Women growing older with grace and gusto

You want it darker

I felt a blast of irrational fury towards Leonard Cohen on Friday when I heard that he had died. Christ, Leonard, did you have to go and die on us in such a week? When so many Americans chose the candidate who promotes hatred and fear? When the Klan announced a victory parade for Trump and the hate crimes began? When those of us in the UK who voted for humanity last June are getting flashbacks to the trauma of the referendum result to add to our sense of horror for the US?

Leonard, I loved you my entire life, but this was bloody bad timing mate: how to cope with the grief of this loss as well?

Of course I rallied, and I said my tender goodbyes to the great poet.

What next?

So there’s the question of how to go on from here in this screwed up world. What the hell to do next.

I was privileged to be invited to join the “secret” Facebook group Pantsuit Nation, now 3,500,000 strong and climbing. A group of both women and men, a space where people could share their stories and write of their admiration for Hillary Clinton without fear of vilification and attack. It includes many thoughtful Republicans voting the Democrat ticket for the first time in their lives.

That group has been inspirational, a leaping wild river of a timeline as hope turned gradually to disbelief and grief that long election night. And the stories keep pouring in, of hope and ideas for the future, of fractured families, of people being assaulted and others jumping in to protect them, of both hate and reconciliation. People are organising, they are not giving up.

On not being a good girl

There are a lot of ideas floating around for moving on. But a friend of mine said:

Be a good girl. Be nice. Mind your manners. Stay quiet. Do as you’re told. Speak when you are spoken to. Gotta say… all the “let’s move on” and “work together” chatter sounds a lot like this old shit.

I agree, this is a time for grief and for rage. For me, it’s reawakened all those post-Brexit feelings of fear (despite my white privilege) and unreality. Of discovering that the country I’ve lived in for over sixty years is not what I thought it was. It’s underlined this dark tide of racism, misogyny and homophobia that’s sweeping not only the US but the UK and most of Europe. Marine Le Pen, the French far right leader was one of the first politicians to congratulate Trump. Nigel Farage is in New York with him as I type this. (I can’t reflect on Farage and his smug grin for long without being in danger of an aneurysm.)  If you want to know who someone is, look at their allies.

Working together?

And yet… clearly we do have to work together. And to understand what’s happening and talk about it with those with whom we disagree. There’s a difference between people whose political views are different from ours and the haters. I will not engage with haters. Being a thoughtful Conservative here in the UK is not an oxymoron, any more than being a thoughtful Republican is in the US (heaven knows we need more of both).

In fact one of the things that’s shocked me most this year is how a few people I know and love and whose political views are liberal or left-wing have gone out of their way to taunt and insult right-wingers on social media. Trolling is trolling regardless of who does it. One thing I would love to see in the weeks ahead is for people on social media to stop calling each other stupid. It doesn’t help anyone. We go high.

I’m also not sure that white liberal guilt and hand-wringing does much good either. Yes we need to recognise that those of us in this category can be arrogant and inward-looking, that minorities of all stripes have been experiencing this hate for longer than we have. We need to understand that we don’t see life in the same way as the majority of people on the planet, and that we are considered effete and out of touch by people whose jobs in manufacturing have disappeared and who are living in poverty.

In a stroke of good timing, while writing this I got an email from a good friend forwarding a satirical piece about liberals fleeing the US for Canada. I particularly enjoyed this extract:

“A lot of these people are not prepared for our rugged conditions,” an Alberta border patrolman said. “I found one carload without a single bottle of Perrier water, or any gemelli with shrimp and arugula. All they had was a nice little Napa Valley cabernet and some kale chips.

But if you’re a white liberal suffering from guilt, let’s quit with the hand-wringing, enjoy the Napa and do what we can to build bridges.

Next steps

As an older woman who remembers the excitement of the feminist movement in the 1970s, I wanted desperately to see Hillary Clinton elected as the first woman President of the United States. Not only for the symbolism although that would have brought me such joy, but because I believed she was a great person for the job. How that woman has remained standing after everything that’s been thrown at her over the past decades is extraordinary. (Of course our two female Prime Ministers so far here in the UK have been extraordinarily divisive, so this isn’t to say that women are automatically the best for the job.)

