Sunday, December 31, 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR! (No Pressure!)

I set a task for myself this week, which was to create a list of goals for 2018.  It was to be a short list, in order of priority, that would give focus to my time and energy going forward.

Given my penchant to fritter away the time, I thought this would be an important and useful exercise.

There is nothing better than a crisp to-do list to motivate my writing.  The key is for the words "spend time writing" to appear nowhere on the list. This cannot be overstated. If the word "write" is on the list,  I will not lay down a single word.

Circling back...I set myself the task of writing a list this week, and so far, I haven't got a thing.  I draw a complete blank.

 What are my goals? My priorities? What do I want to do with my life? My time?


Okay, don't panic. Let's just brainstorm, and list every single stupid idea that comes to mind:

1. Revise my manuscript over and over again, all year long.

2. Write a young adult novel based on my manuscript. Revise, write, repeat.

3. Self-publish and promote my manuscript as is, without assurances of any kind.

4. Put the manuscript aside, and find as much freelance work as possible. Make money! 

5. Read 10 great novels and then revise manuscript for the rest of the year.

6. Read 10 great young-adult novels, and then write a young adult novel.

7. Ride horses in all weather, like a rancher in Montana.

8. Learn how to paint trees and birds; develop a portfolio of Wisconsin-inspired Chinoiserie; take pictures of a wall that I paint over and over; develop a website; market myself as a Chinoiserie free-hand wall artist.

9. Immerse myself in politics. Figure out who's who at the state and local level, and how I might support the effort without texting, phoning, emailing, or knocking on doors. Maybe I could help research, write or edit speeches. Maybe I could collect signatures or bake cookies....

10. Is it too late to go to law school?

11.  Is it too late to go to circus camp?

12. Is it too late to learn how to sew and draw and design clothes that I'll never have occasion to wear?

13. Write and revise short stories. Submit them to publications for rejection.

14. Write and revise a screenplay. Submit to agencies for rejection.

15. Write romance novels. (No, don't.)

16. Keep a clean house.

17. Focus on diet and yoga.

18.  Go blonde.  Dare myself to dress in fashion, no matter how awful I look in high-waisted skinny pants, or how painful the shoes.

19. Find my inner something. Peace, maybe, or some countervailing need that requires therapy. Make it a year of self-discovery.  (No, don't.)

20. Make money with photography. Get a real camera. Figure out how it works.  Take the Annie Leibowitz Master Class.  Network like crazy.  See where that leads and take pictures of it.

21. Be the best darn wife and mother I can be!  Make wonderful meals, volunteer for everything, cut out coupons, decorate seasonally.

22. Learn how to groom the poodle and trim the horses' feet. Keep the dogs' claws neatly clipped.  Brush my pets' teeth daily (5 cats, 3 dogs, 2-and-a-half horses. That will occupy my time!)

23. Read all my email and maintain no more than 50 messages in my in-box at one time. (I currently have 2,908.)

24. Socialize more!  Do lunch!  Have coffee! Meet other mothers!  Have people over for dinner two or three nights a week!

25. Become a Packers fan. Figure out March Madness and fantasy football.  Go, Badgers!

26. Audition for a part with the Straw Hat Players (local drama troupe).  Enroll in improv, flamenco, and belly-dancing classes.  See where that leads and take pictures of it. (No, don't.)

27.  Have a Groupon year!  Go to wine tastings, brewery tours, spas, tanning salons, ballroom dancing, zip-lines, water parks, Olive Garden, dinner shows...!

28. Research my ancestry, submit cheek scrapings, learn how to draw a family tree for posterity--with added birds, for Chinoiserie.    

29. Attempt to renew relationships with old friends over the phone. Face-time them. Better yet, show up at the house unannounced! ( :

30. Plan an exotic trip, how to pay for it, and what to do with three geriatric dogs.  Add up all the points and miles on my credit cards and see how far that gets me!

