Category Archives: Seriously.

It’s Galentine’s Day and I’m a Feminist So Let’s Talk About Feminism

Today is Galentine’s Day.

You’ve never heard of it?

I’ll let Leslie Knope, my favorite character from one of my favorite shows, Parks and Recreation explain.

After all, she created it.

It’s about “ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair minus the angst, plus frittatas.”

So let’s start by celebrating Leslie, who is my hero even though she is a fictional character.

I love her because she’s smart, funny, ambitious, opinionated, tenacious and yes, just a little bit annoying in her idealism. But perhaps most importantly, I love her because she doesn’t apologize for being any of those things.

She’s a great role model for women and girls, and hell, everyone.

She’s also a proud feminist and so am I.

The fact that I identify as a “feminist” shouldn’t be a surprise. I’ve said it probably hundreds of times before and one of my blog’s categories is literally “All the Cool Kids are Feminists”. It has been a category for years.

So this isn’t a new thing for me, what is new is this feeling I’ve had lately (that I am by no means proud of) that I shouldn’t say I’m a feminist.

That I shouldn’t say it because it might offend someone, because they might not understand.

People are not liking the word “feminist” lately.

When I hear the “F word” I think of someone who advocates for the equality of all people. (With that in mind, here’s a link to a old, but good article that explains  intersectional feminism far better than I ever could.)

When other people hear the word “feminist” they seem to hear “man-haters” or “whiners” or “Trump haters” or for some reason I really don’t understand “ugly, women who don’t shave their armpits.”

I’ll talk a little about these definitions.

But first I want to be clear about where I’m coming from when I say I’m a feminist.

I think a big part of why, as a society, we seem to have a hard time relating to each other lately is that we’re not even working with the same definitions of words.

We assume we know what someone means whey they say they’re a feminist or a Republican or a Christian or a supporter of Black Lives Matter.

We see a label and ascribe a definition to it – based on what we think it means, not based on what the person we’re talking to thinks it means. We make assumptions. (And we all know what they say about assumptions.)

Basically, we’ve become big fans of oversimplification lately. (Or maybe we have always been big fans of it but I just didn’t notice until now.)

But oversimplification doesn’t work because if there is one thing people are not — it’s simple.

People are confusing. They’re complicated. They are sometimes contradictory and frequently frustrating.

And though, on the surface that may seem like a negative thing, if you look a little deeper you can see it’s actually a good thing. Because people are complicated – that means their views are complicated too. That means things aren’t always black and white. That means there is usually more agreement and overlap in ideas than we give ourselves credit for.

Lately, it seems like if you say you’re a supporter of one thing, people automatically assume you’re against something else.

For example, if I say I’m a feminist (aka pro-women in this example) that must mean I’m against men. If I say I’m a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, that must mean I hate cops. If I say I’m not a fan of Trump that must mean I’m a whiny Hillary supporter who is just complaining because my candidate lost.

Sorry, it’s just not that simple. Life’s not that simple. People are not that simple.

Because, the thing is, I can be a feminist and love men and women. I can support Black Lives Matter while still believing that our law enforcement professionals are an incredibly important part of our society and we should value their work more. I can be a critic of Trump and Hillary.

People are complicated so we have to try harder to understand where they’re coming from and we have to try harder to communicate where we’re coming from too.

So here’s what I’m trying to say when I say I’m a feminist:

I’m saying that I believe traditional gender roles are limiting for everyone and there’s still more work to be done in terms of achieving full equality. 

Emma Watson (aka Hermione) explained the problem with traditional gender roles much more eloquently than I ever could in her speech to the United Nations in 2014. (It’s an old video and a long video, but it has an important message which I also wrote about at the time.)

She starts the speech by talking about what I’m going to talk about now – that “feminism” is not “man-hating.”

I don’t understand this misconception. If anything, I think feminism does a better job of honoring men than sexism does.

I’ll explain.

In a sexist world – things are pretty simple, by design. Men and women fit into very rigid gender roles that tell us what it is acceptable for each gender to do and be. (Also, it goes without saying, this is a very hetero-normative worldview.)

We all know these rules. We’re taught them from an early age. Men are to be smart, strong, ambitious, career-minded, brave and aggressive. Women are to be gentle, friendly, sweet, selfless, moral and focused on caring for others.

These roles or rules give both genders a raw deal. Because we’re all capable of being all of these things and we should all be free to be these things without judgement.

As a feminist, I believe that men and women are equally capable of making good decisions and treating others with kindness. That is the opposite of man-hating.

If anything, sexism hates men, or if not hates them, definitely thinks they’re dumb or less capable of basic decency than women.

Sexism operates under the idea that men’s bad behavior is something that can be explained away wholly by their gender. That’s why sayings like “Boys will be boys” are so popular. That’s why when men talk about sexual assaulting women we hear people talk about it as “locker room talk” that every man does.

Sexism teaches us that this behavior is a normal and it should be expected and tolerated because that’s just the way men are. It teaches us that men aren’t capable of being decent human beings and it’s up to women to preserve the moral integrity of society. That’s why women have to have stricter dress codes because you know how men are, always thinking with their penises.

Ummm no. Men are smarter than that. They’re better than that.

Not all men view women as solely sexual objects. Not all men sexually harass women. Not all men talk about harassing women in locker rooms. Some men just change in locker rooms and talk about normal stuff like people do, because some men are nice.

The average man is good and decent and that’s the way feminism views him.

I don’t think I’m more capable of making good choices than my male counterparts simply because I’m a woman – I think we’re equal.

That’s sort of the point.

Okay, now we’ve reached another point where I’ve seen a lot of disagreement lately particularly among women.

Please let me explain where I’m coming from.

When I say I’m a feminist, I’m not saying that I don’t think men and women are equally capable. As I’ve explained, I do.

I am not saying men and women don’t have equal opportunities. In many ways, we do. We’ve come a long way.

