Women’s March 2020

I have never felt as powerful in my life as I felt marching through the streets of Lexington during the first Women’s March in January 2017. There I was surrounded by 10,000 of my sisters and brothers of similar thinking, shouting our outrage, at SO. MANY. THINGS, to the world.

The vibrancy and significance I felt in myself during that first march may be the reason I didn’t walk in the last two marches. Yes, I blamed issues like child care and work commitments, but deep down I think I wondered how I could possibly ever again feel as powerful and relevant as I did during that first march.

20200123_170744 (1)

I debated whether to attend this year’s march. It was rainy and cold. My daughter wanted to go with me, but I didn’t have child care for her little brother so she stayed home to watch him. I didn’t choose to be a single mother and I was pissed about having to deal with the scheduling complications of it.

The rage was still there. I had to march.

I marched for all the single moms who couldn’t march because they didn’t have access to child care or money to pay for it. I marched for my mom, to honor her and thank her for her strength and courage and persistence in raising my brother and me.

Yeah, I felt the rage.

Like so many women, I do #AllTheThings. It’s hard to maintain the intensity of the vocal outrage I felt in 2017. It’s not like the rage is gone, it’s still very much there, but so is everything else women deal with in real life. Alongside all the band concerts and Scout meetings, packing lunches and ensuring teeth are brushed, the rage simmers …always there, permeating every action, mundane and purposeful alike.

The rage is still there. It is sooo still there. I had to march.

In full disclosure, I know a handful of men who run their households and are the primary caregivers for their children (you know who you are). You are awesome, but you are definitely in the minority.

Smart people have asked me, “What do you have to be angry about?” Seriously, they have.

What am I angry about? Are you kidding me?

We have lawmakers who still think they are the boss of my uterus. And the boss of my daughter’s uterus; these are people in positions of power who want to control the bodies of every woman you know.

I marched for all our daughters because they will NOT have their reproductive lives dictated by a bunch of old white men.

There are lawmakers who don’t think I should be able to discuss my healthcare with my doctor free from government intervention. There are lawmakers who think female bodies can’t get pregnant from a rape. There are lawmakers who want to pass legislation to mandate ectopic pregnancies be reimplanted back in a woman. They don’t even have the faintest clue about how a woman’s body works, yet they want to be the boss of it.

Are you kidding me? I had to march.

I’ve only watched the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale. As horrific as it is to live in Gilead, the parts of the show that scare me the most are the flashbacks: scenes where we witness the United States as it systematically restricts women’s rights until we arrive at a totalitarian theocracy. Folks, it’s not much of a stretch from here to there.

20200118_170657

I marched because we have people shooting up Jewish temples. We have babies taken from their parents by our government. Women still aren’t paid as much as men. People of color suffer from direct personal attacks and inherent systematic racism, in ways that as a white woman, I am still trying to wrap my head around. Sexual predation runs rampant in every facet of our communities. Corporations still exploit their workers. People can’t afford rent on minimum wage. For all the talk of how well the economy is doing, it’s only doing well for those that are already rich.  People like you and me, who may not be invested in the stock market, and even though we are educated and well-employed, are not going to do as well as our parents did.

I had to march. For working people.

Health care is a mess and the insurance companies are out of control. I have a friend who right now is waiting for insurance to approve a CT scan for her young husband who has been told he likely has cancer. They won’t know until he has the scan. She’s been trying to get this test scheduled FOR A MONTH. Can you imagine waiting over a month for the insurance company to determine whether you’re worthy of life-saving health care?

I marched for my friend.

Our world is on fire from California to Australia, yet climate change is a hoax. I march for vulnerable populations in areas that will be underwater in 20 years. I march for SCIENCE.

A bunch of Muslim children were harassed by three men outside Kentucky’s Capitol earlier this week. Grown-ass men were yelling to kids that they were going to hell because they didn’t believe in the right God. I marched for those school children and to apologize for those idiots who unfortunately happen to have been born in my great state.

