The Archetypal Journey of Hillary Rodham Clinton

Like many other feminists, I tweeted and posted to Facebook at a furious pace after the second presidential debacle that was billed as a debate. “Whether Trump did or did not do what the infamous tape suggested – and I think we all know which is true – the act of celebrating sexual assault as male prerogative and patriarchal power is deplorable,” I wrote. I addressed Trump’s stalking, stuttering and snorting in lieu of substantively addressing policy issues, and I shared my astonishment at his having received good reviews while Hillary Clinton was judged to be off her game for maintaining a calm, polite, focused demeanor in spite of being stalked, verbally abused, threatened with imprisonment, and confronted with the sick stunt perpetrated by her opponent.

Then I read Rebecca Traister’s stunning analysis of the subtext of the debate in New York Magazine and realized how much more there was to consider. Traister, a smart feminist analyst and writer, talked about Donald Trump’s loathing for any woman who might defeat him, and his hideous ways of showing that hatred, including being verbally and physically threatening.  “The worldview that Trump affirmed over and over again, during decades in the public eye, is one in which women are show horses, sexual trophies, and baby machines, and therefore, their agency, consent and participation don’t matter,” she wrote.

Traister continued, condemning Republicans as “a party that has been covert in its cohesion around the very biases that Trump makes course and plain,” referring to their anti-woman legislative agenda, including its attempts to shut down Planned Parenthood and much worse in some states. She pointed out that Republican legislation aimed at disempowering women, and the Republican response to Trump’s gutter talk, reveals a “fundamental lack of recognition of women as full human beings,” not simply mothers, daughters and wives, as they insisted when disavowing their candidate. In the end, Traister said, the weapons of choice among misogynists for beating powerful women are humiliation, objectification, shaming and sexualization. That couldn’t have been made more explicit than by how Donald Trump behaved toward Hillary Clinton during the debate.

No sooner had I finished reading Traister’s compelling article when my daughter called to make another stunning point. “I think Hillary is on an archetypal journey,” she said. “She has to go into that dark place and emerge on the other side intact.”

It was a brilliant observation. Think about it. Women have traditionally been denied The Quest or journey to enlightenment. Locked in their castles birthing future kings, or in convents, where they spent the better part of their lives invisible beyond the cloister gardens, they were denied their hunger for a wider world, their intelligence and courage continually hidden from sight and declared non-existent or illegitimate. Almost the same can be said of women relegated to post-war suburban isolation even though they were, in many cases, well-educated. Many of them who dared to seek a larger role than wife and mother were quickly admonished to go home and make babies when they bravely sought careers.

Two of the most easily recognized female archetypes are the Nurturing Mother and the Temptress. The nurturing mother sustains the warrior on his journey, while the temptress tries to seduce him away from his quest through her sexuality. But now, in Hillary, we have a new female archetype – a warrior woman equal to, and in this case surpassing her male counterpart. She is a warrior capable of undertaking the quest, and emerging intact to win the Golden Fleece.

Another key element of the archetypal journal involves entering into and surviving the Underworld, often a dark cave.  Hillary Clinton has had to survive the darkest of caves in an underworld full of deranged men and incipient violence. A good many male warriors might have given up in comparable circumstances, but she persevered, intent on making it back to the light. Luckily, along the way she has had good Mentors to help her overcome the ever-present obstacles of the arduous journey she has undertaken.

Among the many symbols of the classic Archetypal Journey are mountains, water, serpents and rainbows. Hillary Clinton still has some murky waters to wade through, waters that are home to snakes continually lashing out at her. But when she finally gets to the other side of the river and ascends the mountain there is likely to be a rainbow of colors there. Many of us will be standing with her, relieved and hopeful once more, able to see the world as a place of safety and beauty again.

We will all be changed by the experience. Sometimes that’s all it takes to reach a more enlightened way of being.


