The reason for the season

Maybe it’s just me, but all the fuss about there being a War on Christmas doesn’t seem very much in the spirit of what the holiday is all about.

I mean, I get the whole War on Christmas idea, to a point. I understand that some Christians object to what they see as the secularization of Christmas. But there are other faiths, too, many of which have observations in December, and they should be respected equally. Christians are welcome to make their own Christmas celebration as religious as they choose.

But we’re not all going to feel the same way. And, frankly, the fact that anyone would think I’m waging war on their faith by saying “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” seems more hostile to me than my well-intentioned good wishes. I guess that’s why the idea of people fighting about Christmas perplexes me. I just can’t reconcile the idea of the War on Christmas with the meaning of the holiday.

The reason for the season

I grew up Episcopalian and am now a Buddhist who is more philosophical than religious. My boyfriend is Catholic, and I have friends and colleagues who are Jewish, Baptist, Muslim, Hindu, atheist — you name it. I honor their beliefs equally.

My little world isn’t any different from our larger world. And in a country that was founded in part to allow religious freedom, why is it so difficult for us to honor everyone’s faith equally? (I could easily veer off here into a discussion about separation of church and state. Instead, suffice to say I recognize its relevance to this topic but my point is about what’s in our hearts rather than what’s displayed on city property.)

I know Christians who will always say “Merry Christmas” instead of “happy holidays,” and I respect that they want the celebration of their faith recognized. But I can’t help but think of my Jewish friends who are frustrated by the number of people who ask, “What does that holiday mean? And Jews still celebrate Thanksgiving, right?” At least Buddhists can point to the Dalai Lama and say, “That,” but otherwise people don’t really get it a lot of the time.

The reason for the seasonThat doesn’t offend me. If someone asks, I’ll explain my beliefs. It’s good that we learn about each other’s faiths, especially since they share many common principles. I’ve learned more about Catholicism since I started dating Joe Quincy — in fact, conversations with him helped shape this post and inspired its title.

It’s good that we share traditions and celebrate together, as far as our own faith allows. Celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah doesn’t impugn my Buddhist philosophy. It’s a time to share joy with the people I love. Buddhists value that, just as Christians and Muslims and people of all faiths do.

I guess that’s where I find myself so frustrated by the idea of the War on Christmas. To me, the whole point is to celebrate the ideal of “goodwill toward all men” — not just those we love, but those we work with or meet on the street. All men and women, whether we agree with them or not.

The reason for the seasonWhen people wish me a Merry Christmas, I don’t get prickly about it. I wish them the same in return, because if I didn’t already I now know they’re Christian. I offer glad tidings in the person’s faith if I know it, and I think “happy holidays” is a fine way to wish each other well, too. It honors every faith or simply a festive season for non-believers.

The many holidays celebrated in December (some with pagan origins, let’s not forget) are an opportunity to come together, to express gratitude, to experience the comfort and joy of family and friends. It’s a time to be good to each other.

The way I see it, we could stand to find more time to be good to each other. Every day, not just a few days a year. So whatever words you use, say something nice. And celebrate when someone says something nice to you, however they say it.

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Can’t keep a good woman down

What are some men so afraid of? I mean, why else would so many male politicians have declared War on Women if they weren’t afraid of something?

I’m not the first to say this. But we need to keep saying it. Because unless she chooses to party like it’s 1949, no woman should be forced to live a life from the last century. If she wants to stay at home and have six kids: excellent. If she wants to run a global corporation and have no kids: excellent. But the choice must be hers.

Limit a woman’s ability to choose and you limit her ability to succeed. You limit her ability to lead.

This is not entirely an issue of misogyny. Many of the weapons in this war are being launched by Republicans, but it’s not all them, either. It’s not even just men. A few women have joined the ranks, too. It makes no sense to me, but there are women who would apparently like to see all of us barefoot, pregnant and submissive. Just ask Michele Bachmann about that last part.

I’m not writing this to place blame on anyone. That’s wasted time, anyway. I’m writing this because, sadly, I have to. We have to keep talking about the War on Women until it stops.

You can't keep a good woman down

This post has been in my head for a while. The attacks on women’s rights just keep coming, as do daily disrespect and sexism everywhere from the workplace to Twitter. So I had two choices: Write about where we are today or wait until something big changes. I’m not waiting. (Credit where due: Sarah Burris shared a speech by Joss Whedon that helped sharpen my focus on the point I want to make here. This is a huge topic.)

Here’s my point: I want the day to come when we no longer have to talk about women’s equality because it simply won’t be in question anymore. There will be no need to discuss the War on Women because it will be over. Until then, we have to keep talking about it.

When you take away a woman’s rights, you limit her ability to succeed.

