No Newsom Recall!

I know I recently announced that I’m heading in a new direction on this blog, and I am, and intended to leave politics behind, and I do, but sometimes something is just too important to ignore — and that something is this bullshit recall election in California.

The California Republican Party believes their best shot at unseating a legitimately and fairly elected governor is by staging an off-year recall election with nothing else on the ballot. They’re banking on good old American laziness — we just can’t be bothered to color in a box and drop a paper in the mail, let alone show up to vote. The cost of this longshot soft coup? $267 million.

$267 million.

That’s not money they spent. That’s what it will cost California counties to hold this election. In other words, you and I paid for this sham election. That right there should be enough to motivate you to vote “No” on the ballot to recall Governor Gavin Newsom.

What a colossal waste of money. They could have waited ONE year until the regular gubernatorial election, and simply supported the Republican candidate they thought had the best chance of running against a governor, who, in the midst of the worst economic crisis California has had in a long while (thank you, COVID) as well as apocalypse-level wildfires, has done an outstanding job of keeping California from falling over the edge. Were his decisions comfortable, or pleasant? No. But they were necessary. Anyone who’s ever raised children, and had responsibility for their wellbeing and safety, knows that many times the most beneficial decisions are the least popular with those affected by those decisions. Governing is no different.

Just to fluff up the “adding insult to injury” aspect of this sham recall election, the current front runner is radio talk show hose Larry Elder, and his television commercials are so slimy, I’m amazed they don’t slide right off the television screen and coagulate in a pool of stinky goo on the floor. In a nutshell, Elder blames Newsom for all sorts of expenses, from higher gas taxes to higher cost of living, and none of these things are decided by Newsom. They’re decided upon by the state legislature. Elder surely knows this (unless he’s a complete idiot), and he also knows that tossing those things out there will attract un-thinking people like cats to a toy mouse. Are you smarter than a cat? Then don’t fall for this nonsense and manipulation.

There is plenty about this Republican Recall attempt to overthrow election results to be outraged about, but I have one more little piece of evidence that infuriates me, and it should infuriate you too: Long before the pandemic or any of its related ramifications, the California Republican Party was plotting to overthrow Newsom immediately upon his successful victory in the 2018 election, and I have proof.

It was September of 2019, and my husband and I were strolling around the grounds at the Draft Horse Classic in Grass Valley, and amongst the many booths of horse-related items was a decidedly far-right wing vendor, based upon the many items and signs spewing the rage and hate of the fringe right. Above all this vile content hung a sign from the Nevada County Republican Party: Recall Newsom. They even had a petition going for people to sign. I laughed out loud, because for one thing, Newsom enjoyed a healthy victory in 2018, was off to a fine start, and was (and is) well-liked by the majority of California voters.

“That’s not even a thing,” I called out to the pinchy-faced malcontents manning the booth, and kept on walking. The next day, we were out strolling the grounds again, and I saw the sign again, and decided to take a photo because it was so completely ludicrous, I wanted to document it. It’d make a great sarcastic social media post. But, I never did get around to making a post, because taking an easy and cheap pot-shot at delusional Republicans was too easy. At some point, harping about their blatant self-servitude is just too easy… that old “fish in a barrel” thing. Besides, with all of Trump’s antics at the time, those small-fish California Republicans didn’t seem worth the effort.

But here we are, three years later, and I’m really glad I took that photo at that booth that day, because it highlights just how shallow and shameless the California Republican Party is. They have been plotting this Republican Recall since the day Newsom was sworn in. The pandemic was just a convenient excuse. The level of sleaze is just over the top. And we MUST stop it — not merely for Newsom’s sake, but to squash this slimeball attempt to overturn an election. Stopping it is so easy: Vote NO on the recall, whether on your mailed paper ballot, or at the polls tomorrow.

You may like Newsom, you may not. But surely you don’t like being manipulated, and surely you can think of far better ways to spend $267 million.

NO on the recall.

No, no, NO.

This sign was posted in September 2019, less than a year after Governor Gavin Newsom was elected.

New directions, and a new book too

So, it’s not like I haven’t been writing. I just haven’t been writing here.

From the looks of this blog, you might think I’ve been in outer space and just transmitted a post occasionally from across the universe. It’s not entirely incorrect — but I’ve journeyed to inner space, not outer space. I’ve been more focused on writing books than blogs, and to be honest, I think I’ve sort of lost my commentary mojo. It’s not that I don’t like writing anymore, it’s just that my interest in harping about politics has slowly rolled to a stop.

After nearly 30 years of writing columns, many of which were political in nature, I started to ponder what good any of the kvetching and bitching did. Did I change the world? Nope. It’s still spinning along without my help. Did I alter the course of anything? No. (Evidence: Hillary didn’t win.) Did I change minds? No. People who agree with you cheer, and people who don’t boo from the stands. I started wondering if it’s really worth the time and effort if all I’m really doing is pouring salty talk in open wounds.

When I survey the meager posts I’ve produced over the last couple years, well… aren’t I just a drag! What a Debbie Downer! To be fair, the last few years were also a drag, and there weren’t many lovely, uplifting things to write about. Well, commentary-wise, that is. Off screen, there are all sorts of things to write about! Horses, for example. I wrote a whole book about them, and their spiritual, evolutionary connection to humankind. “The Elements of Horse Spirit — The Magical Bond Between Humans and Horses” was published in June 2020 — right at the height of the covid pandemic, social justice protests, and the perpetual Trumpster dumpster fire. So, it was difficult to raise my little hand and say, “Hey… I have a super cool book out, and I’d love if you gave it a look!” So much for a splashy debut. My little ripple of accomplishment was lost in a raging sea of fear, anger, and relentless stress.

Oh yeah. Speaking of raging, there was a fire too, last year. (“A fire.” Understatement of the century.) The LNU Complex fire last August transformed this area into the Apocalypse. The whole world was burning down. So, it was nearly impossible for my little book to make an audible peep in the cacophony of the 2020 shitshow. But, this is 2021, and we’re moving on. Progress — both political and medical — is grinding forward. President Biden is the soothing salve our country’s third degree burns needed, and we’re slowing the spread of covid. Well, some of us are — the ones who are smart enough to get vaccinated. The rest? Well… I suppose natural selection will play out in real time. Get goddamned vaccinated, people!

