American Nightmare

People are Stupid. Love, Mom

Rodin at The Met

Every home, every family unit, has their own rules–what’s out of bounds to say or do, particularly when there are children in that unit.  For us, the absolute no-go was stupid. We never used the word to or about our kids, nope, not even kidding around, and there was a no-tolerance policy regarding them using the word about themselves, each other, or anyone else.

You won’t be surprised to learn that in our home, cursing (English, Spanish, or sorry to say, Spanglish) was not automatically against the rules. Yes, we wanted them to understand some words (ie, curse words) were offensive to some people, and wholly inappropriate in some settings, but we never pretended shock or offense on our own behalf.  Everyone’s got their own things, right? We were also ok with movies or video games that had some cursing/sexy scenes (no, I’m not talking about when they were toddlers here), but graphic violence was out. I don’t know if he remembers, but at the age of six my oldest, already reasonably well versed in museums and the nude art to be found on display, was traumatized when he was at a friend’s house and they had a sculpture from this biblical scene:

Judith with the Head of Holofernes, ca. 1530, Cranach

So, we tried to teach the kids that words are powerful and important, to be explored yet respected, but violence and harm to others was never, ever ok. For whatever reason, the idea that certain words were not to be used in certain settings, or in front of certain people, was more easily learned for the English curses than the Spanish ones. I may have told the following story before, if so and you’ve read it, sorry, I’ve been running Mrs Fringe a long time.

When Art Child was five, we experienced her first hospitalization, and after approximately 8,000,000 days in the PICU, she was doing much better and the team was deciding whether she could be discharged or sent to a step-down room. Her main nurse argued with the resident on the unit not to remove her IV yet in case bloodwork was needed for the decision (if you’re unfamiliar with this stuff, if the IV is in place they don’t have to do another “stick”, they can draw blood right from it), the resident insisted she remove the IV. Needless to say after it was removed the team said one last blood draw was required. I was pissed, the nurse was pissed. The resident said she’d do the draw herself so we didn’t have to wait for the phlebotomy team, and the girl was furious. She was a passionate kiddo to begin with, very verbal, and so she cursed the resident. Resident chuckled, “it’s ok, you can call me a dodo head, I’ve been called worse.” Nice, right? She was trying to atone, but clearly confused by the fact that the (Latina) nurse and I weren’t chuckling, we were downright cracking up. Because the girl hadn’t called her a dodo head, she called her a toto head (see the earlier apology for my home’s Spanish/English mixing). Toto is Spanish slang for–so as not to offend anyone’s delicate sensibilities–girly bits.

She didn’t, however, call her stupid.

But, well, here we are, living in a time where misogyny, racial slurs and racist ideas/ideals are not only considered acceptable by the White House, but these ignorant slurs and ideas are being used to create racist policies. So no, the fact that our so-called President used the term shithole neither surprises nor offends me; but that it was used in reference to large swaths of the world, millions and millions of people because they have brown or black skin, offends me greatly. He knows what he meant, his supporters know what he meant. That shit isn’t a dog whistle it’s a shrieking tornado alarm, heard across the world.  This isn’t cursing, this is verbal violence.

His millions of supporters? And if you’re one who hasn’t jumped on the bandwagon to use slurs yourself, but are remaining silent, shrugging it off, you’re one of them–are stupid. Not merely stupid for spouting, believing, and/or accepting ignorant nonsense, but stupid because odds are you’re next. He didn’t say, “why can’t we have more immigrants from China, from Argentina, from Italy, from Israel, Japan, from Ireland, from Poland?” No. He said, “why can’t we have more immigrants from Norway?”  I haven’t met too many people from Norway and I’ve never been. The few I have met were only here temporarily for work or on vacation. I’m sure they’re a lovely people across the board, god knows I’d love their health care and if I had their social safety net I wouldn’t want to emigrate anywhere else, either. Norway. Whiter than white. Think about that, and think about who and how many ethnic groups are not part of that Aryan wet dream. It doesn’t matter who you voted for, if you’re American, odds are you/your ancestors are not all part of that purity test. I’ve been saying this for over two years now; it will not stop on it’s own. Ignorance feeds ignorance, and hatred feeds hatred. Once you say it’s ok to slander, take away rights, human dignity, to hate one group, it’s going to be ok to strip rights from the next group, and the next. And if you’re a woman, well, it doesn’t matter what your ethnic background is, if this continues unchecked and the GOP doesn’t find an actual ethics compass we’re fucked regardless.

