Missing Friendly Fire

Friendly Fire

I sat watching Hillary Clinton’s speech at the Navy Ship Yard in New York on Tuesday night with tears streaming. As a 37 year-old woman who’s followed the career of the former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State since junior high, #ImWithHer completely. I may have voted for Sanders in the primary (that makes two election cycles in a row with a plurality of quality Democratic options), but come on. To quote another of my political heroes, Vice President Joseph R. Biden III, Clinton’s status as the 2016 presumptive nominee is a “big fucking deal.” This is the first woman EVER to go atop a national ticket. I’m nowhere near as high-profile as Mrs. Clinton but as a career woman and ardent feminist, I know her journey has been filled with roadblocks. She’s not in the Oval Office yet (bring it Trump) but she’s done something historically important. It warranted an emotional release.

Toward the end of Clinton’s soaring address to supporters, I began crying a lot harder. Because I knew someone who would have hated everything about Hillary’s victory, a friend with whom I would have had a spirited debate about moving on from #FeelTheBern to unite the party. Because Trump is the alternative for crying out loud, and though Clinton is an imperfect candidate (as they all are), she’s a proven, pragmatic worker who genuinely cares about the country. He would counter with “Clinton is an evil crook” rhetoric and declare his support for Jill Stein. I would spit the names of Nixon and Dubya. “Misogyny” would be interlaced throughout as both accusation and social commentary. He’d insist anarchy is preferable to another machine leader. We’d probably go a few days without speaking before sheepishly picking up the phone or sending a text.

That’s what should have happened after Clinton’s landmark speech. But Todd died on Memorial Day, six days before I sat on my couch cheering Hillary, paradoxically wishing for the wet blanket he would have enthusiastically offered.

We met on the Union Pacific North Line Metra route in 2010, commuting to the same downtown Chicago office (although not explicit colleagues). I was barreling toward the end of a troubled marriage and near-permanently distracted. As I’ve explained to Bob in recent days, Todd did the initial work and though I’m eternally grateful, I’ll never understand why. Yes we both loved theater, considered ourselves ardent liberals (though he was bitterly disappointed in President Obama – another source of contention) and resided in the same neighborhood. But Todd had roughly a zillion friends as one of the most energetic and likable people in the free world. And me, at least at least then? Pretty much this.

As Todd and I became better acquainted, I learned he’d survived illness, relationship loss and death. Over the course of our six-year friendship, he also recovered from a very serious car accident. Todd didn’t even drive, mind you. He was struck on the sidewalk. Anyone else might have sunk into bitterness at the cruelty of fate. This man had tenacity, spirit and yet counterintuitively, was rather blasé about it. Todd casually and unaggressively knew he was awesome – beaming that certainty at everyone he loved. This made him the best kind of friend – one always there in crisis, with the authenticity to tell when it was time to stop singing the “Big Railroad Blues.”

Todd was a huge Grateful Dead fan and a socially conscious, fun-loving hippie aesthetic infused everything he did. I’ll never know for certain but I think he found my own existential struggles toward inner peace amusing. I’ve made progress but you can’t wash the Type A out of a girl entirely. When my friend felt in need of a red-faced, arm-waving, outside voice volume rant (say, when Mitt Romney made his infamous “47 percent” remarks), he knew where to turn. And though we were temperamentally different, we loved each other symmetrically.

My pal died just a few hours after we enjoyed soft pretzels and cider at a neighborhood German pub. He was feeling great: excited for a boatload of summer plans he’d made, philosophical about a recent breakup and ready for whatever came next (as always). We exchanged affectionate hugs and as we parted, I thought about how glad I was that I was in a place to do more of the emotional work in our friendship. Although Todd carried me over the starting line, over time we walked hand in hand. Once in a while he even did the leaning.

Todd was buried in his home state of New Jersey last weekend. On Saturday June 18, Chicago friends and family will have their chance to gather and celebrate his life. Todd was a super connector, fond of introducing people he loved to one another. As a result, perhaps one of his final gifts, I’m not alone in grief.

But we won’t argue about Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. Ever. And I hate it.

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Missing in Action: The Week’s Overlooked News Stories

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Will the US finally follow the rest of the world in adopting humane paid leave policies? Can Southern states please stop bullying gay people in the name of religious freedom? And could Lucca the dog come over and play with us? So many questions this week….

Take a look at the world map below. It highlights countries that offer paid maternity/paternity leave. The color key indicates the level of support. See the U.S.A in red, along with only two other counties that you probably don’t recognize? Red indicates “No paid leave.”  Zip. Zero. zilch. paid leave

In this country, we make our hardworking families choose between bonding with newborn or adopted children and putting food on the table. Several states have realized this simply isn’t right and are starting to do something about it. On Monday, New York State passed a paid family leave policy that should serve as an example to the rest of the country. California already had practices worth cheering, but on Tuesday, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to require businesses to provide fully-paid leave. Right on.

