Thursday, July 24, 2008
When I went to the pharmacy yesterday, I noticed a petition to the Governor and the CA State legislature trying to prevent a 10% cut in funding of the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act. This enraged me, as California is only spending an average of 2 months medication costs per patient per year. Moreover, a large chunk of the funding goes to the hardest hit urban areas. In short, the LA and SF metros get over 50% of the funding, and the rest of the state is relegated to fight over the rest. While I’m all for money going where it’s needed, the earmark needs to be expanded to truly serve the population living with HIV and AIDS.
Now I know that the Ryan White CARE Act has long been a target of the GOP and fiscal conservatives, but the current funding levels are shameful. While the total amount that is earmarked for the fund seems large at $255,305,160 (FY2006 as reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation in partnership with US Dept. of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration), when you take into account there are 92,560 reported cases in the State of California (31 May, 2008, California Dept of Public Health, Office of AIDS), it boils down to an average $2758.27 per patient per year. An average month’s medication cost for someone who is taking Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HIV Meds) is around $1400.00. With the proposed 10% cutback, the average amount spent per reported case would drop to an average of $2482.44 per year.
In 2005, there was a compromise measure enacted by Congress (when reauthorizing the Ryan White CARE Act) that limited how the monies are allocated. Title’s I and II of the act are limited to spending 75% on a core set of medical services, including the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), and places like the Center for AIDS Research, Education, and Services (CARES), and the other 25% used for “Wrap Around Services” such as housing assistance and food / meal assistance. Those levels are good for places like Sacramento, but don’t work for places like San Francisco, where donors have taken the financial burden off the clinics and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s medical outreach programs. In San Francisco, the SF AIDS Foundation reports that they only use an average of 60% out of the 75% medical allocation, but cannot reallocate those surplus monies to bolster their ailing non-medical assistance programs. Other agencies, such as CARES in Sacramento, are fighting to keep every dollar they get for medical care as they are severely under-funded, and are the only such agency in the California central valley.
So, in short, when I go to the Democratic Platform meeting next week, this is the issue I will bring. This is one of the many issues that need to be addressed by Congress under the Obama Administration, and one that will be kept silent as it’s not a big news maker. But thankfully for myself (and the 92,559 other reported cases of HIV and AIDS in California), I’ve got a big mouth ... and am willing to use it to effect change.
Just my 2 Cents – comments and suggestions always welcome.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Instead of being ignored, one of my pet issues has become a proverbial Third Rail of this election cycle. It has become one of a small core of issues that candidates will live or die by. However, to many of the candidates, this issue will only be important in the abstract. For myself, and millions of uninsured and under-insured Americans, this issue is not abstract ... it's an unfortunate part of life. For many of us, affordable health care is just out of reach.
Let me preface by saying I work as a Contractor for one of the largest Technical Staffing firms in the continental US. As an employee, I am offered medical coverage, which would be best characterized as ineffective. In short, the plan covers office visits at a decent co-pay . . . but that’s about it.
I’m not used to this low level of coverage. Having been in the IT field for the past decade, I’ve been accustomed to having a compensation package that includes a decent medical plan. I’m not used to having to pay retail for prescriptions. It’s a rather humbling experience when you work 40 hours per week at what most would consider a good wage, and still cannot afford your medicines. And while I’ve got a good job, having a long-term chronic condition has really opened my eyes to how the uninsured live.
It makes me wonder how we, as Americans, can allow so many of our fellow citizens to live in these deplorable conditions. We, as a society, allow our elderly to go without care due to the cost. We, as one of the richest economies, watch our children grow up without the preventive care that they so desperately need. And yet our elected representatives choose to debate rather than act. This is an issue that transcends partisanship, ethnic background, economic status, truly all the concepts we use to call each other different. This issue hits at the core of what makes us all the same … we are ALL part of this rock we call Earth, and blessed enough to be part of the idea that is America.
I’ve always mulled about this issue, but have not been very outspoken. That changed the other night when I went to karaoke at a venue here in Sacramento. I spent a few minutes talking to Alice, one of the best bartenders in the city, about this issue. She spoke of the cost of her health care, and how it’s almost too expensive for her to afford. She also lamented that her out-of-pocket costs would increase later this year as she turns 50.
She floated an idea to me that I found amazingly simple, and yet a way we can begin to effect change. I’d like to float that idea here, and hear feedback from everyone as to their impressions.
Alice’s idea was simple – to mandate that Doctors of all stripes be required to give 2-3 days per year to treating the masses. Her concept is to have health fairs in communities large and small where these doctors give away their services. As long as a financial need is demonstrated, no-one would be turned away due to the inability to pay. This would take some of the strain off the public health clinics and the Emergency Rooms, which are grossly overtaxed. This would help insure that everyone has access to quality health care at a potentially lower cost to the taxpayer. And this would ensure that we are keeping our promise to our children to give them better than we got.
Her idea is an idea of first impression, as she saw a documentary about Doctors Without Borders and thought it would be an idea that would help Americans with the health care crisis. I agree with her that it would at least help improve the situation, even if in a small way.
If nothing else, however, we need to raise the level of public debate on this issue. We need to find creative solutions coming from government, NGO’s, CBO’s and FBO’s alike to better serve the needs of our entire population. And we need to impress on our legislatures, both state and federal, that this is an issue that needs to get pulled out of the muck. We need to shed our partisan blinders and take up a truly inclusive stance. We need to come together to solve one of the toughest social issues of our day.
Just my 2 Cents – comments and suggestions welcome!
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
That's what I call my paternal grandmother. Before I was born, my grandparents each chose what they wanted me to call them. My dad's mom picked "Honey" because she said she'd never been called anything sweet before. That wasn't strictly true, but she did have a difficult upbringing and an overbearing husband. She grew up as "poor white trash," and why my grandfather married her, I'll never know. Honey taught me a lot of things, as a kid and as an adult, but I don't know that any of the lessons were good.
Sheltered though I was, I learned about sexism when I was a child, and my first experience with it was probably the most hurtful - though not the most damaging in terms of academic or professional advancement - because it was the most personal. When I was a young girl, I slowly began noticing that my paternal grandparents treated me rather differently than they treated my brother. He was cooed over and treasured in a way I hadn't been, he was given attention and praise in a way I wasn't. The differences seemed stark. At first, I couldn't figure out why it should be so - why would I be treated differently when I was so pretty, so intelligent, far kinder, and more polite? What had I done wrong? Hurt and uncomprehending, I finally thought to ask my mother, who I could always trust to answer my naïve, innocent questions in the same way: Truthfully. Gently but bluntly, she explained that my father's parents were children of the Depression and had been raised with an old Southern mentality that men were more valuable. My brother was more cherished, more loved, and more important in the eyes of my grandparents because he was the male heir, and because he would carry on the family name, whereas I, as a woman, would lose it when I married (in the old South, marriage was a question of when, not if). This was a difficult truth for a young overachiever to understand because it was something which had to be accepted rather than overcome; no amount of success on my part would ever make me equal.
My paternal grandfather died in 2002, and my recently divorced aunt moved back in with her mother. In August of last year, she remarried, and my grandmother became extremely ill around the same time. We had two options: send her to a nursing home, or find someone who would be willing to care for her. The choice was clear to everyone except me; they were willing to send her to a home, whereas I couldn't bear the thought of locking her away - she was family, after all, even if I didn't know her very well. I decided to put my education on hold for a year so that I could move in with her and care for her. For nearly nine exhausting, miserable months, I essentially ran a nursing home.
I discovered that Honey was a petty person, and very possibly the most selfish woman I've ever known. Her daughter - my aunt - suffers from a serious mental illness, and she didn't marry for the first time until she had entered her mid-30s. In the meantime, she filled her loneliness with cats. When I was a young girl, she had three: Emerson, Tiger, and Marie, and they were like her children. For years, when that lonely, troubled woman went home at night, they were all she had, and I recall how deeply she loved them.
My grandmother doesn't like cats, though. My aunt had very little money, so she had to use a cheap litter which didn't clump, meaning that the litter quickly became soaked in urine and stank of ammonia. My grandmother was fastidiously clean, and she hated smelling the litterbox when she visited her daughter's house. So Honey enlisted a couple of family friends to go over to her daughter's house one day while she was at work, break a window, and steal the cats. Then they put the cats in the car, drove out deep into the country, and dropped them. The cats were domesticated and de-clawed; there's little doubt in my mind that they either starved to death within days, or were eaten by larger animals.
My aunt went to the animal shelter every day for weeks upon weeks, and then every weekend for over six months, hoping and praying that her children would be there. She still doesn't know that her mother killed them.
Within two weeks of moving in with my grandmother, she had her first heart attack, and I had to rush her to the hospital. Shocked and trembling, I stood outside the cath lab and realized how woefully unprepared I was to take care of a dying woman. Determined to do it right, I learned quickly and thoroughly. I fed her, I cleaned her, I kept up with dozens of medications, more than a dozen doctors, scores of doctor's appointments, and 14 hospitalizations. I learned the ins and outs of each of her conditions and medications. I scrubbed every bodily fluid and every form of waste out of carpets, sheets, and clothing. I was half secretary, half nurse - making notes, taking messages, scheduling, canceling, and rescheduling appointments, typing up and revising lists for myself, lists for my family, lists for the doctors. I was at the pharmacy nearly every day. I spent many nights in the ER with her, sometimes until after 4 AM; I spent even more nights sleeping in a chair beside her hospital bed. I spent days and days - and on one occasion a full week - sleeping in the chair by her bed at her house, either because she'd been experiencing strange symptoms that might have meant an impending heart attack, or because she'd recently had surgery and couldn't walk to the bathroom without me.
Honey was noncompliant, petulant, and occasionally cruel. If I glanced away for even a second, she would try to hide or throw her medicine. She cursed at me and fought me whenever we had an appointment (usually several times a week), and even hit me a couple of times. She expressed her displeasure at anything anyone cooked for her. I hooked up baby monitors so that she could yell and wake me if she fell, and she used them to call me constantly, day and night. By the end, she was hollering at me two or three times a night, disrupting my sleep cycle simply because she wanted me to tuck her back in (after she'd crept to the bathroom) or needed a cup of coffee or a glass of juice. She made everything as difficult as humanly possible.
If caring for her wasn't bad enough, dealing with her bigotry - and that of her sister - made everything seem so much worse. She was a hateful racist and a bitter sexist - "self-loathing" doesn't even begin to describe it. I can't count the number of times I had to hear her call Hillary "that hideous bitch" and Obama "that goddamn nigger". I endured months of listening dispiritedly to my grandmother and her sister (who was even more caustic, in part because she was brain damaged from a stroke she had in '03) talk about how Jews lie and steal, and how Obama is a Muslim and a "high yeller", and how Hillary is a lesbian who only had Chelsea because Bill raped her. Nearly nine months of cringing and gritting my teeth and squeezing my eyes tightly shut to prevent myself from screaming and cursing at a dying woman and her crazy old sister. Morning after morning, sitting in the corner of my shower with my head in my hands, trying to wash away the anger, depression, frustration, and disgust. Part of me hated her, part of me pitied her.
Part of me loved her, too, but probably only because I felt like I had to. It's funny the way some Southerners think - especially old ones. A lot of them are very sexist, even the women. In the first month of caring for Honey, I noticed that she never expressed any genuine gratitude. I hadn't taken on this assignment because I wanted to be thanked, but it stuck me as strange that she didn't seem to appreciate anything I did for her. For awhile, I thought she just didn't like me. She certainly didn't seem to love me the way she loved my brother, but I already knew that; what surprised me was that she didn't seem to love my aunt as much as she loved my father. I finally said to her, "I'm sorry, but you're going to have to do a better job of working with me. I know you'd rather have your son or your grandson taking care of you, but there's nothing I can do about that." All she said in response was:
"No, no, they shouldn't have to. Boys have more important things to do."
Something about that response was incredibly... crushing. My grandmother's opinion is of little significance to me, but the realization that such a mentality is still alive (though perhaps not well) was very upsetting. That was why she didn't appreciate me, and that also explained why she was always so resentful of my aunt. You see, my aunt had remarried when her mother was ill, and that isn't what she "should" have done. A proper daughter would have quit her job and put off her marriage - she would have taken care of her mother. My aunt neglected her responsibility. I didn't do anything special; all I did was step up where my aunt failed. My dreams were unimportant, and my sacrifices were not only unappreciated, but also unacknowledged. I had given up spending time with my friends and family, and I'd dropped out of school for a year. I had put my entire life on hold, and Honey saw nothing unusual about it. It was what I was supposed to do as a woman because all the men were too busy. They had more important things to do.
Around May 15th, one of my doctors finally told me that I had to stop caring for my grandmother. I had largely quit eating, and my sleep was so disturbed that it was doing me little good; I was walking around in a perpetual state of exhaustion, and I was undeniably depressed. The rest of my family had been begging me to send Honey to a home for months because they'd seen what it was doing to me, but I had been too stubborn. My sense of duty outweighed my common sense. But I trust this particular doctor. If he said it had to end, then it had to end.
I know this diary isn't political, but I've been thinking about my grandmother even more than usual today. I was out of town for awhile yesterday, and when I returned home, I received news from my aunt that hospice was being called to the nursing home, and that the doctor had given Honey "a short while" to live. We aren't sure whether that means a couple of weeks or a couple of months, but the doctor said it wouldn't be long. They're going to keep her comfortable. I'm still not sure how I feel about it. In a lot of ways, I know my grandmother is a terrible person; on the other hand, I can't imagine what it must be like to believe for all your life that you're inherently less valuable than others. Just as I know in my heart that I can be any man's equal, she knew in hers that she was inferior to her husband, her brothers, and her male coworkers. She was raised in an environment of intolerance and lived her life in the shadow of sexism, which she ultimately embraced rather than railed against. Her own sense of inferiority fueled her bigotry. She wanted someone to be beneath her because she felt so low - so African Americans, Jews, and other women became the targets of her frustration and bitterness.
I have to wonder, what sort of life was that, and who would choose to live it?
Monday, July 14, 2008
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Apparently the term "troll" originated in the 16th century to describe political debate and insult in London coffee houses. The term is thrown about too loosely. When I was active in bipolar listservs in the mid-1990s, a troll was a despicable person who joined the group pretending to be bipolar. He often set people against each other, preyed on the vulnerabilities of achingly vulnerable people, pretended to be in crisis, etc. We all knew what the word meant. Who knows what it means in political debate? In my first weeks on mybarackobama, I was accused of being a troll daily. Anyone capable of rational debate is not a troll. We all get intellectually lazy about explaining our principles and policies. It does us good to be challenged.
Parents learn to ignore obnoxious toddler or preschool behavior rather than to make a big fuss about it. Why don't you ignore the people that you consider trolls, don't bother rating their diaries and comments, don't comment on their diaries nor respond to their comments, don't impose timeouts. Concentrate on writing your own diaries and blog posts.
When my oldest daughter was 1 and 2, she pulled hair and dumped sand on people's heads. I finally realized that she wasn't inherently vicious; she just adored uproar. Her criminal behavior only occurred in the presence of parents absolutely guaranteed to go round the twist. She stopped eating sand when her pediatrician looked her in the eyes and told her how important it was to eat enough sand daily to stay healthy.
Real trolls love uproar. If you enjoy the insult game, you can't complain about your comrades in insult being trolls because you obviously relish uproar as well.
Here is what the devil child is doing now. She no longer eats sand, although she has spent a suspiciously long time in African deserts unobserved by me.
There might be hope for trolls and the troll accusers. When I was in high school and college debate, we addressed our most cutting remarks to "the honorable gentleman or lady of the affirmative (or negative) team." Listen to how Senators do it. Mixing courtesy with invective is more effective.
Friday, July 11, 2008
I am one day older than the atom bomb, born the day after Trinity (I expect birthday greetings very soon if you know your history:) I was a 1960s radical nonviolent pacifist and am a card-carrying member of the War Resister's League. I can go spectacularly limp if you try to drag me from the demonstration. I have not changed as I raised 4 daughters, took care of my dying parents, worked as a public librarian and social worker.
We need a nonviolent revolution to transform America into a children-friendly, family-friendly, elder-friendly, human-being-friendly society that is not the disgrace of most of the world. If you want to have children or take care of your aging parents, you would be better off moving almost anywhere in the world.
I supported Hillary and I am now supporting Obama by holding his clay feet to my progressive fires. I am a million percent sure the US will be better off with him as president than McCain as president. But I have no illusions he is a liberal or a progressive. He will only be as liberal as the country forces him to be. I have known that from the beginning, so I don't feel betrayed.
Since Obama became the presumptive nominee, I became very active in mybarackobama , and in a month have amassed 867 points and am in 7416 place. Joining lots of groups, making sure my blog posts land on their group page, then leaving if I get no response are the keys to my point total. I didn't do that deliberately; most of the groups sound interesting but are inactive. I feel like a first grader bragging about the gold stars on my forehead. I have been asked to leave two groups, but I started 3 groups of my own, which I control absolutely. My blogs posts can be sent to 10 groups at once. Mybarackobama seems remarkably open to Obama criticism. I hope it continues after he wins the election. I feel I am having a much more positive impact than if I was feeding my resentments on Puma blogs.
