You May Say I’m a Dreamer

The process of sending out query letters has begun. It’s likely going to be a long and frustrating process, but I’m glad it’s started. I read an article that said not to give up until you’ve received 80 ‘no’s. That means I have 78 ‘no’s or 1 ‘yes’ to go before I end the search for an agent.

But that’s not what’s really on my mind tonight. Charlottesville is on my mind. Once again, my heart is broken. It’s broken for so many reasons. I think, just as in the election, the biggest heartbreak comes from my fellow citizens.

 

Nazis.

Nazis were marching in our American streets.

In 2017.

Let that sink in.

And a significant portion of our country, mainly the ones who support Trump and who felt personally offended by the Women’s March, shrugged their shoulders.

The Nazis, and that is what I will call all of them collectively, because essentially that is what they are, came to their march with shields, concealed weapons, helmets, and sticks.

Other people came to protest these disgusting Nazis because they actually remember history, and that their grandfathers, you know, that greatest generation, were partially great because they beat the Nazis.

And then one terrorist plowed into a group of people, changing lives forever, and ending one.

Still, so many shrugged. It was one of those awful liberals who died, so who cares. After the Women’s March, I saw some who I had thought were decent people sharing memes laughing at the idea of running over protestors in the street. Guess they thought it would be funny to see me dead, too. And so you know… I guess in Charlottesville those disgusting leftists just got what was coming to them.

I made the mistake of reading some of the Nazi’s propaganda and listening to one of the speakers from last weekend say Heather Heyer deserved it. They called a woman with a passion for helping others, a “fat, childless slut.” They have publicly spoken about how Trump did not denounce them, and in fact said he loved them. They are ready for the next event, feeling even more certain that they can act with impunity.

And still so many, who claim to have love in their heart, are silent. Nothing but resounding gongs and clanging cymbals.

The world is upside down. Republicans first embraced Putin and Russia, and now seem to be ready to embrace Nazis. Hatred and exclusion is now celebrated, and love and inclusion is mocked. Peacefully protesting is unpatriotic. Violence and murder is barely worth noting, (unless it’s a brown person doing it). Loving your neighbor and wanting them to be well makes you a commie. Spending your time and money to become educated makes you an evil elite, while remaining ignorant is seen as a virtue.

It’s enough to make me not want to ever get out of bed again. Because there is no fix for this. 45 is the symptom of a broken nation, not the problem.

When someone asked G.K. Chesterton “What is wrong with the world,” he wisely answered what each of us should answer to that question.

“I am.”

But luckily for us, it’s the same answer to the question, “What is right with the world.”

“I am.”

I am what’s wrong with this country, and I am also what’s right with it.

And so are you.

I cannot control those who want to divide our country by skin color. I cannot control those who want to divide our country by religion. I cannot control those who think I am less than they are, or that others are less. I cannot control those who hate.

What I can control is myself. I will not hate someone because they have a different shade of skin, culture, religion, or language. I value the variety in the world and see how life improves when you add to it.

What I will do is show love to everyone I come in contact with. It’s what is right about this country, and so I will be that.

When I was a kid, I sneaked into my sisters’ room and went snooping. Under my oldest sister’s mattress was a poem. I thought she had written it, and that she was quite subversive. It was only years later that I discovered John Lennon singing it, and for just a brief moment I thought he was singing my sister’s poem, until I realized, no, she had a copy of his song under her mattress. Doh! The things kids will think.

It has since become my favorite song. I’ll always love John Lennon’s version best, but this one is perfect because Pentatonix is America – gay, straight, bisexual, Latina, black, white, Jewish and Christian. Together – as one – they create so much beauty. Many people might consider my idealism foolish. In fact…

They may say I’m a dreamer.

But I’m not the only one.

I hope someday you’ll join us.

And the world will live as one.

Truly, I hope you will join us.

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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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Endless Cycle

I remember the first time I was able to step back and view human behavior objectively to realize just how foolish we are as a species. It was in 3rd grade. We were outside during recess, playing four square. As is typical with kids, we were getting more and more wild with our hits and having more and more fun. Then something happened. I can’t remember what exactly. Someone twisted an ankle, or got hit hard in the face, or something that sent someone off crying to the teacher. We got a brief safety lecture from said teacher and there we were, standing next to our four square outline feeling sad, scared, and chastised. We all agreed to be more careful and then gingerly went back to bouncing the ball from square to square.

However, as our safe game with all the joy sucked out of it continued, I flashed back to this scenario having happened dozens of the times in the past, and the knowledge that our new, calmer approach would not last. Within minutes history was proved right, we went right back to trying to hit the ball hard into the corner for an unplayable score, regardless of what had just happened. It was our nature, and all the somber hand-wringing and promises wasn’t going to change that. We wanted to have crazy fun while playing, even though someone might get hurt. I think we had this attitude because we believed we would never get hurt. It would always be the other guy.

Which brings me to 2016. Another mass shooting. I’ve been reluctant to add my .02 because everyone else already has… over and over and over… each time it happens. What more can possibly be said? And what’s the point of saying anything at all? We’re in the same stupid cycle I saw when we were kids.

it starts with another round of hand-wringing and calls to be more careful, pass laws, do something! This is followed by pushback with the same old arguments like, guns don’t kill people, and good guys with guys being our only salvation, and only criminals having guns when they’re banned, all arguments that have been thouroughly proved to have been built on fallacies, and I’m always amazed when anyone trots them out.

