Saturday, August 25, 2012

Legitimizing Women's Rights in America

The GOP has done it again. They’ve tried to marginalize women in every way possible. For the likes of Todd Aikin and Paul Ryan, both of whom have a long history of writing and backing misogynistic legislation, I wish upon them the chance to walk in a woman’s shoes, high heeled shoes, for just a bit, maybe a week if they’d even last that long.
I’m not sure what Aikin meant by legitimate rape in his comment that women’s bodies can’t get pregnant because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” a non-scientific lie. But what it says to me is that he believes there is an opposing illegitimate rape in which the victim is lying or really wanted it. The proof would be if that woman became pregnant then it must have been an illegitimate rape. Sounds like a witch hunt to me.
He has since tried to worm his way out of the argument by saying that all rape is bad and that the perpetrator should be punished but the child should not be punished just for being conceived. He has not spoken about the victims of rape, the women the act is perpetrated against.
Ryan is also a strong anti-abortionist and supported a change in the definition of rape that included the word “forcible” as opposed to marital, incestuous, or statutory rape. He later said in an interview, given after Aikin’s ignorant statement, “Rape is rape.”
Ryan went on to say, “I’m very proud of my pro-life record, and I’ve always adopted the idea that, the position that the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life.”
The life of the woman is expendable in his world. I don’t want to live there.
The GOP is drafting their platform to ban all abortions, no exceptions. I’m pro choice but that doesn’t mean I support abortion specifically. I support a woman’s right to choose. Given access to proper health care, birth control, and sex education, abortion would become less likely a choice when women clearly have other options. But they may not have other options in the case of rape or if a woman’s health is at risk. Sometimes abortion is the answer. But the GOP would like to keep women from having access to sex education, birth control, and proper health care. And they want to protect the rights of a fetus above the rights, health, and choice of the woman carrying the fetus. In the GOP world, women aren’t human beings. They are just baby vessels.
I hate that victims of rape are still stigmatized in our society. It’s difficult enough to be a woman. We still make less than our male counterparts in the work world. The burden of birth control and childcare is still predominately our burden. Many men have children with many different women and choose not to support them. Single parenthood is difficult in even the best circumstances. Women are sexually objectified, and in this day, more young women are turning to the sex industry to make a living because it’s hard to make a life off wages one would earn at a place like Wal-Mart or to pay one’s way through school to get a better job.  Men accept them into the sex industry with open arms and little compassion for how that life will diminish and marginalize the women. I can’t decide if the whole trend is further subjugation or a new kind of sexual freedom on the part of the young women. I lean toward the former.  Other young girls are dressing androgynously, perhaps to avoid any form of gender discrimination.
I think what everyone is forgetting in this horrible debate about rape is that rape is an act of violence and subjugation.
I grew up thinking women are supposed to be beautiful and sexually attractive but are whores if they are too eager and frigid if they say no. One of my high school nicknames was “The Ice Queen.”
I never understood why Ma was always on my case when I was in high school. I thought it was because she didn’t trust me. Maybe it was because she was in her fifties and she felt that envy a woman of that age, like myself, feels, when she sees a young woman. Probably it was because she thought I might end up in a situation that I couldn’t handle and that would turn out all wrong.
I had two stalkers in college. Ronald took care of each one. Ronald offered to beat up the first man, who lived in my dorm, in the middle of the record store, but his friend grabbed his arm and pulled him out of the store before fists started flying.  The second man I had never even spoken to, yet he followed me in his green Volvo each morning as I left the apartment, that I shared with three other women senior year, and cut across the park to go to class or my work-study job. He knew where I lived. He knew my schedule. One day he stopped his car alongside me and asked me if I wanted a ride. I was polite. “No thank you,” I said, and kept walking. The next day his car slowed as he passed me but didn’t stop. A man on a racing bike flew past me a few seconds later, but he turned around and came back.
“Do you know the guy in the green Volvo?” he asked me.
