Archive for the ‘I’m Just Sayin’…’ Category

I’m going to pull no punches in this one. If you listen to me, you’ll look better and have more fun when you find your jiggly, dimply ass in the sand, in the surf, at the pool, by the lake. I am something of an expert at buying fat swimsuits. I did it wrong for many years, until I discovered the secret. It pains me to hear of women, particularly of mothers, who refuse to put on a swimsuit and join in summertime fun because of their weight. Some of these women weigh 130 pounds. Some of them weigh closer to 300 pounds. It doesn’t matter. If you have children, you need to play with them, and you need to dress for the occasion. If you have friends, same thing. Even if you have no children and no friends, but are blessed enough to have access to a pool, or a beach, or a mountain stream, get the #$%& over yourself and put on a swimsuit and play in the water. You deserve to do that, if only because you are a child of God, put on God’s earth, where God has given you some nice water to play in.

If you do have children, don’t be so self-absorbed that you deprive them of the memories of Mom playing in the water with them, or building sand castles with them, or whatever they might want to do. I know for a fact that American photo albums are full of children and their daddies (of all shapes and sizes, because men don’t give a rat’s ass) playing at the beach in their swimsuits. These are “intact” families, but the photos look like Mom and Dad shared custody, because Mom won’t be seen at the beach, the pool, etc., because there’s a dimple on her thigh, or because her thighs are the size of Parthenon columns. Again, it doesn’t matter whether you’re 130 or 330; it’s the same twisted thinking that says, “I must be something other than who I am right now, before I deserve…” It’s a lie. Stop spreading it.

I, for one, am way too fat to be seen in a swimsuit at the beach or anywhere else, according to societal standards. And you will see me at the beach. More often than not, in a very pretty swimsuit. The fashion myth that most overweight women have bought into is “I will look slimmer — or at least less conspicuous — in a simple black swimsuit.” No. You won’t. News flash: fat is not inconspicuous at the beach. It’s highly conspicuous. So is ugly. If you care what other people think — and be honest, you do, or we wouldn’t need to have this conversation — you really don’t want to go with both fat (which you can’t remedy right this minute) AND ugly (which you can).

So what do you wear? If you LOVE black, you can wear it. But don’t wear it thinking it will make you fade away. Nope. It could make you look like a fat woman in mourning for someone lost at sea. Although I wear lots of black, for summertime swimwear, I’m a fan of tropical colors, happy colors. Maybe you like florals, maybe you like geometrics, maybe a retro print. If the color lifts your spirits, makes you smile inside, that’s the suit for you.

What style? First, I’ll offer that when my daughter was a toddler, I discovered the one-piece “jogsuit.” This is ugly as hell, and makes even the shapeliest person look bad. BUT, you can have lots of fun in it, because you don’t have to worry about adjusting it — almost never. Which means you’re likely to be relaxed, smiling, engaged in life . . . which makes you look more beautiful! See, that’s what it’s about: engaged in life. That’s what makes you look beautiful; not the size tag sewn into your suit.

So, having given the jogsuit its props, let’s move on. Many larger women are in favor of the swimdress. If you adore your swimdress and feel happy in it, knock yourself out. My personal bias is that the swimdress stands on a proclamation porch and announces to all who can hear (see), “May I have your attention, please? There are thighs here that are not fit to be seen. I give you my word, I will do my best to cover them and keep them out of your way.” But that’s just me.

There are many lovely one-piece variations. Some now have coordinating pareos or board shorts, for when you want to be a little more covered. I’m not anti- pareo or board shorts. Again, the important thing is that you feel comfortable enough to not give your suit another thought, and get on with the business of enjoying the place, the people, the food, the activity.

My personal preference for the past few years has been the “tankini.” As covered as a one-piece, but just wearing a two-piece makes me feel younger and (let’s face it, this is the real appeal) it’s way easier to pee in. (Well, you don’t pee IN it, exactly.) Tankini bottoms can be bikini-like, or fuller coverage, or boy shorts, or even a “skortini.”

In my life, I have seen about a bazillion strange women in swimsuits. I remember exactly ONE of them. She was fat. Quite fat. And she was wearing a two-piece suit. Not a safe tankini, but a midriff-baring suit. I couldn’t stop staring. I’ll admit, first I was staring at her rolls of fat. Frankly, you don’t often see that on a white female at the beach. But what I remember most now is her face. She was walking down the beach. She walked with purpose. She looked people in the eye and smiled. I found myself envying that woman. Somehow she had figured out that she had a right to be there. I admired her tremendously.

Now, did everyone on the beach have the same reaction to her? I’m sure they didn’t. I’m sure there were people who ridiculed, even people who were disgusted. I don’t remember any of them. They didn’t inspire me.

There you have it. Buy the most beautiful suit you can find, put it on and then forget about it. If you’re fat on the couch, you’ll also be fat on the beach. And your boring, “inconspicuous,” or downright heinous suit is not going to disguise that fact. People will notice. Some people will even be mean. As I recently wrote to a friend when this subject came up, “… desperately trying to hide parts in a swimsuit only makes us look like someone desperately trying to hide parts in a swimsuit. I now buy the most beautiful suit I can find. I figure people are going to know I’m fat no matter what, and most of them are going to react negatively to that. So my choices are to have people react with, ‘Damn, that’s a fat woman,’ OR ‘Damn, that’s a fat woman, but that is one gorgeous suit.'”


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It was the first time I’d been to the park in over a year. The four of us — Biscuit the VBD included — were feeling quite cheerful. Until we heard you.

We heard you before we could see you; you were hidden by forest, around the next bend of the paved walkway. We heard your menacing voice shouting, “What did I tell you?! You know better! You will NOT behave this way…” I felt sorry for your poor kid, just trying to have a nice afternoon stroll through the park.

Then I saw that it wasn’t one kid, but two. And it wasn’t kids; it was dogs. Two grown, but young, chocolate labs. You were coming toward us, leashed dogs cowering, your face a scowl. The VBD became very excited to meet your two dogs. I held him firmly to my right side as we passed you, because I feared that he would incite your dogs to “misbehave” in your eyes, and incur your wrath again.

I don’t know what they did next, but you took it quite personally. Just as we were beside you, you yanked their leashes down to the ground, forcing them to their bellies. You pinned the one by the neck, and started screaming in their faces again.

“You KNOW better! What did I say?!”

I wanted to kill you. At least hurt you badly. You don’t abuse dogs. And you don’t fucking ASK a dog, “What did I tell you?” Did you think he was going to answer you?

Are you psychotic? Or just mean? We didn’t confront you, because you were out of control. And I didn’t want to talk to you; I wanted to yank you to the ground by your collar and scream in your face, “You KNOW better! You will NOT behave this way!”

I couldn’t stop thinking about you. I wanted to follow you, see where you live, so I could report you. Jif said, “But what would we report? That he’s an idiot? That he yells at his dogs?” I thought if you’d act that way in public, there’s no imagining what you do to them behind closed doors.