When you take away her liberty to make her own decisions, or to have access to the same jobs and healthcare options and freedoms a man has, you limit her ability to succeed. You limit her ability to lead.

Let’s just rip off the Band-Aid and start with abortion. I am not pro-abortion. I am pro-choice. I don’t believe in abortion as a form of birth control, but I believe that forcing a woman to have a baby she can’t afford or doesn’t want — or could die in the process of having — holds back both that woman and that baby. Yes, adoption is an option and many women choose it. But it’s not an easy path to take. And it’s expensive if you don’t have healthcare coverage. Whatever decision a woman makes when she learns she’s pregnant, it’s going to change the course of her life. She ought to be able to choose the direction she takes.

That ability to choose is why women need the option of birth control. But I can’t keep up with the number of groups trying to outlaw birth control altogether. They’ve already made it harder for women to access birth control with moves like trying to do away with Planned Parenthood. Making birth control unavailable isn’t going to stop people from having sex. So a woman gets pregnant and then what? I respect that some women choose not to use birth control or have abortions. But that doesn’t mean every woman should have to make those same choices. One group’s beliefs should never be forced on everyone.

Then there are the personhood amendments. The first, thankfully, failed to get the support of voters but there are many more in the pipeline. Under these laws, life would begin at conception. So theoretically, a woman who tripped and fell, or got beat up by her husband, and had a subsequent miscarriage could be tried for murder of that embryo. Theoretically.

Taking away a woman’s right to choose — and her access to the tools she needs to make informed, intelligent choices, such as birth control or education about sexuality and reproduction — is a form of oppression. 

You can't keep a good woman down

And it’s not just the laws some people are trying to pass. Those are bad enough, and we have to fight to preserve women’s rights and freedoms. More than ever, I stand with Planned Parenthood, Emily’s List, the National Women’s Law Center and many other organizations and individuals, women and men, who are on the side of women.

But the War on Women is also evident in the things people say, every day. The way women are critiqued on their appearance more often than men. I don’t mean compliments, which are just fine. I’m talking about judging a woman on how she looks instead of what she thinks. Or the way men make overtly sexual comments in social media. A little flirtation and innuendo is fun and I do it, too, but explicit comments go too far. (Take it offline or you look like a creepy idiot.) The way people demean women with diminutive nicknames and Twitter hashtags like #WomenWhoCantCook — and that one is tame compared to the one a while back about reasons it was okay for a man to hit a woman. The way women must sometimes be anonymous online, for fear of being victimized verbally or, in some horrible cases, physically, after someone they angered tracked them down. If you want to see misogyny in all its hateful glory, check the #MenCallMeThings hashtag.

Even the women running for President in the Republican party are, in a way, an insult. Don’t get me wrong. I like seeing a woman running for President. Any woman. But is this the best the GOP could do? Michele Bachmann can’t be bothered to vote as a Congresswoman but she’s being paraded as a Presidential hopeful? Please. She doesn’t stand a chance and the GOP knows it. Sorry, but: token woman. Sarah Palin is smarter than I thought, to stay out of the race, but not by much. She’s still a quitter and an opportunist. So, again, not a woman fit to lead.

Sometimes the condescension and gender bias is so subtle — or so ingrained, so insidious — it’s easy to miss it. But it’s there.

We have to stay on the watch for it. We need to keep doing whatever we can to protect and strengthen women’s rights.

Again, I’m not the first person to say this. But why do we have to keep saying it?

Why do we have to keep saying it’s not okay to blame victims of rape for the violent crimes committed against them?

Why do we have to pass laws (grateful as I am for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act) that say it’s not okay to pay a woman less than a man to do the same job?

Why do we need an International Day Against Violence Against Women?

You can't keep a good woman down

Why do we have to keep saying it’s not okay for men to behave as Herman Cain did when he called Nancy Pelosi “Princess”?

Why isn’t women’s equality, and their right to make their own decisions, an unequivocal right?

There are so many questions. And I don’t pretend to have all the answers.

Look, I’m a lucky woman. I have a job where I’m respected and given the opportunity to excel if I work hard. I’m in a great relationship with a man (yes, a Republican man) who treats me as an equal and values the fact that I’m a smart, strong, independent-minded woman. So many women don’t have these things.

Limiting women’s rights limits their ability to succeed. It limits their ability to lead. And some people don’t like the idea of women in leadership very much.

I think the people who want to hold women back are intimidated. Women are strong, we’re not afraid to stand up for what we believe in. We can endure more pain than many men. We can often multi-task better. We have the potential to be just as smart and hard-working as any man. We’re compassionate and tend to take human beings into consideration when we make decisions. We generally play well with others. Pretty good leadership qualities if you ask me. There’s science to back me up on this, too.

