When I was pregnant with my daughter, my parents gave me a Cabbage Patch doll with blonde hair and eyes that blinked.
On the spot, I named her Gloria Steinem.
“Think this through,” my father cautioned.
My mother just smiled.
By the time my daughter, Cait, could walk, Gloria Steinem was her constant companion — dragged from room to room and regularly strapped into a seatbelt next to Cait on our outings.
You can learn a lot about strangers’ politics by their reaction to a doll.
I remember a particular moment with such clarity that my heartbeat accelerates in the recollection. A friend and I, with our children in tow, had just finished lunch in a restaurant, and we were gathering up our things to leave. When I told Cait we had to go, she held up her doll and said in her outside voice: “I know, Mommy. It’s cold outside, and I have to put Gloria Steinem’s sweater on first.”
To our left, a table of women laughed and one of them gave a thumbs-up. To our right, a woman shook her head in disgust. The man with her pointed at the doll in Cait’s arms and said something about how awful it was that I was raising my daughter to hate men.
My friend took one look at my face and mouthed “we’ll meet you up front” as she shepherded our kids to the door. She needn’t have worried. Anyone willing to take on a doll in front of the little girl who loves it was not going to hijack a single minute of precious time with my daughter.
There was a time when I would share this story and the typical response was shock. Who would do that in front of a child? The story has lost all of its punch these days, and there’s no pretending we don’t know why.
Hundreds of migrant children remain in U.S. custody after being ripped from the arms of their parents, and some of them have been adopted without their parents’ knowledge or permission. The well-being of innocent children is of no concern to this president, a racist and self-professed sexual predator, and his supporters have become increasingly vocal in their sycophancy. Good times.
Earlier this month, I was in Washington’s airport at 5:15 a.m., standing in line for my first, coveted cup of coffee. The man in front of me turned and pointed to the America Needs Journalists pin on my lapel. “You’d better be careful,” he said, his demeanor void of concern. “Someone might mistake you for a journalist.”
For three years, the president of the United States has been calling journalists the enemy of the people. Recently, I saw a photo on Twitter of an airline passenger wearing a T-shirt advocating for the hanging of journalists. This is not the first time I’ve seen that shirt, but still, the image stayed with me, probably because I’m not sure I could keep quiet if that person, in that T-shirt, were walking in front of me.
You might say I’ve had it.
So, in my low, precaffeinated voice, I said to the man pointing to my pin, “Step away from the badge, sir.” Miraculously, he backed off. Maybe it was my goggle-size reading glasses, which make me look like I’m on the verge of something.
This week, The Washington Post‘s Margaret Sullivan wrote a column under this headline: “‘I don’t know what to believe’ is an unpatriotic cop-out. Do better Americans.” I hope you’ll read it.
Sullivan encourages all of us to spend some time each day getting our news from legitimate sources, such as PBS Newshour, and to subscribe to newspapers. If you can’t afford it, then it’s likely your local library subscribes for you.
She adds this: “Stop getting your news and opinions from social media. Stop watching Fox News, especially the prime-time shows, which are increasingly untethered to reality.
“If every American gave 30 minutes a day to an earnest and open-minded effort to stay on top of the news, we might actually find our way out of this crisis.”
Earlier this year, my daughter, now in her 30s and the mother of two children, asked if I might bring Gloria Steinem with me for my next visit. She didn’t have to ask twice. I was standing in line waiting to board when a woman around my age pointed to the doll in my arms and said, “My daughter had one of those.”
The man with her sighed like a punctured tire.
You know what I had to do.
“Her name is Gloria,” I told her. “Gloria Steinem.”
She shot a glance at her deflated companion. “I wish I’d thought of that,” she said, returning my smile.
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 non-fiction books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, The Daughters of Erietown, will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (firstname.lastname@example.org) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore