American Nightmare

Her Lips Say No, but Her Eyes say Back Off, Maggot

Have a seat, ladies. We need to talk.

On my way to the girl’s school this morning, I received no less than three text alerts from various online news sources letting me know Doug Jones’ win in Alabama last night was a “devastating blow” for Republicans.

Fuck. That.

It’s a blow (and not a devastating one) to misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, and transphobic bozos who don’t view anyone remotely different from them as worthy of life, rights, or representation in government. Am I glad Jones won? Of course I am, whispered a quiet yes! to myself when I first saw it looking this way at 1am–but didn’t trust it until I read it with my morning coffee at 5. Then I smiled, and ok, a bit less quiet woot! It’s good news for sure, a glimmer of hope I’m pleased to see, but don’t be so quick to celebrate.

Think about it. This was a really, really close call in a Senate race between a man who successfully fought against the KKK, prosecuted them, and believes in women’s rights and a maggot (who’s been suspended from the judicial bench twice) credibly accused by multiple women of having been harassed/assaulted by him when they were teens and he was a DA in his thirties. Someone who thought he’d prove his lack of prejudice by having his wife state “one of their attorneys is a Jew.” Someone who has said on record the country was better off without any of the amendments that came after the 10th.  If you’re unfamiliar, these amendments he doesn’t like include some I’m pretty fond of;  like abolishing slavery, the right to vote regardless of race/religion, women’s right to vote, yanno, little things like that. He’s also been loud and proud in his belief that “homosexual conduct” should be illegal, Muslims shouldn’t have the right to sit in Congress, etc. And we cannot forget that while a few members of the GOP spoke against him, the sitting President rallied for an accused child molester and the RNC gave money to his campaign.

More than anything, what has me sputtering into my tea as I type is the fact that 63% of the white women in Alabama who voted yesterday voted for Roy Moore. Sixty-three percent. One of them even sent her 12 year old daughter to interview him.

Wake up, women! Moore doesn’t believe women should hold office, doesn’t believe we’re equal to men, doesn’t believe we should have reproductive choices, he called the women who credibly accused him of sexual misconduct liars and “criminals.”

Why? Why do so many white women in America hate themselves and their daughters this much? More than anything, how do we change this? Because this is self hatred. Internalized misogyny and voluntary subjugation that is doing great damage to all of us.

I have seen and heard many say their vote for Moore (and let’s not forget the 53% of white women nationwide who voted for Trump, so don’t even start with well, it’s Alabama/the South) is because of religious beliefs. Huh. I am 100% for freedom of religion, and can’t/have no desire to get into whose interpretation of the various religious texts is the “correct” one (though how anyone can be 100% certain they’re speaking for their God, I don’t know), but I am 100% opposed to anyone who feels it is their right to impose their religious beliefs on others. I was not born into/raised in a theocracy and I never want to live in one. I don’t care what religion we’re talking about; the perverted interpretation of the Koran as practiced by the nut job who thought blowing his balls off in Times Square at rush hour the other day was a good idea,  people like Roy Moore, or people like the extremist Christians who are all for further destabilizing the Middle East because they’re impatient for Armageddon.

Several years ago I wrote a short story called “Yous Girls,” and the first line is “Yous girls fucked yourselves,” poking at the idea of what women didn’t gain from the women’s movement in the 70s. Never has that line reverberated more strongly than it has this year.

This isn’t “just” religion. Religion has a strong and significant role in the African-American community, yet 98% of Black women voted against Roy Moore yesterday–despite gerrymandering and widespread voter suppression.  As long as white women continue to view themselves by their romantic relationships, how they reflect men, accepting and even volunteering for the position of “less than,” we’re stuck.  Somehow, the majority of white women in the United States believe they don’t deserve respect or equality.  The MeToo movement (dominated by a very specific segment of white women) doesn’t just illustrate how widespread sexual assault and harassment are, how many men are guilty of inappropriate behavior; it illustrates how many women continue to support these behaviors, even as they whisper, me too.

 

Sex, Lies, and Assault

The full quote engraved above is, “For the Improvement of Social and Living Conditions”

This morning Al Franken will be making an announcement regarding the allegations against him. Many believe he will be stepping down, many believe he should step down. Maybe this post will be up before he does so, but know it was written prior. I hear/see a lot of people saying this is a watershed moment in American history for women and women’s rights. Time Magazine’s person of the year 2017 isn’t one person, it’s the #metoo movement, the “silence breakers.”

I don’t have answers in regards to Franken, and I’ve been finding it impossible to read every detail coming to light about all of these men. It’s all so, so much. Not just so much in terms of the volume of accusations against the ever-growing number of men, but so much when looking at the many, many terrors happening on a daily basis. There isn’t one area of our society that isn’t under attack from within right now. All this said, I have thoughts. I’ve been speaking up and out about women, sexual harassment, and assault for a long time, and I’ve used Mrs Fringe as a vehicle to do so for the past five years. I’m not so sure this is a watershed moment.

Yes, there is much awareness and many important, necessary conversations happening. Yes, we are seeing repercussions for men who abuse/have abused women and positions of power in a way we haven’t seen before. I just don’t know that we can see this as a definitive turning point. Do I want it to be? Yes! But can it be, and why not? Because we’re only seeing this in very limited arenas. I understand that any/every movement has to begin somewhere, and the highly visible and well documented eyes of Congress and Hollywood are excellent places to start. But nothing happens or exists in a vacuum, and while the Left is celebrating, the Right is working. (I’d say the Right Extremists, but at this point it’s safe to say those who were considered extremists on the fringe right twenty years ago are now mainstream.)  Our current President is a man credibly accused of both sexual harassment and assault by multiple women over the course of many years. Accounts of him wandering into the dressing room backstage of the Miss America contest–with underaged contestants–are also documented. This was all well known and well documented long before the 2016 election, an audio tape of him bragging about groping women released, and millions voted for him anyway.  You could and should argue that the current movement is a well deserved backlash because of this.