We were still talking about you that night. Clearly, you wanted to be noticed. You weren’t a frustrated dog owner, hissing “Oh, come on!” under your breath. You were putting on a show. You wanted people to see you.

Jif said you were showing off. Showing how authoritative you are, what a good animal trainer you are. It took me a minute to get my mind around that, but I think he’s right. You thought you were impressing someone.

You weren’t. Least of all, your dogs. They snicker at you behind your back, and fart in your shoes while you sleep.

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Let’s get a posse together and go beat the crap out of the “OctoMom!” Who’s with me? Isn’t that, after all, the right thing to do? Beat a woman who has just given birth to 8 children, and has 6 at home? No, probably not the right thing to do. We should probably kill her.

Pardon my tongue-in-cheekiness. I’m just so over the hatred of this chick. Clearly, I mean CLEARLY, there are mental health issues here. It is unfortunate that children are at the center of the controversy. I wish them well. But condemning their mother does no one any good.

And hell, if we’re going to hate welfare mothers, I don’t think we should start with her. I think she actually saves the taxpayer some money. She can get all fourteen welfare checks in a single envelope. Postage is going up to $.44 in May, people. Do you know how much we save by supporting fourteen children all at the same mailing address?

Seriously, the kids are here. I mean, if this were ten months ago and the news report was that this woman was considering having more kids, then yea, I might have added my voice to those saying, “Don’t do it!” But they’re here. Labeling them as a mistake, an abomination, a burden, etc., can only hurt. The children. And they’re the ones we need to be considering. Making a negative example of Suleman by condemning her, withholding assistance from her, whatever . . . who does that help? It’s not as though there are hordes of other mothers of six who are hoping to give birth to eight more, and we must turn the tide of this dangerous fad.

There are 14 sweet little kids whose Mom has some serious issues. And whose doctor has some explaining to do, in my opinion.

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I first became aware of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight,” a couple of years ago, when I read on a tweens’ blog-hosting site how a number of pre-adolescents would JUST DIE if they couldn’t get more Edward. I read how they LOVED HIM, and cried when they read about him, and thought of his cold lips as they snuggled their cold-sided pillows. And I recall thinking, “What the…?” And I went Googling to see who this guy was, both for the benefit of my daughter and of my young clients. I read reviews of a book that included descriptions like “seductive,” and “intensely passionate.” And it wasn’t long before I started hearing from my then-10-or-11-year-old that her friends were “obsessed” with Edward. Based on the reviews I read, and the fact that I became aware that Twilight was the hottest fiction book on college campuses (no good reason that a book that appeals strongly to 20-year-olds would be suitable for 10-year-olds, I reasoned), I told my daughter she had to wait. At least until I could read the thing and know what the mania was about.

In the meantime, she was left out of lunchtime discussions, email round-robins, and the wearing of Edward Cullen (the hot teen vampire) t-shirts. Here, I must give props to my kid. She could easily have read the book without my knowing it. But she is a person of honor and integrity, and she repeatedly told her friends “No, my mom won’t let me yet.” I know this because I overheard her conversations, and because she has kept up the pleading with me, and one of LG’s friends even asked me why she couldn’t read it. I don’t underestimate how hard this was for LG. And I don’t underestimate what a good, strength-building exercise it was for her, to keep resisting what “everyone else” was doing and trying to persuade her to do. I’m proud of her; can you tell?

I discussed the book with a few other mothers, whose children had read it, and not one of them saw anything wrong with it. And almost all of them said some variation of “Edward and Bella wait until marriage to have sex!” I finally read the thing. And yes, they don’t have sex, but . . . see, he’s a 100+ year-old vampire in a hot teen’s body, and she’s kind of a plain jane, new kid in town. And he falls fangs over heels for her, not because she’s kind or wise or even cute, but because her blood smells so good! And she can’t believe that this totally hot, sophisticated guy could love her. And she’ll do anything to spend the rest of her existence with him. She risks her life repeatedly, consistently, to be with him. He’s strongly tempted to kill her. He kisses her tenderly, urgently, but if she responds by putting her arms around him or any other natural human inclination, he pushes her away and becomes angry, scolding, rejecting. But he’s quick to assure her it’s not her fault, it’s just that he’s angry with himself for being so inclined to drink all her blood when he gets excited.

I’m used to being outside the mainstream. Truly, I am. But I’m just scratching my head about the intelligent, responsible, thoughtful parents who think this series (there are three more after Twilight) is a good idea for their children. I’ve read the first two books. I liked them. My daughter asked me, “Did you fall in love with Edward?” I had to think about it. Meyer has a very engaging, even seductive, writing style. I finally answered, “No, but if I were twelve, I would have.”

My biggest concern is that girls with no template, no precedent for romance, take Edward, and Bella’s and his relationship, as something for which to aim. And there’s evidence (message boards, media interviews, Twilight merchandise sales) that indeed, they do. Again, here is a “boy,” about whom the girl’s parents can’t know much; every time she’s in his presence, her life is in danger; the “love” that they share is based initially on his powerful urge to kill her and consume her blood; he stalks her, always watching her — as she has a private moment on a hike in the woods, as she lies in bed sleeping at night. This doesn’t creep her out; to Bella, it’s a sign of love. The two are entirely consumed with one another, to the exclusion of any friends or social life, except that which is required to placate parents.

Meyer is excellent at creating strong erotic tension without graphic language or even sex beyond a G-rating. I have no doubt this is part of the appeal for tweens. Edward and Bella’s erotic longing and abstaining awakens very enjoyable feelings with which these young readers are unfamiliar. In that sense, the writing is remarkably skillful; it’s also remarkably risky. Again, the way Meyer handles the kissing scenes: Edward kisses Bella passionately, as she stands still, arms by her sides. If she moves to puts her arms around his neck, or kiss him back, he storms off angrily. She feels rejected; he assures her that he’s not angry with her, but with himself. Because lust gets mixed with bloodlust and excitement might lead to murder. Messages: sex and violence are powerfully linked; your (female) sexual response must always be subject to my (male) rules of what I (the male) can and cannot handle.

More messages: Neither wants, nor intends, to live without the other. That is, they do not want to continue existing if they cannot be together. Elaborate plans are made as to how this ceasing to exist could be accomplished, should the need arise. Bella has a dreadful fear of growing old (because Edward never will) and losing Edward’s affections. She is willing — eager, even — to go to extremes to prevent this. In her case, the extreme would be having a vampire bite, but not kill her, thereby “changing her” into one of his kind. She begs him to do this, knowing that it will mean the end of her human life, and quite possibly, the eternal abandonment of her soul to the dark side.

Yes, I know it’s only a story. That’s why I find it so inherently dangerous. Have these pro-Edward moms no grasp of the power of metaphor? Why would we want to reinforce messages that a boy who is (waaaay) outside the acceptance of society, who is possessive, pathologically moody, a stalker, immeasurably more experienced in every conceivable area of life (and death), secretive . . . is a good catch? And why do we want to send the message that it is true, a girl must forfeit her life (health, lifestyle, future, existence) to keep a boy?