Marching Toward Dystopia

Marching Toward Dystopia


It’s hard to believe, given Donald Trump’s constant and egregious lies, his frequent name-calling and hate speech, his puerile tongue lashings, his visible ineptitude, and his recent debate performance, that he can be viewed as a serious threat to Hillary Clinton’s election in November. Issues and behavior that would have brought down any other candidate, ranging from imitating a disabled reporter to insulting a Gold Star family to being involved in three serious lawsuits, to refusing to reveal his taxes or professional health reports should have stopped him long ago. So should his inability to discuss policy priorities with any depth and his pugilistic, pro-Putin posturing. Yet, here we are as I write this commentary, nail-biting our way through every new poll and prediction, scratching our heads about how this looming disaster could possibly be happening.

Whatever the inevitable political and psychological post-mortems reveal, one thing is frighteningly real: Donald Trump has exposed and unleashed the underbelly of American society, releasing into the ether rampant racism, virulent anti-Semitism, overt hatred of “the Other,” including Muslims, and frightening violence borne by those whose world view he represents - people so full of animus toward human beings who don’t look, think or act like themselves that Hillary Clinton was honest enough to call them “deplorable,” a descriptor verified by polls questioning any standard of decency among other Americans.

Noted political commentator Rebecca Traister saw trouble coming during the Republican convention. She wrote,” What we have seen … is the Republican Party offering its stage and its imprimatur to speakers who have not appeared reluctant or conflicted, but rather buoyed and energized by the way in which Trump’s candidacy has allowed them to come out as inciters of sexist, racist, violent mob action and xenophobic fearmongering. What’s more, by framing their hateful rhetoric in terms of patriotism, they are reminding us that much of the poison in this country runs deep.”

The kind of indecency and poison that Trump spawns and encourages is all too clear when his son says we should be “firing up the ovens.” It is clear when white supremacists pride themselves on finally being legitimate within the public arena while wearing white hoods and waving Nazi or confederate flags. It is more than clear when a 69-year old woman on oxygen is physically assaulted at a Trump rally by one of his supporters.  

The examples of hate-filled rhetoric and behavior among Trump supporters abound in social media, if not in most of the mainstream press, which has been woefully inadequate in its coverage of Trump’s mania. Even should he lose the election “the message of hatred and paranoia that is inciting millions of voters will outlast the messenger [and] the toxic effects of Trumpism will have to be addressed,” a New York Times editorial noted. Those effects include documented increases in bullying in schools and increases in anti-Semitic and other hate crimes. 

Analogies drawn between Trump and Hitler, considered in bad taste and reluctantly shared to make clear similarities in terms of their political strategies, may still be useful. To quote Robert Paxton, an authority on fascism, in recently, “The use of ethnic stereotypes and exploitation of fear of foreigners is directly out of a fascist’s recipe book. ‘Making the country great again’ sounds exactly like the fascist movements. Concern about national decline was one of the most prominent emotional states evoked in fascist discourse, and Trump is using that full-blast, quite illegitimately … . That is a fascist stroke. An aggressive foreign policy to arrest the supposed decline [is] another one. Then, there’s a second level, [one] of style and technique. … [he is] like Mussolini … the bluster, the skill at sensing the mood of the crowd, the skillful use of media.” 

In light of the terrifying specter before us should Trump prevail, the challenge for those who understand how close we could be to a dystopian future is convincing people who don’t like Hillary that they have to vote for her anyway. I’ve tried and it’s not easy. Some of them don’t get that democracy resides in participation and that without voting they are colluding with a possible Trump win that could mean we enter into an inconceivable Draconian age. Some of them think he’s not as bad as the show he puts on. Some of them just don’t seem to care.

How did so many people whose very interests and futures are at stake become so apathetic and deluded? That is perhaps a question for another time.

Right now what matters urgently is that as many people as possible vote, which means that all of us experiencing cold sweats ratchet up the dialogue, knock on doors, argue with our right-leaning friends, do whatever it takes to shine light on what the options are: Either we vote smart and elect Hillary, or we dig in our heels and hope to survive years of dictatorial disaster. 

