Post-Election Messages to our School Kids


Pretty much the only place I have been able to string words together this past week is on Twitter. But my son’s public elementary school community gathered together on the weekend to write messages of love, hope, and inspiration to our students and staff. His school has a high percentage of students of color and kids on reduced and free lunch. They have been expressing fear to our school social worked since last spring that “Donald Trump is going to make all the Black and Brown people leave if he’s president.”

We are busy working hard year-round, advocating for these kids both in his school and in the many other St. Paul schools, which have the same demographics, but that’s behind the scenes, and it involves meeting after meeting, emails, hand-written correspondence, relationship-building, creating strategy, lots of ground work, and did I mention meetings?  We wanted something that will greet them when they arrive at school, so they know that they are safe and they are loved.

Possible Book Review? Oh, Please…

I’m finally starting to drag myself out of the muck of this past week, and slogging through email is a big part of that. Imagine my thoughts when I ran across this from a bookstore:


Excellent. That’s just what I need this morning. Two rich, white guys telling me the value of saying, “Please.”

“Please, can I have equal pay?”

“Please, can I feel safe in my own county?”

“Please, can you stop lying?”

I suppose I should not judge a book by its cover, just like I am supposed to only be respectful toward everything and anything right now, but I don’t feel like coughing up twelve dollars for something that will most likely just put me even farther over my rage quota. Maybe I’ll see it at the library and bring it home in a brown paper bag.

P.S. An “Instant Classic?” Ugh.

American Voters: The Establishment Claws

Establishment. Establishment. Establishment.

Word has lost all meaning.

I should have been happy when seemingly millions of previously alienated people felt energized to get involved in politics. I should have been happy that these people were rallying around many ideas with which I agree. I should have been happy that income inequality was being talked about center stage.

It’s not how I felt.

If you were suddenly excited about American presidential politics for the first time because you felt motivated by Bernie Sanders, that’s truly marvelous. He said things that needed to be said, and things that probably only he, as an old white guy, could say. The message got out there, and it pushed the conversation to the left exactly like I hoped it would.

But it wasn’t necessary to denigrate those of us who have been active and involved since before we could vote. It’s not necessary to tell us we’re not “true progressives” if we even consider Hillary Clinton. That we are just mindless political drones or “sheeple.”

I support Hillary Clinton, which now apparently makes me “Establishment,” which is also apparently bad, and therefore invalidates my opinions. If caucusing for Jesse Jackson in 1987-8, voting in almost every election since then, volunteering on political campaigns, being a delegate, voting in primaries and special elections, caucusing every presidential year (except this one… sob), serving on senate district committees, and being an election judge makes me “Establishment,” then sign me up.

I’m Establishment, and you could be too if you ever chose to get involved. And the Establishment might be different.

There will always be an Establishment. Americans shape that establishment through making choices, voting for candidates whose views they support, getting involved in local party platform creation. Or, by sitting at home on Election Day bitching about the Establishment.

The problems Senator Sanders is talking about are real and they are important. I truly believe that nothing—NOTHING—will change in American politics until we have real and radical campaign finance reform. The issue isn’t term limits, which only serve to keep experience and knowledge out of office. I’m talking true limitations on fund raising, funding sources, spending, and duration as well as accountability and oversight into claims being made, plus, and very importantly, rational redistricting. Oh and restoring voting rights. Followed by voter education.

And guess what? Senator Sanders, as president, would be able to accomplish precisely none of that. Neither could Secretary Clinton. Because, as president, they don’t get to make the laws. And because people couldn’t be bothered to vote in 2010 and 2014, the people who do make the laws are in the majority right wing demagogues.

The last eight years have proven that even the most intelligent, balanced, nuanced leader cannot make real change when voters send him blinkered idiots hell-bent on obstruction. If people don’t get out there and vote blue down ticket, nationally and locally, we will remain stuck with a broken House and an obstructionist Senate. If Bernie supporters slink back into their BAH ESTABLISHMENT holes and refuse to vote on November 8 or worse, vote GOP because “it’s all fixed” or at least Trump’s a dude, or it would be “entertaining” to have him be president, then the Establishment will continue to devolve, and you better hope your sanctimony will protect you.


