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I Vote With My Brain, Not My Breasts

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I VOTE WITH MY BRAIN, NOT MY BREASTS:

I haven’t written about the Democratic presidential primary because I have friends standing on both sides of the growing Hillary-Bernie divide, and I respect them all. But as a woman who supports Bernie, I’m getting just a little tired of Hillary’s supporters trashing me.

I don’t trash them. I’m sure they’ve thought it through and decided that Hillary best represents their priority interests. Don’t I deserve the same right? If abortion rights or women’s pay or healthcare are among your priorities, go for Hillary, by all means.

My priorities happen to be protecting our planet and instilling some corporate responsibility in America, so I’m supporting Bernie. It seems a clear choice. Hillary sometimes follows along on these issues, but they are obviously Bernie’s priorities. She didn’t even say the word “climate” in her New Hampshire concession speech. Wow, just wow. No wonder young people aren’t toeing the line for her.

Young women who support Bernie were bearing the brunt of these condescending attacks, until Madeleine Albright reminded Sanders voters the other day that it’s broader than that: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Now she defends her remarks by saying that women, in general, “are very judgmental of each other.” Who is being judgmental here, Madeleine?

Photo: Bloomberg News

It’s really not that funny

At least Gloria Steinhem apologized for saying that young women only like Bernie because they’ll meet more guys on his campaign. Whether she “misspoke” or was “misinterpreted” (she said both), we KNOW she didn’t really mean that: how un-feminist would that be??

Anyway, it’s not just young women now, it’s all female Bernie supporters who are on the highway to hell.

The marching orders are clear: if you are a woman, you must vote for Hillary Clinton. I can’t imagine anything more insulting or sexist. It doesn’t make sense either. Do they think they are going to change my mind with that kind of vitriol? It didn’t work for Hillary in 2008, and it’s not working now. I just hope the young women being insulted don’t get so turned off to Hillary that they end up not voting in the general election if she’s the nominee.

It’s funny, it wasn’t Albright’s vicious rhetoric that caused me to write this blog (and to put a Bernie sticker on my car). photo (39)

I write because I fear that this nastiness is contagious. The other night, a young woman whom I’ve known since she was a toddler wrote on Facebook that she was “very disappointed” in me. She’s generally a kind, respectful, thoughtful person. So the fact that she thinks it OK to judge and criticize a friend for supporting someone other than her own choice . . . well, that’s just not OK, ladies.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Hillary personally — she’s too moderate and beholden to the political status quo for my taste. But I haven’t written about that because I don’t think we need anymore negativity out there. She would be a fine president, perhaps on a par with Obama. And certainly preferable to any of the yahoos the Republicans are running. But still, she represents the political status quo. No foundational changes to a dramatically broken system.

Bernie’s cry that “Enough is enough!” captures my sentiments exactly. It goes for the country, and it goes for the Hillary camp’s insulting attacks on women, too.

This particular middle-aged, white, female voter does not engage in “group think.” I vote with my brain, not my breasts.

Photo attribution: Bloomberg News

 

 

 

 

 

Our Democracy is a Hot Mess. Hope Anyway.

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This weekend, I marched in a parade with the woman I hope will be Maryland’s next governor. Heather Mizeur would be the first female to hold that office and the first openly gay governor in American history. I think she’s so inspiring that I drove eight hours from New Hampshire just so I could be home to walk with her in our Labor Day parade.

Maryland's Next Governor?

Maryland’s Next Governor?

I confess: although I call myself a recovering lobbyist, I am still addicted to politics if it gets anywhere near me, especially if it marches past in a parade or a protest. Placards and chants are way more compelling than factsheets and lobby meetings.

I can’t help myself. There is something about the idea of making a difference – “being a change agent,” as they say – that is irresistible to me.

After all I’ve witnessed in my career on Capitol Hill, I don’t know why I still believe that one person can make a difference. It’s irrational.  Our democratic system is a hot mess, and corporate power and political corruption are even more out of control than they were when I was a baby lobbyist thirty years ago.

Yet I still hope.

Political Sickness

Most politicians care only about getting re-elected, which usually translates into money. I’ve seen more than one idealistic candidate win an election and then slowly — or rapidly — lose the very values and principles that drove them to run for office in the first place. There seems to be a contagion in the air vents of the U.S. Capitol and in statehouses around the country, and nobody is immune.

The virus is not new; it’s just more widespread these days. Historian Lord Acton’s famous quote from the 1800s is timeless:  “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The first proper English dictionary, published in 1755 by Samuel Johnson, defined a politician as “A man of artifice; one of deep contrivance.”

