thoughts

Sex, Lies, and Assault

The full quote engraved above is, “For the Improvement of Social and Living Conditions”

This morning Al Franken will be making an announcement regarding the allegations against him. Many believe he will be stepping down, many believe he should step down. Maybe this post will be up before he does so, but know it was written prior. I hear/see a lot of people saying this is a watershed moment in American history for women and women’s rights. Time Magazine’s person of the year 2017 isn’t one person, it’s the #metoo movement, the “silence breakers.”

I don’t have answers in regards to Franken, and I’ve been finding it impossible to read every detail coming to light about all of these men. It’s all so, so much. Not just so much in terms of the volume of accusations against the ever-growing number of men, but so much when looking at the many, many terrors happening on a daily basis. There isn’t one area of our society that isn’t under attack from within right now. All this said, I have thoughts. I’ve been speaking up and out about women, sexual harassment, and assault for a long time, and I’ve used Mrs Fringe as a vehicle to do so for the past five years. I’m not so sure this is a watershed moment.

Yes, there is much awareness and many important, necessary conversations happening. Yes, we are seeing repercussions for men who abuse/have abused women and positions of power in a way we haven’t seen before. I just don’t know that we can see this as a definitive turning point. Do I want it to be? Yes! But can it be, and why not? Because we’re only seeing this in very limited arenas. I understand that any/every movement has to begin somewhere, and the highly visible and well documented eyes of Congress and Hollywood are excellent places to start. But nothing happens or exists in a vacuum, and while the Left is celebrating, the Right is working. (I’d say the Right Extremists, but at this point it’s safe to say those who were considered extremists on the fringe right twenty years ago are now mainstream.)  Our current President is a man credibly accused of both sexual harassment and assault by multiple women over the course of many years. Accounts of him wandering into the dressing room backstage of the Miss America contest–with underaged contestants–are also documented. This was all well known and well documented long before the 2016 election, an audio tape of him bragging about groping women released, and millions voted for him anyway.  You could and should argue that the current movement is a well deserved backlash because of this.

But these formerly extremist Right Wing politicians have all the power right now, and they’re using it to harm women for generations to come, regardless of who’s on the cover of Time Magazine this month or how many Democrats are called to task for inappropriate, immoral, and sometimes illegal behavior. Mitch McConnell and the GOP stole a pivotal Supreme Court seat after Scalia died by refusing to hold hearings and vote on President Obama’s pick for nominee. Do we think this won’t have repercussions for women’s rights, for Roe vs Wade? The current monstrosity of an administration is also busy stacking the federal courts with more extremist, right wing, appointed for life individuals. In another time in our history…say, 10 years ago, this might sound hysterical. They’re judges, they have to be impartial and qualified no matter who they vote for, the GOP cares about women and sexual predators, right? No. No they do not. Not anymore. This is how qualified you now have to be to qualify for a federal judgeship appointment, and this is how much the GOP cares about women. I’m sorry, did I say women? I should say women and girls, because those credibly accusing Roy Moore were most definitely not adult women at the time of these incidents.  I cannot say this loudly or frequently enough, the damage being done right now is generational.

And that’s not all. Yesterday the House–and by the House, I mean the GOP members, since they are in control–voted to pass a bill allowing concealed carry holders to legally bring their guns into states where they wouldn’t otherwise be allowed these concealed carry permits. Like, say, from states where domestic abusers are allowed to purchase and concealed carry guns into states that care about protecting their citizens. Oh yeah, this is going to be awesome for victims of domestic violence. So much caring about women and children.

Should the Hollywood and media men who have been fired/suspended/called out and shamed lost their careers? Absolutely. But given our quickly disappearing legal recourse and support from the government, I don’t see this helping Suzy Q Torres working in middle management, or Mary-Sue Regular Gal after she’s cornered by her sweating, piggish boss in the after-hours kitchen of the local fast food restaurant. So I don’t see how we can say, at this moment, that this is a turning point for women’s rights and safety in America. Celebrity cases often bring light and awareness to issues, a starting point. Without follow through for all, they stop there.

There are other aspects to this. Due process–I’ll leave that exploration to those more versed in the legal system, though I question some of these cases.  Not because I don’t believe women, not because I don’t want everyone to believe women, but because the stakes are high. Higher than they’ve ever been, in light of all recently discovered about the manipulability (is that a word?) of public opinion through the use of social media.

And then there’s the distinctions I see too many glossing over. A lot of men are assholes. They make unwanted comments, gestures, use a beer and a crowded bar as an excuse to make unwanted advances. Some men are predators. Some men prey on children. Some men are pushy, refusing to accept no thanks when asking for a phone number. Some men are stalkers.  There are assholes, there are sexual harassers, there are predators, there are rapists. These categories are all morally wrong, an affront to women’s intelligence, autonomy, and safety. But they aren’t equal.

