Author Archives: mrswhatsit9

How To Be Idle and Blessed

grasshopper_on_a_flower-t2

This week has felt really, really hard – California is on fire, Puerto Rico is starving to death with no clean water and apparently it’s not FEMA’s job to help them, bros left and right are blaming Hillary Clinton for Harvey Weinstein’s sexual crimes, the “dirtbag” left still thinks rape is super funny, No-me-KEY Konst is still on the increasingly inaccurately named Democratic “unity” commission despite this, the Women’s March decided that St. Bernard of the Snows would be the best possible way to open their bullshit Women’s Convention in Detroit later this month, so-called President Trump is still the so-called President, I rode the bus home Tuesday night with a guy who spent the whole ride sitting there LOUDLY telling his buddy about all these men he knows who’ve hit women and injured them badly (in two of his stories, the male abusers broke the women’s jaws) and the bitches totally deserved it (yes, I made sure NOT to get off at the stop as he did), and I’m feeling like I’m about one sideways look from going all THAG SMASH on the world.

I know I need this, and maybe you do, too.

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

FWIW, I’m not the poetry fan/expert Hecate is, but this one is so meaningful to me I recently had its final couplet tattooed in a fairly visible location.

Image found here.

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One Person, One Vote

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One of the foundational principles of our democracy is “one person – one vote.”

(Admittedly, we started with a pretty fucking narrow definition of “person.” In 1776, when it was up to states to decide who could vote, “person” = “adult white male landowner.” Over time, “person” expanded to all adult white males, then African-American men (at least on paper), then women, then REALLY to African-Americans (more on that below), then finally to all American citizens aged 18 and older, which was WITHIN MY LIFETIME.)

Unfortunately, forces (and by “forces” I mostly mean Republicans and the conservative Supreme Court justices) are conspiring – and have been conspiring for years – to take that away.

There are a number of factors at play here: gerrymandering, weakening of the Voting Rights Act, voter suppression (which has been accelerated by the weakening of the VRA), and the illogic of continuing to rely on a system that was set up under radically different conditions than current demographic and population distribution realities.

Gerrymandering

Let’s start with gerrymandering. Both parties are guilty of this (just ask Republicans in Maryland) and have been for years (the term originated in a famous political cartoon in 1812).

Electoral maps are redrawn after each decade’s census, and 2010 saw a perfect storm of events. Republicans were swept into office in large numbers at state and national levels as a result of the rise of the Tea Party, Democratic midterm election apathy (a dreadful tradition we really need to do something to address), and backlash against the passage of the Affordable Care Act (which is ironic, seeing as all that anger was generated by Republican lies about what it would do, and now that they’re trying to gut or destroy it, all of a sudden, everyone likes it). We can also slice and dice data in much more sophisticated ways than ever before.

Racially-based gerrymandering has long been outlawed, thanks, in part to 1965’s Voting Rights Act. But partisan gerrymandering is just fine.

Well, actually, that’s not 100% true. In 1986’s Davis v. Bandemer, SCOTUS ruled that extreme partisan gerrymandering does violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution. However, they also ruled that there was no way to create a clear standard as to what constituted “extreme” partisan gerrymandering. Decisions about partisan gerrymandering would necessarily be subjective, and thus courts couldn’t adjudicate.

So for the intervening 30 years, it’s continued unabated. This stalemate has led to increasingly lopsided election results, where the winners of a shrinking minority of the votes end up with a growing majority of the seats.

This graphic is illustrative and well-known, but just in case you haven’t seen it:

How_to_Steal_an_Election_-_Gerrymandering.svg(By Steven Nass – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38869847)

Just this week, SCOTUS heard a case that could change all that, Gill v. Whitford. In short, in 2011, Republicans gerrymandered Wisconsin districts so that 49% of the vote earned them 60 of 99 seats in the state legislature. But what can you do, right? Well, at least “right?” for the past 30 years.

The innovation in Gill is that the plaintiffs have an algorithm, known as the efficiency gap (created by two University of Chicago professors, Nicholas Stephanopoulos and Eric McGhee) that can objectively determine how much partisan gerrymandering is too much.

As is often the case these days, this is basically going to come down to how Justice Kennedy rules (although one would think that at least Justice Roberts would be smart enough to realize that given demographic trends things will eventually get SO lopsided that his party won’t be able to cling to power forever; that even without that power flip, partisan gerrymandering is currently harming BOTH sides, just Democrats more strongly right now; and that the will of the majority can’t be subverted forever without risking armed insurrection – but I digress), and early signs are good. (Hecate and I and another witchy friend of ours may be able to claim a tiny bit of credit for that is all I’m saying.)