“No,” I said.
“Well, I think he’s waiting for you up around the bend. You better take a different route.”
I cut across the grass and came out a block up the road so I wouldn’t run into him. I called the police when I got to my work-study job.  My voice was shaking as I explained how this man always seemed to be around whenever I left my apartment.
“Take a different route,” the cop on the phone advised. The next day I stayed on the streets that circled the park where there were sure to be lots people, but when I turned my head, there was the green car slowly trailing behind me. I dialed the police again.
“Miss, unless he touches you, there is nothing we can do,” the cop on the phone said, exasperation in his voice.
“I’ll be sure to call you after the rape and my cold, dead body is discovered in the park,” I said, hanging up the phone. There were no stalker laws in place back then. I felt vulnerable and terrified.
A few days later Ronald and I were walking down Marshall Street, the street where the eat places, bars, and stores were close to campus, and everyone hung out there at lunchtime and at night. I saw the green Volvo parked by a meter, and the guy sitting on the hood of the car.
“That’s him,” I whispered to Ronald. “That’s the guy.”
Ronald started walking directly toward him. My arm was looped on his arm, and I tried to pull him back. He was only one hundred thirty pounds back then, but he spent his first twelve years in the housing projects, and I didn’t think anything scared him because he told me he’d already seen it all.
As he got closer he started pointing at the guy. “Is this the guy? You’re sure?”
“Yes, yes,” I said, still whispering, and still trying to steer him away. I didn’t want to be near that guy.
Ronald walked right up to the side of the car and poked his finger in the guy’s chest. He said, “Stop.” Then he looked at me and said, “He won’t be bothering you anymore.” I didn’t see the guy again.
Not everyone has a protector. We need laws that protect us, not laws that marginalize us.
In the workplace things just seemed to get worse. I ended up at JC Penney after I turned down a teaching job. See my post Rumble Jumble.
The managers treated the mostly female sales associates as their private harem.  They were all middle-aged, white men who were married with children. The one that audited the registers liked to sneak up behind young women and trap them between him and the register as he plunked his key into the lock, a decidedly sexual overture. I told him to stop when he did it to me, and he laughed. One day, as I was rushing back downstairs from taking my break, I turned a corner in the stockroom hallway and stumbled upon him with his arms wrapped around the receptionist and his tongue down her throat. I sucked in air and skidded to a stop. The receptionist took off.  The manager laughed. “If you thought that was good, you should have seen what she gave me for my birthday.”
She thought he loved her. I felt sorry for her.
Another manager asked me out day after day after day. Then he invited me to “skinny dip in his pool” with the promise that he wouldn’t be home. I asked him repeatedly to stop but he wouldn’t. One day he stopped at my counter and asked me to go camping for the weekend.
“What? Chris, how many times do I have to tell you no? Besides, I’m engaged. You don’t want to get Ron mad, now do you? He will hurt you.” I hated using Ronald as my defense, but nothing else had worked.
“Don’t tell him. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him or me,” he said, grinning.
“That’s not what he’d be mad about,” I said, looking deadly serious.
“Oh? What would he get mad about?” he asked, hoping this meant he had an opening.
“He’d be mad about you, me, and him sleeping in the same tent.” I turned on my heel and walked away.  No one had heard of sexual harassment back then.  If you didn’t take care of it yourself, it didn’t get taken care of.
After Christmas everyone’s hours were cut. I needed full time hours to pay my rent and car payments, so I marched upstairs to the personnel manager’s office and asked him for more hours. He smirked and offered to put me in the men’s department. I lasted two hours. Men of all ages kept asking me to measure their inseams. The thought of getting down on my knees or squatting in front of a guy and holding one end of the tape against his genitals made me sick to my stomach. Besides, I was pretty sure most men’s inseams didn’t change from one pants purchase to the next. I marched upstairs again.
“I want more hours but back in women’s accessories,” I announced as I sat in the chair in front of the manager’s desk.
