Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

A general rant

Speaking as the mother of a young man, can I just ask – WTF is going on with the young guys acting out hate in recent days?


A 17-year-old who wants to push boundaries should be coming home half an hour late for curfew (nearly every weekend of his senior year).  Not smashing a glass panel at a Holocaust Memorial.


A 20-year-old who wants dramatic action on the weekend should be getting together with his buddies to watch Game of Thrones.  Not plowing a car into people standing up for equality.


I realize that not everyone grows up in the type of comfortable liberal environment that leads to a summer spent interning at the statehouse, helping to draft transgender rights legislation, among many other things.  (Go, M!)  But it’s still appalling to see how early some lives can be so firmly skewed toward hate.


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E and I went into Boston last Saturday for the GLBT Pride Parade, and while sitting on the subway I suddenly realized that it marked 30 years since the first time I went to Pride.

I remember being a nervous and uncertain teenager in 1987, who had somehow found out the Gay Pride March started at City Hall Plaza.  I remember walking up the broad flight of steps to the plaza, and at the top of the steps the whole plaza suddenly came into view, and there was an entire plaza full of gay and lesbian people, right there in front of me!  It was several thousand times as many gay and lesbian people as the 2 or 3 I’d known until that point.  It was the first time I ever had a sense of being part of a community. Or even realizing that a community could even exist.  It was amazing.

It was not all, of course, sweetness and light.  The march route wasn’t lined with cheering spectators back then, but with annoyed or vaguely hostile pedestrians, and very stern police. At least that wasn’t the year I got hassled on the subway heading home from Pride.

Fast-forward 3 decades.  E and I had a blast watching the parade.  We high-fived and shook hands with assorted politicians.  Although we didn’t mange to see our hometown favorite, Senator Elizabeth Warren, we did wear T-shirts that E had gotten by donating to Warren, which said “Nevertheless, she persisted.”  This drew assorted cheers and fist pumps from passing marchers, so there was a lot of Senator Warren love floating around that particular street corner.  And the weather was gorgeous and people were happy and it was just a fabulous day to be out and proud.

Many of the marching groups were tossing the usual assortment of beads, wristbands, etc to spectators.  Back at work the following week, I gave a couple of rainbow wristbands to a coworker whose young-teen daughter had kind of wanted to go to Pride, but felt too nervous about being in a crowd.  And I gave a couple more rainbow wristbands, plus 2 tiny rainbow flags, to a different coworker whose son has spent a while unsure of his gender identity, and for now is going with “cis-gender boy who really loves rainbows and butterflies.”

I absolutely couldn’t have imagined, back in 1987, that someday a Gay Pride March would ever be accepted enough that I’d be passing on beads and rainbow swag to my coworkers’ children.  Or that uncertain children would someday grow up with parents so accepting that they’d bring rainbow swag home.

I feel so very fortunate to be living in this time and in this place.

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First, the simple one:






Then, the slightly more complex one:




(Note: professors were eventually admitted to US after intervention by ACLU and a federal judge.)

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Just… wow!

Like pretty much any city anywhere on the planet that had a Women’s March today, Boston blew way past the expected number of attendees. Forget the 20,000 that organizers were talking about originally; forget the 70,000 they were expecting as of last night; there were 175,000 of us!

It’s impossible to explain how jubilant and empowering it felt, to be surrounded by so many other people standing up in support of women’s rights, gay rights, black lives matter, immigrants, justice, etc etc etc, and overall standing as witnesses to the importance of equality, dignity, and human decency.

And it’s hard to capture the size of a crowd that large in photos (without using a helicopter), but that didn’t stop me from trying. The corner of Boston Common where the speakers were is a natural amphitheater about the size of a baseball field. We couldn’t even get near it, there were so many people already jammed in. But it’s somewhere beyond the farther line of porta-potties.


We ended up on one corner of the far side of the hill, along with tens of thousands of other people.



Want to feel the vibe a bit more? Here’s an action video, as I swiveled around on the snowbank we were standing on.

From our location, we could hear about 3/4 of Mayor Walsh’s speech; that dude knows how to yell into a microphone. We could only hear about 1/4 of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s, even though the crowd was especially quiet for her. And we couldn’t really hear anyone else. But that was OK. It was enough to cheer enthusiastically with the rest of the crowd.

Eventually the rally portion ended and the actual march began. The crowd ultimately filled the entire mile-long march route, with the first people arriving back at the Common before the later people even started walking.

Foreground shows people marching, background is hill full of people still waiting.

Foreground shows people marching, background is hill full of people still waiting.

There were loads of signs representing the enormously wide range of issues that people feel are important. But I saw one little sign that, to me, captured in a nutshell the collaborative, we’re-all-in-this-together, we’re-all-standing-up-for-each-other spirit that characterized the day.

