Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Living in the Middle Place

Monday, May 29th, 2017

A 6 a.m. bolt of lightning struck me awake yesterday morning. I sat straight up in bed. I got up and looked out into the storm. I climbed back into bed and tucked the covers tightly around, whispering to the shaking, terrified dog by my bed,

“It’s okay, baby. Everything will be alright.”

I fell back to sleep, but in that high-level dreaming state that one has in the mornings, drifting in and out of sleep, where life and dream weave together.

I forgot about my vivid dreaming until I read this article this morning, and the line “Fuck the Patriarchy” echoed in my head. I thought the article was well-written, and it echoes what I hear a lot of women talking about recently. Reading that reminded me instantly of the same words in my dream.

I dreamt I was in a school, maybe a college. I was a student, somehow, and the classrooms looked like the ones in my middle school growing up. Students were assembling in the room for a political debate. I was wearing cut off jeans, and a t-shirt and dark hoodie. In the pocket of my jeans, I stuffed a stack of political postcards. The postcards caused the pocket to poke out below the cutoff hem of the jeans, their sharp corners jutting into my thigh. I sat in a hard school chair, with a backpack at my side, my legs stretched out in front of me, my feet in black chucks.

A man in a suit approached me, his finger pointed at my lap, punctuating the air.

“You can’t have those in here!” I pulled the postcards out of my pocket, slipped them into my backpack. “No!,” he yells. “You have to wear pants!”

Anger welled up in me. I snatched up my backpack, slinging it over my shoulder and went to another classroom to find pants in my closet. (It’s a dream; Yes, my closet was in the other classroom. I don’t know why.) I walked into the room, the whole time muttering, “Fuck the Patriarchy.” I went to the closet, a whole class watching me, as I rolled open the doors, and started rifling through the stacks of pants on a shelf.

I couldn’t find my jeans, the ones with the rip at the knee. There were only men’s jeans and pants. I realized it was my husband’s closet. I couldn’t find any jeans of my own. I angrily put on a too-large pair of hiking-style pants, with zippers that allow you to unzip the legs and make the pants into shorts. Even the sound of the synthetic material rubbing together at the thighs when I walked back to the debate angered me. I guess I woke up, then, to the storms and light getting brighter in my room.

I try very hard to look on the positive side of things, to find joy and exhibit gratitude in my day-to-day dealings. But I also sometimes struggle a bit with a molten anger, just waiting for a crack in the crust to pour up through. Still, I don’t want to be angry. Not being angry is a decision. One I try to make daily. Sometimes I fail. I am not angry at men. I am not angry at my husband. But I am angry at something. Society? As the author, Catherine Newman, wrote:

I don’t always feel just one way. I’m not always sure. And maybe that’s what it is to be a grown-up—living in the middle place, where you can’t decide quickly about everything. A misanthrope, in love with the world.

In my dream, though, I was shaking and angry and sure. In the morning light, I’m just living in the middle place.

Wholesome and Old School Quality Family Time (NSFW)

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

So, tonight’s dinner discussion with my teenager and tween was so horrific, it gets it’s own NSFW blog post. (Mom, that means, “Not Safe for Work.” As in, don’t click on or read it on your work computer. So you’re fine.) For anyone with delicate sensibilities, or who thinks maybe their children are perfect and/or living in a bubble, you should stop here.

First of all, in my head, when I was driving to eat at our local restaurant/bar, I realized I was wearing the shirt I was lounging around in today. My Chunklet Trump Sucks shirt.

Maybe not the best shirt to wear in a very purple neighborhood. So, in my head, we might get looks because I had the word “dick” on my shirt. Some drunk redneck might want to discuss it. I have had this happen one time before and have a prepared rebuttal sure to make angry white men more angry.

But we got to dinner and the UNC/KY game was on (sorry Jason, congrats Dana), so it was unusually crowded and we got seated pretty quickly, but our food took awhile, so you know, that means Quality Family Time.

We discussed upcoming spring break plans, going to the beach, packing lists, games to take, R. going to Disney for his band trip, etc. It was super all-american and white bread. And then. Then, R. started pushing buttons.

Things like, “you don’t get to tell me whether I can take my phone to Disney or not, because Dad paid for it.”

[Needle scratches across record.]

Todd and I both work. Todd did indeed write the check and deliver it to the band teacher. But my head seriously exploded.

I said, “Buddy, you realize that your father and I both work long hours and what we make is both of ours. Daddy did not pay for your trip. Your father and I both paid for your trip.”

So, then I turn to Tiller, in a classic example of attempting to ignore bad behavior, while educating, and say,

“Tiller, did you now that in America, when a man and a woman do the same EXACT job, on average, the woman makes 75% of what the man makes?”

Tiller: “What?”

Me: “For every dollar a man makes, a woman, doing the same exact job, possibly as well, and likely, better, will make 75 cents for her work, while a man will make a dollar.”

And bless his heart, the boy child, he doubled down.

“Mom, why do you have to take everything so seriously? You’re so uptight. I was just joking, and you had to turn it into some kind of Feminist rant, like you always do.”

This was the point where I said, in the exorcist mom voice,

“Rollie, you need to leave the table now and go to the bathroom, because if you stay here, I will make a scene. When you come back, you better have dropped it, because you are treading on seriously thin ice.”

