Sunday, October 1, 2017

Hifalutin

I'm just about finished reading Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.

I almost put the book down after fifty or so pages. You've heard that adage, that for any book you should sample one hundred pages minus your age. Vance's book wouldn't have cut it by that standard. I didn't actually like it nor did I see the inherent value so many others had placed in it by page fifty. I hadn't gotten comfortable with his awkward style of writing, going from vaguely set family stories to statistics about the region. I kept reading because there was something that niggled in the back of my mind when I went past the fifty page mark, something familiar.

I hoped Vance would get to the point, would teach me something about my own roots. So I kept reading.

I'm from Indiana yet I don't come from a home like the one that Vance describes. I grew up in a college town, Bloomington. I was friends with the professor's kids. My father was an engineer so I didn't struggle to become the first of my family to get into college. In fact, my father, an uncle, my sister, and my brother preceded me.

But Vance's descriptions of hillbillies hit me in the gut. He eventually explained to me something I had struggled to understand my entire life. Why was I so uncomfortable going back home to visit and why did I feel so awkward going into situations above my station. I was, ultimately, from hillbilly roots.

Only two of my grandparents completed high school. My grandmothers both quit and had children before they were seventeen. Not one of them went to college. Yet, I was lucky enough to have two grandparents who were great readers, who became educated through the public library. That was probably my saving grace, probably what gave my father the impetus, with a wife, a child, and one on the way, to go to college, and to graduate. The rest of us flowed from his example. He made sure we understood that an education could change our lives.

Bloomington, Indiana lives on a great cultural divide. To the north lies Indianapolis and Chicago, both heavily urban influences. Even the culture brought from around the world to Indiana University shifted Bloomington squarely into that Northern mindset. South of Bloomington to Kentucky lies a whole lot of nothing, people might say, corn and soybean fields, toxic strip pits abandoned by coal companies, and then the Ohio river border with Kentucky. Oh, I know I'm missing some wonderful places, but bear with me. I'm talking about the impression I always had about Southern Indiana, about what outsiders thought of Southern Indiana.

I grew up speaking a bit of the Indiana twang. Don't ask me to pronounce hydrangea or peony. That accent rolls all the way north to the suburbs of Chicago where it shifts. But just outside of Bloomington city limits and south to the region where my cousins and grandparents lived, the accent sounded indistinguishable from Kentuckian. Go further south all the way to Georgia and it's still the same only stronger. That vocal divide, even as a child, put me on edge.

The kids at my public school who had the stronger Southern accent were looked down upon. Those kids were from the country, had no connection with the university. Teachers assumed that if I had that stronger Southern accent, that I was stupid, or at least ignorant. Even my parents tried to get us to pronounce our words without the heavier accent though it would have come naturally to them since they'd grown up with it themselves. We didn't say 'ain't' or 'nothin.' We pronounced the -ing on a word as if we could sing.

Yet, when we visited our grandparents and cousins, I was aware that we adopted the more Southern style of talking. It was just easier that way. It felt rude to pronounce the -ing like sing. I felt like an outsider in my family's presence when they said, "Y'all come on now." I didn't say y'all. I could copy their patterns of speech, but it felt rude, like I was making fun of them, but when I didn't shift it a little, I was an outsider. You'all was some kind of compromise I could make. I didn't say that at home or at school. So, during the week, I spoke one way and on the weekend with extended family, I spoke a different way. From a young age, I had to try to remember where I was.

When I was nineteen, I started a summer job at the Navy base about forty-five miles South of Bloomington. I had completed my first year at Purdue. I was going to be an engineer. On my first day at my new job, that title of engineering student backfired on me. My neutral accent backfired too. I realized that to fit in, I needed to adopt that drawl all the way down to the y'all. When I first spoke with my more newsworthy accent, they told me I was 'highfalutin,' too big for my britches. I was just some snot-nosed kid from the city come down there to tell them all how to do their jobs when they damned-well knew how to do their jobs already. And while I was at it, I needed to slow down my pace, both talking and working, because I was making them look bad.

Except for the engineers who ran the place, the people seemed proud that they hadn't gone to college, proud of their ignorance. They were even proud that they didn't read books. I didn't exactly know what to talk to people about if they didn't read books. I was a bookworm. Then, when I said that I was going to the East Coast for a week before I went back to college, that I was going to see New York City, they asked me why in hell I'd have any interest in a place like that. Some of them asked me why I even bothered going to college. They laughed at my pay scale, but we both knew I'd get a job when I was finished, that my pay would outstrip theirs in the first couple of years. I assumed they were just mad about it.

Yes, there was a divide.

Even now, when I go back to Indiana to visit, I find myself bringing on my old accent. I don't lay it on thick. But I think my mother is more comfortable with me when I hold it out for her hear, as if I hadn't really moved away, as if I weren't trying to tell her I was better because I had moved up and away.

I don't know for sure. She's never said any of it outright, but it's a feeling I get, that my neutral accent makes me an outsider even though I'd been born in Indiana and lived there the first twenty-two years of my life.

And then there was New York City. I lived near there in my twenties. I could make a whole room full of New Yorkers laugh with my twang and the way I pronounced certain words. Hyderangie, piney. I felt like I went from intelligent to stupid in that simple transition and back again when I dropped the accent.

Why couldn't a biomedical engineer from Indiana be just as intelligent with her homespun accent as without it?

Because people assume that accent is connected with ignorance. I know. I entertained them with it.

I never told the New Yorkers that I could also make a whole room full of Hoosiers laugh with my Brooklyn accent.

So J.D. Vance's book, when he began to describe being an outsider, hit home. When he got down to the social structure of planned ignorance, it hit me again. When he described feeling of a different class when he attended Yale, it hit me one more time. Three strikes and I was out.

Hillbilly Elegy is worth the read. Vance has an important message that was worth getting past the first fifty pages. The hard part, the solution to helping that group of rust-belt underemployed people, that will be harder to solve. I rubbed up against some of those people, the ones who seemed proud to be uneducated, proud as they explained that they could work the system to get unemployment, proud that they hadn't read a book in the past ten years.

