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Friday, October 9, 2015


My childhood home had a family room with no functional familial use beyond offering a great spot for hide and seek behind the couch. It was merely the room we walked through to get to the garage whenever we went anywhere. There was a large black and white portrait hanging predominately in the center of the room that always scared me when I was young. It was of a gentleman from the 1800s who didn't look the least bit friendly. Our home had black and white pictures everywhere. For a reason I have never quite ascertained, it was very important for the images of those who came before us to be displayed throughout the home.

I was so proud when I finally asked the story of the scary man in the family room. It turned out he owned a home that had a secret basement which was a stop on the Underground Railroad. My young mind was always trying to understand, and my tender heart was always trying to differentiate between, right and wrong. There was nothing more right to me than a person making personal sacrifices to save others from the evils of slavery. I was excited to tell people that I had such a cool ancestor in my family tree. At the same time, I was aware that it wasn't really my family tree.

Having been adopted, there were never times that either I felt 100% like a member of the family or that others went out of their way to make me feel 100% like a member of the family. Because of this, I was always careful to preface any recountings of my great-great-great grandfather's story with a reminder that I had been adopted. Its pretty sad just to type that. Imagine a child excitedly telling you something about their family but believing that you needed to know it wasn't really her family. Take that revelation one step further to acknowledge that she was comfortable in that place and those who should've taught her there was no variable didn't feel it was necessary to do so.

When I was in middle school, I remember being frustrated telling my friends about my family legacy because they didn't feel like it was as cool as I did. I was even more frustrated by the fact that my family didn't seem too incredibly impressed, either. It was more of a matter-of-fact and his picture was something my mother had basically won in a family lottery of items passed down when someone or other died. The portrait was added to the wall of the room that no one really used as many other pictures of people no one could recall had been throughout the house.

To this day I wonder if my brother and sister, who were not adopted and are related by blood to this man, would be able to tell you his story. I wonder if they even remember the amazing history we were given about our family and the strength of those who came before us. It feels as if they have no knowledge or care of actual legacy whatsoever.

I recently started creating my own family tree on It was a journey to see how far I could go back with the very limited information I have about my natural family (my grandmother came from Italy and I have her Americanized name). But I was really excited to see if I could work on the tree of the family I grew up with and know as my family. I was hoping to eventually get back to a place where I could learn more about this house and its place on the Underground Railroad. During my search I got several hints from the website about family members that others had in their trees and I would open them to get the information they had already found. I got a hint last week that my sister had created a family tree and I excitedly went in there figuring she would have all of the same people I did and it would make my job pretty easy. Instead, I found a family tree quite devoid of very important information. Apparently, in the legacy she is willing to leave to future generations, she did not have a sister. She had a brother, my brother. She had parents, my parents. But she did not have me.


It is really hard to imagine that a human being would want to omit a person from their history who was the sister she had grown up with; who bought her a maternity wardrobe with her first pregnancy and then flew to Virginia on New Year's when that first niece was born; and who drove to Virginia when the second niece was born. I guess not having had an actual drop of blood in that bloodline overrides any actual remembrances of sisterhood, however.

The word legacy is powerful. It reminds us of all that has come before to create and enrich all that exists in this place. The lessons one generation determines necessary to pass on to the next are inside of that legacy. The traditions of community and interdependence come from that legacy. The stories of pride and remembrance come from that legacy. Even as a child I felt not quite entitled to the legacy of what came before me. But because it was the only one I had, I wanted to claim it nonetheless. I would certainly, at least, be thoughtful about the legacy I would leave future generations. The pain of realizing that my legacy will be quite irrelevant and forgotten to those whose lives I have shared is indescribable.

The saddest part about all of this is the fact that the very members of my family who have known me my entire life and should, by now, have found a way to empathize when I explain my feelings, refuse to hear this retelling beyond waiting for the pause so they can defend themselves. But many people who are completely removed from this story with no emotional connection to me whatsoever will come much closer to understanding my pain than those who can actually witness and lessen it.

Throughout my life I have gone through phases where I would remove myself from my family completely to dispel the pain of their carelessness and intolerance. I have always allowed criticisms, both internal and external, to counter my own better judgment and reenter my family out of commitment and dedication to the thing which it was meant to be. But the truth is: It is not what it was meant to be. It is never going to be what it was meant to be. The thing that it is creates pain. And alienation. The thing that it is expects acceptance of things I find unacceptable and ignorance of things I find to be imperatives.

Loneliness is the only substitute I've found for vulnerability. Neither are exemplar. Neither are healthy. But let no one question why those are the only two alternatives I have found after considering the legacy I have been afforded.

Monday, July 6, 2015


My brain is barely working these days. I am so tired. My depression is kicking my ass. I am safe in my home. That is my cure for my anxiety and agoraphobia. My car is safe. I can go to the bank or the pharmacy or fast food. Anything with a drive thru is safe. I can't explain any of this. I feel safe at the little store at the end of the street. I think it is because I have always shopped there and I know all of the kids who work there. There are no other places that I feel safe. If I have to go anywhere else I have to mentally prepare myself for days. I visualize the place and where the doors are. I have to plan on parking in an aisle in front of the door so I can get to it quickly. When I get inside I have to be able to see the door.

I didn't realize my ability to see the door was even a problem until it was a problem. I was at Kroger. I go in the middle of the night because I know there will be very few people. I was in the frozen section and I turned my cart around to head back down the aisle and noticed that I could not see the door. My body started shaking and I had to calm myself down and steady my breathing. It was ridiculous. It pisses me off. I honestly cannot control it even though I realize it is irrational.

When my daughter picked out her wedding dress last month it was important that I go with her. I had been to that bridal shop before and I could visualize the outside and the floor plan of the inside. I could not go into the aisles with her. My breathing became short and I just shook my head to let her know I was going to have to stand at the end of the aisles and watch what she picked out. The section where people wait for the bride to come out and model the dresses was within eyeshot of the door so that went well. That was the last time I left the house until this weekend.

I have no money. Rent is due by the 5th. I own my home but not the lot. I had to have $385 to pay my rent. I have an amazing wardrobe, most of which still have the tags on them. Last year after my first panic attack and when I was starting to evaluate my depression and anxiety I realized that I had never, in my life, believed that I had any value. When I lost 175 pounds I didn't even buy clothes. I would get handed down clothes from friends or whatever fit at the thrift store. I literally had a pair of size 22 pants that I would wear when I had made it down to a 12 and I would use binder clips to fold and keep the pants up. It was ridiculous. I never thought I was worth spending money on. Ever. When my daughter went to college I really started to realize I had nothing. I had created my life around her. And then I found the man that I was going to spend the rest of my life with and I began taking care of he and his daughter. I had value again. When the disaster happened and I had to leave my new family, I had no value again. And for the first time, I realized it. My value has always been what I can give to others. Its sick, honestly. But its true. I believe today my value is $250K because that is the life insurance policy that would pay out if I die. Seriously. Thats it.

Last year I tried to force myself to care for myself. In my entire adult life I had never had a wardrobe that I had picked out full of things that I loved and I thought I was adorable in. So I went shopping and I bought a kick ass wardrobe. I felt pretty for the first time in a very long time. I was so excited to wear my new clothes. When I went back to work my girlfriends would take pictures of me every day to show off my new clothes. I was only able to work for three weeks before I had to go back on disability because my boss was still harassing me and I ended up having four more panic attacks. That was June 23 of 2014. I have since had no reason to wear anything other than old t-shirts from when I wore a 3x and a pair of panties. I don't leave my house. So I don't need that gorgeous wardrobe.

(The tutu was not part of my new wardrobe, my friend made it for the pride parade)

Yesterday I went to a resale shop to sell my wardrobe. It was easily valued at least $5k. Most of it still had tags on them. While at the store I had to stand by the door to feel comfortable. I didn't want the lady to think I was just keeping an eye on her or trying to get her to hurry up so I told her that I have agoraphobia and am very uncomfortable in public and I apologized if I was making her uncomfortable. When it was time to check out she told me that her friend used to have agoraphobia, too. I asked how she got over it. She said, "She ran out of money and had to get a job." I cannot let that go. I cannot stop being pissed at her ignorance and her arrogance. Agoraphobia comes from anxiety. Having no capacity to pay your bills adds to your anxiety. She made it sound like her friend was being ridiculous and she finally got over herself. I felt bad for her friend. I am sure that she either didn't have agoraphobia or she was also in treatment and/or receiving medications. Either way she completely dismissed my situation as if I could just 'get over it' if things just get a little bit worse.

