Politics

Are You Okay?

Normally bustling hallway of hospital

The question on everyone’s lips. Well, not everyone, some are still licking toilet seats because they think it’s funny or just moaning about the inconvenience of bar closings, having to cancel vacations, having to self-quarantine if ill/possibly exposed to Covid-19. But pandemic or not, stupid’s gonna stupid and selfish is gonna selfish. The good news is there are also incredibly generous people working to feed the hungry/about to be hungry, some (too few) companies who are continuing to pay employees they’ve been forced to lay off or furlough while their doors are shuttered.

But back to the question. I am not ok. I know this, knew it, thought if I acknowledged the fact it would help keep my anxiety under control. Until Husband’s appointment yesterday with his young, upbeat doctor who just a couple of months ago said I was feisty, whose face was somber and I found myself having to work not to cry in response. The above photo of the hallway in the hospital? Yeah, that hallway is usually a hub of activity with an outpatient lab, cash machine, tea/snack kiosk just behind, and elevators leading to many of the individual doctor’s offices and departments. more than once we’ve had to wait for one of the elevators to arrive and open a second or third time because they were just too crowded. Not yesterday.

For everyone who is practicing social distancing, there are many of us who can’t stay home for two or three weeks, or six months, or a year, or however long this breath holding season is going to be. There are people performing essential services who have to go to work–and don’t kid yourself, it isn’t only doctors, nurses, police, firefighters and EMTs who are performing essential services–it’s also your pharmacist, grocery store workers, sanitation workers, truck drivers, bus and train operators, etc. And people who have to get to the doctor for appointments that can’t be put off if we’re going to try to avoid needing an array of doctors, nurses, and hospital beds for non-Covid-19 related reasons.

There would never be a good year for a pandemic, but this timing feels particularly devastating. This is a life altering event. Fuck, this is a world altering event. On a personal level, Husband and Art Child, who would both always be vulnerable, are both at points where they have no reserves for their bodies to call on. Mother in Law, who’s at a stage where every year seems to take an exponential toll. Nerd Child is in his senior year of college, campus now closed, though he was able to successfully petition to stay because of extenuating circumstances. Great! Except eek! he’s still my heart, and I really, really hate having him far from me during this. Man Child, who is currently strong, healthy, and miraculously still employed for the moment, but don’t think for a second I’m not thinking about him having contracted viral meningitis less than two years ago.

I was still reeling, just beginning to process the medical mayhem of the last several months for our family when this virus hit the US. On a national level, when we have someone sitting in the Oval Office who doesn’t understand the definition of civil service, or science, or compassion. At a time when it couldn’t be more clear the US needs nationalized health care, the citizens are showing with every Democratic primary they don’t want it. Not enough, not yet. On an international level, with not only our country deciding they miss the good old days of nationalism and sanctified subjugation, and global climate change threatening everyone and everything.

I haven’t been able to focus to escape into reading. Or writing. Or querying. Can’t stress bake because my building has a gas leak, we will have no gas (means no stove/oven) for who knows how many months. I’m still doing my yoga every morning, checking in with friends through text, email, and social media, here at home we’re counting toilet paper squares but we have enough food. I’m hand washing and disinfecting and elbow sneezing, no-face-touching (iffy on that one, it’s freaking hard!), and you better believe there is no toilet licking. At this point no one in my immediate circle has or seems to have Covid-19, but way too much of this is out of my control.

So here we are, in the year of 1918 and 1929 decided to have a baby and call it 2020.

I am hanging in and hanging on, doing what needs to be done, but I’m not ok, how about you?

Dear Dems: Please and

 

If you squint it says Thank You.

 

You know how infuriating and offensive it is when we hear the media and the GOP talking about real Americans, and by that they mean white, male, Christian, straight, cis, born in a cornfield, swaddled in the flag, and weaned on Bud/Coors/Pabst Blue Ribbon middle American farmers? Yeah, how about we stop doing that to ourselves.

