by guest blogger Maya Rodale, author of smart and sassy romance novels
There were some silver linings with some of the bad news stories this year. Here's why, in spite of devastating hurricanes, violence, and ignorance, I'm really optimistic about the future.
Sandy and Global Warming
As a downtown Manhattan dweller, I was inconvenienced by Sandy, but I wasn't devastated by her the way many people who lived very close to me were (Staten Island, Brooklyn, Jersey Shore). I spent the day after the storm listening to my hand-cranked, solar-powered radio/flashlight, which I had stashed away for exactly this situation (high five to self!). I was damn glad to hear the elected officials to say, "Climate change is real. It's happening." No more denial, hedging, or pfaffing--it's here and it's up in our subways, down in our basements, ruining lives, and costing a fortune. A few days later, the headlines showed that a record number of people now believed in global warming. Is it absurd that the matter is even up for debate? Whatever. With a significant majority of Americans believing the facts, let's hold our elected officials accountable for making legislation that helps slow or stop climate change.
Malala's Shooting and Recovery
Violence is abhorrent, especially when it's directed against a 14-year-old girl. The Taliban was trying to send a message when a masked gunman walked up to Malala Yousafzai and shot her in the head because she advocated for girl's education. Only he didn't send the message he meant to. Malala lived, and her story made headlines around the world. Look, he's right to be threatened by her: Education leads to equality, economic opportunities, and empowerment. All of which threaten the rigid and repressive Taliban regime (and others like it that actively diminish women). But the real message here is you can't keep a girl down. And the world has her back. So let's put down the guns and pick up some books, shall we?
As the results were coming in on election night, I checked to see how Prop. 37--the California initiative to label GM food--was faring on the ballot. I knew it was a lost cause when I read this: "The No campaign calculated that households would pay as much as $400 more a year in grocery bills." Not that any independent study shows that.
The "No campaign" was a $49 million effort to deceive the public, paid for by all those Big Ag companies. And it won because they turned the issue into a yes or no "no-brainer" question: Do you want to save $400 dollars a year in groceries?
Getting the GM labeling issue on the ballot in the first place is a huge triumph. In spite of this setback, I'm convinced the tide is turning for organic and it's a question of when not if we as a nation make the shift. I no longer have to explain what organic is, and I see tons of organic restaurants and snack foods popping up in unlikely places (airports! Gas stations!). We're getting there.
But there's also a message in this loss. I think it's this:
Dear Organic Movement: You have the facts on your side. You have morality on your side. The math is on your side. But until there is a unified dollars and cents argument--until you can ALL rally around a statement such as, "You will save $400 dollars this year in grocery bills by buying organic," you're never going to get those voters who have the values but not the bank account, or the people who just don't care about their food so long as it's on the table and in their bellies. I don't think we need to make everyone share our values or care deeply about their food. Just show us the money, and show it to us in dollars in cents right now...not "over time" or "saved healthcare costs when you're 70."
Old Guys Talking about Rape and Birth Control
Really, really! The things that came out of these guys' mouths! Pregnancy from rape is a gift from God, "the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down," forcible rape, legitimate rape. Don't even get me started on all the conflamma around birth control and the panel of just men discussing it! The thing is, people have been making stupid comments like this for centuries. The difference--and the awesome thing--is that now, not only is it not OK, but also we all speak up to condemn the stupidity. After Todd Akin's comments, I was heartened to see all the women who spoke up and said THIS IS NOT OK. Often, women shared their devastating personal stories of sexual assault--what bravery that must take!--to really show what is at stake here. I was just so proud of all the women and men who spoke up about the need to be more respectful toward our fellow humans. And the need to understand basic biology.
The upside? The guys who made such idiotic comments were ridiculed and forced out of office. No means no and yeah, women do have a way of shutting that stuff down.
Election Results Showing How Votes Do Count
Personally, I thought the election results were fantastic. But not everyone did. Here's how we're all winners, though: There is now a consensus that the world is more than just white male voters and that minorities and women are not special-interest voting blocks, but citizens. These groups have long been silent in history and with this election their voices were heard loud and clear. Perhaps now we can move away from a polarizing, exclusionary vision of "us versus them" politics toward and more inclusive approach focused on getting things done rather than keeping certain groups down.
And... Sandy Hook/Newtown, CT
This one is still too much for me to process, but all I can say is that I hope it allows the push for gun control to step ahead of the opposition to it. I can only hope.
Maya Rodale is the author of multiple historical romance novels, as well as the nonfiction book Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained. She has a master's degree from New York University and lives in Manhattan with her darling dog and a rogue of her own. Her latest book is Seducing Mr. Knightly. Learn more at mayarodale.com
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com