Sunday, February 5, 2017


Maybe it's the fever, the fact that I have been awake since 3:00 a.m., or my natural grumpiness. But I think America faces a daunting threat to our national progress and I do not care who knows how I feel.

Hear me now:  I totally get that I'm a virtual failure as a woman.  I can honestly say without any hesitation that I've never engendered unqualified fidelity in a romantic partner; that I don't own high heels; that I do not know how to use make-up; and that the only reason I ever get my hair "done" is that my secretary schedules appointments for me and praises me for keeping up with my roots.  She points out that people respond better to me when I look presentable.  She's right, sad to say; and I either have to go totally grey like my brave friend Penny Thieme, or keep getting those $60 root jobs.

But under no condition do I want to live in a nation where the phrase "dress like a woman" has a place in our presidential administration.

I still have not figured out how those who vote for #45 figure they have not been conned.  He's filling the swamp with a more dastardly breed of lizard, spending a huge amount of tax dollars on protecting his wife who apparently cannot stand the thought of moving to the White House, and, surprise surprise, Mexico is NOT paying for the wall -- we are, with increased purchase prices for Mexican goods subject to the tariff that Trump apparently intends to impose to "pay for the wall".  Or maybe we'll just pay with tax dollars and send Mexico the bill, I don't know.

Not to mention the absurdity of the wall altogether, as Internet pundits have demonstrated with meme after meme.  My favorite shows a series of arrows from the Mexican shores to American shores -- in California and the Gulf Coast states such as Louisiana.  Uh, right -- wall?  On the Mexican border with the U.S.?  Mebbe not such a good plan.

I can almost understand how Trump voters could ignore his proclamation that his status entitled him to "grab women by the pussy".  If I squint, I can nearly buy the argument that when he made fun of a disabled reporter, he had just lost it on the campaign trail for a second or three.  Of course, I have to ignore the explanation that he wasn't making fun of the reporter, just of "a regular retard", as one of his staff members or spokespersons bizarrely assured us.  But hey, everybody has off moments, right?

Now, you may say that expecting women in his administration to #DressLikeAWoman pales in comparison with his executive order banning even those who have been granted Visas or have green cards from entering the United States.  I completely agree that the immediate impact of such a blatant constitutional violation merits the swift and serious attention it got, and I certainly am proud of being a card-carrying member of the ACLU.  But listen:  This #DressLikeAWoman edict, as expressed in notes from interviews by the Axois team, sneaks into the rhetoric of the Trump administration and nearly gets past us because of the profound distraction of the twenty-executive-orders-in-ten-days whirlwind.

The plain and simple truth which runs through Trump's entire agenda is this:  He deeply believes in certain principles which are antithetical to the American way of life, including that all persons are created equal and that a woman has the right to choose what she does with her body including how she clothes it. We are not equal in his eyes.  In fact, nobody is equal to Trump and his family -- in his eyes.  They are better, more valuable, richer, more privileged.  They can do and say as they please, because their worth surpasses that of everyone else.

If he were not president, that attitude would be laughable but not frightening.  Since he occupies the Oval Office, we must be very wary of how his sense of entitlement colors the way that he governs, and of how his treatment of women as beings to be freely manhandled while being suitably costumed will infect the decisions made and policies implemented during his tenure.

Remember the chant of his campaign towards his opponent:  Lock her up, lock her up, lock her up.

The president is not judge and jury; he is not Congress.  But a man who thinks that he can do as he pleases and that those around him must fall into step regardless of the lawfulness of his actions will act like judge, jury, and legislator.  This terrifies me.

When I first started practicing law, judges still occupied the bench who believed that women should not wear pants.  One judge in particular kept skirts in his courtroom and would not attend to the cases of anyone represented by a female lawyer in pants.  In short, he required woman lawyers to #DressLikeAWoman.

This took place 33 years ago.  I thought we had gone beyond such requirements here in America.  Apparently not in the eyes of #45.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Of Lives and Mattering

Sometimes I deeply regret the invention of the Internet.

Because of the instantaneous nature of virtual communication, even a poorly conceived concept can gain ground.  Its originators release the thought and watch it whip around the world.  They stare with varying degrees of chagrin or delight at the burgeoning shares, likes, and scowling faces as their brainchild tumbles down the hill gathering its immutable moss.

I've been reading a lot about perception, reality, and message as I grapple with my natural tendency to despise the current administration and all of its members and actions.  My stomach clenched at a short piece on NPR today claiming the new president "will keep some of Obama's policies in place".  I rejected any connection between the moral strength of the last eight years, and the ethical corruption of the two weeks that have just ended.

Then I took myself to task.  I realized that I had fallen into a dangerous trap.  While it's true that there is absolutely nothing about Donald Trump that I admire, respect, or consider beneficial; nonetheless, I should applaud anything he does to maintain the integrity of the successful two presidential terms which he follows.  Why, then, do I shudder, shirking from the implication that he might make a decision which benefits our nation?

We've become a polarized society.  We are red or blue.  The masses no longer tolerate any gradations on the spectrum.  I slink away at the blast of staunchly conservative rhetoric, clinging to my kind.  Where we formerly stood proud, now we stand strong.  Instead of crowing with glee, we blast in anger.  But we do it together, while those whom we condemn form an equally solid mass across the great divide of our fundamental differences.

When an idea whips around the Internet which threatens the perceived validity of either group, those fearing its message haul out their batons and beat it to a bloody mass.