I read recently that Amazon is looking for a second location. Some reporters suggested that they could rejuvenate a whole region if they put it squarely in the rust-belt. I wouldn't want to bring big business into an area where the people prided themselves on ignorance and laziness. I've lived both in the Pacific Northwest and in the rust-belt. I can tell you that an encounter between the two cultures would not prove a happy one. Amazon would be better off sticking within city limits.

Thanks to J.D. Vance, I now know why.

Thank you for listening, jules


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Puerto Rico Needs Help

On Twitter, people are asking why Trump isn't sending help to Puerto Rico.

The answer is simple: racism.

Until last week, Trump didn't even know that people from Puerto Rico were American citizens. He will never understand that, respond to that. Sure, Puerto Ricans don't get the right to vote. Sure, they are still taxed. But they are citizens.

How is it that this is legal? What the hell is wrong with us?

No, don't tax us without representation, we said. We fought for that right. We died for that right. Yet, here we are doing the same thing to the people of Puerto Rico that England did to us in 1776. Hypocrite much?

What we need, what we really need is for Carmen Yulin Cruz to be President. I could get behind her. She's passionate about her people. She's out there, working to save lives. She cares deeply.

What the people of Puerto Rico really need is water, food, medicine, electricity. Now! People are dying needlessly. Mostly the elderly and children are dying. Think about that. Our most vulnerable people.  It's a travesty. It's a crime.

Is it a crime? Technically?

If it isn't, it should be. What the country needs to do right now is to get on the phone with their representatives and make as much noise as we made to fight the Graham-Cassidy bill. Please, our people are dying. Americans are dying needlessly.

Thank you for listening, jules

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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Trustworthy Helpful Kind

A Scout is trustworthy, helpful, kind, cheerful, brave, and reverent. I know, I know. That isn't the whole Scout Law, but I have to emphasize those attributes because those are the ones that I need to remind us of in this moment.

I feel agony that some people believe that Boy Scout leaders aim to instill political vitriol, blind loyalty, and falsehoods into our Boy Scouts because Donald Trump addressed a National Jamboree on Monday. He abused his position, encouraged the boys to boo a past President, and continued a campaign that should have ended months ago. I am enraged that Trump spoke the way he did, working to make the Scouts puppets for the sake of his own ego.

I am actively involved in Boy Scouts. I just finished a series of meetings to help a group of them complete their Citizenship in the Community merit badge. We played games to work on the merit badge. It was a joy to discuss with them what distinguishes a good leader from a great one. I loved listening to these boys yell out the most necessary aspects of building a strong and safe community while playing our game. Hatred, following herd mentality, and dishonesty were not part of those attributes.

I've closely watched the leaders of the troops in my district. As I worked with the Scouts, I was able to point to them, among others, as leaders who serve the community. They are human yet time and again they provide a good example to the Scouts, striving to achieve the characteristics that both the Scout Law and the Scout Oath embody.

The big thing that outsiders often lose sight of when Boy Scouts are drawn into political debate is that Boy Scout leaders influence Scouts while having fun and enjoying the outdoors. Scouts see a man joyfully playing capture the flag. They see a man at a campfire, awed by a wilderness night. They see a man overcome his own fears to go caving, climbing, or canoeing. They get opportunities to overcome their own set of fears. On most trips, everyone in the group cooks, cleans, carries group gear, usually suffers together, and ultimately supports each other to get back to the trail-head parking lot safely. Then they take turns telling jokes and stories around a campfire or during a Scout meeting about what happened on that trip.

Those stories set experience into character. Remember that time when it rained for four days in the Boundary waters? Mosquitoes whined like drones, bit every inch of living flesh. Remember when lightning struck the lake as we watched from under our tarp on the lakeside? Remember when we gave extra food to those campers who lost theirs to a bear in the night?

The words trustworthy, helpful, kind, cheerful, brave, and reverent begin to take true meaning in their minds.

These are not the characteristics that Donald Trump embodied on Monday night. His moment at the podium in front of thousands of Boy Scouts should not be the means by which we should judge the Boy Scouts of America. It should not be used as a means by which we condemn their leaders either.

Thank you for listening, jules


A Ransom Not a Negotiation

This week, the Senate is voting on yet another round of 'healthcare reform.' I have a lot of trouble calling it healthcare. This is our third round of negotiations. I also have trouble calling them negotiations. I have a lifetime of experience with negotiations.

My son Nick went through a phase of negotiating absolutely everything. The garbage needs to go out? He would agree to take it outside if I brought it to the bottom of the stairs. His laundry basket was full? He'd bring me his hamper and put in the clothes if I would add detergent, start the washer, then put them into the dryer when they were done. It was exhausting, worse than shutting up and doing the whole job on my own. That wouldn't teach my son a thing.

But Nick was tenacious. He was born to negotiate.

Eventually, I began a tactic of reverse negotiations whenever I needed him to help around the house: if he was only willing to take the garbage half way to the can in the garage, I would only half cook his dinner. Then, as he continued to negotiate, I would decrease instead of increase my contribution to the plan. A third of dinner, meat and vegetables only, no macaroni and cheese, no bread, no fruit. Nick could cook his own macaroni and cheese and eat an apple if he was still hungry afterward. Plus, he would have to do dishes too. He wants to continue to argue? Okay, now we're down to vegetables alone. He could grill his own damned burger.

And Nick could keep going. Only thirteen and he was an absolute pro. I'm telling you, it turned something inside me.

At some point, I told him, I no longer wanted to negotiate. He needed to contribute or I would turn off the television and take the remote controls with me wherever I was going. I intended to take the power cables to his video games as well. Did he want me to go to my quilt meeting and bring the remotes and power cables with me? I packed them into my quilt bag. Nick could begin to earn them back when I got home.

That got action. The garbage went all the way to the bin in the garage. That reverse method of negotiation also gave me a surly teenager.

