Monday, September 18, 2017

Tina Fey Sounded a Little Bit Trumpish with that Cake

“You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent.”

-- The White Supremacist-in-Chief in response to Charlottesville.

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

--Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am (a few weeks late, admittedly) obsessed with Tina Fey’s cake sketch. It’s one of the few things in recent memory that I’ve been able to be even a little equivocal about. She got some amazing points across, and “Yell it into the cake” will be part of my lexicon from now on. The way she ate the thing was mesmerizing, a work of art in and of itself. But to me, her overall takeaway message was one of obedience.

By characterizing protests as “screaming matches” and advising “good, sane Americans” to stay home, she is not only dishonoring Heather Hayer’s death, but encouraging a sense of superiority in those who do nothing. (Having lived through the 2016 election, I can assure you that the apathetic do not need help feeling superior.) I appreciate the empathy for my/our post-Trump feelings of fear and helplessness, but by denigrating anti-Nazi counter-protestors just as much as the torch-bearing monsters they were standing up to, Tina was (maybe satirically? I hope?) echoing the president’s claim that there was blame on both sides.

Lumping in all protests as unproductive and undignified seems especially out of step, considering this sketch shares a year with THE LARGEST PROTEST IN HUMAN HISTORY, and the assertion of helplessness is ridiculous, given the number of Confederate monuments that did come down after Charlottesville. Tina rants into the cake on the Water Protectors behalf while at the same time insinuating that they and their allies are less-civilized than those who stay home. Would she tell John Lewis that he’d participated in “screaming matches,” and that he should have stayed home? Listing off meaningful protests seems like just as annoying an undertaking as listing off women who are funny. When you’re starting from a crazy false premise, no amount of evidence will help.

I think every person with a platform, large or small, has the moral obligation to loudly and unambiguously stand with anti-hate action of all kinds. So, from my so-tiny-as-to-be-almost-nonexistent platform, I’ll say this:

Self care IS resistance, but resistance is also self-care. If we continue to prioritize our own safety and ignore threats to our fellow humans, our actions are no longer self-nurturing but nihilistic. White supremacy isn’t an event that we can choose to attend or not attend, it is woven so deeply into the fabric of our society that every single one of us can fight it, in large and small ways, every day. Helplessness is what Trump wants us to feel, and stress-eating is an outdated misogynist concept. Dear fellow white ladies, dear everyone: eat for pleasure and fight like hell for your fellow humans, in whatever way you can.

Friday, September 8, 2017

What I Hear When They Say “Bernie would’ve won.”

This is a hard post to write—the voices of depression, self-erasure, and totalitarian-times pre-obedience all tell me to knock it off, that I’m just being annoying and trying to sabotage my remaining friendships out of grief. Outside influences including the bullying team of socialist mostly-white-dudes formed post-election call for “unity, but I’m pretty sure what they’re asking for is obedience.
There’s a little volcano in my gut made out of the b-word, and every once in a while, it explodes, and there’s yelling. I’m embarrassed by my yelling, but I take comfort in knowing that if I were Bernie, my occasional blustering incoherence would be seen as “authentic” and “revolutionary” rather than unhinged and shrill. Stupid gender.
So here’s an attempt to be coherent, to put into words what I hear when someone says “Bernie would’ve won.”

1.     Trump is your/Hillary’s/women’s fault. As a rape survivor, I’m used to carrying blame in my body that isn’t mine. Health and healing demand that I rebel against it, but trauma has placed an “If I wouldn’t have…” deep in my psyche. So when people blame Hillary supporters for the election of Trump, the nausea and pain of false blame bubbles to the surface and I hiss and flail and panic to get it off me.

Through all of human history, women have absorbed blame that isn’t ours and have been rewarded with social capital when we are willing to take the side of the oppressor. As the Rapist-in-Chief’s decisions prove to be just as hateful and apocalyptic as we thought they would be, the blame feels ever more damaging. I don’t want to hear it any more than I wanted to hear “You shouldn’t have been wearing that dress.” at 16 when I told a policemen that a guy jerked off at me in the park. The connection feels like an anxiety-leap, but that doesn’t make it not true.