I am disgusted by people who just make assumptions about people the second they hear that they are on disability. A lot of people just assume that they are taking advantage of the system. Our society has been conditioned to make that assumption. I finally applied for disability with Social Security in early April of this year (the disability I was on last year was from my job and I didn't feel bad taking it because they created the entire scenario and then made it worse by HR and upper management deciding to just ignore the whole thing entirely). I could have filed March 2014. I never filed because I always figured I would be better by now. I never thought I would still be here and even worse. I have overcome all of the shit life has handed me. I always find a way. I am (was) a bad ass. I don't care anymore. I don't even want to be alive. I cannot be well in this situation and expected to leave my house and go to a job when sometimes after mentally preparing myself to go to the grocery store in the middle of the night I still have panic attacks and have to just not go. I don't have it in me to heal on my own. And, again, I have been on a waiting list for care for a very long time. I finally have an appointment at the end of this month.

The next time you hear someone say that they are on disability assume they have something wrong with them. Don't automatically determine that they are one of the people who take advantage of the system. You can be doing a sincere harm to someone who really is pretty close to just saying 'fuck it' altogether. I told the lady at the rental office that I was waiting on my disability and she looked me up and down and I just knew what she was thinking.

I don't believe that most people aspire to land on disability. I certainly didn't. And I don't mean to be on it for the rest of my life. I hope that once I start having treatment and therapy I can get myself straightened out and get back to my life. Just remember, many issues people face are not seen as they stand before you. MANY. Give people care. And support. And respect. You don't know what other people are dealing with.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Dear Media:

Dear Media:

I am a patriotic American. No. Really. I don't just use that as a cheap buzz word because my talking heads told me that I am. I love my country and I sincerely want to help bring her to a healthy place.

As such, I need for you, collectively, to acknowledge your complicity in the tragic place we are finding ourselves at this time. As America is facing so much societal unrest, our journalists are not informing their audience beyond the generic aspects which are being offered on almost all other channels. What is the point of having multiple 24/7 news outlets if there is no means of differentiation? Our politics have become ridiculous. Out of fear, you neglect to report on much of it because you don't want to be condemned as illegitimate for 'liberal bias.' Of course, by offering your audience a deliberately filtered account of facts, you are defining your work as illegitimate. But for a different reason.

In this day and age where absolutely anyone can write and build an audience (ehem), the onus is on you to be the stalwart documentarians of the true chronicle we leave to history. As such, you are failing miserably. You have allowed your messages and their means of delivery to be dictated by your competition. And, thus, you have allowed the standards by which your industry has been maintained to be lowered. Profoundly.

When something newsworthy occurs in America, it is your responsibility to ask yourselves those essential 6 questions. Write them on a sticky note and tape it to your monitor or your cameraman, if necessary. You should always realize that those are the questions your audience is looking to have answered. When you focus too much on one or neglect another, altogether, you are not offering a complete account. You are doing your own legacy and your audience a disservice.

For instance: When a riot breaks out in a city because a ball team has won or lost a championship, ask why. This will be important for future comparisons when other riots break out to create distinctions between the two. And when riots do break out in the future, don't opine to your audience about how unbelievable this is to see in our society. Don't forget to inform them of all of the other riots America has seen lately about sports teams. When protests or rioting break out in a community which has been oppressed for decades, do not spend so much of your time on the who without an in-depth look at who and then asking the most important- why. Do not offer a lazy answer about a young man being murdered by the police. The history of that city and its struggles are important pieces to building the dialogue necessary for the comprehensive understanding Americans will need to have about that young mans death. America is really losing an opportunity to understand and identify with that community.

There is no need to excitedly anticipate the next negative event to happen in the community. Another cable channel will report on that and will feel free to report on it even if it doesn't happen. Take the high road and offer your audience the respect they deserve by rising to their intellectual level. Also, in offering your audience the story of the community, please avoid using derogatory language to define the newsmakers. As a hint: if any term is used repeatedly on the Fox channel, refrain from using it, you are lowering yourselves to a level that a thoughtful audience will want to disassociate from. Fox has their own built in audience, if you want to appeal to them on their level, you are not a journalist.

When you do a story about a politician, we want to have many questions answered that seem to be negated by all news outlets: Who are they? Why are they running for office? What is their platform?  How do they intend to make changes they seek?  Presently, the politicians are directing the narrative. If they do not answer the questions America wants answered, don't send the piece to air or print. They are using you as free publicity. And you are letting them.

You are offering politicians a voice to perpetuate their rhetoric. You are neither holding them nor yourselves accountable for what knowledge Americans are being afforded about those who are hoping to shape our futures. If a politician has nothing new to say, there is no need to report on their having repeated the same thing they said the day before. Allow your budget department and management to deal with the fact that they pay for a camera, sound and a reporter to follow them around waiting for them to be interesting. If they fail to offer you anything new, do not insult your audience by giving them bullshit and calling it news.

If a politician offered an actual platform, that would certainly be newsworthy. And if their platform is wildly different than what they have been saying on the stump about their 'ideals,' it is then your responsibility, as journalists, to ask them to explain their contradictions. Out of fear, you are allowing politicians to use you as a tool to manipulate the dialogue in American discourse and lowering the expectations anyone would have of a legitimate and sincere debate. Just because their audience doesn't want to have to use critical thought, doesn't mean the rest of us don't. Lets be honest, they have their own media and aren't listening to you anyway.

If someone has written a book which has not yet been released which offers outlandish information that has not yet been substantiated, that is not news. It should not be reported as such. You have, again, lowered yourselves to the level of the Fox channel. At present, you are competing with them. They are not your competition. Your work should first and foremost be mindful of the fact that, by virtue of their having an obvious bias with opinions they have been paid to have, they are not a credible news outlet. Kindly stop behaving otherwise.

How about you stop reporting it when politicians are offering rumors? How about you use your research skills to see if there is any "there" there before you report it and offer it to the American audience? How about you go back to what you learned when studying to become a journalist and reread the definitions of "newsworthy" and "credibility"?  Repeatedly. How about you only report on it when politicians actually create news? Currently you are rewarding them like giving a bone to a dog that has just shit on your floor.  How about you start conditioning them to only get to have the free publicity when they do something that a politician should be doing? You are allowing them to dictate your narrative. And that is not journalism.

We have lost a lot of true legends in journalism lately. Have you paid attention to the many remembrances written and broadcast about them by fellow journalists? Do you ever imagine what will be said about you? Do you hope to have a phrase like "journalistic integrity" attributed to your work? As long as this shift of credible media coverage remains the norm, very few of todays journalists will be remembered for having been impartial and thoughtful.

Much more important than your legacy, however, is the legacy of America. You are recording her history every day. It looks pretty bleak, huh? What will future generations think when they research this era in history? You all have a hand in the place we find ourselves and how we will be remembered. Please start working as if that is important to you.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Z is for Zimmerman

When Trayvon Martin was murdered in 2012, many parents throughout the world mourned the loss. Our hearts went out to his parents and couldn't imagine what that pain felt like. And didn't want to know. Almost as quickly as Americans were made aware of this tragedy we started to question the story of the shooter, George Zimmerman. It was bullshit. Obviously. This offered Americans a perspective they had not really realized before. Or if they had realized it, they didn't want to contend with it. Something about that child's innocent face in the hoodie that every one of our children wears, I think, pulled in every parent with a heart. And as we fell in love with that child we realized that he was killed only for the color of his skin. And we, those of us with loving hearts, were outraged.

