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OPINION - We do NOT want to return to Great America era

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OPINION - We do NOT want Trump's “Great America” 

Why We Do NOT want to Return to That "Great America Era” Trump praises.

By Sandra Maresca

“I don’t see why it’s important to vote for Hillary just because she’s a woman,” mused the articulate and poised 19-year old Harvard sophomore.  She was one of a half-dozen students and several of her parents’ and grandparents’ generation enjoying pizza while we discussed politics around a big round table during the spring of 2016.  “We’re really beyond having to fight for women’s rights,” she continued.  “I’m voting for Bernie because he stands for what I really believe in.”

I was mystified and stunned at her position. 

But not as mystified and stunned as I am now in March of 2017, watching in horror as D. J. Trump, the quintessential “good ole white boy”, and his cabal of white, mostly-male reactionaries assume the top positions of power in Washington D.C.  A good ole white boy who won the presidency of what used to be the greatest power in the free world without a drop of valid qualifications because so many people did not vote for Hillary Clinton, arguably the most experienced and qualified leader in generations, because they could not “trust” her.

And, I will argue forever, because she is a woman. In the new state of the world, I fear sexism (along with racism and misogyny, and homophobia, and so much other prejudice) is now openly exposed as the ugly underbelly of today’s American landscape.

I wake up every morning feeling the emotionally-laden burden of so, so many questions for which I have no answer.

How can the world as we knew it under former President Obama have turned completely upside down in just a few short months?

How can decades of battles for justice and equality be systematically unraveled so quickly?

Why was Hillary viewed so negatively by so many who should have seen the dangers of NOT voting for her?

Why did so many (like the young woman in the pizza parlor) opt to not vote at all last November because Bernie was not on the final ballot? 

What can be done now to salvage even pieces of the multiple gains won since the 1950’s by brave crusaders and liberal voters but now being dismantled on a daily basis? 

What can I—a white, healthy, well-educated, conscientious, retired 73-year-old woman -- do to make a difference in the marathon fight ahead to resist the insidious dangers being wrought on the human rights of women, the LGBTQ community, the environment, immigrants, people of color?

And I certainly cannot forget to worry what will happen to our youth under a secretary of education who values Christian charter schools over a strong public education that teaches how important it is to learn from history’s mistakes and how to exercise critical thinking to ferret out the truth in this new era of “alternate facts” and fake news.

It’s time for some enlightening education.

It’s time for my generation to start sharing our stories of what we have experienced in our lifetimes during the years where Trump would have us believe that  “America was great”.  It’s time for us to explain to our younger people that no, it was NOT all that “great.” Not if you weren’t white and male and financially secure.  For the rest of us, life could be very challenging. And I’ll give you a few anecdotes to explain why.   

In 1966, after graduating from UC Berkeley, working for a year as a French teacher and serving as the sole support for a husband who was still a student at Stanford, I was unable to obtain a credit card without my husband’s permission. Even without an income, he was receiving unsolicited Visa offers in the mail, yet I could not even qualify for a gas card.

In 1968, as a divorcee teaching in a high school in Fremont, CA, our school district voted to allow women faculty the right to wear trousers to school. My principal, however, proudly announced at a faculty meeting that HE was making an exception to the new rule and insisted that his female teachers continue to wear skirts because he was “a leg man”. 

Also in 1968 my best friend, Sally, had to lie about her age when she applied to be an airline attendant (AKA “stewardess”) because to work in that profession one had to be less than 26 years old, female, unmarried, attractive, and within a certain ratio of height and weight. Once she got the job, she had a male supervisor who weighed and measured her and inspected her makeup and hair every time she reported for duty, even going so far as to ping her on the bottom to ascertain that she was wearing the required girdle under her mini-skirt uniform.  And if that weren’t humiliating enough, she and her fellow flight attendants had to tolerate occasional groping from male passengers as well as sexual remarks and lewd invitations.

In 1969 - As I watch the Republicans move forward aggressively on their mission to overturn Roe Vs. Wade, I have vivid memories of a historic night that changed forever the life of a young woman who did NOT have access to a safe legal abortion. On the night of July 20, 1969, a young teacher friend of mine underwent a dangerous illegal abortion performed by a Vietnam veteran paramedic while her neighbors and I watched the first moon landing on the TV in her living room.  The complications of that procedure left her sterile and curtailed her chances to make a different choice in the future. On that fateful night, Neil Armstrong took a small step and mankind took a giant leap forward. For me it was a night of public triumph and private tragedy. Now I feel like crying when I realize that “the good ole white boys” want to take us back to an era when we women did NOT have a choice in matters concerning our bodies.

The 1970s - During my three years as an honors graduate student at UCLA in the early 1970’s, I got my only “B” grade from a married male professor whose sexual overtures I declined. 

In 1979, when I applied for my first job in the business world, it was okay for an interviewer to ask my age, marital status, whether I was on birth control, if I planned to have children.

In 1984, I was hired for a marketing job that, unbeknown to me, the company offered to fulfill a mandate resulting from an equity class action suit requiring that more women be hired in management.  However, after just seven miserable months, I was able to break my employment contract without penalty when the legal staff discovered that my supervisor and his male cohorts were creating an environment that made it difficult for me to do perform the function for which I was hired.  As a result of my case, the all-male team for whom I worked was required to undergo a week’s special sexual harassment training.

In 1990, I was appalled that so many of my colleagues—both male and female—thought that Anita Hill must be lying about her accusations of Clarence Thomas sexual harassment during his  Supreme Court nomination hearings. I decried my female co-workers who claimed, “If he really did those things to her, she would have reported him at the time”.  As a single mother who needed to keep her job, I understood all too well why Ms. Hill did not feel empowered to report such offensive behavior from an authority figure and risk losing her job.

As the new administration continues to roll out its agenda of turning back the clock on all these years of struggle for social and economic justice for those of us NOT in their exclusive “club”, I continue to flash back on incidents of my life and I fear for us all as we watch our morally challenged president lead us backwards in history to the not-so-great era of the hegemony of powerful white men hell bent on ruling without much hope of real checks and balances.  

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