Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

Why are we angry at Susan Collins?

Sunday, September 9, 2018


What’s with all the anger at Susan Collins? She probably won’t vote with the Democrats on Brett Kavanaugh nomination and for that she’s being maligned. I don’t get the anger. or the expectations: She’s. A. Republican.

Yes, she’s a woman and women have an extra stake in this. But she is a Republican and, as far as I know, she’s been a Republican all her public life, even if I and others don’t understand it. Why do we expect that a Republican senator would not vote like one just because she’s a woman? We don’t expect that from Ben Sasse or Bob Corker or other Republican men in the Senate who, from time to time show signs of independent thought. Republican women vote Republican, whether on the Senate floor or in the privacy of their local voting booth.  I personally wish they wouldn’t, but I also wish women didn’t have to get castigated for doing what they want to do.

(For all the people offering to donate to a challenger when Collins is up for re-election, how about sending a little of that love and money to Claire McCaskill, an actual Democrat who votes with the Democrats and is fighting for her political life in Missouri. And don’t forget to support Kamala Harris when she’s up again, after the disrespect she’s taking in the name of helping us know more about this man who’s been offered a lifetime appointment to the country’s highest court.)

And somehow it feels linked to yesterday’s U.S. Open women’s final, in which an unprecedented series of calls diminished a beautiful win by Naomi Osaka and was, unbelievably, business as usual for the tennis world’s treatment of one of their finest. Would this in your wildest dreams have happened in a men’s final?

Nevertheless, they persist, those women.  I heard a radio comment trying to link the tennis calls to the #MeToo moment. No, this doesn’t feel to me like # MeToo. More like #SameOldSameOld.

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Sunday morning: starting the day, getting the news

Sunday, July 29, 2018


It’s been my observation that, no matter how adventurous and flexible we are for lunch or dinner, most of us start our day with a habitual breakfast, a daily go-to. Or maybe one of two or three options. In fact, if you’re like me, you begin with a specific set of ritual activities: exercise (ok, not so much me), eat breakfast, check email, take in the morning news in our preferred format. And on a Sunday morning, when nothing much is planned, having two newspapers waiting for me feels luxurious.  

Of course, there’s ritual to the reading, too, beginning with the New York Times’ Sunday Styles, where some of the day’s most profound questions are considered. Some, in fact,  have stayed with me over years. There was a correction, once, to a wedding announcement in which the bride’s alma mater, contrary to what had been printed, either was or was not Boston University. The memorable part, though was the fact that the correction appeared, as I remember, some 15 or 20 years after the original announcement. What could the backstory possibly have been?  I thought the Times was remiss in not addressing what they must have known would be the question in everyone’s minds.

What is sure to remain in my mind from this Sunday and last are examples of the kindnesses and cruelties, macro and micro, that we visit upon one another. Last week’s Vows (for non-devotees of Styles, the Vows feature is a lengthy item focused on a specific wedding) was a perfectly decent-sounding couple, looking happy and appropriately celebratory. In the tiny sidebar that lists date, place, etc., was the fact that only one parent of the couple attended: the bride’s father had died some years before and the groom’s parents, upset that he was marrying out of their religion, chose not to attend.  

When I read that I thought, not only of that sadness and smallness, but of the huge joy of attending the recent weddings of a niece and of a nephew which were joyously so multi-ethnic that they may have spawned glass-breaking in some Latino weddings that followed.

One of my favorite parts of Styles is the Social Qs advice column by Philip Galanes, whose words are unfailingly kind and insightful. Sometimes snarky, sometimes funny, sometimes a little reprimanding, but always empathetic. This week there was a letter from a 16-year-old who had come out to her family and found them all to be totally supportive except for her younger brother. Reading it aloud to Dr. D., I cried a little over Galanes’ encouragement, wise counsel, and above all, kindness.

And today, the “Modern Love” essay was a remarkable study in humanity in the face of inhumanity. The author,  a young man from Yemen who was held in Guantanamo for nearly half his life, learned, from fellow prisoners and one fence-breaching iguana, how to be a loving person. Now free and living in Serbia, he hoped that what he had learned would allow him to be a respectful, considerate, generous husband and father at some point in his life. To read about someone who had his life derailed in such an extreme way who could still be committed to being a loving person….well, what other section of the paper could have had more important news today?

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Around the table

Monday, June 25, 2018


So I’ve been thinking about Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s non-meal at The Red Hen, and I’m not completely sure what I think except that thinking about it feels important.

On the one hand, of course, I appreciate The Red Hen’s staff’s discomfort around serving—“serving !”—someone who enables the current administration’s actions and the owner’s decision to honor that. On the other hand, Red Hen and Robert DiNiro and Samantha Bee, et al., what happened to going high even when they go lower than we ever could have imagined?

I am always ready to agree with Maxine Waters and I hear her exhortation to confront the aiders and abetters of the administration’s policies. But what does it mean in the current reality to confront and be an upstander? Is it possible to resist and not tear our civic fabric any further than it’s already been?  Even the word “resist,” with its echoes of capital R Resistance in the face of mid-twentieth century fascism throws down the challenge to not stand silent or look away in the presence of injustice.

What seems ironic in this incident is that it happened around a meal.  Around food,  one of the basic human needs, our most primal sign of recognizing another person’s need and offering to fill it.  Of course, Sanders speaks on behalf of denying the needs of others. She may have missed a meal, but she and those she enables won’t go hungry. They won’t be without shelter or other basic needs or even less basic creature comforts. It feels like a duty to let them know this is not all right with us. And each of us has to find our own way to confront, to  resist, to “upstand.”  

But here is another thing—in the face of the dinner denied and the I don’t care jacket and the porn star and the lawyers and the indictments and the ankle bracelets and all the other distractions there is still governing going on that we and the media must not look away from.

So my take-away from the dinner story (my takeout?) is commitment to be an upstander at every opportunity. But also to focus not on each day’s ridiculous rabbit pulled from the hat  but on the real story of which road we’re being taken down.

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