The fight for equality within the context of state assaults on LGBT rights has unfortunately become a three-part “Missing in Action” series. Last week we covered the hypocrisy of conservative groups throwing a temper tantrum after Georgia’s Governor refused to sign a “Religious Liberty Bill” into law. That blurb referenced an item from the week before, detailing said bill’s outrageous “progress.” Fast forward to this week. Mississippi is now in the discrimination hot seat. The state passed a “Religious Freedom Bill” that Governor Phil Bryant had the balls to say is designed to “protect individuals, organizations and private associations from discriminatory action” in the name of religious freedom. Just to recap, discriminatory behavior against LGBT Americans is an exercise in liberty, but deterring bigotry is unjust practice that shall not be tolerated! Makes perfect sense.

To break up a news cycle full of negativity/hatred/crazy Republicans/wars/death/destruction, we thought a feel-good story was in order. While this narrative is a byproduct of the devastating wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s sure to warm your heart. Lucca, a bomb sniffing, bad-ass Marine Corps dog lost one of her legs in a 2012 IED attack. She survived and has received a prestigious medal from Great Britain for her combat bravery. Lucca brings new depth to the tired misogynist phrase “Fight Like a Girl.” We want to give her a congratulatory cuddle.

I Hate Brett Favre (August 19, 2009)

I have never been a Green Bay Packers fan, and I never will be. As a lifelong Chicago Bear, I have done my duty to repudiate cheeseheads in green jerseys for as long as I can remember.

However, I have plenty of respect and understanding for the angry Packer fans everywhere today. Is this guy a tool or what?

http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=cr-favrereaction081809&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

I have watched this clown “retire” for the last two NFL seasons. The first of these decisions came with a bucketful of manly tears, and vows to withdraw from football before the tarnishing of his legacy (a Vicodin addiction and a complete lack of SuperBowl titles). The body was falling apart, even if the spirit was willing, blah, blah, blah.

Of course that was all shit, and you may recall that last year, old Brett (emphasis on the old) played for the NY Jets. I liked Favre’s work in There’s Something About Mary, and found him otherwise benign, but toward the end of his brief tenure in New York, my disinterest turned into a burning rage.

For the last few years, I have participated in a football pool each season run by my friend Wayne. It is called Pick-A-Winner (or PAW for those in the know). Basically, all the players start the season fresh. You may pick one winning team, and only one, from the week’s matchups. The tricky part is that once you have selected a team, you may not reuse them again. So if you are lucky enough to continue surviving each week, you must select your winner from a diminishing pool of available teams. It’s a science. You don’t want to use all the good teams upfront. So, in 2008, Boop found herself in the driver’s seat, heading toward the last week of the NFL season with only two competitors to outwit and outlast.

Favre had had a pretty good first half with the Jets, and even after he started to come apart at the seams a bit, I took a look at what I had left to play. In a move that I now wish wholeheartedly I could undo, I put my misplaced trust in Brett Favre for the final game, Jets vs. Dolphins. If I could emerge out the other side with a New York victory, I would be $1500 richer the day before Christmas. What a touching story right?

Wrong. As succinctly stated by Don Banks at Sports Illustrated. com:

“Favre won some big games with New York last season, particularly those back-to-back road wins at New England and Tennessee in Weeks 11-12, but in the end, the 2008 Jets will be remembered for losing four of their last five games and collapsing from an 8-3 Super Bowl contender to a 9-7 non-playoff finisher. Favre threw nine interceptions and two touchdown passes over the course of those final five games, and in the most ironic twist of all, was beaten head-to-head by former Jets quarterback Chad Pennington in Week 17 in the Meadowlands, sending downtrodden Miami into the playoffs as the AFC East champion.”

So instead of riding to victory, Boop sat in a hotel room in Phoenix with Eddie, tears streaming down her face, vowing to get Brett Favre, if it took the last breath in my body. When he retired again after this disastrous season, I was lulled into the belief that the sports world was finally rid of this chucklehead. But alas, he will reappear again this season, this time in the Midwest with the Minnesota Vikings. The unmitigated nerve of it all. Sir, just how many franchises and their fans do you hope to tear apart?

BufBloPoFo 09 DayFour (March 17, 2009)

I think everyone should use their blogs to brag about something. And it can’t be your kids or significant other because Katie said she doesn’t want to read about that crap.

I live in the greatest City in the world – Chicago. And though I have not seen every world City on my list (London, Rome, Athens, Cairo and Madrid come to mind), I have seen quite a few: Mumbai, Capetown, Moscow, Warsaw, not to mention New York, Boston, Miami, New Orleans and San Francisco. Very shortly, I will be able to add Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to my list. But though I have seen many places, and many faces, I am convinced that no urban environment can ever hold a candle to Chi-town.

I admit that our winters do at times, put our claim to the Greatest Town Ever in serious peril. When Jen and I first got this blog going, I wrote a whole post about God’s shameless abandonment of the place from December 15-March 1. But if you can get past the three months of pitiless frozen tundra, ah what delights await the senses the rest of the year. My husband hails from India, a nation that evokes the name of the great book by Thomas L. Friedman, Hot, Flat and Crowded (ok maybe not so flat, but you get the idea). When he first migrated to the U.S., he lived in the New York/New Jersey area and though there were certainly less people, his view of New York, and by extension his opinion of cities, was hardly undermined: dirty, dense and treeless.

