Is Politics Worth Losing Family and Friends Over?

If someone had told us 50 years ago, that a news network, started by someone from another country, would come here and start a broadcast network that airs stories that are only in line with one party, we would have said, No, that will never happen, that’s propaganda! If someone said, Democrats and Republicans will be at each other’s throats, so much so, that friends are lost and family connections are strained and even broken, we would have all said, No way, never — that won’t happen in this country! 

But it has. News we see clearly as one-sided propaganda in countries like Russia and North Korea, we don’t recognize as propaganda here. And in March, when Fox News own analyst, Colonel Ralph Peters, quit after a decade of working with them because he claimed they were a propaganda machine, even stalwart Fox viewers must have been asking themselves, What motivated that? The New York Times quoted Peters as saying: “In my view, Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration,” If you can’t believe a respected, retired member of our military, who can you believe?

I’m sure Peters resignation has been hashed out back and forth, and both sides came up with their reasons for either believing or discrediting him.  And, in fairness, MSNBC can be just as one sided as Fox.

I don’t usually talk about politics in my blog because I have family members and great friends, who I love and have the greatest respect for, who are members of the Republican party.  And yes, I’m a registered Democrat, (but did vote for a Republican once).

If we could just talk issues, without personal attacks, that would be great, but it doesn’t happen anymore.

I simply refuse to paint all Republicans with a broad brush. When your own family and best friends are registered Republicans, you just don’t do that. I know and love these people. We have similar values, we were raised the same way,  and if they feel the way they do, I’m sure they have valid reasons. I’m not about to slam them. They have every right to their feelings.

But, so do I.

And we have to ask ourselves as a nation: Are politics worth losing family and good friends over?

Sadly, this post started out with me answering, absolutely not! But something happened that changed my mind.

I don’t post political things on Facebook because I think it’s very destructive. Plus, if I can’t prove a story is real, I won’t post it. Posting untrue stories just furthers ignorance and is incredibly destructive, as is posting demeaning things.

Which is why I recently confronted a Facebook friend over a video she/he posted. It was originally a commercial for Becel Margarine , a product of Unilever, sold in Canada and other countries. The commercial was developed by Ogilvy Canada. It was brilliant advertising, showing how people won’t bother to make an effort when it comes to their health. It shows two people, a black man and a white woman, on an escalator when the escalator stops running. Instead of walking up the stairs the rest of the way, they start yelling for help.

The commercial was then used by the Republican Party and labeled, Democrats on an Escalator during the 2008 election.

The Facebook friend was a relative. I’ve probably spent less than 24 hours in my entire life talking to this person, so I wouldn’t say we’re close, but she/he always seemed nice. Not only is the video insulting to me, as a hardworking Democrat, it’s insulting to the memory of my father, and my still living uncle, one of the hardest working people I know. All of us are Democrats.

I know this person was fond of my dad and my uncle, and I think, used to be fond of me, but probably no more. I reminded this person that people in the family, including me, are still hardworking Democrats and that she/he is better than this kind of post. I honestly did it thinking that if this person knew this post was hurtful, she/he wouldn’t post things like that anymore. I knew this person to be a good soul. I really didn’t do it to be nasty, and didn’t name call or demean, just pointed out that it was hurtful.

We went back and forth a few rounds, her/his friends chimed in that I had no sense of humor, then this person went on about how funny it was and how good the acting was, not knowing it had been an actual commercial first. She/he went on to post more things that just reinforced other negative stereotypes. When I commented again about the new posts, this person said, “Right or wrong, this is my Facebook page and I’ll post whatever I want.”

And even though I hated to do it, I unfriended this person because clearly whatever connection we had, that used to keep things civil and kind,  has disappeared into a haze of ugliness, prejudice and demeaning posts. And just like she/he has every right to post whatever she/he wants on Facebook, I have every right not to have to see posts that are insulting to me and the memory of my father.

