Ranting About the RNC

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[Actual books about actual American history, the kind Donald J. Trump does not read.]
I started the day with strong coffee and the Republican party’s official stance on transgender people’s human rights:

“[The Federal Government’s] edict to the states concerning restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities is at once illegal, dangerous, and ignores privacy issues. We salute the several states which have filed suit against it.”

KJ Rawson, a professor at the College of the Holy Cross, made the implications of this very clear:

“So let me be blunt: if you support the Republican party, if you vote for Trump, you are voting against my right to use restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities. There is no equivocation, no uncertainty, no shades of gray.”

I then proceeded to read through the full platform of the 2016 Republican party. (Head’s up: Unless you are a Trump supporter, do not read on an empty stomach.)

**

Part of what’s so unbelievably disturbing is that even if HRC wins the election, Trump’s off-the-rails, fascist candidacy (I do not use the word “fascist” lightly) has unleashed and made permissible so much misogyny and racial hatred.

These have never not been there, but now they’ve all but become official party views. Ditto white supremacy and antisemitism, Islamophobia, downright disdain for women, for LGBTQ+ people, for intellect and art, and for the planet itself; rejecting all things fair and just is posited as the only to “keep us safe,” when the biggest threats of all are running the damn show.

This afternoon, I saw a video circulating from the RNC with a woman holding (or attempting to hold) a “No Racism, No Hate” sign inside the convention arena. She was physically harassed and assaulted and people tried to cover her peaceful sign up with the American flag.

The message is clear. In this arena, racism and hate ARE America. “Make America White Again” is the deadline facto slogan of the Trump’s republican party.

A CNN headline asks: “Where Are the Ideas?”

But the question is moot, because ideas have no place here. This party, this platform, this convention — not about ideas, but power. White, male, rich power. Period. That’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help us all.

The 40% of Americans who are falling for this must be living in fear of otherness; “danger” and “dangerous” are the leading words in the opening pages of this horrific document. As lovely as it sounds to say there is no “us” and “them,” I truly don’t know if I believe it at this point.

**

For many years — decades — I’ve had recurring apocalyptic dreams. These days, they seem less and less fantastical.

Last night, I dreamed I had a conversation with a Trump supporter who was willing to listen to and really hear my point of view. There was some promise.

Two nights ago, I dreamed I was clinging to a flagpole high above a giant ship. I was relieved not to be on the ship itself. I felt physically strong and grateful to be outside all day. I wonder if I was clinging to some abandoned ideals, as the flag itself was missing.

Last week, I dreamed I touched a black woman’s hair, only to be wildly apologetic afterwards. White privilege/guilt much? Once she saw the degree of my embarrassment, her edge softened and she totally poked fun at me, touching my wild curls in return.

I asked Mani what she thinks these dreams mean. Her insightful response required little interpretation: “You are WAY over-saturated in news and (social) media.”

No wonder I post so many photos of flowers on Facebook and Instagram! An ongoing effort to calm my nervous system and stay not only close to but deeply inside of my actual life.

**

Last night, full moon. “Let’s make wishes,” I suggested to Mani. She made hers, and then she chose a card from the beautiful deck she recently gave me as a gift. It showed a woman under a full moon on a summer night. No kidding. So cool. We even marveled at how much it resembled her, before reading the description of its accompanying word in the little booklet that came with the cards. It fit her wish perfectly.

My turn next — a big wish, the kind that seems audacious and you wouldn’t share out loud with anyone but your most intimate, trusted person or people. I slipped a card from the deck. A woman with wings. A woman surrounded by birds. The word on the card: “Listening.”

Listening. Speaking out is not always the way. Ranting? I seriously question its purpose and usefulness, though in this case I decided to do it anyway.

It can so easily slide into spewing, like some awful dinner party where everyone’s talking over and interrupting everyone else; the vitriol is enough to make you physically ill; and it’s all you can do not to throw your napkin to your plate and walk out without so much as a thank you to the hostess.

(Obvious problem with this metaphor: Who the hell is the hostess?

**

OK. Rant over, with one concluding intention: I am going to make an effort to rant less and listen more for the remainder of this election season, until or unless I have something new or useful to share. But I will not be silent or silenced.

Roll Call: Are You Here?

sky-no-filterAs I sit down to write something tonight, the Republican National Convention is happening, but I am not watching. I’ve only seen snippets of news — chaos breaks out, delegates walking out, and of course Colbert crashing the party earlier today. But I can’t bring myself to stay amused for long, not when at this very moment Iowa Congressman Steve King is openly declaring that white people have contributed more to civilization than anyone else in the world.

Mani is watching Grace & Frankie; I’m vaguely anxious but “vaguely” is the keyword; and an hour or so ago, I went outside and got horizontal on the driveway, following some visceral instinct to feel the ground literally against the length of my body. I stayed there a while, watching the sky, watching the clouds change from soft and wispy to rounded and layered yellows and pinks. I came back inside to get my phone so that I could take some pictures, which of course don’t do it justice.

