Category Archives: Politics

Truth Sayers

I actually started crying during a work-related meeting last week.

Thankfully, I was with a group of women who understood my melt down.

An employee with a local domestic violence program was sharing how her agency has been dealing with the local fall out from accusations against now U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

They’ve experienced a significant increase in the number of calls from women who needed to talk about incidences they’d kept quiet for decades]. Their efforts to convince Senator Joe Manchin to consider how his confirmation vote would impact rape and domestic violence survivors had been frustrating. And then there was her story about the teenage girl who had called insisting that she had to meet with a counselor immediately.

The girl said she had been sexually assaulted by a boy at her high school, but her parents wouldn’t believe her. At least she was convinced they wouldn’t believe her.

They had, after all, spent the past few days calling Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school, a liar. And they had insinuated that a teenage girl should have known better to go to a party where there was drinking.

The girl pleaded for a counselor to listen to her story then speak to her parents. She believed they were more likely to listen to a professional than they were to her own daughter.

Listening to that story is what made me cry.

Only days earlier, a childhood friend had shared via social media her story of sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather.

And I hadn’t known.

I had spent countless nights at her house and gone on trips with her family. I had coveted her canopy bed, her horses, her boat and her ability to fit in with the popular kids.

And the whole time I’d been comparing her seemingly cool life to mine, she had found safety and reprieve in my childhood home.

Only decades later would I discover the vast chasm between the reality of her life and the one she presented to the rest of the world.

Which is actually true for most people.

We can never know the full truth about someone else’s life but only what they choose share.

But we should all feel safe sharing our own truth without being shamed or blamed or dismissed when our reality doesn’t match what other people want to hear.

So here’s to the truth sayers, the people who believe them and the people who won’t tolerate those who want to silence them.

You are my tribe.

Millions of Angry Women

Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images

I’ve always had an issue with anger.

When I was a little girl, my parents would apologize to other adults by noting that “Trina has a temper. We are doing our best to teach her to control it.”

And so they did.

Sort of.

Because there are times when, no matter how I try, there’s a fire that bubbles up in my chest, rises into my throat and then unleashes itself in a fierce flame of words with the sole purpose of scorching those who aren’t in my alliance.

Now is one of those times. Only instead of the words coming out of my mouth, they are screaming out through my fingers on a keyboard.

I am so very, very angry about what happened in our Nation’s Capital on Thursday.

Like many women, I’m angry that, once again, privileged white men have more power than most people can even imagine.

Not only that, but they are ignoring and dismissing the perspective and emotions that I and thousands of other women like me are processing as a result of what we’ve endured at the hands of men just like them.

But, after witnessing Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony and outrage, the anger bubbling up in my chest can no longer be contained.

I’m not simply bothered by the accusations of Kavanaugh’s behavior in high school.

I am also outraged  that Kavanaugh’s words and demeanor demonstrate that he believes he’s entitled to be on the Supreme Court. A man representing a party that rails against entitlements believes he’s entitled. And he thinks the accusations against him are a personal tragedy.

He has no concept what real tragedy is.

And that’s why he doesn’t belong on the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Justices rarely make decisions that impact people who attended private schools and Yale University or who grew up in big houses in the suburbs. Instead, they make decisions that impact people whose only  true entitlement has been a public education in schools with limited resources.

The power of the Supreme Court lies in it its impact on people with no power:  poor people,  minorities. the poorly educated, immigrants, criminals, and women.

But not this angry woman.

This angry woman is willing to demonstrate what true power looks like.

But I can only do that if other angry women join forces with me.

Tuesday, November 6, is a perfect opportunity to do just that.

 

The Bug In My Eye and the Bug In the White House


There’s a reason people with good sense wear glasses when they ride their bikes. It prevents bugs from flying into their eyes.

Apparently, I don’t have good sense. Or at least I don’t have enough good sense.

Because I wasn’t wearing any  protective eyewear when I was out bicycling last week.

I was heading down a steep hill and into a blind curve when a gnat flew into my eye.

There was nothing I could do about it. Stopping on the narrow road with no shoulder would have been more dangerous than allowing the gnat to stay.

So I continued pedaling and focused my mind on other things. By the time I got home, I had almost forgotten about the gnat in my eye. Almost.

But that night, when I was taking my contact lens out of my red and puffy eye, the little bug made his reappearance – both literally and figuratively.

When I finally threw him away in the toilet, I realized how lucky I was.  Ignoring the irritation would never have made the problem go away. It would only have caused more harm.

My short-lived relationship with the gnat resembles my too-long relationship with the guy in the Oval Office.

They both arrived in my life unexpectedly and in the most unwanted manner.

