One World

It is seriously beyond my comprehension why we seem hell bent on shutting one another out in this contemporary world. The Brexit vote was a disappointment, and as I watch from afar what has taken place in Great Britain, I see a lot of similarities to what is dividing us politically in the United States.

In this world of instant messaging and hyper-emphasis on social media, why do we still think it is okay to focus on just ourselves? Have we become strictly nations of narcissists? Have we become a world of “me first” thinkers? More importantly, if that’s how we define ourselves as individuals and as nations, what can we do to turn that around?

How did the United Kingdom do a complete turn-around from its very long history of colonizing territories worldwide to shutting itself off from its next door neighbors? Is it going to give up all those other territories now in order to isolate itself further?  I doubt it.

Here in the US, how is it that we have gone from Ronald Reagan standing by the Brandenburg Gate imploring, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” in 1987, to “We’re gonna build a wall” in 2016?  There were many positions taken by former President Reagan with which I could not agree, but I could never argue with his ability to make a good speech and always agreed with his drive to end the Cold War and bring nations together. We all remember one line from his speech at the Berlin Wall, but it also included another great line that turned out to be prophetic: “Across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.”

If we can learn anything from history, the key take-away should be that isolationism is never the answer.  Many historians believe that the US policy of isolationism after World War I was a key factor in the onset of World War II.  I’m pretty sure Great Britain does not want to repeat that, nor does the rest of Europe.  I am saddened by the British vote to separate from EU.

Here in the USA we have a long history of being a proud nation of immigrants. But take a look around the rest of the world. Isn’t that the case almost everywhere now? Since personal air travel became more accessible to individuals for both business and pleasure post World War II, the borders of many countries have been opened in an unprecedented way. It has become harder and harder to claim a single national identity, not just for Americans, but for all peoples everywhere. The advent of the Internet brought us all closer together in different ways, making it possible for people to create bonds with one another from thousands of miles away.

Like it or not, we are a global economy and there is no looking back. Anyone who tells you otherwise is seriously kidding themselves. Great Britain can never shut itself off from its European neighbors economically. The United States can never close its ties with Chinese industry. You may not know it, but even small, local, businesses are importing and exporting goods from around the world all the time now. That manufacturing plant where your father used to work is almost certainly selling its products online now, to buyers in Asia, Africa, and South America. Worldwide trade is commonplace, even among smaller companies that don’t have a multi-national presence.

I have read numerous articles about the key issues in the 2016 US presidential election, and also read numerous articles on the various rationales to “leave” or “stay” in Britain.  After all of this reading, it seems clear that the true driving force behind peoples’ votes this year is fear: fear of job loss, fear of immigrants, fear of crime, and fear of a changing social climate. Maybe what really separates us is the bigger question, “What are we afraid of?” My answer to that remains virtually unchanged: I refuse to give in to fear.

Sure, there are lots of things that trigger fear in people for different reasons. But if we become consumed by fear then eventually we won’t even get out of bed in the morning. I simply will not accept that in my life. It’s the prospect of embracing a new day, regardless of what it may bring, that keeps me going. It’s the idea that our differences make us special, that we each come with talents and inabilities, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. It’s the notion that behind the color of our skin, hair, and eyes, behind our gender, behind our economic status, we are all people. We all have families and friends and many of us choose to act in ways that make a difference for others. What separates us can also unite us. If it unites some groups for evil, it can also unite others for good.

I have seldom been accused of optimism, but still feel strongly that there is hope for people to get along with one another. There is hope for individuals and hope for nations. It takes work, and communication is the key. It’s always the key, whether you’re building personal or professional relationships between individuals or between nations. Ironic, isn’t it, that in this age of instant communication, we still can’t find the meaningful words to help us all get along?

With all of our fears, all of our poverty, all of our wealth, all of our colors, all of our faiths, all of our hearts, we are one world.  We have no one else in the entire solar system – just us on this single planet.  We are one world. We need to start acting like it.