OK. That’s as close as I’ll tiptoe toward social/political commentary, because I’m striving to change the trajectory of my writing. There’s a glut of writers out there already spewing a sea of opinion on what’s happening in our country and world, and frankly, do we really need one more? I don’t think so. Not that I won’t quip and quote here and there, but I have to be very careful, because abstaining from writing political/social commentary is like abstaining from alcohol. One little sip, and I’ll be passed out in an alley with an empty vodka bottle and a few stray cats.

What will I write about instead? Uplifting topics. Thoughtful topics. Helpful topics. In “Horse Spirit,” for example, yes, it’s about horses, but it’s more about how horses (even on a strictly abstract, spiritual, magical level) can change your life. They can inspire and strengthen you to achieve any goal. They are powerful spiritual allies. However, I didn’t rest my writing laurels on their strong backs. After finishing that book, I launched into a second: “Pagan Curious — A Beginner’s Guide to Nature, Magic & Spirituality.” I’m expecting it to be published in January, but it’s already got it’s own homepage on the Llewellyn Worldwide website, and you can preorder it right now! And, here’s a bonus! Every time someone buys one of my books, an angel has an orgasm! Come on… make an angel’s day… they have no genitalia, so they really appreciate it!

For those of you who’ve been with me for a really long time, like “newsprint” time, you may be even more surprised that I’m writing about Paganism than you are that I wrote about horses. I didn’t touch upon those topics much in print, but bear in mind that what I wrote about in print was like showing you the palm of my hand. That’s all I showed publicly. Little by little, I’m bringing the rest of me into the sunlight.

As for horses, they have enamored me since I took my first breath. I’m sure my first word wasn’t “mommy” or “daddy,” but “pony.” I grew up with horses, used to ride show jumpers, and my family was heavily involved in horse racing (a potential future book will be, “How to Go Bankrupt in One Year or Less: Get a Racehorse.”) I had a very long drought of horses — about 35 years — and returned to them in my 50s. It’s a pretty amazing story, and it changed my life. (It’s all in the book!)

As for Paganism, you probably caught glimpses of that here and there, and chalked it up to “Tree-Lovin’, Whale-Huggin’ Old Hippie.” True enough on the surface, but the story goes much deeper. Like my love of horses, I was always Pagan. I just didn’t have a vocabulary for it, or even know what it was on a conscious level, until my 40s. My thirsty search for a spiritual connection to nature and the Universe was quenched when I randomly toddled into a Pagan harvest festival. In screenwriting, they call this a “plot point” — where the entire story spins and takes off in another direction. That festival was the plot point of my life. Nothing was ever the same after that. Finally, I knew what I was, what I believed in, how I wanted to live. It was like that moment when Dorothy steps out of her black and white Kansas house in Oz, and discovers a world in full color.

So, how about you? Have you always wondered what those crystals are for, or what those strange symbols mean, or why that drum circle or the full moon calls to you? Why you can feel the sea or the forest? Why a certain animal keeps inexplicably appearing to you, or why particular herbs or oils make you feel better? Well, my friend, you just may be “Pagan Curious” too. Like my horse story, it’s all in the book!

But, back to this blog. I’m setting it on a new path, and keeping social and political commentary to a bare minimum. Humor? Yes! Inspiration? Yes! Just a random here’s-something-to-smile-about? Yes! More of that, less of the other! Because although I’ve discovered I can’t change the world… I might be able to lift it up a bit. The path ahead can be bright, if we choose it to be. Let’s walk it together.

*****

My second book, “Pagan Curious — A Beginner’s Guide to Nature, Magic & Spirituality,” is available for preorder on the Llewellyn Worldwide website: https://www.llewellyn.com/product.php?ean=9780738766539

But what about the dead body?

What does it take for Congressional Republicans to grow some integrity, do the right thing, and place country over party? An insurrection orchestrated by a sitting President doesn’t meet the threshold? An angry mob destroying property and chanting death threats for members of Congress wasn’t enough? Lives lost in the wake didn’t trigger it? And now Republicans are asserting that an impeachment trial is unnecessary because it’s all “over and done with”? Following this logic, a murder trial is unnecessary because the victim is already dead.

People. We have a dead body here. It isn’t a “John Doe.” It’s our Constitution. It was assaulted by the President himself, who inflamed an angry, mindless mob to do his bidding, and then stood back and enjoyed the show.

Trump’s own inauguration speech four years ago was a dark, dystopian ulcer on the soul of this country, that grew as the weeks and months ground on. He referred to ending the American carnage in that speech and, ironically, created more carnage than any other president in history. And not merely in the figurative Constitutional sense on January 6, but in reality. More than 400,000 Americans — and the numbers climbing every day — are dead due to the Trump Administration’s feeble response to the COVID pandemic. Essentially the Trump Administration’s response was “pretend it’s not happening.”

Well, it’s happening. There are so many bodies stacking up, many cities are bringing in refrigeration trucks to store them all, and funeral homes are backed up for weeks. The culpability of the Trump administration in the lack of planning for this horrendous pandemic is now being disclosed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, who revealed last week that he was unable to tell the entire scientific truth at press conferences, and Dr. Deborah Birx, who revealed on Face the Nation last night that charts about the pandemic didn’t reflect the facts and figures she presented, and were instead fabricated by someone else. She didn’t specify who that “someone else” was, but… follow the stink and you’ll find the rotting flesh.

Isn’t Trump’s failure to deal with COVID and his obfuscation of scientific truth, and a train of corpses ten miles long, enough for impeachment? Pile on top of that the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building, with enraged, frothing domestic terrorists roaming the hallways and storming offices to find Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence so they could harm and possible murder them. If either of these two things combined, let alone both at once, aren’t grounds for impeaching a President enough, then the concept of “impeachment” is meaningless.

So, why impeach now? It’s not just to rub Trump’s orange nose in his own shit, it’s to ensure that he can’t hold public office ever again, even if he creates his own party. It’s to protect our country and our Constitution from ever being subjected to his incompetence and willful carnage again. The man is a criminal, and deserves to face justice, or the concept of “No one is above the law” is just a sad, tired little trope.