I’m fairly safely invisible now, but let’s pretend I’m twenty years younger for a few subway scenarios. If a man on the subway asks for my phone number and tells me I should smile, I can tell him to fuck off and he can call me a feminazi bitch, I get off at the next stop. It’s yet another unpleasant incident that I shouldn’t have to deal with, and I do dream of a day when women won’t have to. If a man on the subway uses rush hour as an excuse to rub against me, or uses the longer time between stops when going through a tunnel to take out his junk and masturbate, I can get loud, tell him to fuck off, try to move away, stomp on his foot/offer a sharply placed elbow, get off and report him at the next stop. (I can’t, apparently, expect other passengers to help me, since the current PSAs on the subway tell people not to get directly involved with these types of incidents unless they’re certain it’s safe to do so, they should report it to the appropriate authorities when they can). I’m disgusted, I’m shaky, I’m pissed off that this is the world I live in. If a man on the subway traps me on an otherwise empty car when the train is moving through a tunnel, or follows me off the train and drags me to an unpopulated stairwell and assaults me, well, now we’re in completely different territory, with lifelong physical and emotional repercussions shaping every single choice I make for the rest of my life.

The fact that men like those in the second scenario exist doesn’t negate the wrongness of men in the first scenario, and those in the third don’t make those in the second acceptable in any way, shape, or form.

These were “easy” scenes, clearcut. They didn’t involve people who were known to the victim, dates, boyfriends, spouses, relatives, child predators, gang rapes, positions of financial power and employment repercussions, drugs/alcohol, or any of the million and three ways women find themselves being negated and disrespected, abused, assaulted. They are all unacceptable, and should all be addressed by our society with repercussions. But they aren’t all the same.  If we on the Left are in fact taking the moral high ground, that has to include looking at each case individually, or we run the risk of becoming the twenty-first century version of the 1980s false moral majority. While many of these scenarios grow from the same root problem, if we on the Left insist they are all the same, we make it that much easier for those on the Right to ignore these very real, pervasive, and damaging issues women deal with every day, the systemic degradation of women; paving the way for legal and sanctioned support of predators.

Failure of Imagination: the Zombie Apocalypse

 

First of all, I’ve been trying to write this post for days.  My best writing and blogging time is early morning (hence the excess of sunrise photos as you search the archives), but before I write I skim the news, Twitter, and my Facebook feed–and every damned morning I’ve felt as if a broad and hairy fist popped through my keyboard to smash me in the face. In non-simile land, aka real life, I’ve been punched in the face. If you haven’t, let me assure you that it hurts. A lot. Immediately. And then the pain blooms and envelops your brain so that you’re stunned and can’t form a sensible thought; only fight or flight. So basically, every morning I sit down ready to use my words to fight through the madness that is America today, only to find my head rocking back as I close the laptop in metaphorical flight.

I’ve been accused of many things, failure of imagination isn’t one of them. Yet here I sit looking at the little section of apartment that used to hold my kitchen table, unable to imagine what comes next, much the way I was unable to imagine that a glass table can explode without any heat, weight, crack or trigger to cause it. Had I imagined it was possible, I would have researched and discovered this is something that sometimes happens, and wouldn’t have purchased a glass dining table.

I understand what’s happening. People full of anger and frustration, maybe even boredom, decided life wasn’t as good for them as it could be–for some not as good as it should be–and in that anger, frustration, and boredom decided to fuck up everyone’s life. To be fair, much as I knew this would be bad, we all (right and left) thought our system of checks and balances was stronger than it’s turned out to be; riddled with loopholes and gentleman’s agreements based on the premise that those voted into office would indeed be gentlemen/women. I’m not talking about the millionaires/billionaires who support 45; those people will be fine. They were fine regardless of who was at the helm, and they’ll be fine next week, too. But the rest. The poor, the working class, the middle class.

The GOP that has turned itself into a caricature that embraces candidates who openly campaign on platforms of xenophobia, homophobia, racism and misogyny. Take a good look at the current GOP.  45’s win wasn’t a one-off.  The millions of people who continue to support 45 and all the sullen resentment he represents.  The millions of people who believe un-boundaried second amendment rights are more important than the victims of mass murderers, those who cannot even utter the words domestic terrorists when connected to a white male face. The millions who believe pro-life only matters when fighting for the pre-born.  The millions who refuse to see how our country was built and thrived with the work of immigrants, and people of color, and women, and science. The millions who believe international diplomacy is for wimps. The millions who believe regulations from the EPA and the FDA are overreach, but governmental control of my uterus is for my own good.  The millions who believe freedom of religion only counts for the right religions.  The millions who are so anxious not to regret their votes they are willing to ignore the cyber invasion and manipulations of a foreign government.  Willing to blame the victims of a devastating hurricane–and happy to ignore that these same victims are US citizens in US territories. The millions who haven’t said a damned word about CHIP expiring, despite the fact that this directly harms many of their own literal children, let alone that we’re talking about 9 million of our collective children losing their health insurance. The millions who insist on turning a needed national conversation about race and police brutality into nonsense flag waving.

Trickle down economics didn’t work the last time, and was harmful to most. Facing it again, when coupled with weakened unions, erosion of labor laws/protections, loss of protections and regulations for individuals against banks and big business? What is that going to look like? I’m guessing it’s going to look a lot like hunger, disease, and homelessness.