I told my daughter she can read it, but not as her first experience of literary romance. She’s immersed now in more age-appropriate first-time romance stories. So she’ll be able to recognize a bad guy even when he looks really (REALLY) good.

Yes, I may need to lighten up on this topic. I am no poet, by any stretch, but for my kid, I have been known to do things that I cannot actually do. With these things in mind, I give you (and my daughter):

Ode to Edward

The tweens, how they scream
When his name is mentioned
They’re swept up in the dream
But he’s not well-intentioned!

Most think he’s all that
And while I think he’s not
I do wonder how one so ice-cold
Seems so HOT

His moods swing like jazz
And he sucks like a Dyson
I say he’s bi-polar
and a lot like Mike Tyson

The mommies, they love him
“He doesn’t want sex!”
But is that so surprising?
He’s more into necks.

They say, “He protects her!”
Like that’s enough, in itself
But bright people must concur:
It’s mostly FROM HIMSELF!

True, his family is wealthy
So he’d be a good provider
Thanks to Alice’s stealthy
stock trades (can you say “insider”?)

My lovely tween girl,
Don’t join the masses
In the growing fan swirl
Of themselves making asses

The guy’s not for you!
A centenarian stalker?
Surely you can see through
That blood-sucking sweet-talker

Don’t give your heart to Cullen
While you’re so young and fair
He’s brooding, he’s sullen
And all that “product” in his hair!

Really, how would it be
If you woke in the night
And there sat big E
Watching you!? What a fright!

When you get your first kiss,
And you want to kiss back
I don’t want him to hisssss,
Threatening jugular attack!

I want your first beau
to be a dream, not a dud!
One who loves the real you,
not the scent of your blood

It’s true that the sun
Makes that vampire real shiny
But you’ll have much more fun
With one less grumpy and whiny

Never tell a boy (or vampire)
“I’m yours, take my life!”
The outlook is dire
For such a man’s wife

If a boy loves a girl
And if that love is true
And he knows he’s not best for her
Hmm, what would said boy do?

Sometimes loving enough
Means saying “goodbye,”
Removing all your vampy stuff
To make room for a real guy!

Such a strong advertisement
Promoting love that’s obsessive
Please take this under advisement:
Avoid males so possessive

Page after page Bella pleads
with the guy,
“Put the bite on me,
lest I grow old and die!”

When you find your true love
Growing old’s no big deal
Your mirror image will change,
But not the way that he feels

With adult supervision,
Bella couldn’t pursue this
But Dad’s busy, Mom’s ditsy
And they’re basically clueless

So, enjoy the story —
In all honesty, I did
But don’t give Edward the glory;
He’s one messed-up vamp-kid

Now I’ve said my piece;
I’m not looking for fights
My opinion won’t cease:
Edward Cullen BITES

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Before it’s all over, my final meandering, disjointed thoughts from my perch here on the island of misfit voters:

Vote. It’s easy for most to know for whom to vote. It’s still hard for some, I know. But pick one. Or write in. Just do it; you’ll feel better.

Some things in this election that have made me go, “hmmm”:

Amazed at how people really don’t want to hear anything that contradicts what they already believe. I guess I’ve known of this phenomenon, but I’ve never seen it so clearly at work before this past year. I’ve pictured it as people happily waiting in line for a popular amusement park ride, then getting on, getting strapped in, and refusing to listen to cautions — it might not have been inspected! You paid way too much for that ride! Whatever. Lots of “lalalala, I can’t hear you,” as the ride speeds off, with laughing, oblivious riders. I have an extra something inside that most people I’ve talked with this year don’t seem to have. I want to hear points of view that differ from my own. See, I can be mistaken sometimes. I have no illusion that people who think differently than I are evil or stupid. I appreciate new information. I feel nearly alone in that perspective. Not that I wouldn’t still go on the ride. I’d just like to know what the ones who chose not to stand in the line know.

During the primaries, I had my candidate all picked out. In fact, I picked him in 2004, and I predicted that he’d be elected this year. And I was thrilled. Then I lost the thrill. BUT, I am still tickled by how thrilled and excited most of my friends are. It’s GOOD to be passionate about something this important. Frankly, I envy you that passion. I hope I get it again someday.

If the candidate about whom you’re passionate is elected, I whole-heartedly congratulate you — and him — and I hope that he is humble in victory, and that his opponent is gracious in defeat. And that both the humility and the grace last through the next four years. Can you imagine? That’s how our country might rise to a position of honor again.

I hope the hatred of the president that has been in fashion these past few years goes out of fashion to stay. Thinking back over my nearly fifty years, sometimes I’ve voted for the winner, sometimes not. And I have never had one second of hating the president. This is another thing I’ve had a hard time getting my mind around. I was pissed at Nixon in the wake of Watergate (too young to vote then), and disgusted with Clinton in the “it depends on what your definition of is is” days, but I didn’t hate them. I thought they made poor choices, that were not in their best interest, nor that of the nation. But in my job, on any given day, I might make a poor choice. I understand how that can happen. I saw, and still see, what they brought to the job that was of value. Great value. It’s a really tough job. Some have argued that only seriously character-flawed individuals would seek it. I think there’s some truth to that. Both the excellence and the cracks will likely become apparent in the new president. And I think he’ll do fine.

And I wonder what the people (many, many people) who’ve spent so much emotional energy hating George Bush will do with all that energy?! Seriously, if it were now converted into something more productive than hatred, than verbal vitriol, imagine the good that could be accomplished. I hope we get to see that.

I don’t share the high stress level that many people are talking about today. I’m excited for the exercise of freedom, for the historic occasion, for the new beginning. But not stressed. MainlineMom twittered today that her faith is not in politicians. I think that’s why I’m not stressed, too. It’s the “peace that passes understanding,” that scripture talks about. And that has often been so elusive to me. But I think that is what I have, now. It’s not a bad place to be. Read more about this Christian perspective, if you’re so inclined: Philippians 4:4-7. (And the two verses following that, 8 and 9, might be my very favorites and the ones I tell myself most often.)

Another thing that struck me about this election was how many people wrote about feeling differently toward their friends, colleagues, neighbors once they realized those people didn’t share their political views. Again, my mind doesn’t go that way. I’ve never had any expectation of my friends sharing my political views. Many of my family don’t share my views, nor I theirs. My friendship with you is about how you treat me and how I treat you; how I talk about you when you’re not around, and how you talk about me. The fact that I rejoice when something wonderful happens to you, and cry or cuss when something awful happens, and you do the same for me and mine. And we could do that our whole lives without ever discussing politics for one moment. Probably about half the country will vote differently from me today; I’m still glad you’re here, thankful for what you bring. Just one more curiosity I noted during this election season.

