Retain your complaining rights! A “nag you to vote” post featuring Alice Cooper, Mom’s 3¢ postage stamp, Tuki & Ward 201

 

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This display is currently up in my library (minus the book on the left, which got borrowed and replaced with one about the Bill of Rights). The 3¢ stamp is real. I scanned and enlarged the image in the service of democracy.  I found it in a packet of stamps Mom (z”l) bought and never used. (Thanks, Mom!)

I was in the middle of an anxiety dream involving my mother, peanut sauce and Wales when the sound of a door opening jarred me awake.

It was Sweetheart, with our morning coffees.

After I attempted to describe the dream (Sweetheart: “Peanut stew? That sounds terrible!”), I said, “It’s Election Day!”

Then, I started to sing. “Electehhhhhhhd……Selectehhhhhhed…….Hallelujah……..”

Sweetheart just looked at me. After more than a decade together, we’re pretty used to each other’s quirks. One of mine is breaking out in song. Sometimes before coffee.

“Alice Cooper!!” I said. “You’ve never heard ‘Elected?’ ”

Sweetheart is a metalhead, so even though I was in eighth grade when I bought “School’s Out,” and “Billion Dollar Babies” (“Elected is on the latter) mostly because I had a slight crush on Lee Rubin and he was all about Alice Cooper, I was a little surprised he hadn’t heard it. But then I remembered that he’d been in second grade back then, an automatic youth-vote-pass situation.

Getting back to that crush, it turned out to be a good thing, because those were albums to which I would not have otherwise been exposed. Rolling Stone hated both albums.  I didn’t and it broadened my musical horizons. (The crush ran its course, and LR was never the wiser.)

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Tuki (z”l) was a gentle soul in a dog suit. She died three years shy of being old enough to vote, but she always loved to come to the polls and make sure I selected the right candidates.

In the kitchen, the current non-voting dog roamed about. I made Sweetheart a hummus, olive & lettuce sandwich after cuing up two versions of the song, a live version Alice performed on Jimmy Kimmel from 2016 and the original studio recording.

For the more musical-theater inclined, Randy Rainbow (who we saw live this past Friday when he toured Flyover Country – thanks, Randy!) dropped a new voter-encouragement tune last night. The man is a genius at lyrics and also, clearly, a time-management god.

I have not written any songs by which to vote, but I do have some encouraging pictures.

It’s 6:49 a.m. and the polls open in 11 minutes……gotta run.

POSTSCRIPT@ 7:11 am: I was Voter #4. There was a line of about five people behind me; a man was registering on-site. That’s more mid-term activity than I’ve seen at my sleepy polling place in the 18 years I’ve voted there!

POSTSCRIPT@5:26 pm: Sweetheart sent me a text after he voted at 4. “199. They cheered for 200!” So I stopped by the polls on my way home from Unlearning Racism class. Voter #238 had just slid his ballot into the box; an observer from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin was sitting in the corner & a steady stream of voters was cycling through the school library-turned-polling room. The chief poll worker was ecstatic, and so am I.

“I think we’re going to hit 50 percent!” she said.

I told her I will stop by after my MIRACLE (Mental Wellness in the Urban Church) meeting and see how many more people had voted. Because I talked to the election observer, I had to sign the sheet that said I was observing. There was a spot to indicate who I was representing.

I wrote, “My neighborhood!”

POSTSCRIPT@8:07 pm: At 7:45, Voter 276 was registering. As I walked out and toward my car, a man was getting out of the leopard-print-covered seat of his late-model Camry.

“Are they still open?” he said.

“Yes!” I answered, “You’re #277!”

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Me, at the August primary election, doing my civic duty and getting to cross “being the first one at the polls to vote” off my bucket list. I was going to try to reprise it 18 minutes after writing this caption. It didn’t happen. Which is a win for the rest of us.

 

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Cutest couple at the polls.

Accidental landlording & purposeful librarianship: a dispatch from the busy zone with a reminder to VOTE TUESDAY!

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Five years ago, my pal Molly and her husband Richard flew in from New York to visit her parents, “Mel” (z”l) and “Sally.” It was their first visit after M&S moved into “Old People Harvard,” the independent and assisted-living community where Mom had been living for two years.