2.      You/she/women should have stayed in your place. I hear, when people call for unity around Bernie, that same rock-stupid sentiment that bigots use when they blamed President Obama for racism. Instead of acknowledging the tide of misogynist mob-mentality (on both/all sides) that lifted Trump into office, (mostly, but not exclusively, straight white male) Bernie supporters try to make it the fault of those of us who saw Hillary as a way to fight oppression.
“There wouldn’t be all of this tension if people would just stay in their place” is among the most evil and ignorant American ideas, and it is one of the central themes of all hate movements, but ordinary “nice” people revert to it all the time, especially in the context of Hillary-hate.

3.     You don’t deserve representation.

4.    Your/Hillary’s/women’s/people of color’s work doesn’t count. I’ve already written extensively about how irked I am that people tend to discount Hillary’s lifetime of trying to do as much good as she can, largely on behalf of the poor. This national blindspot has given me a clear view of how often women’s work goes unseen. The women (at the headquarters I worked in, it was mostly women, mostly queer women and women of color, in fact) who donated our/their time deserve better than to be dismissed or concern-trolled by those who threw dollar bills at our first major party female candidate from president or sat on the sidelines basking in their white male entitlement, patting themselves on the back for their “progressiveness” even as they harassed and belittled women and people of color for our/their choice of candidate.

5.   . The votes of women and people of color don’t count. This claws its angry way through the system every time someone talks about how the primary was “rigged” or the DNC simply anointed Hillary. There was voting! The gaslighting insistence of their version is so strong that I sometimes have to look up the statistics just to remember it-she just won! The fact that the male candidate with a weaker social justice platform lost doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the system. There are plenty of things wrong with the system, of course, this just isn’t one of them.

6.       White people should get to decide. But we fucking DON’T!
From the Wall Street Journal. I think that anyone who cares about social justice needs to make the opinions of people of color into account, and I hear white people dismiss these numbers all the time.

And take a look at the Trump regime if you want to see what white people’s vision of the county can be!

To me, the continued wistfulness about Bernie Sanders is a socially acceptable analog of Trump-sympathizing. In my opinion, it’s still driven by white male entitlement and white female betrayal/Stockholm syndrome, a desperate clinging to the past, tangled with the denial that race and gender bias exist at all.

It sucks, and it better be fucking taken care of by the time Kamala Harris runs for president.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Theme and Wishes for Age 43

            I thought about going with “flawless,” but I just like flaws so much. For the past week or so, my intention in every meditation session has been “I’m celebrating my life,” and I have been. I’m so glad to be here. I woke up, in a healthy body and an often-happy heart. I’m here. Most of the time, I’m pretty sure that I exist, and that’s a big change for me. I want to keep being here wholeheartedly, keep celebrating. How lucky we are to be alive right now was another good option. I’m so thankful every day that I woke up like this.

            My political wishes for the coming year are many, of course, though right now DACAis heaviest on my heart. My personal wishes are simple: more money and more snuggles.  The money part seems less mystifying—as soon as I finish grad school in December, I’ll be free to build up my tutoring clientele. But the snuggle part, as always, is a mystery. I’ve written out my ideal mate a thousand times, but what I wish for is fairly simple: someone warm and funny to take walks with. If by some miracle he voted Hillary in the 2016 primary, all the better. I have some guilt about hoping to be with someone masculine-identified (this misguided ex-wife loyalty runs deep) but I do.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Birthday Heart Inventory: Thanks 42!

Surprisingly, 42 was one of my happiest years yet. Last year around this time, I wrote about depression as a weed killer and this year, my garden is thriving, both literally and figuratively. There’s a lot of pain in my heart and so much battle still ahead, but my goal of cultivating a life has been met and exceeded.

