How to Radicalize a Moderate Woman

All week it’s felt like “Today in Pecker News”. A Supreme Court nominee talks about his virginal pecker. A sitting president’s pecker is described in a porn star’s tell-all book. A once-beloved sitcom star’s pecker finally gets jail time. Disgraced peckers are finding their way back to stages and directing gigs and political appointments. And we get to hear and read all about it. It’s exhausting and demoralizing, as if peckers think they run the world.

canstockphoto2216511I don’t write much about my feminist views or experiences as a woman. There are plenty of tales to be told and women are telling them. My experiences have been mild by comparison, so I’ve chosen to do what many people need to do – listen. That a second man with dubious character will be appointed to the Supreme Court in my voting lifetime angers me, though. The world moves forward without us, as old corrosive men dig their peckers in to hold progress back and keep their avarice and entitlement unchecked. What happens when power is not a reflection of the people’s will?

The consequences for speaking up and reporting sexual crimes are so extreme and the incidents of false reporting are so low, that as a human being, I believe the women who are speaking. It’s not bias – it’s common sense. I also believe the men who have come forward to say that Catholic priests abused them. Because I believe power and money and secrecy corrupts.

canstockphoto2002566These days I feel a slow-burning rage. Yes, it’s all well and good to settle down, to not be so reactive to every political pronouncement said by people well past their sell-by date. And that date has less to do with age than mental acuity, some level of self-awareness, some level of empathy for other humans. Their neural pathways are as hardened as their arteries – they don’t know how to think or be any other way. I try to imagine what is going on in some of these people’s heads. They must be so completely insulated from the consequences of their actions that they just do whatever the hell they want – whatever their little club wants them to do. Useless peckers.

What do you do with this rage? At this point, I need to shut off the news. The Republicans are determined to put this man on the Supreme Court, no matter what anyone says. It is likely he will be appointed. I have no say in the matter. I already saw the Anita Hill hearings. I don’t need to see another one of those creepy circuses.

I’m voting and encouraging others to vote. I wrote 150 postcards on behalf of the ACLU to latent voters. I joined and actively serve in my local chapter of the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization focused on voting rights. I’ve donated to the NAACP, the ACLU, the Sierra Club, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. I’ve written, called, and emailed my representatives and those outside my state. I’ve taught my daughter critical thinking skills and about her rights and expectations as a human being. I have done what any citizen can do within the confines of the law.

canstockphoto57591012Despite all this, I have a sinking feeling. Congress was too busy worrying about somebody’s pecker business to pass any legislation to protect our elections. They were too busy protecting another white guy to take care of the business of our nation. The contempt I feel for them is corrosive. Whatever respect I felt for their offices, their roles has evaporated. Civility, respect, courage, ethics, morals – these things are mocked on a daily basis by people who call themselves patriots and “real” Americans.

I’ve always tried to be thoughtful, think critically, not allow my anger or my self-righteousness to get the best of me. But that is the luxury of a bystander. And the time for that has passed.

Where I’ve Been

Where I was once lackadaisical, I am fierce.

Where I shrugged my shoulders, I now set my chin.

Where I was generous, I set boundaries.

Where once politeness seemed imperative, integrity takes its place.

Where I laughed a little in discomfort, I now roar in dismay.

Where I was embarrassed by tenderness, I steel myself in intentional kindness.

Where I showed up to help, I now grab the reins.

Where once I pursed my lips at your unkindness, I now teach you.

Where I tolerated your gaze and judgment, I now see you are wantincanstockphoto15586920g of character.

Where I stood along the sidelines, I now stand up front.

Where I stayed silent, I now speak up.

Where once I stepped back to be measured in my thoughts, I now understand that all sides do not merit equal time.

You thought you could rely on my manners, my gentility, my introversion, my comfort level, your ideas of obsequious femininity.

That you could keep doing what you were doing and I would stay where I had stayed.

