Tag Archives: Politics

This is why I believe in affordable healthcare

16 Jan

View story at Medium.com

I’ll always remember the screams in the other room and that sound marked a divide: my life before my Dad got sick and the after-life. I was 19 years old, and my greatest concern at that time was whether I should have bought those pink puma sneakers that I had encountered the day before — the coolest shoes at the time.

I ran into the laundry room and saw my Mom on her knees, “your Dad’s been fired,” she said. In disbelief, I asked why.

My Dad was a hard-working man, from a lower-middle class Jewish family. His father, my grandfather, was a vendor, selling programs and beer at concerts and Cubs games. Beloved by all, my Grandpa helped to provide for three kids, with two of them going to college.

My Dad was a teacher turned business-man, who got swept up in the 60s and believed in social reform. He believed in this country, before he turned bitter, and he believed in people’s power to impact good.

He was always disappointed that I was not more socially active, but outside of that he adored me. Being a father was the absolute, greatest joy of his life, and he devoted his life to raising me — giving me hours of his time in a way that I didn’t see replicated by anyone else’s dads.

However, at 19 I found out that he had been having seizures, “adult-epilepsy,” was what the doctors said, and he wasn’t responding to any of the drugs that they were giving him.

He had a seizure at work, while leading a meeting. A week later he was fired. When we took the company to court, his boss stood on the stand and lied.

Adult epilepsy turned into TIAs: small strokes that eroded his short-term memory, so that when he got a new job he was unable to remember anything that he had learned — and so he was fired again.

Soon he wasn’t permitted to drive, and then he had open-heart surgery, and then his blood wouldn’t clot, and then his kidneys stopped working, and then he was sitting there pen & paper in hand, doing worksheets meant for second graders — in an effort to retain anything.

Meanwhile, we had health insurance. In fact, we had some of the best health insurance available, as my Mom was a nurse. Still, the bills piled up. For every procedure there was a dollar amount attached to it.

I felt helpless — I offered to transfer colleges (to an in-state one). I got a job and started paying my own bills and buying my own books. It didn’t feel like enough.

I sat in waiting rooms with my Mom, both hospital and administrative, making sure my Dad got the care that he needed, while making sure our family didn’t go broke. All the while making sure I was able to complete school, so that I could at least have a chance at contributing to the society that held our patriotism in its fist.

And, I will never forget how many times my Dad, my Daddy said to me, “I’d be better off to you and your Mom dead,” and I would push back my tears, smile, and tell him how much I loved him — I would tell him how wrong he was.

But, he was draining the family: emotionally and financially, and there was no denying it.

Having someone you love slowly deteriorate over an eleven year period is a certain kind of hell that no one deserves. It is a constant drowning, and the only way to keep living, is to grasp onto anything, any hope, any resilience and this will keep you afloat.

To take this family, any family, and put financial stress on them is a level of cruelty I cannot understand.

Making sure my father took his 42 pills a day was hard enough on my Mom, and then she would sit there at night, with her pile of papers, and figure out how we would pay for it all.

My family is one of many families, and we were luckier than most. White, educated, insured with other family around to support us. But, in the waiting rooms around the country there are families who have less and need more through no fault of their own.

I know Obamacare, or better put, the Affordable Healthcare Act isn’t perfect; that a lot of work needs to be done there. However, right now there is nothing to replace it, and we cannot let those who are supported by it suffer and drown.

One of our unalienable rights, as citizens of The United States is, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” and taking away a person’s healthcare with no replacement, takes away any hope of all three. For without health — nothing else is possible.

Yes, we can: leadership

11 Jan

A year ago today, nervous and scared, I started what was then my new job. I had never carried such a weighty leadership role before, and I wasn’t sure if I was up to the task. Of course, the doubts were rooted in my own fears and insecurities, but it went deeper than that – to that place of uncertainty. That murky place where you can’t even see yourself because you don’t know what shape your face is taking, and I had no idea what a leader would look like within me.

To my surprise and delight, this has been one of the most fulfilling responsibilities that I have ever taken on in my life. Yes, it has stretched me thin, taken me to my own edge and sometimes sparked all the doubts that live within me, but that’s what growing feels like – uncomfortable and slightly painful.