And yet, the Congressional Republicans are crowing, “No, no no! What we need now is unity!”

What utter horse shit.

To Republicans, “unity” means doing things the way they want. I’m sorry, but in my book, that type of unity is called “acquiescence.” There isn’t an ounce of integrity in a ton of Republicans. That said, Democrats historically do a lot of that sort of Republican “unity” in a naive belief that if they cooperate, so will Republicans. Learn from your mistakes, Democrats! Lucy is ALWAYS going to pull the football away, Charlie Brown! Aim your kick at her next time, not the ball! You must stop bringing poetry to a knife fight, and start toughening up or be plowed over by the Republican phalanx yet again.

Congressional Democrats, hear me. Please. If ever there was a time to grow some collective balls and do what must be done, this is it. You have the entire future of this country, its Constitution, and democracy itself at stake. Do not acquiesce. You hold justice in your hands, right here, right now, on February 9. Don’t let it slip through your fingers. You need to find 17 Republicans to stand with you, for the sake of our country. Maybe you can remind them how history — and voters — will judge them if they fail to perform their oaths of office to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Appeal to their self-serving natures and re-election prospects, which may be the only thing that resonates with them. Loyalty to the Constitution certainly doesn’t do it.

In the case of this non-existent pandemic response, it’s obvious who is responsible. In the case of the January 6 insurrection, you have Trump on tape giving the order to “charge.” And that’s exactly what his mob did. And no nonsense about, “Well, he didn’t personally charge into the Capitol with them.” More horse shit! Charles Manson died in prison for his responsibility for multiple murders, yet he was never even at the scene of the crimes. His lackeys did his work for him. And Manson? GUILTY. Even figurative blood on your hands is still blood in the eyes of the law. And Trump? His legacy is littered with corpses, both literal and figurative.

There’s a dead body lying there.

Someone is responsible.

Bring the killer to justice.

Not ready for kumbaya just yet

Yesterday was just so very amazing. It was as if golden angel honey love just poured over the entire country — world? — and soothed and sweetened all of humanity.

Well except for about half of our country. Nothing sweet in that half. But they can just sit there and be sour. Because today isn’t their day. It’s Joe Biden’s day, and Kamala Harris’ day, and a day of celebration for everyone who is so very done with Donald Trump and his daily dumpster fire of outrageous inhumanity. His minions will keep having their truck rallies and waving their big flags and hollering and shouting, but there’s a shelf life on that. Soon, COVID will be over, and there will be football and baseball and NASCAR again, and they’ll have an outlet for all that testosterone-soaked tribal rage and hate.

I’ve never had any use for professional sports. It bores me to tears. However, our many months spent under the thumb of COVID taught me that pro sports does have value: It pacifies those who have a deep, hard-wired need to defend their tribe and beat the snot out of anyone in a different animal pelt. Or uniform. Or political party. That’s their true driving force in this election: Their Red team needed to beat the Blue one, and that’s the sum total of their intellectual and political sophistication: Us good, Them bad.

Not to worry. Soon, COVID will be defeated, and the games will get going again, and we can plop them in front of the TV in their little red baseball caps, throw some Budweiser at them, and they’ll be as pacified as babies watching Sesame Street again, while the rest of us try to cobble together something that resembles normal.

Yesterday, I spent nearly the whole day in my comfy recliner, in my comfy PJs, and just basked in the glow of a return to normalcy and decency and honesty beaming from my television, as well as the jubilation from throngs of people celebrating in the streets (wearing masks of course, because they aren’t idiots), and I could feel my little hope nerve twitching… could it be? Could it be that this shitshow is really about to end? Could it be that racism, sexism, lying, cheating, bullying, willful ignorance, and destroying the environment and national alliances will soon be considered intrinsically bad things again? Could it be that making America suck Vladimir Putin’s balls will soon be recognized as humiliating again, and not a foreign relations strategy? Yes, my hope nerve… it’s twitching like a bunny’s ears at the first whiff of spring.

So, yesterday was a cocoon of comfy and cozy. Usually I need a fever and a hacking cough to huddle in a recliner for that many hours. On the other hand… it does feel a lot like “recovering” at this moment. Yes, I’m thrilled Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will usher in a new trajectory and tone for this country. Absolutely elated. But you know what? I’m also fucking exhausted.

I’m slowly realizing what four years of turning on the news each morning — my eyes wide in horror at whatever catastrophe and insult Trump created that day — has done to me… physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Every single day, that soulless sociopath chipped away at our democracy and our country, while complicit Congressional Republicans whistled and looked the other way. Even worse, people I know and like did the same.

I’m still having huge cognitive dissonance over people I formerly respected choosing to endorse the values (if you can call them that) that I hold vile. In my mind, they are cut from the same cloth as the very nice German people who looked the other way, even as they smelled the burning flesh from the Auschwitz ovens wafting on the breeze. I keep searching my soul on how to forgive people for endorsing what Trump stands for, and the only acceptable answer is some sort of epiphany, where they decisively and completely renouncing Trump. Repent and sin no more. But short of that — they’ve shown me who they really are, and I’m sorry, I can’t unring that bell. Like Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are — believe them.”

And to be clear — I’m not talking about real Republicans. I’m talking about Trump supporters, specifically. MAGAts. Republican and MAGAt are not interchangeable terms. They aren’t even similar. Not even in the same universe. Just hold John McCain up next to Trump and the difference is grotesquely obvious.

So, I know our President Elect wants us to immediately transition into kumbaya mode. Hold the phone there, pardner — love ya, love ya, love ya, but I need some time. I’m not there yet. After four years of non-stop trauma, I need some time to breathe and heal and process first. This has been an extremely abusive relationship. So the pummeling, punching, and kicking has stopped. I’m not just going to pop up with open arms and say, “Oh, I forgive you!” and kiss and make up.

When the stinging and bleeding stop, maybe we can reach political detente — going forward, we agree to stay in our own lanes and not drive each other into a ditch. That’s as optimistic as I can be at this moment in time. I’m not at the “forgive and forget” phase yet. SO not. Is this what a nice person would say? Nope. But I don’t feel like being nice at the moment. I’m in the throes of Trump PTSD. I’m less interested in making nice than I am in being self-protective, and ensuring that the abuser never has another opportunity to gain the upper hand again.

