Friday, August 18, 2017

On Showing Up

With apologies to Tina Fey...whom I admire for comedic genius, outspoken feminism, and all-'round smart-thinking...I must protest the suggestion and subsequent popular bandwagon today, that decent, non-racist people of America NOT show up where white supremacists and neo-Nazis have been given permits to spew hatred in the streets of our cities and towns.

If that's a choice you have, may I suggest you are exercising your White Privilege?

Too harsh?

I've been trying to frame this thought in a way that might speak to my friends on Facebook. I'm talking about some brilliant people, now - people who absolutely believe in honest-to-god liberty and justice for all (I long ago unfriended the rest). But this DON'T SHOW UP and DON'T GIVE EVIL THE ATTENTION IT WANTS approach just begs a mighty heave-ho.

Sadly, for the purposes of trying to draw an analogy that works for my DON'T SHOW friends, there is nothing we Anglo-Protestant, run-of-the-mill, nice people in America face that compares to racism. Nothing. I know this because I know and love people who've been called N#@@*r to their faces. I know this because non-white friends of mine have been treated unfairly by police officers. And movie ticket takers. And shop owners. And fast-food cashiers. And churches. I know this because I've attended vigils where I'm one of just a handful of white people crying over so many stories of fear, raging injustice, debilitating/ubiquitous racism.

There is no other way to say this. We have to show up. We have to show up.

My inbox is humming, today, with invitations from organizations like Black Lives Matter and The Rising Majority. Rallies and counter-protests are planned. Responses to this rampant hatred are more than necessary. They are a moral imperative.

We cannot let our brothers and sisters stand alone on the front line of this war between love and hate with the justification that paying attention to the assholes just fans the smoldering fury. That's ridiculous. These people are not just assholes. They are a movement of the vilest among us. They claim our country. Walk our streets. The house is already engulfed in flames. If we don't show up with buckets of love, we'll be digging through the ashes before you know it.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
(Edmund Burke)

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.  

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew. 
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me. 

Nope. As tempting as #sheetcaking sounds, Tina Fey, I don't think we can sit this one out.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Reporting from Darkness

If Julia Cameron is right...we should all be prodigiously creating.
Because darkness, America, is upon us.

If you're a long-ponderer like I am, perhaps you've also sloshed sluggishly along this week, knowing there's not one damn word worth hearing or reading that you could add to the conversation about racism, hate, violence, free speech, guns, civil war, or Robert E. Lee. Maybe, like me, you've tried to distract yourself by pushing momentarily away from the AP/Reuters/Bloomberg news feed to brush up on the Six Foods Trending for Fall, or to shop for IKEA pot scrubbers on Amazon, or to sit and stare at your yoga mat as if it might turn into a magic carpet and take you to a magical place where none of the aforementioned topics need to be discussed.

The news is just too disturbing, right? I feel fractured way beyond the core of my being. It's a weirdly visceral thing the way the Shadow of America, as seen last weekend in Charlottesville, VA, has raked its gnarliest fingers across my heart and soul and left me stewing in something that seems so vile I want to shower about five times a day.

I am trying to have normal hours...really I am. I simply can't move. (And I hope you can sense how much restraint I'm using to stay away from the Caps Lock key and the letters W and T and F...because that's where the writing energy is languishing.)

But about an hour ago, I found myself staring at the laptop skin (in the photo - cool artwork by Allie Eissler). And from that catatonic hour came the tiniest bit of hope. It's probably not hopey enough to have made it to my heart yet, but at least I found something stirring in the tips of my fingers. So here I sit. Throwing angsty words onto a public page in an attempt to recover my will to look up from the damage at least long enough to calculate my Creative place in the next hour. And maybe the one after that.

Because we must have all reasonable voices in the conversation right now.

Maybe you work for the New Yorker or Rolling Stone or NPR and your job is to keep us well informed. Or, maybe you're a teacher starting the first week of school with the absolute intention of creating 100% safe space for kids of all ethnic backgrounds. Maybe you hold elected office or rule from a judge's bench or work as a public defender. Or, maybe you're speaking out quietly with a meme on Facebook that declares I WILL NOT LET HATE WIN. Maybe you volunteer in under-served communities or coordinate social services in under-funded neighborhoods. Or, maybe you're making a pot of soup and a batch of warm cookies for your Black/Jewish/Otherized friends who feel this wave of anxiety 1000x more than you do. Maybe you're a pastor or a doctor or a march organizer. Maybe you're just a tired writer staring at walls, waiting to be moved...

