Sunday, November 13, 2016


The 2016 American election has proven we need to have a conversation. We need to hear each others' concerns and try to bridge the massive divide that has been created here. Join the conversation. Introduce yourself at

I am Jane, a 56 year old woman. I was born in the mid-west and grew up in New England. I live on the East Coast.

I am ever single, with no children of my own, but cherish my roles as “other mother” for a young adult living in Brooklyn, third parent for a teenage boy, and "aunt" for a six year old girl.
I was born of privilege – white, Catholic, educated parents, who had sufficient finances for full time nanny/maid services to support raising seven offspring while they both enjoyed professional careers – lawyer and nurse.
It didn't last.
I grew up in chaos. My father died when I was three, my mother remarried, offering an eighth sibling.  We moved to a community property state, which yielded a full loss of wealth with the divorce from my abusive step-father. 
I was raised by a working single mother in financial circumstances vastly different than those I was born. We lived in small towns that were largely conservative and struggling economically. We had the basics covered, yet not much to spare for major expenditures, vacations, etc.
I have worked since I was 15, providing for myself, including my college education. 
I did not own a car until I was 30. 
I lived through the loss of all personal belongings in a fire when I was 33 and rebuilt my life. I was supremely fortunate to have a friend who took me in. During that time, I was without a job (laid off days before the fire) and a place to live, understanding that I was inches away from being homeless. 
At 33, I had employer paid health insurance for the first time in my life. I also began contributing to a retirement account. I made less than $30k a year until I was 38. Since that time, I have contributed 15% of my earnings to some mode of 401k/IRA. 
I paid off my student loans and credit card debts without declaring bankruptcy.  
The year I turned 40, I understood that I had emerged from survival mode to a basic level of financial security – meaning I did not live pay check to pay check in fear for the loss of my job, I was able to pay my bills and I had a savings account. I made a conscious decision to remain free of consumer debt  and maintain a standard of living on par with the median income which has informed nearly all financial decisions since. 
I bought my first home in my 40’s. It was not one of those crazy mortgage deals.
Due to hard work and opportunity, I have done well professionally, working as an independent contractor for a number of years (paying out of pocket for health insurance) and now working for a Fortune 500 company. 
I somehow avoided layoff during a series of work force reductions, but lived for several years in peril of losing my job. I have felt more secure in recent years since gaining enough personal savings to cover 6+ months without work. 
Politically, I am an odd mix which crisscrosses party lines. I have considered myself a democratic socialist since college in Burlington VT, influenced by my education in political science and the elected mayor, Bernie Sanders. 
I am fiscally conservative, largely stemming from personal necessity/practice, where I firmly believe it is best to spend wisely and not live beyond one’s means, making me far more akin to traditional conservatives than liberals. 
And, I am socially progressive, with a few blind spots where I could learn and understand more. 
I am a staunch advocate for the separation of church and state, believing religious values must be held sacred apart from government. 
I am starting to feel the same about separation of (big) business and government.
My social construct is influenced greatly by John Rawles’ Theory of Justice. I believe all citizens of a civilized society should be provided a social safety net, ensuring basic necessities such as food, shelter, clothing and health care, as well as education and opportunity for meaningful employment. I don’t think we should be discussing whether or not to do this, I think we should be well past that and figuring out how it is done. 
I believe that all citizens should contribute to this system and those at the top should enjoy no more wealth/income than is sustainable while fully ensuring the social safety net for those at the bottom. This system is to cover all citizens irrespective of ability, ethnicity, religion or creed. 
I believe it is perfectly reasonable to expect public service in exchange for public assistance. I believe some mode of public service should be a requirement for all citizens, whether part of the military, government, social welfare program, etc. at some point in their lives. 
I believe everyone should be allowed to retire from paid work WITH a pension and healthcare after a reasonable number of years. That is the framework.
In some ways, I am representative of middle America, despite living a very different existence. I have worked hard all my life. I have lived through hardship, paid my bills, lived within my means and saved for retirement. I have paid my taxes and not relied on government “handouts”, aside from 3 months of unemployment, in nearly 40 years of working. 
I paid into a system for Social Security all of my working life, it has been pushed out 7 years and it remains in jeopardy, depending on the source, of bankruptcy, defunding, privatization. 
I paid into my own retirement account, that I am not allow to touch without penalty until my 70s, also pushed out,  where I have watched my hard earned money/savings disappear, while we give bailouts to Wall Street where folks make more in a year than I will see in my life time. 
I have done everything right – arguably better than most. AND, I am at the mercy of a system where I pay, behave like a good citizen, but have no say and no sense of guarantee or security. I will not be able to retire until my early 70’s if I want to avoid living in poverty. That is 50 years of work!
I don’t have a problem with public assistance for those in need, although I suspect our current welfare system would benefit from a financial and policy overhaul. 
My pet issue is retirement and pensions. Public sector employees get to retire after around 30 years, some sooner, fully pensioned with health benefits. I don’t begrudge them this benefit, I resent that I do not get to enjoy the same. 
This is a great inequity, but with most public sector folks this is an entitlement they have earned, while they fail to acknowledge that others in different circumstances might deserve the same. 
I find this particularly vexing with regards to our US elected officials, many whose wealth and income far exceeds mine – in part due to corporate connections after working as an elected official. There is no wealth/income eligibility check on this. Ex. Why should billionaires Bill and Hillary Clinton receive government checks from tax payer dollars? AND many of PS workers who retire return as contractors, receiving both a pension and a paycheck. This is one example of where we need a more balance/checks on government spending and citizen safety nets. 
I view our political system as corrupt – run by corporations, elected officials who are beholden to them, and career politicians who are more concerned about re-election than they are about policy. 
I believe the American people have been forgotten. Politics has obscured issues and outcomes. 
I want term limits. I want government to return to service of the people. 
I want single issue bills where citizens understand what is being voted on and can hold their elected officials accountable. 
I want publicly funded elections that are about the issues and not advancing a particular political party platforms or corporate agendas. 
I want a brand new political party that erases traditional party lines, seeks to return government to the people, actually addresses the issues Americans are most concerned about, AND that seeks to engage the 46% who did not bother to vote.
And, I want some level of sanity with regards to who and what we legislate. How do we even let legislating public bathrooms become a viable issue, when a crumbling infrastructure is not? 
How many times do we let a body of government vote to repeal AHCA before we say “Uncle”?
 And, at what point can we just say that abortion is decided? 
Funding for ridiculous ventures should not be allowed unless statistically relevant – drug testing for public assistance?! And perhaps folks should first apply for eligibility to run for office with a test that demonstrates knowledge of how government actually functions, of world religions, political systems and geography, and scientific concepts/methods – ex. 
The weather today does not equate to climate and evolution is not a belief, there is empirical data that supports this and it is not a Chinese conspiracy. 
We expect folks to pass a test to become citizens, why would we not want a test for elected officials? Who knew this would ever be such a problem?!
I fear this sounds like a rant. So, I will end with this thought…
I want the notion of government to be rooted in service to our country and its citizens, not an opportunity for wealth, power, or a lucrative career. 
I want folks to get paid, but not profit from service to our country. Can we shift to this paradigm?