31. Develop a profitable pyramid scheme!

32. Turn over a leaf of some kind.

This has been helpful. Thank you. I've come up with a lot of ideas! Now, I just need to refine my priorities and whittle this list down to  two or three main goals for 2018.

If you have better ideas, please write them under "Comments." I'm open to suggestions until midnight tonight, when the list MUST be finalized so that everything can snap neatly into place for 2018! (Yay!)

HAPPY NEW YEAR! No pressure at all!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Little Book of Christmases Past

I managed to send out some holiday cards this year. It's a time-consuming task, requiring an inventory of names and addresses, a supply of stamps and cards.  

I completely respect the choice of many not to add holiday cards to their to-do lists, which are already impossibly long. 

I hear those who point out that buying and mailing holiday cards is not green--all that paper and energy used to convey one sentiment from place to place, when sending it electronically is more efficient and clean. True!

However, having some time on my hands, I decided to send cards, and I'll tell you why: It gives me the opportunity to look back on a long life and remember all of the people--family and friends--of whom I have so many memories. 

It's humbling, and sobering, to realize how much time has gone by--that I now know so little about my old friends' lives.  

One friend who had been in a relationship for 12 years told me that they broke up in 2015.  

Another couple--both friends of ours--broke up, and I was too embarrassed to ask when, or for what reasons.  My seasonal wishes were welcome, but it was too late to offer support, or to demand a full report. Still, she was happy to hear from me. It is good to be remembered.

We're supposed to focus on the "here and now," but it's not like we have much choice. We have to live in the here and now most of the time just to function; we rarely have time to look backwards and return to where we have been.  

Sending cards gives me a solid excuse to spend time in the past, the greater part of my life that is submerged and invisible, like the vast expanse of the iceberg that you can't see except for that part protruding above the ocean's surface.  

My address book is over twenty years old.  It's small, with a soft leather cover. It was publishing swag in its day. 

A dog has chewed on the leather. I don't know which dog, any one of five.  

There are as more addresses in this book with an X struck through them than there are current addresses. 

There are two addresses for my father, who passed away in 2009.  

There are people in this address book whom I can no longer call friends.  

I thought I'd lost it.  I choked back the sick feeling that I had let my one thin tether to these people slip through my hands.  If they hadn't friended me on FB, they were gone.  

I told myself it didn't matter. Let go of the past.  

But with great relief I finally remembered where I had put it. My address book. The past.

For years, I planned to transcribe addresses into a new book. 

But if I did that, I would lose all those crossed-out addresses--everyone's history.

I'd have to make painful choices about who goes into the new book and who gets left behind.

I never want to make those decisions. 

So, though the leather cover is shredded and the binding has come unglued, and coffee has been spilled on and near this book, I will keep it, just as it is. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

ADD Is My Super-Power

I've considered writing about ADD before, but, for one reason or another, I haven't.  But now I will, because there are a lot of weird ideas about ADD out there, and I would like to speak to that.

ADHD or ADD?  Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder?

I'll take ADD for three hundred. What is fidgety and distracted, but not hyperactive?

Someone told me there was no difference between the two.  I disagree.  I am not hyper.  My son is not hyper. Yet we both have attention deficit disorder.

That is, if you believe in ADD. Not everyone does. Some people think EVERYONE has ADD. Some people thing NO ONE has ADD.

Josh's kindergarten teachers first suggested he had ADD. The school psychologist got involved,  testing was done....

I had my doubts. I thought the test was bogus. Josh's GP was not convinced, either.

But the school was adamant. Josh was a quiet kid and well behaved, but he could not listen, follow directions, or pay attention worth a damn.  Everything had to be repeated over and over.  As kids stood up from their seats and shuffled about their business, Josh couldn't remember what he was supposed to do, why he was supposed to stand, or where he was supposed to go.

The medicine helped. It let him wrangle his thoughts and express himself in a clear, linear way that he couldn't before.

