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Haiku observations while walking my dog

Sirius with bouquet 4-9-17Walking my dog Sirius this morning, I noticed the thousands of pink petals carpeting the black asphalt roadside. A strong wind had whipped through overnight, and I realized it had stripped most of the petals from my neighbor’s crab apple tree, robbing it of much of its spring magnificence. The sight reminded me of cherry blossoms, which in turn reminded me of Japanese haiku. As we walked, I began composing haiku in my head, and when we returned, after breakfast I repaired upstairs to my office and captured my observations.

Warm spring southwest wind

Whips across my morning face

Clouds scud across sun

Pepto Bismol pink

Petals from the crab apple

Carpet the gutter

Six Chihuahuas strain

Against their slender leashes

My chow wags, confused

Should he take them on

Or sniff their tiny butts instead?

Better not find out

Roughly twenty feet

Between us, we owners chat

About our babies

The beige Chihuahua’s

Mother to all the brown ones,

She tells me proudly

Moving on, my dog

Pauses to poop. I bag it

In thin pink plastic

Next we happen on

A neighbor pruning fruit trees

On his lakeside lawn

Over the winter,Snyders Lake arborvitae pruned by deer Feb 2017

Hungry deer stripped the foliage

Of his arborvitae

Clear up to five feet.

Scraggly twigs are all that’s left

Beneath the crowning balls

He’s fatalistic,

Says he’ll wrap them in black plastic

Fencing. They’ll grow back.

On our way back home,

We greet a mother cradling

George, her toddler son

Sirius sniffs his feetTiki with neighborhood kids 4-24-17

And wags. The little boy smiles

My dog and I trudge uphill

Toward home, greet Tiki,

The gray retired racehorse

Across the street.

Tossing the poop bag

Into the black garbage bin,

I count my blessings.

Living in upstate New York is definitely high on my list of blessings. Arguably we enjoy the best climate in the continental United States—if you enjoy experiencing all four seasons, that is. It can be wildly unpredictable, and we’re experiencing an unsettling warming trend due to climate change. But by and large, we’re spared the severe droughts, the tornadoes, the floods that plague other regions of the country. This morning on Facebook my neighbor Wendy, owner of Tiki, the horse in my poem, posted a photo of an enormous pine tree that crashed in her back yard during last night’s windstorm, but fortunately it missed her house. My heart goes out to those affected by devastating weather elsewhere. As for me, I’m not planning on moving any time soon.

The haiku form of poetry is a wonderful way of capturing your observations on the fly. For a time, as a spiritual practice, I wrote a haiku every morning after walking Sirius, and I highly recommend it as a way of centering yourself and counting your blessings. A single haiku consists of just three lines. In the classic form, the first line contains five syllables, the second contains seven syllables, and the third contains five. But it’s okay to cut yourself a little slack, as I’ve done here—there are different schools of thought on the subject.

Why not leave me a haiku in the comment section? Or not—it’s up to you. But in any case, please leave me a comment, and subscribe to my blog so as not to miss anything.

POSTSCRIPT: As I format this post prior to publication, WordPress keeps screwing around with the spacing and deleting the spaces between the three-line stanzas. I’ve tried fixing it several times to no avail, and it’s bringing me uptight, so I guess I’ll leave it. Good practice for you, the reader, in counting the syllables for yourself. In any case, it’s time to watch the Kentucky Derby now!

The Creative Crone: My new book project

How do you like the new look of my blog? To celebrate the official beginning of my nonfiction book on creativity, I decided it was high time for a new visual theme, and this one is in perfect harmony with the coming of spring.

I’ve registered a new domain name, www.creativecrone.net, and I’m working on a new website to match. If you click on the link now, it will bring you to a basic site on GoDaddy, but that’s only temporary until I get one up and running on WordPress. How long that will take is anyone’s guess. I spent Saturday night exploring the intricacies of getting and linking new domains, including a prolonged online chat with one of the “happy helpers” at WordPress, and I’m still almost as confused as I was when I began. Nonetheless, I’m proud of myself—I didn’t freak out, and I didn’t call on my husband to help.

