Weekend 10.10

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The U.P. of Michigan is a wild, beautiful place. I spent a childhood with unlocked doors, and “sneaking” onto private beaches for morning runs (Hi, Mrs. Retaskie), and mosquito bites and smelt runs and a healthy fear of The Great Lakes during a storm.  

It is a conservative country, where guns are important…but so are the lakes. When we were in St. Ignace this summer, we stopped by a coffee shop that had bumpers stickers on its counter: Keep Our Lakes Clean next to pro-union bumper stickers next to one that said Guns, God and Country.

It’s complicated. 

So I shouldn’t be surprised that when the NYT did a piece on the U.P….they missed it. The piece was called, “In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Some Cracks Emerge in the Pro-Trump Wall,” and it stuck me as insufferable and pretentious.

And I can’t even tell you exactly why. I just know that I was mad, reading it. I felt defensive, angry. I felt like the author spent more time talking about — and this is obviously my interpretation — backwards Trump voters than they did talking about these supposed ‘cracks’ in the pro-Trump wall.

The U.P. isn’t perfect — far from it. And my own childhood recollections are glossing over major issues in a big way — my freaking high school is still, shamefully, the Marquette Redman for God’s sake. Trump signs dot the U.P. landscape.

But I still find myself wanting to defend the people who helped raise me, shape me.

So this is what I’m struggling with right now. I have reached a point in 2020 where — most of the time —  I give zero effs about what Trump voters think. A vote for Trump — at some level — is a vote that says that the issues of systemic racism are tolerable. That the violence and fear that other people live with — because of this systemic racism (coupled with our learned biases against black and brown people) — are tolerable. Trump voters might tell themselves they’re voting on “other issues” (the economy, gun rights, right to life,) but a vote for Trump is a vote that also tolerates racist behavior.

We must be done tolerating racist behavior. It doesn’t matter if that racist behavior is overt, accidental, or simply part of a racist system. It’s time for change.

And then I think about all of those people in my hometown.  

I think about how outsiders too-often portray them as simple-minded or stupid. “Fiercely independent” (according to the NYT), but…sadly unable to grasp the real issues at hand? Maybe due to isolation? Lack of diversity? Both themes were subtly, artfully implied in that NYT piece.

I know the NYT article missed it. I know their portrayal of the U.P. was only a tiny snapshot, and a rather soulless, overly simplified, biased version. I know that the people I grew up with care about others at a personal level, regardless of skin type. I know they believe in democracy. And I know they are generally NOT impressed by a bragging narcissist like Trump — or wouldn’t be, in real life, anyway.  

In real life…a guy like Trump would not feel welcome in my hometown. Sexually assaulting women, making fun of the disabled, referring to veterans as ‘losers’ — guys like this do exist (every village has their idiot)…but where I come from, these people aren’t popular. They are certainly not elected town leader.  

Where I come from, the people I grew up with anonymously donated money each year to buy winter coats and boots for the kids who couldn’t afford them. They were fierce environmentalists who actively worked to keep our beaches, forests, streams and lakes clean. They supported our mines, but they also insisted on regulations to keep our Iron Ore industry from polluting our water and air. Most people I knew growing up believed in public schools and the Post Office and science and growing old with dignity — which included access to health care and pensions and social security, all of which has come under attack in the Trump administration.

Yet Trump signs still dot the U.P.

It makes me want to cry.

I am conflicted, both by the strength of my own convictions and when my sweeping generalizations are held up, mirror like, in a mediocre NYT piece.

And then I remember where I’m from.

I am both a U.P. girl and an insufferable East Coaster.

It’s complicated.  


I do not want to overstate things buuuuuut…..Kopari’s Starry Eye Balm(that name!!) is basically a miracle. It’s a coconut-oil based under-eye balm that contains caffeine to instantly de-puff. Here’s the best part: you can use it over(!!!) makeup. Which means…in the afternoon, when I’m feeling tired and old and haggard, I pat-pat-pat this little gem under my eyes and instantly look refreshed. Zoom calls? Pat-pat-pat. First thing in the morning (when I don’t feel like a full face of makeup)? Pat-pat. In my bag so I have it At All Times? PAT-FREAKING-PAT-PAT. It’s also cruelty-free, all-natural, and under $30.