We dislocate shoulders patting ourselves on the back for how diverse our party is. Cool. And it is. We are the party of looking forward, to growth and prosperity, equal pay, equal rights, equal opportunities and safety for all. We howl in outrage and anguish at the recent, systematic dismantling of our all too fragile democracy. Now how about we act like we mean it?

As harmful as it is to pretend there aren’t millions of voting Americans who support this administration (yanno, the whole thisisnotwhoweare), it is equally–if not more so–harmful to pretend the only Democrats who matter are your kind, whether your kind is progressive, moderate, or some other faction. If you are saying the only possible Dem candidate to take back the White House is the one you support, if you are preemptively spouting conspiracy theories about why your candidate won’t win the nomination and is being robbed by the establishment/socialists/whatever; please stop.

Please. If you are passionate about your choice for the Dem nomination, excellent. Campaign for them, brag about their accomplishments, vote for them, make your case about why you believe they are the best choice, buy them flowers, tell them you love them and call them in the morning. But don’t viciously rip the other candidates and their supporters, don’t bellow they are the same as those who support the current White House and GOP. They aren’t. You may not agree with them/their candidates about everything, or even most things. But they aren’t trying to take away your democracy, your right to clean air and water, your right to freedom of religion/speech/marriage equality/voting rights–your basic human rights.

But someone else is. Millions of someones are. And the GOP, by their Senate vote on impeachment yesterday, made it clear. They are all for a dictatorship, they’re done with equality and justice for all, the rule of law, this little experiment called America. I know there are some who will read this post and splutter, Mrs Fringe is romanticizing the America of 2015, she’s forgetting the ERA was never passed, voting rights have been under attack long before 2016, she’s forgetting Trayvon Martin, and Eric Garner, and Sandra Bland, and Flint Michigan, and stop and frisk, DREAMERS, the opiod crisis, children in cages, the school to prison pipeline, the imaginary weapons of mass destruction that got us into Iraq, and climate change, and mass shootings, and the working poor who have been living in their cars and in shelters for years, and unaffordable medicine, and why we need strong borders, and Israel, and the deficit, and on and on.

I promise, I am not. I am remembering. I am not imagining a pipe dream of who we are. I am remembering this. is. not. normal. It isn’t normal, but it has now become normalized. I am remembering the upcoming elections are our last shot for who knows how long to try and get this country back on the path of democracy. I know how this sounds. We’re taught–and we teach–to shoot for the stars, go for the gold, marry the person who makes your heart sing and your consciousness expand (or something, I dunno, I’m not a romance kind of gal). But we haven’t been taught–and don’t teach–to give up and starve to death if we don’t become movie stars and instead wait tables until retirement, lay down and die if we get a thanks-for-playing certificate instead of the gold, marry the person who beats you to death if you don’t marry the one who first broke your heart.

Be passionate. Be loud. Make your case and share your dream of our country led by your candidate of choice. When the caucuses and primaries are over, maybe your candidate will have come out on top. Maybe I’ll agree they were the best choice. Maybe not. Whether they were my first choice or not, I will support them, and I will believe even if they were my last choice, they are THE choice. I may not love them. You may not love them. We don’t have to. We’re choosing a President for four years, not a dictator who will in turn hand their golden scepter to their progeny, not a God (despite the current theories and apparent intentions on the right). I will know, whether it’s the most progressive candidate or the most moderate, they will not implement the hellscape currently being crafted by those in power today.

 

 

Let’s Chat, Shall We?

Come, sit, I’ve poured you a fresh cup of my favorite tea.

I was going to avoid political talk for a little longer, but that seems unrealistic these days, doesn’t it? Actually, it feels irresponsible to avoid it completely if you have any type of platform, no matter how small. I’m not going to address last night’s performance piece of a State of the Union speech, I’m going to focus in a bit more. On health care. Yeah, that old topic. You’d think we’d have exhausted and put it to bed by the year 2020, but far from it.