Weakening of the Voting Rights Act/Voter Suppression

As you likely already know, the 2016 presidential election was our first national election since SCOTUS gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, since apparently, five justices think that racism isn’t a thing anymore. Among other provisions, the 1965 law required states with a history of extreme racial discrimination (the former Confederacy, Alaska, and Arizona) to get “pre-clearance” of any changes they wanted to make to elections laws, like, for instance, who’s eligible to vote and what kind of ID voters have to provide.

The Brennan Center for Justice has a comprehensive guide to what’s happened since, but I wanted to highlight a few key pieces of information:

Six states that were formerly covered by the VRA introduced restrictive voting laws prior to the 2016 election: Texas, Arizona, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Eight states that hadn’t been subject to VRA pre-clearance also implemented strict voter ID prior to 2016 – Kansas, Nebraska, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin – ostensibly to solve the non-existent “problem” of in-person voter fraud (31 instances out of over 1 billion ballots cast between 2000 and 2014, which by the way, is likely an OVERCOUNT, since the study’s author counted not just prosecutions and convictions, but ANY credible claims).

I hope a few of those jump out at you: Virginia, which Hillary Clinton narrowly won when it shouldn’t have been close, and Wisconsin, which she was projected to win comfortably, and which was one of the three keys to so-called President Trump’s electoral college win.

Obviously, we need to restore and even expand the Voting Rights Act as soon as possible.

But perhaps even more concerning is voter suppression. This is a tactic that has long been used against African-American voters, by southern Democrats in the Jim Crow era (prior to the ideological flip on race that took place in the parties due to the civil rights legislation of the 1960s) right up to today’s Republican-sponsored restrictive voter ID laws that discourage African-Americans and young people, two traditionally Democratic voter blocs, from going to the polls, or prevent their votes from being cast or counted when they do show up.

25% of African-Americans lack the approved IDs (with states like Alabama making them harder to get specifically in majority black areas – maybe it was for purely budgetary reasons, as state officials claim, but the distribution of the closed DMV offices is highly suspicious), and students face barriers due to discrepancies between their driver’s licenses (often still registered to their parents’ addresses while they’re in their transient address college years) and where they attend school and have student IDs, with many of these same states restricting absentee and early voting as well.

There’s significant dispute over exactly how many voters were turned away in Wisconsin (the 200,000 number frequently cited is likely an exaggeration), but we know that Trump’s margins in the three key states were vanishingly small. (And don’t even get me started on fucking Jill Stein and her fucking jackass voters who were more than the margin of Trump’s victory in ALL THREE states and their fucking idiotic susceptibility to Russian propaganda on social media. That is a post for another time.)

In fact, The Washington Post editorial board recently called voter suppression THE civil rights issue of our time. They’re not wrong.

Structural Issues

Norm Ornstein, Tom Mann, and EJ Dionne recently published a book, One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet-Deported. Disclaimer: I have not yet read the book. However, I have listened to their nearly two-hour interview about it with Vox‘s Ezra Klein on his The Ezra Klein Show podcast.

In the interview, they discuss partisan gerrymandering (and they, too, are hopeful that Justice Kennedy will see reason and do the right thing in Gill v. Whitford), but they also discuss demographic trends and the over-representation of rural, conservative areas in our national legislature.

The issue with the Senate is well known: all states have two Senators, regardless of size. (And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that DC, at 681,000 residents, has a larger population than Wyoming or Vermont and recently voted OVERWHELMINGLY for statehood, and yet has no representation. Puerto Rico, which at 3.4 million residents has a larger population than 21 states, even more recently voted even more OVERWHELMINGLY for statehood, also, nada. Again, I digress.)

That may seem relatively innocuous until you realize that if current trends continue, by 2040, 70% of the US population will live in just 15 states, represented by just 30 Senators. The reason for this is that increasing numbers of Americans are moving to the large urban centers that are the engines of our economic growth – and, consequently, of good jobs. The Founding Fathers never could have anticipated this trend, but it’s throwing our political representation increasingly out of whack.

This uneven distribution of population and representation is replicated in the electoral college. While it’s not unprecedented for the popular vote winner to lose the electoral college (it happened three times in the nineteenth century, although election fraud was so rampant in 1876, it’s impossible to say who really won, which was perhaps the key factor in the devastatingly abrupt termination of Reconstruction), it IS unprecedented for it to happen twice in five elections. Hillary’s margin of popular vote victory while losing the electoral college is ALSO unprecedented.