We have a President who is openly racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and makes fun of people with disabilities, yet people are able to forgive that because they got some conservative judges appointed and a tax break for the rich. I marched because that behavior is not OK, and neither is condoning it with silence.

Our country has a lot of work to do to live up to its democratic ideals. We should all march.

Listen to Your Heart

Twenty-nine years ago Marie Fredriksson became an unforgettable part of my life and I didn’t even know her name. I knew her as the voice of the rock duo Roxette.  She died today from cancer at the age of 61.

Twenty-nine years ago I was a freshman in college and had met my very first true-love boyfriend, Robert. I’d had my eyes set on him since the first day of school. Tall, dark hair, and a black leather jacket–an irresistible combination for my 18-year old self. Did I mention he was a poet too?

We dated for about a year, but with a serious, devastating breakup in the middle. Without going into the details, he thought it was best. I disagreed. I acted stupid and relied on my girlfriends to keep me sane. He moped around and worried about me to his buddies.

At some point both sets of friends got tired of all the crying and moping and stupid and made a plan to get us back together.

At our college, men and women weren’t allowed in the other’s dormitory rooms unless it was a special occasion. Or unless you snuck in, but that’s a story for a different day, not that I know anyone who ever broke the rules. This social event was called an “Open House,” where students were allowed to freely roam the halls, and rooms, of the dorm, as long as doors stayed open and one foot was on the floor.

My friends convinced me that I should go to Robert’s dorm’s open house. I was nervous, but agreed because I might see him and he could see how awesome I was doing without him. Deep down, though, I missed him so much I couldn’t think about anything else. He was the first boy I ever loved. It was the real thing; that I still believe.

After a cursory walk around the dorm, my girlfriends led me to the common area where there was music playing. I saw Robert. He saw me. I looked at my friends. He looked at his. They formed a circle around us. Then they played “Listen To Your Heart” by Roxette and smiled at us. Robert and I looked at each other, grinning and embarrassed, totally surprised, and our reunion was official. We slow-danced to that song surrounded by friends who’d managed the perfect cloak and dagger operation for us. For love. It was truly magical.

I never hear that song, even after all these years, and not think about him and all of our beloved friends on that small college campus who made that sublime experience possible for me. I’ve never experienced a moment quite like that, so divine, so enveloped by love and the arms of friends, and the naïve belief that love conquers all. That one fleeting sliver of life, when the whole universe was rooting for us, is uniquely precious.

Robert and I have gone our separate ways but remained friends over the years. I hope Sherri, Melanie, Angel, Lee Ann, Brett, Howie, Casey, and Ron all know how special that moment was for me and how much I thank them for it.

Thank you to Marie Fredriksson, Per Gessle, and Roxette, for making art that became part of the soundtrack of my life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCC_b5WHLX0

An Appeal to Potential Bevin Voters

For the length of this article, let’s forget about three things:

  • Party affiliation. Let’s stipulate that you probably identify as a Republican or Democrat and have strong feelings about President Trump one way or the other. Let’s keep Matt Bevin’s performance in Kentucky separate from national politics.
  • Let’s remember that Kentucky already has some of the strictest abortion laws in the country and that any decision to roll back Roe v. Wade will come from the Supreme Court, not Kentucky.
  • Despite what campaign ads try to make you believe, there are no sanctuary cities in Kentucky. None. Any substantial change in immigration policy will have to come from Congress and the President, not the governor of Kentucky.

I grew up the daughter of a single working mother in Eastern Kentucky. I know what it’s like to be poor. When bologna sandwiches are a staple of your diet, you never forget it. It’s from this perspective I try to understand what makes us think Matt Bevin has done, or will do, anything for the working families of Kentucky.

