Tag Archives: Resist

On Kindness

 

Renah @ Wayne U.
Photo by Marv

When I think about kindness, I think about Renah and Jayne, both felled by polio and wheelchair bound, at a time when I most needed kindness. Twenty years old, a recent transfer from Simmons College, I arrived at Wayne University and made the impulsive decision to move off campus into an untenable roommate situation. Friendless, far from my New England family, I returned to the thirteen-floor, converted hotel dorm in need of a home.

Dressed in a skirt and sweater, knee socks and saddle shoes, I knocked on Renah and Jayne’s door and was greeted by Renah’s welcoming smile. The lilt in her voice, her innate curiosity at my “preppy” attire, tempered my anxiety as I explained that the housing director had suggested I check out their room.

“Sure, we have an extra bed, by the window,” she said, as she gripped the thick rubber wheels of her chair, nodding for me to follow.

“We have a new roomie,” she called out to Jayne, reading in bed, a hand pulley above to lift her to a wheelchair bedside.

I embraced them; they embraced me. The timing was perfect. That year was filled with lessons of gratitude; our day-to-day consideration of one another filled me with ease. We told stories, shared worries. My new friends taught me how laughter can face down hurt.

At least once a week, I would grab the handles of Renah’s chair to walk the block to a storefront restaurant where we joined our little gang for a “real” meal. The wait staff, customers, everyone knew Renah and as her new “preppy” friend from Boston; I was folded in.

Long before the passage of The American Disabilities Act of 1990, there were enormous challenges for the physically challenged student attending a university. Ramps were not a given, nor were elevators in multi-floor buildings.

At her core, Renah was an activist who could look you straight in the eye and compel you to deal straight with any demeaning innuendo or impediment involving her ability to navigate her life. I recall her persistence as she negotiated a third floor change in a classroom location from the third to the first floor so that she could attend an advanced sociology class.

What would she and Jayne make of the “what is” of now—our Trumpean president, a braggart who boasts how women cannot refuse his advances, his reckless leadership? What would they make of the cascade of women truth tellers sharing their stories of male sexual predators stalking and accosting them in the work place?

In my fantasy, Renah would have kicked Harvey Weinstein right where it hurts. A young woman in a hand-driven wheelchair, she learned to be tough to the core to face the unfair and unkind behaviors she encountered.

It is humbling and gratifying to realize all these years later how the lessons of living side by side with two kind and strong-willed women have infused my resolve to stand up and assert, to write and resist the tyranny of entitlement and abuse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gratitude Amid Chaos

Women’s March,Sundance Film Festival,Park City, Utah. Thank you, VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images

I do not like chaos in my life; I prefer order and a semblance of predictability. I am not alone given the number of crowd-swells starting with the day-after-inaguration Women’s Marches throughout America and continuing night and day, in the streets, at senate and representative’s offices, and at airports on this 9th day of Trump’s presidency.

We are living with a leader who , by nature, shoots from his gut in total defiance of rationality, especially if it fits a sound bite that feels true to his “fantastic” sense of self. We have elected a man without the resource of executive functioning—i.e., the ability to consider consequences of rhetoric in service of self-aggrandizing emotional spillage.

Those of you reading thus far know exactly what I am describing. We are all in the same boat, unmoored, longing for a navigator to set our course, provide assurance and reassurance about how this trip will end. But setting this boat called Democracy right, and keeping it on course depends upon all of us. Trump leads by defying what makes moral and legal sense. Our right to protest, long ago modeled by the founders of our Republic set the format for how citizens can create order out of chaos through peaceful demonstration. Case in point: The Women’s Washington March attendee estimates range from 440,000-500,000. There was not one arrest.

I have endless gratitude for the thousands of women who planned ahead, left their families or included them, bought bus, train, airline, metro tickets or drove to the capitol to show our newly elected president that his crass rhetoric, bankrupt values, and bullying-my-way-or-the -highway leadership style will not be tolerated in our United States of America.