My problems with then could easily have been avoided if  I, or others, had actually understood the danger they posed and acted appropriately to mitigate the potential disaster.

And even though ignoring them felt like the only way to keep my sanity, that’s never been an option.

Last Sunday, an old friend asked why I hadn’t been writing recently, I was honest when I said I’ve been busy and overwhelmed with work and other responsibilities. But that wasn’t the whole truth.

I’ve also been trying to ignore the ongoing barrage of embarrassing and disturbing news coming out of Washington DC.

But I can’t nor should I.

Instead, I’ll do what I can to cope and face the problem while doing my best to address it.

And hopefully, in the near future, the bug in the White House will be flushed out of Washington DC as efficiently as I  flushed the gnat out of my life.

To All of You Ignorant Selfish Jerks – I’m Done Being Nice

The “Kindness Matters” sign in my office is a daily reminder of how I should behave.

And I do try to treat other people as I want to be treated. I really do. But I sometimes fail.

This is one of those times.

I’m tired of being nice to the ignorant, selfish jerks who are an embarrassment to other Americans.

I’m not referring to people with political and financial power (although the description fits).

I’m talking about the individuals many of us are forced to interact with on a daily basis:

  • The people who dismiss any facts that don’t align with their belief system;
  • The people who only think about how policies will affect them rather than the greater good;
  • The people who judge everything through the lenses of their own experiences, situation and happiness;
  • And, worst of all, people who believe some human beings are more valuable than others.

This week, I witnessed so many of their stupid comments on social media that I felt as though I was doing a permanent facepalm.

And because I’m tired of looking at the inside of my own hand, I’m calling them out.

To the person who said “These liberals hate Trump more than they love this country. Why don’t they worry about the children native to this land who are hungry and homeless?” You must have a very low IQ because you obviously can’t connect the dots. Those Trump hating-liberals have been fighting for health care for low-income families. They’ve been fighting for SNAP (food stamp) benefits for low-income families. They’ve been advocating for HUD funding to provide resources to keep families housed. And, most importantly of all, they’ve been advocating for a living wage so families can afford to pay for their basic needs.  And if you still can’t connect the dots? These are programs and policies that will keep children from being hungry and homeless.

To the person who said that “I need to see information from at least one reputable news source before I believe the stories about children being separated from their parents. I won’t believe it until I see interviews with the children and boarder (spelled that way) patrol agents.” You must live under a rock. The president and Congress never even denied these separations were happening. In fact, they tried to use it for political manipulation. And, in case you missed the latest news because you think all news is fake – Trump has now signed an order ending the policy.

To the person who said, “To the people who are complaining about Trump: I’m too busy working to complain.” You are a rude, selfish jerk by implying that people who complain about Trump aren’t working. The majority of people I know who are complaining about Trump are smart, well-educated, well-read, well-traveled, and, drum roll – employed or retired from professional careers. They just care as much about other people as they do themselves. They don’t judge the success of our political system by their own circumstances but on the circumstances of others.

To the person who was dismissing the plight of families being separated at the border by saying, “My husband and I have been separated from our children 40 hours a week for 18 years because we work. It was traumatic to put my newborn in day care but we had to work.”  Are you kidding me? You are incredibly self-centered and out of touch with reality. How can you even compare the plight of families fleeing horrible conditions in their home country to the privilege of having a normal life?

To the person who said, “These children are collateral damage in the war against terrorism. Any parent who puts their child in harm’s way in America should have their child taken from them. This is no different. If they cared about their kids, they would enter our country legally.”  You are obviously uneducated about our immigration system and should probably do some research. But, since you haven’t taken the time to do that before making public comments, I’m assuming you don’t care about the plight of others. I wouldn’t even be surprised if you are a racist. Our immigration system is broken. There is no easy way to “legal” status, especially for people from certain countries. And the majority of people who are entering this country without documentation are not terrorists or criminals. In fact, many of them are trying to escape situations in which their children are already in incredible danger. Stop listening to propaganda.

And finally, to the person who posted a picture from Facebook when she was asked to cite the source of a stupid assertion about the Obama administration. You are the reason I’m becoming embarrassed for America.

With that said, tomorrow morning I may be embarrassed that I wrote and published such unkind words today.

But I kind of doubt it.

Sometimes the truth hurts.

Three (Different) Strikes

The man who walked into my office carrying a chainsaw a few weeks ago is now stuck in a jail cell.

