United States

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.

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.

 

 

25, 45, 65: Hut!

Sunrise, because who needs sleep?

The majority of those I know and those I follow on social media are rightly pleased with the appointment of a special counsel (and with the specific appointment of Robert Mueller) to investigate the possible (lol) collusion and coordination between 45’s camp and Russian officials.  This puts us on the road to possible impeachments, indictments, convictions.

There are also quite a few calling for the use of the 25th Amendment, which would be a way of removing 45 because he is literally unfit for office. I think this is the option that makes the most sense because, in my opinion, he is literally unfit and unable to comprehend the responsibilities, duties, and consequences of his words and actions. This doesn’t address the larger problems, which are all the things and people that put us here. As I said in my last post, nothing he has done or said is a surprise, he is who he’s always been. When this is all over, if there is even a pretense of democracy left, we will be here again, unless we address the underlying issues. Now. I’m just going to hit a few of the biggies, the most immediate concerns.

Fake news! This is a real issue. The FCC needs to stop worrying about who used the seven dirty words and instead get some regulation and oversight going over who can/cannot identify their TV/cable/newspapers/internet sites as news. If there aren’t fact checkers working overtime, they don’t issue corrections when they get it wrong, and they’re just spouting off whatever comes into their heads (yanno, like Mrs Fringe), they aren’t news and cannot call themselves news.

The GOP: Yup, every one of those fuckers has got to go. Not because I disagree with their tax plan, and not even because I think we should have nationalized health care, but because they knew. They all knew.  Each and every one of them knew he was unqualified, unstable, a proven liar, relied on unstable extremists as advisors, wore his many, many lawsuits like medals, viewed women as objects to be categorized and mauled, viewed immigrants as occasionally useful subhumans, admired dictators above democratic leaders, and strongly suspected Russian ties.  They supported him anyway.  They thought he’d make them and their buddies lots of money by relaxing and omitting those pesky regulations (correct), and likely they thought his inexperience and disinterest in the nuts and bolts would make him easily manipulable (big old incorrect).  These are not people who take their duties as elected representatives with any degree of responsibility, no true ethics.  Get rid of every last slimy one.  This includes the VP. He knew all of it. If he didn’t, he’s as incompetent as 45.  And yes, McCain too.  Moderate my ass. He opened the door to these loon extremists being taken seriously with Sarah Palin, and fell right in line behind 45 as eagerly as the so-called Freedom Caucus (formerly known as the Tea Party).

Us. By us I include those who supported and continue to support 45.  I can’t think of a single thing he stands for that I don’t despise, but. We are still the United States of America, fractured as we might be right now, so it is distinctly unhelpful to draw an invisible line with invisible ink and blame “those people.”  Sure, some of his supporters are unrecognizable to me as American citizens, with their hiding on compounds hugging their armories and preparing for Armageddon, but more of his supporters are regular Joes and Janes who hate. That hatred has festered and spread, cultured with ignorance and disinformation until there were enough to vote someone like 45 into the office of President of the United States. This didn’t just happen overnight–we’ve got that long history of hatred–that long history of bullshit pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and a more recent history where we’ve gone from admiring those who succeeded against the odds to glorifying the uneducated and vilifying those who do the work and get their actual degrees by studying. It happened when people said “W was a “C” student” like that was a good thing. Having Jefferson Beuregard Sessions, a man too racist to make it through to become a federal judge during the Reagan administration as our Attorney General didn’t happen overnight.  It happened with the acceptance of the privatization of the prison system increasing the flow of the school to prison pipeline for young men (and women) of color, it happened with the demonization and endorsement of bullshit studies re marijuana, it happened when Black Lives Matter was regarded as a nuisance instead of a necessity, it happened when we allowed racial profiling to flourish. It happened when we allowed police brutality, particularly against people of color, to continue unchecked without justice.

More us. It’s time to stop fantasizing about the only acceptable President being the Messiah. Barack Obama was an excellent President, but he was neither perfect nor magical.  This made his decisions untenable to many on both the left and the right. Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t that just a little bit completely batshit crazy?

We are in trouble. We are in trouble on the world stage, and we are in trouble within our own borders. The American social fabric isn’t merely torn, it’s ragged. I don’t believe a patch will hold, we have to rework these threads.

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.