As Dionne, Ornstein, and Mann point out, this structural flaw with the Senate will be difficult, if not impossible, to address. Dumping the electoral college would be equally challenging. But some states are taking steps to ensure that their electors must vote for the winner of popular vote via the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which could, without requiring a Constitutional change, render the electoral college functionally irrelevant.

Feeling pissed off? Good!

What can you do?

Don’t get mad, get organized.

First of all, register to vote, wherever you are.

Secondly, as Hillary Clinton urges:

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 12.30.34 PM

Thirdly, educate yourself about the voting requirements in your state and make sure you have what you need to meet them.

Fourth, talk about the issues I’ve raised here with your friends and family. Educate the people you know about what’s going on and the impact it has.

Fifth, get involved. In response to his narrow 2016 Senate loss (which was almost certainly due, at least in part, to voter suppression), former Missouri secretary of state Jason Kander launched Let America Vote “to fight back against proposals across the country that make it harder for eligible voters to exercise their constitutional right to cast a ballot.” Of course, you can donate, but you can also share your story of what the right to vote means to you and find opportunities to volunteer through the website.

The ACLU is also making a major push for voting rights through their People Power grassroots initiative called Let People Vote. There are a number of ways you can be involved in and support that effort available at that website as well.

President Obama and former AG Eric Holder have thrown their support behind the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which is also working on this issue. Their website also provides a number of options for getting involved in and supporting their efforts.

I’ll let Senator John McCain have the last word here:

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 12.40.51 PM

Couldn’t have said it better myself, Senator.

Image found here.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

 

On Taking a Knee

colin_kaepernick

Unless you’ve been mostly dead all week, you’ve seen a variety of hot takes on so-called President Trump’s war on black players in the NFL. Many of those takes have been deeply flawed because they’re being written by people who don’t follow football or know anything about it. I do.

Here’s the thing: Trump already got what he claims to want. “You’re fired! You’re fired!” Well, Colin Kaepernick is not currently playing in the NFL. Is racism a factor? Hell, yes. Is it the only factor? No.

Look, if Kaep played like Aaron Rodgers or Cam Newton, he’d still have a job regardless of his protest against the disproportionate police violence directed against African-Americans. Hell, if he played like Tom Brady, he could set fire to the flag at midfield and piss on the ashes for any reason or no reason at all, and he’d still have a job. If all he did was get caught on tape beating up his girlfriend, he could play like Jay Cutler or Ryan Fitzpatrick and still have a job.

But he doesn’t. Kaep’s not a very good quarterback. That’s not meant as a slam – guys like Rodgers and Newton and Brady are rare. Kaep played well in college and was drafted by the 49ers in the second round in 2011. As is common, he spent his first year riding the bench and learning the playbook as a backup, and stepped into the starting role in 2012 when Alex Smith went down with a concussion (yet another major problem with the modern NFL), taking a team that was likely already on their way to the playoffs regardless to the Super Bowl (Kaep went 5-2 as a starter, but the team was already 6-2-1 when Smith went down).

Kaep became the full time starter in 2013 and led the 49ers back to the postseason on an overall record of 12-4. And then in 2014, he had a bad year (8-8), followed by two even worse years – in 2015, he went 2-6 and lost the starting job, then in 2016 he won back the starting job but went a dismal 1-10. He’s never had a season quarterback rating above 92. (For reference, a perfect rating is 158.3, and a good rating is above 100, which about 1/3 of starting quarterbacks meet or exceed every year).

What happened? Why was a quarterback who was so good in his first year as the full time starter in 2013 so bad in 2014 and after?

It’s actually pretty common, and it’s about game tape and being a running quarterback versus a pocket passer. When there’s no game tape on a quarterback, opposing defensive coordinators, position coaches, and players have a hard time preparing to defend against whatever it is he’s going to do. That has an extremely limited life span, because the more games the guy plays, the more tape opposing teams have. Just ask Tim Tebow (out of the league in 2012 after only three seasons) or Nick Foles (who had a great partial year in 2013 that he’s never been able to replicate, playing for three different teams in the following years, now third on the depth chart for his current team, and that’s after posting a quarterback rating of 105.9 last year).

Being a running quarterback compounds the problem, because defenders start expecting that, and unless you’re as fast and inexplicably sturdy as Michael Vick (seriously – he’s not a big guy; it’s amazing he stayed as healthy as he did as long as he did), you get lit up so much that you’re too injured to play. Just as Robert Griffin III (who also currently doesn’t have a job after playing only four seasons, in one of which he achieved a quarterback rating of 102.4).