In this past year, I have constantly self-evaluated, asking, “how can I be better? can I approach this differently, and what might I learn?”

Through this process, I have been given the opportunity to live my own leadership philosophy, and with that, deepen and enrich it.

A year ago today, I committed myself to some guiding principles and they were:

  1. Take responsibility – if it happens on your team, it’s your fault.
  2. Empower – do not diminish your people. Guide them as you can and give them opportunities to shine.
  3. Gratitude – say thank you, appreciate the time that is put into tasks because most people would rather be home.
  4. Teach – share knowledge, and if mistakes happen (as they always do) either learn, or help others learn.

These principles have served me well, for they are reflective of what I have always believed – leadership is not a selfish pose of personal gain. Effective leaders do not diminish and belittle others. They do not shame them and rub their face in their mistakes. Instead, they create an empowering environment where people can discover what they’re truly capable of – because it is always more than they believe.

That has been one of the greatest learnings of my life; that within live reservoirs of resilience and they’re there to drink from when you need them. Eight years ago today I was unemployed, unable to get a full-time job, living with a couple in a tiny room and feeling like all that I believed myself to be was not within my reach.

But, let’s remember, “yes, we can,” and always; that we can never do it alone. That “can” can never happen from a locked down place of fear and uncertainty.

For, we are a nation in crisis, and the face of it takes many shapes: political, socioeconomic, racial, gendered, and it makes us question who we are and what do we represent? Asking, “what are the values that define us?” This question is one that we all need to personally answer for ourselves.

I see a demanding road ahead for it’s a path that I well-recognize – one that feels uncertain and slightly painful. My hope is that the answers to our questions lead us towards grace, so that we do not diminish one another. That this moment makes us learn, so that the face of it is not one we look towards in the future – and instead, we look at the answers that live within our greater selves.

I cannot remain silent

23 Nov

I have a friend who works at Fox news, and we have frequently been in long conversations about the state of The United States. In many ways we are aligned, but in so many ways we stand on opposite sides, and it’s friends like him that make me want to be silent.

For he is symbolic of many people that I care about and love; people who I would never want to alienate in any way. And while privately, him and I can hear one another out, I know that when you put your voice out there, in the public, when you choose a side, not everyone will stand with you.

However, I have decided that I cannot remain silent and observe the heart of our nation being broken – for that is what is happening. We are splitting in two, and it is ugly.

Every day I ride the C train and transfer to the A – the train that, in a recent interview, Lin Manuel Miranda said when casting Hamilton he wanted it to, “”look like what you see when you get on the A train to go to work.”

The train is all colors and all languages. It’s crowded, uncomfortable, and every day I witness beautiful moments. People of different races, and classes, existing together, moving through the city, and dealing with one another.

The homeless quartet whose harmony was so unbelievable I thought they were lip-singing to a recording; the corporate-looking ,frat-dude who was the only person to hand money out to the clearly disturbed, deaf, beggar; the elderly man who offered a pregnant woman his seat; the young black girls sharing their man problems and the elderly white lady turning to me, saying, “getting old isn’t so bad,” while smiling at them.

These moments warm my heart because it’s why I chose to come back to the U.S. after years of traveling; it’s why I chose to live in New York. To be all together, standing there, all just trying to get where we want to go.

And, I cannot be silent while I watch the underbelly of hatred bubble up and blanket our nation.

I know it was there before; that our country was built on slavery; that racism and sexism have been threaded throughout every iteration of our government, but something has broken open. It’s being released and is poisoning our air.

It is all of the anger and fear that we have been carrying. It’s people whose insurance premiums have been too high, whose jobs have been lost. It’s small businesses who are being broken by their taxes, it is those who feel like what they believe in, “their America,” has been stolen from them.

It is the inability to relate – it is the image of a plane flying into a building. It is looking at the, “other,” while gripping onto whatever you got, screaming “don’t take this from me.” It is the hand reaching out, grabbing, and saying, “and that’s mine too.”

It is the digital revolution that has stormed into our cities and broken down our every system, so that even our communication has changed – for who talks to each other anymore?

It is egoism, it is feeling wronged, it is sexism, it is everything that sits within the shadows that we all carry and we cannot let those those win.

