Empty Words

Leave the page blank long enough and it starts looking clean rather than empty.

Leave the page blank long enough and it starts looking clean rather than empty.

Have you ever wished Mrs Fringe would stop whining and shut the fuck up? Today is your day. I am taking a break. At the moment, I’m not sure how long, maybe I’ll change my mind tomorrow, next week, next year (so go ahead and stay subscribed for a while), I don’t know.

Words and writing have always been such an integral part of who I am, I’m honestly not sure who I am without them.  But as I’ve always said, I write to be read, I write to be half of a dialogue–spoken or not.  About a year ago I came to the conclusion that my fiction isn’t going anywhere.  That was a very difficult, painful conclusion.  I made self deprecating jokes and gave myself lectures.  Ok, you suck– big deal, so do most people.  Welcome to the ranks.  Sure I have occasional bouts of the dreaded hope, and send out some queries or write a story, but that faith that it will happen?  Not so much. I don’t have writer’s block, if you’re wondering–I’ve got plenty of ideas and notes and internal discipline; if someone offered me a contract tomorrow I’d be back to work within an hour. I have always written the stories and characters that I love, that I would want to find in the bookstore. But I don’t write for myself, I write hoping to offer others what I love to read, that sense of Yes. This author gets it, and has given voice to my thoughts, breathed life into characters I want to spend hours with. Many (most?) fiction writers disagree, and believe you should write for yourself.  Perhaps they’re right, but it hasn’t worked for me.

I kept blogging because it’s different than writing fiction, offers something else without pesky hopes, dreams, or expectations. I have tried to use humor (often gallows humor, but still) to address real and sometimes frightening issues.  Mostly I kept blogging for the same reason I started, a space to be a whole person, more than any one label or role I fill in the “real” world, to connect and have conversations with others, listening and being listened to. Now I am depleted. At this moment I see no point in blogging about writing if I’m not writing, no point in blogging about being a woman standing up for other women and women’s rights when my country has made it clear it isn’t interested in women’s rights and safety, no point in blogging about democracy when my country has voted for a demagogue, no point in blogging about the struggles facing people of color when the country has aligned itself with the KKK, no point in laying out the struggles of dealing with chronic illnesses in loved ones when the majority, including some who have cried with me, has just made it clear that ultimately, they don’t care and don’t want to hear it.

I know that many who are better, smarter, more evolved and generous souls than I am are sending out messages of hope, reassurances of caring, safety, and continued efforts.  Very lovely, and necessary.  Right now, I can’t do it, and frankly, I think it was the assumption that in the end people will put shared humanity above differences that has led us to where we are right now.

Many of my regular readers and commenters are not American, which has been an amazing, beautiful thing; WordPress is a fabulous platform, allowing me to feel that I have connected with others outside of my immediate, narrow margins. That said, I am American, and the American people have spoken–I am to pick a label and that is the sum of who I am. How boring. Hell, it makes me yawn just to think about it, who wants to log on and read a label?

It’s Personal, and It’s Us

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I should be doing my yoga right now, but I’m too busy crying.  I figure that demonstrates more than a modicum of restraint, because what I’d like to be doing is vomiting while I stamp my feet.  Donald Trump won.  Hate won. Fear won. Selfishness won. Greed won. Racism won.  Misogyny won. Homophobia won. Xenophobia won. Zealousness won. The motherfucking KKK won. The DNC won, in its refusal to acknowledge that no matter how qualified, no matter how many good reasons there were to support her, Hillary Clinton was not the candidate to run in a climate of fear and hatred.

You know who lost? Me and my loved ones.  No matter what platitudes are mouthed, this was and is personal.  November is Epilepsy Awareness month.  I usually post one blog post about it, and post several facts and awareness tidbits throughout the month on my personal Facebook feed.  I’ll stop now.  It doesn’t matter anymore.  Awareness doesn’t mean shit when the country just voted for my daughter to lose her healthcare in two and a half years, when she turns 18.  We can’t afford her meds out of pocket, let alone hospitalizations, testing, doctor visits.  I have friends who voted for this.  Were they unable to separate the facts of insurance premiums rising because of the greed of the insurance companies from the ACA? Prayers are lovely, and many believe they are powerful, but they don’t replace rescue meds when your kid is turning blue in front of you.  I don’t know, but don’t anyone dare tell me, my daughter, my Latino family, this wasn’t personal.

Maybe you’re lucky enough not to have to think about the ACA because no one in your family has preexisting conditions.  That’s wonderful for you, I’m not so lucky. Maybe you/your loved ones weren’t worried about the ACA because you/your loved ones have Medicaid.  How nice for you, I can only hope Medicaid and Medicare aren’t targeted right after the ACA, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Don’t tell me you have respect for women, believe in equal rights, when we’ve just supported a man who values women only for their secondary sex characteristics; when we just green lighted sexual assault.

Don’t tell me you care about education, when we supported a man who loves the poorly educated.

Don’t cry about your child being bullied, when we just voted into office the poster boy for bullies.

Don’t tell me you care about the differently abled, when we just elected a man who sees nothing wrong with mocking those who are different, and of course, the aforementioned gleeful plans to repeal the ACA.

Don’t tell me how this was a pushback against the elite, when Donald Trump personifies the elite.

Don’t tell me about hope for tomorrow, when we just chose the ignorance of the past.

Most of all, don’t talk about them.  It was the death grip of us vs them mentality that brought us here.  And no, I don’t mean only those who are afraid of people of color, or women, or the LGBTQ community. I include those who refused to see this as a real possibility and consequence, those who dug into “us” with unrelenting toothless trailer trash jokes.  America is a big country; when we talk about different lifestyles and acceptance that cannot just be code for left leaning ideals, it is real.

I saw a comment earlier, bemoaning this result, listing all the reasons it makes no sense and is frightening that Trump has been elected.  Included in that list? Melania Trump’s nudity.  Yeah, this is why we have all lost, and lost before the votes were tallied. Nudity? Not important.

This is us.  Greedy, fearful, easily distracted by a thin patina of gold and flashing lights.

I am in mourning.

 

 

 

Hot Off the Presses! or, Last Gasp

Someone appreciates my efforts.

Someone appreciates my efforts.

