Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Here's to Girly Girls and Muppets, Too

A recent article by Tanya Barrientos of the Philadelphia Enquirer (reprinted today in the San Jose Mercury News) noted the derision encountered by PBS executives as they introduced Sesame Street's first new muppet in thirteen years--a little girl named Abby Cadabby. So what's the problem? Well, it would seem that Abby Cadabby is a girly girl. She's pink. She wears a pretty dress. She has sparkly pink hair. She dabbles in magic.

Ms. Barrientos quotes one of the critics, Susan Linn, co-founder of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, as saying:

"The last thing little girls need is one more pink fairy. My understanding is that she's a little incompetent with her magic, too. I'm concerned that now even the Sesame Workshop has bought into the girlie, girlie commercialized image of what it is to be feminine. They could have had a Asian girl, they could have had a girl who's really good at math. They could have had someone who's just more complex."

There are so many things wrong with this statement that I'm not sure where to begin, but I'll give it a shot.

1) "My understanding is . . ." Does this mean that Ms. Linn has not even watched the show? So is she judging on appearances? Isn't this discouraged by parents everywhere?

2) "[S]he's a little incompetent with her magic": Do we demand that Elmo color within the lines? She's THREE YEARS OLD. Very few of us are competent at any one thing at three. Those who are are exceptional. Gifted. Not necessarily someone that the average three year old can relate too. So maybe not a good character for a show targeted to younger children.

3) "They could have had an Asian girl . . ." Sure, and they could have chosen an African-American girl or an Indian girl or any other ethnicity. But why? If I remember correctly, Rosita and Prairie Dawn are the only Muppets on Sesame Street who have a specific ethnicity. What ethnicity is Elmo, the most popular (at least in my house)? Or Cookie Monster, who runs a close second? Bert and Ernie are closer to having an identifiable ethnicity, but they could go one of a couple of different ways.

4) ". . . they could have had a girl who's really good at math." See number two above--SHE'S THREE YEARS OLD. Sesame Street has always been about learning, not about how to handle being a child prodigy. And anyway, Count Von Count is still very much a part of the show, so the math thing is covered.

5) "They could have had an Asian girl, they could have had a girl who's really good at math." I had to read that one three times. While I sincerely hope that it was just an unfortunate coincidence that these two ideas were in the same sentence, I have to wonder if Ms. Linn has her priorities straight. While I'm a huge fan of Noggin and public television for my children, I would rather have them watch a few commercials than learn to assign these implied ethnic stereotypes, which brings me to,

6) Why do we assume that girlie girls are less capable and/or less smart than their more obviously bookish sisters? Why the surprise when a beautiful woman is good at math and science? Why the flip-side disappointment that the less-attractive woman won't be able to do your taxes after all? Do we just assume braininess is a built-in survival mechanism that the more attractive women have been able to turn off as unnecessary? I'm fairly certain that can't be it as standards of beauty change too fast for evolution to keep up.

I don't wonder these things idly, as an impartial observer in need of a blog topic. I live with an uber-girlie girl. Hannah, who I happen to think is gorgeous and smart and funny, will only wear dresses and skirts, the twirlier the better. I've tried, but she decided at 18 months that pants just weren't for her. Sure, it's frustrating sometimes because it might be a wee bit safer to climb in jeans and shoes. But was I proud when she responded to a playmate's "You can't climb a tree in THAT" with "Yes I can--watch!" as she proceeded to out climb him--in her dress and flip flops!

And when I say that Hannah is a girlie girl, it goes deeper than just what she likes to wear. She plays dress up and, yes, princesses are her favorite. Her favorite color is pink and has been from the first time she saw it--this even after I made sure that all of her baby clothes were purple, green and/or yellow. She's never had a pink bedroom but is determined that her new room will be pink with black polka dots. She has tea parties and makes hats for the bears and dolls who attend. Every spare piece of fabric becomes a blankie for some random "baby," some of which are then tucked into socks for their naps.

But my girlie girl is also good at math. She loves books. Her favorite place on earth is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and she will pretend for weeks on end that our playroom is a tank filled with sharks and tuna and sea turtles. She knows how to tell a giant squid from an octopus and can tell you the names of some of the jelly fish. She knows her letters and the sound each makes, although she's not really interested in reading yet (but she will let you know if you ever skip a page).

