Author Archives: mrswhatsit9

On the Importance of Self-Care

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Can you believe it’s only been four weeks? I don’t know about you, but after all this letter-writing and calling and poster-making and marching and getting more involved with local politics and volunteering and spell-casting and relentless trolling of @realDonaldTrump on Twitter (still only me?), I’m beat! And we’re still at the BEGINNING of this race.

Yes, the term “self-care” is annoying. It seems – to use yet another annoying term – so “basic,” conjuring visions of pumpkin spice lattes, scented candles, Uggs, Taylor Swift, and Lululemon yoga pants. (Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that stuff if you like it – you do you, hon.)

But we are in for a major shitstorm under Donald Trump. The work is going to be hard, exhausting, unrelenting, and potentially dangerous. So it is really important to take care of yourself to make sure you’re up for the task.

What that means is going to look different for each person, and there are at least two components.

On the one hand, it means things like:

  • Less TV, more reading stuff that makes you think
  • Less booze, more tea
  • Less take out, more cooking
  • Less social media, more face time with people you love
  • Less bar time, more evenings at home with the cats
  • Less shopping, more volunteering
  • Less aimless flipping through your Facebook feed, more walking – and thinking
  • Less binge-watching, more attending local government meetings
  • Less Buzzfeed listicles, more long-form journalism (and PAYING for it with a smile on your face)
  • Less wanting to fall in love with the perfect candidate every four years, more contesting every goddamn local and state election, down to dog catcher

But in a larger sense, it will be vitally important not to lose track of what brings you joy (like my adorable cats up there). When you’re fighting for the soul of your country, shit gets serious as a heart attack, like, immediately, and stays that way all the time. It’s so tempting to become all business, all activist, all seriousness, and to dismiss anything that’s not directly contributing to the struggle as frivolous.

That would be a mistake.

You can’t be a serious, committed activist all the time. You have to fill your well, so there’s a place in you that you can work from, give from, sacrifice from.

This is also going to look different for everyone. For me, one of my main loves is live music, particularly blues and jazz. And when I and my spouse are out of town, no matter where we go, that’s where you’ll find us most nights – out hearing live, local music. But when we’re in town, it’s way too easy to say: “I’m in my sweats and fuzzy socks, and I have a good book and purring cats – I’m not putting on real pants and going out.”

Well, not this year. We’ve committed to go out, and not just to big, expensive venues that bring in national acts, but to the little tavern around the corner with the weekly blues jam and to the church a few blocks away that features jazz players from the local arts school and to the $5 cover, bare bones joint in the next neighborhood north of us that provides a space for up-and-coming local artists.

We’re in for the fight of our lives. Nurture your body, soul, and mind, and fill your well. You’re going to need it.

Image by the author. If you copy, please credit appropriately.

What Can the “Safely Blue” Do?

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As a resident of what is possibly the bluest place in the entire country, I struggle with this question.

All of us in #TheResistance have seen the proliferation of lists of what we should do to respond to the depredations of our so-called president. Many of them include “call your Senators” (I would LOVE to call my Senators, but that would require that I, you know, HAVE Senators) and “run for office at the local, state, or national level.” National’s not an option where I live (taxation without representation, yo), and I’m skeptical that replacing a reliably liberal city council member with another reliable liberal will have a major impact.

Other blue-staters are, no doubt, experiencing the same thing. Sure, we can march and protest (spacing out words appropriately on poster board is not as easy as it looks!), give money to the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center and local groups who are doing good things (and don’t forget to consider volunteering with them, too), call to make make sure our Democratic representatives at the local, state, and national levels continue to do the right things, and troll @realDonaldTrump relentlessly on Twitter (or is that just me?).

But we know that our liberal sisters and brothers in purple and red areas have a much tougher job. Is there anything we can do to help?

I’m glad you asked!

One option is Swing Left, which pairs motivated volunteers from safely blue locations with teams working in the nearest swing districts to mobilize to take back the House of Representatives in 2018. Which is not going to be easy. Although the travesty that is gerrymandering is falling under increasing judicial scrutiny, even if all goes perfectly with the current case that’s come up for SCOTUS review (Whitford v. Gill), it may not be corrected by 2018. But, as Hecate is fond of noting, Dems need to contest EVERY seat in 2018, even those that look impossible. So help a nearby district Swing Left! (As for me, I plan to revive an old school DC home rule tactic and go after Jason Chaffetz. He’s not exactly local, or in a swing district, but he’s definitely earned my ire. That ought to at least buy his opponent a nice donation and some phone calls.)

Another option is Emily’s List. “But wait, Mrs. Whatsit!” you might say. “Isn’t the point of Emily’s List to run for office? And didn’t you just say that ousting a liberal in favor of another liberal seems kind of silly?”

Well, yes, on both counts.