In memory of the 50th Anniversary of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, I wanted to err on the side of love and compassion. There was a beautiful article in the Los Angeles Times last Sunday about the busboy, Juan Romero, who was in that last tragic photo of Bobby Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel. It made me sad all over again and I longed to honor Bobby Kennedy by mustering up all my love and understanding. I know that love always triumphs over hatred and that truth always prevails over lies, but love and truth seem to be losing lately.

Whatever hatred gets the most viewers wins, whether it’s on TV news or Facebook.Whoever shouts the loudest, or calls the other person the most demeaning name wins.  Behavior we would have disciplined our kids for we now accept from our leaders, and some of us do it in the name of Christianity. Being mean spirited, bigoted, lying, name calling, and posting things that are verifiably untrue, are all business as usual now. People have seen the lead taken by news media and our politicians, and have jumped on the bandwagon.

And we’re losing family and friends because of it. If Bobby Kennedy was here to see it, he’d be so disappointed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanking a Couple of Soldiers for Letting my Father Live

Memorial Day usually makes me think of cook outs and barbecue, but this year, I’ve been thinking about soldiers.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching another Ken Burns documentary, this one about World War II. Or maybe its because I know how much being a soldier in that war meant to my dad.

He came back from World War II with an Army tent, his canteen, mess kit, a gas mask, a fork and knife with U.S. stamped on its handle, a very rough wool army blanket and more. He never talked about the war until he was about 95. All he would say was, “War is hell.” Then, suddenly at 95,  it was all he wanted to talk about. We would walk into doctors offices and he would strike up a conversation with anyone who’d listen about the war.  But there was one story I’d never heard from him until about a year before he died.

Cropped Dad in Marseille August 2 1945

My dad, in the foreground, in Marseilles, France.

After training in Ft. Lewis Washington he went to Europe. He spent time in Brussels Belgium, Marseilles France, England and probably a few other places I can’t remember. My dad served as a medic in the war in the European theater. He was under Gen. George Patton.

He said the thing that really got him was the day Gen. Patton showed up and was choosing men for a mission. My dad was one of the ones he picked. He was about 29 at the time, about 10 years older than the other guys, who used to call him Pop. Two younger soldiers who were his buddies said, “No, Pop, we’ll go — you’re too old for this kind of stuff.”

He heard a few days later that his young friends had been killed in the mission and it left him wondering why they had to die and not him.

Dad's hat

I bought this for my dad a year before he died. He wore it proudly.

I don’t have the answer. Maybe it’s just luck, or fate, or God’s will, but I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to those two young men.  I wish I knew their names, so I could salute them properly.  If it wasn’t for their sacrifice, I’m sure I wouldn’t be here. I know my dad thought about them often. I think they would have been proud of how he lived his life and kept  his military bearing until his last years.

One of my favorite memories of him was from my last visit with him in New Brighton. I’d been home and done as much as I could for him in the few days I had. He was very appreciative and it was a great visit. As I was leaving we had our usual hug and tearful goodbye. Normally, he’d walk me to the door and wait there, waving until I pulled away, but old age changed that.

Dad Saluting.JPG

Dad, in the front yard with a flag my brother Bob bought him.

This time, as I was walking away, he struggled out of his recliner chair, wobbly without his walker. He stood as straight as he could in the middle of the living room, wavering slightly, and saluted me. It didn’t register with me at the time, but now I know that was the highest honor he could have given me.  It was the last time I saw him conscious.

On Memorial Day, I salute him, and all the men and women who’ve fought and given their lives for our country. I know I would’t be here without two of them.

Trashy Progress

Well, I can’t say I’m Eleanor Roosevelt, when it comes to creating change in the world, but maybe if I start, one street at a time, I can make a difference.

I just finished watching Ken Burns: The Roosevelts on Netflix and was absolutely mesmerized by these remarkable people.  I’ve been searching for political figures who inspire me lately, and I remembered my mother always speaking so fondly about President Roosevelt. I thought I’d watch and see why she felt that way.

