Congressional Hearings Then and Now

Even as I write this, I’m listening to the impeachment hearings. I’ve borne witness to live testimony at every opportunity. I’m finding it riveting.

I’m really impressed with some of the dedicated public servants I’ve had the opportunity to hear. There really are bureaucrats out there who are well-meaning and full of integrity. That makes me feel as though our country may be able to recover from all this divisiveness and corruption. Someday.

Unfortunately, these testimonies have also shined a light on some of the cockroaches in our government. Those who are choosing not to testify are not participating in the process of revealing truth and clarifying the situation. Justice is not the end goal for these people. Their integrity will forever be in question, as far as I’m concerned. Clearly, they have something to hide.

Other cockroaches include those who are trying to stir up drama by using inflammatory phrases in the hopes that they’ll make good sound bites. Comparing this situation to a “drug deal” or an “inquisition” is not helpful, nor is it even remotely accurate. Implying that the closed-door depositions are somehow out of order is absurd. In all types of hearings, depositions are behind closed doors. The only time one sees a deposition is in the movies. Also, attempting to out the whistleblower is an effort to find a scapegoat to deflect attention from the subject of the impeachment.

But worst of all, without a doubt, are the tweets and the bullies who are attempting to intimidate witnesses. It makes this country look like a banana republic. It makes us look like thugs. And it makes me ashamed.

But even as I listen to these hearings, I remember the 8 year old me during the Watergate scandal. Little me threw more than one tantrum because the hearings pre-empted all her children’s programming. And it seemed to go on for an eternity. She was sooooooooo bored! She was furious at her mother for not being able to tell “someone” to restore decent television to the land.

What a difference maturity and life experience make. How radically one’s priorities shift over time. And thank goodness for Netflix.

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Dirty Tricks

On the day I wrote this, I was driving to work, and as I exited the interstate I observed a white guy in a dark grey Infiniti who had pulled off the side of the road and was pulling up the yard sign of a controversial woman who is running for election to Seattle city council. When he saw me on the exit ramp, he pulled away.

As I followed him down the street, I saw him circle back to get another one. I gave him a dirty look, and later reported it to the Facebook page for the campaign. I wish I’d gotten his license plate number, as this is illegal as well as immoral. Are dirty dealings how you got your Infiniti, man? Shame on you.

I’m not a resident of Seattle, so I won’t be voting for or against this councilwoman. I have no skin in the game, so to speak. It’s just that these types of political dirty tricks make me really angry.

If the only way your candidate can win an election is through lies, criminality, or dirty tricks, then you may want to rethink your support of that person. Clearly under those circumstances, the only motivation is greed and power for that individual, and that won’t do a thing for you in the end.

I know I’m being idealistic, but I’d like to vote for people who bring integrity and dedication to the public to the table. I’d like to vote for the person I feel has the most moral fiber. It would be nice to believe that there were candidates that ran a clean race and had nothing to be held accountable for.

Just me wishing for unicorns again.

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More Telling Than a FICO Score

I’m about to become a landlord for the first time in my life. It’s a strange feeling. It took me 54 years to scrape and claw myself up into the middle class, and now here I am trying to judge the content of someone’s character based on their FICO score.

And I must say, it’s a very telling reference point. From it you can determine if one pays their debts, does not spend beyond their means, and basically if that person is a good financial risk. You can also get a sense of their level of discipline, their ability to hold a job, their integrity and responsibility. It’s not a perfect metric, to be sure. Life happens. But it’s better than flying blind.

Of course, we are using an application and doing a credit and background check as well. I’m trying really hard to look at this as a business, not as an emotional thing. As in, “I really like that couple. I want to help them.”

It’s really hard to pass judgment on someone you’ve just met. And it’s really important to me to do my best not to be biased. It’s not easy. But someone else gave me another measuring tool that is turning out to be even more telling than a FICO score.

When a couple is looking at your rental place, how are they talking to each other? Do they do so with respect? They don’t necessarily have to be affectionate. Some people are much more private than others. But are they being respectful to one another? Because if they can’t maintain that respect with the person that they supposedly love most in the world, then they’re not going to respect your house, and may not respect the need to pay the rent on time, either.