He goes to the bathroom, and Tiller and I discuss wage equality a bit more, and he comes back to the table. He seems to realize he has stepped over the line and is actually able to be quiet for about five minutes.

Then, i think he realizes by my stone cold stare and cold shoulder that I am actually very angry with him. So, he starts trying to make me laugh.

He begins by saying,

“I’m gonna go play something on the jukebox.”

Me: “Okay, no dubstep.”

Him: “Okay, I will play one of your favorites.”

Yeah, I’m not dumb, my guard is up.

He proceeds to play a song that he knows I loathe: Europe’s “The Final Countdown.”

Waiter comes by and smirks at me.

And I don’t let R. completely get to me. I point out that the song was not a terrible choice in light of the ending of the basketball game, but everyone probably thinks he’s a Tarheel now.

So, he again pushes the envelope, coming up with terrible-sounding music choices, that i didn’t recognize. And for every one, I said,

“Oh, that one is so good. I love that one.”

And he seemed to become frustrated, but at the same time, saw right through me.

And Tiller says,

“Can I play one?”

And I say,

“Honestly, if there is any song one might play in here that would baffle, astound, or annoy the clientele, it is most certainly from the Hamilton soundtrack. What song is most popular and recognizable from Hamilton, Tills?”

And she ponders it for a split second, then says,

“‘Alexander Hamilton,’ of course.”

And so that is how it came to be that my son ended up playing a track from Hamilton to a bar full of oblivious basketball fans in Tucker, Georgia. It must be noted that Tiller sang along, proudly, word for word.

And then, we were all laughing at the absurdity and seemingly getting along. But my teenager? He could not stop there. And so he drops the bomb.

Mom, what’s a ‘rim job?’

I am pretty sure I both turned red and spluttered. I don’t know that I have ever spluttered at any other time in my entire life. The waiter came by, took one look at my face, and asked if I’d like another glass of wine? (They are good people there, at Local 7 in Tucker.)

I compose myself and say,

“Where on earth did you hear that?”

R: “Why? What is it?”

Me: We’ll talk about it when we get home, okay?”
R: “Why? I want to know now.”

Me: “It’s like the blowjob discussion; You do not want to discuss this with your sister here, and I don’t think it’s polite dinner table discussion.”
R: [smirking] “That’s okay. It was in a movie Dad and I watched, and he already explained it to me.”
Me: [violent, bloody murder in my head, knowing I had been played, because he just knew it would get a reaction out of me.]

And then I did the only thing i could do. I laughed so hard I almost cried, because he absolutely had me on the ropes.

The waiter comes by to stand at the table:

“Check please,” I say.

R: “Also, what is a dildo?”

Waiter: “That last glass is on me.”

We finally get to the car and they are both jabbering and I say,

“Please, can we leave this conversation be until tomorrow? I really need a break and then I will be glad to answer any and all questions, just as I always do.”

And my sweet firstborn says,

R: “Okay. but I have one more question: What are anal beads?”

Me: “Where in the hell did you hear that!? I’m looking at your history on the computer tonight when we get home.”

And he actually seemed shocked that I might think he had googled it.

“Mom, I heard most of that in the locker room.”

Oh, well, that seems. . . wholesome and old school, I guess.
On another note, what songs would be the absolute worst to play in a bar full of people? Also, I am setting up a GoFundMe to cover my wine costs for the next five years.

Change is Not Always Linear

Friday, January 20th, 2017

This morning, I woke up to so much sadness and shock and dismay all over social media that Yes, this is really happening. A reality TV show star, completely unqualified for the position in too many ways to count, will actually be sworn in as President of the United States of America

I am not one to share every bit of outrageous news that I see on Facebook. I rarely share political items. In this political environment, If I posted every time I was upset or scared or angry or outraged, I would be posting ten to fifteen times a day. (Side note: I respect the right to speak out, but I fear the deluge of shared content contributes to overwhelm, desensitization, and normalization of the outrageous things happening in our world.) As a dear friend of mine said recently while discussing feeling inundated by the constant flood of information,

“I feel like I (we) are in a huge sandstorm, and the source of the storm is the turbulent funnel within. I do better focusing on the funnel rather than all of the sand, if that makes sense.”

Honestly, I am not shocked or depressed anymore. Am I happy about him being president? No. Am I still appalled at everything he has said? Yes. Is my reaction to this president different than it would have been for any other Republican winner? Most definitely.

But there is hope for those all over America (and the world) who are hurt, scared, and angry today. (more…)

I Voted For a Woman. For President. (And for The South & a lot of other things, too.)

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

I voted for a female for President today. Let me repeat that: I voted for a female for President today.

It is huge, absolutely huge, that I had the opportunity, with my daughter by my side, to vote for a woman for the highest office in the country and likely in the world. But that’s not why I voted for her.

There have been many times during this year that I wanted to write about my thoughts on the politics of this election. Every time I felt outrage or dismay, I would put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard) and dump it all out. But something kept me from clicking Publish. Partially, it was knowing I would probably change no minds. As the season dragged on an on, and the bar got lower and lower, I realized it was futile, because I had no idea the depths to which matters could possibly sink. I would have been writing something new every day and I am pretty sure I would have driven myself and everyone around me crazy.

