All posts tagged: Politics

Why Don’t We Trust the Institutions We Create?

In June of 2017, the Gallup organization conducted its “CONFIDENCE IN INSTITUTIONS” poll, which it has been conducting pretty much every year since 1973. And this year, despite what you might expect would be some sort of pre-apocalyptic low water mark in America’s trust in institutions, our trust in general went up. Specifically, it went up 3 percent. The poll measures confidence in 14 major public institutions — from public schools to banks to labor unions to the Supreme Court to police to big business to small business to newspapers to television news to churches to the military to the medical system and, yes, measuring trust in Congress and the presidency as well. The fine people at Gallup found that in 2016 just 32 percent of the American people on average said they trusted these institutions. A year later — this is THIS YEAR — we now trust these institutions 3 percent more or a WHOPPING 35 percent. Now, you may be thinking — as I was when I encountered this data — that WHOA, that 35 percent …

I’ve Pivoted My Career So Much, I’m Pirouetting

In August 2014, I lost my freelancing job as the Director of Content at Grey, a global, 100-year-old advertising agency, often referenced in Mad Men. (It’s where Duck Phillips landed after being dumped by Sterling Cooper.) Because Grey slashed my short-lived position, a frequent mini-tragedy at ad agencies, I was searching for a new full-time gig. I became obsessed with joining one of the bright, shiny digital media start-ups in New York City, partly out of fear that if I didn’t work at a hot, tech-based company, I would soon become a dinosaur. I had studied journalism, and traditional media were on life support. As a Gen-Xer, I felt that my professional currency was quickly fading and I needed to switch gears so I could sparkle…or, at the very least, find a job. I interviewed at a small hybrid PR/social media agency where a dozen under-30-somethings sat shoulder-to-shoulder on ergonomic chairs, huddled around an eco-friendly, reclaimed oak table. Macs lit up the room as an Irish Setter meandered down the narrow aisles, looking to be …

Hygge and Kisses: Even the Danes Couldn’t Save My Relationship from Trump

During the last few months, there has been a lot of anger shown toward the Trump Administration, coming from both sides of the political spectrum. Whether it has been a deep frustration with his attacks on the mainstream media and the court system, a true hatred of his immigration and healthcare bills or outright shock at his administration’s too-close relationship with Putin, 80 percent of America seems to have a gripe with the president. I’d like to add another complaint to the list: I blame Donald Trump for ruining my romance this past winter. His election — and the chaos that it has wrought — has caused so much stress and anxiety that, during the first three months of his presidency, it was just too difficult to find love. My relationship with Debbie started out promising. We met at a dinner party a few days before Trump was inaugurated. Our hostess was worried about the night being successful and fun, so she warned her guests that “no one can talk about politics.” After dinner, Debbie …

This Is What the American Dream Actually Looks Like

Nancy’s father-in-law Boen Tong (Photo courtesy Nancy Davis Kho) My late father-in-law was an immigrant. He was also one of the most American guys I ever met — if you believe that what defines our national character is a willingness to pull yourself up by the bootstraps, a love of family and community, a thirst for knowledge and, of course, a really green lawn. Boen Tong — known as “Tong” or “BT” to his wife and friends, “Dad” and “Grandpa” to his kids and grandkids and “Tom” to the slightly deaf old Jewish ladies with whom he played bridge in his later years — was born in Indonesia in 1919. He spent his childhood working in the family batik business, pedaling his bike through the Javanese jungle to pick up the beautifully dyed cloth for which Indonesia is known. He spoke Malay and Javanese, but when his parents sent him to study at Dutch schools, Dutch became the first of four foreign languages in which he would eventually become fluent. By age 19, BT showed …

I Invited a Refugee Family Home to Dinner, and It Changed My Life

Sloane around the dinner table with her family and a Syrian refugee family at Thanksgiving (Photo courtesy Sloane Davidson) Over the course of the past election cycle, I was taken aback at the backlash against refugees. I also realized I didn’t personally know any refugees. I decided that if this was an important issue I was going to care about, I needed to better understand and know the refugee community. My family, if polled, would likely say I have never met a cause I didn’t support. I fell into working at a nonprofit in my early 20’s. I was unsettled and without a career path when a mentor suggested I would make a good fundraiser and offered me a job. I took her advice and flourished. I spent most of my career in a variety of nonprofit roles but took a sharp turn this past fall when I decided that I wanted to work directly with refugees. I started with a fairly basic understanding of refugees being people who were forced to flee their homes …