This tragedy made America aware of another tragedy it had been unaware of. Or ignoring. The racism we had collectively decided was no longer an issue in our country was made evident. We had all believed that it was a handful of cranks and they were never worth a thought. As soon as this child was murdered people started condemning him. Their 'media' offered pictures and then they reposted these pictures of this teenager flipping off the camera or exhaling smoke. That was meant as justification for his murder. It was telling people that he was a "bad" kid and deserved to die. People started raising money for the legal representation this child's murder would need. They knew nothing more than the rest of America did. They didn't know him personally. They knew that he killed a black child who, apparently, had smoked and flipped off a camera in his lifetime. And that was enough to justify raising money to help his killer be set free.

If not for the internet, these assholes would still be on the outskirts of society. These were the ones who were banned to keeping their racism to themselves when in public. With the internet, however, they were able to unite in hatred. They were allowed to enter a community of other low life racists and not be judged for their small-mindedness. They were encouraged to be awful, heartless human beings. And with this unity came an undignified voice and pride that no one wanted to hear and tried to just ignore. Ignoring them didn't shut them up, though, did it?

For the next three years these disgusting creatures raised money to support law enforcement officers who killed unarmed black men. When the rest of America was horrified to see some of these murders which had been recorded, this group of trash took stills from the videos to make memes and joke about the loss. They literally attributed no value to the lives of these human beings. Because they were black.

Every time I see a picture of Trayvon Martin on the news my mind drifts off. I always go to a place that wonders what life he didn't get to have. I always wonder what experiences he was meant to live and which endeavors he was meant to champion. It makes my heart ache. Every single time. And my mind, inevitably, now drifts to the knowledge that the piece of shit who killed this child was not only set free, but after that was arrested repeatedly for violence. Zimmerman was literally, and inexplicably, given a chance to reclaim his life and he chose to continue living a terrible and worthless life. And an innocent child will never have an opportunity to grow up and make his way in this world because he was black.

This really needs to be the time in American history when we take a look at what we, collectively, have created and find a healthy way to sincerely turn things around. We will not be able to do that with leaders who want to literally pass laws to encourage discrimination. We will not be able to do that when leaders who are seeking election only from the type of slug who would raise money to pay for legal fees of a child murderer. Sadly, we cannot annex Alaska and invite them to all make their own new hateful nation (or can we?). We will have to live with these people. But we will also have to find a way to diminish their voice in our country. They disgrace themselves. They disgrace my country. And whenever given the chance, they disgrace the memory of innocent black men. This is obviously intolerable. But we have been tolerating it. It is time that we stand our ground. It is time that this country shows that it has a heart and is not represented by the loudest voices that are screaming out hate in the name of America.

Y is for Youth

It takes a village to raise a child

Indeed. It truly does.

It takes a village to maintain cultural standards and celebrate their histories. It takes a village to heal a community in times of trial. It takes a village to create a safe environment for children to grow. It takes a village to afford a strong education for its children. It takes a village to be mindful of its needs and elect elders to ensure their maintenance. It takes a village to set the example of community for the younger generations. It takes a village to adhere to societal constructs to teach the younger generations about the necessity of their continuity.

It does not take each villager to take personal responsibility over every child.

Too many people are taking it upon themselves to demand the means by which all children are raised. Parenting is a singular or dual mission. The opportunities and lessons a child should be afforded are to be determined by the parent(s) regardless of what the rest of the villagers believe. The ideals for the child are to be framed by those the parent(s) find important. Any religious tenets (or not) are to be instilled by those parent(s) to encourage an understanding of their belief system. The definitions of safety and limits are to be determined and offered by the parent(s) to allow for their expectations of limits and safety and free thinking and individualism.

No parent(s) will ever do everything right to raise the perfect human being. Even the idea of "right" is irrelevant as it is subjective. That is the beauty of a free society. There are certainly times when a child's physical or emotional needs are jeopardized in a familial setting that need to have an intervention and be researched. But Americans these days seem all too eager to call out their fellow villagers for failing to meet someone else's standards of raising children.

The new trend in "free-range parenting" is taking a lot of hits right now and being criticized enough to make it to the media. In one generation our society has come to a place of fear and anxiety about whether or not a child should be able to walk home alone. One generation.

When I was a kid my brother and I walked to and from school every day. From kindergarten on. And we didn't live down the street. We lived several blocks. Depending on how much we screwed around on the way, it could take a half hour to get home. And no one ever came looking for us. And we always made it home.

Our street was off of the main street in town. We played baseball and kickball in the street. If we saw a car coming someone would yell, "Car!" and we would all head for the curb. The parents and elders in the neighborhood would always peek out or come sit on the porch every once in a while to see what was going on, but no one told us to get out of the street. And we always made it home.

We used to play until dark. We would try to push the limits of the definition of dark to get as much time to play outside in the summer as we possibly could. We would rush into the house absolutely filthy from riding our bikes down the "Iron Horse Trail" or covered in sap from having spent hours climbing pine trees. My mom would meet us at the door pointing to the stairs with an exasperated "get in the tub." She probably sometimes wished her kids hadn't gone out that day, but we always made it home.

In one generation our society has made a complete 180. We now have titles like "helicopter parents." That phrase exists because it is so common. I never realized it until I heard the phrase defied that I was a helicopter mom. Poor Audrey. She never played outside if I wasn't with her. She wasn't allowed to walk to a friends house, I always drove her. She wasn't allowed to have sleepovers, her friends had to stay at my house. I had so many fears of "what if's" that I neglected to give her an opportunity to feel like she had any independence or ability to set limits for herself or gauge her own safety. Thankfully, she seems to have been able to find her own independence despite my overbearing nature. But I think that has more to do with her being stubborn than anything else.

I was a naïve child until 1983. So I had a good 10 years before I knew there were things to fear in the world. Everything changed when I saw a movie called "Adam." It was the story of a little boy who was at a shopping center with his mother and he was kidnapped and killed by a stranger. It never occurred to me that anyone would do something like that.

I think society allowed itself to be naïve about things like that. Child molestation and kidnappings were things that no one would talk about in polite conversation. It was improper. I honestly think, and this is from the memory of a child, so take it for what it is, that this started things changing. Adam's father, John Walsh, came up with a television show to catch bad guys. It was in the media every week. The missing children were on our milk cartons every day. I literally read their stories in the morning while eating my cereal. And I thought about how scared they would be every day.

The world was never the world I thought it was. And I don't imagine that it ever should be again. But we have to find a place in between where our children are afforded the opportunity to have independence and freedoms to explore the world and find their own path into it. The alternative is kind of scary to imagine. If an entire generation of children grow up to expect to have every moment of their lives monitored and dictated by a caretaker, how will they acclimate to a college environment? How will they learn to be independent as an adult in a romantic relationship? How will they be able to have opportunities for advancement in their chosen career fields? And before they come to any of those hurdles, how will they leave the house?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

X is for Xenophobia

I have agoraphobia. It is irrational. I can say that it is irrational. My ability to acknowledge that, however, doesn't change it in any way. Because I know it is irrational it pisses me off. That anger doesn't alleviate it, either. I have researched in trying to understand it and found that most phobias are irrational. Per Scientific American, "In humans, an unwarranted, persistent fear of a certain situation or object, known as specific phobia, can cause overwhelming distress and interfere with daily life." That is certainly the case with me, and it seems to be the case of those who sincerely deal with xenophobia.

Xenophobia is an intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries. We seem to have an overwhelming number of Americans who are suffering from this phobia these days. It can be caused by witnessing or hearing about an event. 9/11 with its constant news coverage and uncertainty could have certainly been a precipitating motivator. Once the perpetrators of the attacks were identified as having been from the Middle East and their religion to have been Islam, those with sincere xenophobia would have a place to direct their fear. They would have a way to identify the thing that their minds wanted to protect them from. That is irrational. And for people with genuine xenophobia, that is not their fault. It didn't stem from a place that needed to hate. It stemmed from actual fear. Their need to disassociate from others is about trying to create a world that is safe for them because of the direct physical and emotional effects they experienced by witnessing the attacks of 9/11. Their subconscious is trying to create a bubble where they will not have to face anything like it again.