But I have seen the future in the eyes of my daughter. And it cannot be you.

Vulnerability and the Spin

It’s been a long few weeks. This morning, as I watched my daughter walk down the street to high school, I felt the tears well up. It seem like only moments ago, we were holding hands, walking to her preschool and my parenting classes while she bounced up and down off the curb chatting away. Time. Sometimes it seems endless, like a languid, humid summer. And suddenly, it’s autumn.

canstockphoto12404837I packed a whole summer of experiences in the last few weeks. I went to the Minnesota State Fair for the first and last time in my life. I boated down the St. Croix with a friend who has known me for over 30 years. I did the absolute worst interview in my life, which gave me insomnia and crushed my ego into dust. I tried to register voters (the least popular table at a school open house) and wrote pithy comments on a zillion ACLU voter postcards. I frequented bookstores and often fell asleep in my reading chair, book in hand.

I’m a slow processor. It’s taken me a couple of weeks to superglue the pieces of my fragile ego together, after interviewing for a vacant city council seat. There were mitigating factors – it was more like a military board, where there was a prescribed set of questions, no interaction, and a bunch of white guys staring at me grim-faced. 30 years ago, I would have probably aced it. Too many years of learning how to develop rapport and human connection had me little prepared to be interviewed by a room of stenographers, who were literally writing down and grading my answers as I spoke.

canstockphoto7656534I drove away from city hall with the Talking Heads playing in my brain “How did I get here?” I’d tried to prepare for this interview in the way I try to prepare for everything. But I was not prepared to feel simultaneously angry and embarrassed that I had pushed myself to do this thing my heart wasn’t really in – that I’d allowed my ego to speak louder than my gut.

It’s hard to come back from failure and mistakes. But I am my own Spin Master. And my efforts to be an activist, to be engaged in politics, had taken over a good portion of my life. I’d been getting progressively miserable over the last couple of years and while the President would be delighted to take credit for this, as he does all things, I’m not giving it to him. Because we are, no matter what the state of the world, ultimately responsible for the state of our selves. It’s easy to shelve that responsibility when larger causes are on the horizon and to become a mini-martyr in the course of things.

There is an argument that to make a difference, you have to put some real skin in the game. We see the costs throughout history – those who died and suffered or the famous humans who ignored their children, cheated on their spouses, had secret fetishes and addictions of every ilk, yet who made a difference, who went down in history for the one thing that they did really well, whatever it was. But that’s not the path for most of us.

canstockphoto17610549I remember being very irritated by something Brené Brown wrote in her book, Rising Strong. “The ego has a shame-based fear of being ordinary.” She went on to say that this was how she defined narcissism. Nobody wants to think of themselves as being narcissistic, albeit there is a huge difference in degree. But some of us, most of us, are quite ordinary. We’re not building bridges, curing illnesses, climbing whatever tall things we can find. Most of us will never write literature that will be read into the next century or be called the greatest anything (except by those we love, on t-shirts and coffee mugs).

I’m at the age where I know who I am – that I will never enjoy huge crowds of people, I am prone to/revel in saying the wrong thing when I’m irritated, I am never in the moment more than when I am writing, I need shitloads of solitude, I adore my family, and I want to perpetually learn. But then there is my ego. Martyrdom? Sign me up. Hard labor? Tell me where to dig. Endless devotion? Here – have an organ. These are not sacrifices for me. This is business-as-usual, not altruism.

canstockphoto5313640.jpgDespite all the jokes about men and their vehicles and overcompensation, I’ve realized that I have my own Hummvee – doing good in order to make up for not feeling good enough. This is ego. This is thinking that it be critically important I be seen as being good – that appearances are more important than the infrastructure. I let my ego take me to a place where I would not thrive, because it sounded important. More than ordinary.

