Middle-aged women (still) leading political activism

Middle-aged women (still) leading political activism

Gazette Column
A funny thing happened in the wake of last year’s presidential election. No, it wasn’t that more women signed up to serve as foot soldiers on the political battlefield. They’ve always been there — marching, dialing and door knocking. The humorous part is how some are now surprised, how those individuals have forgotten or never understood herstory. According to common belief, women are not generally political leaders. We’re told that politics is too nasty a business for most women, or that most women simply aren’t capable of grasping the nuances of public policy. But that only holds true if “being politically active” is defined as giving major speeches or running for elected office. Women have — for more years than I’ve been walking the planet — served as the backbone…
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Parallel messaging gave GOP Statehouse control

Parallel messaging gave GOP Statehouse control

Gazette Column
Have casual conversations with Iowans and a pattern emerges of the ways the national 2016 election narrative did and did not apply to the Statehouse. Since November I’ve been quietly talking to people around Iowa. I’ve reached out to farmers and small town residents I met during research on rural communities, as well as urban dwellers I met through discussions on public transit and affordable housing. As a general rule these aren’t folks who’d be labeled as political activists. That is, they vote, but don’t shake signs outside Congressional offices or hold court with the county central committee. They live in the present, focused on taking their kids to activities, worried about their mortgage and expending energy on careers or higher education. Nearly all political nuance is lost on them.…
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Disability isn’t so easy, even for the desperate

Disability isn’t so easy, even for the desperate

Gazette Blog
As much as I need to stop thinking about the Washington Post story on Social Security disability benefits reprinted in The Gazette on Sunday, I’m having trouble letting it go. As the youngest child of elderly parents — my mother went to the doctor for concerns about menopause only to discover she was pregnant with me — I grew up on Social Security dependent benefits. So, in addition to my parents’ Social Security retirement checks, our family received a little more than $200 each month earmarked for me. In order to better make ends meet, my father and mother worked odd jobs. Until bone cancer made it impossible, my mother took in sewing projects. My dad mowed lawns and did handyman or mechanic work when he could find it. During…
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Donald Trump puts the ‘bully’ in bully pulpit

Donald Trump puts the ‘bully’ in bully pulpit

Gazette Column
The Trump administration has rescinded Obama-era guidance for public schools that promoted use of bathrooms based on student gender identity. In a joint letter, officials within the justice and education departments rejected the previous administration’s position that non-discrimination laws require schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice. Under Title IX, schools that receive federal funding are not allowed to discriminate against students on the basis of sex. Obama justice and education departments, as well as numerous civil rights watchdogs, said long-standing Title IX protections encompassed gender identity. [caption id="attachment_497" align="alignleft" width="300"] A sign protesting a recent North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access is seen in the bathroom stalls at the 21C Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina May 3, 2016. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)[/caption] And while the…
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In turbulent times, Des Moines’ Roosevelt gets it right again

In turbulent times, Des Moines’ Roosevelt gets it right again

Gazette Column
Fairness isn’t owned by any political party, which sometimes trips up adults who aim to keep their political footing firmly on the side of justice. Those who often find themselves straddling divergent political views could learn a lot from Roosevelt High School in Des Moines. The school is in the news again, this time for a message from Principal Kevin Biggs. Delivered via the school intercom and shared with parents via email, the message came on the heels of President Donald Trump’s executive order to prohibit immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States at least for now. “To all of our students who are immigrants or refugees — and to their friends and classmates and teachers who are also concerned because of these recent events —…
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Little, if any, local impact from Trump immigration orders

Little, if any, local impact from Trump immigration orders

Gazette Column
Immigration reforms as outlined in two of President Donald Trump’s executive orders don’t change much for American cities and counties — yet. I took a deep dive into two executive orders signed this week. The first, Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, relates primarily to development and construction of a wall along the southern border. The second, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, discusses how the federal government will interact with local jurisdictions. [caption id="attachment_405" align="alignleft" width="640"] Danielle Frank holds a sign as demonstrators gather at Washington Square Park to protest against U.S. President Donald Trump in New York, U.S., January 25, 2017. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)[/caption] I read and researched both documents with eye toward how they could impact Iowa jurisdictions labeled as “sanctuaries” due to the…
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Cedar Rapids women discuss why they’ll march

Cedar Rapids women discuss why they’ll march

Gazette Column
Trio will be among thousands participating in Women's March on Washington Calling these three Cedar Rapids women who will be part of the Women’s March on Washington “precious snowflakes” is a waste of time. The “snowflake” moniker, derived from the 1996 novel “Fight Club” and typically used to describe college students perceived as over-protected and too easily offended, was widely co-opted by supporters of President-elect Donald Trump to describe and dismiss those who showed somber emotions or actively demonstrated in the wake of the presidential election. It’s been so frequently used on social media in connection to the women marching on Jan. 21 that it’s effectively shorthand for demonstration participants. But when I asked Marilyn Davenport, Denise Mineck and Velga Easker what they would say to those that attempt to…
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In 2016, rural areas roared

In 2016, rural areas roared

Gazette Column
While it’s possible to look back on 2016 as a single year, doing so doesn’t provide clarity. The past year was a culmination of a decades-long and ever widening urban-rural chasm. To hear the national media tell it, the big news was the presidential election. But November was merely the coup de grace, a death blow to end ongoing suffering. I began my career in journalism in the late 1980s. Those were perhaps the final heydays of community journalism — local papers, run by local families. The next decade was marked by large news corporations gobbling up smaller dailies and weeklies. Each incarnation brought more cost-effective management by new parent companies, and fewer local jobs. Local presses stood still. Circulation and ad sales were centralized. Newsrooms emptied. Vertical integration of…
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Still a lot of work to do

Still a lot of work to do

Gazette Column
Throughout the community one question seems to dominate personal interaction: “How are you feeling?” I’ve been asked by people I see each day and those I only have occasional opportunity to speak with. Convenience store clerks, local members of the clergy, co-workers, neighbors, transit riders and drivers and community activists of all stripes are curious, some perhaps morbidly so, on my and their other neighbors’ state of mind. So, how are you feeling in these first post-election days? I am, of course, disappointed that the nation has not finally elected a woman to its highest office. I’m especially concerned by the years of misinformation and sexism that led to undeserved backlash against Hillary Clinton, and a campaign with an overall anti-women tone. More than shock at Donald Trump’s public disrespect…
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Break free from personality politics

Break free from personality politics

Gazette Column
When I made the first trips south to visit family and friends after moving to Iowa, diminishment of my homespun accent drew the most curiosity and confusion. “What did you say?” one of my sisters, a Texas resident, asked, repeating the word “garden” with an exaggerated and distinctly East Coast soft “A” (gah-din) to mimic what she heard. “Y’all sound like damn Yankees.” [caption id="attachment_164" align="alignright" width="300"] Demonstrators are seen in silhouette, marching through Times Square in New York November 25, 2014. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)[/caption] Although said in jest, the assessment was not a compliment. It was the first acknowledgment that I was changing, becoming more “other” than “same,” and a precursor to subsequent political discussions. One brother, in particular, is especially vocal about his right-leaning political view. After returning home…
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