I know many of my friends still have hope, they take heart in knowing there are millions who believe as they do, as I do, in justice, equality, and democracy. That’s true and great, but “we” aren’t the ones in control of this country, and when we were, we didn’t see or understand just how many raised their children on the bitter milk of hatred and ignorance.  Facts have been decried fake, journalists declared the enemy, science declared irrelevant, equality outdated, and loyalty to Party more valued than loyalty to country, citizens, humanity, or common sense.  America isn’t just divided, we are shattered.  For all the memes and giggles about how ineffective this congress has been, they’ve been doing real and significant damage every day that has and will have real and long lasting consequences.

If we haven’t come together for natural disasters (well, natural when viewed through the lens of global climate change), mass slaughter of children and adults, or actual attacks on our country from both foreign entities and enemies within, attacks on voting rights and journalism (both bedrocks of a democratic nation) when, exactly, will this come-together moment happen? What is this country?  And what will we be in another year’s time?

For all my blathering, I don’t have the words.  Not for what I’m feeling now, and not for what we may look like tomorrow.  Maybe my imagination is better than I think, and I’m in fact being overly dramatic. Just in case, someone let me know how to prepare for the zombie apocalypse–the other scenario I’ve never been able to imagine.

No, I’m not feeling too good.

 

Yeah, But: aka, Dear Hillary

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m working on being ok. Can’t say I’m there, but I’m working on it. Between back to school, medical mayhem in our home, extreme weather events to obsess over, and a new political disaster every 24 (if we’re lucky we make it to 24) hours, easier said than done, no matter how many times I reread Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.

Speaking of reading, yesterday I decided to get myself an early birthday gift and downloaded Hillary Clinton’s latest, What Happened, and Salman Rushdie’s latest, The Golden House. Why these two, when they’re both new releases, and therefore full (nook) price? Rushdie because he’s Rushdie. Obviously. And Clinton for several reasons. One, because instead of adjusting and leveling off, this current chapter in US history is more awful every day, and I just don’t see a path that truly takes us forward. Two, it’s interesting, I’m fascinated to read what her thoughts are, I do care what she has to say.  She’s a powerful woman who has done more and handled more than 99.7% of us dream of past the age of 9. Three, quotes I’ve read from What Happened make her seem/feel more human than anything outside of those photos floating around the web of her wearing her oversized glasses and earnest youth. And four, I’m pissed as hell seeing all those judgmental posts from people decrying her nerve to blame others, she needs to accept responsibility, blah blah blah. I’m talking about posts from Dems and Progressives.

Responsibility? How about our responsibility as citizens of a democratic society to remember that our elected leaders are human beings, with all the messiness, faults, and fuck-ups that go along with being human? Yes, we have always and we should always hold those in positions of leadership and power to a higher standard, but there’s a difference between accountability  and impunity. We cannot expect superhuman, and in my opinion, this line of thinking is uncomfortably close to the thinking that brought us 45, with his oversized id, hubris, complete disdain for others, disregard of the law, our government, and the norms that have always guided us. People voted for him because of all this. They didn’t want a democratic politician or a regular old human being. They wanted Big Daddy who was going to fix it all and take care of them, not allowing any pesky facts, norms, laws or humanity to get in the way.

As I said to a friend, yes, Hillary was a flawed candidate–I said here on the blog months before the election the DNC would share blame if 45 won.  In fact, I said I’d blame everyone. Well here we are. I don’t blame everyone, but culpability certainly does not rest with one person, or even a select few. A lot of history, a lot of hate, a lot of skewed facts, media slants, Russian interference, lack of compassion, lack of comprehension, and lack of complex thinking brought us here. Close to 63 million votes, I believe. And oh yeah, the electoral college–because when we saw the winner of the popular vote lose the election because of the electoral vote in 2000, we let it ride. Guess what? Bernie was flawed, too. But the choice wasn’t between two flawed and human candidates, it was between one that was flawed and one that was out and out cracked.

I don’t know about anyone else, but the expressions of wishing Clinton would fade away and be quiet feel an awfully lot like an admonition to be a good girl and go make coffee.

I began reading on the trains this morning.

Dear Mrs Clinton, 

I hope all those complaining and saying you need to accept blame read What Happened. At least the Author’s Note in the beginning, where you clearly take responsibility for your choices, actions, and words. 

I’m glad I purchased the book, but I’m sorry I began reading it today. I started tearing up on the way to the girl’s school, so I put it away. Blubbering mom on the subway doesn’t work out so well. I took it out again after drop-off, and ended up missing my stop. I don’t know how you managed to write and edit this with all so raw; each day bringing another insult to America. I don’t know if I can read it through right now, I’m working on being okay, and What Happened is looking so closely at all that isn’t okay. On the other hand, burying our heads in the sand hasn’t worked out so well, to say the least. Whether I read the entirety over the next few days or put it back in the queue and wait a few months, I still thank you for what I’ve read so far. For all the shame woven into the fabric of where we are as a country today, I thank you for the reminder that I’m living in an age where a woman finally did make it to be the first female nominee of a major political party in the United States–wearing white, the color of the suffragettes, to remind us all of the years and work it took to get there.  You did so with power, persistence, and grace. It matters. 

Namaste. 

Respectfully yours, 

Mrs Fringe

 

Peace, Love, & Feminist Fury

 

 You may know me as someone who’s angry, a loudmouth New Yorker who howls about equality and civil rights and whines about writing. You may know me as someone who’s kind of hippie dippie, wanting peace on earth and goodwill towards all, wanting the homeless to be housed and fed, someone found at Grateful Dead concerts back in the day who still wears the occasional piece of tie-dyed clothing while doing yoga.  These are both me, and this post is an expansion of thoughts over the past several days and a couple of discussions I’ve had.