I interrupt my cashmere “research” to bring you this sale. I’ve been in the process of trying to find this year’s ‘Best Thick and Luxe Cashmere Sweaters’ (basically the 2020 version of last year’s article), and per usual, many of my favorites are from sustainable NAADAM. They happen to be having a Friends & Family sale this weekend, so take 20% off your purchase with code FAM20. My three favorite sweaters so far are the marled boyfriend sweater, the oversized crewneck sweater, and the oversized turtleneck sweater. There were also two big misses, however, so if you’d like to see my…um…unfiltered opinions head on over to IG to see my NAADAM sweater try-on video.

Annoyingly good. rag & bone’s Nina high-rise jeans are some of the best-fitting jeans I’ve ever found. My forever favorites, for sure. And this pair — with the ultimate cool-girl wash — is currently 25% off at Bloomies.

Buyers remorse. I had bought some black leopard Adidas sneakers during the Nordstrom sale (Amazon still has them, actually)…but now I just found these. Basically the same, but a lighter gray leopard with white stripes and, annoyingly, I like them better.

OOOOOOOOOO! These Free People wrapped leggings look verrrry similar to an old pair of Stella McCartney for Adidas sweatpants I had, eons ago. Dying to try that whole outfit, actually. Would look particularly good with those Adidas gray-striped leopard sneakers, above.

Stick it. Loving this BLM heart laptop sticker from Salty Lit (a Black-owned business).

Question: Does your guy wear fleece? I realized that Mike doesn’t actually own any sort of fleece jacket. He has some lightweight puffer jackets for the freezing temps, but when it’s in-between, he’s often reaching for an old hoodie. My little guys LOVE their fuzzy fleeces so I’m wondering….?? God knows that this North Face fleece will look much better than whatever hoodie Mike currently likes. I’m thinking “asphalt gray/new taupe green”. (Currently 25% off.)

Brings joy. I recently discovered Boon Supply and now I want allllllll the things. They’ve managed to bring together exciting (yet random) bits of household stuff that would pass my Marie Kondo test with flying colors. I definitely need this S’mores griller for fall nights outside, this super-cute microwave popcorn popper, and these mesh farmer’s market totes. Best of all? They donate a whopping 40% of your sale to a charity of your choice. You can search the fundraiser page to choose one (No Kid Hungry is one that caught my eye, as well as fire relief via Center for Disaster Philanthropy)…or you can even start your own fundraiser.

Brilliant. A two-woman team just won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work, CRISPR. They basically created a tool (from one small part of the body’s immune mechanism) to easily and cheaply ‘edit’ DNA. The whole thing is fascinating, and this article is totally worth a read.

Need a boost? Natalie Nixon, author of The Creativity Leap, believes that creativity is a teachable phenomenon. She’s going to get into the details via a Zoom talk at Drexel this Thursday. She describes creativity as “equal parts structure and looseness, focus and ambiguity, rules and no rules” and I am intrigued. You can register for the event here. (Can’t make it? A interviewed Natalie recently, and her article is coming out soon.)

These boots were made for…VOTING? YASSS. I love Jill Biden’s boots. Not only do they say ‘VOTE’ across the back, but they’re Weitzman’s flat 50/50 OTK boots, which get our nod for practicality, style and warmth. Well done, Dr. Biden.

Halloween brainstorming….we still don’t have a solid plan yet, but Scotti and Em both have some ideas (coming soon). I’m still thinking family movies with lots of treats and probably a Halloween snack board like this one or this one OR…an all-candy one like this craziness. Whoa.

Happy weekend you guys.

xo,
S

24 COMMENTS

  1. It’s almost a visceral reaction when portrayals of an area are more simplified geographic caricature than complex reality. “Hillbilly” by Sally Rubin and Ashley York) is a really well done, thoughtful documentary set in rural Southeast Kentucky ( Hulu). It has been one of the best things I’ve seen in a while.