That one time a presidential candidate triggered almost half of America

“The Election” isn’t stressing me out. Donald Trump and his 43% are stressing me out. It’s what that kind of out in the open, unexamined hatred means for the rest of us, no matter who wins on November 8, 2016.

When Pussygate dropped in early October, I skimmed the article in which he reveled in his celebrity shield for sexual assault, bragging that he could Access Hollywood anytime he wanted. I rolled my eyes and shrugged. It wasn’t surprising that he said those things. Less surprising that he believes them. Not at all shocking that he does them.

So I was a little surprised when this was the comment that blew up. It seemed like the kitty cat epithet for a woman’s lady parts was a bridge too far for some pearl clutching public men. I got the feeling it was not the description of sexual assault that jarred them as much as the language used.

The fact that I initially shrugged this off says something about how women are used to being treated on a regular basis and how much this kind of behavior has been normalized. We heard all the same garbage excuses we always hear: “boys will be boys” and “locker room talk” and “this is just how me talk when there are no women around.”

If this is how men talk when when there are no women around, and that’s OK with men, then men suck. (For the record, I don’t think that’s true.)

I suppose it makes sense that men would talk about sexually assaulting women when women aren’t around to hear them because just about the only time women talk about being sexually assaulted, it’s when men aren’t around to hear them.

But after Pussygate, women started talking openly and in large numbers about their experiences with sexual assault and harassment, and I read these stories thinking how lucky I was not to have gone through what so many women have.

Then I remembered the time at a local bar when a guy sat down at the only spare seat at a four top, interrupting three women having a nice evening, and said, “Any of you fucking cunts got a rubber?”

I remembered the time working at the renaissance festival when the brother of the booth owner spent an entire weekend making lewd sexual comments to me and getting his dick out.

I remembered the award I received once at a team dinner, the “Stick up her butt” award, because I had the nerve to be upset about a job reassignment.

I remembered the nickname I was given that same summer: “Ball busting little pussy.” This was shortened to “BBLP,” which stuck for years. I went along with it and laughed because I didn’t want to appear “uncool.”

I remembered making a safety map in my Intro to Women’s’ Studies course showing pay phones and open establishments for my walk home, in case I was feeling threatened.

I think about the fact that I always park in the same place at different establishments, not just because I’ll always be able to find my car but because I will be familiar with the route, and that will keep me safer.

I remember when we used to go to the same bar every week, and we always hoped for parking on the street nearby because the lot was across a few streets and under a bridge, and we called it “The Rape Lot.” Because it’s funnier if it’s true.

I think about the pressure of always being subject to the gaze, feeling like you don’t own yourself, like you exist for consumption. It’s hard to describe if you haven’t felt it. For the past few months, the language used by the Republican nominee for President of the United States of America and his supporters has been pressing down on a large percentage of Americans, bringing up bad experiences: experiences of violence, harassment, abuse, and the general self consciousness of feeling wrong, bad, not enough, less than. Of being the property of society, not a collaborating agent. It has turned the gaze into a growl, and it’s menacing.

That growl won’t go away on November 9, 2016, even if we wake up to a world where a woman is the President-elect of the United States.

That is what is stressing me out. What do we do, starting November 9th, no matter what happens on November 8th?

American Voters: Conscientious Objection


Yes, sanctimonious white leftie progressive, all the world of social media has been breathlessly anticipating your announcement that after months of hand wringing and soul searching, you are going to hold your nose and vote for the conniving scheming swamp monster that is Shillary Clinton because her opponent is too much of a meanie. Your self-centered selfless sacrifice should be commended, and your willingness to compromise your beliefs for the rest of us is admirable.

The public agonies you have been enduring on social media have not been overlooked.

We watched in anticipation as you pored over the Democratic Platform, looking to see yourself mirrored back to you. We made popcorn and marveled at how you were the one person who hasn’t been influenced by decades of negative sexist commentary about Hillary Clinton, and therefore could see her clearly. We startled in surprise when you began all your posts with “Wake up sheeple!” astonished at all we didn’t know before you shared that meme.

We watched you become politically activated, perhaps for the first time, by Bernie Sanders, and then we saw you turn on anyone or anything that endorsed his opponent no matter their progressive credentials. We watched you bray that the primaries were rigged any time your candidate lost.