Yes, we have the right to vote. Yes we have the right to pursue the careers of our choosing. Yes, we even have the right to be president.

But you don’t have to stop believing in something just because you’ve achieved some of your goals.

Life is more complicated than that. Equality is more complicated than that.

And we’re not equal yet.

Despite the fact that women make up more than half of the U.S. population, women are not equally represented in politics, business or entertainment.

These three groups shape our country’s laws and provide us with the products and media that are a large part of our daily lives.

And, just math-wise, it’s clear there’s not equality here.

  • It’s 2017, our country is roughly 240 years old and we’ve never had a female president. (This isn’t a pro-Hillary thing. I’m just saying it’d be nice of we had a lady in the White House at some point.)
  • There are only 20 women in the Senate out of 100 senators.
  • Since 1917, when representative Jeannette Rankin became the first woman to serve in Congress, 325 women have served as U.S. representatives, delegates or senators. (That may seem like a lot until you remember that Congress has 535 members and it’s been 100 years since 1917). 
  • Roughly 20 Fortune 500 companies have a female CEO. Yeah, just 20.
  • Women made up 7 percent of all directors working on the 250 highest-grossing domestic movies in 2016.

There’s still work to be done. 

And that touches on another complaint I’ve seen about feminism – that women who call themselves feminists want to be handed things. That they’re lazy. That they’re whiners.

Maybe that’s what some of them are saying, but I don’t think that’s what most of them are saying and that’s certainly not the brand of feminism I support.

And, it’s not the kind Leslie Knope would support either. I don’t know Leslie, because yeah, she’s not real, but I’d imagine she’d be behind the “let’s get to work” brand of feminism.

So what does that mean?

To me, it means supporting other women (particularly politicians, if I agree with their policies). It means supporting the work of female directors and other women who make good entertainment about smart, strong, female characters. It means working with young girls to let them now that they are capable of being anything they want to be.

And it means, not tearing other women down.

Which is one of the saddest things I’ve seen come out of the recent debate about feminism.

I’ve seen women who don’t identify with the feminist ideology saying that feminists have attacked them, saying feminists have called them a disgrace to women or something similar.

That’s not what feminism is about and if people calling themselves feminists did that to you or made you feel that way, I’m sincerely sorry. But please know these people don’t represent feminism as a whole and they don’t represent me.

 

But then I’ve seen people on the other side, people who don’t identify themselves as feminists, imply that feminists are lazy, or whiners or ugly girls who are just sad they can’t get a date.

This is equally sad and it needs to stop.

The name-calling needs to stop.

Because if Mean Girls taught us anything, it’s that this type of behavior is the freaking worst.

It’s “girl on girl crime” and it doesn’t help any of us. Here’s a video of Tina Fey, I mean, Ms. Norbury, talking about it. And yeah, the video’s long but it has a good point.

We’re all better off when we lift each other up instead of tearing each other down and Galentine’s Day is a perfect time to celebrate that.

P.S. You can also celebrate but giving to some neat organizations for woman and girls.

P.P.S. I know it’s annoying that I keep plugging charities, but I don’t care because sometimes a little annoying is good for us. Leslie taught me that.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Overanalyze It, Sometimes Mean People Are Just Stupid

Disclaimer: I originally wrote this post way back in 2014, but after a weird encounter with a fellow human the other day, I started thinking about it. Plus, it seems relevant since, myself (and far too many other people) have recently been tying themselves up in knots trying to find the logic in the rantings of Internet trolls. 

***

Like most older siblings (or like most egotistical older siblings) I like to think I am wiser than my younger brother.

I like to think that during the roughly four years I was alive before my brother was born I gleaned so much valuable knowledge that it is virtually impossible for him to ever catch up. You know, because of all the cool stuff I learned before age four…

Admittedly, the theory doesn’t hold much water. It’s further disproved when my brother has the audacity to frequently be much, much smarter than I am. This is very annoying and frankly, kind of rude of him.

Younger siblings are not supposed to be handing up sage advice to older siblings. It throws the whole darn system out of whack. But since the advice my brother gave me the other day was so darn good, I’ll let him get away with it. Just this once.

Essentially what my brother told me was pretty simple. But it was something I needed to hear anyway.

The little knowledge bomb my little bro dropped on me was this: “Some people are just stupid.”

Okay, broken down to its essence it doesn’t sound like much. But he followed it up by saying, “You know, like that theory? That theory that you should never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity?”

No, no I didn’t know that theory. I’d gone 27 whole years without knowing that theory. I Googled it just to make sure he wasn’t screwing with me. He wasn’t. It’s real. It’s called Hanlon’s Razor (named after Robert J. Hanlon who must have been surrounded by stupid people) and it basically explains everything.

It’s also the main reason I haven’t completely lost faith in the human race. It’s way easier to forgive people when they mistreat you if you can just think of them as hapless, hopeless dumb-dumbs who unintentionally hurt you because, you know, they didn’t know better.

When you think people know better and they acted deliberately, it’s a heck of a lot harder to forgive. And I’m already bad at forgiveness. This is not a trait I’m proud of — but it’s a trait I know I have. I suck at forgiveness.

I’m a nit-picker, an over-analyzer, a dead-horse-beater (like the saying. I do not hit real horses. That’d be pretty shitty of me.) It’s not easy for me to forgive people when they are jerks to me because I’m a sucker for the “why.”

I have to know the reason. If someone flips me off while I’m driving when I’m actually driving well it will bug me for hours, if not days. I will not let it drop. I do not let things drop. I will map out the situation with visual aids. I will solicit feedback from multiple, completely-biased-in-my-favor sources. I will make wild, unfounded speculations like “Maybe it wasn’t me. Maybe that lady just has a personal, completely unrelated vendetta against beat-up Toyota Camrys.”