I began to wonder if those negotiations were unfair. "You're really mean," he told me, more than once. It's in a kid's nature to resist, to wheedle, and to negotiate. I should really have begun my negotiations from a stronger stance, more chores that could be negotiated down to what I wanted in the first place.

I can see that I haven't learned.

At my first job in the corporate world, I had the same problem, only I was on the receiving end of it. My boss asked me to schedule my time for the next design. I added up time for gathering the specifications on the design, for designing the circuit, for refining the circuit, build, then test. I gave him my best estimate in hours and planned a forty hour week to determine the completion date. I figured I came in within ten percent of what would actually happen.

When the overall schedule came back, my part of the schedule had been hacked in half.

I marched into his office and told him I wouldn't be able to complete the job, that all he'd get was a preliminary design, no build and no test if he kept my schedule at half the hours.

At that point that negotiations began. He squeezed and squeezed and squeezed my schedule until I was working nearly the same number of hours I'd originally estimated, but at seventy hours a week and I had to cancel a family trip at Christmas near the end. I only had Christmas day off instead of the usual week offered by the corporation for everyone else.

I was back at my desk and still fuming about it when a seasoned engineer came by and asked what was the matter. When I told him, he laughed. He said the routine was to add fluff to the schedule, thirty to fifty percent more time. Then, when the managers got hold of my schedule, I'd be able to negotiate to my real numbers so I wouldn't have to give up my Christmas vacation for my job.

I thought that was bullshit. I still do. It's why a government toilet seat cost $500. I expected to be able to tell my boss how many hours I needed do the job and then do it.

In the end, I was just ten hours under my estimate no matter how efficiently I tried to work. There are some corners that shouldn't be cut. After all that squeezing, my boss had paid me time and a half for a third of my work and even double-time for the holidays. I wondered if he realized his negotiations had cost him at least thirty percent more even though his end-date was close to what he'd wanted in the beginning. In the process, I'd transformed from an enthusiastic and honest engineer into a disenchanted employee who fabricated extra time for future schedules because I had really wanted my Christmas vacation.

Congress is using these same tactics on the people of the United States in its 'repeal and replace' effort. Every single iteration of Republican healthcare reform is stingier than the last. During the first round, the House of Representatives presented a bill that would cause ten million people to lose their healthcare. After listening to the people's stories, the Senate finally showed us their revision to that first bill and suddenly 22 million people would be without healthcare.

Now, they're attempting a simple repeal. Forget replace.

This would leave 32 million people without healthcare.

Every single iteration is worse than the last. Every one will cause more deaths nationwide, not fewer.

Mitch McConnell isn't asking us to contribute to society the way I was asking my son when I expected him to take out the garbage. McConnell is asking us to make Sophie's Choice. Who is going to die? You pick. If you won't pick, won't compromise, more will die.

This is not a negotiation. It's a ransom.

Thank you for listening, jules


Friday, July 21, 2017

How Do You Say 'Adapt' in Russian?

Dear Republican Congressional comrades,

It is with some trepidation and subservience that I congratulate you on your imminent positions as Auxiliary Heads of the United States of the New Soviet Territory. Due to our puppet President's collusion with the illustrious Russian leader, V.P., and your reluctance to defend our Constitution from being appropriated by that foreign power, even your refusal to set limits on the level of infiltration of said foreign power before you are willing to impeach, I expect to resign myself to adopting what cultural transformation that we who were once called Americans will need in order to survive this colonization.

I would imagine the new leadership will use his power over the Department of Education to eliminate English as the means of teaching our children. As many Native Americans in our country might remember: we must kill the Indian, not the man. Taking a lesson from those American Indian boarding schools, banning English would cripple the existing culture and remind our people to whom they must be allegiant. It would be easiest if it were conducted in the preschool and elementary schools first. Older children and adults will be more likely to resist this change. I will need to take a Russian language class myself so that I might be allowed to request permission to travel cross-country and change jobs if necessary. Are you prepared to speak only the Russian language in the near future? It may be required by our new benefactors.

I'll bet ten rubles that you hadn't thought of that.

I see that you have already begun the process of relieving the Russian motherland's shortages by supplementing its governmental corporations with the U.S. Territory's vast natural resources. If you were unaware of that shift in our executive branch, then you need to look at some of the regulations that have been lifted and some of the departments that lack leadership because no one has been appointed to them.

Remember that an army of hogs led by a lion is more formidable than an army of lions led by a hog, as they say in Russia. Will you pledge your allegiance to that lion, that foreign leader, to whom you are granting our government's control?

I have included a link to some new recipes you might want to try. I made stroganoff last night. Who knew I was on the right track? And remember that borscht is a beautiful and nutritious food. I believe we may be allowed to retain our food traditions at least at the beginning, but it might ease our transition to the motherland's culture to make some changes now.

Comrade McConnell has made the pledge to rid our Territory of its vulnerable, old, and poor people with his Republican healthcare plan. This might eventually make our people genetically stronger, but we will need a period of grieving for our lost loved ones. It is important to remember, however, that people without hope are easier to control.

Do any of you know what religion will be predominant in the new regime? I'm Methodist. Do you think I'm on the right track? I fear for the lives of those who are Muslim or Jewish in our Territory. If it gets bad, some people may convert in order to survive.

So in conclusion, I raise my shot of vodka to you, comrades, for your part in this transformation. And remember that it's bad luck not to drink every shot that's put in front of you, even if it has polonium-210 in it.

Na Zdorovie!

Thank you for listening, jules



Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Letter Intended for Millions

Today, I got an encouraging reply from President Obama in response to a letter I wrote after he left office. I printed it and showed Nick as he came out of his room holding a Nerf gun he was going to donate to the thrift store.

"I got a letter from President Obama. It's probably a form letter," I told him.

"Nope. It's real. He doesn't have people writing for him any more. He'd have to pay them himself." I smiled at my son.

"It's a nice letter, no matter who wrote it," I said.

