Between a Crook and a Numb Place

It’s the new regime’s apparent strategy to throw so much shit, all the time, that there is no effort at “distraction” so much as a sense of running for cover from an effort to carpet bomb all of us with layers upon layers manure. Even if you manage to get inside and wash yourself off, the stench of it is pervasive. It’s even caustic and corrosive, seemingly. Funny, but it has similarities to how I’d describe pervasive racism and similarly strong, ubiquitous prejudices that are hard to escape. Those tend to come from everywhere rather than a central location, but in a way #45 is but a culmination of much of that, allowed to fester in an unchecked individual.

It’s quite possible that our reigning Puppet-in-Chief’s willful obliviousness to dissenting opinions and thin skin at the least criticism means everyone there can engage in this strategy without it being a deliberate one. All anyone has to do to get him to do what they want, if they’re within reach, is flatter him in such a way that he feels it is his own smart idea to do a thing. Or, conversely, goad him by making it seem some other party is out to attack. This all happens at such a pace that there’s scant time to remember it, let alone prepare and respond comprehensively.

Are we outraged about appointees? Do something more outrageous. Are we on the trail of Russian meddling in U.S. elections and elections in other nations? Create an executive order that fulfills an unconstitutional-as-stated campaign promise. Are we outraged at the attempt to weaken healthcare reform? Quickly satisfy an itch to fire someone on the trail of Russian meddling in U.S. elections. And when all else fails, use splashy bombs that get half the press to describe the lead puppet as suddenly presidential. This circular firestorm is engineered to disorient, create numbness, and ensure that “lesser” complaints like corrupt dealings get moved to the back burner. It’s easy to forget correlations from a mere two months ago when it was noted now-A.G. Sessions stood to profit from for-profit prisons, and just recently we’re suddenly hearing from sessions that the War on Drugs is on full blast with maximum sentences sought. I have to actively search for what the Secretary of Education is on about, now, and that woman is in a position to do decades of slow-motion damage. Rampant Would-Be-Dic-Tater But-Actually-a-Petulant-Petty-Carrot turning in an incompetent commencement speech? More for laughs and a sign of how inured we’ve become that it’s expected rather than — were this a generation ago — grist itself for a giant, administration-shaking scandal. We’ve already started to forget the blatant nepotism and cronyism and how they were installed. Ready for a whole slate of new judicial appointments to be slid through while the next battery of bad news falls out regarding the espionage scandal? Can we even pay attention to them?

I’m exhausted. You?

I have completely lost count of the number of insanely bad ill omens that cross my desk on a daily basis. More than one a day, started before the swearing in, and we’re past the day. I might have hit thousands, by now.

I can compromise with some things. Some ideas are worth not compromising about. It’s worth noting that the last time it came down to the wire with one sizable portion of the nation wanting to have their slavery and eat the rest of the cake, too, it did not go well. Nor did they settle for anything less than rewriting the history books to their advantage. Arguably, that last fact cost us the war. US, meaning the U.S., not the North. We’re still choking on that division, as a result, at the same time that generations later we’re also choking on the kind of tax laws that have widened the gap between wealthy and poor to a degree I feel safe calling it class warfare. We’re still choking on that division, as a result, at the same time that new civil rights fronts have opened up — an opportunity for greater equality, and I’ve personally needed it, but at the same time an even sharper cultural schism. We’re still choking on that division, as a result, and I can never agree to the terms of the new regime.

When the U.S. election was manipulated, it was a decisive stroke, preying on our worst weakness. Our imagined unity and our seeming strength of democracy were actually quite fragile. There was even, in fact, one essay by a certain Marine personally imploring us to vote against a would-be-tyrant after seeing how fragile a democratic can be, witnessing it in other republics. He was not at all wrong.

