Friday, September 28, 2018

To My Daughter - It's OK to Have Questions

I had the hearings on all day at my desk yesterday and listened to as much as work meetings and other responsibilities allowed. I thought the entire day was heartbreaking.

Professor Ford's opening statement and subsequent testimony were powerful. She is a woman who undoubtedly has endured trauma and I am thankful for her courage in speaking up despite being, as she admits, terrified. I cried as she spoke of what she endured as a fifteen-year-old girl. Because of her willingness to share her experiences, there was a 147% increase in calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline yesterday. That is heartbreaking but also so important.

I also teared up during Judge Kavanaugh's opening statement. He has daughters who love him very much, who undoubtedly are very confused about the accusations being made against their dad. If he is indeed innocent of the charges being made against him, then his anger and his emotion are understandable. I also will admit that as the afternoon wore on, my distaste for him grew. He was dismissive, arrogant, and really eager to share how much he likes beer. I felt the entitled young man who attended Georgetown Prep was letting himself show. I didn't like him.

Despite my strong reactions, I still have questions. Am I allowed to admit that? To be honest, I'm nervous even writing this blog post. According some on social media, there is only one way to think. If I see the humanity in all parties involved as these tragic events unfold, then I'm a pawn in the patriarchy that hates women and you should feel sorry for my daughter because she is being raised by me.

I want my daughter to know that she is allowed to have her own opinions. She is allowed to find both a woman and a man believable. She is allowed to reach her own conclusions with her own amazing mind. My daughter needs to know that she is no less a woman of worth and relevance if sometimes her conclusions do not align in complete lockstep with other women, as long as her beliefs are reached thoughtfully and respectfully.

I have talked with my daughter about what is happening in the Senate this week. I have told her how brave Professor Ford is for coming forward to speak her truth. I have told her that Judge Kavanaugh just as adamantly denies anything happened.

I have told her that EVERY GIRL AND WOMAN deserves to be heard. I've talked to her about the reasons that some women don't come forward and how waiting for decades makes their claims no less legitimate. She needs to know that so many women are afraid to speak of their own assaults or excuse them away. She needs to know that she sadly still lives in a society in which the man usually will be believed over the woman. She needs to know that one in five women will be raped. She needs to know the number of women who experience some form of sexual assault is much higher. She needs to know that an overwhelming number of women (around 80%) know the person who accosts them, as Professor Ford has alleged.

She also needs to know that nearly 10% of rape victims are male and one in six boys and men experience some type of sexual assault. That matters, too, and their stories also need to be heard.


I want her to be a friend who listens when other girls tell their stories. (She already has been that friend once, when in fourth grade she listened to another girl's horrific story of abuse. I am proud to share that she handled it with compassion and love and, with my help, got the abuse reported.) I want my girl to be heard and held by a village of women around her if she, tragically, ever needs to share a story of assault herself.

But I also will tell you that my twelve-year-old daughter has questions about all of the parties involved and she needs to know that's OK as well. She is allowed to explore all of her feelings and doubts. I am never going to tell her how she is SUPPOSED to feel just because she is a girl. That notion is as insulting to womanhood as anything else. We will discuss everything, and I will listen more than I talk.

The truth is that at forty-three years old, I'm still working through so many questions. Like this . . .

How many women who are understandably speaking out in anger about the Kavanaugh nomination now also spoke out against Bill Clinton in 1994 when Paula Jones' allegations became public? Or, how many even voted for Clinton's second term in 1996? How many made fun of Jones' hair and accent? I was in college and I remember that happening a lot.

That was more than twenty years ago, you say. We live in a different, more aware culture now, and when you know better, you do better. I absolutely believe all of these things to be true.

However, many people STILL treat Bill Clinton like a senior statesman. We listen to what he has to say on important matters. This is despite additional rape allegations from Juanita Broaddrick and sexual assault allegations from Kathleen Willey and admitted consensual sex with a young woman over whom he held a lot of power. This is despite the fact that just this year President Clinton said he would not have approached any of the allegations against him any differently.