It was a seven part series and I became totally engrossed in it. Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor were all truly remarkable people we were so lucky to have. They were all such stellar examples of how adversity can really test a person and make them come out that much much stronger. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.

I was a little surprised to see that history pretty much keeps repeating itself and we keep having the same arguments and discussions. Too much government interference, not enough government, and on and on and on. It seems to me that things improve by tiny increments, instead of leaps, but they do improve.  We just can’t give up.

styrofoam cups

It’s as if they expected a waitress to come along and just pick it up.

Which brings me back to my trash issue.  I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been concerned about trash.  The giant pile of trash floating around in the Pacific Ocean is the biggest manifestation of the problem.  But I also worry about our landfills and all the plastic that’s not recycled there, and how all that trash is going to come back to haunt us someday. Then there’s all the trash I see when I go to the ocean or the river. Why are people so cavalier about just tossing stuff in the street? How do they not get that this is the only planet we have? I’ll never understand it.

So, since I’m so vexed about it, I decided to write to the City of Glendale. And guess what? They wrote back!  Two people wrote back, which thrilled me. The first response said that I was not alone in my concern and lots of people are complaining about the trash situation – so yay! And here’s what his supevisor said: “I agree with you, please give me a day or so to go up and assess the issues and get back to you on this.”

Then he wrote again and said: “Fran, we are putting together a Community Beautification team leader position and a crew for that person, for this kind of thing so it’s in the works! I went out today we have six litter baskets around the college area but none around the school so I will be working that. Thanks”

Well, it’s a start. I’m going to write to the elementary school principal down the street from me and see if they will start teaching their kids about the litter all over our streets and what they can do  to make a difference.

Like I said, we just can’t give up.

 

 

Go Ahead, Call Out Your Sexual Harasser – For All of Us Who Didn’t

me and company car

Me and my last company car.

Right out of college, I got a job as a Retail Sales Representative for the Warner Lambert Company. I sold Listerine, Listermint, Efferdent, Effergrip, Schick Razor Blades and Sinutabs. The products weren’t glamorous, but it was considered a very good job. There was about a 10,000 dollar difference between the package I would have gotten as a teacher,  and this job, so I went with the better salary, bonuses, great benefits, and a company car.

I called on drug stores and grocery stores. I learned to talk to people and give a presentation without breaking a sweat. I learned to get people to like me, or at the very least, tolerate me. I learned that getting thrown out of a store was something I should not take personally.  I learned to navigate western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio with no GPS, just a map and determination.

And I learned to put up with men making unwanted advances.

Of course, I’m thinking of this because of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman, and whoever the next sex scandal will involve. When I looked on Facebook a while back and saw all the, “Me too’s,” from women who were sexually harassed one way or another, I wasn’t surprised. Then I added my name to the list.

I never really thought about it at the time, it was just part of being a woman in the 70’s.

I was 22 to 26 years old during my sales years of 1977 to 1981. With make up on, hair blown dry and dressed nicely, I was considered attractive. I’d dealt with boys coming on to me in college because college boys are just a vat of raging hormones. I thought it would be different once I became a professional, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Some men overtly flirted with me when I walked in their store, but I was fairly good at deflecting them and nothing ever came of it.  I only ever dated one guy from one of my stores for about a month.

Then one night, an older, married man, who I didn’t find attractive at all, actually called me at home. I know I didn’t give him my number for any personal reason. I’m sure I gave it to him thinking it was for business.

He was the assistant manager of a grocery store on Market Street in Boardman, Ohio. He actually just straight out asked me to have sex with him. I was shocked and reminded him that he was married and he said, “I’m not asking you to marry me, just have sex.”