There are many things I am not.  One of them is crafty.  Some people have the magic touch, some of us don’t. Really, I wanted to learn how to knit, but was defeated multiple times by the instruction, “cast on.” I tried, not happening.  Despite this, once in a while I enjoy crocheting crooked scarves and uneven afghans.  Maybe I just enjoy the look on Husband and Fringelings’ faces when I gift them, and they’re trying to decide if I’m pulling their leg or just blind.

You know what else I’m not? A journalist. That’s right, you heard it here first; blogging is not journalism, and shouldn’t be confused with it.  The other day I did a bit of shameless self-promotion, sent a link to this blog to a friend; mostly because I was too lazy to retype all the blathering I’ve already done re my thoughts on this election.  I gave him a heads up, this is not a political blog per-se, but I do a fair amount of blogging about politics.  I’ve been thinking about that.  Why have I written so many posts about this election?  I’m not kidding when I describe myself on the “About” page; I’m an expert on nothing.  Not a journalist, not a political pundit, not someone who’s paid for her words.

So why have I continued to rant? I think mostly it comes down to the same core feeling that has many supporting Trump.  Ewww.  For all my love of navel gazing, plumbing the depths of humanity, and the grotesque, that could be the most squirm-inducing sentence I’ve ever written.  Still, it’s frustration; it’s feeling powerless.  And that feeling of powerlessness (is that really a word? auto-correct isn’t saying no, but it sounds/looks wrong) comes out in different ways.  For me, it comes out in long, spluttering blog posts, horrified as I see the ugliness that has always lived in America’s laws and psyche magnify among our citizens, reflected in the face of Donald Trump.  But I guess for some–too many–others, it comes out in the ways of the stereotypical playground bully, push those perceived as weaker down on the ground and mash them into the asphalt.  Because that’s what you’re doing, when you campaign to take away the dreams of immigrants, the rights of citizens, send women back to the kitchen–unless, of course, those women are young and “hot,” in which case they can be displayed and groped.

Not to be too hippie dippy, but when you count yourself among the powerless–because of fortune or circumstance–it really is the non-material things that become most important.  Like character. That’s what has left my jaw grazing my chipped toenails for a year now. I try to be a decent person, I try not to be judgmental. I’m not always successful, I don’t hesitate to admit this.

What is the character of someone who supports Donald Trump?  I don’t mean in terms of religion, too many ways to interpret a verse, too many wars fought over who has the right God; and no, I don’t care how many times he’s been married, let alone what his wife did/didn’t wear during her modeling days. For whatever policies he hasn’t laid out, he’s been very clear about what he stands for.  He and his supporters stand for mocking and rejecting those who are differently abled, even now in these last hours. He and his supporters believe sexual assault is acceptable. They believe it’s ok to have someone proven thin-skinned and inexperienced hold the nuclear codes. He and his supporters stand side by side with white supremacists, who would love nothing more than to see the US become a fascist state.   Am I wrong for rejecting this as a valid political opinion, saying those who support this man are unworthy of respect? I know some who support him are doing so while saying they’re only doing so because they’re worried about who might be chosen for the Supreme Court vacancy.  They’re worried about life, those potential fetuses. I’m not so different, I’m worried about lives too–the young girls and women who carry those lives, and the many diverse lives that will be dismissed and discounted under a Trump Presidency. Is this evidence of me as a judgmental bitch? Maybe, but that’s where I stand, and this is all I’ve got; my voice, my words.

This is it, the final hour.  Tomorrow is election day, and I already miss Barack Obama.

Sigh of Relief or Hold Your Breath?

Flower Bulbs--finally ordered them in the right season

Flower Bulbs–finally ordered them in the right season

Well, it’s been an interesting week here in the final leg of this election cycle.  That curse again, “may you live in interesting times.”  Donald Trump and his campaign seem to be imploding.  As horrifying as his continued statements are, as disgusting but not shocking as the accusations of inappropriate behavior and sexual assault are, he’s still here, still in the news, still the person the Republican Party chose to have represent and lead them in the 2016 election.  I have friends on the left who are beginning to breathe a sigh of relief as his poll numbers drop.  Me?  I’m holding my breath.

The calendar may say it’s fall, I may be watching my freckles fade and wearing a sweater on the terrace, but I feel like it’s spring, and those sprouts in the soil aren’t going to produce prized flowers.  Instead, the invasive roots that have been busy under the surface choking out desired vegetables will yield blooms that release a putrid stench, cloying and spreading so it overlays our gardens, our streets, our dinner tables.  How’s that for purple prose?  Drama or melodrama, I can’t yet say, but I think my concerns are real enough.

Yesterday, when I opened the box of bulbs I had ordered online, I read the instructions.  Add bulb fertilizer.  Who knew there was such a thing?  Needless to say, by the time I went to the local store to find and purchase bulb fertilizer, it negated the whole purpose of ordering online to minimize cost.  Trump is the fertilizer.  Overpriced, surely unnecessary but for those who don’t know what they’re doing and can’t be bothered to do adequate research, they buy it–just in case.  So now, he’s done his job by supporting and feeding all of the hate and fear that was at least nominally underground, strengthened the roots so the stench will spread and linger, in the form of his supporters and the politicians who endorse equivalent messages of hate but are just polished enough not to use the naughty words that cause sensible souls to clutch their pearls.

So what’s going to happen now that all of this hate has been fed, engorged with new life?  Where will these people take their message and what will they do with it?  How will America recover, when our response to the one of the most brilliant, successful, scandal-free Presidents (and families, thank you Michelle Obama!) was to elevate a greedy, gilded, spoiled sociopath to a position where he has freely insulted everyone–within our borders and worldwide?  I’ve heard whispers of maybe the moderate Republicans will step up once more.  Really? Because I don’t see any, haven’t seen any in a long, long time.  A precedent has been set, long before Trump was given the nod.  A precedent was set when this obstructionist congress took their resistance to all things Obama so far they have ignored his nomination for the Supreme Court, and left the seat vacant instead.  I’ll be honest here, since they’ve carried it this far, I hope they’re forced to eat it with fava beans and a nice chianti, if Hillary Clinton would be so kind as to nominate someone who doesn’t lean so far right as Obama’s pick.  A precedent was set when the Tea Party movement became mainstream, took seats in Congress.

As for Donald Trump himself, there’s only one thing I’m sure of, much like his declared loss of $916 million dollars, he’s already figured out how to make this shitshow a personal gain and win.

