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Do the Right–Wrong!

Because what else would have been the perfect gift for Mrs Fringe on Inauguration Day, 2017?

Because what else would have been the perfect gift for Mrs Fringe on Inauguration Day, 2017? Thank you!

I’ve had this thought circling in my head for the past few weeks.  I talked about it a bit with Nerd Child before he went back to school last week, and today it seemed appropriate for musing on the blog after 1 full week of Trump & Co in office.  Yeah, I know, this isn’t a mom-blog and I already talk an awful lot about my kiddos, but bear with me, please.

Husband and I have always tried to do our best.  We knew that wouldn’t always work out as intended, but still, parenting is a commitment we take seriously.  A commitment to our children, but also a commitment to society.  We do our best, and hopefully offer decent, kind, well-adjusted human beings who care about others, themselves (raising saints and martyrs was never our goal), and the world at large.  How’s that for overblown navel gazing?  And yeah, we want success for them. Success doesn’t have to mean a job making a bazillion dollars a year on Wall Street, but for us it means that in addition to doing something they feel good about, we wanted them to understand it’s important to be able to pay your bills, and do better than we have, a little more comfort, maybe even own a house.

But have we screwed them in the process?  I’m looking around, taking stock of the past week, who’s taken office, been nominated, being confirmed despite (because of) no experience, no compassion, conflicts of interest galore and long documented overt racism; running the country, deciding to rip apart the social contract we’ve been building and trying to improve for over two hundred years….  Sure, greed, corporations, and selfishness have long been valued in our society.  It isn’t brand new, the results of this election didn’t come from nowhere, regardless of how many want to pretend it has.  There has also long been room for success from those who actually want to contribute, work with others.

Remember?  One of the first things we all teach all children is the importance of sharing, waiting our turn.  Husband and I taught our kiddos to do the right thing because it’s right, not because they might get in trouble, not even because of an afterlife.  But because this life matters, and every life of every person matters.  Trite but true, at the end of the day, can you look in the mirror? This week has shown us a whole different world.  At first I typed new. A new world.  It isn’t though, is it?

Today happens to be International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  And today, Nikki Haley, the new US ambassador to the United Nations,  addressed the UN and said, “for those who don’t have our backs, we’re taking names.” Trump is signing executive orders to begin building That Ridiculous Wall (the one that still makes  zero sense), still discussing a registry for Muslims, will restrict incoming Muslim immigrants (unless they’re from Muslim countries his companies do business with), and is denying entry to Syrian refugees.  No, not new at all.   No wonder they’re so enamored of that fascist “America First” slogan.

And by the way, in case you’re thinking all of this is being done in a (misguided) attempt to actually protect American citizens, ha!  This is the sneak-peak proof that this administration and the GOP couldn’t care less how many citizens are left without adequate healthcare in this country.  Why let people know they still have a few days left to sign up for a year’s worth of care? Sure the ads were already in place and paid for, but, well, fuck ’em. I can’t address the beginning of the dismantling of women’s rights and health care in this country.  Not yet.

So yes, in with all the other worries and panicking I’m doing about medicine and health care and civil rights and ohmygodhehasthefuckingnuclearcodes, I’m worrying about my kiddos; if they are prepared for this next page in American history, where might makes right and sharing their cookies is a notion as quaint and outdated as teaching them to use a quill.

Much of me is overwhelmed right now, certain we have said goodbye to American freedoms, the true American values of equality, justice, social mobility, education, progress, and democracy. We haven’t always hit those marks, and there’s no question and no excuse– our “equality” hasn’t  been equal, but we have had gotten better.  Now I have to believe we didn’t do them a disservice when we taught our kids they have to be able to look in the mirror, and I have to hope the mirrors they look into are true and clear.

 

 

Goodbye, 2016

Fuzzy flush for a fuzzy year

Fuzzy flush for a fuzzy year

There’ve been years where I couldn’t wait to rip off the last page of the calendar. Despite the many days of suckage in 2016, this wasn’t one of those years.  I know, I know, the past couple of weeks the news and social media feeds have been filled with headlines and posts of people desperate to say goodbye and start fresh.  Not me.  I’m afraid of 2017.  There, I said it.