Want to know what that feels like? Ask anyone whose lived under Saddam Hussein, Assad, Romania’s Ceaușescu, and now Mr. Erdogan of Turkey.  It’s not a pretty picture. As Trump would say, “Believe me.”





Thoughts From a Disillusioned Democrat

It’s hard being a news junkie and something of a political activist, especially in an election year. Despite my daily resolutions to divert from rehashed polls reported ad nauseam on CNN and MSNBC to the pleasures of Turner Classics, or recordings of Jon Oliver’s brilliant show Last Week Tonight, I still can’t resist channel surfing back to presidential pundit-speak and crawlers, which invariably get my dander up.

One thing that drives me bonkers is the frequency with which major news stories from here and abroad are totally overlooked, or texted in crawlers by American networks and cable news outlets. You’d think there was no world out there. With Aljazeera America gone, there’s only the BBC to turn to, and often their coverage is questionable.

Here’s an example of something that unnerves me when I click on the news, which segues with my disillusionment with Democrats. A crawler reads, “Toddler kills mother with handgun.” The next day it’s “Four-year old shoots two-year old sister.” Gun violence is a major crisis and an urgent public health issue in this country. So why aren’t the Dems – and media’s talking heads – addressing the issue more urgently? Why haven’t interviewers held Bernie’s feet to the fire on the matter? We already know he has a D- rating with the NRA. That’s irrelevant to the question of why his voting record on gun legislation is so inadequate, nor does it tell us what he plans to do to address gun violence if elected.

Why, too, does Bernie keep harking back to Hillary’s Wall Street speeches along with other redundancies? How about they cut a deal: she releases her speeches when he releases his tax records, so we can all move on to the really important issues. (According to Facebook, Jane Sandersproposed this idea last month, putting the onus on Hillary first.)

And where was Bernie’s condemnation of his spokesperson’s term “Democratic whores”? Or his strong statement admonishing supporters for throwing dollar bills at his opponent? Given that his adversary is a woman, these were particularly insulting and troubling terms and actions; they smacked of the kind of misogyny Hillary Rodham Clinton is routinely subjected to and they should be roundly rejected by anyone vying for leadership.  It is not going too far, I think, to suggest that such language and actions smack of Trump tactics.

Hillary Clinton also has some explaining to do to this Democrat. Why, for example, did she make no mention of Israel’s responsibility toward peace in the Middle East when she addressed – or pandered to – AIPAC? It’s one thing to be a supporter of or an ally to Israel, but surely their government should be called out by ours for continuing to build illegal settlements, and for their brutal behavior toward Arabs living in ghettos in Gaza and the West Bank.

Further, according to many of her supporters, she has donated her Goldman Sachs speaking fees. Why then has she not been able to say that during the debates? If it’s true I’d also like to know to whom funds were donated. And while I agree that it’s important to support “down stream Democratic candidates,” how smart was it to hold a Hollywood fundraiser in primary season that cost over $300,000 to sponsor and over $30,000 to attend?  Could you shout “one percent” any louder?

The escalating negativity and hostility on display during recent Democratic debates was also deeply troubling. What ever happened to the promises of civility and mutual respect that both candidates promised and deserve? I’m tired of sandbox politics overall, but I’m especially distressed to see two people I respect in my party behaving like children throwing temper tantrums, being on the shady side of the truth, making false or hyperbolized accusations, and generally acting as if they are willing to win at the cost of their own integrity.

This election is, I believe, one of the most important ones we will have faced in our lifetimes. Its outcome matters deeply, dramatically and for the long term. Nothing illustrates that more than the Democracy Spring movement that emerged following the Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter movements.

Something is happening in America, as in other countries that will shape our individual and collective futures in ways we have yet to realize.  Not since the Populist movement that followed the Gilded Age have Americans seen such a frenzied plea for social justice and social change.

