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Five Questions

In the weeks leading up to the 2020 presidential election, I noticed a trend on Facebook. Trump supporters were posting false information and then complaining when the Facebook administrators called them out. Apparently, some of these individuals were even getting private messages telling them about the consequences of posting false information. When discussing this, one person said, “everyone is getting that message.”

I wanted to comment, “I haven’t received that warning because I don’t share false information.” I didn’t though, because I was fairly confident I would have been called a lying libtard or told that Facebook was targeting conservatives and protecting progressives.

The irony of all of this is that the people who kept posting false information were the same individuals ranting about “fake news.” While they were definitely projecting (unconsciously taking unwanted emotions, traits, and behaviors they didn’t like about themselves and attributing them to someone else), they were also acting like spoiled children. In their delusional brains, something is only a fact if it justifies their beliefs or meets their needs. 

Before the election, I rolled my eyes at their temper tantrums and self-centered posts. After the election, I realized that this twisted thinking, encouraged by President Donald Trump, was dangerous. When Trump and his allies told his minions that the election had been stolen, they believed them. Even when every avenue was pursued to ensure the election results were accurate, including re-counts in Republican-controlled states and court cases, these Trump supporters were convinced, or pretended to be convinced, of some grand conspiracy to steal the election. In an attempt to get their way, they filled busses and airplanes during a global pandemic and went to Washington D.C. to demand that Trump remain president.

The mayhem committed at the capitol building in Washington D.C. on January 6 is unforgivable as are false assertions that members of “Antifa” disguised themselves as Trump supporters and were the actual perpetrators. 

Following the events on Wednesday, Trump followers are now complaining that actions taken by social media and technology companies to address hate speech and violence is fascism. Considering the education level of most of the people I’ve witnessed saying this, I’m fairly certain they would be unable to define fascism without being given a computer to Google it. These are, after all, the same people who call any policy with which they don’t agree socialism. The icing on their hateful cake is that many are proclaiming themselves Christians while calling people with different beliefs evil.

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe people have the right to different opinions just as they have the right to organize and participate in peaceful protests. What they don’t have the right to do is demand that our country revolve around their belief system. And for those who say that’s not what they want, I have five questions:

  1. No one disputed that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 but that Donald Trump won the electoral college. If Hillary Clinton had proclaimed the election was stolen, filed multiple lawsuits trying to get the results overturned, and tried to convince a secretary of state to find 11,000 votes, what would you have done and said?
  2. In Italy, the birthplace of fascism, people noted that the scenes at the United States Capitol on Wednesday were reminiscent of events in Italy in the 1930s under Mussolini. You call people who have taken a stand against police violence and for basic human rights as “Antifa,” which is short for Anti-fascists. Does that mean that you are pro-fascism?
  3. In America, where the economy is rooted in capitalism, the wealthier you are the more access you have to political power.  Donald Trump used his wealth and celebrity to win the 2016 presidential election but has yet to publicly share his tax returns. Since taxes are used to pay for public education, public safety, roads, and numerous other services that are equally available to all citizens, the amount he pays in taxes is one mechanism of demonstrating how he much he has or hasn’t contributed to the public good. Taxes are a contentious issue for many conservatives who constantly worry that their taxes might increase (even though they are benefiting from those public services). If the amount people pay in taxes is so important to you, why haven’t you held Donald Trump accountable to ensure he contributes his fair share?
  4. This week I saw a heartbreaking post from a young woman whose father berated her for not supporting Trump. He told her that college was giving her the wrong ideas. This isn’t unusual. I’ve witnessed numerous Trump supporters complain that colleges are turning young people into liberals. A college education is intended to expand a young person’s knowledge, expose them to different ideas, and teach them critical thinking skills.  Are you afraid that people who think for themselves or are better educated than you are a threat who will challenge your belief system or demonstrate that your way of thinking may not be for the greater good?
  5. A vast number of Evangelical Christians have continued to support President Trump even though he has never been actively engaged with the church or behaved in a Christ-like manner. Among his many behaviors, he has bragged about grabbing women by the genitalia, engaged in name-calling, endorsed policies that separate families, and lied on a daily basis. He cheated on his wives. In order to gain the support of Evangelical Christians, he chose Mike Pence as his vice president, but last week put him in danger when he didn’t “follow orders” to disrupt the electoral process. And he has supported a health care system that operates on the principles of making money rather than on ensuring all Americans have access to it.  None of these actions are in the least bit Christian. And yet so-called Christians have supported him in part because of his ability to put in place conservative judges. How do your reconcile the Golden Rule, the beatitudes, and the Ten Commandments with supporting a man who has demonstrated he worships wealth and power more than anything else? 

