To the Two Boys Sitting Behind President Trump Last Night at the Rally in Mississippi

I see you, in your sport coats and ties.  You look so handsome.  Your parents must be proud of you.  I am a mom to two boys just like you.  My older one loves to wear a coat and tie, too.   Just this morning I sent him off to school in his finest clothing for picture day.  I wanted him to wear his navy sport coat and polka dot tie, but he chose gray.  Boys don’t always listen to their mamas, do they?

But that’s neither here nor there.  Full disclosure, I am worried for you.  You got a front row seat last night to the Divided States of America under President Trump.  I don’t care what your politics are, red or blue, Republican or Democrat, it is not a good place to be.

I am sorry for that.

We adults don’t always get things right.  We make mistakes.  Often.  These days too many of us are making too many of them and the stakes are getting higher and higher.

What you witnessed last night was one of them.  Regardless of you or your folks being Trump supporters, you should not see the President of the United States of America mocking and making fun of a woman who has claimed to be the victim of a sexual assault.  She is not evil.  Democrats are not evil.  They are your fellow Americans.  They are your teachers and your doctors and your police officers and your soldiers that protect you.

I’ve been interested in politics since I was younger than you are now.  One of my very first memories was watching former President Nixon resign his office.  I remember my folks being glued to the TV for a few days.  In the 4th grade, I got to go to our local high school and see President Carter give a speech.  I remember feeling full of awe when the Secret Service went through my backpack.  Did they do the same to you last night?

President Carter did things a wee bit differently than President Trump.  He held a town hall type of meeting where average Americans, my neighbors, were allowed to ask questions.  I remember the husband of my 3rd grade teacher, Mr. Kast, was sitting near us and he asked a question about traffic lights.  No joke.  Traffic lights being too long was the problem he wanted to address when the President came to town.  It seems like a different world.

I miss those days.

What you saw last night was not normal.  It is not normal for the President of the United States to refer to roughly half of voting Americans as evil.  I know being a kid, you’ve only lived under two presidents, so you’re batting .500 here with presidents that do this, but please, trust me when I say this level of anger and hate and vitriol (look up that word on the Google — it’s a good one and will impress your teachers) is not normal.  It’s not healthy for our democracy either.

Some folks might think that you’re too young to be political or have political opinions that mirror or oppose those of your parents.  I disagree.  From my own childhood, I know better.  It is very possible for kids to think about these things.  I encourage it.  Be more political!  Read!  Ask questions!  Look for folks to talk with that both agree and disagree with you.  Question everything you read and are told.  You’re never too young to form your own opinions.  Look at those kids from Parkland.  They are changing the world.

But listen closely and hear this:  People who disagree with your political opinions are not inherently (another word to check on Google) evil or your enemy.  Women who have come forward with allegations of a sexual assault are not people you should mock or belittle.  Ever.  Under any circumstances.  Disagree with them.  Use healthy skepticism, sure, always, but never demean or belittle.

There are lines that President Trump not only crosses, but destroys.  Some things are sacred, or should be.  Basic common decency is one of them.  He appears to lack that or think it makes him stronger or more powerful to abuse human decency.  It does not.  Know this.  All those adults cheering him on last night?  That was also not okay.  Or decent.  Or kind.  Or compassionate.

It’s a tough thing to ask a child to be better, do better than the adults who surround them, but here I am, asking and encouraging you to be better and do better than the adults around you.

I am sorry to put you in this position.  It isn’t really fair.  But that is where we are at in the Divided States of America in 2018.  It shouldn’t be this way, but it is.  For your sake, and the sake of my sons and all the kids of America, I hope we get it together quickly.  I worry for us.  All of us.

Adults are supposed to protect children, the younger generation.  We are not doing that right now.  Probably there are a lot of folks out there who think me speaking to you so frankly is a bad thing.  They want to protect you, no doubt.  I will take that risk because looking at you, I didn’t just see two handsome boys in their coat and ties.  I saw your discomfort, your dis-ease.  Those are the things that give me hope these days.

Trust that discomfort.  Trust your gut when it tells you something is not right.  Last night was not right.  Mocking women is not right.  Suggesting that half your fellow Americans are evil for voting a different way is not right.

Trust in that, not in what you saw last night.


The Baby Upstairs

The young couple who live above us had a baby this summer.  I often hear the distinct cry of a newborn these days, filtered through the ceiling and floorboards above me.  It is a boy and he is tiny, but already growing.  His parents are happy.

Most every day, when I hear the cries, when I see the stroller carrying its little bundle, when I see the weary parents, I think to myself, “Whew.  So glad that is over.”  I am happy for this new little family, for the love they share that has created this little life.  And, still, I think, whew, so glad that is over.

I hear him right now.  The little honey must just have woken from a nap.  And, hearing her cue, there are mom’s footsteps.  It is a beautiful thing, a sacred thing, the caring a parent provides a baby.  Infants are so vulnerable, so completely dependent, so needing a competent, loving older human to watch out for them, watch over them.

Me and my youngest baby, August 2014.

“Old MacDonald” with his farm and his vowels seems to be the go to song his parents rely on to soothe and calm him.  We hear it often enough that my five year old has started singing “E-I-E-I-O” when he hears the baby’s cries.  It’s cute and sweet, and often, full disclosure, a wee bit unsettling.

At 48, my infant days are over, but not that long gone.  My newly minted five year old son will still, like a baby, rely on tears to communicate his frustration, his needs.  It happens in a flash, those tears, and they are often gone as quickly as they started.  He uses his words most of the time, thank goodness.

