At the end of Seton Hill’s annual writers’ conference for alums in June, I attended the MFA graduation ceremony, during which we all stood, hands on our hearts, and sang our national anthem. After singing the closing words, “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave,” I turned to a fellow writer friend and mumbled, “If only that were true.” It’s not that we don’t have plenty of brave, honorable citizens around. And despite savage attacks on the free press and those who dare to speak up about injustice, we are fortunate to still have a free press and the right to speak up and protest. Yet, when we have the highest incarceration rate in the world that disproportionately affects low income minorities, recurring instances of police brutality, and the forced separation and detention of brown parents and children seeking asylum at our borders—can we really claim to be the “land of the free”? Whatever happened to those beautiful words by Emma Lazarus that grace our Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”? Millions of Americans aspire to have our country genuinely live up to its ideals of freedom of speech, democracy, inclusiveness, and equality of opportunity. But isn’t it time to admit that in many ways, those ideals remain aspirational? Colin Kaepernick Kneeling Just ask Colin Kaepernick. For daring to take a [...]
Sunday, we had a guest speaker at church, Karina Barillas. Barillas is the Executive Director of La Casita Center, a Louisville-based non-profit dedicated to supporting and empowering the city’s Latino community, including those who are undocumented immigrants. Barillas emigrated from Guatemala after being a victim of incest and domestic violence. She spoke eloquently of the constant fear, anxiety, and discrimination faced by asylum-seeking families: “We imagine that this is something that is just happening on television or at the borders, but it’s not. It’s happening everyday across communities in America.” She told of mothers and fathers on their way to work or home who were snatched off the streets by ICE officers, leaving confused and devastated children behind. She talked about kids being bullied at school and told, “Go back to where you came from. You don’t belong here,” and children as old as twelve who were afraid to go to the center’s day camp because they were too scared to be separated from their mothers. Who knew if their parents would still be at home when they returned? I cried as she spoke, as did many others in the congregation. When we asked her what above all we could do, she said, “You can vote.” And we will, and many of us will try to do more than that. Yet the horror of what is happening to innocent and vulnerable children and families weighs heavily on our hearts. When I walked in the door at home from [...]
Driving on the highway the other day, I passed a car with a “Coexist” bumper sticker, the cheerful one with symbols from the world’s great religions. Warm feelings flooded through me. I love these stickers. To me, they symbolize open-mindedness, inclusiveness, and respectful appreciation of our differences. I gave the driver a friendly smile as I passed him. Then I stiffened as I got behind a truck with a prominent “Pro-Life” bumper sticker. Because I believed that the decision to terminate a pregnancy was a deeply personal one that should be left up to the individual, I figured this driver would think my car should be adorned with a “Pro-Death” bumper sticker. The lines of this debate have been drawn so starkly that there is little room for someone like me who would much prefer alternatives to abortion but knows this is not my decision to make for someone else. As I drew closer to the truck in front of me, I noticed another sticker. This one proudly proclaimed, “0% liberal.” Really? There is not even one eensy “liberal” idea the driver could tolerate? Wow. How did our politics devolve into this zero-sum game? Even I, a liberal Democrat, am a fan of free trade, which used to be Republican orthodoxy. I want to be someone who engages in civil discourse, who respects the opinions of others, and who “seeks first to understand.” But truthfully, I’m having a hard time with that. After class one day during this past presidential [...]
Sometimes I imagine little cartoon bubbles over people’s heads when they’re speaking. The bubbles indicate what they’re really thinking and feeling—the gritty subtext of their seemingly innocuous statements. Here are four statements I hear a lot, and my translations of what they really mean: “With all due respect…” - A favorite for commentators and “experts” duking it out on political talk shows. Translation: I’m about to tell you why you’re an idiot for daring to voice such a misguided opinion. “It’s too early to talk about that” - A popular phrase for politicians. Translation: We’ll address that when hell freezes over, or the special interests stop donating to my campaign. “I’m not prejudiced, but…” - A well-worn prelude to any outrageously offensive racist, sexist, or homophobic comment. Translation: I can say whatever I feel like about “those people” since I’ve made it clear I’m not prejudiced. “The bottom line is…” - Go-to for attorneys who don’t want to give a “yes” or “no” comment about whether they believe the 242 accusations leveled against their client. Translation: I can’t admit my client is a sleaze ball because he’s paying me top dollar to defend his sorry ass. I’d love to know what you think about my list. Do you agree or disagree? Any phrases you suggest adding to my list? I’m always up for adding to my collection!
President Obama had barely taken the oath of office when Senator Mitch McConnell, one of the folks who makes me profoundly embarrassed to admit I live in Kentucky, announced his primary goal was to limit Obama to one term in office. He didn’t succeed, but he and his Republican cronies became the “party of No” and did everything in their power to block any and all of the President’s legislative efforts. Obamacare became the devil incarnate it was their duty to eliminate—never mind millions of people were able to get health insurance for the first time. Now of course, thanks to a Republican-controlled White House and Congress, they’re at risk for losing it. […]
Eager to get to the university on one of my teaching days, I left the house early—only to find myself sitting in stalled traffic on the interstate for 45 minutes. Sirens screamed, and ambulances roared by. […]
I admit it. I’m a diehard liberal Democrat and a political junkie who sat glued to my television night after night watching the Republican and Democratic conventions. Of course, that also meant watching the accompanying political ads during the commercial breaks. […]