Thursday, September 29, 2016

Mommy, he’s a bad man

If I were a Donald Trump supporter, hearing “Mommy, he’s a bad man” would be enough for me to withdraw my support immediately.

I was recently told the following story by someone close to me. The television was on in her home during the presidential primary season and Donald Trump was speaking. No one was really paying attention to it except for her 8 year old child. With no prompting from anyone, a few minutes later, the youngster turned to the woman and said, “Mommy, he’s a bad man.” The woman, who is no Trump supporter, said this was a revealing moment for her. The child did not know who the man was or his relevance to the news cycle, only that this was a person who was saying hateful and mean things in an ugly tone of voice. Upon hearing this, she engaged her child in an age-appropriate conversation about the election.   

This story exemplifies why Mr. Trump is not only a terrible role model for our children but also someone from whom they should be protected. No matter how much one may despise Hillary Clinton, she refrains from spewing hateful rhetoric and using a disparaging, vitriolic tone of voice. 

Some readers may come back with: What about her “basket of deplorables” remark? While admittedly that was an unfortunate comment, she didn’t say all Trump supporters were deplorable, just some and she did preface it with being "grossly generalistic." Nor did she use a snarling tone of voice to deliver it. Furthermore, there is evidence to support her assertion.* Secretary Clinton pales in comparison to Donald’s ugliness, even having made that impolitic remark.

Below is a campaign ad put out by the Clinton campaign that addresses this very issue.

Ask yourself: Is Donald Trump really the person you want your children listening to and seeing on television for the next four, possibly eight years?

* Clinton, it appears, has her own "basket of deplorables" too. It's a good deal smaller than Mr. Trump's, but she has one. You can read more in the Forbes article below.  

Friday, July 29, 2016

Words and phrasing (really) matter

Tuesday night, during President Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention, he said this:

“If you’re a Muslim and you love America and freedom and you hate terror, stay here and help us win and make a future together.”

I admit his statement sounded rather innocuous to me. I didn’t give it a second thought. 

However, it was received quite differently from American Muslims. Tuqa Nusairat's article, "Bill Clinton's Loyalty Test for Muslim Americans", on the Foreign Policy website on July 28, is revealing: 

"Muslim Americans heard Bill Clinton announce a loyalty test for those who want to remain in the land of the free. We heard him say we are only allowed to stay if we somehow prove that we love America and proclaim that we hate terrorism, as if that is not the natural state of who we are. We heard him separate the Muslim community from him and other Americans (the “us”), as if we are a foreign entity that should be welcomed on certain conditions. And we heard him tell us to “stay here,” as if we had any intention of leaving or anywhere else to go.

What we did not hear was an acknowledgement of the Islamophobia our community is facing day in and day out — a sentiment that has increased dramatically since the start of the presidential campaign, resulting in violent and deadly attacks against innocent Muslim Americans. We did not hear an acknowledgement that we are part and parcel of the fabric of this country, that we contribute to it, and that we have helped protect it. We did not hear that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party will protect our rights and stand up against the intolerance and fear that the Republican Party is trying to make mainstream."

Ms. Nusairat wishes he’d said:

“If you’re a Muslim American worried about the rise in Islamophobia, know that your fears are ours too. Let’s work to make a future together that does not include those voices of fear, racism, and intolerance.”

I imagine the former President did not intend for his words to be hurtful, disrespectful, or divisive. However, the way they were received by many in the Muslim community proves that words and phrasing matter a great deal. Furthermore, it demonstrates that we process words and actions from our individual experiences, culture, and biases. Three people can hear the same sentence yet have three different interpretations of it or reactions to it.

The positive takeaway from this for me is that by being made aware of this particular disconnect, I am encouraged to be more cognizant of how I frame statements, be they in writing or in a speech. Who is the audience? What segment of the population am I trying to reach? Is there potential for a negative response to my message? If so, what changes need to be made? These simple questions may help to bridge any potential communication gap(s) because if you have a positive message, the last result you want is to create distance from those whom you want to attract. 

