So Long Marianne: An Elegy for my Country through Leonard Cohen Lyrics

“Your letters they all say that you’re beside me now. / Then why do I feel alone?

I’m standing on a ledge and your fine spider web / is fastening my ankle to a stone.”

–So Long Marianne, Songs of Leonard Cohen 1967

leonard-cohen

I have spent most of the last 48 hours in bed crying. Like many people in America, I have felt isolated and scared and alone.

I cried for people of color who face an imminent threat from emboldened racism.  I have mourned with my friends who have been battling cancer, who will no longer be insured if Obamacare gets repealed. I cried for my gay friends and for LGBTQ youth whose equality is uncertain. I cried for Latinos who are suddenly suspect and whose families may be in danger of forced divide. I have cried with young women fearful about family planning and a lack of options.

I have spent that last two days sobbing for one reason or another.

Then Leonard Cohen died today. Just two days after my country elected a racist, misogynist, megalomaniac.

Leonard Cohen was my soul. He was my solace. He was my wise man. He was my reason for living on so many, many dark nights. Leonard Cohen has helped me through moments of my life that I never thought I could get though. He has helped me these last few days as I’ve watched my country dissolve into a mess of racism, bigotry, and fear.

I have spent my life fighting for justice, for women’s rights, for LGBTQ equality.  In these past few days I have watched my friends crumble. I have sent letters and text messages apologizing and I have gotten letters and text messages hearing apologies. So many of us have held each other for so long.  And so many of us are faltering, falling, dying.

 

“I saw some people starving / There was murder, there was rape

Their villages were burning / They were trying to escape

I couldn’t meet their glances / I was staring at my shoes

It was acid, it was tragic / It was almost like the blues”

–Almost Like The Blues, Popular Problems 2014

 

In a strange and terrible parallel to my country, in a very real and utter desolation, an angel ascended; Leonard Cohen, the poet I had loved so much, the poet who had given me so many moments of peace, left this earth. He was too good for it. But I will miss him just the same.

2016 has been a complete and utter shit show. Many of us can count the ways: David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Harper Lee, Prince, Muhammed Ali, Ralph Stanley, Elie Wiesel, Gene Wilder, Janet Reno and, today, Leonard Cohen.

But, in addition to the incredible loss in the artistic community and sphere of wisdom, America seems to have lost its way.

 

“Your servant here, he has been told / to say it clear, to say it cold:

It’s over, it ain’t going any further

And now the wheels of heaven stop / you feel the devil’s riding crop

Get ready for the future.”

–The Future, The Future, 1992

 

The 2016 American presidential election was not about the candidates. The election was about the issues, morality, human rights, and justice. It was never about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. The people who voted against Donald Trump, the majority of Americans, voted against misogyny, racism, elitism, and bigotry. A slim majority, but a majority nonetheless, voted for healthcare, human rights, and progress.  But sadly, it wasn’t enough. And now we are facing some very dark times.

“Everybody knows that the dice are loaded

Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed

Everybody knows the war is over

Everybody knows the good guys lost

Everybody knows the fight was fixed

The poor stay poor, the rich get rich

That’s how it goes / Everybody knows”

–Everybody Knows, I’m Your Man, 1988

 

I am crying for my nieces and for the children in my life.  I’m crying for the people who came before me who believed they would see change in their lifetime.

I am terrified for the young women and for the people of color in my life.  I’m terrified for people whom I deeply, deeply I love. I want to make them safe.  I want to take them in my arms and protect them.  I want to shield them from all of this.

And I want the promises that we were given. I want that promises that were made to us.  I want the promises that were whispered to us to be upheld. “In America, you can be anything you want.”

I hold America’s broken promises in front of the people I love the most and I want to hide and shout and scream and cry.

“And I wish there was a treaty we could sign

I do not care who takes this bloody hill

I’m angry and I’m tired all the time.”

–Treaty, You Want It Darker, 2016

 

As someone who has been fighting my whole life, I’m tired and I’m scared. I hardly know what I could possibly have left to offer. But I’m still going to fight. I’m still going to give what I have to offer. I’m still going to put everything I have on the line.

 

“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

–Anthem, The Future, 1992

 

Thank you my sweet friend.  I will miss you for the rest of my life.  But I will never, ever, ever forget you. And I will continue to give whatever I have.

 

Democracy Is Possible. It Requires Participation.

I have not been following any articles or trending topics on Facebook.  I haven’t clicked through to quotes and I haven’t watched sound-bites from news clips. In an effort to mitigate the falsehoods and focus on the truth about presidential politics, I have made a commitment to read only thoughtful material from credible sources.

I have done a lot of reading lately.  As such, I thought I’d be prepared for an SNL skit about a recent endorsement.