Instead, I watched a bit, and read a lot. I watched friends and family tear each other apart online. There were times that I left discussions with my own parents in tears, anger, fear, or disbelief. People I loved called me a bigot and told me, publicly, that “I was not raised this way.” They way you are raised is important, and it is a powerful influence on a person. I know that I have tried hard to be true to the teachings that I received, but to weed out the ones that are outdated, deeply seated in fear, ignorance, and generations upon generations of resistance to change and a way of life that is no longer viable, realistic, kind or true.

The greatest gift (of many given to me by my parents) was the gift of education. My parents taught me to read. And once a girl can read, she learns to formulate her own ideas and think for herself. Yes, I read the Bible. I read the WHOLE bible. What a miraculous work of art it is. My parents gave me my bible. They gave my children bibles, with my blessing, despite the fact that I have left the church and will never return to Christianity. There is good in that book, despite it’s flaws, and those of its followers. And I took so many of those teachings deeply to heart. For hours during church, I ran the crocheted lace,  pink, blue, and white cross bookmark that came in my bible on confirmation day between my fingers and thought about Jesus Christ on the cross and what that meant for me, and how it could possibly save us.

But my parents also gave me The Little Engine that Could. And Go Dog, Go. (I took that one deeply to heart. I still love big dogs and little dogs and dogs of all shapes and colors, and dog parties.) And I read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. As a child, that book probably affected me as much or more than anything I had read up until that point. That book is my first recollection of thinking about race, and of wondering what my part of the story was.

My grandmother later gave me her original copy of Gone With the Wind. I think that book is a rite of passage for a little white girl whose family on both sides have lived on Southern soil since before we were a United States of America. I wonder if Grandma thought it would make me privy to some great inheritance of what it means to be Southern, or if she saw Scarlett as a woman, flawed, but strong. Or most likely, knowing my bourbon-drinking, chain-smoking, card-playing, Charleston-dancing Grandma Vivian, she just thought that it was a rollicking good read. Maybe for her it was just a cultural phenomenon, like Star Wars or Harry Potter or The Hunger Games.

She, by the way, was born in 1907; Her mother, Ida did not at the time have the right to vote. My grandmother, as a child in Louisiana, witnessed a lynching. Her grandmother, as a child after The Battle of the Wilderness, wandered around Ellwood Manor looking for blackberries and came across a dead soldier. Both my paternal and maternal lines consist of both slave owners and confederate soldiers. My point here is that sometimes fiction is not just fiction. Sometimes, to a little girl growing up in Atlanta, it is a link to the past. Sometimes it is like reading a story about the people you know. Sometimes it is like reading about yourself; when other little girls the world over read that book, they probably thought, “what an interesting story.” When I read it, I was completely mesmerized and fascinated by the fact that it was set right here where I was born in 1972, and it was based on things that really happened here.

I will never know what my grandmother really took from that book, and boy do i wish I could have an evening to discuss that and much more with her. But what I took from reading that book, was yes, a strong female protagonist, and an example of skillful storytelling, but also my first real feelings of conflict over my families’ parts in the American history of slavery. It spurred in me an interest in the Civil War. Here was this story, based on “truth,” that discussed a battle that was fought on the very soil that I lived on today. It has become for me a lifelong interest in both family and local history and southeastern history. I started asking questions of the older folks in my family. I got a lot of answers about how we were an “old colonial family” and had grand plantations and lost everything in the war. I heard a lot about “state’s rights” and property and the like.

As I got older, though, I continued reading. I read Huckleberry Finn. To Kill a Mockingbird. The Red Badge of Courage. Beloved. Invisible Man. The Bluest Eye. The Color Purple. Their Eyes Were Watching God. I have so many more to read. So many more.

I started to figure out the right questions to ask. And i didn’t always get the right answers, or what i thought were true answers. Or I got whispered answers. When I got older, I knew to ply some of the older folks in the family with booze, and I would get more honest answers. That’s how I learned about my grandmother seeing a lynching. She had told my cousins about it when they were middle aged. She never told me a word about it.

It was the same way with reading about women. Scarlett was fascinating, because she was an agent in her own life. She was the actor, not the acted upon. (Yes, she was a white woman, a slave owner, and that is not to be excused, but she was a strong woman.) And again, i read books about strong women and interesting women. Catherine the Great. Amelia Earhart. Susan B. Anthony. Rosa Parks. The Awakening. “Everything That Rises Must Converge.” Some of the books I wrote about above were crossovers – Their Eyes Were Watching God and The Color Purple come to mind. Powerful books about feminism and race.

Growing up, i was taught to be ladylike (complete fail, obviously). And i was taught to learn to take care of myself: Change a tire, charge a battery, change a spark plug, tar a roof, etc. I was taught to respect my elders. I was expected to get an education. A college education. Looking back, i think that expectation was so that I could support myself.

But I also heard, “One day, when you have kids of your own. . . ” and that was not even seen as an expectation. It was just seen as fact. When I said, “I’m not good at math,” no one said, “You just need to work harder, that’s ridiculous. You are intelligent.” I was built up by having someone tell me, “You are a great writer.” And I think I am a good writer. But I wonder what else I could have been good at, or who else I would have been, if someone had said, “Get an education because it means ‘freedom,” or “you can be anything you want to be.” Or, “women don’t have to get married or have children.”

