Sunday, December 25, 2016

November: The Elephant in the Room

NEW - Audio Link:

Announcing the launch of our radio program: Schmidt Happens!
Hosted by Jumana Hashim and Rosemary Schmidt
Airing on Saturday/Sunday night during Special Programming 8 to 10 PM
On WBCA-LP 102.9 FM Boston

The following is a re-cap of the first show which was recorded on December 4, 2016, and first aired on December 24, 2016. Note, this is not intended to be a verbatim transcript, but a recap of the highlights, with some further ponderings, references, and links thrown in. Please feel free to add your comments/ideas/suggestions for future shows/topics as a comment on this blog post.

November: The Elephant in the Room


We opened the show with a few chords from “Go Cubs, Go,” and did a quick review of all the history-making events that happened in November 2016: the Cubs won the World Series, which culminated in the final five-hour game, complete with a 17-minute rain delay and all, a nail-biter right to the finish. By now, we all must have the song, “Go Cubs Go!” stuck in our heads.

What else? Ireland beat New Zealand 40 to 29, for the first time ever (and they first started playing each other in 1905), in a rugby match also played in Chicago at the start of November.  
Anything else? Beantown Women’s Rugby Club also traveled to Chicago and had a split decision, vanquishing the Minnesota Valkyries, but dropping a close one with Chicago North Shore.
Hmm, was there anything else that happened in November? Anything?
Ha, well there is the elephant in the room, of course: The Election.
And November had started off so well. (Go Cubs Go)
Ironically, when we first started talking about hosting a radio show, I thought we would cover themes similar to what I’ve written about in my blog: culture, sports, art, diversity, LGBTQ, faith, philosophy, psychology, STEM, science, health, and business/management. But not politics. Never politics.
Yet, to talk of anything else now seemed nearly impossible. I saw someone tweet part of a poem by Bertolt Brecht, written in 1938 during the rise of Nazi Germany:
“What kind of times are these when
To talk about trees is almost a crime
Because it implies silence about so many horrors.”
To talk of trees – or baseball, or rugby for that matter – now seemed insignificant in the wake of the election fallout.  Ironically, 1938 was also the very same year that Adolf Hitler was selected as Time Magazine’s Man of the Year.
We started a conversation about both the reaction to the election results, as well as offering some analysis on how it could have happened. Certainly, economics and identity played a huge role. There is a large portion of the population that perhaps feels left behind, as jobs have become increasingly technology based, and equally uncomfortable and threatened by the pace of social change over the past ten years.
Jumana found a great article published by the Brookings Institution (Reeves, 2016) that keyed into the underlying psychology of the Trump supporters, postulating that anger is really just another expression of pain.
It really came down to the great divide between cities and rural America, as well as young and old. For generations, young people have left their small towns for cities, seeking better jobs, but also to find like-minded people, to fit in, and be accepted as they are. This demographic shift has been happening for decades. When I lived in Springfield, Illinois, I remember meeting people who had left their even smaller farm towns for the relative metropolis of Springfield. Ultimately, I left Springfield for Boston because I saw it as a place where I could just be me, possibly find love and acceptance, and of course play rugby.
The small towns are the places people are from. The young, urban city dwellers - we are the sons and daughters of the older, rural voters. The cities have also been the landing place for immigrants new to the country, where they could find jobs and possibly a support network among fellow immigrants. What we didn’t fully recognize was the undercurrent of anger from those feeling left out, left behind, disenfranchised, and having social change imposed on them. Not only a black man as president for eight years, but gays and lesbians allowed in the military, recognition of same-sex marriage, transgender rights, and forced health insurance coverage. President-Elect Donald Trump tapped into that anger, and unleashed it.