I needed to maintain a good relationship with him because it was my job to go into his store every few weeks and make sure it was well stocked with our products. So, I laughed and joked with him because I really didn’t know how else to handle it.  There was no one to tell back then, and part of the problem was, like most of us, I was raised to believe that men were just being men when they propositioned you.

But a more consistent harasser was a married district manager of a chain of drug stores in Ohio. He was very nice and friendly and always took the time to listen to my Listerine presentation, then he’d say, “I’ll order as much Listerine as you want, if you’ll go to bed with me.”

Again, here was a guy who had the power to throw me out of his stores (and he was in charge of a lot of them) so I knew I had to stay on his good side. I’d playfully punch him in the arm and tell him how funny he was. He’d come back totally serious and say, “I’m not kidding.” And I’d say, “Well, I’m not going to do that.” And he’d say, “Well then I won’t buy your Listerine display.” And that would be that.

I used to take him to lunch, hoping he could be persuaded by kindness and friendship, but he always had the same answer, and so did I. But, I have to believe it must have worked for him sometime.

This man had two little girls who were both toddlers at that time. He never mentioned them, I only discovered that fact when I happened to drive past him as he was pushing their stroller down a street one day. I was totally disgusted that this married man with two young daughters would behave so horribly toward women. To this day, I remember his name.

I never even thought of telling my boss at Warner Lambert. Back then, companies were just starting to hire women in a sales capacity. I was the only woman in my region for years. I didn’t want to spoil it by acting like I couldn’t handle it.

And I wonder if the company would have done anything. They needed to maintain a good relationship with the stores too. That’s partly why they hired me. I was young, female, personable and, in addition to filling a quota, they probably figured an attractive female could generate sales.

It made me wonder if any other female sales representatives put up with harassment back then, so a couple days ago, I called a fellow sales woman I’m still friends with named Susan. She said she was never harassed, but Susan is not the kind of woman you mess with. She could fire back a snappy response that could shrink a man in seconds. I wasn’t quite that self-possessed.

So, today I did a little digging.  I wondered if my harasser still  worked for the same company. I looked him up.  He doesn’t. He’s in his 60’s now and lives in Florida. His Linked in profile shows him on a boat, on a turquoise ocean under a beautiful Florida sun, with a self-satisfied expression on his face. He has his own business now, and I hesitate to give any more details because he’s not hard to find. With very little effort, not only did his Linked in profile come up, but so did his home address from VoterRecords.com.

I fantasized about outing him and wrecking whatever home life he may still have. But I would never do that to another woman. And besides, he was never aggressive with me, just repeatedly asked me to have sex, and always took no for an answer. He was always cordial to me and let me do my job, so was my experience so terrible? Not compared to some women, I’m sure.

So I decided to connect with him via linked in with this invitation:

Dear _____,
I worked for Warner Lambert back in the 70’s. I called on your _______ area  _______ stores. You always used to say you’d put up a Listerine display if I’d go to bed with you. I forgive you and would never out you, but would love a belated apology. I think you owe me that.
Best,
Fran Tunno

I wondered if he’d respond. I doubted he’d even remember me. But last night I was surprised by this response:

“Fran, I apologize for my behavior in _________. I’m embarrassed. I was very immature back then. I think I did put up displays for you though. Hope you are doing well in California.”

So, I guess there’s hope. At least he apologized — he could have just ignored me. Maybe the fact that he has daughters helped.   (But I can tell you this: I KNOW he never put up any extra displays for me!)

And I don’t know what happened to him after I left. Maybe someone reported him. Maybe he was reprimanded. Maybe he changed his ways. Maybe he just grew up.

I was all ready to hate him for getting to live this comfortable, seemingly carefree, affluent life, after behaving badly, in upper management, for who knows how long, but I don’t.

I’m glad times have changed though, because if my daughter was going through the same thing today, I’d have no qualms about telling her to report it. Hollywood actors are not the only ones who get sexually harassed. Sales representatives in small towns deal with it too, as do many others. No one should have to put up with that crap when they’re just trying to do their job…and immaturity is no excuse.