As NessaLee posted on Twitter this morning, the new President will be up to his eyeballs in trouble from day one. This really is the time to come together as Americans, if ever there has been a time. I pledge my support to the winner. “Support” meaning I’ll look for the good, and that’s what I’ll focus on; I’ll look for what I can personally do to make things better; I won’t expend energy on hatred and ridicule, I’ll actively seek ways to put the energy to better use. And I’ll pray that the President and his advisors have wisdom, courage and serenity.

Congratulations and every blessing to you (and us), Mr. President-elect, whomever you are.

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It’s happened again. My daughter came home from a trip to the county library with a stack of books. She reads dozens of books a week. I can’t keep up. Ever since third grade when her teacher recommended a book I found inappropriate, I have skimmed the books she brings home. Sometimes she brings home books that I veto; she has to wait a while to read them.

I’m not sure I can tell you here what my standards are for which books I find worthy of space in my child’s brain. I’ll try. It’s not so much that any particular subject matter is disallowed. It’s the way in which the subject matter is treated. She’s not allowed to read some of the books that are quite popular with her friends. And she’s read, then loaned, many books that her friends have had to return to her unread, once their parents knew the subject matter. She has read books about homosexual teens, teens who self-injure, suicidal teens . . . these are some of the topics that her friends’ parents have vetoed. Again, it’s not the topics that I nix so much as the treatment of the topics. If a controversial or provocative topic is treated in an honest, creative, productive way . . . if the teens depicted somehow find their way . . . to safety, to health, to peace of mind . . . if adults aren’t wholly depicted as untrustworthy morons . . . if there is even the tiniest attempt to connect behavior to its logical consequences . . . those books are all OK with me, for her. And of course, that leaves millions of books from which she can choose.

And I’m not so naive as to think my daughter will never a read a book that I’d rather she didn’t. We discuss that openly, too. All I can do as a Mom is my job — share with her the benefit of my best judgment; what she does with that once she’s out of my sight will always be her choice. So far, I believe she trusts and respects me enough — and is intelligent enough about considering such things — that she isn’t sneaky about her reading.

So, yea, ever since her third grade teacher had her reading about how messy ejaculating boys are, I’ve tried to screen teacher-recommended books. On Saturday, LG brought home a book about a 16-year-old dying of cancer. The kid has a bucket list of sorts. Number one on the list — have sex. Not surprising; perhaps not unrealistic for a kid in that situation. So I started flipping pages. I ended up crying. Not at a poignant, beautifully written story. But at the reality that once again, the people that I’m paying to look out for my child’s best interests do not take that responsibility, that trust, seriously.

From the email I wrote to the reading teacher:

There are a number of sex scenes, perhaps the most memorable of which is an account of Tessa’s boyfriend performing oral sex on her, and her inviting him to masturbate while she watches, which he joyfully does. “I have never shared anything so intimate, never seen such a look of bewildered love as his mouth opens and his eyes widen,” Tessa says. Even if I didn’t object to the graphic descriptions that preceded this quote, I absolutely object to my pre-teen getting the message that sex equals intimacy, and orgasm equals love.

If you’re aware of the content of this book, and you believe it is
age-appropriate for your 11- and 12-year-old students, then you and I must agree to disagree. It’s not appropriate for LG.

I am writing this in the hope that you were not fully aware of the book’s content, and that this information will be helpful to you in the future.

It is difficult to find books that engage a voracious, advanced reader, but contain age-appropriate content that holds her interest. I do appreciate thoughtful recommendations from people who have more experience of children’s fiction than I do. I didn’t appreciate this one; indeed, I felt I was put in the position of having to protect her against the recommendation, against exposure to content for which she (thankfully) has no context, and which she really isn’t ready to thoughtfully process. Even beyond the graphic descriptions of sexual encounters, the message of the book is objectionable:

“we made love twenty-seven times and we shared a bed for sixty-two nights, and that’s a lot of love”

The bed-sharing is because once Tessa’s parents know she’s dying, normal teen “rules” are recognized as being unimportant after all, and the boyfriend moves into her room.

[what I didn’t add in the email, but what happens in the book is that apparently, if you’re 16 and dying, you might as well do whatever the hell you feel like — drugs, stealing — because, hey, you’re dying! What a pathetic message; what a missed opportunity. If your life might be cut short, be as selfish and irresponsible as you can. Mmmkaayyy, that’s one way you might go. Or you might think about what is the most positive, productive, lasting way to spend that time. Just sayin’, another way one might go when writing (and recommending) such a novel for children to read]

I’m a family therapist and counselor educator. I’m not naive as to preadolescents’ sexual curiosity. This book is beyond LG’s and most of her peers’ level of sophistication. We have always educated her about sex, talked openly about it, in a developmentally-appropriate way. She is in the very earliest stages of being able to comprehend the relationship between sex and love. This book would be damaging to that developmental process. I won’t go on and on; I trust I’ve communicated how much I object to this recommendation, on many different levels.

I am interested to know whether your recommendation was made after having read the book. I appreciate your having read my concerns here.

I received a terse reply, which included the statement that the book was on a list recommended by a librarian from the county system, and that the reading teacher had not read this book, nor many of the others, and that in the future she would tell the children [as she recommends books she’s never read] that just because she’s recommending the books, or because county, state or national children’s librarians are recommending the books, does not mean that they are appropriate for reading by the children to whom they’re being recommended.

WHAT? Yea, that didn’t reassure me. I don’t recommend books I haven’t read. Would that really be too much to ask? And as for giving kids a list and then saying, “but this might be inappropriate…” Are you kidding me? There’d be a run on the juvenile fiction section. So…this is me, not reassured.

And you know what? I wanted an apology. I’m slowly, painfully realizing that was too much to ask. But had I been in her shoes, my reply would have been more like, “I am SO sorry; I had no idea of the content of that book. I will talk to LG . . . blah blah.” I got nothing like that.

I don’t think any lessons were learned here. I guess my somewhat pessimistic view that there is no one who is going to look out for my kid’s well-being the way I do, was reinforced.

I told LG that there is nothing in the world more precious to me than her brain, and that is why I take so seriously the honor of being entrusted, for these few short years, with its care and feeding. And I hope that some of the standards that I have — out of respect for who she is and who she will be — that some of those standards stick. That she decides, at points along the way, that there are some pursuits that aren’t consistent with where she wants to go, who she is and wants to be. I hope; I pray.

My lovely, thoughtful child was perhaps more generous to her reading teacher than I was. She said, “You know how I trusted Mrs. P to recommend books that are good for us? Well, she probably did the same thing; she probably trusted the county librarian to only recommend books that would be good for us.” Do you see? Do you see why that brain is so precious, why I want to throat-punch someone who doesn’t treat it with the respect it deserves?

I don’t know where, if anywhere, this will go from here. I don’t think the teacher really gets it. And frankly, I don’t know which is worse — if the teacher had read the book and thought it was appropriate, or that she’s recommended books she doesn’t know. Is it too much to ask that she be familiar with the books she’s telling the kids about? And it’s no small matter to me that other preteens are getting that book, and other comparable ones, and they’re not telling their parents. If parents ask at all, the answer of “Mrs. P said we would like it,” will be more than sufficient reassurance for most.