If we are to remain–or maybe that’s return to–the land of the free, we can’t pretend this anger and hatred spouted from Trump’s coif and grabby hands, and we certainly can’t engage in magical thinking that this will all disappear with a Clinton win.

Do poppies grow from bulbs?  Because maybe my analogy shouldn’t be weeds, but heroin.  Cheap, easy, insidious, deadly.  The damage is done.

I’m Sorry

Alexander Archipenko, "Seated Woman," 1912-Bronze

Alexander Archipenko, “Seated Woman,” 1912-Bronze

Really, I’m sorry.  I’m sure you’re tired of reading and hearing about this, everyone who’s anyone or no one has already blogged, posted, written this article or that essay.  I want to let this go, want to roll my eyes at the stupidity of people and snicker about those on the Right getting the candidate they deserve.  I can’t do it.  I can’t let it go, and I don’t believe anyone deserves someone who brags about sexual assault as their President.  Not even those who want him.  Maybe especially not them, because in the year 2016, there shouldn’t be one woman in the world who believes sexual assault against women is a man’s right. Not one woman.

I can be uptight in many ways, but language isn’t one of them.  I straight out tell people not to bother checking out Mrs Fringe if they’re offended by the word fuck.  I tell them because I acknowledge that some people are offended by certain words, and if you are, you aren’t going to be happy here.  I love language, and I love words, all of them.  Words are powerful, written or spoken they can outlast a good deed, a box of candy, they can remain and ring through your brain and guts longer than any slap upside your head.  A couple of years ago there was a hashtag that went around twitter, #yesallwomen in response to #notallmen, I blogged about it here.

And here we are again.  Only I’m seeing “not all men,” “not my men,” “not my sons,” etc, in response to comments and posts supporting Trump, saying that horrific tape of him speaking about women, with charming highlights like, “I moved on her like a bitch,…she was married…you can do anything,” and of course, “Grab them by the pussy.”  I literally feel sick to my stomach with every comment and post I see in support of him and his words.  Here’s the thing, most of those posts and many of those comments are from women.  Women.  Protesting that all men speak that way, no big deal, it’s only words.  No, these aren’t only words.  And no, I haven’t suddenly become a delicate fucking flower, offended by the word pussy, in need of men to stand up for me and remind everyone that when Trump was speaking, he was speaking about someone’s wife, mother, daughter.  I saw a meme floating around to the effect of “If Trump’s words are so offensive to women, who bought a gazillion copies of Fifty Shades of Gray?” Sigh.  If this makes sense to you, look up logical fallacy.

These language used is not colorful, against the rules of the FCC, or naughty.  They are words describing assault, making it clear that he sees nothing wrong with literally aggressively touching and grabbing another human being whether they want to be touched or not.  A likely smaller person, not as strong physically, and likely someone he’s in a position of power over.

I don’t want to hear about responses that begin “But Hillary,” or “Well Bill.”  This has absolutely nothing to do with Hillary Clinton, and she is not responsible for what Bill Clinton chose to do.

When I was 16 I worked as a cocktail waitress.  Think about that for a second.  16, working as a cocktail waitress.  Standards, not that high.  I remember one busy night, I had just begun serving wine to a large table, no room to maneuver with another table right behind me when one of the men reached back and, well, grabbed me by the pussy. In the moment, with his wife sitting right next to him, I was stunned.  He said (exact quote, because WORDS), “Sorry sweetie, I touched your box.”  And he smiled.  A fucking fifty year old man, who turned his back to his wife and didn’t move his hand.   At this point in my life, I had already learned there were situations where I could be out numbered and overpowered but this wasn’t one of them.  I lifted the still full carafe of wine I was holding and poured it on him, “Sorry, sweetie, did I pour that on your dick?”

The manager came flying across the restaurant and hustled me into the kitchen before going back to the table, apologizing profusely and comping their wine and their meal.  I didn’t lose my job, I had been working there long enough and the manager knew me well enough to know I wasn’t kidding, imagining, or exaggerating what had happened.  If you’re thinking what a good guy the manager was, stop.  This is the same man who, when I asked for a specific day off from work a few months later, told me he’d be willing to give it if I “popped his son’s cherry.”  In retrospect, I’m sure the whole underaged thing played into the decision to keep me, too, not a scenario where he would want attention.  It didn’t occur to me that by comping this man’s meal, he was rewarding him for being a pig, I was just grateful not to be fired.  I’ll be honest, at that time, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to make a “bigger deal” of what happened.  Sure I knew I didn’t want his hands on me, and I sure as shit could tell him to get his fucking hands off of me, but I’m not sure I knew I had the right to do so, and I had no idea that this was something that could be considered assault.  If someone had floated the word to me at that time, in 1980something south Brooklyn, I would have either laughed or taken off, certain that I would be the one in trouble.  Why? I don’t know, something about not having dangly bits and being the kind of girl who worked as a cocktail waitress.

I’m not sixteen anymore, and I know better. I know better, my husband and I have both taught our sons better, we’ve taught our daughter better.  That doesn’t make us anything more than decent human beings, who’ve tried to raise decent human beings.  Don’t you dare, anyone, tell me or anyone else, that Trump’s words are no big deal.  I’m not offended.  I’m sickened that anyone, male or female, is telling our children that assault of women is okay.  I’m disgusted that there are women who are just fine with this type of behavior for themselves, their children, their loved ones, for the hussy down the street they’ve hated since the third grade.  I’m saddened that people are perpetuating the myth that women are less than men, because that’s what you’re saying when you condone this message.  I’m angry, because get your hands off my body!  This isn’t about not-all-men speak this way, or think this way.  This is about no woman should accept this as a fact of life, ever, and it is unacceptable for any man.  Not if he’s older or younger, rich or poor, famous and powerful or a shlub toiling away in obscurity.  #Notoneman.

I Don’t Know How to Do This: aka, How ’bout them Mets

Table for One

Table for One

Like any good New Yorker, I’m no stranger to angst and internal conflict.  But damn, this fall–barely begun–and I already feel like I’ve never been so conflicted outside of my navel gazing sessions.  Obviously, I’m talking about this election cycle.  I’m sick of this, everywhere you look it’s been all-Trump all-the-time for a year already.  Again, New Yorker here, I was sick of Trump and his unique brand of gild and tarnish long before he officially threw his hat in the ring.  Mrs Fringe, while always intended to cover relevant political discussions, wasn’t meant to be a political blog.  But how can we not discuss this?  And therein lies the problem.  How will I sit across the dinner table from friends who support/supported Trump without a) puking and b) having my head explode?

