Sinema Sworn in on a Law Book!

sinemaWhy is this worthy of comment? Why isn’t this the standard? Did the book burn Mike Pence’s fingers as he briefly touched a symbol of our country’s founding fucking secularism? What does it mean that she is more unique in Congress for being “religiously unaffiliated” than she is for being bisexual?

More questions:

  • How fabulous was her outfit?
  • Why does it make me cry when I see a swarm of women of different colors sworn into Congress?
  • Why did the fight scenes in the Wonder Woman movie make me cry?
  • Why did 2 male and 2 female white, cis-gendered heteros in near-middle age all cry when we saw this ad four years ago?

Have our bodies known for years, decades, millenia, what we’ve refused to say out loud to ourselves? How we have been diminished, oppressed, terrorized?

A New Year is Here.

 

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Radical Facts

dictionaryDictionary.com gives me hope.

I’ve received their word of the day for the last decade, because I am a nerd. Over the past few years, they have occasionally sent little articles as well. Mostly innocuous and ignored – quotes from famous writers or where holiday-related terms originated – but I have noticed some more topical stuff popping up as well. I never opened any of it, but after they declared misinformation the word of the year last week, I finally got curious. Were they tipping their hand? Was one of the only popular sources of factual information not discredited by our current government actually taking a subtle stand against the world as it is?

Yeah. I really think so.

Clue #1: Words of the Year since Trump’s election

  • 2018: misinformation
  • 2017: complicit, in an analysis of which they called out Ivanka Trump’s rebuttal that, “If being complicit is wanting to be a force for good and to make a positive impact, then I’m complicit,” as patently wrong. “Whatever your politics, this meaning is not up for debate… being complicit is decidedly negative, as it means that a person is involved with someone or something that’s wrong.”
  • 2016: xenophobia, which they warn is “not to be celebrated,” citing not only fear-mongering Trump quotes and the Brexit phenomenon, but human rights abuse statistics from the Southern Poverty Law Center and Amnesty International. Dictionary.com also enlisted Robert Reich and his giant drawing pad of awesomeness to explain the word. Robert fuckin Reich.

Clue #2: historical & current events

You didn’t know Dictionary.com had a historical & current events section, did you? I have revealed the great secret!  The first three pieces you’ll see if you find your way to this section are:

  • the Great Depression
  • Black Panthers
  • Trail of Tears

Bold choices, especially since the description of the Black Panthers is overwhelmingly positive, and highlights this quote from Claude Wilson of the Daily Tar Heel:

The Black Panthers’ open carry tactics led the then-Governor of California, Ronald Reagan, to enact the Mulford Act, which outlawed the public carrying of loaded firearms. Isn’t it interesting how conservatives suddenly became pro-gun control when it was black people who were open-carrying?

Of the 11 articles in this section, 6 of them refer to atrocities against people of color or the subjugation and abuse of women, including the Salem witch trials, prima nocta, lynching, and Roe v Wade.

Clue #3: Still not convinced that Dictionary.com is part of the resistance? Check out a couple of selections from their in-depth examination of complicity last year [bold type mine]:

President Trump’s statement following the events in Charlottesville in August, in which he said “both sides” were to blame, showed his complicity with ideologies that promote hate, especially directed toward marginalized groups. 

Additionally, the new EPA chief Scott Pruitt has been complicit in his refusal to acknowledge that humans play a primary role in climate change. And, we can’t forget that information on climate change was removed from the government’s website this year, as well. 

We chose our Word of the Year, in part, because of noteworthy stories of those who have refused to be complicit. In the face of oppression and wrongdoing, this refusal to be complicit has been a grounding force of 2017:

  • We saw an estimated five million people participate in the the [sic: Dictionary.com typo!!!] worldwide Women’s March on January 21
  • We saw NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s 2016 protest against systemic injustices gain even more traction in response to President Trump calling for players who kneel during the National Anthem to be fired or suspended
  • We saw women, as well as people of all genders, come forward with personal stories of sexual harassment and assault with the hashtag #metoo
  • We saw high-profile resignations from the Trump Administration, perhaps most memorably from the Arts Council, who submitted their letter of resignation in the form of an acrostic spelling of the word RESIST

In just these few articles, Dictionary.com recognizes our President’s alignment with hate groups, anthropogenic climate change, a non-binary range of genders, systemic racism, and praises the resistance to all of it. How excited does this make me!?

Too excited? Should I really be this excited about what are, when it comes down to it, simply facts? Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe my standards have dropped too low. But in a week where CNN repeatedly gave toadies for the oil industry a platform to call climate change a greed-driven hoax without questioning their motives, maybe Dictionary.com deserves the time I’ve devoted to this blog post. It makes me happy that the love of words leads to a love of truth, whether than truth is wrongly defined as political or not.

 

Tu Cancer es Mi Cancer

You have a friend with cancer, let’s say breast cancer because it seems both more common and less scary than others (just lop it off, right?). It was caught early and it seems like she’s going to be fine, if breastless. She’s not, like, your best friend, so this isn’t a direct hit on your life. But she’s close enough that you can’t dismiss it as another inevitable, anonymous cancer story. You truly care about her. You bring food and offer support and “like” or “cry” or “anger” all her facebook posts. You are not a Bad Person.

