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Hanging on to little things

As an artist by trade, and in how I view the world, I always pay attention to the first projects I work on after a major event.  Sometimes markers of time, such as first and last projects of the year. Sometimes tragedies, like 9/11, or a terrible natural disaster.  Sometimes a time of worry, like The Great Recession.

This is one of those times.

Business has been slow; October and November always are.  I didn’t work directly with a client until 2 days ago – a quick project, a little bee.  I often ask people, why this image? why now?  She’d always wanted a bee, she said, but the Now was because of the election. She’d been saying to herself: Be here now. Be Strong. Be Resolute. Be Compassionate. Be Aware. Be Committed.

She teared up telling me, she has two sons who are gay; on the 11th, one of their friends was beaten by attackers saying (as we’re hearing all too often) Trump was president now, fuck you faggot, etc etc etc.  I teared up listening. I told her about Pantsuit Nation.  I told her the 2018 midterms were more important than ever. We committed to The Fight, without knowing what exactly that was yet.  We became allies.

Yesterday, my client was a Native woman, getting her tribal number and a feather on her forearm.  She works with the public, a small, demure woman with a sparkling smile even in these days of fear. She has no visible tattoo work, and hadn’t been tattooed for 11 years.

Why this design? Why now?

We had already talked about the election; we shared the feeling that, of course, we were disappointed Hillary didn’t win (she was also an enthusiastic Clinton supporter) but Trump and the racists he brings with are frightening on a whole different dimension. We had already established that we were allies.

Why this design? “They can’t take this away from me.”

Why now? She choked up. She didn’t need to tell me why.

.

After 9/11 happened, two of my first projects were the Japanese character for “peace.”  That was somehow comforting to me.  These two pieces after Nov. 8th, are soothing to me as well, but in a different way. In both of these women, there was a fight, a commitment. And in all three of us, there was the need to reach out, to find fellow fighters, to establish alliances, to find safety.  Ahead of commitment to specific actions, this is how we network.

Connections

On the 12th, I was still shell-shocked from the election. But I was starting to recover. I was starting to really feel the fight, the need to dig in.

I went out to breakfast with my pal, a small cafe where the tables are jammed in tight, and the clientele ranges all over the map when it comes to politics. We spoke in hushed tones about the coming storm, our fears, our terror at the racism and xenophobia and sexism being released in our nation, our ideas about how to dig in and how to support the folks around us who are really frightened by the potential disasters ahead.

Late in the breakfast, I caught the eye of one of the women sitting 20 inches away. She spoke up immediately – she’d heard us talking, thanked us for some of the things we’d said, and nearly broke into tears saying, “I’m so scared right now.”

The four of us talked for 20 minutes or so, sharing our concerns, how hopeful we’d been, shored each other up.  There is something disturbing and touching about complete strangers opening up like this. I feel like there are going to be a lot of these moments over the coming weeks and months.  I am rethinking my tepid response to the Clinton campaign’s motto, Stronger Together.

Storm’s a-comin

Regroup
Reassess
Retrench
React
Recommit

yachats-11-nov-2016

This is the day I picked myself up off the floor of political defeat.  I went to the ocean to decompress, to cry, to get myself together.

I walked down to the edge of the cliff to watch the water, storming and pounding the basalt that makes up the rocky shorelines of the Oregon Coast.  I said to myself, completely aware of how sappy it sounds, “Maybe the ocean is feeling our pain.” and then “Nope, the ocean is just the ocean.”

The ocean endures. So will I.

 

For a woman who doesn’t have health insurance through my employer, is past childbearing, hasn’t met a sperm in person for about 30 years, and isn’t much affected by religious organizations, employment-based or otherwise, I sure can get my shorts in a bunch when it comes to the “should a religiously affiliated organization cover contraception” debate.

First of all, YES! they should. And their whining about offending their religious sensibilities really doesn’t track with me.

My main reason? that health insurance coverage? that’s not some gift bestowed by the company on the employee. That’s part of their pay, their compensation for the job they do.  It makes no more sense to me that the church (or church affiliated group) can dictate how a woman can use her health insurance than how she spends her paycheck once it lands in her very own hands.  Are they going to restrict her from buying contraception with her pay? of course not. Well, I suppose they might WANT to, but they basically can’t, and shouldn’t be able to.  Health insurance, being compensation for work done, should be exactly the same: if the coverage is offered in the plan (which it would be under the ACA provisions), the employer has no right to draw back on that compensation.