If someone randomly yells an insult at me (like a bunch of teenage boys who are just yelling offensive stuff at everyone because of their pent-up puberty rage, for example) I will spend infinitely more time than I should thinking about it. As in some time. I will actually think about it.

I’ll wonder if it was my fault. I will wonder if I unintentionally did something to offend them, which makes no sense because the only interaction I’ve had with them is them being dicks to me for no reason.

I don’t respond well to people being dicks to me for no reason. For the most part, I just stand there stupidly, blankly like a deer caught in the headlights who is just like “Huuuuuuh?”

 

Life’s hard enough without people deliberating mistreating each other. It’s just easier (and frankly, kind of lazier) to just try to be nice. That’s why I spend way too much time over-thinking it whenever people happen to jerks to me.

I just don’t get their endgame and I will not stop soliciting opinions on the matter. (Which when I think about it is probably really annoying for the people who have to listen to me—sorry, guys.)

That’s probably why my brother helped me shut up about it. It’s probably why he put the matter of jerkdom-motivation to rest.

It’s probably why he told me it’s all pretty simple: some people are just stupid.

My brother, however, is not one of them.

I Get It, We’re Scared. But That Doesn’t Make It Right.

Disclaimer: I originally wrote this post in June, but I think it’s fitting now. 

I’m an angry-crier. I can’t help it.

If you’ve ever seen me really angry, you’ve also seen me cry. The tears just flow out of my eyeballs like white-hot, angry feelings lava. I can’t help it. I can’t stop myself from caring all over the place.

I also curse a lot when I’m angry – a lot.

I really wish I was someone who could calmly and coolly argue my point when I’m angry. I wish I was someone who could give impassioned, articulate, cry- and curse-free speeches full of grace and panache.

Ideally,  I’d be someone like Dorothy Zbornak, the Golden Girl who was known, in part, for dispatching  indignant speeches with her signature seriousness and sass. (Here’s a video demonstrating Dot’s badassery.)

But unfortunately, I’m no Dorothy, so when I’m really mad about something, I’m forced to write my argument down.

And that’s why I’m writing today — I just can’t take it any more. Trump’s not okay, guys. The things he’s saying, the ideas he’s spreading, the fear and hatred and bigotry he is promoting (overtly and implicitly) is not okay.

It’s WRONG. (As a former reporter, I hate unnecessary capitalization and bold font but I’m keeping it here anyway because I mean it that much.)

I understand we’re living in frightening times. The latest tragedy – Orlando, is horrifying and sad beyond words, beyond reason.

And I don’t know how to change it. I don’t know how to stop it.  I don’t have a solution.

But one thing I do know is that we can’t let our fear make us turn on each other.

I know at times like this, it can be reassuring to hear political leadership throw out ideas, any ideas, to protect our safety. I understand why some people may find a sense of security and direction in some of the things Trump says.

In a way, I see how his comments on banning immigration from primarily-Muslim countries could bring comfort. He’s saying something, anything, and at this point people are grasping for a plan, any plan, to combat this terror. I get that.

But I don’t think this is the right plan. We, as a country, shouldn’t blame the sins of a radical minority on the entire Muslim population. It just doesn’t make sense – numbers-wise, it’s illogical.

As Aniz Ansari recently pointed out in his New York Times Opinion piece “Why Trump Makes Me Scared for My Family“:

“There are approximately 3.3 million Muslim Americans. After the attack in Orlando, The Times reported that the F.B.I. is investigating 1,000 potential “homegrown violent extremists,” a majority of whom are most likely connected in some way to the Islamic State. If everyone on that list is Muslim American, that is 0.03 percent of the Muslim American population.”

Admittedly, I’m not great with math, but even I can see that 0.03 percent of a population is an extremely small proportion of that group.

That means that the extremely vast majority of Muslim Americans who Trump regularly demonizes, have absolutely nothing to do with Islamic extremism.

Islam is just a religion and for the most part, its practitioners in America and elsewhere are just everyday people frightened, confused and saddened by the recent violence.

Muslim Americans are just regular people. (Here’s a video to remind us of that.) They’re not “just like us”. They are us. They’re Americans who deserve the right to practice their religion without being seen as “outsiders”, as “others” or as Trump so often paints them “as potential threats.”

At various points in his presidential campaign, Trump has advocated for the following things: doing surveillance on mosques, indefinitely banning Muslims from entering the country and seriously, I’m not making this up: compiling a national database of Muslims living in the U.S.

All of these suggestions terrify me.

They don’t scare me because, as Trump might allege, I’m a “bleeding heart liberal” or “obsessed with being politically correct.” (Though I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I’m convinced that being politically correct just means you know how to act like a diplomatic adult. Being diplomatic is a quality, I, for one, look for in my preferred presidential candidate, and basically all adults I don’t think are jerks.)

These ideas scare me for almost the exact opposite reasons Trump might suggest .

Politically, and as a person, I like to see myself as a mixture of Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation though obviously, I’m not nearly as cool as either.

I’m someone who will cry when given a thoughtful gift or small compliment (Leslie) but I’m also someone who will become furious when someone (particularly someone who knows absolutely nothing about me) tells me what is acceptable for me to feel, think or believe (Ron).

And in this instance, it’s not the Leslie Knope part of me that’s more outraged, it’s the Ron Swanson part.

Because the government doesn’t get to tell you what religion is acceptable. Donald Trump doesn’t get to decide who I can worship.

In a country that prides itself, and was founded on, the ideas of freedom – freedom of speech, freedom of religion – an entire group of Americans shouldn’t be signaled out and vilified simply because of what or how they worship.

Sure, Trump’s suggestions may not scare you now because at the moment they may not affect you. The government may not want to monitor your churches, keep a list of your fellow parishioners, or tell people like you not to enter the country.

Trump’s ideas may not affect you now, but that doesn’t make them any less scary. It doesn’t make them any less wrong.

