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?


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