Posted in Commentary, Politics

What did you endure, Trump voters?

No, really, I’m asking:  What, exactly, did you endure, that you suffered so over the last 8 years with Barack Obama as our president?

Because I keep hearing about how you suffered tremendously under President Obama, and now we (progressives) get to know how it feels to be so unhappy in a president.  And I want to know HOW?  Because no one ever gives any specifics of how they, personally, were affected in the negative.  

He righted the tanked economy.  He rehabilitated America’s international reputation.  He advanced civil rights for many marginalized groups.  He showed mercy to refugees.  Right or wrong, he avenged America for 9/11 in killing bin Laden and in the continued hunt for and incarceration at Gitmo of suspected terrorists.  He helped millions of Americans have access to health care for the first time.  

What have you got against any of those things (and others), exactly?

What have you endured, from Obama and from progressives across the nation?  What exactly is your problem?  

Is it that you suffered the “indignity” of being led by a Black man, and were forced to confront not only the racist past, (present, and foreseeable future) of our country,  but also the unexamined white supremacist ideals and structures that have seeped into your own mind and values, and that made you uncomfortable and angry?  

Is it that you were “forced” to be legally decent to people who aren’t you and your family?  That you were prevented by law from actively persecuting people you don’t understand, or don’t agree with?  That you find it ever more difficult to find a receptive audience for your racial slurs and misogyny, and are held accountable when you misjudge that audience?  

Were you intolerably put out by the fact that a large number of people think their lives and their bodies and their sex lives are none of your goddamn business, and spoke out, loudly, to make you understand that they didn’t appreciate your inappropriate, hateful intrusion across their healthy boundaries?  

Were you brought up uncomfortably short by the realization that you really don’t understand what it means to live in a society with others, and that since time immemorial, humans have worked cooperatively for their MUTUAL benefit, stifling the unreasonable expectation that their every individual desire and preference be accommodated at all times, because people are different?  

Did you suffer further by not understanding the history of humanity in general, and this country specifically? Did it hurt your heads to reckon with the uncomfortable truth that this is a nation of immigrants built on the bones of the native peoples of this land, land our ancestors stole from them through violent genocide?  Do you feel enslaved and murdered, as they were, because you have to hear Spanish in the Walmart or Arabic in the grocery store?  And if so, where is your ongoing concern for the people who suffered when your family showed up on these shores as you unironically scream “Go back to wherever you came from!” at strangers?  

While you were enjoying unprecedented access to health care through the Affordable Care Act, many of you not understanding that that WAS the Obamacare you hated so, did it gall you that OTHER people’s children were not dying for lack of health care access?  What was the pain and suffering you endured when the cost of helping ill strangers was spread around to all of us?  I’ve got news for you:  It always has been.  If you haven’t been paying for your health insurance and health care up until now, that means the rest of us have been doing it for you.  That’s how insurance works, in case you didn’t know.  The well people have always been paying for the sick people.  When you get subsidized medications, it’s because the people who can afford them are paying more.  When you don’t have a primary care physician and end up in the ER with no ability to pay, the rest of the people who go to that ER who can pay pay for you, too.  That’s why one night in the ER for me cost over $18K.  Which sucks, but I’m willing to accept it so that at 3 a.m. when your child has pneumonia and can’t breathe, and couldn’t get antibiotics in time because you couldn’t afford to go to the doctor, you can get seen in the county ER and your child doesn’t die.  I know that you and your children are not to blame; my anger is for the insurance companies who are happy to profit from your pain and misfortune.  But I’m happy to contribute so that kids live, even though they’re not my kids.  Evidently, that pains you.

How did it affect your life, really, when Obama, and people like me, said that everyone having a lot of guns wasn’t working out so well for us, to the tune of children dead in elementary schools, and people dying in malls, movie theatres, and dance clubs?  You’re still waiting for him to come for you guns, aren’t you?  

Honestly, I just don’t understand what you’re talking about when you speak of the horrors of the last 8 years under Obama.  I keep hearing how we elitist progressives aren’t listening to you, or trying to understand what you’re going through.  But I’m not accepting that rap.  All we ever tried to do was make sure every last damn one of us, including you, was safe, sheltered, fed, educated, and protected equally by laws that exist ONLY to protect us in the first place.  All we’ve ever tried to do was make sure that our darkest, unexamined, historical demons didn’t get, or stay, enshrined to the detriment of any of our fellow citizens, including you.  All we’ve ever tried to do was get people to understand that it was better to share our good fortune and we’d all be better for it.  Were we perfect in the execution?  Of course not.  But at least it was coming from a place of decency, of compassion, of reason.  You’ll never convince me that starting from there isn’t the way to go.

Such unimaginable horrors you’ve endured, to be pushed to, please, finally, learn to recognize and respect the humanity, dignity, autonomy, and opportunity of ALL the people around you that you share this country and this world with, and that there is, truly, enough for every one of us if we share.  And the very people who have shipped your jobs overseas, foreclosed on your houses, made off with your pensions and retirement savings, locked you out of healthcare in the past, and gutted your public schools, all in the name of personal profit, are the ones running your country now.  If you think you were suffering before, I’ve got bad news for you:  You ain’t seen nothing like what’s coming.  None of us have.

