Saturday, January 21, 2017

I Am Learning To Be At Peace, But How About The Other Side?

If there is anything out there that has lifted my spirits this weekend it was seeing and hearing about all of the protest marches nationwide and globally.  Who says Americans haven't "come together and united"?  We have united indeed.  Millions of Americans are united to fight to be on the right side of history.

We stand strong together and we can get through this.  If we keep this momentum up, we will become a stronger and more united nation.

I have come to pity Trump supporters.  Today I asked myself, why they love him so much.  What has he done that makes him such a hero in their eyes?  Let's look at the facts.

By all accounts Donald Trump is a textbook narcissist.  People who have met him in person have given accounts of his self-serving, grandiose behavior.  He has made some outrageously sexist and racist statements.  He truly seems to revel in unkindness and cruelty.  Despite all of this, his supporters seem to think he is kind and classy.

Donald Trump has had multiple business failures and four bankruptcies.  He has committed outright fraud. He has stiffed his employees and contractors.  He has made more money from lawsuits, branding, and reality TV appearances than from doing any actual business.  No matter how many times someone points this out,  his followers insist he is a brilliant businessman.

He doesn't go to church. He hasn't shown any real evidence of being a religious man. He treats women terribly.  He mocks the disabled.  He tossed aside two wives after cheating on them.  He has five children with three different women.   It doesn't matter to his followers, who think he is the most morally upstanding Christian politician in decades.

He lies constantly.  Fact checkers can barely keep up with his lies. He will look right into the camera and deny the statements he previously made on camera. He went back on his campaign promises before he even took office.  His followers still believe he is the only truthful politician.

Today I asked Kevin why anyone would still want to believe in Donald Trump when all of the evidence is out there that he is a sociopath who is unfit for office?  How can these people not see what is right in front of them?

Kevin replied it's because they have a narrative.  Donald Trump fits their narrative of what a candidate should be and they are willing to ignore his many shortcomings if it suits their narrative.  They don't want to be wrong about him.  They have placed so much faith in him already.

That's when it hit me.  That's why his supporters won't see the man for who he is.

Scientific studies have shown that facts don't really matter to people who have deeply held beliefs.  What's worse is the more facts you present someone that are contrary to what he believes, he is more likely to dig in his heels and cling more tightly to them.  I can tell a Trump supporter every fact check ever done on Trump and present eyewitness accounts of everyone who has been wronged by him, and that supporter will still say Trump is a good man and an ideal President.  He may even believe it even more strongly after hearing the facts presented.

The online behavior of Trump supporters has now confirmed for me just how uncomfortable they are.  I see them digging in their heels.  They desperately cling to any little positive thing they can find.  Most importantly, I see it in how they attack the opposition.

Take note of the behavior of a Trump supporter versus a Trump opponent.  Those of us who did not vote for Trump are vocal about the election results, but we don't take it out on others.  We grieve.  We worry.  We attack Trump himself saying he is incompetent and unfit for office.

Trump voters are making vicious outright attacks on the opposition.  They keep telling us to stop pointing out the facts, to stop making comparisons to totalitarian regimes, to accept the election results, and to unite with the rest of the country.  They can't defend Trump.  They are acting on the offense, but I realize it is now a defense.  Their language is harsh and insulting.  They are dealing with their uncomfortable feelings by lashing out.

Let me tell you something.  If you're going to call me an "idiot" or a "whiny little bitch", then it says way more about you than it does about me.  You tell me America has to come together? You are the ones who are dividing this country with your disgusting, graceless, classless rhetoric.   If this is the kind of person you are, then I don't want to come together with you.  I want you as far away from me as possible.  I'll go stand over with the millions of people who took to the streets today.

Trump supporters aren't at peace with these election results.  I see that now.  You know this election carries a huge risk and you don't want to admit you're scared.  If you give up your deeply held beliefs now, you worry you have no place to go.

I suggest you come over here and stand with us on the other side.  We will welcome you and not call you names.   We understand the future is uncertain, but we plan to face it together.  Come join us. 

Yes He Is My President (and he had better remember that)!

It's very easy to say, "Not my president," when a candidate you loathe wins the general election.  Many of you even hashtag it.  You can say it as much as you want, but it won't be true.  If you are a citizen of the United States of America, Donald Trump is your president.  No hashtag will change that.

Let me reiterate that.  You are a citizen of the United States of America.

Donald Trump is President of all citizens of the United States of America.

