Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Trying to Help and Cleaning Up the Mess

Hurricaine Harvey is agonizing to watch. All those people in distress. The children, the frail people, the elderly, and the pets. It is sheer torture to watch. It's worse watching if you haven't done anything to help yet.

A truly helpful action you can take if you aren't near enough to go rescue people in your boat is to donate money. Look for your favorites on Charity Navigator. It evaluates how efficiently they spend the money you give. There are other worthy and reputable ways to donate as well:

There are many groups accepting donations, so follow your heart. But please, don't go through your pantry for those cans that are about to expire. Don't send stuff. Stuff is expensive to transport and isn't always what people in distress need, so money is the most efficient way for reliable charities to help people. Go ahead. Donate something, even a little bit. I can wait for you to come back.

*****whistling the theme song to Jeopardy******

And you're back. Great! Now, do you feel better? I'll bet you do. Feel the glow. All the charity we give out helps us too. I read that Sandra Bullock donated a million dollars. Go Sandra Bullock!

I have another thing to ask you about.

Did you watch as the news comparing Trump's visit to Texas to President Obama comforting victims of Sandy Hook? Were you shocked by the differences in how they conducted themselves?

I wasn't. At this point, it irritates me that people still bother to report Trump's foibles in front of a microphone. Is there news in his comments over the crowd size, his premature congratulations to a FEMA leader, his excitement over the scale of the disaster, and the profitable hat. That fucking hat. Shame on the person who buys it. Shame.

It sounded like Trump thought he was in Houston.  Did he know where he was? What a mess.

I almost forgot. Melania wore high heels and a hat that said, "Float us?" Seriously?

Yes, seriously.

But why is everyone still going on about Trump's inappropriate behavior? Where is the news in that?

Months ago, we were appalled over the  pussy-grabbing video. We were offended at the lie over the Inaguration crowd sizes. We were shocked by the wiretapping tweet. We were horrified over the Charlottesville press conference.

When are we going to stop being shocked by Trump's consistently horrifying behavior?

No, Trump is not acting Presidential. He's not even acting like a normal human being. He has no compassion. He has no moral compass. He can't fathom what our dismay is over. And neither can I after we've all listened to it repeat and repeat and repeat in different manifestations of the same thing for so many months.

He is acting completely consistently with the man who took pleasure in firing people he didn't like on a reality TV show and with the man who bragged about grabbing women by the crotch. How is it still news when he's a braggart and narcissistic?

Even GOP leaders are beginning to take note of it. Charlottesville seemed to put them over the top. They tweeted vague responses against Nazis, against racism, against bigotry. Well, duh.

You know, when my son was a baby, my friends and I often took the kids to the pool, letting them splash about in the shallow end. Not once, when a kid pooped in the pool did the staff stand around comparing the kid to other kids who hadn't pooped in the pool. Not once did they stand there and talk about what he should have done instead.

They got the kid out of the damned pool and cleaned up the mess.

It's time for the GOP to get the kid out of the pool and clean up the damned mess.

Thank you for listening, jules

Saturday, August 26, 2017

On the Other Coast and Still Frightened by What I Saw

I had lunch with a friend the other day. That's not unusual. We talked about the state of the nation. That's not unusual either.

What surprised me about this strong and involved woman was to hear her say that she was too exhausted by the rolling plethora of worst-case-scenarios that have afflicted the nation to keep fighting in the Indivisibles group. She said she was still furious but that she couldn't talk about it any more.

Then she proceeded to talk in detail about it for another half hour. She knew more than I did about what was going on and the implications.

I would tell you her insights about the EPA and the loss of safety regulations, but I'm not actually that good at listening and I don't retain information well. I should take notes when I talk to this intelligent woman. If she knows it and I can write it, we could make a pretty good team, you know? Get my friend the lawyer involved and we could move the nation in a positive direction. But I didn't take notes so I remember that she said something that was particularly relevant to continued life on Earth but I can't remember what it was. Maybe it was something about bleaching the coral reefs and how it will affect our food supplies. Maybe it was about the cycle of life and if you kill all the stinging insects, then bees are gone and we're going to die from lack of fruit and vegetables.