If any of Trump’s supporters read this, they will probably be angry. That’s fine with me. I’ve been angry for four years and during that time the most controversial political action I took was to wear a pink, knitted hat. And, for the record, I didn’t even have to purchase it thus contributing to a politician’s coffers. Someone made it and gave it to me for free because that is what genuinely nice, not evil, people do.

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 Day We Marched

On Saturday, some friends and I decided to make a trip into the city.this-is-what-a-protestor-looks-like

It was no ordinary outing, and it was no ordinary day.

We were going to Washington, D.C. to join the Women’s March on Washington and express our concerns about newly inaugurated President Trump.

I’m tired of people telling me that I might as well be wishing the pilot of the plane I’m on to fail. I’ve tried to explain that the pilot doesn’t even understand the control panel, that the ride is already quite bumpy, and that he’s threatening to throw some people off without a parachute. We need to find a way to steady the plane and correct the flight pattern. But that message seems to fall on deaf ears.

I’m saddened by people who belittled the march or claim that our country already ensures we have equal rights. This muslim-registrymarch wasn’t about what some of us already have. It was about what so many individuals are at risk of losing. This was not a march about traditional women’s rights or even reproductive rights (although some people chose to advocate for these issues.) It was a march about human rights for all people – people of different skin colors, people of different sexual orientations, people of different religions, and people of different countries of origin.

Most of all, I’m frustrated with people who claimed the marchers were out of line and disrespectful to the office of the President. First, the Constitution gives us the right to protest – it is vital to a healthy democracy.  Secondly, the new President ran a campaign based on disrespect and hate. I cannot respect an individual who has belittled women, put white supremacists and racists in positions of power, selected a vice president who threatens the rights of the LGBTQ community, img_4640called Mexicans rapists, mocked a disabled reporter, spoke of grabbing a woman’s genitals, and called those who disagreed with him “enemies.”

And so, my friends and I put on our pussy hats, and we marched.

There is so much I can say about the experience. I could describe the signs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes that lined the streets where we walked from RFK Stadium to the U.S. Capitol. I could describe how march participants were constantly thanking the police assigned to keep everyone safe. mlksign And I could describe how everyone was supportive, polite and loving to each other.

But there’s an old saying that pictures speak louder than words. And so, I share a few of the photos my friends and I took during the march and hope they not only show why we marched. It will show that this was not a self-serving protest proclaiming concerns about how polices will affect our bank accounts.  It was about tolerance, acceptance and support for individuals and groups who are at risk of losing their dreams.


Beyond Appearances

if-only-our-eyes-saw-souls-instead-of-bodies-how-vMonths ago, I swore I wouldn’t get too emotionally or otherwise invested in this year’s presidential election.

In 2012,  I wrote and ranted and worried. I wanted to ensure that everyone knew exactly what I thought about the candidates and why my opinion was justified.

In retrospect, I doubt anything I wrote had much, if any, influence on anyone.

People who agreed with me, well, agreed with me.

People who disagreed with me either ignored me, posted negative comments, unfriended me or unfollowed me.

America re-elected Obama, politics continued to divide us, and America has continued to be torn apart by issues of race, equality and social justice.

And this presidential campaign has devolved into a completely horrifying spectacle.

Yet up until now, I’ve refrained from writing about it.

Maybe I’ve just become too cynical and convinced that some people’s brains simply can’t separate facts from propaganda and can only spout ridiculous rhetoric.

