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I’m with Cokie: It’s (Past) Time to Call Out Donald Trump

Why am I doing this? Sharing political posts on a parenting blog?

Well, I’ll tell you. Because parenting is political.

It’s about whether the leaders we elect care about the same things parents care about: family-supporting jobs that enable one parent to stay at home and raise the kids; clean air to breathe and water to drink and bathe in; affordable college tuition. The list is long.

These are all things I am for as a parent and grandparent. Things I can wrap my head around.

What I can’t wrap my head around is what Donald Trump is for. Like punching people in the face. Lying about nearly everything (I can’t account for his self-aggrandizement). And acting as though a fair percentage of the world’s population should be exterminated – or at least deported.

How is it that someone so oblivious to the rules of civil discourse, and obviously unqualified to fight for anyone other than himself,  Continue reading

The Abusive Paternalism of Donald Trump (Mostly a Reptile) vs. Bernie Sanders, the Nurturing Father Figure

Is it possible that two powerful father-figures are running for president? One, a brazen rich guy with orange hair, parleyed an inheritance into billions, flies around in private jets, and owns hotels emblazoned with his name. The other, the son of poor Polish immigrants, made it all the way to the U.S. Senate and still drives a small Chevy –  the make of which he says he doesn’t know.

While Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders aren’t only presidential candidates in this election cycle, something the media never ceases to remind us of, the excitement among their supporters is indeed unprecedented.

Crowds in the thousands, including a preponderance of young people, wait in line for hours to hear the white-haired, philosopher they call Bernie. The senator from Vermont doesn’t have a superPac because he won’t take corporate money. Instead, the average campaign donation from his fan-base is twenty-seven bucks. While he’s done well in largely white states, Bernie’s popularity has been crossing the racial divide due to his views on income inequity, raising the minimum wage, and educational and job opportunity.

Donald Trump attracts a different demographic – older and mostly white, according a 2015 story in the LA Times. Trump doesn’t need a superPac because he’s rich.  Although he probably has a plethora of corporate donors. His past racist comments on minorities have no doubt given him a black eye, and are a turn-off to people of color. Even sorority girls with fake tans.

Whoever wins the presidency, though, will be at the nation’s helm at a pivotal time. Are we to be ruled by corporations that can spend unlimited amounts on their candidates?

Or are we to be a government “of the people, by the people and for the people…?”

I think we’re still trying to outgrow our adolescence – not yet out of that awkward stage – like teenagers trying to decide what they want to be when grow up, and in desperate need of mature guidance.

Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are both are “outliers,” not of the establishment mold. And each bearing wildly different ideas for a middle class groaning under the weight of lost jobs and low wages, craving the stability of their parents’ generation. You know, a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. (Or is it a computer in every room? I forget.)

But I’m not going to discuss how they intend to run the country. What I want to talk about is personality.

Trump the billionaire is an outsider to politics, never having been elected to public office. Though I hope he at least had a class in civics. When his sentences don’t begin with the word I, leading to an outrageous proclamation, he’s demeaning, combative, and at times downright vulgar.  He also has a tendency to skewer people. Like Fox debate moderator Megyn Kelly. And how about the time he squirted a water bottle on stage, mocking a nervous Marco Rubio? How is this mature, reasonable behavior?

Sanders, on the other hand, is an insider. A decades-long crusader for the middle class, he’s an old-school gentleman, a good listener, and avowed democratic socialist who cares deeply about the welfare of others, but doesn’t give a ___ what his detractors think.

Let’s take these two outliers apart.

Trump is a phenomenon. He “shakes things up” with his wild behavior, I heard one devotee say. (Actually, it was my 84 year-old mother, whose favorite TV show is Shark Tank.) And he’s completely unpredictable, pouncing on any bit of perceived judgement by threatening a law suit.

Scientifically, this is how a reptile acts: Responding to challenge with a show of colors and finally aggression, fighting to the finish.Reptile with orange head

A reptile’s behavior is ruled by Continue reading

We Called Him Bosco: A Child’s View of the Black and White Divide

My heart pounded. I had never met a black person before, and I shuddered to think one would sit next to me.

But the closer we came to town, the more black people got on the Trenton Transit bus, and the more I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience.