So we accept it, because we understand that's how the democracy works (however imperfectly).  My question for Donald Trump is if he understands it.

Being president of the United States means being President of the  United States.

It does not mean President of white people. It does not mean President of Christians.  It does not mean President of the wealthy.  It does not mean President of Republicans.  It does not mean President of cisgendered and straight people. It means you are President of every single person born in this country - no exceptions.

So once again, Mr. President, do you understand that?

Years ago a friend on Facebook frustrated with the government as only people on Facebook can be asked, "Why don't our leaders lead?"

I countered that with a better question.  "Why don't our public servants serve?"

We refer to the government as "public servants".  We say that politicians "serve" their terms.   Our government isn't meant to lead us.  I know I'm not a follower.  I don't want to be led.  Our government is meant to serve us.  We, the people, are the employers and the government is the employee.  It is the job of the government to work for us, to keep our best interests at heart, and to see our needs our met (although different political affiliations have different definitions of what those needs should be and that's okay).  To work in government is to work for the common good and not personal enrichment.

This is what is so wrong about Donald Trump.  He has spent his life dedicated to personal enrichment and personal glory.  His track record on seeing to the needs of others is abysmal as he has repeatedly committed fraud and stiffed his employees and contractors.  How can this man possibly work to "Promote the General Welfare" (before you get twitchy that I used the word "welfare", please note I am quoting the Constitution he just swore to uphold).

So please. Mr. President, as you enter your four-year journey through government, I hope you remember that this liberal, feminist, secularist is paying for your cozy little stay in the White House (or the security needed for your stay in Trump Tower) with my tax dollars.  So is my Jewish liberal husband.  So is my gay best friend.  So is my Latina (and veteran) sister-in-law along with her veteran son and daughter-in-law.  So are my black coworkers.  You are President of us too.

Don't try to lead me.  I won't follow. You work for me and I expect a stellar job performance.  I'm going to be the most demanding employer you ever had.  If you can't meet my demands, in four years I will take great pleasure in telling you, "You're fired!"

Friday, December 30, 2016

Moving My Body Forward 2017: Resolutions and Reclaiming the Ninja Goddess

Aren't you glad this isn't a political post?

2016 was the year to try to rebuild my strength to pre-surgery levels and try to find a way back to a healthy weight and bodyfat level.

I succeeded at the former, but failed at the latter.  Nonetheless, I celebrate my success.  Over the course of the year I sometimes looked at the routines in my various workout programs and thought, "That's too hard.  I can't do that."  Then I went ahead and did it.  I continue to amaze myself every day.

I swore that I needed to accept my body and just deal with the fact that I'm not willing to make the changes needed  to radically make over my body.  I got my level of fitness back and that's all that matters.

Or is it?

Unfortunately in recent months my pony has become impossible for me to ride.  She is unresponsive and even combative when I ask her for simple tasks.  My trainer has asked me to consider if I might be too heavy for her.  I think she may be right.  I owe it to Riddle to make her more comfortable.  We are a team.  We have worked together for the past 10 years working to riding goals.  I can't move forward figuratively if I'm making moving forward literally uncomfortable for her.

So I need to find a new way to work on these eating habits.  My attempts to share regular habits wasn't working out too well.  I wasn't sticking to it.  I need new goals and new strategies.

I came up with these strategies for both exercise and nutrition.

Nutrition Goals

Stay with a fixed meal plan:  I have been writing and refining a list of meals to carry me over for the next six weeks.   Each week I eat the same breakfast and lunch and three different dinners (each dinner is eaten over two nights).  This allows me one night out per week.  The meals are vegetable heavy and often vegetarian (even vegan) although I make sure each day has adequate protein.

The No-Dessert Challenge:  I am challenging myself to not eat sweets for as long as possible.  I will save desserts for special occasions like holidays and other family gatherings.  Each interval I go without sweets will come with a reward such as new perfume from Sephora, an off-season pedicure, a massage, and a styling session with one of the high-end box services. 

No alcohol at home:  If I want to drink, I do it when I'm out.  I have only one dinner scheduled out per week so that doesn't leave much room for drinking.

Exercise Goals

I  have only one goal and, believe it or not, it is to scale back.  I have spent years following the rule of three strength sessions a week.  I have had multiple injuries and I'm getting stiff.  New body parts are hurting all the time.

Instead of 3 strength, 2 cardio, 1 dance, and 2 horseback riding, I am swapping out a strength session for yoga.  I need to start doing more flexibility work, not just to keep the stiffness at bay, but to be more relaxed and centered.

