fatigue

One of Those Days

Byron and Ramiro, by John Sonsini, 2008

Byron and Ramiro, by John Sonsini, 2008

Yesterday was just another one of those days.  You know the ones. Where you sit in kiddo’s specialologist’s office and they’re telling you news you don’t want to hear and their voice gets all tinny and small and you feel all tinny and small but part of your brain Must Keep Up Appearances so it engages your mouth and you try to sound like a Reasonable Adult Human Being by asking the right questions and taking notes as they tell you about two other specialologists that must now be added to The List of necessary ologists for said kiddo even though their words feel like a spray of pellets shooting holes in your tin self. Yeah, one of those days.

I haven’t actually read any news articles or watched any clips since leaving for the doctor yesterday.  This morning I scanned the headlines, and I didn’t miss much. Just another day with this administration, apparently gearing up to declare war on Iran, Mexico, China, and Australia (?!).  And, needless to say, continuing the war on the American People, specifically Democrats, women, people of color, Muslims, the wrong types of Christians, children, those who live in poverty, unions and union members, and anyone who mistakenly thinks Holocaust Remembrance Day and Black History Month aren’t about our Fearless Tweeter.  Did I miss anyone? I’m sure I did.

The other day I blogged about us, who “us” is, and the need to stop pretending that the supporters of our administration and these new policies aren’t part of us.  Indulge me today, while I talk about the GOP for the same reasons, just for a second. They aren’t going to save me, you, or anyone other than their own hides and bank accounts. Reasonable Republicans.  I believe that used to be a thing, much as I might have disagreed with them.  Now they don’t exist, not those in office, anyway.  Sure, a few make some noises here and there, statements mumbling disagreement, but ultimately, they’re staying right in line with our everything old is new again White Supremacist sanctioned policies.  Noises and mumbles don’t amount to more than a fart in a breeze when two of the horrific Cabinet picks were forced through despite the Democratic Senators’ boycott.  When there’s any one of them willing to support that horrific choice for Secretary of Education.  Thinkofthechildren my eye. When they ignore shady ties to Russia to clear Tillerson. When they support a well documented racist for Attorney General. When they quietly allow the firing of an acting Attorney General for putting the People and the Constitution above the administration. When they don’t say a word about the many active conflicts of interest. When suddenly Putin is someone to be admired, a role model. When legal and peaceful dissent and freedom of the press are overtly threatened.

What’s already occurred and occurring is horrific. I don’t have to read every word of every article every day to know this.  But I don’t get to ignore what’s going on in the country and world around me.  We may want to pretend we can just keep our heads down and it won’t effect us, but it does and will, in ways large and small.  Like imported goods being taxed so high we can’t afford fresh fruits and vegetables. Like losing healthcare. Like losing doctors to bans and deportations. Like losing research scientists for the same reasons. Like losing public schools. Like losing special education rights completely. Like more job losses because of hiring freezes, tech companies going to friendlier countries.  Like losing the right to practice whatever religion you choose. Or not. Like losing the right to vote because of increased gerrymandering. Like losing the right to choose, including situations of rape, the mother’s life at risk, and non-viable pregnancies.  Like losing the gains made in legalizing medical marijuana.  Like losing LGBTQ rights. Like losing all of our damned Allies in the world we share because they’ve been insulted and dismissed.  These are just a few of the very real, potential losses for all of us, without even looking at the more dramatic and yet suddenly also possible scenarios. The only question we have now is will this shitshow result in disaster or complete annihilation.

So, stop. Stop waiting for these imaginary ethical Republican senators and congresspeople to step up. I used to believe the next specialologist would have The Answer, maybe even The Solution, to my girl’s ever-increasing medical needs, but it became necessary to face reality and stop getting my hopes too high.  Still necessary to treat each issue as it arises, even necessary to hold a bit of hope in my back pocket, but for the sake of sanity and reasonable functioning, blind faith that everything will be ok and will go back to “normal” shortly is foolish.  As foolish as expecting the GOP to step up, or thinking our country hasn’t been fundamentally, irrevocably damaged.