And, I don’t believe they can. For in every story there is always a time of darkness, a time when the demons and devils rise – when hell is not a concept but a reality, and all hope seems lost.

The fight seems endless, the light far, and yet, it is in the breaking open, the other side, at the end of the tunnel, when the light hits your eyes so bright that it blinds you.

So, friends, loved ones, I will keep talking, and standing for the light – and I will never go silent, until I am extinguished, for I am not afraid of the dark.

There’s still magic to be found

12 Nov

I don’t know what to say and most I know feel the same way. Some of us are silent, others are shouting, and most everyone is afraid. My Trump friends are elated, my Hillary friends are so angry their eyes are turning red, and the city of New York is openly weeping.

On Wednesday, I felt fear when I left work, and the streets were lined with police and protestors, and I felt the hum of violence in the air.

I don’t like being political because politics can be so petty. Two people, two parties, shouting at one another, trying to convince others to vote for them. As a student of history, as a Yogi, as a peace-believer and love-maker, this feels wrong to me; that when there are two sides the only result is a split, a divide that strikes through our systems in irreparable ways.

This goes against what I believe about people; that what sits within us is not so different no matter the nation or nationality. This belief was born when I went to Spain for the first time, at sixteen, and I stood on a beach with people from Italy, China, Switzerland and the US, and we were all teenagers who wanted to be liked – who wanted to explore, be kissed, to dance, get drunk and run the streets of the small town that we were visiting.

Some of us were more privileged than others, some of us more educated, some had happy families and others not so much, but in my heart I knew that we all strove for a similar thing – for the right to seek our happiness, the pursuit of it, no matter what it looked like on the outside; that was our youthful, motivating factor.

I have sat in shacks in Ecuador with families of 12, with 14 year old mothers, and I have stayed with friends in Colombia whose brothers were stabbed by gang members. I have spent days on farms in Bolivia, and  on small, impoverished islands where there are no options other than the sea. I have bused through Nicaraguan towns, and I have biked through the English countryside where I was the first American that some of the villagers had met.

I have lived in Illinois, Indiana, California, Colorado and New York – I have been both red and blue, and I  have always come to the same conclusion. That the ability to live a simple, peaceful life is the greatest gift of all. That fear is our greatest monster, and it’s one we cannot escape, and that people say they want, “change,” but to transform, to shift into a different way of being is never easy –  and is rarely peaceful.

That empathy is the alchemy to the world’s shadows, and so I will never stop listening, and traveling, and reading, and hearing both sides because I know beneath it all I am not so different from the other.

So friends, let us not fight hate with hate; let us not fall into despair because love does win, even the darkness. It’s the light inside of us and when it is ignited, we can let other’s ugliness enter it and they, too, will be warmed by our way of being – for there is still magic in this world.

On Wednesday, to soothe myself, I popped into my local bookstore because it’s the way that bookstores are supposed to be: warm, welcoming and well-lit. Unexpectedly, there was a famous female poet performing. She was speaking to the experience of womanhood, and when I looked into the audience I saw men, women and people of all colors, snapping their fingers, being moved by her words – funny, furious, violent and healing.

And I thought, no matter what anyone tells me, now, or in the future, if they say, “go back to where you came from,” I will smile and say, “okay,” because I’ll know that I am home.




I’m back, at the page, and it feels good

4 Aug

I walk through the streets of New York and feel the throbbing energy pulsate up through my feet, and I smile, like a never-ending summer; like the melting heat that I can smell, and I know I’m in love.

It’s a ripping kind of love, an earned love – it’s not easy or quiet. In fact, it never shuts up.

People don’t stop talking here, and we all can hear each other. There isn’t enough space for our words to breath, so we’re all on top of one another, complaining, but we love it.

In English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, Hindi and Portuguese, we’re all here standing together on the goddamn subway – stuck underground. Eventually, though, we all emerge, streaming out into the streets, bumping into one another as we rush to our next destination.

Having lived in Illinois, Indiana, California, Colorado and New York – I am keenly aware of the different styles of living that each city and state possess. And, I’m aware how each environment both attracts a certain kind of person and shapes their perspective.