I cannot compromise with this degree of willful malice, ignorance wielded as a toy, and a quarter of the nation cheering. The division that exists threatens to rip apart the nation, already not able to agree on a single identity, and yet though I regard my opponents as human, their lack of regard for anyone not on their side as human forces a state of zero compromise. Their willingness to insist that a genuine need for equality is always to their detriment, their constant insistence that human rights are actually preferential treatment.

I wanted, badly, to help find common ground, in the months leading up to the election. I’m not without empathy. I see how some have been manipulated over time into taking what legitimate grievances they had and welding that onto racist spite. I now feel my nation is held hostage by a minority alliance of racist whites still upset over the Obama presidency, “Christian” evangelicals bent on establishing a theocracy and willing to lie to do it, and poor whites that’ve been encouraged to blame their loss of jobs on affirmative action, social welfare, social justice, immigrant populations, Obamacare, any social safety net (whether or not they need it themselves), and anything else the invisible hand of neoliberal economic philosophy distilled to ever more harsh forms over the decades wants us to be angry at. It’s not capitalism any more in any functional way, it’s oligarchy patting itself on the back as it imagines itself the outcome of Social Darwinism with the occasional swatch of decorative Wealth Gospel thrown in as moral self-fulfilled prophecy.

I’m not going to compromise with our captors. Not now, under these conditions. Which is a fire realization to have to make.

I’m beyond exhausted. I’m going numb from shock and exposure to too much bullshit. You?

And somehow I’m supposed to go on with the day to day existence like nothing happened, be professional at work, engage in pleasantry, ignore the constant background radiation of stress in my brain that’s gone from merely cancer causing and likely to cause radiation sickness over time to imminent radiation poisoning without constant, bulky shields and strange tasting medicines meant to flush the likely unstable isotopes out of my blood. It’s hard to walk around with this mask. I’m not sure any of this is sufficient.

I’m trying to execute a change in tactics. A few months ago, it became apparent I would need to. I quit doing daily photos, they were unfortunately not going anywhere. I have a definite idea of what I want to do, but it partly depends on resurrecting some old skills I haven’t really put to serious use for years, as well as some new skills I’ll need to develop.

Just being the nice, everyday face isn’t going to do it.

I can’t afford to go numb. I need to go loud.

I just hope that I can pull this off.

In the meantime… I’m still painting. It’s one more way to communicate.

–random


[Edited for, hopefully, clarity — late night rants sometimes need even more rant to become clear. The mind has a way of shorthanding things that need be said aloud when tired.]

Preserve the Ability to Protest

Where to begin?

Everywhere, everywhere, everywhere…

If I tried to begin where it hurts, I’d have Warsan Shire’s poem echoing in my mind, each moment of the day.

I am not everywhere at once, I do not have that ability. Would that I could even stop time and simulate it relative to others. I am also not good at processing things in parallel. I might be better at that than many, but even I can tell it is deleterious. I’ve been overwhelmed, in the days after the election, so it has taken me almost two months to regain my bearings. That’s precious time lost. (May history forgive me, I have a hard time just now, but I am also human.)

So, let me start in one state, with a proposed bill that is being couched as innocuously helpful and even making protests safer. It has just been named the “Prevent Economic Disruption Act,” and the proposal on the table in the Washington State Legislature is to criminalize, as felony, acts of protest which cause an economic inconvenience to some.

The ability to protest freely is a linchpin within a movement to peacefully resist. The ability to protest in a way that becomes noticed by those who do not necessarily agree with the protesters is, out of necessity, often disruptive. Nearly every civil rights protest in its day has been disruptive, causing some economic inconvenience to some. This has been true and in fact seen in every nation.

On the reverse side, the attempt to escalate the criminalization of certain kinds of protest and hem in the boundaries of protest to only those which are out of sight must be seen for what it is: a sneaky attempt at censorship by an ally of the incoming administration in response to the early days of resistant protest. The comparison to protecting health clinics is clever, however the degree of punishment proposed compared to other law and compared to the nature of protests so far is excessive and likely excessive by design. I believe the intent of the proposed law is to make the potential cost of protesting to individual protesters perceived as not worth the trouble, and hence to quell most protests.