Talk about synchronicity—my husband just came back from a quick run to the supermarket, and he brought me a gorgeous bouquet of bright orange and magenta flowers. Daisies and carnations, in suspiciously brilliant shades that may have been enhanced with a bit of a dye job, but I love them. I stuck them in a red metal pitcher from Dansk, and for now I’m going to break off from blogging to go out and play in the garden. The sky is a cloudless blue, and the thermometer just hit 70—truly delightful after what seems like endless days of clouds and rain. My crocuses are in full bloom, and I want to photograph them, along with the bouquet from my significant other.

I’ll check back in soon. I’ve got lots more to write about, but I couldn’t resist sharing my blog’s new look. I’d love to hear what you think of it. Please leave comments, and subscribe so you won’t miss anything.

Celebrating World Bipolar Day and speaking truth to power

 

Van Gogh selfportrait-bandagedToday is World Bipolar Day, an initiative created by many international organizations and celebrated each year on March 30th, the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh.* To commemorate the day, I’m reprinting the Afterword from the 2015 reissue of my mystery novel Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders. The novel was inspired by my outrageously discriminatory experience at a psychiatric social club in upstate New York where I worked around the turn of the millennium. All the characters in Mood Swing are entirely fictional, and I relocated the club from Troy to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Today, for the first time, I’m identifying the organization where I was fired for telling a client I was bipolar, but you’ll have to read through till the end of this post for the revelation.

When I first published Mood Swing, I concluded my afterword as follows:

Society’s intolerance and fear of people suffering from mental illness has scarcely evolved at all. Erika’s uneasiness about disclosing her bipolar disorder is all too realistic. If anything, people’s acceptance of her illness after she “comes out” is perhaps too idealized. There is still a powerful stigma surrounding mental illness. And although mentally ill people are much more likely to be victims than perpetrators of crime, all too often the media – in both fiction and non-fiction – portray them as crazed, violent criminals.

When I published a new edition in 2015, I added the following:

Afterword to the 2015 edition 

Julie moodswing_cover-hi-res-3-07Sadly, what I wrote above is all too true today, almost a decade later. The stigma about mental illness persists. What’s changed is my willingness to talk about it. As I noted above, this novel was inspired in part by my experiences working at a psychiatric social club in upstate New York. Like Erika, I disclosed my bipolar diagnosis – not on the evening news, but to a club member who shared the diagnosis, whom I thought might be helped by my willingness to share. She passed this juicy tidbit along to someone I supervised, who in turn passed it on to my boss at the agency.

When I got home that evening, there was a phone message instructing me to report to Human Resources the next morning. There, without warning, I was summarily fired. When I protested, I was told that my termination had nothing to do with my disclosure that I shared a diagnosis of mental illness with many of the club’s members. No, it was my overall performance they found inadequate, despite the fact that I’d worked there for nearly a year with no hints of dissatisfaction from the higher-ups.

I consulted lawyers, but they told me my case would be almost impossible to prove, and that Julie Moodswing Killion cover from Amazonthings could get nasty. So I nursed my wounds in secret, until the passage of time gave me the strength to turn my experiences into fiction. When I first published Mood Swing, I was still in the closet regarding my bipolar diagnosis, but gradually, at readings and signings, I began disclosing my story. Almost invariably, people would come up to me afterwards, saying “I’ve never told anyone this before,” then tell me that they or a close friend or relative were also diagnosed bipolar. Many bought the book in hopes of learning more about the illness, or helping a loved one understand. So now at last, I’m out and I’m proud, and I hope this book will help give others the confidence to go public too.

Not long after they fired me, the agency that ran that social club shut the place down. Clearly mental health wasn’t high on their list of priorities, but I wonder whether all those club members found another place to go. Prison, perhaps, since that’s where our country chooses to house countless thousands of the mentally ill these days. But that’s another story, for someone else to tell.

March 20, 2017

Today, for the first time, I’m revealing the identity of the agency that fired me: Unity House of Troy Inc. You can check them out at www.unityhouseny.org. Mental health is still near the top in their mission statement, and I don’t doubt they provide many worthwhile services, but I’ll never forgive them for the trauma they inflicted on me. It’s time to speak truth to power.