Those are things I never heard. I also never heard anything except, “No sex before marriage.”

This is not a criticism of the adults in my life. I understand they came to be who they are through a long line of people with strong beliefs and less access to books and diversity of thought than the one I found in my true church (the one whose chapels are libraries and whose cathedrals are lakes, trees, mountains, forests, and rivers). And i am thankful that they gave me the path to find those books and the time to think those thoughts.

Writing this post, I am not sure exactly where I am going with it, except that I have been overcome with emotion all day. I didn’t wear a pantsuit for Hillary when I voted, because . . . well, I’m me. I don’t own one, and that is the sort of thing I hope to never have to wear again. I didn’t wear white for the suffragists who went before me, because . . .it’s after Labor Day. I don’t own “winter whites.” I don’t even have a white tee. My wardrobe is all black, and the darkness of wine, forest, purple, plaid. And then I saw The Bitter Southerner* posted this on Instagram:

bitter

(You can get your own at http://bittersoutherner.com/election-day-2016-a-better-south.)

I was flooded with all sorts of emotion. I am a Southern woman, a descendant of slave owners. I had relatives in the generation previous to me tell me that during the civil rights movement, they hated Martin Luther King, Jr. One of them said he was happy that he was shot. (Try to wrap your head around that one.) I have struggled with issues of race my whole life. I have struggled with religion, and the bible and the hypocrisy of the church. And I have often felt, as a woman, and especially a southern woman, that what was truly expected of me, above all else, is for me to be a reflection of my family, the people that came before me, and in particular, that I was to be a positive reflection on the men who came before me. I should “do them proud.” When it comes down to it, I think there is still a huge belief in the South that a woman is simply an extension of the men in her life. Her greatest achievement is making those men proud, being a good wife, and raising good Southern children. It is difficult to say that out loud, but it is the truth.

I am proud to be southern. I am proud of my husband and my children, and of the people that came before me, even if I disagree with them in many ways. I am proud that in many ways, I have bucked the norm. I would wager that I am the first in a very long line of my family’s generations to openly and publicly reject Christianity. If you think on the long history of Christianity, that is actually quite a feat. I reject racism. I strive towards making my world better for everyone, not just the people who are not like me. And I am probably the first mother in a line of many women in my family that is actively telling my daughter, “Get an education, because it give you the options to be anything you want to be.” I have already talked to my daughter about birth control and sex and that her body is hers alone. That she can do anything a man can do, and if she wants to do it first, she should step up. No need to let the man go first. That if she wants things, she needs to state that she wants them. And if she doesn’t want them, she needs to learn to say no to those things, too. That she needs to speak up when she sees wrongs. That what I hope for her is that she will be kind, happy, and herself. Whether that means being a wife or a mom, or a teacher, or a scientist, or an artist, or a soldier. That she can be any combination of those, all or none of those, or something completely different that my mind cannot even imagine, but that she will see in her own mind’s eye. And that when she achieves those things she wants in life, (while she is achieving them, even) she will help others achieve their dreams, too.

And that’s why, when I painted my nails blue, and wondered what to wear to the polls this morning, I didn’t pick blue for the Dems (I am decidedly an independent), or white for the suffragists, or a pantsuit for Hillary. I decided to wear my Bitter Southerner sweatshirt**. It reads, simply “SOUTH.” I was weepy, trying to explain to my son and daughter about how momentous this day feels. I felt compelled to put down in words what I was unable to speak without seeming like a crazy, choked up, overly emotional woman. I wanted them to know all the reasons that it meant so much to me to cast my ballot today. I wanted them to know the thoughts behind my welling eyes.

You have probably heard by now about the “secret” pantsuit group on Facebook. I think I was first added to it when there were less than 200,000 members. The idea of it was, “wear a pantsuit, in honor of Hillary, when you go to vote.” As of this morning when I looked, it has now grown to more than 2 million members. All of them are not women. There are men, too. But they are all there because they are voting for Hillary Clinton. They are diverse, and smart, and their stories, which i have been reading for over a week now, are compelling, moving, inspiring, and life-affirming. They are from all over the world and all different walks of life. And many of them are posting the reasons that they are voting for Hillary.

There are many of them that feel she is the perfect person for the job. (I tend to be more of the Mark Twain school of thought on politicians – Not really a huge fan of any of them.) There are many of them that are voting because she is not Donald Trump. So many different reasons, from being an immigrant to race, to feminism, to . . . you name it. Their varied reasons for it all were staggering to me. They were definitive, and they were tentative. Some of them were voting for her despite never having voted for a democrat in their life. Some of them were voting for her, despite the train wreck that healthcare in our country has created for their families and their small businesses. Some of them were voting for her despite their devout religious beliefs about abortion. They ran the breadth and depth of the human condition – They are both specific to their own experience and yet they apply to so many of us. So, millions of them have posted their reasons for voting for her.

I have been thinking of my own reasons. I wish I could ask my grandparents about their thoughts on politics. Because I wish the women who are not bothering to vote in this election knew what it was like to not have a voice. Because I hope that one day my children (and maybe my grandchildren) will read it and know that I was a thoughtful person in the midst of history, that I gnashed my teeth over this one, and wept for the future of my country.