And, a fierce rooted love lights up in my heart for New York because there is a sliver of space for me to be all that I am – and, if one is willing, there is room for you too.

And I think, “Isn’t this the kind of country that we want to live in?” one that believes there is room for everyone even if we’re straining against the seams?” A country that believes we can get a little closer, squeeze together, to make more room for another soul who has the right to, “pursue their own happiness,” and whatever that looks like for them?

It is in the arid expanses of space, conforming and white-washed, that we can forget all that exists outside our own environment and perspective; we can forget that a tapestry’s beauty lives in the varied colors that are woven together.

But, I get it. I get it more than I say – and I haven’t said much, as of late. There was a silence that descended upon me after my Dad died – the words left me, and all I could think about was, “move forward.”

I had nothing then: jobless, homeless with a few thousand dollars to my name. It was January and bitter cold. There were no travels ahead, only an entire life to rebuild, and the determination to do it.

Now, a year and half later I can revisit the page, and in doing so, I’d like to champion communication, I’d like to champion bridges – not walls.

We are scared, and we have every right to be. We are divided and that makes sense to me. I don’t comment on politics because I have seen so many different perspectives – I have lived in them.

I have sat in small towns in Indiana and listened to the reasoning, I have heard spur-clad cowboys in Colorado, and I put my face to the sun in Dolores Park, in San Francisco, and heard from people all over the world commenting on our nation.

But, at the end of the day for me it is New York, it is the subway – the most efficient and obnoxious form of transportation. The great equalizer.

It is the brown child laying it’s head on what I believe to be its Mother, it’s the French couple discussing things I cannot understand, and it’s the Asian schoolchildren, giggling, and that white guy staring into his phone.

America is a dream – one made from Utopia, and for those who don’t know what that means it’s nowhere.

But, don’t we need to believe in what we cannot see; that can potentially not exist? Don’t we need to believe that we can leave our childhood homes with almost nothing to recreate our lives? Isn’t that what is “great” about the “United States,” that we, at times, have provided space for people to come onto our shores with a few dollars and a dream and believe that they can make something better for themselves – which can benefit the country as a whole?

Isn’t that the true spirit of being an entrepreneur? How can I approach this in a new way? How can I make possible something that doesn’t yet exist?

Creation is not a solitary act – bringing any being into life takes two people, two perspectives, and that is just a beginning.

The ending is where we stand alone. This I’ve seen. I watched my Dad take his last breath, and I wasn’t with him; he was by himself somewhere, a place that I might see myself one day.

That is the fear – that is the uncertainty. That is why I run down the street, knocking into others because, “I’m not going to let anyone else steal my cab,” that is the nature of the beast, and that is why I love New York.

It is a place for beasts and for compassion – the dual sides of our nature is wrapped around every mode of living. The man who carries the homeless woman’s walker up the stairs, and the person, slamming their hands down, screaming at a car, as if it will respond.

But, I don’t want to live in the screaming. Make space for it? Yes. But, I’d like to believe that at the end of the day, most of us want to be the person who’s carrying that disabled, impoverished woman’s walker up those fucking stairs.

Emerging, into the cloudless, August day – knowing that intangible, idealistic myths are the very story of creation.

A being of energy, of light, some all-powering God, spent seven days making this earth – and then we bit the Apple, we are the creation and the Fall.

(Wo)man will always bite the apple, and that’s okay – so there’s no need to reach for that tempting snake who promises you a paradise that you already live in.

The subway will arrive eventually, though never on time. And, all of us, standing together, fighting for our square to stand in will both smile at one another and push each other out of the way, struggling, hurrying, reaching towards our next destination – which ultimately will end up being our last one.

So, maybe, let’s slow down, and take some time to get there. Let’s make space for our different perspectives and modes of being – let’s create in a way that serves us. Let us believe that we have the courage to go off, with very little, and make much of it.

We, the People and How We Live

6 Jan

My life cannot be lesser than what I know.  Yet, as the cliché goes, or wisdom, the more you know the more you understand how much you don’t know.  While that is true, that secondary knowledge can be a stop-plug, a barrier that prevents people from taking action.  A catalyst to the plea, “but what can I do, I am just one person.”