There are those who wanted to take advantage of the fear that some Americans were facing. As much as they are just evil sons-of-bitches anyway, it is worse to think what they must be doing to those Americans who have been sincerely suffering since 9/11. To hear that their fears are not only warranted but will certainly prove to come true soon must be completely debilitating. It breaks my heart. With my phobia I have a safe zone. If I am in my house, my subconscious can relax and feel safe. For one with xenophobia, their home should be safe, as well. But because those on the right want to take advantage of and exploit those fears, they don't have a safe place. It will be in all means of their media at all times. Their "unwarranted, persistent fear" is being pounded into their psyche 24/7 by these swine.

The right offered that fear to more people, too. These new people were looking for hate. They accepted the irrational fear without the paralyzing effects those who sincerely suffer with xenophobia have to deal with. The media on the right; in print, internet, radio and television, have all borrowed the symbol of the Jihadist we came to understand shortly after the attacks and attributed those characteristics to all who live in the Middle East or who follow Islam. These outlets have had myriad means of delivering their message through fear of these "others." By starting at the top, they tell them that the President is a Muslim. The audience is shown video clips daily of terrorists who are planning to attack America. They rallied together against a mosque being built at the site of the Twin Towers and are repeatedly told that America is about to be subjected to sharia law. Daily they are inundated by stories where Christians have fallen victim to Muslim extremists. Their only objective seems to be a constant reminder to be afraid.

Because of their soulless attempts to garner their own viewership and a constituency for their politicians, the right-wing media have created, perpetuated and fed fears to people who have no idea that they are being preyed upon. It is a deliberate attempt to direct loyalties by means of promising to keep them informed and unified against those who mean to do them harm. The right-wing media have used all means of propaganda available to them to convey their mangled truths and conspiracies. They have also compared the Liberals to the Nazis for their audience to repeat. Irony will be certainly be lost on them, but not my readers. We know where they got their propaganda techniques. And where the initial messages of the Nazi's rallied against the Austrians and Jews, today's right-wing crazies point their contempt toward the Middle Easterners and Muslims.

Whatever our next phase of history will be, and wherever we are as a nation, I sincerely hope those who have been struggling with real xenophobia since 9/11 are able to find a healthy means of assimilating back into society without having become completely enveloped by the hate they have been buried under for so long.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Not Even a Mule

My country. I always say that. I have no ownership and had no hand in its founding, but I feel bound to and responsible for it just the same.

My country is in shit shape. And it seems to be getting worse. Or better. I can't decide? Lately things have finally been coming to a head. I find it equally humbling and devastating. The Trayvon Martin murder seems to be the starting point, at least in my mind. More than just communities of color were offered pause. Every once in a while my country is given an opportunity to see what kinds of injustices communities of color have to endure. But it wasn't ever enough to make most people take a deep enough look at what was wrong. Injustice was a truth. Injustice was unfortunate. Injustice was forgotten.

But Trayvon Martin really started something different in American discourse. This was not just a child. This was a child who was doing absolutely nothing wrong. He was literally walking home from the store and a 'citizen' who was exercising his legal right to 'stand his ground' decided that this young black man was walking in a neighborhood where he had no business being and he murdered that child. And then America got to see the killer of this child go free. And then my country got pissed. Finally!

Killings of unarmed black men seemed to then happen frequently. And by law enforcement. It was as if out of nowhere police officers were acting out against the communities they were meant to be policing. That's pretty stupid, huh? It wasn't out of nowhere. It hadn't just started. My country just started finding out. Those in the communities who were being targeted, of course, have known all along. But no one was listening.

To write this blog I wanted to find the number of unarmed people of color murdered by police since the Trayvon Martin tragedy. I wanted to make sure I didn't forget any that I wanted to address. Apparently, even though I am very well informed about what is going on in my country and watch the news every night, I have been ill-informed about how large that number was. Trayvon Martin was killed on February 26, 2012. From that date, through Dec 2, 2014, 37 unarmed people of color have been murdered by police in America. And since then? It seems like we are hearing of a new one every week, doesn't it?

Since America's settlement, white men sailed to Africa to steal its citizens. They were enslaved. They were forced to build this country. They were raped. And beaten. And murdered. In my country, children are given that as a matter-of-fact in history class, tested on it, and moved to the next lesson. Yep. It happened. Betsy Ross made a flag, too.

In the 1860s the slaves were offered freedom and then an Amendment was added to the Constitution to define their rights to their own bodies. During Reconstruction, freed slaves were told they would get 40 acres and a god damned mule. They received neither. They were told they were free and offered no means to build on that freedom. Millions of people were given absolutely nothing and nowhere to live and no means to provide for their families. And that was defined as freedom. Many ended up remaining as slaves with no money or property or means of migration. Opportunities to build from that place were few. As was true then, it is still true today. America doesn't have enough bootstraps to go around. And people refuse to acknowledge that.

Communities of color have always been punching bags for white America. They have been offered as the excuse for all issues imaginable from war to poverty to taxation. White America created the problem and then demands that its victims fix it themselves. Until white Americans get the fuck over themselves and offer everyone the equality in law and in respect that all human beings deserve, how can anyone be expected to rise? The truth? The basest among us don't want them to rise. Those base level human beings like to have others to condemn. They like to have someone that they see as being lesser than they are. But do you know what base? By virtue of attributing someone's value beneath your own, you are the lesser person. Every time. Period.

When the information about Freddie Gray was released on the news, many of these base individuals had the same reaction on social media. "Great! You know they are going to riot now." Really? Do you think "they" are going to riot now? It is not common to see riots. And whenever these riots have happened it has not been out of nowhere. Riots have not been unprovoked. Riots have always happened when the injustices are so blatant and still unresolved that some people (not all as your pronoun 'they' would define) just lose their shit. I dare say if societal roles were reversed, this whole country would've gone up in flames a long time ago.

You want to talk shit about an entire community who every once in a while stands up in a violent manner when their frustrations reach a boiling point? Let me remind you of this, motherfucker ... You are forever demanding first and foremost that your country allows you a means of defending yourself and maintaining your right to bear arms. You are forever demanding that we remember your right to build a militia to raise up against your country if you ever feel your rights are not being adhered to. You are always itching to raise militias for assholes who want to burn children and families in a cult or who want to use protected American lands and not be penalized for it. Not only do you prove your profound ignorance by supporting only the craziest of people, you prove your desperation to rise up in rage to demand the legal outcome you think is fair. But you think the black community doesn't deserve to rise up when innocent men are killed by authority. Your militias wanted to rise up against the entire Federal Government for Waco. And Ruby Ridge. And Cliven Bundy. And NAFTA. Really?

I saw on the news this morning that the Bloods and the Crips were going to join together in Baltimore and not against one another. The story said that the same thing happened in Ferguson. There's nothing lovely about gang violence, but unity is beautiful. Especially because these kids who are so angry and have been pointing it back at themselves for so long finally feel strong enough to unite and point their anger where it belongs. I am certainly not saying that police and businesses are the enemy. But society, as a whole, is.

Society, in 2015, which accepts murders of unarmed black men deserves to have its ass kicked. Society, in 2015, which anticipates a calming down after each of these men are murdered and people move on, deserves to get its ass kicked. Society, in 2015, which does not hold its media accountable for neglecting to report on the many more murders of unarmed people of color by police officers, deserves to get its ass kicked. Society, in 2015, which embraces any police force with repeated violations against its citizenry, deserves to get its ass kicked.

Maybe this will be the last time. Maybe this time enough people will ask themselves the right questions and not point their outrage to the television screen at angry strangers whose needs have been ignored for centuries. Maybe this time Americans will ask themselves why this continues to happen and acknowledge the truth behind the question and their own complicity in its endurance.

W is for Welfare

We have Ronald Reagan to thank for the term "Welfare Queen." He offered a depiction of a woman who was taking advantage of the system to malign an entire subset of society. All of the poor who received aid were condemned to a hypothetical representative that would've been impossible for anyone to duplicate. The woman Reagan cited did exist. But she was not the typical welfare recipient. She was an actual con artist. Her entire scheme was to get over on anyone in any way she could. She took advantage of many people and many government agencies.

