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  • Writer's pictureLisa Kroese

Zero Tolerance

It was almost bedtime, the kids saw me crying at my computer. My eight year old asked, “Momma, why are you crying?” It was a video of a father being reunited with his son after the Trump zero tolerance policy.

I don’t hide my emotions or events from my kids. I try not to lie to them. They know I am the tooth fairy and Santa Clause. The way I see it: the world has enough lies in store for them, they don’t need me to lie also.

I attempt to explain, “This little boy and his dad are being reunited. I am crying because it makes me sad that they were separated. I am also happy they are back together.” They asked to see the video. I showed them.

My daughters slid closer to me on the couch as they watched, almost fully up into my lap. “Why were they separated? What do you mean?” My eight year old asked.

I tried again, “Donald Trump’s policy was to separate children and their parents when they got here. They are immigrants trying to move here so they can have a better life. He was trying to hurt these people by taking their kids. He was traumatizing the kids. When they came here, he sent the parents back to their original country without the kids.”

I realize how scary this sounds, I add “We stopped this from happening anymore but not all of the kids are back with their parents yet.”

“Will they do that to us too?” My older daughter asked. My five year old started crying. "Momma, I don't want to watch this." She said. I closed my laptop, pulled the girls in and kissed their heads. “It’s almost bedtime. Who wants to know what happens to Harry Potter next?” I asked.

Politico released a story about an aide who made a complaint about sexual harassment in Kirsten Gillibrand’s office. She had quit over Gillibrand’s handling of her complaint. Kirsten had worked for a law firm before she was the Senator or the Congresswoman. When I was in the district with her once she announced to a room of people, “I’m a lawyer. I know there is something going on with this.”

Later when no one could hear us I told her, “Don’t tell people you’re a lawyer. You’re the Congresswoman now.”

“Why not?”

“That’s not what you are anymore. Besides everyone hates lawyers.”

Why wouldn’t she have just cut a creep loose as soon as there was an issue? Isn’t this what zero tolerance is for?

The article says Kirsten officiated his wedding. I had officiated a wedding after I didn’t work for Kirsten anymore. For my sister. If you are conducting a marriage ceremony and it is not what you usually do for a living, doing it for someone else is a big deal. It’s personal.

Kirsten told the media there was a thorough and complete investigation when the allegations came up. I worked for Kirsten in 2007 and 2008 when she was “just a congresswoman.” This guy, I never worked with him, I don’t know him.

He was recently fired after reporters sent her information from other people the reporters interviewed about him. None of the people in Kirsten’s office handling the investigation had contacted them. I thought back to my conversation when I worked for her with Mike, and when she had wanted to hire one of her friends to work in the office that I had staffed by myself until that point. I needed someone to help, but that was not who I had thought it was going to be. Mike had sided with Kirsten in the debates over the friend hire.

That was what Kirsten had wanted. It was Kirsten’s office, not mine. Her friend wound up getting herself fired after about three days of working in the office with me.

Based on what the article says, it looks like Kirsten spent a lot more direct time relying on the guy than on the complainant. I suspect from what I know about working for her it would be harder for her to replace him than to replace the person who made the complaint.

Who these guys are to their boss and who they are to their underlings, it would seem obvious, might be different guys.

Not long after I quit, the Gabriella Giffords shooting took place. It could have happened at one of our events. Whether a constituent managed to pull a gun out on us or not - it would not have made a difference who was driving.

If you believe in equality we should all feel safe at work. If it is possible.

Sexual harassment allegations that were ignored or not taken seriously enough by the person who led the call for Al Franken to resign? Kirsten led the pack in making the call, but it was a pack. Nobody talks about not supporting Bernie Sanders for making the same call, do they?

Critics are saying Kirsten was ready to ruin Al Franken’s life, and Brett Kavanaugh’s life, but these matters don’t ruin a life. Just because you don’t get a promotion, or you don’t become the president, or you are no longer a Senator, your life and work is still valuable.

Why are any of them entitled to not have us call them out for their mistakes? When I make a mistake my kids notice, my husband notices. My friends and family all know it.

If I had still worked for her, my vote at the time would have been to cut him loose - but what weight do our votes carry? As you know, we may as well just cast our votes into the ocean. Nobody’s counting them.


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