So. When I was a kiddo in the wilds of south Brooklyn, everyone knew one other kiddo whose dad had died in his thirties or forties–maybe when we were a little older, in his fifties–from a massive heart attack. Shoveling snow, working construction, running to catch the train, maybe eating Sunday dinner. “So young,” it would be whispered. It happened, and really, outside of the immediate family/friend circle, it wasn’t all that shocking, because it happened. Not frequently, but. Actually, it often wasn’t all that shocking within the circle either, because more than half the time you’d hear the same had happened to Grandpa/Uncle/Cousin. Genetics, though then we’d say “it runs in the family,” like freckles or broad hips.

We also all knew at least one someone whose Grandma/Grandpa lived with them, but you didn’t know until you’d been to their house or apartment twelve times, because Gramps was hidden in the basement or a back room. Gran was creepy, with an odd lurch to her step and slurred speech in the brief periods that she was awake and banging for dinner. Sounds like the setup to a gothic novel, doesn’t it? No, an elderly person post-stroke, with a poor or working class family who couldn’t afford home health attendants or a decent nursing home. There was social security and medicare, but it didn’t cover enough for many families who couldn’t supplement.

Now we hear, “So young!” when someone dies at 75. Because health care is better, and more broadly available. Not for everyone, not enough, but certainly better. The 43 year old who has nausea and sharp jaw pain goes to her cardiologist and gets a stress test, the 38 year old with chest pains goes to the ER and has an angio resulting in a drug eluding stent placed to unclog his left anterior descending artery. True, pollution was much worse (in our air and water) and everyone smoked, but it’s now rare to hear of someone under the age of 70 who had rheumatic fever as a child leaving them with cardiac issues, and the number of people living with diabetes has skyrocketed. Oh, you didn’t know diabetes is actually a multi-systemic, devastating disorder?

When the Affordable Care Act was passed, things improved for many. Medicaid was expanded, adult children could stay on parents’ health care plans until age 26 (so important in this age of shrinking unions and gig economy), lifetime caps were eliminated. If you don’t think the elimination of lifetime caps is a big deal, congrats! Your life has been charmed. Annual caps were eliminated (also, a really big issue for anyone dealing with chronic disease). Insurers were no longer allowed to deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions, insurers were no longer allowed to jack up the rates for those with preexisting conditions (making health insurance unattainable), preventative health care had to be covered, garbage plans that basically offered no protections were banned. Was the ACA enough? No. Was it still too expensive for too many? Yes. Are there too many doctors who don’t accept ACA plans? Yup. But it was better than what we had before. Much better for many, and a huge step in the right direction for all.

One of the first things this administration and GOP did was try to roll back the ACA. By the grace of John McCain (there’s a phrase I never expected to type) and the huge push of constituents nationwide, they were defeated.

Well, guess what? They’ve been successfully chipping away at it ever since. The individual mandate has been eliminated. States were allowed to tie work requirements to Medicaid (now in court, but so far tens of thousands have been kicked off Medicaid in Arkansas). Access to garbage (called short term or skinny plans) was expanded. And now, right now, this administration is in court, trying to take away protections for those with preexisting conditions. Of course, this President spews lies about this along with everything else. Why does he lie so much? Because he can. Because he gets away with it. Because of his supporters, many aren’t informed enough to know he’s in court trying to take away their healthy care–and savvy enough to tell SCOTUS not to hurry to hear the case, wait until after the 2020 election. A number of his supporters know and don’t care, they’d rather lose their own protections and health care than know one of those others is getting a bypass in the operating room next door.

My personal favorite (and by favorite I mean drooling/sobbing/ready to throw myself off the terrace) is when I see/hear people who continue to support this administration and President because who knows why, but they know it’s ok, and they’ll be ok, because they aren’t like those greedy libs who want entitlements. Sure they want and need their Social Security and Medicare, but those aren’t entitlements. Oops. But come November, they’ll still vote for him. Why? Because in the meantime he’ll lie, and they’ll swallow those lies because they want to, and really, when you think about it, maybe Uncle Joe’s had a good run after all.