In all likelihood, he’ll be behind bars for a very long time, and I don’t think anyone who knows him is surprised. My former client has been struggling to survive since he was released from prison only a couple of years ago. And while he’d most likely been involved in criminal behavior for which he wasn’t caught (the origins of that chainsaw he was selling to raise money to pay his electric bill are highly dubious), his luck ran out this week. He never really had much of a chance anyway. Growing up, he had too many strikes against him.

And if common sense isn’t enough to tell us that the more negative experiences a person has in childhood, the less likely they are to succeed as adults, science has now proven it. But this doesn’t mean we should give up. Research has also shown that positive relationships with caring adults can help mitigate the impact of those negative childhood experiences.

And for many children, those caring adults are teachers. Teachers aren’t just educating the next generation; they are building relationships that could very well save a child who would otherwise end up like my former client –  in a jail cell heading back to prison.

If common sense and logic prevailed, our communities would be doing everything we could to support teachers. We’d recognize that our future depends on them.

And yet, in West Virginia, our teachers – some of the lowest paid in the nation – have been on strike for more than a week. And the issue isn’t just about salaries – it’s about access to affordable health care and basic respect for the profession.

Many lawmakers are their biggest advocates, but others are actually belittling them.

Take, for example, Republican State Senator Craig Blair, who unfortunately and embarrassingly is from my county. During a radio interview, he actually used the fact that teachers are personally ensuring that low-income children still have access to free lunches during the strike as a reason they shouldn’t get raises.

Not only did he fail to acknowledge how incredible these teachers are for giving more than they are required, he flat-out failed the children they are helping. These are children in poverty. These are children who already have several strikes against them. These are children who need caring adults in their lives to counter all of  the negative consequences of poverty. These are children that are caught up in a political battle that could be easily resolved. And these are the children who will soon be adults that either contribute to or become a burden on our communities. It all depends on what we adults choose to do.

I couldn’t save my client who is back behind bars, but I refuse to do nothing for West Virginia’s children and the teachers they need as much as they need sunshine and water to grow.

I’m using this blog and my words to strike back at the lawmakers who aren’t supporting them. And I know a lot of voters who will be striking back at the ballot box in November.

Stay tuned.

What Would Dr. Martin Luther King Do?

On Thursday, the man who currently lives in the White House asked a subsequently well-publicized question about why people from certain poor, non-white countries should be allowed to come to the United States.

The very next day, he said the following as he signed a proclamation marking Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, “Today we celebrate Dr. King for standing up for the self-evident truth Americans hold so dear, that no matter the color of our skin, or the place of our birth we are all created equal by God.”

My first reaction was, “That’s our Hypocrite in Chief.”

My second reaction was, “That’s the difference between words that have a direct path from his brain to his mouth and ones that someone else wrote for him to read.”

My third reaction was to wonder how Dr. King would expect us to react. I can guarantee it wouldn’t have been to make excuses for Trump or to accept the horrible things being said about people from other countries.

I was just over a year old when Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed in April 1968, so I have no memories of him. Everything I know is based on what I’ve read or seen on television. I don’t remember ever studying him as part of my public school education, and I was in college by the time a federal holiday was established in his honor.

Maybe the fact that I didn’t get a school-book version of his life is a good thing. I never thought of him as just the guy who gave a bunch of great speeches or even as just a civil rights activist. To me, he was someone who always put people first. And in doing that, he called all of us to think about and respond to the problem of privilege: who has it, who doesn’t, and the role we each play in making or changing that reality.

Being privileged isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Generally, most privileged people aren’t responsible for their own circumstances – they have it because of birth, or marriage, or appearance, or the assistance of someone else. It becomes a problem when privileged people believe that being privileged means they are better and more deserving than others.

Which is exactly the problem with Donald Trump. He thinks money and status and appearance are more important than anything, and he thinks if other people don’t have these things – and lots of these things – aren’t as important or valuable as those who do.

In other words, his belief system is the one Martin Luther King Jr. spent most of his life fighting.

Which brings me back to my question about how Dr. King would expect us to react to Trump. And while I can only speculate, I imagine he would ask the following of us:

  • Speak out often and loud against any words that belittle another person or group of people: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends” and “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
  • Take action. Write letters. Make phone calls. Talk to your friends. Write a blog.  Whatever you do, don’t ignore what is happening in our country right now. “The time is always right to do what is right.”
  • Help someone who isn’t as privileged as you – however you define privilege. Learn about our immigration system and the conditions in some of the countries Trump denounced. Find out how adverse childhood experiences can impact a person’s entire life. Find out the facts about programs that help the poor. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?”
  • Don’t waste time worrying about or fighting with people who will always see the world from only one perspective – theirs. “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
  • Never, ever give up or lose faith in humanity but don’t expect circumstances will improve without you. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” and “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” 

The Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday is always observed on the third Monday of January. This year, it falls on Dr. King’s actual birthday.

