Of Colin Kaepernick, Flag-Burning, and Starbucks Cups

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Joshua Feuerstein has saved Christmas. At least that’s what he said in a recent interview with the Washington Post. Feuerstein was referring to the protest he started last year against the plain red Starbucks holiday cups that got everyone’s knickers in a twist. Some Christians took the snowflake-free cup design as yet another sign that liberals are trying to take the Christ out of Christmas. So Feuerstein encouraged believers to go into their local Starbucks, order a drink, and give their name as “Merry Christmas” so that the barista would have to write it on their cups. Oh, it must be a hoot to work at Starbucks.

The protest apparently worked because this year’s Starbucks cups feature holiday designs, albeit none that are religious. Still, Feuerstein was gleeful, crowing, “And we not only saved Christmas, we elected Donald Trump as our next president and saved the country!” (Chicago Tribune, Nov. 29, 2016) In fact, Trump’s victory has put Starbucks in the crosshairs of the far right once again. This time, Trump supporters are encouraged to give their name as Trump for the side of their drink cup. This has caused a fracas at some Starbucks outlets and led to the complaint that Trump supporters’ First Amendment rights are being violated. (Apparently the savvy baristas realized that these folks’ names were not really “Trump.”)

Well, to begin with, the First Amendment protects our free speech from interference by the government. We are not, however, allowed to say anything we want in a private establishment. (Ask my kids.) Furthermore, it has been the far right – the Trump supporters – who have most vocally denounced public speech that actually is protected by the Bill of Rights. Take the Colin Kaepernick case. Kaepernick spurred outrage by refusing to stand for the national anthem before a 49ers game. He was protesting the racial bias that he believes exists in American society. At the time, I was critical of Kaepernick’s gesture myself. However, I have come to realize that his protest was not only legitimate, but also effective. Across the country, athletes began to make their own peaceful political statements by sitting out the national anthem. The country got to talking not just about Kaepernick’s protest, but about how far we have yet to go in race relations.

A more ironic and sinister move has been President-elect Donald Trump’s call to imprison and/or strip away the citizenship of people who burn the American flag. Having already threatened the free speech of journalists repeatedly during his presidential campaign, Trump now wants to go after the First Amendment rights of protesters. Even conservative Justice Antonin Scalia would have vehemently disagreed with such a move.

Flag burning has always been a potent symbolic gesture of anger and protest against the policies and actions of governments. It has always stirred resentment on the part of some people, which is why it is such an effective act of protest. While I personally do not like any kind of desecration of the flag, including wearing it as an article of clothing or headwear, I agree with the English writer Beatrice Evelyn Hall, who famously characterized the beliefs of the philosopher Voltaire as, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” An attack on flag burning is an attack on the right to disagree with the government. Our right to do so must be zealously guarded.

As for those Trump supporters who want to have their hero’s name written on their Starbucks cups, I say that Starbucks baristas should give them what they want. Imagine the chaos when several drinks come out, all with the name “Trump” on them. Decaf Debbie might be given Double-Shot Fred’s drink. Lactose intolerant Lucy could end up with a nonfat latte while Joe gets the runs from drinking a soy-based peppermint mocha. That would be a delicious comeuppance for people who think the design of a drink cup is going to make America great again.

 

 

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Turkey Drop*

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My daughter recently taught me a term I had never heard before: the turkey drop. The turkey drop refers to the phenomenon that occurs when romantic couples go off to different colleges or graduate schools and try to maintain a long-distance relationship. Invariably (apparently), these couples break up by Thanksgiving – thus the term “turkey drop.”

When I first heard it, I found the expression humorous. Lately, though, I’ve been considering what people/things/habits I might separate myself from. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving and the time-honored Turkey Drop, I am challenging myself to get rid of the following:

1. mean-spirited people on Facebook. They will never have to know I am unhappy with their “low blow” types of posts. I can simply unfollow their posts without unfriending them. I have no doubt some of my FB friends have decided to unfollow my many liberal political diatribes.

2. arguing about politics. In the same vein, I’m pretty sure I have never convinced someone to change his or her political convictions by arguing my case. As my daughter recently pointed out, after 28 years of marriage, my husband and I are still polar opposites when it comes to politics. Why spend fruitless hours and create hard feelings arguing about partisan issues? I plan to follow the same policy on Facebook, where it is much easier to volley verbal grenades at one’s opponent from safely behind a keyboard. This does not mean I will not continue to post articles and blog posts expressing my views. I simply won’t engage in a pointless shouting match.

3. sarcasm. I enjoy a witty barb as much as the next person, and some of my favorite comedians use sarcasm like a finely honed weapon. Yet I tend to use it  as a defense mechanism or way to feel superior to others.