It was a great gift to Mom (z”l). She’d moved from her community six states away, a place where she had deep roots and was both valued and valuable.  It was a courageous move on several counts: facing that Parkinson’s disease was making it impossible for her to maintain her independence and leaping into an unknown social scene.

Mel & Sally’s move wasn’t as easy as Mom’s had been. They were uncertain about how things would be. Molly had flown out to help reassure them. We met for lunch in the dining room at Old People Harvard. There, Mom was able to be the old hand, telling and kvelling to Mel & Sally about how happy she was there, how much there was to do and the truth about the adjustments she’d had – and been able – to make. It meant a great deal to her to be able to be of service, and the three of them forged a lifelong friendship.

But, back to that first post-move visit. Old People Harvard takes itself seriously when it comes to providing top-notch programming for its residents. I remember on my birthday when I called Mom to let her know I was stopping by to drop off a cupcake. She answered the phone in that whisper I knew meant she was involved in something.

“I’m in the Rubeinstein Room. Russ Feingold is talking about his new book.”

“Okay,” I replied. “I’ll sneak in quietly.”

When I walked in, he was answering a question about the difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. I dropped the cupcake into her hands and cruised back to work, where I spent the rest of the day working and passing out cupcakes to people who’d been kind to me over the past year.

Okay, seriously now. Back to that first post-move visit.

Richard is a photographer for the Associated Press. Trish, the programming genius at Old People Harvard, got him to do a “show and tell” with the photos he’s taken over a 50-year span. I could fill up the rest of this post with names of famous people and events he described photographing. His stories about the pictures were as riveting as the photos themselves. I didn’t want the program to end, and I wasn’t alone.

So, cut to two years ago, when I got my dream job as a public librarian and learned that programming was part of my job. Getting Richard to come to the library and share his photos could be part of my job!?

It was, and it is, and this afternoon it is happening. So, that’s the librarianship part of this post.

In accidental landlording adventures, when a known drug dealer looked at the house next door to us seven years ago, I was all “Hell no!”

I had a little extra scratch thanks to a car accident, and used it to buy the house. It’s basically a free-standing one-bedroom apartment in a park – 731 square feet on a 60-foot lot.

I thought Mom could live in it if she wanted to, which she didn’t. One of my offspring lived there for awhile (I joked that we were running a subsidized housing program – don’t ask!). Since she moved, we’d been pretty lucky to rent it to reasonable tenants on a word-of-mouth basis.

Luck ran out when our most recent tenant stopped being sober and skipped out, leaving us with a $715 water bill and all his stuff. Yesterday, someone I’ve known for 10+ years came over to look at it.

Sweetheart and I have a boatload of work to do to get the nasty tobacco smell out of the house (smoking in the house was prohibited by his lease, but drunks aren’t big on rule-following) and get it habitable by December for a mom, a kid and a dog.

I am looking forward to having someone I know and trust and value next door.

I’m looking forward to this afternoon.

I’m especially looking forward to Tuesday, hoping fervently that enough sensible people in this country see right-wing fear tactics for what they are and vote accordingly.  Please be one of them.

 

 

 

Whistle long enough, dogs show up: Best synagogue shooting response? Weep. Mourn. Vote.

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This was taken at my niece’s bat mitzvah. Mom (z”l) is on the left; Phyllis & Pat (the other granny) are next to her. Taken in 2009, but could have been taken yesterday at Tree of Life Synagogue, or any other congregation.

File yesterday under “Days when you’re glad your mother and aunts are dead.”

File yesterday under “This is why I grapple with knowing that I look and benefit from being white but don’t ever feel entirely white.”

File yesterday under “What part of their part in this do Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Chuck Grassley, Paul Ryan, Jeff Sessions, Steven Miller and the rest of the administration not see?”

File yesterday under “You can’t spend three years whistling and act surprised when the dogs actually show up.”

File yesterday under: “Thank you to the library system where I work for taking the possibility of an active shooter seriously enough to provide training that may minimize the danger to us and our patrons if we’re ever unlucky enough to be in that situation.”