Communication Breakdown

Hello all.

I know, it’s been a long time. What can I say, the world’s gone to shit, and somehow my rage at the daily news left me howling but without words. Honestly, the Kavanaugh hearings and subsequent confirmation did me in.

I’ve stayed on Twitter though, and that’s what prompted this post. A funny thing happened to me today. Funny-strange, not funny ha-ha. As a woman of a certain age, I’m used to a certain level of invisibility. Sometimes it’s frustrating, but there are other aspects to it that are kind of…pleasant. Peaceful. But I’ve been particularly enraged these past days as the US states have ramped up their attacks on women through abortion restrictions and plans to criminalize women. Note that I’m not, however, surprised. So when I logged on Twitter this morning, I saw #Lysistrata and #sexstrike trending. Yeah…no. Sure, I understand the idea behind it, and it seems clever–after all, it’s all about sex, and sex gets attention and sells, right? No. I tweeted my opposition to the idea, and offered an alternative, #spendingstrike, and lo and behold my little invisible tweet blew up. I don’t know that it falls under the going viral category, but considering I usually interact with the same little group of ten people or so, maaaaybe twenty if it’s a Big Thing, finding a tweet of mine with 1000 likes, over 200 retweets, and lots of comments is a big deal. Kind of nerve wracking, in a holy shit my phone is going to spontaneously combust from vibrating so much kind of way. I also had to locate and use the block button, because I was noticed by trolls. A nuisance, that, but meh. They’ll forget I existed by midnight.

You know what does feel like a big deal? How many people don’t seem to understand the point–why the whole sex strike thing is not a great idea in this day and age. Why maybe showing our fury and frustration about being told by other people what we can or can’t do with our bodies by telling each other what we can/can’t do with our bodies isn’t…logical. How maybe the idea of sex as a tool/weapon reinforces the whole patriarchy thing. That it reinforces that it’s “natural” (excuse me while I puke) for men to want sex and women not too. How it reinforces the falsehood that women are only valuable as sexual objects &/or incubating capabilities. How it reinforces the idea that only *certain* women (yanno, the straight, cis, childbearing age ones) are valuable, only certain women can take a stand against barbaric rules that threaten all of us. How it ignores the fact that most of these threatened and threatening male Republican lawmakers & voters are mostly having sex with threatened and threatening self-hating Republican women. Did I puke already this paragraph? I know, a nauseating concept, but it is reality, and for a hippy I’m quite the realist.

I’m not going to really talk about abortion or sex or babies here, because those aren’t the point, not of this post and not of these laws. This is about women and power and fear.

I have this idea that’s been floating in my head for a while now. What does make a difference? What gets attention? Money, of course. So I thought of a hashtag, #spendingstrike and posted my idea. What if all the non self-hating women didn’t make any purchases for a week? Women, collectively, spend a lot of money, power a significant portion of our economy. I’m not looking for anyone to hurt themselves or anyone else, so it would have to planned well in advance. We’d have to go into it knowing that a percentage wouldn’t participate because they do hate themselves enough to believe they should die before having a D&C, even if and when the fetus is not viable &/or they’ll die without the D&C. Fine, they’re zealots, brainwashed, whatever you want to say, no point wasting time and energy arguing with them. Another slice of women won’t participate because life is fucking hard and it’s all they can do to get through each day, they aren’t screwing around on Twitter; they’re either working or sleeping or taking care of their families or trying to find somewhere to sleep for the night. That still leaves a whole lot of us. A whole lot of dollars not spent.