But something happened to my self-imposed reticence after watching the first of three scheduled presidential debates on Monday night.

I realized the hypocrisy of my temptation to make light of Donald Trump’s hair, his weird orange complexion, his constant sniffing and his absurd facial expressions.

Because in doing so, I’ve lowered myself to his standards of valuing, or devaluing, someone based solely on appearance. This is, after all, a man who discussed the potential size of his toddler daughter’s breasts, has used physical attributes as a qualification for employment, and, the night after the debate, defended hurtful comments about a beauty queen’s weight,

As a country, we  have to be better than this.

We must do better than this.

We have to raise our expectations and our standards.

And, most importantly, we have to make the voice of human dignity louder than anything money can buy.

Of Dice and Women

LaneI try not to take politics too personally.

That’s not to say that I don’t feel strongly about specific issues or specific politicians or that I don’t take my role as a citizen and my right to vote seriously. I do.

But years ago I realized that too many people consider politics to be a game of Monopoly in which the political party, the politician, the political action committee or the corporation are more concerned about securing as much for themselves as possible than they are about anyone else. They seem to believe that a roll of the dice is a fair way to determine the success and/or comfort of an individual or family.

Sometimes, they spout a few words intended to convince people they care about those who aren’t as fortunate or as wealthy or as beautiful, but their words often aren’t consistent with their behavior, lifestyle or relationships.

As someone who received a great roll of the dice on the day I was born and encounter people everyday who didn’t get such a great roll, I can see right through their facade.

And just when I feel as though I’m becoming completely cynical, I encounter individuals  who step into politics because they truly care about others.

My friend Layne Diehl is one of those people.

Layne never thought she could go to college, but through the support of people who cared about her, she not only went to college but also to law school. She is a true role model for young women whose roll of the dice doesn’t afford them the security of knowing they can go to college.

Layne didn’t grow up in a family that was always safe and secure. She learned to survive and thrive because she had a mother who garnered all of her strength, skills and resources to take care of her children when the world around her family was collapsing. Layne’s mom passed those skills onto her daughter, who understands the importance of reaching out to help others who were never given the opportunity to roll the dice.

Layne has a strong sense of purpose and self. When she realized that her personal values no longer fit with her career, she took a chance and decided to roll her own dice instead. In doing so, she found a path that fits with both her values and to give back to the community.

I wouldn’t know any of this information if Layne weren’t my friend. That’s because Layne, who is running for the WV House of Delegates, isn’t making her campaign about her.

When Layne took the risk of running for the House of Delegates, she didn’t do it so she could build her resume or her ego. She did it because she truly cares about others and understands the impact legislative issues can have on the lives of the small business owner, the single parent family, the working poor and the economy of small communities.

During her campaign, Layne never said a negative word about her opponent nor allowed anyone else to do so (even when her opponent was garnering national attention as a teenage candidate). Instead, Layne chose to praise her opponent for inspiring other young people to get involved then focused on real issues affecting real people.

Layne didn’t pander to people who want elections to be about one or two issues. Instead, she adopted a platform that speaks to those who see beyond party lines to the complexity of issues.

I do have one complaint about Layne’s campaign. I can t vote for her because I don’t live in her district.

All I can do is publicly express my support and let others know how much  I appreciate that she wants to improve the odds for everyone.

Will You Sound Bite This?

Being married to a national journalist has its advantages. For example, when I’m feeling completely uninformed or confused about national or international events, I have a readily available source to answer my questions.

There are also disadvantages. The news never takes a vacation, so my husband works weekends and odd hours. He can’t express any public opinions about politics (really, he’s not allowed), and even though he and his co-workers are held to very high standards, when people criticize the media as an industry, they are also criticizing his professional integrity.

Regardless, I credit broadcast journalism for giving me a great life. It’s how I met my husband, it pays the bills and it’s how I started my career.

And while my career in broadcast journalism was extremely short-lived, the lessons it taught me have served me well over the past couple decades. For example:

1)  There will always be people who lie or mislead in order to protect their own self-interest. Being able to separate fact from fiction, determine what’s relevant and ensure the truth prevails requires perseverance and a Teflon shield.

