Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

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What I am is what I am…

Minutes after meeting legendary CBS newsman Bill Plante, I was throwing up in the opulent bathroom of the Michigan Avenue Hilton.

It likely had more to do with the several whiskey waters I had tossed back that evening (a little rugged for a 20-year-old Coors Light drinker) than the excitement of meeting Mr. Plante but still, I’d just shaken hands and exchanged pleasantries with a reporter I’d watched on the national news for years.

It was the 1980’s and I was in Chicago for the Society of Professional Journalists (then Sigma Delta Chi) convention. Three of us officers of our university’s chapter made the trip to learn about journalism ethics, meet leaders in the industry and find out if we had what it took to be journalists. We did and all went on to have careers in the field.

The Society of Professional Journalists is our country’s oldest journalism organization, promoting ethics and freedom in journalism for 108 years. It was an honor to belong to it because its members represented the reporters people trusted to tell them the truth.

I grew up during a time of great journalists. Walter Cronkite, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Ed Bradley, David Brinkley, Helen Thomas, Ted Koppel, Peter Jennings, Charles Kuralt, Dan Rather, Anna Quindlen, Barbara Walters. We tuned into their broadcasts and read their articles to find out what was happening in our world. They had access to people and places we didn’t so they could go in and ask the questions we wanted to but couldn’t. That was their job – to be our eyes and ears and voices and we trusted them to do that.

I’m proud of the years I spent as a reporter and news director and hope during that time, people regarded me as an ethical journalist who reported the facts.  

Once trusted news outlets and reporters are taking a big hit in credibility these days and President Trump decries “fake news” on a daily basis. In the old days, you could back up your facts with film footage or audio clips or photographs. There was always the chance those materials could be tampered with but the technology wasn’t as readily available to do that as it is today. Now anyone with Photoshop or a video editing app can turn out altered imagery and post it online in minutes for the world to see.

So when it comes to news, if you can’t trust what you see, hear or read, what can you trust? 

Your common sense.

Fake news reels you in because it usually contains just enough truth to make you think it MIGHT be plausible and that little bit of doubt makes you overlook the misinformation and inaccuracies. We’re in such a rush to know, know, KNOW everything that we don’t take the time to step back and use our common sense. 

It’s your right to believe what you want to believe. But wouldn’t you rather believe something that was TRUE?

There are still good, ethical journalists out there who are doing their damnedest to tell us the truth. We just have to be open to hearing it.

Where do you get your news? What media outlets do YOU trust?

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voter-instrux-1116I’ve voted in every general election since 1984. As a registered Independent, those are the only elections I can vote in but I never considered that a limitation to having my voice heard. I appreciated being able to vote for the person I truly thought could do the best job regardless of their party.

But Tuesday, for the first time in my voting career, I’ll be voting for the person I think will do the least amount of damage.

Clinton and Trump have definitely made the 2016 Presidential race one worth talking about. People I’ve never heard discuss politics before are talking about it now…loudly. Friends who haven’t been registered to vote in years, if ever, will be casting ballots on Nov. 8.

There’s a multitude of reasons why we vote for who we vote for. But there are a few I just can’t accept.

I’m only voting for Hillary because she’s a woman.

It’ll be an historic moment if we finally elect a woman president. Other countries have long had female leaders; it’s crazy that it’s taken this long for our country to get on board. The first woman president of the United States will be under tremendous scrutiny and face a lot of criticism if they screw it up. Plenty of people are waiting for that to happen. Don’t vote for Hillary just because she’s a woman; vote for her because you believe she’s the best PERSON for the job. History will write itself on the gender issue.

I’m only voting for Trump because we need a change.

Change is coming no matter who wins. Trump’s appeal is that he’s the anti-politician and Americans are tired of the typical politician. Don’t vote for the Donald because he’s promising to “change” America; every politician runs on a platform for change. Vote for him because you believe he’s actually got a plan – a viable, specific plan – to change America for the BETTER.

I’m only voting for Clinton/Trump because I don’t want Trump/Clinton to win.