I’m not about banning books. I’m about helping children choose wisely. And having parents be aware of what their kids are putting in their brains. I don’t have the physical or emotional energy for crusading. But there’s always that Golden Rule thing. As a parent, I’d want to know. I don’t know what I will do with what I’ve learned this week.

I found the source of Mrs. P’s recommendations. It’s the YALSA: Young Adults Library Services Association. That might be part of the problem. There’s something called Teen Read Week. The thing is, my kid isn’t a teen. And even next year, when she is . . . there’s a huge jump between just turned 13 and nearly 20. Between early teens and late teens. And I certainly don’t think of my 12-year-old nor of her peers as “young adults.” The closest she might come to that is an “old child.” Maybe there’s a need for a literary category that fits in between children and young adults. They want to make that leap instantly, for sure. But a leap is not the healthiest, wisest way to travel from childhood to young adulthood.

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And if she really is, or has the potential to become the worst thing that’s ever happened to you, then you have had an enviable life indeed.

Think about Republican Vice Presidents in the recent past. Cheney, Quayle, Agnew. I’d take my chances with Palin over any one of them, any day.

I’m not going to argue that she has the right stuff today to be President. I don’t believe she does. That’s never been our criteria for evaluating a VP candidate before. Indeed, until this woman was nominated, we’ve never bothered to evaluate the VP candidate quite so exhaustively. (This was my perception. I tried to do some research to back it up. The only person who came close to having been studied so microscopically was Thomas Eagleton, who withdrew after concerns were raised about his history of depression and electroconvulsive therapy — shock treatments. At the time of that scandal, I recall feeling sorry for him. As I read about him this week, I didn’t feel quite as sorry; he had withheld information about his history of suicidality and the very powerful anti-psychotic meds he was taking, from McGovern, the candidate who chose him. Turns out it was as much or more an issue of honesty as of mental fitness. That said, I stand by my perception that no one has been scrutinized like Palin.) Could it be that there’s an element of sexism there? Whether you are left or right, don’t be blind to what’s happened to this woman. No man in her position has ever been the subject of this kind of scrutiny.

Some say it’s more important to evaluate the VP in this case, because McCain is older and has had skin cancer. This argument carries no weight with me. As someone who’s spent my mid-forties being sick as hell, and at times having no expectation of reaching my 50s, and wishing I had the energy and wherewithal of some of my 70something friends and relatives, the age thing means nothing to me. It is not McCain’s age or health that has prompted what I will write about here. There’s something uglier going on.

When I first heard that she was nominated, I didn’t recognize the name at all. I just reminded Jif (because I like to call attention to the occasions when I’m right), that I had been saying all along that McCain would have to choose a woman to have a snowball’s chance in the election. People do vote based on race and gender. Not all people, but enough to make a difference in the outcome. If you don’t believe that, take it up with Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, two men whom I find exceedingly intelligent, both of whom have expressed this belief within the past two weeks. I, for one, would be thrilled if we Americans were issue voters, especially if we were big-picture (as opposed to single issue) voters. But we’re not. So, on that point, McCain arguably chose rather well. He chose someone who will appeal to many of the people for whom he held no appeal at all, or not quite enough.

When I did start hearing more about Palin, I remembered who she was. I remembered reading about her when her son was born. I believe the article was about older mothers giving birth, and of course, the risks of chromosomal anomalies were mentioned. And the fact that the Alaska governor and her husband knew that baby Trig would have Down Syndrome, and chose to keep him. And after McCain chose her, when I put that in context, I thought, “This will be interesting. The Republican base has been saying they’re pro-life forever, but there was never an opportunity for them to put their money (their time, their energy, their love) where there mouths are. It’s been middle-aged and old white men before, who couldn’t have had an abortion or a disabled child. And frankly, if push came to shove, and biology permitted, I’ll bet a lot of those men would have had abortions in that situation. I don’t know of any stories, but it would not surprise me to learn that some anti-abortion men have fathered some children who were aborted for whatever reason. So, yea, it’s easy to talk a good game when it comes to saying you’d keep a developmentally challenged child. Here, for the first time, is someone who clearly backed up what she claimed to believe.” Those are the thoughts I had, when I remembered where I’d heard her name before. And I admire someone who practices, at personal sacrifice, what they preach. And I’m a little suspicious of anyone who preaches loud and long about an issue which can never directly affect them anyway.

Then, when the media and internet vultures, and various friends and colleagues started ripping Palin apart, I was offended, as I am when I witness any act of human-on-human incivility, and my “defend the oppressed” buttons were pushed.

Example: A woman in my life, who can go on for days about what a feminist she is, and what a champion for woman’s achievement she is, came into my presence right after Palin’s selection was announced, and made an announcement of her own: “Sarah Palin is such a bitch.” I had just barely heard Palin’s name, hadn’t formed any opinion at all about her. What did she know about Palin that I didn’t? Nothing, it turns out. And that offends me. Agree or disagree with her political platform, this is a woman who has accomplished quite a lot in her life. In a state that, I have learned in recent weeks, is arguably the most unwelcoming toward and disrespectful of women (based on incidence of violent crime against women). Are “feminists” going back to the days when a woman who doesn’t take shit from powerful men is, by definition, “a bitch?” Where is the element of feminism that applauds an ambitious, achieving woman? Where is the element of feminism that says a woman is free to think as she chooses, even if I disagree? I’ve been profoundly disappointed in many women’s responses to this choice. If you don’t want her in office, the solution to that dilemma is to vote against her. Demeaning her and yourself by calling her names is not an appropriate solution.

::tangent::And it’s not just women, being vulgarly reactionary. Yesterday a friend recounted a conversation with a male colleague who agreed with her that Palin is ignorant and unfit to be Vice President, but added that he still may vote for her, because he’d rather look at her than Biden. And he added, “I’d fuck her.” I haven’t heard that “reasoning” as a consideration in evaluating a male candidate.::end tangent::

Example: I’ve seen Palin damned to hell and raked over the coals for her personal religious beliefs. Including beliefs about abortion and creationism. From everything that I have read (and I really am one who investigates as much as I can, I don’t just eat from one media spoon), these really are personal beliefs. I have not been able to find any incidence of her attempting to impose these beliefs on her city or state government. We know that these are her beliefs because someone asked her about them, both in old debates and in recent interviews. And every time I’ve seen her answer, she also says that she respects other people’s rights to their personal beliefs. So where is the problem? She’s not allowed to have beliefs that differ from yours? She doesn’t feel that way about you. And to my knowledge, isn’t calling you names because you disagree with her. She seems to have a firm grasp on the notion that she can hold her beliefs and not have to impose them on you. Why isn’t she extended the same courtesy? Again, I am perplexed by the intense reaction to her. We don’t skewer men who hold these beliefs. They’re all around us; a bunch of them get elected every couple of years.