2) Well-known people in the public eye generally aren’t making the biggest difference in the lives of others. There are always exceptions, but many are more intent on advancing their own agenda than they are with furthering the common good. Most often, the people behind the scenes are the ones who do the work and really know what’s happening.

3) There are always two sides to every sound bite.

From most people’s perspective, a sound bite is simply a very short clip of  a much larger conversation. But for people on both sides of the microphone, it is much, much more.

A simple statement can inspire, inform or be blown completely out of proportion when taken out of context. A few words are often louder than the most heartfelt speech.

Just ask Mitt Romney or President Obama. During this campaign season, Romney’s comment “I like being able to fire people” wasn’t referring to his record at Bain Capital, but his opponents seized the opportunity to use those words against him. A few months later, President Obama had a similar experience when he said, “You didn’t build that.”

You would think both men would more carefully choose the exact words and phrases that come out of their mouths, but they are human. And a good sound bite is irresistible to a reporter. I should know.

I’ve been on both sides of the microphone many times, and I thought I had the sound bite mastered. And then I fell into the trap myself.

My daughter was just under a year old when I took her and her four-year old brother to a public pool. My mother had joined us, and we were enjoying a sunny, summer Saturday afternoon when a muffled announcement came over the speakers: “We apologize for the inconvenience, but the pool will be closing for the rest of the day. Please exit the pool area immediately.”

Since there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the announcement made no sense. Fortunately, one of the teenager lifeguards was my neighbor, so I asked her what was happening.

Apparently, there was a dispute between management and the lifeguards. The lifeguards were insisting that the chemical levels in the pool weren’t safe, and they were walking off the job. With no lifeguards, the pool had to close.  As other people packed up their towels and exited in mass, my mother and I decided there was no hurry and waited by the baby pool until the crowd cleared.

Just as we were finally leaving, a news van pulled into the parking lot. Since very few swimmers were left and I had a cute baby in my arms, the female reporter immediately zeroed in on me.

“Can I ask you a few questions?” she inquired breathlessly as she shoved a microphone in my face.

I agreed, and she began peppering me with questions about unsafe chemicals in the pool. Since I wasn’t really concerned and saw no reason to panic, I carefully avoided her efforts to bait me into saying anything that blew the situation out of proportion. She was obviously getting frustrated that my answers weren’t heightening the drama.  Finally, she asked, “Aren’t you concerned about the health of your baby?”

I stepped into her trap when I answered, “Of course I’m concerned about the health of my baby, I just don’t think this particular situation is going to harm her.”

A few hours later, I turned on the television news to see a lead story about how panicked parents evacuated a local pool. The story featured a carefully edited clip of me holding my daughter and saying, “I’m concerned about the health of my baby.”

I was mortified.

For the rest of the weekend, the clip played over and over again during news promos and broadcasts. My embarrassment grew when further investigation revealed that the chemical levels were fine, and that the situation had been overblown by a handful of teenage lifeguards.

For days, I was teased, even though I tried to explain that I had NOT panicked.

Years later, this story is rather funny, but it is also a cautionary tale.

Drama and conflict can be used as marketing tools and political weapons. And yes, some reporters take words out of context to create the story they want. This is especially true during an election year. No one should accept a few words at face value. We all need to do our research, determine what message was actually intended and take time to learn all the facts before making judgments and leaping to conclusions.

Take the paragraph above. Someone could easily turn it into a sound bite:  Trina Bartlett says “reporters take words out of context to create the story they want.” That would likely stir up trouble with my husband of 19 years as well as my friends in the news industry, who all do their best to maintain journalistic integrity.

The problem is too many people prefer hearing words that support their own beliefs rather than knowing the truth, and many media sources have lost the once distinct line between news and opinion. Unfortunately, many people can’t tell the difference.

Every time someone spreads false information or shares quotes that have been taken out of context, the collective integrity and intelligence of our country drops.

And yes, I would love for someone to sound bite that.