So, for awhile, we rest, we recuperate, we recover… eventually, hopefully, we heal. But we do not forget the true nature of those who would support the most corrupt, morally bankrupt individual who ever stepped foot in the White House. The cycle of domestic violence — of democratic violence — doesn’t stop until we make it stop. That begins with remembering what happened and resolving to never allow it to happen again. We can rest. But we cannot forget.

They’ve shown us who they are. Believe them.

But for now… rest. Because it’s been a fucking marathon, and I don’t know about you, but I am spent.

Portrait of a loser

My father was a loser.

At the age of 18, Henry Paul LoGuercio was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he was quickly transformed from the valedictorian of his military high school, student body president, and master of five languages into a soldier. Because of his academic success in military school, he was immediately made a 2nd Lieutenant in charge of a unit of soldiers.

They were shipped out in the midst of World War II, landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day in Normandy, France. Jumping off the ship and sloshing through the waves in full military gear, my father and his unit stormed the beach amid a hail of German bullets. Those who survived charged ahead and took refuge in a barn.

My father never spoke of his military service, other than to tell me what happened next: German war planes overhead strafed the building. He could hear the ackackack of the bullets whizzing through the ceiling and all around him. When he looked up, all around him were dead and dying soldiers. Right next to him was a dead soldier with his face completely blown off.

Miraculously, not one bullet had grazed my father. However, there were dual strips of bullet holes alongside where he’d lain. He was rescued by other American soldiers in a complete state of shock. Master of five languages? He was unable to speak or even say his own name. He was taken to an army hospital where he was “rehabilitated.” He had to be taught to write again. My grandmother showed me a little note he’d managed to scrawl from his hospital bed in something more like chicken scratch than letters. It said, “Hi Mom and Pop, Everything here is swell. Love, Henry.” He was released to his parents six months later, with basically a “Sucks to be you” salute and a shove out the door. He suffered for the remainder of his life from “shell shock,” which we now call PTSD.

My father managed to make something of his life, and chose to go into medicine. He said he’d seen enough death, and wanted to devote himself to saving lives. He became an outstanding osteopath and surgeon. However, the PTSD haunted him… a shadow that never left his side, never let him forget the horrors he’d witnessed—in an era where we didn’t have war movies to desensitize us to the horrors of the battlefield. The first death and carnage he witnessed was not on a movie screen. It was bleeding at his side. When he was 18.

PTSD was a constant presence, which he attempted to chase away with alcohol. More and more and more, but the demons just laughed. At that time, the U.S. Army didn’t recognize “shell shock” as a disability. He was on his own to figure it out, discharged with a “Hey, sucks to be you, have a great life.” He never got a Purple Heart. From that point on, as far as the Veterans Administration was concerned, he was “Henry Who?”

Ultimately, alcohol and PTSD eroded my dad’s ability to function as a physician any longer. His hands began shaking. He was unable to do surgery with shaking hands, and unable to get malpractice insurance because of that. Unable to work, he rapidly downspiraled into out of control alcoholism, PTSD, and paranoia. In November 1977, he had a massive brain aneurysm, and was in a coma for nearly two months. He eventually woke up, paralyzed on one side, most of his intellectual capacity destroyed. He had become a shell, filled only with sadness and loss. Yet, he lingered on like that until 2003, when he died alone the day after Christmas in a convalescent hospital, apparently suffering another stroke in the middle of the night. Or, maybe he’d finally just had enough of this life.

When it became time to plan his funeral, the local Veterans of Foreign Wars group discovered that my dad was a WWII veteran because one of them was married to the woman who ran the local flower shop, where I’d ordered the roses for his casket. The VFW wanted to give my dad military honors upon his burial.

As friends and family carried my father’s casket to the open grave, there were several VFW members there in full uniform, rifles at the ready. He was given a rifle salute, and “Taps” was the only song that played. When they were done, their quartermaster presented me with an American flag, neatly and tightly wrapped into a triangle, and told me he appreciated my father’s service.

After all those years, and from veterans who never even knew him, he was still their brother in arms, and they wouldn’t let him be laid to rest without acknowledging his service. What a bunch of losers, to care for a sucker like that.

I’ll tell you one thing: There was more patriotism and courage in one hair follicle on any of those veterans’ heads, or on my dad’s, than there is in the entire character of our President. When called to serve this country, they didn’t fake bone spurs, likely because they weren’t amongst the rich and privileged who can slide out of service with a purchased note from the family doctor.

There are men and women just like that, right now, fighting to protect our country’s interests all over the world, who put their lives on the line for our country every single day, and who will selflessly charge into battle to save this country and defend our Constitution. And, they are led by a Commander in Chief who views them as “losers” and “suckers,” and who says if they are captured in battle, don’t deserve to be saved because they’d allowed themselves to be caught. He has less respect or concern for them than the dirt under his heel.

I have been a professional writer for going on 30 years, and I do not have the words within me to fully express my fury and outrage at what Donald Trump has said about the members of our miltary. His words in the Atlantic Monthly story this week are corroborated by his denigration of a genuine military hero, John McCain, as well as his lack of interest in doing anything when it was recently revealed that Russia had funded attacks on American soldiers in Afganistan.

He DOES NOT CARE about our service members. Or us.

HE.

DOES.

NOT.

CARE.

How about you? Do you care about them? If you do, then VOTE this November, and save our military members and our entire country from this soulless sociopath who doesn’t give a shit about anyone but himself.

Trump is an enemy of the state. He should be treated as such.

Black voices matter too — #BVM

It give me hope that white folks are speaking out against racism and police brutality, and marching and hollering and protesting alongside black folks. This is a good thing. But being silent would also be a good thing.

Lemme ‘splain:

Whitesplaining.

I know we mean well. We really do. But our good intentions sometimes end up drowning out black voices. And, when our mouths are open, our ears are closed. As I said in my last column, we need to shut our privileged white mouths and listen. Even when the message is harsh.

No rebuttals, no rationalizations, no “but but but…”

Shut up and listen. And let the words sink in.