Queers Against Islamophobia

Queers Against Islamophobia

Because of the huge crowds, we hadn’t even attempted to use the overburdened subway system today; we parked near E’s work, and walked from there. Ultimately we walked 7 miles today.

And every inch was worth it, to have been part of this.


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Because it matters

Because it matters that we hold our nation to the promises made at its founding, that this is a nation “with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Because it matters that our government upholds the legal foundation of our country, that “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Because it matters that we have equal rights, respect, and legal protection for women, for people of color, for people of all religions, for people with disabilities, for gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered people, for the poor.

This is why we will march and bear witness today.


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Standing by the safety pin

I feel ambivalent about the idea of wearing a safety pin in the aftermath of the election. I understand there are situations where it might be helpful, but mostly it seems like a token feel-good thing. However, I couldn’t resist taking a photo when a teenager pointed out the safety pin holding together the fabric side of the cereal rack, where I was stationed as I volunteered in the food pantry.

Note: taken at almost closing time. Usually it's end-to-end carts in here.

Note: taken at almost closing time. Usually it’s end-to-end carts in here.


Because this is what it means, when I stand by that safety pin in the food pantry:

Even though I am white and you are black/Asian/Hispanic/multi-racial, I care about you. If you want to discuss the weather here compared to the country you came from, or talk about how people from your culture prepare a certain type of food, I’m happy to chat. Otherwise, the only aspect of your color I’ll comment on is if you’ve dyed your hair since the last time I saw you. Because who doesn’t appreciate hearing, “Hey, you did something different with your hair – it looks good!”

Even though I am able-bodied and you use a cane/walker/wheelchair, I care about you. When I help everyone heave their grocery carts over the wooden threshold in the doorway to the next room, I will be extra-gentle with you because I know you’re leaning on that cart for balance. And if you have reusable shopping bags, I can tuck their handles into the sides of the cart, so the bags stay open and you can drop food in one-handed.

Even though I speak fluent English and you speak Spanish/Portuguese/French/Arabic/Chinese, I care about you. When my limited Spanish means I explain the difference between instant oatmeal and slow-cook oats by describing it as “rapido” versus “no rapido” because I can’t remember the word for “slow,” we can both laugh about it. And you will know what type of oats you’re picking.

Even though I am Christian and you are Muslim/Jewish/atheist/pagan, I care about you. When you show up looking nervously out from your hijab, unsure of your welcome after some particularly bad news week, I will let you know how impressed I am by your sewing skills at converting a secondhand sweater into part of an abaya. I will be aware of which major holidays are coming up in each of the major religions, especially since so many of them involve celebrating with special meals and foods, and we can talk about what you’re planning to cook to celebrate. Although I still haven’t found any religious traditions which would involve the jumbo-sized can of clam juice that’s been sitting on the miscellaneous rack for weeks.

And even though I am tired from a long day at work and a couple hours in the pantry, and you are one of the last people through, and your child is an undisciplined terror who is about to knock over the entire cereal rack, I care about you. And I will let you move on to the next room as quickly as possible, even if it means you’re kind of blocking the doorway, so your son can feel like he’s nearing the end. Or at least he’ll have room to spin around in circles without bumping into too many people. Because even the best-behaved little kid would get very restless, standing in an hour-long line at dinnertime, to get groceries.

Because in an ideal world, this is not how anyone should have to get their food.

But because we’re not in that ideal world, I’ll be doling out the cereal, and checking sugar content for diabetics who can’t afford reading glasses, and helping carts over the threshold.

All while standing by that safety pin.

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Election Day

I spent last night volunteering at the food pantry.  We’re supposed to be open 5-7 pm, but anyone who arrives by 7 pm will get groceries, and the volunteers stay as long as it takes.  Most weeks, the last client is out no later than 7:10.

Last night, the last client left at 7:45.

I know that, realistically, there’s not much Clinton could do to make many of these clients’ lives better.  The elderly woman who hobbles through with her walker, and is collecting groceries for a household consisting of her plus 3 grandchildren under the age of 14, is going to have a tough time with life no matter what.  The immigrant who works a 12-hour shift, and is so tired by the time he’s waiting for groceries that he said last night he’d rather be in his bed than win the lottery, is not going to suddenly land a well-paying 9-5 job.

But I also know that many of these clients’ lives would be distinctly harmed if Trump is elected.  They need Obamacare.  They need a nation that doesn’t institutionalize discrimination against immigrants and Muslims.  They need higher-education opportunities for their children or grandchildren that are affordable, not scams.

And so I’m very proud of M, who has spent the last several days campaigning down in Pennsylvania with the Democratic students’ group from his university.  I haven’t heard anything from him since he left.  But judging by the write-up here in the Pennsylvania news, those kids have been working really hard.

They’ve probably been working almost as hard as the elderly grandmother, and the exhausted immigrant.

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