Is this really a precedent we want to set? Do we really want to start singling out our citizens based on their religion? (Because in the course of human history, people have done that many times before – almost always with horrifying results).

Do we want to chip away at the freedom of religion, one of the very freedoms that makes this country great, just because we’re scared?

Is that really something we want to do?

I hope not. I think we’re better than that. I think we’re braver than that.

I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know the secret trick to make us feel safe. But I do know that turning on ourselves, on our own citizens, on the very freedoms that make our country great -is not the answer.

It’s just wrong.

Update, 1-29-2017: If you’re upset about the recent immigration ban, or even if you’re not, donating to organizations like Lutheran Family Services and Lincoln Literacy is a good way to spread a little love right now. Because, unless we turn our words into action, unless we put in the work, we’re not doing enough. 

Your Joke Wasn’t Funny But Here’s Some Stuff That Is

Sometimes, when you tell an offensive joke and people don’t laugh, the offensive bit wasn’t the only problem.

Sometimes the joke needs some work too.

Sometimes it just wasn’t funny.

Recently, a Nebraska politician came under fire for re-tweeting a joke about the Women’s March.

I’m not going to get into the whole thing here because frankly, the joke wasn’t funny the first time, nor was it funny when the state senator re-tweeted it. But if you’re interested, here’s a link to an article on it from the Lincoln Journal Star.

(The article also details the senator’s other controversies – including using his state-owned laptop for cybersex with a stranger. So, yeah this wasn’t just about the tweet. There was more to it than that. But for now, we’re going to talk about the tweet.)

When he received some inevitable push-back on the tweet, the senator inevitably took it down. But not before he spent spent hours arguing back and forth with people about it. Because, as we all know, any good joke requires hours of explanation to make sure people “get it”).

And, even when did resign, (after he was asked to do so from senators from both parties) he wouldn’t admit to doing anything wrong.

I’m sick of this behavior. I’m sick of people making offensive jokes and then complaining when people get offended. That’s how these types of jokes work.

When you decide to tell an offensive joke, you are voluntarily taking a risk. You’re making a bet that what you are about to say is slightly more funny than it is mean. You’re guessing that your joke will make people laugh at least slightly more than it will make them angry.

Sometimes, you’re right. Sometimes you’re wrong.

Sometimes you miscalculate and there isn’t enough humor to balance out the mean.

This can make you look like a jerk. That’s on you. That’s a consequence of your behavior and adults own that. They don’t get to turn on their audience and claim they’re the problem. That they’re all just humorless.

People are not required to laugh at jokes they don’t think are funny. They don’t have to pretend they like them.

This is not a Liberal  versus Conservative thing or a Democrats versus Republicans thing or even a political correctness thing.

It’s just how jokes work.

And, before you think I’m being biased, let me point out, this applies to everyone, regardless of political party.

The politician I mentioned earlier does happen to be a Republican, but I also don’t think Katie Rich’s joke about Barron Trump was funny. He’s 10. Leave him alone. It’s not clever to pick on people who have no way to fight back. It’s lazy. Do better. It’s your job.

And as much as I’ve heard people say things like “people can’t take jokes any more” or “it’s like no one has a sense of humor these days”, that’s just not true.

Many people whose job it is to be funny, are actually being funny.

We’re living in a new golden age of television. This is the time of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and a revitalized HBO, if you can’t find something funny to watch on one of them, you’re not looking hard enough.

There is a treasure trove of funny out there, and some of it’s even nice.

Here’s a random sampling of some of my favorite, funny (but also nice) shows and movies:

  1. Moone Boy – It’s a sweet, silly show about a lovable Irish boy and his imaginary friend, played by Chris O’Dowd. It’s adorable. The entire, three-season series is streaming on Hulu.
  2. Zootopia – Yeah, I know, it’s a kids’ movie but it’s surprisingly funny and it has a nice message about diversity that is poignant without being too preachy. It was just nominated for an Oscar. But, more importantly, there are sloths.
  3. Golden Girls – Betty White! All of the episodes are coming to Hulu in time for Galentine’s Day.
  4. Bob’s Burgers – This show, and the family it features, are weird and wonderful. Also, when I grow up, I want to be like Louise Belcher – a fictional, nine-year old girl. This probably sounds nuts, but if you watch the show, you’ll get it.
  5. Parks and Recreation – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson are the comedy duo we so desperately need right now. They’re political opposites but they’re buds who agree on  all of the important stuff, as Leslie would say: “Friends, waffles,work. Or waffles, friends, work. But work comes third.”

 

P.S. If you have any more suggestions for funny (but also, sort of nice) entertainment, please send it my way. I think we could all use a bit more of it right now.

I Don’t See the Good in Trump, But I Want To

Sometimes your friend gets a boyfriend you don’t like and it bugs you.

And it keeps bugging you, because you’re convinced your friend deserves more – deserves better. You can’t reconcile this choice they made with how great you know they are.

You can’t, as much as you try, see what she sees – you just can’t find the good in him.

In the simplest terms, in the most basic example, that’s how I feel about Trump.

I think we deserve better.

But I know there has to be some good in him, otherwise so many good people wouldn’t have voted for him, so many people I love wouldn’t have voted for him. So, since I respect them and their ability to make an informed choice, I have to believe they found some good.

I just wish the good wasn’t so hard to find. Because, I think, all of us should be able to agree that the good is a bit harder to find than we may like.

If there is good, which I sincerely hope there is, it’s hard to hear over the bravado, narcissism and Trump’s strong and seemingly unrelenting desire to say whatever he wants, whenever he wants.

It’s not presidential, and that’s why so many people are upset.

It’s not just because we’re sore losers. (For the record, my candidate was Bernie and he was out a good long time ago.) But the thing is Democrats have lost before and admittedly, I was younger at the time, but I don’t remember it being like this.

