Binders full of women

Do you remember that phrase?

People in the U.S. probably do.

But just in case your history is foggy, it was a phrase used in a debate on October 16, 2012 by Mitt Romney when responding to a question on how he sought to create a gender-balanced cabinet. It was not so much about whether or not he did try to recruit women. It became about the objectifying women to “figures” that could be put into binders.

Perhaps that had an effect on his prospects for election. I’m not sure. He didn’t win. For a variety of reasons. President Obama had been doing a good job, and the economy had turned around since 2008. So there were myriad reasons Mitt Romney did not succeed.

And yet: 4 years after that, we elected a man who openly bragged about grabbing women by the pussy.

Trump ugly face
Photo credit link

Shocking, really.

I know and realize that Hillary made a lot of mistakes in her campaign. I also believe that her “like-ability” was in question, and I believe that a lot of misogyny, both real and internalized, affected her odds of election. As I have already written, all candidates running for office are deeply flawed.

However, there are a record number of women running for office in 2018 who have been galvanized by the obvious misogyny of the current administration. Our sense of decency and fairness has been violated. Some might say “binders full of women” are stepping forward.

The recent result of the Supreme Court appointment of Justice Kavanaugh just rubbed salt into the wound for so many of us. I hope that voters keep in mind the flawed nature of our power structure as they go to the polls on Tuesday. Electing different people sends a message to our misogynist President and the party that still supports him.

I understand that some people do not plan to vote at all on Tuesday. I have already talked with an individual who believes the 2-party system is broken so he does not plan to vote. I feel very sad about that. And I believe this is the reason we have ended up with the leadership we have right now.

Rock the Vote
Link to Rock the Vote

Please make a plan to vote on Tuesday, if you have not already voted absentee, or in early voting as some states allow. I am not going to tell you how to cast your vote. That is up to you. But when 40% or more of the country is not voting, it is much easier to ignore “we the people.”

That is a dangerous state for our democracy. Even if you think some candidates are flawed, show up and be counted. We need you. All of you. Do not drop out of your duty as a citizen.

Stepping down off my soapbox now.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Deeply flawed

I heard a news program today describe the two presidential candidates in 2016 as “deeply flawed.” They were commenting on the fact that a lot of millennial-aged people who voted in 2012 did not vote in 2016.

I get it. I do.

I was a big fan of Hillary, and I knew she was a flawed candidate. You know why? Because nobody is perfect. Because anyone who has been in politics for any length of time has made lots of public mistakes. I guess I’ll argue that a candidate that has openly bragged about assaulting women, or has committed treason by inviting Russia to hack our democracy has deeper flaws than Hillary. But that is a matter than can be debated, and I am biased.

People are messy. People are imperfect. Democracy is messy. And yet, I still prefer it to any other alternative. We need to show up and make our voices heard. 

deeply flawed

Democracy is a team sport. Even if you are on the bench, you still have to take a position at least during elections. Abstaining means the same old, same old people.

If you want that, fine. If you want to maintain our democracy and assure that all people continue to have their rights protected: VOTE!

I hate negative ads as much as anyone, and I am grateful the election will be over in one week here in the U.S. Make a decision. Show up at the polls. Even if you don’t vote for all the offices, at least find out your local candidate race (for Senate or Congress) and vote for that one.

Are any of us without sin?

I doubt it. Which means: we need leaders, flawed or not. If you want better, run yourself. 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

(end soapbox rant)

 

 

Edginess

I write this reflection with a feeling of edginess in my body, and unresolved tension in my throat and my heart related to recent political events.

The confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh feels like yet another assault on women. I realize that the circumstances surrounding the testimony of Professor Ford had some unconfirmed facts. But it haunts me to know that our political and legal systems have added to the most important court in our nation someone who’s character I would deem unfit for this appointment.

My question now involves what my role will be in the next election, and in future political activities. I know that until we have a shift in power, and more women and others who are underrepresented in this process, we will continue to fall short of the ideals of this nation.

Years ago I was very active in electoral politics. I volunteered with campaigns, managed a winning city council campaign, and I engaged in phone calling and door-to-door voter outreach. This is despite my introvert preference to do the “quieter” types of activism, that do not involve meeting large numbers of new people.