Not even close.  I watched the below SNL skit about the Sarah Palin endorsement of Donald J. Trump for president before watching the actual coverage.  I felt confused about the comedic choices and felt as though Tina Fey and the SNL writers had gone too far making fun of Sarah Palin, venturing into a terrible genre of making fun of the developmentally disabled.

And then I watched the actual endorsement that had taken place days prior.

After seeing the original and completely bizarre press conference from Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, it is obvious to me that Tina Fey’s parody was hilarious.  To be fair, however, words like crazy and retarded are unprogressive and they marginalize people.  These words aren’t good choices for comedy. Still, the skit was amazing:

For an incredible monologue and for additional commentary, please see this clip from Stephen Colbert. (I think he and his writing team deserve an Emmy for this. They reference both Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Allen Ginsberg’s Howl in almost the same breath.)

But let’s be fair.  All of this is fun and games until someone gets hurt.  This country voted for George W. Bush TWICE.  We, as a nation, voted for George W. Bush after he sent us into war for a lie.  In 2004, this country voted for George w. Bush over John Kerry by 34 electoral votes and by 3 million popular (the people) votes.

If this seems a bit daunting, or if the rest of the world is wondering about America’s ability to care, the Stephen Colbert video I posted to this blog already has more than 5 million views on Youtube in less than one week.  Democracy is possible.  It just requires participation.

If you are an American citizen, please register to vote.  Please.

And then go vote.

 

How To Be A Terrible House Guest

The holidays aren’t easy.  This season is filled with chasms of disappointment and stress.  If you are taking up quarters with a friend or loved one, there is really no point in trying to make this time of year easier. Don’t bother picking up after yourself or offering to help with household chores.  If you are staying with a friend or family member any time soon, just make yourself comfortable and let your hostess deal with everything.

1950s

Here is a list of things you can incorporate as a part of your stay in order to make your stay as excruciating as possible for everyone around you:

  1. In the planning process for your stay, try to be as vague as possible. Don’t bother to consider the hostess and her schedule.  Suggest no definite dates and instead give an approximate time frame about when you might show up and when you might leave.  Plan to stay for at least a week.  When you finally report on an approximate arrival date, arrive two days early so that whatever the hostess had planned for those two days has to be cancelled.
  2. Bring far more bags than you need for your stay. When you arrive, bring one or two bags into the house on your own but then demand help after that.  After the hostess has shown you where you will stay, express exasperation and the need for help with the rest of your baggage.  When the hostess begins to help, direct her as to where you wish your stuff to go.
  3. Once your ample bags have been removed from the car, strew them all over the room you are staying in so that it is impossible to access any closets. If the hostess offers cubbies or a dresser for you to put your stuff away, ignore her wholeheartedly and leave your stuff in bags on the floor for the duration of your stay. While you are at it, go ahead and leave stuff in the kitchen and in other rooms of the house as well.  As an added insult, bring extra boxes from your car that you won’t need during your stay and add them to your mess.  Further, if you are related to the person and will see them in the future, bring extra boxes of miscellany and ask the hostess to store them for you for an indeterminate amount of time.
  4. Bring your dog or other family pet. To really foster misery, bring a cat if the household you are visiting has a dog, or bring a dog if the household has cats. Set the pet’s bed in the kitchen or dining room, somewhere very intrusive.  When other guests wonder about your pet, ask if they knit and then demand that they make little sweaters for your animal.
  5. When things start to settle and people seem to accept your rudeness for idiosyncratic eccentricities, set up elaborate and messy art projects in common areas of the house. If possible, choose an art project that requires many colors of paint or glitter.  To be particularly awful, set up your art supplies at the kitchen table just before dinner.
  6. For the entire duration of your stay, do not do any dishes. Don’t do any chores at all.  If the hostess asks you to please excuse her as she tries to take out the garbage or completes another household chore in front of you, shoot her a dirty look for interrupting you (and your art project).
  7. Ask the hostess to do your laundry for you. When she makes your bed every day for the entirety of your stay, neglect to thank her.
  8. Never ever offer to contribute to a household meal. Snack while the hostess is clearly slaving away in the kitchen.  Complain about the food when it is served.
  9. Ignore most of the conversations provided by the other people in the house. While other members of the household sit at the table talking jovially, bring out a board game, set it up, and commence playing by yourself. Don’t ask if anyone wants to play.  Set up the game as if everyone at the table volunteered to play.  When they show no interest, roll for each person until they finally give in and start playing.
  10. When bored, rearrange the household décor. Take tchotchkes from one shelf and move them across the room.  Hide mementos and family heirlooms without saying anything so that when you finally leave the hostess wonders if you stole them.
  11. Disengage from the normal household conversation. Don’t bother to try and contribute to on-going conversations.  Instead, take out your iPad or phone and ignore everyone until you shout about various things you’ve seen on Facebook. Shout things like, “This cat is on a goat!” or, “I love the new Pope.”  Interrupt everyone.  When things seem calm and quiet, start directing everyone about what they should be doing but never get up from the table.
  12. If the hostess expresses frustration with some of your inconsideration, remind the hostess about something you paid for in order to shut her up.

