my political education and while I understand that not all of my actions will yield the desired outcome, I am confident that all of us together will indeed alter the status quo…eventually.  We  just need to keep it ongoing.

At our last meeting, we were introduced to an app named 5 Calls.   5 Calls lists upcoming legislation, a summary of each, and then, by entering your zip code, gives you all the contact information of your representative and congressman or woman needed to let your voice be heard as a constituent.  It even gives you a script of what to say and how to say it.  And if you are shy about making those calls, it gives you what you need to drop a postcard to those representing you.  5 Calls is truly an awesome app for the newbie trying to make a change, the seasoned political junkie and everyone in between. I whole-heartedly recommend it.

https://5calls.org

A Drop of Ink…

 

I use this blog to “talk” out my feelings in a world turned upside down by the 2016 presidential election.  On Sunday I was sulking as you-know-who came to my home state to continue his campaign rhetoric of division and hate [[[sigh]]].  Since my last posting, I’ve  been trying to rise above my boo-hooing by engaging in a number of community activities.  Clearly, I’m not one to wallow in the Swamp of Sulk because as soon as I hit that “publish” button, I felt better.  George Gordon Bryon maintains that “a drop of ink may make a million think.”  In my case, my “inkings” makes me think…and maybe 3 or 4 others.

Lately I have been reminded of a quote that not only lifts my spirits immensely but gives me new determination to do what I can to make the world a better place even if it’s only in a tiny town in NW PA.  I used it to begin my Friends of the Library meeting last week, and I have shared it numerous times since then.  So… from Marjorie Moore, I give you:

Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.

Be the change.

And Today I’m Sulking

IMG_1310I don’t think there was anyone who knew Trumpp [sic] personally, who voted for him or not, thought for one moment that this man would go to the White House Correspondents Dinner.  He is not a man who can play with the media, banter with good humor or take a joke.  Of course, he wouldn’t go.  We all knew that but the three things I fear the most about this man came to the forefront last night at his rally in Harrisburg, PA.

  1. He is Insecure.  He could not go to the dinner where he would undoubtedly take some heat for his presidency thus far so he calls a rally to surround himself with those who adore him, clap for him, cheer for him.  And because of his insecurity, he had to tout his own successes–he won the election, after all–and tell the crowd all that he will do for them in the form of grandiose promises that will never come to fruition.  Insecurity is dangerous and opens the door for unpredictability.
  2. He is Revengeful.  All who oppose him are the enemy.  The media that seeks the truth and therefore shows him in an unfavorable light will be declared “fake.”  The judges who stand up to his discriminatory and cruel policies will be threatened with a dismantling of their courts.    The legislators who don’t say ‘yes’ to everything he wants will be bullied in tweets. The voters who did not support him in the election will not be recognized, or wooed in any way to bring the country together.  A revengeful person is dangerous and leads to irrational thought and actions.
  3. He is Incurious.  Donald J. Trumpp [sic] is not a learned man. He doesn’t (by his own admission) read books.  He doesn’t seek opposing viewpoints for the purpose of making informed decisions but instead surrounds himself with people who coddle him and tell him only what he wants to hear. He seems to have little interest in what the Constitution actually says, the way government works, or what history may have to offer.  The lack of curiosity is dangerous and will likely lead to stupid, regrettable decisions which will only make him more insecure and more revengeful.

Today, I’m sulking.  I’m wearing my pussy hat, reading Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss and pretending to be “plain little Mack.”

http://onlinebooksforchildren.com/books/yertle-turtle

The Strength of our Convictions

 

The other day I read an opinion piece in our local paper touting all the successes the new president has achieved in his near 100 days.  I expected it to be a tongue-in-cheek sort of article and was surprised at the sincerity of the author.  He clearly saw numerous positives happening in the White House and, by extension, for the country, and was willing to pronounce this president a resounding success.  And, it was at that point, that I began to wonder about my own convictions — about our democracy being in danger, that we are in a Constitutional crisis, that this man should absolutely not be anywhere near the nuclear codes.  Maybe I’m being unfair to his voter base.  Maybe I’m not being open-minded enough to see the good that is brewing in DC.  Maybe I am misreading the man.

