How Did We Get Here & Where Are We Headed?

Locust Valley - holidays<img

Several people have asked why I stopped writing my blog. It really isn't that I don't have anything to say. It truly is that I have had so much in my head and my heart that I've felt too overwhelmed to start. What am I afraid of? I mean, it's a free country and free speech is part of what's so important about who we are.

Right? So where do I start?

I guess at the beginning.

I was never a "political person." For far too long I believed politicians were obviously smarter than most of us because they chose to be dedicated public servants. My very first political memory was JFK running against Richard Nixon. I vaguely recall my father supported Nixon, which was interesting because his Uncle Joe was a politician and had been Borough President of Queens. Uncle Joe was a Democrat. My cousin, Linda, helped with the shovel for that million dollar sewer. I remember Uncle Joe for the free tickets to "Fairyland" ~ an amusement park somewhere in Queens.
Sewer

My first “political action” was to write a letter to President Kennedy telling him I was glad he won and I was thrilled to get a response. Imagine a letter arriving addressed to me from the White House. I had that letter pinned on my bulletin board for many, many years. I remember “duck and cover” and air raid drills. I remember the Cuban Missile crisis when my mother brought cans of soup into the basement and was old enough to recognize those windows probably weren’t “bomb shelter” quality. I remember Walter Cronkite’s tearful voice as he announced the President’s death. I remember taking the letter off the bulletin board, crying as I read it. My heart was heavy then. My heart is heavy now.

Fast forward almost twenty years. I’m in Los Angeles and have a brush with politics while working at the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center. One of the Board members was also on the board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. My husband and I went on a “Water Junket” through Northern California and visited the Hoover Dam. I remember thinking at the time that it seemed like a colossal waste of time and money but in the early 1980’s my conscious awareness wasn’t plugged into water and its’ connection to politics. In Los Angeles. I mean, I’d seen Chinatown. But that was then, right?

1984.1
I have this autographed picture of me with George McGovern but the only thing I did was go to this event. I am certain I was the most “unconnected” person there.

I was never a “political person” but I always held strong beliefs. I believed that it was through the grace of God that I was born who and where I was. I believed that all people deserved help when they needed it. I believed I was no better than anyone else and that we all were in this thing called life together.
I have tried to be kind and considerate but at times I’m sure I’ve been shallow and thoughtless. Being from this place called New York ~ born in Queens ~ I also believed that outspoken opinions were part of my DNA. Perhaps the lack of a filter is, as well. Oh, and I talk with my hands.

I voted for Bill Clinton. I remember where I was the night he was elected President. I was picking up Chinese food at a restaurant in the San Fernando Valley and the television was on behind me as I waited for the food. They were playing “Don’t Stop Thinkin’ About Tomorrow,” and I remember thinking a President that was from MY generation would be a good thing. No more “fathers” running things. Time for US to be the grown-ups. Were we up to the task?

I became disillusioned during those eight years. Perhaps for the wrong reasons but they were my reasons. I saw him once after he was out of office, walking out of the Russian Tea Room as I was walking in. He exuded charm and charisma, which helped me understand my disillusion up close.

I had also spent many years in California and watched a beautiful State full of natural wonders and bountiful gifts begin its’ fall into a state of disrepair as well as disrespect. I started working full time in non profit and learned first hand that you just can’t spend money you don’t have no matter how worthy the cause or the people involved in it. I drifted to the right fiscally but held liberal social causes close to my heart and mind.

9/11 changed me. Having grown up in an amazingly bountiful bubble on the North Shore of Long Island I don’t think I recognized just how terrible our world could be. Intellectually, yes. Realistically. No. I watched the next seven years unfold feeling both fear and faith. Our country would prevail. Good versus evil. Yet it seemed our leaders really were unsure of who was who.

Prior to the election in 2008,I listened to the candidate say we were five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America. Something about that statement bothered me. I didn’t vote for him. Twice. I do not regret my decision. I did not discuss that decision with many people. Remember, I live in California and I clearly understood the thought that people should never discuss politics or religion. But, now we had the internet. We didn’t have to discuss anything in person. Boundaries began disappearing. Civility wasn’t far behind.

People learned talking points. Both in the media and in the world, real and virtual. We learned what was happening from carefully crafted sound bites. 140 characters or less. Many of us, including me, recognized that politicians weren’t smarter than the rest of us. Neither were most of the folks in the media. But what we all had in common was the fact that we all wanted to keep our jobs – if we had them. Most of their jobs paid better than most of ours. At some point the line between opinion and fact started to blur. Everywhere. On both side of the aisle. In fact, it now was pretty apparent how “news” folks – both pundits and journalists – felt about politics. Very clear. And many of us started to distrust them. All of them.

I have to go back in time before I move forward again. Bear with me, please. In 2006 we moved from Los Angeles to Seattle.