 

The holidays are hard.  Why bother trying to make them easier with goodwill or manners?  Go big or go home.

 

Voting Today

I’m a voter who gives a shit.  I’m a voter who follows the issues.  I’m a voter who follows the candidates.  I’m informed and I care.  I’m not inspired.

I might be the most conflicted voter in America.

Does anyone else feel this way? Is anyone else on the same page?  Does anyone else give a shit?

your vote

Here are the things that I need to say:

The Democratic debates tonight were boring.

I wanted fireworks and I didn’t get them.

I think that the rhetoric in the Republican party is offensive.

I’m not sure how I feel about the National Elections.

I’m trying to focus on local elections because I care about my community.

Donald Trump says awful things about people who aren’t white and it makes me cringe.

I can’t imagine that any female or minority voter in this country would vote for the Republican party.

If you combine both women and minorities that vote in this country it constitutes a majority.

I feel that women and minorities in this country are important.

 

I want to make sense of politics and policy in the USA.

I want to find a candidate that I can trust.

I haven’t found a presidential candidate in this next election that I can get behind.

 

I care about the following topics:

(Please fill in the blank.)

It’s About Money

It is 2015. I’m 35 years old. I have a college education. I don’t have children. I don’t have student loan debt. I am employed. I have a partner who is employed and we share in the household income. We rent an apartment. We have one car. We do not go out a lot. We do not have credit card payments. With the exception of shoes, a few items of clothing, a few gifts for friends and family, and food, we have not bought anything new in over two years. We struggle with money every single day.

My entire generation is struggling with money. All of us struggle with money. We are struggling in significant and incredible ways. If my generation is being honest, we will probably struggle with money for the rest of our lives. And, if I’m being honest, everyone I know is struggling with money, regardless of generation.

house2015

In 2005, back when I was married to a different person, I bought a house with my husband. We were both college graduates from parents of college graduates. We both earned reasonable and steady incomes. Our mortgage payment was about 30% of our income. It was something that we could reasonably afford. We did what every other person our age had done at the time. We got a mortgage that was an 80-20 split. 80% of our mortgage was a part of one loan with one set of terms and 20% of our mortgage qualified as our down payment and came with a completely different set of terms, something shady and delectable to the financial industry. By 2007, our mortgage payments ballooned to over 60% of our income, partly because the payments went up, and partly because our income went down. By 2008, our home had been foreclosed on. It was quick and dirty. For reasons mostly unrelated, my husband and I divorced the same year.

By 2010, I was renting an apartment and beginning a new relationship with the person I now know is the person that I will spend my life with. When we met, I was working at the same job that I worked at in 2005, when I had bought my house. By 2010, my income hadn’t changed much from the day I had started with the agency. It had gone up in 2008 but then there were lay-offs and cut backs and my income had fallen back down to its 2005 level. It was still reasonable but healthcare costs had gone up significantly, along with insurance costs, and food costs, and utilities. I was struggling to make ends meet when they told us that our agency would be cut by about 50% and that there would be significant layoffs.

My partner and I decided to move closer to her work. The commute was significant and gas prices were still at record-breaking levels. I would take the layoff and receive unemployment benefits while I looked for a job in our new location. We moved 50 miles to the north and tried to make a new life.

My unemployment benefits ran out in 2012, a full two years before I found a job.

 

There were two years between my unemployment benefits running out and finding a job and those two years were the worst two years of my life.

It’s hard to admit defeat.

It’s hard for middle class people to address poverty because we think that we are too good for poverty. I thought that I was too good for poverty.

My partner and I lived below the poverty level for two years and we pretended to everyone that all was well. We never let on. We didn’t tell our friends and family. We didn’t tell anyone that we had to go to the food bank to pick up food. We didn’t tell anyone that I had to work for our landlord in order make rent. We didn’t tell anyone that the garden in our back yard was actually a significant food source. We didn’t use our heater for an entire winter because we couldn’t afford the bill for propane. These just aren’t the things you want to share.

We are better off these days. But not by much. We pay our bills most of the time. Sometimes we can even put a few dollars into savings.

 

A friend of mine went into her bank today. She is 40-something and one of the most interesting and brilliant people I know. She is a writer and someone I constantly admire. She is paid to write articles that I wish I could write. When I think about my life in five years, I think of her.

She has been struggling with money. Today, she told her friends, “The teller at the bank could tell that I am a lady who lives by my wits and she was not amused.” A friend asked, “Did you cross the funny/outgoing–rude/crazy line?” My friend replied, “No. I was just being poor in public.”

 

My car died today. It’s a good car but it is ten years old and has been acting up. Today, after finishing a cup of tea and getting ready for work, I went to start my car. The engine wouldn’t turn over. The engine made a rraerrr-irrrr sound and then nothing. I tried to have my neighbor jump start my car but it didn’t help. Ultimately, I had to have the car towed from my driveway to the mechanic.

