99 New: An Open Letter to My Dear Friend Hillary

Dear Hillary,

I daresay in this age of hyperbole and conjecture that it is entirely possible that someone without your best interests at heart planted the rumor that you are thinking of running again for President in 2020. They might have sown those seeds of your wanting another run just for the fun of seeing all the new trolls and memes emerge, new ones specially crafted just for you, wicked ones, best not to look.

So though it may be a great fiction that you are contemplating a third run for President, I still feel compelled to write. Knowing you as I do, a compatriot of age and temperament, I can say things to you that maybe younger people or people less traveled in the world of hard knocks might say. So here goes.

It’s done. The third time will not be the charm, it will just be the third time, the third time you knock yourself out, spend millions of dollars, put your real life on hold, build unholy alliances, make mistakes, work harder than everyone else, know more than everyone else, and lose. And it won’t be fair. Just like it wasn’t fair the first two times.

It is someone else’s turn.

I don’t say this because you’re old or your politics are bad (although some would argue both are true). It’s because you already lost twice. You smell like defeat. No one will tell you but I will. You reek of it. It’s in your clothes like smoke from a bad date. It smells used and musty like a mistake left to rot on the vine.

Here’s my advice. Take all your old stuff to Goodwill, the pastel pant suits, all of them, and go buy some new jeans. And after you get your new jeans, buy yourself some great boots. And after you get the great boots, find a new way to be great. Don’t go back to the place where you got fucked over. That’s crazy. Go somewhere entirely new – Go West, Young Woman – and claim a new space. Create your own world and be extraordinary there. And free. Be free there.

Trust me, I’m right about this. I see things you can’t see because you’re still crying even though you’re pretending you’re not. Take your wounded feelings and your mad desire for revenge and shitcan them. Go find out what comes next.

Love,

Your devoted supporter, Jan.

_______________

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Satisfaction

Trump likes it that this bomb stuff is happening. He’s like a teenage arsonist sitting in a grove of trees watching the neighbor’s barn burn down. He’s not sorry, not for a single second, he wants to see it burn. That’s why he went there with gasoline and matches.

The barn burning makes him feel happy and powerful. After all, other people don’t have the nerve to douse a hay-filled barn with gasoline and strike a dozen matches. They’d chicken out, just talk about it, brag in advance and threaten but never actually set something like that in motion. A real fire? Real destruction? No, that’s too much.

For them, maybe, but not for the teenage arsonist.

So Trump comes to Wisconsin tonight, starts his speech reading something John Kelly wrote for him about how his job as President is to keep the country safe and how the federal government will find the culprits, “hopefully soon,” and bring them to justice. And then he launches into his gasoline and matches speech that elicits great guffaws and applause when he mocks people trying to contain or moderate his speech. Oh, what were they thinking?

Inspired, I guess, by Trump’s bravado, the Republican candidate for the United States Senate herself gets the crowd going with the ever-popular “Lock her up” chant so familiar to those of us dumb enough to tune in. Yes, Leah Vukmir, Wisconsin’s own, a nurse and former state legislator, leads the cheer, her ardor for the guy with the gasoline and matches completely snatching her brains from under her mop of carefully coiffed brown hair.

It’s grotesque. You know why? Because the teenage arsonist doesn’t want to just burn the barn down; he wants more damage than that. He wants people and creatures to get hurt. That’s how he’ll know he’s truly powerful.

Our mistake is thinking that Trump is reckless. We keep thinking he’s unusually given to hyperbole, that he’s an amateur who doesn’t understand the gravitas required of a President. We look to his staff to rein him in and show him the ropes and we wait for him to comprehend the censure heaped on him by countless respected figures here and around the world.

We’re idiots for thinking this. It’s like thinking the teenage arsonist is just fascinated by the flames’ pretty colors instead of understanding that this wicked kid could get us all killed and be smiling while he lights the matches. Oh, Trump wasn’t bummed out tonight; nothing about a bunch of seriously important people getting packages with bombs in them bothered him in the least. It was fun. He was smiling. Pretty flames.

Still Mad

Once at a stoplight, the man in the car next to me rolled down his window and told me to stop yelling at my kids. Well, actually, what he said was, “Take it easy, lady.”

I told him to mind his own business, then I tore off when the light changed to green, and kept yelling at my kids. Their offense? They all went nuts at the doctor’s office at once because it was shot day. They were running around, making me chase them, arguing, and the worst of all worst things that could happen with my kids, my older son was doing his loud “Stop hurting me!” yell every time I touched him. It was his favorite thing. I’d look at him and he’d start yelling and holding his arm.

It was mortifying. And, no, I never broke his arm.

