Crossing Boundaries and Pushing Limits

A few weeks ago, I posted this meme on my Facebook page.

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It made me think about artists and their progressive/liberal nature. Many conservatives look down on Hollywood for being a bastion of liberals… and it is. Without a doubt, conservatives are the minority in that industry. But it’s not some liberal conspiracy. We didn’t all get together and decide the best way to infect the world with our sickness is to go into the arts and insert our message into stories for the unwitting masses to consume.

In truth, artists are progressives because that is the very nature of art. Art is looking at the world in a new way. It is exploring the human experience, in all its dimensions, and reporting back. It has been my belief for some time that conservative thinkers cannot be true artists. They may engage in artistic endeavors, but they’ll never break free to create something truly unique. It’s impossible, because every time they step up to the boundary of what’s never been done before, they will retreat.

Last night I finally watched Moana and that message was reinforced. Moana’s father wanted her stay safely within the boundaries of the reef. It was dangerous out there. Bad things would happen. If she stayed home, there would be adequate food, and life would be pleasant. Yet Moana felt an irresistable pull to go past the boundaries. She refused to listen to those who held her back, and you know what? Her father was right… bad things did happen. There were moments of great despair and brushes with death. But he was also wrong, because by pushing her limits and going past the reef, she brought new life to her people.

Years ago I watched a documentary called The Lords of Dogtown. It was about the skaters who revolutionized skateboarding and took it from riding sidewalks to doing aerial tricks on ramps. They did this by breaking into abandoned homes in Los Angeles and skating in empty pools. They were trouble makers. They were jerks. They were at times, destructive. If it had been my home, I would have hated them. Yet, by pushing limits and breaking boundaries, they enriched our culture. They brought us a new sport and a new way of experiencing life.

It’s the outliers of society that move us in new directions. We generally despise them at the time, but looking back, we appreciate what they did for us. Just as many conservative women today, who at the time would have fought against women’s rights as ungodly, now enjoy and appreciate the rights those devil-influenced, rabble-rousers gave them.

I’ve never really understood the religious objection to the creative type, especially since one of the main worship-able qualities of God is creator. Yes, artists live lives conservatives don’t like. We live in a world of grays, not in the easily identified blacks and whites that they prefer, but our nature is God’s nature – one of creator. Satan is the great destroyer, yet so many religious people support war and despise artists. It makes me wonder who they are really following.

Right now society is in a time of retreat. Those afraid of what’s ‘past the reef’ are in charge. Now is when artists have to be most brave. We have to find the stillness in the cacophony of nay-sayers and listen to that still small voice of truth. We have to push past the limits and defy the boundaries they throw up in front of us. We have to move forward and bring new life to our people. As Howard Zinn said, we must speak to the world and wage the battle for justice. It’s what we do.

I’m proud of my tribe. It’s not an easy life, and it’s one lived on the edges. But we are creators, and we almost always find ourselves on the right side of history. If you are a member of that tribe, take heart. Be brave. Roll up your sleeves and get to work. There’s a lot to be done, and we need you to take us to the other side of the reef.

 

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The Best and Worst of Times

How many times have I heard the first line of A Tale of Two Cities? I always thought I knew what it meant, but now I feel it in my bones.

For those of us who see the big picture, the last few months have been difficult. It’s been like watching a slow motion train wreck. We see the tracks are laid straight towards a mountainside, and yet everyone on the train is celebrating because they think they’re finally going somewhere. We screamed. We hollered. We jumped up and down and waved our hands, trying to stop the train before it slams into the wall, and for that we were ignored and ridiculed.

The right had to make up garbage to fear about Obama – He’s a secret Muslim from Kenya who is going to bring sharia law to the US, take our guns, create death panels to kill our parents, and build FEMA camps to put all his enemies in. Despite us being the creative types, liberals didn’t have to imagine any fears of 45. He laid out his vision for this country, which included taking away people’s health care with no idea how to replace it, banning people for the accident of their place of birth and religion, and if not banning them, then making them register so that when the country needs to deal with them, they know just where to find them. He at one point wanted to punish women who have faced a difficult decision about a pregnancy, and made the choice HE thinks is wrong, because we women should all be subjected to what HE thinks. He thinks the environment is only there to be raped and profited from by big business. And he wants to turn us into a nation with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a country that only thinks of itself and doesn’t care if we destroy other economies as long as we WIN! He has vowed to bring back torture, a policy that has never provided any actionable intelligence, but has created many, many enemies and endangered our troops. And as a cherry on top of the cake, he thinks nuclear weapons should be used if we have them.