Many fitness experts say two times a week is minimum and three times a week is optimal.  I'm guessing most of these experts don't work their muscles trying to control an animals that weighs several times more than they do.  I think I get enough muscle work from riding.

My winter schedule will look something like this:

Sunday: AM strength training, PM riding
Monday: Dance class
Tuesday: AM strength training
Wednesday: Cardio (30 minutes steady state on bike or elliptical, 10 minutes of intervals) or Zumba
Thursday: Yoga class
Friday:  Cardio (see Wednesday)
Saturday: Riding

Thursday is yoga day because it's the day my gym has a class at a time I can be there.  I want to go to a class because I know I am less likely to do anything if I decide to simply stretch or do a DVD at home.

I think I can liberate myself from the expensive weight programs and the books.  I believe I  have the knowledge to design my own workouts now.

This will change when dance class is out for the summer.  I think by that time, I will have another check in.  Can I hold out with only monthly (if that much) dessert and weekly wine?  How will that affect my body if I can?

I want to feel like a Ninja Goddess again.  Ninja Goddess may not be quite what she was in 2013, but I can redefine who she is and what she does and what she can accomplish.  She needs to banish the Dumpy Stumpy Troll (granted, she should have been doing that all along and I haven't been letting her).

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Wee Bit of Schadenfreude

The word from the armchair political analysts and the corporate media pundits is  that Donald Trump won the election because he suckered the white working class into believing he will bring manufacturing jobs into the United States.  Under Trump everyone will be working well-paid jobs again.

This will never happen of course.  Manufacturing companies have nothing to gain by having their factories in the US where minimum wage laws and OSHA rules apply.  American corporations want to treat their workers in a standard most Americans would never accept.  Due to union busting over the past three decades, even if companies did bring their factories back to the US, manufacturing wages and benefits would not be any better than working at WalMart or McDonalds.

Trump has stocked his cabinet with billionaires like him (or actually I should say true billionaires who are far more successful than he is and even more ruthless).  They aren't going to care about the working class.  It will be business as usual with crony capitalism and concentration of wealth at the top.  Anyone who believes otherwise is kidding himself.

What about those of us who aren't working class?  What about us "Coastal Elites" who just happen to be liberal?  Will we suffer?

The fossil fuel industry is salivating over the Trump presidency.  He picked the CEO of ExxonMobil as Secretary of State.   He will open up the country to all the drilling and fracking the companies' hearts desire.  The oil industry is set to thrive.

You know what?  I happen to work in the energy industry.

Oil companies will be making money by the tankload.  They will have more money to invest in my company's services.  My company will do well.  My job is quite secure (unless I screw up personally). Yes, this liberal "nasty woman" will be able to maintain her middle class lifestyle quite nicely.

Lucky me.  I'm going to thrive under Donald Trump and I didn't even vote for him.

It will be business as usual for red state "Real America".  They thought they were getting their well-paying jobs back.  They are going to suffer just as much, while this liberal does just fine. 

Yes, I do feel a bit of schadenfreude about that. 

Schadenfreude is defined as a temporary feeling of pleasure at someone's misfortune.  I can take temporary pleasure in misfortune, but as a liberal I have too much empathy for others' misfortune to be happy for long.

I am filled with sadness for the Walmart greeters and burger flippers who are struggling to pay the bills on minimum wage and no benefits. I feel especially sorry for them when they find themselves relying on SNAP or Medicaid to care for their families, then hearing their fellow Republicans calling them "takers" and too lazy to work.  I wish they would understand that they are merely being Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin when they vote Republican and then wait for the money to trickle down to them.

The white upper classes - liberal and regressive - will continue to do well.  That is a given.  If we have any drop of humanity left in us, we will consider those who haven't done well without Trump and will continue to do worse in the next four years.  What about those Americans who don't fall into the privileged boxes?

The working class and poor will continue to suffer poor wages and no benefits.  They only benefits they can have - those provided by the government - will be cut or even eliminated.  How many people will go hungry?  What about the people who will no longer have healthcare?  How many Americans will die or go into deep debt?  Will more black Americans die under our ever-increasingly brutal police state?  Will gay Americans lose their basic rights over something as trivial as what they do in their own bedrooms?  (This article here says it better than I can.)

I had my moment of schadenfreude.  Now it's time for me to stop celebrating the benefits of my white, upper-class, privilege.  I leave that to the Republicans.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Liberals Don't Need to Understand Real America. Real America Needs to Get Real.

