Exhausted from Perpetual Outrage? Me Too.

I am exhausted.  From what, you ask.  From it all.  Or at least a lot of it.  Looking back, it began when Donald Trump became a serious contender in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.  Like many, I was surprised.  But that emotion lasted only a moment before being angered–and, yes, outraged–by Mr. Trump’s now infamous comments about how and where women should be grabbed.  Put mildly, his comments were demeaning and degrading towards women.  But as a nominee for America’s highest office, his words provided color as to how Mr. Trump perceived women–their role, their sex, their bodies.  Simply put, he saw women to be judged by their looks, to be manhandled into physical relationships, and to be talked about post-conquest.  The dearth of women serving in his cabinet is of no surprise to anyone paying attention. 

My outrage was perpetuated by people continuing to support Mr. Trump’s presidential nomination.  He bullied, threatened, and name-called fellow GOP presidential contenders.  Outrageous conduct by a U.S. presidential nominee.  He insulted POWs and military members.  Outrageous conduct by a U.S. presidential nominee.  He was the founder of the birther movement.  Outrageous conduct by a U.S. presidential nominee. 

But wait, there’s more.  I was outraged when Republican senators blocked a vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.  To do so was contrary to the plain language of the Constitution.  That, too, outraged me.  How is it possible that senators are able to curb presidential power specifically enumerated in the document our country holds to be the highest law of the land? 

I was outraged at the e-mail leaks from Hillary Clinton’s campaign.  “Can you imagine if someone hacked into Donald Trump’s campaign’s e-mails and released e-mails?,” I questioned.  And I was outraged at the silence from the Trump campaign about the release of such e-mails. 

Since his swearing-in as President, I’ve been outraged by his choice of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, all who have had little, if any, substantive experience regarding the fields they are now overseeing.  And I’ve been outraged by his cavalier attitude towards matters of significance, such as foreign and environmental policy.

Other topics that have sent me into outrage overdrive?  Senseless gun violence.  Refusal to restrict access to firearms to the mentally ill, former felons, and youths.  Abuse of power by the police.  Violence at political events.  Proposals to eliminate funding for the arts.  Climate change deniers.  Holocaust deniers.  Sean Spicer.  Alternative facts.  References to the Bowling Green Massacre.  United Airlines’ treatment of passengers.  Ivanka Trump’s White House job.  Steve Bannon’s White House job.  Kellyanne Conway.  The nuclear option.  Attempts to legislate morality.  Attempts to legislate reproductive rights.  Blaming the country’s woes on the poor.  Proposals to increase military spending.  POTUS tweets.  Just to name a few.

The perpetual outrage is exhausting.  But I cannot imagine the alternative.

What To Do About Syria?

“We call upon Russia and Iran, yet again, to exercise their influence over the Syrian regime and to guarantee that this sort of horrific attack never happens again.”

U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, commenting on the chemical attack in Syria.

I’ve seen the pictures.  I’ve listened to the doctors.  I’ve heard the analysts.  The first question I have to answer is, “What can I do to help?”  Unfortunately, the answer is far from simple.  Likewise, the role the United States should play, if any, in the Syrian conflict is complex, to say the least.  When is enough enough to wade into the civil war of another country?  Then, again, one could argue it’s a bit too late for that analysis considering. 

The United States can continue to stand with its mouth hanging open at the depraved indifference to human life–the lives of infants, children, and civilian men and women who happened to live in the wrong city at the wrong time.  Or it can act in response to a horrific attack by the Syrian government against its own citizens, announcing to the world that human lives–and rights–matter. 

Worth a Second Look.

A frame grab from a video of the “men only” seat on the Mexico City Metro, part of a campaign against sexual harassment. Credit YouTube

A seat in a subway car in Mexico City’s metro system caused a stir earlier this year. There were awkward glances. Visible discomfort. Baffled looks. Some laughs. And of course, the inevitable pictures from passengers’ camera phones.

It was meant to be provocative, and it was. A seat was changed to look like the lower half of a male’s body, including the penis, part of a campaign by UN Women and the Mexico City government to raise awareness about sexual harassment on subways.

On the floor beneath the seat, there was a sign reading, “It is annoying to travel this way, but not compared to the sexual violence women suffer in their daily commutes.”

Penis Seat’ Causes Double Takes on Mexico City Subway, The New York Times (Mar. 31, 2017).