Certainly, the election was very polarizing, with the typically younger and more liberal voters at one end of the spectrum, many even initially supporting Bernie Sanders, and at the other end of the spectrum, the typically older and whiter more conservative Trump supporters, including some of the more extreme far-right extreme factions. It’s clear how these two camps would have voted.
But what about the middle?
How did the undecided voter decide to vote for Donald Trump?
We explored one theory. There was a study led by Professor Timothy Wilson at the University of Virginia, where subjects were left to sit alone with their thoughts for some time period, say six to fifteen minutes, and in one version of the trial, subjects were also given the option to push a button which would deliver a painful (albeit not harmful) shock. Surprisingly, or should I say shockingly, the majority of men (67%) and a quarter of women opted to shock themselves. Given the choice between boredom and pain, people chose pain.
If a vote for Hillary Clinton was seen as a vote for the status quo, then maybe vote for Donald Trump was simply a vote against boredom. President-Elect Donald Trump may be many things, but he certainly won’t be boring.
A lot of people are nervous now, given the rhetoric of hate that has been unleashed. Or at least given license to be spoken freely. Maybe it was just that, rhetoric. Maybe he was just saying what he had to say in order to win the election. Trump campaigned to woo middle America, which was smart. To quote an old fortune cookie: “Enthusiasm is the key to success.” Trump was certainly enthusiastic.
Jumana tried to put a hopeful spin on things. Maybe it won’t turn out to be that extreme. After all, the Government does not control every aspect of society; each individual can exert some influence by how they act. I added the old adage: “When the people lead, the leaders will follow.”
Yet, it still feels like dangerous times. It’s a time for everyone to be vigilant, stick together, and watch out for each other, and for each person to be a beacon of hope, and decency, and civility to counteract the negativity that has been in the air.
“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
~Edmund Burke
There is almost a feeling of helplessness, not knowing what to do. Some people in the U.S. have adopted the safety pin movement. It’s small but it’s something. It originated in the Netherlands during World War II. People would discreetly wear a safety pin to signal to others that they were safe with them, and part of the resistance. They were adopted again in the U.K. after the Brexit vote, when there was an uptick in violence against ethnic minorities. As I said in my last blog, sometimes change starts with something small. The safety pin is the equivalent of a bunt in baseball, but it starts the process, and sets the mental compass on the right course, ready to take action. The safety pin shouldn’t be an empty symbol, but rather a pledge to do something, to take action, to stand up for others, and not allow the hatred, bigotry and racism to go unchecked.
Be kind. Look out for each other. It’s a rough crowd out there.
Remember, when Schmidt happens, make the best of it.
Post Script
I’m not sure how recognizable my version of “Go Cubs Go” was, plus I think I was supposed to capo it. Alas! The song was written by Steve Goodman in 1984; he died that same year, his life cut short by leukemia. In the small world way of things, while growing up in the Chicago area, he was classmates with Hillary Clinton in High School. I learned that while poking around online for this blog, as well as that he also wrote the song, “City of New Orleans.” I would hum that song in my head practically all the way, from where I picked it up in Effingham, Illinois, until I hopped off in Winona, Mississippi the next morning, all the while watching the landscape change from flat, black fertile farmland to red clay fields, towns and woods.
“Good morning America, how are you?”
See Post-Show Ponderings below for the answer to that question.
Happy Holidays!
Remember, at the Schmidt House, we celebrate all the miracles of the season, so Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, a Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah, a Blessed Mawlid al-Nabi, and a Very Peaceful Solstice!
Peace, Salaam, Shalom, Namaste!