  2. Yes! As a small town girl from the opposite side of the country who grew up in a logging/ ranching community at the base of some gorgeous mountains and intersected by beautiful rivers, I get every bit of the conflict you speak of. But, the same love I have for people I can disagree so much with is what gives me hope for our country. It is complicated….

  3. Once again, Shana, you hit the nail on the head. Thank you for your willingness (eagerness) to bring truth to complicated issues. Keeping in mind that Michigan has been shamed by a very small slice of truly evil gangs wanting to commit violence against our great governor, the vast majority of Michiganders support her. The U.P. is a rural paradise that comes with the tendency for rural areas to be more pro-Trump and Republican. Old patterns die hard. But the good news is that here in the Marquette area Biden is supported by the majority and some folks in the vast area around us who had previously supported the current president are changing their minds. That is progress. But people believe what they want to believe which has, sadly, held progress back. Changing minds is a huge challenge. Your efforts at exposing some important truths will help in that effort – slow but sure. Thank you! Keep up the good work!

  4. Wow! Love your piece Shana. Thank you for sharing. As a SoCal raised Latina born of immigrant Mexican parents who married a mid-western white guy who loves the UP, U of M and all things Michigan, THIS is spot on. I love his parents, but I don’t love how they agree with the things Trumpn stands for. I love visiting Michigan and have learned to love and appreciate the lakes, trees and all the natural beauty Michigan has to offer, but lately I am actually afraid to be there. I know not all MI folks are the same. No grouping of people ever is. It’s complicated for sure. Thank you for putting my angst into words.

  5. As a born and bred UP girl(girl?….well I’m 52 yo but still a girl at heart.) You hit the nail on the head describing our Upper Peninsula. I struggle too with the mixed messages—-it’s hard. This land is beautiful beyond measure and most people are kind and friendly and yet THOSe FLAGS……. But be taken in by our beauty and rich scenery and the food is beyond delicious. We boast the best Italian and Scandinavian food from the influence of immigrants from the past……❤️

  6. I totally admire your ability to write and describe your thoughts and feelings. Thank you.
    Now how do I get the pat pat miracle for my eyes??

  7. Shana, It was great and brave of you to write this. But doesn’t the takeaway have to be that the political discourse on the left has to move away from it’s all-or-nothing moralism, if it can’t account for the actual complicated choices made by actual human beings? For many years before 2020, people of color and their allies fought racism using a very different, and dare I say more worldly and mature (not Internet-outrage-driven) lexicon than we make use of today. Reading their past voices can be eye-opening. Why not let your experience reading the NYT article mean you find a new way to write paragraphs like the one about voters and racism above?

  8. Once again, you have hit the nail on the head. While I have no experience with Michigan, I could totally identify with your feelings. On election night 2016, the newscasters spoke (incessantly) about “uneducated white males” and I felt what you are feeling now. As the daughter of a cop and wife of an electrician and granddaughter, niece, sister, cousin of plumbers, I am surrounded by so-called “uneducated white males” and none of them are ok with Trump. I was so frustrated by it. Complicated is an understatement.

  9. I appreciate this essay a lot, because it speaks to the complexity of a situation that is mostly reduced to social media bites. There are decent, well-meaning people voting for Trump and for Biden this election, and denigrate those people whose choice is different than ours is both small-minded and counterproductive. Thanks for reminding me, too, to challenge my own assumptions.

  10. Jen, I think you make a good point, but it doesn’t account for the fact that the overt racism in this administration is different from anything we were facing in the past. These racist/sexist/xenophobic attacks on our people and our democracy are real, severe and intolerable. Not to say that everything before Trump was dandy — far from it — but look at these executive orders on immigration. The bans on free speech discussing the realities of systemic racism. The racist language that the administration uses to get out the vote, from the president on down.

    These can’t be met with the same approach we used in the past (even if you think that approach was effective then). Evil must be called out for what it is, and what you refer to as “worldly and mature” isn’t the right tool for the job. Ask the Senate Democrats how well their civility approach is going.

    Put another way: it’s good to try and teach people about the benefits of smoke detectors. But when your house is actively on fire, you have to grab the hose.