Another Day, Another Leap Backwards

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The image above is quite the statement, no?

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I can’t possibly write a post for every new atrocity I see coming from Washington DC or read about these past six days.  I, along with most of the people I know, am overwhelmed.  Shocked. Disgusted.  Infuriated. Flabbergasted.  For a few brief hours between Saturday night and Sunday morning, I had some hope.  So many women marching together, across the country, across the globe.  And then I learned a new phrase, “alternative facts.”  Bye, Hope!  Give me a call and we’ll do lunch some time. As far as I can tell, alternative facts are what happen when you take a lie, dress it up, add some lipstick and good hairspray, and then shout it over the actual facts.

We have grown used to instant access to unlimited information.  Much of the last year has focused on the negatives of this, because much of the information available is untested and untrue; perhaps a kernel of truth popped through a skewed burst of rancid oil and hot air to morph into a flake that looks deceptively soft, but remains hard and undigestible as it travels through the system.  Still, having access to information, facts about what’s happening now and what has happened in the past is, to say the least, a good thing.  Access to information like: what are our rights? What is climate change? Why did World War I begin? How did Hitler gain so much power, and how were average citizens convinced to engage in atrocities against other human beings? Why have sales of George Orwell’s 1984 shot up? And of course, how did they get the toothpaste in the tube?

I don’t know about you, but I’m really going to miss facts and information when they’re banned. Oh wait, that’s already begun.  Who needs the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the information and health protections it offers to citizens?  After all, it was created by that radical progressive, Richard Nixon.  It will only slow down the slaughter of human beings sure to begin shortly with the repeal of the ACA and cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.  Who needs Public Broadcasting?  Our children don’t need access to programming that isn’t beholden to corporate sponsors, shows that teach them about their world.  Pfft, that nonsense indoctrinates them with crazy ideas, like truth and facts, justice, equality, and humanity.  Science (oh, that dirty word).  I mean, if children have access to that shit, when they grow up they might want to keep learning, know more, discuss more, research, compare facts, and (shudder) then offer that information to the public.  We’ve been promised fast and furious by our new US administration, and they aren’t hesitating to deliver.

Oh! And just in case you think this is merely early bluster, that no one is really going to limit the information available to us, we’ve been offered this gem.  Yes, journalists facing felony charges for doing their jobs. Of all the nauseating and horrific things I’ve seen and heard over the past six days, this has to be the most terrifying.  Journalism.  Journalists.  Those whose job it is to observe and report on the political process, make sure the people in office do not exploit us or democracy.  Those whose job it is to make facts available to the public.  The fourth estate.  It’s true that along with serious and investigative journalism, there’s a long history of yellow journalism.  True, newspapers, news shows, etc need to attract readers and viewers and show profits or those journalists will lose their jobs.  In this day and age of short attention spans and desires for gilded squirrels, that has to make it incredibly difficult for individual journalists to avoid yellow journalism, and/or opining when what we need are straight facts.  Also true, 90% of our media outlets are currently owned by only six corporations, which is inherently dangerous.

And with so much information being thrown at us with updates every ten minutes, it can be easy to blow off what’s important.  Not make the connections we as citizens should be making, because we’re waiting for the next guy to tell us what those connections are, what we should snicker at and where we should be paying attention. Scotch tape holding the POTUS tie together? Snicker. C’mon, seems like a no-brainer, that our President, his press secretary and his counselor are talking about inaugural crowd sizes, offering “alternative facts” about them as if this is an issue of major import, is one to snicker at.  Except it isn’t.  That the POTUS and his staff feel the need to lie about something so small (in every sense of the word) and so easily, clearly proven false is in fact extremely important. It tells us what’s important to this new administration (hint, it isn’t us, the citizens of the US), and tells us how little respect they have for the public.  It also tells us what type of relationship they intend to have with the press. Whether we love or hate the press, we need them.  We always have, we always will. Without a true, free press, there is no democracy.

With a POTUS and administration that wants to isolate us, keep us from engaging with our traditional international allies and reality, wants to tell us any news they don’t like is fake, wants to feed us bullshit on a bun and tell us it’s good ol’ ‘Merican beef; with the GOP in control of the Senate and the House having a collective, waking wet dream of enabling and encouraging them to step on any dissent and take away our freedoms, our health care, our American dream of safe havens, paths to education and upward mobility, equality; with corporations giddy over the opportunity to make themselves more moneymoremoney without having to worry about pesky regulations, safety, or oversight, the only thing we the people have left are facts.  Knowledge. Integrity.