When he went off the medication for a day or two, he suddenly became hyperactive in a way that he hadn't been before he started taking the medication.  But as this went on for years, Josh came to believe that his non-medicated hyperactivity was ADHD.  Whereas, I viewed it as a side effect of the medication.

The medication curbed his appetite. When he went off it, not only did he become hyper, he also became ravenously hungry.

Unable to feel full one summer when he was not medicated, he quickly gained weight to the point of  becoming slightly obese.  It happened so fast, he hardly knew what to make of the love-handles ballooning around his middle where there had been a slender waist only weeks before.  All his clothes were too small, and I had to buy him "husky" pants two sizes larger.

Had we unintentionally broken his metabolic thermostat?

School started that fall, and by October his teachers reported that Josh was unable to focus...All of the usual complaints...We went back to his psychiatrist and resumed medication, which fixed everything at school and made Josh not eat his lunch.

At the same time that Josh went on medication for ADD, I went on medication for ADD. Sharpened me right up.

I had had the same complaints from my teachers in school.  I was smart, but distracted, rarely able to follow the drone of a lecture.  I perked up for teachers who made jokes and taught a lively class.

To this day, I believe that teachers should NOT be boring. Every subject is interesting, and to present it as otherwise is a crime.  Most of my teachers didn't express much passion for their subject, which I believe is why everyone thinks history is boring until they get a good teacher or a good history book by a great author like Nathaniel Philbrick.

I feel so strongly about this, perhaps I should have been a teacher; but I was such a terrible student.

I agree that it is obnoxious when people claim to be self-taught. But much of what I know I learned on my own.  As dull a student as I was, I was not entirely without curiosity.

I discovered Vincent Van Gogh and the Impressionists in the school library.  I read mythology at a library in Lynn, up the street from where I lived while in grade school. It was the coziest, sweetest, most welcoming library you could imagine. I spent quite a lot of time there as a kid.  (It's not open anymore, unfortunately.)

I perused my grandfather's book on Picasso, and found other books on Picasso. I seized my grandmother's first-edition of Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, and read it in ninth grade.  I read Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, and Of Mice and Men, completely ignoring homework and assigned reading.

It was a haphazard education to be sure, but it kept my brain from atrophying.

In high school, I was considered a smart kid, but I never knew the answers to questions like, "What were we supposed to study for the test?" or, "When did he say we were going to have a test?"

By spring, my son's teachers generally have one or two stories about some insightful thing Josh said during class.  They tell me he is a deep thinker.  

Josh confessed to me recently that he didn't have a complete mastery of the months of the year.  This did not surprise me.  It's a bureaucratic thing, really, time.  But not to know the months could be compromising, as time goes by, especially when one is considered smart and a deep thinker.

"Don't worry, Josh. It's very ADD not to know the months of the year. But you have a fine memory, and they're easy to learn."  We were a mile from home. By the time we pulled into the driveway, Josh was all set with the months.

He came home from school recently and told me that a teacher had said that ADD was a learning disability, like autism and Down's Syndrome. Josh now believed that he was "retarded," (his word, not mine).

No, I said. That's totally wrong. First of all, the word retarded is retarded. Don't ever use that word.

Second, ADD, ADHD, autism, Down's Syndrome...These are all different things.  There's no point in lumping them all together.  That's just dumb.

What kind of fascist normative idiot lumps all these things together?  What is the point, except to encourage misunderstanding and prejudice?

I chose to believe that Josh had misunderstood or misinterpreted what the teacher said.  Because if I thought that a teacher had actually said this and meant it, I'd have to march into school and set a few things straight. And Josh really hates it when I do that.

I heard a TedTalk from a "scientist" who compared people with ADD (or ADHD, suit yourself) to rockets without fuel.  We just sit there on the tarmac, all decked out and going nowhere.  According to him, we were a pathetic and hopeless lot.

Hey! I know a professor at Queen's College, Cambridge who was once a kid with ADD.  He's not doing too badly.  He has invented useful biotechnological devices and underwater cameras for taking pictures of tiny little amazing creatures...He's got patents up the wazoo...He's designed and made his own boats...He's HAPPY and BRILLIANT, you small-minded, trash-talking little man, spouting hateful bogus theories that compress and marginalize people whom you clearly don't understand.