Let's stop squandering the ideas, energy, passion needed for the revolution on destructive family squabbles. I thought the feminists of my generation would change things so that our kids could combine careers and children and elder care. I intend to dedicate the rest of my life to making sure my grandchildren can. I have a 14-month old grandson with a granddaughter due in August and another one due in December.
If you think managing careers and child care is difficult, wait until a phone call in the middle of the night plunges you into the nightmare of combining elder care and your career. And no, Medicare or Health Insurance does not pay for custodial care and help with the activities of daily life for failing or demented elders who are going to die of their illness. Medicare or Health Insurance might spend hundreds of thousands on death bed heroics. but they won't pay for an aide willing to change adult diapers. I hope you all are practicing. I suggest wrapping the use diaper in a plastic bag and tossing it out the bathroom window to a garbage can outside the window. But you need to live in a house for that.
I have been a feminist since my brother was born when I was 18 months old. Having 4 more younger brothers reinforced it. The culminating moment was when I was preparing for First Communion and the nun informed me that boys went up first because they could be priests and were closer to God. !6 years of misogynistic Catholic education guarantees radical feminism for life.
I was the only girl in my political science classes at Fordham and I especially love to argue with men. I don't do tact. So when is my birthday and why do I call myself Redstocking Grandma? If you can't answer those two questions, you undoubtedly need to read more history and do less blogging and commenting. Ask me for a reading list. I give lots of homework.
Time will tell if I moderate my blogs, censoring people who can't pass my history test:) This is a joke guys.But I do want intelligent discussion and debate, not the reversion to a middle school cafeteria that too many blogs became during the primary. In 1987, equally digrunted with my shrink and my first husband, I ordered a red sweatshirt that proclaimed: "Never love a man who doesn't love Jane Austen, Doris Lessing, and Margaret Drabble." More homework . After 14 years, that shirt got me an English husband. Jane Austen introduced us; we met on a Jane Austen online listserv.. A nonviolent revolutionary who loves Jane Austen, what's not to love?
I am pleased that Obama is reaching out to women and advocating family-friendly policies:
During a town hall in Fairfax, Virginia today, Obama said:
Growing up, I saw my mother, a young single mom, put herself through school, and follow her passion for helping others while raising me and my sister. But I also saw how she struggled to provide for us, worrying sometimes about how she'd pay the bills.This morning the campaign rolled out a report on the impact of the Obama economic plan for America's working women nationwide. Barack's plan will provide a tax cut to 71 million working women, guarantee seven days of paid sick leave for 22 million additional women, and make childcare more affordable for 7.5 million working mothers. His plan is designed to give working women the opportunity to not just get by, but to get ahead in our economy – to build a nest egg, save for retirement, start a business and provide a better life for their children.
I saw my grandmother, who helped raise me, work her way up from a secretary at a bank to become one of the first women bank vice presidents in the state. But I also saw how she ultimately hit a glass ceiling - how men no more qualified than she was kept moving up the corporate ladder ahead of her.
And I've seen my wife, Michelle, the rock of the Obama family, juggle jobs and parenting with more skill and grace than anyone I know. But I've also seen how it tears at her. How sometimes, when she's with the girls, she's worrying about work - and when she's at work, she's worrying about the girls. It's a feeling I share every day - especially these days, when I'm away so much on the campaign trail.
It's something I hear all the time from working parents, especially working women - many of whom are working more than one job to make ends meet.
Hillary wasn't really better on these issues, but I hoped that as an older woman with so many woman advisors, she would understand. She might be more sensitive to the dilemmas of caring for aging parents since her mother lives with her.
But we need a mass movement to pressure Congress to address these issues. Sadly most young parents and most caregivers of elders do not have the time or energy to lead this crusade. That is why I am encouraging baby boomer grandparents to dedicate themselves to winning battles for their grandchildren that we failed to win for our children.
I am taking advantage of Obama's enlightened invitation to local platform meetings to host one on Building a Truly Family-Friendly America. Here is my invitation:
Let's discuss and develop family friendly policies that would make it possible for all Americans to lead balanced lives. The US lags shamefully behind most of the developed world in child-friendly policies. We all need time for love, work, family, friendship, children, elders, political and community activism. We all know the challenges of child care. Most health care discussions neglect long-term health care of chronically ill elders. People don't realize until the crisis is upon them that Medicare and regular health insurance does not pay for chronic custodial care. We need maternity and paternity leave, child care, credits for parents who stay home to care for children, free preschool education, extension of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Improving conditions for nannies, child care workers, and home health aides is an important issue. Figuring out how to prevent businesses from penalizing and discriminating against workers who do take some time off for child care or elder care is another challenge.
Matt Stoller at Open Left gets it right. Read the whole post.
So work for Obama, help him get elected, but realize that he doesn't and will never share our values. And we shouldn't try to pretend that he is the progressive we wish he were, since he's a politician, and politicians go where power is. And he's decided that power is not with the liberals. That's fine. But it's important, as people who believe that liberal ideas work, that Obama be understood as who he is, not as who we wish he were. I have tried to broadcast this message over the past few days, but first, I'll make a caveat most of us on this site will recognize.I could find countless emails between me and my Obama-supporting 4 daughters where I argue that Obama is even more centrist than Clinton, that she offers a more progressive health care plan. Paul Krugman in the New York Times wrote numerous columns on this and was repudiated by too many progressive blogs then in the throes of their Obama love affair.
Caveat: We want to make it very clear that criticism or analysis of Obama is not intended as a repudiation of support for Obama. He's a far superior candidate to McCain, a better person, and will be a much better President....We support him, even though we disagree with his political outlook and policy positions.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
I need to keep reminding myself that I was not a passionate, absolutely committed Clinton supporter. The tidal waves of misogyny gradually convinced me that electing a woman president was supremely important, that it would be the bigget change of all. But I wavered, because I thought Clinton and Obama were similar, that neither was the progressive crusader I longed for. At my age, I knew better than to be deceived by the illusion that Obama wasn't a pol. I was uneasy that he was an unknown. My most political daughter described him as "high risk, high gain," and most of the campaign I didn't want to take the risk.