I realize I’ve just told you way more about the NFL than you ever wanted to know, but it was critical background to this:

Kaep’s stand is even braver than you realized.

Football players have big egos, but Kaep’s smart and self-aware enough to realize that choosing to take the public stand he did was likely to cost him his job.

And he chose to do what he believes is the right thing anyway.

Fun fact one: “He’s disrespecting our military!” Nope. For one, the NFL and the military are not identical, despite the Department of Defense contract with the NFL to promote military service that didn’t originate until 2009. Yes, that whole over-the-top display at the start of football games only dates back eight seasons. Prior to that, many teams stayed in the locker room until after the anthem was sung as a matter of course.

Additionally, Kaep’s original silent protest action was to sit on the bench while the anthem was played. Former Green Beret (and Seattle Seahawks player) Nate Boyer published an open letter in the Army Times about Kaep’s protest, after which the two got in contact, and as a result of their conversations and Boyer’s advice, Kaep started taking a knee instead. So yes, he takes a knee at the recommendation of a veteran.

Fun fact two: “He’s just whining! He doesn’t actually do anything about the problem!” Nope. In 2016, Kaep made a $1M pledge to support organizations working with oppressed communities: $100,000 a month for 10 months. So far, he’s given $900,000, four monthly gifts of $25,000 each, for which he’s been honored by the NFL Players’ Union. Deeds not words.

Our first amendment right as US citizens to freedom of speech protects us from government retaliation. It does not protect us from other consequences, such as potentially losing our private sector jobs. That’s what happened to Kaep, but the stand he was taking was more important to him, even though he had to know it was going to cost him, because NFL owner rich dudes are a pretty Republican lot. Many of those billionaires in suits piously linking arms with their players on the sidelines last Sunday donated money to Trump’s campaign or inauguration or both. It’s up to you how that – or the NFL’s ongoing and severe problems with domestic violence or chronic traumatic encephalopathy – influences your willingness to watch.

As Shannon Sharpe points out FAR better than I can, there’s a SHIT TON of hypocrisy going on here.

As Sharpe also points out, Trump is highly skilled at race baiting. Hell, that’s pretty much all Trump’s got at this point.

In other words, this is all a distraction.

Not Kaep’s protest – he wanted to bring attention to the historical AND contemporary problem of state-sanctioned violence against black people, and he did. It stretches from the first enslaved people who were forcibly brought to these shores in 1619, more than 150 years before the US even became a country, through the Civil War, and Reconstruction, and Jim Crow, and the civil rights movement, on through Black Lives Matter.

Not the other NFL players who’ve supported his stand, from 49ers teammate Eric Reid, who was the first to kneel with Kaep, through Malcolm Jenkins raising the black power salute during the anthem on Monday Night Football two weeks later (and at every game since), to the entire Oakland Raiders all-black offensive line taking a knee this past Sunday.

Not Megan Rapinoe, of the US Womens’ National soccer team, who was the first non-NFL professional athlete to support Kaep’s protest, also in September of 2016.

Not the Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell, who was the first professional baseball player to take a knee this past week.

No, this is Trump reverting to race-baiting type to try to distract all of us from the fact that the entire Republican party is utterly bankrupt of any ideas beyond “cut taxes for rich people.”

Trump is trying to make us all forget that his administration is basically ignoring the exploding humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, home to 3.5 million AMERICAN CITIZENS, in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

He’s trying to get us all to ignore the fact that literally his ONLY idea for addressing the potential nuclear crisis with North Korea is “sling childish insults on Twitter.”

He’s trying to paper over the fact that, despite promising to “get rid of Obamacare” for seven solid years, the Republican party, like the “gentleman’s C” students they apparently all are, NEVER bothered to do the work to come up with a reasonable alternative. SEVEN YEARS they had to work on this, and the best they could come up with was Graham-Cassidy, a plan that was SO BAD they never even brought it to a vote.

He’s hoping we won’t notice that, despite the fact that the US tax code badly needs a comprehensive overhaul (the last one was more than 30 years ago), his party couldn’t manage to come up with anything more than their typical “Tax cuts for rich people will fix everything! The economy, the need for more good paying jobs, accelerating global climate change, our aging infrastructure, chronic halitosis, your annoying Patriots fan brother-in-law – EVERYTHING!”