But these formerly extremist Right Wing politicians have all the power right now, and they’re using it to harm women for generations to come, regardless of who’s on the cover of Time Magazine this month or how many Democrats are called to task for inappropriate, immoral, and sometimes illegal behavior. Mitch McConnell and the GOP stole a pivotal Supreme Court seat after Scalia died by refusing to hold hearings and vote on President Obama’s pick for nominee. Do we think this won’t have repercussions for women’s rights, for Roe vs Wade? The current monstrosity of an administration is also busy stacking the federal courts with more extremist, right wing, appointed for life individuals. In another time in our history…say, 10 years ago, this might sound hysterical. They’re judges, they have to be impartial and qualified no matter who they vote for, the GOP cares about women and sexual predators, right? No. No they do not. Not anymore. This is how qualified you now have to be to qualify for a federal judgeship appointment, and this is how much the GOP cares about women. I’m sorry, did I say women? I should say women and girls, because those credibly accusing Roy Moore were most definitely not adult women at the time of these incidents.  I cannot say this loudly or frequently enough, the damage being done right now is generational.

And that’s not all. Yesterday the House–and by the House, I mean the GOP members, since they are in control–voted to pass a bill allowing concealed carry holders to legally bring their guns into states where they wouldn’t otherwise be allowed these concealed carry permits. Like, say, from states where domestic abusers are allowed to purchase and concealed carry guns into states that care about protecting their citizens. Oh yeah, this is going to be awesome for victims of domestic violence. So much caring about women and children.

Should the Hollywood and media men who have been fired/suspended/called out and shamed lost their careers? Absolutely. But given our quickly disappearing legal recourse and support from the government, I don’t see this helping Suzy Q Torres working in middle management, or Mary-Sue Regular Gal after she’s cornered by her sweating, piggish boss in the after-hours kitchen of the local fast food restaurant. So I don’t see how we can say, at this moment, that this is a turning point for women’s rights and safety in America. Celebrity cases often bring light and awareness to issues, a starting point. Without follow through for all, they stop there.

There are other aspects to this. Due process–I’ll leave that exploration to those more versed in the legal system, though I question some of these cases.  Not because I don’t believe women, not because I don’t want everyone to believe women, but because the stakes are high. Higher than they’ve ever been, in light of all recently discovered about the manipulability (is that a word?) of public opinion through the use of social media.

And then there’s the distinctions I see too many glossing over. A lot of men are assholes. They make unwanted comments, gestures, use a beer and a crowded bar as an excuse to make unwanted advances. Some men are predators. Some men prey on children. Some men are pushy, refusing to accept no thanks when asking for a phone number. Some men are stalkers.  There are assholes, there are sexual harassers, there are predators, there are rapists. These categories are all morally wrong, an affront to women’s intelligence, autonomy, and safety. But they aren’t equal.

I’m fairly safely invisible now, but let’s pretend I’m twenty years younger for a few subway scenarios. If a man on the subway asks for my phone number and tells me I should smile, I can tell him to fuck off and he can call me a feminazi bitch, I get off at the next stop. It’s yet another unpleasant incident that I shouldn’t have to deal with, and I do dream of a day when women won’t have to. If a man on the subway uses rush hour as an excuse to rub against me, or uses the longer time between stops when going through a tunnel to take out his junk and masturbate, I can get loud, tell him to fuck off, try to move away, stomp on his foot/offer a sharply placed elbow, get off and report him at the next stop. (I can’t, apparently, expect other passengers to help me, since the current PSAs on the subway tell people not to get directly involved with these types of incidents unless they’re certain it’s safe to do so, they should report it to the appropriate authorities when they can). I’m disgusted, I’m shaky, I’m pissed off that this is the world I live in. If a man on the subway traps me on an otherwise empty car when the train is moving through a tunnel, or follows me off the train and drags me to an unpopulated stairwell and assaults me, well, now we’re in completely different territory, with lifelong physical and emotional repercussions shaping every single choice I make for the rest of my life.

The fact that men like those in the second scenario exist doesn’t negate the wrongness of men in the first scenario, and those in the third don’t make those in the second acceptable in any way, shape, or form.

These were “easy” scenes, clearcut. They didn’t involve people who were known to the victim, dates, boyfriends, spouses, relatives, child predators, gang rapes, positions of financial power and employment repercussions, drugs/alcohol, or any of the million and three ways women find themselves being negated and disrespected, abused, assaulted. They are all unacceptable, and should all be addressed by our society with repercussions. But they aren’t all the same.  If we on the Left are in fact taking the moral high ground, that has to include looking at each case individually, or we run the risk of becoming the twenty-first century version of the 1980s false moral majority. While many of these scenarios grow from the same root problem, if we on the Left insist they are all the same, we make it that much easier for those on the Right to ignore these very real, pervasive, and damaging issues women deal with every day, the systemic degradation of women; paving the way for legal and sanctioned support of predators.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Unfortunately, our nation has jumped onto the tracks, and it seems we’ll be chunky pudding for the rats before that light helps us find our way.

I know I’m supposed to be positive and forward thinking, visualizing the world I want to live in, but I’m too busy gaping at the world I do live in. Every damned day feels like an assault, every news cycle (what are they, 11 seconds long now?) an emetic. Why does it feel this way? Because it is. An assault on our nation’s norms and values, an assault on our government, an assault on what could have been our future, an assault on the earth, an assault against people of color, and every day, new assaults against women–our rights, our autonomy, our bodies.  I didn’t participate in the #metoo campaign (on Twitter and Facebook) nor the #meat14. For some it made them feel empowered, more connected to share their stories and show the world exactly how widespread the issues of harassment and assault against women are. I know the stats, I know the stories, I know exactly how insidious and pervasive misogyny is. As long as we allow women to drive, keep their heads uncovered, and say that rape and assault are illegal, the powers that be can continue feeling superior to those other cultures. You know what else I know? This is a surprise to exactly no one, and is considered acceptable in our country.