Less than two years ago, a majority of voters were ready to welcome Bill Clinton back into the White House, this time as the spouse of the president. I get that many selected Hillary Clinton as the lesser evil alternative to Trump, and that certainly is understandable. I never, ever could vote for Trump. But did Clinton voters hesitate for a moment when they went to push that button? Does Hillary Clinton have a responsibility to speak out on behalf of her husband's alleged victims as women are being told to speak up and rise up now? Was there concern for the women who Bill Clinton is alleged to have abused and how they would feel having him back in the national spotlight? Does Bill Clinton get more of a pass because he is more charming than Trump and his political stances are more acceptable?

I still have these questions. I have these questions as a woman and a mother to both a daughter and a son and a voter and someone who has friends who weren't believed when they spoke of their own sexual assaults. And my daughter is allowed to have them, too.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Support Survivors and Due Process

When I was a freshman at the University of Maryland, our school newspaper, The Diamondback, ran a full-page ad with a headline stating "All of these men are potential rapists . . ." Then, in tiny print, thousands of men's names were listed - every undergraduate male at the university. I don't remember which organization sponsored the ad, but the intention, I believe, was to bring awareness to the notion that any man could be the perpetrator of sexual assault. There was a great deal of backlash around campus as male college students did not like their names tied to the term "potential rapist" as a generally applicable label. The campus was quite tense for several weeks as a result.

Today, people across the country wore black and shared the hashtag #BelieveSupporters, the reason being to support Professor Christine Blasey Ford and the other accusers who subsequently shared their stories about alleged sexual assaults by Judge Brad Kavanaugh, who now seeks a seat on our highest court.

Like I did with the ad in The Diamondback twenty-five years ago, I have mixed feelings about the effort made today. I think it's important to raise awareness, but I want to be careful with the process.

Let me start with this. I believe that every woman should be taken seriously when she makes claims about sexual assault. I don't care if it happened five minutes ago or thirty years ago. The human race has a poor track record throughout history of not taking seriously the charges made by women, and even demonizing or threatening the women who were bold enough to share their stories. It's no wonder that such a large number of attacks never get reported. We need to listen to these women. We need to look them in the eyes and assure them that their allegations and their emotions are being taken seriously. We do NOT need to ask why they didn't speak up sooner or about their other sexual experiences. We certainly do not need to respond with some garbage about "youthful indiscretions" or "boys will be boys." We definitely shouldn't send death threats because the accuser does not agree with your political ideology.

I have been the recipient of lewd gestures and comments, as recently as last month when two guys in a pick up truck swerved into my lane repeatedly to get my attention, nearly causing me to run off the road, and then made vulgar gestures out their window and laughed. I have experienced unwanted advances and unwanted hands on me. I have a clear memory of sitting with a boy in high school and apologizing to him over and over again because I did not want to go as far as he did. I told him I knew I was being awful and uptight and I was so very sorry. I see now how twisted my reaction was. I have friends who have been raped, who have been pressured into sex, who have endured physical and sexual and emotional abuse.

There is no doubt in my mind that we have a culture that excuses sexual aggression and assault by boys/men. We have an environment in which women are afraid to speak up and in which we choose to repress evenings of abuse or make excuses to convince ourselves what happened wasn't so bad.

All that being said, I think we need to be careful about putting allegations on the conviction fast track.

Due process is important. The notion of innocent until proven guilty matters. And, it matters the most when the accusations being made are highly repugnant. That is exactly when the protections of the Constitution are the most essential. Making sure that the nice guys and the peaceful neighbors are afforded their rights under the law -- that's not difficult.

I am no defender of Judge Kavanaugh. At all. I will not be shocked if every detail alleged by the women who have come forward is eventually, somehow, proven true. And if so, he must step away from consideration. But, do we really want to be a people that replaces a lack of respect and attention for the accuser with a readiness to condemn the accused? I don't.

Yes, Kavanaugh is a white man of great privilege. He attended a high school at which the entitled class got away with plenty of distasteful and even criminal behavior with the (correct) belief that mommy and daddy could make it all go away. But if we do not afford him the right to share his side of the story regarding the allegations made against him, if we do not allow him to state his defense before convicting him and deeming him ineligible for the esteemed office he seeks, then we also must be OK when an Hispanic school janitor is fired because he was accused of stealing jewelry from a girl's locker even though her friend actually took it. We need to admit it's cool for a black teenager to be detained in the back of a police car in handcuffs for hours because he "looked suspicious" in an upscale clothing store. We need to agree that every person ever arrested should have to put that accusation, whether it bears out as true or not, on job applications forever. Because we should want to hope that our Constitution, that our rule of law and due process, sees all of these instances the same.