After this election, I have been reading nonstop about all the poor assumptions liberals made about this country and its voting habits, and how their biggest mistake was not understanding "Real America".

What is "Real America"?  Real America is geographically the central states of the US, often referred to as "flyover territory" in a derogatory fashion.  The people who live there are characterized as white, working class (or poor), Christian, and conservative.  Their education levels rarely go beyond high school.  They are seen as clinging desperately to a world that never really existed.  They fear change.  They fear being left behind by an ever-increasing multicultural population and the globalization of the economy.

It doesn't matter if these stereotypes are true or not.  Every election we have ever had panders to them.  The assumption is every politician is eager to grab votes from minorities, educated and professional women, and big cities with large populations, so this group is left behind.  That means more time and attention is put on campaigning for the needs of this group and framing the message that Real America still exists and still has a voice.

Working class and poor people have real fears and real problems that affect the entire country.  Unskilled workers can no longer be guaranteed employment in a well-paying manufacturing job.  There are jobs out there, but they are low-paying service industry jobs and do not cover the cost of food and housing.  They also don't provide healthcare benefits or the healthcare benefits they do receive cover as little as possible.  The need to find a way to pay for the basic cost of living has caused an endless cycle of debt.  Education used to be the one way out, but schools are failing and the cost of college makes higher education impossible for many Americans.

Liberals understand this.  We know many Americans struggle with basic needs.  We know children go to bed hungry.  We know adults are deep in debt.  We want to solve these problems first.  Liberals see the only way to solve problems is to move forward and not try to go back to some other time.  We need to work with the system as it is and not try to make it into what we wish it would be.

How do liberals want to do this? you ask.  We have several key initiatives to grow the economy into the future.

Manufacturing jobs that have already moved overseas are not likely to come back.  There is little incentive for companies to do that.  Besides, automation has made many manufacturing jobs obsolete.  Producers simply don't need the workforce they needed 50 years ago.

Rather than make jobs that don't exist, we need to make existing jobs more profitable for the worker.  We need higher wages, better working conditions, and strong benefits.  The government needs to stand with the unions instead of with the union busters.  If you truly want to return to the "Golden Age" of the 1950s, you need to do exactly what they did in the 1950s.  That means high minimum wage and strong unions (and yes, a high top tax rate, which was not proven to diminish the wealth or lifestyle of the super-rich).

We encourage rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure.  This is one of the best ways to create jobs.  This will not just benefit the working class.  Everyone will benefit from safe roads and bridges and safe and reliable public transportation.

We want to invest money into education at all levels.  Education is the one way all Americans have to improve their quality of life.  Equal access to the best education is another benefit to society as a whole.   This is particularly true in the age of automation.  If we gave Americans the technical training to program and service the automated systems in place, more of them would have jobs in the manufacturing industries and would wouldn't have to keep hiring educated technicians from other countries.

We see the need to start investing in renewable energy instead of trying to rebuild the dying fossil fuel industries. Coal is dirty and inefficient and automation has replaced a vast number of coal mining jobs. Investment in alternatives will encourage innovation and entrepreneurship s.  This investment will create more jobs.  The added benefit to Americans as a whole is our air and water will be cleaner.  Win/win!

Unfortunately this message has been either buried or distorted by the right wing media (the "liberal media" is one of the biggest lies currently perpetuated by our culture as a whole) and the massive corporations who own them.   Every attempt at improving the lives of all Americans is framed as impractical, elitist, and even communistic.  While the internet has provided a voice for liberals to state their case without corporate dollars interfering, we have a long way to go to make our message heard.

The problem isn't just the media though.  It's the people themselves.  For too long poor and working class white people have swallowed the Republican message even when it has ceased to make any sense whatsoever.  How can anyone stand up and say we need to get rid of establishment elitists and then elect a billionaire who is infamous for underpaying - or not paying at all -  his employees, and even commits outright fraud?  Why would anyone believe our President cares anything about the people he has stomped on his entire career?  There are powerful interests at work saying if we just let billionaires make as much money as they want, they will begin spreading that money around.  There will be more jobs and higher wages.  This has never proven to be true.  No matter how many Republicans are in Congress or the White House, the Trickle-Down Fairy has yet to sprinkle her magic dust over the US population.  (I wrote more about that here.)

