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Archive for the month “January, 2017”

Being Here

The other night at supper, a friend suggested that there was little point to the Women’s March. He said, “The women should wait until there is something to protest, like a bill or an action.” 

 I disagree
.

As a huge presence, the women were saying I am watching. We are witnesses. Of course, they did not want to have to take action and did not want to be violent. But they had to assemble peacefully.They did what women do: they gather together: to support, to console, to make themselves known as a huge body who wanted to assert and proclaim their power as an entire gender that does not support the politics all ready lived and dictated by Donald Trump.

Historically significant, the point was to send a message. Ironically, the women who massed together likely had not voted for the candidate so they had been unable to change the presidential results. So in spite of their numbers, they had not tipped the scales away from Trump at election time.

There have been peaceful marches before such as the 1963 Martin Luther King on Washington, Gandhi’s salt March to Dandi in 1930, the Selma to Montgomery March, all forms of civil disobedience to goad oppressors and declare there has been mistreatment in the world. However, the march may be the first to be a “ Women’s March”, although there is no doubt the suffragettes had gathered too: referred to as the suffragette “ parade” in 1913 in Washington, the word, of course, deriding the seriouness of the protest to a show or spectacle.
And on television last Saturday in San Diego, there were scenes from old age homes where grannies unable to physically join the march declared they could not believe how the attitudes towards women have been so set back.They sat besides their daughters and granddaughters, incredulous at the president’s tweets and twitters and offhand banter towards their gender.

Young girls today scoff at Feminism, laughing at its origins, but I recall Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug and even Marilyn French’s Ladies Room book when suddenly women were loudly pushing back, burning their bras in protest and demanding parity of pay ,opportunity, respect and control of their own reproductive functions. In Washington last week Gloria Steinem, now in her 80’s!, encouraged those who had come, to be there with their bodies as a statement against the policies that will decry and limit women’s rights.

Margaret Wente in Tuesday’s Globe wrote,

“But will this weekend’s march change history? Not a chance. Women’s solidarity is a mirage. Forty-two per cent of U.S. women voted for Donald Trump. Among white women, it was 53 per cent. The people we saw on Saturday simply reflected the Democratic base: big-city urban and suburban professionals, overwhelmingly white, along with people from minority groups. ”
I often read but do not agree with Wente although she presents another opinion, not an “ alternative fact” , and not necessarily a truth, although it may be her ” truth”. We used to be encouraged to listen to, not silence a diversity of voices so that one might ponder, or weigh their thoughts and perhaps come to a conclusion, or even consider there might be room for expanding or re- thinking  one’s original rumination.

 In the past , strides towards women’s rights were made slowly and even if the glass ceiling has not been broken, we did edge forward with more women doctors, lawyers, engineers,CEOs” leaning in”. I recall my own Aunt Marion involved in VOW, Voice of Women, an international group in the 50’s, protesting above all- nuclear bombs.Once when I travelled with her to Norway, we met with a member in Norway and I caught the passion in their voices as they discussed world issues. With David Muir, Trump trumpeted, “The world is a mess.”And how will building walls, policies of protectionism, isolationism, refusing refugees safe harbour, water boarding improve the state of affairs? Maybe if we stare at pictures longer and repeat the same slogans enough times, people will be brainwashed into accepting that repetition of untruths somehow converts them into truths. Shades of Clockwork Orange, Handmaid’s Tale and 1984.

To be repudiated, mocked and seen as fodder for sexual groping from the President of the  United States returns women  to the dark ages.It is demeaning, and infuriating- for oldsters and the future generations. Yet, that so many places in the world protested along with those in Washington recalls Helen Reddy’s song “I am Woman…see me roar”. Would that we didn’t need to roar, although we demonstrated yesterday it can be done civilly, quietly , with dignity, uniting all women.

As uplifting as it is to witness the rise of women power is the flip side: that it is necessary in the 21st Century to have to take these tactics towards a repressive 50’s minded male- in spite of Ivanka’s declaration that Look at me; he’s not like that. Just ask Rosie O’Donnell or the victims of sexual harassment. It makes you want to cry or scream out that the same stupid games are played over and again and that so many can turn away, wipe away the facts and ignore the reality that has matched forward.

 But the thinking goes along with the jingoism of America First. Where we thought we shared a global village, that we were all our brothers/ sisters keepers, and that together we are stronger, Trump has perpetuated the image of carnage, the Hunger Games, TS Eliot’s terrible post war vision of The Wasteland.

