Friday, January 22, 2016

Finding Your Power

 Witch hazel in bloom. The power of nature to stay on her schedule.

I haven't posted for quite a while. I really wanted to check in today and let you all know that I am still alive and kicking, but I didn't really know what to say.  Then I just now read an editorial that showed me the way and what to say.

In the New York times, David Brooks writes today on The Anxieties of Impotence.  
As Anand Giridharadas writes in The International New York Times, “If anything unites America in this fractious moment it is a widespread sentiment that power is somewhere other than where you are.” 
The Republican establishment thinks the grass roots have the power but the grass roots think the reverse. The unions think the corporations have the power but the corporations think the start-ups do. Regulators think Wall Street has the power but Wall Street thinks the regulators do. The Pew Research Center asked Americans, “Would you say your side has been winning or losing more?” Sixty-four percent of Americans, with majorities of both parties, believe their side has been losing more.
In a different way, the American election has been perverted by feelings of powerlessness.

Americans are beset by complex, intractable problems that don’t have a clear villain: technological change displaces workers; globalization and the rapid movement of people destabilize communities; family structure dissolves; the political order in the Middle East teeters, the Chinese economy craters, inequality rises, the global order frays, etc.

To address these problems we need big, responsible institutions (power centers) that can mobilize people, cobble together governing majorities and enact plans of actions. In the U.S. context that means functioning political parties and a functioning Congress.

Those institutions have been weakened of late. Parties have been rendered weak by both campaign finance laws and the Citizens United decision, which have cut off their funding streams and given power to polarized super-donors who work outside the party system. Congress has been weakened by polarization and disruptive members who don’t believe in legislating.

Instead of shoring up these institutions, many voters are inclined to make everything worse. Plagued by the anxiety of impotence many voters are drawn to leaders who pretend that our problems could be solved by defeating some villain. Donald Trump says stupid elites are the problem. Ted Cruz says it’s the Washington cartel. Bernie Sanders says it’s Wall Street.

The fact is, for all the problems we may have with Wall Street or Washington, our biggest problems are systemic — the disruptions caused by technological progress and globalization, mass migration, family breakdown and so on. There’s no all-controlling Wizard of Oz to slay.

Brooks goes on to say we must work to repair institutions and have a functioning Congress. As citizens we have work to do. 

As I have read and listened and watched and studied these past weeks, I have again and again been struck by how fearful and powerless people feel. Our current political mess is a result of that. This fear was reflected by my friends at breakfast this morning, at the horror of the prospect of a Trump / Palin presidency. 

But I refuse to buy into that fear. I am determined to retain my own sense of power and to exert whatever small influence I have over the thinking of others to not react out of fear, but to examine all forms of information carefully and to think deliberately about not only what is good for me, but for my country, and to look at what is possible at each step along the way to achieving what we want our outcomes to be. 

I was reminded recently about the fear that was so prevalent in my childhood. The movie Bridge of  Spies and the TV show Madame Secretary both made reference to the duck and cover drills we did in school to "protect" ourselves from a a nuclear attack. The threat of an atomic bomb dropping on us was real and re-lived every day. But we all came through that. Cooler heads and better angels prevailed. They can and will again. We need to do our jobs to support those "cooler heads". 

And on a more personal note, our son Jake has been fighting his own battles. When he called us last Sunday morning to say he needed to come talk to us, we looked at each other and thought "Oh oh". 

I don't want to go into details. Our son has a right to privacy. But the result is that he is now living with us for a while. He has been accepted as a trainee with the US Postal Service and is in the orientation process for his new career. Sunday was day one of taking power over his new life, a life that he has decided he does really want to live, and on his own terms. We now celebrate each day as progress toward that goal.

One thing that I do know is that among my blog family are a group of powerful women, and a man or two as well.  Stay strong, don't hide from the forces of fear, and use your power well.  The world needs us.