The real issue here is not whether or not Americans are willing to accept practical fixes for the economy.  It's that they are looking for something else.  As I said above, white working class people aren't looking for practical solutions.  They are looking for some version of America that doesn't exist.  They don't want the world to change.  They don't want equal rights for all races and religions.  That would mean a risk that their own power will further diminish.  They don't want better education.  They want jobs for the uneducated.  They don't want multiculturalism.  They want their world to exist exactly as it is forever and ever.

This mentality needs to stop.  It needs to change.  I'm tired of living in a country that is trying to preserve a way of life for a certain group of people.  I'm tired of hearing how elections are lost because white, Christian, working class people "Want their country back."  I'm tired of being told I don't understand working class people and that I'm an elitist.

It's time for Real America to get real.

I am not the only one who believes this.  I am writing this post after seeing these pockets of dissension regarding the reason Trump won the election.  There are many new voices coming out and saying the same thing I'm saying and saying it better.

Real America needs to face a few truths if we are ever going to move this country in the right direction.

Let's start with the fact that Christianity is not the only religion in this country.  Accept the fact that Christianity can not, and does not, dominate the public square.  This does not mean you can't be a Christian.  You are welcome to attend church, proselytize on the street corner (as local ordinances permit), pray, and practice ritual as long as you don't cause harm to others.  This is your right as an American.  However, it is time to understand you can't force everyone to live under your religion.  Others do not have to pray with you if they don't want to.  No one is required to celebrate your holidays or celebrate them exactly as you celebrate it.  The Constitution is not derived from your ancient holy texts and the country is not required to live by those rules.  It's time to coexist with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Wiccans, Scientologists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and yes, Atheists.  We need to start talking about creating an ethical society that does the least harm and provides the most benefit instead of trying to turn everyone Christian.

Next it's time to stop fearing multiculturalism.  There is fear among white people that European culture will be lost.  What is European culture?  In the 19th and early 20th centuries, native-born Americans (but not Native Americans) feared the masses of immigration from European countries such as Italy and Ireland.  I'm sure they felt these immigrants would destroy their way of life.  Now the entire country celebrates St. Patrick's Day and eats more pizza than they do in Italy.  That's what the "Melting Pot" is all about.  Our country always has been, and always will be, absorbing aspects of other cultures int our own.  Do you really think only white or European culture is the only one we should allow in this country?  Do you love jazz, blues, rock, or hip hop?  Do you enjoy salsa dancing or eating street tacos?  Do you practice yoga?  Elements of immigrant and non-white American culture are probably already part of your daily life.  It hasn't harmed you.  In fact, it has probably made your life more enjoyable.

If you think it's possible to keep every single undocumented immigrant from crossing the border, you had better think twice about the advantages.  There are industries who - rightly or wrongly - rely on undocumented immigrant labor.  This includes industries that affect your daily life like agriculture and meatpacking.   If an impenetrable wall is built from edge to edge of the Mexican border, food prices will soar. Will you just say that's Obama's fault?

We need to learn to accept that you can't force gay people back in the closet.  You are allowed believe it's a choice.  You are allowed to believe it's wrong.  You are not allowed to legislate those beliefs.  Gays do not have to be married in your church, however two loving, committed, consenting adults are allowed to obtain a legal marriage certificate with no interference from you or your pastors.  You don't have to like it, but it has nothing to do with you.  It's none of your business.

It's time to start recognizing blacks, Latinos,  Semitic people, and Asians as human beings with equal value to you.  They are not out to get you.  They are not stealing your jobs.  They are not taking your tax money in welfare dollars.  They are US citizens with the same rights and responsibilities as you have.  They have families and loved ones to care for.  They worry about jobs and money as much as you do.  Maybe it's time to get to know someone who doesn't look like you.  Also, remember that your ancestors were immigrants too.  The "real" Americans were killed off in order for you to be here and call yourself a native.

Intellectualism is not the enemy.  Education is important.  In order to get anywhere in life, you need a good education.  This doesn't just mean learning the 3Rs.  A good education includes critical thinking and at least a basic understanding of how the world works.  Turn off the TV and read a book.  Go out and explore.  Try to create something just for the joy of creation.  You may find you go farther in life if you are curious and open-minded.

You must understand Roe V. Wade is the law of the land.  You don't have to like it and you also don't have to get an abortion if you don't want one.  You do need to accept the vast majority of the US population supports it.  Don't expect your elected officials to overturn it.  They use it as a wedge issue to get you to the polls, but they have no intention of following through.  If they came close to overturning Roe V. Wade, more proponents of the law would start flooding the polls and your representatives would lose their seats and they know it.  If you love children, it's time to support measures that help children currently walking this earth. 