In short, Hannah is just like almost every other person on the planet--there is much more to her than you might see at first glance. And rather than making her any less complex, being a girlie girl makes her that much more interesting. I wouldn't have her any other way.

So here's to the girlie girls everywhere, even (without naming names) those who sell themselves as brainless twits. Because after all, even if you start with a famous name, it takes a certain amount of smarts to make cluelessness your raison d'etre.

Monday, August 28, 2006

In Which I Nominate My First Idiot of the Week

Without further ado, under the category of "Please Tell Me This is a Joke," the inaugural Idiot of the Week (IOW) award goes to . . . Katherine Harris of Florida! Name sound familiar? Think back to the 2000 presidential elections. Think "recount." Think "Florida Secretary of State." Think "please don't let sane Floridians make this mistake again."

Much of the world hasn't heard from Ms. Harris since her hand helped Bush into the White House. The Republican party, in gratitude, helped Ms. Harris into the House of Representatives. Ms Harris is now in the midst of a fight for her political life, running for the Senate in a race that, apparently, no state or national Republican of any stature is willing to support. She's gone through several campaign managers and the current one is not smart enough to keep her boss from giving an interview to the Florida Baptist Weekly in which she says, among other things, that only Christians should be elected to office in the U.S.--but I won't try to paraphrase. Jim Stratton of the Orlando Sentinel posted this to the Chicago Tribune News blogs (I've bolded my favorite part):

If you are not electing Christians, tried and true, under public scrutiny and pressure, if you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin," she [Harris] told interviewers, citing abortion and gay marriage as two examples of that sin.

"Whenever we legislate sin," she said, "and we say abortion is permissible and we say gay unions are permissible, then average citizens who are not Christians, because they don't know better, we are leading them astray and it's wrong. . . ."

Harris also said the separation of church and state is a "lie we have been told" to keep religious people out of politics.

In reality, she said, "we have to have the faithful in government" because that is God's will. Separating religion and politics is "so wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers," she said.

"And if we are the ones not actively involved in electing those godly men and women," then "we're going to have a nation of secular laws. That's not what our founding fathers intended and that's [sic] certainly isn't what God intended."

Send your own nominations--we'll make this a regular Monday feature!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

My President Has a First Name . . . .

It's L-I-A-R. Ok, ok, so that doesn't exactly work with the Oscar Mayer tune, but it's close!

In one of the most quoted and remarked upon moments of his scrambled-together press conference on Monday, Bush said that not only did Iraq have nothing (NOTHING!) to do with the attacks on 9/11, but that no one in his administration had ever suggested such a connection (emphasis added):

Q Quick follow-up. A lot of the consequences you mentioned for pulling out seem like maybe they never would have been there if we hadn't gone in. How do you square all of that?

THE PRESIDENT: I square it because, imagine a world in which you had Saddam Hussein who had the capacity to make a weapon of mass destruction, who was paying suiciders to kill innocent life, who would -- who had relations with Zarqawi. Imagine what the world would be like with him in power. The idea is to try to help change the Middle East.

Now, look, part of the reason we went into Iraq was -- the main reason we went into Iraq at the time was we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. It turns out he didn't, but he had the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction. But I also talked about the human suffering in Iraq, and I also talked the need to advance a freedom agenda. And so my question -- my answer to your question is, is that, imagine a world in which Saddam Hussein was there, stirring up even more trouble in a part of the world that had so much resentment and so much hatred that people came and killed 3,000 of our citizens.

You know, I've heard this theory about everything was just fine until we arrived, and kind of "we're going to stir up the hornet's nest" theory. It just doesn't hold water, as far as I'm concerned. The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East.

Q What did Iraq have to do with that?

THE PRESIDENT: What did Iraq have to do with what?

Q The attack on the World Trade Center?

THE PRESIDENT: Nothing, except for it's part of -- and nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a -- the lesson of September the 11th is, take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq. I have suggested, however, that resentment and the lack of hope create the breeding grounds for terrorists who are willing to use suiciders to kill to achieve an objective. I have made that case. . . .
Now, the question is how do we succeed in Iraq? And you don't succeed by leaving before the mission is complete, like some in this political process are suggesting.

