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Connie Schultz
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This Progressive Doesn't Need Your Lectures

Comment

Have I mentioned lately how much I'm enjoying the lectures from self-avowed liberals who insist my respect for Hillary Clinton is proof that I am not a "real progressive"?

I haven't had this much fun since I had my sinuses packed with 40 miles of gauze after polyp surgery.

It's not just men — my sisters, you disappoint me — but it's particularly entertaining when the reprimands come from young white men who were still braying for their blankies when I started getting paid to give my opinion. They popped out special, I guess.

I became a columnist in the fall of 2002. Immediately, I found myself on the receiving end of right-wing vitriol so vile it made "The Sopranos" cuddly by comparison. My first death threats came within weeks, after I wrote that the Confederate flag should be retired. After I supported stronger gun control measures, an NRA zealot posted on a gun blog what he thought was my home address and identified me as "unarmed." I was a single mother at the time. I bought new locks and kept writing.

But by all means, do tell me what I don't understand about being a progressive.

First, though, let me tell you what you clearly don't understand about me — I almost added, "and women like me," but that would be presuming to speak for other women, which would make me sound just like you.

I am a 58-year-old wife, mother and grandmother, who first knew I was a feminist at 17. I was a waitress at a family restaurant and a local banker thought he could stick his hand up my skirt because my hands were full of dinner. In the time it took me to deposit that steaming pile of pasta onto his lap, I realized I was never going to be that girl.

Like so many other women, I soon learned that knowing who you are is no small victory, but making it clear to the rest of the world is one of the hardest and longest nonpaying jobs a woman will ever have. I'll spare you my personal list of jobs with unequal pay and unwelcome advances. No good comes from leading with our injuries.

It helped — it still helps — that my working-class parents raised me to be ready for the fight. My father was a union utility worker, my mother a nurse's aide. Both of them died in their 60s, living just long enough to see all of their children graduate from college and start their lives. I've said many times that my parents did the kind of work that wore their bodies out so that we would never have to.

That, too, is my legacy.

But, please, tell me again how I don't know what it means to be a progressive.

Last month, I started teaching journalism at Kent State University. One of the first things I did was to lug to my office the large metal sign that used to hang over the tool shed at my father's plant. "THE BEST SAFETY DEVICE IS A CAREFUL MAN," it reads. Nice try, management.

I'm stickin' with the union, Woody Guthrie sang.

Every time I walk into my office, that sign is the first thing I see. Remember, it whispers.

What does any of this have to do with why I admire Hillary Clinton? Nothing. But it has everything to do with why I don't need any lecture from somebody who thinks he or she is going to tell me who I am because I do.

One of the hallmarks of a progressive is a willingness to challenge a power structure that leaves too many people looking up and seeing the bottom of a boot. I want power for the people who don't have it. And for the rest of my conscious days, I will do my small part to help get it. I love it when detractors describe Clinton as too angry and not "warm and fuzzy" enough. I want a leader, not a Pooh Bear.

I don't want to diminish anyone who supports Bernie Sanders. I'm married to Sanders' colleague, Sen. Sherrod Brown, which is how I've gotten to know him over the last 10 years. He's a good man.

If you support Sanders in this Democratic presidential primary, I don't assume that you hate women.

See how that works?

But if you tell me that, should Sanders lose, you won't vote for Hillary Clinton, then stop calling yourself a liberal or a progressive or anything other than someone invested in just getting your way.

There is so much at stake here. The fight for women's reproductive rights is not a sporting event. Our cities are rife with racial tensions, and too few of us white Americans fail to see this as our problem, too. The Affordable Care Act is not enough, but it is the first fragile steps toward universal health care. It is already saving lives of people who had nothing — no health care, no safety net, nothing — before it passed.

Finally, the growing gulf between the obscenely privileged and everyone else is a reason to get out of bed every morning — if we care about the future of the people we are supposed to be fighting for.

If you would sacrifice those who need us most because you didn't get your way, then please, save me your lectures and get out of my way.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University's school of journalism. She is the author of two books, including "...and His Lovely Wife," which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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Comments

2 Comments | Post Comment
Dear Ms Schultz,

We have a little bit in common. I am 59 years old, and was born and raised in Cleveland Heights Ohio. My first job was in 5th grade, delivering the Cleveland Press. I had jobs in grocery stores, convenience stores, parking cars during high school and college. So we both had entry level jobs while acquiring more useful skills.

In regards to a banker putting his hand up your skirt, I find that story to be highly implausible because people in that day and age did not act that way (with the exception of Chris Dodd and Ted Kennedy)

Otherwise, I did enjoy your article.
Comment: #1
Posted by: William J Flynn
Sat Feb 6, 2016 11:39 AM
Mr. Flynn:
What do you mean, "people in that day and age did not act that way"? Some men STILL act that way, and it was worse 40 years ago. (That was about the time the feminist movement was just getting started.) At that time, my uncle watched his new daughter-in-law walk by and said to my father, in the hearing of the daughter-in-law and her two children, "My son got himself a nice piece of ______, didn't he?" To my father's credit, he told him to shut up. Almost every flight attendant (stewardesses at that time) had stories of men who pinched or groped them while they were busy serving the people across the aisle, and airlines imposed strict dress codes and age and weight limits on them, explaining openly that businessmen would fly another airline if the "stews" didn't look sexy enough to entertain them. While he didn't grope her, one salesman sat down in the office of the store I worked for, looked at the assistant manager, who was near retirement age and definitely not conventionally sexy, and said, "Hey, babe, get me some coffee." At another location of the same company, a customer demanded to speak to the manager; when I told him he could step to the information counter, he looked at the two women, manager and assistant manager, conferring there, snarled, "There's nobody there who looks like a manager," and walked out. The service manager of an auto repair place suggested he might do the work for less if my mother "was a good girl." (At that, she was lucky; she had bought the car at a dealer across town because the salesmen there were willing to wait on her.)
Just read through some of the papers of the 1970s, when women explained why they were feminists, if you don't believe "people in that day and age did not act that way." Or by "that way," were you referring to her reaction? Many women tolerated that treatment because they would be fired if they objected.
Comment: #2
Posted by: KMD
Sun Feb 7, 2016 9:27 AM
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