democracy is a gift, not a guarantee.

March 1st, 2016 · 39 Comments

Photo Jan 09, 7 01 00 PM

I’ll make you a promise at the beginning of this post: I’m not going to try to convince you of anything.  I’m not going to argue.  I’m not going to persuade.  But I am going to say some things that I believe.  You can listen if you want.

If you’re an American, you’re probably well aware that there’s an election coming up.

How could you not be?  Our media has turned into a 24/7 cacophony of political commentary.  It makes us all agitated and desperate, certain that the sky is about to fall if some other position gains any ground.  It’s exhausting.  And I think it’s kind of… wrong. 

I believe so much in our country.  So much that I’m not going to tell you who to vote for.  That’s not the point.  That’s not what makes our system great.  If you take my word for it, if you vote for a candidate because I tell you to, or because your parents told you to, or because the media or the leaders of a political party tell you to, something has already gone wrong.

An election is kind of like a jury.  For those of us who practice law, juries can be daunting.  You spend months or years putting together all the facts about a case, and at the end, you turn the decision over to twelve random people picked off the street, and they decide who wins and loses.  That’s our legal system, in a nutshell.  It places a tremendous amount of faith in the average person to get to the heart of things and make the right decision.  And most of the time, they do.  It’s amazing.

Elections are the same way.  There’s so much rhetoric and posturing and theatre that goes into them, but at the end of the day, the ultimate decision belongs to every single person in our country.  Our elections are decided by the tiny, individual decisions of 300 million people, each one of us contributing in our own small way.

When I think about our country, I’m almost overwhelmed with pride.  I’ve devoted my career to the law, which is the foundation of our whole system.  I’m so proud of that.  When I’m hung up on some day-to-day frustration with an aspect of my job, I remind myself of how fortunate I am to be doing what I do.  How fortunate we are to set our own laws through a democratic process, even an imperfect one.  What a privilege that is, and how much it matters.

Two hundred years ago (which is not really very long, when you think about it), in the wake of the American Revolution, we created an entire political system out of a few basic principles.  We based that system on two things: fundamental individual rights and checks and balances to prevent the abuse of power.  That’s pretty much it.  Every single American who is reading this has lived their life with the freedom created by that system. 

That freedom was an incredible gift.  And it wasn’t a gift that someone gave us.  It was a gift that we — as citizens — gave ourselves.  We agreed to come together to form our own government.

No, it wasn’t perfect.  But in just a few generations, it’s made incredible progress.  And it keeps getting better and better.  Want to know why?  It’s because we didn’t create a static system.  We created a flexible political system that would keep evolving along with us.  That was the miracle.  It wasn’t that we did something right, one time, two hundred years ago, and then sat back and watched it all play out.  Check the right box, and then enjoy a perfect life forever, thankyouverymuch.  That’s impossible.  That’s a dream world.  That’s not what we did. 

Instead, we created tools that could keep us moving toward what’s right, every day, in tiny increments.  That’s the miracle that I watch playing out around me, every single day.  That’s what makes me so proud of our country that I can barely breathe sometimes.  That we’re getting there.  That we keep going.  That we know better today than we did a hundred years ago, and we keep adapting.

That if we just keep pushing forward, we’re going to be ok.

I really believe that.

I argue about ideas all day long, but sometimes arguing for your ideas misses the point.  Democracy isn’t about getting one set of ideas pushed through, even if you think those ideas are totally, completely, 100% exactly right.  I’ve had political conversations with people of wildly different viewpoints, and I’ve always found that when both sides can argue with respect and information, there’s common ground.  We can usually figure out where we agree.  And that common ground is our democracy.

I originally meant for this post to tell you guys who I’m voting for.  I could tell you who, and I could give you my reasons why, but we all know that you shouldn’t take my word for it.  I’ll tell you this: The candidate I’m voting for is someone who I believe is a good person.  A true public servant who genuinely wants what’s best for the American people.  Someone who I believe can do this job, and do it well.  But if that person isn’t on the ballot in November, I’ll vote for someone else.

I don’t want to talk about any particular candidate. 

I want to talk about the choice itself.

Lots of states have primary elections today.  Others will have them over the next few months, and we’ll all have a general election in November.  Sometime between now and then, please register to vote.  You can do that online in thirty states (see the list here), or else by using this form.  If you need help, send me an email (use the Subject “Voter Registration” so it doesn’t get stuck in my spam folder).  The more of us who contribute our voices, the better our system works.  I trust that. 

Our democracy is a gift, not a guarantee.  The privilege to choose our leadership is an incredible one.  We were given it, and it’s up to us to ensure that our kids get it too.  There are a million ways that we have to work really hard to make sure that happens.  It takes a huge amount of personal responsibility, from each and every one of us. 

Sometimes it feels exhausting to have responsibility for the whole system fall squarely on your shoulders.  But that’s how the system works.  Through empowering millions of us to make our own decisions.  Through compromising to reach a middle ground.  Through respecting each other and listening to everyone’s opinions and perspectives. 