“Oh, and what makes you think I’ll do that?” he asked.
“Because it’s the right thing to do,” I said.
He got up and shut the door, sat down, adjusted his tie, and leaned forward. “Okay, you got it. Now you owe me something in return.”
I knew all about this guy. He had called my (married) friend a rabbit because she had gotten pregnant twice and miscarried both times, requiring time off work. He completely ignored how emotionally painful it was to lose two babies.
He fired another young woman because she requested emergency time off when her mother fell ill and had to be hospitalized.
I looked him square in the face and leaned forward, too. I knew exactly what he meant. “Have you ever heard the word “rape” screamed at the top on one’s lungs?” I asked him, my voice calm and confident. I wasn’t afraid of him.
He moved back a little.
“Well, you are about to hear it if you don’t get up and open that door in the next five seconds.”
He jumped up and opened the door.
“I don’t owe you anything,” I said as I walked out of his office.
That’s how it was back in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. We fought for the Equal Rights Amendment back then, but when the prerequisite number of states willing to adopt it fell short, it died in 1982. See Wikipedia for more information on the ERA.
I had hoped for more change by the time my daughters grew into young women. But I see the backlash and the regression. There is no equality for women today, no more than there is equality for any minority in our country. Any stride we make is stopped by other obstacles, like unequal pay for equal work, unequal access to health care, limited quality child care options, and, worst of all, paternalistic lawmakers who think they know better about our bodies and morals than we do.
After I told the personnel manager off in his office, he was transferred to a new store. As he walked around the store saying his good-byes, he stopped at the costume jewelry counter where I worked.
"I just wanted to say thanks,” he said. “You kept me in line.”
“That’s because I’m your goddamned conscience,” I said. “Don’t you forget it.”
We need to stand up and be the GOP’s conscience. There is no louder way to make our message heard than to vote in November.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Everybody Must Get Stoned

Well, they'll stone ya when you're trying to be so good
They'll stone ya just a-like they said they would
They'll stone ya when you're tryin' to go home
Then they'll stone ya when you're there all alone
But I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get stoned.
~ Rainy Day Women #12 and #35 by Bob Dylan

This song has been replaying in my head for the last week. It popped up when I read that Mitt Romney had selected Paul Ryan, a popular candidate with the Tea Party, as his running mate. Ryan’s budget plan includes not raising taxes on the wealthy and cutting social programs funding. He wants to turn Medicare into a partially privatized voucher system. He is of the camp that the wealthy are more deserving than the rest of us.
The song popped up when I read about the shooting at the Family Research Council (FRC), an organization that has spewed hatred about gays, calling them child molesters and suggesting that homosexuality be criminalized.  FRC president Tony Perkins blamed the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for listing the FRC on its hate group watch list. He said, “And in those stories where it says the Family Research Council, it says they're a certified hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. We've seen that term used increasingly over the last two years and it marginalizes individuals and organizations, letting people feel free to go and do bodily harm to innocent people who are simply working and representing folks all across this country."
The SPLC responded that it had listed the FRC as a hate group since 2010 "because it has knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda about LGBT people -- not, as some claim, because it opposes same-sex marriage."
Their statement continued: “The FRC and its allies on the religious right are saying, in effect, that offering legitimate and fact-based criticism in a democratic society is tantamount to suggesting that the objects of criticism should be the targets of criminal violence."
It frustrates me that conservatives use inflammatory, hateful language and marginalize groups of people and individuals all the time. And there has been violence as a result of their rhetoric.  But with one incident, they can turn around and blame a group that has tracked hate crimes for years, all hate crimes and all hate organizations, to benefit all of us. It’s the old do as I say, not as I do saw.