Think about it. No purchases for a week. No grocery shopping, no cars, no phones, no Metrocard. If planned for it could happen. Some people saw my hashtag and tweets, and misconstrued them, thinking I meant women shouldn’t go to work for a day (or a week, whatever). No. Again, I’m not looking to hurt anyone, and a lot of women don’t have the luxury of saying they won’t go to work because Hear Me Roar, their bosses would respond with Don’t Come Back. I’m not looking to hurt any one industry, or the people of any one area, with a prolonged strike. It isn’t about deprivation. Choosing deprivation is again a luxury that many don’t have, and these laws will hurt just about all of us–the exception, of course, being the uber wealthy who will be able to afford to go wherever they want/need for safe health care, and hey, if they do get arrested because some judge doesn’t believe they didn’t cause their own miscarriage, they can afford great lawyers. It’s about getting attention–yeah, yeah, I seem to be confused about the whole attention whore thing–and making a point. THE point, that they may not value our rights or our lives, but I’m quite certain they value our money. Congress has the power of the purse. Guess what? We do too.

The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Babies

Sunrise, it’s beautiful until you face the news.

The truth is I started this post yesterday–and by started I mean I typed in the title, uploaded the most recent photos, and then was crushed by the weight of it all. When creating a new file and starting a new…novel, maybe? is easier than writing a blog post, yeah, it’s heavy.

Often the anticipation of a thing, something bad you know is coming, or even the unknown of waiting for medical test results, is worse than when that thing happens. I knew, and if you weren’t in denial you knew, this swift, systematic dismantling of America and American rights was going to happen as soon as 45 was elected. The worst is now happening, and it isn’t any better than waiting/not knowing. Is it worse? Yes, because as quickly as all this is happening, it feels like well more than half the country is still in denial–and not just the racist, homophobic, misogynist supporters on the Right, but too many on the Left with their “Mueller will fix everything, it won’t get that bad,” and my current favorite, “Senators Collins and Murkowski will do the right thing.” If they were going to do the right thing they would have disavowed the rest of the GOP two years ago. Unless something immediate, drastic, and miraculous occurs, Kavanaugh (45’s latest pick for the Supreme Court) will be confirmed, and Roe v Wade is going to be overturned.

Whether or not we can change this (and yes, we should continue doing everything in our power to try), every woman and every man who so much as nods to the idea of women’s rights and equality needs to acknowledge what this means, just how far back this clock is spinning. Because guess what? It isn’t about abortion. There have always been abortions, but not safe, legal, and affordable ones. It sure as shit isn’t about the sanctity of life. It’s about punishing the poor and people of color–because those who are wealthy and white will always be able to hop on a plane to somewhere it’s safe and legal when they need to. It’s about putting women in their place, taking away our freedom, our agency, our power, our right to life. It’s about punishing females for having a uterus, girls for developing breasts, women for believing we too should have the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It’s about being told by men and wealthy corporations what we can or cannot do with our bodies, specifically our secondary sexual characteristics, to be used and abused only as these men and corporations deem appropriate and advantageous to them.

I know the popular stories from those on the right like to focus on the millions of imaginary evil wimminz who tempt men with their short skirts and girly bits, have unprotected sex while “taking” promotions in the workplace, and then skipping to their nearest Planned Parenthood for D&Cs. If you listen to these stories, these women choose to have abortions more regularly than most have menstrual cycles–yanno, when they’re bleeding from their wherever. There won’t be medical necessity exceptions, that’s been made very clear by those bullshit, alarmist campaigns against late term abortions–which are just about always performed because of medical necessity.

If and when this happens, I’m certain we can also look forward to the good old days where birth control was banned and illegal (since health care will be unaffordable, by that time birth control will also be a privilege for the wealthy). We’ll go back to the days of rape is impossible within a marriage–because there are plenty who still believe this–rape in general will be decriminalized and always the woman’s (girls, men, boys) fault. Hey, maybe they can start criminalizing and prosecuting women who have miscarriages. Don’t worry, there will be a natural limit to the cost of this, since a number of these women will die without the ability to have doctors perform D&Cs.