"I'm telling you, President Obama wrote it. He has time now." I didn't even raise my eyebrows. How many letters does Obama get in a week? Probably thousands. When he was still in office, he received tens of thousands of letters every day according to the New York Times. Even then, he replied to some personally.

Part of me wanted to believe it was true, that this was a unique letter that hadn't also been sent to thousands of other concerned citizens who mourned the end of Obama's presidency. Part of me wanted this to be my very own letter from a man who deserved the utmost respect for the service he and his family gave to our country, for the serious and moral way he attended to his job, for the warmth with which he met ordinary people, especially children.

And then I reread his message.

President Obama said that our country keeps taking two steps forward despite one step back, that the course we take doesn't depend on the actions of one person alone, that democracy is only truly threatened when we take it for granted, and that he and his family will stand alongside us toward that end. That's a good message.

So what if my letter has been sent to thousands of people?

It's a message that thousands of us, millions of us, need desperately to hear. It's hard to realize that it is working, that pink-hat protests, letters to the editor, faxes to representatives, and even snappy science T-shirts are working.

Look at the ACA, still kicking because of everything a bunch of ordinary and a few extraordinary people in wheelchairs did to fight for it. Look at the investigation of collusion with Russia over disrupting our election, still happening even though Preet Bharara, Sally Yates, and James Comey were fired for seeking the truth. Look at racism and religious freedom, still being defended by heroes like Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, both of whom died, and Micah David-Cole Fletcher, who was seriously injured, when they protected a Muslim and a black girl from a racist attack in Portland, Oregon.

It is working.

"You can kill a man," Medgar Evers once said, "but you can't kill an idea."

And President Obama's ideas have survived despite the new administration and some Congressional representatives that have attempted to kill them.

That's a good message for thousands of weary citizens who continue to fight for true democracy and the balance of power; true freedom for everyone regardless of their color, their gender, their orientation, or their religion; and our right to protect vulnerable people with our own taxes.

Just a few minutes ago, Mike walked into the room carrying his work backpack and lunch bag. Nick showed him the pile of things he's decided to donate to clear his room. I reached up to kiss Mike before I picked up my letter and handed it to him.

"I got a message from President Obama today," I said.

"Nice," he said, putting his bags down and scanning the letter. "You know this is a form letter, don't you?"

"I know, right?" I said a little too enthusiastically.

Thank you for listening, jb


Monday, July 17, 2017

A Few Questions for Eugene Robinson About Outrage Fatigue

Eugene Robinson says we can't afford to get 'outrage fatigue.' He's right. I know he's so right. We can't afford to let up. There are the problems with healthcare of millions of vulnerable people, the Muslim ban, immigration, climate change, the EPA, the status of science, the National Parks, and at the core, the status of our Constitution.

But Mr. Robinson, some of us have teenage boys we struggle to raise. Where do we stand on the importance of being present during episodes within our families? Some of us have practically suspended work on the books we were writing at the time of the election. Where do we stand on making our living, on achieving our own goals? What about the weeds, the incomplete deck, the painting that needs to be done? Where do we stand on the battle to keep our homes safe and comfortable? What about Boy Scouts, church, and the children who need to be tutored? Do we stop supporting those people within the community because we're busy flailing our heads against brick walls in protest against a narcissistic liar who funnels our tax dollars into his own profits and encourages dictators to take over our country's elections?

What good are any of our protests doing? Do our petitions accomplish anything except a clearer route to advertising to us? What about sending those faxes that might not actually print? Should we march in more futile marches, call more reluctant representatives, write more unsolicited the letters to the editor?

That's really the issue, Mr. Robinson. Of course we want to remain present within our new political diorama. It requires our presence, daily attention to damage in so many areas of the government, daily attention to our crumbling freedoms.

Some of us have to worry about coming and going in our own country, the Muslim ban, the overreach of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We may have to worry if financial corporations are telling us the truth or just making a profit on the backs of our retirement accounts. We have to worry if our property will be seized without due process. We have to worry that our water, our air, the very ground we live on is going to be polluted by indiscriminate corporate greed. We can't depend on maintaining a free press when the press isn't even allowed access to the Executive Branch. We can't depend on being told the truth even where it can be verified by photos of thin crowds and video of the man saying the opposite of what his staff is claiming now. We can not depend on our Republican majority leaders in Congress to hold the Executive Branch to any moral or patriotic standards. We can't even hold onto our Director of the Office of Government Ethics.

So yeah, we have a lot to do to stay abreast of in our new political reality show. We can't just protest collusion with the Russians, which is enough all by itself. It's a three-ring circus act. We have to protest every part of the Federal government that is being eliminated, supplanted, or abused. It is absolutely exhausting.

And that deck is not going to rebuild itself. Then again, neither is our government.

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The New Patriots of Liberty

Mike and I are watching 'Sons of Liberty.' It was released in 2015, but there are so many parts of it that are relevant to today.

When in Philadelphia, John Adams asked what Boston was supposed to do while they waited for the reply to a letter sent to King George.

The answer - "Resist."

We're in a waiting phase of our troubled times.

The results are not yet in regarding Trump's obstruction of justice and collusion with the Russian government. Oh, the evidence is pretty firm since the FBI is investigating. And now, some Trump supporters are actually normalizing the Russians' interference in our election by calling it 'cooperating.'

Like hell. It's not cooperating. It's not democracy. It's treason if the Trump administration worked with Russian spies to control our election. If there were no investigation, it would be Constitutional crisis. But there is an investigation. In the meantime, damage continues to be done to what was a functioning government.

What should we do while we wait? We, the housewives, the retired, the disenfranchised youth, the millions of who protested in the Women's March, at the March for Science, at Black Lives Matter rallies, in the airports against the Muslim ban, and at the March for Truth? We need to keep up the good fight.

Resist.

1. Our country cannot afford to get accustomed to the idea that the Russian government is interfering with our democratic process. Anyone working with the Russian government to control American politics is treasonous. Treacherous. Traitorous.

We can't let propaganda confuse us. We need to hear the truth as they tell the lies.