Here is what Bevin thinks about working class Kentucky families:

He repeatedly tries to take health care away from poor Kentuckians by rolling back expanded Medicare, jeopardizing access to health care for over 500,000 people. The majority of people who gained access to health care under expanded Medicaid live Eastern and Western Kentucky. Reducing access to health care hurts working class Kentuckians.

He doesn’t think insurance companies should be required to provide coverage for those of us with pre-existing conditions. He said this as recently as last month during a campaign speech. I have a pre-existing condition as do my children, yet he doesn’t think we are worthy of insurance coverage. Pre-existing conditions include pregnancy, high blood pressure and cholesterol, sleep apnea, diabetes, and many more common conditions experienced by Kentuckians. Bevin looks out for insurance companies, not you and me and every other Kentuckian with a pre-existing condition.

He’s cut education funding to public schools and universities, hindering our kids’ ability to attain a quality education. He would have cut additional public school funding for transportation and Family Resource Centers if the legislature hadn’t stopped him.

He repeatedly insults teachers in Kentucky, the folks we trust with our kids every day. I want the professionals who teach my public school children to hold their heads high as they walk into school every day, proud of the job they do. Bevin called them thugs and blamed them for the sexual molestation and drug addiction of children. I don’t know where he gets his information, but his description doesn’t align at all with the hardworking, genuine, and selfless teachers who have taught my kids over the years. The constant demonization of teachers doesn’t help them teach our kids every day.

The Governor gave a speech announcing he would like to eliminate the income tax and increase the sales tax and gas tax. This would allow the rich to get richer (less of their income is taxed), and force working class folks to pay more for items like food, gas, and diapers.  How many of us survive paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford additional taxes?

Bevin refuses to tell us where he travels on the state plane that you and I pay for. It doesn’t matter if he pays for the trips; we own the plane. He eliminates education funding, but doesn’t think we deserve to know how he spends our tax dollars.

He continually insults working class people by telling us he is smarter than us and knows better than we do what we need to improve our lives. The Governor needs to remember he works for us and is required to listen to what the people of Kentucky want. We want health care, education, and decent jobs with decent pay.  Being richer than us doesn’t make him smarter than us.

The majority of you reading this are, like me, not wealthy. We have to look out for our own. Governor Bevin is an elitist who doesn’t have the ability to inspire, collaborate, or even treat us with respect. He is condescending and manipulative and often resorts to name calling, I assume because he can’t make an argument for his policies on their merit. He doesn’t represent Kentucky; he’s an embarrassment to us.

PLEASE make your decision for Governor based on local issues that affect our lives every day and not national issues that have little to do with a Governor’s race. Vote for Kentucky. Not Matt Bevin.

I Need to Practice What I Preach

I need to eat some crow. Publicly.

If you are a reader of this blog, all 12 of you, you know that I frequently write about political topics. While I usually focus my opinion on specific issues, I also do a lot vague preaching about how we need to not “other” people; not vilify those who are different from us, political philosophies included. I’ve told you that we are all just people who feel love, pain, hurt, and anger no matter what our skin color or religious differences. Othering ostracizes people and puts them into discrete silos that allow us to separate ourselves from them, dehumanizing them in the process.

I’ve written about that A LOT. I believe deep down in my bones we have to talk to the people with whom we disagree. I try really hard to practice what I preach.

And then I did it, without even thinking.

Some of you may have read about the recent acquittal of former Michigan State University basketball star, Mateen Cleaves, on sexual assault charges.  The case has been ongoing since late 2015, but on August 20th of this year a jury found him not guilty on all charges, despite some very damning video suggesting otherwise.

I am not here to discuss the merits of the case or to pass judgement on Cleaves or the jury, but the video of the incident is extremely disturbing.  When I saw it, I was outraged, but sadly, not shocked.  We’ve seen sexual predators get away with outlandishly horrific crimes with little to no repercussions.  I made a social media post with a link to the video that said, “This is why women, and men, are angry.”

What does this have to do with othering?