While campaigning for the presidency, Reagan failed to mention all of the other government agencies she managed to take advantage of. Why would he not mention the rest? Because he was a dick. Because he didn't need her for that. He only needed a means to vilify the poor and create a narrative that would start Americans to think twice about wanting their tax dollars to be used in helping them. The funny thing, which happens to not be funny at all, is that, as with all Republican approaches to societal issues, the idea of fixing a broken system that could be taken advantage of was not the issue. He did not talk about how to make the system more productive in its means of caring for the nations poor. The issue was to condemn those who needed it. And, for the GOP, this has never changed.

Earlier this month, Kansas passed a law saying that welfare recipients cannot spend their money on cruise ships. Well holy shit! That must happen all of the time, right? I mean, either that or Kansas has gone so far out of its way to cure all of its ills that it is only left to mend the problem of assistance dollars being spent in the Caribbean. The focus of this new bill, however, was meant to limit the amount one can spend in one day to $25. This, obviously, makes it quite hard to pay rent and utilities. But I will explain what it does that is not so obvious. When I was on welfare, I didn't have a car most of the time. I had to take a bus wherever I went. Once a month I took a cab to get my groceries. I could hardly bring them all home on the bus. And a cab ride was not free. For the bulk of the time I was receiving aid, my daughter was in diapers. They are not cheap. And neither are the wipes. And (sorry Bubba) my baby girl had a very sensitive bottom so we had to be very careful about which brands we bought or she would have a terrible rash. With this new proposal, we would have to take a cab to the grocery store several times a month to do our shopping as you simply cannot, even with coupons and a wonderful sale, get a months worth of diapers and wipes with $25, let alone all that one needs to feed their family. And I had a family of two. I don't even want to try to imagine how many trips it would take to get the necessities for a family of five or six.

Some years ago Fox "news" interviewed a guy who explained that buying seafood and steak were his top picks with his food stamps and he really loved getting the free food. First of all, I imagine this dude was not on welfare and Fox paid him handsomely to read this script. Secondly, he is quite obviously not representative of the majority of families receiving aid. The idea that a family living on food stamps exists on steak and lobster is a little hysterical. But I guess you would have to actually receive food stamps and be given a ridiculously tiny amount of money to try to feed your family for a month to understand that.

Presently Maine, Missouri and Wisconsin are trying to pass laws saying that food stamps cannot be used to buy junk food or expensive items, like steak and lobster. Of course, this is all rhetoric in attempts to get on the news to remind their lowly base that they need to hate the poor and completely ignore what other items they had on the agenda. The legislators know full well that they would never be able to pass this bill. First they would have to define junk food. Then they would have to deal with the lawsuits from companies who wanted to contend that their food should not be classified as unhealthy with so many studies defining subjectivities. Then they would have to back off because they were only doing it to rile up morons, anyway. But lets just pretend that they were able to limit what a family can spend their food allowances on. Okay? So we, my daughter and I, were a normal American family. Regardless of how much money we contributed to stimulating the economy, we were a normal, yet small, family. Every year on Audrey's birthday she would get to pick whatever she wanted for dinner. So if my child wanted me to buy her steak that would be unacceptable? And if I wanted to make her a birthday cake, which would be deemed junk food, that should not be allowed? Are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness only available to those who can afford it? Shit!

This myth created by Reagan, and perpetuated by our present Republicans, of what it is like to live on welfare is ridiculous. You do not get enough money to go on a cruise. You do not get enough food stamps to buy expensive (or healthy) food items. No one is having a wonderful life from the benefits this assistance offers them. It creates so many limitations that it is very hard to get out of it, as well. With $300 coming in a month you would be hard pressed to save anything. But if you could find a way to do it, you are not allowed. If you have money set a side, you do not need assistance. But if you do not set money aside, there is no way to get off of assistance without something pretty miraculous happening. Its an ugly circle. Americans who are desperate to condemn others to inflate their own pathetic lives seem unwilling to realize that there really are not enough bootstraps to go around.

In a capitalist society that is woefully unbalanced, some aspect of that society will have to be weakened by that imbalance. The poor are those to suffer. Always. The Supreme Court has determined, through its Citizens United ruling, that campaign funding can be limitless and secretive, allowing the wealthiest Americans and corporations to control the message to the voters, and thus those who are elected. The poor can't afford a lobby, let alone the capacity to purchase their very own Congress.

Today the right has managed to convince its followers that Jesus Christ, himself, would condemn those who need assistance in caring for their families. That contention has even been made in a Congressional hearing on food stamps. Well, if St. Ronnie wasn't enough to convince them, Jesus certainly should be. How desperate can one person be for a scapegoat to allow the Bible to be rewritten to justify not helping the poor?

I will conclude with a message to those who have allowed Jesus to be turned into a prophet of hate.

Dear Teabaggers:

As Michele Bachmann said, the rapture is right around the corner. Take a moment to ask yourself which Bible you really believe in. Is it the one you grew up understanding about love and tolerance? Or is it this new one where Jesus promotes war, discrimination, greed and hate? You better figure it out quickly because if Michele is right, you don't want to be stuck here with me and the rest of the sinners, do you?

While you are being asked to hate the poor and imagine them sitting around having a lavish lifestyle, ask yourself how likely that really is. Realize, first, that many receiving aid are actually working. But they don't make enough money on their minimum wage job (the wage your representatives would like to eliminate altogether) to come anywhere near the poverty line. Ask yourself about the people you know who have fallen on hard times and needed assistance. Why do you allow them a pass? You don't know every family in America receiving aid. And you don't know what brought them to this place. No one aspires to end up on welfare. And no one wants to imagine continuing to have to give their children the lives welfare affords them.

Why not take a good ten minutes out of your desperate need to hold contempt for everyone you have been told to hate and quietly reflect as a human being why the politicians you support are asking you to hate the group who cost America a third of the amount lost annually by tax breaks offered to those who are meant to be stimulating our economy? And realize, you cannot condemn this economy that you attribute as a failure of President Obama, but then state that the economy is doing so well as to warrant tax breaks to those who are stimulating it so successfully.

Instead of criticizing those who have no means of defending themselves, maybe go demonize the politicians who think so little of your intelligence and capacity for critical thought that they asked you to get riled up about this in the first place. You are supporting those whose agenda is to only benefit the corporations who pay for their elections. They don't care about those of you who actually elect them. And the corporations want to get rid of minimum wage, so the leaders scream about it on the stump, and then you all scream about it in social media. Wake up! When these corporations end up with the policies they want (those that will deregulate the means by which they run their corporations, are taxed and are responsible to their employees), Americans will be much poorer. Immediately. That includes you. Obviously none of you are well off or well educated. You will be screwed. And the safety nets you rallied so hard to get rid of will be gone. And you will need them. And won't that just suck?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

V is for Veterans

The fact that this even needs to be addressed is disgusting to me. Honestly. The first thing that I always think when I see an ad to raise money for disabled veterans is, "Why is this a charity?" Like of all of the things that our country's taxes are responsible for, taking tremendous care of those who protect and fight for us should be at the top. There should be no need for people to raise funds for the men and women that we have sent off to fight and come home injured or harmed in any way. It makes me cry when I see the commercials of families who are readjusting to a life around their loved one who is altered for life. We did that. We Americans did that. We elected people who elected to go to war and elected not to fund the care of those men and women when they got home.

People join the military for many reasons. They want structure, education, or maybe an opportunity to defend the country. It doesn't matter why they do it. The fact is they sign up. They meet with a recruiter and sign documents to devote their lives, for the next several years or for its remainder, to protecting my country. I love her. I want her protected. I wish they were protecting her from here. And from ally countries. And from ships off of the coasts of countries we want to keep an eye on. I wish that was all that our military was needed for. Sadly, we have been in perpetual war for many years. And protecting my country is a scary undertaking. Signing up today means you have a good chance of going to war. It means you are going to see action. If you want to get an education after having served, you sign up knowing you may not come back. Or, if you do, you may have a serious injury, physical or otherwise. That is such a profound commitment and it is unacceptable that we can allow their care to not be an imperative upon their return.