I was tested yesterday to see if I really will practice what I preach, when a friend emailed a New York Times opinion piece by Chad Sanders, and lemme tell ya… this one pinched.

Shut up and listen, anyway, Debra.

In his column, he says, “Many white people I know are spilling over with guilt and overzealous attempts to offer sympathy.” Sanders side-steps this because it isn’t the point. What white people need isn’t the point. What black people need is. While Sanders is simply trying to exist in the midst of this turmoil, he’s getting this from his white friends:

But brazen as ever, white people who have my phone number are finding a way to drain my time and energy. Some are friends, others old co-workers and acquaintances I’ve intentionally released from my life for the sake of my peace of mind. Every few days I receive a bunch of texts like this one, from last week:

“Hi friend. I just wanted to reach out and let you know I love you and so deeply appreciate you in my life and your stories in the world. And I’m so sorry. This country is deeply broken and sick and racist. I’m sorry. I think I’m tired; meanwhile I’m sleeping in my Snuggie of white privilege. I love you and I’m here to fight and be useful in any way I can be. **Heart emojis**

Almost every message ends with seven oppressive words — “Don’t feel like you need to respond.””

What he says next is extraordinary: “Not only are these people using me as a waste bin for guilt and shame, but they’re also instructing me on what not to feel, silencing me in the process.”

Their own guilt and shame. In other words, underneath it all, the messages ultimately relieve the sender’s feelings of white guilt and shame. They aren’t really meant for the receiver’s benefit. They’re meant for the sender’s.

Don’t start your “but but but” now. Let the man finish:

Not only are these people using me as a waste bin for guilt and shame, but they’re also instructing me on what not to feel, silencing me in the process. In an unusually honest admission of power imbalance, the texter is informing me I don’t have to respond. (Gee, thanks.) This implies that whether or not I do respond — and I usually don’t — the transaction is complete because their message has been conveyed. The texter can sleep more soundly in their ‘Snuggie of white privilege’.”

#ShutUpAndListen.

Yeah, it’s harsh. And no, it’s not being understanding of our needs. And we white folks need to stop expecting that black understanding of our needs is reasonable. We also need to stop speaking for black people. They’re quite capable of speaking their own minds and thoughts and feelings.

#ShutUpAndListen

Sanders’ column got me thinking about that “black square” social media protest last week. Many people started using a black square as their profile photo, or just made a black square the post of the day. I felt a little uneasy about it, so I started visiting my black friends’ Facebook pages to see if they were doing it. Not one was. I took my cue from them. The black square seemed just like what Sanders described: a Snuggie of white privilege. I read several comments from black folks saying that this black square day was yet another instance of their voices being silenced right when their voices needed to be heard the most.

know people meant well. I know they felt like it was a show of support. Your heart can be in the right place even as your brain is out in left field. We can mean well even as we are actually hurting others.

So, my own little sometimes-in-left-field brain got to thinkin’. There are many black voices that my ears perk up and listen to, Barack and Michelle Obama at the top of that list. But there are others, and I want to shine a light on these in particular:

~  Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson.

~  Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, Eddie Glaude Jr.

~  MSNBC host of AM Joy, Joy Reid.

~  Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart.

~  “Late Night with Seth Myers” writer Amber Ruffin.

~  New York Times columnist Charles Blow.

There are many more, but I wanted to keep the list tight because too many names, and it waters everything down. It’s harder to stand out in a sea of people, and I want them to stand out because these particular voices resonate with me. Deeply. When I shut up and listen to these people, without forming excuses or rebuttals in my mind, just take in what they are saying or writing, let it sink into my soul, I discover that my perception changes. My understanding increases. Try it. Turn down the volume on your own thoughts and just listen, and take it in. And… share their message. BUT! Share it without comment. They don’t need a white thumbs up for validation. They are already valid.

As these thoughts were tumbling around in my mind, another one drifted in: Not only do Black Lives Matter, but Black Voices also matter. And, it gave me an idea, yes it did. I want to start a #BlackVoicesMatter, and here are the simple rules: Share a black person’s post or column or video, one that really touches your heart or brightens your mind. But, with no comment other than #BlackVoicesMatter and #ShutUpAndListen.

That’s it. No white mouths moving. Only black.

And here’s another important lane to stay in: Should you feel moved to comment on someone else’s post of a black voice, it has to be an affirmation of that message: “I hear your pain.” “I understand your point.” “I recognize the injustice.” Make it about their message, not about whether or not you agree.

We white folks could learn a hell of a lot more with our ears — and minds — open, and with our mouths closed. Besides creating external change, by protesting all forms of racism, we can also create internal change by turning off our own “Snuggies of white privilege” and listening.

Which black voices touch, brighten, and enlighten you? Celebrate them! Cast their voices wherever you can! Because #BlackVoicesMatter too.

(I created a Black Voices Matter Facebook page, for posting blogs, columns, videos of black voices only. You are welcome to visit it, and post.)

 

Shut your privileged white mouth and listen

I don’t perceive myself as racist. Quite the opposite. I try really hard not to be. But sometimes, my privileged white foot steps in some shit. And there I am, doing my best to scrape it off.

I stepped in it on Facebook recently, while singing the praises of U.S. Representative Val Demings, who I’m hoping against hope will be Joe Biden’s running mate. In the midst of the burst of pain, anger, and outrage in this country over the murder of George Floyd, Demings wrote a brave and passionate op-ed in the Washington Post, in which she boldly confronted her fellow police officers about yet another abhorrent killing of a black man by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25. Yes, “fellow” officers. You see, not only is Demings a Congresswoman, she was a police officer for 27 years, part of which she spent as police chief.

Oh, yeah, she is all that and the bag of proverbial chips.

I discovered her during the impeachment trials. She blew me away. I listened to her speak and thought, “Who is THIS, and why isn’t she a contender for Biden’s runningmate? Well, now, apparently she is on his short list, and all my fingers and toes are crossed that Uncle Joe will recognize that Demings’ foot is the one that will fit his Cinderella slipper. Her perfect foot is in both camps: the black community and law enforcement! She is so uniquely qualified for this moment in time, and I will be over the moon to support BidenDemings2020.