Whatever it is you bring to the table, when we get creative, America, I believe the evil shitstorm of hate-fueled violence and gun-toting rallies and bat-swinging protests and ill-spoken political rhetoric will be informing our conversations rather than infesting our souls.

It would be too cliche to say, "The darkest hour comes before dawn."
But I'm still going to hope it's true.
And it sure is dark right now.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Get Out a Map

North Korea. Who's up for a chat?
Let's start here. Can you find the 46,500 square mile country (about the size of Mississippi) on a World map?

Apparently only about 1 in 3 adult Americans can. And, wow, follow the bouncing ball of reason on this: The one person who can find little North Korea on China's Northeast corner, right across from Japan - that person favors diplomatic interventions over more violent proposals in the ongoing bombast of my-nuke-is-bigger-than-yours. Maybe if you can find a country on a map, you have a little more sense of realness about the place. Perhaps it's occurred to you that an actual place on a map has people living there. And people have families. And houses. And jobs. And dreams. Just like you do.

Maybe. Get out your map. Imagine the views of the Pacific Ocean, the fresh seafood, the culture of politeness mingled with the wariness of strangers.

With half-hearted apologies to 32% of Americans who support our President right now (more people could find N. Korea on a world map...just sayin'), I have to wonder if he is the ONE in that map quiz, or part of the other TWO.  How in the ever-lovin' world did the President of the United States wander from a blow-it-off, fly-in-my-soup Twitter attitude about Kim Jong Un of North Korea on July 3... full blown fire and fury like the world has never seen this week? To say I am weary of the disrespectful, volatile, wildly ricocheting leadership style of our 45th president is an understatement of the highest order. He is a child in a man's job. Enough said.

So - I opened my laptop early Wednesday, longing for Barack Obama, and determined I would launch a new meme with WWOD superimposed over a silly GIF of the Dear Leader. Sadly, my self-righteous Obama-wishing-bubble was burst pretty quickly with a lengthy February 2016 piece from Newsweek about what appears to have been the last North Korean offer to put its nukes on the negotiating line with the USA:

North Korea wanted to talk about officially ending the Korean War (it technically stopped with an armistice in 1953). And Kim was now willing to wrap the nuclear issue into the discussions. 

WWOD? Let his successor deal with the North Korea problem. Sigh.

I won't regurgitate the entire article here, but I encourage you to read it for background, at least....and for regret, if you like to wallow in that as much as I do.

So in the cacophony of sword rattling and the rhetoric of bravado from all of our dear leaders, I have spent some time doing what I like to do when I don't understand a world-worn brouhaha...I have read, and scribbled pages of ugly notes, and thought about the people in this drama:

Kim Jong Un - He does not seem to be crazy. But he is definitely cruel and calculating. I think he loves to get a rise out of people, so DT is a great target. The new reality is this:  Kim Jong Un has some pretty impressive nuclear capabilities. The sooner the world reconciles itself to the fact that there is a 10th nuclear power on Earth, the better. Would you give up your nukes if you were KJU? I doubt it. They are the bombs you build so no one will use them. He's protecting his gig.

Donald Trump - He does seem to be crazy. And he is likely becoming more and more desperate for an opportunity to actually grow his base.  If you ask me, he's the loose cannon on deck. know...this is not news.

Americans - We have listened again and again to a discourse on this subject led by the very people who have failed to negotiate a reasonable resolution to the matter of North Korea Tries To Build Nukes. We had a chance to make peace with this business in the late 1990s before the Kims had nuclear weapon technologies (Clinton), bungled the chance again in the early 2000s (Bush), and began watching the Kim Jong Ils/Uns test their backroom science projects in 2006. Our opinions are tainted because people who fail want us to believe they didn't.

North Koreans. 
They are real people. Just like us.

 They live under the dictatorship of a guy who would stuff them and put them on his mantle if he thought that would impress another world leader. In spite of/in service to him, 3-million North Koreans make their way through an urban landscape in a city the size of  Los Angeles (Pyongyang).

Their days look much like our days.


Middle class jobs are being done, mostly, by women. They are marketplace jobs dependent on creating, buying, and selling North Korean goods to North Korean customers.

They have favorite sports teams.

They throw giant parties for their parents' 60th birthdays.

They send their children to school.

They take care of their aging relatives.

They play.

They laugh.

They love.

They live.

What would fire and fury do to these people?

I can't stop asking myself that question.

Let's unfold the map to a bigger view of the world. Please.