I wanted to attend the Boston March but did not, my own effort at executive functioning in acknowledging my age and need to balance my energies. Instead, I watched on television with pride at the outpouring of families and women, their pointy pink hats and bold signs.

Four (yes 4!) female organizers, in conjunction with Planned Parenthood, organized and planned the event. The issues — reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, gender and racial inequalities, worker’s rights, environmental issues, to name a few. It was amazing to witness the sheer numbers, the energy and dedication of so many navigating what they/we believe are the issues we need embrace and protect.

One week later: we are in the midst of the chaos ensuing from Trump’s immigration ban on January 23rd. I am grateful to Judge Ann Donnelly who, on a Saturday night, stepped up, made the phone calls, determined that safety for people came first and ordered the first emergency stay on the ban.

For myself and for so many with common concerns, the course ahead is about how to maintain focus and a healthy balance. The how, the where and when will depend on what feels essential to each of us. Each in our own way, joining others in the essentials of democratic principles, can make a difference.

As a guide for focus, I offer this Boston Sunday Globe’s Citizen Guide to Survival in Trump’s America: http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/editorials/2017/01/29/citizens-guide-survival-trump-america/gMZVkKI3thauRlgUxH4dWM/story.html

 

 

Trump: Like The Weather, Hard To Predict

January 19, 2017

Yes, the weather is unpredictable and variable, ranging from chaotic to sunny. We fear tornadoes, earthquakes, and intense coastal storms. We frequent our weather apps, stay up late (at least I do) to catch the 11:00 news, to watch my local weather person track the trajectory of what lies ahead. I like to plan; I need to plan.

I spent the two days before the inauguration watching CNN and MSNBC to educate myself about a few of Trump’s cabinet choices—who they are, how they think, how they respond under the pressure of astute questioning.

I’m grateful to these networks for their willingness, without extensive commentary, to cover as many hearings as possible.

In my last blog post— I am NOT the Enemy, I addressed my concern over Trump’s lack of executive function as demonstrated by his itchy-finger communication style. Given his reactivity and potential for impulsive decisions, I needed to see first hand if any of his cabinet choices could balance Trump’s inclinations.

  • Nominee: Health and Human Services Secretary, Representative Tom Price, a dedicated Tea Party member and 10-term representative. Smooth talking and unflappable, even when confronted with gapping conflict of interest investments, Dr. Price assured but did not promise that he would maintain the intent of the Affordable Health Care Act. Under the precise questioning of Senator Elizabeth Warren as to how he can justify his recommendation to cut billions from the Medicare and Medicaid budgets, he said that spending on the programs was the “wrong metric.” How can his metric— care of patients, be separated from economics ? This man’s policies will take careful monitoring and translation.
  • Nominee: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, company employer since 1975. At first, Tillerson appeared straight forward, possibly a man of his word. But as the hearing focused on his cozy dealings with Russia and his assurance of support of sanctions (in direct contrast to Trump’s stated opposition), beads of sweat and stress appeared on his forehead. Can we believe Tillerson’s assurance that Trump would heed his lead on sanctions and on the effect of fossil fuels and climate change. I want to believe but cannot.
  • Nominee: Secretary of the Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, a Goldman Sachs banker and now CEO of his own fund, Dune Capital. By far, Mnuchin’s testimony was the most fascinating—it was the complexity of his character. Ingratiating and polite to a fault, it was as if the sincere articulation of personal phrases such as “thank you” and “I’m empathetic and sorry,” could wipe out the multiple stories of people who lost their homes under Dune Capital’s watch. Only when Mnuchin turned to the tasks of the job at hand—modernizing the outdated Internal Revenue technology and a willingness to track and monitor overseas investments which violate tax laws, did he seem a credible candidate. My verdict: Maybe, on some accounts ( no pun intended), given his expertize in technology and tax laws.

Like the challenge of weather, we need to develop  ways of tracking and resisting the complex machinations of Trump appointees and their effects. I’m grateful for this forum for grounding me like a port in the storm.