Peace, Love, Rugby!

Peace to Aleppo.
Stocking Stuffers! (compliments of YouTube):
Peace, Salaam, Shalom!
Don’t Tell Me You Don’t Like Christmas
By Careless Sons, a UK band. It’s in British English, so I’m not completely sure what it’s all about, but there are some lovely Christmas jumpers (translation: sweaters), jingle bells, snow, and ice skating scenes. It has a good beat, seems happy, and gets my toes tapping anyway.
The City of New Orleans
Arlo Guthrie version, written by Steve Goodman. Will induce a lot of humming and toe-tapping.
Better Days
By Goo Goo Dolls. The perfect song for this time of year. Let us all hope for better days ahead!
Happy 2017!
Up Next: Democracy: Recap of HUBweek 2016 Faneuil Forum
I went into a little bit of a rant on Democracy at the end of the show, and there will be much more to come on that topic – as well as a look back at the HUBweek 2016 Faneuil Forum event hosted by Professor Michael Sandel - in a future show/blog post.
About WBCA-LP 102.9 FM Boston:
Thank you Mayor Marty Walsh and all the folks at Boston Neighborhood Network for making WBCA possible and giving us a place where our voices may be heard.
Radio Beantown is on the air! Jumana Hashim is a current member of Beantown Women’s Rugby Club, while Rosemary, aka Rosebud, Schmidt has been retired a few years.  
Post-Show Ponderings:
I’ve now had a few weeks to stew on this since the recording of our show.
“Good morning America, how are you?”
Well, America is not well right now.
Days after the election, the Alt Right holds a celebration party just blocks from the White House, and just across the mall from the Holocaust Museum. And no one is calling President-Elect Trump’s supporters out on this. Even if someone believes that Trump has some business magic to make things better, does it mean that we have to give up our values and tolerate the blatant hatred that is now on display? I see some tweets and photos online. There’s a group carrying signs reading “Let’s Make America White Again.” Another sign, at first I think it reads “Stop Hate Crimes,” but then I realize I’ve missed a word, and it actually reads “Stop Hate Crime Laws.”
To steal a page from author Azar Nafisi, interpreting the current political climate through the lens of literature, it feels like the seventh book of the Harry Potter series, where forces of evil have taken over, and Harry and his friends have been forced underground. It feels like the last chapter of Lord of the Flies, when the children turned savages have taken over the island, given in to their lesser selves. Simon and Piggy are both dead, and Ralph is on the beach, but there is no assurance that any grownups will land on our shores to restore some semblance of order and civility to our society.
“Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of men’s hearts…”
We are in the midst of an uncivil dysfunction. What to do? Can't talk about it at work, at the hair salon, or during holiday get-togethers with family. Yes, it is the elephant in the room.
In a speech Thursday night, December 1, 2016, in Cincinnati, as part of President-Elect Donald Trump’s Thank-You Tour, he says to the crowd:
“We spent too much time focusing on what divides us. Now is the time to embrace the one thing that truly unites us. You know what that is – America, America.
“We are going to seek a truly inclusive society, where we support each other, love each other, and look out for each other. And that means that people coming into our country have to be people that have the potential to love us, not to hate us.”
“We condemn bigotry and prejudice in all of its forms. We denounce all of the hatred and we forcefully reject the language of exclusion and separation. We are going to come together, we have no choice, we have to, and it’s better.”
But is this message really getting heard, and will it really happen?
I see some footage of another speech by Trump, made December 15, 2016, in Hershey, Pennsylvania:
“My message tonight is for all Americans, from all parties, all beliefs, all walks of life. Whether you are African-American, Hispanic-American, or Asian-American, or whatever the hell you are, remember that we are all Americans.”
This is President-Elect Donald Trump's attempt at building unity. It's not working so well. There was a recent article in USA Today on this very topic, reporting on the results of a poll by Suffolk University (Page, Petras, 2016). When people were asked how they felt about Donald Trump taking office next month, 38% felt alarmed, 38% hopeful, 16% excited, and 4% bored (margin of error +/- 3 percentage points). Note that only 4% said they were bored!

Watching and hearing everything in the news every day, I don't know what to do, but I know I need to do something. So, I go to a couple of rallies.