Please, please, please  find a way to honor his words and his actions on what would have been his 89th birthday.

It’s not only the least we can do – it is what we absolutely have to do.

Yes… It Is About Hoping for Failure

A few months ago, I realized that regardless of what the man occupying the Oval Office says or does, he will always have a group of hard-core supporters.

Some of them support him because they truly believe his rhetoric – that legitimate news sources and journalists are making up the facts and twisting reality.

Some of them admit that he’s not perfect but believe that as long as his party affiliation starts with an R, he is the best option.

Some of them don’t care what he says or does as long they will personally benefit from his agenda  – regardless of how it impacts others.

And then there are those who wave the American flag and claim that being patriotic requires being deferential to the President. They try to shame those of us who can’t support Trump by telling us that we are hoping he fails as president. I 100% agree with this. They generally follow this by saying that by hoping he fails, we are hoping America fails. I 100% disagree with this.

I want Trump to fail because his agenda isn’t American and his personal behavior and words don’t reflect what America is all about.

I want Trump to fail because I believe that health care is a right and not something that should be based on your job, your bank account, or to whom you are married.

I want Trump to fail because I believe that the majority of immigrants bring opportunities and not problems to America.

I want Trump to fail because trickle-down economics has been a proven failure to the people who most need the opportunity to make a living wage.

I want Trump to fail because I believe we should focus on improving public education rather than expecting the best education to be provided by private institutions.

I want Trump to fail because I believe in science, and the environment, and national parks and global warming.

I want Trump to fail because I don’t believe that a man who has publicly degraded woman on numerous occasions is an acceptable role model or, for that matter, a decent human being.

I want Trump to fail because I don’t believe in banned books or banned words, particularly words such as diversity, vulnerable and evidence-based.

I want Trump to fail because anti-bullying programs aren’t going to work when the supposed leader of our country is a bully.

I want Trump to fail because this country was founded on the principle of religious freedom – and that includes all religions – not just various Christian denominations.

I want Trump to fail because the United States shouldn’t be a country in which one’s man’s words can hold more power than the truth.

Yes, I want Trump to fail. But to all those people who claim that means I want our country to fail?  Think again.

I want our country to succeed, but my definition of a successful country is apparently different from theirs.

Because to me, a successful country is one that puts people over money, science over profit and love and respect over hate and prejudice.

And if  supporting  people who put that agenda first and opposing those who don’t isn’t patriotic? Then I don’t know what is.

The Rash

I got a rash on my face for Christmas this year.

It was a gift, or, at least it was the byproduct of a gift that was given with the best of intentions.

And because of that, I almost didn’t write about it.

I didn’t write about a lot of things in 2017.

That’s partly because I had so much on my plate that I couldn’t find the energy at the end of a day or week to collect my thoughts in a coherent manner.

My lack of writing was partly because there was just too much going on to address anything in a timely manner. The man currently occupying the Oval Office said and did so many mind-numbing, jaw-dropping, embarrassing things, that something I wrote on Saturday morning would already be obsolete by that afternoon because of  his latest tweet, or handshake, or speech or attempt to drink water with two hands.

And I didn’t write much this year because I live with my greatest critics. And sometimes not writing is easier than dealing with the aftermath of someone feeling misquoted or offended or embarrassed by my interpretation of events.

Which brings us right back to the rash on my face, which is the direct result of a thoughtful Christmas gift that my husband gave me. And, at risk hurting his feelings by sharing with the world that the itchy bumps on my face are his fault, I’m doing it anyway.

That’s because as 2017 ends, the rash symbolizes so much more than my husband’s misguided attempt to help me relax by giving me scented spray for pillows and linens (a spray to which I am apparently allergic).

It’s about having survived almost an entire year (starting on Friday January 20, to be exact) in which our country has been subjected to a rash leader whose impulsive tendencies are causing much bigger problems than just an irritating itch.

Unfortunately, I can’t change the leadership problem in this country as easily as I changed the sheets and pillowcases doused with the rash-causing spray. But that doesn’t mean I have to tolerate it nor should I be silenced.

A rash isn’t just irritating, it can be dangerous when untreated.  The same goes for rash people. And there is no shame in trying to address the root of the problem or finding an antidote.

Here’s to making that a breakthrough discovery in 2018.

When Hate Comes Home

I’ve been wanting to write about something that happened to me last Monday, but, up until just now. I haven’t been able to.

I could use the excuse that I’ve been busy (which I have been), but I’ve never before let that prevent me from writing about something so incredibly important.

The real problem hasn’t been lack of time. It’s been a lack of words.