For most of us, those of us born without millions of dollars at our disposal and/or the protection of aristocracy (real or implied) life is hard, and we face hardships that cannot be avoided. Some find their homes and communities lost to hurricanes or earthquakes, their life savings and opportunities stolen by corrupt officials, their loved ones and countries torn apart by wars, the victims of hundreds of years of systemic oppression; or some find themselves the victims of smaller, personal yet still devastating effects of catastrophic illness for themselves, or their children fighting incurable diseases, or an industry gone belly up so they can’t find a job that allows them to support themselves or their families, or the victims of random, violent crimes. These are the suck of life, things that are generally out of our control, yet we have the responsibilities inherent in figuring out how to make it through, or how to make it easier for our loved ones to make it through. But this? The position America is in now? This was in our control, and to some degree, it still is. This was a choice. A choice to make it harder, dangerous, impossible for millions and millions of human beings, a choice that purposefully ignored and distorted this concept of “other.”

So yeah, people aren’t just hateful, or racist, or toto heads. People are stupid.

Pilot Light and Irritation

Should have cleaned the stove this morning, oops.

If you’re young and/or never had a gas stove–or a professional gas range– let me explain. Before electronic ignition, in order to use the burners (or the oven) you had to start the flame yourself. (There were stoves in between that had pilot lights to avoid having to do this, but every so often the pilot light went out and you had to do it anyway. “Do I smell gas?!” was a common background chorus of my childhood, and one I sang myself in my first couple of apartments.)  You’d light a match, turn the dial corresponding with the burner you wanted to use and use the match to light the flame while cringing and bracing yourself to pull back in case of whoosh! and eyebrow singeing. More often than not, you’d burn your fingertips trying to get the damned thing to light long before flames were exploding in your face. This, the gut clenching expectation of scorched nose hairs and realization of singed fingers, was what I experienced reading Micheal Wolff’s Fire and Fury this weekend.

I haven’t read anyone else’s reviews, so it’s more than possible my thoughts aren’t in line with the majority. I’m also not a book reviewer, and I have a lot of thoughts, so even with limiting myself, this will run long.

I bought the book Friday afternoon. I tried to get the hardcopy in the morning at my local Barnes & Noble, but they didn’t have it in yet (snowstorm Thursday, everything still iced and approximately 1000° below zero) so I downloaded to my Nook. I really wanted to read this and I really, really wanted to support Wolff and Henry Holt & Co.  Much the way the first thing I did after the 2016 election results was to purchase subscriptions to the NY Times and The Washington Post, it felt important to use my wallet to support free speech and free press.  Trump using the office of the Presidency to bluster about forcing the publisher to stop publication/production? Fuck yes, I’m contributing to this legal defense fund. An in-depth look at the first 9 months of Trump’s tenure in the White House, written by someone who had spent considerable time interviewing people in the West Wing, someone who didn’t seem to be blindly aligned with this administration? Yeah, I’m in. Besides, with the excerpts coming across my twitter feed and just about every news article I read, a) how could I resist? and b) I wanted to be able to discuss the book with more understanding than choice quotes possibly pulled out of context. It took me all weekend to read it, a long time for me to plow through less than 330 pages. First it was slow going because I had to keep putting the book down. The first couple of chapters put me right back to the first days after the election; feeling nauseous, angry, betrayed, and helpless.

