Maybe the 1st Woman President?!

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I wish I was Meghan Daum. She always writes what I’m thinking and she nailed it again in the LA Times on November 7. Her link is below.

It is a shame we can’t be excited about the prospect of the first woman president. We know Hilary comes with baggage, but experienced and prepared she is. And it’s not like her competitor doesn’t have trunk loads of issues.

I’ve waited my entire adult life for this possibility, and the excitement I and many others feel is buried under the misogyny and insanity of her opponent. She hasn’t had the opportunity to share her qualifications and debate outrageously important issues because the candidate she’s up against has made the process a circus and he’s the biggest clown.

Thirty-some years ago a woman moving up the ranks of any private or public organization was newsworthy. As if somehow being born female makes any of us less qualified to do any job a man does. Especially a white man in a suit. No one fears an intelligent female more. I didn’t get it when I began working, and I still don’t get it now.

But those of us who’ve worked twice as hard for less the salary for decades to prove we are of equal intelligence and ability as any man — we’re holding our collective breath for tomorrow.

It is a big flipping deal if Hillary Clinton becomes our first female president. I cannot overstate how hard it still is for a woman to be recognized equally to a man in an office, a meeting, a boardroom.. That notion is just nuts in the 21st century. And if she wins, our daughters will still have to prove themselves. But hopefully it’ll be a lot easier with that thick glass ceiling.shattered at last.

I hope to pop a bottle of champagne tomorrow with colleagues who’ve shared the battles day in and day out for decades. What an incredible moment in our history that would be.

http://us3.campaign-archive1.com/?u=9ec1825a26dd190f624b050a4&id=7f71bedcaf&e=01a2b50c96

I Was Wrong

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Elect2Care

Last week my post called people who back Donald Trump nasty names. I promised myself long before I wouldn’t do that, but I did and I apologize. I’m certain Trump voters include people I love and will continue to love.

But perhaps you’ll hear me out in these next few paragraphs.

People who choose public service as a career, like politicians, teachers, police and firefighters wake up every morning with a commitment to do something important and meaningful for other people. They are hard jobs that help others and don’t provide great wealth, but they have chosen these jobs because something inside of them compels them to this kind of calling.

Typically, those who run for President of the United States typically have spent decades in public service. We may not agree with their efforts, but they prove their commitment every day by trying to achieve something valuable for a child…

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Serious Trump Supporter?—Then Own It All

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Elect2Care

A New York Times headline today says, “Some Donald Trump Voters Warn of Revolution if Hillary Clinton Wins.” You can find it here: http://nyti.ms/2dO9GIY.

Threats of riots, violence—the typical Trump rally activity but conducted nationwide—is apparently what that means. So, along with being really poor losers, can you at least have the courage to admit you’re one or all of the following:

  • racist
  • misogynist
  • bigot
  • intolerant
  • un-American

The last one might be tough to swallow, but in every election there’s a winner and a loser and that’s the American way. We choose and if we lose, we compromise. Unless you’re one of the new GOP crew, those with the tolerance of a gnat who think only white men belong not only in power but our only country’s only citizens. White women are, of course, acceptable for reasons Trump has said aloud and I find too disgusting to repeat.

Trying to make Hillary’s…

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Leave Wells Fargo Bank…now!

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For years, Wells Fargo Bank has knowingly ripped off its customershakedown-1340048_1280s. The NY Times has done an awesome job of covering the crime. Those who have paid for their wrongdoing and those who haven’t are demonstrations of Democracy At Work—ha! It’s
time to end the insanity. If you’ve got an account at Wells Fargo, pull it. Who cares if it’s $100. It adds up if we all do it, consumers stop putting up with the absurdity and our messages are heard. That’s how this whole democracy thing got started.

On October 12 Michael Corkery provided this great timeline:

ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL

For years, Wells Fargo set up sham accounts without customers’ consent.

NY Times article on Wells Fargo insanity.