BUT! Emily’s List knows that success in running for office isn’t just about the woman who runs – it’s also about the team of staff and volunteers around her who help her by doing data entry, stuffing envelopes, making calls, making signs, holding fundraisers, transporting other volunteers, registering people to vote, etc. Which is why they’ve launched the Run To Win campaign. If you can run, that’s great. If not, or if you’re in a place where it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to challenge your already-with-us incumbent, you can sign up to contribute in all the ways I’ve just listed AND MORE to get more progressive, pro-choice, Democratic women elected to office at the local, state, and national levels. While you’re at it, go ahead and take their training to run for office, too – a little knowledge is a VERY good thing, and you never know when it might come in handy.

For those of you who are in safely blue areas: what are you doing to support #TheResistance in red and purple areas?

For those of you in purple or red areas: what do you need from those of us who are “safely blue”?

Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Image found here.

Screw Your Courage to the Sticking Place

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The Pagan community is fond of debating the ethics of spell-casting.

One thread that runs throughout most flavors of Paganism/earth-based religion is the idea of karma. To quote from my own tradition:

  • “Do as thou will, an it harm none.”
  • “What you send out returns to you three times.”
  • “Be careful what you wish for – you might get it.”

The particular expression of those thoughts might vary in your tradition, but we all tend to ascribe to the idea that what goes around, comes around.

Because of that, many Pagans are unwilling to hex. The thinking is that any “bad” juju you work against anyone else is just going to rebound on you, so better to avoid the whole messy thing, and concentrate on white light or only the positive or ceremonial magic or the high holy days or whatever.

There’s another school of thought, though, that goes something like this: “A witch who can’t hex, can’t heal.”

The world isn’t all sweetness and light. Shadows exist, and we need to be willing and able to work with them. Evil exists, and we need to be willing and able to fight it. Darkness and light can’t exist without each other. Every positive has a negative, and vice versa.

“But I don’t want to get my hands dirty! I don’t want to risk something bad happening to me! Can’t I just light some candles and celebrate Imbolc and Brigid and creativity with my circle in peace?”

Um, no.

Look, I get it. Hexing is hard, dangerous work. You need to think carefully about what you’re doing, and plan, and be ready to accept consequences, because there will likely be some. It’s not for everyone.

But if you don’t think the other side is doing this work, you’re deluded. They might call it “prayer,” but they’re still doing energy work to try to influence outcomes, and it ain’t all sweetness, light, and love, y’all. They are working actively against us, and while they’ve convinced themselves that God’s on their side, that doesn’t mean She is. Look at the poisoned fruits of their efforts: Keystone XL. DAPL. Reinstating global gag orders on abortion information. Gag orders on scientific agencies, and requiring political review of scientific information. Actual Nazis in the White House. Threatening a major US city with martial law. Disenfranchisement of voters of color in 2016, and lies about voter fraud since the election setting the stage for more. The goddamn stupid border wall with Mexico. Targeting immigrants and sanctuary cities. Starting the process to strip health insurance from MILLIONS of Americans. Jeff Sessions. Betsy DeVos. Rex Tillerson. Andrew Puzder. Tom Price. Steve Mnuchin. Scott Pruitt. Rick Perry. Carl Icahn. DONALD FUCKING TRUMP. (Oh, and Bernie-or-Busters: they’re coming for your pot, so have fun with that.)

So as I said, hexing requires wisdom, and skill, and care, and experience, and most of all, courage. Not everyone has that. But more Pagans need to dig deep and find this within ourselves, now more than ever. Resistance isn’t just about letters to Congress and marching and tweeting and donating and blogging and knocking on doors. We’re being clobbered on the etheric plane, and it’s time we fight back. Will you join me?

Image found here.

Help! One of my loved ones voted for Trump! What do I do?

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~ Mrs. Whatsit

Oh bubeleh, I feel you. My entire family, other than me and my spouse, voted for Trump. And they mostly live in one of the purportedly “blue wall” states that unexpectedly went for Trump, so those votes mattered. A lot.

The first thing I did – a week later, so they would realize this was a considered decision, not a hasty emotional response – was to cancel our trip to see them for Thanksgiving. And then I proceeded to not talk to any of them for nearly two months. Some of you might be thinking, “What’s the big deal? My family’s like church – Christmas and Easter, yo.” Not me. Since leaving for college more than 25 years ago, I’ve talked to my mother on the phone just about every week, and they have mostly not been short conversations.

This election, in other words, ripped a huge hole in my support system.

I didn’t just spend that time fuming, though. I mean, I totally DID fume, but I was also racking my brain to figure out how to talk to them about this. Should I approach the conversation from “look at all the blatantly unconstitutional stuff he’s proposed!”? Or would a “he tacitly – and sometimes explicitly – condones white supremacists!” approach be more effective? Maybe I should attack his faux pro-life bona fides (that’s a big one for my people)?