It continued to be slow going. Partially for the same reason as those first chapters. Much as nothing I read in Fire and Fury (I’d already seen the more shocking bits in excerpts online) felt truly new, having it all compiled into one book packs a hell of a psychological wallop. What a shitshow of an administration. If only half of what Wolff wrote is true, it confirms we are experiencing my worst case scenario (my vivid and dark imagination is long established). Some of it, though, was because I kept thinking the book would have benefited from holding off on the publication date while spending some more time with a content editor, a copyeditor, and then getting another once over from a proofreader. Separate from the subject matter, it didn’t read like smoothly crafted narrative nonfiction, yet it didn’t read like a compiled collection of essays/articles, either. I understand the need to strike while the iron is hot, and I kept reading until the end, but it was more put-downable than I had hoped. This is so important for all of us, collectively and individually that I wish the author and the publisher had taken the extra month or two to smooth it out, clean it up, and address what wasn’t in there.

Non-fiction or fiction, what an author leaves out is every bit as important as what gets put in. Some of what’s left in the author’s notes shouldn’t ever make it to the manuscript. Those decisions are shaped by the focus of the book, style of the author, and information available. The buffoonery and hubris of this administration is inherent in the very existence of this book, the author’s unbelievable access to the West Wing. But here I have to say I was expecting the author to address a few issues that he didn’t.

Given that much of Fire and Fury focused on the idea that this President takes everything personally and (it seems to me) many of his tweets and comments since winning the election have focused on Hillary Clinton, compounded by the above all threats pre-election of “lock her up,” I kept waiting for this to be addressed, and nope. This isn’t a matter of wanting a bit more juicy gossip. Threatening to jail opponents in what has until recently been a democracy is the mark of a dictator, not merely a bumbling, petulant fool. I understand that the revival of those threats didn’t hit the twitter feed and press until long after the book went to press, but hello?! That seems more than a bit important. Was/is this just a bit of political theater for his base, as unimportant as the other promises he made on the campaign trail that he can’t remember and doesn’t care about? Not understanding how our government works, admiring dictators because hey, they’ve got all the good bling AND good press, planting his equally unqualified family because of paranoia combined with a spectacular lack of comprehension  ≠ purposely, specifically wanting to create a dictatorship. That feels like a really important detail to leave out. Even if the author didn’t know if that is the President’s intention, how about the people around him and advising him? Was that purely Flynn, regurgitated now as a signal for him to stfu? A desperate attempt to distract from the Mueller investigation? A signal to the FBI that their silly laws and mores are passé? Intent matters. It matters for how wethepeople interpret his actions and statements and respond.

Healthcare. DACA. Freedom of religion. Gerrymandering. Separation of church and state. On reading the book, it seems that no one in the West Wing (or the barely mentioned but completely responsible and complicit GOP) addresses, acknowledges, or understands that these issues have tremendous impact on human beings. Does the author? These are issues that yes, are political hotbuttons, but literally have the power to destroy the lives of the vast majority of the American people. Wolff reminds us again and again that Jarvanka and several on “their” team are Democrats. Really? And none of them ever discusses the impact of repealing the ACA on little Johnny in Montana who needs his chemo?  If this is the case–it isn’t a stretch for me to believe it–how about a page, a paragraph, a nod from the author letting me know? The many meltdowns, tantrums, zillion instances of lack of attention to detail are important to the picture being painted, but I could have done with less description of who ate what and more meat.

Which leads me to Bannon, who was probably the one person portrayed in the book as coming closest to remembering these ideas and policies are more than theoretical–which of course, isn’t very close at all; he’s also the one with the closest to clear intent of dictatorship, and it’s Steve Bannon. Describing a conversation with him where he states he doesn’t believe Trump is anti-semitic but he isn’t sure about the “other” (insert dog whistle here) without restating this is Steve Fucking Bannon, master of the safe space for nazis, racists, homophobes and misogynists of all flavors feels like a glaring omission, no? Obviously, Bannon was the one who did the most talking to (at?) Wolff.  It isn’t a coincidence that the book ends with his dismissal. I wish I’d known going into it that this was more of a tell-all from Bannon’s perspective than a general “Inside the White House.” This, more than anything, is what kept my nausea going. I’m all in for an unlikeable and unreliable protagonist, but somehow, somewhere along the way, Wolff dropped the authorial hints and reminders that Bannon is Bannon, not a sympathetic character to hang your hat on. Yeah, I know, this isn’t fiction, and the characters at hand are all too real, but honestly, as it was written, it didn’t feel like clear and reliable journalism–neither investigative nor opinion. I’d still have purchased it, though maybe not rushed to read it, and my expectations would have been different.

