Look out 2017: I’m putting my scrappy shoulder to the wheel

In the early 1990’s I was working at performing arts center on the campus of  a Midwestern university.  I worked a lot, more than was ideal for a full time student, but I was paying my own way though school and needed the money, and besides that, I loved my front of house theater job.  As a small town escapee, I relished the exposure to the world of performing arts my job gave me and since I only needed to work when customers were in the lobby, I was free to watch the delightful lineup of programs in the theater.  That’s right people, I was getting paid to watch shows; opera, theater, dance, musicals, comedy, jazz—you name it, I ate it up.  And not just performances either, I sat in on whatever group happened to be renting the theater on its off days; Wiccan ceremonies, Inuit art auctions, and bizarre Amway conventions where people threw cash in the air.  I’m pretty sure my best education those four years came from the stage of that theater.

One night I was working a theater rental featuring a right-wing syndicated news columnist speaking on the subject of Family Values as a guest of a local conservative political group.  I had never heard of this columnist, but as was my habit, I slipped into an empty seat in the back of the theater just as Right-Wing Writer stepped to the microphone.  Right-Wing Writer began his speech with patriotic fervor, praising America as the best country in the world, throwing around the words “freedom” and “opportunity” and of course that old standard “The American Way.”  The American Way talk transitioned neatly into Family Values and now Right-Wing Writer was really in his element.

Family Values was the topic in early 90’s Midwest America.  While it may seem difficult to imagine now (when the Republican president elect, an adulterer with children from three wives, once publicly bragged about getting away with sexually assaulting women) but at that time conservative minded citizens were really quite concerned about other people’s private lives.  Gays, single mothers (never the fathers, though how those women managed to get themselves pregnant single-handedly I’ll never understand), welfare collectors, feminists, and non-Christians were bad news because they did not embody the ideal of Family Values.  Right-Wing Writer really laid it out for us that night, how these gays and feminists were corrupting America, degrading the memory of an unspecified but much lamented American past.  The solution to the erosion of Family Values?  The Bible needed to be taught in public schools, gays needed to be “reeducated” and for God’s sake women needed to keep to their rightful place as married homemakers.

Ardent conservatives clapped at the end of Right-Wing Writer speech and he smiled and handed the microphone to an assistant, asking “Are there any questions from the audience?” and why yes, I did have a question, so I raised my hand and the assistant ran up the aisle to me with a microphone.

I did not then and do not now object to people wanting to live differently than me, nor did I care if Right-Wing Writer promoted Family Values.  As a philosophy major trained in logical argument, I objected to his inconsistency and said as much so, calling out Right-Wing Writer for praising the core value of American freedom, while also advocating for his religion to be taught in public schools, for suppressing the freedom of LBGT Americans to marry the person of their choosing, for demanding that women cede control of their bodies to religious and paternal authorities.  I asked Right-Wing Writer to address these contradictions, but he did not, instead he called me an immoral atheist.

A week later Right-Wing Writer published a nationally syndicated newspaper column about his encounter with me.  He described me as a young girl with a soft voice, who sadly encompassed everything wrong with American youth.  He said I was left bereft of Family Values by my Godless liberal education.  This picture of me,  it was so sad, who was that corrupt young castaway, thrown into a sinful, unfulfilling life by the demons of feminism and secular thought?

Here’s what I learned from my experience with Right-Wing Writer: I have a voice.  In less than two minutes of unprepared speech I upset a well regarded commentator enough that he was driven to write a column about me printed in newspapers across the country.  Now, as 2017 approaches and the prospect of a new president whose hateful rhetoric I loathe and whose unqualified cabinet choices and flippant tweets about nuclear weapons scares the pants out of me, I once again remind myself: I have a voice.  I am not helpless.  I may not be a brilliant writer (in fact I may not even have a grasp on basic grammar and punctuation some days) but I can speak up against this new appalling political regime.  I can call my senators and representatives.  I can ally myself with like-minded friends and community organizations.  I can use the same logical skills that I learned as a Philosophy major at my Midwestern University to resist propaganda and lies.  Oh, and I can keep my sense of humor.

Don’t stress: this will still be a travel blog.  I love traveling for art and eating picnics in front of cathedrals and I’m not going to stop (stayed tuned in January for an especially wondrous travel adventure).  But still, I’m going to speak up when I see fit and if you don’t like it, remember, dear reader, you too have a voice.  Write an opinionated blog of your own, volunteer for a political cause, call out a newspaper columnist at a performing arts center, but for the sake of humanity, stay awake and speak out.  In the words of Allen Ginsberg, in 2017 we’ll all need to put our queer shoulders to the wheel.

tympanium

 

 

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29 comments

  1. Well said, back then and now. We Canadians are also fearing your appalling political regime and are standing with you- as many did at Standing Rock.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your solidarity BuntyMcC. How about we borrow Justin Trudeau for four years? We’ll give him back, promise.

