Thursday, February 25, 2021

The President We Needed

On Wednesday, November 9, 2016, I tearfully awoke my daughters to the news that the lead that Donald J. Trump had held the previous night never flipped, and he was elected president of the United States.

My sister-in-law in NYC made this observation: "He may not be the president we want, but he's the president we need." I didn't get it.

But over the course of what I can only describe as the most troubling four years of a president's administration, I have to admit she was right.

With one of their own in the highest office in the country, white supremacists came out of the woodwork, chanting "Jews will not replace us!" and re-igniting the flames of hatred that had been felt in their hearts but rarely spoken in the decades since the Civil Rights movement. Sadly, BIPOC people felt the wrath of this movement with even more dark-skinned bodies murdered at the hands of police, more violence inflicted upon them. Trump's rhetoric in calling Covid-19 the "Kung Fu flu" has resulted in a rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans. He spoke the words — they are out there, and his followers responded enthusiastically with their actions. 

White Supremacists march in Charlotte, NC, 2017.
A protest on May 26, 2020, after the murder of George Floyd.

Now we can begin the work. 

We cannot change what we cannot see. Now we see the racism that lives in the hearts of many Americans. We see it plainly. It had simply gone underground, it never went away. Over the course of decades it was quietly written into our health care policies, our social welfare policies, our criminal justice system. 

Source: Sentencing Project (sentencingproject.org)

Source: MN Dept of Health Infant Mortality Study (pdf)

We would have never known the work we need to do with Hilary Clinton as president. But with Trump, now we see what needs to be done. We need to re-write health care policies, social welfare policies. We need to unravel our criminal justice system from the bottom up and re-build it. 

At a national level, at a state level even, the work seems daunting. What impact can I make to change the world we've built? I'm just one person.

My answer has been to start local. I became involved in social justice movements here in Minneapolis, showing up to support groups like Justice for Jamar Clark, Black Lives Matter, Native Lives Matter, Poor People's Campaign, and others. These are opportunities unique to me as a resident of Minneapolis, a city at the heart of the movement after the murder of George Floyd.

I recently joined the Racial Equity committee of the Fulton Neighborhood Association. I can learn how to address racist speech and ideas by educating myself on how to have a civil discussion with someone with whom I disagree. And I can support local and state candidates who put the needs of BIPOC communities first. Yes, first. Because they have been on the back-burner for so long, we need to prioritize writing policies and legislature that work as well for these communities as for White communities. Too much is currently in existence that not only does not support them but actively works against them. This fact sheet (pdf) from the Poor People's Campaign succinctly outlines the disparities in the state of Minnesota. 

If you are interested in doing this work yourself, here are some places to start:

1. Join the Braver Angels email list, read and learn. Braver Angels is working to de-polarize politics by teaching people how to disagree civilly. They host debates between people of opposing sides of an issue and moderate discussions using techniques to find common ground while still disagreeing. If you're a podcast listener, take a listen to their "Braver Angels" podcast. Start here, with their debate between Bob Woodson, veteran of the Civil Rights movement, and Hawk Newsome, co-founder of Black Lives Matter New York. 

2. Learn about the Black, queer, feminist lens. You can start by reading "Unapologetic" by Charlene A. Carruthers. Or, if you aren't going to read a whole book about it, read this interview. By evaluating a movement's work through the lens of a Black, queer, feminist person we can ensure that the work being done improves the life of anyone within that intersectionality.

3. Change happens at the local level, so look there for opportunities. What can you do to make your own neighborhood or city more welcoming to more people? Are there organizations or groups that are doing this work? What talents do you have that you can bring to the table? Or, if there aren't any groups doing this work, how about starting one?

4. Pay attention to local politics and institutions. Does your child's school have a policy supporting their BIPOC students? What steps are they taking to ensure equal treatment of a diverse student population, or...if the population is not diverse, what are they doing to expose students to the issues that face children of marginalized groups? How does your city government work? Is there adequate representation of populations? If not, can you support a candidate who supports BIPOC communities? Would you campaign for that candidate? 