People who are convicted of this collusion should go to jail. If Trump interfered with the investigation, he should be impeached. We need to keep up the call for action against the destruction of our checks and balances. We need to support the Constitution.

2. In the meantime, we can resist in whatever ways we can, use our democratic system, call our representatives, write letters to the editor. We can show up at our representative's doors with our concerns. We can be willing to get arrested. I've watched people in wheelchairs brave enough to get arrested. Maybe I can be that brave too. I hope so.

We continue to call for Trump's taxes and to point out how he's profiting every day he drags all of those people to one of his hotels. Emoluments.

3. Who the hell had ever heard the word 'emoluments' before the day of the election last fall? We need to keep learning. What is the law? How is the Trump administration flouting the law? 

Can we force Trump to pay it all back? Should he profit on the backs of the working people?

We need to keep up the resistance by asking these questions and searching for the answers.

4. There are other areas that need our attention. I know the healthcare situation is bad even though the vote has been delayed. The EPA is collapsing because they've fired the scientists. Climate change cooked our southern states with temperatures hovering at 122 degrees. Does anybody know how much the recent heat wave cost our country?

We can't afford to be distracted by stupid tweets. There are big issues at stake.

I'm convinced that the worst part of this is that Trump's government is not our own. It is not for the people, by the people. The recent protests by people in wheelchairs against the ludicrous healthcare that was finally exposed to the light of day was part of that resistance. The court orders against the Muslim ban demand that government be for the people. The states and individuals who continue to work against climate change despite Trump's ridiculous withdrawal from the Paris Agreements influence that solution. The renegade scientists of the EPA who speak the truth are all a part of the resistance. All of you people who continue to resist, to speak out, to protest are heroes, patriots.

I wonder if we could consolidate all that energy, but I realize that each of us is most powerful arguing our own passions, doing what we feel is most important, doing what we're good at doing. Scientists should fight for the scientific method. Immigrants and those of us who came from immigrants should fight the racism of the Muslim ban. Those of us who have not been treated equally and those of us who recoil at the injustice of inequality should support the ALCU and Black Lives Matter. Artists should make their art. Oh, there is some amazing art out there that is perfect for our resistance.

How do we focus when there are so many areas of our government that are disintegrating? We can't. So, we have to divide our energies and focus on the problem of today, tomorrow, and the next day. We have to follow our passions as well as we can and support our fellow patriots as often as we can.

5. Our resistance depends on us seeing past the silly distractions, the ignorant tweets, and the lies; It depends on us to stay focused.

The Russian government wants a total collapse of our democracy.They are not going to be happy if we use our Constitutional rights to become the most effective check and balance that the founding fathers offered. We must speak out. We must demand our right to vote. We must march and write and be willing to be arrested because we are an inconvenience to the representatives who won't represent us. We must create satire and art to resist. We must be patriots.

In 1776, there was taxation without representation. We want the same thing now. Each of our protests identify that we don't intend to be governed unless we are represented. Our representatives now know that in ways they didn't think were possible a year ago. They know we're watching the way they vote. They know we support a thorough investigation of the treasonous collusion with Russia.

We resist by staying awake to what our government is doing and by demanding that they reconnect with our Constitution. In the end, we are not so different from those 1776 sons of liberty.

Thank you for listening, jules



Saturday, June 24, 2017

Serving Beauty



So, I want to tell you that I have trouble with beauty. I was never beautiful, pretty maybe, but I used to have beautiful hair. It was brunette. It shown auburn in the sun. It was hair that put hairstylists into paroxysms of ecstasy.  It was so long my friends once used a yard stick to measure it. My hair was longer than a yardstick. It was silky. It was gorgeous. It made people reprimand me any time I cut an inch or two off of it. It had the perfect wave. It got apologies whenever it was caught in closing doors. My hair only needed a moderately presentable head to hang itself on and random people on the street would remark about its beauty. 

Then, it started to fall out. 

Over time, I spent thousands of dollars trying to get my hair back until one day, my husband had a heart attack, a mild one, but it was an eye-opener. I realized that having hair was not worth one more penny, not worth one more moment of my time. 

Well, I tried to realize that it wasn't not worth one more moment of my time.

I get up in the morning and my husband will hug me deeply and lean down so I can kiss his head. I know everything is okay when he leans down toward me that way. Throughout the day, I'll be going along fine, talking to my friends without thinking for one instant about how I look.

Then, I'll go into Costco or something and some bored employee will start talking to me without really looking at me. 

There's a chunky person standing in front of him, one with very short hair, someone who is balding even. He asks me a question.

"Sir, do you want your things in a box? Sir?"

I try to take a deep breath. I try to, but I can't. I try to make eye contact with him. I try to, but I can't. Sometimes, he will recognize his mistake and begin to spin backward and backward and backward and try to apologize. I usually nod then, and find a way to answer his question. He didn't intend to insult me so deeply. He's just a dork. Everybody is a dork sometimes. 

But there are other guys. When I finally manage to look them in the eye, I can see I have not passed muster, not even for a middle-aged housewife shopping for groceries. These kind of men aren't sorry about calling me 'sir.' They seem to expect that all of creation should manage its beauty in a way that is always about their own tastes and their own sensibilities. These men judge. They shouldn't even have to look at my ugliness in front of them.

These are the guys who hurt.

So, I've been reading about the whole bathroom thing. To listen to the news, you might think that people, the so-called Christian conservative, were going post sentries to deny entrance to each ladies room for anyone who doesn't pass muster. My church doesn't have sentries at the bathroom doors, but I wonder about their churches?

These people are so furious about the labels on bathroom doors. 

At a small-town festival I was enjoying last week, a woman interrupted a conversation I was having with a friend.

"Do you want to sign our petition to put proper labels back on bathroom doors?"

We both glared at her. We wanted to finish our conversation. She didn't get the hint.

"We need to get back to normal," she said.

"No," my friend said pointing to the petition in her hand. "That's just an excuse to harass the LGBT community."

The woman held the petition out to me. 

