The election is a job interview. This political ad asks, ‘Would you hire Donald Trump?’
If you haven’t already voted, this link leads you to state-by-state information about when absentee ballots must be received to be counted. DO NOT USE THE POST OFFICE: drop off ballot in a legitimate drop box or at your local or county clerk’s office.
Do so as soon as you can to ensure that your vote will be counted. Lawsuits in some swing states are expected to be filed to negate ballots that arrive after the close of hours on Election Day.
You can also use the various links on the NCSL page of the above link to learn when early in-person voting ends, and how to get any information you may need (hours, polling place, etc) about voting on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3.
Early voting is still possible in these critical states: Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina (til 3 pm tomorrow–Saturday), Ohio, Virginia (til 5 pm tomorrow), and Wisconsin. Check the link above for days and hours for these and all other states. Some have Sunday voting hours.
Please vote: your single vote does, indeed, matter–a lot–and this is the most important election in our lifetime. Your healthcare, economic well-being, environment, safety, and a host of hard-won rights are on the ballot. Decency, justice, and democracy are on the ballot. Indeed, as Covid spreads without a plan, your life may well be on the ballot!Your vote is your voice for a better future.
[Note from Annie: I think the article below, which appeared in The Washington Post on October 24, provides a helpful addition to the public’s understanding of Joe Biden from the perspective of someone who worked closely with him–in this case, on foreign policy.
This aspect of a President’s responsibilities has understandably not received much attention in the midst of our internal crises. In fact, despite its importance, foreign policy often doesn’t attract much interest from the public.
But it is likely to become more evident as hoped-for President Biden begins the necessary task of reshaping America’s role in foreign affairs following Trump’s decimating our leadership reputation and the long-held sense that the US has been—for the most part—a force for good and stability in a dangerous world.
Biden is definitely not a warmonger: he has said his vote leading up to the Iraq War was a mistake, and he opposed the surge that increased our presence in Afghanistan. He sees our troops as individual human beings, and I have confidence he would not send them into harm’s way unless he believed–after receiving the best advice–that US security hung in the balance. Importantly, he knows the vital role our allies play, and he would never cozy up to dictators.
McFaul, whose writings I’ve highlighted previously, served as US Ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration. He is now a professor at Stanford University.]
“I have already cast my vote in the 2020 election, and I don’t mind telling you I voted for Joe Biden — in part because of his positions on issues and in part based on my assessment of President Trump’s performance over the past nearly four years.
But a third factor influenced my vote as well — Biden’s conduct and character that I witnessed personally while working at the White House with him during the first years of the Obama administration. When you work behind the scenes with a political figure, you see what’s real and what’s for show. Most voters have never seen how Biden governs. I have.
We were late leaving Tbilisi, Georgia, in July 2009, but the country’s then-president, Mikheil Saakashvili, asked then-Vice President Biden to squeeze in one last informal meeting with refugee children from South Ossetia who had fled their homes as a result of Russia’s invasion of Georgia in August 2008.
Saakashvili knew Biden. He understood that such an encounter would translate our abstract, geopolitical negotiations into a more emotional appreciation of the horrors of war. He was right. On the plane ride out of Georgia, Biden gave a passionate indictment of Russia to an American reporter, offending Moscow at the moment when Russian and American diplomats were negotiating a major arms control deal. Biden believes that morality must play a role in U.S. foreign policy, even when inconvenient.
But that doesn’t mean he can be manipulated. He’s too well-prepared for that. On a trip to Moscow in March 2011, I was part of the team that helped Biden get ready for his long meetings with then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Biden’s work ethic was something to behold. He doesn’t wing it.
Putin is intimidating. I’d met him before with other U.S. officials. In his meeting with Putin, Biden was polite but forceful and principled, seeking agreement on a limited agenda, but never friendship. Moments after leaving Putin’s office, Biden met with Russian human rights leaders, which annoyed some in the Kremlin and some in our own government. And that was just fine with Biden. Biden’s strategy of engagement with autocrats, as well as their critics, is exactly right.