I thought I would go on and on with this post, detailing the history of abortion, birth control, and women’s rights, with a ton of links and photos, but no. I’m too tired, and I just can’t. Because those who are screaming that this is about criminalizing women’s sexuality are wrong. It’s about criminalizing women.

 

New (ab)Normal

I probably shouldn’t blog when I’m pissed. I definitely shouldn’t blog with a large alcoholic drink at my side. I’m about to do both. Sorry, but I couldn’t edit my thoughts enough to limit to tweets. I am appalled and disgusted by how many people don’t want to understand just how deep a pile of shit this country is in right now, how deep it’s been since November 8, 2016. No, I’m not talking about 45 supporters, I’m talking democrats, those who consider themselves part of the resistance. Yes, they’re upset. Yes, they’re marching, they’re calling their representatives, they’re gasping at the thought of a hardline rightwing (and likely unqualified, given the other picks from this administration) Republican taking Justice Kennedy’s spot on the Supreme Court…and then they’re saying, well, midterm elections are only four months away. Well, at least we’re in a blue state.

Well, wake up, buttercup, all bets are off. Everyone knows by now this administration chose to separate and cage babies taken from their parents, who came to our borders because they were desperate, seeking refugee status in a nation that was, until recently, a reasonable shot at a reasonably safe life. Now we’re hearing about children as young as 3 years old in immigration court without their parents. 3. In court. Because if they deserve to live here, they’ll pull themselves up by their diaper tabs and orate like Atticus Finch? Stop for a second and think about how completely insane and evil that is. Now tell me how certain you are that living in a blue state, in a country that isn’t red, but black and blue, will keep you safe. If this government can decide to deny due process to refugees, they can decide to deny it to you.

Years ago I entered the world of being a medical needs parent. Not when kiddo was born, but a few years later. That’s when I learned, really learned, the idea of a new normal. Because at first, it’s natural, understandable, and probably healthy, to wait for and expect things to go back to normal. Surprise! That day doesn’t come. And you learn about the concept of new normal. And you think you will adjust. And then another medication fails, and another diagnosis is added, and then another diagnosis is questioned, expectations are adjusted, lather, rinse, repeat, ad infinitum. And then you reach a point where you understand new normal means constantly shifting. Along the way, you understand a lot of the old normal still applies. You still have to do laundry, make dinner, grocery shop, clean the toilet. Now you add more time in the pharmacy than you dreamed possible. Making sure all electronics are charged and ready to go at a moment’s notice becomes second nature. When things are bad, you make sure there are frozen dinners in the fridge in case of emergency, make sure there are always enough clean clothes in case that potential trip to the hospital has to happen right. now. You learn to be patient. You learn to wait-and-see without turning away. You learn how to argue, plead your case, and spend eleventy billion hours on the phone fighting with the health insurance company. Politely. And you learn polite doesn’t mean saying thank you and accepting when needed coverage is denied. You still get to laugh, enjoy good moments as they come along, treasure the people and friendships you make in this new abnormal world, and appreciate those friends from your old world who understand they cannot understand your new normal-abnormal, and hang in there anyway despite canceled plans because of illness, side effects, hospitalizations.

You know what you don’t get to do? Pretend that all this new abnormal is all going to disappear. Not only disappear, but leave no permanent scars on all involved. You don’t get to pretend that a momentary meltdown equals problem solved, or now you can ignore all the unpleasantness for the next month, or week. You don’t get to pretend, regardless of what gets worse or what gets better, that all involved aren’t irrevocably changed, shaped by these experiences, permanently on guard. You don’t get to pretend because this time it isn’t your kid hooked up to a gazillion tubes that the other kid who is there is purely theoretical. That is someone’s child. Maybe someone you know and care about, maybe not, but you know how easily that could be your child. As easily as the little one in a cage, in a strange country, climbing on a table in front of a judge when they’re too young to understand what a judge is, that child could be your child, whether you want to admit it or not.

