Gloria Steinem performs with Betty at the group's holiday show at City Winery last December.
Betty's holiday shows at City Winery would be wondrous enough without her, but the appearance mid-concert of special guest Gloria Steinem has become not only an integral part of the show, but a beloved tradition in its own right.
The last couple years, however, has made Steinem's brief but unforgettable "word thing" contributions (since "I can't sing or play an instrument") not so much entertaining as cautionary, if not galvanizing.
Last year she departed from such fun fare as "Ten Top Reasons Why Jesus Was a Nicer Guy Than You Think" ("like he never said he was the son of God, and the cross is an African symbol--and other things I cribbed from the Gnostic Gospels") and "Ten Top Reasons Wonder Woman Should Rule the World" ("you can imagine") and included, in "The 10 Top Things I Want for Christmas," "an abject apology from Donald Trump for being among other things, a birther, anti-immigrant, builder of buildings that look like big Dunhill cigarette lighters [and] daring to rate women as no longer '10's when he himself has never been a 'one'."
Rightly sensing that no apology would be forthcoming, she wished all "the gift of remembering that Hitler was democratically elected--in a low voter turnout."
So a year later, with Trump indeed democratically elected with questionable turnout, she conceded upfront how "it's very hard to find a Ten Top anything after the unpopular election of Trump," then "in this new uncharted territory," offered a few timely thoughts.
"First," said Steinem, "we must remember that we, who didn't want him as president, are the majority. There are over 2.9 million more of us--and still counting. That's a margin bigger than the one that put Kennedy or Nixon in the White House. Also every major issue Trump opposed has majority support in public opinion polls, from reproductive freedom to the reality of global warming."
"Second, when we elect a possible president, we tend to think the job is done and go home. Now that we've elected an impossible president, we will look up less--and at each other more. We will realize that electing one African-American president and nominating one female president was only a beginning. A chief-of-state holds a finger to the wind. We must become the wind."
Third, continued Steinem, "at times like these, Gandhi used to say, 'The truth is revealing itself.' I think that's happening now. Since the election, no more saying such fictional bulls**t as 'post-racist' or 'post-feminist'--which were always blind or obstructionist terms anyway. No more waiting to be told what we should do, thus giving up on our own wisdom and authority. We will do whatever we can."
Fourth, "because Trump came up through mainstream corporate media that depend on ratings and ads--not through any political party--those same media must now take responsibility for our national disaster, and refuse to give the next un-fact-checked despot the estimated $2 billion in free exposure that was given to Trump. If this election has taught us anything, it's the value of checkable facts, and the danger of the Big Lie--in which Donald Trump believes, as his biographer, his first wife and her lawyer have all testified. He thinks that if he tells a lie big enough and often enough, people will believe it. So we who write and publish anywhere, on the web or in print, must ourselves value verifiable facts, not only the number of 'hits.'"
Steinem's fifth thought: "Because Trump didn't strengthen a Republican Party controlled by extremists--beginning with those racist Democrats who fled their own party after it supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964--there is now a chance that centrist Republicans can take their party back. Many older Republican women remember when their party was the first to support the Equal Rights Amendment. Now, they can take their feminist daughters and granddaughters to local caucuses where delegates to the National Republican Convention are elected. In four years, there would be a bloody struggle, but in eight years, there could be a centrist Republican Party again."
Her sixth: "Because women are still the designated shoppers and make 85 percent of purchases at point-of-sale, we can make good use of the [Boycott Trump] app that lists products and services benefiting Trump's interests. We can boycott them. We have dollar power and vote power. We must use both."
Finally, "because paying income tax is voting with our dollars--and because Trump and his vice president are threatening to cut off government funds to Planned Parenthood--even though none of those funds go to abortion anyway--each of us can object by deducting that sum from our income tax, and sending it direct to Planned Parenthood. During the Vietnam war, for instance, some of us objected by refusing to pay the percentage of our income tax that went to the war: Of course, the IRS collected it eventually anyway, but at a cost and a huge nuisance value that made it an alternate way of voting. In this case, it's not just keeping the money, but also benefiting Planned Parenthood."
"Of course, all these are in addition to the street demonstrations, on-line exposés, marches on Washington, and support for, say, Standing Rock--an environmental danger in which Trump is a major investor," continued Steinem. "After all, our Constitution doesn't begin with, 'I, the President.' It begins with, 'We, the People.'"
"Altogether, I think this country is in a time of danger because most of us are escaping control by a few of us," she said. "For instance, we are about to become a nation with a majority of people of color, and that will make us more connected to the rest of the world. But as in domestic violence, the time just before or after a woman escapes is when she is most likely to be beaten or killed--because she is escaping control."
Steinem concluded: "Thanks to all the great social justice movements, I think we are escaping control. Just as we would never tell a woman--or a man or a child--to stay in a violent household, we will never return to the past. Yes, this is a time of maximum danger, and we must protect each other, look after each other. But maybe, just maybe, we are about to be free."