I don’t have the money to fix the car. Well, more accurately, I have the money to fix the car but it was money that my partner and I had been saving to go on a long-awaited camping trip this weekend, a trip that we booked in May and is likely no longer a possibility. I also don’t have money for a new car. I don’t have money saved for a down payment and my partner and I do not have the credit scores to buy a car and make payments at a reasonable rate. The car is our single, shared family vehicle.

My partner and I have been squirrelling away money these past few months because the non-profit organization that I work for is about to lose a significant grant that helps to fund the organization. I know that my salary will have to be cut in order to maintain the financial health of the organization. I love non-profit work and I know the drill. I have been trying to prepare in the interim.

My partner and I have been trying to save at least three months of expenses so that we can have time to prepare for the next step. We know what it’s like to have no money and it sucks. We are hoping to avoid that.

 

I am sick and tired of being poor. Everyone I know is sick and tired of being poor.

According to articles published by The Atlantic and Business Insider, “Millions of America’s young people are really struggling financially. Around 30 percent are living with their parents, and many others are coping with stagnant wages, underemployment, and sky-high rent.” This article addresses the struggles that people of my generation face but it fails to make note of how many financial sacrifices the parents of my generation have had to make in order to accommodate the failed promises of American Society that their children were afforded. Our economic instability is not simply affecting our recent college graduates. Our failed economic structure is equally effecting the parents and grandparents who are trying to help generations X, Y, and beyond.

 

According to every American myth I know, according to the dogma laid out by the American dream, me, and people like me, should be financially well-off. I went to college before getting married. I got married before buying a house. I bought a house before considering children. I did all the right things.

But all of that dissolved in the financial crisis of 2008, a financial crisis that was orchestrated and intentional with no apologies and no criminal indictments from America’s financial or legal community. I didn’t have children and I lost the house. I lost the house and I lost the marriage. My college degree can’t get me a job.

Isn’t it time to just say it? Can’t we just say it? Shouldn’t we just be honest with each other?

I’ll say it.

The American Dream is dead. The American Middle Class is nothing but a fallacy. We no longer have an American Middle Class.

 

The American Dream is dead but not in the way that people who engage in politics would like to use the phrase. It’s not about State’s Rights, or Gun Rights, or Libertarianism. It’s not about taxes or representation. The American Dream is dead because the American middle class no longer exists.

The American middle class can’t make their mortgage payments. The American middle class can’t put their kids through college without borrowing large sums of money from financial institutions. The American middle class cannot provide for their families without going through the door of American finance. The American middle class has been captured by the finance industry and it is suffering in unprecedented ways.

The entire world is suffering from American finance.

At least the people in countries like Greece and Iceland know what happened to them. They know that they have been screwed. They know that they were completely and totally fucked by the worldwide financial industry. The people of United States of America still have no idea.

The people of America are suffering. I am suffering. It’s about money. It’s money. The people of America are suffering because there is an incredible difference between the people that have money and the people who are struggling to make ends meet.

I have credentials. I should be able to get a job that pays well. I should be able to own a home. I should have reasonable health insurance costs.

I have a degree from UC Davis.

I have no money. I have a car that needs repair. I have a job that can’t pay me. I’m the American Middle class.

It’s about money.

Why You Should Care About California’s Drought, Even If You Don’t Live In California

No one can overstate the incredible seriousness of California’s drought. There have been signs dotting the I-5 freeway, a freeway that traverses the central corridor of California, for a few years now blaming congress for California’s “dust bowl.”

The California drought is incredibly serious. California’s dust bowl isn’t the result of decisions made by congress but it is an issue that warrants political and community discussion. Water is scarce in California and it should make more than a few ears perk up.

dustbowl

The Central Valley, which has the reputation of being California’s most “fertile” farmland is actually a desert that has been irrigated by delta water and aqueducts in order to force food to grow. It is a terribly inefficient use of water. For more than a century, we have cultivated the hottest and dryest part of California in order to feed California and the rest of the United States. For many, many years, this technique has been working.

This year may very well mark the year that growing food in the desert of the Central Valley is no longer an option. California is running out of water. And soon, the United States may be running out of food.

According to California’s government agriculture website, “California’s agricultural abundance includes more than 400 commodities. The state produces nearly half of US-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables. Across the nation, US consumers regularly purchase several crops produced solely in California.” In other words, one out of two of every fresh fruit, nut, or vegetable that you put into your mouth came from California. Much of your favorite produce, like an artichoke or a basket of grapes, are grown primarily or solely in California. They’re delicious and they may soon be gone. If we can’t grow it, you can’t eat it.