I hate my brain.

We also talked about guns. That part, I remember.

We both decided that we didn't want to go to the grocery store and walk past armed men who's political opinions differed wildly from ours. (I told her about my close encounter with the red-truck-tattered-flag man.) She basically said that when a group of armed people are loose in the streets, it's a vigilante and no one is safe, especially people who want to speak out on the other side of a political discussion.

And she also said, "Think about it. If a group of armed black men in paramilitary clothing showed up in a town, any town in this country, or a group of Muslims, that group of armed men would be shot dead on the spot. When a bunch of white men do it, it's okay even though it scared the shit out of a who lot of people."

It scared the shit out of me and I was sitting in my living room, 2804 miles away, watching it on TV.

Thank you for listening, jules


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Protesting for a Whiteness that Never Existed in Our Country

Days after the tragedy ending in Heather Heyer's death, I'm still trying to process what I saw in the news in Charlottesville, VA. I was appalled by the fury of the men, looking altogether like troglodytes with their torches, openly brandishing the Nazi and Confederate flags, marching while chanting 'blood and soil, blood and soil.'

What the hell did that even mean? I had to look it up. Blood and soil.

'Blood and soil' is a Nazi slogan popularized in 1930 and was connected with a proposal for "a systemic eugenics program, arguing for breeding as a cure-all for all the problems plaguing the state," according to Barbara Miller Lane and Leila J. Rupp in their book Nazi Ideology before 1933: A Documentation. Eugenics. So that slogan is one way to define a Nazi as a Nazi.

Since then, I've watched a lot of news. I watched as racist Steve Bannon was finally fired. I almost felt relief, almost. I hope he isn't in a position to cause trouble for a long long time to come. He seems like the type to continue to stir the pot wherever he is. I hope Mueller is investigating him. I hold a lot of hope in what Mueller is doing.

I listened to the video of the man who whined about getting arrested after marching in Charlottesville that night. Honey, if you protest, especially alongside men who bear the swastika, you should expect to get arrested. If you chant Nazi slogans, you're probably a Nazi. Do you remember in Aesop's fables, the story about birds of a feather flocking together? You don't get to say you weren't marching alongside a bunch of Nazis. What does that make you?

Shoot, when I protested in the Women's March, in the Science March, and in the March for Truth, I was always prepared to get arrested. I made sure I was marching among people who weren't agitators, looting, or breaking things. I looked for a group of women my age. I even marched with a group from my church, people who protested peacefully but with intent to make a point. I didn't want to get arrested. I was afraid of getting arrested, but I felt the cause was of such great importance that I was willing if I it was necessary to go to jail to make my point. I didn't do anything illegal, but I believed I could in fact get arrested.

I listened to a man who whined about the hatred he's received since his Nazi rally in Charlottesville, that he was afraid to go back to college because of it. He complained about the speech aimed at him, as if people on the other side of the issue didn't also have the freedom of speech. He tried to say he wasn't a Nazi but that he wanted to protest "the fundamental transformation of the composition of our country." Isn't that the definition of Nazis? The Nazis 'reorganized' the composition of their country one Jew and gypsy at a time. 

I also think this guy should look at the composition of our country over time. Take a history class, dude. You don't have a clear understanding of the composition of our country throughout history. It wasn't as a white as you think it was.

Hell, you're probably not as white as you think you are. None of us are. I think I may be part Neanderthal.

Thank you for listening, jules



Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Objects of Fear


"I'd rather have my child, but by God, if I have to give her up, I want to make it count," said Susan Bro, Heather Heyer's mother, at her daughter's memorial today. I stood and watched the news, tears in my eyes. Heather Heyer gave her life for her belief in equality.

Would I be so eloquent if I had to speak to the world about losing my son?

I don't think I would. I have never felt so afraid in my own country. I have never felt so ashamed of its leadership. I have never felt such agony over what I believed existed in our past, not in our future.

Civil rights were won when I was a child, back in the 1960s. It's what I believed anyway. I was so naive.