Lance Mannion made excellent sense today. His remarks helped me get a grip:
Vote for him or don't vote for him. That's your choice. Criticize him as much as you want. He needs it.But don't expect people to pay a lot of attention when you act shocked that Obama has turned out to be running a campaign that is very much like...the one Hillary was already running.
In case you didn't notice, Clinton was not exactly running as a dove or as a Marxist.
Several times throughout the primaries I said that I didn't really care who won, Clinton or Obama, because there wasn't much difference between them. My reasons for preferring Hillary were matters of emphasis. But, I pointed out, neither one was the second coming of FDR. They were both just politicians on the make. The job of cleaning up after thirty years of Republican vandalism is too big for one President to handle in one or even two terms. We're in this for the long haul. President Hillary Clinton would have started the clean up over here. Obama's going to start it over there. She would have gotten and he will get to only as many rooms as the Congress and other political realities let them. One of the things that annoyed me about many of the Obama bloggers is the ways they found to ignore or deny the obvious fact that Obama was just another politician on the make. I'm supposed to be shocked and outraged now that I was right?
Obama is a smart, skilled, savvy, talented, compromised and compromising man. He's a politician. A good one. He's a Democrat. He's not a Progressive, a word that I've decided at last means in blogland "As morally and politically pure as I am." Hillary has skills and talents and passions and interests that he doesn't have, but she's a Democrat too. He has skills and talents and passions and interests that she doesn't. One of those talents is public speaking. One of those skills is inspiring a crowd. If Al Gore or John Kerry had had either of those, Barack Obama would not be running for President right now.
I want to share with you a letter I posted to several progressive blogs I have been avoiding for 6 months. To be a feminist for Hillary in the progressive blogosphere has been a bruising, lonely experience. Here is what I wrote:
"Hillary supporters are more likely to come around and work for Obama if they swear off reading progressive blogs for a month or two. They would be far better off joining Barack Obama's online community. Many of us perceived that too many progressive blogs became almost as hurtful and sexist as the mass media, albeit unconsciously in some instances. Saying it was unconscious is being very conciliatory, but I am a 62-year-old social worker and can afford to be kind.
Too many Hillary supporters stopped reading and commenting on their previous favorite blogs. We stopped trying to explain what sexism was and why it was so hurtful. Fewer women seem to love intellectual combat. I am ashamed to admit that I did too. Fancying myself as a member of the new creative class, I had suddenly become a low-information gullible. What a dismal fate for a reference librarian!
An ambivalent Hillary supporter, I tried rather stridently to discuss feminism and the election on several blogs in January. I then disappeared for five months and only reappeared when I had become an Obama supporter. I love to argue and debate. And yet I slunk away, muzzling myself. I even shut down my political blog.
The progressive blogosphere is bleeding and needs healing. To quote Digby:
"Clinton's campaign ripped open a hole in our culture and forced us to look inside. And what we found was a simmering cauldron of crude, sophomoric sexism and ugly misogyny that a lot of us knew existed but didn't realize was still so socially acceptable that it could be broadcast on national television and garner nary a complaint from anybody but a few internet scolds like me. "
Hillary feminists do need to take some responsibility for what happened in the netroots. If we had stayed to debate and educate, the wounds might not have been as deep. Most of us lacked Hillary's indomitable fighting spirit. Need I say that I am working my heart out for Obama. But the most helpful thing I can do right now is help Obama supporters understand the bitterness and pain of women HIllary supporters."
I shared this letter on my Obama blog, adding: "I realize that I was still a stranger in a strange land at mybarackobama. I have resolved to bite my tongue even if smoke is coming out of my ears and try to help Obama and Hillary supporters listen to and understand each other so they can unite to defeat John McCain. This time I won't slunk away or muzzle my blog. It is far easier to support a Democratic candidate against McCain than a Democratic candidate against another Democratic candidate when their positions are similar. I would prefer not to start a debate on whether their positions were that similar:)
When I heard Joseph Stalin died, I remember asking if that meant no one would drop atom bombs on us. This terror continued; I recall my best friend and I fully expected to die during the Cuban Missile Crisis. That fear motivated my intense involvement in the Nuclear Freeze Movement of the early 80s.
In 1954 I had a severe case of the measles and my grandma came to help nurse me. She was listening to the Joseph McCarthy army hearings. Hatred of McCarthy's voice might have shaped my entire political development. To my fevered mind, he seemed to personify absolute evil. In 1956, just turning eleven, I fell madly in love with Jack Kennedy as he made an unsuccessful bid for the vice presidential nomination. A good catholic school girl, I was initially attracted by his Catholicism; ten minutes later I was smitten by his intelligence, wit, and charm. I was luckier than his other women. Loving Jack Kennedy was good for me. At age 11, I complusively read zealously read the newspapers, news magazines, everything I could find about Kennedy and American politics. When I was 15 in 1960,I did volunteer work for his presidential campaign, handing out flyers and making phone calls.
In high school we had political debates to imitate the famous Kennedy/ Nixon debates and I represented Kennedy. What he believed in, I believed in. Gradually I moved to the left of his pragmatic liberalism. Certainly Kennedy was responsible for my decision to major in political science in college. Kennedy's assassination, occurring in the fall of my freshman year in college in Rochester, devastated me. I felt like there had been a death in my immediate family. I quickly transferred my political allegiance to Bobby Kennedy.
