Visiting Senator Feinstein’s Office

I have a special place in my heart for Senator Feinstein. I moved to San Francisco in late summer, 1992. One of my first memories of the city is going to a rally with my new flatmate (whom I had only met a few days before) at San Francisco State University for then candidates Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. *Two* women Senatorial candidates that I could vote for? Having just moved from Jesse Helm’s North Carolina, I was giddy with anticipation for that election day.

I was glad to see Senator Feinstein announce this morning that she would not support Jeff Sessions’ nomination as Attorney General. The release on her website listed the full transcript of her closing argument. I appreciated her arguments and supporting evidence. However, I was perplexed, and somewhat dismayed, by why she supported previous appointees. The statements on her website regarding confirmation for Mike Pompeo (Director of the CIA), James Mattis (Secretary of Defense), and John Kelly (Secretary of Homeland Security) didn’t contain many details, they read more or less as “fluff.” I attempted calling her offices and all mailboxes were full, no incoming messages accepted. Her website said that constituents were welcome to visit her offices between 9 am and 5 pm Monday through Friday, which surprised me. I kind of thought I’d need an appointment. Given that her San Francisco office is only a ten minute walk from my house, I decided to visit there this afternoon.

What I didn’t realize was that a protest had been planned outside her office, and access to the building was being closely monitored by a security guard. Figuring it was worth a shot, I walked to the door, said, “I’m here to visit Senator Feinstein’s office, please,” and waited. He pointed towards a group on the sidewalk and said, “The legislator is there.” I thanked him and walked over to a group of men and women holding signs, clasping stacks of letters and postcards, and talking, trying to figure out who “the legislator” was. It quickly became evident. He was the one in the middle of the circle, the one listening, nodding his head, then turning to the next person to hear their thoughts as soon as the prior person was finished speaking, the one who looked weary. After a few minutes, he moved the group to an alcove of the office building, so that we weren’t blocking the sidewalk.

There were probably 15 – 20 people that wanted to speak with him. I appreciated how he listened to each person, answered questions, received suggestions for Senator Feinstein, and offered suggestions for us. I thanked him for posting the detailed explanation of why Senator Feinstein wouldn’t support Sessions’ nomination. I said I’d like to learn more about why the Senator supported the prior presidential nominations, however. He explained that Senator Feinstein considered each nomination carefully, and she believed that each was the the best candidate that the president would put forward and each candidate would do an acceptable job. There were other people that may have been better for the job, but that the president likely would not consider putting forth for nomination. A woman next to me said that Feinstein should have voted against the nominations, that just because a nomination is the best presented, doesn’t mean that the person will be good for the job. He nodded. I asked if there was anything we could do about Bannon’s appointment. He told us that Chief Strategist is not a Senate approved position and at once several people asked about his appointment to the National Security Council, and if anything could be done about that. He said that it’s still to be determined if that appointment will require Senate confirmation but that it’s under investigation. Several people asked, desperation entering their voices, “But what can we do?” He encouraged us to call our friends in red states. Encourage them to hold protests outside of their Senators’ offices. Continue to call. Continue to email. Continue to write letters. Continue to share our thoughts, to make our voices heard. It does make a difference.

“I don’t understand the purpose. What good does it do to march?”

…my Uber driver asked when I confirmed that I had been at the march that day (I think the two huge painted posters gave it away). The question surprised me, as he was an older African-American man. “Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m happy to share my thoughts. I didn’t vote for Trump in Novem…”

He interrupted me, “Oh, neither did I.”

“Yesterday (inauguration day), I was pretty sad. I was disappointed that our country chose to elect a person who has not shown himself to be very presidential. He’s joked about personally sexually assaulting women. As a woman who has been sexually assaulted, I don’t find that funny. I find it frightening that his comments normalize an atrocious behavior. He’s mocked a reporter with a disability. I find that unacceptable behavior for anyone, much less a supposed leader. He’s said he wants to create a registry of Muslims. Targeting people and treating them differently because of their religious beliefs is strikingly similar to what happened in the not so distant past in Hitler’s Germany. And he refers to “the” groups of people: the Muslims, the African Americans, the Latinos, the Hispanics. He’s separating himself from groups that he’s supposed to represent. I can share more if you’d like.”

“But marching didn’t change any of that,” he said.

“Oh, you’re right. It didn’t. However, silence equals consent. And I don’t want anyone to think that I’m okay with what’s going on. Seems like there are a lot of people out there that think the same way I do. I’ve already heard people criticizing the march, saying “Where were they on election day?” We voted. Trump lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes. I have no idea how many people marched today, but I’m guessing most of them were at the polls on November 8. Oh, and there’s another reason I marched today. Sometimes you need to do things that feed your soul. Being around hundreds of thousands of other people that are not okay with his behavior is uplifting. It is proof that you’re not alone. That there’s a reason to keep fighting, to keep resisting, to keep acting.”