Please join me in awakening our nation to the disparities that exist in our country. It takes more of us working at every level to make change. 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Sweetest Soul

 


Yesterday was Day Two of a tension headache for me. I get these occasionally, more often after a car accident in Sept of 2019. It's the kind of headache that over-the-counter painkillers only touch mildly, turning it from excruciating, debilitating pain that would keep me in bed all day to a constant ache, making it difficult to concentrate and sapping my energy.

I was scheduled to attend a conference via video stream all day yesterday. I made it through the morning but after the lunch break I couldn't bring myself to stare at a screen again. I laid down for a while, later getting up to try to get a few things done.

Marissa was off school this particular day due to school closure to prep for in-person instruction the following week. She'd been having a difficult time of late — February is a hard month for her, with our dog being put down in February of 2014, and her friend dying by suicide two years ago. She dreads February and I understand why. 

I asked her if she wanted to go to Target with me, just to get out of the house and get a few things. She LOVES Target. As a joke once I bought her a t-shirt that read "Target is my happy place," because for her, it is. She can peruse the skin care and make up sections for hours. She also knows that taking her to Target is not my favorite thing to do for that exact reason; she can peruse the skin care and make up sections for hours. 

But off we went to Target with her behind the wheel, getting some driving practice. She spent time in her favorite sections while I got some things at the pharmacy, the grocery area, returned something at customer service, and checked on an order in the order pick-up area. We left about 45 minutes later with a single bag of items, not bad for a Target run.

We arrived back home with our items and she said to me, "Thanks so much, Mom, for using your energy to go to Target with me. I know you're not feeling well and it takes a lot of energy to do things when you're not feeling good, but you chose to do this with me and I appreciate it." 

I don't think I've ever known someone so intuitive, emotive and thoughtful all at the same time. What an unbelievable kid. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

He Keeps Me Laughing

Wayne and I have a running joke about how I, as the mom of our girls, don't get any privacy when I have to use the bathroom. As I documented in this post from 2015, I've gotten into the habit of announcing when I have to use the bathroom so the family knows to leave me alone for the next several minutes.

We also joke about how men can't multitask. Okay, I joke, Wayne grumbles and says that women are too "judgy."

Which brings us to this past week's hilarity.

I went downstairs to Wayne's office to ask him a question, only to discover that he was in the downstairs bathroom, peeing. I yelled through the door, "Hey I have a question for you."

"Just a minute, I'm peeing," he yells back.

I find this ironic. 

"Are you kidding me?" I reply back, "I've checked over homework while on the toilet, listened to the kids' day, had essays slid under the door to me, given kids spelling quizzes while on the toilet, and you can't answer a single question?"

By this time he had finished, washed his hands and opened the door. He deadpanned:

"Well, I have to aim."

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Six Steps to Save Our Democracy

I hope what I watched yesterday are the final death throes of one of the worst years in our country.

On January 6, 2021, Congress held a joint session to confirm the results of the national elections, an event usually symbolic in nature, only to have their session interrupted when protestors (insurrectionists) breached the walls and entered the building to stop the proceedings. 

There was talk before this of Republican legislators choosing to not accept the electoral judges votes for Biden, which would have pushed us to the brink of our democracy. Instead, an "attempted coup," as CNN describes it, halted the proceeding before they got to that point. Security around the building was not prepared for the mob that approached them. It's hard to believe how easily and quickly they were able to access the building while every single member of Congress, the current vice president and future vice president were in the building. Think about that for a minute the next time you are tempted to compare this event to a Black Lives Matter protest where some white guy lights a Target on fire.

Some quotes from this evening:

"Can the United States last for the next two weeks with a president who incites acts of violence?" CNN anchor.

"Are these the death throes of something, or are these birth pains? Will we come away from this broken...or better?" Van Jones, CNN commentator.

Whatever happens from this...we need a reboot. 

I hope that we can actually have a peaceful transfer of power. And then, when the dust has settled and the smoke cleared, we need to re-assess what it means to be the United States of America, what it means to be a Democrat, a Republican, independent, non-political, a citizen.

I believe our two major parties need to be challenged. If you actually talk to someone who is on the other side of the fence (talk to, not type at), you'll discover that their party does a lot of things they don't agree with. There are a lot of parts of the Democratic platform that I don't agree with: there is a lot the Republican party stands for that people who consider themselves Republicans don't agree with as well. 