On the flight back home from our trip, Biden didn’t retire to his private cabin, but joined us staff in the back of the plane — not just for a few minutes, but for several hours. The more we talked, the more energized he became, covering everything from missile defense to the Violence Against Women Act.
At some point during the flight, his national security advisor, Antony Blinken, fell asleep in his seat, right across from Biden. When he woke up, I asked Tony how he could fall asleep in front of the vice president. Tony replied that if he didn’t, he’d never sleep on these trips, since Biden always had more energy and more interest in engaging with his colleagues than anyone else on the plane. Biden loves being part of the team.
Yet he also has an ability to work with people beyond his inner circle to get things done. In December 2010, I was there when Biden presided over the Senate’s ratification of the New START Treaty, reducing by 30 percent the number of deployed nuclear weapons allowed in Russian and American arsenals. President Barack Obama assigned Biden the job of corralling the required 67 votes. He secured 71. When the cameras were off, I saw the depth of the friendships Biden had developed with Republican senators, which he drew upon to enhance the security of all Americans.
In January 2012, on my last day working at the White House before deploying to Moscow as the new U.S. ambassador to Russia, I was sitting in the West Wing reception area, waiting with my family to say goodbye to Obama, when a Biden aide walked by and asked why my family happened to be there. After learning why, this aide came back several minutes later and ushered our family into Biden’s office.
Someone important had to wait for a while longer as the vice president rearranged his schedule to express his gratitude to my wife and two sons for agreeing to take on this assignment to represent our country in Russia. Biden focused in particular on my sons’ sacrifice, knowing well the burdens public service puts on families. Biden didn’t have to do this meeting; he wasn’t campaigning or doing anyone a favor. But both of my sons will be voting for Biden as well.”
There are tons of issues on the ballot when we cast our votes for either Donald Trump or Joe Biden. One of them has vast ramifications in our society. It’s complex, and I can’t do justice to it here. This isn’t a new issue, but I think it’s just beginning to get the attention it deserves.
It’s how we define masculinity in America. Specifically, it’s what’s called “toxic masculinity” or “hyper-masculinity.” (It has nothing to do with gender: it can be found among some gay men as well as heterosexual men.)
Donald Trump is its personification. He’s demonstrated it repeatedly: it involves being cruel, devoid of compassion, ridiculing and even bragging about assaulting women, doing whatever you need to do to get what you want—rules, norms, or impact on people be damned—even advocating violence.
It leads to attacks on those he views as most vulnerable and adoration of so-called “strong men” such as Putin and Kim Jong-un.
Shaped by this view, Trump has no sense of the unforgivable obscenity of his administration’s “policy” of trying to deter immigrants from coming to the US by ripping babies from their mothers and casting them into cages.
Asked during Thursday night’s debate about the fact that more than 500 of these children will probably never see their parents again, his response was: “They’re well-taken care of.”
It also includes a stubborn refusal to acknowledge mistakes, take responsibility for them, or to learn from them. In terms of COVID-19 alone, these trumpian traits are killing Americans by the tens of thousands.
A Different Form of Masculinity
Joe Biden demonstrates a different masculinity. I heard Charlie Sykes, a never-trumper who used to have a conservative talk show in Wisconsin and is now editor-in-chief for The Bulwark, contrasting Biden with Trump.
“Empathy is manly,” he said. “Being a loving father is manly. Being willing to admit when you’re wrong is manly—integrity, responsibility, being willing to apologize are manly…In the Trump world, demonstrating a relationship with your son is a sign of vulnerability.”
Biden has shown how well he fits the latter description. When he turned to the audience during the second (and fortunately last) debate to reassure Americans in the throes of a still-raging pandemic that he knew they were hurting and would work to bring the pandemic under control, Trump chided him for his “political” trick of talking to the audience—“being a politician.”
Trump is incapable of doing what Biden had just done; he couldn’t even assess the sincerity that motivated it because he can’t feel it.
Voters can. In good measure, this distinction shows up in the gender gap that has put Biden ahead of Trump among women by between 14% and 23% in the four most recent national polls—and between 11% and 19% in six battleground state polls.
But Trump is leading Biden among men in the battleground states, and he even appears to be running ahead of where he ran last time among Black and Latino men.