Dark, silver-haired men boarded the bus, dressed in tweed jackets that resembled the cloth seat covers. Women in floral dresses, some with shopping bags and children in tow, and the occasional hankie tucked in at the waist beneath an ample bosom.

After dropping their coins in the meter, they made their way to a seat, steadying themselves as the driver pulled back on the road and stinky exhaust belched out the rear.

Of course they were mothers and fathers and grandparents, just going about their day. But to me, they were scary as hell. None of these dark-skinned people had a name, at least not to me. They didn’t live near my house, nor talk like me. And they certainly didn’t look like me, a little blond girl of ten going downtown to pay her mother’s Sears’ charge and phone bill.

No, they didn’t have names. Until Bosco.

That’s what everyone called him – the black kid who was so big and round, they nick-named him for the wide-mouth jar of sticky, sweet chocolate syrup. I remember him standing at the top of the playground stairs. Like a good-natured bouncer, he kept the hooligans out at recess, laughing and walking back and forth in his safety-patrol belt, his legs so fat they rubbed together. His shirttails untucked, hanging down at his sides.

But I was young. There were no people of color in my life. And so Bosco was a novelty, like the chocolate syrup my mother would never buy because we didn’t need it, she always said.

Later, there would be another black student at my elementary school – Sheila, who wore glasses with pointy black frames and had pigtails sticking out the top of her head. I used to watch her skipping rope. And how we teased my brother about her, asking if she was his girlfriend – unfeeling children that we were.

Sheila was bused from the black neighborhood to attend the special-ed class at my school – down in the basement next to the janitor’s closet, not far from the kitchen where the lunch ladies bustled about in red lipstick and sensible white shoes.

Bosco and Sheila were the only black faces in my life that had names, aside from my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Hall, to whom I gave a straw sun bonnet as an end-of-the-year present. The others, the ones who got on and off the city bus, were just a never-ending parade of black and brown.

Then suddenly, my world turned to living color, just like when Dorothy stepped into the Land of Oz. Children from our township’s four elementary schools merged into one junior high, and the students from the one black neighborhood swarmed the halls along with everyone else. And there were more black teachers. More than I thought existed.

But it wasn’t enough. While I knew some of their names, I still didn’t know them as people. Only one black girl did I get to know at all. In high school, Karen ate lunch with five white girls every single day: A Jew; an Estonian immigrant; a Pentecostal who went to a church where people shouted and shook and spoke in tongues; a boisterous southern girl who eventually moved back to Virginia; and me, a plain as plain Presbyterian.

But I never went to Karen’s house. And she never came to mine. The divide was palpable. I wanted to know her, but eating lunch together every day was all we could manage. Maybe it was enough.

After all, my father had said Martin Luther King Jr. was a “trouble-maker.” And the rule was, you didn’t disagree with him. Not ever.

Over the years I have gotten close to many Hispanics. My son married into a Hispanic family. And I have several good Asian friends. Long-lasting friends.

Of course, I’m not exactly a hermit. I worked as a freelance features writer for years and can talk to just about anyone. But when I talk to blacks, the conversation never seems to get past the pleasantries. Past the business we’re about.

Maybe my expectations are screwed up. Like, why should I think just talking to someone would lead to friendship? Should it?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a dream I have that one day I will have friends of many colors. Friends I can drink tea with, or invite to dinner or a movie. And the giant white balloon I’ve been riding around in will finally pop.

Meanwhile, it’s February. Black History Month. And I will honor it by learning a little bit more about the people I never did know. FFG

 

Palin’s Trump Speech Should Sound Academic Alarm for Parents and Teachers

I admit, I laughed out loud when I read Sarah Palin’s speech endorsing Donald Trump for president.

But the speech wasn’t funny – contrary to all the searing send-ups on the internet, including Andy Borowitz’s Jan. 22, 2016, piece in the New Yorker. 

Incomprehensible might be a better word for it.  In fact, her inventive language (“squirmishes,” anyone?)  brought to mind Lewis Carroll’s poem, “Jabberwocky,” from Through the Looking Glass:

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

 

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

The frumious Bandersnatch!”

And so on.