That is where my country fails. We fail because we elect 'representatives' who are always very anxious to go to war. Any war, it seems. But every time they are offered an opportunity to take care of our military men and women when they get home, they reject it. How is it acceptable to come up with billions of dollars to pay for contracts to build an arsenal many times larger than any other country, but it is not a priority to come up with the monies needed to take care of our soldiers once they get home?  It is beyond my comprehension. But people don't pay attention to the way they are voting when they get to DC.

The right is still stuck on telling their constituents that they are the ones who care about the military and our vets. And people continue to couple the party and the military in their minds. There is a big difference between supporting the military, which on the right means passing every bill to initiate war or fund endeavors to strengthen our arsenal, and caring for those in the military. It doesn't seem like the right are interested in taking care of our soldiers or our veterans. I was stunned when I heard the right condemn the President for wanting to attempt diplomacy with Iran and determine, before having any idea what is in the plan, the only resolution is war. That means lives. That means men and women are being sent to war. It is not just a declaration. It is a huge commitment. Of human beings. And, I dare say, after nearly 15 constant years in battle, they are probably pretty much spent by now. And the followers on the right are rallying behind that idea. Why? Why do you want to go to war again? How could anyone not want to first try diplomacy when the alternative means that Americans will certainly die? It is patriotic to support our troops. It is not patriotic to support those in Congress who would really just like to be in a constant state of war. A differentiation seems to be lost in there somewhere.

Thankfully, I have never been to war. But as an empathetic person, I can certainly understand that many would certainly suffer from PTSD. And I imagine that having come back with emotional issues from an experience that is supposed to be the most valiant of endeavors is hard to talk about.  For many, being a soldier means you are tough and strong. I fear for those who, after having returned, are unable to seek help for fear of letting that strength go. I believe having seen and done what war requires is hard for any person with a soul. War is unnatural. It is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable in one way or another. It is honorable to come home and admit that it was hard and haunts you. It means you have a soul. Your family wants you that way. It is okay to get help. You can do it secretly. I obviously don't know shit about it. But these guys do. Please click here for an amazing support system.
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The idea of millions of homeless in America is bad enough, but to understand that many are veterans and it kind of makes it harder. They fought for this country and were then offered such care upon return that they ended up on the streets. Maybe they came home with PTSD. Maybe they ended up with a drinking problem. Maybe they ended up with anger issues and they ended up getting kicked out of their house. These were all opportunities to care for our veterans that our VA missed. I, personally, have a sick conspiracy theory that those on the right are deliberately allowing the VA to go to shit so it can be privatized and more millionaires can become billionaires. But I am also aware that some of my conspiracies are a little looney and I can't always determine which are which. Anyway ...

Last May the First Lady launched a Mayors Challenge to 300 mayors across the country. They were told to have homes for the 50,000 homeless veterans in America by the end of 2015.  Last year Salt Lake City and Phoenix had found homes for every one of their homeless veterans. In January, New Orleans moved the last known homeless veteran into housing. I got chills typing that. It can be done. The fact that so many of these vets have been chronically homeless and dealing with mental illnesses and addictions since Vietnam is beyond tragic.

The VA is finally starting to do something about  the homelessness of so many veterans. They are beginning with the 25 cities with the largest populations of homeless veterans. Last year from March to August, they had already found housing for 10,000 veterans. The beauty of this program is that it doesn't just offer them a bed. They are given guidance and resources to help them acclimate back into society. That is such a profound transition. You cant just say "here's a bed - get a job." Whatever the issue was that made them homeless needs to be addressed, too. And they are doing that. If you know of someone who might be helped by this initiative, the information can be found here.

The right have all kinds of ideas of what it means to be a Liberal. I couldn't give a shit what they think about me. Whatever they want to think is fine. I don't need my liberalism defined by anyone else. The thing that I am nailed with every day, though, is this bullshit that I think soldiers are baby killers. You don't get to speak for me motherfucker. I am a Liberal. The beauty of being over here on the left is that I get to think for myself. I don't have to be force fed my talking points and become confused over their contradictions. My beliefs may conflict with others in my party and I don't need to apologize for it. Some people who are extreme on the left say shit about soldiers. I have no use for them and tell them that whenever I am given the opportunity. I love soldiers and veterans. I documented my sincere respect for soldiers in this blog and don't think I need to defend myself beyond that. And fuck anyone who thinks they get to define my loyalties to them.

I am a little disgusted with myself because I am making a partisan issue about something that should, inherently, be universal. I apologize. I want everyone to be pissed off and contact their elected official, whichever party, and demand their support every time you see that the Wounded Warrior Project support a bill. Blow up their phones or fax lines. Send emails. Pester them on Twitter or on their Facebook page. Whatever. Make sure that everyone knows that they are being given an opportunity to care for our veterans and make sure when they vote that everyone knows how they voted. You can go here to see who voted for and against. If they were forced to be accountable by all of us they could not sneak around and do this shit.

I have only heard good things about the Wounded Warrior Project. But there are many other great groups out there working for the care of our veterans. For no other reason than its April and the rain smelled fresh today, please go here and donate something in the name of a soldier you know or love.
Kisses All Around ...

Friday, April 24, 2015

U is for Unions

I suppose if we had a way to look back into pre-history we would find that, in regard to labor, there have always been those who worked and there have always been those who would really rather just take advantage of opportunities to find others to do their work. Someone with the resourcefulness to amass power by having property or land or commodities could always find a way to persuade others. And, if that power is mixed with too much ego, exploitation would become the next step.

It is what it is. The exploitation isn't new. The ideas of workers uniting together isn't new. The condemnation of those united workers isn't new. The desire to bust up unions isn't new. My hope, though, because I walk this Earth with both a heart and a mind, is that the fight will continue. I am an anxious woman, I don't think that would surprise anyone. I worry about everyone and everything. I worry that as our country becomes more divided and the poles of that divide are becoming more defined by those with money, we are inching closer to a place that will be hard to return from. I worry that because of their capacity to exploit the ignorance of so many, the ease to which that exploitation removes our safety nets is becoming more pronounced.

The right have been, traditionally, bought and paid for by the business world. And the business world has, traditionally, hated those who made it more difficult for them to take advantage of their work force. So those voters on the right, traditionally, have believed that unions are awful. Because someone said so.

Although many people condemn the unions and their significance, I doubt many who have worked under a union's protections would say the same. The unions offer a freedom and safety to workers that few others enjoy. The company cannot exploit its workforce because the means by which they would do so are eliminated. The union offers representatives who bargain for wages and benefits. They make sure that the working conditions are acceptable. No one would ever have to worry about finding out years later that they made substantially less than a co-worker doing the same work, because pay would be fair. No one would have to work in a place that was deemed unsafe or deal with harassment because they would have a union to document and fight for them. Again, those who are easily swayed by rhetoric and don't want to be bothered with critical thought can quickly dismiss the idea of a union because they have to pay for it and "that's not fair." Lol. But those same people don't quite think anything is fair in this country, so I will just quickly dismiss them.

My narrow personal view in the business world comes from my 15 year career in the mortgage industry. I have always worked for major banks in their lending divisions. I have never been in a union. I have never been protected. I have always been quite aware of the fact that my work ethic has been exploited and that I had no protections. I started out of college being very naïve in believing that my employer absolutely loved me because I worked so hard and was a team player who would help everyone meet their monthly goals once I had completed mine. Management loved it, certainly. But only to the extent that they would kiss my ass to my face so I would continue to work hard for them. They didn't do anything more than they had to do to keep me working hard. When I was younger my pride was enough for them to use against me. My ignorance was enough for them to exploit when it came time to give out promotions and raises. It took me a minute to realize that I was never being given substantial raises that would be commensurate with my work. I finally started to realize that only those who were willing to kiss asses back were the ones who were receiving the promotions. And we were not allowed to talk about what we were earning. So we had no idea whether or not the wages were fair. They were not. AT ALL. It took me a long time to figure that out because it was something we were afraid to discuss for fear of getting in trouble or even getting fired.