When The Only Trump Supporter You Know Is Your Dad

Yes, I’m still talking to him. Yes, I’ve heard the endless entreaties of “You should stop talking to him!” No, it’s not that easy. I’ve turned around, dissected and diagramed his reasons for voting the way he did, and I still don’t understand any of them. We share a gene pool, the same body type, the same skin and hair color and even the same missing adult incisors that never grew in. We share a similar sense of humor. But we don’t share the same political beliefs — particularly the belief that your vote should be cast to help advance the greater good, not just your own good. Fundamentally, aside from his support of the military, I believe that my dad voted for Trump because he wants to protect his financial assets. It took him a long time and a lot of physical labor to acquire them, and they’re not much, but they’re his. For that reason, to him, Trump was the best choice. Do I agree? No. He and I believe in very different …

A Stranger on the Road: A Syrian Woman Finds a New Home in Connecticut

It’s been a volatile time for refugees trying to get to America, especially since January 27 when Donald Trump signed an executive order banning entry of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. But the judicial system’s fast reversal of the ban created a window of opportunity — and something of a roller coaster ride — for refugees who had been previously cleared for entry. Syrian refugee Fradh Alfaawri and her four children rode that roller coaster last week. The back story: Alfaawri escaped war-torn Syria in 2013 after her husband died in police custody. The family lived in a Jordanian refugee camp for four years before they heard the good news: The U.S. would accept all five of them as refugees. But less than a week before they were to leave, Trump imposed his ban, leaving them stranded, “shocked and very, very sad,” Alfaawri told the press through an interpreter. And then another phone call: If the family could board a plane in three hours, they would, they were told, be admitted after all. Some days …

Scenes from a Visa Application Process

The man standing behind the counter said to us in his thick Indian accent “I’m sorry, but your visa won’t get approved.” Walking into the Abu Dhabi US Embassy was in itself intimidating. The place looks like a fortress. A massive culmination of stone that looks like an angular piece of rock jutting out of the sand. There are barriers up and Marines on guard. Past three separate check points was the consular services center. It was a dark modest room that had rows of chairs and our President and Vice President’s pictures hung on the wall. On the far side was a long counter spanning the whole length of the room. We made our way to a man behind the counter who gestured us over. I had met my husband years earlier, practically the moment I stepped foot in the Middle Eastern country I was going to call home. Since then, our lives became a whirlwind of change. Falling in love, new jobs, moving in together, my conversion to Islam, and getting married. We …

I’m Muslim. Don’t Tell Me It Will All Be Okay

The day after the election, I woke up crying. Not really sobbing — I just had a steady stream of tears rolling down my face. I was sad and incredibly disappointed. I pulled myself together, got my son his breakfast and then stopped, remembered, and the tears started again. I started working, and that’s when my phone started buzzing with texts all day: “thinking of you” or “I love you” or “are you ok?” and the tears would fall once again. I hopped on conference calls and someone would start the call innocently, “How’s your day?” And I couldn’t even lie: “Honestly, I’m not good today,” and we’d spend the first 10 minutes talking about what the eff just happened. It was a hard, sad day that left me heartbroken. I’m a Muslim, and half of this country doesn’t want me here. It doesn’t matter that I was born here or that I’m sixth-generation American. It doesn’t matter that no matter the linage we’re all AMERICAN, whether by birth or because we came here and became …