 

Singing My Loudest — Why I Love My Car

I went to the movies last week and saw Baby Driver,  a movie so full of amazing action, romance, sweetness, fast cars, evil, and the most fantastic sound track, it has me thinking about cars and music, and how sometimes the combination can be life-changing.

I also now understand why people get so attached to their cars.

My car is not flashy. It’s a 2006 dark gray/blue Honda Pilot. I didn’t like that color, my ex picked it, but since I’d made all the payments on the car, I got it in the divorce and it’s grown on me. It’s only broken down on me a couple of times in over 150,000 miles, which is a pretty decent record. My Pilot drove me out of California with a couple of El Sauz burritos, two horchatas, Brandon, my step-son-co-pilot,  and two dogs in the back — after a divorce that shredded romance for me and left my soul gasping for air.

Pilot, driver's seat.JPG

The driver’s seat of my Pilot

I took turns with Brandon driving across the country, almost 2500 miles. I wish I’d taken photos of our journey — but I have none. It was a great trip for me, and the most time alone I’d ever spent with Brandon.  He’d originally agreed, thinking the kids would be along too. When he found out it was just me, he could have backed out, but he didn’t. I’m still so grateful he went.

We walked the dogs, talked a lot, practiced Italian, went to Prairie Dog Town — a place that claimed to have the world’s largest Prairie Dog, got a ticket in Kansas (I was driving) and arrived at my brother’s home in Ohio after four days.

Kids with Bernie and dogs

I never noticed how worried Bernie looked in this photo until now. I think I know why.

Brandon got a flight back to New York — he had to be back for work — and I finally landed on my dad’s doorstep. I knocked on the door of the house where I grew up, and when my father opened the door, I broke down in tears.  We hugged for a long time, just standing in the doorway and finally made our way, up the three steps into the kitchen.

I felt like a pathetic loser. How lucky I was to have a dad who loved us enough to take me, my two kids and even the two pooping dogs in.  I stayed there for two years,  unable to buy a house because of stricter loan requirements. I worked on re-inventing myself, helping my dad while he helped us, and trying to stay sane.

Having my family there was wonderful, but getting divorced, losing my job two weeks later, then having to sell the home we painstakingly remodeled for 13 years, and losing with my entire way of life and lots of friends, was a challenge. In the wide scope of things, and compared to serious life and death situations some people endure, I know it was definitely a first world problem. But being career-less and moving my family into my childhood home, with my 95 year-old father with worsening dementia, was not what I imagined I’d be doing at 55.

My escape road

My escape route

So, at night, after I tucked him into bed, sometimes I’d run an errand, just for a ride alone in my Pilot. I’d drive down the roads I used to drive on when I was a teenager looking for fun, only now I was driving to escape.

I’d put one of the CD’s in the car that my daughter painstakingly made for me, roll down all the windows, even in the dead of winter, and sing at the top of my lungs. A couple of favorites were “Dog Days are Over” by Florence and the Machine, Diego Garcia’s, “You Were Never There,” Bon Iver’s, “Holocene,” and a song by Cults called “Bad Things,” that had this line in it: “I’m gonna run, run away, run, run, away…” you get the idea.

I’m quite certain, I looked like a lunatic, but it kept me sane.  Screaming those lyrics was pretty cathartic, but I couldn’t run away. I had my dad to think of, kids and dogs and a career to resurrect. I had to stay and figure out what the hell I was going to do.

But those moments, when it was just me, my car, my sadness and frustration, loud music and country roads in front of me, made that Pilot more than just a car. It was a friend, who carried me away and let me sing at the top of my lungs when I needed it.

Two years later, I drove back across the country so my daughter could finish high school in the same town she started kindergarten, get a better education, get to know the cute boy she’d met on summer vacation, and I could figure out how to start over in California, the place I had contacts and a track record. It took a few  starts, but at least I’m on a path now and have more of a plan than I ever did before. I’ve heard the saying, God laughs at plans, but you have to start somewhere.