As feeble-minded as he appears to be, Trump may be getting the inklings of the thought in his pea-brain that, given that the Republicans have failed to accomplish ANYTHING of substance despite unified legislative and executive branches, his base may wake up to the fact that continuing to support these assholes is a bad move. Particularly since Republicans aren’t even attempting to address any of the stuff that actually matters to most people: loss of good jobs, income inequality, the opioid epidemic.

So OF COURSE Trump is stirring up racial resentment against black men who make, for a few short years and at great risk to their long term health, large sums of money.

As Nick Wright advises, don’t be fooled, and don’t get it twisted.

Edited to add: Malcolm Jenkins wrote an excellent op-ed for The Washington Post today. “We believe our country can do better — can be better.” You should go read the whole thing.

Image from Sports Illustrated.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

 

How’s Your Balance?

Work-Life-Balance

We’ve just passed the fall equinox, known to us Pagan types as Mabon or the witches’ thanksgiving.

Equinoxes are about balance, the two days of the year when the light and the dark are in perfect harmony, sharing the day equally, before we tip towards the dark (now) or the light (in March).

At Mabon, Pagans assess and celebrate our harvest, calling together our families of origin or choice to feast and give thanks for our blessings.

Meanwhile, in the mundane world (which doesn’t really exist; as Hecate is fond of saying, “It’s all real. It’s all metaphor. There’s always more.”), so-called President Trump has threatened nuclear war with North Korea (and he’s managed to make Kim Jong Un seem like the calm, sane, rational one, which is quite a feat), Congressional Republicans are trying to take away our access to health care AGAIN, and Gaia seems pretty pissed at us, what with three major hurricanes and two major earthquakes in the last month.

I think it’s a good time to ask: How’s your balance right now?

Are you taking breaks from social media? I know it can feel like, if you look away for a second, something horrible is going to happen. But you constantly monitoring Twitter or Facebook is NOT going to prevent that. Your 500 followers will still learn about whatever it is even if you don’t post/RT immediately. The world will not stop spinning if you skip one hot take cycle.

(While you’re at it, now might be a great time to consider deleting Facebook. Day by day we learn more about their complicity in helping Russia steal the 2016 election for Trump, complicity that they continue to deny and refuse to take responsibility for. I did so months ago, with virtually no impact on my life. You can, too. Even beyond their subverting our election for profit and turning our elderly relatives into budding neo-Nazis, there are a host of other excellent reasons to cut that particular cord. Just consider it.)

When was the last time you took a walk outside in nature? For us urbanites, “nature” can even mean “the nearest city park” – just someplace that you can see green, feel sun and wind on your face, and touch trees. Spending 10-15 minutes taking a stroll outdoors has all sorts of positive benefits: decreased stress, lowered blood pressure, decreased risk of depression, the exercise itself, increased happiness, increased creativity, better cognitive functioning. Go put on your shoes and take a stroll right now! This blog post will still be here when you get back.

Are you spending time with the people you love in person? An unexpected benefit of deleting Facebook has been that I feel more motivated to schedule time to actually be with my friends and loved ones. I don’t get the false impression that I know what’s going on with them just from reading their carefully curated status updates. I need to call them, or, better yet, meet for a meal, a drink, or a walk and ask them how they are and what’s new.

And when you’re on your walk or with your friends, put away your smartphone. I love the Crooked Media podcasts and the Washington Post, New Yorker, and The Atlantic apps as much as the next urban liberal elitist, but the relentless tide of depressing news and commentary can be overwhelming. Sometimes it’s nice to just be alone with my thoughts – or Duke Ellington’s Ellington at Newport album – on my walk. Studies have shown that the mere presence of a smartphone reduces the quality of conversations you’ll have. Stash it in your purse or jacket pocket and leave it there.

How’s your physical health? Are you eating a wide variety of unprocessed foods from the outside ring of your grocery store? Are you getting enough sleep (you might want to banish screens from your bedroom if you’re not)? Are you comfortable with how you’re using alcohol and other mood-altering substances? When was the last time you had a full body belly laugh? Are you moving your body in ways that make you feel good every day (if “CrossFit until you puke” is your thing, vaya con dios, but maybe try something a little more gentle)? Are you enjoying the kind of sex you like on the frequency you like to get it, whether alone or with a partner(s)? Have you been to the dentist in the last six months? Have you had your annual checkup with your primary care physician? Are you appropriately managing any chronic or ongoing illnesses? How’s your spiritual practice, whatever path you’ve chosen to follow?