Here are some of the reasons I am voting voted for her (there are probably many more, but these are the things I can think of right now, or have been on my mind, and especially the ones that I feel deep down in my gut.)

  • First and foremost, I am voting for her because I think she is the most qualified candidate. Period.
  • I am voting for all of the women that couldn’t vote for so long. For women who had no voice for thousands of years.
  • For everyone who didn’t fit the white, male, protestant mold and was therefore not allowed to vote.
  • For the grandmother who was just dropped off by her husband at a hospital and labored for twenty four hours with a breech baby
  • For the one that went to work to support her family when her husband was gambling it all away
  • For the little girl who had to wear the white tights and black patent leather mary janes and a dress with a crinoline containing a bell.
  • For the little girl who drew a picture at church and they told her they thought little girls in pictures should wear dresses, not pants
  • For the only two little girls on the boys’ baseball team
  • For every girl who was told “boys don’t like loud girls”
  • For every one who was told “children should be seen and not heard.”
  • For my first friend, who always made her Barbies kiss each other, instead of Barbie and Ken kissing, but hid it from everyone but me.
  • For every little gay kid who had to play along while we played “smear the queer.”
  • For Graham, and every other gay or lesbian or bi person i have known since.
  • For the friend whose grandfather wouldn’t stop touching her
  • Because that guy in the neighborhood always whistled at us when we rode by on our bikes
  • For the girl who was pushed into a walk-in freezer, with a hand against her neck, and fought the boy who put his hand down her pants
  • For every jerk who ever groped or thrust his hips at me on a bus or a train.
  • For the boy who took advantage of a very intoxicated just-turned-fourteen-years old girl on a trampoline
  • For every friend one of his who started calling my house the very next day
  • For every person to whom I’ve had to say using the “N” word is not okay, and especially not in front of my kids.
  • That includes the jerk from two weeks ago at the bar who thought it was okay to say about football players on tv, and also the guy two seats down from him that whistled at me as I walked by him on the way back from the bathroom. It was 4 pm in the afternoon. In 2016.
  • For every woman who has been spoken over or interrupted in a meeting
  • For the same women who spoke up, and were called Bitch.
  • For the little Iraqi girl that was in my son’s class. She was 8. She spoke no English. She didn’t need to – The horrors she had seen were apparent in her eyes.
  • For my children and their friends who want to know if some of them will be sent back to the country they came from if Trump is elected.
  • For the amazing people from all over the world that came to this country, love it, and are living right in my backyard and teaching me so much
  • For all the sweet little African American boys that I have been watching grow up and who are in my heart and my prayers as they become teens.
  • For their mothers, who are strangers, acquaintances, friends, and family.
  • For my friends who had access to birth control; for the ones who had access to safe and legal abortions.
  • For my friends who choose to live their lives in non-traditional ways and are becoming more and more open about it.
  • For the things that are important to all of us, and help us achieve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: Love, forgiveness, charity, inclusion, independent thought, education, religious freedom, equality, art, music.

The emotions I felt this morning were more than just a woman voting for a woman. The woman voting this morning was a product of so many years of inequality and hypocrisy and misogyny, of pain and frustration, and watching others suffer. And while I am a proud American, I am an even prouder Southerner. And proudest to be a Georgian, who has had the privilege of seeing gay marriage legalized, and our first African American president, and hopefully our first female president: Three things I never thought I would see in my lifetime, much less in so few years. Three things I had the honor of sharing and discussing with my children.

I voted for her because she is the most qualified candidate. I voted against him, because of the rest of the list. Considering the political climate and the pain and division this election has caused, It was the easiest and most satisfying vote*** of my life. There was no question in my mind. This morning, at the polls, I was a Bitter Southerner voting for a bitter Better South.

 

My hand and four sympathetic kid hands, all in blue polish. 

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Me and my girl. We just voted together. (Sporting our blue polish, our peach stickers, and me in my South sweatshirt.) Yes, I let her cast the ballot. #rebel – Photos by Rollie, who didn’t want to be in the photo because he is 13 and that’s “like, so dumb.” [sigh]

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Hopefully she will never forget this. Or ever think that I regret having her and her brother. (“The” button.)

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*  You need to read Bitter Southerner, especially if you are from a long line of southerners. I am jealous I didn’t think of it first. It is amazing, like reading stories written by your own family and friends, but the smart and enlightened, funny and interesting ones. If you are born here, you will enjoy it. If you have deep roots here, you will feel it in your bones.

** Okay. I have to admit it. About the sweatshirt. I also wore it because it finally got cold here in Atlanta today, and damn it, that thing is so broken-in and well-loved, it is super comfortable.

*** Also satisfying: Voting for two local candidates I really, really believe in: Good luck to Scott Holcomb and George Chidi.

Faith in Humanity

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

So, today, I was kind of sad, and I was driving home, and I saw a white man sitting on the side of the road. He had pulled his truck over, and there was a stray dog, the kind of brindled pitbull mix that you find so often, loose by the side of the road. The truck had its blinkers on, and the man was sitting, legs wide apart in a v-shape. I think he was trying to get down on the level of the pup, and coax him over to him, away from traffic. It was obvious he had pulled his truck over, just to help the dog.