Should this law be enacted in Washington, it may well become a model for other states to enact. Given the time-critical nature of resistance, itself, we cannot wait for the potential legality to be sorted out — especially not by a U.S. Supreme Court if that court becomes increasingly compromised by appointees from the new administration.

Fight for the Future has started a petition against the proposed new law here:

https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/urgent-new-law-would-charge-protesters-with-terrorism/

(Fight for the Future, as you might recall, is an action network that got its start successfully advocating for network neutrality.)

I urge you to sign it, with comment.

More than that, we will need to take care to observe the news and look for parallel efforts appearing in other state legislatures. One thing that the recent past has taught us is that — for better and for worse — everyone has learned to pursue all state legislatures in parallel. Mostly, it is the reactionaries who have made the best use of this, as we’ve seen on several fronts (anti-abortion legislation, anti-marriage legislation and referendums, and most recently anti-trans legislation in retaliation against legal victories for marriage).

There will be more to do, daily.

Everywhere, everywhere, everywhere…

I am not good at everywhere at once, but I will try to put up at least one fight every day.

(I’ve been strategizing on other things I must do, trying to make the best use of my strengths and avoid my usual pitfalls. More on this in the coming months, I hope sooner, but there’s a lot of work to do, and I’d best not get ahead of myself here…)

–random

Yule, 2016

Yule.

That’s perfect, in a way, for now.

In my tradition, such as it is, Yule and Solstice are at the darkest day, yet celebrated as a reminder that, though we know it will become colder and harsher yet, there’s still a promise of the light returning.

In some versions, which I think is especially apropos now, people felt the need to take an active hand in returning the sun to its full height. They built fires and tended to them for days to rekindle the sun. Literal or perhaps just cagey in the creation of mythic metaphor. Fires to warm the cold sun and restore it to a position it would be born again, eventually able to bring spring.

I’m spending the night thinking about how many fires under how many butts I’m gonna have to light to bring a little more love into it.

Goodnight.

–random

Dirty Snowballs and Distant Infernos

Something I made to wish everyone a bit of peace, a bit early…

It’s a troubled day, to be certain, so perhaps this was a little more timely than it was even originally meant. I often take great solace in just how much universe there is, and how beautiful it is. And every so often, patches of ordinary, dingy snow on the ground vaguely resembles much larger things out there.

–random

November the Twentieth

and once a year we count our slain

and one a year we say their names

and another year gone

and others gone

some saw in them the faces of demons

we are not your demons

we are your mirrors

and once a year we count our slain

and once a year we say their names

mirrors

you startle at your own

fragile

shattering

you cannot shatter the mirrors

we are born among you, always

of you, we are not other

another year gone

and others gone

you could chase away the demons

but not the faces

and once a year we count our slain

their transgression of your own making

they dared to be of their own making

and once a year we say their names

they dared to be of their own revealing

another year gone

they dared to be as we ever remain

and others gone

they dared to be not to themselves ever other

you could face the demons

you make faces into others

gone of your own

fragile

shattering

mirrors but not merely

faces

we are born among you, always

names

and once we dare

faces

we dare of our own making

and once a year we count our slain

and once a year we say their names

and another year gone

and others …

we remain

their names

fragile

we remember

shattering

we remember

we remain

With Love

What comes to mind when you hear, “When they go low, we go high?” Playing nice with the opposition by gently telling them they’re loved and they could do much better than the current outrage they inspire? Probably something like that. It can descend into well-meaning tone policing.

Let’s talk about what that phrase. I want to suggest we use it to mean more.

It’s an appeal to stick to love. Let’s keep that part. It needs to be at the core of our principles.