Let’s start with an olive tray.

As any regular readers know, I’ve always prided myself on choosing not to live in an echo chamber, having friends with a variety of beliefs, lifestyles, and values.  It’s a good thing, keeps me thinking, keeps me making informed decisions, not just spouting rhetoric. Now, though, now I’m questioning this.  I’d like to interject one thought here, I have some friends on the left who are painting Trump supporters with the proverbial broad brush, “evangelical right wingers.” For the most part, in terms of people I actually know, that isn’t who I’m seeing supporting him.  I’m not religious, but have friends who are devout, and they will not support Trump because they see him as the antithesis of religious values.  I see him and the Trump/Pence ticket as the antithesis of any value system that prizes humanity, let alone ethics.

Amuse-bouche of fried tofu with truffle oil

Putting aside bombastic slogans about making America great again, let’s take a look at Trump and Pence, what each of them stands for, things they’ve said and done.  Donald Trump continually makes misogynistic statements about women.  When these types of statements are made over and over again, he didn’t misspeak, these are his beliefs.  He thought he should be lauded for not attacking Hillary Clinton because of her husband’s extramarital shenanigans.  During the debate.  I guess I’m slow, because I just don’t see how this has anything to do with the qualifications of Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States, or her policy positions.   Yesterday, we got to hear about this little gem.  Oh yes, let’s expand rape culture by voting into the office of President a man who believes mauling women is his right.  Because money, and dangly bits.  He believes Planned Parenthood, an organization that he admits helps millions of women, should be defunded.  The only logical conclusion I can make here is that he doesn’t want women to be helped.  Or healthy.  Of course, let’s not forget his quote that women who have abortions should be punished.  Pence, of course, isn’t just talking, he has a track record, strongly pro-life, his record includes restricting women’s rights in Indiana, he is strongly pro-life, has also voted against stem cell research, and voted against 4 weeks of paid family leave for federal employees.

Carrot and ginger soup garnished with slivers of pickled pig snout

One social area where Trump isn’t completely awful is gay rights.  But don’t breathe that sigh of relief just yet, first take a long hard look at Mike Pence.  The man who voted “no” on enforcing anti-gay hate crimes. My personal favorite *gag* is his history of advocating for tax dollars to fund conversion therapy. Yanno, that debunked, bullshit pseudoscience that claims gay people can be “reformed.”

Frisee salad, wilted with grapefruit sections and broccoli rabe–because this dinner can’t be too bitter.

Trump is a proponent of racial profiling.  Despite actual evidence, he thinks stop and frisk is fabulous; again, something he wants to expand. What’s that, he’s not racist? I’m being too politically correct?  Claimed a judge would be biased because of the judge’s Mexican heritage, has been sued more than once for not renting to black people, failed to reject the support of the Klu Klux Klan.  He’s still blahblahblah about that hypothetical wall between us and the Mexican border (worked so well for Berlin), he wants to ban Muslim immigrants, and from his plexiglass, gold-plated bubble, “Syrian refugees are a Trojan horse,” because helping desperate, starving people trying to live and be free to practice their religion and work is not the American way.  Owait.  Yup, must be me, he isn’t racist at all.

Roasted boar with red beans, oranges and bok choy

Trump thinks not paying federal taxes makes him smart.  Hmm.  In some respects, as a businessman, I suppose it certainly does make him savvy.  But the position of President isn’t equivalent to CEO, it’s about representing the interests of the people of our so-called democracy, not further lining his pockets.  Please, someone explain to me how anyone can believe Trump supports veterans and the military when he believes not paying the taxes that fund veterans and the military is something to brag about.  When he continually disparages the sacrifices made by veterans and their families? He says “no one respects us,” in reference to other countries.  I can certainly see the US losing respect by the day, the longer Trump has supporters.

Buccatini with parmesan and rainbow peppercorns

What’s that, dear?  Oh, jobs, yes, Trump will bring back all the jobs.  And that, after all, is a real concern for real Americans, not theoretical loss of civil rights, we’re worried about our paychecks.  And he’s a businessman.  Oh yes, his successful businesses with multiple bankruptcy filings, that is an excellent model for the United States.  His long history of reneging on contracts, not paying contractors the agreed upon fees.  What? You think I will address (again) his lies about bringing manufacturing jobs back to America when his own companies continue to exploit tax loopholes by manufacturing their products outside of the US?  Mike Pence believes those pesky regulatory burdens are economy killers?  No worries, we’re having a civilized dinner, imaginary dishes to go with all these imaginary jobs.

Aged gouda with smoked pepitas and macadamias 

Both Trump and Pence dislike the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), and would love the opportunity to repeal it.  It certainly is far from perfect, I can agree, but it’s a whole lot better than what we had before, with millions more people uninsured and people who wanted health insurance unable to get any because of preexisting conditions.  Mike Pence has voted No on giving mental health full equity with physical health, voted No on expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program, voted Yes on denying non-emergency treatment for lack of Medicare Co-Pay.  Oh yes, this is exactly who we need.  Yesterday I read about this incident.  Certainly, it wasn’t Trump or Pence who sent this epileptogenic video to this journalist with epilepsy–but I didn’t hear them immediately denouncing it, either.  Epilepsy, a potentially fatal disorder that has its own place at the dinner table in my home.  Talk about triggers– I read that article and flashed on every time I’ve watched my daughter turn gray and stop breathing.  Life and health are overrated, aren’t they?  Unless of course you’re male, white and wealthy enough that you can pay out of pocket for any and all health expenses.  If you’re fortunate enough not to have extensive experience with health care costs, let me tell you, someone has to be extraordinarily wealthy to pay out of pocket, working class/middle class won’t cut it.