When I first saw the story, I wondered about the shooter. Most liberals carry signs, not guns. But perhaps the malignant language used by the president of the FRC when describing homosexuality was too much for Floyd Lee Corkins II, whose parents said he felt the FRC was unjust towards the gay and homosexual community. A strong and unwarranted response, but is anyone surprised? We are an armed society and shooting is an acceptable way of solving a problem or dispute. At least that is what many Americans believe, because they support the right to bear arms and minimal gun control.
Then I saw a story on the news a couple of days ago about the police shooting a mentally ill man on July 1st in Saginaw, MI. The song popped into my head again.
Milton Hall, a forty-nine-year-old African-American, was agitated, and he was wielding a knife. When he refused to put it down, the police opened fire and shot him over thirty times. Thirty times! He was a known mentally ill person to the police, having been picked up in the past on vagrancy charges. They still shot him thirty times! They couldn’t have tased him? They couldn’t have loosed the police dog on him? No, they shot him thirty times! Thirty times! See a video that a bystander took of the shooting. Warning: it is very graphic.
Can we talk about itchy trigger fingers? They are epidemic in America.
How many people have to be shot before we all rise up and say “no more?” It’s just getting crazier and crazier, and because it’s an election year, nobody wants to talk about the elephant in the middle of the map of the United States. Nor would the Republican dominated Congress pass any legislation concerning gun control. Do the conservatives and Tea Partiers realize that when you support the right to bear arms and also support minimal gun control that a lot of people who probably shouldn’t have guns are going to have them? That when a culture of gun ownership becomes more and more common, people from all walks of life are going to use guns more often and in more situations to resolve problems, differences, and disagreements? When you hope to operate above the law and common decency, others, people you think don’t deserve to, will follow you and act like you. And when you want the government to limit the rights of some but not others, like when you pass a constitutional amendment that says marriage is between a man and a woman, you will end up limiting your rights as well. We are either all equal or we are not. You can’t have it both ways.
Sometimes I feel I am witnessing the decline of a world power. Our country is disintegrating from the inside out. We’ve become more divisive than ever, and our politicians and corporate fat cats are feeding the frenzy. They are blatantly choosing business practices and passing legislation that favor the wealthy and leave the rest of us struggling. We are so far apart philosophically that I wonder if we will ever be able to reach a compromise.
It is the hatred and meanness behind the spewed rhetoric and lies. It is the way people wish ill of others because they don’t like them, are afraid of them, or judge them as less than, as in less equal or less worthy and deserving. I’m definitely more cynical at this age but I feel people are meaner, more self-serving, and that they value some lives over others. Whatever strides we made toward true equality, during the Civil Rights Era and because of the feminist movement, seem distant and tarnished in this era.
Then I remember Bob Dylan’s song. It’s meaning is layered. He could be talking about getting high, very popular in the sixties and apparently as popular today. That’s too simplistic in my mind. He was also talking about certain special, rare women in his life (#12 and #35) whose presence made him feel as if he’d been stoned.
But I also think he was talking about how everyone gets hit upside the head at one time or another when one least expects it. We are the same in that way: at some unexpected times in life, we will be stoned, in a moment of rare joy, love, and splendor or in a moment of tragedy, loss, and sadness.
It has nothing to do with who is more deserving or worthy. It happens to everyone, and trying to protect yourself with money, guns, and inflammatory, hateful language will not save you, because everybody must get stoned. It’s just a matter of how, when, and to what degree.
Wouldn’t it be better, knowing this, if we all shared compassion and empathy for one another and remembered that no one is more or less deserving? Let’s put away our weapons, harsh language, and lies. Let’s stop the violence. Let’s recognize and acknowledge that every person is equal, vulnerable, and imperfect. Everybody must get stoned. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ghosts 'N Guns

My girlfriends and I sat in a circle in the finished basement family room at my friend Gail’s house on a summer day just weeks before ninth grade began.  Each one of us outdid the one before in relating a scary tale. Gail began her story, and suddenly in mid-sentence she stopped, took a sharp breath, and her eyes grew round as she stared over my left shoulder. Her sudden silence and wide eyes caused me to scream and jump right out of my chair. Her fabrication made my fear no less real.