This is not political correctness run amok. It is about respect and understanding. All of us can be clueless at times about those outside our tribe, but that cluelessness can also be a learning opportunity. Nor is perfection the goal—which we all know is impossible anyway—but rather, doing one's best to ensure that a positive point or call to action is actually positive, or at least as positive as it can be made.  

This post concludes with an exercise. If you, like me, thought Clinton's statement was fine at first glance, please read the article then ask yourself: Do I think differently about it now?  

My answer was: I do. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Non-stop Clinton Scandal Investigations: What they really Reveal

The political world has lost its collective mind, especially on the right. Policymakers seem to care little about achieving goals and passing legislation that will actually help their constituents. Rather, they prefer to play political games at taxpayer expense. Every day the polarization and schizophrenia of our nation’s politicians, reporters and opinion makers are on display. Go to the Real Clear Politics web site and read the article titles only. That's all you have to do to see the extreme views expressed and perpetuated by our media. These articles would be laughable if they weren’t so sad.

Here is a Boston Globe headline I saw on the RCP site on July 7: Another Clinton Scandal Goes “Poof”.

That same day, the comment below was given in response to the article “Haters get Over it: Clinton isn’t Going to Jail” in the Chicago Tribune: 

Non-indictment does not mean innocence. It just means that like all Clinton scandals, it miraculously goes away! Still, Clinton remains the most corrupt candidate ever for President.
"The most corrupt candidate ever" is hyperbolic, and if this commenter and others of the same opinion actually took a little time to examine this statement, they might ask themselves why these scandals "miraculously" go away. The Clintons have been relentlessly attacked and vilified for decades with ginned up accusations and conspiracy theories spurring investigation after investigation, yet they are vindicated every time—every time. (Bill was held to account for lying about the Lewinsky affair, and rightly so, but the other accusations...yeah, not much there.)

Is it because they are so powerful that no one dare take them down? Is it that they are incredibly devious masters at concealing all incriminating evidence? This seriously seems to be what some people think. Are they above the law? Maybe, but aren't most powerful and wealthy people? We see it all the time. Why are the Clinton's held to a different standard? I'm not saying it's right, but I am asking the question.

Or, perhaps they have been vindicated time and again because there is nothing criminal to be found. Maybe they are not the monsters their enemies—and yes, they are enemies, not opponents—paint them to be. 

What we do see in all this, however, are vindictive, hateful people who can’t fathom or admit that the Clintons actually could be innocent. Instead, the haters will continue to waste taxpayer money on investigations until they achieve their desired outcome.

Those heading up all the Republican investigative committees are the ones who should be investigated. After numerous  inquiries ending with the same conclusion of innocence and no intent of wrongdoing (and please note, there have been 8 Benghazi hearings), it resembles a witch hunt. Let me reiterate: These inquiries are on the taxpayers' dime. 

To put this in perspective, there were two major bi-partisan investigations into pre-war Iraq planning. Around 4500 American service members have been killed in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Four (4) Americans were killed in Benghazi. Furthermore, there were a number of U.S. embassy and consulate attacks and killings during the George W. Bush administration. Where were the investigations for any of those? You can see the full list here:

Ben Mathis-Lilley, a reporter, points out the absurdity of Congressional Republicans in a post he wrote on June 28:

Then there were a few more investigations during the G. W. Bush Administration into the use of torture (which is illegal) and the firings of eight U.S. attorneys during which 5 million emails went missing. Does any of that seem more outrageous or criminal in comparison to Benghazi or Clinton's email server rinse-repeat-and-rinse-repeat-again investigations? 

Clinton-derangement syndrome is real. This malady has infected many Republicans and even some on the left, in particular, Bernie Sanders ideologues who’d rather vote for Donald than Hillary. In what world is that rational? I guarantee that Bernie and Hillary have much more in common and share similar goals than Bernie and Donald ever would or could.

