The funny thing about our world these days is that Social Media vehicles like Twitter and Facebook have made it much smaller than it once was. Due to the recent events in Newtown, Connecticut and the immediacy of shared information, other countries are suddenly offering their input and participating in a dialog that was once uniquely American. I’m new to Twitter, but I’m becoming more and more aware that I could be talking to someone across oceans, and certainly across thousands of miles of tundra. I could be talking to someone who isn’t American, about a topic that concerns Americans, because suddenly it weighs heavily on the hearts and in the minds of the world.
Such was the case last evening when a dialog began about gun control and mental health between two mothers in two different countries. In the shorthand that is unique to Twitter, we only whispered at the surface, but I am building a great deal of respect for her views on success and failure, and we and the brilliant minds at Leadership Voices
agree on the need for an urgent global discussion on mental wellness
. Irene Becker is a business coach and consultant with Just Coach It
in Canada, and I am actually working with a business coach, Nancy Kaye, of Define Your Destiny
in San Diego, California. These women and others like them share a vision of the potential that can be reached by many who may have previously seen themselves as failures. And it’s quite possible these two fine, smart, beautiful spirits who are trying to heal the hearts and the minds of the clients they work with, one at a time, may share some other similarities in their views on gun control.
I have a unique perspective on the issue of gun control, in that my husband is an ex-police officer/ firefighter/ paramedic and is a nationally recognized security expert
who specializes in Business Continuity Planning
that encompasses active shooter and violence in the workplace programs.
We’re from Michigan, and we tend to be prepared sorts. That being said, neither of us is against federal mandates for stricter gun control policies as they pertain to the consistent vetting (across the country) for past criminal and mental health issues, right to privacy be damned—I would not be opposed to such background checks on all members of legal age in a prospective household, a waiting period not to exceed a week, for example, safety checks and required safety courses. With his background, my husband was part-owner of a gun store in our town for a time and served as gunsmith and armor to many of the local law enforcement agencies. On occasion I worked in that gun store, and thus had to go through the extensive training and testing and obtain a Concealed Pistol License (CPL) myself. I understand there are those who have very differing views on and feelings about guns than many of the rest of us in the US, as I’m sure we do on other issues. Much like the taboo of mental illness, this wasn’t something I often felt I could talk about in California, as I imagine it wouldn’t be in many circles in Canada and other countries. I must tell you, however, as a 5’0” woman who has been the victim of date-rape and who spent years as a single mom, I rather enjoy feeling competent and prepared; less scared and less like a potential victim all the time.
I suspect the incidence of all crimes is lower in Canada than in the US. But here we are, and suddenly taking guns away from law-abiding citizens while leaving them in the hands of criminals and psychos who don’t abide by the laws of the land, amounts to piss poor planning. However, Leadership Voices, Irene and Nancy are definitely onto something when they speak about the amount of stress under which our society lives and functions on a daily basis. I’ve seen it first hand, having lived in Chicago for a time when our daughters were young, and more recently having lived in San Diego for two years. We have chosen to return to our small, Midwestern town, where the pace and the demand and the traffic and the competition and the stress is far lower than what we experienced in either of those two bustling metropolitan areas, and frankly where I’m less afraid (and better prepared) to walk the streets. There was a school shooting at Kelly Elementary School in Carlsbad, California, not fifteen minutes north of our house when we first arrived there. There were two incidences of highway snipers that occurred in the short time we lived there, the 2nd one ending with an incident AT our freeway exit. There were robberies in malls, there were home invasions, there occurred two murders of cab drivers two exits to the south of ours in an area we frequented with out of town guests; all and much more in the short time we lived in California.
In our experience and in fact, the problems don’t stem from those of us who legally and responsibly own guns for the protection of our homes. The problems tend more to come from those for whom guns have been purchased by others, or from those who illegally possess guns. My hometown in Michigan sits on a stretch of highway that runs between Detroit and Chicago. There is a great deal of drug running that occurs, and there is plenty of gun violence that occurs in the socioeconomically depressed and welfare dependent town that sits right across the river from ours. We cross the river to go to the movies, and we cross the river to do our Christmas shopping. Thus, we are occasionally the victims of muggings and other crimes, particularly this time of year, and shoplifting and petty larceny is rampant.