I accept the election results, but I strongly protest Trump as being morally unfit to run this country. He has deeply offended me as a woman, possibly sending the country back decades, he has made a mockery out of our democratic process, and he has thwarted the core values we hold as Americans. 
I believe we need to get busy on right action to respond to a Trump presidency and start work on a long range solution to ensure this never happens again.

Saturday, November 12, 2016


This is an attempt to begin a conversation - to discuss who we are, what we want, in this America that is so deeply and frighteningly divided.
Write to and share your story, too.

My name is Sheila.  I’m 48, barreling perilously ever-closer to the half-century mark.  Like Susan, I am an “east coast liberal elite”.  To add insult to that title, I even attended an Ivy League school.  

But I come from “the other side”, too.  I was the first child on my mother’s side to attend four-year college.  Great-grandparents on both sides were immigrants: my father’s maternal grandparents were from Finland; my mother’s maternal grandparents were from Wales.  My mom comes from hard-working people, people who believe that there is no greater responsibility than providing for their families, people who will work two or three jobs if that’s what it takes, people who are too proud to take handouts.  

My parents split up when I was about eight.  My mom had to enter the workforce full-time for the first time since becoming  a homemaker, with just a high-school degree.  She waited tables, worked at a shoe store, and went to community college to get her associate’s degree in criminal justice.  She landed in the Internal Revenue Service and worked her way up to become one of the first female federal agents in the history of the IRS – a gun, handcuffs, the whole works.  