He is a walking, talking, dystopian nightmare.

The damage these policies will do is immense and doesn’t take into account the damage that will be done by the policies of those pulling his strings. Those around him have learned it’s easy to control little donny… praise him and he’ll think you’re brilliant and listen to all your ideas. Criticize him and you’re going to be ridiculed, abused, and discarded. So, you want to privatize programs Americans have paid in to, and deserve to draw from… Paul Ryan just whispers sweet nothings in his ear, and voila… they’re working on plans to do away with the social safety net, despite 45’s promise to leave it alone. Easy peasy. He’s a puppet whose strings are pulled so easily.

We are becoming isolated in the world. Allies are not sharing intelligence. Trade deals are evaporating and becoming more difficult. If he continues on this path, we could face sanctions. Let’s hope it doesn’t go far enough that some other country decides we need regime change.

The despair is palpable among those who still believe in the promise of America – that all men (and women) are created equal and have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not just those who look alike, think alike, love alike, and pray alike. All! Instead we’ve watched him dismantle the policies that protect our people and the environment. There are Nazis in the White House forming policy. I’ve tried to reach out for common understanding with the other side and the response seems to be, “We won, you lost. We’re right, you’re wrong. We don’t care about understanding.” So much for uniting the country. 45 is beginning to appear mentally unstable, and we’ve given that man the nuclear codes. I’ve heard silver-haired Americans say, “I’ve never been scared for my country like this before” and they lived through WWII. It feels like the worst of times.

Yet, despite this, it also the best of times. The Women’s March kicked it off. There is power in connection. There is power in unity. There is power in love. We who marched were drawn by the connection, unity, and love, then left completely empowered. We found our voice together. We found our purpose together. The sniping by the right couldn’t even take a dent out of it, probably because their criticisms were so off-base, and also because it was easy to see a tinge of exclusion and jealousy in their words. It’s okay. They enjoy their somewhat equal status because women like us marched for them, also with the criticism of conservative women of the time. Their granddaughters will thank us.

And our show of resistance led to the defiance of National Park employees, as well as other federal employees. Watching the rebellion grow was inspiring! It gave me hope like nothing else. The tyrant can sit in his high tower and issue all the decrees he wants, but if nobody follows them, he is nothing but a silly gas bag.

His most odious act so far, choosing to refuse the entry of refugees and others on National Holocaust Remembrance Day (but only from Muslim countries where he doesn’t do business) felt like a directive coming straight from Bannon and the alt-right(Nazis). It felt like a gut punch. And then we, the people, mobilized. The connections we’ve made allowed protests to spontaneously break out across the country in airport after airport. Americans of every color, size, and religious belief, stood side by side in defense of Iraqi translators, visiting relatives, and refugees who had spent two years being vetted, and were finally on the verge of safety.  The ACLU became our voice in the courts and stopped that atrocity for now.

The worst of times have woken us up to rediscover our connection to each other. It’s hammered in the lesson that democracy is not a spectator sport. We can’t just sit back and let politicians handle things. Without any leadership, we are bypassing the parties and finding each other and our power. We are talking. We are formulating plans. We are on the move. We are united. We are one. It is the best of times.

At our march, one speaker acknowledged that we were able to march that day because we stood on the shoulders of those who came before us. We called out their names in remembrance of their sacrifices. Standing there, I realized it was my turn to provide a place for future generations of women to stand. Our shoulders are needed. We have some very dark days ahead. The struggle is hardly won, but we know we will win because as MLK said, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it inevitably bends toward justice. There will be losses and casualties ahead, yet I see hope. And rebellions are built on hope.

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Inauguration

I have been wrestling with myself as to whether or not to write this post. It’s a very difficult topic for me and involves memories that are shameful. I don’t like to talk about this, because part of me never wanted to let them know they got to me… that they hurt me… but they did.