Should we listen to these women who have come forward and accused Judge Kavanaugh of awful acts and take their pain and their experiences seriously? Yes. Should we stand shoulder to shoulder with every woman who refuses to remain silent in this culture that can be so damaging to our girls? Absolutely. But let us not lose sight of other principles of justice in the process.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Happy Birthday, Constitution!

Dear Constitution,

Happy 231st birthday to you! You look amazing! I thought about making you one of those cakes with blueberries and strawberries and whipped cream to be all patriotic, but I decided that would be cliche. And you are way too cool to be involved with anything cliche.

I thought you might be feeling a little down on your special day, so I wanted to write you this letter to cheer you up.

I know we have a president (whose powers come from Article 2, but you know that, of course) who does not have a lot of respect for you and how important you are to the foundation of our country. Has he ever read you? I'm not convinced he has. At the very least, I know he is a little fuzzy on the separation of powers that you established. He also has shown that he isn't a big fan of your First Amendment or Fourth Amendment or Sixth Amendment or Eighth Amendment or Ninth Amendment or Tenth Amendment (just to name a few). And that's too bad, because your Bill of Rights is one of my favorite parts of you. And he's not alone. I'm afraid there are way too many people on both sides of the aisle who don't know nearly enough about you.

There are people who do not understand your intentions and who think they are protected from consequences from their employer for staging a protest or who think because they are teenagers they can use whatever foul language they want around my kids at a pool that is managed by a private HOA. There are those who argue the Electoral College is unfair and outdated without appreciating that it is in perfect alignment with the federalist system of government you created. There are some who get upset when a Christian club meets on school property after classes are over and others who think it's perfectly fine for a principal to lead a prayer to Jesus before a school concert because most people in the room believe in Him (both are wrong).

Sometimes I feel like people just appreciate your packaging. Oh, isn't she beautiful! Oh, yes, I love the Constitution! But, they don't really want to listen to all you have to say. Or, they only tout your words when what you decree fits their narrative. Freedom for me but government intrusion for you! I don't like when your guy acts in opposition to the Constitution but I'm cool when my guy does because I like the way he talks! Does that bother you? It bothers me. You apply to everyone.

Despite all of these struggles and misunderstandings you forge ahead. You continue to form the structure of the longest, continuous democracy in the history of this planet. (By the way, do you get as annoyed by people who get all self-righteous and scream "We're not a democracy; we're a constitutional republic!" as I do? Yes, we are a republic. I get it. But "demo" means "people" and "cracy" means "form of government" and we do vote for the leaders who represent us and the whole Constitution starts off with the words "We the people," so I'm cool with continuing to call us a democracy.)

You know what else I love about you? You knew from the start that you weren't perfect so you created a means by which you could be amended and improved. In today's political environment, it's hard to imagine anyone admitting that his or her position on any subject is anything but flawless. And listening to others who might alter your perspective? That's crazy talk.

But you did just that - you listened and you changed. As the wise Maya Angelou said, when you know better, you do better. Making slaves 3/5 of a person for the purposes of population counting in determining Congressional representation? BIG swing and a miss. HUGE. Initially deciding that only white men who owned land could vote? Bad move. You blew it there as well. But you fixed it . . . at least mostly. You asked the states to debate and ratify amendments when improvements were needed. You established the Supreme Court (Article 3) so that your words could be tested against the challenges that would come as our nation grew and evolved.

Are we still striving to be the "more perfect Union" that your preamble states you intended to establish more than two hundred years ago? Of course we are. And I think your precise wording meant you knew that a nation made of flawed people never will attain perfection. But please be patient with us as we keep trying.

The kids and I will talk about you today. And not just today. I am doing what I can to make them informed and active citizens. I hope that other families take a moment to recognize you as well. Maybe some people will read a part or all of you today and see the words in a new way. Maybe someone will be inspired to study one of your provisions more to discover how our understanding of a particular situation was in 1787 and then 1861 and finally 2018. Maybe someone will think about the rights and responsibilities that you embody and will carry that thought to Election Day and make sure nothing stops her from voting.