I saw a black man with dreadlocks walking towards the other man. He was dressed in a mishmash of stuff, and I guess he was just walking along and came across the guy with the truck. I was sitting in stand still traffic, so this all took place in about ten minutes. The man with the dreadlocks walked up to the man sitting on the ground, and said something, and the man on the ground smiled up at him, and the man with the dreadlocks sat down, too, with the same v-leg position, and they were both talking and occasionally raising a hand towards the dog, and both watched the dog. I had the urge to get out of my car and go sit with them. And I smiled, and the light changed to green. My heart was full.

And tonight, I saw a comment on a friend’s facebook post. It read simply: “It is time for ethnic cleansing.”

And my heart shattered.

Edited to add: My friend’s original post did not say this, but a friend of theirs made the comment ON my friend’s post. Hope that makes sense. I would have zero tolerance for that within my friends.

Man Vs. Nature

Friday, October 17th, 2014

I am finding the whole Ebola issue, and the government, political, and public response to it, fascinating. I am not really that concerned, but I do agree with others who are losing some confidence in the government and the CDC’s responses to this. I realize how many people i live near and who are friends that work there, and this is not a personal attack – It just seems to be that maybe the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing? Or that is how it appears to me (and probably a lot of other people.)

 

It also is interesting to watch the response after having dealt with the CDC during the Crypto outbreak my family experienced. Obviously, Crypto isn’t deadly, but it was kind of eye-opening to see how worried folks were, their reactions, and the reactions from family doctors and CDC. I was one of the folks that met with a CDC focus group, and I’d say the biggest takeaway from that meeting was that the information on their website did not include a lot of practical, concrete direction on what the protocol for those affected should be when someone comes down with crypto. There was a lot of info on what it is, how you get it, etc, but not any step by step info on how institutions or individuals should handle it. (Should i go to work and when? How should the school handle it? What is the protocol for pools? Who do they call?)  Kudos to the people tasked with revamping the crypto site for getting our input.

 

It appears that the hospital in TX was pretty ill-prepared for dealing with Ebola, didn’t have the right tools/protocol/training to handle it. (Never mind that this CDC person supposedly told that nurse to get on the plane – where is the common sense there? But i guess they were just following protocol? But the protocol doesn’t seem to address the issue if that’s the case.) I also think it will be interesting to see how the government response corrects itself in light of ebola being in the states. I’m curious if there have been any other disease outbreaks of this kind in the states before?

 

Anyway, just rambling, and again, not being critical of the work that the CDC does, just finding it interesting.

 

– If the CDC is tasked with disease control, and has an ebola group, why do we need an Ebola Czar? (and I’d be curious how much that position makes? Worst job title ever.) On the one hand, it seems like something the president has to do to quell fears. But it also seems like an admission that what is already in place has not been working.

 

– The travel ban discussion is interesting. When has anything like that ever been mentioned before? I can’t remember it if it has happened. Do you agree or disagree with Belize’s decision to not allow the cruise ship to come to their shores?

 

– It’s interesting that those being monitored in TX now are being told they must not be in public. I’m curious about how that sort of thing would hold up in a court of law? Is there precedence for something like this? What happens if they break their signed contract?

 

– Three weeks til the election and this may be the biggest political surprise I’ve ever seen. How will it affect the elections? What happens if more people come down with this?

 

– I mean, I didn’t see it coming that Michelle Nun would support the travel ban. That seems like a purely political move to me. On another note, you gotta love the “water kills ebola virus” comment from Deal. [smh] How many people support a travel ban? I have read that they feel that might make people come here undetected and cause more of an outbreak. Thoughts?

 

– Thoughts on the DeKalb Schools decision to not allow the two kids in Dunwoody to enroll? And the new requirements for new students from West Africa to be okayed by the district before enrollment? http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-education/dekalb-school-leaders-barring-new-students-from-eb/nhkgF/

 

– And what about all the conflicting reports. CDC/govt says not to worry, but then you have news outlets (even CNN) also reporting that there are other ebola researchers and medical doctors who are concerned about things like mutation. Is the govt trying to keep us all calm, and not create a panic? How worried should we really be?

 

And the most interesting thing to me about it all – Are humans smarter than these organisms? Who will win? Man or Nature?

 

I basically just vomited all that up, because they were the things I was thinking, reading, hearing. Again, i’m not panicking. I just find the whole thing pretty interesting and was wondering what the thoughts of others were.

Elementary Electoral Fraud

Monday, November 5th, 2012

So, let’s say your kids’ school has a mock presidential election.  Let’s say that you are sitting at the kitchen table and you ask your child about the election. You don’t care who your kid voted for, because you’re more interested in them learning about the election process than about platforms and issues, because elementary school is maybe a little too early for them to be wrestling with issues that adults can’t even begin to work out.  Your child tells you that they had the election and who they voted for. And then they proceed to ask you who one of the candidates is. And you tell them about the candidate and then say, “why do you ask?” And your child says, “Because they told us we couldn’t vote for him. So why was he on there?”

What would you do?