The Nuttiest Part: aka This Isn’t Us

Nuts for Nuts

Nuts for Nuts

Peanuts for snacking, walnuts in pasta and baked goods, pignolis in pasta and cookies, hazelnuts in salads and cookies, cashews in asian noodle and rice dishes, nut butters–you get the idea.  I love the other kind of nuts too, those that are excellent for laughing with and sharing a beer.  You know where I don’t love nuts? My government; making unconstitutional decisions, ignoring courts and laws, stripping rights of citizens, stirring up aggressions and posturing against other nations. Also not fond of the nuttiness that punctuates those who are supporting our current government, certain despite all facts, evidence, and history, that subtracting from Them will add to You.

In the face of the embarrassing ugliness that posed as Executive Orders this week, many, many Americans have stood up and said no. We’ve spoken, marched, written, tweeted, boycotted, donated money, donated legal services, stood in solidarity.  Beautiful. The cry: “this isn’t us.”  It makes my intestines twist in unpleasant ways to say it but yes, it is. Not all of us, and I don’t believe (though I’m not sure) it’s the majority, but it’s a considerable number of us. It’s part of our history, alongside those who fought against women’s right to vote, for slavery, Japanese Internment camps, and Jim Crow laws.  It’s part of our present, alongside the school to prison pipeline, draconian drug sentencing laws, rampant gun violence, police brutality, racial profiling, marches and bills written to decimate women’s health care. It’s what allows some people–too many people–to claim they’re following God’s laws and are pro-life yet turn their backs on starving, brutalized refugees–adults, children, and babies–shut out people from other nations who helped keep us safe while we were bombing their nations of origin, and continue to wail about unborn babies while voting to take away health care from the babies and children already born. It’s what enabled and continues to enable so many to ally themselves with white supremacists and the KKK, opening the door for one to have an official seat on the National Security Council.

Yeah. It’s ugly, irrational, illogical, rips my fucking heart out, but it is part of U.S.  Saying it isn’t is what allowed the results of the 2016 election in the first place, “oh, he’ll never be elected, you shouldn’t take him seriously, good always wins.”  Saying it isn’t us is the first cousin of the cognitive dissonance that allows too many to say there were no racial problems and tensions in between our nation’s come-to-Jesus with Martin Luther King Jr (after, of course, his arrests, beatings, and assassination) and the election of Barack Obama.

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The other morning I stood on the terrace and looked out into the fog thinking this is it.  Not new, not shocking, but always hazy, proceed with caution.  Not anymore. These last few days have felt like one of those southern storms, where the rain is so hot and hard and heavy you can’t see a foot in front of you, and all the cars on the highway have to pull over.  Those generally only last a few minutes.  This?  We’ve entered monsoon season, but instead of rain, we’re being pelted by fear, hatred, and tyranny. What else to call it when the current administration decides it is above the law?

I’ve seen several memes and tweets from those on the right, saying Obama did the same thing to Iraqi immigrants in 2011 and no one marched then.  In fact, “45” even referenced this in a statement. Umm, no, not the same thing at all.  This policy has no roots in an actual threat against America, was implemented without proper legal forethought and counsel, no warning, no preparation, is literally tearing families apart, increases the likelihood of terrorist aggression, and is in fact putting our soldiers at risk.  Let’s not forget that not successful terrorist attack in the US is from one of those seven countries–and yet, oddly enough, countries that have been the source of terrorist attacks here aren’t on the list.  But shhh, no conflict of interest here, none at all. I’m sure the fact that 45 has business interests in those nations has absolutely nothing to do with it.  Trust him, he says so. I saw a meme saying those on the left want extensive background checks for gun ownership, but no vetting of immigrants. Untrue, there is an exhaustive vetting process in place. Another meme says something to the effect of “I wish those who cared about illegal immigrants cared as much about homeless veterans.”  I wish people who shared that meme understood that our current administration’s policies are actually harming veterans. Here and here. I certainly hope those liking and sharing that meme are offering assistance like money, food, or socks to the homeless vets we see on the street every day.