When was the last time you read a novel? Or, if that’s not your bag, something like James Baldwin’s essays, Dorothy Parker’s biting wit, Dr. King’s speeches, Mary Oliver’s poetry, or a non-fiction book about your favorite historical event or period? You need to feed your mind and your spirit with more than news of the crisis du jour.

Speaking of, READ the news. Turn off MSNBC, CNN, even John Oliver and Sam Bee, at least every once in a while, and pick up an actual newspaper. Even better if it’s long form investigative reporting. Double even better if it’s in your LOCAL paper.

Find a way that’s meaningful to you to contribute to making your local community a better place. You can volunteer at your local food bank or animal rescue organization. You can do a favor for an elderly neighbor. You can make a donation to a local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. You can pick up trash on your street. You can plant flowers in your front yard or in a pot on your balcony. You can be kind to a stranger.

Finally, don’t forget to do something loving for yourself, however you define that. It’s OK if it’s “trivial.” Hell, it’s probably BETTER if it’s trivial. Go to a ball game. Get your nails done. Re-watch your favorite silly comedy for the 1,397th time (“BLUCHER!”). Take a nap in a hammock. Pour your favorite beverage, put on your favorite album, and just listen to the whole thing. Install a bird feeder (hours of entertainment for yourself AND your cats). Binge-re-watch season three of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Go out and lay on your back in the yard and stargaze tonight. Get a new tattoo. Read your kid your favorite childhood book. Make banana splits for dinner. Go to that new bar, restaurant, or yoga class you’ve been wanting to try.  Put on Prince’s Dirty Mind album and dance like nobody’s watching (because they aren’t). Fix that loose doorknob that’s been driving you crazy for months. Forget that you’re (mumble mumble) years old for a minute, and go to the club with your girlfriends this weekend. Cancel plans you didn’t really want to make anyway to hang out with your dog.

We have to keep our own wells full in order to have anything to give. Constantly pouring yourself out without putting anything back in depletes your body, mind, soul, and spirit. It will make you sick and despondent and sap your energy. #TheResistance needs each and every one of us, but we can only be effective when we’re strong for the fight.

Image found here (because we could all stand to look at a picture of a highly attractive man for a few seconds about now)

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

 

A Love Letter to Hillary

Hillary Clinton, The White House, Washington DC, December 1993

Dear Hillary,

Tuesday morning, I was facing a longer than usual subway ride, so I thought: “Let’s see what’s the latest in Podcast World.” Scrolling through my subscriptions, I noticed a brand new episode of Pod Save America titled “Hillary Clinton.”

“Cool,” I thought. “The guys are going to talk about her new book. I wonder what they’ll have to say.”

And then….it wasn’t them talking ABOUT you. Dan, Tommy, and the Jons were talking WITH you.

You have no idea how happy I was to hear your voice and your marvelous, infectious, full body, from-the-belly, guffaw of a laugh.

I’ve missed you so.

The past 10 months have been hard. It feels like we’re invisible.

“We” who?

The millions of people who voted for you, believe in your message and your ability to Get Shit Done, support you with all our hearts, and love you still.

The media produces approximately 9,457,283 stories a week about Trump voters. They produce approximately 4,365,892 stories a week about St. Bernard of the Snows and his cadre of dead-enders (yes, there are STILL Bernie dead-enders).

BernieAndTrump. TrumpAndBernie. BernieAndTrump. TrumpAndBernie.

You earned four million more primary votes than Bernie. You earned three million more general election votes than so-called President Trump. I have yet to see ONE story about us.

That doesn’t mean we’re not here.

We’re the ones who, every day, are still trying to follow your admonition: “Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.”

We’re the ones who are doing the hard, dull, unappreciated work of #TheResistance: calling our Representatives and Senators every day. Writing them. Emailing them. Showing up at their DC and local offices. Sitting in and getting arrested. Donating to Onward Together, and to the wonderful grassroots organizations it supports. Running local chapters of Indivisible and Swing Left. Phone banking for Democratic candidates in state legislatures and special elections. Registering people to vote. Knocking on doors. Signing up with EMILY’s List and Emerge America in record numbers to run for office at all levels (not just an every-four-years quixotic vanity campaign for POTUS like some Green candidates I could name).

And every day – EVERY DAY – you are still our inspiration.

Every male pundit who can manage to get two people to listen to him or read his sad little blog seems to be busy telling you to sit down, shut up, go away. You’re an older woman who lost, so apparently you’re supposed to apologize for even daring to continue to exist, much less continuing to insist on having a voice and using it to speak out for what matters. (Are they telling loser Bernie Sanders to sit down, shut up, and go away? No they are not.)