You can't keep a good woman downIf anyone can explain to me why there’s such a huge push for laws that limit the rights of women — effectively holding us back by not letting us make decisions about things like what we’ll do with our bodies over the course of nine months and a lifetime of motherhood — I’d like to hear it. Really, I would.

I’ll listen, but I doubt I can be convinced that restricting a woman’s right to choose how she wants to live her life will ever be okay. Telling her to compromise her dreams because she has to choose what someone else is forcing on her will never be okay.

Limiting a woman’s right to choose how she wants to live her life limits her ability to succeed. No matter what it is she might want to do.

I’m not going to sit quietly and wait. Following the lead of many outstanding organizations and individuals, I’m going to keep talking about this. Until there’s a day when we no longer need to.

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Time to get serious

Politics are funny. They just are. But there’s a time for joking around and a time to get serious. And right now it’s time to get serious already.

Look, I’ll laugh at politics all day long. I don’t care which side of the aisle is pulling political pratfalls, I’ll poke fun. I usually avoid the obvious but, sure, I made jokes about Anthony Weiner. I’ve made jokes about John Boehner. (Those jokes all kind of come from the same grab-bag, don’t they?) And most of the GOP candidates are perpetual punchlines. Um … sorry. Oops.

Laughing about it is fine and healthy, especially if you work in politics. It also helps our economy by keeping more comedians working.

Time to Get Serious

We're funny, right?

But seriously? What’s going on in Washington, D.C., just isn’t funny anymore. Millions of Americans need jobs, or better incomes, or help with a thousand other things we simply aren’t helping them with as much as we could be. That’s nothing to laugh about.

The President has proposed The American Jobs Act (AJA) to get things moving. Yet the Republican party flat-out refuses to discuss the AJA. Won’t even talk about it, other than to say they won’t talk about it. I’ve asked plenty of people: “Why won’t they talk about it?” The only answer I’ve heard was a quote I read from John Boehner, saying the GOP is against the jobs bill because it’s “paid for with tax hikes which ‘will hurt [the] economy and put Americans out of work.’ ”

Aside from the fact that Speaker Boehner’s comment is misleading — because the tax increase would only be on the most wealthy Americans and the AJA would also be paid for with spending cuts — that simply isn’t a good enough reason to not even spend time talking about it in the House. I desperately want to write a comedy sketch where Speaker Boehner says to House Republicans, “Should we debate the American Jobs Act and tell Democrats what our concerns about it are? Nah, let’s just reaffirm our country’s motto as ‘In God We Trust’ instead.”

Sure, if I pitched that sketch it might make it on a comedy show. It’s funny. But when you realize that the House actually did put the motto before jobs in real life, it’s no laughing matter.

Neither is some of the other legislation that’s been prioritized before any discussion of the AJA. Limiting or eliminating women’s access to healthcare and birth control. Rolling back regulations that protect people and our environment. Or how about spending time meeting with Herman Cain during the first week of his alleged sex scandal instead of being on the House floor? And, to be fair, the Senate isn’t much better. For the most part, they basically keep voting on what I like to pretend they call the “We Have Our Fingers In Our Ears And Just Don’t Want To Hear About The AJA” rule.  [Update: After this was posted, the Senate and House voted in favor of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, which the President signed into law on November 21. It’s one small part of the AJA, with tweaks. A step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.]

Time to Get Serious

Haha! No, wait. Cut it out!

There’s a fine line between funny and frustrating.

Clearly, voters in the November 2011 elections were serious about making their voices heard: They are not amused.

Still, there’s much, much more to be done. It’s time to stop playing games and get to work. The President is taking every possible step. But what did the Republicans do when he introduced his legitimate “We Can’t Wait” approach to taking action? They turned it into an attack. Reince Priebus actually tweeted “#WeCantWait to make [this] a one-term president.”

I guess we should thank Priebus for making the Republican agenda clear. (And for giving us such a great name to mock.) I’m sure he thought he was being clever and funny in his tweet, but he wasn’t. It wasn’t just the President he disrespected. It was also the millions of Americans who need the help of the officials they elected.

Is everything the President and the Democrats do perfect? No, of course not. Is everything the Republicans do wrong? No, of course not. There’s both good and bad in every group and everyone. Our elected representatives are all human and imperfect, something they have in common with every one of their constituents.

But when it comes to job creation and getting the economy back on track, it’s time to stop fooling around. It’s time to get serious and get to work. The two parties have got to get together and sort this out already.

Anything else is just a joke. And one that isn’t even remotely funny to the American people.

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Yes, I started a blog

No, there’s not much here yet. But there will be.

I have a pretty busy job. I write a lot, every day. And I tweet what I think with some frequency.

But there are times when I have more to say, or just want to say something different.

So that’s what this space is for. When topics warrant it. Also, when there’s time.

As they say in TV, stay tuned.

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