The first rally I went to was on Boston Common on Sunday, November 20th. I make a little sign and bring it with me. On my way to join the group of protesters, I run into a black man with dread locks, and he asks what’s going on. I explain that there is a rally to promote unity, reacting to the election. He is quite a bit more magnanimous than me, saying, “well, the people have voted, and Trump was the people’s choice, and we have to accept that.” He tells me how he is used to such things, such as a white woman passing by him on the street and telling him he should go back to where he came from.” I ask him: “Why should this be okay? Do you not deserve to be treated with respect for your basic human dignity?”
The crowd numbers roughly 80 people, and are mostly doing a series of chants. I’m not a big chanter. I’d rather sing. The most creative chant of the day, I would have to paraphrase slightly to say it on the air: “Kitty grabs back!”
After the rally, I meet a man form Ireland originally, a fellow rugby player as it turns out, and he remarks: The mood here now in the U.S., he hasn’t seen anything like it since Dublin in 1981. The Troubles.
Trouble has found us here.
A few weeks later, the Islamic Center of Wayland receives a letter (anonymous of course), threatening to do to them “what Hitler did to the Jews.” Another rally to show solidarity and support to the Muslim community. I bring my sign. Several members of the community speak. There are a few songs: “God Bless America,” “America The Beautiful,” and “Lean On Me.” A Muslim man, overcome by the outpouring of support, moves through the crowd, giving hugs. I see a Muslim woman, standing with friends, in tears.
See the letter for yourself:
Story on the rally in The Boston Globe:
Of course, the really big rally is coming up, on the day after Inauguration Day, Saturday, January 21, 2016, in D.C., and for those who can’t make the trip, most major cities are holding rallies of their own, including Boston. I might just have to hop on a train again.
Unfortunately, there is even discord within this movement. The rally was initially named the Million Women March, but this understandably upset the women of color who had been planning and organizing the Million Women March slated for October 2017, to mark the anniversary of the first Million Women March on Washington held in 1997. It was seen as another example of whites oblivious to black history.
Now it’s being called the Women's March on Washington. But why, I ask, should this be limited to women? Why shouldn’t every group or individual who did not vote for Trump, the majority of voters by the way (this little statistic keeps getting swept aside) show up for the rally? Women and men of every walk of life, race, creed, and ethnic origin.
Every American.
We must not be silent.
Silence is complicity.
Stand up for yourself.
Stand up for each other.
Stand up for what is good and right.
Stand up for the fundamental dignity of every individual.
Never forget:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me –
And there was no one left to speak for me.”
Pastor Martin Niemoller (1892-1984)
Two more quotes:
“You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.”
~Rosa Parks
“I am only one; but still I am one.
I may not be able to do everything, but still I can do something.”
~Helen Keller
Do Something
Fleming, Nicole. 2016. Wayland Islamic center offers message of peace after receiving hateful letter. The Boston Globe. 11 December 2016.
Gao, George. 2016. Biggest share of whites in U.S. are Boomers, but for minority groups it’s Millenials or younger. Pew Research Center, 7 July 2016.
Golding, William. 1954. Lord of the Flies. New York: Perigree Press.
Horton, Scott. 2008. Brecht: ‘To Those Who Follow In Our Wake. Harpers Magazine, January 15, 2008.

Page, Susan, and George Petras. 2016. Poll: Trump has not yet made progress in uniting USA (online version); Little Sign of U.S. Unity (print version). USA Today. 22 December 2016, page 2A.
Reeves, Richard V. 2016. Middle America’s malaise helped Trump to victory, but he has no cure. Brookings Institution, 28 November 2016.
Shaner, Bill. 2016. Wayland’s Islamic Center receives note calling for genocide.
Whitehead, Nadia. 2014. People would rather be electrically shocked than left alone with their thoughts. Science, 3 July 2014.
Google “pain boredom” and you’ll find a bunch of articles reporting on Professor Timothy Wilson’s study.
© 2016 Rosemary A. Schmidt
Rose Schmidt is the author of “Go Forward, Support! The Rugby of Life” (Gainline Press 2004). The views expressed herein are solely those of the author, and do not reflect the views of any other agency or organization. Use of individual quotes with proper citation and attribution, within the limits of fair use, is permitted. If you would like to request permission to use or reprint any of the content on the site, please contact me.
Radio Broadcasts are © 2016 Jumana Hashim and Rosemary Schmidt. For permission to re-print or re-broadcast the radio shows, please contact the radio hosts and/or WBCA-LP 102.9 FM Boston for permission. The views expressed in the radio broadcast are those of the hosts, and not any other agency, entity or organization. Every effort has been made to give proper credits and citations for material quoted/cited. Any errors or omissions are not intentional and every effort will be made to make corrections as soon as they are brought to our attention.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

New Radio Program on WBCA-LP 102.9 FM!

Announcing our new radio program on WBCA-LP 102.9 FM Boston:

"Schmidt Happens"
Hosted by Jumana Hashim & Rosemary Schmidt

First show to air Saturday night Dec. 24th at 8:00 PM
Show will play again Sunday night Dec. 25th at 9:00 PM

The blog to accompany the radio show will be posted later this weekend.
Title: “November: The Elephant in the Room”

Stay Tuned!

