By Clara Dessaint
Being a Democrat Abroad since November 8th, 2016 has not been easy. In the oft-described time warp brought on by the Trump administration, the day Hillary Clinton came so very close to shattering the glass ceiling – one she had been steadfastly making fissures in for decades – feels like both yesterday and light years away.
Much has happened in American politics since her magnanimous concession speech, most of it twisting the United States into a purveyor of discord rather than a bastion of freedom, acceptance and opportunity. Coming to terms with it all has been a true grieving progress but, fitting with our new distorted reality, the stages of grief have been anything but linear.
Denial rolled in fast and, no doubt emboldened by distance, took months to recede, marrying itself nicely with bargaining. From “of course Jill Stein’s recount efforts will rectify this madness” to “the Electoral College will vote its conscience instead of its party” every possible, overly idealistic ‘out’ was nurtured.
Anger and its partner-in-crime depression followed in unrelenting waves. When the Muslim ban was issued and then more recently ratified by the Supreme Court. When migrant children were heartlessly separated from their parents at the border and sent into a gratuitous and cruel bureaucratic limbo that has yet to be untangled. When the Trump administration attempted to water down a World Health Organization resolution on breastfeeding to benefit formula companies and now seems poised to further limit women’s choices over their bodies through another Supreme Court appointment…
Emotional-tsunami-inducing CNN notifications are too many to list and too complex to neatly box into Kubler-Ross’ model for loss. Indeed, political grief is a no man’s land of its own, where fear, embarrassment and bewilderment co-mingle with the jumbled first four stages while the fifth – acceptance – oftentimes seems completely out of the question.
Somehow though, even as each week in the Trump White House is deemed worse than the previous, hope – the message that brought President Obama to victory twice and which he recently reminded Democrats to espouse – is omnipresent.
There is hope in the grassroots primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in the historically unparalleled number of women running for office, and in the slow but steady indictments emerging from Robert Mueller’s office. There is hope too in late-night hosts’ marked dedication to calling out, however humorously, Trump’s travesties as they occur and in the brilliantly biting words of NY Times columnist Charles Blow and Pod Save America host Jon Favreau, to name but a few. From the Women’s March to the March for Our Lives and the Families Belong Together rallies, there is hope in the international activism that most recently floated a Baby Trump above Parliament Square and thereby dissuaded the man himself from visiting London.
Essentially, there is hope in the People’s ability – around the world and across all demographics – to speak truth to power, to take to the streets and phone lines alike to demand better. Let’s keep post offices abroad busy this November and vote out those who don’t listen.
Photos taken at the London Women’s March on January 21st, 2017.
By Linda Gould
I had a conversation recently that shook me to my core.
It was a normal conversation about politics that progressed to a one-sided shouting match. I was the calm one but defended my criticisms of Trump and what I consider to be black-hearted conservative policies. Then, the person asked me, “Why do you even care? You don’t even live in America.”
God, I wish I had $10,000 for every time I was asked that question. But I calmly answered. “Because I have kids who are going to have to live in the world we are creating, because my husband and I would like to move back to the US someday, and because I love my country and want what’s best for all Americans. Because I’m American.”
“That’s debatable,” was the response from someone I know well (or thought I did) and respect, even though we disagree politically. From someone who I always thought respected me.
It felt like an earthquake. Like when the ground that has always been there to support you suddenly jerks and jolts and knocks you off your feet and tosses you around.
A few other hurtful insults were thrown at me, criticizing me for my liberal beliefs, with the result that I have spent significant time recently reflecting on how I developed from a Reagan-voting, military-loving, individualism-touting, bootstrap-raising, my-way-or-the-highway bullying, I-deserve-all-I have white woman to the compassionate and passionate liberal that I am today. I was raised conservative, but conservatism is as antithetical to me today as it was appealing when I was young. What changed me?
The amazing women who have been part of my life.
Of course it’s not that simple—no one who travels to foreign countries, attends university, reads extensively, has an astute partner, and lives abroad remains unchanged. But when I think about the moments that literally shifted my behavior or way of thinking, they were connected to some woman in my life:
A boss, the first who cared about me as a person and not solely as an employee, who challenged my views on marriage and motherhood, and shared her feelings of loneliness as she grew older without a companion; my friend who showed me there was humor to be found in the frustration of raising kids, and if you didn’t tap into that humor, your children would suffer; another friend who was betrayed in the worst way but stood strong and fought for her future when it would have been so much easier to crumble; a colleague who pointed out my hypocrisy by asking a simple question, “How is your viewpoint less ideological?”; my female colleagues and now friends who supported each other when a misogynistic manager bullied and abused us while the male management did nothing; the role-model mothers in my community who patiently dealt with temper tantrums, unreasonable demands, and teenage snark; friends, family and colleagues who taught me how to be a friend, to open my mind to new possibilities, to listen, to understand that privilege is as much responsible for my success as my own efforts, and most importantly, to reflect on and challenge my own views, then to change them if they didn’t meet that challenge.