In all places, there is poverty, disease, brutality and sadness, but the idea of the American Dream had been a leitmotif that has underpinned what has been seen possible and the best in America: from education to financial stability and security from oppression and the rights that accompany democracy. Above all, rather than mongering fear, Barack and Michelle Obama offered hope for the country, reaching out and with their efforts, returning people to work, and making the White House, the People’s House, as it became to be called.
That green light at the end of the peer, beckoning.

In truth, I’ve always thought the idea of the American Dream a fantasy. Reading Philip Roth’s American Pastorale, I have stated that if Gatsby’s green light marked the symbolism of the dream, the forests of decay  in Roth’s novel signified the end. Yet people need something to move towards, to believe their hard work and dreams will amount to something more than a slavish life, corruption, and that at least as they yearn for those far shores, that the lives of their children will be improved, their potential realized. That vision and the freedoms we cherish have motivated others, extended a life line: likely  dead to those suffering in war ravaged countries.  What hope do they harbour now? 

In case, Trump has totally smeared the Obama years, The Washington Monthly lists some of Obama’s achievements which I quote here:

1.$787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 to spur economic growth amid the most severe downturn since the Great Depression.

2.The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010 to re-regulate the financial sector after its practices caused the Great Recession. The law tightens capital requirements on large banks and other financial institutions,  

3.Obama led six nations in reaching an agreement with Iran that requires the country to end its nuclear weapons program and submit to a rigorous International Atomic Energy Agency inspections regime in exchange for lifting global sanctions. This blocked Iran’s pathways to building a bomb, slowing down the development time for a weapon from three months to one year if Iran were to break its commitments.

4.Global Agreement on climate change was also achieved.
..

Wente again believes women’s rights will be safe. Once more, she writes,

“As one protest sign read, ‘We Not Go Back Quietly To The 1950s.’But that’s not going to happen. Cultural norms have changed too much. The laws have changed too much. Women’s gains are too entrenched. Women are no more likely to go back to the kitchen… ”

Would that be so, and there are enough thinking people who will refuse to turn back the clock, even as the Doomsday one pushes forward. Still in these times of fear and words that are easily bantered rather than carefully conceived and spoken aloud, we need as my friend Anne insists, something of beauty, upon which to dwell. And if that beauty has been clouded over by the darkness of Trump’s policies, at least the Women’s March took the pussy image and transformed it into a pink pussyhat.
And gave us a tickle, a smile .

In the 4th Century, Phrygian Hats, soft conically shaped provided the symbol for freedom for slaves from Europe.During the French Revolution, there was the bonnet rouge and for those old enough to remember Dickens’ Tale Of Two Cities, there was Madame Dufarge, one of the knitters who sat beside the guillotine. Ian Brown in referencing the symbolism of hats brought this character to mind as he referred to the sea of knitted hats that provided wave after wave of cat ears and colour , conflating both slurs and women’s reproductive organs. Besides the seriousness of the image, it also suggested a lightness, a way to reduce the repulsive intrusive comment used by Trump.
I can image Madame Dufarge holding her needles aloft, streams of pink pussy eats cascading over the heads of the marchers.

In deed, my daughter at an appointment last week, observed her doctor emerge from surgery wearing such a little hat.

Still, I cannot but hold that dark picture of the tricoteuse Dufarge in the novel, head bent, silently knitting as the heads rolled. The women in  the Women’s March  refuse to be silenced and sit quietly by the side of the guillotine chopping up the hard earned rights of the past. Like the pussyhats, they are essentials voice in a democracy to be taken seriously .

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Mrs. Nebraska and Brave New World

I’m standing in the JCC parking lot with a woman from Nebraska. She looks quite nice, and relates that she is 74. As soon as she says Nebraska, I know what’s coming. I have rolled my eyes to reinforce that Trump is and will be a disaster. But she quickly retaliates that having lived in Central America for 2 years, that the Clinton Foundation is nothing but corruption. I actually believe this is true, but I respond, ‘When you have two terrible choices, you take the lesser of the two”. She vehemently disagrees, again trumpeting the corruption. I retaliate with the stories from the African- America cabbies from Chicago, the Meryl Streep twitter…but all is lightly dismissed, and as far as the Russians go, according to Mrs. Nebraska, they have always been involved, and they did not pull the levers in the polling booths. She throws her best shot( Martin Luther King Day was just yesterday), exhorting that the country is divided and everyone must come together.

I nicely retort that we are never going to agree and that really, I must leave. But she will not stop her harangue and because I am polite, I stand for a few more minutes, but when she turns her furor on Barack Obama, I walk away, leaving her to discourse with the empty parking lot.