That is what it feels like this week, another week of ghost stories, another week of shooting, this time near Texas A&M University. Five people were shot and three killed, including the gunman and a constable, who had knocked on the door to serve an eviction notice. What are we so afraid of?
How many more shootings will occur before we cannot tolerate the violence? When will we rise together instead of pushing apart to find a peaceful solution? When will we replace rhetoric and politics with compassion and safety for everyone? When will we ban assault weapons for civilian use? When will we finally say that the collateral damage rendered in the push to support the right to bear arms, the thousands of people who die each year by gunshot, is more precious and more important than the personal freedom to bear arms?
I’d rather deal with ghosts than the specter of human hatred and fear that drives people to want to kill others. And it isn’t just psychotic people, though maybe believing that makes it easier to swallow. There is something growing like a weed in our society. It grows unwieldy and strong on hatred, divisiveness, the quest for individual freedoms, and survivalist instinct. Instead of calling for everyone to disarm and preserve human life, more people are arming up and declaring their intentions to shoot and kill.
I feel like our whole sense of community and the greater good has been replaced by individual freedoms and the desire to do whatever anyone wants to do, no matter that it might harm others. Text while driving? Why not? Shoot someone just for walking through a neighborhood? Why not? Plan and execute a mass shooting to show utter disregard for humanity? Why not? Decide ignorance of another culture is reason enough to shoot and kill others to show one’s hatred and fear? Why not? Can’t pay your rent and take it out on the people who happen to be in your way when you decide to express your anger and frustration with a gun? Why not?
I am so saddened by the tragedies of the past few weeks.  But I know it is the ghost stories that are fueling this particular brand of fear.  The fear that whites will lose their position of power and wealth, as if we all had it to begin with and are more deserving and entitled than the rest of the world; the fear that America will grow more diverse as more people from different cultures and religions move here; the fear that gay unions and independent, self-actualized women will ruin marriage as we know it; and the fear that middle class Americans are quickly losing economic ground.
I was afraid of more than just ghosts as a child. I was also terrified of the dark; spiders; strangers; fire; cigarettes (Ma smoked); certain foods like condiments, beer (Ma drank), and seafood; and new situations. These were all manifestations of the real situation that was the basis of my fears – living in an unstable home with an alcoholic mother.
That’s how it is today. People’s fear is manifested in the form of minorities, terrorists, criminals, and gay couples. What everyone is really afraid of is that we are all losing ground and our lives don’t feel stable or safe.  Who do we blame?
The truth is that corporations, people in the eyes of some politicians, are telling ghost stories while sending jobs overseas and pocketing profits and bonuses. The truth is we were always diverse, and we need to acknowledge that fact and stop pretending some people are better and more deserving than others. The truth is that minorities in America, whether they are black, Sikh, Muslim, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, women, or gay, want the same things that the majority (meaning those wielding power and position in our society) wants – the pursuit of happiness, the right to live their lives, and the right to embrace cultural aspects of their heredity, for example, the way Irish-Americans celebrate St. Paddy’s Day, in relative safety. The truth is the institution of marriage is fast becoming irrelevant in this society where women are sexually objectified and men are just “baby daddy.” We’ve lost the sense of love and family that grows between two people who face the world as one and who help each other weather the storms life brings us.  We fail to recognize that gay couples are trying to preserve and participate in this institution, not destroy it. They may be its best hope.
Politicians tell ghost stories, too, or they repeat ones they’ve heard. They make people feel desperate and scared, and they like it that way. If you are afraid of ghosts, you won’t have time to look at what they are really doing, like the Republicans (I’m a proud liberal) who hope to take away your stable retirement income and the health care that you have paid into since you started working. They pretend you won’t be part of the group losing these entitlements, but you will be, and they hope you won’t notice because they’ve made you afraid of the “others,” the ghosts who are unknown and unseen but that you begin to surmise who they are based on who looks or acts differently than you.