As a resident Californian, I’m doing my part. If it’s yellow, I let it mellow. My household and I have cut our water usage by at least 40% this year and we were not big water users to begin with.  I was impressed to see that almost every Californian has let their lawn go brown. But, for many urban and suburban people, the loss of their lawn has also meant the loss of household gardens and the death of urban fruit trees.  Water is in short supply and California’s abundant food supply is shrinking in unthinkable ways.

Lake Oroville  (credit: California Department of Water Resources)

Lake Oroville (credit: California Department of Water Resources)

Unfortunately, for food production in the US, it’s not enough for Californians to simply stop flushing their toilets for number one. It’s not enough to stop watering lawns or take shorter showers. Nearly 80% of water usage in California goes towards growing food. Nearly 80% of water usage in California is agricultural. The dispersement of water usage in California needs a creative makeover.

But water conservation also needs the help of the people. We need the rest of the United States to get involved. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Stop buying bottled water, especially from Nestle. Bottled water comes from clean, natural resources, usually at the expense of the taxpayer and almost always at the expense of the greater good. Nestle has a water packaging plant on the Sacramento Delta River, one of the most important watering holes for California Agriculture. There have been protests staged at Nestle water plants but there are no signs of them discontinuing their water grab. If consumers stopped buying Nestle water, it could help.
  1. Advocate for farmers and big-ag to use more water-efficient mechanisms when watering crops. Be a champion for farmers and help them to use new technology. Help farmers access new technology by advocating for tax breaks and grants when farmers switch to water-saving mechanisms.
  1. Support small farmers and eat local. Eat what your local farmers grow. Avocados are amazing. I won’t lie to you. Avocados are one of California’s greatest and most delightful exports. But they are usually grown in large, industrial settings, like almonds and many other crops. And they aren’t grown in most of the rest of the United States. Small farms and farmers use less water than industrial farms and large-scale farmers. Many small farmers use their own wells and water and have technology in place to conserve. Talk to the farmers in your neighborhood and eat what they grow.

The California Drought is something that every American should be worried about and it is something that every American can do something about.  Please help us.

The Lion, The Bitch, and the Whole World

I have three cats at home.  They are not big cats.  They are house cats.  Each cat has its own personality and I live for each of them every single day.  They bring me joy and comfort.  I tell them about my day and they meow at me.  They are my very best friends.  (I am a lesbian with no children so this is not an understatement.)

IMG_5922

I care about animals and I’m sad that Cecil the Lion was murdered. I have seen the outpouring and I have been heartened by the outcry. I’m glad that the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion had to shut down his practice and go into hiding.  The killing of animals for sport is senseless and terrible. People should be upset and outraged.  Jimmy Kimmel’s heart-felt commentary felt right and accurate.

Jimmy Kimmel

But then I saw the backlash. I saw the backlash from many of my black friends and I was surprised by it. In a way, I felt hurt. I saw people or color posting poignant and painful admonishments about how some folks get upset about the killing of an animal but don’t seem to notice or speak up about the killing of black people in this country and worldwide.

A good friend of mine reposted the following commentary from the Facebook page “Son of Baldwin”.  (For people who care about issues of race and equality in this country, please, read this blog in its entirety and don’t skim.)

 

With zero edits or interjections, from Son of Baldwin:

  1. A white man slaughters a Lion in Zimbabwe. The man, Walter Palmer, a dentist, of course, denies his part in it. Using his Whiteness to the fullest of its capabilities, Palmer claims that the black Zimbabweans he paid off tricked him and he had no idea what he was doing, that the slow and painful death he caused the Lion is black people’s fault not his. (http://www.cnn.com/…/zimbabwe-cecil-the-Lion-kil…/index.html)

White people around the world are absolutely outraged over the Lion’s inhumane slaughter. They want Palmer convicted. They haven’t said anything yet about Palmer’s Whiteness evocation, however.

  1. Black cisgender women are turning up dead in prisons (http://thinkprogress.org/…/fourth-black-woman-found-dead-j…/). Sandra Bland, Kindra Chapman, Joyce Curnell, Ralkina Jones, Raynetta Turner; five black women that we know of. (This number expands if we include non-black women.) In these cases, the outrage from most white people is muted, replaced by averted gazes, exasperated sighs, lips curled with skepticism. They want the cops protected. They start online campaigns to raise money for the cops’ defense.

By reflex, they seek reasons to justify the murders and strip black people of our humanity. They mock both our pain and cries for justice, regarding both as the assurances they need to confirm that their plans are working.

They attempt make our murders a public service rather than crimes against humanity. This is genocide by omission; that is to say omitted from the public record through the use of a PR strategy that every American institution is in on–and many white Americans condone and support, either by their action or inaction–to make the destruction of black lives seem like our own fault.

  1. Black transgender women are being slaughtered in the streets (http://janetmock.com/…/02/16/six-trans-women-killed-this-y…/). Islan Nettles, India Clarke, London Chanel, Penny Proud, Yazmin Vash Payne, Ty Underwood, Lamia Beard–to only scratch the surface. (This number multiplies if we expand it to include non-black women.) In these cases, most white people and most black people find common ground. We say they “tricked” people and we sympathize/empathize with the murderers.