True Stories

  • A congressman from West Virginia told me about his colleague on the Appropriations Committee who said, It was a good day – I got me a bridge. Now all I have to do is build a river to go under it. Voters like bridges – it was probably named after the congressman.
  • A drunken congresswoman told me in a sloppy tearfest that she didn’t have time for environmental issues anymore because a House Leader had threatened to take away her committee chairmanship if she didn’t raise more money for her political party.
  • Once, a normally pro-oil senator unexpectedly voted to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from drilling. We were still congratulating ourselves on the power of grassroots activism when we found out that the guy’s vote had been the result of a tennis bet between senators. He never voted with us again.
  • Even my biggest hero, the late Senator Paul Wellstone from Minnesota, voted against environmental protection when it came to agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland. I think ADM owns half of the Midwest, and they spent $864,000 on political contributions last year (that’s in addition to the one and a half million they spent lobbying).
  • Another congressman chased a female colleague of mine around his desk trying to kiss her. That’s just gross. She had come in to talk to him about toxic pollution that was being passed to babies through their mothers’ milk.

Don’t you think I could be forgiven for being cynical? I have every reason to tune out and every reason to give up.

Maybe This One’s Different

Still, as I watched Heather Mizeur running from one side of the street to the other shaking hands and gathering energy from the cheers and thumbs up, I couldn’t help hoping. She’s young, she’s energetic, she cares passionately about justice and fairness and protecting the environment. She’s smart as all get-out and strategically savvy. She has what it takesshe could really make a difference.

And I could make a difference in getting her elected.

I caught myself thinking, maybe this one’s different; maybe she won’t be infected by the cash contributions and the tennis bets and the sticky egoic matter that pollute the cold marble halls of power.

Those “in the know” say she’s a long shot. She’s a woman. She’s gay. Her opponents include the Attorney General and the Lieutenant Governor, a couple of guys with strong political and financial connections. Heather’s a state rep.

Whatever happens with Heather, it seems inevitable  that when hope calls, I’ll pull out the poster board and magic markers and start making signs…

Photos from Friends of Heather Mizeur’s Website — I’m the one w/ the homemade sign. She’s the one in the stripes.

After all, what good is living in a democracy if we can’t hope to make a difference?

There’s No Such Thing as Quiet Racism

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English: Statue of Liberty Gaeilge: Dealbh na ...

Statue of Liberty (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

I remember prancing around on stage in some fifth grade extravaganza, singing “Aaaaamerica is a melting pot…” I think I was wearing a cardboard Statue of Liberty headpiece and stars and stripes of some sort.

Anyway, the song’s been stuck in my head since the election, and I’ve been wondering if maybe — just maybe — our nation might be entertaining the notion of pursuing its promise – strength through diversity.

Old White Guys’ Last Hoorah

I’ve been feeling hopeful about race relations. I mean, our African-American president has been elected twice. While conspiracy crazies and FOX News will no doubt find imaginative ways to insinuate, or say outright, that he didn’t *really* win, reasonable people know that this was no fluke.

Our president is a black guy, and I still think this is incredibly awesome. True, the white vote went for Romney in most states, but exit polls tell us that’s largely due to old white guys, which isn’t surprising.

They are seeing the America they used to know – the one where they were in charge – slipping away.

As Senator Lindsey Graham told the Washington Post, “We are not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long-term.” I guess Mr. Limbaugh isn’t doing his job.

God love them, but good riddance to those good old days.

Rush with his buddies

And Now For Something Completely Different…Or Not

How about we try something different? Let’s even go beyond “tolerance” and try for genuine relationships with people of different backgrounds than ourselves. How about that?

That’s where my hopeful head was when my friends and I arrived at a local Chinese restaurant this weekend. There were five of us, and I was the token white chick.

Here’s what happened: my friends were in front of me, waiting to order. I reiterate — I was in line BEHIND them.

The woman behind the counter pointed to me and said, “Let me help her first.”

We all looked at each other, puzzled, and then I said, “I’m with them.”

“Oh, sorry, sorry,” she said.

The first sad thing here is that it didn’t occur to her that we might be together. But what’s worse is that I’m fairly certain that if four white folks had been in line in front of an African-American, it would not have occurred to the server to take that last person out of order.  My friends teased me, calling me “the special person,” and we all laughed about it. But it was not funny.

“Welcome to America, Melanie,” one of them said.

Calling Out Racism

This isn’t on a scale with the Colored drinking fountains and washrooms I remember in Florida when I was a little girl.