This makes perfect sense to me. And I think I’ll be using this yardstick in other walks of life as well. Because it’s true, when I see people who tease each other to an extreme, or are downright rude or cruel to one another, as a general rule, they’re not the type of people who I want to have in my life. How you treat your loved ones says a lot about who you are, deep down.

Respect. The ultimate FICO score.

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Why You Have to Sell Out to Be a Politician

A successful politician cannot be honest. Honesty, you see, alienates as much as it includes. To get elected, you have to avoid alienating people as much as possible.

I could never get elected. Not in a million years. I am an extremely polarizing individual. People either love me or hate me. Mostly, it’s because I can’t keep my mouth shut. If I think something, I tend to say it.

For almost 6 years, I’ve put my opinions out there, every single day, on this blog. Anyone can read these posts and know exactly where I stand. The hate ads against me would be full of direct quotes from my blog, most likely taken out of context. I am the political third rail personified.

And that’s a shame, too, because I’d make a great public servant. I’ve got loads of integrity, I’m intelligent, and I’d be extremely committed to improving things whenever I detected a problem. I’d stick up for the underdogs, and I’d speak up for those who don’t have a voice. That’s the type of politicians we need, now more than ever. But people like me couldn’t serve if our lives depended upon it. We would never be invited into the clubhouse. We’d never be given the secret handshake.

I wish there was some way to separate the politics from the public service. I wish there was a way to make changes without selling your soul. I wish all our voices could somehow be equally heard and taken seriously. I wish there were a way to navigate the cesspool that is Washington DC without having to boil oneself in bleach every single day as a result.

I’m glad there are people out there who are willing to try. I just wish their motives were pure and their moral compasses were pointing them in the right direction. It takes a certain someone to navigate a flawed system. Honesty, unfortunately, is not the best policy under the current circumstances.

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Put Up or Shut Up

We are a country divided. We all know that much. Some of us don’t care. Some of us encourage it. Some of us aren’t quite so willing to let go of those who are on “the other side”.

I’d like to think I was in that third group. I really would. But I admit that I struggle. My opinions and beliefs are as strong as the next person’s. I don’t really understand people who don’t think the way I do.

I want to believe that my views could be swayed by hard evidence. But I wonder. Because I don’t think I’ve ever persuaded anyone else by presenting facts.

I don’t usually stop liking or loving people just because we don’t agree. I do my best to judge people on the content of their character. Are they kind? Do they mean well? Are they trying to be their best selves? These things are vitally important.

But every once in a while someone I care about will voice an opinion that horrifies me to the very marrow of my bones. It’s usually related to racism or intolerance or cruelty. And this leaves me in an awkward place.

I hate, hate, hate confrontation. I really do. So in these situations I can either a) ignore the comment and secretly lose respect for that person, b) wash that person right out of my hair, or c) speak up and risk losing that friendship, but maintain my integrity.

Well, I can’t choose option a. I’d develop ulcers. It’s just not in me to pretend something I don’t feel. Option b would certainly be the easiest route. Unfriending a person is so simple now that most of us only interact via social media. God knows people have done it to me. Even relatives. It doesn’t feel right to me. If I ever cared about someone, I kind of feel like I owe them more than just disappearing without explanation, without at least trying to understand why they feel the way they do. So that kind of forces me into option c.

Ugh. I loathe option c. It ties my stomach into knots. It makes me stew over what to say for hours. It makes me feel sick. It’s just so important. It’s a pivotal moment. I don’t want to screw it up. I try to do it in a decent one-on-one kind of way, rather than in a public forum. But it’s still hard.

I’ve had mixed results with option c. Sometimes we agree to disagree. But I feel better, at least, for having spoken up. Sometimes I’ve experienced blowback of epic proportions. That’s never fun. And it tends to result in the severing of the relationship. But as a wise man recently told me, “A true friend should be able to have a respectful conversation.”

As this country becomes ever more divided, those respectful conversations seem to be becoming fewer and farther between. They aren’t easy. But if we ever reach a point when they become impossible, I think we’ll have lost one of our most important qualities. We’ll have taken a really ugly step back from what it means to be human.

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Beware Abundance

I absolutely love buffets, so I try to avoid them. I am frugal by nature, so when I’m charged a fixed price in an all you can eat situation, I tend to try to get my money’s worth. In other words, I gorge myself. I don’t think I’ve ever left a buffet without feeling slightly sick to my stomach and at least moderately ashamed.