Among the difficulties of the recent events in Newtown, CT, for me, is the fact that it has taken away an insular sense of security I once treasured here in my hometown. Mine is very like the town of Newtown: lakeside, quaint, picturesque, we parent and love one another’s children without restraint; we look out for our neighbors. Sandy Hook Elementary is a school very similar to my son’s. The staff and the children who lost their lives, and ALL of the town’s and the nation’s and the world’s parents and citizens who grieve them, look and sound very similar to those in our town. And even while I grieve my own and my children’s loss of innocence in such times, I have a strong sense that the past several years of economic destruction in many American families has left us heartbroken and emotionally, mentally, and financially battered. Those with the capacity for hope and the mental stability to do as Irene so aptly describes in her essay, Winning the New War
, to use our Constructive Discontent
to Fail Forward, will survive and with the help of people like Irene and Nancy use our skills to grow and perhaps even to excel in these times. It is the perpetually poverty-stricken, the sick and the tortured, the ones who suffer from undiagnosed and untreated mental illness, PTSD, and even chemical imbalances
that can sometimes be attributed to something as simple as food sensitivities
, who are clearly more susceptible to urges that lead them to take their pain and their anger out on innocent victims.
But patting them on their heads and holding their hands and telling them that it will be OK and being afraid to discuss mental illness or to reach out for help that isn’t there; caring more for their civil rights than for their mental health and the safety of others, clearly isn’t doing enough to ensure the health and safety of the public at large, and it must be immediately addressed.
Americans will always feel differently about guns than Canadians and those in other countries do, because Americans have had to fight hard for our freedoms, and Americans have had to fight for the weak and for those who have been inhumanely treated by their own governments. But what of our own? We are the self-appointed and globally-appointed protectors of freedom and justice in this world, and that ideology isn’t likely to change any time soon. Now we just need to find a way to heal our own troubled nation and protect the children in our own backyards and schoolyards, classrooms and hallways.
Taking the right to bare arms away from law-abiding Americans is akin to “changing the minds” (a la Paul Ryan in the vice presidential debate) of Middle Eastern nations or changing women’s minds about the right to choose—from either perspective. That’s a war nobody wants to take on. Perhaps we can, however, come to a reasonable compromise about important things like background checks for all persons of age in a prospective household, waiting periods, trigger locks, safety checks and safety courses.
I wouldn’t be GlutenNaziMom
if I didn’t relay the fact that much of the anger and the malcontent
that exists in our country can be attributed both to what is lacking (vital nutrients/ variety) and to what is present (GMOs, sugar, chemicals and additives) in our Standard American Diet—S.A.D. And there’s a reason the acronym is so very, very SAD.
We must realize that all of the pieces and the parts are connected. I am a sometimes reasonably liberal and sometimes reasonably conservative chick—founding member of the Enlightened Middle Majority
—who occasionally likes to very safely shoot guns, who has chosen both life and otherwise, and thus could never presume to “choose” for another woman, and who has pulled herself out of the depths of poverty as a single parent and for a season contemplated suicide
, and who believes that Health Care Reform as it sits is faulty, at best. How can it support itself if NO ONE is paying a copay? The math simply doesn’t work. And what earthly good can it do if we don’t address mental health in the process? If we continue to fail to address or even discuss Welfare Reform? Mind, Body, Spirit; it’s all interconnected, from an individual standpoint, and from our nation’s.
Guns and the right to bare arms, religious freedom as well as the freedom not to worship are organic and fundamental pieces of the ideology on which this country was built. Mr. President, you may have won the election because for just enough the alternative was unpalatable, but you have a long way to go before you win over and heal the hearts and the minds and the pocketbooks of the Greatest Nation and of the world. And until we as a nation come together, support one another, and collectively do so, unthinkable and unacceptable horrors such as the one in Sandy Hook Elementary school last Friday, such as the one in the mall in Newport Beach, California, three days before, and the one in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, before that, will only continue to happen and likely continue to escalate. I think we can all agree that nobody wants to see that happen in their corner of small town America, or anywhere.
An image that has persisted in my mind during President Barack Obama’s Administration, is that of a bunch of fat white men sitting around a paneled room smoking cigars, nodding with the one who says, “That boy
will never see another term.” Sure, President Bill Clinton had the ‘Grinch Mob,’ but as a president, despite his obvious flaws as a husband, he still enjoyed a good deal of support. A circle of life concluded between Republican Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves and Democrat Barack Obama becoming president, and in contrast, he has conducted himself with the utmost class. I suspect, however, that the Obamas navigate Washington circles amid an undercurrent of discrimination. I’m not ready to commit my vote yet, but never in my awareness of politics can I remember a president being so vehemently opposed and, God help our country, I feel strongly that it’s because he’s black.
This seems to be the only ideal the Republican Party is united about these days, and the desire to squash a sitting president does not an effective campaign make. The GOP does not have it together, and that’s what scares away those of us in the middle. As proven by the disastrous McCain/Palin ticket, you can’t just dress up an ill-prepared hockey mom, put lipstick on her, shove her onto a national platform and expect her to save your party. She may walk like a duck and squawk like a duck, but she’s still just a good ol’ boy dressed in drag.
