Increasingly Blurred Partisan Lines Offer Hope for Journalism in 2018

2017 has been a strange and disturbing year for the United States in so many far-reaching ways. Long, well-researched books will be written about this year’s impact (or lack thereof) on income inequality, government corruption, gender dynamics, the justice system, immigration, suffrage, healthcare, civil rights, the First Amendment, foreign policy, war and climate change. I’m hard pressed to think of a major issue facing humanity that hasn’t been stress tested to the point of breaking spirits, cultures, families, the economy and the nation in the seventeenth year of the 21st Century.

For liberal political journalists, it’s been especially hard to dissociate the self from the reporting. 2017 has been an unusually challenging year for investigating topics unemotionally. At least tangentially, we have a stake in the story by virtue of sharing space with other people affected by a policy, decision or revolution.  I don’t live in Puerto Rico, but I don’t need to in order to feel helpless anger over fellow Americans failed by every possible government system in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. People are still dying from the ripple effects of disease, water and power shortages, not to mention the callousness of a President who believes a paper towel tossing photo op is #MAGA – because brown people are takers.

As a writer/human hybrid, there have been many days and weeks this year when the power of the pen hasn’t felt forceful enough. That the exercise in information sharing that is journalism falls impotently short of the action needed to right a country that has popularly lurched toward heartlessness at the highest levels of government. Isolationist xenophobia, backs turned to war-torn refugees, a place where Nazis are labeled “very fine people,” black lives only matter when it comes to kneeling in protest and female reproductive health is a political bargaining chip for the dominant hierarchy of middle-aged white men. It’s easy to become disoriented and confused to the point of inertia. Should I be writing about this? Should I be in the streets? Am I supposed to be deliberating? Hand me another scotch in the meantime.

I do not pretend to be a moderate. Never have. I can’t be less than all the way when it comes to constructing government and social systems that support and offer opportunity equally. I do not believe we go it alone. Call me a socialist, a radical, an angry intersectional feminist or any of the more colorful epithets offered by my (typically male) Twitter trolls. When the leader of the country governs by pandering to the ignorant 35 percent, rather than representing all Americans, displaying the kind of divisive, threatening behavior and rhetoric well known to despots, I’m happy to be branded an enemy of the state. As lonely and frightening as it can be to sit outside the circle, the air is a lot less toxic.

All of this is to say that as the end of the year approaches, I and many other exhausted journalists in my acquaintance are still trying to find our footing. Just the facts has been replaced by fake news, many of the policy threats are deeply personal and after all, wallowing in the muck of the Trump era is spiritually exhausting. However the work continues in a bi-partisan way, and if there’s comfort to be found in the crusade, it’s the unexpected shared experience with an increasingly large number of conservative writers and pundits. If you’d told me just 18 months ago, that I’d find myself aligned with the thoughts of the New York Times columnist David Brooks, the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan and Peter Wehner, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center – in the same week! – I wouldn’t have believed it possible. But here we are:

“The Republican Party is doing harm to every cause it purports to serve. If Republicans accept Roy Moore as a United States senator, they may, for a couple years, have one more vote for a justice or a tax cut, but they will have made their party loathsome for an entire generation…Young people and people of color look at the Trump-Moore G.O.P. and they are repulsed, maybe forever.”

“The support being given by many Republicans and white evangelicals to President Trump and now to Mr. Moore have caused me to rethink my identification with both groups. Not because my attachment to conservatism and Christianity has weakened, but rather the opposite. I consider Mr. Trump’s Republican Party to be a threat to conservatism, and I have concluded that the term evangelical — despite its rich history of proclaiming the ‘good news’ of Christ to a broken world — has been so distorted that it is now undermining the Christian witness.”

“[Republicans], have faith. Not everything comes down to an immediate election that is this coming Thursday. Think long term, philosophically. Be true to your own political principles, but have some faith and don’t make decisions that are not ones that you’re really comfortable with.”

Suddenly it seems conservative to stand against cynicism, pedophilia, party before country and the corporate raiding of the American people. I and other liberals may disagree with these writers on “everyday” policies. But in 2017, normalcy has been supplanted by Constitutional crises and the end days of representative democracy. The journalistic blurring of party lines may offer small 2017 comfort. But as a writer, it gives me energy to take on 2018.

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Hope in 2011 for the Unemployed? (January 4, 2011)

http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/careers/job-growth-hiring-employment-surge-ahead-2011-forecast-prediction/19778318/

As a long-suffering member of the long-term unemployed community, I look for any sign that career fortunes are about to change, and grab on with the tenacity of a starving rat. So when I encountered articles late last week, like this one from Daily Finance that claims “Signs on Wall Street Point to Job Growth Ahead,” I couldn’t help but get a little excited.

Yes, I realize there are risks in attenuating to the predictions of a group of money changers who wrecked our economy in 2008 while running off unscathed with the gold, but dammit, I need to believe!

The article states that “Internet job listings surged to 4.7 million as of Dec. 1, compared to 2.7 million from the same period a year ago, according to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal. Many of the new jobs are in the retailing, accounting, consulting health care, telecommunications and defense-related industries”

Well I don’t work retail, am not an accountant or doctor and want nothing to do with defense, but bully for those sectors! And I am just chipper enough today to assume that a 50% increase in available jobs over a year must necessarily be good for almost all of us on the government cheese. More accountants will need up-to-date tax pamphlets, which will require more writers. I can buy into trickle down economics in this case. Why not?

