The 2018 Midterms: The Saints Came Marchin’ In

I Got My Country Back.

Weeks after the January 2017 presidential inauguration and Women’s March, I met with a group of women who look like me—old, white, middle-class—to discuss what we could do to help right our country. We devised a plan based on the Indivisible Handbook: meeting monthly to report on our calls and letters to elected officials stating our opinions about Cabinet secretaries, legislation and impeaching the President. We all decided the most impact we could make was to help turn the Sixth Congressional District blue, ousting six-term incumbent Republican Peter Roskam at the midterm election in 2018.

Cries at 2016 post-election presidential rallies to “lock her up,” a demand to jail Hillary Clinton awakened us to a cruel reality. This America, our country, had turned overnight into a place we’d only seen in movies like Elmer Gantry and footage from 1920’s Ku Klux Klan rallies. Little by little we discovered some of our friends, neighbors and family members had voted for a man who gloried in grabbing women by the genitals and calling immigrants murderers and rapists. At first I wondered how people could be so duped by the Reality Show President. I slowly came to realize not all are fooled. People who look like me actually like his white nationalist agenda. Yep. They like him, a tells-it-like-it-is guy, no matter how crude or criminal. I dismayed.

My enthusiasm, and that of my activist friends, turned pessimistic as we drew closer to the midterm election.

Sean Casten, an environmental scientist and political newcomer, won the Democratic primary for Congress in Illinois’ Sixth Congressional District over five women. The district includes some of Chicago’s wealthiest suburbs. I had never heard of him, knew nothing about him. But he became the object of my strongest desire.

I really wanted him to win.

The day after his November victory an interviewer asked Representative-elect Casten what he attributed his win to. Without hesitation he said, “The women. My sister, my wife, the women who showed up every day in the campaign office, the ones who phoned voters from home and knocked on doors. The women.”

Democrats took 35 seats and counting away from the Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections. And I got my country back. I live in a country where white suburban voters fullsizeoutput_45efelected a 32-year old black woman nurse, a country that elected a Sudanese Muslim immigrant woman who wears a head covering, a country that elected two Native American women for the first time in history, a country that elected a married-with-children gay governor, a country where a lesbian became a conservative state’s attorney general. My country will have 102 Democratic and Republican women in the House in January, 12 women in the Senate and 9 women governors. In my country, a record forty-four percent of employers offered employees paid time off to vote.

In my country, the saints are marching in.

How I Do Without Hate

As a reward for living through every day since November 8, 2016, I look to Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche. Each day I try to do without hate. But I judge each day’s news as the worst thing I ever heard. Every. Single. Day. A bit of solace comes briefly through a pint of ice cream.

Doing without ice cream when the emotional alarms clang requires me to Hold myself tight for fear my limbs, my tongue, my head will whirly-gig out of control and irreparably damage my spirit-mind, not to mention my friendships. The Hold relaxes briefly with one simple pint. And then I do without until the wind gusts the whirly-gig back into motion.

Holding myself together generates an inward turn I take without looking both ways. I involuntarily drive straight to the core where I look for Jesus. From 2003-2011 I worked in Cook County government with a lively crew where the listening was easy. I belonged there, with cultures other than mine. God manifested himself through black and brown christs who spoke of Him: Have a Blest Day, Stay Prayerful, Jesus Loves You. Whenever the bosses above dumped demons into my serenity, Big Jim appeared and quietly laid a copy of a page from the Bible on my desk with a comforting Jesus quote circled in red. John 8:10 I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me won’t walk in darkness but will have the light of life.

The Catholic nuns gave me Jesus in grade school. He walked beside me like an imaginary floppy-eared bunny. As a newly-formed adult I moved from certainty about God and his Son to doubt. Preachers told me to welcome doubt, to throw certainty out with the th-6evening garbage, that doubting God strengthens faith. And it did. Until I started doing my own version of God. I built a periodic table of spiritual elements with blocks of God-info such as heaven and hell don’t exist and Jesus’ Resurrection is simply a symbol of renewed life. Trouble is, I silently scorned those who didn’t believe as I did. When I first met my co-workers I held a colonizing view of their beliefs. Over time my religious formulas fell in the trash heap. As slave descendants, they daily transformed their passed-down spiritual trauma into “I believe.”

Now in my own spiritual trauma I yearn for the comforting words of Big Jim and Shunice, for them to assure me Jesus loves us, all of us, including the remnants of the November 8, 2016 tragedy. I look for faith in my post-work world but Jesus is subtly tucked in for the night. My white-only community seems embarrassed, even ashamed to mention His name.

Well, I miss Him, miss talking about Him, miss Him talking to me through the kindness
and courage of my old work friends. A pint of ice cream doesn’t fill the void but it will do to keep the whirly-gig still until the Floppy-Eared Bunny wakes me in the morning.

On Winning: The Cubs and Cleveland

On Winning: The Cubs and Cleveland

Susan Keegan and I hopped in her shiny new red Cadillac Crossover in Chicago and booked out of town to Ohio.

Our mission:  canvass voters for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Ohio was a battleground state where we had friends to accommodate us for the five days leading up img_1041
to election day. Our canvassing territory was Ohio City, a quaint restored section of Cleveland. Thirty-eight hours before we left town the Chicago Cubs won the World Series against the Cleveland Indians. The final game had taken place in Cleveland, and conscious of the seriousness of our mission to win over Cleveland voters, we vowed to keep our Cubs hats at home. I even told someone I was from Toledo to curb anticipated antagonism.

We met old and new friends  – Keith from Sonoma, Carol from Washington DC, Jamie from Oakland, Dennis from Virginia and even Vivienne who flew in from Ireland for the effort to nail the Trump coffin shut in a small patch of the American body politic.

News from my iPhone said Chicago’s parade for the Cubs win would be held the next day beginning at Wrigley Field, rolling down Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue to Grant Park, right past my condo building. “Oh Noooo,” I groaned in the car, “I’m going to miss it.” “Do you want to go back?” Sox fan Susan asked half-jokingly. No, we were off to do God’s work. No turning back.

I texted my 19-year old grandson, C.J, and told him to go to my place to watch the parade. He’d already been planning to bring his brother, 10-year-old John into town from their suburban home to spend the night and get a good position on the parade route. “Thanks for letting us stay,” C.J. texted, “John borrowed your Cubs hat – I hope you don’t mind.”

By the time Susan and I arrived at Cathy and Marc Dann’s vintage Tudor outside Cleveland we were exhausted from talking the entire seven-hour drive about Hillary’s winning campaign. All the polls said she was going to win. The betting community said she was going to win. Astrologers said she was going to win. The last time the Cubs won the World Series, the incumbent party won. Since Hillary was the incumbent party’s candidate, we took that as one more sign  we were about to have our first woman president. Women were prohibited from voting for twelve more years after the Cubs last won the World Series in 1908. Women had won the pennant in 2016. This election was our World Series.

From my third floor balcony, C.J. and John each took iPhotos and videos of the Chicago Cubs open air buses with the players, their img_4826families, friends, team managers, coaches and owners as they crept down Lake Shore Drive onto Michigan Avenue. Cubs first baseman and cancer-survivor Anthony Rizzo lifted the trophy above his head as fans shouted, “We Never Quit.”

Fourteen hours after the polls closed in Ohio, Susan and I drove home. We had no trophy, no win. But we vowed, like the Cubs, to never quit.