Hillary and Bill Clinton have addressed accusations and answered questions repeatedly over decades. Yes, admittedly, many of their troubles have been self-inflicted. Furthermore, because they have been scapegoated and attacked so frequently, when trying to protect their privacy (as most of us would) they come off as looking even more secretive, untrustworthy, and above the law. It’s a vicious cycle they cannot win, no matter what they do. 

The Clintons are polarizing, especially Hillary who has been criticized and scrutinized since she was first lady of Arkansas when she retained her maiden name instead of taking her husband’s. That seems quaint now, right? Not so fast. There are still those, women included, who feel a woman is obligated to take her husband’s last name.  

All these years of investigations doesn’t prove the Clintons are serial liars and criminals. What it does prove is that there is an orchestrated movement—as irrational and toxic as it is—to bring them down. Perhaps there is a right-wing conspiracy working against them, which I never believed until the past couple of years. The investigations, innuendo, and attacks will continue (even if Clinton wins the election) until the Clintons are brought down to their knees and given their just punishment—whether that be imprisonment or their political careers are relegated to the dust bin of history.

Please don't misconstrue what I am writing. Investigations should be conducted when public officials, corporate CEOs or anyone in a position of power is suspected of malfeasance, when their actions or inaction may have caused a tragedy, or when circumstances smell a little fishy. However, to conduct the same investigation repeatedly, expecting to obtain a different result the eighth time, or more, is the definition of insanity. These legislators are certifiable.  

The Clintons could step away from public life to make it all go away, but then they’d be giving in to their attackers. Both Bill and Hillary have made valuable contributions to this country and the world. Have they made mistakes? Absolutely. No leader, not even the greatest of them, has possessed a spotless record. Both Clintons worked their way up to the positions of political power and influence they possess, tirelessly fighting to better the lives of people around the globe. Now, those who hate them want to see their legacy diminished. Well, I say to Hillary and Bill, don’t let the haters bring you down. Keep up the good fight! 

Related articles:

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Thoughts after a week of violence

I love New York City for many reasons, and hate it for a few others. One reason I enjoy working in the city is that daily, I am in the midst of one of the greatest tapestries of humankind anywhere in the world. Even after fourteen years, I often still can't believe this small town girl from southern Indiana is thriving in this place.

Everywhere, there is interaction with people of various races, religions, and nationalities, speaking foreign languages and wear interesting clothing and accessories appropriate to their culture. Signs in the subway and around the city are often written in Spanish, Chinese, Italian, etc. Exposure to this diversity has increased my curiosity about others and the desire to understand their cultures and religions. 

Hearing someone speak a language other than English, even if I know they are a U.S. citizen, doesn’t offend me. Instead of lashing out at them “to speak English” or stew in silent resentment, I try to figure out what they are saying, even eavesdrop a little. It takes much to impress me, but those who can speak two or more languages, that’s impressive. It’s one of the reasons I’ve started practicing French, Spanish, and Italian on a daily basis. I am heading to Greece in September, so now Greek is practiced too because it behooves me to know some basic vocabulary and conversational phrases while I am there.

Too often we seek security and comfort in tribalism while foregoing engagement with those outside our tribe, which can create an “us against them” mentality. This does nothing to ease tensions where there are some, or allow us to better understand one another. 

There seems to be an empathy deficit in our world. Why is that? Have humans always lacked empathy to some degree? That is foreign to me because empathy is one of the reasons my emotions suffer daily. The violence, atrocities, and injustices happening here and abroad pierce my heart—I internalize it all, even if it doesn’t affect me directly, which it rarely ever does. Still, I embrace the pain because maybe, just maybe if I feel it, it will lessen the pain for others actually experiencing it. I know, that sounds weird, even a bit obsessive, but it’s why I can watch, listen, or read about an ongoing tragedy for hours, even days at a time. If I’m engaged, if I’m paying attention, maybe somehow it will help those who are hurting.