Yes, that isn’t a typo, I said acceptable. Not to all, but to many. Too many. So acceptable that millions of citizens in the US decided to vote for a man accused of sexual assault multiple times by multiple women over many years– a man who we all heard discussing women as nothing more than toys and acquisitions in the basest possible terminology, bragging about predatory behavior, we heard this before the election–and still millions voted for him. Currently, Ray Moore is running for a Senate seat in Alabama. Ray Moore, such a fine and upstanding conservative with fine American values, well documented as saying homosexuality should be illegal, stating that there are communities in the US under Sharia law (I’d love to know exactly where), supporting transgender discrimination, and the old favorite of claiming Barack Obama isn’t an American citizen. Yes, that fine American was recently accused of preying on a 14 year old girl when he was a District Attorney in his thirties. And now more accusations from more women who say he molested/attempted to molest them when they were teenagers.

Am I shocked? Nope. Is there any woman in America who is shocked? I doubt it. So what’s the problem, you ask. The problem is there are still people supporting him, despite these now public and well supported allegations. Still elected officials supporting him. What’s a little molestation when tax cuts are within reach, right? And of course, we all know how 14 year old girls can be,nudgenudgewinkwink, it isn’t like anyone should reasonably expect an adult man to be an adult and keep his paws to himself.  There are not only constituents but elected officials literally saying they prefer an accused pedophile to a Democrat. His Democratic opponent, by the way, is Doug Jones. Jones is an attorney, and when he was a prosecutor, he successfully convicted 2 of the 4 Klu Klux Klan members responsible for the 1963 16th Street Church bombing. Such a moral dilemma there, eh?

Last night I watched an interview with another woman accusing Moore of having preyed on her as a teen. She was specific and credible, and made sure to say this had nothing to do with politics–she and her husband are Republicans who voted for Trump. My heart hurts for that young girl trapped in a car with a grown, predatory man, and for the woman who carries those memories and fears decades later. (Because that shit doesn’t go away.) But my heart hurts for all of us. My fear grows daily for all of us. This woman may believe she is rising above politics to speak up against a Republican politician, but apparently she was just fine with another accused predator sitting in the White House, because why? Because it wasn’t her? Or because fear and hatred of women, girls, and women’s sexuality is so ingrained in our culture that we don’t even know to protect each other?

Now, today, the number of credible accusers against Moore has grown to five, I believe. I guess five is the magic number for Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. McConnell has stopped snickering, and they are finally calling for him to step down from the Senate race. The governor of Alabama is apparently experiencing no such conflicts, and she is still saying she will vote for him. The Alabama State Auditor even twisted this into a neat bible story, babbling that this makes Moore just like Joseph, and the violated 14 year old girl is just like Mary. Can’t wait to see the episode of Veggie Tales that covers this.

This should all do wonders for the safety of women and girls nationwide, don’t you think? That we have an administration in the White House and elected officials nationwide who place the value of tax cuts for the uber-wealthy, ability to appoint backwards and unqualified persons for federal judgeships, and of course the rights of men to put their hands wherever and however they damn well please over the rights and safety of women.

So, be positive, celebrate that we’re turning over rocks and all these abusive, predatory, powerful and corrupt men are coming to light? Excuse my pragmatism (yeah, I know, you can call it cynicism) but I’ve heard this before, when everyone talked about how wonderful it was that ubiquitous video phones and the internet were allowing us to see the racism living in the nooks and crannies of our country. The sunlight didn’t kill it. The light allowed that shit to photosynthesize into a rooted, giant weed controlling all branches of our government with racism, bigotry, and misogyny.

I’m fucking traumatized.

 

The Wrong Side of History

This has nothing to do with this post, but it was the closest history book in reach.

(Rambling ahead, I blame lack of sleep and political overload)

So this wrong side of history phrase. We’re hearing it a lot lately, along with variations like, history will not look kindly….

The thing is, we don’t know how history will see this phase of American history, because we don’t know how it’s going to turn out. I know how I want it to turn out, but I’m not at all sure if I’m sorry or glad that I’ll likely be dead before those books are out. When I was in elementary school, I learned how happy the “Indians” were to help and be helped by the pilgrims. And of course, Columbus discovered America. That definitely improved by the time my kids were in elementary school, and hey, it only took 400 years. Progress is slow. You know what isn’t slow? Destruction and erasure. Recently I saw a tweet referring to this children’s history book, published in 2007, which describes the Trail of Tears (which my kids learned about in third grade) as “Moving Out”–because the First Nations peoples really wanted to make room for the new (white) settlers. For the record, this was definitely not the first time this type of rewrite in a history book has come across my screen. Putting whitewashing to the side, it will always depend on who’s doing the writing, who’s doing the reading, who’s doing the funding, and whether the readers, writers, and funders are from the side that won or lost.

I keep harping on the following point because I think it’s still being glossed over. Millions of Americans wanted this monstrosity leading (if you can call this leading) the country, and the bulk of those millions still do.

Do you like Cheetos? Not as good as dill pickle flavored chips, but still, who can resist artificial, practically glow in the dark salty cheese dust held together by edible styrofoam. I love them. I don’t buy them frequently because it’s easy to overindulge, and they’re a waste of both money and calories. My apartment isn’t a junk-food free zone, but I do try to keep it all balanced. I don’t want to wake up sick every day, feeling my organs waste away while I get fatter, and that definitely isn’t what I want for my children. A lot of people agree with me. Michelle Obama even got a Healthy School Lunch Program going nationwide. But many disagree, and a few months ago, this administration began a rollback of this policy, often using the straw man of kidsarehungryonthisprogrambecausetheyneedemptycaloriesandexcesssodium. Now why would that be?