I felt like that last night watching the news. I was so mad at everything that had gone on during the day – from the Paris Accord to yet another wacky chapter in the endless Russia saga – that I had to stand up to yell about it. In my own living room. Sitting and yelling wouldn’t do justice to my rage. No sirreebob.

My husband sat in his big leather chair, his back brace, necessary because of his recent surgery, slightly loosened and looking like an enormous cummerbund. “You’re going to have a cerebral hemorrhage if you keep it up,” he said, folding his hands over his brace like a judge waiting for final arguments. Surgery has made him oddly serene, although he always did take a longer view of things than I do, and he never took all three children to the doctor at once. And no one, really no one, would ever pull up next to him at a light and say anything to him except maybe, “Go Packers.”

Today, I reflected on my anger and how it has been kept steady at this boiling point since November 8th, 2016. First, the raging disbelief and then the seething indignity, the two emotions tag-teaming through the holidays and into the spring. The sexism aimed at Hillary Clinton made me sick, like the time my mother slapped me across the face. I always knew something like that could happen but never thought it would happen to me. She never seemed that kind of person, my mother. Well, don’t we all have surprises in life? I wore Hillary Clinton’s defeat like the mark of that slap, so forceful you could see the imprints of the individual fingers and it never stopped stinging. It still stings.

Layered on is my rage at the horrible people vandalizing the White House. I waved my arms in my rant last night. “This is our great country! How can this be happening here?” Because you know I am patriotic. I am so patriotic. I believe in America and all of its slogans – the land of the free and the home of the brave. I buy all of that. Indivisible with liberty and justice for all, I believe that, even knowing that we are so flawed as a country and as a people. It doesn’t matter to me. We are trying. Or we were. We were trying.

I wonder how long I can keep being mad about so much. I wonder if my husband is right and I will have a stroke and drop dead. People will come to my funeral and reflect on how my inability to control my emotions got the best of me. And they would be right, totally right. I work, I study, I walk. I organize. I march. I am present in the resistance. But it’s not enough.

Nothing is enough to tamp down this fury.

 

____________

Photo: Ben White, Unsplash

In This Election: Politics Is Personal

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The presidential election is painful for a lot of us girls.

First of all, we’re conflict averse. Oh, we understand conflict and can wield a sharp sword but it’s on the silent battlefield where we win. Articulated conflict is upsetting, especially those of us of a certain age. So our response is borrowed from men who seem to us to have successfully managed disputes. “You drive like a man,” a male friend once said to me as I maneuvered my car around the turns of a five-story parking ramp. I took it as a compliment.

I am known as a person with strong opinions but I have thrown unopened letters in the trash if I believed them to contain harsh words. I’ve deleted emails sent in retort to something critical I said to someone. One would say I can dish it out but not take it. That’s something my father would say about someone who hid from the truth, “Yeah, he can dish it out but he can’t take it.” I avoid things that will hurt my feelings. I abhor criticism. Not because I believe I am flawless but because it gives me a sick feeling in my stomach.

I look at Hillary Clinton and I’m betting she started from the same place I did. We’re the same age. The only difference is that she’s been a world leader and I’ve had a consulting practice in a fairly large Midwestern city. Does she drive like a man? Does she throw out scary mail? Does she get a sick feeling in her stomach when she’s attacked?

Secondly, we believe in the meritocracy. We believe in being prepared, getting certified, having the qualifications, putting the years in, getting good recommendations, fitting the job description. It’s what makes life fair. The resume.

So we build our resumes. We take more courses and join more boards while our male counterparts are having drinks at the club that we didn’t know about and wouldn’t join anyway because it would take time away from everything important, like building our resumes.

Having spent a lifetime on my resume, literally years and years in school, which I remember fondly but were so very difficult at the time, having no money and working so hard, being one of very few women in class, praying for A’s like some people pray for a sign from Jesus, I am astonished at the lack of respect for Hillary Clinton’s resume. ‘They are treating her like she is just some person on the street.’ I think to myself. She is so qualified!

‘Oh, you fool,’ I think. Have you forgotten about the guys having drinks at the club?

And unbelievably, this almost brings me to tears.

I couch this all in the feminist struggle. I argue with people that Hillary Clinton is getting criticized and attacked because of sexism which I truly believe but what is really killing me is this. I am Hillary Clinton. Every woman my age is Hillary Clinton. Every woman who sat in college classes filled with men is Hillary Clinton. Every woman who showed up and worked hard and prepared and got ready is Hillary Clinton. And every woman who didn’t know there was a club is Hillary Clinton.

So, this election? It’s a tough little exercise. In what? Maybe learning to open scary letters and reading every word, folding the letters and putting them back in the envelopes they were mailed in, pulling them all together with a rubber band, and saving them for another time when I want to look back on the life I’ve lived. Maybe that’s the point of this campaign. To make all of this long, seemingly endless, struggle the stuff of attics.

