I’ve been trying to make sense of the last 48 hours. Because I’m a writer first and foremost, I imagined what an extended conversation with Lady Liberty might be like. Further, because events since Friday have been extraordinary (as least in my life), I feel justified in sending this Special Edition of
Please forward to others if you think this is valuable. Thank you!
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This morning, I called up my life-long mentor and friend, Lady Liberty. “We need to talk,” I said.
An hour later, I watched Lady Liberty sans make-up and with crown askew stumble into a downtown Minneapolis Caribou Coffee. As she held a hot Americano with an extra shot of expresso in one hand and her torch in the other, I pulled a chair out for her.
“Sit down. You’re a mess,” I said.
“Tell me about it. I haven’t slept in more than a week. It’s my new boyfriend, Don.”
“Yea, he’s the reason I reached out,” I replied. “There’s all kinds of rumors. But first, what’s up with the new dress and diamond choker—they’re so fifties. They look horrible on you.”
LL rolled her eyes. “Oh god, that’s a Don thing. He’s obsessed with retro and keeps talking about making me ‘great again.’ He bought the dress and pearls—and can you believe it, a diamond choker? Me?—and he’s adamant that I wear them all the time.”
“Huh? You’ve always had your own fabulous original look,” I said. “Even more, you always thought for yourself. That’s one of the reasons I looked up to you.”
“I know,” LL replied. “But I’m getting older and well, it’s not that easy anymore. I’ve got money issues and all kinds of fears now, like is it even safe to walk to the grocery store anymore? Don says that he’ll take care of me, that he’s got all the answers.”
Me: “Wait a minute. Aren’t you forgetting that when I was a kid, we had real fear—like that Russian nukes would blow up the world at any minute? Still, that didn’t stop YOU from having all of the answers. YOU taught me to ignore my fears and be brave. YOU said that if I worked hard and believed in you, everything would work out.”
LL: “Oh, that was so long ago, way before Don.”
Me: “Baloney. When I was a kid and then a teen, all I ever heard from you was, ‘Treat everyone as you’d treat yourself. Give of your time to others and our country; judge everyone on their character and not because of their skin color or whom they love; and welcome everyone regardless of where they were born.’ You nagged me about that stuff until I totally got it. Don’t you remember?”
LL: “You’re right, I did teach you that. I taught a lot of people—heck, millions of people—the same things.”
Me: “On top of that, because of you I felt safe to come out as a transgender woman. I did that in Iowa of all places! Remember how you helped set things up so that I wouldn’t get killed for me simply being me?”
LL: “Yes, I do. But things are different now. Don says so.”
Me: "Just since I was born, there’ve been a hell of a lot of people who died with your words ringing in their ears. People with names such as King and Kennedy and Evers, not to mention thousands who took their last breaths in places like Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. People jump out of planes every day for you, putting their lives at risk. Are you going to tell all of these people, dead and alive, and even me, ‘Forget what I said about that ‘Land of the Free,’ stuff. I lied?’”
LL: “No, of course not. I meant everything that I taught you and everyone else.
America is still the land of the free.
It’s just that Don’s adamant that things are bad, real bad, so much so that we’ve got to be less free.”
Me: “I don’t think this Don guy knows what he’s talking about. Because of you, we got to have our first Black president. He pulled us out of a horrible recession, made it possible for twenty million people to get health insurance, and then helped bring the unemployment rate down to a near historical low.”
LL: “But Don keeps telling me things are really bad. So bad that he’s ordered that I can’t invite my Muslim friends over anymore.”
Me: “That’s why I wanted to see you. You’ve been hosting your Muslim friends for what, two hundred plus years? What happened to that ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses,’ line? Are you walking that back too?”
LL: “No, I don’t want to walk back anything. But I also don’t want to make Don upset. He’s a control freak and besides, he’s got an obsession with Twitter. I worry that he’ll Tweet something that will make me look bad.”
Me: “It’s a little late for that, sister. Don’s already done a number to your reputation and that’s in just a week.”
LL: “What can I do? Don tells me that I need him.”
Me: “Woman, you have to tell Don that he’s got it all wrong. You’re the Alpha in the relationship, not him. Didn’t he understand what you’re all about before the two of you started your thing?
LL: “I guess not. What am I going to do, Ellie?”
Just then, Lady Liberty’s iPhone 7 rang—it was Don, the man of the hour. I overheard, “Really? It’s just coffee,” followed by, “Yes, I promise. Fifteen minutes. Love you!”
“I’ve got to go,” Lady Liberty reported. “Don’s not happy that I’m sitting here being reminded of what things were like before he entered my life. He doesn’t want me to hang out with my old mentees or friends. There's a bunch of new people he wants me to hang with."
“You’ve got a big problem, Lady Liberty,” I said. “Only you can fix it.”
Lady Liberty shrugged. “I know,” she said. “But I’m tired of fighting him. He’s always got to have his way.”
We both stood and hugged; I made mine extra tight and whispered, “Remember, you’re one tough chick. Still, you’ve always had a balance problem; one wrong step, and you’re tumbling down. I’d hate to see what that might look like.”
“Thanks for the advice,” Lady Liberty said. “I’m sure that Don will come around. After all, he says he loves me.”
I smirked, wondering if Lady Liberty actually understood the
of her man problem. “That’s what they all say,” I answered. “Until you no longer matter.”
With that, Lady Liberty turned and walked out of the coffee shop.
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If you’re like me and gravely worried about the direction of our country, here are five things you can do immediately:
- Whether it’s $5 or $500, contribute to the American Civil Liberties Union. Click here for the ACLU donations page.
- First thing tomorrow, pick up the phone and call your Congressional representative and tell them that America must remain a welcoming, open and shining beacon of hope for every human regardless of their religion, and especially for those who are fleeing violence and persecution in their country of origin.
- Reach out to another human who might have a different opinion. Tell them first that you care about them and then ask if you can talk. If they’re open to talking, remind them that the people fleeing persecution in the Mideast want the same things as we all do—for their children to succeed; for them and their families to be free of physical or emotional violence; to have 20 minutes of peace; and to love and be loved. (I call these the “Four Commonalities.”) Be compassionate and kind; we simply can’t unify our country if we continue with “we” against “them,” and we can’t get there unless we talk to each other.
- Be kind to yourself. It’s okay to cry, but when you’re done, do what makes you happy. Reach out to a friend; write in your journal; go get ice cream. A lot of ice cream.
- Finally, remember the words of Dr. King:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
I care about you, about our country, and about the foreign-born people of every religion who desperately seek to have what we have, in the present tense. We all must work to avoid the past tense from becoming reality.
This piece is also on my blog at elliekrug.com