Second, plenty of religious organizations have no spiritual or dogmatic issue with contraception coverage.  Are we supposed to treat some religions different than others?

And third… well… seriously? This is the line in the sand these organizations are going to draw? With all the threats around the world, and even here in this Christian-friendly nation,* of actual harm to actual people, you’d think the churches might find something a little more meaningful to focus on. I’ll throw out a liberal handful: hunger, poverty, education and war spring easily to mind, but there are plenty of other things that would seem to trump the faux outrage over shelling out some bucks for health coverage that women will just use their paychecks for anyway.

*sigh*

This is why I don’t “do” religion.  Oh yes, there’s that problem where I don’t believe in deities, but the big one is the silly fits some believers wind themselves up in trying to defend silly extrapolations of religious fervor.  Once again, I am reminded of Woody Allen’s line from “Hannah and Her Sisters” – if Jesus came back right now and saw what was being done in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.


 

*yes, I do not believe in the war on Christianity. Big surprise, huh?  I don’t know, what with it being the most common religious affiliation, and what with all of DC going Christmas-crazy every year, and the whole economic cycle being tied to the Christmas celebration cycle, and churches getting tax breaks, and prayers over congress, inaugurations, and what have you… well, I’m just not convinced somehow.

I have no wacky uncles. Leading up to Thanksgiving, the interwebs were full of advice on how to deal with your crazy tea partier uncle and the theories he was sure to bring to the dinner table.

This year, as usual, I was blessed with a distinct lack of crazy uncles, and a table-full of mostly intelligent, liberal to lefty people who backed Obama, believe in universal health care, science and history, think the Republicans have been irresponsible troublemakers for the better part of 4 (or 12, or 30) years, and have no patience for the tea party, in the form of Uncle Jim or anyone else.

For this, I am truly thankful.

To be sure, in my family there are wacky uncles, and aunts, and cousins galore I’m sure, who are holed up in their tight little worlds, still trying to figure out how to get that Kenyan Muslin Usurper out of the White “It’s called that for a reason, ya know” House. There is a whole arm of the family in Eastern Washington and elsewhere who, I’m sure, are planted firmly in front of Fox News on a pretty regular basis, and who take their talk radio from the likes of Rush and Hannity.

But they’re not sitting at my dinner table. And I’m not really sorry about that. There was a time in the 1980s when my brother was a big fan of Rush Limbaugh and the right wing nut jobs of that day. Even though he railed wildly on extreme themes, was dangerously lacking in fact checking, and was downright rude to my girlfriend (he didn’t speak directly to her for 2 years), you could, sort of, have a conversation with the guy. Because he was a thinking man, after a while he shifted his views to more of a progressive Libertarian stance, and eventually  worked hard to get Obama elected in 2008.

Even back then, conversation was at least possible.

But the New Millennium version of the family right-wing nut job is a lot harder to deal with, and I’m very happy not to have the arguments of this era over the holiday meal. My larger extended family of right-wingers does their holiday on their own these last few decades (probably with Fox News tuned in somewhere in the background). At my own Thanksgiving table, we sit much in accord with each other, and it improves both the conversation and the digestion.

There are differences, to be sure, along our Democratic-to-Libertarian spectrum, but it’s founded in basic common ground: government, though prone to the failings of any large bureaucracy, can do good, and is how we pool our common interests and resources. All people are valuable. Religious freedom is serious stuff, and has nothing to do with protecting extreme Christians from having to acknowledge the very existence of other faiths or no faith. Women (and men) should be able to determine their own medical needs. A family is a family, straight, gay or otherwise. Education is valuable. Science is based on careful research and analysis. The world is not 6000 years old.

And I’d like to think that if a whacky uncle or three sat down at the table, we’d all be strong minded enough to actually have a great conversation together, to agree to disagree, to keep it sane out of sheer numbers, so many of “us” speaking truth as we see it to “them.” And I’d like to think we’d change some minds, open some doors, sweep the blight of right wing media lies from Uncle So-and-So’s thinking.

But I must admit, I’m glad I don’t have to.

I voted this last Friday, dropping my ballot into the box at the county Elections office down the street. I’ve followed the campaign pretty avidly, and I’m keyed up, waffling between optimism and terror that some statistical oddity, some stealing of the the vote, some awful twist will hand Romney the White House. Not just a GOP a White House, but a soulless White House.