We were all expendable. That was easy to determine quite quickly. We could be replaced by a temp who could be trained and underpaid. The temps made more money per hour but had no benefits, and the company wasn't bound to follow any laws regarding their employment.  It was an advantage to the corporation to have temps, but anyone who is blind to that fact never realizes that. The idea of temps was used several times as a means of intimidation. One year we were all given a nice long speech about how lucky we were to have jobs and that they could just as easily hire temps to do our work. We were then told that we would not be receiving raises that year. And our bonuses, which were our main source of income, were going to be eliminated. I'd have really liked to have been in a union back then. They would not be allowed to use a temporary staffing agency. And our representatives would have made a legal contract with the employer which defined our annual raises.

In my last job, I was an auditor. I found information that was detrimental to the bank and, in my managers absence, reported it to her manager. It was essential that this be addressed immediately because we were getting ready for a federal audit. It turns out the discrepancy I found was something my manager had created herself. Deliberately. And I had just told on her. Twelve days after an absolutely remarkable annual review my manager quickly determined I was the worst employee in the department and that I needed to be let go. She told me that she would have to write me up three times and then she would be able to fire me. She even managed to convince her manager that the error I found had been something I had created, even though I didn't have access to the database used to manipulate the data. She made my life a hell and I was forced to quit. If had had a union behind me, not only would I still be there, but my manager would have been fired. I didn't have a union. She still has her job.

Yes, we live in a capitalistic society. Having private ownership of our companies instead of the government is a good and a necessity. However, it does not mean that the government shouldn't have an opportunity to regulate how corporations are run. At present, we have business owners who are buying our Congress. They desperately want to change the laws to get rid of regulations. Unions are being wiped out left and right. It has nothing to do with whether or not they serve a purpose or are taking care of their members, it is only because the millionaires and billionaires who are trying to create a corporatocracy would really just rather they not have to contend with unions demanding these corporations maintain fairness and accountability.

Not only is Congress being paid to look out for big business, we also have states trying to wipe out unions. Ohio's Governor John Kasich said, "I want to break the back of teachers unions." Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker compared unions to ISIS. Because, yeah. And New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called the teachers union there, "political thugs who had become fat and rich and entitled." (I'm not going there, but as a former heavyweight, I would be entitled).

We really are watching the decline of many facets of our society. It is easy to become frustrated due to the seemingly overwhelming bombardment of issues all at once. But we have to make sure to take saving our unions seriously. It has to be a prominent matter as they literally exist to protect the working class. Losing them would have a quick and obvious consequence to America's future. And to the 11% of her workforce presently protected by them today.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

T is for Tea Party

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Good Gravy. I have dedicated the bulk of my April AtoZ challenge to the Tea Party. As nice as it has been to get so many things off of my chest, I still do not feel like I have had a revelation that will make me accept their existence or relevance in my world. Once my brain gets stuck on trying to understand something, I can't let it go. (Hence my 30 years research on the Holocaust, as if maybe the next book or documentary will ever make it logical). My "why" and "how" circle is still going. Round. And Round. And Round. Poor, Angie ... Indeed!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

S is for Schools

As with the racism piece from last night, this has been written and rewritten. I am very passionate about this topic. Ohio has been a complete clusterfuck for a long time now. I was a single mom who never received child support but decided it was a better idea to send my child to a very expensive private school for high school than to have her continue in the public schools we were in. To contrast, when we moved to Columbus to begin her 3rd grade, I bought our house in this school district because of the schools. It took 5 years to turn to shit. I wanted to go over Common Core and charters in depth but it became longer than my Nazi piece. So I guess we will see what we end up with?

I will ask you to have a quite moment to reflect. Honestly. Take a quiet moment right now and ask yourself something before you start (if you are over 40):  What has changed since you were in school? Why is education so bad now?

Back in my day (yes, Grandpa I hear you), the standards were pretty universal. No child was allowed to disrespect the teacher or principal. No child was allowed to get in fights. When either of those things happened, our parents were called in and we knew we were in deep shit. Parents were going to take the side of the school. Period. When a child got a bad report card, that child was going to be in trouble. The parents were going to make sure they learned a lesson about not taking their grades seriously or the parents were going to make sure that the kids found help with whatever class they were struggling in.

Likewise, society demanded that its children were educated. Society demanded that its children grew up and were able to contribute to the betterment of America. That was a very big deal. That used to be a very big part of what it meant to be patriotic. Contributing to the community was not just an expectation, it was an honor. Society demanded that its children were well behaved and respectful. And in turn, that society joined together to pay for those children to be educated. There wasn't a question about whether or not the schools would be funded. It was part of their patriotic duty.

Parents are not what they once were. Society is not what it once was. The fact that we have a Tea Party movment is proof that our society has become selfish. There are so many people nowadays whose answer to anything is, "Its not my problem," followed by some, "me, me, me," diatribe. No fucking wonder the schools aren't funded. I know parents whose children are in the school districts and they aren't willing to vote for their schools. Their answer? "I already pay too much in taxes." Right. Absolutely.

We have many parents who you don't see at parent-teacher conferences. (I am generalizing here not saying these are Tea Party).  They are the ones who never go to a school board meeting. They are the ones who defend their kids when they misbehave while not only teaching their children that the teacher does not deserve respect, but that they can be disrespectful and it is acceptable. And they are the ones getting pissed off that their kids have homework and it should all be done at school. And they obviously don't want to be bothered to pay taxes for their educations.

So you don't want to have to invest in educating your children. And now you are pissed off that the schools are failing? Where, exactly, did you think the money was going to come from? What were the schools supposed to do once the community repeatedly decided not to pay for them to operate? Well, here in my school district, when I decided to pull my daughter out for high school, they pulled the parents together of the gifted children and said they were no longer going to offer college prep courses. They would not have any advanced or AP classes. There would not be an SAT/ACT prep course. What kind of a thing is that for a parent of a college bound kid to deal with? We bailed. Plenty of families couldn't afford to make that choice. Although she went to private school, I have never once, before or since, voted against funding the schools. These kids in my community are my responsibility.

This is our society. If parents can't be bothered to consider voting to fund the schools, good luck getting the rest of the voting public in the district to support it.

In Ohio, the public school districts are operating under a rule called "5 of 8, " which allow for each school district to have, 5 of these 8 positions in each school: librarian, counselor, art teacher, nurse, phys-ed teacher, social workers, music teacher and visiting teachers. We are led by a Republican Governor who absolutely hates public schools. Gearing up to his run in 2009 he proudly stated, "I want to break the backs of the teachers unions." I was able to personally witness how sincere he was about that desire last year as I helped my local district in a strike where the Superintendent that Governor Kasich literally appointed to this small suburban school district, ran over the union and educators and refused to even sit at the bargaining table with them. It was quite clear that she had her marching orders. As time went on, it was also clear where they came from. Asshole.

The charter schools have no transparency. At all. The relationships between those sitting on their boards and any vendors or employees are not disclosed. Most importantly, the ownership interests of these private schools receiving public funds are not known. It certainly makes you ask a few questions. If a political party who is known for only doing things in the interest of the wealthy are passionate about bringing charter schools to every district and wiping out public schools, what's in it for them? There could be a lot of things. Who has ownership in the companies who contract to build the new schools? Or provide the books? Or create and maintain software contracts? Or sell and maintain all of the hardware? Absolutely! Call me a conspiracy theorist. But to not ask the question would be a blind commitment to a party who has not earned a benefit of the doubt. Not naming names, but if you wanted to look into anyone in the upper echelons of Ohio government, you would be surprised to see where an immense amount of money has gone into their campaign funds from a company that sells school books in software form to primary schools. I'm an actual nobody with no knowledge of how to research such things and found the information in less than 10 minutes. So ....

Ohio charter schools have been a failure. That is not hyperbole. They have failed. Repeatedly. They have been given chances to offer excuses and make corrections. And are still failing. They have had 15 years to build a solid curriculum and by now, one would expect, they should have been offering exceptional results. This is supposed to be the wave of the future, correct? This is supposed to be what is going to cure America of its lapsed commitment to educating our children. But, no. It turns out that they are literally failing.

Per the Columbus Dispatch, a well known right-leaning newspaper in Columbus, Ohio has hired a non-profit, Fordham, which supports school choice to do a study and their findings, released in December, offered an ugly look at the charter schools here. It then noted that in February, "Fordham also commissioned a separate report that showed, on average, charter-school students got less learning in math and reading than their traditional public-school counterparts did."