Because as far back as I can remember, there hasn’t really been a candidate like this – one who says anything and everything he wants, seemingly without consequences (sometimes blatantly disgusting and terrible things. Here’s one.)

This kind of thing is new.

Some people (though they disagree with the contents of Trump’s speech) may still find the candor with which he speaks to be a good thing. They may find it refreshing or seemingly more transparent than the more polished and more artificial-sounding communication techniques of other politicians.

I get that.

Trust me, it was once my job to go through government forms, line by line, word by word, punctuation mark by  punctuation mark to make them more understandable to the average citizen. It was as mind-numbingly boring as you’d expect.

For that reason, I hate bureaucratic, nonsensical speech as much as the next person. Probably more.

But I don’t think you have to sacrifice  being respectful to be more truthful. You can be honest as well as kind. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

You can communicate your thoughts in a way that is clear without resorting to name-calling, ALL CAPS TWITTER ranting, or bullying.

You can make yourself heard and understood differently.

And that’s all that I’m asking him to do.

That is not a Democrats versus Republican thing, a liberals versus conservative thing, a generational thing, an elites versus working class thing, or even a dreaded political correctness thing.

It’s just manners. It’s just being decent.

And if we’re going to move forward in a more united fashion (which I sincerely hope we do) we could all stand to be more decent to each other.

Because that’s the least we all deserve.

And it’s not asking for much.

P.S. I realize that all my recent, Trump-related posts seem cloying earnest and self-important. Sorry about that. I’m not saying I’m an expert in communicating respectfully – because, ironically, that’d be a rather jerky thing to say. (Also, I don’t believe that to be true.)

I’m just saying that I think all of us, including our incoming president, need to find a way to talk about politics more productively.

Because, for all the good and the bad, hopefully good, Trump is about to be our president, and we’re going to have to find a way to talk about it.

Let’s Agree to Disagree Better aka Let’s Leslie and Ron This

I don’t know if this has been going on for years and I was just too caught up in my own shit to notice or if this is really, truly new.

But, as a society, as a country, have was always been this bad at talking to each other? Have we always been so incapable of respectfully disagreeing? Have we always argued so fervently to be right rather than to be understood and to understand?

Because if it’s always been this bad, I hadn’t noticed and I’m glad for that, because now that I have, let me frankly say, it’s really annoying me.

And before you think I’m talking about only about politics here – let me be clear – this is not a blog where I’ll be picking sides and assigning blame. I’m talking about basic human decency here, just regular old everyday manners, just garden-variety being nice stuff.

Not to get all Hufflepuff with it (though,yeah, I’m totally a Hufflepuff) but can’t we all just be nice? Or, well, nicer, at least…

To be clear, I’m not asking for some sort of “everybody hold hands and let’s sing Kumbaya” sort of thing. (For the record, I would never do that because I hate that song and also holding hands.)

I’m just saying, we, (myself included) are probably going to need to practice disagreeing, because if the campaign season taught us anything, it’s that, these are divisive times and well, the issues we disagreed on then are probably not going to go away any time soon.

So maybe we should talk about how we talk about them. (That was sort of meta, but please just go with me here.)

If we don’t want to totally drive each other crazy during the next few years, we’re going to have to learn to respectfully disagree.

We’re going to have to try harder not to jump to conclusions about why people think what they think and do what they do. And instead, we need to simply ask them. Then we need to listen, really listen. Not so we can better counter their argument, but so we can better understand their argument.

It’s going to be hard. But I think it could be worth it, because we could actually end up learning something about each other and maybe ourselves in the process.

I understand I’m sounding very pretentious and self-important here and I’m sorry. I’m not saying I’m good at this stuff myself. I’m not.

I’m stubborn and dramatic and one of the most most irrational and (sometimes surprisingly scary) people you could ever get in a real argument with. But I’m just saying I’m going to work on it. Or at least try to work on it.

And yeah, I’m probably not going to be great at it but I’m gonna give it a shot.

Basically, I’m going to try to learn to disagree with people the way Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson do.

(Don’t be fooled by the photo of Leslie and Ron below. He’s just pretending not to like that hug.)

leslieandron-blog

If these two people (who are on the complete opposite ends of the political spectrum) can not only respect each other but also sort of be best buds, we can all probably manage it too.

P.S. Yes, I know Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson are fictional characters, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all aspire to be as cool as them. Because, damn, they’re cool.

P.P.S. Here’s a video of Ron Swanson, drunk on Snake Juice, dancing. On a loop. Because I think we can all agree this is amazing.

 

Democrat or Republican, We Can All Agree on Love Actually; Plus Some Stuff about Trump

Disclaimer

Let me get a few things out in the open, right upfront, so I can be as clear as possible.

If you voted for Donald Trump I do not think you are racist, sexist, intolerant, or ignorant. 

Regardless of who you voted for, I still respect you and like you as a human being (you know, provided I knew, liked, and respected you before November 8). Basically, wherever we were before that day, that’s where we are now. 

You have a right to vote for whomever you choose for whatever reason you choose. I do not begrudge you that choice. You know why you cast your vote, I don’t.

I hope you don’t presume to understand why I made my choice and I won’t presume to understand why you made yours. That seems like a pretty square deal for both of us. 

So, just to reiterate, my problem is not with you, the voter. I’m not trying to offend you, hurt you, disrespect you, or insult your intelligence. And if I unintentionally do, I am sincerely sorry.

I just don’t like Trump, okay?

I just don’t, and that’s what I’m going to talk about today.

I sincerely hope you understand that my opinion of the man is separate from my opinion of you.

Because I think we need to find a way to start talking about politics again.  We should be able to talk about it, even if, hell, maybe most especially, when we disagree.

So that’s what I’m going to do now, after this, the longest disclaimer in human history.

End of disclaimer

I resent being told to “play nice” by someone whose entire presidential campaign was built on him being anything but.

