Dear Millenials: It’s okay to have high hopes. Love, Gen X

Yeah, I said it. Before you go making fun of Generation X’s “High Hopes” dance, take a few notes from your elders. (And maybe read the lyrics of that song, too. It is the Generation X anthem.)

I have not yet decided which Democrat I will vote for in the primary election. I like different aspects of several of them. I wish I could combine all these different aspects into one Super Candidate. Lacking that, I wish that all of the other candidates would get behind one candidate in a kind of Super Coalition and promise to help that person defeat the Great Evil, Donald Trump.

I have High Hopes.

You gotta have High Hopes.

Truth is, I started out my adult life with High Hopes. My generation, who hadn’t yet been disregarded as Generation X—not Boomers or Millenials or even The Silent Generation, but evidently not even worthy of a name—at any rate, my generation was the first to realize we needed to recycle. I remember how proud I was to cart my little blue bin from the apartment I shared with my husband while he was in medical school to the larger blue bins labeled by colors of glass, newspaper or aluminum cans. I was making a difference.

I had High Hopes.

Not many dimes, though. I worked for a tiny newspaper an hour away, covering local news in a town I didn’t live in but grew to care about. I covered politics, police reports, wrote features about interesting folks, even tried my hand at writing about sports (baseball was my favorite, basketball a close second, football killed me).

I was going to make it big at the little newspaper and catch the eye of the bigger ones. I pictured myself eventually writing something that caught the attention of Rolling Stone. It could happen. After a couple of years of it not happening (and late nights at the paper keeping me from my new husband), however, I was tired of commuting. Burning your biography and rewriting your history isn’t all that easy after all. A job at the library of the medical school attracted me, just as jobs at libraries always had. I went back to my roots.

But I still had High Hopes.

Twenty-some years later, I still have high hopes. I still write, and it’s not all romance or kid stuff. I write about my politics and my beliefs and just my thoughts, not because I hope Rolling Stone will take note, but because I know words have a way of getting out there. Sometimes in an article like this one.

Maybe my generation hasn’t changed things. Maybe we aren’t the ones who will save the world. But we have the influence and the power to effect change when we find the one (or ones) who will. We’ve got one more run in us, and it’s going to be a sight to see.

We want everything.

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The sun has not yet set on Generation X. We still want it all.

Poem: When Justice Falls

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Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

I’ve been struggling with my feelings about the impeachment of Donald Trump. Last night, watching the votes rack up and the opposing sides face off, I felt as if I were torn in half. I never wanted this. But since the day I realized Donald Trump would be our president, I knew it was coming. It was a matter of when. With each of his horrific policies and statements, I wished it would come already. When immigrant children were separated from their families at the border to be placed in group “homes” and “facilities” without protection from God only knows what (death and abuse), I prayed for Donald Trump to be impeached. When he pulled our military out and left our Kurdish allies to bleed and die, I prayed for Donald Trump to be impeached. When Donald Trump overturned the military courts and allowed war crimes to go unpunished, I cursed God for not listening.

And now I am confronted by the reality. Donald Trump is impeached. And every Republican stood behind him, defending the indefensible, turning the truth to fit their own version of reality, spitting in the face of what is right. And I know that when he is acquitted in the Senate by his majority, something precious will die. And all I feel is sad.

 

When Justice Falls

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

You’d think I’d be happier, right?

Justice is blind, but Truth lies at her feet.

How can she not see what lies before her?

Come, Justice, set us free from tyranny!

But she can’t hear me above the multitude of lies.

Blind and deafened, she doesn’t see Truth…and stumbles.

 

You’d think I’d be happy, dancing…

But instead I just want to cry blood and rain.

I want to scream, wake up, stop this!

Please, please…open your eyes.

It’s not a dream, not an illusion—it’s real.

What you grind under your feet doesn’t grow back.

 

You’d think I’d be happy to tell you I told you so.

I’m not—in truth I never wanted to be right.

I just knew, inescapably and undeniably, that I was.

Now I sit, bowed and broken and old and tired,

At the graveside of ideals with Truth for company.

We wait together—eventually, Justice will fall beside us.

Another day, another active shooting on a school campus. What are you going to do?

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Picture it. Really put yourself there. Stand there on that high school campus in the misty cool November morning. You’re a kid. You didn’t want to go to school but you dragged yourself out of bed. Maybe you had to get there early to take a test you missed last week or to work on plans for the next school dance or maybe you had a club meeting.