Yesterday, when I came out of the grocery store, someone had parked a little too close to my little car while I shopped. Usually, that doesn't mean much, a man in a hurry, a woman just wanting to get home after a long day at work. The truck that parked too close to me was red. It waved two tattered American flags, and was covered in Trump/Pence and NRA stickers.

My resist sticker looked meek next to this ostentatious display. I was a afraid when I saw the shadow of feet behind the truck. A man was unloading groceries next to me. I didn't make eye contact. I tried. I couldn't think of what I'd say to a person like this. Didn't he know how all of this display on his truck looked after the tragedy in Charlottesville, VA?

He did. I'm sure now that he knew exactly how it looked. I quickly got into my car. I was tempted to lock my doors. He looked over at me as I carefully backed out of my space. I still couldn't look back at him as he stared.

I don't have enough courage to stand next to Heather Heyer.

Something had passed as a flash in my mind as I pushed my cart to my car, that I should look into the bed of that truck to see if there were tiki torches lying there. They were objects of fear. I was glad I had resisted that urge. The man had followed me outside too quickly and I would have been caught.

I don't have enough courage to hold Heather Heyer's banner, to hold her determination in my heart.

I'm so sorry, Susan Bro. I am so very sorry.

Thank you for listening, jules

Friday, August 11, 2017

This Is Our Nuclear Family

Being a resident of the West coast, I can tell you that my anxiety over the words of the man on vacation at his New Jersey golf course has increased tenfold. The North Korean leader is unstable, has been for a long time. Ignoring him seemed to work for the most part. Then, somehow he was thrown against the ratings-monger that calls himself POTUS.

Twitter is lit up with official Presidential phrases like

'...fire and fury...'

'...the likes of which you have never seen ...'

and

'...locked and loaded ...'

The people of Guam are looking down the barrel, as are the people of South Korea. And everyone on the West coast is looking down the barrel of a long but loaded gun. Millions of people sit at the brink of this insane but nuclear bickering.

Why is this guy even talking? He's supposed to be on vacation, golfing, watching late-night comedy, checking propaganda letters describing his greatness. He's not supposed to be in a spitting match with another unhinged and bloated dictator.

Can't someone read POTUS the story John Hersey wrote about the different layers of hell when the atomic bomb on Hiroshima went off? It isn't a long book. Can't they explain to him that this is nonfiction?

Yet again, I'm losing my belief that any action of civic-minded people, any peaceful protest, any reasonable letters to the editor, any discussion with our representatives will have any impact whatsoever on this administration. Will no one in charge act to protect us from the madness? Is Mueller going to conclude his investigation before we reach the conclusion of this atomic skirmish?

And now Trump wants to go to war with Venezuela? What? Did I miss something? What happened with Venezuela? 

Christopher Moore, one of my favorite authors, wrote on Twitter today: I'm anxious. You anxious? Me too.

Then, I remembered a theoretical conversation I had with Mike while we watched an apocalyptic movie a couple of years ago. I don't even remember what movie it was. What would we do if we had three days before the world ended?

We both decided that we'd be right where we were, walking the dog together, making a good meal, hanging out with our boy, texting our friends and family funny pictures of ourselves, and maybe watching reruns of Star Trek on TV while cats lounged on our laps.

It's a good time to live the authentic life you always intended to live, especially if you live on the West Coast or anywhere near the Sea of Japan.

Thank you for listening, jules

 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Quiet Krieg

I would have ranted last week, but it turns out I'm using cuneiform and I'm supposed to update to the alphabet. Last week, I absolutely could not get access to my blog while I was on a different computer. Blogspot. Who knew it was as outdated as 8-track tapes, as any kind of tapes?

For years, I had used my old methods, kept my head in the sand while I worked, and I became unfashionable, clunky, a Luddite without even knowing.

Sorry about that.

I'll make structural changes to my site, but in the meantime, I have so much stuff to tell you.

I bought a new shirt for our trip. My husband agreed to take us to Germany. Nick finished his second year of studying German and we traveled there to immerse him in the language. He would be our translator.

Right.