How do you complete a constantly changing mission? Bush just said--on the record--that we were wrong about the WMD. That Saddam had NOTHING to do with 9/11 (though an incredible number of Americans still believe that--any guesses why?). So what is the mission now? Spreading democracy? Is that only until the Iraqi people elect someone we don't like? Because it sometimes seems as though we only support democratically elected governments when they toe the Washington line. And in a free and fair election in our own country, our vice president insinuates that those who voted against Joe Lieberman were somehow advancing the terrorist agenda. Pathetic. But Bush says:

I will never question the patriotism of somebody who disagrees with me. This has nothing to do with patriotism; it has everything to do with understanding the world in which we live. . . .

So is it not a lie if you get the Vice President to do the questioning?

Note to those keeping track of words added to the English language by GWB:


Maybe he'll turn out to be our very own Shakespeare after all!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Gardener's Lament

You know you're a gardener when you begin to feel that itch in your fingers toward the end of winter, if not sooner; the itch that tells you to get out and start digging--gloves or no. Last year, this was a problem for me because it rained for what seemed like at least half of forever. We couldn't dig or plant because the ground was so thoroughly saturated that it would only compact the soil and suffocate the plants. So no peas or beans, and the tomatoes--three kinds!--were so late going in that they didn't start to ripen until just before we moved.

Which leads to another sign that you're a gardener: Anxiously checking on the plants every morning and afternoon, searching for a luscious, perfectly red tomato with the unmistakable smell of summer, the smell that you could carry around all day just from the periodic dives between the tomato cages. As our move date edged closer and closer, I was tempted to pull up the zucchini to give the tomatoes a better shot. But I couldn't bring myself to do it, and so instead just kept trimming the dead leaves, weeding, diving and inhaling. The day we moved, I made Thomas bring in a couple of green tomatoes with the zucchini and basil. Every year growing up, my mother would make fried green tomatoes--lightly dipped in seasoned flour and fried to a pale, crisp gold. They were one of the bookends of my summers: Banana splits on the last day of school; fried green tomatoes just before we pulled the plants out at the end of the season.

I really miss our garden. We have plants on the deck in containers but it's not the same. And while Fresh Fields has nice produce, there is nothing like eating a warm tomato right off the vine--especially a vine that you watched grow from a 4" pot. And once again, I'm starting to feel my gardener's anxiety as the days begin to slip into autumn: the light has shifted; the comforters are back on the beds; and the last two evenings, I've smelled wood smoke from a neighboring fireplace.

Our landscaper won't start the plan for a couple of weeks yet and I can't bring myself to spend time in the yard because it cries out to be nurtured. The nurturing it needs is going to take a BobCat and a lot more time than I have in between errands, snacks and games of Go Fish, and more than Thomas has between work and sunset. According to a neighbor who has been here for 35 years, our yard has not been touched in at least 15 years.

Lest you think I exaggerate (of course I do, just not this time), this photo was taken in the spring. The green is the weeds, now a lovely straw color:

Friday, August 18, 2006

What Did You Call My Kid?

Last week, Charlotte had her evaluation for physical , occupational and speech therapies. I am sorry to say that she passed with flying colors--well, a "C" anyway: she has moderate delays in receptive language, expressive language and social/emotional, as well as a moderate delay in her gross and fine motor skills. So we're now looking for a program that can address all of those issues but, because of waiting lists, she'll probably end up going to at least two different programs.

So today I received the written evaluation, which included this passage:

"Charlotte is an adorable 19 month old girl. She loves spending time with her older sister and playing with the family dog. Charlotte enjoys looking at books. . . . Charlotte is a good sleeper and a god eater."

That's right. Our little girl is a god eater. They don't specify which one, or the manner in which he/she/it might be prepared, but there it is. Actually in triplicate and in a file that will spend 20 years in a locked facility once she has finished the program.

All this time and I had no idea that "Gah" was a menu request.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Yawn Heard Around the World

On July 26, London's Daily Mail published an article by Helen Kirwan-Taylor that seems to be causing almost as much of a stir as Linda Herschman's now-infamous "Homeward Bound." In the article, "Sorry But My Children Bore Me to Death" Kirwan-Taylor writes about her preference for a salon appointment to the boredom that surely awaits at play dates, birthday parties and even the occasional board game at home. It hit a nerve with its first publication and is now, courtesy of the Internet, swinging from the last nerves of S.A.H.Ms everywhere.