Because I am about ready to go down to the school tomorrow and raise some hell. Which of course I’m not really going to do, because my school is also my polling place, and you can’t do that at a polling place. But I am going there to vote. And while I am there, if the teachers are working, I am seeking out the teachers who were present during my child’s voting experience, and I am going to ask them about it. Because, seriously. Is this not basically electoral fraud? (Not to mention really, really poor teaching, and just very, very dishonest.) Any other ideas about how to go about this? Other than taking my level-headed husband with me?

Here’s another question: Does it matter which candidate the teacher said this about? Answer honestly. Do you care more if they said it about one candidate than if they had said it about another?

Any other thoughts?

Even Echoes are Good

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Wow. I am really flattered by the number of people who liked and shared my last post. (Most especially the strangers, because they didn’t have to share out of pity, friendship, love, or familial obligation.) I almost didn’t click “Publish” on that post; i felt it was rambling, inflammatory, too revealing of my political leanings. It is nice to know that others feel similarly about politics these days; I sometimes feel that I am on an island, politically. I do wish more people I know who are firmly on the right or the left read it and shared it. It seems that the people it most struck a chord with are the ones that mirror me politically, and are stuck in the middle, wondering why things can’t be different. I wonder if it just didn’t ring true to the others. I also think that perhaps those who did share it did it less because they support civility and more because they relate to what it feels like to be a political paradox.

A few other things to mention, that have come to my attentions since I published it yesterday:

My Mom was not offended by the “asshole” comment. She’s pretty thick-skinned, I guess. She spends enough time around my Dad and I that I guess she needs to be. It really wasn’t about my mom, or the friend who made the comment, in the first place, but more about the unintended consequences of being rude on Facebook for God and everyone and their Mama to see.

A commenter pointed out that there is a children’s book, The Crayon Box That Talked, which promotes diversity using the Crayola analogy. I had never read it, but thought i would mention it. There are no new ideas, I guess.

Again, thanks to those who shared on Facebook and who weighed in there, and to those new folks who left me comments. I used to blog every day, and I fell off the wagon through a combination of fear of speaking out about things, a busy life, and wrestling with some things in life that, if written about on my blog, might cause pain to those I love. Hell, writing about them might cause pain to me! So, I fell out of the habit, and lost my mojo, or at least my fearlessness. I think I might be getting it back a little. It is true that time helps heal things. But the response to this post has helped with my confidence, too – It is hard to pen these posts and then send them off into the ether, with no response, not even an echo. So, a big thank you to those who responded to this one. It did not go unnoticed, and is much appreciated.

On Civil Discourse in Social Media, or That Time My Friend Called My Mom an Asshole on Facebook

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

I read this post by Ginger at RambleRamble today.

There is a PERSON behind the things you are saying. When you say that all liberals, or all conservatives…when you say that all Democrats or all Republicans…when you say that ALL of any group is/says/does/thinks/behaves/believes/hates/loves/etc., you are saying that about real people. Honest to goodness, flesh and blood people. Not just ideologies. Not just platforms. Not just issues. Not just politicians. Your friends. Your family. Your neighbors. Your coworkers.

I was about to say “this amazing post,” but, really, isn’t what she is saying just common sense and common courtesy? Still, she said something that needed to be said, because people need to be reminded that actions often make a difference, and words sometimes make scars.

Take Joe. Joe is gay. He can’t vote Republican, because of the anti-gay rights issue. But he also thinks that Obamacare will bankrupt the country, so he’s not too jazzed about voting Democrat. What kind of choice does he have? And either way, he gets lambasted by the side he doesn’t pick. He votes for a Democrat, and suddenly, he’s “on the government dole.” Just because the poor guy couldn’t bring himself to vote for the people who refused to recognize his civil right to marry whom he wants! Or he votes Republican, and gets to hear all the time about how much he hates gays. He is gay, for fuck’s sake. Does he hate himself? Or maybe he just feels that healthcare mandates will sink his business, and that is slightly more important to him in this election.

Or then there’s, oh, I don’t know . . . my mom. She is voting for Romney (I guess. I didn’t actually ask.)
When I post the article above on Facebook, voicing my agreement, folks weigh in. I think, well, it’s a post about civility on Facebook. People will respect that. They will be civil.

An *acquaintance replies: “I think name calling is ugly, but I will always use my voice for Civil Rights.”

I’m down with that. I do that myself. But i try not to fall into complete and total name calling. I try.

Me: ‘”Civil” – emphasis on civil.”

Acquaintance: “true dat. I stay civil for the most part. but if you are arguing with me that Romney is good for women, I will most likely call you an asshole.”

More posts from other people, in agreement or disagreement.

Acquaintance: “Intolerance is intolerance.”

Why yes, it is. Except, evidently, if you feel that you are right. And then it’s okay.

More posts about “liars,” and “can’t we all just get along,” and “everyone’s already decided who they’re voting for, so what’s the point,” and “isn’t Facebook for venting?”

My Mom: “Just read all of the above. All I learned is that [acquaintance] thinks I’m an asshole.”

Well, yeah, Ma. That’s pretty much all I, or the rest of Facebook, got out of it too. We continue to be raked across the coals by others who believe that if you aren’t with them, you are against them.

So what was the point? Other than for me to be like, “Damn, Acquaintance. I think you’re an okay person, but you did pretty much just call my Mom an asshole.” Along with PROBABLY MORE THAN HALF THE PEOPLE I GREW UP WITH, 3/4 OF MY FAMILY, AND HALF OF AN ENTIRE COUNTRY.