But Palin is no literary genius. Not only was her speech not amusing, it was intellectually disturbing. And embarrassing, considering her national audience. Make that international.

To the former vice-presidential candidate, however, I’m sure its wonders were quite amazing. To me, she’s the product of too much self-esteem and too little ability.

Only a “hopey-changey” liberal would dare find fault with such a speech.

Well then, call me “hopey-changey.”

Because communicating, and communicating well, is one of the biggest reasons we bother educating children.

It’s why we babble and coo at our babies, and read toddlers endless stories, and listen to their woes with empathy. It’s why we help them with their spelling words, and teach them to make outlines and write paragraphs with topic sentences that are supported by facts and examples and anecdotes.

It’s why we teach them to check for spelling and punctuation, word-usage and sentence structure. Because if they don’t learn the rules, they won’t know when they’re breaking them.

And then the fun stuff happens when we get to help them practice their oral reports, so they can stand up in front of the class and make organized and logical presentations. They learn what is true and what is eloquent, and the difference between fact and opinion.

We do these things because we want to instill a desire for excellence in our children. Not perfection, but a sweet striving. Forget the ribbons and accolades for everyone, regardless of merit. Forget the cheaply-won trophies and awards.

Why does excellence matter?

Because ultimately children grow up. And people will expect them to be capable of expressing themselves, talking about what they know and think and feel with competence. In a way that actually make sense and identifies them as rational thinkers.  Not some crazy character that’s just gone through the looking glass.

But Sarah Palin doesn’t seem to care about excellence in communication or anything else, for that matter.  In fact, the Tea Party as a whole can’t handle the notion that knowledge is worth attaining.

Why is this?

Because learning anything new is really hard when the rational-thinking brain has to compete with fear. And Tea Partiers are just like a bunch of Henny Pennys whose sky is perpetually falling. Sadly, they can’t seem to help it.

Here’s how it works: when people are fearful, their stress hormones run amok. Especially cortisol. The more anxious and afraid people feel, the more their brains get used to hanging out at the far end of the stress continuum, up there near fight/flight or freeze.

What does fear have to do with academic excellence?

Plenty.

In order for the part of the brain that is responsible for rational thought to function well, people need to feel safe. Indeed, they need to grow up feeling safe, and see the world as a good and safe place.

Without the feeling of emotional and physical safety, the brain connections necessary for calm, rational thought are not made. The older people get, the more these patterns are reinforced, and the harder it is to turn it around – as plastic as the human brain might be.  But this isn’t new information.  In fact, it’s been around for a while.

Unfortunately, those who need it most – fearful, mediocre people with too much self-esteem – don’t really care.  FFG

Resources: For more information on the effects of toxic stress on the developing brain, go to www.developingchild.harvard.edu.

Toastmasters International “empowers individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders.” Check it out!

 

 

Scholastic Wrong to Pull Plug on Controversial Picture Book, A Birthday Cake for George Washington

When I heard about Scholastic’s decision to halt distribution of A Birthday Cake for George WashingtonI immediately ordered two copies.

By pulling the plug on this book, Scholastic is underestimating the cognitive and emotional intelligence of children. Why is it so hard to comprehend that while slavery was a horrible institution, slaves were human beings, and human beings will seek out joy wherever they can find it – no doubt a failing of the human spirit.

Human beings also need to love their children. Perhaps even their work. Even when there is little hope of freedom.

A Birthday Cake for George Washington is about the President’s cook, a slave named Hercules, and his daughter Delia, who tells the story.

A Birthday Cake for George WashingtonTogether the pair take on a daunting challenge: They must make the President’s birthday cake, but have run out of sugar.

Sugar. Of all things. The irony should not be lost anyone.

Announced today in the news, the decision to pull the book off the market seems like pandering. Instead of allowing one individual’s story to be told, the publisher insists we see slaves as one tortured group. A patchwork blanket of blacks and browns.

Would it be so terrible for kids to read a story about an individual slave who loved his daughter? Whose lot in life was not desirable by any means, but who whose skills brought him satisfaction and pride? Respect, even?

Scholastic has made the decision for us.

Maybe they haven’t heard that young children Continue reading

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