Demings is one of those people who, when she speaks, your ears perk up. Your brain pays attention. Her voice rings like a bell. She has that je-ne-sais-quoi that makes her stand out in a sea of blah blah blah. In my Facebook post, I summarized her as: Smart. Experienced. Articulate.

Boom.

There it is.

“Articulate.”

Did you know that describing a black person as “articulate” is an insult? I certainly didn’t.

Heyyyyy…. what’s this stinky stuff on my shoe???

First, I was excoriated by an indignant white guy, which only pissed me off because there seems to be an overabundance of white people speaking on behalf of black people without their consent. “Whitesplaining.” So arrogant.

We went a few rounds after he proceeded to pelt me with belittling “Jane, you ignorant slut” insults. I insisted that not in my wildest imagination was I insulting Demings in any way, and pointed out to him that he didn’t have a problem with me describing her as “smart” or “experienced.” Following his logic, would these not also be backhanded slaps that insinuate blacks aren’t smart or experienced?

But he then produced a piercing story by Lynette Clemetson, a black woman, explaining that the history of this word is a back-handed slap to insinuate that blacks speak sloppily, and one who speaks eloquently is a bit of a unicorn. Which, of course, is just nuts. People still believe that sort of crap in this day and age? Why can’t I call an articulate black woman articulate, just like I would an articulate white woman? It doesn’t make any sense to me!

I wrestled with my immediate instinct to fight this issue to the death, because dammit, insulting Demings was the furthest thing from my mind, and let’s face it: She really is articulate, and I meant that from my heart. I want her to be our next vice-president, and first female president after that! I love this woman!

But there it was. From someone with personal experience. Someone who knows firsthand.

Me being me, I was ready to keep on slugging and prove my self-righteous point, and verbally take this guy down (he knows not with whom he deals!), but then I reread the story. Clemetson was/is spot on. And, despite my intense urge to prove I was right, which fuels most of my tooth-and-claw debates on and off Facebook… I pumped the brakes.

Hmmm.

Although another privileged white person chastising me for being another privileged white person just grates me the wrong way — the milk calling the sugar white — I realized that wasn’t the point. Clemetson’s story, and the history she revealed, were the point. I let it sink in. Turns out (brace yourself), I was wrong. Rather than argue, I decided to concede. I apologized, said I had no idea I was using an unkind word, and replaced the word in the post on the spot.

And then, another comment popped up in the thread, from a lady named Sylvia:

I am a 71 year old Black woman so I speak from years of experience. Whenever we’ve been told we are articulate, it means we don’t talk “black”, whatever that means. It’s like being asked if we’re educators just because we know how to properly use nouns and verbs. Long story short, it is most definitely not a compliment. I hope this explanation helps.

I was so touched by her gentleness and patience with my white privilege ineptitude, despite the fact that white folks, even well-meaning ones, don’t deserve any gentleness or patience from a black person, and yet… she extended that to me anyway. That really touched me. And impressed me deeply. This was my response to her:

Thank you for explaining this. I had NO IDEA.
The post has been updated.

This tiny exchange gave me a huge epiphany. Besides writing, I’m a massage therapist. I’ve had my own practice for 20 years. In the course of that practice, I’ve had a couple clients with fibromyalgia. They made no sense to me! So extremely sensitive! One of them yelped, “too deep!” when I first placed my hands on her back. I was only spreading the oil! I consulted with her physician, who explained that the nerves of a fibromyalgia patient interpret touch as pain. It doesn’t matter that I think my touch is light — all that matters is their experience of pain. It’s not my place to judge, it’s my place to accept their experience and adjust my approach accordingly.

Believe their pain. It’s so simple!

This prompted me think about the pain black people experience every single day — the pain that white people don’t know about because they never experience it. This utter cluelessness is the definition of “white privilege.” And thinking about fibromyalgia pain really snapped things into focus.

We need to believe people about their pain. When black people say “that hurts,” we privileged white folks need to believe them. Even if it doesn’t hurt us, even if we didn’t intend for it to hurt, even if we don’t understand why it hurts — we need to shut our mouths, nod our heads, listen, and acknowledge it. Particularly if we caused it. Our own understanding of that pain is irrelevant.

I don’t have fibromyalgia.

I’m not black.

I don’t understand either pain.

But I accept it.

And should a black person inform me about my pain, I’ll shut my mouth and simply listen. And if I caused that pain, I’ll take responsibility, apologize, and make a correction.

Will you?

 

Oh, the irony of getting what you wanted

What I’ll remember most about this coronavirus ordeal (I mean, besides the thrum of imminent disease and death) is not the bother of looking like an old-timey bandit every time I ventured out of the house or how my husband and I managed to survive three months (thus far) stuck with each other 24-7 without going homicidal. No, what I’ll remember about this chapter is: irony.

Alanis Morisette, I must add to your iconic, ironic list of black flies in your chardonnay:  achieving your lifelong dream and then being unable to access it. My dream? Living in pajama pants and coffee-stained T-shirts, writing, writing, writing until cocktail hour, and then whittling away the remainder of the day on the patio under the shady albizia, with a fine glass of Napa Cab (dark, can’t see the flies), daydreaming about where the next day’s writing adventures will take me.

Turns out, I botched my “all the time in the world to write” fantasy because I was focusing on opportunity and neglected to include ability. And there it is. The irony.

So, although our Shelter in Place lifestyle provides an abundance of time to do the things I’ve always wanted to around the house, like organizing my book shelves or planting rose bushes or digging through the layers of junk sediment I’ve squirreled away in the garage (it’s not hoarding if it’s in the garage) and clearing out some space for new stuff I don’t need, I just can’t quite get anything accomplished. Except Candy Crush. I can accomplish a lot of that.  All the time in the world to do all the things I never had time for, and I’m not doing any of them.

Isn’t it ironic?

Don’tcha think?

But wait, you say, if you aren’t doing all those projects and tasks, that means you have even more time to devote to writing, yes?

Turns out, nope.

While I’m physically able to sit at the keyboard and type… my words are gone. For weeks, the well was just dry. I recently wrote a couple columns (I still can’t bring myself to call them blogs… it feels so… dirty), and managed to disgorge one little feature story for Witches & Pagans magazine. After 26 years in journalism, I have an abundance of experience producing publishable writing, no matter what’s going on in my life, be it divorces, or teenagers, or funerals, or PMS. Because, in journalism, not writing isn’t an option.