Knowing of his hateful rhetoric and actions in inciting violence against Black and Brown people and immigrants, I found it hard to understand this phenomenon until it was explained as Trump’s “machismo” appeal and the belief in his purported glittery success, which has been shown to be illusory.
However, the Biden campaign is cognizant of this fact, which President Obama touched on in his powerful exhortation to young Black men to make sure they vote.
It’s also why The Lincoln Project, the never-trumpers—present and former Republicans who find Trump appalling and want to ensure his defeat—is running this brief video:
I do want to note one matter that occurred during the debate that I think makes the case for Biden’s form of masculinity quite well. Trump, sensing Biden’s vulnerability about his sole surviving son, Hunter, attacked father and son repeatedly, and somewhat incoherently, about a wild scheme that Trump and his gang had thought would at last smear Biden’s reputation and be the “October surprise” that brings Biden down.
It was a charge that once again, a la Hillary, resorted to hacked emails, purportedly but not definitely from the computer of Hunter Biden. They dated from the period between when Joe was Vice President and before he declared his candidacy.
I will spare you the details, which you can read elsewhere. The story fell flat because it’s been largely discredited by reputable sources, and the FBI has been investigating Russia’s role in purveying it, even adding phony passages to legitimate emails.
But Trump kept at it, and will probably continue to repeat it between now and at least Election Day.
During the debate, Biden simply shook his head and said it wasn’t true.
What he didn’t say was, “You want to talk about children?,” and then provide a lengthy list of alleged crimes and rampant, fairly blatant corruption involving Trump’s sons, Donald Jr and Eric, and his daughter Ivanka.
Biden did not go there. He took the nonsense thrown at him “like a man,” and declined to stoop to Trump’s level.
The concept of toxic masculinity does, of course, have immense implications apart from the candidates—including domestic violence, right-wing militarism, and other complex issues.
It is evident in the bizarre politicization of masks to protect against the coronavirus. Think of the armed vigilantes storming the Michigan state house, and domestic terrorists plotting to kidnap Michigan’s governor because of her actions to curb the pandemic.
“There has been a very dominant strain of men who clearly feel that wearing a mask would so expose their vulnerability that they would rather risk death from the virus,” observed Anand Giridharadas, author of “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.”
Giridharadas, interviewed by a New York Times writer, said this perception of masculinity, which leads to abuse and assault against women,“actually doesn’t really work for most men. It traps men in images of ourselves that have failed most of us and that don’t fit our lived inner experience.”
An Effort to Change the Image
Coincidentally, I just learned that October 18-24 is “National Masculinity Week 2020,” so named by an organization called CAMPUSPEAK which holds forums and speakers designed to educated college students on the topic.
Here’s how the organizers described the purpose:
“Thousands of years of history have defined masculinity.
“CAMPUSPEAK is launching National Masculinity Week (NMW) with the intent of changing the narrative nationally.
“The goal of National Masculinity Week is to change the national conversation to focus on what it means to be a positive male role model and challenge the unhealthy and harmful aspects of traditional manhood and the mantras that ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘men will be men…’
“National Masculinity Week is an investment in the future. NMW will create an opportunity for men to explore healthier norms of masculinity by providing a means of deconstructing traditional definitions of masculinity and exploring how they manifest in society and men’s lives. Throughout the week CAMPUSPEAK will provide resources to advance the conversation and support university communities, athletic programs, fraternal organizations and men engaging in these critical conversations.”
This announcement included the bios of a series of diverse speakers.
I found it most encouraging that young people are being offered another way to look at manhood that could free them from self-destructive views that harm them, those around them, and our society.
And I believe that in electing Joe Biden, we will be automatically changing the conversation with an appropriate role model: a compassionate, thoughtful leader who is not at all intimidated by covering his nose and mouth with a piece of cloth to save people’s lives.
My mother had bilateral mastectomies—five years apart. I vividly recall that shortly after she was first diagnosed, she called me into her room to show me the spot on her breast: no discernible lump—just a horizontal line masking the cancerous cells below. She wanted to alert me in case I ever saw something similar on my own body.
She/we were lucky: after the distressing surgeries, she needed no follow-up treatment and died at age 83 of heart failure.
