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.

Haters Gonna Hate

So said Nerd Child to me when I was upset a few months back, about a (very minor in the scheme of things) racist comment directed towards him and a friend.  I get his point.  He’s a smart and awe-inspiringly rational person–because of this, he is, I’m sure, better poised to make changes in our world, changes in how people approach the world, than his hotheaded blabberfingers mother.

No question, there is value and wisdom in taking the long view of social ills. As I’ve said before, however, there is also risk.  Risk of denial, risk of distorted views, plain old risk involved in sweeping these ills under the rug in favor of a false “no problem here!” presentation.

I am, of course, talking about the deaths last night of 9 innocent people in Charleston, South Carolina. A shooting that was a hate crime. At a prayer meeting in a church–the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a church with a long, proud history. Proud unless you’re a white supremacist/separatist, in which case you’re likely having very different thoughts than I am right now.  Supposedly, the suspect sat in the prayer meeting for an hour before making the statement that they were “taking over the country and raping our women.”  Because those human beings who opened their prayer meeting to him were a real, direct threat to his date nights and our national security, yes?  <<NO! I shouldn’t have to spell out that the previous sentence is sarcasm, but apparently I do, judging by the things I’ve seen and heard online today.

I don’t know how legitimate the above quote is.  Maybe it’s a misquote, maybe it was spun out of thin air.  But can I believe it’s real?  Yes I can. Because just the other day, Donald Trump announced he’s running for President of the United States.  Trump.  Do I think he has a snowball’s chance? Nope. But. I saw comments referring to him as a good idea because he’s a businessman.  True, he’s a businessman, and I think I read he’s worth something like 4 billion dollars.  He’s also declared bankruptcy four times.  Included in the gems of his announcement speech Trump said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people…”  So…the shooter in South Carolina was singing the same song as Donald Trump? You might be thinking, of course not–Trump was referring to undocumented immigrants, and the shooter was referring to African Americans.  What I hear is:  They. Them.  America is not a business.  If it were, we might recognize our people–all of them–are our assets. In a country where someone like Donald Trump can be taken seriously by anyone as a candidate for President, we’ve got issues, and we need to air out this rug.

So I’m just going to try and clarify a few things here, from my muddled-by-sorrow point of view.  This is OUR problem, America.  OUR shame, not some shadowy boogeyman named, They. Despite what too many want to pretend, it isn’t a relic of the past that’s no longer in use, nor is it a secret.   Not “just” one lone, hateful lunatic, either. If it was, this wouldn’t be a news story we see play out over and over again.

If it was, the flags wouldn’t be flying at half staff today at the capitol of South Carolina.  Columbia, SC. One of those flags isn’t, by the way.  Which one? The confederate flag, of course. The very fact that there are confederate flags flying openly anywhere in America is the problem. There is no pride in a confederate flag.  That is our shame. Just today, the Supreme Court ruled that Texas is not violating the First Amendment by banning confederate flags on license plates. Why? Because it’s fucking wrong!  It’s racism, it’s vile, if you can’t join the 21st century go ahead and keep it to yourself.  If you want to honor those who died fighting in the Civil War and display the flag they fought for and under, I don’t get it, but go ahead and keep it in a museum with all the other interesting and long outdated relics.  Study it, learn from it, but don’t wave it as a symbol of modern America.

If it wasn’t a problem, there wouldn’t have been any major media outlets jumping to say it wasn’t a racist crime, it was an attack on Christianity.  I’d like to be sarcastic again here, or make a joke about Faux news, or even snicker at the field day the best political comedians will have with this, but I can’t–because there are too many voting citizens who take this lunacy seriously.  So I’ll just make a direct statement.  This wasn’t an attack on Christianity. Or the South, or the freedom to fly the confederate flag.  This was a racist hate crime.

You know what it isn’t? It isn’t a result of not having “God” in schools.  Yes, indeed, I saw that come across my Facebook feed.  I strongly believe in, support, and defend freedom of religion; but I believe in the separation of church and state just as strongly.

It isn’t a result of the pastor not having a gun in the church. I am not and don’t pretend to be an expert on  religion (of any faith),  and I’d be hard pressed to quote directly from the Bible if that quote wasn’t indirect and the subject of an article I was reading in the moment, but I’m pretty sure this doesn’t fall under What-Would-Jesus-Do.

It’s the result of hate.  Hate, fear, a public education system with more holes than the infinite number of test bubbles that face our children each year, an inability to discriminate between hard facts and opinions/editorials/entertainment, and a sadly lacking understanding of what it means to be a member of a greater community. A society.

This was a nauseating, racist hate crime that has left 9 Black Americans dead, while countless more Americans piss on each other across internet boards everywhere as they scramble to skew this to fit their political agendas; as the black community once again mourns unnecessary losses that should be unthinkable.  Unspeakable. Unimaginable.  But we don’t have to imagine it, because these losses, these attacks, are all too real and all too frequent.  That’s why we have to speak about it.

To the families and members of the Emanuel AME Church, I am so very, very sorry for your loss.


Thank You Internetz

and the Coca-Cola company.  For turning over the rock, and allowing light to shine on the racism that is alive and all too

Statue of liberty

Statue of liberty (Photo credit: rakkhi)

well in America.