Abundance is not something I’ve experienced very often in my life, so it’s not surprising that I tend to overdo. It brings out the worst in me. I can’t imagine who I’d be if I lived in a constant state of abundance. I suspect that this is why the super rich are, for the most part, despicable human beings. If they exhibit even a shred of decency, they’ve no doubt had to work extremely hard to maintain it.

When you have to work for what you need, you appreciate it much more. When you aren’t completely sure you’ll get what you want, it inspires you to strive toward your goals. Achievements are so much sweeter when you’ve actually had to achieve them.

It’s the struggle that defines us. I don’t think pride is such a bad thing when you’ve seen a hurdle and have managed to clamber over it. Yay, you! Victories are all the more delicious for having been hard-won.

I have much more respect for those who try and don’t always succeed than I do for those who have had everything in their lives handed to them on a platinum patter. For most of us, life is not a buffet. But there’s a certain dignity to being figuratively lean and hungry, all while maintaining your integrity.

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Staying Out of Trouble

At the risk of sounding ultra-conservative (heaven forefend), I really don’t get it when people are incapable of staying out of trouble. I mean, I understand making mistakes, believe me. I’ve screwed up a time or two. But when you do it over and over and over again, and can practically hear Dr. Phil whispering in your ear, “How’s that workin’ for you?” You really have to wonder.

Is it about bad choices? Because I’ve managed to choose not to break the law my whole life long. It’s not always easy. I’d love to grab that brand new suede jacket and run like the wind, but I choose not to. Sure, I’d like a little instant gratification every now and then, but the first time you tried to play with a candle flame as a child, you should have learned that actions have consequences.

Is it about feeling like you have no choices at all? I can relate to that, too. I’ve lived in a tent. I’m 53 years old and I’ve only just now managed to scratch and claw myself to the very murky, sketchy bottom of the middle class. And I know darned well I’ll never be able to retire. Things are stacked against the 98%. It sucks. But at least I can look myself in the mirror.

You see, I never had much. But I knew I had integrity, and that no one could ever steal that from me. I could, however, give it away. I chose not to. Because it was all I had.

I guess what it all boils down to is what’s most important to you. Possessions? Control over others? Or your own self-worth? Maybe think about that before robbing your next liquor store. Because that money isn’t going to stay with you. Neither will the drugs. In the end, all you have is you.

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Standing in My Integrity

I once stayed in a 16-year relationship because I didn’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings. Like most women, I’ve been trained since childhood to put everyone ahead of myself. And I’m good at it. Too good.

Some things never change. I came across this article about a school in Utah where the little girls have been instructed that when boys ask them to dance at a school function, they cannot say no. (We wouldn’t want to hurt little boys’ feelings, now would we? Even if it makes the girls uncomfortable in the process.)

I had a visceral reaction to this story. Girls need to learn to say no. They need to know it’s okay to say no. They need to trust their gut instincts. And boys need to learn that no means no.

Without these lessons, you wind up with 53-year-old women like me, who prize integrity above all else, but still tend to sacrifice it to smooth things over. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t ruffle feathers. Keep your opinions to yourself.

It’s really kind of funny. I’m always told I have a strong personality. (Like that’s an insult—and one that’s never directed at men.) People have absolutely no idea what an inner struggle accompanies my ability to speak up.

Speaking up does not come naturally to me. Not at all. When something is bothering me, I generally have to agonize over it for days on end before I can take action. And during that whole process, my stomach is in knots. I lose sleep. I grind my teeth. I rehearse what I want to say over and over again in my head. It’s not a pleasant experience. But I’ve found over the years that not speaking up is even worse.

I’ve been working really hard on standing in my integrity lately. Speaking up more promptly. Agonizing less. Saying, “No, that’s not okay.” Figuring out why doing what feels right to me is such a torturous undertaking.

Integrity should be the place where I reside all the time. It shouldn’t be some thought balloon that I pull along behind me. It should be my natural habitat. And the fact that I was ever trained otherwise is outrageous. That there are still girls in this day and age that are being spoon-fed this crap is disgusting.

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Defining Moments

I had never heard of John Feeley until this week. Now I’d like to shake his hand. It’s refreshing to hear of someone in the public sector who actually has integrity.