Example: Her children. Truth be told, this is what pissed me off to the point of writing something that will no doubt lose me a lot of “friends.” The first horrifying thing I read was the essay “calling her out” in The Daily Kos. The one that explicitly called Palin a liar, and exposed the ugly “truth” that her teen daughter, Bristol, was in fact Trig’s mother. The appearance of that article is what forced Palin to “formally” announce Bristol’s pregnancy, in order to refute the internet wildfire of erroneous information. The family had not been keeping the pregnancy a secret. Everyone who knew them knew. It just might not have been the whole world’s business at that very moment. Except then it had to be. Funny thing; that was one of the most heinous uses of media I’d ever seen, and I checked back for days and never did see any sign of an apology or a retraction. What I did see, though, was, “See?! We knew there was something bad here! Yippee!” And that made me want to puke. Rejoicing over a teenager’s unplanned pregnancy, because it makes her mother look bad (or so you believe) and it furthers your political agenda. Am I the only Democrat who finds this abhorrent? Even if I am — I do. Absolutely abhorrent.

And a related point: Get over yourselves already with the, “That’s what abstinence-only education gets you!” You cannot be serious. You think there aren’t pregnant teens whose parents believe in comprehensive sex education? You think there are no members of Planned Parenthood who’ve had pregnant teens in their families? If that weren’t such a tragic display of ignorance, it would make me laugh.

There may not be a lot of absolutes in this election; maybe there aren’t many absolutes in life at all, but here’s one: Teen pregnancy does not discriminate. (And this might be an absolute, too: karma is a bitch; as a mother, you will NEVER see me taking joy in the misfortune of another mother and her child.)

Example: Then there’s the hunting. I don’t hunt. I don’t own a gun. I took my kid to the Million Mom March. But I do recognize that there are perfectly legitimate lifestyles other than my own. Lifestyles that include hunting and eating wild animals. Again, it’s not my thing. But the way some people write about this aspect of Palin’s life, you’d think she were a cross between Michael Vick and Jeffrey Dahmer. Aren’t Democrats the ones who have the monopoly on acceptance of others’ lifestyles? Once again, I don’t get it. I can’t say I understand the hunting laws in Alaska; some of them don’t seem right to me. But then, I don’t rely on caribou or moose for my protein in the winter, and certainly have never had to compete with wolves for my family’s dinner. The laws are apparently consistent with regional, cultural values. And Palin’s behavior is well within the law.

Example: Speaking of behavior within the law, many people like to write about “Troopergate.” Because (for those who’ve forgotten) this is the country where one is innocent until proven guilty, I don’t see how this is presently an issue at all. The “victim” is a man who was removed from one job (where, according to his superiors, he performed poorly) and offered another job, which he refused. The allegations suggest that maybe Palin wanted him to fire her former brother-in-law (that would be the one who tasered his own 10-year-old son and made death threats against Palin and her family). But the guy wasn’t fired. I don’t know, but as a family counselor on the outside looking in, it seems to me that Palin has bent over backwards to minimize the drama in an effort to spare her sister and her sister’s children the humiliation of fully airing the extended family’s dirty laundry. And I have strong feelings about judging people based on allegations that are made. False allegations have been made against me, in my work. Not one scintilla of truth. They’ve been made against my pastor, who was taken all the way into a court of law over the matter. Again, not the tiniest grain of truth in the charges. They were made against my husband’s family business, and picked up by the local media. And like the other examples, those were absolutely false, and nearly ruined a good man’s name and life’s work. Again, some common sense is in order. The fact that there are “allegations” made sometimes simply means that you’re in the public eye and you’ve pissed someone off.

Example: Palin went to X number of different colleges, and it took her X number of years to get a bachelor’s degree! That must mean she’s stupid. I suppose it could mean that; but here’s another thing that sometimes means. I went to three different colleges and it took me 7 years to get a bachelor’s degree. That’s because I paid for every dime of my education myself. I worked full-time plus overtime during most of my pursuit of my first degree. It takes a little longer, and life may take us in different directions during the process, than when the parents are footing the bill. It didn’t surprise me to hear Palin’s father say that all his children knew they would have to make their own way through college.

I have some sort of rebuttal for most of the personal attacks that have been made against Palin. As you might have gathered, I don’t like personal attacks made on people. I’ve defended, where possible, the same kinds of attacks on McCain and on Obama. There’s no place for this kind of crap in the political discourse of a civilized, well-intentioned people. I don’t understand the joy that people are taking in this. A woman I know, love, enjoy, recently told me about the movement to make donations to Planned Parenthood in Sarah Palin’s name. And this friend of mine had done that. I’d never do that. It’s a Golden Rule thing. (Remember that outdated concept?) I wouldn’t want someone making a donation in my name to an organization that I find objectionable. So I wouldn’t do that to someone else. I have no problem with anyone donating what they want, where they want. But I do find it offensive when you take a charitable donation and turn it into an act of hostility. How is it that you don’t see that is not the product of healthy thought processes?

Then there were those attacks that are almost too stupid to warrant rebuttal. Sarah Palin banned library books! Oh, wait, a lot of the books on that list hadn’t even been written when she was supposed to have banned them. And even though that one was debunked almost immediately, supposedly intelligent, well-educated, well-meaning bloggers continued to include it in their anti-Palin diatribes. Then there was that adorable (I thought) video of Palin’s little girl, Piper, holding her baby brother and smoothing his unruly hairdo by licking her hand and wiping his head. I saw a little girl whose family had taught her kindness, gentleness, love, and resourcefulness. Gross resourcefulness, yes, but still. I saw a little girl who had probably seen her very busy, yet attentive Mom, smooth someone’s hair with a bit of spit. Others, however, saw: OMG! That is so unhygienic! Palin is such a low-class redneck, not teaching her children about proper grooming and personal hygiene! Oh, come on. Just this past weekend, I read how “crooked” she is — as mayor, she accepted a spa treatment, and a bouquet of roses . . . and there is evidence of such unethical behavior, in the undeniable form of *GASP* handwritten thank you notes! Have we really gone that far ’round the bend?

The more of this kind of bullshit I’ve seen, the more I’ve thought, “Wow. She’s really threatening to some people. And what’s apparently worse, for Democrats, is that they can’t find anything substantive against her. So it’s all about her lifestyle, her faith . . . ” To me, the frenzy over her personal life and family seems to indicate that there’s not enough to critique about her public service performance.

What is it about this woman that pushes your buttons so? Why do we have such a problem with a pretty, smart, successful, ambitious, popular woman who has an interesting career and a family? If you are provoked by Palin’s candidacy (or her very existence) into behaving in the ways I’ve described here . . . you have work to do. And it’s not political work.