This past week, three horrific events captured the nation's attention. Two African American men were killed at the hands of police in Louisiana and Minnesota: Alton Sterling was selling CDs and DVDs in a convenience store parking lot (with the owner's permission) when his deadly encounter occurred and Philando Castile was stopped for a broken tail light. Then on July 7, a sniper targeted police officers in Dallas near the end of a peaceful Black Lives Matter rally. Eleven officers were shot, five of whom died. The sniper was killed when a bomb was detonated by a robot the police had sent into the garage where he was hiding. Dallas officials remain tight-lipped because it’s early in the investigation, but this was an orchestrated operation designed specifically to kill white cops.

The sniper acted alone, that much we know as of now, or at least that's what we're told. He was not associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, as some on the right have suggested. Sadly, these tragedies more often than not lead to the ratcheting up of fear and anger from politicians and the media, which only serves to further fuel the flames of division.

We have some major healing to do in this country. Platitudes and prayers while fine are woefully inadequate. It's time to get serious and do the hard work of figuring out how to repair race relations, decrease poverty, address the violence rampant in our society, rethink some of our gun laws, train law enforcement officials to use less lethal force, and build better community relations between police officers and the citizens they serve and protect. It’s a tall order. It will be difficult, but something has to change. It's way past time we face these challenges head on. Will we?

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Writing Life is getting political

Part of writing life is expressing my opinions and exploring why I believe the way I do. It also allows me to vent frustration with what I see happening in (what has become) our toxic political environment here in America; well, and around globe too, if I'm to be honest—it's certainly not solely an American problem.

Journal writing has always been an avenue to explore my ideas and flesh out the reasoning behind my support for various issues and political leaders. It helps clarify my beliefs. So, in this space over the coming months and probably beyond, I will also do some political writing. In other words, I will be journaling publicly.

Whether you agree with my assessments or commentary is not my business. What is important is that I write truthfully. It may not be your truth but it is mine. We can agree to disagree, and I even welcome comments, but please keep them civil because I do moderate the comments posted on this site.

To disclose, I am a center left Democrat. I have been accused of being a big lefty by family and friends on the right yet too conservative by friends who reside further left on the ideological spectrum. That being said, I will try my best to make my posts constructive and illuminating, to add value to the political discourse. I may not always succeed, but I promise you that I will try.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned...

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Why I chose to burn my journals

By Lisa Leistner Hammack

I began journaling in 2004. Before then, I had made several attempts to keep a journal. Even as a young girl, I tried doing it, to no avail. What made me, at the age of forty-three, start journaling and keep going I don’t really know. Perhaps writing my first poem ignited the initial spark.  
I possessed a variety of journals. There were large ones and small ones; some held colored pages and some plain white ones. Bold images adorned the covers of many while inspiring phrases were etched on the outside of others. I purchased them from different retail outlets: Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, Books-A-Million, monastery gift shops, etc. 

In the journals, I wrote poetry, recorded quotes, and took notes from books I was reading that I wanted to remember. I wrote about my days, jotted down information I learned from workshops and conferences, explored my perception of words said or actions taken by myself or others, stapled interesting magazine articles and paper-clipped notes from others onto the pages. Mainly though my journals were for prayers. I find it easier to pray when I write. I thought it was pretty cool that the main character, Aibileen, in Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help” also wrote her prayers.

By 2014, I had accumulated many journals. If I finished one and didn’t have another to start, which rarely occurred, I felt lost. Later that year, the urge to downsize came over me because I was ready to move from our big home to an apartment. It was hard work, sorting through all of our belongings and fitting all my clothes into one closet and one chest of drawers. Of the four large storage areas in our upstairs all but one are completely empty; the one that is not, is only half full. I secured all my journals in a large plastic tote and put them in the storage area, but something about their presence kept nagging at me.   