Many women—and some men—are not so lucky. As October 1-31 has been deemed “Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” it seems to be a good time to discuss the disease that, after skin cancer, remains the most common cancer among women, affecting 1 in 8 in the US and hundreds of thousands worldwide.
And I have recently become aware of what life is like for women—including some very young women—living with metastatic breast cancer (MBC). I’m hoping to provide some insights into this aspect of the disease: it doesn’t get as much attention as what my mother had, which a surgeon at the time called “garden variety breast cancer.”
A Bit of Background
The CDC reports that about 250,000 women and 2,300 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in the US each year. Non-Hispanic white women are most often diagnosed, with Black women not far behind.
However, as is too often the case, Black women are more likely to die of the disease, and it is the leading cause of death among Hispanic women.
Diagnosis most frequently occurs in women in their 70s, and deaths are highest in women in their 80s. But 11% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are under age 50.
There has been a gradual reduction in the incidence in women over 50, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, possibly due to less use of hormone replacement therapy.
And a reduction in breast cancer deaths since 1990 has been documented, attributed to screening, early detection, and better treatment options, as researchers learn more about the nature of the various molecular and cell distinctions among breast cancer manifestations.
But a recent study found that the decline seemed to have slowed in the decade from 2008 to 2017.
Learning From Abigail
None of this information comes close to revealing what it’s like to be a much younger person living with metastatic breast cancer (MBC). I have learned a great deal about that particular hell frommy treasured virtual friend Abigail Johnston, whose blog is titled “No Half Measures: Living Out Loud.”
Abigail was diagnosed with Stage IV MBC in 2017 at age 38. She was originally believed to have Stage II disease and was told that it could be managed and wouldn’t kill her.
When it was discovered that the cancer had spread to her bones before she’d even felt the lump in her breast, she received the Stage IV diagnosis, which is invariably fatal. Her two sons were not quite 2 and 4 at the time. She was informed that she had about three years to live, but fortunately recently passed that point.
Those of us who follow her blog rejoice with her when she receives encouraging test results and share her dismay when she suffers from treatment “side effucks” and medical personnel outrages. She is an easy person to admire and love.
Dynamo that she is, she keeps a rigorous schedule as an advocate for patients, an educator for both patients and the public, and a voice for those who are less willing or able to express the many sorrows, indignities, anxieties, fears, and needs that add extra burden to those with this dreadful disease.
Her blog posts are far-ranging and informative, inspirational, sometimes funny, always worth reading.
A former attorney, she founded a non-profit, Connect IV Legal Services, to put Stage IV MBC patients in touch with attorneys who will help them pro bono with financial/legal matters they may face.
The list of her organizational activities is long, and includes serving as a board member and a Parliamentarian for her local PTA.
From Abigail’s Daily Blog Posts
Since the October 1 beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), Abigail has been blogging daily or sharing posts from others about aspects of being a member of that club no one voluntarily joins—but which has, in fact, given life to a support community of women and men similarly affected that is remarkable in its depth, compassion, and dedication—and she is one of the reasons.
I’m including below some of the items gleaned from these posts.
Of particular note, October 13th was the only day of this “awareness” month dedicated to the more than 155,000 women and men who have metastatic breast cancer.
Abigail wrote a powerful essay about what it feels like to be:
“…the elephant in the room…By being vocal, we make lots of people uncomfortable. By asking that someone pay attention, we force others to be reminded of their own mortality.”
Though she understands the sentiment that leads people to “want to categorize breast cancer as ‘the easy cancer’” because MBC shows “the dark side,” she is simply asking for understanding…
“that this is my life, that MBC is real and it is entirely different from the other stages. That it WILL kill me. I won’t die of old age, I will die because of breast cancer.”
Since Abigail doesn’t live by half measures, her time on October 13th involved various public activities, including being featured in a live Zoom presentation, “Living With Breast Cancer—One Woman’s Story,” in which she spoke about “living with purpose” and shared information about research she’s learning with regard to mutations. That was from 7 to 8 pm.