I agree with the sentiment, of course, it’s a hell of a sentiment, I just don’t think that Trump is its most credible messenger.

Because I think most of us can agree that Trump’s campaign was not based on him being nice.

Political campaigns are rarely a friendly, well-mannered exercise, and in the 2016 election season, no one comes out clean. Everybody was slinging mud. Everybody’s dirty.

It’s just, Trump’s whole campaign persona seemed to center on him being proud of that.

That was sort of the point.

Trump’s campaign painted him as a maverick; a renegade; a tough, good, ole boy who tells it like it is; as a guy who says what we’re all really thinking but are just too afraid to say.

That was the brand. That was the push. And regardless of how much truth there is behind that image, there’s no denying that that’s the image Trump projected, promoted, and rallied people behind.

But now we’re supposed to forget that? We’re supposed to pretend the president-elect is a candidate for all Americans? Huh?

I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t make sense.

This isn’t the Apprentice. Trump doesn’t get to do a mid-season rewrite and recast himself before the governmental version of sweeps-week.

That’s just not how this works.

Trump’s built his brand and frankly, I’d almost have more respect for him if he at least had the courage to own it.

I mean, I hate his brand. I hate the war on political correctness (which I’ve said before is basically just a war on being polite and decent to people). I hate his “I can say whatever I want, however I want, whenever I want without consequences” mentality. I think it’s childish, dangerous, and cruel.

But that’s part of what his campaign was based on. That’s the caricature he credited for himself.

Now, after November 8, we’re all supposed to pretend that didn’t happen.

I’m not doing that.

Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe we should all strive to talk about everything (including politics) in a respectful way (which admittedly, I’m somewhat struggling to do here – sorry), but Trump doesn’t get to tell me to do that.

Because he doesn’t do it himself.

Trump is a lot of things, but let’s get real here – one of those things is a bully. The man’s a bully.

And I get why some people may find that appealing. I can sort of see how some people may find his candidness to be a refreshing change of pace from a political system that seems so alienating, manufactured, and dishonest to so many people.

I get it guys, I swear I do.

I can even understand why some people may have liked a man who promised to shake things up, who promised things that weren’t politics as usual.

It’s just, please understand, that’s the same reason people are so afraid of him.

I think most people who were against Trump are not upset because Hillary lost.

They’re not upset just because they’re just a bunch of whiny millennials. (Which really, can we please stop painting my entire generation as a bunch of trophy-seeking babies? We do not have the market on stupid covered. Stupid has been around for a good long while.)

I think most people are upset because they honestly don’t know what this new president will do.

And that’s a new feeling. It’s not politics as usual.

But wasn’t that sort of the point?

When your brand is shaking things up and bringing change, you can’t be surprised that people are going to have a reaction to that. A strong reaction to that.

People are going to say something.

People are allowed to say something.

Yes, they should try to do it respectfully, but people get to say something.

Playing nice does not mean keeping quiet. It does not mean being obedient and falling in line. Nor should it.

Yes, we as citizens, should strive for unity, but what’s great about America is, we’re allowed our dissent too.

We’re allowed to have differences of opinion, religion, beliefs, and politics, and we’re allowed to talk about it.

That’s not disloyalty. That’s not anti-American. That’s not whining.  That’s not unfair.

That’s just exercising our first amendment rights which is about as American as you can get.

(Though, obviously, because it needs to be mentioned, violence, vandalism, and burning the American flag aren’t okay. I would never think they were. That should be obvious. Just as it’s obvious to me that I shouldn’t paint all Trump supporters with the same brush as the worst of the Trump supporters, I’d ask you to please do the same for the left.)

But in general, when it comes to political discourse, Trump built part of his campaign on telling it like it is. He should be able to understand it and appreciate it when his citizens do the same.

Or to put it in school-yard terms, “You shouldn’t dish it out if you can’t take it.”

But that’s the thing with bullies, they so rarely know how to deal with that part of the conversation.

Which is why it’s so important for us to have that part of the conversation – because the bully needs to hear it.

Because maybe now more than ever in my lifetime, certain groups of people are going to have to try harder to be heard.

Though they should try to be respectful, they’re also going to have to be louder, more confrontational, and a whole hell of a lot stronger than before.

Because if there’s one thing I learned from Love Actually (okay, there’s a lot of things I learned from Love Actually, but this one may be the best one) it’s that bullies only respond to strength.

Hugh Grant’s prime minister taught us that.

He also gave us that really kick-ass speech about how great Britain is, which is completely unrelated to this discussion, but I think is worth the watch anyway.

But, the point is, to slightly paraphrase Hugh Grant’s prime minister: “Since bullies only respond to strength, from now onward, (we) will be prepared to be much stronger and the president(elect) should be prepared for that.”

Because being able to disagree with the government, and voice that disagreement, is an incredibly important part of being an American.

It’s the very thing that makes this country great.

That’s something we all should be able to agree on.

That, and that Love Actually is the funny yet surprisingly moving holiday classic we should all be watching right now.

Plus it has this scene of Hugh Grant dancing which is something we can all get behind.

Unity ya’ll.

Prove We’re Better Than the Worst of His Words

It’s no secret – I’m no fan of Donald Trump, our very-recently-announced president-elect.

I don’t agree with his policies and I think he is temperamentally-unsuited to be president of the United States.

But, I have been quite literally out-voted so it’s time to move on. Donald Trump is going to be our next president whether I like it or not.

It’s an understatement to say I’m disappointed. I’m more than that – I’m sad and frightened for our country. Trump has endorsed and celebrated so many things I disagree with, so many things that fly in the face of everything I believe makes this country great.

He has deliberately and repeatedly promoted divisiveness and an “us versus them” mentality that has made large swathes of the population, his future populace, feel unrepresented, and worst of all, unwelcome.

That’s not okay.