Wait! Before You Unfollow Everybody…

Maybe you’re sick of social media at this point. We get it. We’ve been unfollowing friends from high school left and right. It’s hard to navigate the need to stay engaged and focused, and our need to take care of our psyches. It’s my job to be on social media all day long. Intermittent breaks aren’t just necessary, they’re mandatory. But when I come back to the screen, there are certain people and pages I follow to keep challenging my own beliefs, point me toward helping to change the future, and give me a much needed laugh — occasionally all at the same time. Here’s a short list of the Facebook pages and Twitter accounts that keep us going in these dark days. Facebook: Periods for Politicians Formerly Periods for Pence: P4P organizes direct contact campaigns with a focus on reproductive justice awareness. You want to legislate my body? You’d better know how it works! Pantsuit Nation: This started as a private group in the week before the election to show broad support for HRC. It now …

Getting Free from the Stigma of Pretty

I have a pussy. I also have uneven saggy boobs, a substantial belly and a pretty face. And while I can’t say anyone ever directly took those things from me, I’ve only recently begun to feel like they are MINE. I grew up with a feminist mother, but I also grew up in Los Angeles where everyone seemed beautiful and thin and highly valued for it — including me (ok, maybe not thin but close enough). I was smart and funny and magnetic, but pretty was by far the most praised — by loved ones, by strangers, by boyfriends and by the girls at school who hated me because, “I thought I was the shit.” I remember being interested in my appearance at a young age, and in looking back during all the painful unpacking work I’ve done, I can’t help but wonder how much of that was actually innate and how much was social expectation — a desire to be “good,” to be validated. But I was more than just pretty; I was sexy — …

We Can Be Friends Without Being Facebook Friends

At least once a week, I invariably have a conversation that goes like this: My friend: “Jamie is so annoying! She won’t stop posting pseudo-science articles about how coconuts cure cancer. And then she liked all my vacation photos from three years ago. Who does that?” Me: “Just unfriend her.” My friend: “I can’t do that! It’ll hurt her feelings!” I really don’t understand all the tiptoeing around Facebook friendships. Don’t get me wrong, I love Facebook. As a native Philadelphian transplanted to the suburban wilds of Connecticut, Facebook lets me easily keep in touch with my nearest and dearest at a time in my life when my closest family member is a four-hour drive away. I don’t have to miss anyone’s kids growing up, and I can easily arrange dinner, drinks and karaoke when I’m back in town for a visit. But I’ve found that people put up with an amazing amount of BS in the name of Facebook “friends.” As Roger Murtaugh said in Lethal Weapon, “I’m too old for this shit.” A …

Boys Will Be Boys — If We Say So

When I was kid, I lived in a suburban neighborhood, down the street from a boy in my class. He was an athlete, crude and a bit rowdy — the kind of kid who gets his name written on the chalkboard. Though we went on to become friends in high school, we weren’t close as kids. My family has a tradition of carving pumpkins for Halloween, and I remember this one year in grade school, my younger sister and I were particularly proud of our little jack-o-lanterns. My mom placed them on the steps in front of our house with candles inside, and as we trick-or-treated around the neighborhood with friends, we couldn’t wait to walk by our house later to show them our pumpkins. But when my sister and I returned home, the glowing faces of our jack-o-lanterns were nowhere to be found. Instead, the splattered remains of our pumpkins were strewn across the sidewalk and the street. Someone had kicked them off the stairs and stomped them to pieces. There had always been rumors about …

11 Women Who Started Brand New Careers in Midlife— and Never Looked Back

Big changes in career, vocation and lifestyle in midlife or the years leading up to it are more often an evolution than a radical change. I went back to journalism school at 35 because the writing degree I’d started at 18 — and never finished —nagged at me for years. Going from full-time college counselor and teacher to graduate student was intimidating — financially, intellectually and emotionally. It was also one of the best, richest experiences of my life, and, no matter how many zeroes got added to my student loan balance, I have never regretted it. I traveled to Vietnam to cover business growth there. I was a reporter in the arena on the night Barack Obama accepted the nomination for President of the United States. I helped to run a student digital newsroom and emerged as the de facto den mother of several classmates a decade or more my junior. I now have a degree that means I can teach writing if I want to (because I loved teaching too much to leave …

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Policing My Mouth: On the Art of Self-Censorship