Whatever. You’re there. You’re standing on the quad at your high school, maybe talking to a friend. What are you going to do this weekend? Gotta work. But maybe catch a movie after? You’re sixteen and you have your license now. The whole world has opened up to you.

You hear a pop and in the cool fall morning under the open sky, it doesn’t feel important at first. And then you see the small red dot between your friend’s eyes and you feel the warm spray of her blood and nothing is really real except the next pop seconds later and the sting in your shoulder as you spin and fall on the prickly grass.

From there, you try to decide. Lie still, play dead or get up and run while you still can. Another pop and then two more. That’s five. If the movies are right, you get six. But the last one seems to take a while longer. You roll over and look. He’s standing less than twenty feet from you, but the gun is pointed at his own head, not you. You wonder if it’ll work. You’ve heard it’s hard to actually kill yourself that way. You’ve heard of people doing it, losing part of their brain, living the life of a vegetable, or, possibly worse, being horribly deformed for the rest of their lives.

You see his eyes, the hollow, hopeless look there, and you desperately hope that this time it will work.

And the last pop comes and he falls and it’s over. You lay back and tears seep from your eyes as you remember the red dot between your friend’s eyes. It bothers you that you don’t remember her falling, just standing there. Like she’s still standing there above you and not lying on the ground next to you with the back of her head blown out. Who else was shot? They aren’t all dead because you can hear them crying, too. You hear someone retching, coughing. Blood and vomit and tears soak the grass.

And so it happens again. Two lives lost, four more wounded in the time it takes to walk across a room. All because someone had a gun who shouldn’t have had a gun.

Raise your hand if you’ve been in an active shooting situation.

Raise your hand if you know someone who has been in an active shooting situation.

Raise your hand if you’re pretty certain you will soon.

By this point, all hands should be raised.

Poem: Teetering

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There’s no guardrail here.

A few days ago, I visited the Grand Canyon. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go, even if it was on my bucket list. The Grand Canyon is a bit of a challenge for someone with even a mild fear of heights, and I definitely have at least that. But I found once I got there that the paths were wide and I could walk on the side away from the canyon and enjoy the view.

My kids were another story entirely. It seemed they were intent on walking as close to the edge as I would allow. I was constantly calling or motioning them back from what seemed like a precipitous edge down which they were sure to fall. My oldest finally looked at me with exasperation and said, “You bring me to a big hole in the ground and tell me to stay away from the big hole in the ground!”

I laughed, but it’s true. I told him to stay away from the hole in the ground because I want to protect him. I don’t want him to fall.

Of course, while we were looking at the big hole in the ground, the United States teetered on the brink of far worse. We put our toes over the very edge of a very dark, deep hole waiting to drown us in war (and don’t fool yourself that it won’t be nuclear). We’re still balancing on the edge of that black pit, but it’s full of our sins just waiting to pull us in. Sins like helpless children held prisoner without decent beds or meals. Environmental regulations rolled back every day in favor of money. A clueless leader who has lost the respect of every nation on earth except those hoping to profit from his ignorance. And our blind eyes turned to all of it.

Remember the feeling of standing on the edge of a pool waiting to plunge in but not quite ready for the cold water to envelop your steaming skin? Remember the feel of the rough concrete beneath your feet as you leaned forward just a little more, spreading your arms for balance so you didn’t fall too soon but you might fall any minute?

Remember the moment your toes finally lost their grip and you plunged in before you were ready and the hopelessness of knowing the icy water would shock your skin and pull you down?

We’re teetering on the edge of something far worse now.

 

Teetering

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

Toe slides…

Over the edge…

Arms spread…

Balanced,

But mindful.

 

Lean a little more—how far can we go?

How far before…

The balance

Slips?

And we

Fall?

 

Wobbling,

Swaying,

Sliding,

It may be

Fate,

But—

 

Who will see the plunge and watch us flatten the world?

Can anyone stop it?

Please?

I agree with Mr. Mueller: The written word is more powerful than the spoken one.

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Today I watched a historic speech given by a great man. Former Special Counsel on the Russia investigation Robert Mueller finally gave us his two cents worth in a speech. And he basically said what he had already written was worth much more.

He’s right. He said: “I’ll make a few remarks about the results of our work, but beyond these few remarks, it is important the office’s written work speak for itself.” In other words, I’m outlining a few points here, but this is basically a book report. Read the book if you want to know what happens.

Later on, he added: “We chose those words carefully and the work speaks for itself.”

