Saturday, December 17, 2016

Public Servant? Hardly.

December 17, 2016

I continue to watch news unfold about the way in which Trump’s personal financial dealings will impact us as a collective nation, and it seems he is even less and less interested in even pretending that it matters to him what the impact will be, beyond his own bank account.  He refuses to divest himself in any meaningful way from his business empire.  Nobody’s buying, “It’s going to be run by my kids, so I will have no part in running the company.”  Throughout his campaign he held events, housed offices, and booked rooms for events at his own properties at a considerable mark-up, essentially having his campaign (public) pay his business (private) exorbitant amounts of money.  He has refused to divest himself of his reality show, where he will remain an executive producer and by extension will maintain a financial relationship with NBC, who will have to weigh broadcasting decisions, including news about the President-elect (and eventually, President) through the lens of that relationship.  He has already made quite a public showing (via Twitter, naturally) of going toe-to-toe with Boeing because of inflated costs of building Air Force One, and makes no qualms about calling out any business that he personally feels doesn’t fall in line with his bottom line.  Finally, because his youngest son is still in school, Melania and Barron will continue to live in New York, with frequent stays by Trump as well, essentially at least doubling America’s price tag for security, as a full detail will have to be maintained on a full-time basis on both coasts.  Who pays that price?  We do, of course.

Naturally, there will be arguments in favor of each of these business decisions of his.  “Why should he have to give up the empire he built?”  Well, his job now is one of public servant, though I sincerely don’t think he understands the full implication of that concept.  If one can curry favor with Trump by being willing to fork out the money to hold events at hotels he owns, there is a built-in potential for financial reciprocity in lobbying, political support, etc. there—a pay-to-play sort of relationship that will always potentially be part of the equation.  The same concept applies to NBC maintaining a financial relationship with him.  How can a media outlet, who is responsible for reporting news and being part of our checks-and-balances in the public system (no doubt that this has become a major function of our news media), maintain a semblance of objectivity in reporting negative news about someone in whom they have a great stake in helping remain financially successful?  And Boeing? Why NOT call out excessive price tags on businesses who do commerce with the government?  I get that argument—of course I do.  Except for the kind of money he is making on his own business holdings at the expense of his campaign coffers, and in future—at the expense of the American people.   Melania and her son choosing to stay in New York because of his schooling is understandable—she wants him to continue on in his current private school.  So be it.  But if I were offered a job across the country and I wanted my spouse and my kids to stay in their current location, I wouldn’t expect my future employer to foot the bill for it.  What employer would agree to such terms?  Trump knew what a win would entail, including the relocation of his family.  If that was not his intention, he himself should pay the extra cost of choosing to maintain a separate residence and all the security detail and additional expense that comes along with it—not me.  Not the American tax dollars.

You know what though?  All of the financial intertwinings of Trump and our taxpayer dollars are just the tip of the iceberg.  They are disturbing and worrisome, but in reality, only the beginning of what we must be vigilant about.  His international diplomacy policies, his human rights policies, his domestic policies—these are even more worrisome, and follow the same pattern of being in service to Donald Trump the man, and not Donald Trump the public servant.  Trump’s inability—or flat out lack of desire—to divest himself of his own personal gains for the greater good is the most problematic issue we face.  His business transactions continue to be symbolic of the greater issue at hand that should be a red flag: Donald Trump’s desire to rule this land is not—has never been—about ‘Making America Great Again’ or about ‘fixing what’s wrong’.  His desire to rule remains a desire to rule.  Period. A desire to continue to build power and wealth to the one person who matters to him—Donald.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Milestone Date for Me

December 4, 2016

Today marks a significant date in my life.  Today is commemorated by the marks I bear on my body, scars left as tribute to my battle with cancer and the mastectomy I had one year ago.

I struggle with that word ‘battle’.  I did not, in fact, have much to do with the fight, strictly speaking.  After watching a suspicious change in the breast that would not heal (not a lump, as it turns out—these things do not always manifest themselves in lumps), I scheduled an appointment with my doctor at the behest of my husband.  She then scheduled a diagnostic mammogram, and suddenly I was on a roller coaster I didn’t sign up for—the hurry-up-and-wait of meeting with doctors, biopsies, waiting for lab results, and ultimately, surgery.  Even then I didn’t know that the surgery, December 4, 2015, would be the first of four…and counting.  All that being said, I didn’t do ‘battle’; I was led through the heretofore completely unknown behemoth of cancer care by a skilled and knowledgeable team of physicians and nurses.  I trusted that they knew what they were doing.

But battle?  Trust me, I know I got off easy.  I was not subjected to chemotherapy and radiation.  I did not lose my hair. I did not struggle with depression and crippling fatigue and illness due to treatment.  I did not face a prognosis that challenged my hope.  I was—am—one of the lucky ones.  I feel like I was one of those people who was supposed to be on an airplane that crashed, but for some reason didn’t board the plane at the last minute.  Does that make me a survivor? Does that make me a fighter?  I don’t know.  It does make me lucky.

I do bear scars, though.  A year ago today, doctors wheeled me into a room and permanently disfigured my body to excise the cancer growing there.  I had no idea what to expect when I woke up—how I would feel, both physically and emotionally.  I worried, of course, about the danger of something going horribly wrong during surgery (“a slim chance,” they said, “but always a possibility”), and about whether or not they would find it had spread to the lymph nodes.   I worried that they wouldn’t get it all, or that it might return.  Truth be told, I still worry about that last one.
The doctors have done a fine job of putting Humpty Dumpty back together again, so to speak.  I am three surgeries into the reconstruction process, and although we’re still not done, I’m pretty happy with the status.  I don’t look like I used to, but I don’t cringe or look away from the scars like I thought I might.  That’s just a part of who I am now.

Life has finally pretty much resumed to its normal state now, something that many breast cancer survivors fight way harder than I have to regain.  Sadly, some of them never do.  I am thankful and I am grateful to be where I am and to see the future stretched out before me.  I guess I worry that others who have had it so much worse will feel I am an imposter when I say I am a breast cancer survivor, or that people will feel I shouldn’t talk about it and just move on because the impact on my life seems so minimal compared to others.  And then I look at those scars, those marks on my body, and I remind myself that I am allowed to claim my journey, to mark this date in my own way.  And this is how I choose to commemorate it.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Month In...Where Are We Now?

November 27, 2016

It’s been nearly a month since the election, and I’m still struggling with the outcome.  Nearly every day some new alarming piece of information comes to light, and we are left to figure out what it means and how it will impact our future.  I am not one of those who is espousing the #NotMyPresident mantra; just as I felt when President Obama was elected and folks complained and protested and lamented, I believe that embittered divisiveness is counterproductive for all of us.  Yes, my friends, there was protesting and loud lamentation when the votes were tallied for Obama, much as many Trump supporters would love to ignore. And yes, I understand why people get behind the #NotMyPresident movement; it’s just that I think the deed is done, and what must be done now is to be watchful and proactive of the potential ramifications, rather than choose not to acknowledge the reality in which we find ourselves. 

That reality is this: 

We have the appointment of Steve Bannon, a man considered to many to have close ties to racist White Supremacist groups, to Chief Strategist.  We have the appointment of Betsy DeVos, wealthy private school product with no experience or connection to public education to Secretary of Education. Jeff Sessions, known for his racist and anti-LGBT stances, has been appointed Attorney General, causing heightened concern for civil liberties moving forward.  There is a host of other recently appointed and rumored appointees that draw from one of two categories—long-time career politicians that fly in the face of Trump’s “Drain the Swamp” rallying cry, and wealthy political donors and lobbyists with approximately the same amount of experience Trump himself possesses in the political arena.  Now don’t get me wrong; I am frankly relieved to hear that there will be someone with the keys to the playground who’s actually been there before, but it would be a whole lot less concerning if those being invited back to the playground weren’t all part of the same gang that tried to run everyone else out to begin with. 

What is most striking about all of these appointments of the good old boys is that Trump supporters, many of whom voted for him on the promise of new ideas and new voices in government, haven’t found themselves betrayed by these appointments.  Similarly, Trump has already backtracked, before even taking office, on his plans to charge Hillary for presumed crimes, his pledge to completely repeal Obamacare, and his vision of the Wall.  Like many, many politicians before him, he has said whatever he needed to say in order to get himself elected, and people fell for the act.

The reality—our reality—is that the populace has perhaps the most important responsibility we’ve ever had.  We must hope, though it seems counterintuitive in this case, for the success of our President-elect, because that is the only way we succeed.  What success looks like for America, for the people, might be much different than what it looks like for a wealthy businessman.  We need to teach our inexperienced leader and his cabinet what we believe success looks like; as in any relationship, we must teach them how we expect to be treated and accept nothing less.  As the fringes have moved center and to the primary seats at the table, we have to make sure we maintain the voices of all, loudly and persistently, especially those who seemingly have been uninvited to the feast.  It would be easy to, with time, forget that the dinner party is going on in our absence, but we simply cannot allow those at the feast to forget that the pantry belongs to us all.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Reclaiming My Labels for Myself

November 13, 2016

 I don’t know when the word ‘liberal’ (and even more so, the shortened ‘libs’) became an insult, but somehow it has.  Rather than owning a liberal stance, many of our public officials have shied away from proclaiming themselves liberals for fear of alienating more conservative constituents, and the general populace has followed suit.  When someone asks me if I am a liberal, my first instinct is to temper my response because the conservative base has turned that term into something dirty, or at the very least, uneducated.  In reality, the very definition of the word, according to Merriam-Webster, is one who “believes that government should be active in supporting social and political change” and one who is “not opposed to new ideas or ways of behaving”.  Why have we backed away from owning this term?  We are an evolving and changing society; being open to new ideas and social change is something I am proud of.  It is vital to be forward-thinking in our world.  We need to take back the definition of the word and not let someone else define what it means within the scope of our society.  I don’t claim to speak for anyone but myself here, but I am a Christian and a liberal, and I’m taking my own labels back.  I am educated, I am smart, I am independent, and my opinions are formed by reading, listening, thinking, challenging, and processing.  I believe in love and support of all people, and I believe that there’s a greater spiritual being than humans out there in the universe.  And that’s what a Christian liberal woman looks like in me.