Most people think of ADD as a liability.  Yes, we can't pay attention to stuff we don't care about--or that we could care about if it weren't being presented to us in a manner so aggressively boring.

However, when we are interested, we pay SUPER attention.  We can focus and remember and learn to beat the band.  We immerse ourselves to an almost obsessive degree. We surround the subject.  We learn plenty.

People with ADD have two advantages over people who don't have ADD:

First, because we don't do our best work (understatement) on topics that don't interest us, through a process of elimination we discover the things that do interest us.

And the second advantage is that we do very well in those areas that interest us.

I've known a few people, star students in high school and college, who never discovered their true calling in life.  They excelled at academia. They were well rounded.  But they could never decide what they wanted to do in their career or in their life at that same level of achievement.

The trick for people with ADD (or ADHD) is not to fail out of school before we discover what interests us.  We have to make it out of academia with our self-esteem and aura of being smart intact.

Academia is not our natural habitat. We are not well-rounded creatures.

Our executive functioning skills are extremely immature when we are children. We're disorganized, and frequently late. Even medicated, we lose track.  So, we have to be forgiven for forgetting, and for spacing out from time to time.  We need to be encouraged to go after class and ask about what we missed, and get the help that we need to understand what we didn't quite get the first time.

The important thing to remember is that this doesn't make us retarded.

If someone has to call ADD a learning disability, the question I would ask is why must it be framed negatively.  What good does that do?  Maybe it makes someone feel superior, someone who doesn't have ADD.

My son has occasionally said, "Autism is my super power."  I don't know why he says that, because he's not autistic. But I think it is funny, because I believe that autism has a super-power side to it, just like ADD does (our ability to hyper focus on what interests us).  I've written before about Temple Grandin, whose work I greatly admire. She uses her super-power, autism. It poses significant challenges, yes, but it also gives her amazing perspective and insight.

For all of these reasons, I had to write about ADD, finally.  I had to answer to the TedTalk doc who said we were rockets going nowhere, and to the teacher who somehow made my son think that he was "retarded."

I had to answer to the friend who explained that she had fired an assistant because she had ADD, which rendered her untrainable and intellectually deaf.  While I resemble that remark, I resent it, too.

People with ADD are trainable, educable, reachable space cadets.  If we're medicated, we can excel even in the most barbarously boring regimen.  But, if we are able to pursue our true calling, we really don't need to be medicated.  We are tricked out rockets, man, with fuel to spare.

And don't you ever forget it, Josh.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Virtues of Winning and Losing

My son's voice recently dropped from alto/tenor to baritone/bass.

I occasionally receive a call from someone who sounds like James Earl Jones asking me to bring his lunch box to the middle school because he forgot it at home.

I can imagine, and I have observed, the effect this new voice has on a boy's sense of self.

Nowhere is it more apparent than on the wrestling mat, where, in previous years, Josh had always deferred to his opponents.  At the end of each season, he accepted his participation medal with unalloyed joy and good-natured, self-deprecating good humor as well as some pride.

I respected and appreciated the grace and resilience with which he was able to lose without it spoiling his enjoyment of the sport.

However, because I cannot go back to my childhood and tell myself that I was as good as average in some sports, and had the potential to be better-than-average in others; that I had latent gifts of physical strength; that my shortness of breath was exercise-related asthma, and not a moral failing... Because I cannot go back to reassure myself that I would have learned to swim a straight line had I would all come together eventually if I had the patience.

I could have competed. I could have been somebody. Instead of what I was. Which was a quitter.

I saw too much of my childhood self in Josh during those first two years of wrestling, when he was always a deer in the headlights, intimidated and pounced upon by those giant slavering cats.