I Am a Feminist

I am a feminist. Still.

First let me say that I am tired of having to repeat myself year after year after year. I don’t think we should have to, in 2016, still be pointing out that women are treated not just unequally, but actually with contempt in some cases. But then life as usual happens and I am reminded again that we feminists still have to speak out.

A convicted rapist is sentenced to just six months in prison because the judge feels that the young man’s life will be ruined if he faces a longer term. The rapist’s father tells the court his son can’t even enjoy eating a steak anymore. Neither of these men, privileged merely by the facts that they are white and they are men, seems to understand that the young woman was actually the victim of this rape. Rape is not an intimate act, it is a violent crime. SHE WAS THE VICTIM!

A major party candidate for President of the United States is accused of “playing the woman card.” What exactly IS the woman card? I am pretty sure I have been shuffling that deck for decades now. Her opponent can’t possibly begin to understand the intricate issues of governance and politics, so he simply attacks her for being a woman. Some of us yearn to hear a genuine airing of issues and policy statements, and instead we get sexist rants, and his supporters, many of them women, are okay with that.

Don’t even get me started on the equal pay for equal work situation. No matter how you do the math, 79 cents does not equal a dollar. It never will.

Also, don’t get me started on the horrific treatment of women in other countries. No, it doesn’t make it better that our country allows women certain privileges and doesn’t treat them like cattle. It just makes other countries worse.

So what exactly is a feminist, you wonder, and why should a woman who has been happily married for 32 years be a feminist? Because it’s not about holding doors, it’s about equality. It’s not about who is stronger physically, it’s about equality. It’s not about women’s rights, it’s about human rights. It’s not about whether a woman can still feel feminine and enjoy wearing dresses and high heels. I do, and I’m still a feminist. It’s not about which partner changes the babies diapers or mows the lawn (and the answer in our home has always been “both of us.”) It’s about women and men being treated with equal respect under the law and in the workplace. It’s about women and men collectively being welcomed at the boardroom table and the kitchen table.

Once upon a time I was a card-carrying member of NOW, the National Organization for Women. Card carrying, as in: I donated to the organization and they sent me a membership card, which I carried in my wallet. I believed in their cause in the 1970s and I believe in their cause now. I believe in equal pay for equal work. I believe we have not done enough in this country to stop violence against women or against lesbian, gay, and transgender people. We haven’t done enough to promote racial equality or religious tolerance. Oh yes…I also believe that women should have control over their own health and medical care.

And we sure haven’t overcome the stereotypes that women have certain roles in society which do not include leadership. Routinely, women who are strong, assertive, ambitious, and intelligent are still considered bitchy. Men with those same traits are considered leadership material. I know this because I have lived it.

It’s especially vexing to me when young women deny that feminism is even necessary. They treat it like some type of historical novel; something that had to be an issue for women in the old days – way back in the 1960’s and 70’s. Here’s the thing about that: those women who made a big deal about equality back in the day are the reason young women now have opportunities to play sports, legally get credit in their own name including student loans (for better or worse), purchase property, and apply for any job they may choose. Your grandmothers and great grandmothers are the reason you now get to vote. But it’s not just history at stake, it’s the present.

Feminism is not a women’s issue. It’s a human issue. Both women and men need a consciousness-raising every so often, to remind us that we are all in this life together. We all need to treat one another with respect and kindness and with an eye towards justice at every turn. Our gender alone does not define who we are as a person any more than our race or our religion. We are all the sum total of our physical, emotional, intellectual, relational, and artistic experiences. My husband and I, together, have tried to instill these values in our daughters.

Yes, I am tired of repeating these arguments. I don’t want to have to raise the continuing issues of misogyny and chauvinism. Yet there they are, still rearing their ugly heads at every turn, even in 2016. We should be above all that by now, but we are not, and the struggle continues.

So I am a feminist. Still.