But things really don’t change unless consumers change. Get mad. Do something. What the Financial and Banking industries are getting away with are beyond criminal. The least we can do is stop working with them.

Are College Campuses Relevant If They’re Censured?

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In Meghan Daum’s recent Los Angeles Times column, she discusses the brouhaha over the University of Chicago’s announcement last week that it would not support “trigger warnings,” signals that a sensitive topic is about to be addressed.

Apparently the American college campus, though probably more progressive and demographically inclusive than at any time in history, is really a bulwark of sexism, transphobia, post-colonial bigotry and just about any other social injustice you can think of.

university-105709_1280And that’s frightening. After all, isn’t the very essence of higher learning the pursuit of
open-minded, civil debate? Isn’t it the role of professors at these institutions to help mold our high-school brains into learning how to look at issues objectively, showing us the value of being willing to at least listen to different ideas if not provide the tools that allow us to discuss dissension rationally?

The idea that trigger warnings ever existed is more troubling to many of us, and Meghan’s column nails the issues. It’s worth the read: When it comes to campus groupthink, trigger warnings aren’t the half of it.

 

 

Rabid Dogs, Fences, Aliens & Christians

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Or, If I Tweet it, is it true?

I haven’t posted here since July because I’ve found it difficult to be anywhere on line. I’m only minimally connected, yet I know GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson referenced Syrian refugees as rabid dogs, a couple other contenders suggest prioritizing Christians, another gleefully touts building a fence around Mexico to stop the influx of illegal “aliens.” The amount of crazy here soars beyond troubling into a whole new universe.

Terrorism and a looming US presidential election have collided to create a 21st century black hole where fact-checking has been sucked dry, taking humanity as collateral damage. What remains is no shortage of bigotry. In fact, racism and profiling exist in abundance, as if the sanctity of human suffering is only the luxury of a particular people of a certain faith.

Any suggestion of compassion for basic human rights not to mention common sense are quickly and loudly denounced because those of us with even a modicum of empathy are what?…too tolerant?

It is frighteningly predictable the House voted the other day to require stringent vetting of any Syrian or Iraqi refugees despite all factual evidence disproving theories that they are the terrorists. Here’s hoping the House shares this screening expertise with the Vatican, NRA, IRS and our Banking and Securities sectors.

Equally troubling are that the misguided senses of entitlement reach into our own homes where politicians want the power to impose their beliefs over what may be in a woman’s uterus while bellowing about government being too big, thereby not in the business of providing aid to mothers and their newborns. And, you should see the carnage of this kind of hypocrisy in urban public school systems.

How can those who pretend to care so much for the United States feel no responsibility not only for the freedoms we are all assured but for the essence and tenets of the Christianity they tout as a litmus test when their words and actions oppose every value that religion represents?

Aren’t we better than this? In the 1950s when McCarthy was saving the world by outing Communists and “homosexuals,” at least you had to find the news to find the insanity. How is it with the ubiquitous access to information and even facts(!) today’s candidates don’t recall our own terrorist Hall of Fame—Oklahoma’s Timothy McVeigh, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, the Columbine High School Massacre duo of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and the Ku Klux Klan, to name a few. They’re inconvenient reminders, not irrelevant freaks of nature, and it would serve our politicians well to acknowledge the inflammatory vitriol they screech into microphones and disseminate in forty character Tweets fuel equally the angry, displaced and, yes, even Christians of the nation they profess to love.

It is terrifying to be riddled with endless commentary over unthinkable atrocities like the most recent Mali and Paris terrorist attacks on the heels of yet another school shooting in the United States, while hundreds of thousands of war-torn refugees suffer shakedowns and now stringent screening to find refuge.

But I’m not going to be intimidated anymore by the insinuation perpetuated by those who don’t have a clue that the promise of sanctuary is but a fairy tale unless we take their lead. Our humanity is not represented by the irrational exuberance of a one percent, a gender or the randomness of birthplace.

So there. I am heading into the Thanksgiving week grateful for my friends and family and all those I know who are smarter and more compassionate than the trending social media would lead us to believe. It’s time to focus on what’s important, not the loudest carnival barker in a tent.