So what I would love to see is a resurgence of the energy of those early days of feminism, converted into a world-wide progressive movement for everyone who is being beaten down by this new fascist threat around the world.

I’m going to be thinking hard over the next couple of weeks about what I can specifically do, and would love to hear ideas from you in the comments.


Adam Cohen posted this on Facebook today:

My sister and I just buried my father in Montreal. With only immediate family and a few lifelong friends present, he was lowered into the ground in an unadorned pine box, next to his mother and father. Exactly as he’d asked. As I write this I’m thinking of my father’s unique blend of self-deprecation and dignity, his approachable elegance, his charisma without audacity, his old-world gentlemanliness and the hand-forged tower of his work. There’s so much I wish I could thank him for, just one last time. I’d thank him for the comfort he always provided, for the wisdom he dispensed, for the marathon conversations, for his dazzling wit and humor. I’d thank him for giving me, and teaching me to love Montreal and Greece. And I’d thank him for music; first for his music which seduced me as a boy, then for his encouragement of my own music, and finally for the privilege of being able to make music with him. Thank you for your kind messages, for the outpouring of sympathy and for your love of my father.

Goodbye Leonard, I love you, and thank you.







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9 Responses to You want it darker

  1. amen, sister.

    to dear Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah! You’re home. Thank you for the music and the everlasting words.

    and these timely words on the eve of the Frost Moon …
    “You must say this sentence to everyone you meet: “HILLARY CLINTON WON THE POPULAR VOTE!” The MAJORITY of our fellow Americans preferred Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Period. Fact. If you woke up that morning thinking you live in an effed-up country, you don’t. The majority of your fellow Americans wanted Hillary, not Trump. The only reason he’s president is because of an arcane, insane 18th-century idea called the Electoral College. Until we change that, we’ll continue to have presidents we didn’t elect and didn’t want. You live in a country where a majority of its citizens have said they believe there’s climate change, they believe women should be paid the same as men, they want a debt-free college education, they don’t want us invading countries, they want a raise in the minimum wage and they want a single-payer true universal health care system. None of that has changed. We live in a country where the majority agree with the “liberal” position. We just lack the liberal leadership to make that happen (see: #1 above). Let’s try to get this all done.” — Michael Moore


    • Thank you Barbara Anne, and hugs back. Yes, I really like what Michael Moore has said about this. I was reading yesterday that as it stands, she has won the popular vote by a greater margin than Kennedy, Nixon or Gore (who of course was in the same situation).

  2. Leonard’s candle has burned out, as candles do, as our own someday will. There are other candles glowing in the darkness. If you don’t see one, then light one yourself.

    I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: If we truly believe in inclusivity, that there is room for everyone, regardless of race, creed, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation, now is the time to practice what we preach, to lead by example and ignore the differences we say don’t matter and help each other.

    We have an opportunity here to prove to those who see us as “the enemy” that we are not, in fact, the enemy; that we are not wild-eyed hairy bugbears intent on wreaking havoc, but that we are ordinary people much the same as they are and that just like them, we’re doing the best we know how with what life has handed us. We want the same things they want: To be safe and warm and free from want and fear, to live our lives in peace, Now is not the time for rhetoric or protests or marching. Now is the time for leading by example. If we stand together and help each other, we will still be standing in four years when we will again have the opportunity to set the world aright again. In the meantime, in the immortal words of Mr. Vonnegut, “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.'”

  3. Candles always glowing WOL!

    I don’t agree with everything you say here. There is so much sheer anguish, and the rhetoric and the protests and the marching express that. The anguish shouldn’t be kept under wraps. But I definitely agree with being kind and taking every opportunity to share commonality. Hence my comment about trolling.

    What worries me tremendously is the environmental situation in particular. The fate of the planet is on such a knife edge right now I don’t believe we have four years of Trump and his environmental advisor. The damage is probably irreversible now, let alone in four years. If the US was a small country without much population or influence, that would be different, but it isn’t.

  4. Now how about something brighter? ‘Tis the season, despite everything that’s going on.

    Peace on earth to all of good will. Thanks be to God.


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