Let me tell you… When someone has really hurt you, one of the most brave and loving acts one can do is to tell that person, honestly, unflinchingly, how what they have done has hurt you, and showing them demonstravely how you feel. There are other actions that are also brave, true. Leaving someone abusive also requires bravery. We can think up other scenarios and contexts and actions all day, we can think up times we’ve received that well or poorly on the other end, but stay with me on just that moment of standing up that way. It’s at once powerful, vulnerable, principled, and loving.

It’s “going high” in a way I’m betting most haven’t considered before when they inject that proverbial maxim into public discourse.

I want you to know that “going high” requires honesty and principle. No sideswiping other injured groups out of carelessness. No resorting to lies, or carelessly repeating lies that others tell. (There are ways to fact check.)

But I also want you to know that it means not silencing others that are injured who are being honest about their plight and their wounds.

And I really need you to get this down solid. “Going high” does not preclude showing you’re angry. Furious. Grieving in tears. Full of mistrust of future actions. Fearful. Wounded and lacking the ability to accept replies at face value.

Because honesty is not going low. It’s going high with an amount of love that isn’t even asked for or justified by what’s happened. It’s based on a small tiny shred of hope that somewhere in the rest of the people receiving this that there’s some empathy and compassion in someone, anyone out there.

Don’t you DARE quash that last shred or hope by silencing it.

–random

Safety Work, Even from Words

If I’m in a debate, and suddenly I stop to correct the pronouns of a trans person that has been brought up during the conversation, and entirely change my tone, it isn’t to change the topic as a diversion.
It’s to ascertain whether or not, if I met you on the street, you would constitute — directly or indirectly — a physical threat to my safety.
Yes, this was a specific incident. Person has since apologized, genuinely, via a mutual friend. I accept it. I’ve observed in multiple contexts that, though this person might be someone I’d disagree with, they are nothing if not direct and earnest.
That doesn’t necessarily change the fact that, by doubling down repeatedly, on the street, I would interpret those actions as having raised the specter of physical violence. Not them, not directly. But because that then elicits certain kinds of thoughts and reactions in bystanders, depending on their attitudes.
I’m torn between going scarce for a little while and making a point of staying and engaging. Simply: Fight or flight, even in hindsight, writing about it.
My only point in bringing it up is to educate just how loaded a thing misgendering can be. Even if you’re only misgendering someone in the past tense and not someone who is actually part of the direct conversation. My point isn’t to call this person out, they’ve done what they can to mitigate what they did, and I’m done with that conversation. It’s to say that even after the apology there are still consequences when the misgendering is obvious and willful, even when it is directed to a third party outside the conversation. (It doesn’t matter if I was assumed to not be trans, the assumption should not have been made, and that in a way would make it worse, like a conspiratorial aside between people that are supposedly of the “same tribe”.)
The phenomenon isn’t limited to trans folk, there are analogous verbal behaviors depending on what kind of minority you may be having a conversation with. That itself is worth some deep meditation time.
Respect? Yeah, basic physical safety is baseline respect.

Help them out?

I was reminded today, by a friend’s coming out day post, that there are health benefits to coming out.

I was reminded a few days earlier by a separately helpful friend that there are a few ground rules for coming out day that need be observed and aren’t always. First, never out anyone for them. That’s a hostile act, and secondly it’s hypocritical to ask for self-determination and then do something that denies someone else that agency. Secondly, if you’re not a sexual or gender minority, don’t prank your friends by “coming out”. Thankfully, I don’t really feel like I have to lecture any of you, that’s not my point in actually bringing up those ground rules. It just gives me context for being reminded about the health benefits.
There are a lot of folks who aren’t out, either at some point in their life, or in places and context for which that entails risk of one kind or another — either severe financial penalty or personal injury or social ostracism. That’s WHY there are health benefits.

Part of the point of NCOD is to make it easier for others, later, to be out, and to normalize what it means to be out. Part of the point is an excuse to be out.