The Democrats, however, are guilty, too. They sit back quietly on their laurels, and when the GOP begins to take too much ground, they occasionally throw out the reminder that still gets many women to vote their way: “Watch out! They’re all out to take away abortion!” The Democrats seem to think it’s the only winning card they have to play. We have to ask ourselves whom it really behooves to keep throwing the right to choose up for fisticuffs. I said it as Poky Puppy ADD It Again, in my featured piece on BlogHer.com, The Enlightened Middle Majority and Why ‘The Sides’ Are Alienating Us:
“But that's all any of us really want, and it’s the very foundation on which this country was built. We still don't want anyone to tell us whom we must worship, where we must worship, or that we have to worship at all, nor do we wish to stop anyone who wants to do so. Freedom of
religion must also mean freedom from
religion, and religious doctrines simply cannot enter into a political discussion of our rights as Americans. I believe in God. But I don't want anyone to tell me that I have to.”
So uphold Roe vs. Wade, take the right to choose off the table, as it must be, and see what kind of progress we can make on all the other issues. I believe suddenly the discourse would become far more productive.
The only other cohesive message that seems to come from the Republican side is from that ultra conservative Christian sector, which isn’t what this country wants or needs. What we are aching for, what this whole 51% thing is about, is the hope and the desire and, dammit, the demand
for a voice of reason; to speak out and say, “Enough already!” I suspect that voice will be a woman’s; to represent the middle majority and do what’s really good for this country as a whole. In the meantime, if everyone would stop opposing so vehemently and start participating in bi-partisan cooperation, great things could be accomplished now.
Women hold treasures far more valuable than brute strength: flexibility, common sense, diplomacy, the ability to multi-task and keep entire families together, to balance and stay within budgets, to go Momma Bear, Tiger Mom, and even Hockey Mom and fight to the death for our clan when we must. We do this while our men-folk bump chests, bully and bluster and attempt to bend the world with their military prowess. We are cut open or ripped open to give birth, yet the entire problem both parties have can be summed up in these few words: They Under-Estimate Us. We survive rape and breast cancer, poverty and oppression, and we possess strength beyond imagination.
Except that we
imagine it. We
understand it--live it--we keep it close and we keep it quiet in order to keep peace, exercising it only when we must. Well, my sisters, we must
. Whether we lean to the right or to the left, we can no longer afford to just hold our collective breaths and hope for the best. We
must act now. We
must be willing to mix it up with the boys and spar a little; to stand up and let our altos and sopranos and our keyboards be heard. We
are the 51%. We
are the Enlightened Middle Majority and we
are the future; of politics, of our nation’s success and of the very continuation of our race.
I can’t imagine what sort of resistance a woman president might one day be subjected to, but I know this: ‘They’ won’t know what size Jimmy Choos hit them.[Here's the link to the first post, "My Friends Think I'm The Only Liberal They Know. I Don't Know What I Am," which was featured on BlogHer.com, before "The Enlightened Middle Majority And Why 'The Sides' Are Alienating Us," was featured on the same site. Of course, they are originally posted here, but the comments of the many brilliant readers on BlogHer make for entertaining reading as well.]
Never in a thousand dreams, would I have imagined myself a political blogger. I may occasionally dangle my participles and I don’t know what
up is. I’m literally the farthest thing from a political pundit, and I’m just as shocked as my 7th grade English teacher, to whom I still owe a report on Greek Mythology. I’m just a mom who wants to hear from someone who makes sense, who gets me. Until very recently, when “My Friends Think I’m The Only Liberal They Know. I Don’t Know What I Am”
was featured on BlogHer, I wasn’t someone who wore her politics on her sleeve. Maybe because of my waffling party alignment, and maybe because I was never sure people would still love me after a debate. But the current political atmosphere no longer affords those of us in the middle the luxury to hide.
In the comment thread for My Friends Think,
the brilliant Stacy Morrison, Editor in Chief at BlogHer.com said, “You know what I am? I am a woman, a mother, a worker, a home owner, a person, a voice, a collection of dreams and ideas, and I am proud to say that I truly believe people are allowed to think their own thoughts, all the time, even if I disagree with them. And, dammit, I am an American. Not a wave the flag American. Not a pointy-headed snob American. Just a person trying to make my life work and still have time for family, love and fun.” That’s why she’s editor in chief. In that one beautiful statement, she summed up what it’s like to be a woman and a mother in these difficult times. She also said, “I think it's SO IMPORTANT that we find a way to lead the awful, ugly, unproductive political discourse toward this same idea of COMPLEXITY.” Let me just say, I would switch teams, er…vote for Stacy Morrison.