Apple pie in lard crust with salep dondurma and espresso

Sorry, I don’t have the patience for a twenty-three course meal, and if I tried to hit all of the important positions this post would be 14,000 words long.  The offerings in my imaginary meal are bizarre, you didn’t imagine it.  They reflect the bizarre twists and justifications I’m seeing in defense of Trump and in defense of Trump supporters.  Over the last few days, I’ve heard a lot of talk from friends who lean left (the way I do) as they try to preserve friendships by tempering statements about “deplorables” by saying they don’t believe all Trump supporters are deplorable, they’re regular people who are nice, just afraid or misguided.  I understand that.  I don’t have that many friends, the majority of those friendships I have are treasured, steeped in mutual history, shared experiences and laughter.  But when someone supports Trump, and I think of my dinner table, I lose my appetite.  Who sits at my dinner table?  My family, my in-laws, my friends.  A diverse group that includes people of many ethnic backgrounds, skin colors, socio-economic status, varying faiths and lack thereof, different sexual orientations, differently abled.  When you support Trump, you are making a public statement that you don’t believe women are human beings, equal in any way to men, let alone entitled to feel physically safe. When you support Trump, you are saying you don’t believe in gay rights.  When you support Trump, you are saying you don’t believe people of color are deserving of the same respect and opportunities, the same safety, as white people.  When you support Trump, you are saying you don’t believe my daughter or my husband deserve to have health insurance.  You are saying it’s a-okay for my loved ones to leave my dinner table and be stopped and frisked, threatened, harassed, for daring to have lives.

This isn’t like any other election year, the Trump/Pence ticket isn’t like any other Republican offering.  You don’t get to say, “well, I like his tax plan,” and ignore the complete lack of humanity, lack of integrity, ignore his intention to repeal the rights of everyone who doesn’t think and act like Trump, repeal freedom of the press under the guise of calling out “mainstream media bias.”  If you are supporting Trump/Pence, you are allying yourself with the ticket supported by the KKK.  Think about that, the motherfucking Klu Klux Klan.  We are the company we keep.

It’s a Secret–Pass It On!

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Everyone loves a secret, no need for truth or facts.  The secret to weight loss, the secret to finding love, the secret to making money, the secret to success, the secret to being happy.  If it’s big and juicy enough, it reaches conspiracy status–and there’s nothing Americans love more than a good conspiracy.

When Art Child was a toddler, she had a doll she loved above all 9,563 others.  It sang, “¡Yo tengo un secreto y tu no sabes!”  in a teasing voice, no mistaking the inflections whether you speak Spanish or not.  I’ve got a secret and you don’t know it.  Oh yeah, she loved that doll, almost as much as the other patrons in the local Dominican cafe loved seeing her with it, until the 138th time she pressed the button.  The worst part?  I bought the damned thing.  What was I thinking? Not just the annoyance factor, but the message.   Thankfully Sadly, the doll was lost at some point, just another casualty on the pyre of toys designed to torture parents.

Donald Trump is that doll minus the pigtails, and there are way too many Americans gleefully pushing his belly to hear him taunt.  As I and many others have said, that’s the problem–not that he is who he is, and spouts the disgraceful, empty nonsense he does, but that he has god only knows how many supporters who are getting a thrill from watching the rest of us cringe.  Actually I suspect a good number of his supporters are certain he’ll be having lunch with Elvis before taking the debate stage this evening.   Because secrets! Conspiracy! And Donald’s going to tell us the truth, because nothing says honesty and integrity like someone who blatantly, repeatedly lies to paint the picture he wants to see.

I want to be fair, so let me share that it isn’t only on the far right that we’ve got gleeful conspiracy theorists singing about the moon landing being faked, the Holocaust was a lie, and of course, Obama is a secret Muslim who showed a fake birth certificate.  Oh no, we’ve got our share on the left side of the political spectrum also, those who are certain Tupac and Jim Morrison will be sitting a few tables down from Trump and Elvis, cling to the belief vaccines cause autism, and share theories with those on the right about 9/11 coverups and the aliens in Area 51.  Aaah, such a warm feeling in the pit of my stomach–pride in my fellow citizens, oh wait, no, it’s nausea.

Secrets and conspiracies–bet you can’t eat just one!  And let’s go ahead and dip them in some delusion sauce while we’re at it.  Those residing on the far right believe the lying, blustering, unqualified candidate who is Trump will save them.  Yes, save them; cure their ills, make them rich, give them jobs, put all those pesky brown people in their proper place and show those dumb libs what the Constitution really means.  Those residing on the far left are saying wonderful! Let him win, it doesn’t matter, Clinton is an equally poor choice, and besides, if he wins there will be a revolution on the streets and in three days’ time we’ll have taken the nation and all its riches back, distributing them to all those poor, unfortunate, ignorant souls who need us to save them.

Why am I writing now, at 5am on the day of the first Presidential debate, when I know my fingers will be itching to rant again by 10PM tonight?  Because this has been such a horrific, unprecedented election cycle I don’t think the debates matter.  Clinton will be fabulous, this is exactly where she can and does shine.  Ok, maybe not like Obama, but still.  She’s informed, she’s experienced, she knows how to keep her cool and speak well.  Trump will be Trump, he’ll have no real plans to offer, he’ll bellow and attack while continuing to lie and going on the offense if anyone dares to call him on his lies.  And his supporters won’t care.  Regardless of what he does or doesn’t say, they’ll be crowing and trumpeting his “truth”, declaring him the clear winner.

Trump has spent his entire adult life selling hollow secrets, he became the Republican candidate by selling conspiracies.  He’s good in front of a camera, he appeals not to our ever-changing American Dream, but to our American Fantasy of winning lottery tickets.  He’s the American Id.  In another time in America’s past, he’d have been under a tent selling snake oil.  Let’s stop buying, shall we?  Think about it, this is a man who’s telling you he’s going to give jobs back to the American people, he’s a successful businessman who knows how to do this, after all.  So successful he’s declared bankruptcy three times, and he has indeed provided thousands of jobs–in other countries.  When called on it, he said this stuff isn’t manufactured in the US anymore.  Not true, some of it is, and more of it could be, if businesses like Trump’s weren’t putting profit above people.

We are a nation confused by its own adolescence, screaming that we don’t need childish toys and distractions while we paradoxically hold tight to them, trying to prove how very grown up we are by doing so.

This singing doll isn’t just a nuisance that gets on your nerves, it’s already leaking battery acid, in the form of millions of supporters for the rhetoric of fear, hatred, and greed.  Leaking now, it’s too late to just dump it in a pile of abandoned toys.  That acid is staining our political process, corroding  the very freedoms Trump claims he’s going to provide.