“I vote my conscience,” you continued to say.

That’s excellent. So do I.

Here’s my conscience: “I’m worried that if Trump is president, he’ll make all the brown people leave.” -3rd, 4th, and 5th grade children to my son’s elementary school social worker, starting last spring. That’s my conscience, and it repeats one thing in my head, over and over again: common good common good common good common good common good common good…

The conscience you speak of? That’s really your ego, and you are confusing the two. If your conscience is only small enough to include you and your special snowflake feelings, I am sad for you.

You think the DNC and the two-party system is corrupt. You are entitled to that opinion. So get involved. Either get involved in the many parties we have or start your own. Maybe then you will learn about collaboration, process, strategy, and what it takes to run an organization. You just better hope no one hacks your email.

You don’t like the way things are. You are entitled to that opinion. But if you didn’t vote in all those pesky little elections that happen every single year; if you didn’t research your ballot and vote school board, city council, state reps, and all the other races on the ticket, you are part of the problem. You can’t only vote in sexy elections and expect change.

Your vote, while private, is a public matter affecting the country as a whole, not just your tiny world. Voting is not about making yourself feel good, it’s about what’s best for everyone. When you wring your hands about voting for a dedicated, tried-and-true, public servant over a narcissistic, sexist, racist, megalomaniacal bully, or say you are going to cast a “protest vote,” I hear: “My vote is an individual event, and my privilege bubble will protect me from societal consequences.”

I hear: “I liked Bernie, but I’m voting for his political opposite because the other one’s a chick.”

I hear: “My  ideological purity is more important than other people’s actual lives.”

Some sources:
Ethicists say voting with your heart without a care about the consequences is actually immoral

There’s no such thing as a protest vote

The folly of the protest vote

Book Review Monday: Eloise Wilkin’s Mother Goose

Mother Goose 1Eloise Wilkin’s Mother Goose
Golden Press, NY 1961

Do you have images from your childhood that haunt your dreams? Like that scene in the 1979 Frank Langella Dracula movie where Mina VanHelsing is all undead and vampirey and red-eyed in the crypt, and she’s raising her arms to Dr. VanHelsing saying “Papa… Papa…” in this super creepy voice and Lawrence Olivier is cowering and crying knowing that he has to stake her though the heart?

No? Just me?

The drawings in Eloise Wilkin’s Mother Goose are charming, in a toddling, shark-eyed, demon Hummel figure kind of way. Which is fine; Mother Goose is inherently weird, and the fact that these are abbreviated, one-verse only versions of the rhymes, somehow makes them weirder, like amputations presented as whole bodies. Which leads me to the “Little Boys” rhyme and its accompanying illustration.

I am thinking that terrifying images from nursery rhymes are supposed to be reserved for the Brothers Grimm and some of Hans Christian Anderson, but this freaked me out as a child, so much so that 40 years later, I can still see it quite clearly in my head:

Mother Goose 1 1

Can you see it? Do you see what I mean? How is that OK?

It’s as if this rhyme and its companion “Little Girls” rhyme aren’t abomination enough, so we have to add disembodied puppy tails to the visual. Is the rest of the baby dog lying in a dark basement, whimpering in a pool of blood? Too much? Let’s zoom in:

Mother Goose detail

It’s the little spinal dot in the middle that really gets me.

There they are, all the ingredients you need to make your sweet little boy: legless reptile, legless gastropod, and doggy ass-flap. I suppose you combine this fetid mess in an iron cauldron by a dark river at midnight and chant black speech until your little apple cheeked demon climbs out and eats your soul. But I may be combining narratives here.

Mother Goose 1 2

Little girls are made of water solubles and clothing that makes it harder for them to get away when you are chasing them.

According to Wikipedia, the premiere source for Internet historians, Mother Goose stories go back to the 18th century, and they chronicle such delicious topics as domestic violence, thievery, child abuse, cannibalism (he “put” her in a pumpkin shell), promiscuity without birth control (old woman, shoe, see below), slacking (Little Boy Blue, Little Bo Peep), and rape culture. You know, for kids!