As expected, Fire and Fury shows a disorganized, disinterested, and ruled by a brutal and unsupervised playground of a White House. I’m sick from spending the last year living under it, let alone the weekend immersed in it.

What about you, Fringelings? Have you read it, are you going to?

 

How Do You Measure a Year?

 

Seemed appropriate to keep the tree both small and bare this year.

Am I the only one who considers the soundtrack of Rent to be Christmas music? Seems more apt than ever this year, when marginalized people across America have been told they don’t count, and laws and policies are being put in place to ensure this. Like, yanno, women. And brown people. And poor people. And young people. And old people.  And the middle class. And the LGBTQ community. I’m not sure how all these people add up to a minority, but hey, math was never my strong point.

I hope everyone is finding some peace this season as we head into the new year. 2017 was one dumpster fire after another, wasn’t it? Plain old ugly. I’d like to believe 2018 will be different, but I’m not seeing anything to indicate that will be the case. Hell, as I was sitting and listening to Rent, I saw this bit in the news. Who needs to address HIV/AIDS? It isn’t like it impacts everyone, or matters for people to have access to healthcare. Yeah, I’m not expecting any miracles this year.

I’m not about beauty. Sure, I appreciate the look of a rose, but they make me sneeze, make my eyes water in ugly ways. I don’t like pretty poetry, don’t write beautiful characters, I can’t help it. It’s my nature to look at a scene–real or imagined–and be captured by what happened to create it; what went wrong, what’s about to go wrong, and find the scars and stretch marks we carry on the inside and out to be more interesting than a straight nose or flawless complexion.

I’ve always been about small moments, firmly believe these are what make a life; good, bad, or indifferent. A couple of weeks back, Art Child and I went to the Columbus Circle holiday market. We go every year, all kinds of local (and not so local) artists, artisans, and crafts. This year we weren’t shopping so much as just looking. This year more than ever the plan for gifts was about practicality and needs over anything else. It was freezing the day we went, and I wasn’t dressed for it because outdoor shopping hadn’t been the plan, so mostly I was breathing into the neck of my coat, trying to keep warm while hurrying the girl along. I paid attention to exactly one booth. I’m sure I must have seen them before, but this year it overrode the cold and made me stop. Peacebomb jewelry. Aluminum shrapnel from bombs dropped in Laos fifty years ago–by America during the Vietnam War, recast into bits of hope, bits of reclaiming what is ugly and destructive and turning them into beauty. I loved this.


Apparently I loved it so much Husband remembered. I can say without guilt or hesitation I didn’t ask or hint for him to go and get me something from them. Number 1, they’re out of budget. Number 2, we’re supposed to be focusing on the practical. I was so shocked, these were so the perfect gift to close this shitbomb of a year…it’s possible I scared our kids–I cried. I don’t think I’ve ever cried upon opening a gift before, and wouldn’t imagine ever doing so for any reason, but there you have it. Yes, I was surprised that Husband would remember me telling him about this organization and these artists. Yes, I was completely touched that he went down to the booths, searched out this one, and chose not only to purchase something from them, but a pair of earrings I would definitely choose for myself, but also something more. Dangling hope on hooks.

Not hope of magic rescue, or turning back the clock or turning over the election. That ship has sailed, and the damage is too real; ensconced in our government, new laws and overturning of regulations, sitting on judge’s benches for lifetime appointments. Frightening and most damaging of all, the realization and illustration of how vulnerable our democracy and democratic norms are. But hope that someday my children, your children, our collective grandchildren, will dig up these bombs and craft something beautiful out of them.

Happy Holidays, everyone. Whatever you do or don’t celebrate, I’m wishing all small moments of peace and hope in the New Year.

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.