Collectively, we recite the anthem of viciousness reserved for those who we believe have no discernible humanity; or, at least, no humanity that our own inhumanity allows us to recognize:

“That’s what they get!”

By reflex, we seek reasons to justify the murders and strip transgender people of their humanity. We mock both their pain and cries for justice, regarding both as the assurances we need to confirm that our plans are working.

We attempt make their murders a public service rather than crimes against humanity. This is genocide by omission; that is to say omitted from the public record through the use of a PR strategy that every American institution is in on–and many white and black Americans condone and support, either by their action or inaction–to make the destruction of transgender lives seem like their own fault.

  1. The American Lesson: White people > Wild animals > Black cisgender people > Black transgender people.

There is enough implication to go around.

 

lion

I was hurt because I’m one of the people who speak up. I’m not always great at speaking up. I don’t always know the right thing to say. But I frequently speak up. I try. The commentary drawing conclusions about Cecil the Lion and #blacklivesmatter seemed really unfair. I’m an activist and I hold my activism close. I felt hurt that I was being accused of somehow being insensitive about black lives because I’m a white person who cares about animals and a specific lion.

I’m also a queer person and I care about transgender lives.  I care about all the issues listed in the commentary above and I cared about those issues before the mainstream media found a poster child to make it cool and host a reality show about it.

I give a shit.  I have always given a shit.  I have been very loud about giving a shit.  I have never been ashamed about the fact that I give a shit. You can call me a bitch but I still give a shit.  I give a shit about the things worth giving a shit for.

This whole lion thing, and the subsequent intricacies, really caught me by surprise. Lions, animals, and the injustice perpetrated against endangered animals should be a totally non-controversial, legitimate thing to fight for.  Caring about Cecil and publically voicing my opinion should be a social-justice no-brainer. Right?

No.  Not so much.

I initially felt really defensive.  I was mad.  I am a shit-giving activist and I try to consider everyone.  All the time.  Always.

But then I realized something.

Most white people, or folks of privilege, do not understand that worrying about the death of a lion is a privilege. Worrying about something other than yourself is a privilege.  Room to worry about a dentist and the animal he killed is room to worry. Room to worry is a privilege. Room to worry is a privilege that people of color do not have.

People of color have their worry filled up. Filled to the brim. With their families, children, neighbors, themselves. They worry about being pulled over. They worry about being shot at by police officers. People of color worry about being pulled from their vehicles.  They worry about dying in jail. They worry about being murdered by those who are sworn to protect the law. They worry about the law.  They worry about the laws of this land. They worry about history and gerrymandering and voter disenfranchisement. They worry every second of every moment. They worry deeply when their children are out of their sight, especially if said child is a young man of color. They worry in a very real way and for several very real reasons.

For white people, and other people of privilege, being an activist for Cecil the Lion, or for people of color, or for LGBTIQ people, or for others who are disenfranchised, seems like the right thing to do. White folks have the time and the privilege to decide when it’s time to worry. We have the privilege to pick our battles. We can decide about Cecil the Lion.  We can decide on our issues and which issues need address.

For white people, it seems like the issues we pick are separate and deliberate.  It seems that our issues are mutually exclusive. They’re just issues.  When white people become activists, we decide what matters; we pick our battles.  We decide on Cecil the Lion. Or we decide on Sandra Bland.  Or we decide on Michael Brown.  Or we decide on Green Peace.  Or we decide on Relay for Life.  We decide to feed the hungry or to build a garden or to donate to National Public Radio.  We decide where to give our time and money.

For white people, and people of privilege, we can separate our issues and decide how to spend our time and our “activist moments.”

People of color do not have the same luxury.

Terrorism, Racism, and the Bullshit We Tell Ourselves

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”        -Desmond Tutu

In March of 2003 I remember staring at my television in disbelief. I kept flipping through the major news channels in hopes that something would change. One of the major news stations had a countdown clock ticking off the seconds of George W. Bush’s ultimatum to Saddam Hussein; Saddam and his sons were to leave their country by a certain time or the United States would invade Iraq. 57, 56, 55, 54… The clock counted down.

When the clock got to zero I turned white and collapsed to the floor. I felt frantic. I laid on the wooden floor of my Sacramento apartment and sobbed. I cried like a child who couldn’t find her blanket. I wailed and gulped between gasps for breath. Looking back, it seems a reasonable reaction. We were at war.

The protests lasted for months. The coverage of the protests lasted for a few days. I still have the sign that I carried as a testament to the anti-war effort.