So what we’ve got is quite a few more job openings, but are companies actually hiring? This is where the situation grows a bit murky. I have been on no fewer than seven face to face job interviews in 12 weeks, including one this afternoon for a travel outfit, and one on Thursday for a major player in the banking industry. In almost all of these cases, I am confident that I looked professional, spoke eloquently (for me anyway), and performed well on the myriad pre-employment assessments and writing tests that have become a de rigueur part of the process in the 21st Century.

But for all that work, I have little to show for it. In other words, I remain jobless. In some cases, I didn’t speak enough Spanish, in others my rate (twice minimum wage without benefits) was way too lofty for managers who knew they could take advantage of less experienced, cheaper labor. In a few cases, I am outright confused as to why I was not hired, but try getting answers from an HR department once they have written you off.

I have numerous friends and colleagues facing similar dilemmas. My question is then: are employers really ready to hire, to fork over a reason to get out of bed in the morning to the jobless and depressed, or is this just an illusion designed to create enthusiasm in the stock market? I said I was ready to believe again if presented with the right evidence, but that doesn’t mean I was born yesterday.

Consider this quote from the lead paragraph of Daily Finance’s article, “Still, with corporate profits booming and the stock market rallying, signs are piling up that employment may finally be poised for a comeback, too.” Oh, so after a full 12 months of hoarding stock piles of cash and the meteoric rise of the Dow, companies “may” finally feel benevolent enough to create some jobs for those who helped build these same companies, only to show them the door.

It’s a testament to the continued emasculation of the middle and class (male and female members alike) that we are forced to wait, and wait with smiles on our faces, for these dangled carrots to materialize.

How DADT Makes America Less Safe (November 30, 2010)

DADT_1

This morning as I booted up the computer, I took my typical perusal of the Yahoo headlines, and came across this feature from the Associated Press:

Pentagon Study: Gays Could Serve with No Harm

Ladies and gentlemen, we have just wasted 10 months and untold millions of taxpayer dollars “investigating” good common sense. While badly needed unemployment insurance extensions are in the process of being hijacked AGAIN by Republicans lobbying for the retention of Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, we have no problem dithering and wasting scant resources “researching” an issue which almost every other democratic society has resolved by now. In short: if you are fighting two long, costly and unpopular wars, with brave soldiers who have been on three, four and five tours with little rest, you need all the enlisted men you can get and it shouldn’t matter who they’re shagging when the lights are off.

But will the release of this study finally be enough to silence the pandering savants in Washington, such as Senator John “Shill” McCain, who has appeared on every Sunday talk show and it’s brother arguing that a lift of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell restrictions could be “dangerous?” The former Maverick has repeatedly called pressure to promote equality within the armed forces “politically motivated.” Yet how is forcing well-trained and patriotic men and women underground on the basis of pleasing homophobic voters any less so?

As a matter of fact, the outdated debate surrounding this issue of basic human respect is what’s becoming a danger to our national security.

Multiple sources, including The Wall Street Journal, are reporting that Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, who may have jeopardized a number of international relationships with his document dump to WikiLeaks, is a gay soldier “frustrated” over the treatment of homosexuals by the U.S. military. Now I don’t mean to suggest that this was his sole reason for releasing the documents, but it doesn’t seem that DADT and an open culture of harassing closeted gays helped make us safer in this situation. By all accounts, until his recent break with military code, Manning was a young and brilliant soldier, exactly the kind of man of which recruiters dream.

Or how about former Army infantry officer, Lt. Dan Choi, an openly gay solider who served two distinguished years in Iraq combat operations before being transferred to the New York National Guard? America can no longer avail itself of Choi’s loyal services, because after coming out on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, the Lieutenant was summarily discharged. In response, Choi penned an open letter to President Barack Obama and Congress where he queried not only the morality, but the wisdom of the policy, “a slap in the face to me. It is a slap in the face to my soldiers, peers and leaders who have demonstrated that an infantry unit can be professional enough to accept diversity, to accept capable leaders, to accept skilled soldiers.”

How are we safer by releasing sharp, intelligent and passionate people because of some archaic, uninformed and backward looking trepidation that gay sex will overtake our army bases and combat zones? It’s ludicrous, and I have news for fear mongers like McCain and the Fox News crew: they’re queer and they’re already here. Manning and Choi are nowhere near the first or only Friends of Dorothy to don combat fatigues.

Although military recruitment numbers are climbing, owing in large degree to a terrifically anemic job market, we as a nation simply can’t afford to let a policy that seemed ill-advised even in 1993 stop our armed forces from functioning at their highest capability. And to that, we don’t need divisiveness or discrimination. We have enough problems on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s like cutting off our nose to spite our face.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a travesty. I was disappointed with Bill Clinton’s cave to the right wing to pass it, even as a 15 year-old high school student. Now a 32 year-old woman, I am disappointed in President Obama’s heavy footed failure to show it the door. Mr. President, listen to the Pentagon, listen to your conscience, listen to the pragmatic good sense you seem to cherish so much.