Seattle_Washington
We bought a house on Mercer Island where I fell in love with the small hamlet charm I’d grown up with on Long Island. We had rain.
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We had snow.
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In so many ways I felt I’d stepped back in time to my Long Island hometown roots. I remember crying at the 4th of July Parade when little kids walked down Main Street with their dogs. I felt a sense of community that day. But a 4th of July Parade does not necessarily a community make. I planted flowers, went to work for Special Olympics and hoped for the best.
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The first time the recycling officer – his words, not mine – came to the door and told me my efforts were unacceptable I chuckled inwardly. I had never been the best at separating recyclables but I try. The third offense ~ a small pizza box – had the recycling officer and I at a stand off. First, don’t get me started on the terrible pizza available on Mercer Island. Second, I had gone over that box and removed a small amount of cheese to avoid this problem. The grease apparently offended the officer’s sensibilities. My recycling bin became his target. Dorothy, you’re no longer in Kansas. Or Los Angeles. Or Locust Valley.
Mercer Island

In September of that year placards for political candidates started appearing. Soon they were everywhere. Flyers started appearing on our doorstep and in our mailbox. The “big” news was a Republican might actually have a chance at becoming Governor. An outside chance. As I recall, he didn’t win. As I recall, I didn’t vote. For the first time. I wasn’t invested in Washington.

People in Seattle did not like people from California. I would quickly point out that while I had lived in California for a long time I was FROM New York. But my car still had California plates on it, which meant it was very difficult to change lanes on the freeway. Even on a floating bridge.
Floating Bridge

I kid you not. I went to the DMV for new license plates. Side note: the DMV was privatized rather than government run and had NO lines. Jay got a Seattle Seahawks plate frame and we both experienced a definite ease in our ability to merge. People were “Seattle polite” as THEY described it.
There was a windstorm and we were without electricity for a week; trees fell on our house TWICE and it SNOWED for the first time in years.

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It is a breathtakingly beautiful place. Green, clean fresh air. A lovely place to spend a year. A wonderful adventure!!
public market
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Jay accepted a job on the air rather than in management. We left Mercer Island.
For San Francisco. His hometown. I did not say goodbye to the recycling officer.
san-francisco
In 2008 it was time to register to vote. We’d lived in LA for a very long time and in Washington only briefly. I had always been a registered Democrat. Jay and I were at the outdoor mall in Corte Madera, in Marin County, and saw a Republican registration table. I made the decision at that time to re-register as a Republican. After Jay and I had “signed up” a woman asked to take our picture. Truth!! I realized we were part of a very small group in that county.

My work in San Francisco was diverse. I was involved in the campaign to have a net on the Golden Gate Bridge, which eight years later has been approved, but not yet built. I was a volunteer fundraiser at Marin Humane Society and then entered the world of non commercial radio at KWMR in Pt Reyes. All eye opening experiences.

I drove a Mercedes at the time and wore red nail polish. In Pt Reyes I became known as the “corporate person,” which I was told “was not a compliment.” I thought it was funny. For a while. It became clear that as an “outsider” I would never be accepted. I’d really just come to help them raise money. But in their minds, my car and my nail polish were more of a statement about who I was than my ability to fund raise. I shudder to think what would have happened if they knew I had recently registered Republican. As I said, eye opening experiences.

Everything came to a screeching halt in 2009. The economy. The stock market.
Then it crashed. Loudly. Blame was thrown around by everyone. Loudly. Many of us went into survival mode. Personally and professionally. Seeds of discontent were sown and began to grow into full blown bushes of blame ~ pun intended. The blame game became VERY popular. Both sides of the aisle used it during the next three election cycles. Control shifted sides and nothing was done for “we the people.” The same “if only” they’d work with us became the pathetic political rallying cry. Debts increased, the “broken promise” cans continued to be kicked down the road and finally it seemed we had reached a dead end politically.

It was clear who the Democrat candidate would be. Or was it? Sixteen men and one woman got in the fight for the Republican nod. As did many of us, I sat back and decided to listen to them all. Never a fan of extremes, except when it comes to eating too much pasta, my politics were settled firmly in the middle of the road. Everyone offered a little bit of what I liked but no one was the full package. But then, had anyone ever been the full package? Anywhere in politics? On either side of the aisle? My disillusion had grown over the past few years where I felt nobody really listened to the people. Or, perhaps my disillusion grew because I’d spent more time on-line, listening to other people who felt lost in the shuffle. Anger seemed to be replacing apathy as the candidates fought for their place in the pack. On both sides of the aisle.
I felt Congress had let us all down. Always excuses as to why nothing could be accomplished. I tired of listening to the media because I felt “news” wasn’t news at all. It became opinions from pundits and contributors rather than facts reported by journalists. It was also obviously about money. Ratings for the media. And support for the politicians. What was about US? The people.