There are reasons to be afraid. Life is hard and bad things happen to good and bad people. Not many people live a life without sadness and struggle. But we need to be afraid of the right things, the things that can really hurt us, and take the right action, the one that does least harm.
As a child I had ways of dealing with my imagined fears – I sprayed spiders with hairspray or ran screaming from the room. I slept with the covers over my head. I avoided strangers and strange places. I repeatedly washed my hands if I came in contact with the foods or cigarettes to which I had such a strong aversion. I had panic attacks that stole my breath and dizzied me.  I paced the floor and imagined different and better times. But none of those things fixed the thing that really frightened me – Ma’s alcoholism and all the bad things that came with it: the arguments between my parents; Ma threatening to leave or to commit suicide; and my sense that I was not worthy of a mother who loved me enough to want to stay. I was but a child and couldn’t have fixed it anyway nor did I understand that Ma had her own fears that overwhelmed.
And that’s what we need to understand about everyone today. We each have our own fears, real or imagined, that we must contend with. How can we do that without harming others? How can we do that with respect and recognition that we are individuals in this collective we call America, and we all have a right to be here, no matter how we got here in the first place or where we came from or how we identify ethnically, religiously, and culturally.
We held a pretend séance when I was around ten. I led the parents and younger siblings into the neighbor’s basement and offered them chairs. Then I stood in the back, my face stern, and my arms crossed over my chest. When no one was looking, I pulled the fishing lines attached to objects to make them levitate. My neighbor David was the medium, and he sported a golden turban as he summoned the ghosts. My brother Rocco hid under a tarp and spoke through a length of garden hose to make his voice sound otherworldly. In our imaginative play we exorcised the spirits with an audience applauding our effort.
I wish we could exorcise the ghosts that plague us today and be rid of some of our imaginary fears, the ones that motivate some people to arm up with the intent to shoot and kill. Maybe then we could face the things we really need to be afraid of and find a way for everyone to live in safety.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Marilyn Monroe, President Obama, Me, and the New Violent America

I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.
~ Marilyn Monroe
My mind spins, twists and flits. Sometimes I can’t focus on a single image or idea. So I just close my eyes and let my mind loose. I am at my best when I relax into the process.
Life is like that, too, and this past week was chockfull: Transitions in the lives of our daughters; worries about elderly parents; and friends visiting from out of town. On top of all that, I was glued to the television watching the Olympics, staying up each night until midnight and yawning my way through each workday – the experts say productivity dipped markedly in the workplace during the week as more workers than I were enamored by the games. I celebrated the American teams’ diversity. Gabby Douglas made me so proud, as did all the athletes. I felt joy and sorrow for every person who participated, no matter what country they represented.
 This weekend was President Obama’s fifty-first birthday and the fiftieth anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death. I was going to write about Miss Monroe in this post. Then another shooting occurred on Sunday at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The Sikhs, a pacifist religious order, have faced constant discrimination here in America since 9/11. Because their religion requires the men to wear turbans and not shave facial hair, some Americans perceive them as terrorists. It’s as true as the bandied about lies that President Obama is neither an American nor Christian. But the truth has little sway when haters want to justify their hatred and the actions that hatred inspires.
Seven people, including the gunman, were killed at the temple, and three are critically injured, including a police officer. The FBI has deemed the shooting domestic terrorism. The gunman has been identified as Wade Michael Page, a forty-year-old army veteran who was less than honorably discharged and who had tattoos that suggested ties to a white supremacist skinhead group.
I’ve been talking about gun control since, well, since I became an adult. But the Aurora tragedy brought it to light again. I thought these occurrences would remain rare, but already, here is another one. Is one’s right to bear arms a more important personal freedom than the right to live our lives and engage in the mundanity of every day life in relative safety, without threat of gunfire raining over our heads?