Mr. Feeley is resigning as the US Ambassador to Panama, effective March 9th, because he doesn’t feel he can impartially serve President Trump any longer. A lesser man would have just kept his head down and continued to draw a paycheck. (“Just following orders…”) But not this guy. He took a stand. He decided to do the right thing rather than the easy thing or the self-serving thing, and I’m sure it is going to have a long-lasting impact on his life.

I wish more public servants were like this. I wish no one in congress would show up for the State of the Union address. That would send a strong message to the world that we don’t agree that other countries are shitholes. We don’t agree that it’s okay to grab women. This is not who we are.

When the world asks who we are, I want to tell them that we are John Feeley, and also Walter Shaub, who resigned as the Office of Government Ethics chief last year. I want to tell them that we are every American who marched against Trump and his destructive, hateful policies. I want to tell them that we are every reporter who has brought us the truth in the face of all Trumps threats and lies.

I hope that when the next president is elected, if he or she isn’t another total nut job, the first official act will be to re-hire Feeley and Shaub. We need people with integrity serving the public. We need to demonstrate that ethics still matter in this country.

Thank you, gentlemen, for restoring my faith in human decency at a time when examples of this are awfully thin on the ground.

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Psst. Over Here. In the Unpainted Corner.

I tend to think of relationships as solid, especially the long-lasting ones. But here lately I’ve been working on my boundaries quite a bit, and that has tested quite a few friendships. It’s scary and it’s lonely and I keep doubting myself. Just in time for the holidays. Woo hoo.

I have always had boundary issues, probably because none were ever established for me as a child. I tend to be a wide open, laissez-faire kind of person, which is fine when things are going well, but not so hot when things go pear-shaped. While I’m quick to stand up for others, I’m not one to stand up for myself.

Saying, “What you are doing is not okay with me” is something that doesn’t come naturally to me. It takes effort. It causes me a great deal of stress. That probably stems from the fact that I constantly second-guess myself. Am I doing the right thing? Am I being rational? Is it okay that I’m not okay with what you’re doing? Bleh. It’s all so exhausting.

So here I am, practicing boundaries. Here’s what’s been going on in just the past few weeks:

  • I’ve had to tell one distant friend from high school that I’m not comfortable with him popping up out of the blue after 35 years and sending me about a dozen (ignored) hug gifs and expecting me to do so in return. We never even hugged in high school. He didn’t get the message, and I had to un-friend him on Facebook.
  • Another friend used my blog to try to right a wrong, but when the post got the attention of “real” reporters, he refused to follow through. This undermines my integrity as a writer. It also gives me the impression that he doesn’t take my blog very seriously, and was just hoping to clear his conscience and not actually get results. I had to explain why, and just how much, I didn’t appreciate this behavior. I haven’t heard from him since.
  • And even as we speak, a contractor (not a friend, but still…) is about to receive a letter from me, outlining the fact that he ripped me off to the tune of $1700.00, which is money I can’t afford to lose. We’ll probably wind up in small claims court over this. But he’s an intimidating guy. I really don’t know how he’s going to react to my letter. I’m sitting here, feeling sick to my stomach about this, waiting for things to hit the fan.
  • But probably the most distressing situation of all is that some very beloved friends shocked me recently, to the point where I felt the need to distance myself and write them a letter about how I felt, in which I asked them to please help me to understand why they reacted the way they did. Boy, did I ever paint myself into a corner with that one. I’ve had no response from them. Crickets. So now I’m left wondering if I’ve misinterpreted things and they’re furious, or if they’re just too embarrassed to respond. It also makes me wonder if they care about me as much as I care about them, and not knowing that makes it extremely awkward to envision walking back into their lives again. I don’t know if I’d be welcomed or not. I don’t want to force them into anything, but on the other hand, I can’t just pretend nothing happened. It’s too important to me.  I miss them, but I’m so confused.

Boundaries, man. They suck. As my therapist says, though, once you start making changes and move toward a healthier you, not everyone in your life will want to tag along.

So if you’re looking for me, I’m the one standing over here in the lonely, unpainted corner. (I guess if you’re wanting to establish boundaries, that’s one way to do it.) All I can say is that I’m a work in progress, and it will be really interesting to see who is still with me when the dust settles.

Meanwhile, I sure miss the days when it was easy to get a Xanax prescription.

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