I swear I can’t remember the first half of 2016, pretty sure my memories are on the tracks along with a smashed Cheetos bag and someone’s lost hair extension under the 6 train. The second half? I swung from funk to anger to disbelief and back again.

Too dramatic?  Maybe. I have several good friends who are optimists, they live their lives on hope and faith that love conquers all.  Beautiful, isn’t it?  You could say Mrs Fringe is a pessimist, but I believe I’m a realist. And realistically speaking, if you are a woman, a person of color, Muslim, LGBTQ, an immigrant, a Dreamer, an educator, differently abled, parent to someone who is differently abled, a journalist, a senior citizen/will be a senior citizen who needs both Social Security and Medicare, or a free thinker, there is much to be–well ok, if you’re insistent on being less dramatic than I–if not fearful, at least wary of.

New Year’s isn’t like birthdays, we aren’t supposed to make wishes, we’re supposed to make resolutions.  Resolve to be kinder, more thoughtful, more efficient, disciplined, stronger, faster, better.  Shall I resolve to be the Bionic Woman, then?  (If you’re too young to be familiar with the Bionic Woman, take my word for it, she was cool, a 1970s sci-fi tv character.)  So when I hear people talking about wait-and-see, it won’t be so bad, I hear it with my bionic ear as magical thinking, wishes on a trick birthday candle.  I’m not worried about The End of the World, nuclear style.  Come on, I live in New York, everyone’s favorite target (and as a special bonus, the city our President-Elect and family won’t leave); if there’s an all out nuclear war, I’ll be the first to go, vaporized before the page telling me to watch out for mushroom clouds can load.  No time for angst.

I’ve been rereading all my old favorite dystopian novels–along with some new ones–and they have certain themes in common, whether the trigger was an economic collapse, totalitarianism,or plague.  Despair, violence, governmental overreach, hunger, talk about the necessity of good shoes. For the long walk to find others. And don’t give me any parables about crying because you had no shoes until you met a man who had no feet.  We don’t live in the garden of Eden, and I’m too old for barefoot and pregnant. I need shoes. We need shoes.  Good ones, without cracks in the soles, that don’t make you cry when you have ’em on for more than twenty minutes.

I’ve also spent some time rereading old posts. Sure, Mrs Fringe was always meant to be honest, somewhat bitter and definitely salty, but also funny. I think I stopped laughing about a year ago.  For a lot of reasons, both personal and greater, many but not all of them detailed here over the past year, there’s been less funny, more general horror.  And nausea.  The other night I made a DD (Disastrous Dinner, trademark pending).  Completely unsalvageable, suffice it say the overpriced short ribs couldn’t even be added to the doggie gumbo, and the polenta had more than a mild resemblance to the poo found in a newborn’s diaper. I happened to turn towards Nerd Child as he took his first and only bite.  The expression on his face? I laughed for twenty minutes straight. For some people, when things suck, they need to cry.  Others need to surround themselves with beauty, chant affirmations, or pretend the only things that matter are the things they can control.  With that DD, I remembered, I need to laugh (and overuse commas).  It’s my way through.

So while I want to believe all will find their measure of peace, love, and laughter this year, I’m not wishing or resolving.  I’m going to laugh when I can, I’m going to speak out when I need to, and yes, I’m checking my shoes.

Empty Words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hot Off the Presses! or, Last Gasp

Someone appreciates my efforts.

Someone appreciates my efforts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Chicks on the Right: You Talkin To Me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Line Keeps Moving

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What the Hell Did I Just Do?!

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I’m two days away from my four year blog-o-versary.  I love blogging, more than I ever expected to, and for more reasons than I had imagined possible.  One of those reasons involves the connections with others, and the occasional, amazing notes I receive from readers–some who I know from other forums, others I don’t know at all.

As discussed ad nauseam, I’m fortunate to have a wonderfully supportive group of online friends.  One of those friends sent me a lovely message after reading my last post.  Not a Fringeling, she read the post after another mutual friend shared it. In her note, she asked if I had ever considered writing a novel, and I debated an appropriate response.  Laugh? Cry? Slit my wrists and bleed into the keyboard?  I thanked her for her support, gave a way too long response of my history of writing woes, and obsessed over her thoughts for the rest of the day.  Mentioned it to one of my writing friends, who promptly told me this was a gentle nudge from the universe.  It’s nice to have friends with a glass-half-full outlook, my take was this was the universe reopening wounds I’ve been trying to keep closed.