I began to seriously consider if I wanted to keep them for my family to read. More importantly, did I really, truly want anyone to read them? I contemplated this for months, repeatedly going back and forth between the desire to keep or destroy them. Then one day my decision was clear: I did not want anyone reading my journals. Some things are best left between me and God. Furthermore, I was concerned that people would misconstrue what was written throughout those pages. The decision: They were to be burned.

I live in a small town, which has burning ordinances. Aside from the environmental rules and although we have a small fire pit, I knew it was sorely insufficient for my needs, so I called upon some friends. They reside in the country and have a large fire pit, so my husband and I packed up food for grilling and visited them one evening. We sat around the fire pit, grilled food, ate, and the journal burning commenced. I thought I might feel regret taking that action, but instead I felt a sense of freedom. 

Their five-year-old granddaughter was visiting during some of the journal burning. She would pick up a journal, pretend to read it then ask if she could throw it into the fire. When she came upon those with beautiful images on the covers she would ask me, “Are you sure you want to burn it?” Eventually, she asked me why I was burning them.

I told her, “I just do not want them anymore, and I don’t want anyone else to read them.” That answer satisfied her. 

Finally, there was one journal left. I had bought it at a monastery. It was diminutive with a blue vinyl-type cover—I don’t recall the words on it—and gold-edged pages. I had saved this one for last because I thought burning that particular material might stink. The little girl held onto to it for a long time, looking at the cover and touching the gold-trimmed pages. She asked me if she could keep this one. I told her, “No honey, they all need to be burned.” She sighed, said okay, and tossed it into the flames. 

It took three and one-half hours to burn them all in that large fire pit. I wondered if I would have regrets as I watched them disintegrate into the flames. It has been close to a year now, and I can honestly say: I have no regrets. I did keep copies of my poetry though.

I wondered too if I would buy another journal. I haven’t and instead decided to use a one-inch binder and loose-leaf paper for any journaling. That way I can shred the pages when I feel the need. As stated previously, there are some things that need to stay between me and God. I’m okay with that.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Writing Life is Back

Writing Life is back! After a five-month hiatus, we are ready to start sharing content again. I had been working on a project, with multiple components, that I had planned to launch this year. Sadly, the timing for it is not quite right and has proven to be more than I can accomplish alone. While I have not abandoned it, it has been put on hold indefinitely.

I know, I know, everything doesn't have to be perfect, but for me, the product must be as polished and professional as possible plus it demands unwavering commitment because of the daily writing, producing, and posting of content required. That level of commitment is lacking right now. So, I am focusing on other things such as travel in September, a healthier lifestyle, spending more time with family and friends, learning foreign languages, studying current events, history, and feminism, and in general, just having more fun.

I also reach a milestone tomorrow: I turn fifty. My intention this year, for some of this blog, is to post "This is 50" segments. Each stage of our life is different, and I always feel youthful regardless of the passing years. My experience being fifty is/will be different than yours, but I want to share mine with you. Those of you fifty and older, feel free to send to me your stories and experiences. They may end up in a blog at some point. Those younger than fifty, I'd enjoy hearing your stories too about aging, whether it's turning thirty or forty or merely another year older. What have you learned over the years? What do you struggle with, physically or emotionally? Whatever it is you would like to share, feel free. You may contact me at

I am excited to enter this next decade. Many women dread getting older, but after having been diagnosed with leukemia when I was thirty-seven, I look forward to each birthday. It is a celebration because as we know, many people do not make it to old age, and I would like to be one of them who does.

I look forward to sharing interesting, useful, and sometimes provocative content with you. Until the next time, here are a few previous posts you may find interesting, or browse through older posts where you will also find journal writing tips.

Journaling Through Cancer in the 21st Century

Appreciate the present and leap into the future by reflecting on the past

Is Blogging Journaling?

Write it Down, Make it Happen (Part II)

Protecting Your Journals' Content

Have a happy Mother's Day weekend!