Later I think of what I might have added- no doubt to deaf ears- regarding Trump’s choices for his cabinet posts that go against all of his promises to support the the poor stiffs and pains- in- the- butts : as in just encountered here. There’s the wall, attacks on women and disabled, thin skin, Trump University, no prior governmental experience, bad business deals, petulant retaliations….still I am boiling over at the stupidity of this woman.

***

Last week, we watched Lester Holt interview Barrack Obama. And then 60 Minutes also asked Obama some demanding questions.What a pleasure to observe such a thoughtful, positive voice which might have come from a historian, an artist or any thinking person. Truly, it gives one hope in spite of what is coming.

In many ways although with less laughter, the interview resembled the one with WTF’s Marc Maron in which Obama discoursed on democracy and the way all things take time, with no road being smooth, and for every set back, a small piece of the step forward has been – if not achieved, at least put in place. Referring to Obamacare, he spoke to its inception as a marker from which to grow- even if Trump will see to its being repealed and the insurance companies will barter for more covetous rates.

As I listened to Obama’s. exchanges with Lester Holt, and then Steve Kraft, in a truly tough conversations, I considered Obama’s optimism and his youth and at the end, was surprised that he is mid- 50’s and that he still maintains beliefs we usually associate with ingenues whose lights are still bright because they have not been tested by the world. That he has held strong to that attitude is admirable, one we DO want our children to embrace.

Still I couldn’t help but ruminate that he has revealed in his presidency, rather than just optimism a naïve stance: for his belief is very strong in the promise of an America as ideal. But perhaps even as a symbol, he must gasp that an African American having achieved the presidentship is close to miraculous. So perhaps that realization has prompted him to dream the impossible dream.

From my point of view, it was his desire to maintain his values of compromise and collaboration, that lofty goal to be inclusive with the Republicans that underlined issues in succeeding to establish his ventures .In deed, he had paused, tried to connect, offer opportunities for input, fought the dragons, but ultimately his plans for a stronger, safer, more inclusive country had fallen far from the goal. Particularly in his first term when like a knowing, autocratic parent, he should have prevailed in stead of tending to voices.

Yet, we are not privy to the workings within government, the wheels within wheels, the deals done and undone. But, even Obama in his interviews lamented the impossibility of changing votes that hinged on a representative’s constituency, his/ her state’s goals, self- interest and the desire for re- election. And it is true, decisions, even the most moral ones can be sidetracked for so many unknown reasons. For people like me who do not generally think in greys , the path towards what is right is straight ahead, but few are brave or strong enough to forge ahead and allow themselves to accept the fallout of choosing the path less travelled by. Perhaps too, I have lived long enough to observe that self- profit or a strong self- interested ego motivates too many. And yes of course, I am cynical.And at this point, I am rarely surprised by the tactics taken- even by those we would trust.

But Obama, with strong spirit and no corruption in his years as president did represent the Camelot we sought and believed was possible. But once again , we were proven wrong by those who lied, provided false research or did not truly care : that guns kill children; that everyone deserves health care; that clean air is a necessity; that we build through compromise and collaboration. The aims no aspirations we hope to plant and embrace, and ironically are even the last one of collaboration written here are penned in the statements that underpin companies’ philosophies and statements.

Congruently I reflected on articles last week, one in particular by Rick Salutin in The Toronto Star that listed OBama’s losses and failures in his eight years: Guantanamo, Iraq, Israel… The question put to Obama by his interviewers about the Middle East was a difficult one for the president. Yet without attacking those who dare to enquire and pose the hard questions, and without insulting or dismissing the uncomfortable probes and withholding resentment,Obama spoke of his work, commenting humbly on the successes along with the setbacks and frustrations.

Again for me, it was the handling of the intensity of the moment, “the how” as opposed to the what or why that impressed me the most about President Obama. How often in a tight squeeze , do we lose our cool, lash out, scream unfair, sulk or react defensively .

Along with a respective, reflective demeanour, Obama acknowledged that he had been so busy, there had not been time to connect with many people who felt disenfranchised by job loss, etc– in spite of having put so many Americans back to work.

Incredulous and backed by the parents of the Sandy Hill dead, he could not comprehend how gun laws and simple registration had been defeated. He acknowledged that the Republicans made up their minds and refused to even listen. With tears on his face and empathy for those parents, he stood as the challenging angel amid the satans of deafness.

There is so much to admire in this man. Besides being the harbinger of justice and symbol of the American Dream, he is a feeling individual, able to express his emotions of love, despair, anger. Yet his behaviour is tempered by rational thought. He thinks, he considers, he reflects and then he acts- in the good for all. He, like Nelson Mandela ,will remain, I believe, as the emblem of what is best in America. And like the cab drivers I spoke to in Chicago, he still dreams the dream- as quixotic as it may be by oldsters like myself. But he gives you reason to hope. That after the Trump years, and pray we and our children are not demolished, that another Phoenix will rise from the ashes to make a better world, with pure heart and intentions that we hope our children will choose to emulate.