Mani had just finished a movie, “Run Boy Run,” a true story of a boy who survived the Holocaust. I caught the last few minutes, where we see him on the beach in Tel Aviv with his wife Sonja, their two grown kids and six grandchildren, and his sister, whom he hadn’t seen in 30 years.

I read words from Michael Franti on his Facebook page: “We are sitting on a powder keg right now that has the potential to blow up in every city in America if we don’t all work together in this time to make long overdue change in our cities.” Mani adds, “every city in the world.” I shudder, something bone-deep in me knowing the truth of this.

My father has shared the chilling and urgently important New Yorker article about Tony Schwartz (no relation), the ghostwriter of Trump’s “The Art of the Deal.” He, my dad, has written, “Read this and weep, then act against Trump.” A woman whose name I do not recognize — I find myself curious if we are distantly related — leaves a comment. “Interesting, but I cannot support Hillary.”

My head explodes and I silently compose several possible responses without saying an actual word. It’s my dad’s page. It’s not mine. Isn’t this all of ours? How does one change the mind of 40% of the electorate? Will Trump supporters ever even read articles like this one?

(That’s when I went outside. That’s when I sought ground against body and sky above and changing clouds and room to breathe.)

Back in our bedroom, I watched the ending of the movie with Mani. I am looping backwards here, and pulling these threads through, as if trying to sew up my evening into something cohesive, something with a pattern and a purpose. I’m not convinced this is a viable goal.

Mani has three stacks of books, mostly from the public library just a few blocks from our house, on the floor next to her side of the bed. “Black dove : essays on mamá, mi’jo, and me” by Ana Castillo, who describes herself on page one as “a brown, bisexual, strapped writer and mother, constantly scrambling to take care of my work and my child.” Yes, yes this. I want to read and read and read. I want to write and write.

I am coming up the stairs to our apartment after watching the sky. “For the greater good” are the words that flit through my mind. I contemplate something Trump said to Lesley Stahl during Sunday’s 60 Minutes interview (if it can be called an interview), something that made us laugh out loud except it isn’t even remotely funny: “I think I’m a lot more humble than you would understand.” I wonder if Trump has considered anyone but himself for five minutes ever in his life.

It’s easy to feel like our voices are impotent right now.

How can I use my voice for the greater good? Where am I at choice about speaking up or staying silent, when the latter is no longer and likely never was a morally acceptable option? The fear is so big and the love is so big and I refuse to be paralyzed by the former, which leaves me with the latter as fire, as sky, as voice, as action.

This morning in one the writing groups I facilitate, I essentially asked for a show of hands — a virtual roll call. Are you here? I asked. One by one, people came and said yes and yo. They wrote half-mast and no but I want to be. There was no wrong answer. Are you here? Are you here? Am I here?

We are here, and we are not leaving.

Today, I read other news stories. Shit predictable ones, like this one.  Hopeful, heartening ones, like this one. I thought about what I am willing to give, what I am willing to give up, what I am willing to lose, what cost to others and what obligations accompany my freedom of speech, what rights to my body, to my marriage, what there is to do between now and November other than hold my breath. What there is to do today other than read and write and take roll call and love and speak?

Writing rambling blog posts like this one is one of my ways of saying, “I’m here.” This is a way of showing up and getting my ego out of the way, the ego and its wish to write something beautiful or smart, to add something, anything, new to the conversation.

I obsess over whether I should post or delete. Inner critic hisses.

Truth is, My voice is no more or less important than anyone else’s; this just happens to be a corner of the world where I get to use it. I’m swirling. I’m landing. I’m lying on the ground. I’m choosing to lie on the ground.

There is action to take. There are future generations, yes, but there are present ones, too, and past ones to heal, and so much repairing it’s hard to know where to start.

Start here. Start now. Keep starting. Don’t worry about sounding stupid or saying the wrong thing.

Are you here?

I Want to Hear What You Have to Say

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I want to hear what you have to say, and sometimes I am not a great listener. I jump in, jump the gun, with opinions and judgments, thin-skinned covers for fears I cling to and do a terrible job of hiding, beliefs I swallowed without study, things I call “norms” and things I call “best,” all evidence of ignorance, places of discomfort demanding my attention.

From screentime to white supremacy, I am swimming in a sea of plastic bags, choking turtles, washed-up whales and broken bodies; from parenting to profiting, I can close my eyes or open them, close my gates or open them, close my heart and mind or open them. That is all. What follows is a direct result of that simple choice, a daily one, one that itself is borne of privilege.