With divorce often comes a degree of economic insecurity, and it was no different with us.  I remember government cheese once or twice, one Christmas party for needier children, but, as I noted before, my mom comes from proud stock and wasn’t interested in handouts.  She also worried about how we would be perceived if we were seen as “poor”.  Though we more than qualified, she never let us apply for the free lunch program at school because she worried my brother and I would be ridiculed.  Our clothes were bought at the Salvation Army Thrift store, and I remember her buying old Izod shirts just so she could take off the alligator and sew them onto my K-Mart polo shirts, just so I would feel like I fit in.  I remember the worry about making the mortgage payment, getting the car fixed, etc.   

So I can understand the economic insecurity facing much of our nation.  The worry about putting food on the table, the worry about whether the bank is coming for the house, how Christmas is coming and your kid believes in Santa, and you have no idea how you’re going to get even a couple of presents under the tree.  I started working on the weekends when I was 14.  There were times when my weekend job and babysitting money made a difference in the household finances, but I know my mother hated to take my money.  

I was laid off three weeks ago, after almost 17 years working in the healthcare division of a tech company.  I consider myself lucky in that I received a generous severance package, and I am eligible for unemployment.  Unlike when I was a child, I don’t worry about my children going hungry, we will not be in danger of losing the house.  I am lucky, privileged, really, but my fellow Americans should be able to say the same.  No one should have to work two or three jobs just to pay the daycare bill and rent.  I believe minimum wage should be a livable wage.  A lost job should not lead into an immediate economic death spiral and no parent should have to make the decision between staying home with a sick child – or sick themselves – and losing a day’s wages, or, worse, losing their job.  We deserve better.  

I was diagnosed with cancer almost five years ago now; I am, again, lucky and privileged.  Privileged that I have excellent and affordable health insurance through my husband’s company and lucky that this cancer was caught at a very early stage.  Surgery is believed to be curative and I am closely followed on a yearly basis.  But if my husband loses his job and Obamacare is repealed, I will become 100% uninsurable in an open marketplace due to this preexisting condition, or if I can get insurance, it will be prohibitively costly and with a great many limitations on the coverage.  If my cancer were to recur or be found to have metastasized, I’d be screwed.   We all deserve high-quality, affordable – I even say free -- healthcare.  No one should lose their home or jeopardize their family’s economic situation because of medical bills.  

I believe in science.  Data is not a matter of opinion.  Yes, we can all come up with examples of where scientists or doctors believed one thing once upon a time and now they denounce that for a new hypothesis, but all of happens because the data, or new data, showed something different.  With the new information came a new hypothesis.  Climate change is not a matter of opinion, it’s science.  I believe we can improve economic prosperity without killing our planet.  

By now, it’s likely no surprise who I voted for; I voted for Hillary, in both the primary and in Tuesday’s election.  But some things might surprise you.  

It might surprise you to know that I have unfriended or blocked no one during this election season.  I sincerely do want to hear everyone’s viewpoint, even if it differs from mine.  I even follow Trump and Palin on Facebook.  

It might surprise you that, despite being a pretty hardcore far-left, bleeding-heart, hippie liberal, I have, in fact, voted Republican before.  I will support whichever candidate I believe will be best at the job.  

It might surprise you that I don’t want to take away your guns.  I, myself, loathe them.  But I grew up with them – my mom and dad both hunted, my mom, as I noted, was a federal agent.  I will never own a gun, but I don’t want to scrap the second amendment.  I do believe that the second amendment is inadequate when taking into account the assault weapons that are out there now, and I do believe we need stricter controls and background checks.  Yes, people hellbent on violence are difficult to stop.  A man killed 19 people and injured 25 in a mass stabbing this past July in Japan.  But if he’d had a gun, the number would have been much higher, and chances are good that he would have had a gun were he in the States.  

It may surprise you that, on Tuesday morning, I implored everyone to vote, and meant it.  While I dreaded a Trump presidency, I would risk my life to ensure that someone could cast their vote for the man, because that’s what I believe our democracy is founded on.  You may also be surprised that I’m not signing the petition to ask the electoral college to throw out Trump in lieu of Clinton; I believe that the people have spoken, and just because I disagree does not mean I want some kind of re-do.  Nor does it mean that I will not accept his presidency.  I will not like him, but I will respect the office.  Indeed, ironically, my husband and I are in a tax bracket that will likely benefit handsomely under his tax plan.  Please note that we didn’t want this.  We believe that we should be paying more, that tax breaks should go to those who truly need them.  