I feared that one day, years from now when he is grown, he would wonder what he might have accomplished if he could have imagined himself differently...If he had somehow been more confident, able to cast himself in the role of a kid who could also win.

In losing, Josh had demonstrated extraordinary resilience, buoyancy, and good sportsmanship. He mastered the virtues of losing, which is more difficult, when you think about it, than winning with grace.  Anyone can lose, but to do it without deterioration to morale or motivation is a gift.

Some kids are so intent on winning, so accustomed to winning, and so completely committed to winning that when they are defeated it can only be to another alpha wolf. Submission is unnatural for them, and must be ripped away forcibly. Afterwards, they seem physically and emotionally destroyed.  The toughest  come away tearful, or sobbing.

I didn't need Josh to be the best. I just want him to know that he is as capable of sometimes winning as other kids.

This year, this season, for the first time, my son stepped onto a wrestling mat like a half-starved predator. He  intimidated, pounced on, and pinned his stunned opponent.

I have a confession to make. I did not see it. I was there, in the bleachers, looking down at my phone.

I looked up. I thought Josh's match was about to begin, but, in fact, it had just ended.

Yes, I know. I am a horrible person. I shall never live it down.

In my defense, wrestling tournaments are at once horribly overstimulating and mind-numbingly under-stimulating. The chaos caroms off of every surface like a migraine in a skull. This tournament was a three-ring circus under harsh lights, with even harsher seating.

It was Josh's first victory, his first taste of triumph. And I had missed it.

At the next tournament, I did not take my phone out of my pocket. I saw everything.

It was as if he had been released from a cage.  He dropped and pinned his opponent like a panther on a gazelle.

"Did you see it?"

"I did!"

And I have to say, I was as happy about that win as I had been about anything in my entire life.

Two years I had waited for this. Two complete seasons.

In the next match, Josh encountered another carnivore. He wrestled valiantly round after round until, exhausted, he offered up his throat for a quick end.

He told me the other day that participation medals should be phased out. He thinks going to every practice and showing up at every tournament, suffering every loss and the occasional bloody nose does not merit a nickel-plated plastic medallion on a ribbon.

I could not disagree more.  Participating is not nothing. Losing is not easy.  For some of us, it is a long passage indeed, and one that we have to get through intact before we can have our first taste of victory. I did not make it through that passage, but Josh did. And I'm so proud him!  

Anyway, a participation medal is not first, second, or even sixth place. It simply recognizes that one has participated.

For two years, that medal meant something to Josh.  And I admired that kid with the high voice and low expectations for being able to enjoy a sport which so thoroughly schooled him in the virtues of defeat.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Your Robot Never Loved You

I read an article yesterday in The Atlantic, "Should Children Form Emotional Bonds with Robots?"…/12/my-sons-first-robot/544137/

The author buys a small, simple robot for his son. The robot is animated by an app on the father's phone.  It has two circle-eyes and a line-mouth on its screen face, but between that screen face and a range of sounds, the robot is able to "express" a wide range of "emotions."

I put "express" and "emotions" in quotes, but in the article, these words were not in quotes, and the questions remain unasked: Is the robot expressing emotion the way living things with faces express emotion?  Or is the robot no different from a doll that cries when we pull a string (except that the string, and the timing of the pulling of the string, has been pre-programmed into the robot's software to create the illusion of self-expression--and therefore, of self)?

Robotic self-expression: It's an oxymoron, isn't it? least until AI is so advanced that...well, that's another can of worms.  We're not quite there yet. I hope.

Really loud alarms started going off in my head as I was reading this yesterday. Since then, I've been wondering whether that wasn't an over-reaction.  My first thought was that people are going to replace pets with robots.

Unlike robots, which are programmed to charm us and to mirror the human way of thinking, animals are innately different from us.  They learn differently and they think differently. Dogs may cater to our vanity by obsessively observing our faces to interpret our every mood and emotion.... I'm not saying that don't suck up...But they're different from us, and from each other, each according to its breed.