Perhaps because good nutrition is necessary not just for growth and general health, but for brains. No one–least of all children–can think and learn effectively if they’re malnourished, regardless of what they weigh. If it’s a generation, or multiple generations, of malnourished minds that have also been told higher education and intellectualism are elitist (apparently a slur almost as bad as feminist) writing those yet to be written history books, I wonder what they’ll say. I also wonder why my mind keeps jumping back to the Reagan administration’s efforts to cut the budget for school lunches by classifying condiments as vegetables. I might even be wondering how many of those who voted for 45 were raised thinking a couple of tablespoons of ketchup was nutritionally equivalent to a cup of steamed broccoli.

Of course this is just one aspect of many. The vast majority are of what I’m calling aspects are symptoms. There is a disease in this country, and it’s both progressing and metastasizing. What else can it be, when millions of people in a democratic country vote for someone who is a demagogue; who is against freedom of the press, believes nepotism is the way to run a government, thinks white supremacists are good people, isn’t remotely concerned about our electoral process being hijacked by a hostile government (at best), freedom of speech, doesn’t care how many lose access to health care or whether or not citizens lead long and healthy lives, lies repeatedly without remorse or concern for proof and facts, bragged about sexual assault, brags about tax dodging and bankruptcies, threatens to jail competitors, threatens war like it’s a game of checkers and he can’t wait to howl “double king me!” is working hard to strip women’s rights, remove needed immigrants–both documented and not–has no interest in a separation between church and state or freedom of religion, antagonizes allies, can’t seem to form or follow a complex thought or policy, and appointed/surrounded himself with people dedicated to destroying the departments they were put in charge of and people dedicated to destroying our democratic nation itself?

Acknowledging and treating symptoms is important, but if you can’t identify and treat the underlying disease, it’s a game of whack-a-mole.  If you don’t live in the world of medical mayhem, you might be surprised to know just how many diseases, known and unknown, have no cure. So just what is this disease? Well, my grandmother used to say you can’t fix stupid.  We can call it Owen.  Or Momma, a kernel of truth packaged in a disheveled bow of mean and bullshit.

Maybe we don’t have to worry what the US history books will say, because there won’t be anyone who can read or write them. And the rest of the world? I’m guessing they won’t be whitewashing our trail of tears in the early twenty-first century, as our administration works to destroy both the planet and any culture that doesn’t want to play checkers or draw their bath.

’til My Uterus Falls Out

(because) The moon is always female (also the title of an excellent book of poetry by Marge Piercy)

The title of this post was my standard answer when I was pregnant with Art Child and people would inevitably ask, “Again?! How many babies are you going to have?”

It was none of anybody’s business how many children Husband and I chose to have. You know what else is nobody’s business? How many babies a woman chooses not to have, or why she and her partner, or she alone makes that choice.

Women have never been equal in this country (note that the ERA was never actually passed, though it was first introduced in Congress in 1923). We’ve been closer and further, but never equal. Now, after years of steady progress, we’re about to be manacled to the nursery as we haven’t been since the 1970s. This week the House passed a ban on abortions at/after 20 weeks. Will it pass in the Senate? Who knows? I’ll tell you what I do know, no woman chooses to have an abortion for the hell of it at any point in a pregnancy, and certainly not after growing a baby for 20 weeks. The vast majority of abortions performed beyond that point are done because of fatal fetal defects. Fatal. Not learning disabilities, not a fixable heart defect, or the “wrong” sex, or blue eyes instead of brown, not because a woman decided it was an inconvenient time after all. Included in this bill is the criminalization of doctors who choose to perform late term abortions.

Today I saw this gem. The White House is set to repeal the federal requirement that employers cover birth control (without copays) in their offered health insurance plans.  In order to keep this post under a gazillion words, I won’t even start on the fact that easier, affordable access to birth control has contributed to abortion rates being lower than at any point since the passage of Roe v Wade.

Make no mistake, this has nothing to do with being pro-life, this is about being anti-women. This is about further blurring the separation between church and state. This is about control, misogyny, and living under an administration that condones violence against women. If it was about pro-life, we wouldn’t have a White House and a GOP doing everything possible (which is a lot) to take away health care from women and children. They already let CHIP lapse, which means 9 million children are about to lose health insurance.  They’re doing everything possible to reduce with an eye towards eliminating Medicaid, which is the gov’t sponsored health insurance that covers the very poorest children and the disabled. Also today, reporting that 45 and the White House have given directives to do everything possible to have the ACA fail. This isn’t a political strategy, this is an inhumane, callous and calculated attack on the most vulnerable members of our society, to go along with the attack on women. If any of these pompous, hypocritical blowhards in the White House and GOP cared about life they’d care about tending to the lives of those who are here and suffering now.

It may take a village, but that isn’t what most of us have. This isn’t going to end. It won’t stop until women have no access to birth control or safe and legal abortions, because Big Daddy’s gonna take care of us. He’s gonna take care of us right into our mass graves.

What? You aren’t a member of the White House or GOP but feel so strongly against abortion that it shouldn’t be legal? Congratulations on the adoption of your 15th unwanted and/or medically needy child. Congratulations too, on raising your sons not to objectify women, not to ever have sex (married or not) if they don’t want a child, not to keep knocking up their wimmenz until their brains and their uteruses leak, not to rape, letting them know the responsibility of rape is on the rapist, always, never the victim, and of course, that they need to do a full 50% of the diaper changing, child rearing, school meetings and function attending, doctor visits, and of course, the laundry.  What? You haven’t seen fit to adopt as many children as you can stuff into your home, whether you can afford them or not, whether you’ve got the time to give each one of those children the attention they need, and are just fine with their health insurance being stripped away, and without raising them with the weight of being told how lucky they are that you rescued them like a wormy, emaciated puppy found in the parking lot? You haven’t explained to your sons that what she was wearing doesn’t matter? Did you explain to those oh-so-wanted-and-valued children that it was ok to vote for a man who thinks it’s his right to grab women by the pussy because he’s rich? No? You didn’t/don’t do all of these things? Then maybe, just maybe, you should live your life the way you see fit without stripping away anyone else’s rights, and everyone else can do the same.