Yes, of course, a gun, on its own, does not kill people. A person, with the intent to kill, will always find a way to kill, whether it’s a gun, a bomb, a car, or a plane. However, as intelligent, rational, human beings, we actually have the ability to hinder their ability to do this, and have often done so in the past. After 9/11 we made planes harder for terrorists to access with new security rules. After the Okaloma bombing we restricted the sale of some fertilizers because their ingredients make powerful exposives. We don’t allow average citizens access to tanks, RPGs, or nuclear weapons. Just because guns are mentioned in the 2nd amendment doesn’t give them some magical power thereby preventing them from being misused just like fertilizer. The guns mentioned in the 2nd amendment were single load flintlocks. Had the gunman in Orlando carried that into that club there would have maybe been one person dead. Claiming the 2nd ammendment covers semi-automatic and automatic weaponry is just idiotic. No one keeps an assault rifle for protection or hunting. It was made for assaulting people. The only other reason someone might have one is to take to a gun range and get a testosterone surge while firing it. If that’s your thing, that’s fine, but then go join the military or the reserve and put that testosterone to good use. THAT is what the 2nd ammendment wants you to do when it brings up that “well-regulated militia” part.

There was a new argument this go round. Usually it’s just the “We need our guns to protect us from the tyranny of our own government.” That always makes me laugh. Like rifles and handguns, or even assault rifles are going to stop today’s US military. We go to war against well-trained, well-armed militaries, and we think a bunch of people with no real weapons training are going to defeat our military?

Anyway, the new argument was that other countries are afraid to invade us because we’re so well armed. They trotted out a quote by Admiral Yamamoto, which upon doing a little research turns out to be completely unsubstantiated. The truth is, a recent terrorist training video actually encourages would-be jihadists to go to gun shows in America and stock up because of the ease of getting weaponry. Rather than an unsubstantiated quote, you can go here and see this video for yourself. Instead of discouraging attacks with our plentiful weapons, we’re actually encouraging it. There goes that argument.

There are many factors that go into a mass shooting, and to deny that guns are one of those factors is just plain stupid. To deny they are the only factor is equally as stupid. Maybe with time we can learn to unravel the complex issues of mental health, religious extremism, and intolerance, but until we do, why not start with one issue we have some control over — regulating access to weapons that do high volumes of damage and were designed for use on a battlefield. How about we start there, while working on the more compelx issues?

But the truth is, this entire blog is pointless. Nobody cares. We’re stupid children who want to play the way we want to play, not caring if someone else gets hurt, as long as it’s someone else.

As I learned in 3rd grade, humans are selfish, short-sighted, and sadly, we have painfully short memories. So, until next time… because we all know there will be next time. The altar of the 2nd ammendment doesn’t have quite enough blood soaked into it yet.

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Happy Unholy Days

Wading into religious controversy is a foolish thing to do, and not good for building blog readership. I guess I am a fool.

Just like the Christmas decorations being put out earlier and earlier, the supposed war on Christmas is starting earlier and earlier. Ironic, isn’t it? This year’s target is Starbucks for having the audacity to choose a simple red cup for the holiday season. Oh my! How diabolical! This ruins everything! I mean, taking the reindeer, snowmen, and snowflakes off from last year’s cup is such a slap in the face to Christians everywhere. Right?

An oft repeated phrase is, “Today’s Republican party is not my father’s Republican party.” Well, there’s a new one to add to that list. Today’s Christian church is not my father’s Christian church. The evangicals have hijacked it, along with the Republican party. There are plenty of very good Christian people trying very hard to live the example of Christ, but just like moderate Muslims, their voice is often drowned out by the attention seeking evangelicals.

Remember when Bing Crosby sang, “Happy Holiday” and nobody batted an eye? Today they would be boycotting Bing, which perhaps they should have done all those years ago, but for completely different reasons. And the movie “Holiday Inn”… well, until Irving Berlin changed it to “Christmas Inn” no evangelical would have dared pay the price of entry to see it.

I know it’s an uncomfortable truth for evangelicals, but not everyone on the planet is a Christian and not everyone celebrates Christmas. If you do, and you want to say Merry Christmas to everyone, go for it. And if you’re Jewish and want to wish everyone a Happy Hanukkah, go for it. And if you are someone who wants to include all people in your greeting and simply say, Happy Holy Day (where holiday comes from) then say to your heart’s content. A kind greeting to a fellow human being should be our top priority, in whatever form it takes.

One of the arguments from the man who started the Starbucks kerfuffle is that today’s overly PC world, Starbucks is trying to hard not to offend people, which he thinks is dumb. BUT, by doing that they’re offending Christians, which he links to persecution. Okay, so offending others… fine. Offending Christians… persecution. Everyone thinks that the thing they’re offended by should be changed, but when someone else is offended, they should just get over it. Um… yeah… that’s just stupid. Sorry if I’ve offended you. Not. His response that Christians should go to Starbucks, but they should open carry weapons… yeah, because that’s what Christmas and Christ is all about. Weaponry. Sorry, I’ll take the red cup as my Christmas symbol over a weapon designed to kill.

Remember playing with that one kid who insisted all the toys were theirs and if they didn’t get their way all the time they threw a tantrum? I think they all grew up to be evangelicals.

Next year I think Starbucks should choose a Hanukkah blue cup. I highly doubt the Jewish community would complain that the words “Happy Hanukkah” weren’t printed on the cup. There would be an attitude of gratitude that their Holy Day was acknowledged and celebrated.

A faith’s best witness is the behavior of it’s followers. In a season that is supposed to celebrate peace, love, salvation, and compassion, if you’re upset about how someone chooses to greet others, or how multi-national companies attempt to include everyone in the joy and celebration, perhaps the reason for the season hasn’t gone very deep into your heart.

 

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