What does this have to do with anything?  The following morning, I received an “invite” (one of those Facebook invite thingies) to a reading, sent by another friend.  I clicked on the invite, and in addition to the published authors reading, the evening includes open mic time slots.  Not to be all metaphysical and shit, but the two incidents happening so close together did seem like some type of universal body check.  I considered.  I could do this.  Could I do this? What would I read?  Is there an actual mic involved? I’m fine with speaking in front of people, but not when I have to speak into a microphone.  Surely there’s a long list of items I’d be better served spending $8 on.  How long is six minutes, anyway?  I asked Nerd Child the last question, he’s the one with public speaking experience.  Hmmm, six minutes would eliminate any of the shorts I’ve got here on the blog, which was my original thought.  I think.  Unless I just read an excerpt.  Why would I do this?  I could just go, see a friend I haven’t connected with in a long time, support my friend’s friend, have a nice grownup evening, a couple of drinks, and bemoan my lack of legitimacy.

Husband woke early today, and was sitting at the table so I mentioned it to him.  He, of course, said, do it.  Holy fuck, I did it.  Bought a ticket including a time slot to read.  I think.  Maybe I clicked the wrong box.  Maybe they’ll sell too many of those tickets and I’ll be bounced, since I’m not a real writer, no pub credits.  But what if I clicked the right box, and I’m not bounced?  What the hell am I going to read?

I’ve got three weeks to decide what to read.  Three weeks to chicken out.

What did I just do, and why?

Can We Stop Now?

Shrouded

Shrouded

I didn’t want to do this.  I didn’t want to write any more posts about shootings for a while.  Not mass shootings, not shootings of police, not shootings by police, not the ever-confusing shootings of and by toddlers.  The horror of the shootings that make headlines is how easy it is, for most of us, to understand that it could be any of us.  To understand something has gone wrong in our society, in our schools, in our definition of protect and serve.  That’s been made abundantly clear.   But somehow, as these incidents continue and grow, instead of addressing how to fix things, real discussion is at a standstill, and there’s a divide the width of the Grand Canyon where it seems no one is listening: “Black Lives Matter!”  “No, Blue Lives Matter!”  Sigh.

I want to post about my continued quest for the perfect moon photograph, the sad state of my tank, summertime in the city, how frustrating it is to be a peasant, finding laughter in the absurdity of the everyday, blather on about writingnotwriting.

But here I am, again.

The victim didn’t die, there’s nothing to debate, it’s a blatant fuck-up.  I don’t have the words for this one, thinking about it wraps my intestines tight around my shins and makes agoraphobia sound like an attractive alternative to stepping outside.  A man with autism, in Florida, was upset and ran away from his group home.  He didn’t run far, and his behavioral therapist found him sitting on the street playing with his toy truck.  Someone called the police, reportedly stating something about an armed suspect threatening suicide.  Maybe that’s what the caller honestly thought, maybe they were just frightened and freaked out by the man.  Either way, when the police arrived, Charles Kinsey, the behavioral therapist from the group home, was sitting/lying on the street with him.  In some ways I’ve been Charles Kinsey, and I know what he was doing, working to calm his client, set him at ease, and get him back home safely.  It’s a hard, frustrating job that can shatter your heart ten times a shift while it simultaneously fills you with hope and appreciation for the small moments and subtlest of victories.  It’s exhausting.  But of course, I’m not a black man.

After the responding officers were told by Kinsey what was happening, told the supposed threat was a man with autism holding a toy truck (not “even” a toy gun), and Kinsey was lying on the ground with his hands up, one of those officers shot Kinsey in the leg.  To keep everyone extra safe, after shooting three times, they rolled him over and handcuffed him.  It’s ok, though, an honest mistake, the officer had intended to shoot the (white) man with autism.  *sarcasm* Kinsey was trying to convince his client to lie on the ground, but his client was sitting and rocking, very very common amongst autistic people.