*from www.worldbipolarday.org:

World Bipolar Day (WBD) – an initiative of the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD), the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF), and the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD) – will be celebrated each year on March 30th, the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who was posthumously diagnosed as probably having bipolar disorder. 

The vision of WBD is to bring world awareness to bipolar disorders and to eliminate social stigma.  Through international collaboration, the goal of World Bipolar Day is to bring the world population information about bipolar disorders that will educate and improve sensitivity towards the illness.  

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.  Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe and different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time.  It is estimated that the global prevalence of bipolar disorder is between 1 and 2% and has been said to be as high as 5% and, according to the World Health Organization, is the 6th leading case of disability in the world.  In order to address this global problem, we need a global solution.  With support from leading experts from around the world, groups like ANBD, IBPF, and ISBD are supporting efforts to investigate biological causes, targets for drug treatment, better treatments, better methods of diagnosis, the genetic components of the illness, and the strategies for living well with bipolar disorder and this is just the beginning.  Collaborations between research and advocacy groups are continuing to grow, and WBD is a tribute to the success of this strategy.  

Thanks for reading, and as I write at book signings, many happy mood swings! Mood Swing and my other novels are available at Amazon on Kindle or in paperback, and you’ll help boost my mood enormously if you buy them!

Inauguration Day as a red-carpet awards show

meryl-streep-speech-golden-globes

Meryl Streep giving anti-Trump speech at Golden Globes

I’m a sucker for awards shows. I watch the Oscars, the Grammys, the Emmys, the Country Music Awards—even the Tonys, although I’m usually unfamiliar with the shows because I can’t afford the price of a Broadway ticket. The Golden Globes are my favorite, because the movie stars are seated around circular tables and have access to an open bar, which leads to some occasionally bizarre unscripted moments—along with some scripted ones, like Meryl Streep’s eloquent speech this year.

Donald J. Trump’s inauguration kept me glued to the television screen for over seven

inauguration-fashion-michelle-in-jason-wu

Michelle Obama in Jason Wu

hours yesterday—eight if you count ABC’s coverage of the inaugural balls. In many ways, the day reminded me of those awards shows, especially in the morning coverage of the political celebrities alighting at the Capitol and making their way through the marble corridors and eventually to their assigned seats for the inauguration. It was the Washington equivalent of the Hollywood red carpet, except that the famous folk didn’t stop for reporters’ questions or photo ops. There were some memorable fashion statements, though, as in the photos I’m including here.

Donald Trump, Melaina Trump

Melania Trump in Ralph Lauren

I blocked out the entire day on my calendar, even opted to skip my Friday morning Nia class at the YMCA, because I didn’t want to miss this historic transfer of power. I’ve watched memorable inaugurations in the past. In 1993, I was running a home care agency, ElderSource Inc., in New Paltz, New York. We specialized in round-the-clock live-in care, and though I was founder and president of my little business, I frequently ferried our aides to and from their assignments.

On the day of Bill Clinton’s inauguration, I had come to pick up one of our wonderful Jamaican aides from her assignment in Kingston and drive her to the Metro North station in Poughkeepsie so she could catch the train back to New York City. We had some time to spare, so along with our client, we watched part of Clinton’s inauguration. Avis and I were so moved that we embraced and cried happy tears as we watched the swearing in.

Years later, during Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, I was babysitting my younger granddaughter in Woodstock. She was far too young to understand what was happening on TV, but I remember sitting on the floor, cradling her in my arms as I watched the historic swearing-in of our first African American president.

inauguration-fashion-hillary-in-ralph-lauren

Hillary in Ralph Lauren, with Bill. She put on her public smile, but the cameras caught her earlier looking devastated and depressed.

This inauguration was different. I was a fervent Hillary supporter. I heard both her and Trump when they held rallies in Albany during the New York primaries. When she was First Lady, I’d glimpsed her through the smoked glass of a limo as she and Bill sped through New Paltz, then heard her speak at a political breakfast in Kingston. When she published her first memoir, I stood in line to get her autograph at the Book House in Albany.