Eddie and I have been together for over three years. When he first came to the Chicago area, he beelined for the suburbs. He wanted quiet, open spaces, and plenty of road to drive his oversized vehicle around. In other words, he wasted no time adopting good old fashioned American values. But since I forced him to return to the City with me, he has come to see that the dogma I have so nefariously set out to beat into his head is actually true. With Chicago, you get the best of both worlds: clean streets, exciting places to go, plenty of foliage, and the diversity (in all senses) that one would expect from a first-rate world City.

I already mentioned the weather, and if I am going to to make a case for the greatness of Sweet Home Chicago, I am also wise enough to dodge the subject of local politics. This means you King Daley. No place is perfect, but we come pretty darned close. Where else can you find clean sandy beaches, Lake Shore Drive, Wrigley Field, the view from the Hancock, Milennium Park? I could go on and on, but if you’re looking for an official tour guide, please contact me directly.

I have had opportunities to move to other cities, and I have done small town, even Southern living. It probably goes without saying that those shoes didn’t fit me right at all, but those trials only underscore my right to claim expertise on this subject. For all its flaws, and for all the competition brought by many other fine environments, there’s just no other place to be.

Democrats Need To Rally Around the Issue of Income Inequality in America (December 23, 2013)

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In late 2011, when the promising Occupy Wall Street protests began to fizzle out – a combination of government/police intervention and an internal lack of organized leadership, my heart sank. The movement, which began in Zuccotti Park, ground zero of New York City’s Wall Street financial district, deserved much more than a historical footnote, the status of a fleeting trend.

Most of us outside the one percent sphere of privilege don’t need data to reinforce the certainty that things have gone downhill for the middle class, beginning long before the 2008 onset of the Great Recession. We are being squeezed every possible way: mass unemployment, stagnant wages for those lucky enough to have jobs, depreciated home values, skyrocketing household debt and college tuition prices, rising property taxes. You name it and it hurts. Meanwhile we’ve been forced to sit on our hands and watch as no one responsible for the loss of our 401ks and property is prosecuted and even worse, Wall Street salaries remain 5.2 times higher than that of the average New Yorker. I won’t even get into wages outside the Big Apple or executive pay. It’s too depressing.

Inequality and the divisions between the have and have nots is not a new conversation. Every relevant civilization throughout history has struggled with these tensions. I beganto be of the opinion that in order to have any real traction, the dialogue had to mature. Rather than a simple “us vs. them” discourse, I felt like Democratic leadership ought to challenge itself a bit more. Because frankly, it’s not only the GOP that has lurched to the right. In an effort to begin winning elections again after the drubbings of the 1980s, the left made a great “moderate” leap to the center, bringing some economically disastrous policies with them.

This is one of the themes of New York Times columnist Bill Keller’s December 22 Op-Ed, “Inequality for Dummies.” In it, he writes: “Inequality is in. The president, you have probably heard, has declared income inequality to be ‘the defining challenge of our time…’ Liberals of a more centrist bent — notably the former Clintonites at the Third Way think tank — have refused to join the chorus and been lashed by fellow Democrats for their blasphemy.”

As sick as we might all be of partisan infighting, this is a battle we need to have. This isn’t a pointless test of ideological purity to source a base pleasing candidate. As much fun as it’s been to watch the Republican Party look for its way with all the grace and finesse of a blind rhinoceros, it can’t be that we got into our current situation because of the wretched ideas and decision making of one party alone. 11 months before the 2014 midterm elections, and nearly three years before the 2016 Presidential contest, seems like a fine time for the Democratic Party to ask itself a few critical questions. Do we want to continue letting the GOP set the agenda (and anyone who thinks the most recent budget compromise wasn’t a near-complete victory for the conservative platform, just isn’t paying attention), or do we want to be a little bit more proactive about restoring the American Dream?

Keller goes on to write, “The alarming thing is not inequality per se, but immobility. It’s not just that we have too many poor people, but that they are stranded in poverty with long odds against getting out. The rich (and their children) stay rich, the poor (and their children) stay poor…

A stratified society in which the bottom and top are mostly locked in place is not just morally offensive; it is unstable. Recessions are more frequent in such countries.”

Is it any coincidence that every year since Bill Clinton left office, including the Bush terms, rife with deregulation, outsourcing and bursting bubbles of several varieties (which liberals, let’s be entirely honest, were causes championed by the Clinton administration as well), has felt like one continuous recession?

I caution my fellow lefties: Let’s not be afraid to take a good look at ourselves, our history. We can and should do better to create policies that might begin to redress these spiraling socioeconomic ills. After all this is the season of reflection and we have been, at minimum, G.O.P enablers. Accessory to the destruction of the middle class is still a crime.