Well, What Happened is a fantastic “fuck that” to all of them.

We love you for telling your own story in your own words, and to hell with anyone who doesn’t want to hear it. They, as you pointed out, don’t have to buy your book. Hell, they probably can’t, since it sold out just about everywhere in the first few hours it was available Tuesday morning.

We love you so much we’ll line up in front of bookstores 24 hours in advance to get a signed copy (and you love us so much you’ll send us pizza so we don’t get too hungry). We love you so much your book tour sold out in about a nanosecond.

As Chimamanda Adichie wrote in The Atlantic mere days before the election, we love you for your intelligence, your industriousness, and your grit. We love you for your many firsts (and many of us know first hand exactly how hard it is to be the first), and for being a fantastic mom to Chelsea, and grandma to Aidan and Charlotte. We love that you’ve written more books and so-called President Trump has likely read in his entire life. We love that you love a stiff drink, and put hot sauce on everything (you’re not the only one, girl). We love that you’ve invested your life advocating for women and children. We love your sense of humor. We love that, time and again, you’ve refused to be a well-behaved woman, and for that, you made history.

You will always be our hero. You fight for what you believe in, and you never give up, no matter what the odds. We’ll tell our daughters’ daughters’ daughters about you and hold you up as an example of what they can aspire to be.

Love and #StillWithHer forever,

Mrs. Whatsit

Photo credit: Annie Leibovitz for Vogue

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The North Is Not Innocent

Home_Owners'_Loan_Corporation_Philadelphia_redlining_map

Three weeks ago (prior to Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Katia), I wrote about the US’s original sin of racism and posited, citing data on health, poverty, and educational attainment in the deep South (all depressingly poor), that maybe God is punishing them.

That shouldn’t be read as an exoneration of the rest of the country.

In some ways, the deep South is the shadow for the entire rest of the US. We push unwanted negative aspects of our society onto white Southerners, which lets the rest of us white people conveniently pretend we’re not also implicated.

I’m not saying that those of us who aren’t from the South say (out loud) anything like: “All white Southerners are racist, and racism only exists in the South. None of the rest of us white people are racist, and no racism exists outside the South.” But I think many of us believe that, or something like it, on an unconscious or subconscious level.

“I’m from Pennsylvania! We were founded by Quakers and were always a free state!”

“My people never owned any slaves. We were seafaring New Englanders!”

“The territory that became our state wasn’t even settled before the Emancipation Proclamation!”

“My people came through Ellis Island after WWII!”

“There’s never been any ‘strange fruit’ hanging from the trees in this town!”

But don’t kid yourself: just because us Yankees (in some cases) outlawed slavery earlier than 1863 or never enforced the de jure segregation of Jim Crow doesn’t mean our hands are clean.

As The Green Man has pointed out, although the relationships may have been mediated by power and exploitation and violence and the fear of violence, in the South, no white child could EVER have grown up as my New England native spouse did, not even knowing a single black person until the fifth grade. In the South, black and white have lived together – not necessarily easily, not comfortably, not with comity, peace, love, and brother- and sister-hood – but without being able to pretend each other doesn’t exist since colonial days. As a result, as several of my black friends (and probably yours, too) have remarked, in some ways, they prefer the South. There are racists all over, but at least the subset of Southern white people who are racist don’t try to hide it, and either way, inter-racial interactions are often far less fraught down there, whether they’re with outspoken racists or with “allies” who’ve never really known any people of color and are super-weird and awkward as a result.

In the musical 1776 (which if you’ve never seen it, you really should), one of the most powerful scenes in the movie happens just before the Southern delegation walks out. The Founding Fathers have been wrestling over whether or not to secede from Great Britain, and the fledgling United States almost founders on the rocks of slavery. Edward Rutledge, a South Carolina planter and delegate to the Continental Congress, sings “Molasses to Rum to Slaves”:

If you have five minutes to invest, watch the video. The point is: South Carolina and Georgia and Virginia planters aren’t the ones jumping on ships, sailing to the west coast of Africa, snatching people, and bringing them back to the colonies to sell. That’s the self-righteous “we don’t own slaves!” New Englanders – and they’re the ones making bank on the “Triangle Trade,” too.

The Northern abolitionist movements, for the most part, wanted the enslaved Africans freed, but they sure as hell didn’t then want them as neighbors and fellow citizens. Free? Sure. Absolutely. But maybe those Africans should all be sent…elsewhere. Back to Africa. To the Caribbean. To the western territories. But certainly NOT next door, at the market, in church, in schools with WHITE PEOPLE! That won’t do.