Have you ever noticed that when you’re speaking, you might say anything, but when you write it down, you think about it? If you haven’t, you probably don’t write much. Maybe you’re one of those who can write themselves into a corner on a birthday card. But if you write reports of any sort, if you write news stories or blog posts or books, you think about the impact of each word on your reader. And you think about the impact you want to make on your reader.

The written word has a power that the spoken word does not, and it also has a permanence the spoken word usually lacks. I believe Robert Mueller’s words will live on, both in spoken and written form. I also believe it’s time to pay attention to what he has already told us. And have the courage to act accordingly.

I’m editing this to add one more thought. Mr. Mueller’s written words are there for history. If Congress does not act on these words, history will judge them accordingly.

THAT Text—will you get it next?

Yesterday I got that text. The one parents all over the United States have been getting. It’s never expected or wanted. It’s not welcome at all. But as of now we’ve done absolutely nothing to stop it.

At 5:51 p.m. my son texted me, “Crap there’s a shooter on campus.”

For the next several hours we texted and called back and forth. I’m lucky. My son was safe in his dorm. His friends were scattered across campus, one in the library that was fired on, another in the student union. Others hunkered down in classrooms and halls. Slowly word got out that the shooter was caught. Buildings were cleared and students were allowed to leave.

At 11:28 p.m. I texted my son again to make sure all was well and he said it was. His roommates were back, having been released from where they’d sheltered. He was going to bed, hungry because the dining hall was closed and he had no food in his room. Hungry but alive and safe. I got to tell him I love him again.

That text is coming for every parent out there. Until our Congress implements sensible gun control measures, we are all in danger of getting it. Until the NRA’s power over us is cast off, every parent sends their kid off to school knowing that it might be their child sending them that text next.

The shooting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte barely caused a blip on the radar of most politicians and news organizations. By the numbers, the shooting wasn’t that bad, right? Only two people died. Only four people were injured. Only two families had to be notified that their students wouldn’t come home. Only four had to wait in anguish for word that their loved ones were out of surgery.

Can we really judge it by the numbers, though? Because the only number that matters, really, is one. One more school shooting. One more time that lives were ended when common sense gun control could have stopped it. One more time kids texted their parents.

So, if you’re happy with waiting for that text from your kid, go ahead, sit back, relax. This was just one shooting. But it only took one shooting to end the lives of two college students yesterday.

You’ll get that text eventually unless we stop this now.

Dear “Woke” Democrats,

Dear “woke” Democrats,

Here’s the thing. I’ve been a Democrat since Jimmy Carter. No kidding. My first political memory is of campaigning with my mother outside the local Veteran’s Hall. We handed out leaflets and my mother talked about how Carter was a good man.

I was six years old.

Since then most of my family has become Republican, my political affiliation has never wavered. When I registered to vote at the age of 18, I proudly stated my political affiliation as Democrat. Democrat I was and Democrat I always should be. I voted for Mondale and Ferraro. I voted straight Democratic tickets for years. I saw candidates fail time after time because I live in North Carolina, home of Jesse Helms, for God’s sake. I saw Howard Dean’s scream. I lived through Dukakis’s tank ride. I shook my head at Gary Hart’s downfall. In 1991, on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill, I was moved by the enthusiastic and powerful words of Bill Clinton. I later endured what felt like a betrayal by this personable man I’d supported.

In 2000, I waited with bated breath for the results of an election which should not have been close, only to see Al Gore respectfully bow out when I wanted him to fight. My heart cracked then but by 2004 I thought I’d grown accustomed to defeat when John Kerry also fell short.

The Obama years were a bright spot, but my heart truly broke when Hillary failed in 2016. That’s the only time I’ve ever cried over an election. And now, in these dark times, I find myself with a new enemy.

You.

You dare to tell me, who has struggled wearily along this long path strewn with political careers of people I’ve admired and candidates who’ve failed me, that I’m part of the problem because I’m not “woke” enough? I’ll tell you this, young whippersnappers, I’m “woke” enough to see what your “wokeness” hath wrought and being “woke” doesn’t help you when the world is so dark you can’t see anything but black. And that’s what we’re approaching if you keep firing on people who are ON THE SAME SIDE AS YOU. A world that cares nothing for those who are different, a world that denies problems instead of trying to solve them, a world so deeply divided both sides fall into the crevasse instead of reaching across to each other.

Still don’t think I’m woke enough?

The peanut lapel pin my mother received for campaigning for Jimmy Carter. I keep it to remind myself what being Democrat is all about: Persevering for the little guy.