It’s been a messy, messy epiphany – one that I’ve experienced before in varying degrees, but at this stage in life, it really needs to stick. The outcome is that I’ve put some limits on activism and volunteerism and I’m working to change my time to reflect activities that feed me. I joined a local writers’ group, pulled out the many unfinished writing projects, and am getting down to the business of being ordinary.

That’s how I wrapped up my summer. How was yours?

I Hate Summer and Other Pointless Gripes

Perhaps I’m just a bit miffed that vacation just turned into a road trip into the desert. With wood ticks. Perhaps it is that I’ve been reading too much news or thinking about the impending apocalypse of incompetence that will be raining down on our heads. Perhaps it is that I have gone astray on so many personal intentions that I have decided to externalize my anger. Whatever the reason, I’m blowing the gunk out of my pipes so that I can think clearly again. Welcome to my rants – they’re all the rage.

Shaking My Old Lady Fist in the Air

Memes, Emojis, and GIFs

canstockphoto26595566I ignore/loathe them. Personal preference. I like it when grownups use their words and in the world of social media, those shortcuts to communication are repetitive and pointless.  And some of them are very badly done – with misspellings, bad photo editing, and ofttimes, completely and utterly devoid of anything meaningful or useful. Because of their ubiquitous use, they’re simply no longer original, novel, or amusing.

False Idols and Bad Fashion Choices

I don’t care if it’s Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, treating other very flawed humans like they’re unassailable saints is creepy. If you are wearing clothing with their likenesses or names, I don’t trust your judgment. While we have been conditioned to be billboards for all manner of advertising, this adulation for other humans versus policy is off the rails. Don’t become a billboard unless the rental space of your head, chest, ass, whatever, is being paid for. And then I can trust your judgement even less.

Faking Patriotism

canstockphoto48494235The same people who gripe about football players not standing during the anthem are also the ones who kept their beers cold by wrapping them in stars and stripes flag cozies yesterday. If they really wanted to be patriotic, they should have demanded that the government let us know just how many troops are living and dying in Afghanistan, NW Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and Libya and what the plan is there. It’s almost like there isn’t one.

*****

Politics, As Usual

Congressional Traitors and Media Enablers

I canceled my New York Times subscription this morning. It was a hard decision. Much canstockphoto4438515.jpgof their in-depth reporting is very good. However, their front page might as well be covered in Trump tweets if they are not reporting on the seven Republican senators who chose to spend America’s day of independence in Moscow. The Moscow Times reported it with glee. Who needs peeing prostitutes when we have Republican senators openly fawning over and courting the government of a murderer and human rights abuser?

I’m not waiting on Mueller time. It is quite clear that we are in deep with Russia and these are some of the stooges who are dragging us there. While I’m pretty sure that the financial entanglements of Trump et al. are fairly damning, the extortion would not be complete without the complicit behavior of Republican sycophants. We’re in deep shit. I need to brush up on my Russian, because apparently if I want news about what representatives of my government are up to, I’ll be reading it in Cyrillic.

Here is some actual news:

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, July 3, 2018 Report on the intelligence community’s assessment of Russian interference and influence on our elections.

How anyone could read this bipartisan report and not wonder if our Republican Moscow tourists are not compromised is beyond reason.

Mid-terms and Celebrities

canstockphoto10803271Forget about 2020 elections. Keep your eye on the ball. Besides, the way things are going, there won’t be an election in 2020. I’ve heard enough about Oprah and Michael Avenatti to know that some of the electorate have lost their ever-loving minds to the Trump philosophy that winning is everything and that being a TV celebrity is winning. I have a stick up my ass and think most TV is pretty stupid, ergo people who are in that business are not intellectual giants with vision. They just have a job on TV with no relevant political experience.

Stop looking at the shiny objects. Make sure you are registered to vote prior to the midterm elections. I mean it. The way some states are purging their voter rolls, you might not be eligible to vote and not know it. You can verify your voter status and register using Voter.org’s tools.

