What Happened, America?

What happened America?
Michelle Obama and Jackie Kennedy
This photo showed up on my Facebook timeline the other day, and for the first time in a long time I physically shook my head and rolled my eyes in contempt at my computer screen. After gathering myself and deciding against a mini-social media tirade/melt-down, I took a deep breath and contemplated the stupidity of the implications contained within it. And then sat on all of the things I wanted to say for a week.

On the left, sits a demure and silent Jackie Kennedy. Pristine and smiling, but hard as nails underneath. All the while, unable to show her strength outwardly for the sake of propriety. And then, on the right, we have Michelle Obama – passionate, confident, and animated. A woman unashamed of her beliefs, her passion and her pure physicality. All politics aside, I know which kind of woman I was brought up to be, and it wasn’t the one who would sit back and take everything on the chin while portraying an image of physical and emotional perfection. No, I personally am much more Obama than I am Kennedy.

And there’s one reason for that. One big reason filled to the brim with millions of tiny implications wrapped inside it. That thing that happened to America and happened to me is the very same thing that has had women striving for equality in the workplace and at home for the last four decades. It’s the driving force between having a choice and a voice – or not.

That thing is progress.

Progress happened to America.

I feel for Jackie Kennedy in a way. She was a prisoner of not only the times she was living in, but of the strong men around her. Her husband’s ambition and his infidelities were more important than having a public voice. She was a strong woman for sure, she didn’t bend nor buckle under intense scrutiny or pressure. But, by the same token, she did not lead Jackie ofrom the front (in fact she often stood in the background). Nor did she ever speak up against a man who did her wrong over and over and over again. Jackie Kennedy was known for her flawless body and her fashion sense. She was a mother and a wife – and she filled those roles in the way that she was mandated to. Quietly, full of grace and dignity, and seemingly unsuffering.

None of this makes Jackie Kennedy less of a person – but when put beside Michelle Obama, she seems almost meek. Obama is not only a strong woman physically, she leads by example and isn’t afraid to speak her mind and come up with new ideas and initiatives to drive herself and her own goals. In images, she is often seen beside (or even ahead of) her husband. She is his equal.

This, my friends, is the picture of progress.

Passion, intelligence, and having a voice apart from her hubby is something I really admire in Michelle Obama. One thing’s for certain, when I see her I truly believe she wouldn’t stand for such public instances of scorn and dalliance by her hubby…even if he is the current POTUS. Not since Eleanor Roosevelt has a First Lady shown who she is so openly.

Hilary Clinton is another strong First Lady – but she, too, is another woman who has hidden her passions and humor at the expense of her political ambitions. Her ambitions have always been big, strong and have matched her husband’s in a political sense. Yet, as a woman even Hilary is ridiculed and made to deal with the public scorn for her husband’s inability to keep his member in his pants. There’s still a long way we have to go to stop blaming women for the actions of their men.MIchelle

In fact, I believe we need more First Ladies like Michelle Obama and Hilary. Good mothers, strong leaders, intelligent, driven women.

So when people ask what happened to America in comparing these two First Ladies? Progress, people.


The Day the World Stopped Turning – 9/11 Eleven Years On

11 years ago today I was in a gym at the Francisco Torres Towers in Santa Barbara for a 4am sweat-session when a live news program interrupted the Seinfeld re-runs that were usually on the TV. A stoic news reporter, face drawn and voice shaky, told me and millions of other Americans that one of the World Trade Center buildings had been hit by a passenger airplane. My head shook in disbelief. Then reality hit:  “My god. We’ve been attacked.”

I listened for a minute or so but didn’t actually hear what was being said. And, in horror, I watched as a second plane smashed into the second tower. The world went dark – and I went numb.

I ran from the gym up 7 flights of stairs to the dorm room I shared with my friend Carrie. We were in the midst of a week-long orientation for new resident assistants and were just getting to know each other. I woke her and told her the news. Just as I had done earlier, she sat in stunned silence.

The USA was under attack. Now – it was happening! Our people were being killed, and they were being killed on American soil. Holy shit.

We knocked on every door we could find to awaken everyone else on the floor. 40 young people sat in stunned silence for hours upon hours watching as the Pentagon was hit, and as another plane crashed in a field. When would it end? Were we safe in our towers of steel and concrete? What about our family and friends back East – we couldn’t get in touch with them. Was everything okay?

More emotions flooded our overwhelmed systems than ever before. We’d never known war before. Especially not war on American land. Our long-held belief that we were safe while at home was shattered. We were shattered. The words “draft into the army” were uttered. So were “we’re all in danger”. All American airports were shut down. The nation was seemingly crippled and in a state of confused disarray.

By the evening, we’d all gathered ourselves enough to head Downtown as a group for dinner. I remember walking the streets and the silence. The knowing glances from everyone. Sad smiles of acknowledgment that today wasn’t a “life as uaual” day. Strangers comforted each other in long embraces. People connected in a way I’d never seen before and haven’t seen since. The world stood still – yet, it kept on turning, too.

11 years ago today, my view of life, of war, of religion and of terrorism changed. In my mind’s eye I still see that image of the President, George W. Bush being told we were under attack. His facial expression belying the calmness he tried to maintain as not to frighten a class of small children he’d been visiting that morning. Say what you want about Bushy, but in that moment he gained my respect.

Today, my heart still aches for those we lost on that day – for their families and for those who will never forget the things they saw, felt and now keep within.

With all of the implications of a presidential election upcoming and factions dividing friends & families across political lines, I urge all Americans to remember this today – WE ARE ONE NATION.

Stand together today, and remember where you were 11 years ago.

Remember when we banded together.

Remember how strangers saved strangers.

Remember, remember, remember…