 It is the responsibility of all politicians, but especially Democrats – as well as the media – to hear what is being articulated by the 99 percent, to understand the critical underpinnings of their call for meaningful reform, and to respond to such calls with intelligence, compassion, clarity, honesty, strategy, and the sense of urgency the message demands.  There are vital connections to be made with respect to class, race, gender, poverty and more.  That leaves no time or taste for nasty attacks, minimalist crawlers, or meaningless and repetitive banter.

The time for mean-spirited exchange, empty slogans, and dumbed-down discourse is over. It’s time for civility and sensible action.  The question is: Can the Democrats, and the news media, rise to it? 


Time for a Second Look at the Second Wave

In light of emerging demographics within the American electorate, by which I mean the growing youth vote, and the fact that young women are flocking to Bernie Sanders - and in view of the brouhaha about remarks made by Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright – I’m concerned.  I’m not as bothered by the Steinem and Albright remarks as others are, although I was shocked by both utterances. Anyone, in a moment of frustration or fatigue, can make thoughtless or insulting comments they regret the moment the words leave their mouth.

My cri de coeur is about how Hillary Clinton and her spokespeople are failing miserably in addressing a fundamental point that needs to be made to young, idealist women because none of them has one clue about what life was like for females before HRC and other Second Wave feminists crawled into the trenches and fought like hell for women’s rights. They have no sense of women’s history and how it affects them.

Alice Paul and other women were tortured trying to secure women’s right to vote. How dare young voters, especially women, say they will stay home if Bernie isn’t the Democratic candidate? Contraception was illegal in Connecticut, even for married women, until the 1960s. Want to think about what it was like to miss a period before Roe v. Wade? (If you were wealthy you flew to Puerto Rico for an abortion; poor women used hangers.) Know what it was like when nursing, teaching or being a secretary were your only options? It goes on and on. For a full picture, read Gail Collins’s book When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present (2009), which begins with a young woman being sent home from traffic court because she was wearing crisply ironed trousers and includes stories like the one about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was told she should give up law school and make babies.

Since no one reading this column is likely to run out and get Collins’s informative book, here are a few examples of what life was like for females in my day. When I bought my first car in the 60’s the bank insisted my father – who was in bankruptcy to the same bank, sign my loan agreement. Once I got married, only my husband’s credit mattered. And when I went to graduate school I was assessed out-of-state tuition fees by the University of Maryland because although I met every criteria for in-state fees, I didn’t earn half our family income, so legally as they saw it, I was my British husband’s dependent, just as if I were his child.

Why don’t Hillary and her deputies respond to media questions about why women aren’t voting for her by noting that young women don’t know any of this stuff, and don’t realize how threatened their futures are if the wrong man wins? Do young voters know that women have been arrested for feticide following miscarriage in this country, or that even if raped they could be forced to carry a pregnancy to term? Do they get that lack of pay equity means they will have substantially smaller pensions or social security checks in old age than men? Do they even care that there is a tax on tampons or that Viagra was covered by medical insurance when birth control wasn’t?

When late term abortion comes up why don’t Hillary’s folks tell it like it is: Third trimester abortion happens very rarely when a woman (and her partner) find out, after 20 weeks of pregnancy, that their much wanted unborn child has a horrific anomaly, perhaps a missing brain or other organs. These parents have made the agonizing decision to terminate out of a very deep love for that child and the quality of its life. No woman – not one – flippantly decides she doesn’t want the kid that late in pregnancy, and it reveals the deepest disrespect for women to accuse them of such mindlessness.

Don’t get me wrong: This is not a pro-Hillary vs Bernie argument. It’s a plea to young women and to the political campaigns that want to include them.  The idealism driving young women voters to the Sanders campaign is a good thing. But Bernie, too, needs to speak to these issues, at least once in a while, so that his female followers can think through their voting decisions with a full deck of cards.

On the Clinton side, young women need to know about and appreciate the direct experience, skill set, and yes, scars that Hillary brings to the arena, especially if they are concerned about their future as females in an extremely challenging time, economically, socially and politically.  This could be the most important election of their lives. The time leading up to it should not be reduced to simplistic sound bites, silly squabbling, incomplete or out-of-context information, or serious omissions of fact and history. There is just too much riding on knowing as much as we can and voting wisely.