Before I moved to New York, I worked with a seasoned attorney from the City who had made Richmond, Virginia her home.  As a young attorney, I listened to her explain the legal definition of sexual harassment, noting that, in New York, no woman could ride the train without being groped at some point.  It was, as she explained, to be expected.  And, as she insinuated, to be tolerated.  That was in the late 1990’s. 

I’d like to think that times have changed.  Although the ever-present female-only cars on commuter trains and railways would indicate otherwise.  Perhaps bringing attention to the issue, rather than attempting merely to avoid the mingling of sexes in close proximity will begin a needed conversation to stop such bad conduct. 

At least one can hope.

Alpha Chi Omega, Embracing Sisterhood.

“Alpha Chi Omega exists to develop and empower strong women,” Alpha Chi Omega national president Angela Costley Harris wrote to the sorority’s members on February 17. “If we are to continue to live this important mission in today’s world, Alpha Chi Omega must be inclusive of all who live and identify as women, regardless of their gender assigned at birth.”

The statement on the sorority’s website reads that “women, including those who live and identify as women, regardless of the gender assigned to them at birth, are eligible for membership in Alpha Chi Omega based solely on five membership standards.”

U.S. Sorority Opens Its Doors to Trans Women Nationwide, Glamour (Mar. 14, 2017).

Live and let live.  It was was a phrase uttered regularly in our household by both my Mother and my Father.  Were I to criticize someone’s conduct that had no bearing on mine, “Live and let live.”  Were I to complain about someone’s actions that didn’t touch on my life, “Live and let live.”  I have no doubt that this simple four-word phrase shaped me into the libertarian I am today. 

As with most, my path to the present wasn’t straight and narrow.  To the contrary, it was anything but.  One memorable stop along the way included a dalliance with exploring the bonds of sisterhood as an Alpha Chi Omega pledge.  Although, ultimately, I parted ways with that sisterhood before graduation, I respected the sorority’s core values and leadership. 

And I continue to do so today.

Park Geun-hye, Impeached.

SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean court ousted the president on Friday, a first in the nation’s history, rattling the delicate balance of relationships across Asia at a particularly tense time.

Her removal capped months of turmoil, as hundreds of thousands of South Koreans took to the streets, week after week, to protest a sprawling corruption scandal that shook the top echelons of business and government.

Park Geun-hye, the nation’s first female president and the daughter of the Cold War military dictator Park Chung-hee, had been an icon of the conservative establishment that joined Washington in pressing for a hard line against North Korea’s nuclear provocations.

Now, her downfall is expected to shift South Korean politics to the opposition, whose leaders want more engagement with North Korea and are wary of a major confrontation in the region. They say they will re-examine the country’s joint strategy on North Korea with the United States and defuse tensions with China, which has sounded alarms about the growing American military footprint in Asia.

—  South Korea Removes President Park Geun-hye, The New York Times (9 March 2016).

Semper Fidelis?

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Marine Corps is investigating allegations an unspecified number of military personnel and veterans allegedly distributed nude photos of female colleagues and other women as part of a perverse social media network that promotes sexual violence.

The explosive revelation was first reported by  The War Horse and published Saturday via Reveal, part of the Center for Investigative Reporting. Potentially hundreds of Marines may be caught up in the scandal, which has shaken top Pentagon officials and prompted death threats against the Marine veteran who disclosed it. An undetermined number of nude photos were shared online by way of a Facebook group titled Marines United, according to the report. The community has nearly 30,000 members, mostly comprising active-duty U.S. Marines, Marine Corps veterans and British Royal Marines. The unseemly episode is deeply embarrassing for the Marine Corps and the Defense Department, proud institutions that, like many college campuses around the country, have struggled to curtail widespread problems with sexual assault. At the same time, it exposes an unsettling rift within a segment of American society consistently regarded as reputable, honorable and trustworthy.

A nude photo scandal has shaken the entire Marine Corps, Marine Corps Times (March 5, 2017).

Christo’s Statement Piece

For more than 20 years, the artist Christo has worked tirelessly and spent $15 million of his own money to create a vast public artwork in Colorado that would draw thousands of tourists and rival the ambition of “The Gates,” the saffron transformation of Central Park that made him and Jeanne-Claude, his collaborator and wife, two of the most talked-about artists of their generation.