Like most of my friends, I was dismayed when Trump won. Unlike most of them, I refuse to catastrophize about it, and I’m willing to cut him some slack and hope for the best. Nevertheless, I planned to spend the day watching the inauguration while drowning my sorrows in cheap Chablis from a box. Strangely enough, that never happened. I found myself caught up in the spectacle of the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next, the gracious way the Obamas passed the trapping of power to the Trumps, the way presidents from opposing parties sat peaceably together to witness the swearing-in ceremony.

trump-tower-atrium-interior

Trump Tower atrium in early days

Until he ran for President, I confess I rather liked Donald Trump. I occasionally watched The Apprentice, then The Celebrity Apprentice. When I visited Manhattan to visit the museums and the midtown galleries in the 80’s and 90’s, I often stopped in at Trump Tower to ride the escalators up and down, ogle the waterfall and the gorgeous orangey marble walls, and browse the luxury boutiques. Then I’d sit at a table in the lobby for coffee or a cocktail, enjoying the sensation of partaking in the over-the-top opulence and luxury. Politically incorrect, perhaps, but in those days, I never associated Trump with politics. Probably, neither did he.

In a couple of hours, I plan to march in Albany in solidarity with millions of women—and men too, including my husband—throughout the country. Now, more than ever, we need to stand strong for women’s rights, along with many other human rights and environmental issues that will come under attack with the new administration. But I refuse to succumb to fear, anger or despair. Life’s too short. To paraphrase John Lennon and Yoko Ono, All I am saying, is give Trump a chance. And pray to the Higher Power of your choice.

trump-tower-with-cops-and-dog

Trump Tower in January, 2017

Trump: Headed for bipolar meltdown?

trump-new-yorker-cover-10_10_16-400I’m thrilled that the Times Union in Albany ran my opinion piece on Donald Trump in today’s paper. When I wrote last week that I thought he might be heading for a bipolar diagnosis, I knew I was going out on a limb, but the events of the past few days have made me more certain than ever that I may very well be right.

If you haven’t read it yet, here’s the link to the article:

http://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-opinion/article/Trump-on-the-verge-of-bipolar-9958577.php

Trump’s obsessive tweeting in the wee hours of the morning about the former Miss Universe and her weight issues was what first got me pondering a possible diagnosis of bipolar disorder, because the behavior reminded me so much of my own escalation into a first full-blown episode of mania a couple of decades ago. I won’t rehash the article here, though I’ll post it in full a couple of days from now.

I missed last graham-nash-2015night’s Trump vs. Clinton debate, because I was busy ushering for a marvelous concert by Graham Nash—of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fame—at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. It was a far more inspiring and uplifting way to spend a couple of hours, to be sure, but once I came home and heard my husband’s descriptions of the debate, then went to the Internet and watched some clips, I learned all about the thuggish stalking behavior Trump exhibited while Hillary was speaking, behavior many have described as frighteningly offensive.

Before becoming founder and President of ElderSource, Inc., the Licensed Home Care Services Agency I described in my article, I worked for 13 years as a creative arts therapist at Hudson River Psychiatric Center in Poughkeepsie, a state mental hospital of the old-school variety that have long since been closed by supposedly well-meaning bureaucrats. There I worked on locked admissions wards as well as wards for the most seriously disturbed and often violent patients—the kinds of patients who are now more likely to be housed in prisons.

Among them were many who were diagnosed bipolar. They weren’t locked up because of their often fascinating delusions and grandiosity, but because psychiatrists had determined that they were a danger to themselves or others. In other words, they were either suicidal or violent. I’ll force myself to watch the debate in its entirety later tonight, but Trump’s body language, and especially his pacing around the confined space like a caged predator in a zoo, looming threateningly close to Clinton, suggests a psychological and physical state dangerously close to the edge. I can only hope he has his total meltdown before election day, and before his verbal  threats escalate to physical violence.

trump-cartoonThere’s much more I could say on this topic, but for now I’ll take a break to address my readers, both new and old. The Times Union published the link for this blog, so I’m hoping that will lure people who may not have visited before. If you’re a newbie, please click on the link in the column to the right and subscribe to my blog so that you’ll be notified of new posts. I promise you won’t be deluged with emails, because I post a maximum of two or three times a week.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00071]In that same column, you’ll find a list of categories. Click on Bipolar Mood Swings, and you’ll find lots of posts that touch on bipolar disorder, in both its manic and depressive aspects. And check out my novel Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders, which is inspired by my own experiences with bipolar disorder, as a professional, an advocate and a consumer.