Failure of Imagination: the Zombie Apocalypse

 

First of all, I’ve been trying to write this post for days.  My best writing and blogging time is early morning (hence the excess of sunrise photos as you search the archives), but before I write I skim the news, Twitter, and my Facebook feed–and every damned morning I’ve felt as if a broad and hairy fist popped through my keyboard to smash me in the face. In non-simile land, aka real life, I’ve been punched in the face. If you haven’t, let me assure you that it hurts. A lot. Immediately. And then the pain blooms and envelops your brain so that you’re stunned and can’t form a sensible thought; only fight or flight. So basically, every morning I sit down ready to use my words to fight through the madness that is America today, only to find my head rocking back as I close the laptop in metaphorical flight.

I’ve been accused of many things, failure of imagination isn’t one of them. Yet here I sit looking at the little section of apartment that used to hold my kitchen table, unable to imagine what comes next, much the way I was unable to imagine that a glass table can explode without any heat, weight, crack or trigger to cause it. Had I imagined it was possible, I would have researched and discovered this is something that sometimes happens, and wouldn’t have purchased a glass dining table.

I understand what’s happening. People full of anger and frustration, maybe even boredom, decided life wasn’t as good for them as it could be–for some not as good as it should be–and in that anger, frustration, and boredom decided to fuck up everyone’s life. To be fair, much as I knew this would be bad, we all (right and left) thought our system of checks and balances was stronger than it’s turned out to be; riddled with loopholes and gentleman’s agreements based on the premise that those voted into office would indeed be gentlemen/women. I’m not talking about the millionaires/billionaires who support 45; those people will be fine. They were fine regardless of who was at the helm, and they’ll be fine next week, too. But the rest. The poor, the working class, the middle class.

The GOP that has turned itself into a caricature that embraces candidates who openly campaign on platforms of xenophobia, homophobia, racism and misogyny. Take a good look at the current GOP.  45’s win wasn’t a one-off.  The millions of people who continue to support 45 and all the sullen resentment he represents.  The millions of people who believe un-boundaried second amendment rights are more important than the victims of mass murderers, those who cannot even utter the words domestic terrorists when connected to a white male face. The millions who believe pro-life only matters when fighting for the pre-born.  The millions who refuse to see how our country was built and thrived with the work of immigrants, and people of color, and women, and science. The millions who believe international diplomacy is for wimps. The millions who believe regulations from the EPA and the FDA are overreach, but governmental control of my uterus is for my own good.  The millions who believe freedom of religion only counts for the right religions.  The millions who are so anxious not to regret their votes they are willing to ignore the cyber invasion and manipulations of a foreign government.  Willing to blame the victims of a devastating hurricane–and happy to ignore that these same victims are US citizens in US territories. The millions who haven’t said a damned word about CHIP expiring, despite the fact that this directly harms many of their own literal children, let alone that we’re talking about 9 million of our collective children losing their health insurance. The millions who insist on turning a needed national conversation about race and police brutality into nonsense flag waving.

Trickle down economics didn’t work the last time, and was harmful to most. Facing it again, when coupled with weakened unions, erosion of labor laws/protections, loss of protections and regulations for individuals against banks and big business? What is that going to look like? I’m guessing it’s going to look a lot like hunger, disease, and homelessness.

I know many of my friends still have hope, they take heart in knowing there are millions who believe as they do, as I do, in justice, equality, and democracy. That’s true and great, but “we” aren’t the ones in control of this country, and when we were, we didn’t see or understand just how many raised their children on the bitter milk of hatred and ignorance.  Facts have been decried fake, journalists declared the enemy, science declared irrelevant, equality outdated, and loyalty to Party more valued than loyalty to country, citizens, humanity, or common sense.  America isn’t just divided, we are shattered.  For all the memes and giggles about how ineffective this congress has been, they’ve been doing real and significant damage every day that has and will have real and long lasting consequences.

If we haven’t come together for natural disasters (well, natural when viewed through the lens of global climate change), mass slaughter of children and adults, or actual attacks on our country from both foreign entities and enemies within, attacks on voting rights and journalism (both bedrocks of a democratic nation) when, exactly, will this come-together moment happen? What is this country?  And what will we be in another year’s time?

For all my blathering, I don’t have the words.  Not for what I’m feeling now, and not for what we may look like tomorrow.  Maybe my imagination is better than I think, and I’m in fact being overly dramatic. Just in case, someone let me know how to prepare for the zombie apocalypse–the other scenario I’ve never been able to imagine.

No, I’m not feeling too good.

 

It isn’t About the Flag. Or Football

Peg Game

I’m not a sports fan. The game pictured above is probably as close as I get. No one in my home reveres Sunday football, none of my kids are athletes. So why am I going to talk about Colin Kaepernick, #taketheknee, and the NFL–how am I qualified to do so?  Because it isn’t about football. I’m not a veteran and neither is anyone else in my home. So how can I discuss the flag and the national anthem? Because it isn’t about the flag, veterans, or the national anthem. Maybe I should shut up because I’m not black. Or maybe I’m thinking that is exactly why I should speak up, so this isn’t yet another issue marginalized as “just a black thing.” It isn’t. This controversy-that-shouldn’t-be-but-needs-to-be is what it means to be an American, what exactly do we want and need it to mean when we say liberty and justice for all. Maybe I have a moral obligation to do this, not in an attempt to speak for the black community–I can’t, shouldn’t, and don’t want to–but to say, as someone with light, freckled, and wrinkly skin, I do not condone the continued oppression of fellow Americans, and support peaceful protest.

Social justice.  Call me an SJW, and when you do, snicker knowing that it took me a long time and a visit to urban dictionary to figure out it stood for social justice warrior. Hey, I was weaned on the Village Voice, so I kept reading it as Single Jewish White what? Male? Female? Genderfluid?  No really, go ahead and sneer as you label me a social justice warrior, I’ll gladly wear that label over racist prick, or worse–complicit and condoning through silence.