Pittsburgh is the first time it’s happened to my community. Reading the news as I sat behind the reference desk yesterday, my first thoughts were of Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and the nine people killed by the white guy who got a take-out hamburger in jail because he told the police he was hungry. I thought of the six people killed in Oak Creek at the Sikh Temple by a white guy who did it because he thought Sikhs were Muslims.

This isn’t just about Jews, or black people, or people who wear turbans or hijabs or whose first words were in a language other than English.

President Dog Whistle mused that had there been armed guards in the synagogue, perhaps the shooter would have been stopped.

He is wrong.

Had there been sensible gun laws in this country, perhaps the shooter would have been stopped. But that would mean standing up to Dylan Roof, Rob Bowers and Wade Michael Pages’ enablers. By which I mean the National Rifle Association, whose bullets include large amounts of cash aimed at legislators for sale.

Newsflash to President Dog Whistle and those legislators: All the guns in the world will not kill what’s coming. Thanks to you, Dylan Roof, Rob Bowers and Wade Michael Page were able to carry out their attacks using real weapons. Cesar Sayet, Jr. heard the dog whistle and was empowered to build and mail bombs that would have killed postal workers as well as people who’ve stood up for their beliefs.

But you can’t kill reality, any more than you can stop the 7,000 people who have left dangerous situations in Central America to seek refuge in the land that provided it to so many of us – at the expense of those who were here first, and those brought here in chains.

The country is changing. It’s less white. It’s less Christian. People like President Dog Whistle and his ilk are doing everything they can to ensure that real power and the money that preserves it remains in the hands of people who look and sound and think the way they do and have done.

That’s why income inequality. That’s why voter suppression. That’s why unevenly applied drug laws.

Change is hard, but it doesn’t have to be bad. Banding together for the sake of our shared well-being is our best shot at ensuring any kind of future for ourselves and those who come after us.

Which is why voting on November 6this so important. If you can’t vote because:

  • you’re not old enough,
  • you’re on paper,
  • you’re not through the citizenship process,
  • your felony record says that even though you’ve paid your debt to society we’re going to keep punishing you…

then be an enabler. Make your voice count by making sure the people in your life who can cast votes, do cast votes.

The future will thank you.

 

The 11 people killed in Pittsburgh. May their memories be for a blessing:

• Joyce Fienberg, 75, Oakland neighborhood, Pittsburgh
• Richard Gottfried, 65, Ross Township
• Rose Mallinger, 97, Squirrel Hill neighborhood, Pittsburgh
• Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, Edgewood Borough
• Cecil Rosenthal, 59, and David Rosenthal, 54, brothers, Squirrel Hill
• Bernice and Sylvan Simon, 84 and 86, married, Wilkinsburg
• Daniel Stein, 71, Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh
• Melvin Wax, 88, Squirrel Hill, City of Pittsburgh
• Irving Younger, 69, Mount Washington neighborhood, Pittsburgh

Thank you from the bottom of my heart: an open letter to Dr. Susan Blasey Ford

 

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…to do the right thing.

 

Dear Dr. Ford:

I watched some of your testimony last week and want you to know that I thought you were amazing. You made sense out of something that was hard to make sense of, and you did it with elegance and good humor and decency.

It was easy to imagine you as a very popular and respected professor – when you alluded to concepts you teach, you did so in an accessible and welcoming way. I bet your students love you.

I’m sure your life has been so up-ended by this. I think I read that you had to leave your house, and that your family is all separated for their – and your – safety. That sucks. I hope you are not paying too much attention to people who have nothing kind or charitable to say about this or you. (Yes, that does include you, President That-Was-One-Shameful-Display and Press Secretary Shameful-Display-Enabler.)

I hope things get back to a new and better normal for you soon. Your display of courage and integrity might not have been enough to keep now-Justice Kavanaugh from being sworn in.  But it was more than enough to provide fuel to fans of doing what’s right even when it’s not easy, but are really, really discouraged and hurting right now.

These things change slowly.

I was so ashamed of what happened to me (we were in eighth grade and it happened in school when a teacher sent us out to fetch something from another part of the building). I was sure that it must have been my fault somehow.  I couldn’t possibly tell my mother (or heaven forbid, my dad!).  So I never did. It was 1973.