Two of the people who commented on that social media post were men, men who happen to disagree with many of my political beliefs.  Their reaction: outrage that Cleaves got away with it.

My reaction:  Really?

How could they agree with me? We probably disagree on the majority of the political issues out there in the world today, so obviously they would disagree with me on condemning a former professional athlete who apparently sexually assaulted a woman.

Right?

No?

But they’re all the same, aren’t they? In this toxic political climate, you’re either with me or against me. There are no gray areas here.  And yet…

They agreed with me because anybody with eyes and a brain would agree with me. This outrage had nothing to do with beliefs on abortion or guns or healthcare…it was outrage at what a human can do to another human.  We are all humans.

I’ve known these two men for over 25 years. They’ve helped me move (more than once), were a part of my wedding, and have stayed up late with me discussing politics. These are good people. And how easily I othered them. How easily I became what I detest. I am the problem here.

So, I apologize to them for being an asshole. I apologize for being a hypocrite. I’m a firm believer that though we can’t change our initial reaction to something, we can change the underlying attitude that fostered the reaction in the first place.

I promise to be more aware of my othering.  We are all human.

Is This the Best the Kentucky Legislature Can Do?

Our public schools are grossly underfunded with a constant need for new text books, updated technology, and mental health counselors. Kentucky has a shortage of almost 5,000 teachers. One out of five Kentucky children face food insecurity and more than that are hungry.  The opioid epidemic is rampant in our state. 

It is the job of our elected representatives in the Kentucky legislature to develop strategies and programs to address these issues, to improve the lives of Kentuckians.

Instead of focusing on the problems that face so many of us, the stewards of our state budget are using taxpayer time and resources to require signs reading, “In God We Trust” to be prominently displayed in each public school in Kentucky.   

I shake my head in disbelief but really I should be used to this behavior by now. The leaders in Frankfort spend more time worrying about my soul than my family’s pocketbook. They don’t care about keeping church and state separate in Kentucky. They don’t mind the state will have to spend taxpayer money to defend an unconstitutional law in court.

This isn’t the first law the state legislature passed knowing it was blatantly unconstitutional, that it would be challenged in court, and the state would be out thousands of dollars to defend it.  Why would our lawmakers waste taxpayer dollars in such a frivolous manner? “To make a point,” they said.

The bill requiring the “In God We Trust” signs was introduced by Representative Brandon Reed, a minister from Hodgenville.  Perhaps Mr. Reed, along with a good number of his peers in Frankfort, need a refresher on middle school civics. It isn’t the job of lawmakers to legislate morality, to support religion, or to “make points.”

These elected officials don’t serve the people of Kentucky. They serve their own religious beliefs, which don’t have any role in our public schools or any place in our state government. The Constitution guarantees us freedom from religion.

I am not anti-God, anti-Christian, or anti-religion. There are valuable lessons for our kids in Christianity sure, just as there are in Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism. We can show our students love and acceptance by reflecting those qualities in our demeanor and our interactions with them. We don’t need a sign advertising God over every door to teach our students morality.

I would much rather Kentucky spend its dollars on hiring teachers, fighting poverty, and recruiting well-paying jobs for our residents. These are the tasks we need our legislators to accomplish. 

 With all the money we are spending on signs that people won’t read and if they do, will become so accustomed to they’ll be overlooked in a matter of days, we could be paying for school lunches, buying supplies, or hiring school nurses. Having “In God We Trust” signs in every one of our 1,568 public schools will do nothing to improve the quality of education our children receive. What a waste of time by our state legislature and a waste of resources by our already cash-strapped public schools.

We deserve better.

Rediscovering Your Love and Need for the Outdoors

My first blog post for #HikeLikeAWoman.

Rediscovering your love and need for the outdoors

Recycling taking a step backward

Here is my latest column for the Herald-Leader.

https://www.kentucky.com/opinion/op-ed/article231570068.html