In the world of Mother Goose, an old woman, who is probably 40, has “so many children, she didn’t know what to do,” but apparently knows a giant cobbler, or a giant, perhaps one of the fathers, and she has chosen a large shoe as her domicile. Where did she get all these children? Kidnapping? Being the town comfort? Is she running an orphanage? Is she addicted to the foster system?

“There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do;
She gave them some broth without any bread;
Then whipped* them all soundly and put them to bed.”


I despise my life and my choices. But always remember, I hate you for making me do this to you.

Polly Flinders is a stark little rhyme, reminding women that their appearance is more important than their physical comfort, and that if they exert agency, they will be punished with violence.

“Little Polly Flinders
Sat among the cinders,
Warming her pretty toes!
Her mother came and caught her,
And whipped* her little daughter,
For spoiling her nice new clothes.”


(*The version in this book changes “whipped” to “spanked” because spanking is cuter.)

Eventually, someone with either poor reading comprehension or sociopathic tendencies came up with the brilliant idea to name a children’s dress company after this dreadful sextet, and their popular mid-20th century apparel was distinguished by its colorful smocking and smudges of soot and shame.

And then there’s Georgie Porgie. Oh, Georgie, or “Donald Trump,” as he is now identified. I don’t know if there’s a whole lot more to say about this rhyme that hasn’t been said by the media covering the American presidential election of 2016.

Mother Goose 1 4

That’s not just an unwanted bodily assault. He’s stealing her life force.

To be fair to Mother Goose, it’s not all larceny, violence, and sexual assault, just like I am sure there is more to Donald Trump than larceny, violence, and sexual assault. There are “rings on her fingers, and bells on her toes, and she shall have music wherever she goes.” That doesn’t sound so bad. Unless it’s really an elegy about a little girl dying of consumption and how they dressed up her body for the viewing. There is also this little rhyme about “pease porridge,” which is a savory mix of peas, milk, black pepper, and salt, and I want some right now, not nine days after it was made, sitting out on the cupboard, which may account for the lack of life in this small boy’s eyes.

Mother Goose 1 3

Working on this review, I learned that there is a “Christian Mother Goose,” which is probably not filled with slavery, rape, child sacrifice, and capital punishment like the Bible. I’m tempted to get it, but I am sure it’s all treacly nonsense about how Jesus loves the little children and keeps them all warm and cozy and filled with cookies and kisses. And where’s the fun in that?

American Voters: Duty Call

Election Day goes by pretty quickly when you are an election judge. At least, it does for me. I bring my knitting and a book. I make dish cloths or wash cloths or iPad covers. I meet my neighbors. I see whether or not people I know are voting, and I judge them. It’s fun!

On a primary day in a special election, we are lucky if we get a 10% turn out. This is frustrating to no end, even though I come out of it with some lovely hand-knits. I always think about people in many other countries who can’t vote or have to risk their lives to do so or whose vote does not count because entire elections are fixed.

This election season, I saw a photo of someone at the Nevada caucuses holding a sign that read “Finally! A Reason to Vote!” and it set of rage waves in my brain. I’m so sick of the whole “Why should I vote? Politicians don’t care about me” whining.

Of course politicians don’t care about you. YOU DON’T VOTE. You didn’t vote in 2010, and Hello, Tea Party! You didn’t vote in 2014, and Hello, republican Senate! And now Donald Trump is the republican candidate for President of the United States. That’s on all of us.

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Parenting my white kid, Part I

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 3.54.09 PMOn the way home from our St. Paul Midway neighborhood YMCA this afternoon, my 8-year-old son and I saw a child in a car holding a sign that said “Stop Police Brutality.” I said “I wish I didn’t have to like your sign, but I do.” A woman exited the car, and said she had just come from the Governor’s Mansion, where many people are gathered to protest the murder of Philando Castile at the hands of a St. Anthony police officer at a “routine traffic stop.” I’m sure by now you know the story. It’s horrific.

As we crossed the street toward our home, my son asked, “What was that about?”

“Remember this morning when you asked what I was watching, and I said it was a woman speaking, whose boyfriend was shot and killed by the police not far from our house?”

And then I started crying and couldn’t speak. Finn was watching me in silence as we walked.