That waffling lasted about 30 seconds.

I suppose it is a good sign that I even have these fleeting thoughts.  It means I haven’t completely gone off the deep end to the point of shutting out all opposing views, right? But after 6 months of reading and listening and growing more politically literate, I remain steadfastly against this man as my president. There are days when I feel so incredibly small in this great big mess, that my little stab at resistance isn’t going to amount to much, and then there are days when I feel so incredibly empowered because I am doing something to show my resistance, that I’m not going to excuse this man just because he is the president.

Jane Goodall, activist, scientist, UN Messenger of Peace and personal hero, gives us this quote:

My mother always taught us that if people don’t agree with you, the important thing is to listen to them. But if you’ve listened to them carefully and you still think that you’re right, then you must have the courage of your convictions.

I still think I’m right.

Have courage.  Resist.

Poor David Brooks

I feel sorry for David Brooks.  David Brooks, a former news reporter, is a political and cultural analyst, author, contributing editor to Newsweek and The Atlantic, commentator on the PBS NewsHour with Mark Shields, and, currently, an Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times.  He is thoughtful, knowledgeable, sophisticated, respected and a conservative. As the voice of Republican thinking on PBS, he would brilliantly make his point in a rational and understandable manner.  David Brooks made you think critically about politics and society regardless of your own viewpoint.  Paired with Mark Shields, the two represented the best of intelligent conversation along the political spectrum. But today, I feel sorry for David Brooks.

Brooks is what I call “an honorable Republican.” Conservative, yes, but he believed in the philosophy of his party and could argue for it with sound reasoning, historical evidence and conviction in the democratic process. I believe David Brooks was proud of his stance in the political arena but I doubt that today.

It is expected that those of us who are not so conservative in our thought, who did not vote for Trumpp [sic] would be understandably upset with this election’s results. After all, we vehemently opposed everything DJT stood for and championed for during his campaign.  Of course, we will continue to fight for democracy as we define it, for a more progressive agenda, a more inclusive, welcoming America.  Of course.  But poor David Brooks, where does this leave him?  His party won…with a vulgar, ignorant, non-Republican who seems hellbent on destroying everything Brooks has stood for as a proud member of that party..

Over the weekend, I read a David Brooks’ piece from the NY Times and I thought, oh dear, poor David Brooks.  I’m guessing, he is actually feeling worse and more irate than the “losers” (as our president likes to call us)— if that’s even possible.  But when Brooks wrote, “Trump’s greatest achievements are in the field of ignorance. Up until this period I had always thought of ignorance as a void, as an absence of knowledge. But Trump’s ignorance is not just an absence; it is a rich, intricate and entirely separate universe of negative information, a sort of fertile intellectual antimatter with its own gravitational pull,”  I knew that the brilliant Brooks was struggling to make sense of this all. Yep, maybe, just maybe, the “winners” have it worse.

Poor David Brooks.

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/04/07/opinion/the-coming-incompetence-crisis.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share&_r=0&referer=

Indivisible

Since the 2016 election, I have tried to find my place in this little northwest Pennsylvania town that still flaunts its billboard sized Trump/Pence signs along the main street and the Hillary for Prison signs at a local business. It has been more than 6 months since they first went up, and I expect those signs to be up for quite a while longer.

At first, I could not pass them without some form of physical reaction: heart palpitations, nausea, migraine.  But things have changed for me and now when I look at them, I feel the fight in me rising up, the resolve to stand up for what I think is right and the tenacity to stay the course. And I’ve found a new group of friends to help me do it.

I have joined a local chapter of Indivisible: We Rise, a movement dedicated to resisting the Trumpp [sic] agenda through civil and respectful actions designed to inform our congressmen and women about our concerns. The group is made up of Republicans, Democrats, Independents, men and women of various ages and a myriad of backgrounds. The common thread is the concern each of us has regarding the outcome of this election, the intent of this new administration to undermine civil rights, civil liberties and the Constitution coupled with the entanglements associated with conflicts of interests on the part of our new president as well as the suspected interference by the Russians in a national election. (Sheesh!) And while my neighbors pooh pooh these concerns, I am grateful to have a group that is thoughtful, rational, and like-minded. This is a group that encourages intelligent conversation and supportive action.  My new association with this group has helped me to feel less helpless and more politically productive.