How will we do this? I’m not sure.  We’re certainly beyond pretending Trump is an isolated wing-nut. And it isn’t just within the boundaries of our country that we need to worry about. Which, of course, his supporters are loving–because there’s some confusion about the difference between respect and fear, authority and authoritarianism.  For most of those supporters at the Trump rallies, he has validated, legitimized, and fed their fears and hatred so they haven’t cleaned up this acid leak, but instead spread it.  I don’t know how to get rid of it, but I know for sure the first step has to be Trump losing in November.  How about we put fear on hold, and begin with self-respect?  If not it won’t matter which secret you were hoping to hear or what conspiracies you find intriguing, we will all lose.

Dear Chicks on the Right: You Talkin To Me?

A few photos from 23rd Street, just a bit east of where the explosion took place Saturday night.

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I had never heard of the Chicks on the Right before, and I’m pretty much the left leaning filthy hippy they rail against, perhaps even the “landbeast” or “moon bat” so charmingly defined in their chicktionary.  But hey, I don’t live in an echo chamber and don’t want to, and these are apparently two middle aged women putting themselves and their beliefs out there in the blogosphere.  I want to support that, wanted to find out more about them, being another middle aged woman who puts herself and her beliefs out there.  Imagine my surprise when I actually read the post I had seen linked in my Facebook feed this morning.  Now I’m sure they don’t know or care who Mrs Fringe is, I’m barely a spit bubble compared to the success of their big pink bubblegum blowing blog, but I’m a New Yorker, after all, and if you’ve got questions/thoughts/incorrect assumptions about life in the Big Apple, I’m your gal.

So let this cliched middle aged broad clarify a couple of things for you.  I have a passionate love/hate relationship with this city, but when you’re born and raised here, you’re a New Yorker for life, even if you’ve long since moved to Timbuktu.  I have never been to Indianapolis (the area these “chicks” appear to be from), so I don’t know what it’s like there.  The only tv show I can think of that was set there is One Day at a Time, pretty sure that isn’t an accurate reflection.  I, and all eight million of my neighbors, are indeed tough and resilient.  What we aren’t is a hive mind.  That’s the beauty of New York.  Diversity.  Is that a dirty word for your blog? Sorry, it’s the one that fits.

Not just diversity in faith, skin color, gender/gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity, but diversity in thoughts and beliefs, including political.  Yeah, we’re a blue city in a blue state, but there are enough right leaning people here–and even more independent thinkers– that we’ve had a Republican mayor or two.

This isn’t my main issue or yours, not what spurred me to respond.  The emergency text blasted out to all NY cell phones, identifying the name of the suspect wanted for the explosion that had taken place in Chelsea a few days earlier.  For the record, I’m not a big Twitter user (though I think I will send you gals a tweet so you see this post), I hadn’t seen any of the ones you posted, let alone tweeted about it myself.  That said, yeah, receiving that text falls under what I like to call icky-squicky-this-can’t-be-right.  Not because I didn’t want the person responsible captured and prosecuted, but because it feels more than a bit Big Brother-ish.  I’m a little confused, aren’t conservatives the group that complains about government overreach?  I know you disagree, and I’m sorry for being dense, perhaps you can explain it to me.  Simply, seeing as I’m a slow-witted New Yorker who doesn’t understand what’s in my best interests.

I was also taken aback by your expanding and clarifying statement, “Not only that, but these delicate snowflakes cried that something like this could lead to the Supreme Evil of racial profiling.”  Sorry for causing more eye rolls, but my experience as someone who lives in this great diverse city means that yup, I’m also against racial profiling.  Why?  Because my neighbors, friends, children’s friends/classmates, family members, are a diverse (oops, there’s that naughty word again) bunch.  Getting up and living their lives each day, I imagine much the way you do, and being profiled, stopped, too often falsely accused and arrested just doesn’t seem to represent the land of the free to me.  Profiling isn’t “suddenly” bad.  Perhaps you weren’t aware of it as an issue until recently.  That’s ok, you don’t know what you don’t know.  You know the nice part of being older?  I’ve learned to stop and think; listen to the other side of issues, take the time and put in the effort to learn the subtleties.  America is a big place, encompassing many different people, beliefs, and lifestyles.  What works in a small town in Montana wouldn’t make sense in New York–and that’s okay.  Damn I hope I don’t melt, being a snowflake and all, it’s hot in the city today.

But what really got my fingers itching to respond?  “New Yorkers have traded in their traditional toughness for a safe space of politically correct social justice.”  Here’s a bit of New York reality for you, our world has changed.  We’ve made trade-offs, some I agree with, some I don’t, but yeah, I’ve changed.  I assume you weren’t here in New York on 9/11/01.  I was.  I haven’t forgotten.  I haven’t forgotten the fear of trying to figure out what was going on.  I haven’t forgotten running to get my son from school, finding a stream of parents flowing in and out of the school trying to get their children, the hushed panic of whispers about parents who worked in which towers.  I haven’t forgotten my gratitude for the incredible calm and order the school staff had going.  I haven’t forgotten the horrible, unnatural quiet in the streets.  I haven’t forgotten trying to reach people I loved with no answer for hours that felt like decades.  I haven’t forgotten watching the towers burn and the smell of smoke and the ash settling over EVERYTHING.  I haven’t forgotten the first aid stations that were set up so efficiently that looked like not quite perfect movie sets–where are the extras?– because they were so empty.  I haven’t forgotten the thousands of people staggering up Broadway like zombies, covered in layers of white gray ash made up of things we didn’t want to think about.  Wondering if we were breathing in people.  I haven’t forgotten the many, many people who didn’t get to go home.  I haven’t forgotten being trapped on this island of Manhattan, no one other than emergency/official vehicles in or out. I haven’t forgotten the nausea and heart stopping this-will-never-be-the-same first time I saw clusters of armed guards in the subway, on the streets and by the bridges and tunnels.  Not something to watch on a tv screen, not theoretical, but my city, my friends, my neighbors.   Perhaps you think I should be embarrassed to admit this day changed my life and my city forever?  That there is fear that didn’t used to live in my gut?  Nope, not embarrassed at all.