I hope you get a few minutes to celebrate today! Do something that you really enjoy! Maybe watch a criminal trial in which an indigent man has an attorney and a fair trial. You did that! See the checks and balances you set up in action as the Senate deliberates the confirmation of a possible Supreme Court justice. That's all you, too! Peek in on worship at a church or a mosque. Watch others walk by both buildings with no interest in entering. Watch all of them not get in trouble by the government for any of their spiritual choices. Yep, you again! Have a glass of wine tonight! (OK, you briefly messed that one up but soon made it right.) See the people of Texas decide what their state needs and then the people of West Virginia determine that its economy and demographics and geography require something different. You guessed it! You, again! See a man legally purchase a gun and see another man protest that that type of gun should not be legal. Both acts? Yep, you guessed it . . . you are all in the middle of that. Walk along a 25-year-old woman who is the first generation of her family to be born here and is so passionate about our government that she is running for Congress. Can you believe you had a hand in that as well?

I love you, Constitution. You are one of my favorite things ever put on paper. May you have many more years of keeping this country on its rails but also staying out of the way when needed to let us mess up or succeed on our own as well. Here's to you!!


Friday, September 14, 2018

Where Was God on 9/11?

This week, my daughter asked me the question that serves as the title of this post while we discussed the horrendous events that occurred seventeen years ago. She is now at an age at which I can share some of the more difficult events and emotions of that day. She also is now at an age at which she is questioning faith and religion (two very different things), and I encourage her to explore all of her confusion and questions and doubts. I know some believe she is too young for these conversations and needs to be told what our family values are and that's that. I, on the other hand, want my kids to live by the motto - question everything. This comes with an important addendum. Question everything thoughtfully and respectfully. Unless I'm telling them it's time to go to bed . . . then they just need to do that.

I responded to this particular question by telling her that many people were asking that very same thing in the days and weeks that followed the murder of thousands of innocent people along our East Coast. I also told her that I did not have a good answer for her. As a Christian and as the head of my home, perhaps I should not admit to not having a better answer for her. Perhaps I shouldn't be sharing my lack of certainty with all of you so plainly here. But I have found that my faith eventually grows deeper when I test it, when I come to admit I now see an issue differently than I did before, or simply just admit my frustration when some things don't make sense. (And I would like to note that "Losing My Religion" by REM just came on the radio as I typed this paragraph. Well played with that heavenly sense of humor.)

Did God sit back and watch while terrified sixth graders were flown into the side of a government building instead of arriving safely to a field trip in California sponsored by National Geographic?

Did God make sure every stairwell was blocked so that anyone working above the impact of the plane received an automatic death sentence?

Was He listening when one of those trapped workers called his son's high school in New Jersey and asked if his boy could come to the office so he could talk with him one more time?

I have been told that our planet is a fallen place on which evil exists and that we will not experience true peace and a restored heart until we get to heaven.

I've heard that God allowed 9/11 to happen because America needed to repent or because He wanted us to appreciate one another more.

I have read that God collectively held us and wept with us as we were watching the horror unfold and during the grieving that followed.

Others have explained to me that humans were given free will and it's not God's place to intervene in the destructive plans of humans who will have to pay consequences for their bad free will choices.

Maybe I'm more comfortable with the theological notion to which some subscribe that states God got everything set up for us some time ago and now just kind of sits back and lets us do our thing. Otherwise, the seemingly random joy and pain (h/t Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock) that we experience seems so cruel. I never am comfortable when family members of returning soldiers say something like, "I'm so happy that God was looking out for him and protecting him so he could come home safely!" Does that mean God failed to protect his buddy who was twenty feet in front of him and got blown up by an IED? What about my high school friend with brain cancer who has spent her entire life in service to others? What about children who live in homes in which terrible abuse occurs?

But the complication is that I've found the laid-back approach not to be true of the God who has made His presence known in my life time and again. I have found Jesus near me when I've read and reflected on His words in red, when I've been scared or felt alone or when I've felt great peace and joy. The great commandment to love your neighbor just makes sense. Jesus walks and eats with the lepers and the tax collectors and the oppressed and the "others" and the "outcasts." He is inclusive. He is love. He teaches me and make me want to be a better person. But that's New Testament God. It's the Old Testament God who I more can see orchestrating or at least being complicit in 9/11. My problem is building a solid bridge between the two. I get stuck.