In my second grade classroom, we said the Pledge of Allegiance each and every morning.  And because second graders learn actively and with their whole bodies, I taught it to them in American Sign Language (ASL).  We made the sign for “indivisible” with each recitation and that comes to me now as I write this.  In ASL, the sign for “indivisible” is also the sign for “cooperation.”  Indeed.

https://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/COOPERATION/3202/1

https://www.indivisibleguide.com/guide/

A Promise is a Promise

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For many around the nation, Saturday was #TaxMarch day, a day inspired by Jennifer Taub.  Taub, a graduate of Harvard Law School and Yale College and a professor of law at Vermont Law School, was a participant in the Women’s March in D.C. in January. She experienced firsthand the power of the movement and, as Taub listened to Kellyanne Conway on Jan. 22, state once more that voters didn’t care about his taxes, she was annoyed.  “People do care,” she said and with that she sent out the request for a tax day march.  Frank Lesser had the same idea and between the two of them the Tax Day March was organized. Tens of thousands of people joined the March on April 15, in cities worldwide (yes, worldwide!).

Many arguments have been given for Trumpp [sic] to release his taxes: it is a tradition of transparency on the part of the candidates, conflict of interests would be identified, Russian ties would be acknowledged or dispelled, our leaders need to model good citizenry by paying their taxes and giving to charity, he said he would… For me, it just seems shady not to release them. With his administration scrambling to get on respectable footing, this one act would put so many questions to rest.  And maybe his voters are fine with him not disclosing his taxes but doing so would certainly be a step toward convincing the majority that he is for the people, not the profit. What is he hiding?

Upholding a promise is a sign of honesty, of integrity.  Trumpp [sic] said on numerous occasions that he would make his taxes public and he needs to keep that promise (see Robert Reich’s list of promises broken so far by Trump #6 below). And the fact that Trumpp [sic] has broken so many promises already does not bode well for his honesty/integrity score. Call me skeptic, but I think this man is as dishonest as they come, and I suspect his taxes really are hiding something, something impeachable.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/12/tax-march-trump-tax-returns-activism-jennifer-taub

http://www.newsweek.com/robert-reich-trumps-thirteen-broken-promises-so-far-582342

Easter 2017

The sun is shining, the tulips and daffodils are blooming, and the church bells are calling to the faithful.  It is a spectacular Easter morning and although I am not going to church, I am, however, reflecting on the teachings of Christ.

As a child, Sunday school, Youth Club, church camps, choir practice and the teachings of Christ consumed my days.  I saved every Sunday school flyer to use later in the week when I played school —I was the teacher, of course, much to the chagrin of the neighborhood, I’m sure. The point is, I guess, is that I believed in the goodness of those stories. Christ’s message of taking care of one another, of feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, offering drink to the thirsty, of reserving judgement lest you be judged, of casting out the money changers, those are the stories that fed my childhood.  Those are the stories (those and Catherine Marshall’s Christy) that led me to become a teacher in special education.  Those are the stories that guide my community service and those are the stories that push me to make the world a better place in whatever small way I can.

And on this Easter morning, I remain totally and utterly perplexed that so many “Christians” voted for Trumpp [sic]. I have ruminated all morning on those voters going to church, singing Easter hymns, shaking the hands of their fellow parishioners and feeling good about voting such a vulgar, un-Christian man into the highest office of the land. As I listened to his Easter message to the nation, I can honestly say I’ve never been so depressed on a more glorious day. There seems to be such a disconnect between “their values” and “his values” and yet, those voters claim he represents them. Totally and utterly perplexing.

Today’s read comes from Jim Wallis, Christian writer and political activist.  He is the founder and editor-in-chief of Sojourners, a monthly magazine advocating peace and social justice.  If I had gone to church today, this is the sermon, I would have wanted to hear.

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/anti-trump-easter-awakening-article-1.3056807