Lastly, please leave comments and spread the news about this blog to your friends. Thanks!

Donald Trump or Joe McCarthy–Who’s worse?

McCarthy Laughing by Yale Joel

Senator Joe McCarthy (photo by Yael Joel)

Growing up in Milwaukee in the 1950’s, I was acutely aware of Senator Joe McCarthy and his pernicious witch hunt for alleged communists. He wreaked enormous damage and ruined numerous lives before he was brought down, but it’s nothing compared to what Donald Trump could do—indeed, what he’s already done—to damage our country.

I was especially tuned in to McCarthy’s doings because my father, Wallace “Chink” Lomoe, was Managing Editor of the Milwaukee Journal, then a nationally respected liberal newspaper, which offered up-close investigative journalism throughout the McCarthy era.

Back then, at the height of the cold war, Communism, and Russia in particular, struck terror into the heart of Americans, and rightly so. Less than ten years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, worldwide nuclear annihilation was a genuine threat, and I never expected to live long enough to turn 21.

Trump smiling

Donald Trump

Fast forward sixty-odd years to today’s surrealistic political scene, where Donald Trump openly kisses Vladimir Putin’s ass and encourages Russia to hack into American computers to uncover classified information. He’s far crazier, far more dangerous than McCarthy ever was, and as the Republican nominee for President, he’ll soon have access to classified information.

I could ramble on and on, but plenty of media pundits are already doing that, so instead, I’ll offer up the following poem, which I wrote in 2010. At the very least, it should offer you a few minutes of diversion.

My Mother and Senator Joe

My mother stands in the kitchen,

hands busy at the red Formica countertop

with cratered moon design, assembling a tuna casserole,

one of her six recycled recipes unchanged since World War II.

Eager for tales from the trenches of the Journal newsroom,

we await my father’s coming. Once a promising reporter,

now the Managing Editor’s stay-home wife, my mother

plays out the Fifties dream of suburban bliss.

 

Daddy’s finally here. He mixes double dry martinis,

regales us with stories of his day. Senator Joe stopped by,

forgot his briefcase in my father’s corner office,

returned in panic to reclaim it. Daddy had been too ethical

to sneak a peek at those fabled lists of Communists,

or maybe he just ran out of time.

 

Later that spring, my mother and I ride the open tramway

deep in a subterranean tunnel beneath our nation’s capital,

sightseeing in sooty claustrophobic blackness

while far above us, cherry blossoms blaze in April sun

and Daddy hobnobs with his fellow editors in smoky hotel suites.

The roofless tram cars ferry politicians to and fro

shielded from public scrutiny on their appointed rounds,

like miners seeking coal.

 

The tram’s deserted now, except for Mom and me

and a smarmy thickset man with blackish bristles on his sagging jaw.

“What a pretty little girl,” he says, and smirks. My mother, ever gracious,

public smile fixed in place, exchanges pleasantries as the tram chugs onward

through the filthy darkness of the tunnel. At last we disembark

and go our separate ways. “Who was that nice man?” I ask. Her features morph

to a Medusa mask of  frightening fury.

“Don’t you ever call him a nice man again,” she snarls.

“That was Joe McCarthy.”

 

Later that night, back in our hotel room, I watch in helpless disbelief.  

She’s huddled on the carpet, head against the bed,

wracked by wrenching sobs. As in the blackened tunnel, once again

I’ve glimpsed a woman whose moods I scarcely know.

My childhood sense of safety teeters and cracks. “What’s wrong?” I ask.

She forces a teary smile. “Oh, nothing,” she says. “Don’t worry. I can’t imagine

what came over me.”

Subway Capitol system vintage

The Capitol subway in an undated vintage photo*

When I began this blog, I never intended to veer into politics, but this year I can’t seem to help it. Along with my ambitions as a writer, I seem to have inherited my parents’ political genes. As always, I’d love to hear your comments. Subscribe and stay tuned.