So I’m begging all journalists, please, please keep going. Keep digging, keep investigating, keep informing us.  The day after the election, I bought subscriptions to the NY Times and the Washington Post.  I’m thinking this may have been the wisest investment I’ve ever made. Toto, we may not be in Kansas anymore, but we won’t be easing down this road. We have all been given a load to carry.  None more than journalists.

All the Best People Are

Me, as drawn by Art Child about 4 years ago, age 11

Why yes, that is my avatar

It’s funny, isn’t it?  The small things that catch hold in your mind when something big and bad is going on.  Maybe it’s a defense mechanism, to avoid the brain shutting down completely.  Kind of like the grotesque show that begins today, Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017.  For the past few weeks I’ve been alternating between reading every newspaper article I can and shutting down the laptop and zoning out with Netflix. I’m sure I don’t have to detail how I was losing my shit, reading and watching clips from the Betsy DeVos hearing.  I think the democratic senators did a great job, demonstrating through their questions, how wholly unfit and inappropriate she is for Education Secretary.  I also think it doesn’t matter.  She, and the rest of the Billionaire Club, will be approved, because all prior rules of engagement, like knowledge, qualifications, and at least a pretense of ethics have been suspended for the foreseeable future.

A couple of days ago a friend posted a picture on Facebook, a piece of art from a popular artist promoting women’s rights and being offered for download.  What caught me wasn’t the art, it was the comment (not from my friend) that artists should keep their political views to themselves.  Oh my.  So terribly, woefully ignorant, a perfect case-in-point to what has gone wrong in America.  Art is political.  It makes you feel, it makes you see, it makes you connect, it makes you understand.  Doesn’t matter if we’re talking about visual art, poetry, prose, music, or performance.  All art is political.  And art is what endures.

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My home is not what some would think of when they imagine a family of artists.  The apartment is perfectly ordinary.  Look at the sketch above, Art Child drew it about four years ago, one of her very first pieces after she began, magically, miraculously, to draw.  That’s me in the sketch, perfectly ordinary.  We struggle with bills, we struggle with chronic and debilitating health issues, we struggle with the bits and bobs of life.  And we each love music and art and poetry and food and theater and literature, each with our own draws and, if I may be so bold, talents. Husband hears distinctions and nuances in music that are an entirely different dimension than I hear.  He can turn anything into a drum and create an irresistible beat.  Man Child creates art through food, and when he’s on a stage, it’s truly captivating.  The math he loves, “pure math,” incomprehensible to me, is another language, music in its own right, a language that has no borders of origin.  Nerd Child is a musician, a director, an orator.  Listening to him on his guitar makes me want to dance and weep at the same time.  He creates new worlds we all want to live in as he directs, and when he speaks, people listen. Art Child has developed her skills and talent, creating charcoal sketches and paintings that leave not just me, but others, strangers, talking about her work long after they’ve seen it.

Me? I write. I did write.  I tried to write.  Characters that are so everyday they’re more than a bit off, think you’re going to yawn and end with an oh! Settings that begin next door and then twist into the what the fuck.  My favorite “genre” is magical realism.  Not for escape, but for exploring the difficult and often ugly realities through the fantastical. Perfectly ordinary.

I am afraid of what’s to come tomorrow, next month, next year.  I’m a woman, on the downside of middle age, a self-proclaimed sort-of feminist, unsuccessful, a big and nasty mouth with a latino family.  By definition, not who our new administration wants to see or hear from.  We are ordinary people, caught in what looks to be an extraordinary time.  I don’t expect to become the next Salman Rushdie. I’m neither brilliant nor brave enough.  Let’s be honest, at 40,000 years old, dreams of acclaim and awards are long gone, but in those moments where I let myself dream, I still dream of being able to earn a dollar from my fiction.  Not because of the dollar, but because of the validation, because it would tell me I did, in fact, have an impact and speak someone’s truth other than my own. It is my belief that it is our obligation to continue to use our chosen mediums to explore and document what is happening, how it happened, why we are here.  Now is the time to be political. Create.