Every woman wants to have been the cheerleader, homecoming queen, the popular girl with lots of boyfriends. Nobody wants to admit to being the goat – the one targeted and bullied, who spent their school years isolated and ostracized. Yet, if I’m telling my story truthfully, I was the later. Smart, introverted, overweight, and from a family thought of as a bunch of goody-two-shoes, I was the perfect target, and even those who didn’t actively participate, did nothing to defend me, because as long as the bullies were pointed at me, they were safe.  At a time when a child is trying to understand who they are and how they fit into the world, I got a very clear message. The answer to those questions were, 1) you are unlikable and 2) you fit in nowhere. That was the concrete that got poured into my foundation.

In the midst of all those years of utter hell and the destruction of my self worth, there was one bully that stood out. He had issues with my older brother, but obviously found me to be a far easier target. He went out of his way to make my life miserable on a regular basis. One day he grabbed me by the collar and shoved me up against the bleachers, accusing me of snitching to my parents. This was a 17 year old boy, shoving a 14 year old girl up against the bleachers. I had no idea what he was talking about and eventually he believed me, but he threatened me with violence if he found out differently. Despite the gym being full of people on lunch hour, not one person stepped in to help.

These bullying experiences had a lasting effect. I may look like everyone else. I go through life doing most of the same things as everyone else, but that’s just a projected image on the outside of the thick and high walls that protect me. Inside, past my defences, there are broken gaping holes of insecurity and anxiety, and a sense of never belonging. That is the damage of bullying. Damage that never heals.

It’s what makes me so aware of bullies when I see them. When Celebrity Apprentice first started I found it amusing. Then I saw a documentary called “You’ve Been Trumped” and watched Trump use his power and money to destroy the livelihood of a farmer, not unlike my father, simply because he wanted that man’s family farm and wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. It was sickening. Trump was a bully through and through. I never watched Celebrity Apprentice again, but I did watch him bully people in twitter feuds. I saw him reduce women’s worth, even his daughters, to a set of physical attributes he found pleasing. We’ve listened to him brag about how his power allows him to assault women. During the election he engaged in typical bullying behavior of assigning a nickname and then repeating it so often that eventually so does everyone else. It didn’t matter if it was accurate, it stuck. Anyone who praises him, he loves. Anyone who criticizes him, is attacked. And anyone who can’t see that this man is a bully has their eyes willfully shut. Yet once again, I watched people close their eyes and line up behind him, because at least his bullying is pointed elsewhere, and he’ll leave them alone. It’s hard not to take it personally when friends and family choose to support the bully.

So, at this point you may be wondering, “What does all this have to do with the Inauguration? You know, your title.” For that I have to go back again to my high school bully. When my bully was leaving school, all the students were called to the gymnasium for a mandatory assembly to watch him be inducted into the military. I sat on the bleachers, the very ones he had shoved me up against, and listened as military officers and school administrators gave speeches about what a good man and patriot he was for enlisting. I wanted to vomit. I wanted to scream. He wasn’t any of the things they were saying. He was abusive, he was a bully, and he was being rewarded for it.

I was forced to watch back then, but I will not watch this time. I will not watch a bully be praised. I will not watch a bully win. So, call me unpatriotic if you want, but I will NOT watch the inauguration.You go right ahead and watch a truly awful human being take over the reins of this country, but I will not.

For me, and hopefully for others who have been wounded by bullies, I would like us to make 1/20 about our own inauguration. Let’s inaugurate in a new era. An era where we reclaim our self worth. One where bullies from the past lose their power over us, because we finally choose to stand up to this bully and fight for those he would harm, even though no one did that for us.

So the day of the inauguration, my TV will be off, and the day after, I’ll be marching with hundreds of other women in my city and millions across this nation. We will not let this bully, who now is the most powerful man in the world, do the kind of damage to others that has been done to us.

Because my bully did teach me one valuable lesson. During one confrontation he had his fist back ready to strike because I refused to get out of his sight. I don’t know where I found the courage, but I stood, unmoving, and stared him down. After a few tense moment, he turned, walked away, and never really bothered me again.

If we stand up to Trump, he will back down. Bullies always do.

 

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Just the Facts, Ma’am

It’s been far too long since I’ve written. Truth be told, I have not had the heart to write. On one hand, writing seems pointless. On the other, a message that would help young people be more immune to fear mongering is desperately needed. And today, in light of that, I actually started working on book two. It felt great!