For us to survive as country we need:

1. Term limits. No more than 6 years in office for House of Representatives, no more than 12 years (2 terms) in the Senate. No more focus on fundraising, re-election campaigns, political futures. Do your jobs and focus on the needs of the American people. Then leave and become a private citizen.

2. Campaign spending reform. Companies are not people and do not get to donate to political campaigns. Too often legislation goes the way of whomever spent the most money to make it happen, and not the way that will help the most people. Check out represent.us for more on this. 

3. A strong third party that pulls the moderates from both parties. Leave the far left and right in the original two and create a party that meets people where they agree. 

4. A reinstatement of the Federal Communications Commission fairness doctrine which requires broadcast media to address issues important to the public and to provide "fair and balanced" coverage of issues. This doctrine was in place from 1947-1987 and it was removed by the urging of emerging cable networks who said it had a "chilling effect" on free speech. That it did, if you wanted to spread conspiracy theories and bald lies about someone. (In case you didn't catch it, Fox News, the network that had pushed for the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine, began reporting yesterday evening that the people who committed insurrection yesterday were actually BLM and antifa people. Sure...because BLM protestors like to carry around confederate flags and have white supremacy tattoos...)

5. An expansion of FCC regulation over social media networks. Regulation has not kept up with technology where news is shared; clearly we need to expand this because the industry has proven that it cannot and will not patrol itself. Watch The Social Dilemma for a better understanding. 

And finally...and this is the biggest one..

6. We need to address the myth that we live in a post-racist society, fess up to the human rights violations that this country was built on and begin the process of reparations. We have a sitting president (for the next two weeks) who, in a presidential debate, would not denounce white supremacy groups and said to the Proud Boys, an organization identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center to be a hate group, to "Stand down and stand by." He then spent the last two weeks encouraging his followers to disrupt the proceedings 

The difference between how BLM protestors were treated over the summer — when peacefully protesting for the right to not be killed while going about their lives — and the way the mobs yesterday were treated was yet another nail in the coffin in the myth of "justice and freedom for all" that we purportedly live in. 

We've got two weeks left before Biden is inaugurated. Let's hope that we can survive these 14 days as a republic. Then, let's get to work.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Grateful for 2020, Welcome 2021

I cannot begin to write about how amazing the past few weeks have been. I am so incredibly grateful for my life. 

Neither Wayne nor I lost our jobs this year due to the pandemic, though my business took a drastic "pause" in late winter/early spring. Still, year-end giving time kept me busier than I've been other years, and I'm immensely grateful for the work and the relationships built throughout this time.

We know of people who have gotten Covid and recovered. Yet, we mourn the loss of Wayne's dear Aunt Margie who passed on Christmas morning. We will miss her welcoming smile and loving nature. It was a treasure to visit with her. She was glad to share her gift of artistry with those who knew her, always unsure of her talents which would leave a person in awe of its beauty. It was a blessing when she passed as she suffered from memory loss for several years and was no longer herself. She is the closest person to us that we know of the more than 345,000 (and counting) souls lost to this pandemic, and I am saddened for those who are experiencing their first holiday without their loved ones this year. 

Our children are healthy. They are sometimes grumpy, moody, impatient and annoyed, as teens are, so we know they are responding normally to the times we are in. Our eldest is planning for college and excited for her future, as are we. Our youngest is forging relationships through the quarantine with new friends and — gasp — a boyfriend, and somehow pushing her way through her anxiety which is telling her to keep in her shell, don't do things that are new and scary. She's doing them anyways. I'm so incredibly proud of her.

One of Marissa's new hobbies, learning the ukelele.

Wayne's work is keeping him busier than ever right now, sometimes in fun and challenging ways, other times in frustrating and seemingly fruitless ways. Still, he gets to work from home, something he was dreading at one point and now is enjoying immensely. Sometimes he takes Beauty for a run over lunch hour, an activity they both love every chance they get.

Wayne ready for a card game.

I look around see and so many people struggling to put food on the table, to keep a roof over their heads and their children out of trouble, and I give whenever I can, which is often enough that I hope I'm making a difference.

None of us will forget 2020; the pandemic, the cries for social justice, the election that wouldn't ever freaking end. 