I just don’t know how to write about hate.

You see, last Monday morning, a man came into my office and spewed racist venom at me.

I sat in shock as he got up in my face and yelled at me about using agency money to help Hispanic and black people. He even accused me of not caring about white people. Despite my efforts to be calm with a clearly irrational person, I admit glancing down at my arm and saying, “You do realize that I’m a white person, right?”

He couldn’t hear me. He was too absorbed in his own anger.

And, other than simply waiting out his verbal assault while my colleagues tried to decide what to do, I was powerless.

I can’t imagine how I would have felt if my skin color were darker.

I used to think I understood the problem of racism.

At age five, I cried on the first day of kindergarten when I discovered that I was the only white child in my class on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.

But my parents and teacher (who was also white) rushed to my rescue. They had the only other white child in kindergarten transferred into my class so I felt more comfortable. I can only imagine how the man in my office would react if a Hispanic of black family had done something similar for their child.

By first grade, my parents moved our family off the reservation, and my class was full of kids who didn’t make me self-conscious about the color of my skin, eyes, hair or culture.  As I moved from childhood into adolescence, I claimed to have experienced racism because I had been one of only two white kids in my kindergarten class.

I hadn’t. My limited experience didn’t even come close. Being a different color doesn’t equate to racism if you still have power. And my family had the power to get me out of a situation that made me feel uncomfortable.

But I didn’t feel as though I had any power last Monday.

I was in an office with no escape as the angry man stood between me and the door. I was in a situation in which reasoning and rational discussion couldn’t resolve the problem. And I was face to face with an individual who truly believed in a social hierarchy based solely on physical characteristics.

No matter how calm my voice was as I repeated the mantra “We care about all people here. We don’t care about their skin color or their religion,” I felt powerless.

When the man finally left, I rehashed the incident with my co-workers, expressed relief that he hadn’t been carrying a weapon, implemented a safety plan and complained that the current political environment is empowering bigots.

But I never doubted my convictions or the words I’d said to him.

He may have tried to intimidate me with his hate, but my words of love actually had more power – of that I have no doubt.

Hate might come knocking on my door. Sometimes, it might even walk in. But I will never, ever allow it to stay.

And knowing that makes me feel incredibly powerful. As it should.

The Swords We Choose

“You need to choose the sword you fall on.”

Those words rang in my ears as I walked back through my office doors.

They hadn’t been said in warning. They were simply the last bits of a conversation with a wise woman who was commenting on my tendency to either push back or push the envelope, challenge the status quo and speak out loudly about my beliefs.

And yet, the words seemed to take on a shape of their own and drift behind me as I braced myself for my next challenge.

Don’t get me wrong.

I’m a firm believer that challenges are great for character development. But they can also be senseless and tragic when created by one group of people against another group of people.

And more and more, that’s the type of  challenge I face on a daily basis.

Earlier in the week, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officers conducted raids in my community and took numerous individuals into custody.

For some people, that just means they were following the law. For others, it demonstrates how a complex and outdated immigration system is hurting our fellow human beings. And for some hateful and spiteful individuals, it means that “foreigners” and “illegal aliens” are getting what they deserve.

But to people like me and my colleagues, it means families are being torn apart.

It means children are losing a parent.

It means people who have escaped desperate situations and horrific conditions are losing hope, struggling to navigate a complicated and bureaucratic system and living in fear that they will never see their loved ones again.

And it means that the challenges my colleagues and I face every day aren’t as simple as ensuring that families have housing, food and enough money to pay the utility bills.

The challenges aren’t as simple as advocating for immigrant rights or educating the community about the complicated immigration system in our country.

They aren’t even as simple as ensuring that teachers understand that a spirited debate about “illegal” immigration isn’t helpful when you forget that the child in the back of the room has a father who has just been deported.

The challenges we face aren’t simple because matters of the heart are never simple.

And the art of living with people who have different ideas, different skin colors, different religions, different beliefs and different histories is a matter of the heart.

Unfortunately, my heart has been breaking a little more each time I hear, read or witness another senseless attack on someone who is simply struggling to exist.

Which is the reason I’ve been sharpening that proverbial sword I was warned about.

My sword isn’t intended to hurt people, but, when it’s used correctly, it sometimes does.

That’s because swords were designed for fighting.

My sword is comprised of the words I write about the truth as I see it.  My colleagues have their own swords built on experience, education and passion. And all of us are using our swords to fight against injustice and to defend hearts that can easily break in today’s heated attacks on minorities, the poor and the undocumented.

We may trip and fall on our swords by accident, but there is no doubt that we will ever regret the fight.