Maybe you believe this issue is getting too much play in the media; thinking (rightly) this has gotten more air time than the horrendous disaster that is Puerto Rico right now, or the shocking confirmation that our Presidential election was hacked in 21 states. Maybe you’re tired of hearing about it. If so, think about the reason this started, and imagine living it. Kaepernick began sitting out the anthem as a form of peaceful protest, to bring awareness and discussion to the systemic and systematic oppression of black people in the US, the injustice of police brutality without recourse or justice. He began kneeling after discussion with Nate Boyer, a former Green Beret and current snapper (I don’t know what that means, but it’s something football), told him kneeling was a form of respect paid to fallen soldiers. It was never Kaepernick’s intent to disrespect soldiers and veterans, and is not the intent of the players who have joined his protest. Now remember that the injustice being highlighted goes back long before this Presidency, the current fallout of ignoring climate change, and the internet.

95% of the arguments I’m hearing are bullshit, complete logical fallacies. If you want to support veterans, vote for politicians who want to pay them enough to live on and aren’t trying to take away their health care. Give money or food to that homeless veteran on the corner, don’t complain when shelters and residences are proposed in your neighborhood. If you want to get literal about what the flag represents, start protesting all the companies that use images of the flag to sell their products–stop pretending that red white and blue beach towel with matching bikini is what makes you a patriot, stop using paper plates and napkins with flags imprinted on them designed to be thrown away every fourth of July. No, I’m not a football fan, and don’t understand how being one makes someone a “real” American, but I know it makes a small amount of people a large amount of money, and that certainly is the American way. I also know sports offer opportunities for young people who might not otherwise have equivalent opportunities in other areas, same as joining the armed forces does. 70% of professional football players are black, so yes, this is exactly their issue to raise, and the stadium is an excellent place to raise it.

Colin Kaepernick and the other professional players taking the knee did exactly what used to be the American ideal: to whom much is given, much is expected. They are using their platform as public figures to address a public need.

Football players aren’t being paid to sing the anthem, they’re being paid to play football, which they’re doing. The argument of this being a slur on American traditions is again, bullshit. Standing and pledging didn’t begin until 2009, when players were told to be on the sidelines (instead of in the locker rooms) for the anthem before primetime games, in the hopes that it would encourage in young fans a desire to enlist in the armed forces–because the NFL was paid for this.  In May of 2016, the NFL said no thanks, and returned over $700K declining pay for play patriotism.

Many clever and painfully accurate memes have been going around illustrating the inconsistencies and hypocrisy of this faux outrage, so I won’t keep on this track.  Bottom line, I’d like all these people (45 now pouring kerosene on the flames) to stop pretending this isn’t about race. It is 100% about race, equality and the lack thereof.

The song below was released in 1973, and the inequality raised wasn’t new then. It’s older than that flag so many want to worship, and the game treated as sacred.

Yeah, But: aka, Dear Hillary

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m working on being ok. Can’t say I’m there, but I’m working on it. Between back to school, medical mayhem in our home, extreme weather events to obsess over, and a new political disaster every 24 (if we’re lucky we make it to 24) hours, easier said than done, no matter how many times I reread Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.

Speaking of reading, yesterday I decided to get myself an early birthday gift and downloaded Hillary Clinton’s latest, What Happened, and Salman Rushdie’s latest, The Golden House. Why these two, when they’re both new releases, and therefore full (nook) price? Rushdie because he’s Rushdie. Obviously. And Clinton for several reasons. One, because instead of adjusting and leveling off, this current chapter in US history is more awful every day, and I just don’t see a path that truly takes us forward. Two, it’s interesting, I’m fascinated to read what her thoughts are, I do care what she has to say.  She’s a powerful woman who has done more and handled more than 99.7% of us dream of past the age of 9. Three, quotes I’ve read from What Happened make her seem/feel more human than anything outside of those photos floating around the web of her wearing her oversized glasses and earnest youth. And four, I’m pissed as hell seeing all those judgmental posts from people decrying her nerve to blame others, she needs to accept responsibility, blah blah blah. I’m talking about posts from Dems and Progressives.

Responsibility? How about our responsibility as citizens of a democratic society to remember that our elected leaders are human beings, with all the messiness, faults, and fuck-ups that go along with being human? Yes, we have always and we should always hold those in positions of leadership and power to a higher standard, but there’s a difference between accountability  and impunity. We cannot expect superhuman, and in my opinion, this line of thinking is uncomfortably close to the thinking that brought us 45, with his oversized id, hubris, complete disdain for others, disregard of the law, our government, and the norms that have always guided us. People voted for him because of all this. They didn’t want a democratic politician or a regular old human being. They wanted Big Daddy who was going to fix it all and take care of them, not allowing any pesky facts, norms, laws or humanity to get in the way.

As I said to a friend, yes, Hillary was a flawed candidate–I said here on the blog months before the election the DNC would share blame if 45 won.  In fact, I said I’d blame everyone. Well here we are. I don’t blame everyone, but culpability certainly does not rest with one person, or even a select few. A lot of history, a lot of hate, a lot of skewed facts, media slants, Russian interference, lack of compassion, lack of comprehension, and lack of complex thinking brought us here. Close to 63 million votes, I believe. And oh yeah, the electoral college–because when we saw the winner of the popular vote lose the election because of the electoral vote in 2000, we let it ride. Guess what? Bernie was flawed, too. But the choice wasn’t between two flawed and human candidates, it was between one that was flawed and one that was out and out cracked.

I don’t know about anyone else, but the expressions of wishing Clinton would fade away and be quiet feel an awfully lot like an admonition to be a good girl and go make coffee.

I began reading on the trains this morning.

Dear Mrs Clinton, 

I hope all those complaining and saying you need to accept blame read What Happened. At least the Author’s Note in the beginning, where you clearly take responsibility for your choices, actions, and words. 