I'm not satisfied with the answer I hear a lot - Our human minds just can't comprehend God or His master plan. We just have to be OK with not knowing and maybe we can ask Him all of these difficult questions when we get to heaven.

I can't get to the point where I'm comfortable telling my children, "It's not up to us to understand why those kids were killed on the planes. Or why their parents died at the Pentagon." With that answer, no wonder my daughter has questions about where God was or if He really wants the best for her and her brother.

About ten years ago, at a previous church I attended, one with a massive membership and that is well known in the Nashville area, the senior pastor had the ushers hand out cards to every person in the pews. He simply asked us to select, anonymously, from a series of four or five statements the one that bests describes our current relationship with God. The next Sunday, he started to cry as he shared that two-thirds of his congregants responded that they don't feel close to God and don't consider themselves as having a strong faith. But here they were sitting in service week after week. Maybe some of you would have chosen the same statement on that card. There are some days (years?) when I would.

I yearn for more than that. I don't want to sit in church every Sunday because it's the socially acceptable thing to do or because it makes me feel good. Are you in the same place as me? I come to with you this honest post because perhaps you are struggling to talk to your kids about where God was on 9/11. Or when their friend got sick. Or when you got divorced. I want you to know you are not alone. As much as it made me sad to see my pastor upset, it helped me to know that there were others sitting all around me who appeared to have it all together but who also, apparently, didn't have all the answers and who weren't on a powerful and unwavering path with their faith.

For my atheist friends, I know that events like 9/11 and children getting cancer and hurricanes that leave thousands homeless further justify their belief that there cannot be an omniscient, all-loving God. Believe me, I get it. But for others of faith, do you have trouble answering these questions from your children? Is anyone else willing to share that they struggle with these issues themselves? Or perhaps you can share with me why you do not wrestle with this. I would love to learn from you!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Seventeen Years and a Street Corner

This morning, I stood on my front porch and watched the kids gather at my son's bus stop. Three of them have parents who have spent their entire lives in Tennessee. Two kids have a grandmother who is Native American. One kid has grandparents on the east coast, another kid has relatives out west. Three kids have parents who were not born in this country and mothers for whom English as a second language is still a struggle. I know the parents of the kids at that bus stop did not all vote for the same presidential candidate in 2016. I know the parents hold differing opinions on our country and its promises.

The kids who board the bus every morning bring diverse experiences and cultures and opinions and pain and joys to that corner. But still, every morning I watch as they yell out and greet each other. I watch them all laugh and tease one another. I see the lone fifth grade girl, the obvious beacon of maturity, be as patient as she can be with all of the rowdiness around her. I see the older kids hang back and make sure the young kindergarteners are safely on the bus first. When they get off the bus this afternoon, one of the them will find a soccer ball or a football and everyone will be invited to play a pick up game in the street. 

On Friday, September 14, 2001, I left my apartment in Maryland and drove past the still smoldering Pentagon to my then-boyfriend's (now ex-husband's) apartment in Arlington, Virginia. We went out to eat in D.C. because we wanted to be in the city that we loved so much. We walked by and made eye contact with people who, like us, weren't really speaking much. We listened to the military helicopters fly overhead. We pushed our food around on our plates and didn't discuss the thoughts and the images that we could not get out of our minds. 

After dinner, we headed the couple of short miles back to Arlington and walked to a street corner that quickly was filling with adults who came from a variety of backgrounds - a street corner much like the one my son and his friends now occupy every morning. The people we approached were singing and hugging and crying. Someone brought drinks for everyone. Someone else brought American flags. Several people passed out candles. As the night progressed, the crowd on that corner got larger. There was a desperate need for us just to be together as strangers who still were in shock, who were scared, and who now were in a world completely different than the one we had known just a week before.

As we stood on that corner, we were less than a year out from one of the most contentious elections in our nation's history. Some of us standing there had voted for Bush, some for Gore. Might even have been a few Nader folks in the mix. There were men and women who worked nearby at the Pentagon and were wearing their uniforms. A Metro bus driver joined us, as well as graduate students and a waitress and a grandfather. Black, white, immigrant, veteran, Hispanic, straight, gay, old, young . . . we were all on that crowded corner looking out for one another and focusing on what held us together, again much like the bus stop on my block today.