"No," was all I managed to say. I can not think on my feet.

And this woman kept talking about the labels on bathroom doors. She just went on and on and on, even though we both had said no and stood there glaring at her. She'd interrupted a perfectly nice conversation and she just kept talking about the labels on a fucking bathroom door.

"No, I will not sign it," I repeated.

She was not finished. In fact, she only got louder. Was this woman never going to leave us alone?

"How are you going to protect girls from sexual assault?" she yelled. 

Something snapped. I forgot where I was, in the thick of a family-friendly festival.

"Believe me," I yelled back, "no words on a bathroom door are going to keep a damned predator from being a damned predator. I'm sure of that. So now, I want to know. Because I look gender-questionable, are you going to force me to drop my pants at the door for a gender check every fucking time I need to pee?"

It was then, just at that moment, that I realized that there might have been some redeeming reason I lost my hair and any claim I might have had to serving beauty. It might have been a damned good reason. I realized that I don't want anyone at a restroom door or at Costco or anywhere else questioning my damned gender or anyone's gender before any of us can pass on through and live our lives in peace.

Thank you for listening, jules

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Republican's New Deathcare Plan

Last night, I watched police officers drag people out of their wheelchairs and carry them away to be arrested. That had to hurt. You know it had to hurt. Some of those people will be seeing their doctors today. Oh right, they could lose their doctors on July 4th. Happy Independence Day!

What the hell is happening in our country?

Does Mitch McConnell really want his name forever associated with dragging people out of their wheelchairs and with handcuffing disabled people? Seriously, dude, you have got to get a clue about being nice.

Your plan, the one you finally exposed to the light of day yesterday? It sucks. Everyone, even the orange guy with pink hair tweets that it sucks. 

This new 'healthcare' plan is more of a deathcare plan than anything. Mitch McConnell and his twelve disciples from hell sat in a locked room and talked about the ways to reduce climate change and this is their ultimate plan: Reduce the population by killing a few million expendable people and this will reduce the country's carbon footprint. Paul Ryan said that no one can live forever, right?

WTF?

Am I allowed to say it reminds me of the way Hitler got rid of anyone who was disabled along with a few million Jews? Mitch, are you going to round them up too?
 
Ghandi said that “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Our Senate can't even act humane toward vulnerable people, let alone animals.

Remember when John Kerry ran for President? His daughter told a story about how they were moving and somehow her hamster fell off a dock into the water and he jumped in after the poor thing and rescued it. I voted for that man in part because of the hamster story. 

I sure hope Mitch McConnell doesn't have a hamster.

Thank you for listening, jules



Monday, June 19, 2017

Behaving Like Children

It's been one of those weeks of news for which I felt like hiding under the covers and watching cat videos. It's rough to stick with the protesting I think is so necessary. Has it been rough for all of you?
 
Seriously people, do we have any decency left?

People died because a landlord was too fucking cheap to install a sprinkler system in his building. Babies were thrown out of windows in desperation. Poor people lived in that building, people who didn't have the resources to fight back and demand their rights.

Philando Castile, a beloved black man died because a police officer wasn't willing to run through proper procedures when making a police stop in Minneapolis. There was video of the police officer gunning Castile down, yet the officer got off scot-free.

Someone detonated a homemade bomb at a concert full of children in Manchester. (Maybe that was last week.)

There were stabbings in London today, a car that plowed into pedestrians near the Finsbury Park Mosque yesterday.

There were shootings at a baseball field in D.C. Seriously, shooting people at a baseball game?

In Portland, two men were killed defending girls who happened to be Muslim. When is it that any girls should be harassed? Oh, right. We're not done harassing girls either. Muslim girls have it extra hard.

Is the whole world going crazy? People, there are some very real limitations to our freedom of speech that includes not killing people. Why do some of us keep forgetting that?

The other day, someone on Facebook asked whether or not peaceful protest is working. I wrote that I wasn't sure. It's hard to feel any change when protesting peacefully. The opposition doesn't seem to pay much attention. Oh, I had one guy yell at the group I was in during a protest. It was the protest for truth. I guess the guy couldn't handle the truth. I even heard that millions of Muslims marched against ISIS last week and news in the U.S. didn't even cover it. The photos I saw were incredible, made the Women's March look like small potatoes. But did it accomplish anything?

Civil disobedience is hard to maintain, especially when the other side has money, guns, and power.

I was very young when Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. both protested for civil rights. My parents said that Malcolm X, who condoned violence, was the lesser of the two men. But it was so hard for me to watch the children marching for Martin Luther King, Jr. who were attacked with dogs and sprayed with fire hoses. Is that really what Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted, for children to take the brunt of the force?

The little girls wore pleated skirts and white shirts and the boys wore white shirts and ties. Many of them were my age. I never looked that clean. They were so well-behaved. I never behaved that well. I'm telling you that it was hard to watch those kids being assaulted when I was a kid. Now that I'm a mom, it is even harder to watch when children are assaulted or killed. Those newsreels held power.

Why can't we use vigorous and healthy debate instead of using violence?

Right. It is getting harder to see any tangible results of debate. I remember hearing Malcolm X say there wouldn't be change if the civil rights protests stayed peaceful. I remember thinking that he might be right.

But doesn't that make us as bad as them when we resort to violence?

So, I know it's hard to keep up the energy of protesting peacefully. There are so many areas to protest these days: the Russian assault on our democracy, the rights of people to 'drive while black,' truth and transparency in our government, protection of Muslims, the secret ACHA, the reduction in funding to the EPA and the National Parks, Black Lives Matter, supporting Syrian refugees, women's right not to be grabbed and to earn equal pay, and don't forget climate change. We might all lose if we ignore climate change.

The whole world is going to hell in a handbasket. The least we can do is behave like the black children who protested for their civil rights in the 1960s.

Thank you for listening, jules


 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Who Might Be Listening?

I was at the new bookstore in town today and I happened to be wearing my 'I'm with her' Tshirt with the picture of the Earth on it. The guy who had been helping me find a book for my friend looked at my shirt as I made some vague allusion to the Trump administration. I don't even remember what I said.