Posted in Commentary, Creations, Growing up/old, Memory Lane

The thread that runs through

This photo is totally posed; I guess I fancied myself quite the artist with my Kodak Instamatic, and said, “Pretend you’re sleeping.” With such art direction skills, my current profession as a homemaker is not all that surprising.

Sometime between the winter of 1976-77 when we moved into our house in Escanaba, Michigan, and 1981 when we moved out of it, my mom, the queen of interior decorating, decided to redo my little brother’s room. Check this wallpaper! It had coordinating curtains and bedding as well.   

Anyway, she must have bought extra sheets in the pattern you see between the edge of the comforter and the wall. (That wall…uff da. Did I mention it was the ‘70s?) Or perhaps once we left that house and got new bedrooms elsewhere, she just used the original sheets, but at some point my mother made a quilt out of the sheet fabric, with little blue yarn ties to hold it all together. That quilt went with me when I moved into Neihardt Hall and kept me warm through Nebraska winter in UNL’s oldest, draftiest dorm. And I kept it thereafter, bringing it with me as I moved into college apartments, and our first married apartment, and cross-country from Nebraska to Minnesota and again from Minnesota to Arizona. It was soft and just the perfect weight for a throw and I used it all winter long.  

It must’ve been washed a thousand times over the years (in no small part because my dogs also loved it), and the seams would open a bit, or it would get a weak spot and rip, and I’d sew it up by hand. But one day I noticed that the seam had opened like a foot and a half after a wash, and I went to mend it again, but a flash of yellow hanging out of the opening caught my eye, so I looked inside the quilt.

What was left was mostly disintegrated inside, but still identifiable, and I was shocked at what I found:  It was MY BLANKIE! I had this yellow floral quilt as a kid, and while I didn’t drag it everywhere like a woobie, it WAS my favorite blanket. I realized in that moment I hadn’t been aware of when it had gone missing, or what had happened to it. But as it turned out, I’d had it all along, in my favorite homemade quilt my mom made. When I mentioned it to her, she didn’t even remember it was in there.

But the sad truth was that after more than 30 years, that quilt was done. It had been loved to death (twice!), and there was hardly anything left inside the cover to make it worth mending again, so I said a bittersweet goodbye to it at the trashcan.

And in 1994, someone gave us a pretty blue patchwork quilt as a wedding gift, and we used it for many years…along with the dogs, who regularly got it muddy, or peed on it when they were puppies, or puked on it. As dogs do. So it, too, saw the inside of the washing machine a lot, and it held up pretty well, except for one particular color of fabric, which inexplicably wore out much faster than any other. Everywhere that fabric appeared in the quilt, it was worn through or ripped, and for awhile I worked at darning those spots. But it became clear that I’d be at it for the next two years, and it was just too much work, with no guarantee that some other color wouldn’t start failing at any moment. And I decided it was done, which was a bummer, because I loved this one, too. It was the perfect early fall weight for the desert.  

I walked it out to the trash, flipped the top of the bin open, and just couldn’t put it in. There was no logical reason; it’s not like I didn’t have other comforters and quilts, or that I couldn’t buy another if I wanted to. But I liked this one. So I turned around and walked it back into the house, announcing that I wasn’t going to toss it, but was going to recover it like my mom had recovered my blankie all those years ago.  

Scott was dubious; that quilt had been sitting in mid-repair in the craft room and then my sewing room for at least 2 years already. So I vowed that if I hadn’t bought the material to recover it within a month, I would toss it then. The next day I was off to Big Lots to buy sheets.

I figured, how hard could it be? (Famous last words, to be sure.) All I had to do was sew a rectangle and tie some knots. But it was trickier than that, because it’s such a big piece of fabric to work with at once, and it didn’t fully fit on even the largest work surface we have. Not to mention a problem with cutting the fitted sheet, whose corners I was trying to trim out of the way in a bout of late-night sewing, and managed (how, I still cannot say) to cut right up the middle of the sheet I was trying to cut edges off of. And when I went back to Big Lots to replace it, they no longer had those sheets, so I picked another one, and went from, “I can’t believe I just cut up the middle of that sheet like a moron!” to “It’s reversible! Go me!”

But eventually I got it together, and had only to tie little knots of yarn to hold it all together instead of having the quilt inside floating around or balling up inside the new cover. I was in no way prepared for the putziness of that particular process. It took forever. Though, as often happens when I’m engaged in tedious tasks around the house, like cooking from scratch and having to chop a million things, or tying yarn knots in a rehabbed quilt, I considered that I was just one in a long line of women all over the world who had done this work.  And that thought always pleases me…that no matter how much tech we have surrounding us, and how different the world is, some things continue the same as they have for a thousand years or more. I feel like I’m a part of something bigger and older than myself. And frugal as hell, because none of those women would’ve thrown out a quilt that was still 90% good.

And that was truer than I knew, because when I showed my mom my project-in-progress, she told me how her mother had done it this way, and when she was little she would climb inside the new quilt cover and smooth the filler quilt into the edges and corners. I never imagined my grandmother sewing at all; she didn’t when we were kids, but evidently at some point she had, on the Singer treadle machine my mom still has in her house, and that one day will probably end up in mine.  She’s been gone 32 years next month, my Grandma Mae, but in this quest to preserve a 23-year-old wedding gift, the thread between her and me, through my mom whose example showed me how to do this, brightens enough to be seen again.

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