Are we going to make ourselves feel better by calling Wade Michael Page crazy? Will we feel better when we buy more guns? Will this shooting, that was placed on page 10 of my local paper,  be forgotten because the victims were Sikhs, and there is a pervasive hatred among some Americans for anybody who is non-Christian and non-white? Will that hatred continue to fuel the violence that is fast becoming normalized in our society?
As fast as I can write this, arson at an Islamic mosque and community center in Joplin, Missouri, the second time in a year, is in the headlines. Domestic terrorism is here to stay in America, unless we change.
An article in last week’s local newspaper described a new video created by the city of Houston to teach people what to do during a shooting. The six-minute video recommends a “run, hide, fight” response. Danny Davis, director of a homeland security graduate program at Texas A&M University said the video was useful. “You’re not going to turn a civilian into a commando with a short video, but at the same time you can at least put in the back of their mind the possible options,” he said.
He thought the video lacked information about using a weapon and called it a “glaring shortcoming.” He suggested someone could have stopped the Aurora shooting had any of the moviegoers carried a weapon. I disagree. I wrote about that in my last post Playing with Weapons.
Who are we afraid of?
I’m afraid of the people who feel they need to arm up. I’m afraid of Americans who believe that America is only for white people. I’m afraid of the people whose hatred runs so deeply that they lie, blame God, incite and perpetrate violence against others, and feel self-righteous as they spread their hatred against President Obama, gays, women, people of color, immigrants, non-Christians, etc.
I have to think, or at least I want to think, the people spreading these lies, feeding these fears, and responding with violence, are a minority, but their message is louder and more urgent than the messages of tolerance and unity.
Tell the truth. You are afraid of change. You are afraid of people who are different than you. You are afraid of becoming irrelevant. Let’s work together to help you understand and allay your fears and to make this world safe for you and all the rest of us. Lying is not the answer. Going backward is not the answer.  Violence is not the answer. Arson is not the answer. Buying guns is not the answer. Terrorism is definitely not the answer.  When Americans engage in terrorist acts, they are the same as the  terrorists who blew up the World Trade Center on 9/11. How is it any more acceptable or right? It isn’t.
We live in a global community. Our country has open borders and invites immigrants to come work, go to school, become citizens of our country, and other countries allow us to do the same. We have to find ways to get along or at least live in proximity without killing one another.
President Obama’s birthday had briefly lifted my spirits on Saturday. I remember him at the Charlotte rally in 2008. I shook his hand. I still think about how he looked that day: relaxed, confident, presidential, intelligent, warm, and engaging.  He looks older and tired now, but  just as I thought on that day four years ago, he is the best hope we have for this country. He’s our best chance for all of us to recognize who makes up this country we call America – we are diverse, and that is our strength. We need to let him do his job. I wish people didn’t hate him.  I can understand if they don’t agree with his policies, but it is so much more. It’s sad and frightening. I wish Marilyn Monroe could have been there at his birthday celebration to sing Happy Birthday, Mr. President as she did for President Kennedy. Maybe she would have made him smile.
Marilyn Monroe makes me smile, too. She was fearless about her femininity in a masculine world, yet she was wracked by insecurity and neediness. I wish we could have experienced her wit, intelligence, and beauty a little longer. She let the world see into her soul, as painful as it was for her. She showed us her humanity in all its imperfection and in all its beauty. I see it when I look at photographs of her, her eyes showing both vulnerability and hope that the world would accept her just as she was. I was five when she passed away, but her movies still make me laugh and cry.
Maybe in this world, where people think guns and arson are the solution, hatred is spewed in venomous tirades, and videos must be made that teach us how to react in a mass shooting; we have to cling to our humanity and the small things that make us happy, like spending time with family and friends, watching old movies, or celebrating our best athletes at the Olympics. We have to hold on to our own vulnerability and recognize everyone else’s. We have to acknowledge the worst in us so we deserve to experience the best in all of us.