  11. JS, I actually completely agree with you about the magnitude of the threat posed by Trump; in fact, it sounds like I may see that threat as even greater than you do, since his overt racism and repugnant encouragement to white supremacist groups are to me part of a much larger package that includes a far broader corrosion of democratic norms (including ongoing theats that he won’t accept a Biden victory) and failure to grapple with the existential threat of climate change. And you are absolutely right that Senate Democrats should be less “civil”! What I was referring to was Shana’s language regarding Trump voters and what a vote for Trump “means.” There, I do not think the left’s Manichaean moralism has had the effect of making Trump voters stop and have some kind of moral awakening (shockingly enough!) but has often produced the opposite effect of a kind of digging in one’s heels and feeling ostracized. I really don’t see the *political* usefulness of this–and Shana’s post here makes clear it is not even accurate. So: yes, by all means, make the case against Trump, but not by shaming those who vote for him as “really” voting for racism.

  12. I wonder about this – should we even be trying to reach out to Trump voters? Honestly, if they support him even now, after the covid response and the tax records and the active racism and the gassing of protesters for a photo op and that’s just the past few months(!!!!), what possible argument would get them to open their eyes? And I honestly do not have the time or energy to hurt locker past their sensitivities to try and get them to see what a monster they’ve been supporting. That’s time and energy better spent getting out the vote.

    Maybe that’s my anger talking, and maybe that’s defeatist. But I don’t see the Republicans spending a lot of time agonizing over persuading liberals without offending them, and they’ve been pretty successful over the past few years/decades.

    • I TOTALLY get this. That’s how I feel most of the time too…until I personalize it, and think about the people I know who are voting for Trump. And then I just get confused. It must be much more complicated than I realize (and yet…to vote for the village idiot – or not – really shouldn’t be). I am always left feeling sad and conflicted.

  13. Well, JS, then that is fine– but you have just returned yourself to the stance of the NYT article that Shana’s entire post was based on querying.

  14. May I humbly submit a perspective somewhat from the other side? I won’t pretend to speak for millions of people, but I do know hundreds of highly educated, genuinely good people voting for Trump even though they broadly dislike and disagree with him. Why? Abortion. Look, I have no wish to start a debate here. I’ll freely admit that I’m pro-life, both for religious reasons and because the science leads me that direction, especially after studying at one of the top medical schools in the country and treating mothers and babies. But that’s neither here nor there for the purposes of this article. My goal isn’t to try to debate whether it ought to be legal or not. I’m just commenting to try to shed light on a segment of the population and explain some of the confusion. 

    The right to life was mentioned in this article with the (perhaps unintended) suggestion that it was a secondary issue…lumped in with “other issues” including the economy and gun rights. Please understand that for many of us, these issues don’t remotely share gravity. I, and many like me, can’t put any issue higher in importance than what we perceive and believe to be a literal matter of life and death. Disagree with us, fine. That’s the beauty of our democracy and the goal of civil discourse. But attempt to understand us and please hear me out on this. 

    Also, prioritizing life for the unborn doesn’t mean we are okay with racism. Quite the contrary. I firmly and unequivocally believe that the abortion industry is part of the systemic racism you rightly and faithfully call out in these articles. It’s well-known that the founder of Planned Parenthood promoted eugenics and even today, the vast majority of their clinics are located in minority communities. That’s not an accident. That’s an agenda. According to the Wall Street Journal (https://www.wsj.com/articles/lets-talk-about-the-black-abortion-rate-1531263697), thousands more black babies are aborted than born alive in New York City each year and though black women make up only 13% of the population, more than 30% of all abortions are performed on black women. Even if you think abortion ought to be legal, isn’t it alarming that we aren’t aborting in a way that reflects the diversity of the population? Doesn’t it reek of systemic injustice? We are disproportionately silencing black voices and we must do something about it. We need to talk about resources and support and creating a community that makes welcoming these voices into the world more possible for moms who face impossibly difficult situations.

