March 8, 2020 is Woman’s Day. If it has a face, I say it’s Elizabeth Warren’s.
This is the week Elizabeth stepped out of the Presidential race while staying in the fight. Millions of women’s (and men’s) hearts sank at losing a candidate who could be one of our best Presidents… and then swelled with gratitude at her infusion of clarity, courage, passion, dedication, compassion, generosity and intelligence into this terrible moment for our country and world.
“I’ve got a plan for that” meant she’d stared right into every challenge, applied her values (it’s gotta work for everyone), thought it through, wrote it up and gave it to us as an offer, not an edict.
She was (and is) filled with that energy that comes from saying yes to a calling. She was (and is) down home and graceful and funny, just as we all hope to be when we are standing up for something we believe in.
I feel like she “pinky-pledged” every woman, of every age, that we will realize the dreams of women everywhere – that our voice matters, our bodies matter, our lives matter, our point of view matters, our leadership matters more than ever.
Like many, I identified with her as a smart, passionate Boomer/Xer woman, ambitious not for myself but for a cause I was sure could make a huge difference. There are so so so so many of us, pouring ourselves into the world as leaders in schools and government and businesses and creative art and on and on. Like honey pouring ourselves over the hot mess of the world, not leaving our beauty or tenderness behind, yet determined… like a mother bear is determined.
We persist. She did not prevail (yet). We have not prevailed (yet). But today, Women’s Day 2020 I say, the feminine is rising. The people who lead without leaving anyone behind. The people who gather all voices into their voices. The people who connect the dots, who see systems rather than sides. The people who connect, who build networks not to better compete but to make sure our collective brain is running on all 8 billion cylinders. We are a tag team over millennia. And we are laboring now to birth fierce love into this living world.
Elizabeth was asked to talk about the role that gender played in the campaign.
“Gender in this race?” she said to reporters. “You know, it’s the trap question.”If you say, ‘Yeah, there was sexism in this race,’ everyone says, ‘whiner!’”
She continued: “And if you say, ‘No, there was no sexism,’ about a bazillion women think, ‘What planet do you live on?’
Tonight, wanting to celebrate Women’s Day while honoring the Covid-19 caution to not plow into crowds of cheering, hugging and high five-ing people, I’ve watched women on the TED channel, on YouTube, on zoom-interviews, marveling at that “honey on the hot mess of the world” love comes from us, every age, every where. Beautiful. Smart. Showing up. Saying “f*ck it” to insecurities. Wise. Sincere. Dead serious. Like Elizabeth having done the homework. Looking where we’ve been told not to look. Breaking the rules to reveal the sweet spots of truth inside them.
At 75 I recognize that women in my generation – which is Elizabeth’s – have opened the way as far as we could and that millions and millions of women are pouring through ever wider doors into the positions of power. I want to name the amazing women who ran along side her: Kamala, Kirsten, Marianne, Tulsi, Amy. Beyond that, there are so many names in my heart tonight, women who’ve taught, inspired, ass-kicked me directly and indirectly, and women who backbone gazillion caring organizations as CEOs and EDs and staff and coaches and volunteers and women who struggle to find their voices while doing what has to be done for duty or money or role. And everyone I celebrate from the past and from elsewhere inspires me to keep the sweet honey flowing in my own life. I may be old, but I persist. Count on me for that.
Naomi Shihab Nye – 1952-
Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.”
Well—one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her. What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”
I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, Shu-bid-uck Habibti? Stani schway, Min fadlick, Shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the
next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just later, who is picking you up? Let’s call him.”
We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and ride next to her. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.
She was laughing a lot by then. Telling of her life, patting my knee, answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—from her bag—and was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.
And then the airline broke out free apple juice from huge coolers and two little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they were covered with powdered sugar, too. And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands—had a potted plant poking out of her bag,
some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.
And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that gate—once the crying of confusion stopped—seemed apprehensive about
any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women, too.
This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.