My first reaction: What the hell is her problem? My second was to wonder whether I was merely masking guilt for agreeing with parts of the message by getting angry with the messenger.

It pains me, but I will admit it: I DO get bored. There are some days I just want to lock myself away with a book and a hot cup of coffee. After all, there are only so many tea parties you can attend in one day, so many "sleep overs" right after breakfast, and so many games of Candyland you can play before your brain begins to turn to mush.

My follow up questions were:

  • Why do we work so hard to fulfill what we see as society's view of the proper role of mothers?
  • Why is it so hard to admit that we can't get all of our needs met by staying with our kids 24/7?
  • Why is it so difficult to give ourselves permission to find something outside of our children, something that let's us keep--or develop--a sense of self?
  • Why are we so quick to condemn the choices of other women?
Sadly, the last question might just be the easiest to answer: We do it because it validates our own choices; because it gives us a reason to change the subject raging in our own minds--did we do/are we doing the right thing--whatever our choice.

Every day I wake up to the challenge of balancing the girls' need for my attention with my need for space and peace and brain candy. And almost every day I lose at least a part of that battle. But I made the choice to be a S.A.H.M., and in so doing, I made a deal with myself that my girls would always know that they were loved and important and necessary. And for me, that means making myself available, even when I feel bored or frustrated. That's not to say that I think I need to spend every waking moment with them--I don't believe that's good for them or for me; I do want them to be independent after all. But that's another post.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Penny From Heaven

My wonderful mother-in-law came for a long weekend, spoiled the girls, helped to rearrange the furniture and generally made everyone happier--as she always does. And, as always, I am inspired by her enthusiasm for life--family, work and her hobbies. She glows with it and it is contagious: I've almost stopped feeling the need to check into a rest home!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Fitting Response

Of course, Bill himself would have been a bit more diplomatic, even with someone as far off the deep end as Ann Coulter.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Desperately Seeking Sanity

How do you know when you've been at a job for too long? I haven't had an office job for six years now, so I'm not sure I remember. There was something about irritability, short temper, chronic exhaustion, anxiety and the recurring daydream of being in some nice little rest home somewhere in a medically induced sleep being fed through a tube. As the song says, "Does that make me crazy?"

I've been a full-time mom for almost four years--that's the longest I've ever stayed at any one job. (I was at one company for 5.5 years, but dutifully climbed four rungs of the ladder there.) And the Mom-thing just seems to be getting harder lately. Part of it is because Hannah is in a very "I want, I want, I want" place right now and if she doesn't get her way, she loses it. Shopping mall, grocery store, restaurant, car . . . makes no difference. I'm always worried that someone is going to call the police because it must look like I'm forcing some random, screaming child into my car. Ah, good times!

Whether it's due to the stress of the move or just growing pains, Hannah has become a little--ok, a lot--clingier. Some days I literally cannot get her to let go of me. (There is a benefit to this since I don't have to sweep the floors on those days :) And the more she grabs, the more I see me slipping away. I can't have a thought that is my own or find a space that's mine--not even 10 minutes alone in the bathroom! I trip over the toys she won't put away and find a pile of stuffed animals sleeping in my bed every night. My shins are bruised from the kicking; my psyche from being told "I don't like you."

It's not that I want to quit my job. I don't--I love my job. Some days I just feel completely burned out. Crispy, fried and toast.

Thomas thinks we should get an ugly French au pair to help out. But Hannah starts school on September 6, so I'm going to stick it out. I just need to find a way to schedule the day so that we all get what we need. Which right now, means that "Me Time" falls between 11pm and 7am.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Updates and Other Random Bits

I've been a bit busy with unpacking and working on an actual paying job, so I'm cheating with an update on some earlier posts. Of course, some of you have asked for updates, so here goes:

  1. The elderly lady who freaked me out enough to call 911 was ok after all. She lives in a nursing home in San Jose and, apparently, our phone number was one digit different from that of a family member's phone number. The 911 operator was very nice about letting me know this--she must have been able to hear how upset I was when I called back. And I have heard from the woman again a couple of times--on voice mail but at least I know she's still out there.
  2. The Real (Estate) Diet--Eight pounds and counting! No food to buy, no fees to pay (well, except taxes, insurance, closing costs, etc.). Try it! Of course, I don't want to buy a new house every time I need to drop a few pounds.
  3. Hannah wanted to know why I went to the BlogHer conference by myself. I made the mistake of telling her that Mommy needed to spend time with grown ups and get some brain candy. So now she's all packed and ready to go next year so we can eat brain candy together.
  4. We've started interviewing landscapers to do something--anything--with the yard before the rainy season. (Otherwise, we might have to have mud sledding at the eventual house-warming.) Thomas and I will be doing a lot of the work and I'm going to be writing about the process, from the interviews to the plant tours and the digging and planting. Maybe even the swearing and throwing of rocks! Anyone know an editor at Sunset or HGTV?
  5. Charlotte had her first appointment in the evaluation process for speech and OT. Of course she started saying what sounded like actual words right after I made the appointment and even took two steps on her own, from my arms to Thomas. She meets with the pediatrician doing the actual evaluation on Thursday, so I fully expect her to be skipping through the house, reciting Shakespeare by Wednesday night.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Even the Flying Spaghetti Monster Gets Hate Mail

Do you know who the Flying Spaghetti Monster is? Apparently, the only "being" more upsetting to the far, far, far right-wing religious conservatives than Bill OR Hillary Clinton. Who knew that uber-Christians were so totally devoid of a sense of humor. And irony.

In case you need a quick overview:

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was created by Bobby Henderson as a response to the Kansas school board voting to allow the teaching of intelligent design in science classes. His point is that there is as much scientific evidence to support the idea that the Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe as there is that the universe was created by ID and so the FSM should get equal time in classrooms as an alternative theory. In his words:
I don't have a problem with religion. What I have a problem with is religion posing as science. Teach creationism in school, fine, but DON'T teach it in a science classroom. Science = the study of repeatable, observable, natural phenomena. Accepting a supernatural explanation is a cop-out. It's faith, NOT science.
Some of the emails in the mail bag seemed relatively sane and even thoughtful. In the main, however, they were, um, not. A small sample from his Hate Mailbag (Note: I cannot take credit for the creative grammar, spelling and punctuation that follow. But I can imagine that when one is writing with this much passion, these things might slip a little):
If I was your creator and you mocked me in this manner I couldn't think of a hell hot enough for you. . . . I am sick to my stomach that my small babies will live in such a disgusting generation where God is no longer the source of strength and power. I should hope that as you mature, have children and they ever are in need of a miracle in their life, that you won't know whose name to call on.
I find your site degrading and offensive. God does not allow for the type of logical fallicies you promote on your site. For instance, why would a perfect, infanate being have to rest for three days after creation? The bible clearly establishes a maximum one to six day resting ratio for the creation of the universe by an infante being. Ok, I'll be sympathetic to your tortured logic and explain how mankind knows that the bible is the word of god. 1. the bible is infallible.


PASTAFARIAN?!? that doesn't even make sense!! why the hell would god be PASTA?!? It sounds like you were bored and asked "why don't pirates exist anymore? and why doesn't heaven have a stripper factory and a beer volcano?" Well buddy, just because you google searched some stupid fact and made a website, doesn't mean you made a religion.
And that FSM bible is a load of crap.
This is fun! Can you stand a couple more?

You don't need to question, God does all the thinking for us; he actually has a degree in Philosophy. Abortion is wrong, it says so in the bible, I dare you to go look it up- you probably won't find it, but that's just because your gay, which is also wrong- it says so in the Bible. Now some of us will be wondering the justification for that moral assertion, but remember the Bible is flawless- it says so in the Bible.

And my favorite (also from the letter above):

As a Christian, I follow Jesus for his teachings of love and tolerance; it is people like you who make me sick, I hope you die in a lake of fire and get your eyes pecked out by crows, so that you may go to hell and exist for eternity in a lake of fire getting your eyes pecked out by crows.

With love,

Tsk. And we think Americans don't understand fundamentalism.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Baby Steps

For me, one of the hardest things about being a mother is my overdeveloped sense of guilt. It's a gift I received long ago from my own mother and it's one that, try as I might, I just can't get rid of. I might misplace it once in awhile, but it always turns up.