*****

Onto Writing and Other Truths

While my vacation did nothing to boost my energy, refresh my perspective, or even allow me a decent night’s sleep (did I mention it was 102°F?), it did make me grateful to come home and anxious to get back into the groove.

It was a reminder that no matter what is going on in the world, no matter how dire the news is, there is work to be done at home. I am useless to movements, protests, action without sleep and self-care. The world will not be a better place if I deteriorate or neglect my family and friends.

Writing has been a slog, but I should at least celebrate that I have been writing every canstockphoto42901280.jpgsingle day since late November. Even on vacation, I pulled out my laptop and got writing done. This strikes me as a small miracle and is a testament to the power of daily habits. I started off making myself write 250 words the minute I logged into my computer. Now I write anywhere from 700-1200 words in a sitting, something I could not have imagined before.

Earlier this week, I sat down and watched Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette”. I usually don’t watch anything current, but I like standup. Her special was so much more than that – it felt like a call out to humanity. It has me thinking a lot about the nature of personal truth – what we leave out or put in and why we make the choices we do. And how those choices can crush us or lift us up. Sometimes inspiration comes from unexpected places.

TGS Writers’ Book Club Reminder: The August Selection is a writer’s how-to, Understanding Show, Don’t Tell (and Really Getting It) by Janice Hardy. Follow the blog for updated selections, writer-reader guidelines, and discussions. The July 15th-31st discussion forum is about There are Little Kingdoms by Kevin Barry (Short Stories).

Staying Technicolor

My week off from blogging served no particular purpose. While I wrote about reading more and chilling, I also had to hit the road to do a two-state tour of family members I hadn’t seen in years. We visited Iowa and Kansas, which welcomed us with open, sweaty arms and no pretense. It was 102 the day we headed home from the Sunflower State.

canstockphoto1370502We stayed in a cabin on a lake near Lawrence, Kansas for a few days to avoid a hotel, furtively dashing from car to cabin in an effort not to melt. I did a fair amount of reading and writing and got my butt kicked at cards and Scrabble, but did alright during lightning rounds of Taboo. There were ticks, spiders, and turkey vultures. Everything lovely had hidden to stay cool.

We thought traveling north would give us some relief, but we arrived home in Minnesota, disheveled and sweaty, to 100°F/37°C. So I am home, not with a refreshed perspective, but sticky and irritable.

While I avoided the news more than usual during the week, I received my New York Times updates. Byte-sized reminders of badness. I inwardly groaned, then turned back to reading the latest issue of The Paris Review. I read a long interview of László Krasznahorkai, a Hungarian writer, who talked about his work as a novelist and his experiences working under a Communist regime.

It’s no coincidence that I have a curiosity about artists working in repressive regimes. I think that we are headed for some high times with authoritarians in this country, where the pall of killjoy conservatism will hang over us for years to come.

There was an editorial by Dave Eggers in The New York Times yesterday talking about our White House being devoid of culture – empty of poetry, music, books, art. These are not valued by members of the current administration. Joy only comes in “winning”. To paraphrase one commenter: I’d feel sorry for the man if he weren’t destroying the world.

canstockphoto29686267I can’t imagine living in a world without music, words, and art to inspire, lift my spirits, and inform my humanity. Appreciating art is about empathy – letting in the words, images, and ideas of others. For people like me, who would rather pretend the world isn’t run based on who has money, art seems less grubby, like I don’t need to hide my greed for it. Unlike the current occupant in the White House, I want my world to have windows, not mirrors.

No matter how coarse, cruel, and dull our political life is, art will always matter. Even if stripped of tools, public exposure, and freedom – art has always been the lifeline to the soul of a people. That we are being overrun by soullessness is the irony of the rising power of religious, cash-heavy politics.

canstockphoto7431966.jpgThere are those who would argue that money, food, health – these are the things that matter and art is secondary. Sure, if you’re dead, you aren’t painting landscapes, writing bad poetry, or fumbling your way through a song. But what’s the point of being alive, if you are soul-impoverished?