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Chicks on the Right, you have every right to disagree with my political opinions.  You have every right to voice those opinions, vote for the candidates who agree with you, protest the decisions that go against your belief systems and values.  You can join the millions of non-New Yorkers who are quick to lay claim to our city but have no clue what it is to live here, live side by side with all kinds of people, no idea how to make peace and have respect for those who live differently.  But unless you were sitting next to me on the train yesterday, on my way to pick my daughter up from school, underground when the train stopped, vague announcements about a problem ahead, then listening to the announcement that all service had been suspended and thereby wondering if someone had fallen onto the tracks, or jumped, or if there had been another attack, trying to send a text to the school and your child not to leave the school because you were going to be late and you didn’t know how late, feeling the gratitude and relief when the car doors opened so you could run off the train, up and out of the subway and wait behind 342 other people trying to grab cabs on the same corner, knowing you were still on the wrong side of the UN and the President was here to speak there, enough of a New Yorker to then argue with the cab driver about the best route to take so you could get to your child, establish they and your city are safe, knowing you’ve got to get back on those trains to get home, do it again tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, you don’t get to tell me how tough and resilient I and my fellow New Yorkers are not.

Deep Breath In…now hold it until you find sensible workout clothes!

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Early yesterday morning I was extolling the virtues of yoga for back care to a friend, and the conversation goosed me to do what I’ve been putting off for a year, buying new workout clothes.  Should be easy, no? Everywhere you look are women wearing yoga pants and capris, with oh so cute little bondage straps–err, sports bras.

I’m picky.  Yoga gear should be form fitting enough that you can easily check your alignment, and not have everything rolling up, rolling down, and twisting under you.  You should be able to move freely in whatever you’re wearing.   I had looked online last week.  Good grief, $100 for a pair of yoga pants?  By the time $60 began to look reasonable, I knew it was time to step away from the laptop.  And so I went to the local discount sporting goods store, where I was sucked into the vortex of fluorescent pink sports bras with perfectly coordinated checkered capris.  A mere $75 for an outfit.  No. Went home, went back online, found some things that were more reasonably priced, and purchased nothing.  Better prices aren’t really better if I can’t tell exactly how something is going to fit, if it will actually be comfortable to move in but discreet enough to throw a long t-shirt on top and run the girl to school.

Yeah, I’ve seen some of those inexpensive pieces in person, and they’re barely opaque enough to qualify as tights.  And the rest–including some of the very priciest ones–seem to be manufactured and promoted by the same sadists who came up with Spanx.  How the fuck am I supposed to execute a smooth downward facing dog if I’m busy trying to force air into my lungs?  Now I’m sure the idea is to hold in and hide all the rumply bits you’re trying to smooth away with exercise, but they seem to have forgotten one thing.  That excess of skin/cellulite/*gasp*/flab?  It doesn’t actually disappear with the bondage gear, just gets pushed up over the waistband and down under the rib band.  Thanks, I feel so attractive.

And ah, the sports bras. I get it, if your workout is high impact, you might want something with more hold. But for yoga?  With the way most of these things are structured, I expect mammogram results to pop out when I take them off.  And why is the choice that either they come with pads thick and durable enough to walk by themselves or no room in the design for nipples, let alone breasts?

When, exactly, did workout clothes become yet another haute couture arena?  This may be sacrilegious to say in 2016, but as long as it’s reasonable enough to get on and off the subway in, I don’t care what this stuff looks like.  I don’t care if the sports bra matches the t-shirt matches the shorts.  Maybe I’d feel differently if I worked out in a gym, or a class, and was being seen by others.  Actually, this likely contributes to why I prefer to stick to the privacy of my living room.  If you’re headed to an appointment, or date, or work, after you work out, go ahead and live a little by getting dressed in real clothes.  They don’t have to be fancy, just yanno, clean–something you haven’t spent an hour sweating in.

So yes, I went shopping in one of the basic discount stores yesterday, determined to be successful.  If I don’t care about the fashion statement, how hard could it be? First off, I thought it was the perfect time of year to replace my workout shorts (I like to wear shorts for yoga in the hot weather, sue me).  There were indeed two racks of shorts in the clearance racks of the “athleisure” department.  Are you freaking kidding me? Lycra microshorts.  Just right for the woman who wants her already sagging butt cheeks to fall out during child’s pose.  Fine, forget the shorts.  I grabbed every sports bra, yoga pant, and capri that I could find that looked like it might fit, didn’t feel like it was made from that magical duck tape/spandex blend, was under $20 and headed to the dressing room.

I could have skipped the early morning yoga session, because just trying all this crap on certainly counted as a workout.  Mrs Fringe is not a large woman.  That said, as a woman-of-a-certain-age, I’m not as small as I used to be.  These things are obviously all designed for the prepubescent among us.  In real clothes, I wear a size 6 or 4, depending on the cut and the “designer,” usually need a petite (except in pants, my legs are oddly long for a short woman), and I needed– needed–mediums in this stuff.  What the fuck?  What about women who are truly curvy?  Or, god forbid, a bit more than full figured?  Are they banished to the dismal plus-sized rack at the back because they wear a size 12 (which doesn’t necessarily mean more than full figured)? When I came home I saw the brouhaha online about a well endowed teacher in a dress that covered her completely but was, ahem, form fitting.  I wouldn’t wear it, but I like things that are roomy.  Not sack cloth and ashes, but what I consider breathable. Appropriate for work? I don’t know, but I know for sure that is a woman who would be hard pressed to find something off the rack that fit her without being either tight or tent like.

Wikipedia tells me the goal of yoga is moksha–liberation.  Looking at the western yogi-gear offerings, I suspect something has been lost in translation.  If you’re wondering, I did wear my new gear this morning and got on the train wearing my new (see above photo) slightly baggy olive-green capris, crayola-box purple sports bra, and big ocean-blue long sleeved t-shirt. I left the falsies behind.

Halloween decor?

Halloween decor?

The Line Keeps Moving

 

We Need to Talk About Kevin is one of my top ten novels, always comes to mind when someone asks for a recommendation.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is one of my top ten novels, always comes to mind when someone asks for a recommendation.

This morning, as every morning, after my yoga I sat in front of the laptop and started cruising the news.  I don’t read any one paper/site cover to cover; I hop around, the HuffPo, The Guardian, New York Times, Politico, and any links popped up overnight on my Facebook feed that catch my eye.  And so I saw the headline for this essay in The Guardian, and got excited.  (As excited as I get at pre sunrise, only on my second cup of coffee.)  I am a huge fan of Lionel Shriver, as evidenced by the photo above.  Over the past few years I’ve gotten rid of the majority of my paper books–surprisingly liberating–but I keep a couple of shelves worth, a selection or two or three showcasing authors I worship or individual volumes that have had a huge impact on me, as a person and/or as someone who writes.