Kavanaugh confirmed.JPG
Photo credit link – BT News

In an earlier era of my life, I felt a sense of urgency in my activities. While I still feel urgency in some ways, my activism may take another form this time around. I went back to my master’s thesis on “Mythical Condensation in Electoral Politics” completed in 2006 to review some of the ideas I had then about what is happening today.

Much of it still rings true, particularly on the polarizing effects of our political discourse today:

I argue that political candidate success is a function of mythic condensation or voter consumerism rather than issue positions or leadership competence.

Yes. Today, more than ever these concepts apply to the political realm. Back in those days I used discourse analysis and drew from the disciplines of linguistics, social psychology, media studies and political science to make my argument.

The 40-page document took a great deal of effort for me to “birth” at the time. But I look back fondly at having the privilege to think and write that analysis. Myth and metaphor continue to be relevant in how we construct our political truths. We use cognitive frames to interpret the world while conveniently ignoring facts.

Neuroscience explains how our choice of language shapes our beliefs. And myths “naturalize” what is historical artifact. Rhetoric and imagery appeal to our emotions, while realities are constructed of symbolism in which polarities seem to thrive.

For now, my question of what I will do in this final month before the next election remains unresolved. The edginess remains.

 

 

Living our delusions

We are all delusional. Human beings create our reality, and we do it through thinking certain thoughts, imagining stories and inventing explanations to account for what we do not understand.

Delusional kitty
Photo credit

The lines between objective truth and subjective reality are thin and blurry. There are facts, that is true. But there is also spin. There are conceptual frames for understanding the world. These are actually more important than facts, in many ways, because they shape our world views.

George Lakoff, a cognitive scientist and linguist at UC Berkeley explains this well in his books on Metaphors We Live By and Moral Politics, he explains how humans take in new information and either accept and incorporate it or reject and disregard it. (Back in 2006 this was the subject of my Masters thesis on Mythical Condensation in Electoral Politics. Maybe someday I will dust that thing off, revise it and try to publish it, since I think it is more relevant than ever.)

A decade ago I used the Wellstone campaigns as a case example to illustrate mythical condensation, and I began to understand how the marketing can be more important than the product. Think about the Coca-Cola and their “Open Happiness” campaign that they used for many years. Carbonated sugar water is not happiness.

Wellstone button - Stand up keep fighting
A favorite Wellstone campaign button

One might argue that the ubiquity of carbonated sugar water is actually the source of diabetes, obesity and perhaps many other diseases including cancer and dementia. But does reality matter? If we strongly associate Coke with happiness, and this overrides our knowledge of the toxic effects of the substance, then the facts become irrelevant.

We are wired for story, as Brené Brown explains in her work. It is stories that create coherence in our lives, that allow us to connect our experiences to our understanding and make sense of it all. So in politics and in life, we do our best with the story-lines that make sense to us, and this becomes our “short hand” for making sense of the confusing and overwhelming onslaught of media.

Sometimes we have to question these story-lines and ask whether they could possibly be concepts we choose to believe, rather than facts that are objective. It can be hard to know the difference!

Here is a simple example: “I don’t have time for…x.”  In actuality we have time for everything we NEED to do in a day. Technically to survive, all we need to do is breathe. Humans are well adapted to go a day (or even a few days) without food, as our ancestors did for generations.

So really, all we have to do in this moment to survive is breathe.  Everything else we tell ourselves we HAVE to do is a lie. We *choose* to do what we do, most of our are not compelled to do anything. Granted, if we choose not to go to work, we probably will not have a job long-term. If we choose not to pay our bills, there will be consequences.

But the delusion that we HAVE to do anything right now besides breathe is a fairly common one. Maybe you have even caught yourself using this. What if we questioned our beliefs and our story lines more often? What if we challenged our own thinking and our own assumptions? Would we be able to get outside of our own delusions/belief systems and better see other people’s world views?

It is kind of a radical notion, that we are all delusional. But I ask you to consider your own reality and the stories you tell yourself. What if you “tried on” different stories? How might this change your perspective and daily experience?