Everyone is angry right now. The Neo-nazis are angry because they’re nazis, that’s their whole ugly shtick. Those of us on the left are angry because we see a rise in injustice, clear threats to democracy and freedoms, and we see the progress of the last fifty years–spotty and slow though it may have been–at risk.  Those who are silent are angry because they don’t see why they should have to get involved or choose a side, all these protests are a nuisance mucking up their daily commute.

It’s okay to be angry. At this moment, I think it’s a moral obligation. I also think it’s an obligation to speak up and exercise our freedom of speech. Always true, but now more than ever, as we are watching it be threatened by our current government here in America. That said, there are limits to freedom of speech as there have to be, because we live in a society, amongst others, ruled by laws and mores. For example, “threats of intimidation” are not protected Free Speech under law.  I got into a discussion about this with someone on Facebook this morning, who declared he believed in absolute? absolutist? freedoms of speech. (I’d like to look back and use the correct word, but after an hour long discussion that remained calm and civil, he deleted the thread in a muddied display of passive-aggression by not mentioning that he had done this, just reposting his original thought and another stating that political arguments are a waste of time. He needn’t worry, I won’t waste any more of his time or mine.) He argued following the rule of law when it comes to free speech. We differed on interpretation of the law within the framework of this past weekend in VA. I agreed and agree the law is important, but I also believe we as individuals have to speak up so the courts can take the will of the people into account when making decisions. Our country, our world, has changed and evolved and continues to do so. Once upon a time segregation was legal, that didn’t make it right, just, moral, or something to support. He argued censorship, slippery slope, etc. Censorship is an ugly word, with many frightening connotations, no doubt.  In my mind, most ideas/positions/arguments are shades of gray, we are messy, complex human beings living in a messy, complex world. But some things are black and white. Threatening the safety and lives of others because of political or religious ideology, because of a false sense of white makes right, a false sense of penises are more important than vaginas; this is unacceptable.

This leads me to whataboutism. What about those who are violent on the left, those who identify as Antifa? This of course is the question that has been asked of me and every other left-leaning person who has stated a “protest” that begins with angry, armed, torch bearing white supremacists is not and should not be protected free speech. I’ll suggest right along with my other liberal friends that those who ask the question should first do a bit of research into American history over the past fifty years, and look at how many murders and acts of domestic terrorism have been carried out in the name of Neo-nazis and white supremacists vs how many have been carried out by Antifa. But here’s where I splinter off. I’ve seen a lot of jokes and memes about it being right, maybe even a moral obligation, to punch Nazis. I don’t believe anyone has the right or is in the right to initiate violence. You can go ahead and call me an apologist, a feminazi, a hippie, a cunt–whatever. I may tell you to fuck off, but I’m not going to hit you.  I’m not truly a pacifist, either.  Because if you punch me, while the odds are I’m going to go down, I’m going to come up swinging.  I believe everyone has the right to defend themselves if attacked, and to defend those who can not defend themselves.

I believe in gun control, I believe there shouldn’t be open carry laws, and I believe it should be illegal to bring weapons to a protest even if that protest occurs in a state that has open carry laws. It is irresponsible and in my opinion immoral to bring weapons into these situations. Think about how horrible the loss of three lives was this weekend. How awful every single loss of life due to imagined threats has been, whether that loss was within the framework of political protest, white supremacy, or even worse, police brutality. I have spent a lot of time thinking about how easily the situation could have been much worse. If the police had been more forceful–and I wish they would have been earlier than they were–but how easily it could have been a complete disaster, with the loss of dozens, perhaps hundreds of lives if just one Nazi nut job felt threatened while holding a gun so it shifted from the “joys” of beating on counter protesters to firing on them; if just one police officer became too forceful too quickly, feared for their life and fired a shot, and so many of those protesters were armed and armored with weapons of equal force. Are my beliefs censorship under our current laws? I’m not sure, maybe they are.  Maybe I’m naive and in a time where violence and extremist rhetoric is growing and finding legitimacy in our government, maybe this isn’t the time to hang onto hippie principles of peace, love, and inclusion.  Maybe I’m sticking my head in the sand believing that I can be angry without wanting to physically harm others. Maybe. But while I do find the current political climate alarming enough to believe we all need to be aware, vocal, and on high alert, I just don’t believe might makes right.

(I’m sure I’ve posted this one before, but it seems the only appropriate video)

Regular Joes

 

 And useless distinctions. You know I can’t let the horror of Nazis marching in Virginia–chanting traditional nazi slogans and carrying torches–go without comment. From Friday night through this morning, I followed in a daze of anger, frustration, and grief with the Twitter feed rolling, Facebook open, three news sites open and MSNBC on the tv.  Much has already been said and I’m not sure if I have anything new to add to the conversation, but there are a couple of things (beyond the obvious) that strike me.