Now, let me be very clear here – I do not think that everyone who voted for Trump is racist, xenophobic and misogynistic. For me to label an entire group of people based on one choice is unfair and, frankly, the same thing I’m angry at Trump for doing, so I won’t do it here.

Besides, I’m sure several people I know and even love voted for Trump and I’m sure they had their reasons. They have their right to vote for whomever they choose for whatever reason they choose. That’s the beauty of being American.

It’s hard to see that beauty now though in what has been, let’s face it, a pretty gross last couple of months. We’ve been divided and angry and overwhelmed by negativity.

And now that the election is over, we can choose to act differently – regardless of who we voted for tonight.

We can choose to spread kindness and inclusiveness. We can choose to be better.

We can start now by reaching out to the same groups that were marginalized and insulted in this ugly campaign season.

We can let them know they’re not alone, that we support them, that, hell, there’s not even a “them”, there’s just an “us.” That we’re in this thing together.

Because the thing is, I don’t think we all agree with the nastier things Trump said. Heck, I don’t think even all of the people who voted for Trump agreed with all the things he said.

And now is our chance to prove it.

And we don’t need to do the stereotypical millennial thing where we blog about it (I recognize and appreciate the irony), tweet about it or just generally whine about it on social media.

We need to put our time and our money where our angry, post-election tweets are. We need to actually do something.

So today, take a moment to give  back to your fellow citizens who were most negatively affected by this election cycle.

Below is a list of state-wide and national organizations that support and/or empower refugees, Latinos, African Americans, the LGBTQ community, girls, sexual assault survivors, and interfaith organizations that prove that,  yes, people from all religious backgrounds really can get along.

No matter who our president is, we can choose to make our country a better place each and every day.

It starts now and it starts with us.

Yes, I’m aware that was corny as hell but if we can’t use corny as hell at a moment like this, when can we, eh?

Local and National Service Organizations to Check Out and Support

P.S. Just because I need a bit of encouragement and comic relief right now, here’s a little visual encouragement from Leslie Knope my favorite fictional politician (who I not-so-secretly) wish was real.

leslie-knpe

We got this guys, we’re what Leslie would describe as a bunch of “beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful muskox”- es? or oxen? basically whatever the hell the plural of muskox is, probably, just muskox. That’s what we are.

I Get It, We’re Scared. But That Doesn’t Make It Right.

Disclaimer: I originally wrote this post in June, but I think it’s fitting now. 

I’m an angry-crier. I can’t help it.

If you’ve ever seen me really angry, you’ve also seen me cry. The tears just flow out of my eyeballs like white-hot, angry feelings lava. I can’t help it. I can’t stop myself from caring all over the place.

I also curse a lot when I’m angry – a lot.

I really wish I was someone who could calmly and coolly argue my point when I’m angry. I wish I was someone who could give impassioned, articulate, cry- and curse-free speeches full of grace and panache.

Ideally,  I’d be someone like Dorothy Zbornak, the Golden Girl who was known, in part, for dispatching  indignant speeches with her signature seriousness and sass. (Here’s a video demonstrating Dot’s badassery.)

But unfortunately, I’m no Dorothy, so when I’m really mad about something, I’m forced to write my argument down.

And that’s why I’m writing today — I just can’t take it any more. Trump’s not okay, guys. The things he’s saying, the ideas he’s spreading, the fear and hatred and bigotry he is promoting (overtly and implicitly) is not okay.

It’s WRONG. (As a former reporter, I hate unnecessary capitalization and bold font but I’m keeping it here anyway because I mean it that much.)

I understand we’re living in frightening times. The latest tragedy – Orlando, is horrifying and sad beyond words, beyond reason.

And I don’t know how to change it. I don’t know how to stop it.  I don’t have a solution.

But one thing I do know is that we can’t let our fear make us turn on each other.

I know at times like this, it can be reassuring to hear political leadership throw out ideas, any ideas, to protect our safety. I understand why some people may find a sense of security and direction in some of the things Trump says.

In a way, I see how his comments on banning immigration from primarily-Muslim countries could bring comfort. He’s saying something, anything, and at this point people are grasping for a plan, any plan, to combat this terror. I get that.

But I don’t think this is the right plan. We, as a country, shouldn’t blame the sins of a radical minority on the entire Muslim population. It just doesn’t make sense – numbers-wise, it’s illogical.

As Aniz Ansari recently pointed out in his New York Times Opinion piece “Why Trump Makes Me Scared for My Family“:

“There are approximately 3.3 million Muslim Americans. After the attack in Orlando, The Times reported that the F.B.I. is investigating 1,000 potential “homegrown violent extremists,” a majority of whom are most likely connected in some way to the Islamic State. If everyone on that list is Muslim American, that is 0.03 percent of the Muslim American population.”

Admittedly, I’m not great with math, but even I can see that 0.03 percent of a population is an extremely small proportion of that group.

That means that the extremely vast majority of Muslim Americans who Trump regularly demonizes, have absolutely nothing to do with Islamic extremism.

Islam is just a religion and for the most part, its practitioners in America and elsewhere are just everyday people frightened, confused and saddened by the recent violence.

Muslim Americans are just regular people. (Here’s a video to remind us of that.) They’re not “just like us”. They are us. They’re Americans who deserve the right to practice their religion without being seen as “outsiders”, as “others” or as Trump so often paints them “as potential threats.”

At various points in his presidential campaign, Trump has advocated for the following things: doing surveillance on mosques, indefinitely banning Muslims from entering the country and seriously, I’m not making this up: compiling a national database of Muslims living in the U.S.

All of these suggestions terrify me.

They don’t scare me because, as Trump might allege, I’m a “bleeding heart liberal” or “obsessed with being politically correct.” (Though I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I’m convinced that being politically correct just means you know how to act like a diplomatic adult. Being diplomatic is a quality, I, for one, look for in my preferred presidential candidate, and basically all adults I don’t think are jerks.)