The protesters, the Women’s March today, John Lewis’s remarks last week and even the debate on Chuck Todd’s Meet the Press give us reason to hope that the best will endure to challenge a presidency that in its earliest beginnings has all ready reiterated its jingoistic slogans and, for reasons I cannot fathom, resonate with the Mrs. Nebraskas of America.

Yesterday at the end of my yoga class, an older man turned to the rest of us and  sadly muttered,” Brave new world”.

Ageism and the Queen

Why was it that when Mic Jagger produced his last child a few months ago he was not shown in a rocking chair beset with grey hair and cane. More likely, with responses of thumbs up and “Attah boy,” gossip was impressive that an old dude was still so young.

But be a woman – of quite a lesser age! and the image that comes to mind is dowdy, frumpy, lacking in lustre. In the last year, I have been associated with this image at least twice.In not revealing my own age but describing myself in blogs and articles as a child of the 60’s I have received negative epithets that suggest I am ready for the Mosha Zakanam( Yiddish for old folks home). And it really infuriates me.

My grandparents WERE old and worn out by their 50’s, my buby Molly huffing and smoking “ special” asthma cigarettes, her stringy hair pulled back in a bun and never dyed, her short waisted body always in drab shapeless dresses, her lopsided hobble completing the resemblance to a crone. Yet the image of her lilting warm eyes remains as well. Molly’s husband ,Sam, was unsmiling, ageless, posture ramrod straight, and although he did not wear tails, one had the impression that behind his back he might have carried a pointer stick. They spent their days, before I knew them, crouched over sewing machines at Tiptop Tailors, immigrants with few choices but the weight and burden of life on their thin shoulders.

My mother’s parents, too, although seemingly better polished, also were not attached to a particular age; however, I did think of all grandparents and people taller than I as “old”. My mother’s father always cupped a half- smoked cigarette in his palm, and appeared to be coasting or dancing across the floor. My other grandmother’s scowl was timeless as well, angry from her dislocation from Europe, her cleaning and cooking for the landsmen from Poland my grandfather,Joe, trooped through their doors as unwelcomed guests. As a child, I found my grandparents all distant and cool, rarely hugged or even smiled at by them. Yet my mother adored her father, and the stories concerning special foods my father’s mother made for him out of love were endless.

But I was a baby boomer, one destined to jangle my lovebeads into grandparent hood.As well, all those my age had aged nicely, strengthening their core, exercising, consulting the latest experts on health and food choices, contemplating mindfulness training, gauging their cholesterol, finding Contemporary clothes to disguise the bag and sag of accumulated years. We moved easier( well some with knee or hip replacement), we were more knowledgeable about good heart choice meals and more veggies. We got down on the floor with our grandkiddies. We learned how to commandeer technology, computers, iPhones, IPads, that superseded typewriters, adding machines, snail mail and telephones. Some even ventured on Social media. So we moved with the times and adapted.Unlike the dinosaurs( or so I reckoned).

So last year when I had a trio of blogs accepted in a newspaper in cool California, I was pretty impressed that such a publication that appealed to a youthful culture would first, be interested and then actually, pay for my writing. The first two blogs , on my experiences in the San Diego scene, perhaps hinted at someone beyond a Millennial; however, the third concerned how I had tripped at Belmont Park, an experience I explained that had occurred from my earliest days as I am continually caught off guard by a scene, a flower, a friend and wind up with tangled feet hitting the ground hard, my head and body two separate entities, my knees permanently purple.

However the index that located the blog in the zine introduced my piece as” Old Lady Trips”. And I do not think they were punning on a Canadian connection to pot.

So infuriated was I that I emailed my contact who demurred that it was his editor who applied titles, not him.I immediately forwarded him a recent photo of me. True, it was flattering, as I did not send a picture of me in my worn nightie and rollers in my hair.He responded, “Oh my…!”. Oh my, in deed.

But just yesterday , so delighted to have an article published in a national newspaper, I could not wait to see the accompanying sketch. To my horror, the picture which did highlight the pointillism of Seurat’s Grande Jatte in the background ,displayed in the foreground a frump: the author(ME!). Upon closer examination, I noticed a purple cardigan, impressive rump and the most unshapely calves on the figure holding on to a picture frame. Her hair harked to the 20’s. Horrified , I looked closer to identify the personage as Queen Elizabeth the second- and not the one now dramatized in The Crown either. Certainly not a baby boomer.