I cannot precisely date my interest in and commitment to civil rights. My home town (Uniondale) was very gradually become an African American middle-class community.When I was a freshman, I joined my college's Interracial Understanding Group. I was envious of those college students who could afford to spend the summer down south registering voters and didn't have to worry about money to pay their tuition. I would have gone if my family could have afforded to give up my summer earnings.
Gradually during college I became a pacifist. Opposition to the Vietnam War right from the beginning was the catalyst. My husband to be, Chris, applied for conscientious objector status and was willing to face jail rather than be inducted. We became very active in the Catholic Peace Fellowship, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the War Resister's League, all pacifist organizations. We went on many anti-war demonstrations both in New York and Washington. I have seen Washington DC mostly behind a picket sign. I briefly attended Stanford University where resistance to the war was at its height. Almost every afternoon, David Harris, Joan Baez's future husband who did go to jail, spoke out eloquently against the war. Meanwhile, my political science professors were intent on turning political science into a quantifiable discipline.
After I returned from Stanford, I had rented a room from an elderly women on the Upper West Side, who supported herself by taking in borders. I spent most of my time with my fiance and didn't want my Catholic parents to know (I didn't fool them.) I had gone to bed very late; I had stayed up to hear the results of the California primary. I was ecstatic that Bobby had won. I always woke up to a clock radio. As I groggily came to consciousness a few hours later, it took minutes for my befuddled, sleep-deprived brain to understand what they were saying. At first I told myself they were talking about someone else. When the horror sunk in, II crept into the hall and used the telephone that I had no privileges to use to call Chris, crying so hysterically that he couldn't understand me and thought something had happened to my parents or brothers.
My first job after Stanford was as an assistant to Victor Riesel, a labor columnist, who had been blinded by acid thrown in his face by the mob who controlled the waterfront he was exposing. M Living and breathing politics was my job. Riesel had never learned Braille, so he always hired bright young political women to be his eyes. My job was to scan 7 daily newspapers and about 40 labor papers, clip, and read to him anything that might provide ideas for his daily column. The internet equivalent of the internet was a constantly running ticker tape. All day and all week I had to read him about the assassination, the train procession, the funeral; I could hardly read, blinded by my tears. I had reacted the same way to Martin Luther King's assassination two months previously. The world was shattered, and it was my job to read about it and think about it all day, everyday.
The next day I had to get fitted for my wedding dress, and I wept throughout the fitting, not caring if tears spotted my dress..
My husband escaped jailed by getting a high number in the 1969 Draft Lottery. I will never forget that night. I arrived home from work when they had reached 50. As time when on and they didn't call out Chris's birthday, I was convinced he had been in the first five and I was frightened by how I would cope with his imprisonment. His number was 339. For the first time in two years, we could plan our lives together without worrying about a jail sentence.
I entered this race because I have an old-fashioned conviction that public service is about helping people solve their problems and live their dreams. I've had every opportunity and blessing in my own life, and I want the same for all Americans.
And until that day comes, you'll always find me on the front lines of democracy, fighting for the future.
The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand is to take our energy, our passion, our strength, and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States.
You know, I've been involved in politics and public life in one way or another for four decades. And during those ... during those 40 years our country has voted 10 times for president. Democrats won only three of those times, and the man who won two of those elections is with us today.
We made tremendous progress during the '90s under a Democratic president, with a flourishing economy and our leadership for peace and security respected around the world.
Just think how much more progress we could have made over the past 40 years if we'd had a Democratic president. Think about the lost opportunities of these past seven years on the environment and the economy, on health care and civil rights, on education, foreign policy and the Supreme Court.
Imagine how far ... we could have come, how much we could have achieved if we had just had a Democrat in the White House.
We cannot let this moment slip away. We have come too far and accomplished too much.
So I want to say to my supporters: When you hear people saying or think to yourself, If only, or, What if, I say, please, don't go there. Every moment wasted looking back keeps us from moving forward.
Life is too short, time is too precious, and the stakes are too high to dwell on what might have been. We have to work together for what still can be. And that is why I will work my heart out to make sure that Senator Obama is our next president.
[W]hat . . . is the basis for the almost-unanimously held Beltway conventional view that Democrats generally, and Barack Obama particularly, will be politically endangered unless they adopt the Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism and National Security, which -- for some reason -- is called "moving to the Center"? There doesn't appear to be any basis for that view. It's just an unexamined relic from past times, the immovable, uncritical assumption of Beltway strategists and pundits who can't accept that it isn't 1972 anymore -- or even 2002.
. . . One could argue that national security plays a larger role in presidential elections than in Congressional races, and that very well may be. But was John Kerry's narrow 2004 loss to George Bush due to the perception that Kerry -- who ran as fast as he could towards the mythical Center -- was Soft on Terrorism? Or was it due to the understandable belief that his rush to the Center meant that he stood for nothing, that he was afraid of his own views -- the real hallmark, the very definition, of weakness?
. . . For that reason, isn't the perception that Obama is abandoning his own core beliefs -- or, worse, that he has none -- a much greater political danger than a failure to move to the so-called "Center" by suddenly adopting Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies? As a result of Obama's reversal on FISA, his very noticeable change in approach regarding Israel, his conspicuous embrace of the Scalia/Thomas view in recent Supreme Court cases, and a general shift in tone, a very strong media narrative is arising that Obama is abandoning his core beliefs for political gain. That narrative -- that he's afraid to stand by his own beliefs -- appears far more likely to result in a perception that Obama is "Weak" than a refusal to embrace Bush/Cheney national security positions.
What's most amazing about the unexamined premise that Democrats must "move to the Center" (i.e., adopt GOP views) is that this is the same advice Democrats have been following over and over and which keeps leading to their abject failure. It's the advice Kerry followed in 2004. It's why Democrats rejected Howard Dean and chose John Kerry instead...