Truth: the great equalizer in creative nonfiction & life

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In this spring’s Writer’s Studio creative nonfiction class, author and teacher-extraordinaire Lauren Cowen talked on the first night about the irony of this genre—it being described by what it isn’t. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for professional wordsmiths, but from the start we know it’s not fiction. Yet, it still doesn’t tell those who don’t understand the genre anything about it. Some will come to a conclusion like, “Oh, so you just write essays like in high school,” then become a little less impressed with us and prouder of themselves. “Yeah, just essays because they’re so easy. Lord knows capturing the truth, making it compelling and universal, couldn’t be more effortless,” is my kindest retort, occurring only on days bordering on me being comatose.

I have pages of notes on the many eloquent ways Lauren explained creative nonfiction. Nuggets of wisdom include, “it’s a pact between the writer and the reader, a process of discovery” and “credibility is key, it has to have happened, it has to be emotionally true and factually true.” She spoke of its difficulties: “It alludes paraphrase, it yields and it complicates,” and she talked about its governing intent, “dwelling in the world you do know to find out what you don’t know.” She spoke of wrestling with a story’s “aboutness,” drafting and redrafting, always rooting for the story you want to tell, bearing witness to the details and the subtext, weaving in research and authority from emotion and events to write clearly and honestly. And all this from the first night.

Our winter semester’s teacher, reporter and author Kevin Davis had us read the latest book from the “Godfather” of creative nonfiction, Lee Gutkind. Writer James Wolcott of Vanity Fair magazine had ridiculed the genre and Gutkind, who publishes the magazine Creative Nonfiction, by calling him the Godfather. But it eventually backfired on Wolcott, as the genre is often referenced as the literature of reality. And while Gutkind is famous for insisting he’s not the creative nonfiction police, his insistence for truth and fact-finding, credibility and correctness offer strict boundaries.

Kevin, too, had a wealth of insights to help define the genre. He spoke of how small moments reveal universal truths, and, therefore, the importance of remembering details and expressing them carefully are paramount. His discussions on structuring creative nonfiction is invaluable. Character descriptions that give readers a hunger for what’s at stake in the story, scenes and dialogue that move it forward, research grounding us further in the facts, private and intimate knowledge—these are the pieces that connect experiences and make the truth more compelling, transforming and revealing than any other kind of storytelling.

Still, we learn in all our classes and in personal experiences that some who claim to be creative nonfiction writers will play loose with the truth. It can be as seemingly innocent as thinking that changing a minor detail will make a sentence sound more lyrical. James Frey’s memoir, A Million Little Pieces, revealing how he rehabilitated himself from alcohol, drugs and crime rocketed him to success when Oprah Winfrey featured him on her show. After some easy fact-checking revealed Frey’s fabrications, his public humiliation focused a powerful light on the most essential requirement of the genre. Creative nonfiction must be true, not truthy, not composites of real events. The authentic retelling of small or large moments is mandatory.

Creative nonfiction may be the most potent genre because truth is power. The genre is certainly among the most challenging to write because many truths are tough to relive regardless of one’s wealth, color, gender or culture. As a result, the courage to use truth to retell stories has, in worst cases, the power to reveal atrocities and stop us from repeating them. In best case scenarios, the truth gives faces to vulnerabilities, connecting people and ideas, thereby making it more difficult for inequity and intolerance to spread.

Changing a detail because it adds a little more interest to a story or opens up possible misinterpretations of the bigger story is wrong. And it’s unnecessary. Fix a creative nonfiction piece by writing the truth or simply call your story fiction. Because there is no creative nonfiction police, it’s up to the writing community to police itself. Gutkind says, “More than in any other literary genre, the creative nonfiction writer must rely on his or her own conscience and sensitivity to others and display a higher mortality and a healthy respect for fairness and justice… Write both for art’s sake and for humanity’s sake.”

There’s a lot at stake.