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