"I, uh, agree with you there," he whispered as he gestured vaguely at my shirt. He looked around the store. "But some people here might not be inclined that way."

And we whispered a brief conversation. It wasn't what we said, it was the method with which we said it. He leaned in and nodded his head in agreement. I leaned in and listened to his opinion. We both looked around multiple times as if afraid of something.

Oh, I get it. This man did not want to drive away business with his political views. Either he was an employee who could have been fired or he was a co-owner with even more at stake. I understand that.

But this hasn't been the first time my opinion has been hushed in public.

I've been informed that I shouldn't give my opinion at Boy Scout meetings. At a meeting a couple weeks ago, another man leaned in toward me and interrupted me, "We shouldn't probably talk about politics here where people have varied opinions." I was well aware that this man agreed with my opinions. I found myself looking with him around the room for people who just might disagree with me. I found myself whispering the end of my sentence. "We shouldn't talk about politics here," he repeated.

Why not?

Couldn't Scouts benefit from a vigorous debate about the function of our government? What should a government do? What should be their reach into peoples' lives? How should leaders best represent their constituents? What limitations should be put on a President? What should happen if a foreign country exerts control over our government?

Those are all very important questions. Open debate is good, right?

But I get it. We wouldn't want anyone with differing opinions to feel like they didn't belong in the Troop. So, I've gotten quieter at Scout meetings, not silent, but quieter. And people keep shushing me and looking around the room to see who may have overheard us talking.

The other day, I was at lunch with a couple of friends, friends whose political beliefs align with mine.

"No politics at lunch here," one of them announced. "I can't handle it." Then she looked around as if someone might be listening to us. Who would care?

Okay, so maybe she spent the last four months binge-watching the news like the rest of us had, but why couldn't we talk?

And it happened at the dog park. A man I'd talked to a number of times looked closely at my shirt, the 'I'm with her' Earth shirt.

"I wrote an editorial that everyone should shut up about a democratically elected President and get on with their lives. I signed it 'a Bernie Sanders supporter.'"

"But what about interference in the election?" I asked. He glared at me. It was just a question.

"There's no proof of that," he said and he stomped off across the field as if I'd said his dog was mean and should be put down.

"And Obama had people assassinated," another man said. "What about how illegal that was? There's nothing in the Geneva convention about assassinating people."

"Osama bin Laden?"

"Damn straight. Abuse of power. " 

I wasn't really prepared to discuss the legal implications of the past presidency. To be honest, I didn't know it was illegal for a leader to die when we were at war with him and his agency. I hadn't paid that much attention to the minutiae of the last presidency. During the last presidency, the executive branch mostly operated the way I expected the executive branch to behave. There was that government shut-down created by Congress and a tendency for our burgeoning economy to benefit only the rich, but the rest was pretty good.

All right. I liked President Obama quite a lot. I admit it. I thought he fought to represent the people. I thought he was fair and extraordinarily diplomatic considering people had created an effigy of him hanging from a rope and called his wife an ape. I felt he was even-handed with unbalanced leaders. I felt he accomplished a lot with an obstructionist Congress. Yes, I liked the Obama Presidency quite a lot.

"Completely illegal," the man said.

He glared at me and spat. I shut up. I was momentarily speechless. Why wasn't I allowed to discuss current events within our government that concerned me?

There's a common theme here. It makes me extraordinarily uncomfortable. In daily life, we're not supposed to say anything negative about the Trump administration in public? We can't complain? We can't express our opinions? We have to shut the fuck up? Is that it?

That's not how a free and democratic society works. I'm beginning to wonder what kind of society I live in. It feels more dangerous than it ever did. We have to whisper dissent? We have to look to see who's listening? Am I the only one this is happening to out there?

Thank you for listening, jules

 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Clearing the Room

It was reported on MSNBC's The Eleventh Hour that Republicans are worried that the 2018 election will dump their majority and Democrats will impeach the President. That's not what they should be worried about.

Republicans should be worried that the President allegedly obstructed justice and should pursue that investigation using bipartisan means.

They should be worried that Trump's administration and his campaign staff has deep alliances and may be under obligation to the Russian government and they should assign an independent bipartisan commission to pursue this invasion.

They should be worried about who to call to the stand next since James Comey appears to have given honest testimony that can be corroborated by witnesses.

They should be worried about an executive branch that seems disinterested in upholding the Constitution. The form of government that our country champions is neither Republican nor Democrat, but was designed to function despite abuses. That form of government is under attack.

It may be that Democrats are making the most noise here and that Democrats are in the minority in Congress, but Republicans in Washington, DC should recognize that our Constitution is compromised and might not recover if they fail to act using the checks and balances at hand. Are Republicans willing to give up our Constitution in order to maintain their sense of power over the Democrats?

And I'm sorry, Paul Ryan. Telling us that Trump is inexperienced is not an excuse. If I were to go into a courtroom and use that excuse for breaking the law, the judge might laugh at me.

If Trump cleared the room to apply pressure to James Comey, then he was surely aware that he shouldn't exert his influence in a public way.

Thank you for listening, jules


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Flight of the Amygdala

I've been thinking about my amygdala.

A couple weeks ago, when I read about our bipartisan impulse to throttle the guy on the other side, to be completely immune to their arguments, and to only view my own 'facts' as the truth, I protested, in my mind at least, that I would never be so unscientific about facts.

Then, I read another article that said something similar. It included the results of a study. I love studies. Oh, I'd dig up these articles for you, but I won't because I have to go tutor kids in forty-five minutes and I haven't showered yet.

The idea is that, similar to when we're cheering for our team, our amygdala gets involved. The descriptions say that an amygdala is that little reptile brain that responds to danger, fight or flight.

Aren't reptile brains, some of them, more complex than that? I hate to think that reptiles have only fight or flight and that they're all emotion and nothing else. That would be miserable. Frankly, I don't see them acting that way. Garter snakes seem quite calm if you approach them quietly. They let you look at them, take their pictures, and don't even freak out when the dog comes along and takes a good sniff along their sides. They just slither quietly into the grass.