I’m seeing a lot of “these are regular guys, don’t call them Nazis.” First of all, many of them proudly self-identify as Nazis.  Second and more important–what/who does anyone think the Nazis of infamy were?  That’s exactly what made them so horrifying; these weren’t movie monsters with furred backs, gruesome and jagged teeth, and special recessive hate genes that left them thirsty for kosher blood. Most of them weren’t even elites always raised to believe their class bestowed special status. The vast majority of rank and file members of every genocide throughout history have been regular Joes and Janes. Just like the regular guys who were carrying their Pier 1 tiki torches on Friday night at the University of Virginia. Sounds like a joke, right? Tiki torches. But torches held aloft en masse at night while crying out slogans from WW II are designed for one thing: intimidation. Not free speech.  Intimidation. And brutality, and dehumanization.

These guys didn’t show up with banners and songs and confused ideology, they showed up with rage, weapons, and literal armor. We are a free country with free speech, with laws designed to protect the citizens from harm and overreach.  Something has gone awry here when laws and freedoms are perverted to protect hate, aggression, and intimidation.

When I was young and in college, I wasn’t much of a student and history was barely on my radar.  I had the grades but not the drive or discipline, dropped out before I could get a Bachelor’s degree. A couple of things have stuck with me, though. One is this study, learned in Psych 101. One is a story I may have told here before, but it bears repeating now.  I took an English class, Women and…something. I don’t remember what we were reading or discussing, but I remember a woman standing up.  I don’t know if I had ever heard her speak until that day. She was an older student, an immigrant with a thick German accent who had decided to go back to school after retirement.  She talked about being raised in Berlin during the rise of Hitler, from a Jewish family with money and education. Hitler didn’t hide who he was, but he didn’t begin with everything. He didn’t have his armies round up and kill 11 million people all in one day, and he didn’t begin with those in positions of relative privilege. So this woman talked about her family and others like them not believing the rumors of what was to come. Surely their neighbors and coworkers were never going to join this psychopathic ideology and hurt them. That was nonsense, just a few crazy, desperate, uneducated and not noteworthy followers.  Young people getting temporarily involved in angry nuttiness as young people do. Then the rumors of what was happening outside of Berlin. They still didn’t believe the rumors. Needless to say, her family was rounded up and I believe she was the only one to make it out of Auschwitz alive.

If you haven’t ever done so, talk to some older people who were in WWII, read the memoirs. Not just those who escaped from Europe, but soldiers from America and elsewhere who fought during the war, and civilians at home. Most of those soldiers and civilians will tell you they didn’t know, didn’t understand, or didn’t believe the rumors of how terrible it was until the concentration camps were liberated and they saw it for themselves, then film and photos started pouring out to the folks back home. 11 million people. Jews and Romani were targeted for extinction, but they were far from the only ones. Political dissidents, gays, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Communists, Socialists, trade Unionists, disabled, all marked as political prisoners, and 5 million of them died in those camps.

If you still believe it can’t happen in America, think again. Think about the fact that Berlin was evolved and liberal enough a place to have been considered a safe haven for gay artists and writers to live openly in between the two world wars. Think about the Milgram experiment. Think about America’s long and shameful history of persecution of immigrants and minorities; how we can select coasters printed with cherry picked quotes from Martin Luther King Jr right next to Confederate flags in Walmart. Think about how we had our own internment camps in the US during WWII. Think about documented police brutality happening now. Think about the Black Lives Matter movement, how and why it’s still needed in the year 2017 in America. Think about women’s rights being eroded right now in the courts throughout the country. Think about how it’s just now, almost 250 years after we slaughtered the majority of the Native Americans whose land this was, people are arguing about whether or not it’s ok to alternately mock and appropriate Native American culture (hint, it isn’t ok). Think about the current attacks designed to denigrate and defund facts, science, journalism and education. Think about how many people online over the last couple of days have chosen not to discuss and clearly repudiate the Nazis marching in Virginia, instead talking in circles about free speech and the right to bear arms. Think about how many American citizens voted for 45, a man who campaigned on hate and lies; forget that he didn’t win the popular vote and remember that tens of millions of American citizens were willing to go along with and support a man who didn’t immediately reject the support of the KKK, a man who openly associated with and took as advisors white nationalists, a man who places dictators like Putin above democratic and democratically elected leaders, a man who made clear all the way through he wasn’t interested in representing all Americans, a man who is more interested in technicalities of how he can get away with flaunting the established norms than being a civil servant.

This morning I saw many referring to quotes from GOP members over the past 24 hours, how wonderful that several have stepped up to call these white nationalists by name and call them terrorists, boo hoo-ing about family members who fought during WWII. Thanking them. Hmm. Yes, I believe these are domestic terrorists, but can’t help but think about the young woman who was killed yesterday–and the many others injured–when a car driven by one of these home grown nazis intentionally plowed into the counter-protesters. And when I think of her, I’m thinking of the bills put forth by GOP members *this year* saying drivers will be shielded from liability if they hit protesters. Here’s one example, there are others. Sure, this is supposedly to shield unintentional accidents, but it sends a message. Protesting and inconveniencing drivers? Not ok. Showing up to a protest armed and armored? Dandy. Holding these GOP members up as shining examples against 45, who offered only vague references about hate on many sides because he doesn’t want to offend his base and because he just doesn’t care. I call bullshit. They did this. They fed the hate and rise of nazis in this country by supporting 45, rubber stamping his choices for Cabinet members and advisors in the White House, not complaining about a budget designed to defund homegrown extremists who aren’t Muslim. Words mean nothing if they aren’t ousting him and his fascist advisors, taking action to keep Americans safe. All Americans. And to keep immigrants safe, acknowledging and valuing the many, many contributions they have given and continue to give our country.

