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The Difference Between Like and Respect

I was having dinner on a friend’s deck with a group of like-minded women when we got the news: Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died.

We all reacted differently even though I’m certain we were all feeling the same way. One of us burst into tears. Another just sat silent while a third stood up and started clearing dishes. Me? I cussed. I cussed because Notorious RBG was a role model and a heroine. I cussed because I know what is at stake. And I cussed because some people I know will see her death more as an opportunity than a reason to  mourn.

The following words are for those people: I may like you, but I can’t respect you.

I like you because we might laugh together or share common interests or talk about our children.

But I can’t respect you because your vision of what our country’s future holds for those children isn’t one of diversity and inclusion and equality.

I can’t respect you because you believe your narrow definition of Christianity is the only legitimate religion.

I can’t respect you because you can’t discern the difference between journalism, opinion pieces and fake news.

I can’t respect you because you share information on social media that validates your opinion even if when the information is a complete lie.

I can’t respect you because you support political candidates and listen to pundits who claim that liberals aren’t real Christians.

I can’t respect you because you are a one-or two-issue voter who makes decisions at the ballot box based on dogma rather than on the scope and impact of a variety of policies on people’s day-to-day lives.

I can’t respect you because no matter how many times someone has tried to explain the difference between “gun control” and “taking away your guns,” you choose to listen to propaganda from the NRA,

I can’t respect you because you are voting for politicians who care about money more than they care about the well-being of people.

I can’t respect you because you think patriotism is marked by saluting a flag rather than by honoring the first  amendment.

I can’t respect you because you throw around the word socialism when what you are really saying is that you don’t want your tax dollars being used to provide services for people you have decided are “undeserving.”

And most of all, I can’t respect you because you are supporting politicians who have shown general disrespect and even criminal behavior toward women.

I know these words will offend some of you, and now you probably won’t respect me. I don’t care.

I’m 53 years old, and I’ve fought hard to become a strong, opinionated woman who cares about minorities and immigrants and the poor and people of different faiths.

I’m writing this because even though there are a lot of people I don’t respect right now, I couldn’t respect myself if I left these words unsaid.

Also, I’m fairly confident that Ruth Bader Ginsburg would approve.

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.


Burning Down Our House With Debates About Health Care

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln made his famous “A house divided cannot stand” speech.

He was debating Stephen Douglas about the issue of slavery. Douglas believed that each new territory or state should be allowed to decide whether it would permit slavery.  Lincoln believed that the nation as a whole should take stand.  At the time, a lot of people believed whites to be superior to blacks and that owning another person was justified based on skin color and bank account size.

We all know who eventually won that debate. But even after the slaves were free, too many people still believed in a superior race.  And, for more than century, too many laws reflected their beliefs.

Now, more than 150 years later, I wonder how history will portray the politics of 2012 when the United States is once again a house divided.

Only this time, instead of being divided over slavery, we are divided about the purpose of government.  But there is also an underlying debate very similar to the one being waged during the Civil War.

Too many people still believe that some  individuals are superior to others. Only instead of color, they are claiming superiority based on the size of their bank account or their employment status.  We have become a country that is debating whether we measure success in terms of dollars or in terms of human rights.  We are debating whether accumulating possessions is more important than ensuring access to health care.  And we are even debating whether or not poverty is a moral issue.

This has never been more apparent than with the reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision that the Affordable Health Care Act is Constitutional.

The fact that people have different opinions about the decision doesn’t bother me. I expect that. Different opinions are healthy. What bothers me is the judgmental comments and self-righteous outrage that some people expressed.

I was particularly struck by comments from a public school teacher who said the Supreme Court’s decision was immoral.  She followed this by saying “I work for a living. I don’t want my hard-earned dollars to support people who depend on the government.”

Since a public school teacher depends on the government (i.e., taxpayer dollars) for her paycheck, I was dumbfounded.  I wonder how she would react if the country engaged in a debate about the importance of education and whether we are infringing on taxpayers rights by requiring them to pay for education.

At some point, our country embraced the belief that education is a right that every child deserves. We even took that concept a step further and mandated that children stay in school until a certain age.

If the issue were being debated now, there’s no doubt some people would be screaming that requiring children to go to school is unconstitutional and that hard-working taxpayers shouldn’t be responsible for the education of others.

Thankfully, most people recognize the importance of education, the benefit it has on a person’s future and the positive impact on a community’s economy.  The same benefits can be attributed to access to health care, so I’m not really sure why we are so divided about the issue.

But we are.

Instead of debating how to help people, we are debating whether or not we even should.  Take, for example, the comments of the previously mentioned public school teacher who claimed the concept of the Affordable Care Act is immoral.

Last time I checked, helping others was the definition of morality, not immorality.

But logic isn’t everyone’s strong suit. Many of the same people advocating for personal responsibility are also outraged that the individual mandate is part of health care reform. As explained to me, the purpose of this mandate is to encourage responsibility by requiring people to either purchase health insurance or pay a penalty to help cover the government’s costs.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think the Affordable Care Act is perfect, but at least it’s a statement about what a lot of people think is important.  Actually, most people probably think access to health care is important.  The dividing issue is about whether it is important for all Americans or only those who have employers or bank accounts that can cover the costs.

The debate isn’t  going to end anytime soon. And with the presidential election season getting into full swing, discussions will  get even more discordant.

I just hope that whatever the outcome, Americans can look back at the repercussions of this time with pride rather than shame. I hope we can say this is a time we stood up for the rights of all rather than for the benefit of some. And most of all,  I hope we  don’t divide and even burn down our house with our heated differences.