I’ve been thinking about the anxiety I feel, the little internal bristling I sense when I hear that newborn cry.  Why?  Why now?  What about those cries unsettles me so?  I don’t know for certain, but I think a part of it is my body and my unconscious saying, “We’re done.  No more.  Moving forward.  Next!”

I came to it late, so it stands to reason that it would end later, too, but that stage in my life, the baby yearning years, those newborn years, the baby raising years, are over.  Done.  Fini.  Bye, bye.  Check you later, sleepless nights.

The passage of time is a gift that not all of us people are granted.  As my two boys get older and achieve new milestones, I celebrate each and every one.  I jump for joy on their first days of school.  When I pack up the too small clothes and shoes for another, younger kid to use, I fist pump the air as I drive them to the Goodwill.

I should do the same for myself as I do for my boys.  Celebrate those milestones, fist pump the air for the changes in my life, recognize the stages that were and live the stages that are and will be.  It is a beautiful thing to get older, move forward, embrace what is.

Thank you, baby upstairs, for the life lesson.  I wish many blessings on you and your parents.  E-I-E-I-O, sweet child.

Looks Like Brett Kavanaugh’s Yearbook Has Become Part of His Permanent Record

When I edited my high school yearbook in 1987, I was occasionally struck by the thought that folks would be looking at this annual record for the rest of their lives.  That was a fairly self-congratulatory thought for the editor of the high school yearbook to have, but this week’s news about Brett Kavanaugh has proven my high school self right.

Last night, the New York Times ran a story about Brett Kavanaugh’s personal page in his high school yearbook from Georgetown Prep, a Jesuit school for boys located in the DC suburb of Bethesda, Maryland.  It’s a real doozy.  I didn’t go to Georgetown Prep, I went to a public high school in Chicago’s south suburbs, but, yep, I sure as a scrunchie recognize the type that Brett Kavanaugh appears to have been in those years.

As it turns out, Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook page has become part of his permanent record.

Georgetown Prep gave their students the freedom to author their own yearbook pages, which, as it turns out, provide more than a few clues as to that student’s character, personality, and self-image as they entered the realm of adulthood.  Kavanaugh was, it seems, a bro amongst bros.

For those who lack context, a Catholic boys high school is a very particular culture.  Sports are king in this environment, even at a Jesuit (known for their scholarship and intellect) institution.  I met a mom last year who did not enroll her kindergarten age son in the local Catholic school that her older daughter attends because he was more of an artist than an athlete and even at the tender age of 5, she knew he would be an outcast there.

Let that sink in for a moment.

So we know that Kavanaugh was the captain of the basketball team and played football for four years.  Got it.  He was in the inner circle, if you will.  Looks like there are also lots of inside jokes he references, too, because what is high school but a four year parade of inside jokes that you either get or not get?

Looks like BK got ’em.  He was part of the “bowling alley assault” and treasurer of the Keg City Club — “100 kegs or bust,” yo.  We are learning from former classmates that Kavanaugh drank heavily in high school and college.  His freshman roommate at Yale gave an interview yesterday and characterized him as “aggressive and belligerent” when “very” drunk, which was, apparently, often.

Most troubling, though, are the references to a social peer, Renate, who attended a neighboring girls Catholic high school.  Renate is Renate Schroeder Dolphin, who was mentioned, per the NYT article, 14 times in the Georgetown Prep 1983 yearbook.  Kavanaugh refers to himself as a “Renate Alumnius,” as did a dozen other of his classmates.  The inference is clear, despite what BK says today about his virginal teen years.  Having been unaware of the yearbook comments about her high school self until just recently, in a statement provided to the New York Times, Ms. Dolphin comments:

“I don’t know what ‘Renate Alumnus’ actually means. I can’t begin to comprehend what goes through the minds of 17-year-old boys who write such things, but the insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue. I pray their daughters are never treated this way. I will have no further comment.”

Why 13 separate boys were allowed to reference Renate conquests on their personal pages is beyond me.  Well, actually, it’s not.  It’s understandable, woeful as it may be.  It has been part of the tolerated culture for far too long.

A teacher employed by Georgetown Prep saw these references, approved of them, and went on with their day.  Done and done.  Except, it’s not done, and 35 years later the woman referenced as the collective conquest amongst the 1983 varsity football team of Georgetown Prep, immortalized in its yearbook that, yes, is now part of Brett Kavanaugh’s permanent record, is feeling the impact.

Kavanaugh’s lawyer, Alexandra Walsh, released a statement yesterday about this yearbook page and the references to Renate specifically, “The language from Judge Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook refers to the fact that he and Ms. Dolphin attended that one high school event together and nothing else.”

That’s gaslighting right there, done by a woman in service to a powerful man working hard to distance himself from his own actions, and it is despicable.  Any reasonable person would look through that yearbook and see the numerous references to Renate Schroeder and come away with the assumption that she had dated the Georgetown Prep football team.  For a good time, call Renate.  It’s clear as day and read as it was intended to be read.

Finally, note the references to boofing, the Devil’s triangle, and celebrating the FFFFFFFourth of July.  Urban Dictionary is a good source for seeing what this particular future SCOTUS nominee was up to in high school.

Do bros ever stop being bros?  I don’t know.  I think it is possible.  I think there is a case to be made for youthful indiscretion and all that, but sexual assault is not a youthful indiscretion.  It is a criminal act.  And a toxic, alcohol fueled, misogynistic youth is not a rite of passage that all boys go through.  Most of the bros I knew in high school and college, if Facebook is any indication, are still very much bros.  I avoided them in the 80s and I still avoid them.  And, full disclosure, I am pretty much the same person I was in high school.  Still awkward, still shy, still political, still a wee bit sanctimonious.

If boys will be boys, seems like bros will be bros.  None of that belongs on the Supreme Court.