Remember that "coastal elites" are just as "real" as rural whites.  I know I am privileged to have grown up in a place that had good schools and that I had a family that could send me to college.  It was purely an accident of birth.  I understand that.  I also have many of the same struggles you do.  I still worry about money and sometimes struggle to have all the bills paid.  I have family members who need extra care.  I had to finance my education and was in debt for many years over it.  I go to work, watch TV, eat dinner, and do many of the same things you do.  I am a human being, and I am real.

I am real.  You are real.  Let's work together to solve real problems with real solutions.   I can reach out to you, but will you reach out to me?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Congratulations America!

You have elected the President you deserve.

Last night, after spending hours watching the polls, I stumbled fearfully into bed with the thought that I could wake up in the morning and Donald Trump would be president.  It wasn't looking good for Clinton, but I couldn't give up hope for an eleventh hour miracle.

Kevin and I were both sleepless.  I tried to stay away from my phone and computer, but during his periods of wakefulness, he would check the news on his phone.  I finally had to ask him for the bad news.  All he needed to say was, "He won," and now I don't know if I will ever sleep again.

I remember in 2000 feeling such horrible dread when George W. Bush was elected.  My dread was justified.  He was terrible for this country, starting with his monumental failure to prevent 9/11 at the beginning of his presidency, to the Great Recession at the end of it.  What I feel now does not even begin to compare.

What have we done?  Why?  What has made anyone believe this man has any qualifications to run the country?

Back in March, when it seemed impossible for Donald Trump to come this far, I wrote a blog post about my greatest fear concerning Trump's political career.  It didn't matter if he won or not.  He opened Pandora's Box and made racism acceptable.  He has wrapped up his hateful words in cynical blanket of anti-political correctness, but the dog whistles are growing louder.  Here is a snippet from that post. 

Those who praise Trump say that he says what's on his mind without fear of offending anyone or a need to be politically correct.  How has this become a good trait?  How did treating others with kindness and respect suddenly a character flaw?  Do you think a fear of offending people has gone "too far"?  What makes it too far?  Isn't it better to try to be kind and respectful to everyone than it is to cease to care about how others feel?

It's not about anti-political correctness and not offending people.  Republicans are just as likely to be offended by others' language.  It's just not the same language that offends them.  (Try wishing a Republican "Happy Holidays" this December and you'll see what I mean.)  Donald Trump is saying out loud what others are afraid to say because we all know on some level that what Donald Trump is saying is wrong.  Those who support him desperately want to believe that he is right.  They want a world where good and evil are clearly defined and everything is black and white.  He is making it easy to choose sides and not think. 

When Trump says he wants to "Make America great again," he is really saying he wants it to go back to a time when it was dominated by white males and alternate voices were suppressed.  He wants to go back to a time when only one religion was allowed to dominate the public square.

He has grandiose claims that sound great on paper.  It would indeed be great if manufacturing jobs were brought back to the United States.  He has promised this over and over, but no one seems to notice that he never really outlined a plan for how he will do this.  He promises there will be a border wall blocking Mexico, but he can't come up with a believable plan for how to pay for it.  He spent his campaign selling a fantasy and his voters never demanded to  know how he plans to make those fantasies a reality.

At this point I almost began to rant about the stupidity of the American electorate.  How ignorant and complacent have we become?  Why aren't we making politicians more accountable for the promises they make?  Why has no one noticed Trump gives broad and evasive answers to every question anyone ever asked him?

I know it's not stupidity.  It's desperation.  Just a few decades ago any unskilled American could be assured of a manufacturing job and create upward mobility for their families due to union wages and benefits.  There was job security, assurance of education and a better life for younger generations, and a smaller gap between the haves and the have-nots.  Now even well-educated workers are now barely making ends meet in low-paying service jobs with no guarantee of a living wage and no healthcare.  It seems reasonable to hope a president can somehow bring back the old days instead of finding the best ways to move forward in the system we currently have.

The problem with desperation is it creates a breeding ground for dictators.  The French were desperate when Napoleon came into power.  The Germans were desperate when they elected Hitler.  They Russians were desperate at the time of the Bolshevik revolution.  I like to think Americans are not that desperate, but as a white, employed, upper-middle-class woman living comfortably in a wealthy suburb, it's hard for me to know or understand the true struggles and feelings of the poor and working class in less prosperous areas of the country.