 

 

What’s Different When Women Run Things

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The people who say they won’t vote for Hillary Clinton just because she’s a woman are driving me nuts.

It’s the latest thing in feminism, apparently, to eschew voting for an extremely well-qualified female candidate in favor of another in the legion of white men who have run the country since the beginning of time. But yes, the essence of freedom is that people – men and women – are free to vote regardless of gender or race or anything else.

Still, I think things are different when women run things. And because things are different when women run things, I obviously, strongly think that women should run more things.

What’s different when women run things? you ask. Let’s think about ten powerful women in a room charged with solving an enormous problem. How will they behave?

  1. There will be a lot of talking. Women will think out loud, try out ideas, put things on the table, take them off the table, and fill the air with words and ideas.
  2. No one will be hiding. A group of women is, to me, by definition, a safe environment. A reticent person will be drawn in to the discussion. A blowhard will be tamped down. The group will move in waves and rhythms that will be easy to ride.
  3. The solution will be the focus. Women don’t jockey for points because they see that for what it is – a game better suited to middle school than to places where grown-ups hang out. How do we solve this problem? That will be the focus of the group, not how do I look like the smartest person in the room. Big difference. But you all who are so convinced that men can handle it all without women wouldn’t really know that. You can trust, though. That’s a good approach.
  4. There will be worry about impact. A room full of women will worry about how their solution will affect people. They will act to minimize bad effects for children and families. They will think about mothers waving goodbye to their children going off to war. They will do what they do everyday: make sure that everyone else is okay.
  5. They will love the problem-solvers. Advancing the solution will get the respect, not grandstanding or obstruction. What brings the group together behind a fine idea will bring joy to the group and each member will own it.
  6. They will hang tough. There is nothing tougher than tough women who have linked arms on a plan. Nothing.
  7. The solution will be better. Because women create an environment where the solution is the focus and where all opinions are welcome and great ideas celebrated and solidarity valued, the solution to the enormous problem will be better. You ask me how I know. I’ve seen it happen. None of this is abstract.

But, this is just me thinking about what could be, sometime in the future when women take their 51% of the action. Probably not in my lifetime, but that’s fine. As long as we landed a man on the moon, who can complain?

 

What Hillary Should Do Next

None of us is surprised that Hillary Clinton lost in New Hampshire. The polls and pundits have been predicting this for weeks. So it’s done. What’s next? As a very strong supporter of Hillary Clinton, this is what I think she ought to do next.

Double down:  Contrary to those who say Hillary needs to soften her image and be more inspirational, I believe she should double down on what’s gotten her this far: brains, stamina, experience and fearlessness. If she believes these are the traits that a President should have, she shouldn’t shave the sharp edges off any of them. Be Hillary squared. Anything less smells like self-doubt. That’s a killer.

Go solo: Ditch the Scold Brigade. Madeleine Albright, amazing woman. Gloria Steinem, feminist icon. Extraordinary people both of them but note to Hillary: you don’t need a couple of big sisters coming to the playground to get your ball back. You can do that your own damn self. Listening to Madeleine Albright say that “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other” made me feel like my third grade teacher just sent me to the board to write “I promise to vote for Hillary Clinton” 100 times. Not a good, happy, pro-Hillary feeling.

Run for President: Quit running to be the first woman President. Enough already. It’s important, it’s historic but it’s not central. By focusing so much on gender, Hillary is pushing people to a position of saying that they won’t vote for her just because she’s a woman. In other words, they’re reducing the essence of her campaign and her qualifications to her gender. It seems strange to say but she needs to take gender off the table and just plain run for President.

Keep the Team: All the rumors about shake-ups and being unhappy with the campaign staff reek of failure and lack of direction. They spell mistake. And that gives people a straight line to the next dot on the page: If she can’t run a campaign, how is she going to run the country? Hillary ought to be doing photo shoots with her team, walking arm in arm with them everywhere she goes. Don’t adjust. Don’t fidget. Just keep driving the truck down the road, potholes and all.

Bust Out: Reclaim the thunder. The past few months have been a study in giving up center stage. All the new shiny things seem to be coming out of the pockets of opponents – both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Where are Hillary’s new shiny things? Where is her surprise move? Where is she going that isn’t 100% safe and controlled, where there isn’t a fence and a receiving line? Is she standing with people poisoned by Flint’s water, sitting with runaway teens in a shelter, listening to the stories of people leaving prison with no prayer of finding work? Another note to Hillary: go to the places where people are dying for leadership and hope and give them those things. It would be electric.

Not to put too many happy faces on it, but I do think that defeat is an opportunity that many people ignore. One can mentally go out and come back in again with a lot of new knowledge and much more steel. If one so chooses. That’s the trick.