America is sick. This is a chronic illness, that may or may not be fatal. We don’t get to pretend this illness isn’t insidious and progressive. Not even if neither you or none of those you care about have pre-existing conditions, or brown skin, or faith that isn’t Christian, or a uterus. None of us. It doesn’t matter if you’re appalled or offended. This is where we are, and we can’t possibly slow this descent into rotten banana republic if we’re still pretending the banana is just a little soft.

Words being Served

The Martyrdom of Saint Barbara, Lucas Cranach the Elder, ca. 1510 (yes, this photo is crooked)

Let’s talk about words. I was going to limit myself to “C” words, but I think I’m going to throw caution to the wind and use all 26 letters of the alphabet. Special focus though, on c words. Like cage. And f words. Like fuck, I was right, my country is turning into Nazi Germany. Or turn the clock back further, to pre-civil war legal slavery, or the atrocities visited upon Native Americans and their children, all in the name of white makes right. *excuse me while I puke* And yet, even with 26 letters to make an infinite number of words, they are inadequate.

Over the years, this little blog has provoked some reactions. Some, as I talked about the other day, positive. Other reactions have been scolding, “be positive!” “don’t talk politics, you could turn people off, offend someone!” Ah yes, the sword of offense. A few years back that caused me to shrug. If you didn’t like my politics or my honesty, you weren’t my reader–that goes for both blogging and fiction. By now, if you are offended by my discussing politics, I find you to be both offensive and an affront to humanity. I see too many supporting this ugliness, these atrocities promised and being perpetrated by our government.  And I see many more hiding behind the “virtue” of being apolitical. Some offering the Bible as proof there’s no need to worry about politics, God is in charge. That isn’t virtue, and in these times, it isn’t apolitical. It’s condoning. It’s support for conspiracy and crimes against humanity; in the names of greed, misogyny, and racism. It’s gaslighting of throwing around the word collusion–sounds so official and yet is meaningless in a court of law. It’s caging babies, turning a blind eye to the internment of thousands of children. It’s a lack of compassion signifying sociopathy spreading like genital warts.

There are those of us who are horrified, appalled by the images and audio coming out of these baby jails, those of us whose hearts are being shredded as we imagine being that mother, that father whose child has been stolen–for the sin of hoping to find a better, safer life than the one they left behind. As we imagine being that little girl sexually assaulted by a deputy, her mother blackmailed with threats of deportation. It helps no one to deny there are also those who are gleeful when seeing those same images, laugh at the audio, can’t imagine the terrified, traumatized child with Down’s syndrome as their own because they see her as damaged. Brown. Other. Not a “real” child. They prefer to snicker about liberal tears, pretend shock and offense at the language of Robert DeNiro and Samantha Bee.

I follow several lit agents on Twitter, and a smattering have always included some politics in their feeds, recently more, and in the past couple of days, a few have made reference to being told they shouldn’t–their response being a wholly satisfying fuck you. Some literally, some more politely. I have nothing but respect and admiration for those who will not make a distinction between their business and their humanity. I don’t care what you write or represent, lit fic, sci-fi/fantasy or erotica, this is the literary world. Telling the stories that need to be told, offering illumination to darkness, offering opportunities for everyone–no matter their life circumstance–to find characters that reflect who they are and who they want to be, say the words they wish they could say, offer comfort to those who need it and provoke those who are too comfortable. Publishing is a business, and the business is humanity.

A nation of laws is only as good as the people writing and enforcing those laws. Laws are not just by virtue of being written. Currently, we aren’t living by the rules of a democratic society. We have a spineless GOP in control that has given away the power inherent in their branch of government, enabling this hateful windbag-in-chief and his misogynist, white supremacist cabinet. An entire administration that defines avarice and corruption.

Sometimes silence is strength. This isn’t one of those times. If we do not speak out, we are sacrificing human beings for the sake of…what? Words are what we have. Right now, they’re about all we have. They are the power of possibility, the power of reason, the power of change. Don’t give away any of them. Especially not the ones that make you uncomfortable.