Most people in Germany speak English fairly fluently. It was great for Mike and I. Even I could manage passably well on what I learned in my free Duolingo app, except for the day we stopped at a rest stop on the autobahn.I ordered "a meal in my purse" because the women there didn't understand the word 'take-out' or even 'take-away,' the British word. I watched those women stare at me quizzically, finally understand what I needed, and then laugh a little too loudly. We all laughed together, though I didn't realize then exactly what I had said at the time. I just knew I was an idiot.

An almost ugly American.

The shirt. Right. I told you I bought a new shirt, a special T-shirt for the trip. I needed to wear the correct wardrobe in Europe.

My purple shirt said:

Sorry about our president.
Perdon por nuestro presidente.
Desole pour notre president.
Tut mir leid wegen unseres Prasidenten.
Mijn excuses voor onze president.

I'm sorry I couldn't add the right accents and umlauts there. Blogspot. I couldn't type in the Chinese, the Korean, the Arabic, or the American Sign Language at all.

I'm generally pretty oblivious to people around me. Really, I'm the person who's in the way at the grocery store even when I intend to park my cart where no one will want the products behind it. Inevitably, when I get back to my cart, some poor soul has been trying to pull cat litter off the shelf without disturbing my cart position. I apologize a lot.

So, it took me a few days before I noticed people reading my chest even though I bought the T-shirt to convey an important message there. First, I noticed  a gaggle of women looking just a bit too long, but they kept to themselves so I let it be. I was enthusiastic to talk to people in Germany about their opinions of our failing government, but we were on our way to walk a Medieval wall and I didn't want to miss it.

The second time it happened, a man on the sidewalk kept looking at me. I leaned against our parked rental car waiting for Mike and Nick to return from checking into our hotel in Cochem, Boutique-Hotel Lohspeicher, a lovely little hotel on the hillside where the chocolate croissants are divine and the owner is a chef. And of course, they speak English.

At first, as I leaned on the car, I felt a little uncomfortable about this man who seemed to stare just a little too long and was trying to make eye-contact. Sometimes that's a dangerous thing, to make eye-contact with a stranger in a new city. Then, it dawned on me. He was looking at my shirt.

I smiled at him.

He smiled back. Then, he began to speak in perfect English. He was waiting for his wife and daughter inside the store. It was a lovely night, wasn't it?

If I tried to write the dialog with this man, I would miss all his speech patterns and what we said. I'm sorry. I was jet-lagged.

He was a sweet man from Amsterdam. We talked about the problems with the new government in the United States. (You have to say United States because 'Americans,' to anyone outside the U.S., include Canadians, Mexicans, Guatemalans, Colombians, Brazilians, Chileans, and people from every other country in the Americas.) He said he knew that the people weren't the same as the government. If he only knew the divide in the U.S. over anti-Trump and pro-Trump. I didn't mention it.

Eventually, his wife and daughter finished shopping and at the same time, Mike and Nick joined us.

It was a lovely conversation, everyone laughing and talking like friends introduced by a mutual acquaintance. They commiserated with our Constitutional crisis. We talked about the town of Cochem, about Amsterdam, about their vacation and ours. They invited us to a neighboring town where there was a festival with fireworks and wine. And they told us about the best place in town to get schnitzel, Ellis Schnitzelhaus.

My T-shirt started two conversations at Berg Eltz. I was so happy to have finally come to a place I'd seen so many times on Instagram, a stunning castle near Cochem. I'd gotten angry (ugly American) because we were the first to arrive for a tour and had to wait another fifteen minutes because too many people crowded in front of us. It turned out that the wait was worth it.

Two women caught my attention.

"We like your shirt," one said. They were German. They mostly wanted to know what I thought, so I spoke about how many people were protesting, how we were trying to get results of the investigation into the botched election. They asked if knowing what happened to the election would change anything. I looked at Mike and shrugged my shoulders. When, in the United States, do you nullify a Federal election? I talked about the embarrassment so many of us felt when Trump met with Chancellor Angela Merkel and was so rude to her. I talked about the mortifying handshakes with world leaders and how the French President, Francois Hollande put Trump's obnoxious handshake in its place. I could feel myself get more worked up as I spoke. I threw in German words that I knew, trying to make sure these people understood the price of losing the government to Trump's abuses. What's the German word for emoluments? What was the word for what the Indivisibles were doing? Krieg. War. I told them it was a quiet war.