I still have my Honda Pilot. I can’t imagine ever getting rid of the car that carried me out of California and brought me back in, a stronger, more whole person still singing at the top of her lungs.

I Can’t Shut Up Anymore!

I know, most of you are saying, “Wait, when have you ever shut up?” But I do sometimes edit what I say here for fear of offending some readers, but I just can’t worry about it anymore!  I just watched “Chasing Coral,” a multi-award winning documentary on Netflix and was so affected witnessing the devastation of our coral reefs, I whipped into action. I am not a diver and I’m a barely capable swimmer, but this isn’t about saving coral reefs just because they’re beautiful to look at, the death of coral reefs is a very serious threat to our planet and it’s been going on for decades.

“Chasing Coral,” is all about the impact global warming is having on our coral reefs. They’re dying because the temperature of the ocean is rising. Some sources say the earth has lost half of it’s coral reefs in the last 30 years. The documentary was created and researched with the help of some outstanding scientists and marine biologists and they all agree, coral is a fundamental part of a huge ecosystem.

If there’s one thing science teaches us it’s that all life is connected. If you get rid of one thing “you” might not consider important, it affects everything else.  I’ll pick something annoying like mosquitoes. Everyone hates them. Let’s say we eradicated all mosquitoes — then what would creatures like birds and bats eat? Pretty soon all sorts of species would die, just because of stupid annoying mosquitoes. That’s the way it is with coral reefs, which are neither stupid,nor annoying. They are gorgeous and they’re home to an amazing number of fish and sea animals. If you think their death isn’t going to affect sea life, and you, you are badly mistaken. Continue reading

Who Will ALS Take Next?

So far, my friend, Bob Deyan has been taken by ALS. My brother lost two of his best friends and fraternity brothers — John Conti and John Delserone to this disease. An old boyfriend’s mom passed away due to ALS. She was a sweet, smart woman named Toots. I’m sure you know people too. It seems like the worst diseases take only the nicest people.

If there was a serial killer out there torturing innocent people horribly then murdering them, we’d be up in arms, but ALS is doing that to people every day and we haven’t done enough to stop it yet. We have to stop it.
Continue reading

Bobby Kennedy – Some Inspiration for These Times

I’ve never been more concerned about our country. There’s such anger and division, it’s as if we’ve forgotten the U.S. is supposed to be the ideal. We’re supposed to be the example the world looks to, where everyone lives together and gets along — The Starship Enterprise of countries. The place where justice prevails.

My nephew, Patrick and I were talking this week about how we want inspirational leadership for our country. We want a great leader — someone who makes people strive to be their best. Someone who inspires by example. He mentioned the remarkable speech that Robert Kennedy made when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

I was 13-years-old at that time. I remember the horror and hopelessness I felt when Robert Kennedy was assassinated, but I didn’t recall this speech, so I went online to find it. It brought me to tears. Continue reading

Be the Best Example You Can Be

It’s great to have a friend who’s an investigative reporter. He can do things like find out where old flames live and what their marital status is. But that’s not the only reason I’m friends with Don Ray.
Don’s a genuinely good person with a passion for both, a great story, and history. Plus, years ago, he traveled 2, 000 miles to be at my wedding for one day and I barely had time to even talk to him! I still feel guilty about it.

A while ago, Don invited me to participate in a reading with him, as part of the Endangered History Project.   The story he wanted me to help him tell was particularly appropriate in today’s political climate. (Please click on the link and check it out, it’s a non-profit organization well worth supporting!) Continue reading

Something about Good Friday…

I am not what you would call religious. I was raised Catholic and am certain I’m a better person because of it.  But somewhere along the line, I fell away from the church. Occasionally I find my way back – and when I do it’s usually on a Good Friday. Continue reading