A Washington Post article last week on Obama's move to the center included this insight:
"American voters tend to reward politicians who take clear stands," said David Sirota, a former Democratic aide on Capitol Hill and author of the new populist-themed book "The Uprising." "When Obama takes these mushy positions, it could speak to a character issue. Voters that don't pay a lot of attention look at one thing: 'Does the guy believe in something?' They may be saying the guy is afraid of his own shadow."
Pols are pols and do what they do. That's why as citizens and activists we must act for issues, not pols:
As citizens and activists, our allegiances have to be to the issues we believe in. I am a partisan Democrat it is true. But the reason I am is because I know who we can pressure to do the right thing some of the times. Republicans aren't them. But that does not mean we accept the failings of our Democrats. There is nothing more important that we can do, as citizens, activists or bloggers than fight to pressure DEMOCRATS to do the right thing on OUR issues.
And this is true in every context I think. Be it pressing the Speaker or the Senate majority leader, or the new hope running for President. There is nothing more important we can do. Nothing. It's more important BY FAR than "fighting" for your favorite pol because your favorite pol will ALWAYS, I mean ALWAYS, disappoint you.
In the middle of primary fights, citizens, activists and bloggers like to think their guy or woman is different. They are going to change the way politics works. They are going to not disappoint. In short, they are not going to be pols. That is, in a word, idiotic.
Yes, they are all pols. And they do what they do. Do not fight for pols. Fight for the issues you care about. That often means fighting for a pol of course. But remember, you are fighting for the issues. Not the pols.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
My generation of feminists won some significant battles, and so brilliant younger women need not make feminism their absolute priority. I was 18 when the Feminine Mystique was published, 23 when the second feminist movement began. Belatedly, I have realized this week that feminism is my make- or -break issue. But my absolute commitment to feminist issues would not necessarily make me a Clinton supporter.
Please struggle to understand this. Men and women can be feminists. Clinton, although the target of hundreds of thousands of vituperative misogynist attacks, has not committed herself to a feminist platform. If Obama campaigned as a feminist, spoke out against the sexist attacks against Clinton, and made family issues an essential part of his platform, I would work for him in a heartbeat. I am sure Michelle Obama could write eloquent speeches for him. That he doesn't seem to be considering a potentially winning strategy indicates how thoroughly feminist and family issues have fallen beneath the political radar. I can't figure out why.
I might even prefer to vote for feminist Obama than a beleaguered Clinton. Voters would find it much more possible to understand feminist issues if a younger candidate was explicating them. Even as I type, I am struggling whether I should add "a younger male" candidate.
I was flabbergasted when Obama's aide Jesse Jackson jr. seemed to be competing with Chris Matthews for woman hater of the day in his accusation that Hillary didn't cry over Katrina victims.
Obama's failure to repudiate or fire Jackson offers me no security he even understands feminism, never mind supports it. Perhaps his daughters need to educate him.
Monday, June 30, 2008
It isn't that difficult to keep the following two thoughts in one's head at the same time - thought it seems to be for many people:
(1) What Barack Obama is doing on Issue X is wrong, indefensible and worthy of extreme criticism;
(2) I support Barack Obama for President because he's a better choice than John McCain.
As but one example, John Cole was a vehement supporter of Barack Obama throughout the primary. He viciously criticized Hillary Clinton on a regular basis and raised tens of thousands of dollars for Obama's campaign through his blog. But this week alone, Cole lambasted Obama for what he called Obama's "total collapse and a rapid abandonment of principle" regarding FISA and pronounced as a "pathetic performance" Obama's refusal to be photographed anywhere near Muslims or to meet with Muslim leaders. Despite that, just yesterday, Cole said:
No, I don't have buyers remorse. Yes, he still is better than Hillary or McCain. No, I am not disillusioned (I never thought he was a flaming liberal in the first place). I am, however, disgusted, and I will caution the Obama campaign that "better than McCain" is not much of a rallying cry. We all remember how "anything is better than Bush" turned out in 2004.
That's called being a rational adult who refuses to relinquish one's intellectual honesty, integrity, and political principles in order to march lockstep behind a political leader. Those who think that Barack Obama should not be criticized no matter how wrong he is -- or those who justify anything that he does no matter how craven and unjustifiable, including things that they viciously criticized when done by Dick Cheney or Harry Reid -- are no different, and no better, than those who treated George Bush with similar uncritical reverence in 2003 and 2004.
The real danger is that those who defend Obama the Candidate no matter what he does are likely to defend Obama the President no matter what he does, too. If we learn in 2009 that Obama has invoked his claimed Article II powers to spy on Americans outside of even the new FISA law, are we going to hear from certain factions that he was justified in doing so to protect us; how it's a good, shrewd move to show he's a centrist and keep his approval ratings high so he can do all the Good things he wants to do for us; how it's different when Obama does it because we can trust him? It certainly looks that way. Those who spent the last five years mauling Bush for "shredding the Constitution" and approving of lawbreaking -- only to then praise Obama for supporting a bill that endorses and protects all of that -- is to illustrate exactly the type of blind reverence that is more dangerous than any one political leader could ever be.
Monday, June 9, 2008
Like Hillary.com, Obama's website offers many groups that you are welcome to join. Once you join a group, you receive any email written by a member. The Obama campaign obviously has not thought through how to handle former Hillary supporters read to heed Hillary's exhortation to "work their hearts out for Obama." Many Hillary supporters are hurting badly, but are loyal Democrats determined to defeat McCain.
These Obama groups have been safe places for over a year for supporters to enthuse about their candidate and hate Hillary. I joined my local group and had the pleasure of reading that anyone who doesn't find Hillary nutcrackers hilariously funny obviously has no sense of humor and needs to get a life.
Obviously most groups are better than that, but the lonely, lost Hillary supporter has no way of knowing what groups are toxic swamps of abuse. Some posters seem more determined to prevent Hillary from getting the vice presidential nomination than to defeat McCain.
Ultimately Democrats have to decide whether you would rather destroy the Clintons or elect McCain.