I was incredibly on edge about the 2008 election, but in some ways this seems tighter, more determinative. The stakes do seem higher. While in retrospect I think McCain could have been an awful president, at the time I didn’t so much fear him as the Republicans already in the executive branch. I sincerely wanted Obama as president, but was feeling more grim than alarmed at the idea of McCain winning. And I was pretty sure he wouldn’t, for all the Sarah Palin related reasons you can supply.

This time it really is alarming to think of a Romney presidency. The man has no moral core when it comes to governance; he swings where the winds of opportunism guide him. He can be bought.

Compare that to an administration that, despite the heaviest partisan opposition I can remember, got quite a number of things done, changes that expanded civil rights, job opportunities, the manufacturing industry, put constraints on the health insurance industry and opened paths to getting health care coverage, and, oh yeah, some military stuff and dragging the economy away from the brink of complete collapse.

Oh yes. I enthusiastically, proudly, confidently cast my vote for Obama.

The Clinton Magic

Jamelle Bouie reflects on Clinton’s wonderful speech at the DNC convention in Charlotte:

What made this speech great was Clinton’s ability to forge a connection with viewers through this mix of charisma, intelligence and deep policy knowledge.

via Big Dog, Unleashed.

I loved the speech. Figuring (correctly) it was supposed to be a 20-or-so minute speech, I was never bored for the three quarters of an hour it actually took.  I don’t think the audience was either – I saw a few people shifting from one foot to the other, but I never saw anyone looking bored.

I love Clinton – I confess I’m an unabashed Clinton supporter, have been since he first appeared on Arsenio Hall’s show in 1992 when he was waging his unlikely but ultimately successful campaign. That show sold me – google it – and I’ve been a fan based on policy level from just before his nomination and ever since.  And – please note, trend watchers – I say this in the absence of many a woman’s strange attraction to the Big Dog. That’s not why I adore him.  No, I adore his mind. Honest.

In any case, one of the many things I adore, and something that played strong and true at the DNC, is that Clinton NEVER talks down to his audience. He always assumes that we have the ability to understand the deep stuff, the nuanced stuff.  I don’t imagine he thinks his audience is predominantly well-educated, particularly in the subtle workings of the economy, yet he always talk to us as if we can understand. He might use slightly less wonkish language, but he never seems to doubt our intelligence.

You know, I imagine that I’m not the only listener to respond this way. And Clinton’s assumption of our intelligence – not education, but intelligence – plays not just to our own self-importance, but more importantly, to our ability to think about what this election means, in the deepest sense, to the voters.

Love ya, Big Dog. Thanks so much!

Andrew Sullivan has been tracking the Ad Wars between the Obama and Romney campaigns.

New research from Kantar Media’s CMAG paints a dramatic picture of the unprecedented amount of ads that voters are being exposed to this cycle – as much as three to twelve times as many as in past elections:

via Ad War Update: The Ad Election – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast.

It occurs to me that this will be the first presidential election in which I won’t be inundated by campaign ads. I won’t even be coming home to robo-calls from Susan Sarandon and Robert Redford, now that I’ve been land-line free for 3 years.  I won’t be completely ad-free, but my main contact with campaign ads would normally be the TV – and in the light of the recession and the fact that I work when most of my fave shows are on, and tune into them on websites, not on cable… well, suffice it to say: it made the best sense to dump all the expensive cable packages, and I won’t be seeing many ads this year unless I intentionally que them up online.

Weird. And somehow comforting!

But I will still miss my celebrity voice mails….

Ta-Nehisi Coates comments on a New York state assemblyman’s sexual harassment of his staff, after the accused grudgingly admitted he made a “mistake” – really? You think? Prompting this from my new favorite blogger:

Sexual harassment laws were basically invented for people who think “I’d like it better if you didn’t have a bra on” qualifies as management-speak.

via Why We Have Sexual Harassment Laws – Ta-Nehisi Coates – The Atlantic.

And part of what I love is that the writer is a man.  20 years ago, I would have been truly amazed to read this coming from most male writers, certainly the ones writing for magazines like The Atlantic. Now, I am pleasantly surprised to find a succinct line of criticism, which could have just as easily come from a female perspective.

Things do change!

“Something that ordinary men do”

…..We refuse to accept that nice guys rape, and they do it often. Part of the reason we havent accepted it is that its a painful thing to contemplate – far easier to keep on believing that only evil men rape, only violent, psychotic men lurking in alleyways with pantomime-villain moustaches and knives, than to consider that rape might be something that ordinary men do. Men who might be our friends or colleagues or people we look up to. We dont want that to be the case. Hell, I dont want that to be the case. So, we all pretend it isnt. Justice, see?