That's what happened to the #BlackLivesMatter message.  No one should have minded the proclamation.  Certainly, I did not.  I completely agree with its intent as I understand what it originally broadcast. I see the slogan as a painful acknowledgment that for too long, in too many places, for too many people, the lives of people with darker skin than mine did not matter.  The concept of being guilty of being black after dark might make someone squirm but unquestionably has a frightening and documentable basis in the disproportionate number of arrests, tickets, stops, killings, and beatings that men, women, and teens "of color" have experienced in American society.

But the filter of fear turned the phrase into something ugly for some.  In response they blasted #BlueLivesMatter in defense of law enforcement; #AllLivesMatter to try to broaden the appeal of the original message; and a few random humorous variants to make a joke of it all or to create a buffer between warring factions.

I watched this happen with my own clumsy mixture of empathy and despair.

Do the lives of all Americans matter?  To me, yes. To everyone?  I do not think so.  I might be naive about some things, but the sting of racial insult lingers.  The burn of blood shed beneath a barrage of bullets hurled on the streets of our cities emits too strong a stench to be denied.

Here I would like to lay out some grand plan to mitigate this quagmire, to alleviate the burden of our divisiveness.  But I cannot.  Those who disagree with the values which I hold dear have taken over the reins of our nation's wagon and seem determined to drive us over the cliff.    Those who have come to our shores seeking their share of the amber waves of grain let their empty vessels fall from their hands.  Every day another startling revelation radiates from this new government and convinces me that no lives matter to those who have assumed the mantel of power except the lives of the rich, the white, the Christian, and the inner circle.

The tone and portent of the flood of executive orders depresses and terrifies me.  I see no real potential for the harmonizing of the divergent views in these United States.  But I love my country.  So I stand and wait.  I gather and write.  I protest and I rally.  I read and cogitate.  And when a hand reaches out to me, I entwine my fingers with those of my sisters and my brothers, no matter their color, no matter their religion, no matter the origins of their accents or the gender of their spouse.

  Through everything we face today, this truth persists:  All lives matter to me.  It is not much, but it's something, and I cling to it as the frightening days ahead unfold.

I waited for my cardiologist visit yesterday surrounded by hearts.  
Valentine's Day is my least-favorite holiday, 
but I'm thinking of finding new meaning in the concept of a day dedicated to love.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Because I Am An American

A meme on social media asked me if I remembered where I was on 28 January 1986 -- the day of The Challenger catastrophe.  Yes, yes I do.  I spent an hour gaping at a television over the bar at Sundance's at 12th and Cherry, a few blocks from the courthouse at which I worked as a prosecutor.  No one spoke.  Drinks were on the house.  Every man and woman in the place loosened their ties, shed their jackets, slumped over their drinks, and watched the horrifying news of the death of Christa McAuliffe and her companions.

I also vividly recall where I learned of John F. Kennedy's assassination on 22 November 1963.  My third grade teacher, Mother Rosamund, hauled a heavy stand into the classroom, plugged in the black-and-white television, and admonished us to sit still  We folded our sweaty eight-year-old hands and shivered as we watched the stunning news of our President's murder.  I don't know what reporter thought to film Jackie Kennedy with her blood-stained suit, but the image still haunts me.

Another sight which haunts me:  15 September 1963, the day four girls lost their lives in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama.  Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Addie Mae Collins, all 14 years old; and 11-year-old Denise McNair.  I sat with my family with the news reels blaring.  My mother sobbed.  My father shook his head.  My little brothers cried although I do not know if they understood what had taken place.

I remember the pivotal times in our history because I am an American.  We find meaning in the inter-connectedness of our entire republic, each man, woman, boy, and girl.  From the most mundane moment, to the most spectacular, events resonate from San Francisco  to Manhattan.  What happens in our country captures our attention not because we luxuriate in the macabre or in the pain of others, but because their pain becomes our pain.  We stagger backwards with the splatter of flying shrapnel, the jerk of each blast, the pounding of each wave.  What happens to our brothers and sisters happens to us.

At least, that is how I view things.  I realize that my view might seem naive to some.  I got into a car with a friend yesterday and said, "How about that Sally Yates, isn't she awesome?  My hero!"  My friend replied, "Well, she's not mine -- how dare she defy the President!"  She and I graduated from the same law school.  We practice the same type of law.  We're close in age and both of us were raised in the Roman Catholic Church.  But we see the deputy attorney general's decision not to enforce Trump's ban on persons from certain countries crossing our borders from different perspectives.   I see the decision of Sally Yates as a righteous defense of law and morality while my friend considers it to be mere insubordination.

 I  let the subject drop at the time, but remember it now with less chagrin than I felt in the moment.  Now, I realize that she has her opinion and I have mine, and I can accept that.

Because I am an American.

But then I scroll again through the internet, looking for just the right passage to help me make sense of our current political climate.  I skip past the references to George Orwell's 1984.  I skim the paragraphs which I've re-read in the last months, including It Can't Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis.  I briefly pause to re-read a sentence from One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the chilling account of an ordinary day for a political prisoner in one of Stalin's grim camps, written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Finally, I pause on the one piece of writing which encapsulates everything about America that underscores my endless love for my country, and my endless fear for my country as we stand on the brink of a new and frightening divide.  This one passage --  eternal, immutable, bold, and noble, states the case for every protest being held; for every march, on every street, in every courthouse corridor, on every public square.   I quote it for you now -- and I commend it to you as a road map for your unfaltering steps from where you live to Washington, D.C., whether those steps be taken in your car, by plane, or at the keyboard of your computer to be sent eastward on virtual wings.

 I comment this everlasting proclamation to you because I am an American.