But in the 1990s, I had a conversation with my daughters when they were middle schoolers, and when a boy tried pulling that on one of them, he ended up with a swift knee to a tender spot. And now, here we are in 2018. There’s #metoo, and there’s you, who came forward with nothing to gain but preserving your own sense of integrity.

It might seem as if it made no difference.

But it did.

It will.

These things change slowly, but change they do. Make no mistake. Eventually, the power of our stories will overwhelm the deniers hanging on by a thread to power that is eroding. It’s power they don’t deserve. When that happens, our sons & daughters and their sons & daughters will live in a world that doesn’t reward violence and belligerence.

I’d like to see it in our lifetime, but I’m a realist.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart:

Amy Waldman

 

Together beneath the Abrahamic tree: Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom adventures

Two weeks ago Sunday, two carloads of my Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom chapter drove down to Chicago for an afternoon of camaraderie and training in how to engage in thorny discussions.

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Along with the Wisconsin contingent (Milwaukee and Madison), women came from Illinois (Chicago and beyond) and Iowa (Quad Cities).

Our facilitators did a great job, and the hours passed quickly.

The following week, my story about my own experiences pre-dating and since joining the group ran in the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle. So, in the spirit of “well, maybe we can’t all just get along but damnit, I’m not gonna stop trying,” I’m posting it here.

It was interesting to write, because I’d just been told to “write a first-person piece” about the group. Looking at where I’d come from and how I’d ended up as a SOSS member was the most respectful way to accomplish that without accidentally violating the privacy of my chapter sisters.

The journeys for all of us are so different. I’d love to see an anthology of personal journeys to chapter membership.

But that’s another story for another day.

Click here to see mine: Click me!

 

 

 

 

#Metoo vs. #Poormetoo: Senate Committee hears from Ford & Kavanaugh

I caught a little of the testimonies of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

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What else am I gonna use? Something horrible? Thanks but no thanks. There’s enough of that already in this post.

It was horrifying.

The contrast between the two witnesses was stark. Dr. Ford told her story with remarkable composure. She was visibly upset, but did an amazing job describing her reasons for coming forward. She answered questions about the event that had brought her to the Senate hearing room, recounting the feelings of a traumatized teen and also using the vocabulary of an expert in explaining the biology of trauma. She was respectful of the process, answering the questions she was asked and asking for clarity when she wasn’t sure about a question.

Before today, I’d done a lot of thinking about Judge Kavanaugh and whether, if he did what Dr. Ford described, whether it should disqualify him from serving.

My conclusion was that while it would have been horrible and terrible and wrong, it would not necessarily have been a deal-breaker.

Why not?

It’s simple.

If Brett Kavanaugh had said, “In my youth, I did things I regret and one of them was sometimes drinking to the point where I didn’t remember things. I don’t do that any more and haven’t since (whenever he realized that this was not a great thing).”

Then, he would have apologized to Dr. Ford, and there might have been some sort of private meeting between them that none of us need know about. And he’d probably have been confirmed. Which he probably will anyway, but we’ll never know now whether he would have been otherwise.

What we do know after today is that Brett Kavanaugh is an overentitled brat whose sense of entitlement is only matched by his sense of outrage at the possibility that he might be called out for his behavior.  And I’m not talking about what happened with Dr. Ford. If I thought I was being falsely accused of something that big, I’d be salty, too.

It’s the other stuff, about his drinking and his actions around a woman who’d attended a nearby girl’s school.

He reminded me of Ex 1, who was at his nastiest when someone challenged his version of reality, whether or not it matched actual events. It was his way or the highway.

Kavanaugh explained away yearbook references to heavy drinking, eg:  “Treasurer of the 100 Kegs or Bust Club” and “Beach Week Ralph Club, Biggest Contributor,” to his love of beer and“weak stomach” and insisted he’d never been drunk enough to forget anything that happened under the influence.

He insisted that he and a bunch of his buddies who repeatedly referred to a girl named Renate and posed for a photograph as the “Renate Alumnius” did so because they had such reverence for her. That makes him sound like a) a really pathetic liar and b) a patronizing asshole. I mean, seriously. How dumb does he think we are?

It was painful to watch the contrast between the lack of respect he seemed to have for the process and Committee. It was even more painful to listen to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) try to out-nasty Judge Kavanaugh.