I’m glad I purchased the book, but I’m sorry I began reading it today. I started tearing up on the way to the girl’s school, so I put it away. Blubbering mom on the subway doesn’t work out so well. I took it out again after drop-off, and ended up missing my stop. I don’t know how you managed to write and edit this with all so raw; each day bringing another insult to America. I don’t know if I can read it through right now, I’m working on being okay, and What Happened is looking so closely at all that isn’t okay. On the other hand, burying our heads in the sand hasn’t worked out so well, to say the least. Whether I read the entirety over the next few days or put it back in the queue and wait a few months, I still thank you for what I’ve read so far. For all the shame woven into the fabric of where we are as a country today, I thank you for the reminder that I’m living in an age where a woman finally did make it to be the first female nominee of a major political party in the United States–wearing white, the color of the suffragettes, to remind us all of the years and work it took to get there.  You did so with power, persistence, and grace. It matters. 

Namaste. 

Respectfully yours, 

Mrs Fringe

 

Peace, Love, & Feminist Fury

 

 You may know me as someone who’s angry, a loudmouth New Yorker who howls about equality and civil rights and whines about writing. You may know me as someone who’s kind of hippie dippie, wanting peace on earth and goodwill towards all, wanting the homeless to be housed and fed, someone found at Grateful Dead concerts back in the day who still wears the occasional piece of tie-dyed clothing while doing yoga.  These are both me, and this post is an expansion of thoughts over the past several days and a couple of discussions I’ve had.

Everyone is angry right now. The Neo-nazis are angry because they’re nazis, that’s their whole ugly shtick. Those of us on the left are angry because we see a rise in injustice, clear threats to democracy and freedoms, and we see the progress of the last fifty years–spotty and slow though it may have been–at risk.  Those who are silent are angry because they don’t see why they should have to get involved or choose a side, all these protests are a nuisance mucking up their daily commute.

It’s okay to be angry. At this moment, I think it’s a moral obligation. I also think it’s an obligation to speak up and exercise our freedom of speech. Always true, but now more than ever, as we are watching it be threatened by our current government here in America. That said, there are limits to freedom of speech as there have to be, because we live in a society, amongst others, ruled by laws and mores. For example, “threats of intimidation” are not protected Free Speech under law.  I got into a discussion about this with someone on Facebook this morning, who declared he believed in absolute? absolutist? freedoms of speech. (I’d like to look back and use the correct word, but after an hour long discussion that remained calm and civil, he deleted the thread in a muddied display of passive-aggression by not mentioning that he had done this, just reposting his original thought and another stating that political arguments are a waste of time. He needn’t worry, I won’t waste any more of his time or mine.) He argued following the rule of law when it comes to free speech. We differed on interpretation of the law within the framework of this past weekend in VA. I agreed and agree the law is important, but I also believe we as individuals have to speak up so the courts can take the will of the people into account when making decisions. Our country, our world, has changed and evolved and continues to do so. Once upon a time segregation was legal, that didn’t make it right, just, moral, or something to support. He argued censorship, slippery slope, etc. Censorship is an ugly word, with many frightening connotations, no doubt.  In my mind, most ideas/positions/arguments are shades of gray, we are messy, complex human beings living in a messy, complex world. But some things are black and white. Threatening the safety and lives of others because of political or religious ideology, because of a false sense of white makes right, a false sense of penises are more important than vaginas; this is unacceptable.

This leads me to whataboutism. What about those who are violent on the left, those who identify as Antifa? This of course is the question that has been asked of me and every other left-leaning person who has stated a “protest” that begins with angry, armed, torch bearing white supremacists is not and should not be protected free speech. I’ll suggest right along with my other liberal friends that those who ask the question should first do a bit of research into American history over the past fifty years, and look at how many murders and acts of domestic terrorism have been carried out in the name of Neo-nazis and white supremacists vs how many have been carried out by Antifa. But here’s where I splinter off. I’ve seen a lot of jokes and memes about it being right, maybe even a moral obligation, to punch Nazis. I don’t believe anyone has the right or is in the right to initiate violence. You can go ahead and call me an apologist, a feminazi, a hippie, a cunt–whatever. I may tell you to fuck off, but I’m not going to hit you.  I’m not truly a pacifist, either.  Because if you punch me, while the odds are I’m going to go down, I’m going to come up swinging.  I believe everyone has the right to defend themselves if attacked, and to defend those who can not defend themselves.

I believe in gun control, I believe there shouldn’t be open carry laws, and I believe it should be illegal to bring weapons to a protest even if that protest occurs in a state that has open carry laws. It is irresponsible and in my opinion immoral to bring weapons into these situations. Think about how horrible the loss of three lives was this weekend. How awful every single loss of life due to imagined threats has been, whether that loss was within the framework of political protest, white supremacy, or even worse, police brutality. I have spent a lot of time thinking about how easily the situation could have been much worse. If the police had been more forceful–and I wish they would have been earlier than they were–but how easily it could have been a complete disaster, with the loss of dozens, perhaps hundreds of lives if just one Nazi nut job felt threatened while holding a gun so it shifted from the “joys” of beating on counter protesters to firing on them; if just one police officer became too forceful too quickly, feared for their life and fired a shot, and so many of those protesters were armed and armored with weapons of equal force. Are my beliefs censorship under our current laws? I’m not sure, maybe they are.  Maybe I’m naive and in a time where violence and extremist rhetoric is growing and finding legitimacy in our government, maybe this isn’t the time to hang onto hippie principles of peace, love, and inclusion.  Maybe I’m sticking my head in the sand believing that I can be angry without wanting to physically harm others. Maybe. But while I do find the current political climate alarming enough to believe we all need to be aware, vocal, and on high alert, I just don’t believe might makes right.

(I’m sure I’ve posted this one before, but it seems the only appropriate video)

Regular Joes

 

 And useless distinctions. You know I can’t let the horror of Nazis marching in Virginia–chanting traditional nazi slogans and carrying torches–go without comment. From Friday night through this morning, I followed in a daze of anger, frustration, and grief with the Twitter feed rolling, Facebook open, three news sites open and MSNBC on the tv.  Much has already been said and I’m not sure if I have anything new to add to the conversation, but there are a couple of things (beyond the obvious) that strike me.

