Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Save your energy

     I have to keep reminding myself to not waste my energy on internet trolls. Does it help if I remind you to do the same? I'm talking about those "well-meaning" souls who post videos or running commentaries on why you people just don't understand Donald Trump.  You should be respecting him, trusting him.  They say that the women's march was unimportant/stupid/unnecessary and filled with liberal sore losers with vulgar signs.  How shameful.  How nasty.  
     Don't waste your energy on these people, because you need your energy now more than ever.  You need to fight and rage and do everything you can to make this country what it's supposed to be.  If you voted for Donald Trump, you need to hold his feet to the fire.  Tell him enough with the "there were 3 million fraudulent voters" bullshit and get to the making jobs.  He's demoralized by the media and the people who don't believe he's a legitimate President?  Are you kidding me? Methinks he doth protest too much.  Did President Obama tell people he was demoralized after years of you saying he was born in Kenya?  
     As for the misguided women who tell you that the women's march was a bad idea, imagine a big beautiful bell curve:

I love bell curves. This is a curve made up of women's opinions on the march. The women on the right loved that march, marched in that march and talk about every single moment of it.  The women on the left hated that march, make fun of the women and men who marched, and take every opportunity to tell you it was stupid.  The rest of us are in the middle somewhere ... loved this or that, would have liked some more or less of XYZ, were maybe thrilled to see Indigo Girls and/or intrigued by Madonna's lack of breath support, but I digress.  Those rare women who tell you the march was stupid and unnecessary are on the left side. You're never going to be able to change their opinion, and that's all it is ... an opinion. The fact is that they get to have an opinion, get to voice it and stomp their feet because of the thousands of women who came before them to fight for their right to voice that opinion.  Read this lovely retort from Dina Leygerman:

     Something else to bear in mind, the trolls and others who are responding to the "pussy hats" and "vulgar signs" as further proof of the shameful and nasty women who marched and support them. This is part of the foundation of slut-shaming, a further way to silence, shut down and shout over in their communication style.   The new President can talk about grabbing all the pussy he wants on tape, but a marcher reclaims the word on her sign and she's vulgar. He's "being a man" and she's being a slut. Real men, decent, honorable men, do not talk about women this way. Men who talk like this are predators. You may also hear this in phrases like, "settle or calm down," "little girl" spoken to a grown woman, "get over it," "stop being so emotional." These are all attempts to shut down the conversation.
     This is how the conversation will be framed over the next few weeks/months as regards to the abortion debate, reproductive rights and contraception access.  It'll be all about the slutty women who want sex without repercussions and want to force us to pay for their birth control.  Arm yourself with the facts and not opinion.  The abortion rate in the US is at its lowest since Roe v. Wade and this is due to better access to contraception. Some will tell you that it's because abortion access is being restricted in many areas around the country, but birth rates aren't increasing. Teen pregnancy is also at a historically low rate.  Public opinion has also remained relatively stable over the last two decades, so that's not why either.  As with many areas, education and prevention are much better investments than medical intervention and shaming.
     Don't waste your energy on the trolls and their opinions that you won't change.  Frame your arguments cogently and arm yourself with facts. Do you remember Wonder Woman's bracelets? They're called the Bracelets of Submission. A symbol of the Amazon's past oppression, they were indestructible cuffs given to girls when they turned 15 and used to defend themselves against projectiles. Channel your inner Amazon and bounce those lies, those alternative-facts right back at them. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017


     Each day ticks us closer and closer to Trump's inauguration.  Meanwhile, the Republicans in the House and Senate prepare to repeal the Affordable Care Act with nothing to replace it, and millions of Americans wonder how they will be able to afford their family's healthcare or if their lives will be in jeopardy. Our President-elect continues to use his bully pulpit of Twitter, holds a press-conference filled with staffer shills to applaud him and a table filled with empty folders as "evidence" and tells us he doesn't need to release his tax records because he won.  Maybe these things excite you, but it brings up quite a different response in me.  I believe that my fears for friends, family and country will come to pass. But we should not despair since that's what they want us to do, wallow in misery and indecision. If we are mired, they have the complete upper hand, and it has clearly become us versus them. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a leader in health policy analysis and health journalism, found that 75% of Americans either want lawmakers to leave the Affordable Care Act alone or repeal it only when they can replace it with a new health care law.
     We need to take action and certainly, you should march, protest, write/call/email your legislators, make your voices heard in any way shape or form.  Meanwhile, you need to make preparations for yourself, your family, your friends and your neighbors.  You need to figure out pretty quickly what you will stand for and what you will do if called upon.  I'm not being reactionary. I'm being realistic. A year and a half ago, I was told that he'd never get elected with his plethora of lies, faults, lawsuits, moral failings, shady business dealings and bankruptcies, yet we stand on the edge. This man is evil and evil will come, so you need to prepare.
     Do you have food and water stored for an extended emergency, and don't forget your pet's needs? How about the medicines you and your family take? Have you considered your contraception needs? Medical supplies? Back-up power, communication, security? Do you have your family's paperwork in order; passports, licenses, health care proxies or living wills? Before you spend money on that fancy vacation, extra pair of pants you don't need, third cup of $5 coffee, expensive haircut or the next best piece of crap that you don't need - pay down your high interest credit cards or save the money.  Sell things you don't need or use the barter system.  If you are in one of the groups that have been potentially targeted for recrimination, lack of service or rights (i.e. women, the LGBTQIA community, Blacks, Hispanics, the disabled, the poor, journalists, people that live in blue states ... I could go on) you need to quickly assess what your needs would be in an emergency and who you could turn to for assistance. Make friends with like minded neighbors and community members.  If I'm wrong, then you're super prepared for an emergency and in better fiscal shape.  I hope I'm wrong.
     In my last post, I told you about how much reading has always meant to me and that some books have stayed with me.  In college, I was introduced to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.  A dystopian novel written in 1985 set in near-future New England where the totalitarian theocracy has overthrown the US government.  I know that Hulu is bringing the television adaptation of the novel to the small screen this year.  My husband asked me if I was going to watch it since the book was so important to me, but there's no way I can do it. I know that every woman I have ever met who has read that book was scared by the very real possibility of it. A small plot summary from wikipedia:

Beginning with a staged attack that kills the President and most of Congress, a movement calling itself the "Sons of Jacob" launches a revolution and suspends the US Constiution under the pretext of restoring order. They are quickly able to take away all of women's rights, largely attributed to financial records being stored electronically and labelled by gender. The new regime, the Republic of Gilead, moves quickly to consolidate its power and reorganize society along a new militarized, hierarchical, compulsory regime of Old Testament inspired social and religious fanaticism among its newly created social classes. In this society, human rights are severely limited and women's rights are unrecognized as almost all women are forbidden to read.

The story is told in the first person by a woman called Offred (literally Of-Fred). The character is one of a class of women kept for reproductive purposes and known as "handmaids" by the ruling class in an era of declining births due to sterility from pollution and sexually transmitted diseases. Offred describes her life during her third assignment as a handmaid, in this case to Fred (referred to as "The Commander"). Interspersed in flashbacks are portions of her life from before and during the beginning of the revolution, when she finds she has lost all autonomy to her husband, through her failed attempt to escape with her husband and daughter to Canada, to her indoctrination into life as a handmaid. Offred describes the structure of Gilead's society, including the several different classes of women and their circumscribed lives in the new theocracy.

Offred is considered a wanton woman when Gilead was established, because she married a man who was divorced. All divorces were nullified by Gilead, meaning her husband was still married to his previous wife and Offred was an adulteress. In trying to escape Gilead, she was separated from her husband and daughter. She is part of the first generation of Gilead's women: those who remember pre-Gilead times. Having proven fertile, she is considered an important commodity and has been placed as a handmaid in the home of the Commander Fred and his wife Serena Joy, to bear a child for them (Serena Joy is said to be infertile).

In Gilead, the bodies of women are politicized and controlled. The North American population is falling as more men and women become infertile (though in Gilead, legally, it is only women who can be the cause of infertility). Gilead's treatment of women is based upon a narrow, fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, meaning that women are the property of and subordinate to their husband, father, or head of household. They are not allowed to do anything that would grant them any power independent of this system. They are not allowed to vote, hold a job, read, possess money, or own anything, among many other restrictions. In this society, there is no such thing as a sterile man anymore. In this culture, women are either fruitful or infertile, the latter of which is declared to be an "unwoman" and is sent to the colonies with the rest of the "unwomen" to do life-threatening work until their death, which is, on average, three years.

     This book scared me to my core. There's a scene in the book where Offred is remembering a time before the main story when she went to a local store to pick up groceries, swiped her bank card and it wouldn't work.  Within a short time, it was discovered that all women's access to their bank accounts had been turned off and they were completely beholden to their husbands, if they had one, for access to funds. Written in 1985, this is long before we used plastic for everything.  The super scary part of a well written dystopia is that as time progresses you can see how easy it would be for the events to take place.
     Make preparations not to be a handmaiden, but to be a warrior for your rights and needs, and for those of your family and friends. Be the light and be ready.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