In the months that followed, our country pretended that we weren’t at war. Less than two months after the countdown, on May 1st, 2003, George W. Bush stood on an aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, and declared “Mission Accomplished.” It was an incredible lie and a ridiculous sham. There are still American soldiers in Iraq today, more than a decade later.

confederate flag

“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”      -Soren Kierkegaard

We tell ourselves a lot of stories. We are great at telling stories. America is famous for its stories. We invented the Hollywood picture, the Animated Feature, and the Broadway Musical. Our stories may be what make us quintessentially American.

Many of our stories make us great. In many ways, stories can make us feel human. They bind us with universal narratives and colorful language. Stories can give us give us comfort in our skin and validation to our souls.

But stories can also painfully mislead us.

For too long in this country we have made our stories a reality.  We have pretended so many things in order to get by.

We have pretended that our elected officials have had our best interests in mind. We have pretended that our mainstream media is a reasonable source of unbiased information. We have pretended that processed foods aren’t making us sick. We have pretended that the Star Wars prequels didn’t totally suck.

Some of the lies we have continued to tell ourselves are harmless. Many of the lies we tell ourselves in this country are killing innocent people.

We have to stop lying. We have to stop lying to ourselves and others. We have to stop pretending that the “War on Terrorism” isn’t racist. And we have to stop pretending that the long history of racism in this country is something of the past.

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”         –Proverbs 12:18

I watched a lot of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show during the early years of the Iraq War. It was the only thing that kept me sane. I know that there is a line to be drawn between the unnamed war that we are fighting in this country against people of color and the many wars we think that we understand abroad. I haven’t been able to form a sentence with regard to what happened in South Carolina. So, instead, I’ll share with you some of Jon Stewart’s observations:

“What blows my mind is the disparity of response between when we think that people who are foreign are going to kill us and us killing ourselves. If this had been what we thought was Islamic Terrorism, it would have fit into our… We invaded two countries and spent trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives and now fly unmanned death machines over five or six different countries…all to keep Americans safe. We’ve got to do whatever we can. We’ll torture people. We’ve got to do whatever we can to keep Americans safe. Nine people shot in a church? What about that?

“This is a terrorist attack. This is a violent attack on the Emmanuel Church of South Carolina, which is a symbol for the black community. It has stood in that part of Charleston for 100+ years. It has been attacked viciously many times as many black churches have, and to pretend…I heard someone on the news saying, “Tragedy has visited this church.” This wasn’t a tornado. This was racist. This [incident] was black and white. There is no nuance here…

“Nine people were shot in a black church by a white guy who hated them, who wanted to start some kind of civil war. The Confederate flag flies over South Carolina, and the roads are named for Confederate generals, and the white guy’s the one who feels like his country is being taken away from him. We’re bringing it on ourselves. And that’s the thing. Al-Qaeda, all those guys, ISIS, they’re not shit compared to the damage that we can apparently do to ourselves on a regular basis.”

We have to stop. We have to stop lying. We have to stop lying to ourselves about the reality of this country. We have to be honest with ourselves. We have to be honest with each other. We have to be honest so that we can start doing something. We have to start doing something.

We have to start doing something.

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”  –Howard Zinn

What do you say at a moment like this? There are no words.

So don’t use words. Use actions. Use acts of kindness. Use acts of kindness that are so significant they change the status quo.

Lesbian Proposes Signed Authorization for Viagra in Response to Marriage Discrimination

The issue of marriage equality found its way back to the Supreme Court last week and this one could be the big one.

Kelly and Sarie whole

The outcome of the latest Supreme Court hearing about gay marriage could dictate that all states in the United States have to recognize same-sex marriage contracts. This pending decision has more than a few people riding the crazy train.

I support religious freedom. This blogger supports a person’s right to have a religious marriage. I think that if a person believes that their religion prevents them from supporting same-sex marriages then they should opt for a religion-only marriage.

A simple religious ceremony for marriage requires nothing more than two people showing up to a place of worship and practicing whatever religious rites transmit in the context of a marriage ceremony as it applies to a particular religion. Forget the license. Forget city hall. The government should stay out of religious freedom. If what is important is a religious marriage, then have a religious marriage and keep the government out of it.

Of course, a religion-only, non-government marriage prevents the married spouses from receiving all of the legal benefits that a marriage license provides married people.

Wait wait wait. There are legal benefits to marriage?

Hell yeah there are.

Contrary to the delusional belief that marriage is a stream-lined religious construct, and something that God dictated, marriage is actually a legal contract sanctioned by the government and enforced based on the laws of the land. If a marriage were simply between two people and their God, no one would have to pay city hall or their church for a “license” to get married.

But people pay for a license (even when getting married in a church) because they want all the legal benefits of marriage.

Duh. The legal benefits of marriages are hella sweet.

There are tax breaks and discounts on insurance. There are inheritance rights, and parental rights, and spousal rights. There are lower interest rates and waived financial penalties. There are all kinds of benefits from being legally married.