I don’t want to hear how police officers all over the country are extra jumpy because of the recent shootings of fellow officers.  I understand that, and every shooting, fatal or not, is tragic for those directly involved and our greater community.  I don’t understand a police officer so poorly trained that he would shoot at an unarmed man lying on the ground who had already explained what was happening.  I don’t understand why we have police officers so poorly prepared to respond to calls in the community one would think for a second shooting at a vulnerable, mentally challenged, unarmed citizen (with what is now a common disorder) is an appropriate response.  Who was he protecting?  Who did he think he was serving?  Excuses aren’t reasons, and excuses don’t erase repercussions.

Yes, in the chorus of recent shootings striking chords, this one is an off-key aria that terrifies me.  It’s terrified many of my friends; one of our biggest fears, spoken or unspoken, playing onstage now under a merciless spotlight.  With or without a diagnosis of autism, many neurological disorders come with a processing disorder. CAPD–Central Auditory Processing Disorder.  Processing disorders mean physical hearing may not be impaired, but sounds and speech are easily muddied, resulting in delays understanding what is being said, often requiring calm, quiet, PATIENCE, visual cues and clues, and repetition.  Thousands (maybe millions?) of children and adults have this disorder, it goes hand in hand with many learning disorders, autism, epilepsy, add/adhd, developmental delays, and sometimes it’s the result of medications slowing cognitive function.  There are also several seizure types that leave the person seemingly aware, standing, sitting, maybe even walking and talking, but in fact the brain has “checked out” for a moment, or three, or ten.  FYI, autism and epilepsy often go hand in hand.  I’m not sure I have any fellow special needs mom friends whose children (regardless of age) don’t have either CAPD or a seizure disorder.  Without autism, that client, the intended recipient of three bullets, could have been my child.  Could be my child tomorrow.  Could be any number of friends’ children; yesterday, today, tomorrow.

Stop pretending police officers are superheroes, or are supposed to be superheroes.  We don’t need superheroes, we need human beings with critical thinking skills and compassion, who are trained in crisis management and deescalation skills at least as well as Charles Kinsey.  We need law enforcement officers who recognize and acknowledge the difference–before firing their weapons–between an imminent threat to their lives and a pain in the ass who’s making them run, the difference between someone pointing a gun at them and a child or mentally challenged individual holding a toy.  Stop pretending every day on every street in uniform in America is equivalent to being dropped into a war zone.

Yes, being a law enforcement officer is an often dangerous, always stressful job.  I appreciate those who choose to take the risk and join their local force.  I would appreciate adequate vetting and training even more.  If we can not and do not feel safe teaching our children to approach law enforcement if they are in need, we can no longer pretend to be a democracy, we are broken.  Shooting those who are unarmed, shooting at our most vulnerable citizens, is unacceptable.  Period.  Stop pretending this is protecting and serving anyone.

 

With Intent

I need a peaceful ocean pic this morning, the world outside my door feels too chaotic.

I need a peaceful ocean pic this morning, the world outside my door feels too chaotic.

I’ve been writing this blog for close to 4 years.  Over the past couple, my breaks have been more frequent, and often longer than they were initially.  Part of me scolds myself, I should make more of an effort, but for the most part, I’m ok with it.  Everything evolves, even a little drop in the cyberocean blog.  And some of my slowdown has been specific, intentional.  If you follow Mrs Fringe, you know I can be, umm, vehement.  Excitable.  Loud.  Again, I’m ok with this.  I yam who I yam and all that shit.  But I don’t want to be reactionary.  Obviously I don’t mean reactionary in the right-wing sense of the word, but in terms of just vomiting emotions through the keyboard about the issue or horror of the day without reason and perspective.  A bit light on facts is okay, I’m not a journalist, I’ll provide links, do your research if you want to know more–but if I’m going to write about anything outside of my immediate four walls, there has to be some objectivity, even given the (more than safe) assumption that I’m always going to slant left.

I know some hear the phrase “with intent” and associate it with police procedurals and criminal charges.  In my mind, “with intent” involves the choices we make about how to live our lives, what we’re working towards and who we want to be, as opposed to floating aimlessly or just scrambling to get by.  I want my children to live their lives with intent.

