Dear Balogna and Dicker,

So here’s what I just chose to waste precious life-minutes doing: I looked up the most popular names for 1980 so’s I could make a meme for people with those names. My intent was to shame them and blame them for all the crap our poor world is dealing with right now. I thought I’d do my little part in making the world a better place by finding us all a Generation X scapegoat this time. (I figured it was GenX’s turn now.)

Here’s what I found: The most popular names for boys born in 1980 were Michael, Christopher, and Matthew. The most popular names for girls born in that year were Jessica, Jennifer, and Amanda.

And, when I saw those names come up, all my nefarious plans for name-shaming just melted away. I thought of all my students over the years with those names and I smiled at the happy memories. I thought of how my young friend, Amanda, stood next to me at the local BLM rally and chanted, “Black lives matter!” with me. I thought of my former student, Michael, who’s all grown-up now and lives across the road and volunteers his time and energy in keeping our neighborhood spruced up by planting trees along the street and giving us gravel to smooth out our driveways. I thought of my journalist friend, Matthew, who wrote such a nice story about my dad. I thought of my former student, Jessica, who always greets me with a cheery smile when we run into each other at the supermarket. And I thought of my friend, Jennifer, who I’d met while she was walking her sweet dog, Maya – a dog she’d rescued from euthanasia at a shelter.

And I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do the name-shaming game – even if it meant diverting attention from people named “Karen.”

Dear Balogna and Dicker, I wish you would stop – I wish you would stop perpetuating the “Karen” meme and the name-shaming. “Huffington Post” is supposed to be one of the “good guys” of the magazine world – a bastion of progressivism, fairness, justice, equity. You guys are supposed to stand up to the bullies – not be bullies yourselves. Yet, just when I think the meme has died out and I’m seeing headlines that refer to “racist woman” or “Tennessee woman” or “maskless woman” instead of “Karen” – “Huffington Post” will publish a story about “Karenting” or “anti-mask Karen.” And…I just don’t get it…what’s the point? How is that helping anyone or anything? I don’t see the Karen meme helping the LGBTQ, Asian, or Black communities. I don’t see it saving our environment or ending wars or helping our veterans, or lowering health care costs. I don’t see it helping women find equity, or see it promoting compassion for the elderly or mentally ill or vulnerable. I don’t see the Karen meme adding anything good to the world at all. It’s as helpful as talking about a “maskless Balogna” or an “anti-vax Dicker.”

In the last week I’ve had to notarize papers, and co-sign other papers, and call the IRS to verify the identity of my deceased 101 year-old father and talk to a bank manager about an ATM machine with a glitch – and, believe me, none of this was stuff I WANTED to do. In my personal experience, I’ve found myself talking to managers because I’ve had life-responsibilities that gave me no choice but to talk to managers. I’d rather have gone on some nice walks.

Sincerely,
Karen

Here’s a photo from a nice walk.

The Karen Meme: As If We Don’t Already Have Enough to Deal With

Dear Huffington Post:

You’d think a writer named “Ron Dicker” would be one of the last ones to use the “Karen” meme in his story.

Until now you’ve been one of my go-to places to get information – progressive, smart, witty and wise. But that just changed, for me. It turns out your writers, too, are bigoted, unkind, bullying, and mean-spirited. As if the inhabitants of our world don’t already have enough crap to deal with right now – dying friends, dying family, dying planet – let’s perpetuate that whole “Karen” thing, right?

Note: The maskless woman was named “Terry” – not “Karen.”

Words, people. Words matter. I expected more from your writers than old labels, unoriginal thought, stereotypes, sexism, ageism, and bigotry. What good were you adding to the world by using the Karen meme? How is that going to make our world a better place?

I am sorely disappointed.
Karen

Karens for Justice (Trust Me, You Want These Karens on Your Side)

Without going into detail about what was going on here, my eldest son just witnessed me talking to a customer service rep on the phone. During the course of the conversation the customer rep asked me my full name. I told her I was really embarrassed to give her my first name now because of the meme, but I promised her I wasn’t going to want to talk to her manager. The son could hear her laughing through the phone. We had a delightful conversation and she helped me solve my problem and wished me a good day.

The son said he really enjoyed listening to how I talked to the rep. He said he witnessed me “dispelling myths and solving problems at the same time.”

That felt good. 🙂

Honestly, though? Lately I’ve been struggling with the Karen meme a little.  For years my Karen friends and I have marched, gone to rallies, written letters against bigotry and injustice, fought our own personal battles for equality – and now it feels like all that we’ve invested  in equality – all our words and efforts – are being brushed aside like they never mattered to anyone or made any difference.  The Karens – or maybe middle-aged women in general – are being lumped into one monolithic group and stereotyped – told by others what we believe – our own personal narratives taken from us and discounted.  

And that really stinks.  