Mental Health: Like for a lot of women, particularly trauma survivors, the 2016 election season was wildly triggering. In my case, those triggers got me to an amazing place: Women Organized Against Rape. Not only did my (FREE!) therapist there stem the tide of sobbing and panicking to a manageable level, she has also steered me towards a calmer, warmer, more productive, and loving self—she is truly a brain artist. It’s hard work to focus on the trauma part of life every Monday, and it usually results in at least a day of catharsis hangover, but it’s 100% worth it. This year is the closest I’ve ever come to feeling truly worthy of love, especially my own.

Love: Every day I feel the gorgeous, generous, and powerful love of friends, family, and cats, but I could copy and paste the longing for romantic love that I’ve written nearly every year. Though I’ve finally attained the goal of self-containment to a level that seems magical, I dream about boyfriends nearly every night. I try to take loneliness as a sign of health, my heart telling me that it’s ready to open up again.
            This is a good place to confess that there are a couple of guys I haven’t gotten over. I still wish I could hear from them, even though I know they aren’t the right ones. I keep their nice notes and artwork in the Box of Things to Be Worked Out by Unseen Forces. They don’t read this, I don’t think, but I’ll tell them anyway:
Dear _______ and ________,
Thank you for being in my life, for loving me the best you could, for the snuggles, the music, the kindness. Thank you for your face, your kindness, your humor, your support. I’m sorry for the ways that I hurt you. You’ll always be a sparkly gem in my heart because you changed me for the better. I’ll always a little bit belong to you, and I hope that you remember the best parts.
Love, Jane
(With that, I hope I made a little room for some snuggle-able treasures to come aboard.)

Work: I love my tutoring work so, so much. Getting to work with kids one-on-one, getting to know their families, using my teaching skills organically and flexibly, I CAN’T BELIEVE I made it here from where I was three years ago. Even on my lost-est days, a tutoring session brings me back to myself, frees me to live in love and in the present.
            I have one more semester of grad school (I HATE being back in grad school!) and then my teacher certification will be permanent. I hope to build up to a full-time tutoring business—I LOVE being my own boss, and the joy of going to the bank to deposit cash has not diminished since my waitress years.
            Creative coaching is going beyond-well: Coachees tend to transform into friends who guide my creativity just as much as I cheerlead theirs.

Art: At an organizing meeting last November, I introduced myself as a “street artist” for the first time, and that title really does ring true. I love being able to share my work with the neighborhood, watching how well the paintings I staple to phone poles get curated—some of the pieces have been up for more than a year! It’s a way to give and get love every time I take a walk, and fulfills what I think are the deepest purposes of art: to give, to love, to connect. Sometimes a neighbor even thanks me, and it’s the warmest, most fulfilling, most enriching feeling.
Activism: Remember when we thought it was sometimes not an election year? Transitioning from activism being a once-once-in-a-while pursuit to being a Daily Action feels healthy and sane. I’m so inspired by those who stay engaged and also by the way that we’ve committed to self-care as part of the resistance.
Plus, it’s always a good time to remind myself that this happened:

Grief: Although the Rapist-in-Chief causes the most horror in my heart and worldwide, it’s the misogyny of the 2016 Democratic primary that has caused me the most personal day-to-day grief, including making me wonder if I can ever date a man again. I’m working on a separate post about the ongoing soul-rash that is The Bern, so I won’t spend any more of my birthday typing about him.

Family:  My family of origin seems to have forgiven me for my Thanksgiving-ruining, welcoming me back like a prodigal daughter. My poetry family is mostly not connected to me anymore, largely a casualty of the misogyny-storm of the primaries. My immediate family is my ex-wife/bff and my two cats, and that’s a really, really nice life.

Spirituality: I’m addicted to Insight Timer, going to yoga weekly, and I’m even getting monthly massages. Sometimes I think I might just float up off the earth.
It’s been, in many ways, a year of luxury, of radical self-care, and I hope I can continue that spirit through age 43 and beyond. Thank you for helping make my life so rich, complex, and loving—wishing you all of the healing and happiness.