The Deadline Dominatrix.

She Who Must Be Obeyed.

So, yes, I wrote some stuff. But columns and feature stories are one thing. Writing books is an entirely different experience. Columns and stories are crafted. Writing for books emerges. Ideas and words and sentences burble up from a magical well in my brain and flow through my fingers. But suddenly it’s as if a brick wall has gone up around the well, and the gate to that garden has been slammed shut and padlocked. And I don’t have the key.

Well, hello, writer’s block. I thought we’d already met, but apparently I was mistaken. You’re much uglier than you looked in the photos.

And, there’s the second irony. All this time to write, and I just… can’t. I am creatively paralyzed. A verbaplegic.

Alanis, this is so, so, so much worse than ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife.

I see other writers on social media turning this pandemic plight into stunning productivity, churning out finished manuscripts like word machines, and I look at them like I would an Olympic gymnast flying and tumbling through the air on the parallel bars. I watch wide-eyed and think, “Fuck! I can’t do that!!” And at that precise moment, my old pal Anxiety steps in to confirm my fears.

Just give up. Stay in place. If you never try, you’ll never have to fail. Stay here with me and let the entropy and decay do its work.

Anxiety has been my lifelong nemesis. It freezes you in place like the proverbial deer in the headlights, but the oncoming vehicle never actually gets there. You just stand there, frozen, immobile, while your mind runs an endless tape “what if, what if, what if” that all lead to doom and disaster.

But… when I was writing my last book, I felt like I’d left anxiety in the rearview mirror! I was unstoppable. The Queen Fucking Bee of my own life. Nothing ahead but bright light and success. I was writing like a beast. What the hell happened!

Coronavirus, that’s what.

And institutionalized agoraphobia as a way of life: Leave the house and DIE.

These are fat times for my buddy Anxiety. There’s a brand new universe of fear to exploit, from touching another human to forgetting to wash your hands to venturing out to buy a loaf of bread. The entire world has become treacherous. Lethal even. It’s too overwhelming to think about. How ’bout we shove it all aside and pretend it’s not there.

It’s what Candy Crush was invented for.

I’m on, like, level 7,000.

But… how, and why, did all this coronavirus anxiety express itself in writer’s block? I have no fucking idea. So I presented the issue to the source of all knowledge: Facebook. I asked other writers if their fingers are flying over their keyboards or, like me, are they dead in the creative water. Turns out… I’m not alone. Others are stuck too. And some offered some really valuable insight, in particular, that anxiety neutralizes creativity. And also, that maybe I should give myself a break for having feelings about an actual crisis, rather than perpetually flogging myself for being a failure.

From this, I got clarity. First off, maybe I should turn some of that kindness and compassion I’m always yammering on about toward myself. What a concept. Second, stop fleeing from my worries and take some time to just look at them there, swirling round and round like leaves stuck in a swimming pool drain. See what’s actually there. See them for what they are, not what I imagine them to be.

As opposed to the anxiety that I self-generate about stupid, obscure shit, like the drive shaft on the steering wheel breaking off while I’m driving and hitting the asphalt and impaling me, the corona virus anxieties are actually possible:  “Will I ever see my children again?” “Will people I love die?” or “Will my life end alone, on a respirator, with no one there?”  I don’t even have to use my imagination to envision gruesome, horrifying scenarios anymore. They’re happening all over the world, to tens of thousands of people.

“Will I be one of them???”

It’s too overwhelming to think about, and it all came upon us so suddenly, we didn’t even have time to process it beyond “Be afraid! Be very, very afraid!” Me, I couldn’t deal. So I Scarlet O’Hara’ed it: I’ll think about that tomorrow. Shoved it all into the back of my brain and tried to convince myself that this is just a long, weird holiday.

But my brain is not so easily fooled by the likes of me.

“Ha! You think you’re not thinking about those things, but I’m gonna run those little motherfuckers on a subconscious endless loop in the back of your mind like too many programs running in the background on your computer, and use up all your RAM, and shut you down.” And, there you have it: writer’s block. Anxiety, albeit subconscious, hijacked my brain.

“Outta the way, bitch, I’m driving now!”

However, funny thing about subconscious stuff. Shining a light on it and examining what’s festering and fermenting there is what helps you to conquer it, and anxiety too. Awareness is the mental Raid you can spray on all those cockroaches.

So, what’s there, really.

Yes, I could catch the coronavirus. I could die. However, I could also die in a car crash, and I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about that when I get in the car.  Ditto for riding my horse. I know that every time I ride, I could be hurt or killed. But the joy of riding my horse overrides the threat. So, I mentally slided the coronavirus fear into the driving and riding category, and that made it conquerable. I can acknowledge the fear and continue to live my life anyway, whether it’s cars or horses or viruses.

That little epiphany was the key to that locked gate. Click! I can step inside again. I can hear the babbling well. Words and sentences are bubbling up again. I just need to capture them on the keyboard.

I’m back!

I’m not giving my creativity to anxiety anymore. I’ll spend my mental capital on things I actually can control, and coronavirus ain’t one of them. Yes, it’s there, and yes, I must do everything I can to stay safe, and honor the safety of others. But I’m not going to let it consume all my creative bandwidth.

But I’ll probably still worry about the drive shaft from time to time. Because, virus or no virus, I’m still me.

Cornered…

The breadbasket has been in one corner on our kitchen counter forever. You have to reach over a bunch of olive oil and vinegar bottles to get some bread. Sometimes the bottles almost get knocked over if you don’t have quick reflexes. 

Two days ago… the husband of this household did not have quick reflexes. 

*clink*

*crash*

A ceramic cup lost its life, taken out by a tipped bottle of avocado oil. 

He: &$@%#£¥murfuckin&$}*?|>!!! 👹
WHY DO THESE GODDAM BOTTLES HAVE TO BE IN FRONT OF THE BREAD BASKET👹
WHAT DO WE EVEN NEED AVOCADO OIL FOR? 
?&@€€}€{~>$@!!!! 👹

Wellsir, I thought about that for two days. 