When I miscarried before Hannah, I was devastated and the little voice in the back of my head didn't help much, constantly looking for something that I did or didn't do to cause it. And now when, at nineteen months, Charlotte is not yet walking on her own or talking, that little voice has become a true nag:

"You didn't know you were pregnant and you drank at that wedding, didn't you?"

"Maybe it really isn't safe to have a little wine."

"How about all of the medications they put you on to stop the labor? All those -ines and -isiums. Were they really safe?"

"You did get out of bed a few times."

"Why couldn't you keep her in longer?"

"Do you spend enough time with her?"

My OB told me I was ridiculous (in ever so slightly more professional terms). Thomas told me I was ridiculous. And it truly is ridiculous, but there are nights when I lie awake with the Melanie Guilt Show looping in my brain, vaguely wondering why makeup didn't do my hair and nails.

Since December, Charlotte has been progressing slowly but steadily. She is really fast crawling and walking on her knees. She'll walk upright holding on to furniture, walls, the dog or our hands. She gives long, complicated speeches in German and Chinese. She'll use the sign for "bath" and occasionally one for "more." But to be on the safe side, her pediatrician recommended that we schedule an appointment to have her evaluated for occupational and speech therapies.

As soon as I scheduled the appointment, it seemed that Charlotte decided to speed things up. (Kind of like having all of your symptoms disappear upon entering the doctor's office.) She's making more of an effort to stand on her own. She's started saying "dada" and actually meaning Thomas. She says what sounds like "Hannah" and she once said "eat."

But today. Today she came into the kitchen as I was making lunch, wrapped her arms tight around my legs, looked up at me and said "Mama." And even though the tears were prickling, I could still see well enough to know that it wasn't just a sound. She hugged me. She called me mama.

I think we're going to be alright.

Now if I can just make sure that guilt doesn't become a family heirloom.

What Was the Name of That ABBA song?

We have our own little dancing queen--although she would prefer "princess." Hannah never wastes an opportunity to get in a little dancing. The Farmers Market; street festivals; and last night's concert in a park in Redwood City. Thomas took this photo of her dancing with her cousin at Laguna Seca while waiting for Uncle Jason to finish his last laps. (Hannah is in blue.)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

MUST We Be Rational?

Here we go: Taking all of the fun out of deriding each other. Advocating actually listening as opposed to, whenever someone disagrees, yelling "Shut up!" (the talking head version of sticking your fingers in your ears and repeating 'lalalalalalalalala' until your opponent actually shuts up or your producer cuts his mike). From Richard Hardwood of the Hardwood Institute comes a new proposal to put the civility back in "civil discourse:"

"[A]nyone who holds a leadership position of any kind should have to speak (let’s say, no less than three times a year) before audiences they know disagree with them, or are even hostile to their views. I’ve been thinking about this idea for awhile; but I was reminded of it again as I watched President Bush speak before the annual NAACP convention last week.
. . . . .

[T]here are important reasons why we must force ourselves to enter into these uncomfortable spaces. Too often in public life and politics, we find ways to avoid one another; we too easily detach ourselves from the concerns of others; we can come to see people merely as opponents; we demonize people without second thought or reproach. Under such circumstances, the “other” becomes objectified – someone who lives outside our realm as if they occupy a different orbit."

His reasons are sound:
  • The mere act of showing up, and making oneself present, is a public acknowledgement of other people’s humanity – a very human signal of respect that despite our disagreements, we live in a common space.
  • The pointing out of why real disagreements exist requires a leader to offer an idea, a line of thought, an argument and thus for others to see that there is a thoughtfulness and thoroughness that informs that individual.
  • There is a kind of entreaty at work in this approach – a call and the potential for a response. Even if the response is negative, we know there has been an exchange.
  • Clearly demarcating where there are real disagreements in ideas or policy allows for a discussion to be joined – there is something to be discussed and debated, even if it can’t be readily resolved.
  • Showing up means that any attempt to demonize others must be done with full accountability. If you want to take the tough shots, you must be present.
  • Finally, entering these less-than-supportive environments forces the speaker to use language that serves to engage and not push away people. For after all, the speaker seeks to illuminate his or her views, to take care in what they say, and to strive to be understood rather than to obfuscate or serve up platitudes.
  • Anyone willing to take up the challenge?