The latest thing in political discourse is a talk show doozie. The liberal “Squad” has become the hate target of the week, revving up the President’s campaign rally in Florida. Charges of racism are flying all over the place after the “Send her back” chant. Thirteen seconds went by as the President sat back and took it all in. While push back was furious with much “racist” name calling applied to Trump. He disavowed those chants the next day and claimed he’d immediately started to talk fast to silence the unruly crowd. Talk show hosts had a field day with that one. The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah inserted a video of Olympic track star Usain Bolt winning a medal in the same time it took before Trump spoke.
Trump basked in the congratulations of a right-wing British commentator known for hateful anti-Muslims and anti-Semitic remarks. But I doubt anyone in the UK or the US was surprised when Trump immediately turned around and ranted about the Squad’s anti-Semitism and racism. Our political warming is producing unprecedented heat waves, stoked by increasingly divisive leadership.
Russian President Putin got my attention when he suggested that Jews with Russian citizenship might have interfered in the 2016 US presidential election. “Maybe they’re not even Russians,” said Putin. “Maybe they’re Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship – even that needs to be checked.” Putin reminded me why my great grandparents made the harrowing journey from Russia and the Ukraine to the United States. My ancestors weren’t the only ones. Between 1881 and 1924, over 2.5 million East European Jews sought to escape the relentless persecution and ghettoization. The slice of history was captured in the movie Fiddler on the Roof, but while Hollywood entertained, it didn’t fully show the history of anti-Semitism in Russia and Eastern Europe, or its ongoing ripple effect.
Birthdays that end in zero are milestones to be celebrated, or completely ignored, depending on your point of view. I choose to celebrate my milestone by writing about the beauty and value of older women. Too often, the presence of older women can be used to delegitimize a good cause. There were several editorials about Women’s Marches calling them irrelevant because so many of the women involved were old, limping, and decrepit.
Maybe I should be used to this dismissive language, I’ve heard it often enough. I’m reminded of the time I gave a presentation at a national interfaith workshop in Huntsville. Wrapping up, I asked for comments from an audience of woman chaplains and pastors. The first question had everyone nodding their heads, “How do you get people to listen to you? Once I turned sixty nobody cared what I thought or said.”
Who doesn’t know about the cops being called on two black men at Starbucks? Don’t we all know that Starbucks closed its stores around the country to do unconscious bias training? But what would you answer if asked for a description of “Unconscious Bias”? Most folks will ramble, hem and haw, or just say, “I have no idea.” When asked to describe training to prevent unconscious bias from becoming outright prejudice and discrimination, the response may be a profound, dumbfounded silence.
There’s a spotlight today on the women attempting to transform longtime invisibility into success, money, and power. How’s that working for us? There’s been a disappointing 25% decrease in the number of women CEOs in the Fortune 500 in the past year. Several corporate women CEOs earn as much, and sometimes more, than their male counterparts including Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, Debra Cafaro, CEO of real estate investment trust Ventas, and Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors. Unfortunately, women make up only 5% of CEOs in the Fortune 500. Astonishingly, only one Fortune 500 company has both a woman CEO and a woman chair of its Board of Directors. Just one.