And it wasn’t as egregious as the time a guy at a Maryland Christmas tree lot tried to sell me a tree marked SOLD because the purchaser was “only a negro lady.”

But it sure feels the same.

Sign for

We have a long way to go, but we can all help. Prayers are good.

And I just want to make a plea to my fellow Caucasians: keep your eyes and ears open. Speak up.

Don’t let people get away with this kind of “quiet racism.”

There’s no such thing as quiet racism.

It all screams, and we should all call it out.

Thanks for listening, and for hoping with me.

God bless our melting pot.

God’s Work

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Now that the U.S. election is over, perhaps we can let God get back to work. We’ve kept the Creator of the Universe very busy with ballot initiatives labeled “anti-God” or “God’s will” or “godless.” This party or that party is rejecting God or using God or ignoring God. Millions of people have been praying to God to let X win or Y lose because otherwise it will mean doom for our nation and perhaps the world.

Really?

Don’t you think God has just a wee bit bigger perspective? Sometimes people forget:

God is not a Republican. God is not a Democrat. And guess what…God is not even an American!

Gasp!

Let me step back — I am aware that quite a few people don’t believe in God — many of the people I love most do not.

In America, much wind is expended trying to justify – or nullify – the existence of God. This strikes me as highly amusing – I’m not sure why.

I mean, if there is a God, how funny is that? All these little created things running around insisting they weren’t created.

God’s existence, though, is one of the very few things of which I am certain.

I’m Not as Smart as I Used to Be

I used to be certain about lots of things. To be honest, I thought I knew best about most things. I think a lot of people do. It covers up their low self-esteem.

I inherited this “I know best” belief. I dearly love my departed parents, but recognize that my mother’s regal British nose was tilted ever so slightly upwards, and my father’s Texan roots were firmly grounded in the belief that Texans are bigger and better, period.

Her Royal Highness, Queen Victoria

Cowboy Boot And Hat Clip Art

Don’t Mess With Texas

I can still be cocky or defensive on a bad day, especially during an election. Tilted noses and Texan roots die hard. But really, why would I have more or less of “the truth” than anyone else?

What a relief: I don’t have to have all the answers or “prove” anything!

Unnecessary Extravagance

I don’t have to prove to you that God exists. I can’t. That’s God’s work. Still, I will say that the idea that there is no God, no higher spirit, no over-arching consciousness, no Creator, seems utterly absurd to me.

Here’s why I believe:

  • There are sunsets. (And sunrises, so I’ve been told.)
  • We can see colors. How astonishing!
  • I have looked through a microscope and a telescope.
  • Galaxies upon galaxies. Shooting stars and crescent moons.
  • Humans make art and appreciate beauty for no apparent reason.
  • Flowers attract pollinators with exuberant colors and soul-filling smells. Unnecessarily extravagant, wouldn’t you say?
  • Natural cycles: water, nitrogen, photosynthesis, evolution – gloriously complex, yet simple. Brilliant.
  • If I pray, I can easily LOVE someone I previously could not stand. Try it.
  • Because the longer I spend alone and in silence, the more I know I’m not alone.
  • Because the idea that all this just kinda happened  is funnier than Jon Stewart.

I’m done writing about politics for now. (Unless you consider climate change political. I can’t seem to stay away from that topic.) Since I’m swearing off writing about politics on account of my blood pressure, I thought I’d move on to something less controversial, like religion.

Which brings me to my questions: If God were to register, do you think it would be as an Independent? And if you don’t believe in God, what’s wrong with you anyway??

 

stars

Camera Captures Weird America

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There’s one thing we can all agree on this election eve – thank GOD it’s just about over. Abigail’s wail covers the land…

In New Hampshire, where political signage is as thick as maple syrup, one of my neighbors shared his thoughts:

Tired of the Crap

But fear not – if somebody does put their political crap on your property, you can always clean it up with these attractive presidential candidate poop bags. Seriously.

That’s Just Wrong

Yes, friends, I think we can safely say that election years no longer bring out the best in America. Wrapped in red state and blue state labels and bathed in the green light of corporate-funded television ads, few are shining with selfless patriotism; not politicians, institutions, or individuals. I, myself, can get angry, anxious, self-righteous, sarcastic, and super-cynical.

Several cases in point:

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/heal-the-planet-absurd/

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/conventional-wisdom/

We all get weird every four years.

Weird America

Weird Sushi

I plan on spending the evening of November 6th with friends,

and I hope to be quaffing celebratory champagne.