Ultimately, I realized that all those were pointless. I don’t have a time machine. I can’t go back to October and try harder to convince them to vote for anyone – ANYONE – other than Trump (they were NEVER going to go for Hillary, but I thought a write-in for Ben Carson or Ted Cruz might have been on the table). That horse is long gone, and the barn burned to the ground.

It became clear I’d need to take a different tack.

On Christmas Day, I finally broke my silence with a call that started: “We’ve known for a long time that we have very different political views, and the way we’ve always dealt with that is, in the interests of family harmony, we do not talk about politics. We are going to have to talk about this year’s presidential election at some point. But this is not the day for it. How have you been?”

During the holiday break, I had an epiphany about what to do.

“I don’t think George W. Bush was a good president. We can get into why if you genuinely want to know, but that’s beside the point. I was not willing to go to jail to stop him. I am willing to go to jail to try to stop Trump. There’s no point in arguing about it, but again, if you genuinely want to know why, I’m happy to tell you. If and when that day comes, you will have to decide what your response will be. My point is this: your feelings about politics, politicians, and policy are no longer a factor in my decision making.

How did it go?

I don’t know – we haven’t had that second conversation yet, mostly because I think we need to have it in person. If not, I figure my dad will just slam down the phone (well, OK, one doesn’t slam down smart phones, but you get my point), and that’s a lot harder to get away with in person.

What they need to understand, and what I hope you can use in your dealings with your own troglodyte intimates, is that actions have consequences.

See, that’s the thing. “Political correctness” has become a major right wing bugaboo in the past several years. What they really mean, of course, is that they’re upset they can no longer tell racist and sexist jokes or use racist and sexist terms without repercussions. One key point they’re missing, though, as Hecate has already pointed out, is that they’ve been living in the safe spaces we on the left have created for them by trying to “understand them” and be compassionate and empathetic about their beliefs, situations, lives, and experiences – in short, by our being too polite to call them out on their bullshit.

And that’s what that last part of my planned remarks to my family is all about.

A brief anecdote: I finished grad school over 20 years ago, with a degree in something terribly impractical, and few job prospects. One of the positions I applied for was entry-level at the ACLU. I had a good interview, and told my mother about it. She flipped out at the possibility that I would work for that evil, godless organization. Rather than challenging her, I dropped out of the interview process. I’ve had a pretty nice career these last two decades, and I think I’ve managed to do some good in the world, but every once in a while, I think about what might have been.

For years, I’ve kept silent on a metric ton of ridiculous bullshit that’s come out of their mouths in the interest of keeping the peace. I’ve not made moves in my life and work that I though might be too upsetting for them.

Well, to quote Robin Morgan, “good-bye to all of that.”

Because the next right thing to do might be to run for office as a pro-choice Democratic woman, or work on a pro-choice Democratic woman’s campaign. Or get involved in local government in the extremely blue city where I live. Or to take a job at Planned Parenthood or the ACLU. Or to become a street activist and get arrested protesting our new fascist overlords. And if it hurts their fee-fees, I no longer care.

Image found here.

#DefendLocal

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~ Mrs. Whatsit

As a wise friend of mine has noted, blue states and cities are about to become bastions of sanity and compassion in a world of unitary Republican control of the government. Republicans can’t wait to start shredding our already tattered social safety net and minority rights protections. But blue states, at least for the moment, and blue cities, to a lesser degree, can potentially do quite a bit to ameliorate the worst Republican “I got mine – screw you” impulses.

Well, some blue cities can act.

Those that are islands in the midst of red states are increasingly being hampered by something called “pre-emption.” (Slate recently had an excellent piece explaining what that is). In short, red states pass “pre-emption” laws that prohibit local governments from making their own civic decisions. (Edit: The Atlantic also came out with a terrific piece explaining what pre-emption is and the impact it has in their March issue.)

You may have voted for a city council or mayor or township representatives or county clerk on the basis of their campaign pledge to raise the minimum wage or enact a local non-discrimination ordinance or launch a needle exchange program or instruct local law enforcement NOT to arrest people for minor possession (often the first step in marijuana legalization efforts). Well, the state “pre-empts” that, swooping in to say, for instance, “No way – we say it’s legal to discriminate against LGBT people, and you’re not allowed to say differently, Charlotte, NC.”

In this, red states are taking a page from Congress’s book with regards to the District of Columbia. Not only do nearly 700,000 of your fellow citizens (more than the population of either Wyoming or Vermont) NOT have any representation in our federal legislature (taxation without representation, y’all, and for those who are unaware, DC pays WAY more than it gets back), Congress ALSO meddles in local decisions and laws on a regular basis by misusing their Constitutionally-mandated oversight of the DC budget.

