The New Faces of Power

The New York Times digital edition of January 14th carries a photo essay of all the women who are members of the 116th Congress. There are 131 women representatives between the House and Senate. As is often the case, the images carry a profundity and nobility that cannot be captured in words alone.

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Representative Deb Haaland, N.M. (from NY Times photo essay, Jan. 14, 2019)
Redefining Representation: The Women of the 116th CongressPhotographs by Elizabeth D. Herman and Celeste Sloman

Despite the chaos ensuing in Washington D.C. currently around the federal government shutdown, seeing these women leaders’ portraits all together gives me powerful hope for America’s future. The women who have taken the mantle of power come from diverse ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, socio-economic classes, and political ideology. Nevertheless, in this auspicious moment of this country’s history, women have stepped into their power like never before. The gender tide has turned, finally, and the United States can now begin to claim its hard-earned place among the rest of the world’s governments for gender equity. No, there is still not an equal number of men and women leaders. Yet this new Congress is a watershed moment.

“These photographs evoke the imagery we are used to seeing in the halls of power, but place people not previously seen as powerful starkly in the frames.”

“Many of these women, spanning generations, serve as firsts in Congress: the first women representing their states, the first female combat veteran, the first Native American women, the first Muslim women, the first openly gay member of the Senate, the first woman Speaker of the House — the list goes on.”

“More women holding elected office is significant not only in that it brings Congress closer to looking like the American population. It also expands the collective imagination about what power can and should look like.”— Elizabeth D. Herman

I hope you will take the time to click on the link and gaze at the new faces of power in Washington D.C. It’s been a long time coming, but feminine power is now unstoppable. Hallelujah!

The Wild Ride of November

 

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Art by @jrbrook, #GoVote

What a wild ride we are on! It’s unimaginable to me that anyone in the United States wasn’t paying attention to the midterm elections held last week. However, I know that plenty of folks really could care less what happens in Washington D.C., or in their state or local governments.

In these times, I am continually reminded that what’s important to one person is not important to the next. The reasons for this phenomenon are complex—I’m not even going to pretend to be able to answer that one intelligently. I notice it all the time, from news reports to overheard conversations, from classmates’ observations to professors’ lectures, and of course, via the dreaded social media. Our differences are becoming ever more etched in relief, and it’s a constant practice to remember, and also focus on, our similarities. How can one species called homo sapiens be at such incredible odds with itself? And, even more importantly, how can we reconcile all our seemingly vast differences in order to create the new world that so many of us long for?

Last week. Last week and the preceding weeks leading up to the midterm elections were, in a word, frenetic. They were also anxiety-producing and crazy. Candidates’ campaigns reached unprecedented levels of delirium, with a slight edge of hysteria over the weekend before Tuesday’s polls opened.  By late Monday, I was deleting emails hourly; on Tuesday morning I received dozens of emails imploring me to GO VOTE!! Did I have a plan for voting? Did I have or need a ride to get to the polling place? I wasn’t going to forget to vote, was I? Forget?? How would that even be a thing in 2018? I wondered, as I hit delete, delete, delete. Then there were text messages—Support! Go do it! Knock on people’s doors! Text! Above all, Show UP, for Goodness Sake!! Our democracy depends on YOU. The Blue Wave is coming, if you show up and Do The Right Thing.

A super-sized dose of responsibility was heaped upon each and all of us on November 6th. We were hammered by hundreds of organizations to do our citizen’s duty and exercise our RIGHT to vote for the candidates and ballot measures and amendments of our choice. The thing is, it’s not so easy to get a handle on just what exactly we’re for and what we’re against. Watching mainstream media ads certainly won’t help anyone understand the issues or get to the truth of what the candidates stand for. We need a different system, and a whole lot more civic education, period.

Americans know we are collectively living through an age of disinformation, misinformation, false information, and just plain too much information. Some days I feel like everybody and their brother and sister are jumping on the bandwagon and standing up shouting at the crowd. Only by now, the crowd is made up of hundreds of millions in America alone, not to mention the billions of other people around the world who are also watching and listening to the craziness. Metaphors become meaningless against the sheer tsunami of voices competing for our attention on a 24/7 basis.

About that Blue Wave? Megan Garber wrote in The Atlantic, “A “blue wave” that is widely decided, in the course of a day, to be neither blue nor a wave: Here is one challenge of reporting in metaphor. And here is a reminder as well that, at this particular moment in American life, metaphor might be all we have.”

Words matter. Or do they? It depends on whose words, at what moment they’re uttered or written, and also, on who’s listening. As a writer, I struggle with making meaning and sense, with writing thoughts that have substance, with choosing words that cause people to reflect, ponder, and consider things that they hadn’t before. Any serious writer acknowledges that it’s difficult, tedious work. Writers attempt to convey, through small symbols on the page (either physical or virtual) what is inside their mind and  heart, then offers it to the world in hopes of gifting the others with something inspiring, humorous, moral, ethical, or otherwise “important.” Yet, at least as often as not, the writer will fail. He will fail to reach people for any one of a thousand reasons. She will be unable to touch people’s hearts through her words. He will not inspire those he most wants to affect. The game ends in stalemate far too often.