Through inching closer, day by day, to what’s right.  As best we can.  Until we finally get there, if we ever do. 

Tags: life

a whispering return

January 21st, 2016 · 1 Comment

sugarlaws-4{Photo Credit: Rachel Sutherland}

About six weeks ago, I announced some big changes on Sugarlaws for 2016. And then a few weeks passed, and I looked down at my calendar and realized that the month of January is almost over (what??) and I haven’t written a word.

And on one hand, that’s sort of ok. I’ve had some time to sit with my decision and I’m feeling better than ever about it. I’ve received so many incredibly kind words from readers, other bloggers, and friends, and it sounds like you guys are willing to stick with me on this new adventure. Thank you. I may not say it often enough, but know that I’m thinking it, every single day.

But I also didn’t mean for this silence to be quite as long as it was. With every day that passed, it felt to me like it got louder and louder. And eventually, weeks later, I had to admit to myself that something unexpected had happened.

Announcing those big changes had a side effect… suddenly, I felt self-conscious about this site.

What would my next post be? If it’s not about fashion, then what? Law? Politics? Entertainment? Science? Whatever it was, I felt myself thinking, it needs to be great.

I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist, and I felt that rise up in spades in the last month. The next post I wrote had to be that pitch-perfect, incisive, compelling, magical set of words that would sum up everything I want from this blog.

(And if I couldn’t do that, I might as well just not write anything, right?)

But in thirty-four years on this planet, I’ve realized that that little voice of perfectionism isn’t there to help. It never helps. It makes things harder, every single time.

I realized that so viscerally when I became a mother. It took me a while to realize that Bear didn’t care if I was perfect. He just wanted me to be his mom.

And, you know what? I don’t have to be so darn perfect here either. This post isn’t great. I can already tell! You probably can too. It’s about what’s going on in my mind right at this moment, which is a mix of some lofty ideals and some stress about my ability to accomplish them.

You know… life.

But when I started thinking about it, I realized that’s exactly what I wanted to write about. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to solve modern physics or explain the First Amendment. I just have to be honest and open and here. If I can do that, I’m satisfied.

This post isn’t anything special. It’s a little more scattered and a little less eloquent than I hoped it would be when I started writing.

But it’s something.

And that’s the first step.

Tags: life

the shape of things to come…

December 27th, 2015 · 35 Comments

AtlasFamily-29

What a year this one has been.  I honestly cannot believe it’s December already.  As this year draws to a close, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about this blog, its place in my life, and what blogging means to me. 

This blog has been a huge part of my life for almost a decade.  Over the life of this site, Sugarlaws has received 9.8 million pageviews.  It will hit ten million in a few weeks.  I can hardly wrap my mind around that number.  To the millions of readers who have helped this blog grow: Thank you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  I could say it ten million times, and it wouldn’t be enough.  It has never escaped me for one minute that blogging is a privilege; one that my readers give me every day. 

But lately, my focus hasn’t been on this website.  It took me a while to put my finger on the problem, but when I really thought about it, it was right in front of me. 

In the eight years that I’ve run this blog, it’s been many things.  For the first two years, it was a food blog, detailing how I learned to cook in my first years out of school.  In 2009, I added fashion posts to this site, and suddenly found myself invited to New York Fashion Week, meeting celebrities, doing television appearances, and opening my mailbox almost every day to find new clothes, makeup, and other products.  It went from zero to sixty so quickly that I could barely keep up. 

It was a wild ride.  I got an incredible glimpse into the fashion and beauty industry: an insider’s view.  In the space of a few years, I went from gazing at fashion magazines to watching the shows, meeting the designers, and being part of the narrative that forms the industry.  What an incredible opportunity that was.  It was a dream come true. 

But like everything in life, things started to change.  I moved away from New York, had a baby, started my law practice, and watched the world change over the course of a decade.  Fashion is still a passion of mine, but lately, that passion has ebbed.  I love blogging, but I don’t want to be a fashion blogger anymore.  And in realizing that, I’ve found myself at a bit of a crossroads.  If this blog isn’t a fashion blog, then what is it?

I’m not sure I have an answer for that question yet. 

Nearly a year ago, I wrote an essay in response to a reader question about my career.  My advice was simple: Find something challenging that matters.  Since then, I’ve thought about how that applies to other areas of my life, and the one that I kept coming back to was this site.

I want this blog to be my small corner of the internet, where I can share my thoughts and stories and ideas.  That’s all I’ve ever wanted from this blog.  It just took me a while to realize it. 

2016 is going to bring a lot of changes to this website.  I want to strip everything away from this site until I get back to why I started blogging in the first place.  The layout is going to change.  The topics I write about will change.  The name may even change.  And, starting January 1st, I won’t be taking on any more sponsored posts.  No advertising at all.  I don’t want you guys to buy anything.  I just want you to read. 

2016 is the year I slow down.  It’s the year that I think carefully about this blog and what I want it to be. 

I’m proud of this.  I’m excited for it.  And I hope you are too.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.  2016 is almost here.  I, for one, can’t wait.

Tags: life · personal