I can honestly say that my dogs have been so different, one from the other, that to a great degree, I have started from square one at the beginning of my relationship with each one of them.

Our pets challenge us to think beyond our own way of being and our own personal agenda. They challenge us to understand a creature that is different, and they require that we relate to them in a way that isn't always convenient, and which imposes a degree of structure and even altruism on our lives.

And I think that is all to the good.

Moreover, pets, as animals, create a bridge for children to begin appreciating other kinds of animals.When we've loved one or two different animals, we can imagine loving other animals.

This may be less important for us as humans than it is for animals, both domestic and wild; because if we stop caring about animals, then what will stop us from destroying their habitats and harvesting animals for their hands, tusks or hides?

Take elephants, for example. I've never owned an elephant, but I always wanted to know one when I was a kid.  Everything I've learned about elephants over the years has just made them more interesting to me.

A friend of mine spent some time, years ago, in the Congo, searching for a particular herd of elephants (for research purposes, not to hunt).  She told me that she left her backpack on the ground for a moment, and when she returned, she discovered that an elephant had come along and stepped on it, squashing it into the ground.  This was in the midst of a two-week safari spent searching for these elephants. She said she sensed that they were often close by, observing her group from a safe distance, without being found.

I've seen elephants and other animals in underfunded zoos expressing mind-crumbling loneliness, boredom, or anguish.

When people see animals in distress, they want to make the habitat nicer for them. They give the zoo money. I've seen this happen right here in Madison.  I've seen polar bears living in becalmed madness upgraded to a better situation, with convivial companions, deeper swimming pools, space to roam, and icy caves where they can retreat from the glare of public attention.

I feel now as I did last year, when my horse and cat were both injured and sick; I feel that we must all be paying close attention to animals, to nature, and to our own vulnerable habitat.

The last thing we need now is to wean a generation of children off of having relationships with animals by redirecting their emotional capital toward robots.

What will the robot give the child in return?  Will it give love?  Will it connect a child to other creatures, earthlings like itself?  Will it teach the child to be gentle, responsible, and conscientious?  Will it give the child a deeper appreciation of the importance and value of needing green space all around us?   Will it teach a child humility, as they stoop to clean up after their pet?

Or will it teach a grown child that the affection they thought they were getting from a robot was not real?  And that the small anguish they felt as they neglected that robot was completely unnecessary--a softly cruel manipulation designed to mimic the importance of commitment to something real and alive?  In short, the whole premise of the robot being sentient and feeling and real in the way it was assumed to be real was fake.

I don't think that robots are like TV.  We stare at the TV for hours, but we don't love the TV as an individual machine.

We love how our smartphones can be tailored to our interests and needs.  But as long as all of the stuff can be transferred to another one, we don't hesitate to upgrade to a new phone out of some sense of attachment to the old.

These robots, with their displays of colorful emotion, are a little like Santa Clause, in a sense. They are a fiction born of good intentions and collective commercialized mythology.

But the relationship that a child might have with a robot would feel qualitatively and fundamentally more profound than the child's relationship with Santa Clause. Santa Clause comes but once a year. The robot moves right in.

So, let us never forget that a robot is not alive. It does not express emotions (it parrots them), because it cannot experience emotions.

There are no real consequences to the robot's neglect--or its "love."  It is all an illusion, and and a huge gulping vortex of a distraction from the immediate perils of other earthlings in our midst, (not to mention ourselves, with respect to our own absolutely essential relationship with nature).  It is a massive distraction from everything that pets as animals can teach us, and from everything that we stand to lose by not paying attention to them--or, God forbid, by forgetting all about them in the space of one generation.

Yes, alarms went off.  I still hear them.

Friday, December 1, 2017

What Will this Backlash Look Like?

In the midst of a dozen or so powerful and wealthy men losing face and employment over  allegations of sexual misconduct, I have heard concerns raised by men I know who say that if this staggering pace of discoveries continues, we will soon see innocent men persecuted by false accusations.