It is tragic to me to think that people were so desperate to create an alternative for children rather than correct the issues in the schools we already had. The alternative, which has now had 15 years to flourish, has failed. Miserably. What was the level of the education the children in these experiments received? Where are the children from 10-15 years ago now? They would have been the lab rats who were being taught in an unstructured new environment which was only just building a curriculum and figuring out its means of best offering opportunities for the children. And 15 years later, they are still failing. Those poor kids. They would obviously have been better off if they had been left in the public schools.

Ohio public schools were once funded solely by sales taxes and then in 1971 an income tax was added. If we had a responsible group at the helm with no interest other than budget management coupled with exceeding educational standards things could start turning around. If society continues to point fingers anywhere except at itself, however, unchecked leadership will continue to do whatever they want with the revenues coming in and our children will continue to suffer.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

R is for Racism

I have written and rewritten this piece for over a month now. I am a naïve human being. I have already admitted that. But I am still absolutely horrified when I am faced with racism. And I'm white. Right? My horror comes from having to witness it. My horror comes from knowing that the country I love is not at all the country I grew up believing I lived in. I am an empathetic person, but I cannot even begin to imagine what it is like to live as a person of color in America and not only face racism, but be expected to deal with it because that's just the way it is.  My heart keeps breaking. It really does make me want to never leave my house.

It seems like it is every week now when we hear about another unarmed black man who is killed. None of them had even been cited for having committed a crime and they are dead. Walking in the street instead of the sidewalk. Selling a loose cigarette. Being a child in a park playing with a toy gun. Driving with a broken tail light. As far as we know right now, the young man in Baltimore was deemed "suspicious looking." But we know that he wasn't being arrested for anything or considered to have been breaking a law. These are potential threats to the community so dire that, without any reason to expect there may be a danger, a murder will be deemed justifiable.

What, exactly, is wrong with my country? Every single time this happens garbage on social media will post something like this:

(from a man whose avatar shows people in Klan gear)

Because, you know, "they" should all just expect this to happen. If "they" knew how to handle being hassled by the police for no reason at all, "they" wouldn't have to deal with this type of thing..

From the Tea Party Facebook page. Because, yeah...

I used to think there were different levels of racism. I have known adults who would have an aside that made me raise an eyebrow and I would say to myself, "They're from another generation." There are also people who will congratulate themselves for working with our knowing a black person who they manage to tolerate and treat like a human being so they think they are not racists. They will say things behind their backs that are down right disgusting and stereotypical, but they will be nice to someone's face so they proudly believe they are free from criticism. And there are the people who will drop the N-word and talk openly about their ignorant hate anywhere as if there is nothing wrong with it. Those were the levels I categorized racism in. But now I realize all of them are equally bad. All levels contribute to a society that finds, on some level, tolerance for a group of people to be diminished. This perpetuates the problem. This is the problem.

The issues around the most vile racist speech have been evident to me daily lately on social media. As I work on my different pieces about the Tea Party I get messages from teabaggers on line. They have this thing where they say they aren't racists and have decided, however, that the Liberals are. They have been conditioned to repeat whatever they are told and not to think about how accurate any of it may be. They will not learn history, it is irrelevant to them. They will just gladly call me a racist while holding themselves in esteem. So I have decided to put them in my blog. And following their comments, I will add something that I found in their picture feed to prove they are racists. Many had blocked me before I had this idea, or I would have many more to offer.

Apparently, Al Sharpton is a race-baiter. We can assume, because this is a teabagger, that he doesn't actually know what the word means. Or, we can assume that he means it because he wants to condemn the Reverend for being pissed off about his community having to deal with this shit.

Again, we can assume that he doesn't know what moral means.

They all say Eric Holder is a racist. Because he insisted on having a DOJ investigation in Ferguson.

This guy is telling me what they all tell me. (Because they all get their talking points from the same place and forget that we are too intelligent to miss that fact). The reason Liberals are racists is because we support Welfare. You see, in their logic, the only ones who receive Welfare are black. And the only reason we let them have it is to keep them poor so they will vote for the Democrat who promises to make their lives better.

Here he really wants to make sure we understand just which group of people are the problem in America.

So he thinks the First Lady is a moocher. And she is supporting the protesters in Ferguson. Exactly what kind of First Lady would support a group of human beings using their Constitutional rights to assemble for freedom and equality? For Shame!

Why doesn't the media ever report it when a black guy commits a crime? LOL. Poor maligned white cops who never do anything wrong and keep being ostracized in the media. Its just not fair!

Because, you know, we are against him for his race. It doesn't occur to him, apparently, that we can actually differentiate by something a little deeper than his skin tone or heritage and dislike him for his rhetoric and proposed policies.

These are immigrants being detained. They look like gang-bangers to him. See? They're brown skinned. I'm sure he's right.

Here you will find statistical data to prove that whites are superior both in intelligence and parenting.

Now, before you lose your shit, like I do, when you see that these teabaggers have Dr. King or Frederick Douglas as their avatars, please realize, they really are as stupid as I have tried to explain. They have been told that Dr. King and Frederick Douglas were Republicans. I have explained American History to every one of them. I have forwarded them each this passage from Dr. King's autobiography.

How it never occurs to them that they are calling themselves the party of tolerance and equality while being the ones who are literally, to this day, trying to create laws to justify intolerance and condemn those in our society who are not white, Christian or straight is beyond my comprehension. Again their willful ignorance allows them to never ask a question or think to investigate what I tell them, they just assume I am wrong and go along with what they have been conditioned to believe and ignore any hypocrisy about their racism. But, in their minds, the parties never switched. Ever. I have been told repeatedly that this is a Liberal lie (we have so many it is often hard for me to keep them straight). And if you ask them to question how a man like Lincoln, who wrote the Emancipation Proclamation would be a Republican; or how Dr. King, who fought so hard, not just for people of color but for the poor and who was, in fact, a Reverend, would be a Republican, they have no answer. They don't need one. They have been well conditioned to believe whatever they have been told.

Not only are they intellectually incurious, but they are intellectually lazy. They have a handful of memes going around with quotes by Thomas Sowell, an economist. It is a glorious revelation to a lazy thinker to find something like this. They use it to prove they are not racist. They figure that if a black man agrees with them on something, that precludes their ideas from being racist. Of course, again, because they don't understand that people don't fit as neatly into the boxes the far right want to paint them into, it will never occur to them that a black man may agree with them on an outlandish and immoral belief. That is what it means to have a closed mind. That is what it means to be a teabagger.

I may never be able to find a healthy way to deal with having racists in my world, let alone my country. Maybe there are some people that have to maintain this kind of passion and anger so everyone else can be reminded when necessary. I realize I don't have the power to change their minds or heal the hate in this country. But I cannot just allow it to exist and be quiet about it, either. That is why we are where we are right now in America. Everyone needs to get a little more pissed off, I think. And everyone needs to take an opportunity to demand that outrage from someone else who seems to be lacking it. That is the only way I can see things getting better.

This has been one of the most emotional pieces I have had to write. I genuinely ache for the place my country finds itself right now. I had to delete a lot of things because I was just so upset with all of the killings over the last month that I really was just screaming and I turned out being incredibly hateful myself. To let us down a bit on my way out, I offer you a couple of giggles.

Enjoy. Kiss Kiss.

This one is just funny. I was talking about Ron Paul. Sent him a link to his many racist, anti-Semitic journals. This guy reported me to Twitter for spreading hate and lies. So. Yeah. LOL.

And this one is just fun because he was repeatedly calling me a prophet that night. As flattering as it is to be found to have such amazing insight, I feel confident that is not what he meant to say. I still have no idea what word he meant to be using? But its still a good time, either way.

UPDATE: In order to offer them something to consider, I forwarded a link to this blog to the people whose feeds I addressed above. They quickly replied to tell me who the real racists are. Thanks, guys. But I already proved my point and didn't need you to make it any clearer.

#AtoZChallenge #Racism #TeaParty #TeaBaggers #GOP #ThomasSowell