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      1. You can have him if we can replace him with an NDP prime minister! Justin has already reneged on a promise to replace first-past-the-post elections (our third and fourth parties are much stronger than yours) and on several promises related to environmental protection and pipelines.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re absolutely right: it’s important to stand up and be counted and to express dismay at illiberal values masquerading as neoliberalism; and the fact that many like you speak up gives hope to the timid and the despairing so that they can feel less isolated and besieged. Brexiteers in Britain, fascists in France, reactionary forces in the Middle East — we mustn’t let them think we are an easy walkover.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I do have that sense that the rest of the world is watching (and hoping we are not enabling racism and xenophobia). Here’s to standing up and being counted in 2017!

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  3. I’m with you! We are an army.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love it. If you have any actions to recommend, please share!

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  4. The Trump presidency is worrisome, isn’t it? Especially to those of us who value logic, which seems to have little place in Trump’s policies or rhetoric. I’m still taking a wait and see attitude as I refuse to misjudge as badly as the gun fanatics, who are still cowering over their stacks of firearms lest Obama FINALLY swoop in at the last minute to rip them away. But I like the idea of clearing my throat so my voice will be ready when action begs reaction.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If I’ve misjudged I’ll be happy and relieved to admit it. In the meantime I’m prepping for peaceful and loud resistance.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You go girl! I was checking on the election results while I was visiting the atomic bomb memorials at Nagasaki and I just could not believe my fellow citizens were handing control of the nuclear codes to an unqualified demagogue. Worst case I can move back to England, assuming Europe is still there, but meanwhile I’ll be calling my “representatives” (both senators are Reps.).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow I can’t believe you got the election results while visiting the atomic bomb memorial in Nagasaki—that’s just freaky! I remember the “duck and cover” days and my elementary school still had a fall out shelter sign. Really hoping not to go back to those days…..

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  6. I am trying to stay hopeful that Americans who voted for Trump will come to their senses and see how unprepared and unacceptable he is for the presidency. I do despair at times. You have not misjudged.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And I’m hopeful that our system of checks and balances works to control this narcissistic demagogue. I hope, but I can’t say I feel confident.

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  7. We’ll need many voices raised. Sometimes the softest voices are the most effective, as you surely proved. Happy and hopeful 2017!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Claudia. Looking forward to hearing more of your voice in 2017!

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  8. Oh my gosh, thank you for this post. I’ve become an editor and member of the Sierra Club to fight back against the incoming regime (not to mention, I’m thinking about taking part in a peaceful march for women’s rights). Always use your voice; you have great things to say. We cannot let people quell us with fear. Thank you for your posts throughout this trying year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for being a member and editor of the Sierra Club hhirtle. I have been following their efforts to block Scott Pruitt’s nomination to the EPA and have been calling my senators and signing petitions to this effect.

      Looking forward to hearing more from you in 2017 as well. Let’s do this thing!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Well said! As a Brit, I’ve always wondered about the American use of the word ‘Freedom’ by people who aim to limit it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you guyroberts72. Another strange American thing is to oppose immigration and scapegoat immigrants for our countries’ problems even though most of us are descendants of immigrants.

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  10. Wow, you did speak up as a student back then.

    Many Canadians that I know personally were shocked by Trump’s win. It’s hard to respect a President elect when he doesn’t like to grant lengthy in camera press conferences..compared to big city mayors across North America.

    Wishing you 2017 a year of learning, resolve, compassion and peace. And good health!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jean, believe me most Americans were shocked as well. During Trump’s campaign he revoked the press credentials of newspapers that were critical of him, including the Washington Post, which is a classic tyrant move.

      I hope your bike takes you on many wonderful journeys in 2017!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thx for the good wishes, Wife of Bath. Even worse, he doesn’t pay attention to lots of evidence sitting in front of his face….nor do his supporters. It’s most disturbing trend of all. Then what is “truth”?….

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Canada’s (minor) distraction for 2017 is that we will be celebrating our 150th birthday as a country.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It’s important to remember, too, that more people in America voted for Hillary Clinton than for the president-elect.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I am new to your blog but pretty sure I know exactly which performing arts center you worked at during your college years. I live in Chicago, and during President Obama’s farewell speech here a few days ago he encouraged us to speak face-to-face with people who have ideas that are different than ours, and that is my goal for 2017 — I’ll continue writing, of course, but make a point to talk with people who have different viewpoints, and, more important, listen to them

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by Beth—I’m a big fan of your blog.

      I’m curious how you guessed what performing arts center I worked at….

      I live in Chicago too and quite enjoyed Obama’s speech. I agree with him that we should have more face-to-face conversations with people of differing opinions. Have to admit, though, this has been challenging so far.

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      1. Hmm. Guess I was being a little cocky when guessing what performing arts center you worked at. I thought it must be University of Illinois, since they officially call Krannert a “performing arts center.” Now it occurs to me you may have worked at the one at IU.

        _____

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Not Krannert but someplace similar. 🙂

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    1. Hmmmmm…..

      _____

      Liked by 1 person

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