Not a great day for the Senate, for Dr. Ford or the Judge Kavanaugh. And most definitely not a great day for We, the People.

‘A preference for autocrats and dictators:’ Op-ed writer luckier than Riyadh Ibrahim

On Wednesday, The New York Times published an anonymous op-ed by someone serving at the pleasure of President Trump.

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“Wait, you mean they didn’t even sign their name!????? And the paper still ran it!????”

It was not exactly news to read that the current occupant of the White House is a petty bully who does whatever makes him feel good and repudiates anyone who dares to intimate that he is anything less than the Greatest Being in the Entire Universe.

Also not news? Covert resistance and dissent in the White House.  Rogue POTUS Staff announced itself on Twitter shortly after the inauguration in 2017.

From the get-go, it was clear that @RoguePOTUSStaff was comprised of mid- and lower-level staffers, worker bees beneath the notice of their imperial betters.

The news part was that this writer self-identified as one of the Imperial Betters.

“…many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. I would know. I am one of them.”

The operative word, of course, is “parts.”

“We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous….”

(These, according to Imperial, include “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.” Imperial isn’t specific about “more,” but based on his or her definition of “safer and more prosperous,” all signs point to a hawkish member of the 1 percent class who has never sat in the cheap seats.)

As to President Trump’s “worst inclinations,” Imperial provided this example:

“Take foreign policy: In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un…”

I have lots of thoughts about this whole matter, but the one thing that I keep coming back to is the book passage of which I was immediately reminded. It’s from The Outlaw State: Saddam Hussein’s Quest for Power and the Gulf Crisis,” Elaine Sciolino’s examination of Iraq and the rise of Hussein’s Baathist Party was published in 1991. Which I know because I reviewed it for The Milwaukee Journal. (Sciolino was a New York Times reporter covering Iraq – file under “random weird coincidences.”)

Here’s an abridged version. If you get a copy of the hardcover edition, it’s on Page 90.

“In 1982, just as the war with Iran started to go badly, Iraq’s minister of health, Riyadh Ibrahim, was executed. Saddam told foreign reporters that Ibrahim had knowingly distributed contaminated medicines. In a rambling speech to the Revolutionary Command Council, which was also filmed and distributed to Party leaders, Saddam called the minister a dangerous saboteur, a traitor. His crime was not just an inadvertert action, a mistake, but a political crime against the state.

“Those who knew Ibrahim and his family told the tale differently. According to an Iraqi doctor who investigated the matter, Saddam became worried when Ayatollah Khomeini began to demand Saddam’s ouster as the price of peace. “One day, when the pressure of Iranian military forces was very high and Iraq was under the threat of occupation by the Iranian Army, Saddam called a cabinet meeting,” the doctor said. “Saddam was in a critical situation. He asked the cabinet ministers, ‘Is there any solution you can find to solve this problem?’ They said, ‘No, Mr. President, you are the hero of our country. You are defending our territorial integrity.’

“Saddam replied, ‘No, tell me the truth. What is the best way to stop the Iranian invasion, even if you believe my resigning is the way to stop the war.’ All the ministers said, ‘No, we don’t agree with you.’ Then Saddam said, ‘No, I don’t mind if you tell me the truth.’

“The health minister said, ‘Yes, Mr. President. I have a suggestion. If you resign temporarily, for three or four months, the Iranian Army will go back to their bases and then you can reappear again.’ Saddam said, ‘Yes, thank you very much. You are very brave. Thank you for your solution.’ He asked the other members what they thought and they all said no to the suggestion. After the meeting, Saddam turned to his bodyguards. They captured Ibrahim and led him out of the room.

“The wife of the minister knew the First Lady. She asked the First Lady to intervene and ask the President to release her husband. When Saddam’s wife told him about the matter, he called the minister’s wife himself and asked if she was asking for her husband’s release. She said, ‘Yes. You’re his friend. You are the leader.’ Saddam asked her, ‘When do you want your husband?’ and she replied, ‘As soon as possible.’ ‘Can I send him tomorrow?’ Saddam asked her. She said of course.

“The next day the security forces came to her house. She rushed to the door and asked, ‘Where is my husband?’ They gave her a big black bag and said, ‘This is your husband.’ And she found the body of her husband, chopped into pieces.”