4. general negativity. This may be the hardest challenge of all for me. I tend to be a “glass half full” type of person. Negativity leads to fatalistic thinking, depression, gossip, and surliness. The holidays are a good time to shake things up and try to approach the world with a positive point of view.

I have many other bad habits that could use a revamp, but as the Christmas holidays approach, I think these are a good start. I encourage others to perform their own “turkey drops” and get rid of whatever is holding them back from claiming their own happiness.

What turkeys do you need to drop?

*Author’s note: In looking for a photo to accompany my post, I learned that in Yellville, Arkansas, live turkeys are actually dropped from planes every Thanksgiving. This is a horrible and barbaric tradition and instance of animal cruelty. Yellvillains should be ashamed of themselves. Time to “turkey drop” this tradition!

 

Stumbling Toward Thankfulness

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I am having a hard time feeling cheerful this holiday season. Recent events of national political significance have rendered me alternatively depressed and angry. Every day’s news deepens my feelings of helplessness and fear. People keep telling me to get over it and move on. Well, I have no intentions of moving on or ignoring what is happening in the country I love. But I do need to work on a little perspective and seek some peace for my own sake and the sake of my family.

One thing that helps is the realization that we have had much darker times in the history of this country. The Civil War literally threatened to rip our Union apart. Our nation has survived two world wars, the Great Depression, and the terrible quagmire of Vietnam – not to mention the many thousands of lives lost on 9/11 and subsequently in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Our black citizens no longer live under Jim Crow laws. Women have the right to vote, own property, and work outside the home. While I can’t pretend that things are completely rosy in our society today, I can at least acknowledge that we have made great strides toward tolerance and freedom in America.

Another thing that helps me is the realization that I have people whom I love dearly and who love me. In less than 48 hours, my two sons will be home from college. They will get busy messing up their too-pristine bedrooms and looking for home-cooked food. They, along with my two daughters, will join us for our annual road trip to Detroit, Michigan, where we will feast on my mother-in-law’s delicious Thanksgiving meal and reconnect with brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins. No matter how we may differ politically, we are family, and nothing can ever take the place of that fact.

Finally, I have a strong faith in God, who I truly believe is in control. While I don’t think God wants me to sit around and wait for the Second Coming, I do think He asks me to trust Him that all will be well. I will try.

I am so blessed in so many ways. For the holidays, I will turn my focus outward into the world and try to bring goodness into it. There are so many things I can do, and indeed that each one of us can do, to make the world a little happier, healthier, and more secure. Toy and food drives, donations to charities, and simple human kindness in our everyday dealings with others can go a long way to bring about a society in which we are proud to live.

This holiday season I plan to take to heart the adage to “be the change you want to see in the world.”

 

Unify This

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342e5f765072632be75f1fb13e466612I’m getting a little tired of Republicans and other Trump supporters telling us it’s time for unity. Trump is our president, they say, and it’s time to get behind him.

Well, for eight years, the Republicans in Congress did everything in their power to obstruct  the Obama administration. In addition to wasting taxpayer money continually trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Republican Congress refused to act on immigration and would not even hold a hearing to consider Obama’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland. Where was the talk of unity then?

Trump supporters of all stripes voted for a man whose entire campaign was run on divisiveness: pitting white working class Americans against minorities, demonizing Muslims, spewing misogyny, and courting white supremacists, one of whom he has named to be his chief strategist in the White House. Instead of developing a coherent policy platform, Trump spent his time lying, contradicting himself, and hurling insults, most pointedly at the Democrat nominee he recently thanked for her service to the country.

I truly hope I am wrong about Donald Trump. As I said to my brother-in-law who was crowing over the Trump victory, nothing would make me happier than to eat a huge slice of humble pie should Trump prove to be a good president. I’d even let my brother-in-law carve the slice himself.

So far, however, Trump has nominated  hate mongers, unqualified individuals, or business-as-usual insiders to serve in his administration. Add to that the fact that Republicans firmly control both houses of Congress and show no appetite for being conciliatory. Let’s just say I won’t hold my breath.

I respect the office of the presidency, but I do not respect this man. President Trump will need to earn the respect of the American people through his words and actions. Then and only then will there be any hope of unity in this fractured nation of ours.

Backwards and in High Heels

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Looking back, I should have realized Hillary Clinton would not be elected president when so many Americans were convinced she should be in the big house, not the White House. With the media focused so relentlessly on Email-gate (or as I like to call it, Much Ado About Nothing), there was little coverage of Hillary’s ideas, experience, or accomplishments.

Despite the fact that during all three debates Clinton made Trump look like an unstable idiot, she could not get past people’s expectations for how a high profile woman should conduct herself. She  was called loud and shrill, mocked for her fashion style, and vilified for the indiscretions of her husband. Trump, whose attacks on a variety of women would make a sailor blush, called her a “nasty woman.”