These men of whom I speak don't view themselves as unsympathetic to women's interests in confronting sexual harassment and enforcing laws against sexual discrimination.  But something about seeing so many men publicly stripped of their jobs and honor sets off alarms for them.  

Could this be a media-fueled feeding frenzy? A witch hunt?  Femi-Nazi McCarthyism?

These men see themselves as potential victims in an environment of reckless paranoia that gives license to anyone from their past to surface with some baseless accusation and cost them their livelihoods and reputations.

When they think about a possible backlash to all of these firings, they envision a proliferation of allegations as randomly and broadly consuming as the wildfires in Northern California.  

But I see the situation very differently.  If no laundry has been washed for 50 years, and then we suddenly decide to wash it, why should we be surprised that so much dirty laundry has piled up?

Most of the accused men have admitted that the allegations against them are true, or, if they didn't remember that particular incident, they admitted that the behavior ascribed to them was not atypical and they did not deny that it probably happened.  

Most of the accused are very rich and have had hugely successful careers. They can well afford to walk off into the sunset and reflect on the condition of their souls and how they might wash out those stains. 

Yes, there have been a lot of men brought down from great heights, but so far nothing suggests a miscarriage of justice. If any of these men want to have their day in court, they can have it. But they don't want to go to court, because they've already admitted to wrongdoing and they would rather go away quietly than have all their dirty laundry aired out over months or years.

The fact that some of these men have settled matters of sexual misconduct out of court numerous times, over many years, paying the plaintiff hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars, sweeping each incident under the rug, avoiding exposure, bad press and reprisals...also means different things to different people. 

Some people see wealthy men as easy marks who are forced to shell out obscene amounts of money to greedy subordinates and lawyers.  That is the price a great man must pay to protect his reputation from random, inevitable, unseemly attacks. 

I see it very differently.  When men like Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly leave a trail of sexual harassment settlements totaling $90 million (paid for by 21st Century Fox) [per, 11/21/17], I see a conspiracy of powerful men and rich corporations (and human resource departments that serve  corporate interests) sweeping all of that dirty laundry under the bed and into the closet, doing nothing to stop sexual predation in the workplace, and financially and with tacit acceptance supporting a culture of egregious behavior that debases and disenfranchises women.

When I envision a backlash to this no-tolerance policy toward sexual harassment, I am reminded of the very recent backlash in response to all those videos on social media showing unjustified violence and abuses against black people.  

At first, white folks found it utterly shocking. A lot of white people thought racism was a thing of the past, since we had elected a black president.  But these videos clearly contradicted that assumption and showed us that racism remained a pervasive problem.  

The media began to focus on  "institutional racism," what it meant, and what might be done about it.  

But soon, racism, and specifically police violence against black people, became polarized in the minds of white folks: We were either sympathetic to the sacrifices and welfare of the police, or we were committed to the idea that black lives matter and something needs to be done to protect those lives.  

Next thing you know, the Alt Right crops up out of nowhere, entering the mainstream with a megaphone.  Anti-political correctness becomes a rallying cry for conservatives.  

Widespread gerrymandering contorts the voting landscape to favor a pro-wall Republican party. 

Trump vows to "make America great again," takes the White House, and proceeds to push back against the demographic trend of white people losing ground, statistically, as the majority in a functioning democracy.  

Trump states, erroneously,  that if it weren't for millions of illegal votes (from people of color, mostly brown) he would have won the popular vote in a landslide.  

It's a bogus claim, but it's part of a two-pronged approach to reduce the numbers of brown people in the country and to undermine the democracy which would have reflected their interests as a burgeoning majority, vote for vote.

Instead, brown people are rounded up and extradited, (as had been happening already in record numbers under Obama with regard to Mexicans).  Trump promises to build a wall to prevent more brown people from crossing the southern border, and he does his best to ban other brown people from a list of predominantly Moslem countries, even those with visas, from entering the U.S. 

A new "forgotten America" becomes the focus of media attention and political interest.  