“I hope he’ll surprise us all and be a good president.”

“I try to keep my mind open to that possibility. Based on what I’ve seen and heard, though, my hopes aren’t high. Until then, though, we’ll march, we’ll organize, we’ll protest, and we’ll do what we can to fight the gross oppression America has harbored for way too long. That’s my idea of making America great.”

He glanced at me in his rear-view mirror and gave me a big smile. “Now I see why you march.”

Hello, .blog!

I’m excited that my website has a new url (look up there ^): lori.blog. There’s a nice symmetry to that: four letters dot four letters.

If you want your own .blog domain: get them while they’re hot. You can go to get.blog (Automattic’s registrar), or any of the 100s of other registrars that are selling the domain.

Highlights of a Day in NY

  • My flight arriving on time
  • Early check-in at the hotel
  • A beautiful sunny day in the 50s (in December!), perfect for walking around the city
  • A delicious NY diner breakfast of French Toast, eggs, bacon and sausage
  • Walking along the waterfront and seeing the Statue of Liberty in the distance
  • Hanging out with the Charging Bull on Wall Street, wreath around its neck
  • Honoring the memories of friends who died in the attacks of 9/11
  • Watching skaters at Rockefeller Center

And then…..

Visiting the New York Stock Exchange! I’m on the Board of Directors of Girls in Tech, and in honor of our 10th anniversary, we had been invited to ring the closing bell of the NYSE. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, and the few expectations I did have were blown away. The folks at the NYSE were so incredibly gracious and welcoming. They shared the history of the stock exchange, took us on a tour of the building, and encouraged us to enjoy ourselves during the closing bell ceremony. I was shocked that anyone would need encouragement. We were on the floor (and then overlooking it) of the New York Stock Exchange! I was struck by how quiet it was. My impressions of the NYSE are mostly from movies in the 80s, where people yelled as trades were made. The floor had a calm air to it and people were friendly as we walked by. On the podium, we could see the floor in its entirety. We watched, expectantly, as the large digital clock counted to 3:59:45, the signal to ring the closing bell. We clapped and woo hoo-ed and high-fived as the bell was rung. It was a celebration – the end of yet another successful day.

 

Feeling Blue

I’m in Iceland on a work trip with my team. I fell asleep last night with Hillary Clinton predicted to win the election. Our first female president. Possibly the most qualified candidate that has ever run for the office of the president, objectively looking at years in public service and positions held.

I woke this morning to text messages and notifications, all saying that Donald Trump was the President-elect of the United States. Still sleepy, I struggled to comprehend what I was reading. Really? I read more. Really.

I’ve worked on/donated to political campaigns since I was a young woman. I had a shotgun pulled on me as I canvassed for Harvey Gantt when he ran against Jesse Helms in the NC Senate election (and lost). I had folks hang up on me when I called them from a rented storefront in San Francisco in 1992, encouraging them to vote for Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (they won). I had bruises and paper cuts on my arms from passing out signs (so many signs) at the DNC in 2004, hoping that John Kerry would win the election (he didn’t).

I’ve never cried after the results of an election were announced. Until today. Many times. I am sad. And I am despondent.

I believe in the democratic process. I feel so privileged to live in a country where I can vote. I have not missed voting in any election (federal, state, local) since I turned 18 and was eligible to vote. I research the issues, make notes, and vote. I get butterflies in my stomach when I cast my vote. I’m being heard.

And that’s what makes me so sad. That we have stripped the right to vote from so many people in the United States. That their voices are not heard. That only 55% of people eligible to vote actually voted in this election. That almost half of America’s voices were not heard in this election. That approximately half of those 55% of voters who made it to the polls voted for a candidate that has disparaged various groups of people in our country and promised to take away undeniable rights. African Americans. Transgender individuals. Homosexuals. Women. Muslims. Immigrants. This is where the political is personal. I love individuals in each of those groups. These are the people that are my friends, my neighbors, my colleagues. I am despondent because I am fearful of what the future holds. I am despondent that there is so much hate in our country. I am despondent because that hate is what is being heard.

I have not given up hope. I’ll work on campaigns again. I’ll speak out and donate and call and canvas and lobby. Just not yet. It’s too painful. Right now, I’m grieving. Not just for Clinton’s loss, but for what our country has become.

