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Maddow Cheney


An Ordinary Citizen Gets Her Questions Answered—Rochelle Says Thank You All

An Ordinary Citizen Gets Her Questions Answered — Rochelle Says Thank You All

I grew up in the 1950 – 60s middle class, predominately Jewish, area of Brooklyn and although my immigrant father did not necessarily advocate that girls get an education, the neighborhood did. And that is not a bad thing, because what you learn and how you learn is always with you, weightless, especially if you have to drop everything and flee from a pogrom. I like to understand why something happens and have learned to trust the answer if supported by credible evidence. This all started in fifth grade, when my teacher, Mrs. Chast would reward us with two gold stars for a good question. She’d say, Id rather have a good question than a quick answer.” I am a questioner. Questioning, insists on a pause, reflection, the need for facts, evidence, maybe an answer and more questions. 

I was an art education major, read the Constitution in civics and didn’t pay much attention to it until eight years ago when Khizr Khan pulled a copy out of his jacket pocket. In 2016, I also read, J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. Although it was his memoir about growing up poor in a family where there was alcoholism, violence and drug abuse, my hope was that I could gain some insight into the white working-class mindset that was embracing Trump. That did not happen. In the last eight years, I am still confused and issues have become more complicated. Not your 1950s one size fits all,” solution when there were only three TV channels. So I continue to look for the right questions that will lead me to answers to help make sense of it all. 

Fortunately for me, there are journalists and publications that have been able to deconstruct some of the chaos and bring my questions into focus. My choice of media indicates my biases, and my choices also help me take nothing for granted while remaining hopeful.

Over the past few years, I have become a non-accredited student in constitutional law with a minor in political science, auditing at MSNBC. I listen to many on-air and podcast commentators, too many to mention here, notably, Rachel Maddow. Informed, contextual and focused, she points us to appreciate and be inspired by the people who work around compromised systems to find the evidence for what’s really happening and makes it visible. I rely on many lawyers, among them, Andrew Weissman, Joyce Vance and Barbara McQuade, who are precise in their explanations of the legal system in a way that is understandable and have helped me be confident. Then there are the guests like Jamie Raskin who speaks to issues like we are sitting at my kitchen table, and then Professor Timothy Snyder, whose history class I’d happily audit.

For longer bites of information that generate ideas, I go to The New Yorker’s David Remnick, Susan Glasser, Masha Gessen as well as the magazine’s covers and cartoons that are little capsules of life now. I go to The Washington Post and CNN host Fareed Zakaria, to make sure I know that the world is a lot bigger than me and to The Atlantic because it is filled with the conversation starters that demand thinking. Insightful editorials like Brett Stephen’s opinion piece in The New York Times on what Trump got right, The Case for Trump … by Someone Who Wants Him to Lose,” help me gain perspective. 

I am triggered by history, afraid, both as an American and as a Jew. And at the same time, want better futures for more people. Responsible publishers, networks, journalists, photographers, filmmakers, lawyers, thinkers are doing their jobs every day because they can in our country, now. Today, many are threatened and still stand up and continue to do their work. They are the courageous seekers who help me figure things out, see a realistic, forward-going path, to not bury my head in the sand or cookie jar and to try my best to not be so fearful, to be hopeful and even a little brave.