They are working-class white people from the Midwest, predominantly white communities, predominantly men who have lost jobs that had been sent overseas.  Their local economies have been carelessly undercut by corporate profit motives.  Their retirement funds are in no way linked to the fortunes of Wall Street.  Unlike most people in the blue states or anyone with an IRA or 401k, they have no seat at that banquet of small investors, and no clear way to make a living.   

They also happen to be Republicans, and onboard with making America white again: building walls, banning Muslims, tearing apart Latino families--attacking any shift in policy that steers us away from white privilege and toward a less institutionally racist society.

Trump makes it very clear whose side he is on: He is on the side of that forgotten America. And he is on the side of the police, giving law enforcement carte blanche.

So, how do I imagine a backlash against women (for this sudden enforcement of a 50-year old law banning sexual harassment in the workplace) will play out?  

Well, first, I think that ordinary men will find the pace at which other men are being outed and ousted for sexual harassment personally threatening regardless of whether they have ever been guilty of sexual harassment themselves.  

The integrity of  the investigations into sexual harassment allegations will be called into question. (Already, we have heard the term "witch hunt"; thank you very much, Woody Allen.)  

Feminists will be increasingly vilified as over-empowered man-haters.  (That seems to be well underway.)  

We will see men organizing into new social-political splinter groups that view harassment charges as a plot by feminists to keep good guys down.  

Men will be less likely to hire attractive women, or to have a one-to-one meeting or business lunch with women for fear that they may be rapacious opportunists who will call on their lawyers from the Ladies Room.  

In short, a whole lot of guys will view women as potential threats to their livelihoods and standing in society.  

I think that's where the backlash begins. 

In conclusion, I was going to say, "I don't know how it will end," but that sounds too bleak and hopeless, even for me. I'm not all that hopeful about this, in fact, but I do believe in the good as well as the bad in people. 

I think a tsunami of a backlash could be avoided if most of the men who have been charged with allegations of sexual harassment continue, as some of them have done, to now speak truth and discourage other men from believing for a moment that they have been unfairly persecuted.

These men need to remind everyone that it was their victims--women, and in some cases, men--who have been damaged by sexual harassment--and not, by some twisted logic, the other way around.

If these men who have admitted to sexual misconduct accept the consequences of their actions publicly, and repeatedly remind other men that they have not been the victims of a witch hunt, and that their shame is appropriate and real;  if they can make other men can understand that they have nothing to fear if they themselves have not committed any real crimes against other people...

It's a lot to expect, I know: but it's also the least they could do.

If such men assume a leading role in teaching other men that they do not view themselves as having been caught up in a witch hunt or media-fueled feeding frenzy, or the work of over-empowered rapacious femi-Nazis, then maybe we could actually move forward, instead of back. 

Stand in solidarity with everyone's right not to be sexually harassed or molested. It's really that simple.

Otherwise, expect a horrendous backlash against all women that leaves no one unscathed.   


Alaska Airlines is investigating Randi Zuckerberg's claim of sexual harassment by another passenger.

Matt Lauer's patterns of sexual harassment was "the result of a two-month investigation by "Variety"; the cause of his dismissal from NBC was a detailed complaint from another NBC employee who met with NBC's HR department. On 11/30/17, Matt Lauer admitted to sexual misconduct and apologized. 

The Senate Ethics Committee has opened a preliminary inquiry into the allegations against Sen. Al Franken [Huffington Post, 11/30/17].

The House Ethics Committee is investigating allegations of sexual harassment against Rep. John Conyers. [Susan Davis, All Things Considered, NPR, 11/27/17]

UVA is investigating sexual harassment allegations against an English Professor. [Nick Anderson, Washington Post, 11/27/17]

Allegations against Sen. Moore were investigated by two staff members of the Washington Post. 

As part of a coordinated effort by a right-wing group, n activist tried to embarrass [discredit] the Washington Post with a false sexual harassment accusation against Sen. Moore. [USA Today, William Cummings, 11/27/17]