Yesterday morning I read an article about a man who wrote “BLACK LIVES MATTER” on his own property and was chastised for doing that by a woman NAMED LISA who didn’t believe him when he said it was his property. I was immediately indignant on this man’s behalf – ready to share his story in my Facebook progressives group. And then I saw it. The news writer covering the story – a mainstream media writer named Madison Vanderberg – wrote: “The world is still protesting, marching, calling DA offices, signing petitions, and overhauling their social media presence in the name of civil rights and yet, despite all of this, Karens of the world are still calling the cops on people of color.” And a little further on the man himself – the very man who had been a victim of bigotry – referred to the woman NAMED LISA as a “Karen.” (It is interesting to note that no label was attached to the woman’s husband – who was also present.)

And seriously?

I found myself shutting down – just staring at the screen and trying to process what the hell I’d just read there.

And here’s the thing: Exchanging one target of bigotry for another is not progress, you know?

Let me share some of the stories of the Karens who are my friends –
Karen Blair Troinello was a gifted runner, born at a time when females did not have equal opportunity to participate in school sports. She changed that: “Troianello is more than a passionate advocate of sports for girls. She is a pioneer who left her name — her maiden name — forever etched in state history. She is the former Karen Blair, the named plaintiff in the landmark Blair v. Washington State University lawsuit in 1979 that forced greater gender equity in college athletics.” (The Seattle Times, June 16, 2012.)

Because of Karen Blair Troinello equity was legislated for females in school sports. Let’s show her some appreciation.

My friend Karen Beckner has long fought for equality – here’s a photo of her in The Skagit Valley Herald, marching for the rights of migrant children.

And my friend Karen Rippberger ran for public office as a progressive in a conservative district in Oregon, and – although she didn’t win the election – she’s played a huge part in helping her local LGBTQ community’s battle for equal rights. Laura Camacho wrote in her voter’s guide: ” Karen Rippberger has a servant’s heart approach to leadership that is palpable on her website.”

Trust me – you want the Karens who are my friends  fighting on your side. The Karens who are my friends don’t put up with bigotry, inequity, stereotypes, ageism, racism, sexism, discrimination, or lazy labels.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

“All _____ are…”

When someone says something like, “All Republicans are…” or “All Democrats are…” or “All Christians are…” or “All Muslims are…” or “All Mexicans are…” or “All atheists are…” – when whole groups of people are lumped together as if they all feel, think, and believe the exactly same things just because they share the same label – that is called stereotyping. Stereotyping is a sign of bigotry. I really, really hate bigotry.

“It’s a very important thing to learn to talk to people you disagree with.” – Pete Seeger

I remember on Election Day when I was a little girl my mom and dad would go off in a car together to vote. My Dad supported one political party, and my mom supported another – but they cheerfully got in the car together and went to the polls to cancel out each others’ votes. They weren’t angry with each other because they disagreed about politics. They didn’t yell at each other, call each other names, cuss each other out, or think the other person was somehow an inferior human being – lacking in intelligence, reason, logic, and good sense. Nope. They loved each other. They respected each other. Although they’ve since then become members of the same party, at that time, they totally disagreed with each other about American politics – and it was alright.

They were a wonderful example to me.

Although one of my parents was, then, a Republican, and the other was a Democrat, although one was religious, and the other not – they shared the same values. Both my parents valued honesty, integrity, kindness, generosity, fair play, compassion, the beauties of Nature, and having a good sense of humor about oneself. They brought their children up to value those things, also.

Here are some useful things I learned about the exchange of ideas and opinions from watching my parents interact with each other:

– Be kind.
– Play fair.
-Laugh at your own nonsense, before you laugh at someone else’s.
-Sometimes saying you’re sorry is the most important thing you can contribute to a conversation.
-Avoid hearsay.
-Don’t assume that a person is lacking in intelligence or reason just because he or she disagrees with you.
-Listen.
-I’m really grateful I grew up with the parents I did. I think it would be a marvelous thing if everyone treated each other with the same respect my parents gave to each other as they drove off to the polls on election day.

 kind-people-unite

Millenials Rock!

Quick stereotype – because, like, what would the world be without them, right?: The Millennial generation rocks! There’s just something about this group of people that… I find myself trusting in them to do the right thing. They seem to lack a lot of the prejudices and nonsense that came before them, and they don’t seem at all intimidated or daunted by the idea of forging massive political change. More than that – I see kindness in them. Yesterday on my walk back from the post office a “Millenial” stopped his car to ask me if I needed a lift. I told him I was enjoying my walk, but thanked him for asking. He laughed and said he’d figured I was out for a walk – but he’d seen me when he was driving the other direction and just wanted to make sure I was alright. Yup. I think our future is in good hands.

(Click here to read   The Six Living Generations in America, an interesting piece by Dr. Jill Novack.)