    I’m not so naive to think politics can solve the problem and I’m not really interested in just being pro-Republican. I know voting pro-life isn’t enough and have been convicted that if I actually care about life, I need to get my hands dirty and get involved. So I volunteer at a pregnancy resource clinic to help moms in need and I have recently given toward funding several adoptions. Similarly, I applaud TME for encouraging your readers to get involved and take action for causes from supporting sustainable fashion to fighting racism. We all need to take some ownership and create the world we want to see instead of waiting around for the politicians to do it for us. 

    But, back to the original point. Some good, smart, well-meaning people vote Trump because they just can’t get over the issue of abortion and it’s weightier than guns and the economy and anything else. I voted third party in 2016 and will again this year because I can’t support Trump, but I get that people don’t want to “throw away” their vote on a no-name candidate and will thus choose him as the perceived lesser of two evils. I won’t attempt to defend the many people who vote for Trump because they actually like him. I don’t understand that thinking and I don’t count myself among them. 

    If you read this novella, thanks for your time. I hope we can all keep fighting to sort through the complicated and confusing to try to understand one another and keep open, thoughtful lines of communication going. We will not agree on everything, but we can always listen and learn and disagree in thoughtful, respectful ways.

  15. AT, I very much appreciate your “novella” – it’s an extraordinarily helpful viewpoint to be reminded of, even if I disagree with your claims regarding the religious and scientific bases for your position (and your allegation that Planned Parenthood has a racist agenda).

    I do have a question, and I promise I’m asking this not to debate you, or set you up, but to further my own understanding: many people consider Trump to be the “pro-life” candidate despite his position on COVID-19 which lead directly to the deaths of so many people and risked millions more lives, despite his immigration policies, despite, despite, despite…. There are so many things that Trump does that is the polar opposite of “pro-life.” Why does the choice issue trump (…sorry) all those other issues?

  16. Well, not exactly. Shana was talking about a particular tone she got from the article, that there is an underlying bias to the article that can be based on a number of things – bias towards getting clicks and views (which follow conflict, not nuance), bias towards ensuring that “both sides” of the election are represented equally and with equal moral value (…eyeroll), bias against rural communities – and I can’t tell what it is.

    But for me, I’ve considered Shana’s argument, and while I empathize with defending the people whom she knows and loves personally and individually, of course, I disagree that it’s the best way to spend our time collectively at this particular time in history.

  17. I totally get that too – I feel the same way about the individual people I personally know. It may be more complicated (although I tend to think it’s actually simpler – being a Trump voter becomes an identity thing, and then it’s next to impossible to admit you were wrong about who you are, coupled with the fact that it’s easier and more satisfying to just “own the libs.” But simpler doesn’t mean that its easy to undo).

    But at this point, I don’t have the time or resources to pick that apart, person by person, and taking a nicer tone more broadly isn’t going to do anything to change their minds, because (a) it’s been done before, (b) they all think it’s “biased fake news” anyway, and (c) success requires a long, individually tailored process and not just changing the tone of the NYT. Not to mention that these atrocities just can’t be met with a nicer tone.

    Yes there’s an element of “at this point, if they can’t see it, screw ’em” that’s coming from a deep sense of betrayal, anguish and bewilderment that my family, my friends and my fellow citizens would *at best* tolerate evil. So even if we have the time to reverse-brainwash millions of people, I am probably not the best person for the job. But right now, our house is on fire. I have to triage. I can’t get them in the short term anyway – I have to put out the fire they helped light.

  18. Well written rebuttal/response Shana. Clear it comes from the heart and a learned experience at home in the UP. Hope you send that to the NY Times yourself!

  19. It’s a fair question and is, in part, why I won’t vote for Trump. He is clearly anti-abortion, but I don’t think he’s pro-life. I don’t mean that to be just a matter of semantics…I believe the two to be quite different things. And more than being a fair question, your point is a fair critique of the entire “pro-life” movement as a whole, honestly. We’ve been too narrowly focused on what we are against and not concerned enough about what we claim to be for. We’ve often failed at promoting and supporting the lives around us and that is something that must change. Additionally, it makes me truly angry that Trump can get away with being awful in other areas because he knows abortion is a non-negotiable for so many. He “gets it right” in the area that many feel they can’t compromise on and leaves them in a real bind…do you go for the third party person who won’t win or do you go with the jerk who at least has the core thing right (in your eyes)? He knows this and he’s banking on it and it makes me sick.