While I have lived in several very different places, geographically, they have been in coastal, urban locales in states that have moved farther left during the past decades. Every state has a different, distinct sense of who and what they are. Seemingly, extremes have become more so all throughout our country. Would Ronald Reagan, once a Democrat, be “conservative” enough today?

Are labels, in fact, the essence of who we are? There will always be hateful people walking among us in this world and in this country, but is the heart of who we are hatred?

Who among us has determined their right to be the arbiter of our moral compass?

The left? The right? The media?

Claims to the moral high road have become a slippery slope.

We are at a crossroads in our country. Politicians and the media are running us around in circles. Trust is at an all time low for all. On both sides of the aisle. But is the answer for us to begin turning on one another? I’ve been fairly silent about my vote because I’ve paid a personal price for it. I’ve been outed at work. That’s been fun. I’ve had people cry and become emotional because I voted for Donald Trump. As if the devil reached out of hell and came back to walk among us. I’m not alone. Many people I know voted for him and are afraid they will be “discovered.” What is THAT about?

My doctor and I had a conversation during my physical in March. I said I was sleeping poorly and all this election stuff had really gotten to me. He’s in Beverly Hills and said he recognized the Trump voters when they came to see him because they said nothing. I laughed and said “yes,there are more of us than you realize.” He said he thought one candidate was crazy and the other evil.
I didn’t ask which was which.

The President is surely a flawed human being, as are we all. Do I wish he would try not to strike when he feels backed into a corner? Of course. Perhaps being born in Queens gives me a bit of insight into his brash bravado. But I also know that unlike many politicians this man did not want to be President to become wealthy. He traveled this land and listened to people. People I can’t claim to know who decided he was the person to give voice to their frustrations. They voted for him. To the surprise and consternation of most “in the know,” he won. I think he may have been just as surprised.

His election has never been accepted. He has been maligned daily for both imagined, exacerbated and real mistakes. He has been President for six months and surely is not responsible for the all the ills of the world and our country.

Perhaps we’re too far down the rabbit hole at this point. When I said I remember Walter Cronkite announcing President Kennedy had died, I also remember people had no idea who Walter Cronkite had voted for. Now it’s very obvious who every pundit and contributor has voted for. I’m afraid I don’t see many “journalists” around these days. I do recognize Washington DC and New York may be the News Mecca, but they do not represent our population.

I could point out flaws in the logic of the tolerant. I’m not sure that a statue of Robert E. Lee located in the Capital for forty years is suddenly a problem for the politicians who have been looking at it for more than twenty. But that would become a tit for tat conversation.

I tire of the next shiny object overtaking the news cycle and our emotions.

I tire of politicians on both side of the aisle not doing their job to help the people while collecting their paychecks and pensions.

I tire of being told we are a nation filled haters and bad people, and am sickened by the fuel being added to the fire of violent protests.

Perhaps we’re too far down the road of anger among us to recognize the best in one another rather than assume the worst.

I hope not.

I don’t believe one man is responsible for this mess.

Do you?

Really?

You think getting rid of him is going to fix it all?

Really?

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4 thoughts on “How Did We Get Here & Where Are We Headed?

  1. I love your writings! Please do so more often! I, too, am sickened by the hatred and disrespect shown toward our President. He won, he’s doing the best he can for “we, the people” and the politicians don’t like it because he isn’t playing their game, which is “get rich on us”! Inaction in DC is really bothering me. If the Congress worked in the private sector, they would all be fired, so why do we keep electing these do nothings to represent us? I am embarrassed to be represented by Crying Chuck Schumer. I have never voted for him and never will. Some things never change. It’s time for we, the people, to make more changes, on both sides of the aisle, for the ensuing election cycles until we get a working Congress who represents us, instead of their own interests.

    Mary Ellen (Mimi) Mott Johnson Greywalls Abbey Sent from my iPadAir2

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  2. I love your writings! Please do so more often! I, too, am sickened by the hatred and disrespect shown toward our President. He won, he’s doing the best he can for “we, the people” and the politicians don’t like it because he isn’t playing their game, which is “get rich on us”! Inaction in DC is really bothering me. If the Congress worked in the private sector, they would all be fired, so why do we keep electing these do nothings to represent us? I am embarrassed to be represented by Crying Chuck Schumer. I have never voted for him and never will. Some things never change. It’s time for we, the people, to make more changes, on both sides of the aisle, for the ensuing election cycles until we get a working Congress who represents us, instead of their own interests.

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  3. Thank you, Mimi. I haven’t written in a while but a few friends encouraged me. Now that I’ve started I don’t think I’ll stop. It’s been such a difficult time. But we the people deserve better. You and I see things exactly the same way.

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