I gathered myself somewhat and haltingly explained that people are down at the Governor’s Mansion protesting because this man was killed. That he had been doing nothing wrong, and that this is an ongoing and complex problem in the United States. That many of the people killed in this way by police are black men. I told him that it makes me sad and angry, and reminded him of talks we have had about his school friends, and how different their lives may be from ours, simply because they are black. (His school is 88% students of color, and he is in the minority as a white child.)

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Parenting: Kindergarten Lock-down

September, 2013

On the way home from school yesterday, my five-year-old told me that the next day would include a “Lock Down Drill.”

“They are going to wock the doors and we have to hide and then Mr. A— is going to come and pretend he is a bad person and try to open all the doors. Wike someone who wants to steal our toys and games.”

I include his substitution of “W’s” for initial “L’s” because I want you to hear his sweet little voice. His sweet little voice saying, “We have to practice hiding while our principal pretends to be a crazed maniac with semi-automatic weapons, hell-bent on slaughtering children in their neighborhood elementary school.”

Yesterday as we worked on FJ’s homework with him at the dinner table, we remarked that we don’t remember having homework in Kindergarten. Pete said, “And I don’t think it inhibited our ability to become geniuses.” I’m not sure. Not about the genius part (we neither of us are, and that’s OK), but about the existence of Kindergarten homework in my past. My dim, foggy past. I don’t remember bringing home three-page, two-sided worksheets once a week when I was five, but I don’t remember a lot from when I was five.

I am pretty damn sure, however, that I didn’t have to submit to anything like a “Lock Down Drill.” I remember fire drills, where we all proceeded in lines out the door and into the playground across the street, divided by boys and girls. I vividly remember one girl in my line telling me I was in the wrong line. “I’m a girl,” I said. Yeah, that really sticks with me, but it wasn’t Kindergarten. More like third grade, perhaps. We worried about fire. Fire or tornadoes or other natural disasters. Not heavily-armed, demented vigilantes entering our schools and firing at will.

As Finn told me about the logistics of the drill, I felt a combination of anger and sadness threatening to manifest itself in tears as we walked the few short blocks home, but I didn’t want him to see that. I just told him that he needed to listen to what his teachers said and be sure that he did exactly what they told him to do.

After dinner, I related this to Pete, and FJ repeated his explanation of the drill. When he got to the part about his principal pretending to be someone else, I welled up. I managed to keep it from becoming a full-on weep, but I said to Pete, “I know it’s not necessarily the most rational response, but this makes me want to rail and rampage against the NRA.”

“You should,” Pete said.

“Yeah, mama. You should,” said FJ.

The end of the school year…

Prologue: A school in our community was slated for closure pending a school board vote. Recently in our neighborhood’s online forum, a member asked how we show our love for our neighborhood schools aside from showing up at a special meeting to discuss the closure. This forum is a bustling group of almost five thousand people, who will comment hundreds of times on a post about dog poop, but only twenty on a post about a school shutting down. It made me think about how we prioritize what matters in our lives and how we show love for the things we prize.

How do we show love for our neighborhood public schools?

We show love for our neighborhood public schools by enrolling our children in them.

We show love for our neighborhood schools by showing up at events and engaging the staff and the students.

We show love for our schools by choosing thoughtful and strategic action that benefits all our public school kids.

We show love for our neighborhood schools by having difficult conversations about race and class, and engaging in the tough self-examination that can help move us toward a more equitable culture.

We show love for our neighhorhood schools by building them into community hubs that are a resource for all.

We show love for our neighborhood schools by giving complexity the respect it deserves, understanding that we all want what is best for our kids, and many people work tirelessly for years to keep these vast organizations running.

We show love by taking responsibility, by not separating ourselves from the problems, by not placing blame, by offering practical and creative solutions.

We show love by caring all the time, not just when it’s exciting or popular but when it’s hard and ugly and boring, by working constructively when it’s uncomfortable and supporting families who need help.

We show love for our neighborhood public schools through intention; by listening to the harsh information with an open heart and mind; by recognizing allies and cultivating them.

We show love for our neighborhood public schools by voting for city council members, mayors, school boards, governors, and legislators who support public education and who will work to end the defunding of our schools.

But above all, we show love for our neighborhood public schools by enrolling our kids in them.