After that, she appeared with friends and family at landmarks in Miami, near her home, that were lit up to raise awareness of MBC. This #LightupMBC campaign is an effort by METAvivor—an organization devoted to “metastatic breast cancer research, support, and awareness”—in conjunction with http:moorefightmoorestrong.com, an organization named after a young woman named Jessica Moore who was diagnosed at age 32 and died four years later. (Regrettably, the link doesn’t work.)
Landmarks in every US state and elsewhere in the world were lit up in green, teal, and pink to call attention to the too-often-overlooked women and men with MBC.
“Why Green, Pink, and Teal?”
The explanation is on the moorefightmoorestrong site, and it gets to a serious issue that’s been overlooked in the “pinkwashing” of the breast cancer campaigns most of us have become accustomed to seeing.
“The pink ribbon is well-known for representing the fight against breast cancer, but most of MBC patients feel that pink does not encapsulate their experience. Metastatic Breast Cancer may start in the breast, but its spread to vital organs makes the disease fatal.
“To highlight the uniqueness of the disease and show its commonality with other Stage IV cancers, METAvivor designed a base ribbon of green and teal to represent metastasis. Green represents the triumph of spring over winter, life over death, and symbolizes renewal, hope, and immortality while teal symbolizes healing and spirituality. The thin pink ribbon overlay signifies the metastatic cancer originated in the breast.”
Abigail provided her strong opinions about that “pinkwashing” in her October 1 blog post, questioning why the people who are dying get only one day’s attention during this month–and only 7-10% of the research funding.
“In my view, we should apply the principles of triage…—focus on those of us who are dying at a median rate of 2-3 years post-diagnosis rather than those who are at least 70% likely to end treatment and live a ‘normal’ life.”
“And yet, the focus is on those who’ve triumphed over the ‘easy’ cancer and touting the ‘easy’ testing (i.e., mammograms), which don’t even detect much/enough of the disease that murders my friends daily.
“Secondly, the pink ribbon is EVERYWHERE. On bananas, on yogurt, on beauty supplies, shirts, stamps, etc.
“Yet, if one queries those companies about how pasting that ribbon on everything helps those of us with breast cancer, the answer is usually extremely minimal, if at all. There are exceptions, but the usual answer I receive is pennies to selected charities for every dollar spent.
“Then those same charities often use the majority of those funds in administrative costs like salaries and “educational” campaigns, meaning very very very little gets to actual research funding, which again, is allocated to MBC at the rate of 7-10%.
“Also, many of the products that boast a pink ribbon actually are or contain elements that CAUSE CANCER.”
Abigail recommends that anyone who’s tempted to purchase a pink breast cancer symbol first query the retailer about how that money will be spent.
Other Items I’ve Learned From Abigail’s Series
The SEER database (Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program—-seer.cancer.gov) doesn’t count people with MBC accurately, Abigail says, so although it’s known that roughly 115 women and men die from MBC daily, it isn’t known how many are diagnosed.
“Whenever you see a notification that someone has died from breast cancer, the actual terminology should be ‘metastatic breast cancer’ or ‘ramifications of the treatment of metastatic breast cancer.’ The media gets this wrong over and over and over.
“Why is this important?
“Just like we don’t get counted correctly, the public is unaware of how fatal MBC really is, how many people are dying of it every day, and the focus of BCAM needs to be awareness about MBC. Yes, I know it’s important to do self exams and mammograms are good too; yet, none of that can prevent a person from developing MBC and MBC is 100% fatal.”
Another valuable piece of information involves participation in clinical trials.
It had been assumed that numbers of participants were low because people were reluctant to join trials. But The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center did a study that pointed to another reason: of 9000 cancer patients in their study, more than half didn’t have a trial available to them. When trials were available, about half of those in the study did, in fact, participate.
[The National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc. website has a search tool in which anyone interested can fill out specifics about her/himself and be directed to available clinical trials.]
Abigail’s blog is filled with information like this, which is valuable for us all to know. Equally important, she offers insights into the personal and social needs that caring people can meet to truly help those affected in their daily lives, including even some advice about vocabulary.