As for Gloria and Madeleine, give them a break. What they said was inappropriate and in the fullest analysis troubling. But they have given us all – women and men – so much to appreciate and be thankful for and they’re basically terrific role models. Let’s not diminish them, outstanding elders both, on the basis of a bad day or an unfortunate slip of the tongue.


He Said, She Said: An Election Dilemma

Like a lot of other politically active liberal Democrats, I’m in a pre-primary quandary. Hillary or Bernie? One day I’m for one candidate, the next I’m leaning toward their contender. Both make a lot of sense to me and represent my world view. But both have done things (or not) that make me wonder about their ability to lead the country (and the world) in a way that makes me feel totally comfortable and confident.  

I’d love to see a woman president in my lifetime, but I voted for Barack Obama the last time Hillary ran because I have reservations about her that persist, and I don’t like political dynasties. And I like what Bernie stands for, but he’s troubled me on a few issues, and I wonder if he has the personality, patience and negotiation skills required to get things done on the Hill and around the world, progressive ideology notwithstanding.

The Democratic candidate who emerges will have my full and active support. I will go to the mat to ensure that whichever Republican is nominated has no chance of wreaking the havoc each of them has promised. But here are some things I need to see in a Democratic frontrunner in order to be a proud American again, and to feel that there is hope for the future of our country, our world, and our planet.

First, at the national level, I need to know that serious, enforceable gun control legislation will be among the new president’s priorities.  I need to stop seeing daily reports of senseless gun deaths, reports so ubiquitous that we are no longer shocked by them because they are as common as a bad weather report. We have become our own killing field and an enigma to the civilized world. It’s time to understand the 18th century intent of the Second Amendment and to question its relevance today. It’s time to tell the NRA to take a hike.

I also need to see reforms within our justice system, our prison-industrial complex and our approach to incarceration overall. Enough of people like Carlos Mercado, a 45-year old diabetic man who died after 15 hours at New York’s notorious Rikers Island for lack of medical attention as guards stepped over him as he lay dying. Enough of women like Sandra Bland dying in prison for not using a turn signal. Enough of white- collar criminals walking away while black boys and men waste away in lockup. Enough of the torture of solitary confinement and of innocent people incarcerated for years and sometimes put to death by the state. Enough of police brutality, bad lawyering, powermongering parole boards, and judicial corruption. Enough of swat teams in place of community-based policing and sufficient mental health services.

I need to see serious attention being given to rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure before it literally falls down around us. Whether its endangered bridges, potholed roads, a ridiculous Amtrak system instead of high speed rail and mass transit like the rest of the developed world has, or up-to-date air traffic control technology, it’s time we stopped gluing ourselves back together, or ignoring altogether disasters waiting to happen. Instead of building walls to keep people away or devising ways to take a one-way trip to outer space perhaps we could make life safer and more comfortable for folks moving around in our own neighborhoods and cities.

With a view to the wider world, I need to know that the next president grasps the reality and urgency of climate change. It’s imperative that he or she gets the fact – the indisputable fact - that we are on the cusp of extraordinary, irreversible disaster if we don’t act now to save our planet. Reports by multiple, credible scientists of sea changes and weather events driven by global warming - including water shortages that could result in insufficient food, new migrations and conflicts over water - are already here. What will it take for naysayers to get the severity of the issue? One answer is a president who prioritizes climate change and acts responsibly along with other global leaders.

Clearly, anyone in the Oval Office needs to be absolutely dedicated to human rights – which include women’s right to agency over their own bodies and lives – and to making such dedication clear and operational.  That means ensuring that quality health care and education is accessible and affordable for everyone. It means having a viable strategy for helping the world’s refugees, people of color, and those from other ethnic or religious backgrounds to feel safe and to live dignified lives.

Finally, I need the president to be absolutely savvy about foreign affairs and to have the kind of experience, advisors, and negotiating skills that give all of us the best chance of living in a world in which armed conflict is reduced and terrorism is eliminated without the slaughter of innocents.