One of the many things people have been talking about since the election is the proliferation of fake news and its effect on the vote. I knew for years that networks like Fox skewed the news to their viewpoint, but up until recently I had been unaware that people were actually sitting out there creating false stories just to rake in clicks and advertising dollars. It makes me sick to think someone is using their writing talent this way.

For ages I’ve been one of those annoying people who sometimes comments publicly, and sometimes sends private email message, to people who post false stories. Usually the posts weren’t political, but were something that Snopes had long ago debunked, like “Watch the wing of this plane fall off, and the guy lands anyway!” Any time I saw something questionable on Facebook, I did a quick search on Snopes.com to verify it. It just became habit and it constantly amazed me that people didn’t do it themselves. Sometimes they’d even post, “I don’t know if this is true or not, but look at this!” It took seconds to check, and yet few people did it.

That trend continued during this election. People were passing around stories that with just a few quick searches could have easily been proved false. Yet they never did it, and these stories burrowed into people’s psyches and changed the outcome of the election. For instance, if you think an FBI agent involved with the Clinton email scandal was found dead in a murder/suicide, you have fallen for a fake story. If you think that in 2013, Clinton told Goldman Sachs bigwigs: “I would like to see people like Donald Trump run for office. They’re honest, and can’t be bought”, then you have fallen for a fake story.

Checking the validity of a story is so easy. For years the place I always went to research political stories was Politifact.com. It was known as a non-partisan fact checking site and I found it extremely reliable. Imagine my surprise when I heard a Trump supporter claim it was a liberal propaganda site, and that if you wanted the truth, you had to go deep into underground news. That’s where you got reliable facts.

So, rather than assume this was a right-wing nut job, I did a little research. I looked up Politifact.com to see who actually runs the site. It’s owned by the Tampa Bay Times. Aha! It’s that biased liberal media! So that Trump supporter was right!!! Or was he? Who runs the Times and Politifact? A man by the name of Paul Tash, who has an extensive journalistic background covering national politics. A little more digging on Paul Tash’s political affiliation shows that according to voter records he has been a registered Republican since 1984. Hmmm. Unless this man knew in 1984 that someday he would be in charge of a independent fact-checking organization and wanted to go into hiding more than 30 years ago so as to sway the country to his point of view, I think it’s safe to say that Politifact is not a liberal propaganda site.

A few quick searches and I knew the truth. Why was that so hard for the Trump supporter to do?

The truth is, when the facts didn’t support a Trump supporter’s world view, they went in search of sources that did – deep underground. It didn’t matter that those facts were fake. They felt good. They felt truthy. Politifact listed Trump’s statements as only being true 5% of the time, while Clinton was listed as the most truthful of the candidates. That fact didn’t sit well with me when I was supporting Bernie, but I accepted it. But since it didn’t line up with a Trumpy’s world view that The Donald told it like it is, while Hillary was crooked, therefore Politifact must be a liberal propaganda machine.

I found a few fake stories aimed at liberal as well. Several friends posted the meme from a 1998 People interview, where Donald Trump supposedly said: “if I were to run, I’d run as a Republican. They’re the dumbest group of voters in the country. They believe anything on Fox News. I could lie and they’d still eat it up. I bet my numbers would be terrific.” I wanted to believe that. Oh, I wanted to believe it so bad. But a quick search on that one proved it to be false, so I didn’t post or share it. Fake news story writers have admitted in interviews that they didn’t get much traction with liberal fake stories, because within a few comments somebody would debunk it.

That’s not to say there will be political peace and harmony if we start believing the same facts. Facts are just facts, and they can be interpreted differently. For instance, it’s a fact that red states generally take more money from the federal government than they pay to it, and blue states generally pay more into the federal government than they take from it. Democrats would say that’s because their states are run better. Republicans might say that’s because they have less natural resources and more poverty in their states.

You can interpret those facts through whatever set of lenses you want so it wouldn’t be smooth sailing, but at least we’d be starting with the same set of facts. Right now it’s pretty much impossible for Democrats and Republicans to have a rational conversation. We live in two completely different worlds made up of two completely different set of facts.

Please, whenever you see a story online, take a moment or two to evaluate it. What site did it come from? Look into who’s behind that site. Search the internet to see if other sources are also reporting the story. Make sure they’re not just repeating the first story. Compare how it’s being reported if you do find two sources. Are there facts listed in the story/meme that can be checked independently. Look up the name of the author. What qualifications do they have to cover the story? Use Snopes. Use Politifact. Use your brain. Admit when you might have something wrong. We only make good decisions when we are informed. Don’t be a part of the problem.