So when Alton Sterling was shot in Baton Rouge three days ago, I didn’t immediately plant myself in front of the keyboard to yell about police brutality.  I wanted to process what I was hearing first, get a few more facts.  For some reason, despite the first, brief video all over the internet that showed him being shot, every link I clicked would freeze or not work at all, which helped with my intent to slow down and find out more information.  I’ll be honest, after so many well publicized police shootings, my instinct was to assume he was shot because he was black.  Even when I heard he had a gun.  How many times have we seen this story play out? “He had a gun, I was in fear for my life…”  Then video emerges–or eyewitnesses, videos being conveniently lost or malfunctioned–and it turns out the gun was a wallet, or a toy, or non-existent, or the suspect was shot in the back because he was running (or walking) while black. Then I read about a gang affiliation.  Hmm, ok, if he was known to local police as gang affiliated and thought to be carrying a gun, maybe a step back is in order before screaming injustice.  But our police are not supposed to act as judge, juries, and executioners–even if this was a bad guy, they aren’t supposed to decide his life is not worthwhile.  Then the second, longer video emerged and I watched it.  WTF?  Does everyone in our country think we’re living inside a movie set?  Maybe there was a gun in his pocket, but he was already pinned on the ground, already shot.  Yes, his arm moved, but this isn’t an freaking blockbuster, and whatever Alton Sterling was, he wasn’t an action hero.  He wasn’t in any condition to pull a gun out of his pocket, take aim, and shoot the police officers who were holding him down.  Naturally, they shot him again.

I want to say, at least they had already called for an ambulance.  I want to say how glad I am that Baton Rouge doesn’t seem to have hesitated or made an effort to block a federal investigation.  But to hold those up as measures of progress is a smokescreen to divert focus from the fact that the police shot and killed a man they already had controlled and subdued.

Before I could process and begin drafting a post about this, Philandro Castile was shot during a routine traffic stop in Minnesota.   Surprise! He was a black man.  (If I’m going to be honest and disclose my own bias here, it’s that as a stereotypical New Yorker, I’m not sure I knew there were people of color living in Minnesota.)  This horror of an incident couldn’t be worse.  I don’t know how anyone can justify this shooting.  Philandro Castile was in his car with his girlfriend and young daughter, no criminal history, worked at a Montessori school, for Pete’s sake.  Montessori, the model of education based on respect, discovery, and inclusion.  He was carrying a gun, for which he had a license, and disclosed this information to the police officer, the way he was supposed to.  For doing the right thing, following the steps of the law and reaching for his license when asked for it, he was shot–four bullets–and killed.  His girlfriend remained calm and live streamed the incident, and was arrested for it.

What could I possibly say about this incident that hasn’t been said and ignored ad infinitum in regards to the many, many police shootings in America? What could I possibly say that would be helpful to the black community, what would make sense to those who want to pretend we don’t have a huge problem in our police forces nationwide?

Protests occurred all over our country last night.  Excellent.  But with protests, there’s always fear.  Will the protestors remain peaceful?  Will the police?  This next piece of news made me realize that my heart can, in fact, be more broken than it already was.  I woke during the night to find Husband watching news reports of  snipers in Dallas, Texas, who killed five police officers and injured several more.    You know the way I said I want to have facts before speaking out?  I don’t need the specifics here, these were snipers, no confusion, no other way to interpret what happened.  This is wrong.  It’s reactionary, it defies logic, it does nothing but inflame an already combustible situation.  The same as I do not believe the answer to our problem with gun violence is more guns, I do not believe the answer to police violence is violence against the police.  Anger and protests are justified, frustration is justified, murder is not.  The same as I’m certain Philandro Castile was murdered, the same as it’s looking like Anton Sterling was murdered, the police officers last night were murdered.

I am afraid.  I’m afraid for what comes next on a societal scale, I’m afraid on a personal scale.  I’m afraid for my friends and family members, living their lives with intent,  taking care of themselves, their families, their communities.  Many of these friends and family members have brown skin and/or latino names.  We, as a society, are living in fear.  As a nation that loves to bluster about freedom, strength, and power, we should be better than this.  The past week has been an American nightmare, it’s time for us to wake up, and live all of our lives, pass laws, make decisions, revamp and retrain our police forces, and move forward with intent and integrity.