But we writers don’t easily give up. As absurd as it may be, we continue to offer our words, our thoughts, our black symbols on the page out to the world. I recently heard a story of a young man who put out his writing to publisher after publisher, receiving nothing but rejection letters back. This went on for months; after a while he began pasting them up in his apartment as a kind of testimony to his willingness to endure rejection. More than one hundred letters later, his luck changed when a publisher decided to accept his manuscript. Sometimes patience pays off.

Back to the midterms. It hasn’t even been a week since Americans went to the polls, and it’s already feeling a bit like old news. Today is Sunday, 11-11-18, a significant day for many, depending on your perspective. It marks the hundred-year anniversary of the end of World War I. For others, 11-11 is a spiritually important day, signifying a greater influx of light onto our world from the cosmos. For still others, it’s just another Sunday to hang out, drink beer, and watch a football game. Meaning lies in the significance an individual attaches to the object of one’s attention. Cosmic forces coming to awaken humanity, the end of the Great War, or the winners of the football match—you decide.

Here’s an interesting article from New Republic, on how the Blue Wave was built ahead of the Midterms.  https://newrepublic.com/article/152130/outsider-democrats-built-blue-wave.  You can be sure that last week’s wave was only the beginning of a greater storm building between now and 2020, and metaphor will continue as a useful tool for writers in describing the chaotic times ahead.

Thirty Days to Go

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Is it possible to restore true democracy in the United States?

In thirty days, voters will decide who will sit in offices of power in every state of the United States. It’s another nail-biter moment for the millions of us who are beyond disgusted, beyond overwhelmed and beyond nauseated at the havoc playing out on a daily basis by the people in Washington D.C.

Many of us knew we were in for a hell of a ride after the dust settled in November of 2016. The Women’s Marches around the country ushered in the spirit of resistance and pushback against the Trump administration in January of 2017, and the collective call for justice and progressive change has only become more insistent with each passing month. Now the midterms are upon us, with the Blasey-Ford/Kavanaugh hearings fresh in our ears. The noise and brouhaha are deafening, as senators, representatives, justices, politicos, activists, and changemakers continue yelling at each other and at us. Everyone seems to be shouting, THINGS MUST CHANGE!!! But it’s anyone’s guess as to what exactly will change by November 7th.

Every single day now, I receive a long list of emails from many different political organizations, with variations on the same theme. The messages range from “aren’t you furious?” to a somewhat more realistic, even tone.  I get it—we are past the point of nicely asking the current power-elites for anything, anymore. I feel a lot of emotions about the current scene, but curiously furious isn’t on my list. Maybe Naomi Klein’s shock doctrine theory has taken hold, and I’m simply exhausted from the constant onslaught of bad news coming out of Washington. More than anything, I have sorrow and remorse for the current state of humanity’s lowest ebb. There are a lot of feelings just under the surface of my soul, awaiting any slight opportunity to make themselves known—any crack in a conversation to open it to what’s happening in our world is seized by me now.

Meanwhile, others around me also appear weary of the struggle. It’s been a marathon two years, filled with one disappointing battle after the next. I’m certain the constant attacks on everything good, true and beautiful in the world are highly scripted and calculated by certain shadow actors in an attempt to make us all shut up and sit down, as they continue to destroy what’s left of our world bit by horrific bit.

But we have news for them: It’s not working. In fact, it’s doing the opposite—as the damage being done to people, society and our beautiful, long-suffering earth continues, more and more of us are standing up and shouting out. More people of color are running for political office across America than ever before. More women. More young people. The Millennials are up and active, shouting and stomping and rapping for change. It’s a tug-of-war, and both sides are giving it all they’ve got. If ever there was a time to get up and loud about what you see happening in the United States today, now would be it.

This election is one that NO ONE can afford to sit out. Political slogans aside, it is truly a time of massive change, that can only happen if enough everyday folks like you and me take action. Make calls. Give donations. March and protest. Get loud, loud and strong enough so the elected officials in Washington and in every capital house in every state cannot ignore the sound of Americans demanding change. Make sure you understand every single ballot measure, and have educated yourself on where the candidates stand on the issues. Don’t only think of yourself when you tick the boxes. What will the measure mean for your neighbors, your community, and your state? Will the candidate work to protect nature and resources, or plan to exploit them even further? Take the time to do research and find out who is backing them: oil and gas corporate interests? The Koch Brothers? Or have they taken the pledge to NOT take dark money in order to win their race?

We are still The People, and we are still here, hurting. We still have power, regardless of outer appearances. It is time to take our collective power back into our hands. With thirty days to go, there’s a lot to do, and not a moment to lose.