Then we were quiet and I turned around, worried about my gift for hyperbole. Was it too far to say it was a war, a battle against a tyrannical government? Someone else might say so, but I didn't think it was so far from the truth. It just sounded worse when 'blitskrieg' rang in my head. What is the build-up to submitting to a dictator in German? I tried to settle my mind.

Then three other people looked at my shirt, giggled, and elbowed each other. "Mijn excuses voor onze president," one said to another.

"Excuse me?" I said. I'd been obsessed about using the word 'krieg.'

"Your shirt. It says in our language that you're sorry about your president." They were Dutch. These people were excited to see their language in print. They happily taught me how to pronounce it in Dutch. After about the third try, I managed well enough. They too listened to me talk about the struggle against this government, but I kept it together and only threw in a few German words since they were Dutch. But when I had trouble conveying my meaning, when I saw their confusion, I struggled with my German to try to clarify it. I hadn't learned political German, just what I needed to order meals, say please and thank you, and ask where things were. Again, these people were happy to talk about a problem that is really a problem around the world.

I love when something as stupid as a T-shirt can draw together total strangers, people around the world who are not so different after all. And it was a relief to watch them nod their heads to my apprehension about the government in the United States.

Thank you for listening, jules






Friday, July 28, 2017

A Name Suitable for an Author

I was listening to All Things Considered today while I ran errands. I like All Things Considered. It makes running errands easier. Today, they spoke at length about Reince Priebus. "This is not normal procedure for the White House," Robert Siegel said.

Just what is normal for the Trump administration? Name one thing that is being done in the same way as any other administration that ever sat in the White House? Nothing, I tell you. Not one damned thing is normal in this White House.

Did you know Reince Priebus is out?

I just want to know: What were his parents thinking, naming him Reince?

No one would ever be able to spell it correctly or even pronounce it the first or maybe even the second time. With a last name like Priebus, you need to name your son something simple. John Priebus, Luke Priebus. Anderson Priebus. That has a ring. Anything would have been better than Reince.

Give me a minute. I need to check the Internet. Talk among yourselves.

I'm back. Well, I was wrong. Albus Priebus would have been worse. And Baranabus Priebus would have been catastrophic. Barnabus Priebus would have lost permanent teeth before fourth grade. So Mom, Dad, Reince isn't such a bad name after all.

It is a good name for an author.

Getting Kicked out of the House by Reince Priebus
Secrets of the House by Reince Priebus
The Narcissistic Executive by Reince Priebus.

Yes, the more I repeat it, the more I think Mr. Priebus should write a book so he can use his author name to the best effect. A leaky book, a book that will tell us exactly how crazy Donald really is, a book that tells of actual pussy-grabbing, Russian-deal-making, and dystopia in the White House. We know Donald is pretty messed up. Just by Twitter alone, we know that. We just want the dirt.

Mr. Priebus, you are now free. If you really were the leak in the white house, we salute you. We'd love if you told us what a hero you really were, like Severus Snape, the secret patriot in the room.

If you meant anything you said at that very strange meeting in which you all had to thank and honor Donald's prowess as the great-king-deal-maker-puppet-fluff, then I take it all back.

If you don't write a book, Mr. Priebus, then you may get lumped into the same lousy trash-heap with Sean Spicer and Mike Flynn. Who's going to offer them jobs now that they've lied so profusely?

No one, that's who.

You don't share their stink just yet, Mr. Priebus. You still have a chance. Join Jim Comey and Sally Yates. Tell the story. I know, I know. You might have to tell it to the FBI in one of those shielded rooms, but tell the truth. Please, tell the whole ugly truth.

If you were one source of leak in the White House, then thank you for your service.

And tell your mother I'm sorry I made fun of your name.

Thank you for listening, jules