But I digress.

Anyway, the amygdala, I am told, is responsible for our safety and when it gets going, we don't make 'rational' decisions. I'd argue that figuring out whether to run or kick a guy in the crotch is completely rational in a situation with a predator threatens to attack you on the street. I've seen it work.

But I digress again. Sorry.

So, all these bipartisan arguments are futile since we're all responding with our amygdalas and no one is seeing the truth.

Is that true? Can't I rely on my team to investigate wisely? Can't I trust the New York Times? What about the Washington Post? CNN? Rachel Maddow?

I can trust their journalism, right?

But then I just now got all emotional and could feel a change in my heartrate.

So, I've been thinking about it, rationally. Or trying.

For me, Donald Trump is the scary clown in the book, 'It' by Stephen King. You know the one I mean. He's everywhere, even in the bathroom with you. He whispers the vile things he's going to do to you. If you go outside, he's there. If you hide in a quiet place, he's there too. Stephen King can make a fucking car scary. He is solely responsible for ruining clowns for me. And fog. I was never scared of clowns or fog before those books. I wonder what he thinks of that whole scary clown thing that happened last fall?

But I digress, over and over and over. You'd better get used to it.

With Trump, there's always pussy grabbing. He said it on tape. I've watched that tape at least six times and it raises my adrenaline each time. Pussy grabbing is terrifying when you're the recipient and you're not with someone who loves you.

And Trump is everywhere. You can't get away from his orange face and pink comb-over. He's in the magazine rack in the bathroom. He's on the coffee table. He's on television. It's like having a fucking stalker.

And I had a stalker, a mild one, but a stalker just the same. Having a stalker grabs your amygdala too.

So, I admit that my reactions, opinions, and yes, even my 'facts' are influenced by my amygdala.

But couldn't this Trump threat just be real enough that fight or flight is appropriate?

Thank you for listening, jules


Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Middle-Aged Housewife's Guide to Fighting Tyranny


Folks, it's not over now that Mueller has been assigned to be special prosecutor, but it might be a good time for a recap episode. If you're one of those people who hates when a sitcom throws a bunch of clips into a shallow plot, this might be a good time for a bathroom break. But I think it's a good to celebrate our efforts.

Identify Issues
-Read New York Times, and Washington Post articles about the Russian Election in the United States, our Constitutional Crisis, gutting humane government agencies, ignoring science. These investigative journalists are our country's true patriots. Tried not to read fake news.

Check.

Get Help from Experts
-Read On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder, Havel, and Milosc. Have you noticed that library holds on these books are still backed up?

Check. Okay, I'll admit that I skimmed Havel.

Be Consistent and Persistent
-Wrote Paul Ryan, Dave Reichert, Suzan DelBene, Patty Murry, and Maria Cantwell.
-Marched in four protests. Did not get arrested but was photographed among millions of other protesters. Did you see me there?

Check.

Discipline with Love
-Tried not to troll Trump's orange face, extreme comb-over, and tiny hands.

This kindness thing is not really my forte.

 Use Your Own Experience

- Wrote about The Metaphor of Being Grabbed and how it was all too real for many of us who listened to the video of Trump saying he could 'grab them by the pussy.'

Check.

Be Okay With Your Anger

Check. I told you that compassion isn't my forte.
 
Realize that You Can't Make Everything Fair
- Wrote One PersonOne Vote but I managed to nod when Mike said the electoral college would never be changed in my lifetime.

Check.
 
Look for Allies
-Went to Indivisibles meetings and managed to laugh with people who felt as insignificant as I do.

Check.
Recognize Hypocrisy
-Wrote Tweeting Hypocrisy but I'm sure I'm not perfect either. Maybe I'm close, but don't test me on that.  

Check, sort of.
 
Show Gratitude
-Thanked DelBene, Murray, and Cantwell for their persistence. Thanked Obama for his service. -Called Sally Yates a national hero. Well, she is.

Check.

It Takes a Village
-Whoops. Wrong candidate.

Find the Humor

Check.

Schedule Breaks and Getaways
- Planned vacation. 
-Got passport updated. Might be useful when I go all Desiree Farooz and end up getting arrested for laughing.

Check.

Teach Kindness and Compassion
-Talked to my Republican friends. Told most of them I don't blame them for what happened. It was the Russians' fault. And Comey's.

Check.

Use Your Words
-Looked up how to pronounce emoluments? I had to practice. If you say it over and over seventeen times, it starts to sound funny.

Check.

Respect the Individual
-Didn't write anything that I wouldn't send to my mother, son, or boss. 
-Wasn't a troll. Right? Define troll.
           
I'm not sure if I could totally say that. Hey, I tried.

Create a United Front
-Commiserated with Mike, my husband, and many friends. One guy threatened to unfriend any of us who posted too much political shit on Facebook, but I still see his posts, so maybe I didn't go off the rails with him. I found solace with my new Indivisibles friends. My favorite moments happened when one woman asked us to sit and imagine the power of all the individuals in all the Indivisibles meetings across the country. 

Check.
 
Use Anger for Good
-Remembered that anger isn't a fault, but I tried to make sure I didn't destroy my message with my use of it.

Check.

Listen and Watch
-Watched Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell. I couldn't make myself watch Fox News. So sue me. 

Check, mostly.
 
Nag Like You Mean It
-Nagged daily. I have been trained by my son to keep repeating myself until things get done. It was the time to use that power.

Check.

Use Natural Consequences
-Wrote What is the Price of Treason?  I didn't really mean it about the hangings in that post. Not really.

Check.

Offer Choices 
Trump can either resign or get impeached. Has anyone told him that yet? The rest of his administration should check with their lawyers. Some members of  Congress should check with their lawyers as well.

I'll get right on that one. .

What did you do to help our country reach this level of success? Comment a list of your efforts. I'd love to know.

Thank you for listening, jules