These ideas scare me for almost the exact opposite reasons Trump might suggest .

Politically, and as a person, I like to see myself as a mixture of Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation though obviously, I’m not nearly as cool as either.

I’m someone who will cry when given a thoughtful gift or small compliment (Leslie) but I’m also someone who will become furious when someone (particularly someone who knows absolutely nothing about me) tells me what is acceptable for me to feel, think or believe (Ron).

And in this instance, it’s not the Leslie Knope part of me that’s more outraged, it’s the Ron Swanson part.

Because the government doesn’t get to tell you what religion is acceptable. Donald Trump doesn’t get to decide who I can worship.

In a country that prides itself, and was founded on, the ideas of freedom – freedom of speech, freedom of religion – an entire group of Americans shouldn’t be signaled out and vilified simply because of what or how they worship.

Sure, Trump’s suggestions may not scare you now because at the moment they may not affect you. The government may not want to monitor your churches, keep a list of your fellow parishioners, or tell people like you not to enter the country.

Trump’s ideas may not affect you now, but that doesn’t make them any less scary. It doesn’t make them any less wrong.

Is this really a precedent we want to set? Do we really want to start singling out our citizens based on their religion? (Because in the course of human history, people have done that many times before – almost always with horrifying results).

Do we want to chip away at the freedom of religion, one of the very freedoms that makes this country great, just because we’re scared?

Is that really something we want to do?

I hope not. I think we’re better than that. I think we’re braver than that.

I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know the secret trick to make us feel safe. But I do know that turning on ourselves, on our own citizens, on the very freedoms that make our country great -is not the answer.

It’s just wrong.

Update, 1-29-2017: If you’re upset about the recent immigration ban, or even if you’re not, donating to organizations like Lutheran Family Services and Lincoln Literacy is a good way to spread a little love right now. Because, unless we turn our words into action, unless we put in the work, we’re not doing enough. 

5 Things That Don’t Suck or How to Combat Rain, Assholes and Assorted Bullshit

I’ve been kind of a Negative Nelly lately – a real Debbie Downer.

Thanks to some long-term (or in my opinion, long-term), annoying but not super serious health problems, I’ve been feeling a bit bummed out lately.By lately, I mean this year and most of the last one.

Sorry, I know I’m doing that thing where people bring up vague health problems on social media but then don’t fully explain them. A lot of times when this happens it seems like people are doing this because they actually want you to ask and are just being all cagey to be mysterious.

I’m not doing that.  I’m about as far from mysterious as you can get. I’m more of a “Hey everyone, here are my unfiltered thoughts” kind of person. I wouldn’t know how to be cagey and mysterious if I tried. And I’m not trying to now.

I’m just bringing up the health problems so I can put this blog post in context. So I can explain where I’m coming from.

Where I’m coming from is just this side of depressed. Actually, screw it, I’ll just say it, I’m kind of depressed.

It’s been a long year and I’m tired and every once and awhile I get really fed up with my situation.

But the thing is – at one point or another, we all do. At one point or another we all go through something that really brings us down.

I think it’s best explained by a quote my favorite author Jenny Lawson, attributes to her grandmother in my favorite book, Furiously Happy.

“Into everyone’s life a little rain must fall – rain, assholes, and assorted bullshit.”

Jenny admits she’s paraphrasing her grandma there but either way, Jenny and/or her wise granny make a great point.

We’ve all got our rain, assholes and assorted bullshit.

So, if you’re dealing with some rain, assholes or assorted bullshit now, you’re not alone. I am too and here are five things that have helped me through it.

Or, 5 Things That Don’t Suck

  1. The book Furiously Happy (which I already mentioned is by Jenny Lawson). In it, Lawson talks about her lifelong battle with mental illness and a host of other disorders and diseases that would bring any other mere mortal crashing to their knees in fits of despair. Instead, Lawson uses all of it to write a refreshingly honest book that is also somehow laugh-out-loud funny. (And I’m not just saying that. I really did laugh out loud. A lot.It was sort of weird.) Lawson is my hero and if you read it, she’ll probably be yours too. Or at the very least you’ll want to attend her midnight cat rodeos – trust me, that would have totally made sense if you read the book.
  2. Dogs. Dogs are the best. This is a fact. Okay, so it’s not a fact but they’re pretty damn great. Here’s a picture of my dog sleeping while simultaneously being adorable so I can prove to you how great dogs are. If you don’t have a dog, feel free to bask in the awesomeness that is my dog for a moment. She’s the freaking best, right? Dog
  3. Therapy. There’s nothing wrong with talking to a therapist. That’s why they’re there. That’s their job. Going to a therapist doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t make you crazy. It just means you weren’t feeling your best and you took a logical, healthy step to address and improve that situation. You shouldn’t feel bad about this just as you wouldn’t feel bad about going to a doctor for any other health problem. I kind of wrote a whole blog about this, but it’s worth repeating anyway.
  4. The show Moone Boy.It’s about an awkwardly adorable (awkdorable – can we make that a word?) boy in Ireland in the late 80s/early 90s and the adventures he has with his imaginary best friend, Sean Murphy, played by Chris O’Dowd (the cop from Bridesmaids). It’s on Hulu. It’s so cute it’s almost unbearable and it’s going to blow your mind. You’re welcome.
  5. You. You don’t suck. If you read this whole blog post, I think you’re pretty great and I officially will not count you on my “rain, assholes and assorted bullshit” list.

Thanks for not being an asshole, for that, I hope that you can handle all the rain, assholes and assorted bullshit that comes your way. And if you do have any trouble with it, I hope this list helps.

If you need me, I’ll be watching Moone Boy for the hundredth millionth time.

It just doesn’t get old, much like reading the book Furiously Happy.

Which I also believe I’ve mentioned, but you know, it’s worth repeating.