This is not a post about supporting Sarah Palin for Vice President. As I’ve suggested, I don’t think she’s ready to be President. But there are ways to say that without attacking her as a human being. Here’s an example of someone who disagrees with her candidacy based on at least somewhat objective (although there are some errors in timing and some spin on interpretation) criteria. That was tremendously refreshing to me.

I deliberately chose to publish this just before Palin’s first national debate. I have no hope nor expectation of how she will perform. Well, that’s not entirely true. I hope she does well. Anyone watching my Twitter during last week’s debate will see that I hoped both candidates did well there. I said I prayed that they both brought their best selves, their truest selves. I don’t take pleasure in seeing someone publicly humiliated. Maybe that’s just me. So, yea, I hope the same thing for both Palin and Biden. Voters will be better served if both of them can fully articulate their true personalities, their true beliefs and positions. So will you be watching the debate hoping you get a glimpse of both candidates’ real strengths, weaknesses and intentions? Or will you be watching hoping that someone fails, and not caring what they have to say? Sadly, I know the answer for most. And once again, I’m out here on the island of misfit voters, because I’d rather really understand what both candidates mean to communicate, than to have a “gotcha!” moment, a moment to laugh at later on YouTube.

Palin might make an impressive showing in the debate. Or she might fall flat on her face. And either way, she won’t deserve the kind of treatment I’ve described here.

As I proofread this, the TV was on behind me, and former Democratic VP candidate, former Congresswoman from New York, Geraldine Ferraro had this to say regarding Palin in tomorrow night’s debate, “I want her to do well, because it’s important for girls to see that a woman can stand toe to toe . . . ” Ferraro certainly doesn’t support, isn’t going to vote for Palin. But she gets that this is a first; this is an historic occasion. It may not be ideal; in fact, it certainly isn’t ideal. But women, this is the occasion we have. If we don’t want to vote for her, we can call her a stupid bitch, or we can acknowledge the achievements she’s made and celebrate the fact that she has been able to make them, express our disagreement with her policies and vote accordingly. We’ve only been allowed to vote for 88 years! Our kids are watching how we treat one another.

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Caution: It’s getting political up in here…

Some of you know this, and it may surprise some others: I love politics. I love political conversation, debate, inquiry. I always have. From the time I was little, I watched the conventions and I SO wanted to grow up and be a delegate. I wanted to carry a sign with my state’s name on it, and wear a red, white and blue hat, and (be still my heart) have thousands of balloons drop on my head.

::tangent::I have, in recent years, put forth the theory that the party who delivers the best convention balloon drop will be the winning party come November. In the last election that was true. The Dem balloon drop suffered serious technical difficulties. This year . . . we’ll see::end tangent::

And even with all my political preoccupation, most of the people who really know me and talk to me every day don’t know which candidate I support. (This might not be all that surprising this year, because I don’t either; still working on that one.) Sometimes in political discourse, I argue the position opposite from my own, just to make sure that I can. My mother is a loyal Democrat; my father was a proud Republican. I suppose that’s why I find it perfectly natural to be “mixed,” when most people around me are acting like donkeys or elephants. I grew up in a house where two people held opposing political views yet managed not to hate and despise one another (most days, and even when they did hate each other, it wasn’t over politics); and both of those people had vices and virtues that became important to me, either for purposes of avoiding or imitating. (My balancing act on the political fence is a large part of what will likely always thwart my childhood dream of becoming a delegate. They tend to be gung-ho types from either party.)

In my work, we talk about “all-or-nothing thinking,” or “black-and-white thinking.” These terms refer to the the way of thinking that says, “I am all right and you are all wrong.” It also takes the form of “if I disagree strongly with you on one or more ideas, I am right and you are [dangerous, delusional, stupid, evil, fanatical, rigid, close-minded…fill in the blank]. Psychotherapists call this kind of thinking a “cognitive distortion.” In the vernacular of 12-steppers, “stinkin’ thinkin’.” Again, in my line of work, this type of thinking is regarded as wholly irrational, and antithetical to progress and healthy human development. As you might guess, I’m concerned for the mental health of our nation right about now. Because, while I do love politics, I am sickened by the written and verbal expressions of this cognitive distortion that is so much a part of our daily lives now.

The more I encounter groups of people who venomously defend their own candidates while denigrating others, the more I have to seriously question whether I want to affiliate with such people. Regardless of which candidate you support, or whether you haven’t yet decided, I would like to ask you to ask yourself this question: What is wrong with my candidate?

If you are supporting someone whom you believe is the one person who can save us, I believe your support is misguided. You will end up becoming disillusioned, and your candidate, if elected, will ultimately fall short and be unfairly judged. He’s not going to save us. Whomever he may be. And what’s more, there’s a hell of a lot wrong with him. Because he’s a human being. I believe we’ll all choose much more wisely and realistically if our support is tempered with a rational understanding of what is wrong with the guy: where are his weak points? What mistakes has he made? What are his character flaws? Where does he need expert advisers to fill in the gaps? Can I list the really stupid things he’s said publicly during this campaign? And so on.

I can make a fairly long list of what’s wrong with both candidates. And in my opinion, if you are whole-heartedly supporting someone for whom you can’t make such a list, then I don’t think you’re being a very good donkey or elephant; I think you’re being a sheep — following the voice of some master without thoroughly investigating where you’re going. Do a little (balanced) research. Read some different opinions. Make a fully informed, not entirely emotional choice; that’s all I’m saying. A flesh-and-blood human being will win the election. And it’s very likely that in some areas, at some point, he’ll profoundly disappoint some of his staunchest supporters. And he still may be a good President. But he won’t save us from ourselves.

::tangent::This is one of my soapboxes in recent years. I think we Americans behave childishly in some respects, expecting others to do the homework, make the decisions, etc., that we should take responsibility for making. Take, for example, the recent financial headlines. Both sides have placed blame on the other, for some part of this. But it wasn’t them. Either of them. It was us. It was we who bought houses, cars, vacations, shoes, way beyond what we needed or could afford, and ended up not paying our bills. We can argue about whether the problem trickled down from deregulation or trickled up from obscene materialism, but Americans at almost every socioeconomic level had a hand in this mess. I am embarrassed to admit that two times in my life, I have gotten into credit card trouble. As I recall, one was during a Democratic administration and one was during a Republican one. Not for one minute was it ever the President’s fault, nor the fault of any member of Congress. It was all mine. Our values, our expectations, our work ethics, are out of whack. It is a problem, but it’s not one that a President can solve. We’re on our own. The good news about accepting responsibility for your role in a problem is that it also means you have some power to make it better. If the problem is all someone else’s fault, you’re screwed. You’re at the mercy of what “they” decide to do. Some people prefer that point of view, because it absolves them of personal responsibility, and always gives them someone else to blame. If you’re one of those people, good luck with that. Me, I’d rather understand how I contributed to the problem and try to do my part to contribute to a solution. I like to have something I can do. ::end tangent::

I’m going to risk beheading here by saying that the most hateful, the most all-or-nothing, the most offensive rhetoric that I have heard or read is from Democrats. It may be that I just haven’t read enough of what Republicans have to say. But I did ask some very conservative people to direct me to what they think would be the most conservative websites. And I took their recommendations. And while I found lots of policy disagreements, I didn’t find personal attacks. I didn’t find people threatening to leave the country if Obama is elected, because our future would look so bleak.