     I love to read. I always have. Books and music kept me alive during a childhood filled with walking on eggshells around my volatile father. I could escape from him and immerse myself in another world. Before I had children, I was the sort of reader who would forgo meals, screw-up her bedtime, walk with the book to the bathroom. I didn't want to leave that moment.  That got harder when the kids came, because you kind of have to feed them routinely, wash them routinely, routine them routinely. So, reading was crammed in-between things, on the train, bathroom breaks, lunch break at work, etc.  Interestingly enough, not at bedtime like a lot of people I know. Aside from parts of my life where insomnia would allow three fingers worth of sleep, usually I'm so wiped out by the time I go to bed, I can't even think about reading.
     My mother inspired and demanded this love of words.  When we were little, she would take us to the library long before we could sign our own name to the card. We could take whatever we wanted, as long as we remembered them all when it came time to take them back. No late fees. She'd cart them in big bags and usually cap us at 10 a piece. As we got older, we carried our own selections, wandered off alone throughout the library to reflect and breath. The library of my teenage years was in an old Victorian house that had been converted to book heaven. Shelves covering every available wall, nook and cranny. The upstairs was the kid's section; they had a turtle. We camped out for as long as Mom wanted to stay. There were no time limits on books.
     I can tell you about different parts of my life and the books I was reading during that time, how they changed me, helped me to have a better understanding about myself and those around me. I used to read something and share every detail with Mom. It's an eye opening experience when you realize that you can't do that all the time. We had very different opinions on a number of topics, and not surprisingly, we would butt heads. I remember very clearly being enamored by Erica Jong's Witches. Filled with fact and fiction, there was also a healthy dose of sexuality, paintings, prose, poetry ... provocative to say the least. I kept my library books under my bed, but I guess when Mom was cleaning or whatever, she came across it and was disturbed. I think I was 11 or 12. This led to her bringing my beloved Aunt in for what we would call an intervention nowadays for a discussion on how I was potentially jeopardizing my soul.  In my mind, my father was there, which if I'm remembering right means this was his doing. I was mortified that my Aunt was asked to do this and at the idea that this meant not all books were equal or worthy. But it taught me a very powerful lesson, to keep my own counsel. It also taught me that there were philosophies and ideas that would make others ashamed of you, and when you're young that can be daunting. The second lesson, learned over time, was that other people's concerns about what I was reading, and whether or not to shame me for it, was a way to control what I was thinking and how I would move my life forward.
      In 18 years of selling books, you saw that on both sides. Kids shouldn't read the Goosebumps series. Comics aren't real books.  This or that flavor of the month isn't any good. Oprah is bringing about our societal downfall. Romance books are all trash. Stephanie Meyer sucks. 50 Shades of Grey sucks. Harry Potter promotes the occult. Why do you have a Gay & Lesbian studies section? A Woman's studies section? A New Age section? The list goes on and on.  Most booksellers, and I would imagine librarians, don't care what you're reading, as long as you're reading.  There are some who probably fall in the above camps, and I would suggest you and your offspring avoid them at all costs.  We have always had a rule in our household. You can read whatever you want, but if something disturbs or concerns you, you have to talk to Mama or Dada about it. There are books in our home that we have suggested they should wait on consuming, as the themes might be more than they're ready for, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't read it one day. You need to challenge your comfort level, push your brain to question.  It's too easy to be a sheep, and frankly, that's what popular culture and the establishment want from you.  Those who read and write, those who question and challenge will keep the lamps lit.  Give books, read books, read online, read magazines, read cereal boxes, read every word you can.

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year, New What

     Happy New Year, my loves. I hope that this year brings us all good health, happiness and joy.  Although I fear that this year and the next three will bring incredible challenges that will test many of my fellow Americans, and probably most will be the least fortunate among us, my family and I are taking steps to be more active participants in our society to help others and to protect ourselves.
     Meanwhile, my brain has been hovering on the concept of new year = new you.  In my old profession, as soon as Christmas was over we would set up the "New Year, New You" tables. Displays filled with diet books, calorie counters, exercise books and the guru of the month guides. Everything to help you figure out how to be a better version of you, focusing predominantly of course on your outside, the facade, because that's all anyone really cares about, right? There might be a token table to learning a new language, picking up a craft or reading a new author, but the major displays left your internal workings a mystery.
     I was reminded of this a few days ago when the family went to a local mall to use their holiday gift cards. My youngest needed a break, and honestly so did I, so we grabbed two spots on a bench and waited for the big kids to finish. There was a ceiling mounted television spewing out inaudible commercials over the shoppers, but I could still read the character generated subtitle ... New Year, New You. On the screen, a happy looking nubile blonde was standing behind a table display. She was hawking these snazzy looking Jessica Simpson sneakers, Lululemon tank and yoga pants, Contigo water bottle and a Nike duffel bag to put the whole kit and caboodle inside.  Doing the math quickly, I figured I'd need @$250 to set forth on the appropriate track for a new me. And with a pretty shell, who cares what the inside looks like?
     I've never cared for new year's resolutions for this very reason.  Every day on this planet should bring a potential learning experience. Why wait for January 1st to spur yourself to action?  If you want to be healthier, start now. Want to spend more time with friends and family, plan now. New language, go for it. New craft or hobby, rock on. Never tried bourbon, what are you waiting for? Not sure if you should tell her you love her, please do it. Don't wait for the perceived right time or a mandated corporate display table in January. You can do it. I believe in you. And while you're at it, remember the facade isn't the best part of you.  It's that beautiful brain of yours that I'm in love with. Schoolhouse Rock! told us that knowledge is power.  And we'll need a lot of powerful minds for the road ahead.