What were they thinking? That someone who sat in a lecture hall in the 60’s was now 90? That someone who visits and discourses on art and art galleries is a decrepit soul who creeps in and out of rooms? That all this art stuff belongs to the over the hill types? The idea of the Queen being drawn into a picture frame was in deed cute, but truly, except for her horses and corgies, I have never associated her royal highness with colour, shape or form- with the exception of perhaps an interesting matching hat to her ensembles.

I wanted to scream ageism, sexism and send off a caustic comment to the paper, but my husband reminded me such a blast might prevent anything of mine being published there again should I follow the petulant like Trump model wherein he twittered about Meryl Streep’s comments at the Golden Globes. But perhaps only twerps tweet. So I took the higher ground . “Go high, “intoned Michelle Obama in my ears, and I chose to explode my outrage here in my blog.

Still, why is it that men get better with age, and women even boomers, get older?

Dinda and Her Two Grandsons from San Diego

I open my birthday card and surprise!, it’s tickets to the Chargers football game. Oh great, I say, as anyone who knows me knows I’m no sports aficionado. I’ll do a few baseball games, lots of basketball, but football?. Once when I was newly married, I did my new husband a huge favour by attending a game in Ottawa – and actually endured the game in the pouring rain. I vowed to the stars, beating my chest, never again.  

But the Charger ticket was a gift from my son- and my husband reminded me this would be a family affair as my two grandsons would be visiting San Diego after skiing Tremblant and the Chargers were their favourite team and it would be fun. I grumbled with a smile.Anything for those little guys.

Thankfully the rain in San Diego that absolutely thrashed the city occurred the day before the game so at least I didn’t have to watch guys in tight pants run amok in the downpour.

Usually San Diego boasts perfect weather but because of La Niña and the Santa Anna winds this year, California is a bit off, no doubt miffed that Trump wound up as president so the climate is severely out of sorts.

So we set off and I learn about “tailgating”at football games – which means that people sit in parking lots near the game before kickoff, cooking their dinners and imbibing.It reminded me of Rio on New Years where families from grandmas to screaming infants all dressed in white gathered on the Copacabana with their hibachis to cook their meals, offer gladiolus to the sea and basically, just hang out together. I had previously believed “ tailgating” meant driving too close to the car ahead of you. I now comprehended in football lingo that sitting by your car in a smelly parking lot and eating a salad near your gas tank must refer to the “ tail “ of your car.Maybe there’s a football connection here that alludes me.

During the game, one of my grandsons asked me,”Why do they fight for the ball? It’s like playing a game, tackling one another and trying to grab the ball?” He suggested that they should politely stop and enquire “Would you like the ball?”… then tip their caps to one another.Sounded more gentlemanly to me too.

Still my eye was constantly drawn to the gold pompoms of the cheerleaders who did, to my mind, a much better job than the girls at the Raptors’ Games, whose moves are often vulgar and not very pretty, especially in their costumes that scream polyester.Here in San Diego, these girls looked like real American girls.

After the game, in the car on the way back, my son asked, “How did you like it!” . One grandson replied , “ It was boring and I didn’t understand it”. Also it was really really long. That’s why it was boring.” Me too, I thought even though my son had provided a tutorial on how the field was divided into 10 yard segments and the teams had to pass or kick the football down the field.

My other grandson said he liked the game a little bit, but not surprisingly, not that much. He bought a little stuffy bear because he had some money to spend. So that was good.We shared a very long bag of caramel ( and very expensive) popcorn ,but we didn’t finish it. Actually one of our little guys wondered,” I like balls, but why not baseball or soccer? That’s better than football.”

My little guys also hiked at Torrey pines and appeared to be more impressed with the natural beauty of rocks and surf. They had created a scavenger hunt and found all the things on the list: a caterpillar, a butterfly, ,a stick, a spider, dog poo, and cactus. They watched the ocean. They explained the waves make shapes with the water; however, they related that they couldn’t feel the breeze. They also followed a path of 118 steps that went nowhere, having to go back up and around to the top: much to their Poppa’s annoyance.They brought back beautiful rocks. And let’s face it, Torrey Pines is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

So besides the Lego Show in Balboa Park, an afternoon at local Doyle Park with its many attractions upon which to swing, slide and twirl, the awesome Disney movie Sing, chocolate at Ghiradelli , Chinese Food at PJ Chang’s, the impact of football was lessened. And for me, their Dinda, I was very very happy.

Full disclaimer: Written with the grandsons.

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