Oh – and plenty of Northern states condoned slavery until – and even after – the Emancipation Proclamation, which did not, in fact, end slavery in the North. You just didn’t have big rice, sugar, tobacco, or cotton plantations up there, so it wasn’t so in your face.

Sure, the North fought to keep the Union together, and Lincoln emancipated the enslaved in 1863. But there were draft riots across the North, as rich men paid Irish refugees from the potato famine (who at the time weren’t really considered to be “white,” which required one to be male, native-born, and a property owner) to take their places, and they didn’t particularly want to go off to fight and potentially die to free enslaved Africans.

Moving forward not that many years to the Great Migration: as Jim Crow closed in on the South, many blacks looked around, thought “it HAS to be better up North” and hopped a train for New York, Detroit, Chicago, LA. And they were right – it was MARGINALLY better. You at least didn’t live under the constant fear of lynching, you had employment options other than sharecropping, and “sundown towns” were a rarity (although not nonexistent).

But city ghettos are a Northern phenomenon. Restrictive housing covenants and redlining kept blacks confined to over-crowded, poorly-maintained, inner city housing stock. Redlining further ensured that, even if you could save your money to buy a house, you couldn’t get a mortgage, which meant you bought a house “on contract.” If you’ve ever read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, you know how that works: you pay every month, but you don’t own the house or have any equity, and if you miss a month or are even late on a payment, the contract owner tosses you and your family out on your asses, and you have no recourse. Think that ended back in the muckraking era? Nope.

Meanwhile, white Northerners – and Midwesterners, and residents of the high plains and the desert southwest and the Pacific coast – unaccustomed to being around non-white people, rioted. Chased the first black family from neighborhoods over and over. Blocked access to union membership – and good union jobs. Fled to the suburbs when black children began showing up in the public schools.

Us Yankees might not have had de jure segregation, at least after the end of the Civil War, but we sure as hell had – and still have, particularly when you consider the overlap between race and economic class – de facto segregation. (To learn more about the history of racism in the North, check out All Eyes Are Upon Us: Race and Politics from Boston to Brooklyn and The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.)

What’s my point?

My point is that, just as the South needs to deal with its shadows around slavery and Jim Crow, the entire country needs to deal with our shadow around blaming, whether consciously or not, our entire racist history on a few states where it’s just the most (and even that is debatable) blatant.

A good place to start may be to check out an anti-racism group, like SURJ, or the work of places like the Kirwan Institute.

Image found here (which is the Wikipedia entry ON redlining, and it’s of Philadelphia which is in “always a free state” Pennsylvania)

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Happy Labor Day!

Rosie

As we go into this last weekend of summer, it’s a great time to gather friends and family for parties and cookouts – and this weekend I’ll be doing some of both – but it’s ALSO a great time to remember what we’re celebrating with our Labor Day holiday: honoring labor and trade organizations, and having a party for workers and their families.

Not consumers, workers.

We are more than consumers – we’re citizens and workers. This day is for us!

The next time you enjoy things like:

  • An 8-hour workday
  • Paid overtime
  • A weekend

Or think about the fact that your seven year old is not expected (or allowed) to get a job, that we do have a minimum wage (although it desperately needs to be raised), or that if you get injured on the job, you’re owed compensation, remember: that’s all thanks to labor unions.

And did you know that WOMEN formed the first labor union in the US?  Women textile workers in Lowell, MA formed the first union 50 years before Samuel Gompers founded the AFL.

The union movement has been on the decline since its peak in the mid-1960s, with Republican-promoted “right to work” laws encroaching on more and more states. But unions still remain powerful guardians of workers’ rights and interests, protecting us from being at the mercy of management, whose only real goal is to make the widget a little cheaper and sell it for a little more, squeezing as much profit as possible out of every step along the way, including the workers.

Unions protect workers’ wages and ensure high quality benefits packages via contracts, help promote equal pay for equal work, allow workers to exercise the power of collective bargaining, ensure that people aren’t fired for no good reason, promote workplace safety standards, encourage civic engagement, and provide a bulwark against the whims of the owners.

As the Economic Policy Institute’s excellent research paper on this subject points out: “Unions are essential to a fair economy and a vibrant democracy.”

So enjoy your cookout and beer and relaxing with your posse on the last day of summer – I know I will – but don’t forget to take a few minutes to think about what we’re actually celebrating this weekend.

Image found here.

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