FIGHTING #INAUGURATION BLUES

womensmarch1It’s been a rough couple of months, but yesterday I felt hope for our country for the first time since November 8. I marched with more than 14,000 others in Florida’s capital city, Tallahassee.

I borrowed an idea from my cousin who attended the Women’s March in Washington. She wore the pink hats and attached hundreds of ribbons to the top of it, each one containing the name of a woman she was representing at the march. My great-grandmother and grandmother were there. I was there, too.

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My cousin’s hat

She inspired me to do something as well, including marching where I could in the town where I lived. I took an index card and wrote down the names of all the important women in my life, past and present, who I wanted to come along with me. I taped the card to the back of my sign, so as I marched I looked at their names. It gave me courage and a sense of purpose.

womensmarch3The weather loomed as a threat yesterday morning. Thunderstorms, lightning, hail, tornadoes–scary stuff. I drove to the location in Railroad Square, expecting only a couple of hundred people to come out. Instead, I saw thousands of all ages and colors. My husband didn’t think he’d be welcome at a “women’s march,” so he stayed home despite my cajoling and telling him that we needed men to be there. He wouldn’t have stood out–maybe a third of the crowd were men. Umbrellas clashing, signs soaking, and thunder providing the background drum beat, we began to move slowly. A group of college-aged African-Americans joined and stepped into place in front of me. Both male and female marchers, carrying signs. One of the young men’s sign said, “Stop the Rape Culture.” I smiled broadly at what was happening.

I estimated 10,000 marchers. When I was a reporter, I was trained how to count crowds in meetings halls and auditoriums, but I had no way to estimate these numbers. But I knew it had to be in thousands. The paper reported this morning that the Tallahassee police said more than 14,000 people participated.

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The Tallahassee March

 

I posted my photo on Facebook. After I came home and dried off, I looked at my feed on Facebook and saw my friends’ posts from around Florida and the country: Gainesville, St. Pete, Jacksonville, Tucson, Atlanta, Washington.

We will not be defeated on any of the issues so important to the heart of the United States and its government. Criticisms included the name of the marches. That might be valid–my husband a case in point–but when the organizers began making decisions that seemed to be the best title. I don’t think anyone knew what would happen. People were given a chance to publicly participate in democracy and voice their concerns and fears. No one knew the numbers that would attend. Or the issues it would bring out, which was another criticism I’ve heard in the last twenty-four hours. Disorganized, no core issues to work around, the pundits said. Who cares? People came out. Millions across the world. They did it peacefully. I saw no anger amongst the crowd where I marched. Only anger at what could happen and what did happen on November 8.

As I marched next to a woman perhaps two decades older than me using her cane to walk up the hill, I cried. How far we’ve come in her lifetime, only to be shot back down in the swift and fatal tweets of the man now occupying the Oval Office. I looked at the names of the women on my card and felt a lump in my throat.

I did it for you, Emilene Stephens Hooper, who had two children out of wedlock back in Cornwall in the 1890s, yet went on to marry and became a pillar of her community. She ran a boarding house with her two young sons–one of whom was my grandfather–when she met Fred Hooper, who married her and raised her sons and their other children. My grandfather emigrated to the United States in 1900. So, yes, I’m an immigrant, too, I suppose.

I did it for you, Anna Mary Sweet Camburn, who was in her forties when women gained the right to vote. I did it for you, Ethel DeFord Stephens, who had given birth to seven children by the time women could vote.

And I did it for you, Anna Christina Camburn Behnke, who I brought into this world and raised to be a feminist. You will be a fighter all your life against bigotry, prejudices, and injustice, whether through your actions, words, or paintings.

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With Anna at her art show with her spider lady painting

 

I feel hopeful this morning despite the rain still pounding outside. The heavens are crying as some of us have been doing for the past few months. Those tears will nourish and feed the ground, just as ours inspired and pushed us out the door and into the streets to voice our love of democracy and rights afforded us thus far.

We must keep up the good work.

What happened in your town? I’d love to hear about it!

I LOVE MY COUNTRY BUT I CRY FOR IT TODAY

flagI’m not living lightly right now, at least not when it comes to politics and the state of our union. I’m scared.

And for the first time that I can remember, I will not watch the inauguration of the new president.

Others who have suggested the same thing or who have declined to attend the event are subject to ridicule and to charges of being undemocratic. I disagree. By not participating in Friday’s events, I’m displaying the highest action afforded by living in a democracy. I am being highly democratic by using the freedom granted to all citizens of the United States and given to us by the rebels of the eighteenth century who protested highly the actions of the British monarch.

I’m not going to flee, but I am going to use my First Amendment rights to show that I do not support a president who tweets insults for every little thing that is said about him in the media. His impulses scare me, and I will in no way condone what he tweets in the early morning hours from his golden palace in the air. Nor will I condone or support a man who lies and says whatever he needs to say to win.

The day he starts to show me he can be a diplomat and that he really does care about each of us rather than his name, his business, and his blown-up–yet fragile–ego, then I will be the first to support him. However, I will not apologize for my feelings and thoughts right at this moment. He hasn’t earned my trust, and he certainly didn’t receive my vote. And I have my doubts about the legitimacy of the election. I believe in my heart that our democracy was highly compromised by the FBI and by Russia. Whether the president-elect’s team had anything to do with either, I’ll leave to the professionals to decide.

I watched the “press conference” last week. A press conference with a cheering team paid by the president-elect doesn’t qualify as a press conference by me. And deciding which of the press is legitimate and which is not by the president-elect reminds me more and more of a dictatorship than a republic. Now the transition team is seriously considering removing the press corps from the White House. Control of the press is the first step. Or perhaps it’s silencing your enemies. The tweets are the first step to that end. Did I mention that I’m scared? I haven’t even mentioned foreign relations because I can’t. It makes me quiver to think about where we’re headed.

I do care about his tax returns. And I’m tired of him and his team, saying, “I speak for all Americans . . .” You do not speak for me. Not now. Not yet. Maybe never.

Saying you speak for me is denying the beauty of our country’s cultural, religious, racial, and sexual diversity. No one speaks solely for everyone in our amazing country. I love the United States, and today, my heart aches for it.

USA map multicultural group of young people integration diversity

USA map multicultural group of young people integration diversity isolated

 

 

#Maya Angelou – Aspire to her Greatness

Maya Angelou at the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993

Maya Angelou at the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993

We lost a great one yesterday with the passing of Maya Angelou. But thank goodness she passed through this life and graced us with her presence.

I loved turning my students onto the poetry of Ms. Angelou. When she was called upon to write and recite a poem for Bill Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993, she had less than three months to write a poem on command for a world debut. As a writer, I can’t imagine the pressure that must have been, but Ms. Angelou did it. All she ever wanted was to be a blessing in this lifetime. She far exceed her own expectations.

The poem she created for the nation, On the Pulse of Morning, is chilling in its preciseness of language, thrilling in its dramatic contrasts, and loving in its portrayal of hope for our nation.

To me the final verses of the poem are the most powerful. I loved reading this aloud to teenagers who, despite themselves, could not help but be inspired by this great woman’s words. I read an interview after the inauguration where she said she was disappointed in the poem. Please rest easy, Ms. Angelou, there is no disappointment in these words of encouragement.

Excerpted from On the Pulse of Morning (final verses):

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.

No less to Midas than the mendicant.

No less to you now than the mastodon then.

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.