But Christo said this week that he had decided to walk away from the Colorado project — a silvery canopy suspended temporarily over 42 miles of the Arkansas River — because the terrain, federally owned, has a new landlord he refuses to have anything to do with: President Trump.

Christo, Trump and the Art World’s Biggest Protest Yet, The New York Times (January 25, 2016). 

The Last Day of the Year.

It’s here once again.  It’s here regardless of whether we’re holding onto the past or loathing the uncertainty of the future.  It’s here despite our best efforts to make time stand still or to hold on to that special moment.  It arrived quietly.  And, despite its certainty and predictability, it arrived quickly.

For our family, 2016 has been a year of great adventure as we continued to explore Okinawan history and culture.  We’ve also deepened our geopolitical understanding of Asia with travel to Hong Kong and Taiwan.  It’s been a year of celebration, for which we are grateful.  We learned of Russell’s selection for promotion, received word that our adoption paperwork has been submitted for review, and had Russell’s mother visit us in Japan.  Of course, this year also has presented challenges and struggles, some routine, some unexpected, and some unique to living abroad.  And, yes, it was a year of great disappointment in our fellow citizens as we learned that Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. 

But whatever I think about the year, be it good, bad or indifferent, it is coming to a close whether I want it to or not, indifferent as to whether I’m ready or not.  And that is the beauty of today.  Today, I am able to hold on to those spectacularly intimate moments that filled our lives this year while letting go of everything else.  Like an iPhone software update, tonight at midnight, whether I’m awake or not, my life will be reset.  When I awake tomorrow, I will do so with the hope, optimism, and enthusiasm of one knowing that I have the opportunity to live my best life–my most authentic life–yet once again.  For tomorrow, I will replace what I wish I had done this year, with what I will do in that one. 

Of course, it’s anyone’s guess what I actually will accomplish in 2017.  Will I make the most of another journey around the sun?  Will I stand up for my beliefs?  Will I better this world?  Will I make the tough decisions?  Will I champion the underdog?  I certainly hope so.  But I also know that if I can’t get it right in 2017, there’s always 2018. 

#HopeSpringsEternal

Acts of Freedom

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I love a good protest.  To be clear, here, “good” means peaceful and without incident, be it the use of pepper spray, water cannons, or dogs or physical altercations, such as shoving, beating, or shootings.  I’ve witnessed protests around world, some more likely to erupt in violence than others.  For freedom lovers, protests in the United States are a sight to behold.

The rights to peaceably assemble, to express oneself through words or actions, and to elect to worship (or not) as one desires, are significant.  Indeed, such rights are more significant than those who have known no other way may realize.  During our travels, we asked about religion in Taiwan.  “We have the freedom of religion, here, unlike China,” our guide explained.  “Do you understand?,” she asked, glancing into the rear view mirror with a worried look.  It was a stark reminder that the fundamental individual rights enjoyed by some are not afforded to all.

The fact that U.S. citizens freely may protest its government’s practices and policies, its courts, or its representatives speaks volumes.  U.S. citizens may elect to sit or kneel during the national anthem, burn the U.S. flag to express disgust or displeasure, wear controversial slogans or pins to express their viewpoint, or  march on Washington to demonstrate their strength of position.  Without such rights, expression–and speech–mean little, if anything at all.

Defending the ability to exercise our constitutional rights should be a priority for each citizen.  It means that minority viewpoints may never be silenced.  It provides all opinions a seat at the table.  It means that the truth–based upon facts, not fantasy, speculation, propaganda, or surmise–will be told.

The often-cited–and tired–premise that burning our nation’s flag or sitting during the playing of the national anthem is offensive to members of the U.S. military is questionable at best.  Ask a servicemember why he or she joined the service and you might just learn it was to protect our country’s core freedoms and values, a goal consistent with his or her oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution.

I am grateful that, should I choose, I can critique and criticize our government and its officials publicly, for all to read, here.  When I do so, it is my kneeling during the national anthem or my burning of the flag.  Indeed, while I elect to use words rather than actions, my goal is to be no less provocative than the subject matter demands.  I do it for love of my country and love of my countryman and woman.  I do it knowing that my opinions, thoughts, and words may not be popular or, even, palatable, but that they need to be considered.  And I do it knowing that I have the unadulterated right to do so.