So think about it. And while you’re thinking, speak up and speak out. None of this will get better, and things will surely get much worse if we don’t stop pretending that America is magically protected from its own poor and fearful choices.

Yous Guys are Ruining Everything!

 

 There’s the obvious. Like education, health care, democracy, civil rights, women’s rights, immigration, free press, our country, the earth. Then there’s the not-so-obvious sucking the joy out of the little things that aren’t so little.

Like language. More specifically, colorful language–cursing, cussing, profanity, swearing, plain old dirty words.  It’s funny, I was thinking about this the other day, mentioned the blog to a friend and gave my usual warning that it can be considered offensive. Then the New Yorker piece came out and oy.   Not just the article itself, but the fact that it was in the damned New Yorker.  The holy grail of culture. A magazine read worldwide, almost 100 years old, a veritable institution known for ethics, fact checking, and intelligence.  I hope they gain 50,000 new subscribers because of that article, and I trusted every word because of where it was coming from, but I can’t help but think it would have been more appropriate for the mooch to call the National Enquirer.

I don’t curse as much in real life as I do as on the blog. Maybe when I’m very angry. Or very drunk. Or very comfortable. *Ahem*  I know not everyone feels as comfortable as I do with the word fuck but well, it’s an excellent word. How many others can be used as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, article, conjunction, preposition, and an interjection?  Some curses don’t make sense to me, even though they’ve become part of the vernacular. I seem to remember it being a really big deal to call someone a douchebag when I was in high school.  Now I hear “douche” coming from the tv.  I still don’t get it.  Ooh, you’re a hygiene product, what a slur.  Isn’t soap supposed to be the cure for a dirty mouth?

There are some words I don’t care for, they make me feel squicky. Not sure why, but they do.  So hey, the official Communications Director can feel free to keep the term cocksucker.

Could I write my blog posts without the curses? Sure I could, but I don’t want to. They’re part of the fictionalized version of me that is Mrs Fringe, and to scrub them would feel like those occasional pieces of fiction I come across where the (usually newer) writer has heard all forms of “to be” are passive writing and should be omitted. The passages that result are often needlessly contorted–anything but fun to read.  The other side is that I generally spend a fair amount of time on each post. Thinking about the subject, drafting, redrafting, editing, choosing photos and songs.  Each swear used is consciously chosen for impact or stylistic choice.  Over the five years I’ve been doing this there’ve probably been about 50 posts that I wrote, rewrote, thought about, played with, and then deleted.  Not because every post is a pearl, but because some things shouldn’t be said.  Or maybe just not said out loud. The transcript of words-ya-can’t-say-on-tv we read about the other day wasn’t about specific, careful thought.  It was a tantrum filled with verbal tics. Beyond all of it, in this political climate, I don’t think we can afford to be out of fucks.

That fudging Commander in Chief just doesn’t have the right ring, does it? However, I can still appreciate the brilliant words of Johnny Carson and wish the fleas of a thousand camels infest the armpits of those down in DC being excused as “just how New Yorkers are.” They are not my New York, and I refuse to let them co-opt my words.

 

That Ain’t No Shiny Squirrel

Fireworks gone wrong, seemed quite appropriate on this year’s 4th of July

We can’t see the official 4th of July fireworks display from our apartment. Imagine our surprise when Art Child said, “look! Fireworks!” and wasn’t pointing to the tv. The first couple were cool, a nice bonus surprise. Then we really started to wonder about where these were coming from. They seemed mighty close. And low. And uncontrolled. On the river, a safe distance from people and flammables, fireworks displays are lovely. In the middle of a busy city street, flares shooting and landing on people’s occupied terraces? Not so much.

Over the last seven months, there’ve been a couple of themes I hear repeatedly. One is distraction, the other is that nothing has been accomplished.

I call bullshit on both. Much like those fireworks, what is being done is only an amusing glittery spectacle until someone’s hair catches fire.  The current administration & congress may not have gotten any major legislation through yet, but they’ve done quite a bit of damage–and move us further into fascist territory every day.

If you are someone who relies on healthcare, loves someone who relies on healthcare, or might someday be someone who relies on healthcare, yesterday’s Senate vote to open debate on healthcare harms you. In other words, except for a select few who are both millionaires and those who won the genetic lottery–all of us. *The only thing here I actually would term a distraction is McCain, who gave such a lovely speech about service and reason–after, of course, voting to open the debate, which is just another way to phrase repeal of the ACA.

If you are someone who has investments on Wall Street, or a job dependent on Wall Street (directly or indirectly), you’ve been harmed by the deregulations of the protections that were in place.

If you are an immigrant, the child of an immigrant, have a doctor who’s an immigrant, or live a life that is in any way effected by immigrants, you’ve been harmed. Here or here, for just a bit of information.

If you are a woman, or have any women or girls in your life you care about, well. Here, here, here, and here, to name a few. Don’t get me started on sexual assault, the second 45 wasn’t dropped by everyone after bragging about grabbing ’em by the pussy, we knew we were saying goodbye to control over our own bodies.