Maybe on September 11 you were, like me, a high school teacher in Maryland who had a classroom filled with kids who had at least one parent who worked for federal government, some in the Pentagon. These teenagers were looking to you for answers as they all watched the horror unfold on television screens rolled into classrooms. 

Maybe you were like my sister, who taped up her windows in Brooklyn to keep out the toxic dust floating over from Manhattan and who, as a bartender, listened to the stories of the recovery workers at Ground Zero in the weeks and months that followed. What those responders described finding in the wreckage day after day was considered too gruesome for the nightly news. They didn't want to go home. How could they close their eyes just to see those images again?

Maybe you were a young mother in Nashville or a college student in Georgia or in the air force stationed in Florida or starting your shift at a bank in Idaho. Maybe you were the Republican Speaker of the House in Congress or the Democrat mayor of Washington, D.C. 

You know who you were and where you were, and I feel confident that you would have joined me on that street corner three days after the evil attacks on thousands of innocent people. We would have hugged. We would have found comfort in the common humanity we share. We would have felt a resolve that bonded us. 

But what about in 2018?

The attacks of 9/11 occurred just before smart phones and social media changed the way we communicate with one another and the way we get our news and information. It's so easy now to be cruel from behind the screen of an iPhone or laptop keyboard. Check out any comments section online and you will find people using terms like "libtards" and "RepubliKKKans" every day. I promise you, sadly, that you will find such cruelty even on this solemn day. It's so easy to read countless internet articles and watch cable news talking heads who will affirm our worldview 24/7 while validating our conviction that the "others" are dangerous and wrong. So many of us are so angry. We not only dislike our leaders, but we passionately disdain anyone who voted for the leaders we don't like or who support policies different than the ones to which we subscribe. It was not like that in 2001. I know; I remember. Yes, people were angry after that election and continued to be so throughout Bush's presidency. But I don't think it compares to what we are witnessing today. 

Our nation was bitter and raw after the 2000 election, but, at least for a while, we came together in lines to give blood and to be more patient and to volunteer and to offer comfort. What do you think would happen if our nation was faced with a similar crisis today? I'm not asking if we would drape flags on every overpass or spell out USA with red Solo cups in fences. I want something deeper . . . I'm asking if we once again would find our common humanity. Can we be more like the elementary school boys and girls who seek out ways to interact and help each other?

Sadly, I cannot state with confidence that we would come together as a nation in the same way that we did seventeen years ago. And for my part . . . which is the part I can control . . . this 9/11 anniversary reminds me that I can do better. I can be more patient and more kind when I disagree with people. I need to say "I love you" more. I need to look for more ways that were are alike, not different. I should be more welcoming of strangers. I should strike up conversations whenever possible instead of looking for the comfort of my quiet corner. It's a lot easier to find our common humanity when a crisis strikes if we always take a few minutes to humanize whoever happens to be standing right in front of us at any given moment.

On September 11, 2001, it did not matter to the terrorists if you were Christian or atheist or Muslim or Republican or Democrat or a single mom or a cancer survivor or an undocumented immigrant or a investment banker with Cantor Fitzgerald or a dishwasher at Windows on the World or an officer in the United States Army or a two-year-old girl on her way to Disneyland. Death did not discriminate. Let us remember that on this day and, when our nation is shaken to its core the next time . . . because there will be a next time, let's agree to meet on the street corner, check on one another, and go from there.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Essential Opinion of a Suburban White Woman re: Kaepernick and Nike

I know that over the past 24 hours, many of you have been thinking, "So, what does a typical 43-year-old white woman living in the suburbs of Nashville think about Nike's new ad campaign featuring former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick?" I am here to help answer that burning question for you.

Here are some of my initial thoughts on the controversy:

1. I showed my daughter the print ad last night. We talked about the progression of kneeling during the national anthem over the past couple of seasons - why it started, why many are opposed to it, how I feel about it (more on that later), and how she feels about it. I told her that some of her friends may be told they no longer can wear their Nike sneakers or clothing. I told her she is more than welcome to continue to wear hers. I shared that I think it's just silly that some people are burning items already purchased. If you don't want to wear those shoes anymore, at least give them to a homeless person whose feet otherwise will be cold this winter. (Caring for the poor and the marginalized? That is . . . or that always should be . . . American.)