It’s a tall order. But Hillary and Bernie have a year in which to convince me which one of them is up to the job. Until then, I’ll just have to live with uncertainty. 



A Vote for Hillary May be Hard but Consider the Alternative

Last year when author Marianne Williamson posted an open letter to Hillary Clinton, many left-leaning Democrats nodded in agreement.  “I want a woman president,” Williamson wrote, … “and you’d know what to do from Day 1. … But none of that is enough to get the vote of a lot of people …Stop cozying up to the banks, the chemical companies, the military-industrial complex, the party machine, and all the various financiers who make up the plutocracy now ruining this country,” she continued. “If we have a sense that you’d be just another puppet of the elite, then I don’t believe you will win.”

Williamson’s message resonated. I’d chosen Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton when he won his first term, much to the consternation of my feminist friends. But in addition to being against political dynasties, right or left, there was too much about Hillary that worried me, including her relationship to corporations, Wall Street, and an inbred group of “experts” who would likely become her advisers.

I was reminded of that time of testy political discourse during a recent online conversation with a group of women I hold in high regard. One woman wrote, “We’ll never get out of the two-party system and we’ll never get out of big-money politics unless we can demonstrate that we will no longer play their game. I get frustrated hearing that I ‘have’ to vote for the Dems or else the Reps will win. It just continues to support the current paradigm. We have to re-frame the game…”

Another woman added, “Not even entertaining the idea of another party, or independent, is why we are in this mess. If we don’t change how we do things, we are doomed to the same result. Change is needed: Truth to Power!”

I appreciate the point these women are making. But as I responded, “I just shudder to think of having one of the Republican Neanderthals as president. I would like to see Hillary get elected [if she is the Democratic nominee now that Bernie Sanders is running] and then hold her accountable to the choices she makes as President. In light of current realities, that’s the time to hold her feet to the fire, in addition to asking tough questions when she is campaigning, but we just can’t lose this one!”

After more comments ensued, I added, “I really get scared when progressives (like me) divide the vote because of what I will call ‘political posturing’ at crucial times, thus handing the result to Republicans. That’s how we got a Republican governor in Vermont, and it’s how we got a disastrous Republican president when Gore lost.

“It’s so important to be realistic about the political world,” I continued. “Yes, we need to change the system and I hope we can somehow, but the fact is that we are a two-party system (controlled by big money). In light of that reality we must be smart about how and when we work for change. A desperately important election is not the time to take risks because we always lose ‘the game!’ Please, let’s be careful. In my view neither Bernie Sanders nor Elizabeth Warren has a chance of winning and we need to keep the White House!”

To those arguments I would add that we are living in a time when dangerous demagogues are rattling sabers, revealing incipient racism and other prejudices, and exerting a newly malicious misogyny. The actions of some Republican governors and members of Congress during recent weeks and over the course of the Obama administration shine a terrifying light on what would likely become law in America should a Republican win the next election. And it’s not just about the legislative branch of government. We would be choosing federal judges and Supreme Court justices. We would be voting on the future of the planet. We would be deciding not if but when to go to war, and where. And that’s just for starters.

That’s why I am pleading with my progressive friends to be realistic and to get behind Hillary assuming she does emerge as the Democratic candidate. This is not a time for political polemics. Neither is it a time to be divided among ourselves or to engage in brinksmanship. Rather it is a time to be forward thinking, street–smart, united and decisive. That may be an argument for the lesser of two evils but we don’t have a lot of choice right now. The time to take on Hillary and her party will come, and it should. I just hope we don’t end up shooting ourselves in the foot yet again before then.

Like Marianne Williamson, “I’d love to clamor for [Hillary], to work for [her], to cheer [her] on,” and to see her “name the real problems so we can trust [she’d] provide some real solutions.” But I too have reservations. 

I just have a lot more of them when I envision any of the Republicans on the horizon moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The very thought of it chills me to the bone.