Hillary pointed out that there have been ten presidential elections in the last 40 years and the Democrats have only won three of them. Why on earth do Democrats still need to attack the only two-term Democratic president in my lifetime of 62 years? The Republicans are never idiotic enough to disown Reagan. Hell, McCain doesn't have the sense to disown Bush.
Democrats lose elections because they seem much more determined to destroying one another than to destroy Republicans. If Democrats hated Bush as much as they seem to hate the Clintons, countless lives would have been saved in Iraq.
trying to explain that a lot of the hatred directed at Hillary was directed at every strong, intelligent, assertive women. I had many interesting talks with much older women who have experienced
these kind of attacks all their working lives including one 80-year-old aunt. My Aunt Mary strongly
identified with Hillary and told me many stories of being passed over for promotion to a job given to a younger, less qualified man. When you bash Hillary, you bash these women. In her speech Hillary said that young women need to listen to, and learn from the struggles of their mothers and grandmothers.
Some Hillary supporters feel so battered and abused that they feel that voting for Obama would be like returning to an abusive husband. I am not defending that; feelings cannot be denied. These
women are not talking about Obama himself, butt the media, and far too many Obama supporters, particularly young bloggers. Saying only the media is a copout. Howard Dean seems to have just noticed that the media attacks on Hillary resembled middle schoolers. Welcome to Planet Earth, Howard. Women are furious that the DNC didn't speak out against media abuse.We have a real
I think it is imperative that Obama support a strong feminist platform. I am beginning to think he probably should choose Sibelius as his running mate.
Hillary has been viciously bashed since Clinton first started campaigning for the White House. Many of you are possibly too young to remember. I strongly recommend the blog, The Daily Howler.
Bob Somerby tirelessly documents how the media has savaged the Democrats since 1992. His archives go back to 1998 so you can remember or learn what happened to Gore and Kerry. I just learned yesterday that Somerby was Gore's Harvard college roommate.
Another invaluable resource is Media Matters. which tirelessly fact checks media coverage of the election. Make no mistake about it. The media is our enemy. During the primary campaign MSNBC was worse than FOX. I used to respect Keith Olbermann for his courageous attacks against Bush. But he was an attack dog against Hillary. Chris Matthews seems to base his career on sexism.
To be honest, right now I am feeling relief that my family can discuss politics again.I decided to get active in the Obama campaign right away because I intend to catch the enthusiasm and dedication of his supporters. That will be the way I heal. I was very active in the civil rights, antiwar, and feminist movements. As a reference librarian and as a social worker, I have mostly worked in African American communities. My area of Long Island--Baldwin, Freeport, Uniondale, Hempstead--is becoming predominantly African American and Hispanic. So I was very sensitive to and upset by the racist remarks of Hillary supporters. But I certainly don't consider the Clintons racists and was upset by their being portrayed that way.
I agree that the problem wasn't with the candidates themselves, but with the mass media, overly rabid supporters, and the progressive blogs. For about five years I have immersed myself in blogs. This year most progressive blogs splintered into armed camps where supporters of the wrong candidate were unwelcome. The misogyny of to young male bloggers (and some female ones) was disgusting. Their inability to perceive sexism left me dumbfounded.
The positive result of this is a revival of feminist writing and activism. Those of you who haven't seen much sexism probably don't watch much cable news or read political blogs. In the 70s, we feminists realized that both men and women need their consciousness raised to recognize how pervasive sexism is. Sexism is not just a problem for women; media remarks that Obama is not tough enough or mean enough, Maureen Dowd's calling him Bambi, are sexist as well.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Now, on a personal note, when I was asked what it means to be a woman running for president, I always gave the same answer, that I was proud to be running as a woman, but I was running because I thought I'd be the best president. But...But I am a woman and, like millions of women, I know there are still barriers and biases out there, often unconscious, and I want to build an America that respects and embraces the potential of every last one of us.
I ran as a daughter who benefited from opportunities my mother never dreamed of. I ran as a mother who worries about my daughter's future and a mother who wants to leave all children brighter tomorrows. To build that future I see, we must make sure that women and men alike understand the struggles of their grandmothers and their mothers, and that women enjoy equal opportunities, equal pay, and equal respect.
Let us resolve and work toward achieving very simple propositions: There are no acceptable limits, and there are no acceptable prejudices in the 21st century in our country.
You can be so proud that, from now on, it will be unremarkable for a woman to win primary state victories..... unremarkable to have a woman in a close race to be our nominee, unremarkable to think that a woman can be the president of the United States. And that is truly remarkable, my friends.
To those who are disappointed that we couldn't go all of the way, especially the young people who put so much into this campaign, it would break my heart if, in falling short of my goal, I in any way discouraged any of you from pursuing yours.
Always aim high, work hard, and care deeply about what you believe in. And, when you stumble, keep faith. And, when you're knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you can't or shouldn't go on.
As we gather here today in this historic, magnificent building, the 50th woman to leave this Earth is orbiting overhead. If we can blast 50 women into space, we will someday launch a woman into the White House. Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it...and the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.
That has always been the history of progress in America. Think of the suffragists who gathered at Seneca Falls in 1848 and those who kept fighting until women could cast their votes.
Think of the abolitionists who struggled and died to see the end of slavery. Think of the civil rights heroes and foot soldiers who marched, protested, and risked their lives to bring about the end of segregation and Jim Crow.
Because of them, I grew up taking for granted that women could vote and, because of them, my daughter grew up taking for granted that children of all colors could go to school together.
Because of them, Barack Obama and I could wage a hard-fought campaign for the Democratic nomination. Because of them and because of you, children today will grow up taking for granted that an African-American or a woman can, yes, become the president of the United States.
... when that day arrives, and a woman takes the oath of office as our president, we will all stand taller, proud of the values of our nation, proud that every little girl can dream big and that her dreams can come true in America.