Jif and I talk about this phenomenon quite a bit, because it’s really disturbing to me. After reading a particularly extremist anti-McCain blog post recently (McCain was pictured whispering in little Piper Palin’s ear, and the commentary accused him of pedophilia), I said to Jif, “Why are they behaving this way? What do they get from sinking so low?”

He said, “They believe they’re saving the planet.”

Saving the planet?”

“Yea,” he answered sadly.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that it isn’t hatred that’s going to save the planet.

Part of why I don’t get so bent out of shape at the idea of either candidate winning the election is because of my faith. Faith in God, yes, but faith in this country. I so treasure the Constitution. It is an amazing document that has stood the test of time and will continue to do so. Of course we disagree among ourselves about its interpretation; that is part of its design. It works! I have faith that no one party, and certainly no one person, is going to “ruin” our country in four or eight years. I don’t believe it can happen. I have more faith in the American people than that. All of them. All of us.

I recently said to Jif how I feel like such an alien (talking outerspace, now, not immigration reform) because I love the fact that we are roughly divided in half on our candidate selection, according to the pollsters. Most elections in recent memory have been this way. I think that’s part of what makes us great. Taking into consideration all the various leaders for whom we vote, we have the potential to balance one another perfectly — to not go too far off the path in either extreme direction. Imagine the alternative to the current statistical dead heat: imagine living in a country where the polls were 90% to 10% in favor of one Presidential nominee. Now imagine being one among that 10%.

I’m staying here, happily, thankfully, no matter who is elected. I have found potential good in both candidates, and I’ll celebrate and support that. And I’ve found potential chaos in both, and I’ll pray for the new President regarding those areas, and I’ll take responsibility for not adding to the chaos by my personal speech or behavior.

And I’ll stay here. And God willing, live to vote another day if we don’t choose well this time.

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Those of you who’ve been reading here a while may remember this, which I think will be my “official” 9-11 post. It’s almost all I remember about that time.

Almost. These past couple of weeks, I’ve been remembering a little bit more. About what happened in the days and weeks after that terrible day. I remember going to the grocery store to get just a few things. I think it was that very afternoon. I do remember clearly that while I was in the store, two songs played on the Muzak: “The End of the Innocence,” and “New York Minute (Everything Can Change)”. I just Googled the lyrics to that second song; they are eerily well-suited to the occasion. To this day, when I think of 9-11, those songs form much of the soundtrack in my head.

The other thing I noticed, on that day in the store, and for a while after that — Americans were nicer to one another. In that store, that day, we looked at one another with kind eyes and small, sympathetic smiles, that said, “I know. Can you believe what’s happened? We’ll get through it. We’re all in this together.”

I remember one of my clients, the one whose lunch was stolen, articulating so clearly who we are, and why we would get through it. What the terrorists didn’t understand. She said that they chose targets that represented our wealth (The World Trade Center towers) and our military might (the Pentagon), and had aimed at one that would represent our power (the White House or Capitol). To them, those targets were America. The terrorists got it wrong. Because they didn’t really understand who we are. She said that we are the only country whose existence, whose origins, are based purely on ideals. We are not a country formed from ancient political processes, or the convenience of geography that facilitated commerce and economy. There was nothing at all convenient about our birth. The common thread of those who founded America was that they held the same ideals: liberty and justice. Government of the people, by the people and for the people. You can’t bomb that. It won’t die.

I thought my client’s perspective was absolutely accurate. And it helped explain my desperate hope that “they” didn’t bomb the Statue of Liberty. And another blogfriend’s fear for the safety of the Liberty Bell. The targets that the terrorists chose, while important to us, aren’t what we’re about.

For a little while after 9-11, we seemed to have been reminded of what we are about. Remember the Republicans and Democrats from Congress singing together “God Bless America” on the steps of the Capitol? For a moment there, they got it.

In the grocery store that day, and for a while after, the people we all encountered were like us. Americans. We’d all been hurt, we were all stunned, we all remembered how very much we love our country. I haven’t researched other cities, but I know that here, in the major cities closest to me, even the criminals observed a moment or two of silence. People stopped killing one another for a few days. Violent crime went down for a minute. I think it was because we knew that we had all been attacked. So we stopped attacking each other. And it wasn’t just the criminals. We all looked each other in the eyes more. Said “thank you” more. Smiled at strangers more. All hurt, all in the same boat, all hoping for a brighter tomorrow.

It lasted a while. But there’s nothing like a presidential election to remind us that it’s gone. The goodwill, one American to another, it’s gone. We’re back to us vs. them (Americans vs. Americans). Back to “those who don’t see the world exactly as I do are idiots, or evil, or both.”

I don’t want another reminder. Can’t we just decide to remember? That we are a nation founded on ideals? The liberty and justice thing? Can you imagine for a moment that someone of the “opposite” political party says something with which you disagree, and instead of spouting off about how stupid they are, you find some small thread of commonality in their view and yours? And if no common ground can be found, can you imagine choosing to applaud their courage in speaking out, when they know some will hate and ridicule them for it? Or just being happy for them, because they live here with you in a land where even stupid people can speak their stupid minds? “You go, stupid man (or woman)! Good for you, exercising those rights that people have sacrificed so much to earn and maintain for you! Speak up! Don’t let those sacrifices go to waste!”

Sound crazy? I’m not kidding. That’s what I believe.

I don’t know for whom I will vote. I do not completely agree with the positions of either candidate or party. And frankly, I’ve had it up to here with the childishness, the pettiness, the vitriol of the discourse coming from both sides. As I’ve said before, if I wrote out my “platform” here, neither party would have anything to do with me. And frankly, I’m proud of that. I have a hard time getting my mind around the idea of fully supporting the agenda of any one political party. It’s not me. I hope to be more open-minded, more curious about others’ ideas than that. I saw one other blogger (I know there are more, I just happen to have seen only one) who, like me, watches both political conventions with a notepad, to write down what we like and don’t like, what we want to research further, to check out, to verify. I will do the same thing once the debates start.

That’s a big part of what being an American means to me. I don’t have to march in lockstep. Neither do any of us. And when we choose not to jump in a box with a label on it, I think it affords us more freedom to be tolerant, even appreciative, of opinions unlike our own. And if that’s our perspective, maybe it will be easier to go back to those few kind, united days after 9-11, and say to each other, by our words, our actions, our attitudes, “I know. Can you believe what’s happened? We’ll get through it. We’re all in this together.”

Recommended reading: I just received a link to another way of framing this same picture.

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Leave me out of this. Would you like it if I used the expression, “A human can curl its tail and roll in its own poop, but it’s still a human”?

I thought not.

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