I push myself to read and take in culture above my pay grade, while feeling a degree of squeamishness about high-minded snobbery. Growing up poor meant that, with the exception of the public library, much of what is ascribed to culture, was out of reach. It wasn’t until college that I began to branch out, see live performances, go to readings, etc. As I clambered into middle class, had more disposable income, and more access in a metro area, I have taken advantage of the opportunities to see musicals, orchestras, plays, and exhibits.

Bcanstockphoto53549768ut art is not just museums, string quartets, and Broadway. If you go into any small town, there are people creating intricate quilts, experimenting with photography, playing with other local musicians. It might just be one weird dude creating sculptures from cow dung, but art is as ubiquitous as our human imaginations.

And it can make a difference.

In Lawrence, Kansas they shot a 1983 film called “The Day After”. Until 2009 was considered the highest rated television film in TV history. It has been described as a cold-hearted, fictional depiction of the aftermath of a nuclear attack. In President Reagan’s autobiography, he wrote that the film was effective and left him greatly depressed. But it changed his mind on nuclear policy and was reflected in the negotiations of a treaty with the Soviet Union years later.

canstockphoto5432485But what if your art isn’t going to change anything on the world stage? What if we’re all plodding along with our bottle cap art, our soggy word missives to the world, our plaintive bloggy bleats? What if the internet is suddenly no longer available to the common person? Or cultural knowledge is limited to what the state wishes us to see, hear, and read?

Do we cease to exist as creators of art? Do we stop imagining a better life, a different life? Do we stop self-entertaining, telling stories, making bee-bop-chicka-boom sounds with whatever we’re banging away at? Hell no. If anything, art becomes more necessary than ever. It becomes resistance to the dull gray repression. It is the color and sound that keeps us human, reminds us of the world beyond suited, greedy men and pious, malevolent women who pull strings to create a world in their image.

canstockphoto6658146While I have not renewed my spirits, I still have fire in the belly to write, to create, to be part of the bulwark against these flat, angry humans who seek to make the world smaller and fear-based. I think we, the poets, writers, musicians, painters, dung sculptors, are going to have to up our game. In the words of Chuck Wendig, we need to art harder. Vote, but create. Resist and protest, but imagine and design and sing and write and dance. It’s on us to keep the world from turning gray.

Bullies, Bystanders, or Bravehearts?: Questions of Civic Participation

There is an argument I consistently have with myself regarding civil discourse. In theory, I believe in civility. I believe in thoughtful discussion. Whatever vulgarity or cuss words I’ve used here, have always been of my own volition, albeit I have taken more opportunities of late to use them. I am an angry person. I believe in justice and I loathe deliberate ignorance.

canstockphoto11106690For all the understanding and tolerance we are supposed to extend to people who tell us liberalism is a mental disease and that they’re giddy about these current circumstances, we get very little in return. The message is that we are to fall in line and adore their great leader or else what? They’ll call us names? Vote in spite? Threaten us with violence?

Reading comments from people who seem to adore the president and his mafia, I am completely baffled by the appeal. But I’ve never understood celebrity worship or the idea that being unfiltered is somehow preferable to being thoughtful. I’ve never invested my sense of self in strangers on TV or politicians bloviating over donuts. I don’t get my news from Facebook or Twitter. I know that reality TV is curated bullshit. I’m not going to wear clothes with people’s names on it, whether it be Tommy Hilfiger or Trump. I am no one’s standard bearer or billboard.

And that’s what I find so baffling. I grew up in a poor working class family. I learned several skills or beliefs in this environment: 1) That nobody is going to fix my life 2) How to spot a bullshitter a mile away 3) Television is fake and politicians lie. I met people all along the way with the same beliefs. Those are the people who progressed, got out of poverty, worked hard to get an education and most, if not all, are solidly middle class now.