  1. I'm staying strong despite Palin and Trump.

  2. Linda this post is touching because it's evident it comes from the deepest part of your soul. I read that David Brooks piece & thought it was very good. I have to say I am totally puzzled by the impotency of the Republican Party these days. Perhaps this is what happens when you feed people a steady diet of fear and anger for 20 years, you grow a generation of angry fearful people. I've felt like for a while now that Jake was struggling. Added to that was that terrible break in his ankle. That was really a bad break. I suspect he will have pain from that for years to come. I'm pleased he's reached out to you, and pleased he wants to make positive changes. I can only support you while you support him. Life is hard sometimes.

  3. Staying strong and proud of my convictions. Thanks for this wonderful post. Life in the fear was awful but it was what we knew. I am just thankful I had a mother who reminded us daily that fear was a waste of time for the most part. How wonderful that you can help your son through this time. Happy you are back, Linda!

  4. Your are right about using your own power and believing in it. I can also relate to what you're going through with your family. Sigh... we never stop worrying about our children do we? I'm glad you've got Jake with you so he can heal with the love of his family around him.

  5. I refuse to believe that Trump is electable, but history is filled with stories of populations that didn't believe it could happen to them...until it did. Will some future generation look back at this time and say, "That's where it all went wrong, that's where they made the fatal mistake." I hope not. I'd like to get back to the true American values of respect for all and caring about others. There has to be middle ground...I wish there were a few leaders who were looking for it!

  6. I remember thinking that Ronald Reagan was unelectable, too. I am giving money to my candidate of choice and hoping for the best. I appreciate your wonderful post, Linda. And my very best to Jake. :-)

  7. Excellent post. We are much better off than we think. Too many times we are convinced that things are wrong when it's really someone wanting support their own self interests . We win some and lose some. We don't have to have a hissy fit when we lose. I could get carried away on this topic.

  8. My calendar this year is Mary Engelbreit's "Attitude is Everything." Fear seems endemic to the political process lately but I have promised myself not to give in to that. I choose to honor my own power and maintain an attitude of strength.

  9. Interesting to think back to those days of "duck and cover". We survived that, so we can make it again.

  10. It is good that Jake has a solid set of parents to lean on. He has gone thru it physically and I hope this move is what he needs.
    I saw that Madame Secretary episode and was reminded that as dark as times are now, we have been in worse. I'll keep exerting my power in the voting booth and contacting my congress men--a functioning Congress would be a lovely surprise.

  11. I remember hiding under my desk away from the windows. Not sure how much that would have protected us. This is a frustrating time we live in especially politically...

  12. I do hate to see the worst sins of our personality going for the dark side. I did not realize there were so many angry and illogical people.

  13. I am glad that Jake is taking charge of his life and is embarking on a new career.
    As for powerlessness, I would feel powerless if terrorists killed tourists on Waikiki Beach or shot us while we were listening to a symphony at the Blaisdell. It upsets me that 2 refugees perpetrated the massacre in Turkey. When will the bloodshed end?

  14. Glad to hear that Jake is taking charge of his life. He is lucky to be a part of such a supportive and loving family! Your post about fear hit the spot for me and has spurred me to stop throwing my hands up and thinking, "what can one person do?" Thank you for that!

  15. Glad to hear that Jake is taking charge of his life. He is lucky to be a part of such a supportive and loving family! Your post about fear hit the spot for me and has spurred me to stop throwing my hands up and thinking, "what can one person do?" Thank you for that!

  16. Amen, sister. I so agree with you. I am also happy to hear that Jake called and sought you as he sorted out his new life of living on his own terms. It is hard launching our adult children at times. Heaven knows of the heartache I've had over the past five years in walking through life with my children as they sort through things they didn't go through in the teens and early twenties. Thankfully, I am seeing them all start to take their own power back. Phewww. What a relief.

  17. Yes, the world really does. Glad for Jake...and you two also.


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