Friday, October 21, 2016

It Starts With a Bunt

New! Audio broadcast:

Sometimes change starts with a bunt, a small thing, something within reach. Or, at least it did for the Cubs Wednesday night. Things were looking pretty bleak for the Mudville sluggers, as their bats had fallen silent since the first game of the National League Championship Series, a convincing win over the L.A. Dodgers, highlighted by a base-clearing homer in the 8th inning. Clayton Kershaw took the wind out of their sails in Game 2, though the Cubs still kept it to a respectable 1-0 score for the loss. Their drought in hitting continued in Game 3, losing 6-0, and into the start of Game 4. I was starting to wonder if someone had snuck a goat into the Dodgers’ stadium. Irony of ironies, we had just finished watching “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” right before the game, and I began to wonder if it was a portent of things to come, that we might be left like Linus once again wailing, “Wait till next year!”

By the time Ben Zobrist went to the plate in the fourth inning, the Cubs had accumulated 21 scoreless innings in a row, and he knew he had to do something different. He bunted. How humble, simple, and selfless of him. No one goes to the Baseball Hall of Fame for bunting. No one gets recognized as the Best Bunter in Baseball, or given the Golden Bunt Award. Everyone focuses on the home run hitters, the Russells and the Rizzos, but I believe it was this simple bunt, this individual sacrifice, that inspired and led his teammates to connect with the ball that inning and send it sailing. Or, as Manager Joe Maddon, was quoted as saying, “It’s contagious.” 

Ben Zobrist's bunt in the 4th inning

Anthony Rizzo after hitting his home run in the top of the 5th
Sometimes when you swing for the fence, you miss everything. It’s just too much. Sometimes you have to start with something small, something manageable, something doable.
Sometimes you just have to start with a bunt.
Final Score Game 4: Cubs 10 – Dodgers 2
Final Score Game 5: Cubs 8 – Dodgers 4

Post Script

It was great watching former Red Sox players Jon Lester pitch for the Cubs in Game 5, and John Lackey in Game 4. All those stories about fried chicken in the Red Sox clubhouse have been left far behind them. Now, everyone thinks it was Theo Epstein’s genius and persuasion that brought them to Chicago, but no, there is a totally different, perfectly logical explanation.

It was the fried chicken.

If you want the best darned fried chicken anywhere, it’s just a few miles down I-55, off exit 267, at the White Fence Farm in Romeoville, Illinois. It is seriously the best fried chicken in the world, plus has the most amazing sides, such as their bean salad, and coleslaw, and my own personal favorite, the corn fritters, perfectly crispy and magically dusted with powdered sugar. Mmm-mmm. You can bet there will be some fried chicken eating in Chicago when the Cubs bring it back to Wrigley Saturday night for Game 6, up 3-2 in the Series.

It is also nice to see Pete Rose gamboling about with the other sportscasters. In a single word: Giddy. He is simply giddy just to be back around the game. It’s a little complicated, and probably a topic for another day, another blog.  

A couple of Roses, exchanging their sports books (2014)
Thanks to everyone who stopped by and took me up on my offer of a free book at last week’s Boston Book Fest. Actually, thank you to everyone who actually even made eye contact or stopped to talk to me. Boston drivers are legendary for their abilities in averting eye contact, to avoid having to let someone into their lane, but I have to tell you the skills are equally honed as pedestrians. Imagine, I’m at a book festival, a place where everyone presumably kind of likes books, and most of the passersby just passed on by.  

Up Next (in the on-deck circle):
Recap of HUBweek 2016


Harris, Beth. 2016. Borrowed bat did the trick. The Boston Globe, 21 October 2016.

© 2016 Rosemary A. Schmidt
Rose Schmidt is the author of “Go Forward, Support! The Rugby of Life” (Gainline Press 2004). Use of individual quotes with proper citation and attribution, within the limits of fair use, is permitted. If you would like to request permission to use or reprint any of the content on the site, please contact me.