Leave that kind of strategy to high school homecoming elections where the winner’s biggest duties are riding on a parade float and posing for a yearbook photo. The person who’s elected on Nov. 8 will spend four years making important decisions that affect all of us – our families, our businesses, our financial stability, our future. They’ll have a lot of power and if they don’t know how to use it, we’re all in trouble.

Most of what we’ve heard about our presidential candidates in the last few months are reasons why we SHOULDN’T vote for them. Is Hillary Clinton the first political candidate who’s made questionable decisions, acted in secret and has blood on her hands? No. Is Donald Trump the first political candidate who’s groped women, insulted minorities and run an entire campaign without detailing what he’ll really do once he’s in office? No.

In South Dakota, we’re limited by law (SDCL 12-18-15) to no more than 10 minutes in a voting booth on Election Day. I’ve read the Secretary of State’s pamphlet on the ballot measures and marked my sample ballot already. When I walk into that voting booth on Tuesday, I’ll spend about 3 minutes actually voting. Which leaves me 7 minutes to stand there and wonder if I’ve made the right decision.

Are you nervous about the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election? Why or why not?

 

Honors from Ronald - circa 1983

Yes, my mom DID save everything. So she could give it to us as Christmas presents when we became adults and de-clutter her house…

“Hey, any McDonald’s employees in the house tonight?”

Our table at the Riviera Comedy Club was so close to the stage we could have tripped the comedian on his way to the mic. He couldn’t help but notice my hand in the air; it was the only one in the room raised.

“Oh my God, you actually ADMIT it?”

Yes. Yes, I do. My declaration of McDonald’s loyalty provided about three minutes of comic fodder along with enough embarrassment for my husband that I’m no longer allowed to raise my hand at comedy shows (I have to keep my hands at my sides for auctions, too, but that’s another story). I’m sure there were more of us in the Vegas crowd that night. There had to be. Roughly 1 in 10 workers in the United States have been employed at McDonald’s at some point in their lives. And their website currently touts 761,000 employees in their U.S. restaurants alone. That’s a lot of Hamburglars.

I worked on two different McDonald’s crews, several years and hundreds of miles apart. The lessons I learned as a grill jockey became an important part of my work ethic and while working at McDonald’s may not be anyone’s dream job, there are a lot of people who could benefit from being part of the crew.

In this election year, what if we required every candidate for public office, regardless of the level, to work at McDonald’s for one week? Here’s what they’d learn:

Basic Economics: The simple rules of supply and demand. Estimating quantities to avoid excessive waste. Handling money responsibly. And learning to make change because sometimes things should cost LESS than people expect.

Teamwork: McDonald’s employees work stations during their shifts: drive-thru, counter, grill, fries. When one person doesn’t man their station, it throws everybody off. Do YOUR job and encourage those you work with to do THEIRS. One person can’t, and shouldn’t, do it all.

Flexibility: Work a McDonald’s counter on a Friday night when two busloads of high school kids pull in right after the grill is cleaned and the floor‘s mopped, and you learn to roll with the punches. Put a smile on your face, say “How can I help you?”, listen to what they want and give it to them if you can.

Respect: For yourself, your co-workers and the public you’re serving. You get what you give; give respect and 85% of the time, you’ll get it back. Don’t expect 100% because it‘ll never happen. There will always be that customer for whom the fries are too salty and the coffee‘s too hot.

One week, working for Ronald McDonald, can make you a better leader. It worked for Mayor McCheese. And if you don’t get elected, at least you’ve got some marketable skills for life after politics.

What lesson do you think political candidates should learn before they run for office?

Just over a year ago, I was fortunate to hear an amazing woman named Eva Mozes Kor recount her experience as a Holocaust survivor. Recently, a young relative of one of my best friends had the opportunity to hear her speak as well and from all accounts, the power of her message has not diminished in the last 12 months. In recognition of today being Holocaust Remembrance Day, I’d like to reintroduce you to this incredible person.

WARNING: Some of the links in this week’s post contain graphic images.