This is the plea that people, including myself, whisper to themselves as they move through their lives.  It is the one that allows us to ignore the fact that we’ve been at War since 2003, the one that allows us to ignore our overexerted finite resources, it is the one that doesn’t want to read about the fiscal cliff; it is the hopeless, helpless cry that makes us asleep to our society’s truths.

It is overwhelming.  Our nation’s structures have been laid on a broken foundation, a belief in the infinite, and fostered in the spirit of the individual, not the collective.  People are subconsciously afraid of the collective because Communism/Socialism has tainted the word; however, in a globalized age, I believe the word Collective should represent Community.

Social and political structures should serve, nourish and support the communities that they upload.  It is ever-obvious that the roots of our economic, social and political systems are poisoned, drawing from short-sighted wells of greed and commerce, stepping on the faces of the common-man who is enslaved with debt to maintain.

With broken fingers and broken backs they are put in chairs and fed entertainment, mind-numbing television shows based on a false reality, virtual friends and a device that can fill any empty space with angry birds.

There is no real spirit of change.  Even the Occupy movement didn’t stand for anything, only what it is against, and when an entire movement’s momentum is an opposition force what will it push against when it achieves its goals?

I call for an awakening to the problems that plague our society.  I believe that it is not an external problem but an internal one.  Our spirits are taught to glory in individualism, nationalism and to distract ourselves from problems, instead of solve them; that winning has replaced compromise.

“What is a democracy without compromise?” a government of people that tries to squash one another and rule individually through commerce or an imposed corporatacracy.  This is what we are, or have been becoming for longer than most care to admit.  It is a betrayal of the way in which the United States began.

A group of people (yes only men) sat in room and wrote documents that have withstood the test of Civil War and time.  Every citizen of the United States should be able to refer to the Constitution and Bill of Rights without a second thought; that when our nation is lost these documents should be our return.

With that I’d like to quote the Constitution’s opening words because these ideals are what our nation should stand on, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for common defense, promote general Welfare, and secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

It is We, it is Union, it is Welfare, Liberty and Posterity, so let’s wake up and revisit what those words mean and how to live them.

Maybe The Mayans Were Right…

30 Oct

It’s quiet in my office this morning, and my inbox is full of emails titled ‘Today,’ as many of our New Jersey and New York colleagues write to let us San Franciscans know they are ok.  I am grateful for these messages and for texts from friends, reassuring me the same, but I can’t help but have a heavy heart today.

It’s not just the underwater photos of FDR, or the broken carousels of Cony Island, but the larger issues that our country and world face.

Too long we have denied climate change and what that means; too long we have been divided over many things, and with the approaching election I fear that these divisions will just get deeper, as our economy continues to stutter, I worry that our scars will just get uglier.

When I look backwards into our history what has come before is not reassuring.  In many ways today mirrors both the 1850s and the 1930s, a lethal combination; however, we have the added weight of a changing ecological system, and one might say that mirrors the beginning of the ice age – ours just has more heat.

It is a frightening trifecta, and even more so because natural disasters remind us how little control and power we have in our lives.

We do so much to distract ourselves from this innate truth, nature is the ultimate ruler.  We create ideologies and political systems trying to control each other, trying to bring order into an inherently chaotic and random universe, so what is more shocking than the symbol of money and power on it’s knees and under water?

What I hope for is that yesterday’s damage will remind people of how all divisions melt away when we are faced with challenges that are greater than us; that we need to reach out toward one another, not vote against each other, or condemn one another for our viewpoints.

We all begin and end the same way, so way we are so cruel to each other in the middle, why do we point fingers at one another’s stories?  These superficial divides are created by us, and we, as a person, and as a society, grant and take away power.

I’ll always remember thinking, back in the seventh grade, that the most popular girl in school was only that because we believed, we, my classmates created this myth, so why envy her?  If we didn’t like it then we didn’t have to believe.

Let’s stop being thirteen year old girls, and start by cultivating a more forgiving, loving and realistic view of the environment that we live in today.  Let’s join together and accept these fleeting, often meaningless journeys that we call life reach out and find more joyous and healthy ways to live.

Let’s not wait for natural disasters to remind us how much we need each other, how shallow our divides really are, and how we need to be one another’s friend because nature never will be.