    Anyway, I don’t know if my answer will be quite satisfying, but the short and simple answer to why abortion trumps all is that it is, for many, a moral absolute. It’s an uncompromising issue, integral to our beliefs and values. Please know I don’t intend to say it’s an easy issue. I understand it’s complicated and personal and painful and I don’t ever want to trivialize it. I also don’t expect or intend for my beliefs to be forced on anyone, but if the issue is up for the vote and is part of a candidates spoken platform, I can’t in good conscience vote for anyone who supports it. I hope that doesn’t sound contradictory. If the majority votes in favor, it will be law, but I can and should always vote for what I believe to be right and true, regardless. I think there can be many ways to solve our immigration issues…and I don’t think Trump’s way is right. I think there have been many approaches to COVID-19 among international leaders, and no one is really crushing it…but again, Trump could have done more and at least been more forthright. These, as stated, are reasons he’s not earned my vote. But abortion isn’t the same to me and to many others. There aren’t multiple courses of action that are acceptable to our consciences.

    I know that sounds flat and static and maybe crazy. And honestly, I accept that it’s not a clear issue or a primary issue for everyone. That’s fine. That’s America. I’m just trying to offer a glimpse into perspectives that might be unlike your own, just as I always appreciate Shana and the team doing. Well-written, well-spoken civil discourse is a good thing for our democracy. Your (JS) shared thoughts here have been equally helpful and enlightening and I thank you for them.

  20. AT, the problem is that abortion numbers went down under Obama/Biden. Support for sex education, free or reduced cost birth control through the ACA, community programs that help young families, free or reduced cost school lunch, free and reduced cost childcare, and universal healthcare, all lower abortions. Republicans gut these programs, all while fighting an increase in the minimum wage, and then act surprised when accidental pregnancies go up and folks don’t feel like having children is economically feasible. Gun control laws would also help children not die in senseless school shootings, like in every other civilized country. Being pro-life should mean caring about children after they are born, not up until the moment of birth, and that should include those children currently in ICE cages. I’m sorry, but at this point, pro-life voters are making bad faith arguments when they say they are voting Trump, especially since the treatment that saved his life from Covid 19 used fetal stem cells. Biden is a practicing Catholic who has always been sympathetic to the sanctity of life, but he also recognizes the humanity of women, and that we aren’t just incubators who should be forced to undergo the health and life risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth against our will. (I say that as someone who literally almost bled to death giving birth to my first child. I took that risk, and it was my choice to make). If you want abortions to go down, don’t vote third party. Vote Biden.

  21. That’s the point I’m trying to highlight – that for many, numbers going down down isn’t the goal. Numbers going to zero is. That may be unrealistic and, to many, wrong, but if that’s the goal, then that’s why Biden won’t cut it. Again, I’m really not trying to debate abortion with anyone. I’m only trying to explain that if you think they should not just be reduced but done away with completely, you do have more limited candidate options. But your point about programs and resources is spot-on and I agree completely. We must do better at creating a world where children are more easily welcomed, particularly for the minorities being aborted disproportionally.

    • Hey – I don’t have anything insightful to offer here, but I want you to know (AT, JS, Jen, Alexa, and the rest of you guys) that all of your words have been rattling around in my brain all week. I can’t thank you enough for this nuanced, thought-provoking, respectful discussion. JS I’m so freaking with you most of the time…but it all breaks down when I personalize it to people I know. AT, thank you for offering some insight, as hard as that may be. I ultimately want unity, a way to come together, a way to heal…but I’m not willing to accept unity if it comes with a side of racism. So acknowledging that there are complexities here is…well…maybe that’s the best I can say for now. I guarantee that we’ll need to have to have more of these types of discussions (but hopefully after the election – I agree that it might be too late to really change any minds now). Bottom line: I wish we could all go grab coffee and talk. As hard as some of these words are….this conversation has been one of the most thought-provoking I’ve had this week. So thank you.

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