I didn’t watch the Super Bowl, didn’t see the commercial that caused waves in our amber GMO enriched grain until this morning.  If I was a gambler, I’d put money on the idea that many of the same people shitting themselves over a Coke commercial featuring people of color! language other than English!  would consider me suspect, not a real American for the simple fact that I’m not a football fan, not a sports fan at all.

That’s what America’s all about, right?  The Pilgrims came here so they could chase a ball and drink beer without any pesky brown people, or hearing anything other than the dulcet tones of English.  Such a pure language, developed in a magical place without any influences from any other nasty, discordant languages.  Mmm hmmm.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not too highbrow for football.  I was annoyed there was no new episode of The Real Housewives of Atlanta last night–I assume because they didn’t think they’d get enough viewers.  I know, I know, RHoA, more brown people.  Black women.  If it makes you feel better, dear racists, I found that out after eating a slice of apple pie.  My dessert, after a dinner of arroz con habichuelas.

At this point, I don’t know if I’m more angry, sad, or disgusted.  I do know I wish we were a smarter country.  Smart enough for everyone here to understand we are a nation built on the backs of immigrants, after stealing the land from the Native Americans already living here.  Guess they didn’t count, since they didn’t speak English.  Guess what?  You, in your racist spouting household probably have traditional meals included in your pure American Thanksgiving dinner that are actually throwbacks to your family’s heritage.  Potato salad?  German.  Pasta?  Italian.  Butter cookies? Norwegian.  Corn?  Beans?  Squash?  The three sisters are Native American, and you should stop serving all three because Native Americans certainly aren’t what you mean when you talk about real Americans.  And I’ve got another little surprise for you, all the rhetoric you’re spewing, about these Mexicans/Domincans/Haitians/Koreans/fillintheblankins, you know, the crap about not learning English, not becoming American enough for your taste, their strange foods, the way they’re taking your jobs and your wimmenz…not original or new.  The same tired fearful and fear mongering lines have been spouted for two centuries of immigration.   I’m very sorry to tell you, the good old days weren’t what you think they were.

English: A Turkish immigrant in New York (1912).

English: A Turkish immigrant in New York (1912). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wish we were smart enough to understand that we are not an isolationist nation and never were.  I wish we were smart enough to understand that instead of trying to fit everyone into a cracked mold that’s a figment of stultified imaginations, we need to move forward, leave this nonsense behind.  I wish we were smart enough to understand that the affordable air travel, internet and cell phones have brought us more than resort vacations, Candy Crush, and sexting.  We are living in a global economy.  Guess who’s going to get ahead in a global economy?  Those who are able to respect cultures other than the one they grew up in; those who speak more than one language, those who aren’t terrified by the sight of someone who has different skin color, eye shape, hair texture, religious beliefs, clothing or customs than their own.   Those who don’t vomit hatred because their sacred game has been tainted by nothing.

That’s right, I said it. Nothing.  You’re up in arms because the ridiculously priced commercials selling shit you don’t need during a game dared to show America as it is, not your fantasy of what it should be.

I just got off of the train.  On the subway I hear English, spoken with a broad number of American accents.  I hear English spoken with accents from Ireland, England, New Zealand, Pakistan, Guyana, Australia, South Africa, Ghana, Jamaica, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Papa New Guinea.  I hear Spanish, Italian, French, German, Hebrew, Arabic, Tagalog, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Tagalog, Portuguese, Hindi, Vietnamese, Yiddish, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, languages from Scandinavia and languages from Africa.  I don’t know who was born here, who’s an immigrant–documented or undocumented–who’s a tourist here to pump thousands of dollars into our economy.  Shocking though this might be, I don’t care.  It’s beautiful to my ears, part of being an American in New York.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in New England, including the more rural areas where it’s truly rare to see a person of color or hear a language other than English.  Also beautiful, also part of America.  I’ve spent time down South, where outside of the major cities you don’t hear as many different languages, but still a few, and see many people of color.  Beautiful.  I’ve spent time in the Southwest, where there are more Native Americans, and I heard bits of languages rarely if ever heard in NYC.  Beautiful.  Time in the Pacific Northwest, where I heard more Norwegian words and influences than I hear in the east, heard languages and saw faces originating from Alaskan Native cultures.  Beautiful.  To me, that’s what makes America.  It’s vast, our population is huge and mixed, influences from all over the world are seen, heard, and felt in our in language, music, food, and clothing.  My America isn’t more or less American than yours.

I want to be clear, when you say things like “I don’t mean you,” you do.  You mean my children, my family, my friends, my neighbors.  When my kid is chosen for a job over you or yours, it isn’t and won’t be because of looks or last name.  It will be because he has always and continues to work his ass off, speaks three languages, knows how to be respectful and appreciative of all cultures and focus on commonalities in our global economy.

I’m not a politician, not a sociologist or anthropologist, not an academic, not in marketing or advertising.  I’m not a mover or shaker in any circle, no impressive degrees, haven’t traveled the world, really not that smart.  A plain old gal living on the fringe.  But I know  the commercial  that prompted this latest round of bullshit has nothing to do with anything you’re whining about.  It’s about the Coca-Cola company wanting to reach the broadest possible audience, so the next time you’re in front of a display in the store, choosing between Coke and Pepsi, you spend your dollars on Coke.  And I will. Or I would, if I drank soda–or pop, or coke, depending on what region of the US you’re in.

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