According to Federal Law, there are 1,138 benefits, rights, and protections provided on the basis of marital status. They include practical family financial allowances such as Social Security benefits and survivor benefits. They apply to health benefits and state sales tax. They apply to spousal sponsorship as it applies to immigration law. The list goes on and on.

Marriage isn’t about religion. It’s just not. Even outside of the United States, in most countries all over the world, marriage is a social and societal construct. Within the United States, it’s a government racket. Single people, and those not wanting to get married, or who can’t get married, like priests, should be far more outraged about the legal implications of marriage than one man and one woman who believe in God’s laws.

But marriage is what it is in in the United States today. That is to say, marriage is a legal protection providing legal benefits that should be extended to all consenting adults who agree to enter into the loving and legal contract of marriage.

Based on the 14th amendment, (which was “written by god himself” according to Tom Delay), it is unlawful for states to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”. Basically, because marriage provides protections under its legal contract, two people willingly entering said contract, should be afforded the same protections as anyone else. That protection extends to same-sex couples.

But hey. I can ride the crazy train too. If Pastor John Stephen Piper wants to adhere to the idea that marriage is for making children, I can get on board. Rather than taking the legal construct of marriage and trying to use it to discriminate against loving same-sex couples, an idea that just won’t work in America’s legal system, why don’t we try something new?

Let’s attack something that doesn’t already have a legal precedent affording rights to a privileged class. Let’s target flaccid, floppy penises. Hanging dangles are ugly and they have no place in America. They are a stain on God’s intention and any remedy or mainstreaming of this terrible affliction should be highly scrutinized.  I propose that we require anyone seeking a prescription for Viagra to get a signed authorization from their legal wife, who must be an adult, fertile woman of child-bearing age, and who can give specific details about the use of Viagra within a marriage to produce children.

Let’s stop the unnecessary inclusion of broken dicks into society! Who is with me?

The Fight

I love boxing. The sport of boxing is incredibly entertaining. There is nothing like two grown men hitting each other above the belt for no real reason until one of them passes out. It’s the best.

Until you actually think about it. And then it’s really fucking stupid.

I didn’t realize that anyone gave a shit about the Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao fight. I have been calling Comcast for the past six days because my internet has been acting up and I’ve been hearing about the fight every time I call. But it wasn’t until yesterday that anyone actually said something about having a friend or cousin related to Pacquiao. Suddenly that’s every person on Facebook and the fight matters.

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And, according to every person on Facebook, Floyd Mayweather is an alleged wife beater and a terrible person. (I don’t know him and I can’t speak to this.) He definitely deserved to lose a boxing match against Manny Pacquiao, right?

But Mayweather won.

The guy who supposedly punches his wife on a regular basis unjustly won a punching match against someone who gets punched professionally. Floyd Mayweather is a horrible person because he punches people that aren’t supposed to be punched. Is that what we are supposed to understand? Is that the real outrage? Because it sounds like a bunch of bullshit.

I’m ready to call the sport of boxing what it is: really fucking dumb. There is no reason that two grown men, who don’t really know each other, should beat each other up and, most importantly, get paid to do so. That’s really fucking dumb.

We, as humans, and especially as Americans, have a lot of shit to fight about. We have a lot of reasons to throw punches. Our last year has made that pretty clear: Police brutality. Racial inequality. Labor justice. Campaign finance. Marriage inequality. The gender pay gap. There are lots of reasons to be angry. There are lots of reasons that we should be resorting to violence.

But resorting to violence isn’t the way to go. If we have learned anything in this past week from our news outlets, and from our white friends on social media, it’s that violence is stupid. Am I right? Violence doesn’t solve anything. Especially when it happens in Baltimore. So, with that in mind, the sport of boxing is stupid. Punching each other in the face isn’t the way to go. Trying to make demons or heroes out of paid boxing champions is stupid.

I might get a little push-back here but let me say something first.

You can’t tell me that Manny Pacquiao is a hero out of the Philippines. Do you know how many heroes out of the Philippines there are? Do you know how many parents and grandparents and single mothers have protected their children through wars and earthquakes and typhoons? Do you even know the population of the Philippines or where in the world The Philippines actually exist? Probably not.

So don’t tell me that people who punch each other, even if they came from an impoverished country like the Philippines, deserve to be heroes. People who punch people aren’t heroes.  Boxers aren’t heroes.

A hero is someone you know. A hero is your neighbor or your grandma or a local firefighter. A hero is someone who has a direct impact on your life. Heroes are real people that you can shake hands with or feel a direct impact from. Heroes are real people.

Boxers aren’t heroes. Boxing matches are shitty representations of two people who don’t really care for each other and who don’t really have a fight to pick with each other, fighting for a cause that means nothing. They are the worst of all fighters.

If you want a hero, find someone who stands for something. If you want to know about a real fight, go ask someone you love, ask them what they are fighting for and ask why.  There you will find a hero and you’ll find something to fight for.