Whcanstockphoto3529451en I saw the chanting crowds in Minnesota yesterday during another feed-his-ego rally, it made me feel ill. There were so many people at the church of Trump. So many people slavishly cheering and grinning and repeating tired mantras. So many people worshiping at his feet. It must have been very gratifying for him, that he could say or do anything with impunity and people would still hold him up as a false idol, clap and cheer and act like glorifying him would somehow raise them up. It was grotesque.

Does it make a difference that there were protesters, yelling, carrying signs? Not to the Trump supporters. Those protesters are for people like me – letting me know that I am not alone in my disgust with this administration, encouraging me to wage protest in my own way. Protesters are important to those of us who eschew crowds, but feel isolated in the face of authoritarianism. It’s a public message – we’re not laying down for the jackboots to march all over us.

But it does bring us back to the issue of public discourse. I’ve been having a come to Jesus moment with myself (which is a really funny thing for an atheist to say). I keep thinking of that Martin Luther King quote:

First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.

Reverend Martin Luther King, Letter from the Birmingham Jail, 1963

canstockphoto32473828The idea of negative peace and being devoted more to order than justice is something that plagues moderate middle class white people. We’re not all inherently cruel or uncaring, but we mistake the lack of violence or strong language or raised voices to mean that things are quietly being worked through and that if something really bad is going to happen, the government will prevent it. We were raised to believe in Big Daddy and that there would be things that wouldn’t happen in our beloved America.

But that is not the case. Most people of color, women, chronically ill, vulnerable children and the elderly know that the system turns a blind eye to systematic abuse, gaps in care, and cries for help. That power and wealth corrupts absolutely and disconnects people from their humanity. That leaders, those who can truly maintain a balance between personal ambition and that amorphous concept, the common good, are far and few between.

What we don’t get is that we are the stopgap, the brakes, the safety net, the protection against authoritarianism. We have to choose not to be bystanders, not snapping selfies in front of tent cities on U.S. soil, chatting up the ICE agent while fearing the bogeyman foreigner. What does our country need from us now?

canstockphoto6397204Many of the words I read from Trump supporters are no longer part of any rationale. They’re mainly spewing cutesy insulting names, parroting lies with no underlying facts, sending links to un-sourced, biased news stories, using the polemics of either-or for every single argument. Gun control = no guns. Pro-choice = drive-through abortions. Civil liberties for all = war on religion. Free speech = no consequences for said speech. Political correctness = silence, not civility. They’re digging in, not listening, not thinking.

Does it make a difference if I call the president a bastard? Have I, too, come to mistake strong words for strength? Have I adopted a bully’s approach to discourse? Or will I be the moderate white person – choosing peace over justice, order over resistance? And am I succumbing to the unthinking, blind rhetoric of both sides, falling prey to the false equivalencies equating those who fight for justice and those who just fight?

These are tough questions that have been unraveling in my brain over the last week, because I am trying to find a better way forward. Not for peace, but for integrity and progress and so that someday, I can look back, and know that I didn’t just let it happen.

What do you think of the public discourse?

Is fighting fire with fire necessary or is there a better way?

What truly makes a difference?

Fearless Friday: Tested Integrity

Adding a weekly feature to this blog a month ago was like assigning myself homework. I was never a great student, usually saved by my test-taking skills and overcompensation on writing assignments (imagine that). So here is my caveat – I’ll do it when I can and sometimes it will look strangely like me working out some issues.

canstockphoto7663084This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about anger and integrity. I’ve always been a pretty intense person, but the last couple of years have tapped into a social/cultural and political anger that has magnified because of the sheer crudity of the discourse. And I’m tired. Sometimes it’s exhausting to sustain the belief that I, as an individual, have power or can make any difference at all on the larger landscape.