I’m seeing a lot of “these are regular guys, don’t call them Nazis.” First of all, many of them proudly self-identify as Nazis.  Second and more important–what/who does anyone think the Nazis of infamy were?  That’s exactly what made them so horrifying; these weren’t movie monsters with furred backs, gruesome and jagged teeth, and special recessive hate genes that left them thirsty for kosher blood. Most of them weren’t even elites always raised to believe their class bestowed special status. The vast majority of rank and file members of every genocide throughout history have been regular Joes and Janes. Just like the regular guys who were carrying their Pier 1 tiki torches on Friday night at the University of Virginia. Sounds like a joke, right? Tiki torches. But torches held aloft en masse at night while crying out slogans from WW II are designed for one thing: intimidation. Not free speech.  Intimidation. And brutality, and dehumanization.

These guys didn’t show up with banners and songs and confused ideology, they showed up with rage, weapons, and literal armor. We are a free country with free speech, with laws designed to protect the citizens from harm and overreach.  Something has gone awry here when laws and freedoms are perverted to protect hate, aggression, and intimidation.

When I was young and in college, I wasn’t much of a student and history was barely on my radar.  I had the grades but not the drive or discipline, dropped out before I could get a Bachelor’s degree. A couple of things have stuck with me, though. One is this study, learned in Psych 101. One is a story I may have told here before, but it bears repeating now.  I took an English class, Women and…something. I don’t remember what we were reading or discussing, but I remember a woman standing up.  I don’t know if I had ever heard her speak until that day. She was an older student, an immigrant with a thick German accent who had decided to go back to school after retirement.  She talked about being raised in Berlin during the rise of Hitler, from a Jewish family with money and education. Hitler didn’t hide who he was, but he didn’t begin with everything. He didn’t have his armies round up and kill 11 million people all in one day, and he didn’t begin with those in positions of relative privilege. So this woman talked about her family and others like them not believing the rumors of what was to come. Surely their neighbors and coworkers were never going to join this psychopathic ideology and hurt them. That was nonsense, just a few crazy, desperate, uneducated and not noteworthy followers.  Young people getting temporarily involved in angry nuttiness as young people do. Then the rumors of what was happening outside of Berlin. They still didn’t believe the rumors. Needless to say, her family was rounded up and I believe she was the only one to make it out of Auschwitz alive.

If you haven’t ever done so, talk to some older people who were in WWII, read the memoirs. Not just those who escaped from Europe, but soldiers from America and elsewhere who fought during the war, and civilians at home. Most of those soldiers and civilians will tell you they didn’t know, didn’t understand, or didn’t believe the rumors of how terrible it was until the concentration camps were liberated and they saw it for themselves, then film and photos started pouring out to the folks back home. 11 million people. Jews and Romani were targeted for extinction, but they were far from the only ones. Political dissidents, gays, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Communists, Socialists, trade Unionists, disabled, all marked as political prisoners, and 5 million of them died in those camps.

If you still believe it can’t happen in America, think again. Think about the fact that Berlin was evolved and liberal enough a place to have been considered a safe haven for gay artists and writers to live openly in between the two world wars. Think about the Milgram experiment. Think about America’s long and shameful history of persecution of immigrants and minorities; how we can select coasters printed with cherry picked quotes from Martin Luther King Jr right next to Confederate flags in Walmart. Think about how we had our own internment camps in the US during WWII. Think about documented police brutality happening now. Think about the Black Lives Matter movement, how and why it’s still needed in the year 2017 in America. Think about women’s rights being eroded right now in the courts throughout the country. Think about how it’s just now, almost 250 years after we slaughtered the majority of the Native Americans whose land this was, people are arguing about whether or not it’s ok to alternately mock and appropriate Native American culture (hint, it isn’t ok). Think about the current attacks designed to denigrate and defund facts, science, journalism and education. Think about how many people online over the last couple of days have chosen not to discuss and clearly repudiate the Nazis marching in Virginia, instead talking in circles about free speech and the right to bear arms. Think about how many American citizens voted for 45, a man who campaigned on hate and lies; forget that he didn’t win the popular vote and remember that tens of millions of American citizens were willing to go along with and support a man who didn’t immediately reject the support of the KKK, a man who openly associated with and took as advisors white nationalists, a man who places dictators like Putin above democratic and democratically elected leaders, a man who made clear all the way through he wasn’t interested in representing all Americans, a man who is more interested in technicalities of how he can get away with flaunting the established norms than being a civil servant.

This morning I saw many referring to quotes from GOP members over the past 24 hours, how wonderful that several have stepped up to call these white nationalists by name and call them terrorists, boo hoo-ing about family members who fought during WWII. Thanking them. Hmm. Yes, I believe these are domestic terrorists, but can’t help but think about the young woman who was killed yesterday–and the many others injured–when a car driven by one of these home grown nazis intentionally plowed into the counter-protesters. And when I think of her, I’m thinking of the bills put forth by GOP members *this year* saying drivers will be shielded from liability if they hit protesters. Here’s one example, there are others. Sure, this is supposedly to shield unintentional accidents, but it sends a message. Protesting and inconveniencing drivers? Not ok. Showing up to a protest armed and armored? Dandy. Holding these GOP members up as shining examples against 45, who offered only vague references about hate on many sides because he doesn’t want to offend his base and because he just doesn’t care. I call bullshit. They did this. They fed the hate and rise of nazis in this country by supporting 45, rubber stamping his choices for Cabinet members and advisors in the White House, not complaining about a budget designed to defund homegrown extremists who aren’t Muslim. Words mean nothing if they aren’t ousting him and his fascist advisors, taking action to keep Americans safe. All Americans. And to keep immigrants safe, acknowledging and valuing the many, many contributions they have given and continue to give our country.

So think about it. And while you’re thinking, speak up and speak out. None of this will get better, and things will surely get much worse if we don’t stop pretending that America is magically protected from its own poor and fearful choices.