Hillary Clinton has more political experience than most recent presidential candidates. And while the attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi was widely blamed on her by Republicans, her tenure as Secretary of State was marked by the location and killing of Osama bin Laden, an Iran nuclear agreement that vastly diminishes Iran’s ability to create a nuclear weapon, and significant movement toward addressing the world problem of climate change. Many experts agree that it was Clinton’s hard line with Iran that brought them to the negotiating table.

To be sure, Clinton’s many years in the public eye have made her an easy target. The sex scandals during Bill Clinton’s presidency somehow tarnished Hillary in a way no man would be harmed by a wife’s infidelity. Yet Hillary soldiered on. But somehow her continuing efforts to effect change through government were looked upon as a craven grasping for power instead of the desire to serve.

I am deeply concerned by a Trump presidency coupled with total domination of both Congressional houses by Republicans. But I am also disappointed that by 2016 the glass ceiling for the presidency still has not been shattered. That ceiling is beginning to seem as if it is made of plexiglass.

I continue to admire Hillary Clinton and hope she can personally enjoy her many achievements over the years. May she be proud of the fact that she proved herself capable of accomplishing what many a man might attempt, but doing it “backwards and in high heels.”

 

Trump Wins?

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I started the day in a hopeful frame of mind. It was a beautiful fall day, and I felt good about Hillary’s chances. I scrolled through Facebook and smiled at all the women who had taken selfies showing off their pantsuits in a nod to Clinton’s signature style. Mostly, though, I couldn’t wait for the election to be over .

When the returns started rolling in, I was happy, but not surprised, to see my own state colored blue. I was hoping Hillary would win by a landslide and put to rest the aberrational nature of the Trump candidacy. But as the margins narrowed in the battleground states, I realized that Hillary would be lucky to squeak by the most outrageous and unqualified presidential candidate in my lifetime.

I went to bed around 11:30 Central Standard Time. My throat was scratchy, and I knew I was catching my daughter’s cold. The race remained too close to call, but the Trump camp was jubilant while Clinton supporters were subdued. I was both worried and discouraged.

At 4:16 a.m., I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep. I got up and went online to check on the results. Sure enough, Trump had done the impossible: garnered enough electoral votes to become the 45th President of the United States. I tried to go back to sleep, but all I could do was toss and turn, reliving all the terrible things Trump had said and done and imagining doomsday scenarios that might play out with him as president. How, I wondered, could the American people vote for such a man?

I have witnessed many elections in my time and sometimes been deeply unhappy or even disgusted with the results. But I’ve never felt the feeling of utter dejection I felt the whole day after this election. I have such a sense of sadness for the people Trump and his followers have vilified: Muslims, Latinos, the disabled, women, war heroes. How must they feel knowing that a record number of Americans are okay with the man who called them terrorists, rapists and criminals, who mocked them or insulted their looks?

Later that evening, I watched one of my favorite TV comedies, hoping for a good laugh to dispel the blues. But the episode of Blackish was about a teenage daughter questioning her faith in God and rediscovering it in the crisis. Between the subject matter and my lack of sleep, I cried like a baby. I still feel strangely spent. I’ve had a few conversations with like-minded friends that have helped me at least vent over this devastating turn of events. But I am in a daze.

I have stayed away from Facebook and the news, not wanting to be faced with reality. But the reality is that a demagogue has become our president. Still, I take a little solace from that episode of Blackish. God is stronger than all of this. And at this moment, all I can really do is pray.

 

GO VOTE!

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Today’s the day. After what seems like eons of campaigning, Election Day is finally here. Along with the highly divisive presidential race, there are many congressional and senatorial seats, as well as local officials, to cast our ballots for. There are also local ballot initiatives in many areas, and the voice of voters will determine future tax rates, infrastructure projects, property values and the like. The weather is expected to be mild across most of the country, so there’s little excuse not to go cast your ballot.

Many Americans have already voted either by early voting or absentee ballot, including my own husband. But I like to vote on Election Day. There is just something patriotic about going to the ballot box with so many of my fellow Americans and sporting an “I voted today” sticker on my shirt or jacket.

Will this day bring us our first woman president or our first reality TV star as leader of the free world? Will Democrats capture enough Senate seats to shift the balance of power there? Many of us will be glued to our television sets tonight to find out.

No matter how you feel about the candidates in this election, it is so important to get out and vote. After a dispiriting campaign rife with scandal-mongering and name-calling, low voter turnout for a presidential election would further demoralize the American people. It is not just a right, but a duty, for citizens to take an active part in electing our leaders and, by so doing, affect the future of our country.

Let’s pack the polling places, my fellow citizens, and show the world how much we cherish  the democratic ideals of these United States.