For the last couple of years, I’ve slowly talked myself into doing all sorts of things I wouldn’t normally do. I’ve joined a political party, become a member of a voting rights organization, and forced myself to be more engaged with others than I want to be. I’m an introvert, but with a fierce belief that if I do nothing, I have to keep my trap shut. And that’s not happening.

canstockphoto39922182The thing is, I’m still working within systems within systems. And these are the very systems that have made the wealth-pillagers our political leaders. I’m also working from a very comfortable place – I am white, have a home and health insurance and enough money to buy chocolate when I want it. The system supports this life for me.

Over the years, I’ve gotten on my high horse about voting. I still believe it is an important right, but the elections of 2000 and 2016 showed me that many of our votes don’t matter, due to an antiquated system that gives undue weight to land mass over people. The system itself is flawed. Is my participation in it akin to collusion? I don’t know.

I’ve begun to think about what it really looks like to stand for one’s beliefs, to be assertive about integrity, and what dissent means.

Welcome to Fearless Friday.

Feacanstockphoto13410470rless Fridays are about lives lived in spite of our fears, living a life that is about curiosity, compassion, and courage. If you just got published, something wonderful happened to you, you witnessed an act of kindness or bravery, or you have someone in your life who amazes you, drop your story into my contact page or email it to TheGreenStudy (at) comcast (dot) net and I’ll run it on a Fearless Friday. If you’re a blogger, it’s an opportunity to advertise your blog, but this is open to anyone who would like to share.  These will be 100-300 word stories, subject to editing for clarity and space.

Meaningful Patriotism

Wcanstockphoto55158483hen thinking about the courage it takes to dissent from prevalent culture or politics, we don’t have to look any further afield than Colin Kaepernick,  whose small gesture created a cultural firestorm. LitHub ran an excerpt of Howard Bryant’s The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism. Mr. Kaepernick sacrificed his athletic career and monetary gain for his belief that he could not stand for injustice.

It is likely that he had no idea what that small gesture would entail, but even as the cost became apparent, he was steadfast. As a veteran, I am grateful for someone who stood against knee-jerk patriotism – all that “thank you for your service” nothingness and magnetic bumper ribbons. If the flag and anthem mean something, make them really mean something today – like justice and equality in our society, and judicious use of military lives abroad.

Radical Rudeness

canstockphoto19013767Stella Nyanzi is a Ugandan dissident. We have a lot of issues in America, but when it comes to courage, we often work within parameters. There are countries that make it a crime to criticize their leaders or government. Ms. Nyanzi’s favorite insult is calling someone “a pair of buttocks“, which has landed her in all sorts of trouble. The for-profit prisons in our country would fall over themselves for laws like that here, because most of us would be in prison.

I think about her choices – to be quiet in the face of injustice or to be loud and defiant and have the full weight of the government come down on her. What choice would you make?

The Fearless Fourth Estate

The most tiresome phrase used by the president et al is “fake news”. That people are so willing to throw multiple babies out with the bath water is laziness personified. Lately I’ve been listening to a New York Times series called Caliphate. Listening to Rukmini Callimachi as she interviews former ISIS fighters and goes to dangerous places in more ways than one, makes me tremendously grateful.

Despite the national derision and specifically the canstockphoto51852868mortal danger, journalists and photographers risk their lives to tell us the stories we would never know otherwise. It matters and it is important. Shrieking “fake news” all the time is just dumbed-down cynicism – an indicator that critical thinking has stepped out for a smoke. And really, critical thinking is all you need to figure out what is likely factual news.

Leaving Hypotheses Behind

I keep thinking about the fact that I need to do something that is not easy or convenient for me. I go to a lot of meetings these days with a notebook. I hate meetings. I have volunteered to chair committees and research initiatives, also a rather loathsome task. So there’s that. But I keep asking myself the question: how far would I go for my beliefs? These are the days we live in – where the possibility that my answer may be tested.

 

TGS Writers’ Book Club Reminder: Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward is the May Reading Selection. Discussion forum opens on May 15th. The June Selection is a collection of poetry, Afterland by Mai Der Vang. Follow the blog for updated selections, writer-reader guidelines, and discussions.