Susan on Medium

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In 2017, when Hillary Clinton emerged after a well-deserved hiatus to resume public service, the calls for her to quietly leave the stage and take up gardening or knitting began to pour forth.

Georgia’s On My Mind…

As we near a hugely consequential election, I present a tribute to Georgia via “Designing Women,” excerpted from my forthcoming book on growing up with television.

We’re so sorry. We make great bourbon, but we let the country down.
We didn’t get rid of Mitch McConnell.

Last year, I was asked to write a preface to a forum that my former graduate students, now successful teachers and writers, had put together for the journal Frontiers. It was published in March 2019. Now, in December 2020, as I’m struggling with pandemic weight-gain, I thought others might identify. So, encouraged by Facebook friends, I’m publishing here. Please do tell your own stories in response!

One of us is “pro-choice” and Jewish. One of us is a “pro-life” Christian. We put these labels in scare quotes because we believe it’s time to get beyond labels and move forward on our common humanity. Branding others is Trump territory. We refuse to go there. And we refuse to let our differences blind us to our shared commitment to defeating Donald Trump — a man who violates both of our traditions. Bill Clinton recently said, of Ruth Bader Ginsberg: “She was not a woman to be labelled.” She was clearly not a woman to label others, either. Following her example, we have looked beyond each other’s labels and discovered that despite the political rhetoric that would thrust us on opposing sides of a divide, we share a great deal.

1968

For months we had been bombarded on television with horrendous, uncensored images of the war in Vietnam. In March, American soldiers massacred 347 at My Lai. Two weeks later, President Lyndon Baines Johnson, the target of anti-war rage, said he would not seek re-election. In April, Martin Luther King had been assassinated on the balcony of a Memphis Hotel, and the inner cities exploded. Just days later SDS students at Columbia barricaded themselves in the president’s office while black students occupied a separate building. In May, Parisian students went on strike, tearing up the cobblestones of Paris. A few weeks later, moments after victory in the California primary, Bobby Kennedy was murdered in the kitchen of a Los Angeles Hotel. A few days before, a marginal member of Andy Warhol’s circle, Valerie Solanas, also founder of SCUM, the Society for Cutting Up Men, shot him in the stomach. Prior to the shooting, she had written a manifesto calling for “systematically fucking up the system, selectively destroying property, and murder.”

Remember that charisma can be just as dangerous as it is compelling. Charisma is subjective. It’s also the appeal of cultists and authoritarians, as well as our greatest leaders. Jim Jones and Hitler, to their followers, were seen as charismatic. And Incredible as it may seem, Trump supporters see him as charismatic.

Gabby Giffords said that sometimes it’s a fight for her to find the words. That’s how I feel this morning. How to describe what I feel? It’s a struggle, and that’s unusual for me. But I can say some of what we were given last night.