If you are dependent in any way on the planet, well, sorry, more bad news. So many greedy takers in this country, wanting reasonably clean air and water,  food free of toxic chemicals. Tree huggers, all of yous.

Let’s not forget how our new daddies are going to save us from those bad, evil marijuana smokers and boogeymen just waiting to grab us on every corner. But don’t worry, none of that pesky due process nonsense necessary. Or police oversight.  I know, I’m supposed to feel bad for Sessions right now, under assault from 45…I just can’t. Yes, this is another example of 45 throwing our democratic norms out the window, but let’s not forget Sessions is hanging in not to provide healthy balance, but to do every last racist bit of damage he can.

What’s that you say? Jobs? Let’s take a look here, or here.

Our “standing” in the world at large? We didn’t need those allies anyway. ‘Murica.

But it’s all ok, because deep down 45 is a good guy, right? Supporter of the LGBTQ community. Surprise! You’re getting fucked, too. Sorry, Caitlyn.

I could go on all day with examples and links. This doesn’t touch the daily assaults on what used to be democracy because of the Russian connections/questions/investigations. This isn’t specifying the unfathomable harm being done to all people of color in this country, which would have to be a series of posts unto itself.

I’m tired of hearing Republicans and the GOP are going to step up and come to their senses, remember they used to pretend to be the party of values and morals. They haven’t and they aren’t. Most of all, I’m tired of hearing all of these assaults are mere distractions.  These distractions are doing incalculable damage to us and future generations.  Snickers about the lack of legislation, inexperience and lack of political savvy are all well and good, but those sparks have caught hold, and we are all on fire.

 

 

Indulgence

The best laid plans

This morning I had a conversation with a friend about indulgences. The way right now, in our current political climate, everything that isn’t calling or protesting feels like an indulgence–a struggle between needing to step away and allow yourself to enjoy something and feeling guilty for doing (let alone enjoying) anything that isn’t directly related to learning everything possible about what’s going on; trying to sort out reality from scaremongering, hope from wishful thinking.

I’ve been eating too much (and way too large a percentage is comfort food), watching the news/Twitter feed/reading the news too much, not sleeping enough, worrying too much (maybe, it feels like there’s no such thing as too much worrying when our society is imploding and half the time my girl’s eyeballs look like they’re on fire; when an evening of fun results in a day of not feeling well and seizure watch while the GOP decides just how much health care she doesn’t deserve) and not writing much at all. Is there a point to working on the MIP (Mess In Progress) right now? It’s speculative, my usual magical realism with additional elements of near future dystopia.  How’s that for a non-sensical mouthful? Not sure I’ve seen that shelf in Barnes & Noble. Eventually, if it ever gets completed, I’ll sort it out. I’ve read several excellent novels recently, a few of which have been smart, smart dystopians. Is what I’m saying really new/different/adding to the conversation?  How exactly do I add to a word count when I’m bombarded by bills, laws, and declarations that my voice–as a woman of a certain age, as a mother, as someone in the wrong tax bracket, as someone who lives in New York–doesn’t count?  Is there a point to blogging and bleating about subversive, unethical happenings in government that will harm us all when actual journalists are being blown off, attacked, jailed, and prevented from recording the daily propaganda statements?

Naturally, in the interest of keeping the few marbles I have left, this is where I stop thinking and get back to cooking.

Hmm, not quite right, is it?

I’ve been making this particular coffee cake for years. I think it was the first cake I ever made, my grandmother loved it. Not only have I been making it for years, I’ve been making it in the same dish. Today, I didn’t feel like climbing up to get that dish down from the top cabinet, and this other pan was already out.  Years ago had I done this, I would have a) stopped at this point to get the correct baking dish down and transferred the batter before adding the apples and topping, b) made another batch to double the recipe/fill the pan, or, most likely c) scrapped it and begun again.  Today I went with d) screw it, let’s see what happens.

Close enough, it still tastes good.

Comfort food, anyone?

Feed It All Your Woes

Through the fountain, Columbus Circle

I don’t know about anyone else, but my short stories always start with a sense. A glimpse, a scent, a phrase overheard, a taste. I used to imagine an eventual book of short stories, grouped by each of the senses. Usually while I’m walking, something will trigger the writing portion of my brain and burrow in. Often I try to ignore it, and over the coming days, weeks, months, I’ll know it’s growing, creating tunnels that connect into a story by the time I sit down to write.  This is not my “process” (could I sound any more pretentious?) for full length manuscripts. I am not a careful plotter who creates extensive notes, charts, and detailed outlines, but a full novel needs more than a whiff.

One of these bristle-worms-of-the-brain began creating a space for itself the other day as I walked down the wet subway stairs to wait for the dreaded 6 train. I’m letting it lie, don’t have an actual story for this story yet, but for whatever reason it’s brought up all kinds of old memories.