I do have to consider that maybe Americans are truly stupid.  I read recently that only 12% of Trump voters actually like Trump and agree with his views.  The racist "alt-right" may be vocal, but they are not the majority of the Republican party.  That means most voters were not voting for Donald Trump yesterday, but were voting against Hillary Clinton.

Let that sink in for a moment.  The American electorate would rather vote for someone with no political experience, who sells a fantasy rather than a plan, running on a platform of racism and anti-intellectualism, than a woman who has dedicated her life to public service.  Donald Trump isn't even a particularly good businessman.  He's not an entrepreneur.  He is not a good money manager.  He had made his money from brand licensing, lawsuits, and celebrity appearances. Hillary Clinton,  worked for years in non-profit advocacy groups and has a background in both legislation and foreign policy.  I don't think any party has put up a more qualified candidate than Hillary Clinton in decades.  All Americans care about are scandals that never happened and a lack of a cuddly personality.

Maybe we are truly all that stupid.

I have a fantasy of my own.  I like to think Trump is going to realize quickly he isn't cut out for the job.  He will pull a Sarah Palin in a year or two and step down.  I don't like the idea of President Pence, but he may be able to hold things together until 2020 when we can oust the whole crew from Washington.  For all we know the Republicans could win again, but maybe they will have seen the error of their ways and elect a better candidate.

At the very least, if we get out the vote in 2018 we can keep working to flip Congress.  If Trump stays in office, we need a Congress that can keep him in check.  If he hangs on until 2020 and messes up as much as I expect him to, the Democrats will be back in the White House in short order.

I hope this country learns its lesson.  I hope this lesson will not take too big of a toll on our economy or on our relationships with foreign countries. I am embarrassed for my country right now.  We can do better than this.  I really hope we can.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Why I'll Never Be On the Athleisure Bandwagon

Athleisure is the new business casual.  Your gym clothes aren't just what you wear to the gym.  You now wear them out shopping (and I don't just mean a quick trip to the grocery store).  You wear them out to dinner.  You may even wear them to work.  A typical athleisure outfit isn't the pair of leggings and the oversized souvenier t-shirt I wore to the gym this morning.  In fact, an athleisure outfit may never see the inside of a gym.  On a typical morning I  roll out of bed and stumble into some sweatpants and steel-cage sports bra.  That's not athleisure. 

Let's imagine for a moment that I took the athleisure route when I got dressed this morning.  There would be no random pulling of tops and pants from a drawer in the dark.  I would carefully put together today's exercise-inspired outfit ahead of time.  I pull a pair of leggings over my legs from a massive collection of colors and prints   I put on a matching sports bra with questionable ability to actually support my boobs.  The bra  may not support me much, but it is smartly accented with interesting straps and cutouts.  Over the top I add a coordinating long tank top that would likely get in my way if I needed to perform a deadlift or a downward dog, but it's cute the way it dips down in the back enough to show that cute bra.  I look like I'm about to work out, except that my outfit is hardly built for athletic performance and I wouldn't want to get it all sweaty anyway.

I have found it distressing when I go into high-end exercise clothing stores - whether Lululemon or independent boutiques - and see clothes that are meant for looks and not for function.   This is particularly true of yoga clothes.  Everything is flimsy and provides minimal coverage.  Do you want a cute yoga outfit?  I hope you don't mind wearing skintight leggings or showing nearly all of your torso.  If you have big boobs you're out of luck.  It sends a subtle message that people whose bodies fall outside of a certain ideal don't work out and shouldn't even attempt it.

Workout clothes have become so expensive and so fashion-forward that we now have no choice  but to take them to the street.

Most critics of athleisure mourn the inappropriateness of wearing workout gear in situations where traditionally one did not wear workout gear.  The argument is that it's sloppy and makes you look like you don't care.  This is not the issue I have with athleisure. I don't care if other people look sloppy.  I don't care if you're going to work looking like you are going to the gym.  That's your choice and if your boss doesn't like it, or the hostess won't give you a table at the restaurant, it's your problem and not mine.  Wear what you like.  If that's what makes you happy and comfortable go for it.

My problem is not caring out how others look.  My problem is that yet another simple and inexpensive area of our society has become commodified and gentrified.

I remember my first yoga class over twenty years ago.  The teacher was a gray-haired black woman with a soft full body.  She wore a dated looking 80s style unitard.  When she stopped teaching at my gym she was replaced with a sinewy, plain-looking, middle aged woman who biked to the gym because she didn't own a car.  She was as unglamorous as a fitness instructor could be and taught class in ordinary shorts and a t-shirt.