My second grade teacher, the truculent Mrs. Dunham, masking-taped my mouth shut. She pulled the shrieking roll of tape all the way around my head thrice in front of the entire class. My crime? Announcing in the middle of math drills that the Bookmobile was circling and circling the parking lot because its regular spot was blocked and it had nowhere to park. My classmates’ faces silently told me they were on my side and that I had shared news they needed immediately. What would the driver do? Why was that truck in the Bookmobile spot? It was almost Bookmobile time, so time was of the essence! Someone needed to go do something before the Bookmobile drove away! Mrs. Dunham didn’t want to do anything except punish me for talking. Again. So while the Bookmobile looped like a man without a country, the class beheld the new spectacle of me called to the front of the class while Mrs. Dunham attempted censorship via brown tape. Around it went, sticking to my hair but not truly …

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I Read Banned Books and Hope You Do, Too

When you think of the word “censorship,” what comes to mind? You might imagine a black bar over an image, a political speech, perhaps something sexually explicit. But you probably won’t think about a young Iranian girl, a sensitive teenaged boy or a character created by one of our country’s most revered authors. All of those — and many, many others — have been and are on lists of the most frequently banned books of the past. . .year. That’s right. Not past century or decade but just this past year. Even in modern society, we’ve made so little progress on some fronts that literature of great merit continues to be banned in some classrooms due to “controversial” topics. (The phrase “controversial subject matter” is actually used by more than one book-banning group to describe a volume on this list.) Banned books change with the times. Once, these titles were the most frequently challenged; in 2015, the five below have hit nerves. Notice that almost all of the books on the “older” list are now …

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Bernie To Bed, Hillary To Wed

Picture this: Six friends having a mid-January, post-New-Year’s “how was your break” breakfast. We are a group of women ranging in age from mid-30s to early-50s, with jobs in advertising, media, law, medicine and publishing. We are all feminists, all mothers and, I was thrilled to discover as the conversation rolled around to the Presidential election, all firmly on Team Hillary. And yet… “She has a likability problem,” said one. “She doesn’t have the charisma that Bill or Barack have,” said another. “Her campaign messages just aren’t as exciting as #feelthebern is.” “If Bill’s Teflon, then she’s Velcro. Nothing sticks to him, and everything sticks to her.” Here we were, firmly in Hillary’s corner and yet worrying that she’s not likable enough? That she’s not charming enough. What could be more exciting than the prospect of electing the first female President of the United States? Were we being typical, apathetic Gen Xers? It felt like déjà vu, 2008 all over again — only worse this time. It’s been a pretty disheartening few weeks for those of …

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What a 60-Year-Old Politician Taught Me About Being Single

On July 15, 2015, a long-shot candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination was asked in a radio interview whether he could be taken seriously as a contender for the leader of the free world with his unorthodox lifestyle of…never having been married. His response, calmly, in a contemplative Southern drawl: “Married people have screwed up the world.” And, with those seven words, I was smitten. Sixty-year-old Lindsey Graham, the senior Republican Senator from South Carolina, was clearly winning at life (even if his pull numbers sucked), and he was my new hero. At the time, I was 30 and was going through the worst breakup of my life. It was a situation that I largely blamed on myself because I had kept the whole thing going out of the impulse that, well, someone in her thirties ought to be able to keep a relationship alive even through the rough spells. In fact, the whole thing was a thoroughly unhappy coupling of two incompatible people, and we’d been in denial over our incompatibility for some time. …

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Talking Politics Without Losing Friends

I used to manage political campaigns in Florida, a truly competitive state when it comes to the number of Democrats vs. Republicans. Dreaded was the moment when I would be asked what I do for a living because that was the point in the conversation where one of two things would happen: Either the person would “spot a friend across the room” or “suddenly have to use the restroom,” ending our conversation, or they would lean closer and say something to the effect of “I knew I liked you” or “fascinating, tell me more” and our relationship would be solidified. Fifty-fifty. That was the risk that my conversation and new friend would evaporate as soon as I revealed my political orientation. Over and over again, I saw how divisive politics were when, just by claiming my political party aloud, I would lose friends. How could I explain what I did for a living without alienating half of the people I met? I experimented with many different ways to say it. For the record, this was …