I am an agnostic-bordering-on-heathen, so it may surprise you that I don’t wish to attack your religion or your way of life.  I am pro-choice, because I heard the horror stories of abortions performed before they were legal.  I don’t think I personally could ever decide to have an abortion, but I’m not going to make that choice for anyone else.  I know women who have had abortions; it was never an easy decision and it was never made lightly.  But I fully respect your Christian beliefs and your right to hold them.  I believe everyone deserves the freedom to worship as they desire, in perfect safety, and I will fight for that right.  It may also surprise you to know that I’ve read the Bible cover to cover, many times.  I’ve also read the Talmud, the Koran, the Buddhist Sutras, the Hindu Vedas.  There are universal truths to all of the religions, and far more commonalities than one might believe.  

Now here’s where I need to be heard.  I have twin 9-year-old daughters.  Adopted daughters.  Ethiopian daughters.  Black daughters.  Black, immigrant daughters.  We live in a blue state, but there are pockets of racism everywhere.  I fully expect my daughters to be called the N-word for the first time during this presidency.  I fully expect them to be told they need to go back to Africa, even though they are legal United States citizens via the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

And it’s not just my kids.  One of my sisters-in-law is black.  One is an immigrant.  My nieces are biracial.  I have gay and lesbian friends.  I know women who have been brutally raped and assaulted.  I have Jewish friends whose kids have been told that they are responsible for killing Jesus.  I have Muslim friends, immigrant friends.  They are all afraid of what a Trump presidency will bring, and I believe that our fear is not misplaced, not hysterical, liberal, crybaby whining.  My grandmother was a recreational therapist for a Jewish nursing home when I was small.  I remember the tattoos on those wrists and the horrors that created them, and I believe that it could all too easily happen again.

I do not believe that every Trump supporter is necessarily racist.  But the Trump presidency will unleash ugliness – is already doing so – and I need to know that people will shine light onto that ugliness should they see or hear of it, every single time.  It is not enough to say “well, I’m not racist, there are just some bad apples everywhere”.  These actions need to be condemned and denounced, as the North Carolina GOP did with the KKK Trump Victory parade that is planned.  Hate needs to be called out every single time.  Everyone needs to be held accountable for human decency.  

I do believe that, as humans, we are more alike than different, and I hold onto that belief.  I believe that we have a great country and are capable of great things, but we are also flawed and capable of horrible things, and it is those things I am fearing right now.  Like everyone who voted for Trump, I want a good job, I want a home, I want medical care if I need it, I want to raise my children, I want to live to see them grown, I want them to have a better life than I had, I want them to be safe, healthy, and educated.   I want them to be free to love who they love.  I want them to have a healthy planet to call home.  

Like our founders wanted, I want “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" for myself, my family, my friends, and every American, and I’m fairly sure that’s what you want, too.  

Friday, November 11, 2016

We are all Americans.

This is me. First thing in the morning. No makeup, no coffee, even. I want to put my tired, aging face right out there with no attempt to make it pretty or make you think I'm something other than who and what I am.


I want you to do the same. I want us to introduce ourselves to each other. Because it appears we don't know each other at all.

You'll consider me a a progressive liberal, or you'll think I'm an East Coast elitist. You'll be partially right, either way, and partially wrong. Black and white doesn't tell the whole story. Never does.

My name is Susan. I'm 59. I live on the East Coast. I grew up here, I went to college here, I worked here, had my two children here, and will probably die here. Not because it's better than anywhere else. It's just where my life happened.

I love the Midwest. It's where my mother grew up and where I went to visit every summer. I loved the flat farmland, the way they talked, the fact that everything they ate tested better than what we had at home. I think that huge expanses of farmland are beautiful in the same way the ocean is beautiful. It cuts us down to size, puts us in perspective.

My dad was an East Coast native and my mom's family wasn't keen on him. Likewise, my dad's family toward my mom.

So I understand that "them and us" thing that rose up and gave us Donald Trump as our next president. I get it.

As an only child, I never felt like I fit anywhere. Maybe that makes me the right person to start this attempt at a conversation. Bear with me. I'll explain.

First,  let me tell you who I am. I used to be a television news anchor and that was a pretty big deal in a pretty small city, but that was a long time ago. I've done radio news. I even worked for an NPR station (and if you don't like liberals that's probably really going to tick you off).