And you know why? Because their priorities are different, and one is intolerant of another’s choice in priority. Or maybe you both care about women, but one of you think that means free birth control and freedom of choice, and one of you believes that it is more helpful for women to live in a country that isn’t going to be crumbling in debt in 20 years.

What is the answer? Hell if I know, but I know what it isn’t. It definitely isn’t some friend of a friend calling my Mom an asshole on Facebook.

I should probably heed this advice a bit more myself. I am not perfect – not even close – but when it comes to politics, I try to be thoughtful and eloquent and not to cuss like a sailor, because I am constantly appalled at all of the people who make sweeping generalizations about huge groups in our country.

“Right-wing Christians won’t stay out of my uterus.”

“Democratic Socialists want to destroy our country from the inside.”

If you vote Republican, you are:

“A moron,” a “nazi,” “uninformed,” “racist,” “unintelligent,” “materialistic,” or “downright evil.”

If you vote Democrat, you are:

“A moron,” “unpatriotic,” “bleeding heart,” “godless,” “communist,” “atheist,” “Muslim-masquerading-as-an-American,” “socialist,” “marxist,” or a “terrorist.”

It’s just ridiculous. It’s like only seeing a world colored in with the 8-color box of Crayolas. Try the 64-color box with the sharpener, folks!

That is what a Crayon Box Should Look Like
That is what a Crayon Box Should Look Like by BenSpark, on Flickr

There is more than one shade of Red, and more than one shade of Blue. Some of us are Purple. Some of us are Green. Some of us are not even crayons; we are those pens that have four colors in them, and the color changes depending on which button you push when you need a particular color.

Bic four colour pen. Classic doodle biro.
Bic four colour pen. Classic doodle biro. by MikiStrange, on Flickr

I tell you, people exist in more than eight colors. Where do these crayons fit?

  • Fiscal Conservative who votes Democrat because of civil rights issues
  • Social Conservative who votes Democrat despite civil rights issues
  • Christian Democrats
  • Pro-Choice Republicans
  • Gay Republicans
  • Gay Christians
  • Republican parent with a gay son or daughter
  • Person who eats Chik-fil-a, but thinks two men or two women should be able to marry, have children, adopt children, and be afforded equal rights
  • Person who believes that the government should not recognize any marriages at all
  • Democrat who is anti-choice
  • Agnostic or Atheist Republican
  • Democrat for the death penalty
  • Independent who chooses the lesser of two evils, because they just don’t want the “really bad guy” to win, and to do anything else throws away their vote
  • Independent who decides to vote on principle, and is continually frustrated by other Independents who don’t do the same

I didn’t just create this list out of thin air. These are examples of real people, with real lives, who really struggle with voting on “the issues,” because their lives are not black, or white, or an 8-color box of crayons. And someone thinks every one of those people is an asshole. They said so. On Facebook.

Everyone just keeps trying to jam these Lavenders, Neon Carrots, Manatees, Burnt Siennas, Mahoganys, Crimsons, Flaxes, Forests, and Navys into the 8-color box. We don’t fit. We just don’t fit, and then you tell us we are wrong, evil, stupid for not fitting.

*Person I know. To be fair, she didn’t say, “Hey, Anne. Your mom is an Asshole.” But my Mom thinks voting for Romney is best for our country. Not sure if she thinks he is good for women, but I assume so, because she took offense at the statement. And that happens every five seconds for someone on Facebook. I’m not writing this post to call out this person. (Believe me, when I call people out, I do it by name.) This person is simply an example. This person is not an isolated incident. This person is most of us. Not a friend exactly, but the friend of friends. We have mutual acquaintances. We have mutual friends. Our kids have played together. I think she’s interesting and nice. I would never think she would call my mom an asshole. But she pretty much called my mom an asshole. On Facebook. In front of me. It’s cool. She’s not the only one. She just happened to be the example that happened in the thread where i posted about an article pleading for civility on Facebook. She just happened to be the one who missed the point completely. Am I mad? No. Do I still like her? Yes. Will I ever forget she called my mom an asshole? Nope. Will I forgive her? Yes. Do I hope she, and everyone who reads this, will think twice before making a sweeping generalization or hurling an insult on Facebook? Yes.

Update: Ginger, the author of the original blog post that prompted my post, has posted The Inevitable Follow-Up Post. Well worth a read.

Parents For DeKalb County Schools

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Well, add this to the litany of reasons that I haven’t been keeping up on the blog. Sad, because i wrote daily for years on here, but real life is getting in the way. One of the projects I’ve been working on is Parents for Dekalb County Schools. A very concerned parent created the group to try and improve the schools in my county. He is doing some awesome work, and trying very hard to reach out to parents in all parts of the county. This video is part of that outreach. We are really trying to find more parents like Bernadette out there to join us in making DeKalb schools great!

If you are reading this, and know a parent in DeKalb, please consider sharing this with them. Kids in DeKalb need all the help they can get. And if you do share it, maybe I’ll think about writing one of my ultra-embarrassing, self-deprecating blog posts. It’s been a while since I’ve done that to myself. I might even include middle school pictures.