As the old saying goes, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they’re not entitled to their own set of facts. Until that gets fixed, this country is in trouble.

I am hopeful that future posts will focus more on the process of getting published.

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The Facts?

A quick update on the book… the major editing is done. Now it’s being proofed. The next step in the process is to edit and improve the synopses for each book in the trilogy and follow that with a killer query letter — one that makes the agents beg to read my manuscript.

Just in case nobody wants to read my stories, I am beginning to work on plan C. Plan A – Screenwriting. Plan B – Novel writing. Plan C – ?? I enjoy the place and people I work with so much, that it would make sense to try to increase my hours there. Over the next year I plan to get a couple of certifications that will allow me to teach some classes, and I have an idea that would add a new service to our fitness studio. Hopefully I will manage to keep a roof over my head somehow.

Of course, after the election I may have a harder time doing that. With one candidate, it’s likely I’ll be stripped of access to healthcare. I will likely have to quit a job I love, one that benefits society, in order to find a meaningless, corporate job whose sole purpose is to make rich people richer but that provides enough hours to give me insurance. Or I will just have to be a 52 year old woman without insurance, and hopefully I’ll get sick and die quickly, so as not to burden my fellow citizens.

I’m doing my best to fight the anxiety, but I can’t deny that I am terrified about Tuesday.  One thing I’ve gained is compassion for the people of Germany. I used to wonder how they could have let it happen and judged them for their apathy. I get it now. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how loudly you scream.

Though, according to political scientists, Trump is actually closer to Mussolini than Hitler. And, he can’t truly be called a fascist because he doesn’t control his own military. However, what they also pointed out was that the same fertile soil that grew this authoritarian is the same soil that grows fascists. That we could see Trump fade away only to be replaced by something much, much, much worse.

One thing we definitely need to correct this situation are journalists who report the facts. Though, on a side note, it’s frightening to see the same people who go rabid about the 2nd amendment yet are all too willing to abolish the 1st amendment. I guess they only love the parts of the constitution that fit with their worldview. And what better way to hang on to that worldview than to silence anyone who disagrees with it.

Anyway, right now, if you are a conservative, you watch and read news with one set of facts presented by people who agree with you, and if you’re a progressive, you watch and read news reported by those who agree with you. So, you can have one event, and two people can believe completely different facts about it.

For example. In the last day, Trump has relished in telling the story of how Obama screamed at a Trump supporter in his audience. He said, “Obama today spoke in front of a much smaller crowd than this, by the way, and there was a protester. And a protester that likes us. And what happened is they wouldn’t put the cameras on him. They kept the cameras on Obama. And I said, ‘That’s strange.’ You saw it today on television, right?

He was talking to the protester — screaming at him, really screaming at him. By the way, if I spoke the way Obama spoke to that protester, they would say, ‘He became unhinged! He became —’ You have to go back and look and study. And see what happened. They never moved the camera. And he spent so much time screaming at this protester and, frankly, it was a disgrace.”

That’s Trump’s view of events. And the problem is, because it came out of his mouth, his supporters believe him without question. They don’t need to look it up. It doesn’t matter how many times you point out the facts, they will always just scream back, “Is to! Nanny nanny boo boo!” Just like now after Trump said the FBI had found the mother lode of Hillary emails, it makes no difference that the FBI says there’s nothing there. Trump said it, it’s true.

Now, just so you can see for yourself, here’s what really happened:

Unhinged? A disgrace? If it wasn’t so frightening it would be a little funny how almost every single one of Trump’s accusations against his opponents highlight his own flaws. I consider encouraging your supporters to attack protesters and offering to pay their legal bills is unhinged and disgraceful.

Yet, conservatives only saw Trump’s version, because that’s what places like Fox News covered, and everyone else saw both versions. The point is, when 1/2 of Americans are getting one set of “facts” and the other half is getting another, how do we ever figured this mess out? We won’t. We’ll just keep fighting each other while the 1% cleans up.

I don’t know what to say anymore. This entire election has become mind numbing. Soul numbing. Everything numbing.

When we can’t even share the facts, how do we share a country?

 

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