None of these women were aware at the time that they were influencing me. They didn’t see themselves as models of human behavior with a mission to change someone’s worldview. Heck, I didn’t know how much they were influencing me. It took that face-slapping comment from a friend for me to reflect on and see how by simply being authentic and open, they helped mold a better human, a better citizen.
When you look at history’s list of heroes, so few are women. We rarely get the glory for our accomplishments. Yet our influence reaches deep into our societies. We are accomplished in our own right and inspire others to achieve. So many of our reactions and conversations appear to be insignificant moments that drift into the ether, but they actually resonate years later in the behavior of our children, friends, strangers, and even ourselves. Our routine moments take on a life of their own when someone sees them as a way of coping with difficulties. Our day-to-day life is the ultimate example of soft power.
But we also aspire to more. Some of us want to play a stronger role in our government and businesses. And because we are women, we are told by other women to support each other. Madeline Albright famously said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”
Hell aside, we SHOULD be helping each other. It is unfathomable to me that it was a woman who stopped the Equal Rights Amendment. I’m still furious that women helped elect a misogynist racist to the highest political office. And it is women who are often the most vicious critics of female celebrities, politicians and neighbors. They are a minority, but their power has been accentuated because so many of us have NOT been politically engaged. Now we are. But marches and protests are not enough.
We need more women in office. Run for office. Support a candidate. Vote.
The conversation I experienced was like an earthquake. So, too, was the election of Donald Trump. But like after every earthquake, there is a time for rebuilding. For making what was destroyed better, stronger, more resilient.
We need more women in office. Run for office. Support a candidate. Vote.
There is a record number of women running for office this year. Not all deserve your vote (some are like Phyllis Schlafley who would take away our rights), but they all deserve your attention. I’m a Democrat and hope that every woman elected this year has a (D) after their name. But it is also important to keep in mind that it was two Republican women—Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski—who stood against their Party and voted to keep the Affordable Care Act, who are on record for being against overturning Roe v. Wade. Don’t support a woman candidate because she is a woman; support her because her actions will influence others to be strong, tolerant, compassionate, and engaged.
Yes, we influence with our soft power. But we can have an even stronger influence on our families, fellow Americans and country.
To do that, we need more women in office. Run for office. Support a candidate. Vote.
Vote. Vote. Vote.
Author ofThe Diamond Tree
The Germany Women’s Caucus Workshop in Berlin on September 22, 2018
Revisit, Refocus, Revitalize, Re-empower”
- Get angry, get inspired, get ready
In these trumpish times, it is hard to create a workshop with fixed agendas and fixed topics. That is why we created a workshop event that will cater to the need for women to revisitthe topics that have affected women in the US during these times. But we also want to offer a place for women to refocuson the topics that matter, especially, but not limited to the midterm elections. We want to use the momentum of the workshop to revitalizethe resistance by focusing on candidates that need our support and working together to create powerful soundbites and statements for the election and beyond. Finally, we want to use this workshop to re-empowerwomen and their supporters to keep up the resistance by providing resilience and re-framing tools. We are purposely keeping the topics vague, while providing a structure to help us focus on what matters.
Here is the Agenda for the workshop:
Saturday, September 22, 2018
- 8:30 Welcome/Coffee
Refocus and Revisit
9:00 - 9:30 Session 1: Words Matter - Changing the vocabulary around women’s issues
- How the definition and use of words in varying contexts affects the outcome of the message
9:30 - 10:00 Session 2: What Do We Want to Talk About?
- Question gathering, discussion, idea gathering
- What are the topics that need to be addressed?
- What can we not forget to focus on?
10:45 - 12:30 Session 3: Women Under Attack
- Panel discussions with experts on current women’s topics
- Q & A
- 12:30 - 13:30 Lunch
- 9:00 - 9:30 Session 1: Words Matter - Changing the vocabulary around women’s issues
Revitalize and Re-empower
13:30 - 14:30 Session 4: Women to Watch
- Overview of women candidates to watch and those that need support from members of DA
14:30 - 15:45 Session 5: Word Development - Creating powerful tools to carry us forward
- Group workshop designed to create powerful soundbites and messages for women’s topics
16:00 - 17:00 Session 6: Ways to Stay Strong
- Reframing, refocusing the issue and oneself, how to stay resilient
- Keeping up the resistance, maintaining the fight
- 18:30 Dinner at a nearby restaurant (Optional)
- 13:30 - 14:30 Session 4: Women to Watch
To register for the event, please complete the sign-up form. In the registration form, you will also find additional information about homestays (for those that would like to have a homestay and those willing to provide a homestay).