Congress has wreaked all kinds of havoc over the years, everything from forbidding DC to move forward with a city-sponsored needle exchange program when the city was being ravaged by HIV/AIDS in the late 1980s to prohibiting DC from spending entirely local funds on things like police and trash collection every time Congress throws a temper tantrum and shuts down the government to their latest, trying to overturn DC’s recently-passed right-to-die legislation (despite the fact that SIX other states have similar laws).

DC is the United States’ last plantation. And if you think it’s a coincidence that Congress behaves this way towards a city that was, until recently, majority African-American and remains overwhelmingly Democratic majority, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

Enter Defend Local, a campaign launched by Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum. As their website states:

“Out-of-touch state lawmakers, lobbyists, and special interests are trying to silence your voice and your values. We’re a non-partisan, grassroots coalition of local mayors, commissioners, community leaders, and people like you. And we’re defending your right to have local solutions to local problems. It’s what you voted for. It’s what your taxes pay for. It’s what you deserve.”

We on the left have a long and justified history of suspicion of anything that smacks of “states rights” – after all, that’s been used by southern states to try to justify racism and racial discrimination pretty much ever since the founding of the US. But we are also TERRIBLE at paying attention to local and state politics, which is part of what got us into our current predicament. We want to fall in love with a Great Man of History every four years, and then we stop paying attention. Joke’s on us – we’re now ONE statehouse away from the Republicans being able to pass any damn Constitutional amendment they want. Will they start by outlawing all abortions? By formally legalizing discrimination against LGBT people? By legalizing slavery? Who knows? Stay tuned!

Could Defend Local devolve into something used for nefarious states-rights, “back of the bus, y’all” purposes? That’s certainly not the goal now, and if we get involved, we can make sure that never happens.

Many of us on the left are feeling paralyzed. There’s so much to do, and the right wing is attacking so many angles all at once, it can be hard to know where to start fighting back. Defend Local is one step on the path towards taking back local – and state – control. To again quote the website:

“When you voted for your mayor, commissioners, and council members, you voted for local problem-solvers. You know what’s best for our communities, not out-of-touch state legislators hundreds of miles away and shadowy special interests.

That’s why we’re calling on our state lawmakers to pledge not to pass any new laws that preempt local government from doing their job, or punish them for representing the values of our communities.”

Image found here.

Just Do The Next Right Thing

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~ Mrs. Whatsit

I don’t know about you, but November 9th was one of the worst days of my life. (And in the past two years, I’ve lost three close friends, all unexpectedly and WAY ahead of their time, and the 21 year old cat who kept me sane in graduate school and had been my boon companion for my entire adulthood, so I know from bad.)

I got a taste of what real depression is like, and it was horrible. I literally could not get out of bed. I laid there in the dark and cried off and on all day. My spouse periodically came in to bring me food I didn’t eat and beverages I didn’t drink. It felt like there was an elephant sitting on my chest and a vise crushing my head. It was miserable. I was miserable.

Aries that I am, though, on Thursday morning, November 10, I woke up and said to myself: “Self, that is enough wallowing. It’s time to do something.”

But what?

There’s this thing called the Paradox of Choice, when you’re faced with so many options you become paralyzed, incapable of choosing anything.

That’s how I felt. The problem of trying to stop a dangerously unstable, profoundly unqualified, proudly ignorant demagogue from ruining the country is so big – and so important – with so many potential angles of attack that I had no idea where to start.

That’s when I remembered what a very wise friend told me a number of years ago, and in a wildly different context: “You don’t have to know the end of the path. Just do the next right thing.”

OK, I may not, as of 9:17 am on Thursday, November 10, have known the full and exact most effective plan to #ResistTrump, but I could think of one good thing to do: donate some money to renew my membership in the ACLU. I could think of one more good thing to do: sign up to be notified about local training to run for office with Emily’s List. I could think of one more good thing to do: sign up for my next few volunteer shifts at the local food bank (something I’ve been doing monthly for the past four years, which is definitely one of the perks of running your own business). I could make sure my financial house and papers are in order. I could call my Muslim friends and make sure they know where we hide the spare keys in case the shit comes down on them, because when it happens, it happens fast, and if you need to get the fuck out of Dodge, the WORST thing you can do is be where they expect you to be, like your home or office. I could take on my industry for their poor response to the election (yes, I really did that, and so far, it hasn’t ruined my career).

The past two months have been difficult for the MAJORITY of voters (+2.8 million) who voted for Hillary Clinton, and this is just the warm up. Barack Obama is still in the White House, at least for a few more days. #TheResistance is only going to get more difficult from here. And I’m not always going to know the path – neither are you. But you can take the next step. You can do the next right thing in front of you. And so can I. And all those steps will eventually add up to the marathon we’ll all be running in the coming months and years.

Image found here.