Know Your Neighbors
“It’s the best of times and the worst of times,” said Nadine Smith, the chief executive officer of Equality Florida, as she reflected on the recent gains for LGBT individuals, including marriage rights—and the horrific slaughter of those at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando in the early morning hours of Sunday, June 12.
Her words hit home for me. I’ve been struggling to reconcile spontaneously bursting into joyful tears in the voting booth, mere days before Orlando thrust me back into the violent reality of our times.
Any violence that indiscriminately targets a specific ethnicity, or religion, or race, or national origin, or gender is onerous. I see every person whose life was cut short or is still suffering grievous injuries as being just like my son, who is gay. My tears flow freely as the names and ages are called out on the news with small details of their ordinary and extraordinary lives as described by families and friends. My heart goes out to share their grief.
The worst of times.
It feels like a lifetime ago that I was shedding unexpected tears in that voting booth. I admit to feeling emotionally overwhelmed as I cast my vote for a woman to be the nominee of a major party for president of the United States.
The best of times.
I remember when there were jobs I couldn’t apply for because I was a woman. I remember when I couldn’t get a credit card without my husband’s signature. I remember having to sign an affidavit saying I would never get pregnant again in order to qualify for a VA loan to buy a house, since both our incomes were necessary to get the mortgage.
“Despite all the negativity, she kept reaching, exceeding her grasp … lesson learned.” —Helen, Palm Desert, on Hillary Clinton
After many years of involvement in the women’s rights movement, including service on state and national boards of major organizations, I have seen my share of challenges and triumphs. I remember when using “Ms.” to identify women as individuals—without regard to their marital status—was considered unthinkable. I remember when women were expected to train the young men who they knew would eventually be promoted over them. I remember when being crudely hit on by a client was considered a compliment.
“Going all the way back to the ’70s and ’80s and the ERA battles … this is not the end, but it sure as hell is closer than we have ever been. My granddaughter can shape her own future—be a combat troop commander AND Miss USA, or president of the United States” —Pat, Palm Springs
Many of my friends fell in love with Bernie Sanders’ agenda. They might never self-describe as Democratic Socialists, but they like his approach and willingness to challenge the status quo.
“Regardless of candidate preference, the idea of a female taking on such a role—the presidency of our country—proves to individuals everywhere, especially young girls, that they don’t have to settle for less.” —Alejandra, Thermal
“I like many of Bernie’s policies, but Hillary knows her way around Washington and the world. As the leader of the world for almost a century, the United States is way behind in electing a female president.” —Alice, Desert Hot Springs
I would never vote for a candidate merely based on a single arbitrary characteristic, like gender, color or religion. However, all things being equal, I would give the nod to a well-qualified woman over a well-qualified man, just because we need to catch up with the rest of the world. (It does look as if “all things being equal” won’t apply to this election, in any event.)
“In the voter’s booth, I’ll take ‘calm intelligence’ over ‘erratic instincts’ every time. My reaction is that I am standing proud with women everywhere.” —Janet, Palm Desert
“I cried when I saw Hillary walk onto the stage with arms open … I am so proud of her and proud to be me, a woman.” —Anita, Rancho Mirage
Women have led nations all over the world, in countries with varying predominant religions, and even in the face of security and military challenges far worse than those we face. Women have won presidential elections in South Korea, Malawi, Argentina, Kosovo, Iceland, Malta, Philippines, Nicaragua, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Guyana, Latvia, Panama, Finland, Indonesia, Liberia, Chile, India, Lithuania and many other places, to say nothing of nations where women have served as heads of government in the position of prime minister or other titles.
“The historical aspect of it didn’t hit me until election night.” —Pat, Indio
“When I was listening to Hillary’s acceptance speech … I was so emotional that all I kept thinking was how I wish my mother could’ve been there with me, celebrating this moment in history, something she always dreamed of.” —Claudia, La Quinta
There are many women, and men, who will not support Hillary BECAUSE she is a woman and who still believe a woman’s place is in the home—in the background, in the support role. There are women who are uncomfortable identifying with Hillary’s persona, because it often evokes misogynist reactions and they don’t want to suffer those same reactions. There are those who have a negative view of Hillary based on scandals and various “—gates.”
“It will make a difference to have a woman in the White House, and it’s long overdue. Compared to all the powerful men in history … whatever mistakes she may have made are, in my opinion, far less egregious. Thanks to all the heroic women who have come before me and who made this possible.” —Helen, Northern California
“Maybe I’d vote for her if she divorced Bill!” —Val, Indio
Going back to Nadine Smith’s comments in the wake of the Orlando killings, the Equality Florida CEO said: “I vacillate between sadness and anger, but mostly pride (at what we’ve accomplished).” I, too, am saddened and angered that anyone, for ANY reason, indiscriminately murders innocents. At the same time, I am full of pride and hopeful that we have a chance through a new approach, a woman’s approach, to model our values and our better angels to the world.
“I’m thrilled, like every other woman should be.” —Nancy, Palm Desert
“Our time has finally arrived.” —Kathy, Oceanside, formerly Palm Springs
“I yearn for her candidacy to show my two granddaughters that they can achieve anything.” —Dori, Palm Desert
When Hamilton, a revolutionary approach to a Broadway musical, won the bulk of trophies at the Tony Awards, one of the producers, echoing a line from the script, said it all for me:
“Look around. How lucky we are to be alive right now. History is happening.”
It is the best of times.