But she’s not what you think about at 2am, staring at the ceiling. You think about You. Specifically, You in contrast with her. You start to construct a questionnaire, like those at the doctor’s office that tell you whether you’re an alcoholic. Yours is something like this:

  • Are you older or younger than her?
  • Did she smoke? Do you?
  • Is she nicer than you?
  • Does she drink? A lot? How much less than you?
  • Would you describe her as a “positive person”? Are you?
  • What’s her medical history? How healthy are you?
  • Does she meditate? for how long? Does she seem enlightened? More than You?
  • Does she exercise? What kind?
  • Where did she grow up? Was it on a nuclear test site? Wasn’t there a paint manufacturer around the corner when you were a kid? Was this before they banned lead? Why don’t you ever see those neighbors on facebook!?

And you think you can take all your answers and hers, give them each a number, calculate a cancer score for each of you, and objectively determine whether you are more or less likely to get cancer than she is. Then think of ways to dramatically derail your life so you can beat those odds.

But it’s all bullshit. This is the story we tell ourselves. It’s a lot like our success story, our ideas of the right and wrong things to do to lead us to the desired conclusion. It’s magical thinking, and it’s utterly unhelpful. It saps energy and presence and eats away at you. Of course there are proven behaviors that should reduce risk, but that’s not what this is about. This is about constructing a story against which you can praise or blame yourself and chart your future – a way to give yourself control over something that is essentially out of your control.

Crafted after your scary health diagnosis, this magical storytelling is worse than unhelpful, it’s destructive. Blaming yourself for your affliction is, first, untrue (because there is no free will, folks – your cancer is the product of your genetics, the block you grew up on, the people you’ve known, and the behavior of every atom in the universe which crafted your inevitable journey toward every single thing you’ve ever done); and second, it’s adding insult to injury. Even if you do believe you were responsible, what does that matter now? It helps nothing. The post-diagnosis should be all healing and living and decision making and all that fun shit. When it comes down to it, Your Cancer is not about you and your concept of self. But even more than that, Her Cancer is not About You.

Get off it. Be a friend. Get over yourself. I mean, it’s normal to think this way, but stop now. It’s totally normal to turn your friend’s cancer into your rumination fantasy, right?

There’s no way I’m the first one to do this, right?

Hello? Is this thing on?

Thanks for Not-things, 2018

In Nest Birds WildlifeI am thankful for countless entities in my little life, and I’ll happily tell you all about them some drunken night, but this year’s statement of gratitude has come out of a different place.

I am thankful for being unmoored.

For feeling insecure, for being unsure, for being uncomfortable

For every time I didn’t have a strong opinion, or wasn’t willing to fight for my side

For every time I realized I was wrong, had been wrong, for years, decades. I am so very wrong.

For every person I lost respect for and every one that no longer inspires feelings

For every thought I no longer think & every song I no longer hate

I’m probably no better than my Thanksgiving 2017 self, but many mini revelations have left me feeling vulnerable & ignorant & exposed & inspired in the past year and I am hungry to put all this not-ness to work.

To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.  (Pema Chodron)

Filler is better than Emptiness (Buddha would disagree)

It is hard to tell if meditation does any good. Anyone who does it for a while can give you examples, real or imagined, of how they are less stressed, less angry, more patient, but is anyone really measuring levels of ire or compassion? Tracking the increase in seconds between agitating action and reaction? Unfortunately for us datageeks, no. We can convince ourselves that meditation has had an enormous impact on our lives or none at all, and who’s to say who’s right (especially since the latter don’t typically put in the amount of practice necessary for adequate scientific comparison. Quitters!)

I choose to believe that my recent feelings of awakening, of intellectual openness and learning and discovery, are a combination of the state of the world, the state of my world, and, crucially, the state of my consciousness. I have soooo much to discuss with you all, but I need a bit more time to process.

The great work begins. (Tony Kushner, Angels in America)

Self-Loathing and the Second Language

se habla espanolI’m writing this from Costa Rica, where I have ensconced myself in una escuela intercultural in an attempt not just to improve my Spanish, but to get over my fear of speaking it. I had another one of those “no shit” revelations last week, to wit: I can choose to be happy about how much Spanish I’ve learned instead of being disappointed in how much I’ve forgotten or have yet to learn. Yeah. Who would have thought that was an option? Not me. It’s certainly not my default position. I have always been disappointed in my failings in Spanish, at least ever since my very first year of studying the language in 7th grade. I grew up in a neighborhood of Mexicanos y Puertorriqueños = I should have already known the basics before I ever stepped into a class. Seemed reasonable to me at 11. And at 40. Continue reading “Self-Loathing and the Second Language”

What’s Wrong With Wanting to be Perfect?

perfectYou know how all those hippy-dippy new-agey pro-therapy weirdos are always saying you can’t really love someone else until you love yourself? I’ve always said I believe that, but to be honest, I never really understood the logic behind it. That started to change last winter, when the weather crept into my heart and I was filled with … I wasn’t sure what, but it manifested as anger, my fallback emotion. I was blowing up more than I have in years – particularly at Ben & the Dog. And while the specific trigger for my anger was at times a legitimate complaint, it did not justify the intensity of the reaction. Being, let’s say “blessed” with self-awareness and apparently benefiting from years of daily meditation (maybe? a little?), I didn’t revel in feeling angry the way I used to and I knew there had to be a personal reason for it. Continue reading “What’s Wrong With Wanting to be Perfect?”