Wednesday, February 26, 2020

United States of America (1776 - 2020)

The United States passed away on August 27, 2020, following the official nomination of Donald J. Trump by the Republican National Convention for a second term as president. The death came following a prolonged illness that that took a grim turn on July 16, 2020 upon the nomination of Bernie Sanders to be the presidential candidate put forth by the Democrats. It is believed that the compounding effects of both of these tragic events left the republic without a will to live.

The United States was born on July 4, 1776 in Philadelphia, PA to parents Father Liberty and Mother Equality. It was considered a grand experiment - one in which people of all nationalities and religions and races could participate. In fact, for a time, the United States even earned the nickname "Melting Pot" for the unique way in which its freedoms and opportunities called to people from all walks of life. It will be remembered in history for this characteristic - one that is shared by no other nation.

There is no doubt that the United States experienced some failures and setbacks in its 244 years. In its founding documents, white men who owned land were the only ones who were granted important rights of United States citizenship, like voting and working for pay and generally being treated like a human being (this is, for some, when America was "great" . . . they are wrong about that). But through its growing pains were borne corrections that rightfully moved to offer the promises in the Declaration of Independence to all who lived there. The nation fought difficult internal wars, from  the battlefield and the courtroom to the classroom and the living room, to secure this progress.

Throughout these struggles, the fundamental truths that made the United States worth the pain of fighting for an ever "more perfect Union" were that all people are created equal, that all people are worthy of care and human dignity, and that one's religion or skin color or bank account would not define the success and happiness they should be able to experience.

Before the illness that ultimately took its life, there were other times that the United States seemed on the precipice of death. The Civil War almost ruined her. The Great Depression made people wonder if prosperity was still to be found there. The 1960s made those in the United States question her soul. But in each of those instances, there was a leader, or leaders, who clung to what the United States was meant to be and led everyone out of those grave conditions. With the sickness that took her life this year, there was no leader to be found.

The United States watched helplessly as events of this year took a terminal toll on her health. A quarter of her people supported a man who rose to power by playing on the fears of people who did not want to share the promise of the country and who were scared of change, ignored the Constitution and took on executive might that the United States' founders had been intent on avoiding, silenced all critics even though progress in this country had been made largely from dissent and debate, and treated other people in a way that sullied her beautiful flag by association.

Another quarter of her people supported a man who cried out for Mother Equality but did not care for Father Liberty all that much, when both parents had provided essential components that had kept the United States successful and the envy of other nations for generations. He believed in a philosophy that ran counter to promoting ingenuity and hard work and that in practice only had resulted in great poverty and oppression. He spoke of the virtues of regimes that had harmed and taunted the United States for decades, including those who captured and killed some of her people. He had a personality that was no more inspiring than that of his opponent.

Both men lacked respect for the ideals of the United States and for its people. Both men were two sides of the same power-hungry, ego-driven coin. Neither one would be able to lead the United States to any real greatness.

And, perhaps the truth that finally drained the life out of the United States . . . once all of those supporters of both men had been counted, the remaining half of the people just didn't care at all.

The United States leaves behind so many amazing offspring. They include civil rights leaders and inventors. Architects and writers. Jazz and barbeque. National parks and skyscrapers. Churches and mosques. It is buried with scars from more than two hundred years of fighting to be better and learning from its mistakes. It is buried with The Federalist Papers and the Constitution and the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address and the text of the 19th Amendment and a poem by Emma Lazarus that held up the Statue of Liberty and the speech made by a King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. 

In lieu of flowers, those who loved the United States ask that mourners promise to tell their children and grandchildren about the great republic that once brought hope and served as a beacon of light to millions across the globe. They also ask that you engage in acts of kindness among your neighbors and greater community, as we must learn to move ahead together in whatever this land now has become. Maybe we can make an effort to know one another as individuals instead of assigning labels based on differences and isolating ourselves. When we get past the fear that has taken such a deadly grip within the borders of our late nation . . . that has divided us with such hatred . . . and realize we are better and stronger together, the United States just might have a fighting chance to be born again. Someday.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Decades Old Dating Advice

I have not started dating someone new since the waning days of Clinton's second term, which is when I met my ex-husband. I was with him throughout George W. Bush's presidency and we got divorced shortly after President Obama was inaugurated (thanks, Obama). I've been single since then. So, the reality is I don't really have much experience dating in the new millennium.

The mid- to late-90s, however? Now those were some prime dating years. I was out of school and I had a job and I had some fun roommates who also were enjoying being twenty-somethings. Sure, there were a few unpleasant dating experiences. Like with the guy who, when the check arrived at the end of a nice meal, said, "You can pay me now or you can pay later, if you know what I mean." I did know, and I gave him cash for my part of the meal and went home. Or the gentleman who yelled at the very pregnant woman struggling to get out of a taxi in front of us to "hurry the f**k up!" because we were running late for our dinner reservations in Georgetown.

But overall, the 1990s offered lots of fun dates and memories. If you are interested in pursuing some romance throwback-style this Valentine's Day, please allow me offer a few dating tips straight from the final years of the last century!

1. Make sure you live with people who can be trusted to take accurate messages when someone calls on the one home phone line you all share.

2. On a related note, if you move to a new apartment and the phone company hasn't hooked you up yet, stock up on quarters for when you walk to the town center several blocks away to call your boyfriend on a payphone.

3. If you decide to go to Blockbuster to check out a video to watch together, may I suggest the Melissa Joan Hart vehicle Drive Me Crazy (that includes a catchy number by Britney Spears)? It doesn't require strict attention to detail if you end up getting lost in conversation. Or whatever.

4. On a related note, if a date tells you that his favorite movie ever is Dumb and Dumber and he has seen it dozens of times, be wary.

5. On another related note, calling the movie theater to find out showtimes is going to be a lot faster than waiting for the dial-up to connect on your computer. And your local theater may not even have a website yet anyway.

6. Be prepared to dance to The Brian Setzer Orchestra, Big Pun, and Beck. Special shout out to you if you figure out how to move gracefully to Beck.

7. Since no one really has cell phones yet and therefore you cannot plan for a friend to call or text at a certain time in case you need a bailout, have another plan ready. Perhaps something like, "I've got to go. I almost forgot that I promised to record Friends for my roommate tonight."

8. Depending on your mood and intended destination, proper hype music as you get ready for a date should come from Destiny's Child, Blink-182, or K-Ci & JoJo.

9. On a related note, when someone breaks up with you while "Truly Madly Deeply" by Savage Garden is playing on the car radio, please take a deep breath and trust that in a few years you won't even remember the guy's last name. (OK, you will. But it won't matter.)

10. If the person you are dating does not understand that you cannot go out that night because you have plans with friends to watch the series finale of Beverly Hills 90210 and David and Donna finally are getting married, you just need to move on from him.

11. What to wear? A slip dress with a cardigan is likely a winner. If the occasion calls for something more casual, perhaps opt for a cap-sleeve t-shirt and boot cut jeans with some slides.

12. The guy from your Russian class in college on whom you had a crush that spanned two semesters is still waiting tables at Bennigans. Get a group of friends and request to sit in his section.

12. Enjoy this time! Meet lots of new people. Go on dates and have boyfriends but also reserve plenty of time to hang out with your girlfriends or just yourself. Learn more about who you are and what is important to you. It doesn't guarantee that you will make all of the right choices later, but it's a crucial stepping stone in the process. And don't be surprised if there is one person who stays in your heart and who you think about sometimes, even if you haven't seen him in years.