I've also taught high school English, I've worked in a retail store, I've been a secretary - and a very poor one, I must admit. I did a temp accounting job for a big corporation. I've been unemployed. I even got fired once.

These days, I sell real estate. I write. I've got novels the world has never seen. Maybe they never will. I did get my short stories published once. You'll probably never find the book. It's okay. I have written for newspapers and magazines. I love to write.

I was raised Catholic. I left it behind when my mother died. It was a crisis of faith and I lost.

I have two grown children who are the most amazing people on the planet. Really. I believe they are.

I'm divorced. It was a hard, sad time a long time ago and we both share the blame.

I met a nice man and I refuse to get married again. So you might tell me I am living in sin.

I pay more than $500 a month for my insurance with Obamacare, but before that, I had none at all. Real estate doesn't offer benefits.

My son and his girlfriend are getting married soon. I'm hoping it's my year for going to happy weddings - another of my favorite couples plans to get married, too - but it wasn't legal for them to marry until not too long ago.

I believe every human being has the same rights. I don't care what color they are, what gender, who they love, where they live, what or who they worship: humans are humans and as such, they deserve equal respect, equal rights, equal pay for equal work, and equal opportunities.

I supported Bernie Sanders. I wasn't rabid about it, but I believed, and still do, that he was the liberal answer to the "outsider" we were yearning for. I agreed with his platform. I reluctantly voted for Hillary Clinton because I could not vote for Donald Trump. But I wish I had had another choice. She was an insider in a system I believe has failed. And now it's collapsed.

Why not Trump? Here's what I ask you to understand, if you can: I believe what he said on the campaign trail. I believed it when he expressed racist, sexist, homophobic, discriminatory views. I believed it when he encouraged violence.

I do not think he is stupid. Far from it. I think he crafted the perfect expression of what a massive block of angry voters wished they could say, but couldn't.

The fact that he said it, out loud, on the campaign trail for the country's most important job, told me he is irresponsible. He erased that line that, until now, we didn't dare cross. And that has made a few truly angry, truly hate-filled people brave enough to begin expressing their rage at other people.

I'm hearing about gays being beaten, school kids making their black classmates move to the back of the bus, women grabbed. Is it just hysteria? I do not know. But no one ever wants to hear this might be happening. Not here. Not in America.

We are beyond that. Aren't we?

I believe he will support big business and the middle class will continue to suffer. I don't think he'll help the poor. I think he's a bad businessman and I see no evidence he won't be a very, very bad president.

He doesn't care about anything I care about.

Gun violence is an epidemic in this country. I want strict controls on who can have a gun and what kind of gun it can be. My dad was a hunter. He was responsible. But no one needs an assault weapon.

Factory farming scares me on a lot of levels. The food isn't healthy, many farmers have been put out of business. I try to be a vegetarian. My vegan friends will be horrified to learn that sometimes I fail. But mostly I succeed. It's better for the environment, it's better for my health, but more importantly it means a few less animals are tortured and killed just so I can eat.

I worry about the environment. I know the weather has changed and it makes no sense to me that we have no impact on the climate. With all the roads, the cars, the just has to be connected. And science is clear that it does.

I believe science when it's conclusive. But I know sometimes scientists make mistakes, too.

I don't think I'm a snob. But I know education is really important, and I think everyone should have access to it. I don't think kids and their parents should go into massive debt to pay for it.

If a student wants to learn a trade instead, I think it's important that those jobs and those opportunities exist. And in many trades, there's the opportunity to open your own business. There should be government programs to help them make that happen, in lieu of support for their college education.

I support what we now call single payer health care. I think good health care should be the right of every citizen.

Maybe that's socialism. So be it, then. That label isn't frightening to me.

My America isn't Trump's America. Trump's America scares me. He's let loose something that may destroy us.

What is frightening is a country that is full of hate. I don't want to be afraid for my children's future. I don't want you to be afraid for your children's future.

We haven't been talking to each other. We don't know each other.

Let's talk. Introduce yourself. Let's make a start. And let's build a political system that listens to us, and responds to our concerns. Because it's a sure bet that we haven't had that. And I think we can agree on that.

Yes, there will likely be some nasty troll comments if this thing catches on. Ignore the noise. Let's try to build up some kind of trust again by getting to know each other.

Write to me at and tell me your story. I'll post it here and link to it on FB and Instagram and Twitter. And don't forget we're all Americans.