Let me add another, if I may ask?
What can we do to make it easier for others to be out? What can we do to reduce or mitigate the risks involved? Even more fundamentally, how can we help people who will need it find the information about what it means to be a sexual and/or gender minority, so that at least they can come out to themselves and minimize any period of misinformation, as some do. (Yes, there are always going to be late bloomers. How do we make it easier for those folks?)

Happy Coming Out Day!

And yes, for the record, I’m still just another queer trans gal…

[PS– Ohey! Here’s an older article on that… ;-) http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/coming-out-of-the-closet-may-be-good-for-your-health-7400182/ ]

Casts, Molds, and Breaks

So… Since I was asked elsewhere what the issue is…

Production companies constantly make the mistake of casting people of a hegemonic majority while ignoring qualified (or overqualified) people of the minority of the role being cast. White people cast as Asians. Or blacks. Het people cast as queer. Cis folk cast as trans folk. It’s important to admit up front that this isn’t an outright fault, but a contextual one. One that if it was addressed would cease to be a context, and casting reversals could actually be a healthy thing. Let me explain the context.

First of all, in an industry where career performers have a tough time as it is, the fact that straight folk (or, possibly, closeted folk), and white folk, and cis folk, have had not just the majority of roles but nearly all of the compensated roles that are cast in the US is still quite the shutout. There are careers that have never been allowed to happen because of this. If you think back to the way sports leagues were officially segregated in the US, and how minority leagues paid their players compared to the “major” leagues — there’s a defacto situation enforced by production timidity.

Secondly, by not casting minority professionals in these rols, at a time when too many writers, directors, and producers do not have a good grasp on when they are or are not creating a scene that will play as offensive to the minority that is being portrayed — they’re losing an opportunity to have a first-hand witness to living as that minority serve as a catch against it. “No, I don’t think that will play well, here’s why… Here’s what might be more realistic… Here’s what won’t risk a public media backlash once this is in front of an audience.”

We’re still stuck in a mode of portrayal where production timidity steers minority roles into tragedy or stereotyped mocking. In both cases, the specific timidity I’m talking about is the inclusion of a minority as a role but then seeking to minimize the threat of that role. Either the portrayal is made to be inappropriately humorous, mocking the role, or the portrayal is made to be tragic, which while attempting to pull empathy from some of the audience also serves to reinforce attitudes in some who proclaim, “that’s what they deserve.” It’s approaching the point of the horror movie that is laughable in spite of its every attempt to be taken seriously and emotionally, and the joke that is anything but funny.

Moreover, production timidity isn’t limited to casting, but also to decisions about creative staff that isn’t in front of the audience. Artists that set the scene or the costume and makeup can influence the outcome. Writers, directors, and producers certainly influence the outcome. Anyone who takes part in editing especially influences the outcome, they have the decision of veto, and anything that was produced before might be subject to last minute timidity.

Being timid in a production might feel like being safe with audiences, but it’s itself a gamble. It’s gambling that the audience will also want to be safe and comfortable with their existing prejudices. But that only plays to a very small portion of the audience. Much smaller than your fears, in reality.

The mold hasn’t merely been set, it’s set in. It’s flooded the performance arena, it reeks, and it’s toxic. It needs remediation.

That said, let me round back to what I first admitted. If we arrived at a point where the performance industries routinely were even in giving out performance and staff roles to all groups, where the performance industries were not merely portraying minorities but actually soliciting their participation for the sake of better entertainment. More poignant and more amusing and — amazingly — not confusing the two in offensive ways. When the performance industry is actually healthy in this way, novel cross-casting and re-casting of people outside of their experience is professionally healthy, expanding professional empathy and range of performance if successful. But we aren’t there. We won’t be there for quite some time, unfortunately. Because, unfortunately, when it’s this one-sided it starts to look a lot like a more polite version of the days when coating one’s face with a thick color of paint passed for a minority role. Just because the shellac isn’t all over one’s face doesn’t mean it isn’t apparent in the final production.

–random