The Day After

Oh, America. Do I even know you anymore? Those first 50 years of my life…were you just courting me, on your best behavior all that time? But now, you’re letting your true colors shine?

evan-brockett-624367-unsplashI’m disappointed in the election results, I’ll be honest. I wanted to believe that most Americans were thoroughly disgusted with the direction Trump has taken this country and a true blue wave would overtake Congress but of course, results on this day after show how Republicans still control the Senate. I guess I didn’t follow it closely enough to know how many Senate seats were up for grabs this year and likely to actually flip. I knew it wasn’t many, but still. Texans are actually sending smarmy Ted Cruz back to the Senate? Seriously?

It is nevertheless encouraging to learn that 100 women will sit in the House of Representatives, including a respectable increase in minority women of race, ethnicity, and creed. It’s about time. Maybe one day I’ll actually see women in the majority in the House, but I’ll take this historic win for now.

Trump has wasted no time, has he? Holding a ridiculous, disrespectful, sneering, self-congratulating press conference, facing a press corps that doesn’t call bullshit on his boldface lies, more lies perpetrated by the White House regarding CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s line of questioning today, accusing him of assaulting an aide when video clearly shows the aide attempting to yank the microphone from Jim’s hands. He never laid a hand on her. Jeff Sessions getting fired or offering his resignation. Ha, I had even added an entry in our family calendar weeks and weeks ago, to remind me that Trump would do that today (2nd line down in the picture provided). Not to forget the immediate img_0384-2appointment of an individual who is a threat to the Mueller investigation.

The current president, his posturing, and his lies are so predictable. And so, I suppose, was the outcome of this election. I had truly hoped America would crawl out from under its rock and emerge as the leader of the free world once again. I wanted to show the world that we do have a better nature and have returned to it. I wanted to restore the world’s faith in us and our ability to lead the way. Instead we collectively emboldened the evil in the White House.

My God, they should burn the place down after he’s out of there. He has desecrated it that much.

I have friends who are hopeful. I try so hard to be hopeful, to be positive, but I just don’t know anymore. I feel like America showed me her true nature. Floridians, Georgians, Texans, and Ohioans told me they prefer hate, fear, and greed in their governors. I don’t know that I want to live here anymore but I don’t know where to go.

In closing, I’ll share this poem offered up by my friend Teresa. I found the words to be powerful. I needed them. Maybe you do too.

Oh, my dear ones.
I know you were hoping
For a once-and-done.
For an earthquake,
A tidal wave.
Hoping that if we gave it our all,
A single push would be enough.
That after this, we could
Sink
Back into complacency,
Back into the comfort of our privilege.
I confess, in the secret corners of my heart,
I wanted to believe it could be that easy
That justice would emerge as from an egg
Fully grown
Not with wet down and weak wings…

But beloveds,
We are chipping away at a mountain,
Not a boulder.
Calcified structures
Created to oppress,
Control,
Kill.
2000 years of this stupid idea
That some are worthy,
Some deserve power by virtue of who they are.

Erosion is slow work, sweethearts.
Celebrate the progress
The triumphs.
Celebrate also the heartbreaking almosts.
Breathe.
Rest for a time.
Then get up and turn again toward kindness,
Toward your neighbor in need,
Toward those who are still trapped in the stone.
Tell them, “I won’t give up.”
Tell them, “I am with you.”
Tell them, “For you, I will learn to eat rocks.”
“For you, I will keep chewing, keep grinding,
Until the mountain crumbles to dust.”

-Elizabeth Stevens

Photo by Evan Brockett on Unsplash

Not Squirrel Hill

Stronger Than HateA friend posted on Facebook yesterday afternoon about an active shooter in Pittsburgh. I quickly learned that a gunman had opened fire on the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

No. Please, no. Not Squirrel Hill.

Squirrel Hill is where I bought my first house as a single woman in my late 20s.

Yes, it is a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Pittsburgh. You would often see whole families walking together to worship on Saturday. I thought that was incredibly cool. A pedestrian, family-friendly neighborhood. A tree-lined, quiet, peaceful neighborhood of well-kept houses, with people pushing baby strollers, holding hands with each other, or walking their dog. You always saw people milling about.

But what really drew me to Squirrel Hill was how vibrant the community was…its little downtown area bustling with cafes, ice creameries, theatres, bookshops, boutiques, coffee shops, and the like. It was and still is incredibly eclectic. People of all faith and ethnicity live there in peace. My husband, who grew up in Utah, would sometimes shop at the Giant Eagle grocery store in his Birkenstocks and Hawaiian “lava lava” as mother called it, essentially a long skirt. No one batted an eye. This was nearly 20 years ago.  This was the same Giant Eagle where a long-haired hippie-looking violinist would play classical music on the sidewalk as you shopped. We hired her to serenade us and our guests as we stepped outside of the church after our wedding.

Squirrel Hill

Yep, you could walk the streets of Squirrel Hill any time day or night and feel perfectly safe. It was the first time in my life I felt I had come “home”. Man, I loved that community.

My love for that neighborhood and for Pittsburgh as a whole go hand-in-hand. For years I dreamed of moving back to that city and it was because of this funky, cozy little bustling community of friendly people, a hop, skip, and jump from downtown. Ok, that and my lifelong love of the Steelers.

Fred Rogers (aka “Mr. Rogers”) literally lived in Schenley Park, the neighborhood next to Squirrel Hill. His kindness and gentleness wasn’t a fluke. It seemed to me like everyone was that kind. Everyone was your neighbor.

To hear that 11 people were gunned down in Squirrel Hill yesterday, innocent lives who gathered for worship, is beyond heartbreaking. I don’t want this incident to define Squirrel Hill. I don’t want hate to define America. I’m sick of this happening.

I even had a Jewish friend of mine mark herself as “safe” on Facebook. I can’t believe this incident touches people I know. Frankly it doesn’t matter if it does or if it doesn’t: violence of this kind is abhorrent.

How can people be so incredibly fearful of and hate people they don’t know? How could this deranged human think it was plausible to connect the dots between peaceful Jews in going about their day in Pittsburgh and a “caravan” of Central Americans headed north at the Mexico/Guatemala border seeking asylum from violence themselves as a threat to himself or other Americans?

This gunman: did he feel like a man, a “real American”, gunning down 97-year-old Rose Mallinger  with his AK-15 assault rifle? These citizens ranged in age from their early 50s to 80s with Rose being the oldest. What a pitiful human this guy, needing to feel superior using an assault rifle to kill elderly people gathered to pray.

I’m tired of people saying that gun control won’t help. If it has any chance of stopping future home-grown terrorists by making it harder for them to get a gun they don’t already own, then let’s do it.

I just don’t understand the hate. I am stunned by Americans who take issue with immigrants and those who seek asylum. Americans who criticize or hate somehow think they’re special because they or their ancestors got here first. As I shared with some friends recently, 100+ years ago, the Irish, Poles, Italians, and Slavs were despised, spat upon, and discriminated against but now we wouldn’t bat an eye hanging with someone with that ethnic background today.  Today, Blacks, Jews, Arabs, and Hispanics are hated with slightly more tolerance for Asians. The fact is virtually every single one of us is the descendant of immigrant or is one.

What will it take? Alien invasion for us to realize we are one and the same?

The vast majority of people who come to or live in this country want to live in peace. Why can’t we just live in peace? What will it take to reverse the crazy?

God rest the departed souls who lived in peace as my neighbors once upon a time. God comfort those they leave behind. God help us all.

Me, March 1996, on the front porch of house I just bought by myself