August Checkmarks, Birthday Month Goals

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Why D.C. Is My Happy Place

Last Sunday was the Equality March, where LGBTQ folks, allies, and Women’s March stalwarts gathered to show our pride and solidarity and to protest the Trump regime. As my BFF/ex-wife and I walked into the crowd at Farragut Square, we happened upon a wave of woohoos. A marching band in matching purple T-shirts played “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and I felt old when only a few people looked fired up about that. When they played “Born This Way,” I jumped around in sincere joy at my people’s unofficial anthem.

It was certainly the biggest LGBTQ demonstration I’ve ever been in, though of course it was teensy compared to the D.C. Women’s March. Amy was carrying a pinwheel she’d made herself!

 and I’d painted a sign that said this:

Since November, protests have come to feel like a second home to me. I take so much comfort in the signs, both the clever puns and the classics:

I’ve been chanting “This is what democracy looks like!” for twenty years, and I was amused by the addition of “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Donald Trump, sashay away!” The crowd grew at every intersection, and was ebullient until we reached the White House—you could hear the boos and the “Shame, shame, shame!” chants from many blocks away. When we got there, we noticed snipers on the roof, but maybe they are always there. Though we were literally targets of the Trump administration, I felt completely safe. I know that’s partly a function of privilege, (It’s much safer for me in protests than it is for people of color, Muslim folks, and trans folks, a fact I try not to take for granted.) but being with The People tends to make me feel at home, whether I’m canvassing, marching, or just going in for my weekly therapy appointments at Women Organized Against Rape. Connection is what keeps me strong and happy, the opposite of helpless, knowing that we are many and we will not be silenced.

            After the march, Amy and I sat down in the shade outside the Museum of Natural History to catch our breath and have a snack. I needed to go in to use the restroom, and as I got metal-detected and wanded to get into the museum, a thought occurred to me: Everything in the entire Smithsonian is mine. The Hope Diamond and all of her mineral friends, the Ruby slippers, the Washington Monument, every fountain and path and sunken sculpture garden, it’s mine. Ours. It belongs to everyone at every intersection.

This is not and has never been a country that belongs only to straight white men, and I’m glad that so many of us are working to turn away from that default and toward ourselves and those who need our support.

On the way home, Amy and I happened to pass the National Cathedral (Picturing Jed Bartlett there, crushing out a cigarette in the transept…)I wanted to gaze up at the architecture and see if I could get inside to look at the stained glass, which I hadn’t seen since a school trip when I was twelve. (The fact that I ran out of film on that trip still haunts me. Thank goodness that’s not a concern anymore!) Amy, legs sore from marching, kindly waited outside in the turnaround while I went to explore.

The outside of the building was as awe-inspiring as I’d expected, but it was the windows that really transported me, brighter to my eyes because of all the rainbows I’d just spent the day with. Pictures don’t do justice to the saturated colors, which looked like the other-worldly light that I picture when I do chakra meditations. A choir was singing, and as I walked around lit up and mesmerized, I realized that I must look odd walking around a cathedral with my rainbow-ribbon pigtails, pride fest beads, spiked collar, and beribboned leather cuff, but I thought of course I’m in a cathedral all prided up, this is my cathedral too. Doubly so.

My Catholic ancestry and upbringing means that I share responsibility for the horrors of our past, but it’s never occurred to me that I could take ownership of the beauty too. Every rich, shining pane of glass, every flying buttress, belongs just as much to my queer, pro-choice voice-having lady self as it belongs to the pope himself. Maybe I’ll go to the Vatican someday and check out my Sistine Chapel, my Rafaels, my golden dome. As much as the horror is mine to inherit and try to correct, so is the light.

And the same goes for America. I’m used to taking part of the responsibility for the Native American genocide, for slavery, for the School to Prison Pipeline, sharing in those problems and knowing they are mine to help fix, but I’m also ready to claim the good things. I visit the Hope Diamond as often as I can because it’s beautiful and ours, just like President Obama’s legacy is beautiful and ours. We can hold hope in our hand and let it sparkle, never let anyone take it away.