When I read the essay, my first thought was, “oh, fuck.”  It’s about the author’s response to part of a speech given by Lionel Shriver, about identity, cultural appropriation, what is or isn’t ok for an author to explore through their fiction.  When I love an author’s work, I want to be one hundred percent devoted to them in every way.  I want them to be the giants I’ve built them up to become in my mind, I want to have faith as I learn more about them that this is someone I’d enjoy having conversations with over tea, coffee, or a glass of wine.  Silly, isn’t it?  Especially silly when I’m someone who still harbors occasional fantasies of being published (well published!), and yet here I am running this blog:  Mrs Fringe of the colorful language, big mouth, strong opinions, and anything but neutral political leanings.  I have no doubt there are many who would not enjoy having coffee with me, maybe even some of the same who enjoy my words when they’re fiction.  I’m the first to admit not everyone finds my sense of humor charming. General publishing wisdom–common sense, really–dictates that anyone hoping to earn a dollar from strangers shouldn’t do anything to actively offend anyone.

The thing is, I’m a person, first and foremost. That’s what Mrs Fringe is about, being a person who wears many hats, plays many roles; complete with disappointments, laughter, mourning, screw-ups, nonsense, inappropriate thoughts, offensive-to-some language, a desire to be heard and understood, a desire to learn and understand more, a desire to connect with others.  Kinda like, oh, say…fiction.  And the authors of said fiction.  Yes, it’s imaginary characters and made up scenarios, but good fiction, enduring fiction, the kind of fiction Lionel Shriver writes, is uncompromising, unapologetic.  She creates characters who are SO real, doesn’t hesitate to use her characters and scenarios to explore who we are as human beings, as a society, to use the mirror of fiction to examine the beauty, pain, and the ugly bits of what it means to be a whole person.  Sure it’s uncomfortable, but it’s also riveting.  This is the fiction that endures, because people are people–now, fifty years from now, two hundred years ago.

So I’m a person.  So, apparently, is Ms. Shriver.  And I read the essay, thinking about the author of the essay, her offense at Lionel Shriver’s remarks referencing how easily, too easily, people are offended now, the idea of political correctness.  Her offense at the idea that a novelist can accurately and appropriately portray someone whose experience of life is vastly different than their own, i.e.: a white novelist writing a person of color, straight novelist writing LGBTQ characters, etc.  Her interpretation of the novelist’s speech as arrogance–maybe it was, because I only have the author’s paraphrasing before she walked out twenty minutes into it, I don’t have enough information to give an informed opinion.

I want to be offended by her offense.  But I’m not.  The truth is, she has a point.  Could a white male have written Their Eyes were Watching God, given the character of Janie Crawford the same depth, the same enduring honesty created by Zora Neale Hurston?  Nope. Could In the Time of Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez, have been written by someone who isn’t Dominican, written in a way that allows the reader to come as close to feeling what it would be like living in the shadow of Trujillo as you feel reading her story of the Mirabel sisters?  Nope.  If a white author writes a black protagonist, I’m going to be skeptical, I’m going to be wondering about the character being written in a way that is not only not realistic, but wondering about the icky squicky line of that protagonist being written in such a way that it’s lecturing (subtle or not) the reader on how a person of color should be feeling in this imaginary scenario.  Will that novelist be able to allow the reader to feel the enduring humanity while preserving the reality of life experiences through they eyes and thoughts of a protagonist who isn’t straight and white?

Lionel Shriver, as far as I could tell from the essay, had a point, too. If we are afraid to examine any but our own narrow viewpoint, so afraid of using the wrong words we stay silent, we will never understand a damned thing, and our worlds will shrink with the novels in front of us, rather than expanding.  Female authors have written beautiful, powerful strong male characters and vice versa.  What would seventh graders read if Harper Lee hadn’t written To Kill a Mockingbird?  What are we teaching these future generations (*cue thinkofthechildren wail*) if they stop reading it because it might be triggering, or offensive to examine our society’s racism–past and present?  You know what was amazing to me, about Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin?  Reading about her afterwards, and learning she isn’t a parent.  My mind was blown.  But maybe it shouldn’t have been.  Maybe it’s because she isn’t a parent that she was able to take such a hard look at parenthood without turning the mother into a saint or a caricature of a villain (though not necessarily likable).

Would it be the same thing, a white author writing a protagonist who is Black, or Latino, Asian or Indigenous?  No, but it also shouldn’t mean limiting characters to only those who experience life the same way the writer does.  If it did I’d have to give up even fantasizing about having anything published.  I can see it now, the NY Times Best Seller– Mrs Fringe Buys a Slow Cooker.

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Cultural appropriation is a real thing, and it’s something we need to be aware of, and sensitive to.  Maybe it’s harder for whites to understand because so much of the tradition of white, Christian culture involves the attempt to force it down the throats of everyone else.  What the line is, exactly, I’m not sure.  At the beginning of this post I referenced yoga.  Is it cultural appropriation for me to practice yoga?  I’m pretty sure I don’t have that Jane Fonda exercise tape anymore.  Or a beta machine to play it on.  Nerd Child tells me the Weeping Buddha statuette I have on my desk is cultural appropriation.  I don’t know, it makes me feel better to touch it in the early morning, pretend that I really am letting go of any sadness and starting the day with a clean slate.

Mother of God with Child--Kuz'ma Petrov-Vodkin

Mother of God with Child–Kuz’ma Petrov-Vodkin

I saw the above painting recently, wished I could have it hanging in my apartment.  I’m far from a religious anything, let alone Russian Orthodox.  It’s art, and what makes great art (visual, written, or other) is the creator’s ability to preserve the specific subject while transcending it, offering the reader/observer/listener a world outside of her own while tapping into the common themes we all share.

People don’t change, the human condition has had us exploring the same questions for hundreds of years.  Society, though.  Society changes.  The words and language we use changes.  What is acceptable changes.  The line of what is or isn’t ok to do and say moves.  Sometimes it moves quickly.  It behooves all of us to remember this, and if we write, or read, or engage with the world in any way, it behooves us to remember this, like everything else that’s important, involves many shades of gray.

*Follow up: This morning I saw the transcript of Shriver’s full speech in The Guardian.  I thought some of my readers might be interested, and as always, invite all to come back and comment here if you read it.