Yesterday, my wife rattled off five ways women “still” don’t live as equals in our country to an inquisitive ten-year old. We may not wave a freak flag high, nor can I stand and chat without wanting to ask, what are you afraid of? What comforts are you needing to protect by keeping your eyes closed? And also, yes, me too. And also, I refuse. And aren’t we complicated creatures, some say God’s children, one and all, others not so much.

I want to hear what you have to say and sometimes I am not a great listener. Sometimes I interrupt, sometimes I think I suck, sometimes I take a breath and your voice rises and falls and calls me out and fills the room with truth and I want to say thank you. Let me help. Let me have the courage to unlearn so many judgments and whose best practices are those, anyway?

Sometimes I say, when I’m alone in my car, engine off keys dangling from ignition in the safety of my driveway, “let me be a vessel,” and sometimes I have to breathe into that and go beyond the limitations of language into a space beyond censor, beyond selfhood, beyond sky and back again to this moment, rain on dashboard, the blackberries that were so ripe last week now withered, a squirrel got into the compost again and I have to use the bathroom and are we really “all in this together” or is that a convenient way of saying I accept the status quo?

Let us go then, you and I, to the places courage carries us to look each other in the eye. I have no answers. Only this silence where the words pour in from some invisible valve and light competes with brutality and I finally speak out loud just this: “God, are you here?”

Happy Half-Birthday to Me (and a Gift for You)

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I could click “share” on Facebook all day long, and feel less and less connected.

Instead, I took my bike out of the garage and rode to town. I got a taco and a $2 lottery ticket. Then I rode home. Anger, envy, sadness, missing, confusion, and love — all perched on my handlebars like a motley crew of dark companions, offset by the chirping of birds and pretty houses and flowers growing around picket fences. It wasn’t until I got to my own old yellow house that I stopped and put down the kickstand. Put down my guard and my armor and opened my eyes again. These lilies, towering amidst weeds, growing by the curb in a kind of accidental garden.

Continue reading today’s newsletter, which includes other musings as well as a special gift for you: 14% off everything on the menu until midnight July 14 (my half-birthday!).

If you don’t already receive Fierce Encouragement for Writing + Lifesubscribe here and the next one will appear in your inbox.

Thank you for showing up, in all the ways.

On the Corner: Writing at the Intersection(s) (NEW GROUP!)

I live on the corner of
gay pride and white privilege
Shabbat Shalom and Hear Me Roar
cheerleader and saboteur
working mama, entrepreneur

I live on the corner of
prolific and bone dry
passionate and tongue-tied
of please and no, thank you
of bite and I’ll spank you…

I live on the corner of
pogrom and protest
straight As, nuclear families
of divorced and remarried
polite and contrary

I live on the corner of
tightly wound and free spirit
of fear and Just Do It
petite and dysmorphic
Soul Sister, Third Daughter

I live on the corner of
so many streets
traffic’s nonstop but nobody beeps
there’s no one to tell me to stop or to go
and that’s why I write, ’cause how else will I know?

On the Corner: Writing at the Intersection(s)

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Photo: Molly Porter

We all stand at the corner of so many identities. “Parts” of ourselves — some embraced and some off-limits, some seen and some invisible, some conditioned and some chosen.

Join me this fall for a brand new four-week writing group.

Who we feel ourselves to be, how the world see us, and ultimately what we choose to bring (and have no choice about bringing) with us into our daily lives — these have a huge impact not only on our own experience of segmentation and/or wholeness, but on those around us, be they family, coworkers, community members, or the world at large.

In a cultural and political climate that has us contend daily with questions of authenticity, bias and prejudice — our own and others’ — and how to cultivate kindness and acceptance while acknowledging and respecting our wildly different selves, I believe that writing has the power to help us get to know ourselves, and thus each other, better.

What Will We Write About? 

Through a combination of guided freewriting and other creative exercises on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, we’ll explore our many identities in a safe, secret space where nobody gets to be wrong.

Week One

On the Corner :: Naming all the cross-streets
* We’ve Lost Touch :: Reconnecting with what was never lost
Forbidden Fruit :: Getting cozy with what you cast out

Week Two

* The Surface of Things :: How the world sees you
In the Mirror :: How you see yourself
I Am From :: Naming and claiming your sources

Week Three

* True or False :: Early messages you believed or doubted
* Shake It Up :: Exploring the change you want to see
* Be the Change :: Moving towards action and embodiment

Week Four

* Completion and Staying Connected

Dates:

Monday, September 19 — Friday, October 14

Cost:

With the intention of this group being widely inclusive, I’m offering three different (confidential) payment tiers, based completely on the honor system. Please choose according to an honest self-assessment:

  • Tier 1: Folks who have to scrimp, squirrel, and save to participate in this kind of group.
  • Tier 2: Anyone who’s moderately comfortable and has some disposable income.
  • Tier 3: Those of you who have the ability and desire to pay it forward.

:: $63 ::
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:: $126 ::
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:: $189 ::
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