Since I *AM* concerned about healing the planet and slowing the rise of the oceans, I guess you know who I’m voting for. There — my last jab of the political season. I’ll be nice now. Please vote.

Hey! You Guys with the Microphones — Fire!

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President Obama and Mitt Romney continue to fiddle while Rome – and the rest of the planet – burns. I worked in politics long enough to understand: we mustn’t upset THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. But seriously, I think the people know.

As usual, there’s a gap between what the politicians are talking about and what the people are talking about.

Most everyone I know is talking about the weather, and not in vague some-weather-we’re-having terms. “This is the weirdest weather…this is getting spooky…what is UP with no winter?” and so on. Granted, many of my friends are environmentally inclined, but I’m not talking about them.

I’m talking about regular old neighbors in Maryland. I’m talking about my conservative friends in New Hampshire, whose roads just washed out (again), and who first can’t hay because of rain, and later lose their crops to drought. They had only one real snow last year.

I’m talking about people whose nearby forests have either been devastated by wildfires or devoured by pests that did not exist there a few decades ago.

http://blog.aarp.org/2012/08/21/the-trees-are-screaming-why-arent-we/

I’m talking about my friends who farm having to change their planting and harvest seasons.

http://thelettuceedge.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/weather-drama/

It’s happening folks, and we all know it.

A new Pew Research poll finds that 67 percent of Americans believe there’s solid evidence the Earth’s average temperature has been getting warmer over the past few decades, up 4% since last year and 10% in the past three years. Another poll by Yale and George Mason University shows that 84 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of independents and 52 percent of Republicans think global warming should be a priority.

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/09/17/168510/as-climate-change-crisis-looms.html

Leadership Vacuum

So why aren’t the political candidates talking about this?

I think it’s the job of our nation’s leaders to connect the dots for the public. Hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, severe storms & power outages, spreading insect-borne exotic diseases: all exactly what the scientists predicted.

After one debate, Esquire’s political blogger noted, “…we have not had one extended conversation about the most pressing environmental catastrophe since the meteor wiped out the dinosaurs. On Tuesday night, we had two guys arguing about who’s a bigger friend to coal, about who will allow the most oil drilling on federal land, and about who will best extract the most carbon-based fuels out from under the country over the next four years.” Climate Change in 2012 Election – 2012’s Incredible Disappearing Issue: Climate Change – Esquire.

Romney thinks that turning it into a joke will play to his base. Obama, at least, managed to respond at the Democratic convention that “Climate change is not a hoax.” This remark brought the crowd to its feet.

Let’s Admit it and Move On

I suppose part of the problem is the American psyche. As a nation, we don’t like to admit to imperfection. “Oops” is not in our vocabulary.

See more thoughts on this:https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/what-color-is-shame/

A recent New York Times analysis concludes that it’s impossible for candidates, or presidents, to tell the truth because, “Americans demand constant reassurance that their country, their achievements and their values are extraordinary.” According to presidential historian Robert Dallek, “People in this country want the president to be a cheerleader, an optimist, the herald of better times ahead. It’s almost built into our DNA.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/21/sunday-review/candidates-and-the-truth-about-america.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

Given this genetic predisposition towards exceptionalism, I doubt America will ever express official regret over our overwhelming contribution to greenhouse gases. For a long while, we didn’t know. It would be OK, if we just said “oops,” changed our behavior, and stepped into global leadership with our dignity restored.

In this regard, Obama deserves huge credit for finally, finally, raising the miles-per-gallon standards for automobiles and for investing in renewable energy technologies. Perhaps too little and too late, but it’s something.  He had to use executive authority, of course, because God forbid the Congress should act.

Why isn’t Obama on his soapbox talking about this?

It’s Called Denial. Let’s Get Over It.

Please, please, you people with the microphones — mind the gap. We know our streets are flooded; we know people in Texas are dying from West Nile; we know we have tornadoes where they’ve never been before. We see the Katrinas and the tsunamis.

Talk to us, for God’s sake!

Why didn’t the debate moderators at least ask the candidates why they’re not talking about it?

Part of leadership is talking about hard truths. Bombs and terrorists, yes, those are terrible threats. Outside threats. This is an inside job.

It’s called denial. Let’s get over it.

President Obama, maybe you don’t want to talk about this during the election because some voters, duped by corporate ad campaigns and extremist anti-science campaigns, think there’s no such thing. I get that.

Newsflash: They aren’t going to vote for you anyway.

Mr. President, I urge you, I beg you: if you win on November sixth, start talking about climate change again on November seventh. It’s your job to mind the gap.

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