Why IS the breadbasket there?
Why ARE the bottles there? 

And we need avocado oil because: DUH. 
🥑

As for the other two questions, the only answer I could produce is “Because they have always been there.” Not for any sort of planning but because I put them there once about 20 years ago and never re-evaluated that. And there they stayed.

Programming note: You can easily learn to reach over the bottles without calamity if you have a vagina. 

The one who reached over them most recently did not. 

And now… an innocent cup is dead. 

DEAD. 

*sadness*

😔

So thia morning, I examined our kitchen countertop clusterfuck. 🤔

And ever so slowly… as if whispered to me from the divine realm by some sleepy-eyed chubby-cheeked cherub… it dawned on me…

What if. 
What IF. 
WHAT IF!!!

What if… you moved the bread basket… to the OTHER corner!!!

Mind. 
BLOWN. 
🤯

And so… ever so thoughtfully, as if rearranging the wires on an explosive device… I moved the breadbasket to – get this – the OTHER corner. 

Only the bottles occupy the other corner now. 

Alone. 

It’s as if I’ve just swallowed the Red Pill. 

🐇

Three Courageous things we can change right now

“The Serenity Prayer” has been drifting in and out of my mind ever since this whole coronavirus nightmare began. It’s the mantra of all 12-Steppers, and a reminder that not everything is under our control. When we feel compelled to take control of a situation, or person, we repeat this prayer in our minds as sort of a psychological reset button:

God, grant me the Serenity

to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

and Wisdom to know the difference.

A lot of people focus on the Serenity part of this, and stop right there. Some move on to embrace “Courage.” But it’s “Wisdom” that’s actually the key, because how do you know if you need Serenity or Courage if you haven’t used your Wisdom to figure out if the best course of action is acceptance or change? The entire concept of this mantra rests upon Wisdom.

As it pertains to coronavirus/Covid-19, it doesn’t take a lot of Wisdom to figure out that until a vaccine and a cure are found, this microscopic monster is completely out of our control. No point in wasting any Courage on fighting the virus itself. That’s up to the doctors and scientists. All the rest of us can do is focus our Courage on sheltering in place, wearing masks and gloves in public, amping up our hand-washing routines, maintaining social distance, and avoiding unnecessary errands. These are things we can change. The rest of it? This virus has a clear non-discrimination policy: It doesn’t care about your race or religion or age or income — anyone and everyone could be the next victim. Other than taking the precautions you can, the rest is all up to Lady Luck.

Maybe that’s where the Serenity (if there’s any to be found) comes in: We change what we can and hope for the best, because all the worry and anxiety and dread in the world will have zero impact on luck.

Zero.

All that said, it’s pretty much impossible to consider the proliferation of this pandemic in the U.S. without considering the one who enabled it: Donald Trump. First, he declared coronavirus to be a liberal hoax. Then, he downplayed it as something that would magically disappear in April (more than 30,000 dead in the U.S. and counting as of today). Next, he attempted to relabel the virus as the “Chinese Virus,” and paint the Chinese at fault (thereby providing a convenient enemy). The ultimate transgression occurred this week when he canceled U.S. funding for the World Health Organization, blaming the WHO for not taking charge of this virus (redirecting blame for its spread in the U.S. away from himself.) Right when the WHO needs our funding the most!

Trump squandered an entire month in the early days of this pandemic, as well as any opportunity we had of preventing its spread. Of course he denies all that, and seems to be utterly unaware that videotape exists.

Sadly, because the Republican Senate refused to give Trump the impeachment he so richly deserves and remove him from office, we’re now in the midst of one of our country’s biggest crises, completely devoid of a stable, mature hand at the helm. It’s the worst case scenario, in 365 degrees. We’re stuck with an infantile, sociopathic megalomaniac in charge, and all I can say about that is thank Goddess for state governors. At least there are some adults in the room.

I can’t be rid of Covid-19 or Trump soon enough. I’m not sure which will ultimately cause the most carnage. While all we can do is wait for an end to coronavirus, as for Trump, we can do something about that. The tick-tick-tick of his clock running out is the ambient background in my mind.  Sadly, we have to muddle through until November before we can jettison the worst President in U.S. history.

Thanks, Republicans.

The notion of a landslide loss in November has Trump worried. So worried, in fact, that I’m certain that his motivation for recently refusing a coronavirus relief bill if it included funding for the U.S. Postal Service is because mail-in ballots will contribute to his downfall. He’s mentioned them as “corrupt” multiple times, even though five states do mail-in voting exclusively, without incident, and ironically, even though he votes by mail himself. Mail-in paper ballots are almost impossible to hack electronically, so there’s  no room for remote manipulators to flip every other Democratic vote to the Republican side. Bottom line, Trump realizes that he can’t win if he can’t cheat. He doesn’t care what he destroys as long as he gets to call himself a winner.

What a loser.

How does all this tie in to the Serenity Prayer? I put my Wisdom to work, to help me recognize the things I could change that actually required no Courage at all: I contributed to Joe Biden’s campaign, because he’s our only hope of getting rid of Trump, and I bought two books of Forever stamps to funnel funds to the U.S. Postal Service. Just to be saucy, I did a third thing: I contributed to Amy McGrath’s campaign for the Kentucky Senate. She stands a good chance of ousting longtime incumbent Mitch McConnell.

McConnell is the main reason that the impeachment didn’t culminate in the removal of Trump from office. He sets the tone of this morally bankrupt Republican Senate, which blocks any and all liberal or progressive efforts just on principle, regardless of value or benefit to the public. If you think about it, McConnell is even worse than Trump because he knows better, he knows the Constitution, and he knows how government is supposed to work. But he’s willing to abandon all that, and all of us, as well as his oath of office, just to cling to the coattails of a shallow, self-serving imbecile.

When we #DumpTrump in November, it will be icing on the cake to #DitchMitch as well. Many of us will do so using mail-in ballots because we can’t let a nasty virus prevent us from exercising our Constitutional right to vote. And we’ll need those stamps to do so!

While the end of the virus is still not within sight, the end of this presidency is. Until then, stay home and stay Serene, my friends.

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