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 Don’t Know How to Do This: aka, How ’bout them Mets

Table for One

Table for One

Like any good New Yorker, I’m no stranger to angst and internal conflict.  But damn, this fall–barely begun–and I already feel like I’ve never been so conflicted outside of my navel gazing sessions.  Obviously, I’m talking about this election cycle.  I’m sick of this, everywhere you look it’s been all-Trump all-the-time for a year already.  Again, New Yorker here, I was sick of Trump and his unique brand of gild and tarnish long before he officially threw his hat in the ring.  Mrs Fringe, while always intended to cover relevant political discussions, wasn’t meant to be a political blog.  But how can we not discuss this?  And therein lies the problem.  How will I sit across the dinner table from friends who support/supported Trump without a) puking and b) having my head explode?

Let’s start with an olive tray.

As any regular readers know, I’ve always prided myself on choosing not to live in an echo chamber, having friends with a variety of beliefs, lifestyles, and values.  It’s a good thing, keeps me thinking, keeps me making informed decisions, not just spouting rhetoric. Now, though, now I’m questioning this.  I’d like to interject one thought here, I have some friends on the left who are painting Trump supporters with the proverbial broad brush, “evangelical right wingers.” For the most part, in terms of people I actually know, that isn’t who I’m seeing supporting him.  I’m not religious, but have friends who are devout, and they will not support Trump because they see him as the antithesis of religious values.  I see him and the Trump/Pence ticket as the antithesis of any value system that prizes humanity, let alone ethics.

Amuse-bouche of fried tofu with truffle oil

Putting aside bombastic slogans about making America great again, let’s take a look at Trump and Pence, what each of them stands for, things they’ve said and done.  Donald Trump continually makes misogynistic statements about women.  When these types of statements are made over and over again, he didn’t misspeak, these are his beliefs.  He thought he should be lauded for not attacking Hillary Clinton because of her husband’s extramarital shenanigans.  During the debate.  I guess I’m slow, because I just don’t see how this has anything to do with the qualifications of Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States, or her policy positions.   Yesterday, we got to hear about this little gem.  Oh yes, let’s expand rape culture by voting into the office of President a man who believes mauling women is his right.  Because money, and dangly bits.  He believes Planned Parenthood, an organization that he admits helps millions of women, should be defunded.  The only logical conclusion I can make here is that he doesn’t want women to be helped.  Or healthy.  Of course, let’s not forget his quote that women who have abortions should be punished.  Pence, of course, isn’t just talking, he has a track record, strongly pro-life, his record includes restricting women’s rights in Indiana, he is strongly pro-life, has also voted against stem cell research, and voted against 4 weeks of paid family leave for federal employees.

Carrot and ginger soup garnished with slivers of pickled pig snout

One social area where Trump isn’t completely awful is gay rights.  But don’t breathe that sigh of relief just yet, first take a long hard look at Mike Pence.  The man who voted “no” on enforcing anti-gay hate crimes. My personal favorite *gag* is his history of advocating for tax dollars to fund conversion therapy. Yanno, that debunked, bullshit pseudoscience that claims gay people can be “reformed.”

Frisee salad, wilted with grapefruit sections and broccoli rabe–because this dinner can’t be too bitter.

Trump is a proponent of racial profiling.  Despite actual evidence, he thinks stop and frisk is fabulous; again, something he wants to expand. What’s that, he’s not racist? I’m being too politically correct?  Claimed a judge would be biased because of the judge’s Mexican heritage, has been sued more than once for not renting to black people, failed to reject the support of the Klu Klux Klan.  He’s still blahblahblah about that hypothetical wall between us and the Mexican border (worked so well for Berlin), he wants to ban Muslim immigrants, and from his plexiglass, gold-plated bubble, “Syrian refugees are a Trojan horse,” because helping desperate, starving people trying to live and be free to practice their religion and work is not the American way.  Owait.  Yup, must be me, he isn’t racist at all.

Roasted boar with red beans, oranges and bok choy

Trump thinks not paying federal taxes makes him smart.  Hmm.  In some respects, as a businessman, I suppose it certainly does make him savvy.  But the position of President isn’t equivalent to CEO, it’s about representing the interests of the people of our so-called democracy, not further lining his pockets.  Please, someone explain to me how anyone can believe Trump supports veterans and the military when he believes not paying the taxes that fund veterans and the military is something to brag about.  When he continually disparages the sacrifices made by veterans and their families? He says “no one respects us,” in reference to other countries.  I can certainly see the US losing respect by the day, the longer Trump has supporters.