The Way to Papakōlea

The website said “you need to hike 2.5 miles (one way) from the parking lot to the beach.” That sounded like the perfect afternoon to me. I walked across the parking lot and a Hawai’ian woman in faded capris and an ill-fitting tank top, sweat causing strands of her long dark hair to stick to her face in clumps, said, “Wanna shuttle ride to the beach?” I smiled and said, “No, thanks.” She persisted, “It’s 3 miles. Each way. Over an hour walk.” Music to my ears, I smiled and said, “Thanks, I’ll walk.” I had my day pack, filled with plenty of water, snacks, and a jacket (so not needed in the heat of the afternoon but I’m from San Francisco and old habits die hard).

I walked towards the water, then along the coast. There wasn’t a path per say, just various road-ish ways where vehicles had driven over the years.

Paths to the green sand beach

I wondered if all the roads led to the beach. They sort of kind of looked like it. But they also looked like they could diverge and I had no idea which one led to where I wanted to be. I also wondered why I didn’t see any other walkers. I made my way to the coastline so that I could be closer to the ocean. The sound of the waves and the mist of salt spray calmed my soul. I sat on the lava and ate an apple, letting the sound and spray wash over me.

 

As I continued to walk, a pickup truck or two occasionally passed. Each time, the driver leaned out the window, waved, and said, “You need a ride?” I’d smile and say, “No, I’m good” and he’d say, “You sure?” I’d nod and wave as he drove off, a few people bouncing along in the back of the pickup. Red dust rose and I waited until it settled, somewhat, to continue walking. I came over a crest and saw a bevy of pickups parked atop a cliff. There it was, Papakōlea, the green sand beach, tucked away at the bottom of a cliff. I sat at the top of the cliff, relishing the cool wind blowing from the water. I sat, and thought, and sat, and watched, and sat, and was happy.

Panorama

100 Looks Great on You!

Happy Birthday, National Park Service! I hope I look as good as you do when I reach 100! To celebrate your big day, I spent the afternoon wandering through Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. There were very few visitors there, and I loved walking the ancient pathways and listening to the waves lap against the shore, taking in the peaceful atmosphere. As I stood staring at the sea, I witnessed a sea turtle resting. I watched as it breathed in, raising its head ever so slightly, then watched as it sort of harrumphed, dropping its head onto the sand and spitting a dribbly stream of water. I walked over hardened lava, and felt the heat, from today, from years, from centuries, rise.

On the Pacific Surfliner

It’s a perfect, foggy, mystical morning for a train ride down the coast of California. I feel at peace on trains. The methodical, rhythmic cadence of the car. The pace, staring out the window, seeing a new landscape every few seconds. And on this trip, the ocean. The tracks hug the cliffs dropping to the expansive ocean, blues and grey for as far as the eye can see. This morning, the chill, mysterious fog envelops the coast. Maybe it’s because I’m not naturally a morning person (I like to sleep), but when I’m up in the morning, I’m experiencing a secret world. I’m intrigued by the silence, the quiet, the peacefulness.

Morning train ride

Morning train ride

From the “Buts” to the “Ands”

I hear people say “Black Lives Matter, but…”

  • all lives matter, too.
  • they must have been doing something suspicious if the police pulled a gun on them.
  • they were armed as well (I think).