Actually, rape is very common. [….] Its so common that – sorry if this hurts to hear – there’s a good chance you know somebody who might have raped someone else. And theres more than a small chance he doesnt even think he did anything wrong, that he believes that what he did wasnt rape, couldnt be rape, because, after all, hes not a bad guy.

via Laurie Penny: Its nice to think that only evil men are rapists – that its only pantomime villains with knives in alleyways. But the reality is different – Commentators – Opinion – The Independent.

[emphasis mine]

Good post, keying off the author’s reaction to Julian Assange’s supporters defending him against rape charges.

And where it took me was to a conversation – many connected conversations, actually – between myself and a college buddy, Jack. He would tell me, all men look at every woman and assess her sexually, even if all it amounts to is “too old, too young, too ugly, too married” – whatever the result, his point was that men assess women sexually all the time. He suspected it was hard-wired, shaped by social attitude and custom, but hard-wired in essence. Fact of life, maybe a sad one, but something to remember when thinking about how men interact with women, and with the world around them.

His other point was that any man – and he included himself – is capable of rape. And that for most men, himself included, the sense of right/wrong, the breaking of a kind of  interpersonal social contract (this was an interdisciplinary political science program we were enrolled in, after all), the shear horror of hurting another person, keeps them from committing rape.

That was scary stuff to hear. I don’t know that Jack was right in every detail of what he spoke about, but I do think he was correct, essentially. At first it made me nauseous – and Jack knew that it would have that kind of effect on me. The first time we spoke of these things (I remember it well, sitting late at night in the common room at an lake-side academic retreat in the foothills of the Olympics) Jack was very gentle – I think he knew the effect on me and another woman sitting with us. But he wanted us to know – not to terrify us or impress us or some other twisted “guy” thing. He wanted us to know because he thought all women should be aware of that, but there were few women he could talk to about it. Mandy and I heard it in the sense I think he meant it: an offering on a subject that is too scary to talk about most of the time, something men don’t talk much with each other about, and especially scary for men and women to talk about together.

But we did. And Jack and I threaded that hard truth through many conversations afterwards. I’m still having that conversation, mostly within my own head, because there are few women, and fewer men, who want to talk about it.  Still, it resonates, because it holds truth, because it helps me think carefully about rape, not knee-jerk style as the tendency runs in us quick-assessment humans.

Thank you, Jack. Thanks for trusting me with that insight you have about yourself and other men.

Writing it, reading it there on the screen above, seems weird. I’m thanking this guy, who I’ve only had occasional contact for the last 3 decades, for telling me that all men have a propensity to rape? that all men assess women (or men) sexually all of the time? Well … no. I’m thanking him for being willing to talk deeply with me and any one else willing about something so essential to the subject of rape, but too threatening to talk about openly for most people. I thank him for being the catalyst that took a suspicion in the back of my mind, and pulling it out into the air, where it was still scary, but less threatening, somehow.

It’s one thing for a woman to tell another woman that she thinks all men are capable of rape. It’s another thing for men and women to talk about it together. It reminds me a little of how hard it is for an honest conversation to happen about white racism in a mixed race group of people – not impossible, and after all, we’ve been working on this one for a while, but still hard. White guilt confounds honest discussion about race – “but I’m not a bad person!” or “some of my best friends/ political activism/ church work/ reading/ musician/ actor/etc” just being the start of a whole line of defensiveness which can waylay a good conversation on race. Discussions about rape between men and women are a bit like this. Awkward, defensive, faltering.

But you have to start somewhere. The conversation that Jack and I started in 1984 seems a long time ago in some ways, very present for me in others. After the initial nausea came anger, resentment, and a lot of deep thought. I think the best thing I pulled from all that was the conviction that if all men are capable of rape, most men are capable of learning – and do learn – not to rape. And if we talk deeply, honestly about all kinds of rape, not just the stranger-in-an-alley version, we have a better chance of raising up successive generations of men who “get it.” Who don’t rape. Who don’t turn their eyes when other men rape. Who teach their sons and nephews and students where to draw the lines between their desire for sex or power, and actually harming someone.

Some hard conversations lead through dark places to hope, to gradual change, to better … human communities? well, whatever the lingo, to groups of humans who hurt each other less.  Maybe less and less as the millennia churn by.

A girl can hope.

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