The room was packed, the crowd much larger than expected. People filled the seats, stood along the walls, knelt in the aisles, and crammed into the small balcony and entry way. At the speaker’s request, chairs were brought onstage so everyone who needed a seat (and there were several older attendees who did) could have one.

The speaker walked out wearing a smart blue suit and a brightly colored scarf, carrying a handbag the size of a suitcase. She stopped center stage and stowed it between a leather armchair and a small table holding a vase of yellow tulips. Then she said in heavily accented English, “I would like the lights turned up, please. I want to see everyone who came to see me.” The moderator, surprised, complied. The old woman smiled, sat down and began to talk. She is Eva Mozes Kor, a 78-year-old Romanian-born Jew and a Holocaust survivor. She was 11 when Auschwitz was liberated and she didn’t speak about what happened to her there until 1985. Eva has told her story hundreds of times since then and this week, I was wedged into a space along the crowded back wall of Meier Recital Hall on the campus of Black Hills State University to hear it.

When my husband asked why I was driving 3-1/2 hours to hear Eva Kor speak, I said simply, “Research.” For the last several months, I’ve been working over an idea for a WWII novel about a half-Jewish American broadcaster who ends up in a concentration camp and is forced to do propaganda for the Nazis. This was an opportunity to meet someone who had survived the horror of Auschwitz. But I also had another more selfish reason for going: I’ve been in a writing slump as of late, and I needed to hear a story that would slap me across the face and say, “LISTEN.” I got one.

You won’t find Eva’s whole story here; it’s hers to tell and it’s compelling when she tells it, as you’ll see when you check out the links. She’s sharp and funny, a spitfire at 78, grown from the firecracker she was as a child. Not even Auschwitz could extinguish that spark.

Eva was 10 when she and her parents Alexander and Jaffa, and her three sisters Edit, Aliz and her twin Miriam stepped off the cattle car at Auschwitz. They quickly became separated: Alexander, Edit and Aliz herded one direction, Jaffa, Miriam and Eva another. A Nazi came down the selection platform looking for twins and noticed Eva and Miriam were dressed identically. He asked Jaffa if they were twins. “Is that good?” she asked. He nodded. “They are twins,” she said. The girls were grabbed from Jaffa and led away. The last sight they had of any of their family was their mother screaming and reaching out for them. And Eva and Miriam Mozes became Mengele Twins.

Liberation of Auschwitz

Eva and Miriam Mozes are the two children on the right in this photo taken when Auschwitz was liberated. (from http://www.candlesholocaustmuseum.org/)

During the course of World War II, Dr. Josef Mengele conducted atrocious experiments on approximately 1,500 sets of twins between the ages of 2 and 16. The experiments were a daily occurrence; Eva recounted spending 6-8 hours a day naked, being measured, probed and injected. For others, the experiences were even worse. The experiments finally came to an end shortly before Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviets in 1945.

What happened to Eva, Miriam and the other Mengele twins is unthinkable. But what Eva did in 1985 in response to it is even more astounding. She publicly forgave Dr. Mengele and the Nazis for what they did to her and her family. Her controversial act (which drew criticism from Holocaust groups and other survivors) is chronicled in the documentary “Forgiving Dr. Mengele”.

The standing ovation at the end of Eva’s presentation was well-deserved. Her message of forgiveness, whether you agree with it or not, was profound. This should be the part of the post where I say that her speech was an epiphany for me, one that shattered my writer’s block and led me to produce page after page of the best prose I’ve ever written. Didn’t happen. I didn’t go there expecting an epiphany; I expected information which is what I got – specific details about how the gas chambers worked, what the prisoners were fed, what it was like on that winter morning when the Soviets in their white camouflage uniforms stepped out of the snow and gave the starving children chocolate. But I left there with something else I hadn’t expected – a sense of perspective about the power we have over our own survival and that to move past the obstacles in our lives, even those as small as the occasional bout of writer’s block, takes forgiveness, and sometimes that means forgiving ourselves.

To find out more about Eva Mozes Kor, visit: CANDLES Holocaust Museum,  “Surviving the Angel of Death: The True Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz”

Who is an enlightening speaker you’ve heard and what did you take away from the experience?