I will hopefully never forget the gratitude I feel in this moment for the additional time with my family to connect with our teen girls. I was able to spend time writing, exploring new hobbies, baking, being out-of-doors, and doing new things I've never tried.

Happy New Year. Welcome 2021. 

Let's move on, shall we?

Patio dining quarantine-style.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Hey Everybody! Let's market clothing to teens that reduces their self-worth!

Since Marissa's been at home doing distance learning she's no longer in her school uniform and is wearing comfy clothes every day. Her favorite sweatpants finally wore through and she did a little online shopping to replace them. She selected two pairs from PacSun and they were delivered to our door. Unfortunately they were both a little too big, so we went to the local PacSun store to return them to select a smaller size. 

After returning the clothing to a sales associate, Marissa made her way to what I thought was a tasteless display of Playboy branded materials at the front of the store. She began sorting through the sweatpants with little bunnies on them, looking for the right size. 

"Uhhh....you are not buying Playboy branded sweatpants," I told her. She looked at me with a shocked look on her face. "Playboy? What are you talking about?"

She thought the little bunny wearing a bowtie was just a cute graphic. She had no idea that it stood for the Playboy brand. And then she informed me that the sweatpants she had bought online were Playboy branded — I just hadn't seen the icon before approving the order because it was so small on the screen! 

We laughed about the fact that she didn't know they were Playboy sweats and I didn't realize she'd purchased Playboy sweats. But then we had a real discussion about why a retailer that caters to teens and young women would carry the Playboy brand and honestly, I don't get it.

The caption on the t-shirt on the far left says "Stretch Limousine Daydreams."
What exactly are we daydreaming about?  

In today's awareness of feminist issues, a soft porn magazine's brand isn't relevant or wanted in our culture. All of the things that Playboy embodies is harmful to my teen girls. I would never support their business by buying their brand. And I certainly would never want my 15-year-old daughter wearing Playboy gear. Ever. Who lets their teens buy this stuff?

I tweeted to PacSun and told them how disappointed I was that they carry the brand. Then again, PacSun also carries Brandy Melville clothing. If you don't know this clothing line, they have really cute items for teens, but they have no sizing. Really. The tags all say "one size." If you don't fit into the size they have, well then, I guess you're not the right size. 

What a great idea, market cute clothes to teen girls in their growing years when self-consciousness is its highest and self-confidence is often at its lowest, and make them feel worthless for not fitting into tailored clothing that assumes that all teen girls should be able to fit into their "one size." We looked through some of the pieces and they were tiny. Some of Marissa's short, petite friends could fit into them, but probably not the vast majority of teen girls. "One size" clothing should be reserved for scarves or hats, maybe a wrap, not jeans or tailored shirts. 

From the Brandy Melville website.

Marissa finally found some sweatpants that weren't offensive and that actually fit. selected from the fraction of the store that wasn't off limits due to its brand or its size. I'm not sure she'll want to shop at PacSun in the future. I'm grateful that she and I could have the conversation that we had on the way back home about the issues with both of these brands. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Living Through History

Marissa and I in the car, where many of our conversations take place.

 Marissa and I had such an interesting conversation tonight, as we often do. 

She was talking about how people have told her that she is "living through history," with the pandemic raging through the country. She said, "I always thought that history was something that happened to you when you were a kid, and once you were grown up history didn't happen anymore. I didn't think about the fact that you and dad are also living through historic times."

I told her about how my Grandpa Vern Floria, my dad's dad, was born in 1901 and died in 1996, just short of his 95th birthday. A few times I would talk to him about what he'd seen in his life.

He remembered a time when cars weren't everywhere, when you were lucky if your family had a horse to get around, and otherwise you walked. 

He remembered when zippers were invented. All the rich kids could afford to have them, while he and all the other poor kids were stuck wearing button-fly pants. 

He was too young to fight in WWI (just 14 when war broke out) but too old for WWII. His eldest son, my Uncle Dean, fought in WWII, his youngest son, my father, in the Vietnam War in the early 1970's. 

"Imagine," I said to Marissa, "Grandpa Vern remembered when zippers were invented, what life was like before cars, and also lived to see the personal computer change the way the world works." 

"Wow," she said, "Omigosh, I just realized something! He was alive when 'Friends' was being broadcast!"

And there you have it, Marissa's version of living through history.