For me, old memories are pretty much synonymous with old music, the songs and albums I associate with different people and experiences, from jazz to blues to classic rock, from punk to show tunes to folk rock.   Anyway, I thought of an old friend I haven’t thought of in years. I can’t remember his full name, but I remember hours of poring over used albums in Academy Records and Bleecker Bobs.  He taught me about reggae beyond Bob Marley, and after work I would drag him to the (now mostly gone) hole in the wall folk rock bars of the west Village. We worked with autistic children and teens when autism was still considered a rare disorder, before the definition and diagnosis expanded to a spectrum, and drowning myself in music was the best way to not leave my heart smashed in a million pieces behind the head of a child trying to use his skull like a hammer.

Naturally this led me to youtube, listening to music I haven’t listened to in a long time, including the album below, which I’ve been listening to for the past three days.  I know I wore through at least two copies on vinyl and one on cassette, and while I can’t tell you how many years since I last listened, I still remember every word of every lyric. The entire album is beautiful, and some of it is quite dark, but when I was younger it left me hopeful and looking forward.  Now it’s got me looking back, time and opportunities lost. This was Joni Mitchell’s debut album (ancient as I am, it was already long released by the time I “discovered” it).  For all of her albums that I have owned and enjoyed, and despite the fact that when my birthday comes I associate it with her collaboration with Charles Mingus–their rap/scat of Happy Birthday, this is still my favorite.  Song to a Seagull.

Magical Thinking

Reality or Magical–What do you see?

Yes, it’s been a while.  Again.  First I was working on a post that’s still sitting in my drafts folder because I couldn’t beat the words into sense, and then life.  Blah blah, medical mayhem, lots of waiting rooms and doctor’s offices, suffice it to say I’m pretty sure any vision test I take from this point forward is null and void– I’ve seen so many while sitting with my girl, I’ve got every chart memorized. Thank you, my fellow Dems/Liberals for being diligent and insisting on being heard about how disastrous the proposed health care bill was, and thank you, GOP, for being in such a mess that you’ve had to put your we-want-you-to-suffer-painfully plans on hold so I can keep doing this.

And oh yes, I’m writing again.  A secret unless you a) read this blog post or b) follow my twitter feed (which you should, because on the thrice annual occasion that I remember to log on, I retweet with the best of them).  It might be more accurate to say I’m rewriting, because this isn’t a glittery new project, this is the rusty old wreck I tabled a few years back that I’ve already talked about reworking.  I figure I *might* be able to use half of what was there, and overall I don’t yet know if I’m taking something that was meh and making it better, or taking something that was meh and puking weird and unidentifiable bits of acid all over it.

Takes a bit of magical thinking to write a novel, regardless of genre.  More than a bit if you’re writing with an eye towards publication.  If you’re looking at trade publishing (as in–not self-publishing) I’m pretty sure the odds are 843,000,000,000 to one.  A couple of years back I blogged about the need for big brass ones in order to believe this could be done.  Despite regular polishing of my metaphorical testicles, here I am, still one of the unwashed and unpublished wannabe novelists.  Clearly, in addition to working diligently on the MIP (Mess in Progress, since I’m still unsure if I can call it a Work in Progress) the answer is to sprinkle some eye of newt into my word cauldron, maybe wave a bit of sage, and wear my very pointiest hat.

Whatever we’re wishing for, I think most of us engage in a bit of magical thinking.  Like, say, this woman.  This is a hell of a story, an excellent snapshot of why supporting 45 and his merry band of fascists was a bad idea.  She’s an American citizen married to a not-quite-undocumented Mexican immigrant.  She voted for our current regime, because she thought they only meant they would deport the “bad ones.”  Her husband wasn’t in hiding, checked in with ICE when he was supposed to, gainfully employed, paid taxes, legit, provisional Social Security number.  Needless to say he is currently in jail awaiting deportation because ‘Murica.  I’ve seen a lot of people comment on this story, some gleeful at her comeuppance, some who feel sorry for her.  Me? Shrug. I take no pleasure in what has to be a painful and terrifying experience for her husband and their children, but I don’t feel sorry for her.  He was very clear about his beliefs and vision, started his whole damned campaign with racial slurs about Mexican immigrants. This is an example of dangerous magical thinking; belief that no one can see you behind a clear shower curtain, that it’s ok and safe to wish harm on others; ok to strip rights, dignity, even humanity because other.

There were never any real plans offered by this President and his administration regarding how they would make things great. The closest they came to concrete plans involved who they were going to vilify, and how he could do whatever he wanted while keeping his supporters and increasing his net worth.  His net worth, not yours.  I’ve said this many times already, once you say it’s okay to dehumanize this group and that group, it’s a guarantee that more groups will be added to that list, and yours will surely be added sooner or later.  I hope no one reading this is surprised and hurt to discover this, but 45 and his cronies don’t see you as a human being.  You were a vote. If you voted for him, he’s done with you, if you didn’t, you never existed in the first place. Let’s go back to that disastrous bill, HurryUpandDieCare.  This is from a meeting on Thursday night, with a no holds barred attempts to squeeze votes out of those who thought it was still too generous a plan.  “Forget about the little shit.”  The little shit is you, me, and the woman from Indiana whose husband is sitting jail.

A little magical thinking might carry me through months of work on this MIP, enough to (hopefully) craft a cohesive and interesting story, maybe adding the tears of a baby dragon will get me through the querying process. It won’t get me published. Magical thinking got 45 and company into office, it won’t make them responsible, compassionate, or skilled–and it surely won’t protect us from the damage.