“Language matters,” she writes, and then quotes a young woman named Adiba:
“Let’s talk Battle terminology. You always hear ‘She fought bravely…lost her battle to cancer, etc.’ Fact is most of us MBC patients actually hate hearing that as it makes us feel like failures. Like it’s our fault that treatment stopped working.”
Abigail recommends (emphasis mine):
“Before you use the same fight terminology that has become and stayed ‘mainstream,’ ask how the person with cancer is doing. Don’t take it on yourself to be a cheerleader or give them answers or solve any problems, just sit with them. LISTEN. And then listen some more. Less is more. Much less, please.”
Abigail’s posts are on her blog and also on the Connect IV website. They are always worth reading—whether you have breast cancer, care for someone who does, or simply care about making research inroads so that fewer and fewer people suffer and die too soon.
If You’d Like to Donate to Research and/or Services
The timing is eerie–and not because I wrote the original post admitting to my commission of Murder One: Beetlecide so close to Halloween. No; my unease is due to the fact that the episode that occurred just days ago is pretty darned close to the anniversary of my previous offense. Surely that has meaning…
Those of you who have been following my blog for a while are aware that I could anthropomorphize a pebble. I try very hard to–at the very least–“live and let live” with the natural world.
In the instance last October, I would have been happy to carry the beetle to a window and send it on its way. The logistics did not permit this pacific act.
The fact that the beetle was climbing among a mound of plastic bags in a corner of my bedroom, however, led me to wonder if it was trying to draw my attention in its teensy way to the existential threat of climate change.
To recap: I used one of those dastardly and way-too-handy vessels to deliver it to its watery grave. After the deed was done, I did wonder about the possibility of retribution by some of its multi-legged peers.
That sets the stage for this week’s encounter. Different venue: this time, the bathroom.
And a vastly different coleoptera (scientific name for insect). This guy was not small and harmless-looking. It was huge, with spiky armor, bulging eyes, and semi-wings that enabled it to hop-hop-hop when I tried to grab it with a large wad of toilet paper.
Three attempts, three hops, and then it was gone. Disappeared. The bathroom’s not that large, but it was nowhere in sight. I’ve written about octopuses and their uncanny ability to squish themselves into tiny crevices; I’m wondering if this entity I’ll call Scary Gargantuan Coleoptera(SGC) had the same ability.
After searching for twenty minutes, I left the bathroom and closed the door. Exercising considerable self-restraint, I did not immediately call upon the Artillery-in-Residence–a kind soul but not given to anthropomorphizing.
But when he arrived (of his own volition, at a time of his choosing), I explained the circumstances. He, too, failed to find “hide nor hair” (both irrelevant, but sometimes a cliche comes in handy) of this displaced Force of Nature.
I won’t pretend I didn’t sleep all night, but I did have a bit of queasiness pondering that SGC, aware that its life was in danger (I know; I’m assuming memory and all that), now had the advantage of a dark bedroom AND bathroom in which to roam/hop about.
The resolution came on the evening of Day Two, when my encounter with SGC had actually faded from my memory…a little. The Artillery-in-Residence, about to step into the shower, said: “There it is!”
And he dispatched it.
The process took a series of maneuvers. The Artillery-in-Residence did not want me to write this essay, so I think he found the execution unsettling. Our compromise was that I am sparing you the details.
I am left to ponder, as is my wont, why I felt so guilty about the little shiny beetle and such relief about the much larger and uglier SGC. Despite its size, I don’t think SGC was a threat to my well-being, though I preferred not to find out by experiencing its pincers.
So this second encounter with the insect world, I’m abashed to say, has overtones of shallowness of character based largely on esthetics. And, of course, the all-important ick factor.
The Artillery-in-Residence, ever supportive of my writing, suggested a fictional piece based on the assumption that SGC somehow survived its ordeal, started its own blog, and is seeking retribution by pincing out stories about a crazy woman armed with plastic bags and her partner-in-crime, who had brought out the entire arsenal.
I immediately intuited that the blog posts would suggest that the subjects both naively believed they had ended these incursions.
And I demurred. Horror stories are not my genre.
But in truth, as SGC was far larger and more menacing than last year’s unwanted visitor, I am not looking forward to what I fear may be our personal “October Surprise” a year from now.