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Listening to Women, Across the Aisle, Across the Globe | Florence Snyder

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Listening to Women, Across the Aisle, Across the Globe | Florence Snyder

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Listening to Women, Across the Aisle, Across the Globe
Thursday, August 09, 2012 — Florence Snyder

The speech was given by a Democrat, Grace Nelson, stumping in Tallahassee last week for her husband, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

It sounded a theme often expressed by another attractive political wife, Cyndie Kottkamp, a Republican, whose husband Jeff is the former lieutenant governor of Florida.

Mrs. Nelson and Mrs. Kottkamp don’t just look alike. They think alike in a way that women all over the world think alike about the things that really matter.

A few weeks ago, Mrs. Nelson headed a bipartisan delegation of American women who gathered with women from other continents at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre to pay tribute to victims of the 1994 Rwandan bloodbath. The occasion was the official closing of the Gacaca courts, which attempted to provide whatever justice could be provided to Rwandans who survived the holocaust.

The horrors suffered in Rwanda were unspeakable, but speak of them Mrs. Nelson did to the state convention of the Democratic Women’s Clubs of Florida.

She told of Rwandan women who watched their daughters being raped until they died. She spoke of mothers and grandmothers who watched their husbands and sons having their limbs and genitals hacked to pieces.

Mrs. Kottkamp speaks of war, too. Two beloved nephews have, between them, survived three deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. One is packing for another tour of duty. There’s a constant, low-grade gnawing in her gut, which most American families have not experienced in the War on Terror, now entering its 12th year.   

Mrs. Nelson and Mrs. Kottkamp come from different sides of the aisle and different political generations. But they and every other political wife in 21st-Century America bear in silence, and with extraordinary grace, the scars of what passes for public discourse in the expensive, depressing, dumbed-down, post-Citizens United political landscape.

Last week, the National Journal reported that Florida voters have thus far been exposed to $88 million in political advertising.  Much of it would insult the intelligence and sense of fair play of a fifth-grader. Campaign consultants and their media enablers dish up two-dimensional cartoons and caricatures that pollute the marketplace and suck the oxygen out of the rooms where real people used to enjoy real conversations aimed at fixing problems, rather than fixing blame.

It has gotten so bad that Ron Littlepage of the Jacksonville Times-Union -- who has devoted his professional life to helping Florida voters understand Florida government -- would rather watch Olympic rowing than one more political ad. 

Times change but human nature does not.  As the Emperor Charlemagne’s mother says in the Bob Fosse musical “Pippin,” “men raise flags when they can’t get anything else up.”

Between holocausts, genocides and wars to end all wars, women restock the planet with a new generation while building memorials to the latest victims of the barbarism and brutality we first saw in the Garden of Eden.

As she shared her Rwandan experience, Mrs. Nelson’s heavy heart rested visibly on her sleeve.  Women understand each other “from the heart,” she said to the room full of Democratic Party faithful, all nodding in agreement.

If only money talked less and women talked more. 

Florence Snyder is a Tallahassee-based corporate lawyer who has spent most of her career in and around newspapers. She can be reached at [email protected]

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