Buccatini with parmesan and rainbow peppercorns

What’s that, dear?  Oh, jobs, yes, Trump will bring back all the jobs.  And that, after all, is a real concern for real Americans, not theoretical loss of civil rights, we’re worried about our paychecks.  And he’s a businessman.  Oh yes, his successful businesses with multiple bankruptcy filings, that is an excellent model for the United States.  His long history of reneging on contracts, not paying contractors the agreed upon fees.  What? You think I will address (again) his lies about bringing manufacturing jobs back to America when his own companies continue to exploit tax loopholes by manufacturing their products outside of the US?  Mike Pence believes those pesky regulatory burdens are economy killers?  No worries, we’re having a civilized dinner, imaginary dishes to go with all these imaginary jobs.

Aged gouda with smoked pepitas and macadamias 

Both Trump and Pence dislike the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), and would love the opportunity to repeal it.  It certainly is far from perfect, I can agree, but it’s a whole lot better than what we had before, with millions more people uninsured and people who wanted health insurance unable to get any because of preexisting conditions.  Mike Pence has voted No on giving mental health full equity with physical health, voted No on expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program, voted Yes on denying non-emergency treatment for lack of Medicare Co-Pay.  Oh yes, this is exactly who we need.  Yesterday I read about this incident.  Certainly, it wasn’t Trump or Pence who sent this epileptogenic video to this journalist with epilepsy–but I didn’t hear them immediately denouncing it, either.  Epilepsy, a potentially fatal disorder that has its own place at the dinner table in my home.  Talk about triggers– I read that article and flashed on every time I’ve watched my daughter turn gray and stop breathing.  Life and health are overrated, aren’t they?  Unless of course you’re male, white and wealthy enough that you can pay out of pocket for any and all health expenses.  If you’re fortunate enough not to have extensive experience with health care costs, let me tell you, someone has to be extraordinarily wealthy to pay out of pocket, working class/middle class won’t cut it.

Apple pie in lard crust with salep dondurma and espresso

Sorry, I don’t have the patience for a twenty-three course meal, and if I tried to hit all of the important positions this post would be 14,000 words long.  The offerings in my imaginary meal are bizarre, you didn’t imagine it.  They reflect the bizarre twists and justifications I’m seeing in defense of Trump and in defense of Trump supporters.  Over the last few days, I’ve heard a lot of talk from friends who lean left (the way I do) as they try to preserve friendships by tempering statements about “deplorables” by saying they don’t believe all Trump supporters are deplorable, they’re regular people who are nice, just afraid or misguided.  I understand that.  I don’t have that many friends, the majority of those friendships I have are treasured, steeped in mutual history, shared experiences and laughter.  But when someone supports Trump, and I think of my dinner table, I lose my appetite.  Who sits at my dinner table?  My family, my in-laws, my friends.  A diverse group that includes people of many ethnic backgrounds, skin colors, socio-economic status, varying faiths and lack thereof, different sexual orientations, differently abled.  When you support Trump, you are making a public statement that you don’t believe women are human beings, equal in any way to men, let alone entitled to feel physically safe. When you support Trump, you are saying you don’t believe in gay rights.  When you support Trump, you are saying you don’t believe people of color are deserving of the same respect and opportunities, the same safety, as white people.  When you support Trump, you are saying you don’t believe my daughter or my husband deserve to have health insurance.  You are saying it’s a-okay for my loved ones to leave my dinner table and be stopped and frisked, threatened, harassed, for daring to have lives.

This isn’t like any other election year, the Trump/Pence ticket isn’t like any other Republican offering.  You don’t get to say, “well, I like his tax plan,” and ignore the complete lack of humanity, lack of integrity, ignore his intention to repeal the rights of everyone who doesn’t think and act like Trump, repeal freedom of the press under the guise of calling out “mainstream media bias.”  If you are supporting Trump/Pence, you are allying yourself with the ticket supported by the KKK.  Think about that, the motherfucking Klu Klux Klan.  We are the company we keep.

Can We Stop Now?

Shrouded

Shrouded

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

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

But here I am, again.

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

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

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

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

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

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