*I’m borrowing the McCarthy photo from the LIFE magazine collection, and the Getty credit seems appropriate. My father hired Edward K. Thompson, who later became LIFE’s Managing and then Executive Editor for many years and remained a close family friend.

*This vintage photo of the Capitol subway is much as I remember it from the early 1950’s. It still exists today in a much updated version, with three branches connecting the Capitol, house and senate buildings. Security is tight, and visitors are allowed only with close supervision.

Is Hillary too smart for her own good? Here are my thoughts, hot off the press from yesterday’s Times Union.

I wrote this piece for the Albany Times Union, and they published it yesterday!

Poor Hillary. Despite her outstanding qualifications, multiple polls show that a majority of Americans just plain don’t like her. But what’s not to like? I’ve seen and heard her multiple times, in person and on TV. In debates, she’s far more articulate and better informed than her rivals, and on the late night talk shows, she’s warm and funny. On Saturday Night Live, she was hilarious as a bartender bantering with Kate McKinnon’s “Hillary” character. Her close friends reportedly find her delightful.

Hillary & Kate McKinnon SNL

Hillary Clinton as bartender to Kate McKinnon’s “Hillary” on Saturday Night Live

So why don’t people like her? They come up with lots of reasons, but I believe the answer is simple: she’s just too damn smart. We don’t hear that explanation much, because most Americans don’t like to admit someone else is more intelligent than they are, especially if that someone is a woman. And the media pundits, especially those charged with filling the gaping maw of the 24/7 news cycle on TV and online don’t dare focus on this possibility, because it would mean acknowledging that some of us simply aren’t that bright. Highlighting the issue of intelligence might alienate the millions of viewers who prefer their news parceled out in easily digestible, endlessly repeated sound bites, and ratings might go down.

KISS cat

The KISS principle—keep it simple, stupid—applies to this campaign in spades. Coined in 1960 by an engineer at Lockheed, which manufactured spy planes for the Navy, the phrase originally applied to design but was broadened to the fields of marketing and sales, where it is also phrased as “Keep it simple and straightforward.” It doesn’t necessarily mean the target audience is stupid; rather, it suggests, that as Steve Jobs said when explaining the success of Apple products, “It all comes down to this: Let’s make it simple. Really simple.”

This is the crux of Hillary’s problem: she explains too much, delves into issues with such depth that she sometimes goes over the heads of people who aren’t policy wonks, thereby coming across as cold and intimidating, like that high school teacher or college professor who never cut you any slack and never gave you an A.

In contrast, consider the macho blowhards on the right and left wings of their parties. “Build the wall!” shouts Donald. “Down with Wall Street! Break up the banks!” rants Bernie. They hammer home the same talking points over and over again, painting themselves as anti-establishment outsiders, striking a strident but rousing chord with millions of disenchanted voters.

Trump hails from Queens and holds a B.A. from Wharton; Sanders grew up in Brooklyn and has a B.A. from the University of Chicago, where he’s said he was a mediocre student. They’re tough guys from the outer boroughs of New York City, and their political styles show it. Clinton, in contrast, is a high-achieving Ivy Leaguer, who got her B.A. from Wellesley and her law degree from Yale. Those exalted Ivies confer a status that can give you entrée into the corridors of power, but that very status can work against you, as I can attest. (I attended Radcliffe, Barnard and Columbia.)

Library University Club

When I was a child, being called a “brain” was an insult. That changed when I got to college.  But out in the wide world, I learned once again to play down my intelligence. Despite the supposed advances of feminism, women who come across as too smart are often resented, even hated, especially if they’re bold and assertive. That’s a societal prejudice Hillary will have to fight hard to overcome.

Julie Lomoe is a novelist who lives in Wynantskill. 

I’m pleased to say the Times Union didn’t change a word, other than adding the candidates’ last names. I took care to stay within their 600-word limit and did a careful editing job before sending it off, so this lends support to my claim that I’m my own best editor. I’ve already received lots of positive feedback.

I’m hoping the article will inspire new readers to discover my blog. If you’re one of them, welcome! Please subscribe so you’ll receive notification of new blog posts, and please explore this site for other topics of interest—especially my three published novels, which you can purchase from Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.

I’d love to read your comments! Let’s start a dialogue about this all-important election.