About the same post, one of the wisest people I’m lucky enough to call friend said, “When I think of politics I think of the polarized world that we live in today. We, the public, are very programmed to measure everything, including politics, based on that polarity. Everything is good or bad, black or white, in or out, light or dark. I believe we are also trained to believe that where ever our personal choices fall, we must believe we are at the 'better' end of whatever scale we are using at that moment. …we are always 'right' and the other guy therefore, must always be 'wrong'. I see little effort put into coming together somewhere in the middle. I believe a little (or a lot) of tolerance would help balance the scales.” She’s also the one who said she would describe me as enlightened
, which is where the phrase the Enlightened Middle Majority
Well, a la Flavia, “If I could sit across the porch from [those who think they’re] God,” and in response to Stacy Morrison’s, “What DON’T You Want From The Election? JOIN US,”
I would tell them a thing or two:
· We women are busy, dammit. But don’t think for a moment that means we aren’t paying attention.
· You MAY NOT take away our right to choose, because doing so would be the antithesis of religious freedom: it's forcing religious beliefs unilaterally down the throats of every American.
· The term is pro-choice. No one is pro-abortion. That sounds like we're all for handing them out willy-nilly, using them as birth control, and doing something less than painstakingly deliberating such a monumental decision. Finding ourselves in a position that requires such a choice is not in the least frivolous, and babies deserve (and require) so much more than to merely exist.
· Birth control isn’t perfect. If my college age daughter found she had to suddenly choose between a lifelong dream of a softball scholarship or unexpectedly being a mother, I would want her to be able to decide her own future, not Rush Limbaugh.
· And speaking of birth control, if a doctor who prescribes contraceptives is in my insurance plan, then it’s none of my employer’s business what kind of drug he or she prescribes. That’s between me and my doctor. In the absence of an equivalent form of male birth control, singling out contraceptives as not being covered singles out women, and that’s discriminatory. Contraceptives should be no different than anti-depressants, Lipitor or any other drug.
· Wake up and smell the fuel oil: “Burn Baby Burn,” does not an effective campaign slogan make. It pisses off those of us who care about the legacy we leave behind for our children on this earth. And why would anyone so vehemently fight a future that provides jobs that take better care of our planet. Don’t ignore us, don’t patronize us and don’t make fun of things that are important to us; it makes us angry. And you won’t like us when we’re angry.
If The Pen is [indeed] Mightier Than the Sword, why is it that those of us in the Enlightened Middle Majority seem to use the pen (or our keyboards) and the facts and reasonable discussion in an attempt to be heard and to understand, while extremists bomb abortion clinics?
OK, that’s an admittedly extreme statement.
But that's all any of us really want, and it’s the very foundation on which this country was built. We still don't want anyone to tell us whom we must worship, where we must worship, or that we have to worship at all, nor do we wish to stop anyone who wants to do so. Freedom of
religion must also mean freedom from
religion, and religious doctrines simply cannot enter into a political discussion of our rights as Americans. I believe in God. But I don't want anyone to tell me that I have to.
What I want
is for our veterans who have been withdrawn from the battle fields where they've been fighting for this country to come home to good jobs and be able to feed their families. Many of the same skills they have been using to rebuild the infrastructure that was destroyed in Iraq and Afghanistan could be employed on a high speed train system in the US. JOBS. I want people who have for generations now been on welfare, to be taught and rewarded for seeking and maintaining jobs instead of the dole. There is no reward system in place to inspire people to want more, there is only suppression and perpetuation of poverty. I know this, because I was a single mom who wanted just a small amount each month to help supplement my income. I was denied because I had a job, but I didn't make enough to support my daughter and myself. I want children who are born into poverty in this country to have enough truly healthy food to eat, to be warm, to be loved and to have the same opportunities to be educated that my children enjoy. I want teachers (most of whom are women) to be paid what they deserve to be paid for building the very foundation of the future of our country in an environment that, because people are afraid and unemployed and angry and those feelings trickle down to their children, only becomes more and more hostile.
We can no longer afford to be silent. Those of us, who have never before considered ourselves activists, have no choice but to stand up and be heard, and we must be counted. We must tell the politicians of this election cycle and all those to come, that we are paying attention, and that we will not be ignored. That they may no longer take comfort in their "republican-ness" or in their "democrat-ness", but that they must pay attention to those of us in the Enlightened Middle Majority, stop being so divisive and find a way to promulgate change that really matters.
I still don’t know what that makes me, but I know this: Extremism will get no one elected. Listening and debating RESPECTFULLY, tolerance, being open to compromise and ideology that sees beyond black and white, those are qualities of the candidate who will get my vote, and the votes of many who count themselves in the Enlightened Middle Majority.