Twenty years later the yoga teachers in my gym look nothing like they did in the early years.  They are all young, white, taut, hipsters - fashionably pierced and tatted and dressed in the latest yoga gear.  Once upon a time there was no such thing as yoga gear. Yoga isn't just a class my gym offers.  There are high end yoga studios that employ those young hipster teachers and seem to cater exclusively to white women dressed in Lululemon.

Even though it truly only take a few simple exercises, done consistently, to stay in shape, the fitness industry never stops trying to reinvent the wheel.   Instead of balance and flexibility work we have yoga done in high-end (sometimes branded) studio, and yoga's more expensive cousin, Pilates.  Strength training is packaged in a hundred different DVDs and gimmicky classes, some of which are more effective than others.  Instead of taking your bike for a ride, you go Soul Cycle.  Rather than take a dance class at your local Y, you go to Barre class. I could go on about the fitness industry complicates the simple in order to lure women with promises of a miracle or a quick fix, but that really needs another post.

Most branded exercise classes also sell branded gear to go with the classes.  I have a bag full of dance shoes that have all seen barre work (as in actual dance classes where I warm up at the barre), but if I wanted to take Barre class, I'd have to buy their special socks.  Soul Cycle has special socks too.  Also shoes.  They also have a website full of cute clothing.  Zumba instructors have to wear Zumba branded clothing to teach.  It's part of their certification.  If you buy a DVD from Beachbody, they will have all kinds of recommended pieces of clothing and equipment on full display during the course of the class (and let's not forget about those stupid shakes).

This isn't the first time a humble article of clothing was gentrified.  Let's look at the most ubiquitous item of clothing in our culture - jeans.  If you go back in time to the 19th century, you will see jeans as something only the working class wore. Cowboys and farm hands wore them. They were gear meant for manual labor.  In the 20th century they became standard casual wear.  As it became acceptable for women to wear pants, we would see women wearing jeans when they worked in factories.  Young people began wearing them as casual wear.  It was still unacceptable to wear them in most public situations.  I remember an episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy was in a hurry to go somewhere and was telling Ethel she had no time to change her clothes, but Ethel was adamant that she would never be seen on the subway in her blue jeans.  According to one of my high school history teachers, my high school forbade girls wearing jeans to school as late as 1969.

What changed about jeans?  Well, I am old enough to remember the moment when jeans changed into something fashionable and even dressy.  A new trend appeared called Designer Jeans.  High end designers began selling jeans in their lines with the brand label and logo clearly visible.  The only difference between these jeans and the jeans you wore to go outside and play was the price.  That price meant you could take those jeans into places where they previously weren't allowed.  The price of jeans continues to climb.  When I was in high school, the most prestigious labels were $50 a pair, and that seemed fairly outrageous.  Now people think nothing of spending $200 or more for a pair of jeans (even adjusted for inflation, that's a lot of money for cotton made in a Southeast Asian factory.)

Now that we have taken casual jeans into the dressy mainstream, it's time to elevate something even more casual onto the streets.  The key was to start creating high-end brands.  We now have Athleta and Lululemon.  Chain-smoking fitness guru Kate Hudson has created "affordable" workout gear through Fabletics, but your inexpensive outfit comes with a monthly subscription fee.  The manufacturers of these lines claim their quality is superior, but testimonials from women who have bought this stuff and found it lacking (remember the Lululemon leggings incident?) will tell you differently.  Highly technical and justifiably expensive workout gear does exist, but that kind of clothing is worn by serious athletes who need this type of fear to perform better in their sports and not by women on the street.

If I am going to pay a lot of money for fitness gear, I am going to be paying for functionality.  I have spent as much as $80 on a sports bra because I'm busty and need something that will clamp me down in place when horseback riding.  My riding boots cost more than any other pair of shoes I own because I need boots that can survive days at the barn.  I want tap shoes that sound clean and are easy to move in.  Other than that, I don't need expensive gear.  A pair of leggings from Modell's or Kohl's or the back racks of DeJaneiro work just fine for me.  I throw on whatever t-shirt or tank is clean and I'm good to go for some time at the gym or dance class.  None of it looks fancy.  I just need it to do its job.

You will not see me pay extra money for workout gear that looks stylish just so I can wear it on the street.  I'll keep my athletic gear in the gym, the dance studio, and the barn.  I'll pay for the functionality I need, but I won't pay to make my most casual clothing socially acceptable. 
I'd rather just go out wearing my cheap jeans.