 

 

 

Squint and Look Sideways

Conch, eyes up and hoovering crap at the bottom of the tank.

Despite approaching each day’s news with a squinty side eye, I feel more like my conch, eyeballs overextended and exposed. Wishing I was more like him, and could go ahead and bury myself under the sand for weeks at a time. Did you think I was abandoning political discussion? Nope. I’m not sorry, either, and don’t understand how anyone can choose to ignore the news these days. I know some are doing so out of necessity, self-preservation bc of mental health needs. Part of me hopes they will be ready to take up the bullhorns when those who have been screaming for two years bottom out. The WH and Congress have been taken over by monsters, but for me, the biggest horror of this never-ending shitshow is the people who support them, and worse, those who just pretend it has nothing to do with them. Yes, I’ve said all this before, but it only gets worse as our elected monsters become more emboldened, and enact more and more inhumane policies. You know where I’m going with this.

Children. Children stolen from their parents and put in the equivalent of dog kennels in kill-shelters. Does that sound inflammatory? Good. We’re told those temporary shelters only hold the children for 72 hours, then they are transported to luxurious surroundings like this closed Walmart.  We’re told this is a necessary as a deterrent. These days we’re told a lot of things, most of which amounts to the static of doublespeak. This is what the United States has become. This is an embarrassment, this is certainly immoral, this should be criminal.  Parents undertake dangerous crossings and show up at the American borders with their children because they’re desperate. Teenagers leave their homes to try and gain entry because they’re hungry. These are refugees seeking asylum, and our country isn’t just denying them entry, our government is making the calculated decision to ruin thousands of lives by taking the most inhumane action and inflicting the most calculated, permanent damage possible. Yes, permanent damage. These children will not walk away unscathed. The psychological damage being inflicted is permanent, and I’m certain there is physical damage as well; I’m skeptical those patrolling these centers are coaxing the traumatized to eat, making sure any necessary medications are being administered on time, if at all, noticing a child who is ill before they are seriously ill, or one who is injured who is too afraid of what will be done to them if they complain.

America has a long, complicated, and contradictory history. “All men are created equal” is a battle cry sung while we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, yet disparage those all-too-few black citizens who have the wealth and platform (yet still not the security) to take a knee. We say women are equal, girls can do anything, yet cannot pass the ERA. We teach our children Rosa Parks was important because she was tired and wanted to sit. We watch Pocohontas while we build a pipeline on American Indian land. We tsk tsk about how wrong we were to build and implement Japanese internment camps during WWII, yet still allow openly racist, anti-Asian American candidates to run for office. We confuse the cross and the flag, while we reject the basic principles of Judeo-Christian ethics. We brag about freedom of religion while we make faces at a woman in a hijab. A woman in a hijab complains about the black woman next to her. A Haitian-American immigrant disparages the teenaged girl walking down the street carrying a Pride flag. We take to the streets to protest this turn towards isolationism and fascism, yet insist on Democratic candidates passing impossible purity tests. We pride ourselves on being a nation of immigrants as we make it as difficult as possible for the “wrong” immigrants, over and over again.

If you are reading this, or my Twitter feed, or used to be a friend and are now thinking, “wow, that Mrs Fringe is a feminazi libtard, a snowflake,” all I can say is this–yes, yes I am. And I’m fine with it, because the alternative is being someone who reduces desperate, hungry, vulnerable children to chattel. I am a parent, and the pain of trying to imagine being in the position of a desperate mother at our border having her child taken as that child screams in terror and confusion is unimaginable. I’m an adult with adult/almost adult children, who remembers and understands the long term effects of having been a child in a tenuous and terrifying non-home. So yes, I have to squint sideways as I watch these news segments, read the news articles and scroll through the Twitter feed. I can spend more than half my days reminding myself to breathe and keep my howling silent. What I cannot do, what I will not do, is look away. I will remember I am a human being, as are these “illegal” children.

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?