2. I am not a big fan of Colin Kaepernick. I do not think he is the greatest messenger for the injustices on which he is trying to shed light. The "police as pigs" socks were in poor taste. I think that wearing a Fidel Castro t-shirt, particularly while in Miami, showed a lack of understanding of history and political philosophy. I wish I could be a bigger fan of him as a social messenger, but I can't. There are many other players who are leaders of this movement, like Malcolm Jenkins of the Eagles, who are incredibly persuasive, sometimes without even saying a word:

3. I think the message that is being sent by those who choose to kneel on the sidelines is an important one. There are injustices in our criminal justice system, our education system, and simply in the way we view one another. These are conversations that need to be had, and the players have been a catalyst for that. Why do the players choose to protest during the national anthem and right before a football game instead of in front of the local courthouse on a Wednesday morning? Because on Sunday afternoons is when millions of people are paying attention. It's the same reason that athletes raised their fists while standing on the podium in front of a global audience at the 1968 Olympics - people were watching. And it became one of the most iconic moments of the 20th century.

Also, many of these NFL players are donating millions of dollars and many hours of their time in their communities when the TV cameras are turned off and we aren't looking. Many of these players have family members who are police officers and members of the military. I believe them when they say their kneeling is not an affront to these groups. I have veteran friends who have told me that the freedom to protest is exactly why they served.

4. That said, I get why so many people are upset by those who kneel during the national anthem and by an ad campaign that promotes the idea that Colin Kaepernick "sacrificed everything."  He didn't . . . he is healthy, he is a millionaire, and he will be just fine. There are millions of men and women who have died defending our flag. There are millions of people around the world who dream of our flag as a representation of the freedoms they wish to have. It is what we fly at half staff to honor our dead and what we wave at parades and on the Fourth of July in celebration and thanks. It's not just a piece of cloth; it is, for many, a powerful symbol of sacrifice and hope. When my friends tell me they are going to visit D.C., I tell them that if they do nothing else, they must visit the US Marines War Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial) at night. It takes my breath away every time.

I just wish that those on both sides of this debate would recognize that there is some validity in allowing the other side to be heard. Shouting each other down is fruitless and divisive.

5. The print ad with Kaepernick is visually stunning. I love the photograph and the message. Even if you do not care for the specific messenger, it's a powerful reminder that true belief in a cause or a person is worth sacrificing everything. Well done, graphic design/marketing people.

6. Donald Trump is loving every second of this. The "kneeling issue" essentially was coming to a quiet close a year ago and then our president decided to speak out about it during a rally in Alabama. He yelled that it would be great for an owner to "get that son-of-a-bitch off the field and tell him he's fired!" And the crowd went wild! I don't think President Trump particularly cares about the national anthem or the flag, but he sure loves it when people cheer for him because Donald Trump only cares about Donald Trump. He found some red meat that works with the NFL protests and it since has become one of his favorite ways to get guaranteed applause.

7. I love our Constitution and our First Amendment. I read the entire Constitution at least once a year and Constitution Day is one of my favorite holidays. Kneeling during the national anthem is not a free speech issue. The First Amendment protects citizens from retribution or censorship by the government when speaking. It is not there to protect a citizen from getting fired or facing other consequences from a private entity like the NFL. The owners can choose any restrictions they like, and they do. And we, as fans, have the right to express with our dollars and our television viewing if we like or don't like the decisions being made by both the players and the owners.

8. I love our country. I love her so much and I think often how fortunate I am to live here. I was birthed at a longitude and latitude that has allowed for freedoms and opportunities that women no different than me in other countries can only dream of having. I always stand for our anthem. As the song is played, sometimes I am thinking about the many amazing things about our country. Other times, I am more reflective on some of our current struggles and that we still are striving to be a more perfect union. If others have a different experience when our anthem is played, who I am to tell them their feelings are wrong or less valued than mine? How boring our country would be if we all had to feel the same way about something. How sad it is today that many of us don't want to hear one word from someone who feels differently than us. 

So, those are some of my initial thoughts, and they are borne of my perspective and experiences. I know many disagree with me, and I would love to know your thoughts as well. Because if we aren't listening to each other, than none of this has any point.