Playground Politics

We're missing the train

I seem to have missed my train

Hello all.  Yes, yes, it’s been a while.  You know when more time than usual passes in between speaking to a friend, you keep thinking you should call, but the more time passes the harder it becomes to make that call?  Yeah.  First I was in a bit of a funk; there’s nothing to say, no one cares what I have to say, blah, blah, blah. Then, in the past few weeks, there’s been so much going on I couldn’t decide where and how to jump in.  Nothing has happened to me/mine personally, it’s been wonderful having Man Child home, he has a good job, Nerd Child is in the last stretch of high school–drove north and saw his final production the other day–that young man is an excellent director! Art Child is well, Husband is well, Incredibly Stupid Dog continues to forget which end is supposed to be on the pee pad when she lets loose…all good in Fringeland.  But the world around me?  Prince died, which I took more personally than I have any right to. North Carolina has decided genital checks are in order because thinkofthechildren.  The Bernie movement has faltered (to say the least), and Donald Trump has won the GOP nomination.

After two weeks of pretending that last tidbit couldn’t be real, I have to accept it.  I have to get on the train. Not the train car supporting him, of course.  I feel like it’s rush hour and the car open in front of me is suspiciously empty.  If you’ve ever been a subway rider, you know what I mean.  If you haven’t, let me give you a tip.  When a crowded train pulls in, if the car you’re about to get on is miraculously empty with several open seats, there’s a reason–and that reason usually involves a stench so foul even the most weary and unsteady travelers would prefer to be squashed nose to armpit in the next car.

Yesterday I was having a conversation about this nightmare with a friend of mine, and I referenced playground politics.  For me, this sums it up.  Because it doesn’t feel like a train.  I’m an adept rider; pains, nerve damage and all, I can keep my balance, squeeze into the most narrow space between two man-spreaders if it means a seat, and throw myself through the closing doors without getting my purse caught.  This is more like a throwback to childhood, a concrete lunchtime playground where girls have cooties and with a choice between splintered seesaws, dodgeball, and a cement water fountain that dribbles rust.  So here we are, this cycle of American politics where might makes right and he who spreads the most outlandish, the most vicious rumors wins.  Where is the lunch aid?  Where are the teachers?  Where are the grown-ups?

As I’ve said previously, I like Bernie.  I never thought he was a perfect candidate, and I had questions, but I thought he was the best choice.  For a moment, I thought he had a real shot.  That moment is over.  I don’t love Hillary.  I have a lot of questions and reservations about her that I don’t want to have.  (I’m a feminist ferchistssake, a woman for President? Yes, please.)  But I’m not hesitating to support her, especially when I look at the alternative.  The alternative isn’t Bernie Sanders, it’s Donald Trump.  A man whose positions take us from an unsupervised playground to Lord of the Flies.

While I wasn’t blogging, I did more reading than I’d done in a while.  I even decided to read Infinite Jest, it’d been on my to-read list forever, and it seemed like the perfect time.  I got about 600 pages in, and spent a good 500 of those pages feeling certain that I’m an idiot, because I didn’t get it.  Not that I wasn’t able to follow the storyline, I was.  Not that I didn’t notice and appreciate some lovely sharp prose, I did.  But I really, really don’t understand the how/why this novel became the lauded, prized bestseller that it did.  So I gave up, once again determined to accept that I’m just not that smart, and clearly incapable of understanding the publishing industry.  If a friend had written it and given me the manuscript to beta read, I’d have suggested cutting about 500 of the 1200 pages.  But the timing of my attempt to read this was perfect for today’s political climate, because today is when we are living the backstory of Infinite Jest.  If Donald Trump becomes President of the United States, we will slide right into Subsidized Time, and tomorrow will become the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment.  I may not be smart enough to slog through all 1200 pages, but I’m smart enough to know I don’t want to live inside them.

You’re frustrated?  Me too.  You’re broke?  Me too.  You’re tired of the status quo?  Me too.  But my eyes are open.  And what I see is hideous.  A circle has gathered around the combover playground bully.  The circle is growing, gathering legitimacy and support, and it’s feeding on greed, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and wishful thinking.  I know some people speak of idyllic childhoods and pine for their lost youth.  Me?  I was glad to leave the playground behind, and I don’t want to return.  The lunch aid isn’t coming.  We have to turn away from the childish blowhards telling us might makes right, get on the train before it derails completely, and be the grown-ups.  We may or may not be in the gifted program, but we’re smart enough to recognize the stench of fresh shit.