45 supporters, don’t be fooled. 45 doesn’t care about Muslims; whether they’re pious, lapsed, or extremist, he doesn’t believe he’s protecting us. He’s feeding your fears, giving you an enemy so you don’t notice your own freedoms disappearing. You’re right, this administration does have a plan, and that plan involves war.  War is profitable.  Not for you or me, but for those in power, that 1 %, fraction of 1%, that do just fine regardless of who holds the power.  And this administration differs from past Republican administrations because it wants a war on the American people, America itself.  This is what you’re supporting. 

I hope every person who supports our current administration understands “slippery slope” isn’t always a logical fallacy. If we’re ok with giving away the rights of one, or two, or three groups of citizens and legal permanent residents, we’re opening the door for more rights to be given away.  You may believe your gender, race, or religion is safe, but as the saying goes, we’ve seen this before.

This certainly, thankfully, isn’t all of us, but it doesn’t help any of us to pretend these beliefs, the people who support these evil and thoughtless politicians and policies, aren’t any of us. Good doesn’t magically triumph; it takes work, dedication, and education. This, right here and now, is when we have to declare a nut-free zone, to keep us all alive and healthy.

Raise The Stakes

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When you write fiction, once you get past the technical/grammar/POV aspects, there aren’t a whole lot of rules. Guidelines, but those are flexible, boiling down to if you write well enough, if the story is riveting, you can “get away with” practically anything.  There’s one bit of wisdom that I believe is a rule: raise the stakes. What’s the worst thing that could happen to your protagonist, the biggest muck they could make of the situation in front of them? Make that happen.

I remember, about a thousand years ago, the catchphrase in the pop psychology/self-help section of the bookstore was, “we write our own scripts.”  Positive, empowering, offering the idea that we control what happens in our individual worlds. Imagine it for a second, with a laptop, a 99 cent Bic, or a pencil found in a goodie bag, we control it all.

Except we don’t.  Sure we control how we respond to events in our lives, and many situations are the result of choices we make, but sometimes not. Some of these situations are the result of other people’s choices–say, being faced with terror of potential loss of health care and special ed services for a medical needs kiddo because other voters decided tax cuts and a pro life stance were more important than social services, social justice, and the needs of children and adults who’ve already been born.

The holiday season is always a bit tricky for those who deal with chronic medical needs.  Those yucky viruses that are a nuisance for all can get complicated, more serious, and last longer than they do for the average healthy person.  We’re quite used to medical mayhem here in Fringeland.  It always sucks, but you do get used to the reality of a shifting normal, not necessarily expecting but being prepared for potential complications and unpleasant surprises. Or so you think.  Because sometimes you go to Dr Pediatrician who sends you to Dr Specialologist who sends you back to Dr Pediatrician who sends you immediately to another Dr Specialologist who sees and diagnoses something completely unexpected, that may or may not have an underlying cause, but regardless, threatens the vision of kiddo. The vision. Both eyes. Of kiddo whose all-things-good come from the visual.

Yeah, sometimes shit just happens, and it feels like some sadistic fucking wizard behind the curtain is writing a manuscript where you and yours are featured, and (s)he’s snickering at they keyboard because they figured out how to raise. the. stakes. for the next few chapters. If I were writing this manuscript, this novel (remember–by definition, a novel is fiction) and wanted to raise the stakes for an already challenged artist? No hesitation, I’d threaten vision. If I actually could control this, could write my own script? Absolutely, I’d get my butt back in the chair, at the keyboard, and write for twenty-two hours a day. But this isn’t a novel, and I sure as shit didn’t write this manuscript.

I may skip decorating the tree, and let the crying sap be my holiday statement.

Empty Words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Personal, and It’s Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am in mourning.

 

 

 

Hot Off the Presses! or, Last Gasp

Someone appreciates my efforts.

Someone appreciates my efforts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh of Relief or Hold Your Breath?

Flower Bulbs--finally ordered them in the right season

Flower Bulbs–finally ordered them in the right season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m Sorry

Alexander Archipenko, "Seated Woman," 1912-Bronze

Alexander Archipenko, “Seated Woman,” 1912-Bronze

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.