And I want the conversation to turn from the buts to the ands, saying, “Yes. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter and Philando Castile died too young and Alton Sterling died too young and Delrawn Small died too young and Jai Williams died too young and Kawme Patrick died too young and Tyrone Reado died too young and Lafayette Evans died too young and Sherman Evans died too young and Germichael Kennedy died too young and Donte Johnson died too young and Ismael Miranda died too young and Jay Anderson died too young and Deravis Rogers died too young and Angelo Brown died too young and Quencezola Splunge died too young and Isaiah Core III died too young and Antonio Richardson died too young and Rashaun Lloyd died too young and Clarence Howard died too young and Antwun Shumpert died too young and Michael Moore died too young and John Williams died too young and Lyndarius Witherspoon died too young and Keith Bursey died too young and  John Brisco died too young and Willis Walker Jr died too young and Henry Green died too young and Demarco Rhymes died too young and Willie “Meek” James died too young and Rodney Smith died too young and Michael Johnson died too young and Osee Calix died too young and Ollie Brooks died too young and Devonte Gates died too young and Terry Frost died too young and Doll Pierre-Louis died too young and Vernell Bing Jr died too young and Michael Wilson Jr died too young and Joshua Beebee died too young and Kentrill Carraway died too young and Jessica Williams died too young and Jabril Robinson died too young and Arthur DaRosa died too young and Jaffort Smith died too young and Arthur Williams Jr died too young and Michael Gibson died too young and Alton Witchard died too young and Deresha Armstrong died too young and Burt Johnson died too young and Reginald Dogan died too young and Charlin Charles died too young and Ashtian Barnes died too young and Joshua Brooks died too young and Willie Tillman died too young and Demarcus Semer died too young and Jorevis Scruggs died too young and Rico Johnson died too young and Demetrius Dorsey died too young and Richard Bard Jr died too young and Kisha Arrone died too young and George Tillman died too young and Edson Thevenin died too young and Robert Howard died too young and Rodney Watts died too young and Pierre Leury died too young and Quron Williams died too young and Diahlo Grant died too young and Lamont Gulley died too young and Dazion “Jerome” Flenaugh died too young and Laronda Sweatt died too young and Kevin Hicks died too young and Darius Robinson died too young and Cameron Glover died too young and Matthew Wood Jr died too young and Kimani Johnson died too young and James Simpson died too young and James Brown III died too young and Deriante Miller died too young and Jermon Seals died too young and Dominique Silva died too young and Alexio Allen died too young and Robert Dentmond died too young and Torrey Robinson died too young and Thurman Reynolds died too young and India Beaty died too young and Scott Bennett died too young and Christopher Nelms died too young and Lamar Harris died too young and Jacai Colson died too young and Peter Gaines died too young and Marco Loud died too young and Keith Montgomery Jr died too young and Tyre Privott died too young and Arteair Porter Jr died too young and Akiel Denkins died too young and Kionte Spencer died too young and Greg Gunn died too young and Cedric Ford died too young and Christopher Davis died too young and Travis Stevenson died too young and Marquintan Sandlin died too young and Kisha Michael died too young and Che Taylor died too young and Paul Gaston died too young and Dyzhawn Perkins died too young and Calvin Smith died too young and Calin Roquemore died too young and Ali Yahia died too young and Sahlah Ridgeway died too young and Peter Fanfan died too young and Mohamed Barry died too young and Jerand Ross died too young and Shalamar Longer died too young and Eric Harris died too young and David Joseph died too young and Marese Collins died too young and Wendell Celestine Jr died too young and Antoine Scott died too young and Randy Nelson died too young and Peter John died too young and Charles Smith died too young and Bruce Kelley Jr died too young and Randolph McClain died too young and Christoper Dew died too young and Christoper Kalonji died too young and Johnathan Bratcher died too young and Janet Wilson died too young and Cedric Norris died too young and Timothy Albert died too young and Crayton West died too young and Henry Bennett died too young and Rakeem Bentley died too young and Carlton Murphy Jr died too young and Rodney Turner died too young and Eric Senegal died too young and Germonta Wallace died too young and wow, that’s 136 Black people killed by police in the first 188 days of 2016 and that’s a whole lot of killing and maybe it’s time to address the systemic racism that allows this to continue to happen.”

Let’s Recognize Love

I’m in Washington, DC this week for work. My teammates and I walked through the city this evening, passing by the Capitol, listening as the symphony played out front, timpani drums booming. We walked further and found ourselves gazing at the  Supreme Court. I walked up the numerous steps to the massive door of the Supreme Court, reliefs etched into panels. I stared upwards at the huge columns. I touched the elaborate carved marble and felt shivers on my arms. This was where so many important decisions had been made. Brown vs Board of Education. Loving vs Virginia. Roe vs Wade. United States vs Windsor. Obergefell vs Hodges. Laws that guaranteed civil rights to all people, not just the ones who had previously accessed such rights to education, marriage, health decisions. I walked away as the moon rose feeling hope that, yes, our government is (eventually) a force for good.

As we turned to head towards Union Station, we passed the United Methodist Building. I identify as a Methodist. It’s been a part of my identity since I was five and my family moved to Rural Hall, NC. I’ve had periods throughout my life where I struggled with my faith, wondered if there was a capital G God, and preferred to sleep in on Sundays rather than attend worship service. But for the most part I value my Methodist upbringing. It’s one of inclusion and tolerance, mostly.

As we passed the building, I noticed the marquee had a phrase on it. I like to read church marquees; they often are a source of clever puns. This is what I read:

“Let Us Not Tire of Preaching Love”

And I was angry. Really angry. How about we recognize love instead? And not discipline clergy who perform same-sex marriages or clergy who are in same-sex relationships? It’s up for discussion in committee, but does it really need to be discussed? We say that all persons are of sacred worth. We say that we believe in grace.

Let’s believe in love in all forms. Let’s not just preach about it.

We can do better.

Let us not tire of preaching love

Let’s recognize love instead