Author Archives: mrswhatsit9

Who’s Really In A Bubble?

Bubble

It’s a trick question.

Answer: every single one of us.

The better question is: what sort of bubble are you in?

It is nearly impossible to climb outside of our own experiences. That’s why, nearly 20 years later, Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack remains so relevant. That’s why this recent story about workplace sexism resonates so much. What each of us experiences in life is normal for us, and it’s difficult to resist the thought that it’s therefore normal for everyone. Teasing apart what is unique to me versus to my social or identity groups versus universal is really tough.

Which brings us to bubbles.

Since the election, there have been approximately 4,236,747 stories about Trump voters and how we should all try to understand them because their experiences are real and their pain is real and they’re the real America that us coastal elites in our bubbles ignore and disparage yackity-smackity, mea culpa mea culpa mea maxima culpa (and leaving aside that it’s the RIGHT WING elites who disparage the rural poor).

And you know what I’m talking about, because you’ve read AT LEAST one of those 4,236,747 stories. The setting is nearly always the same: Small Town in largely rural area. 90%+ white. Not an immigrant, refugee, Muslim, or person of color to be seen anywhere, except maybe in a ghettoized neighborhood on the wrong side of the tracks or near the local toxic waste dump. The Factory – whether it was coal or auto or textile or food processing – shut down years ago. Walmart moved in a year ago, or five years ago, or ten years ago, promising jobs, and they delivered, sort of. There *are* jobs, but the people who work them qualify for SNAP and Medicaid and other forms of government assistance, because Walmart pays poverty wages. You can buy cheap shit there, but in the meantime, Small Town’s Main Street was decimated. Educational achievement is low, and rates of opioid or meth addiction are high. Everyone watches Fox News and listens to Limbaugh – or worse.

And I’m supposed to buy that those Trump voters AREN’T in a bubble, while I am?

Bullshit.

I do live in a blue, highly educated, high income/cost of living coastal city. My neighbors – as in people I know and speak with on a regular basis on my block – are black and immigrants and gay…and white couples with kids. I have a Black Friend (actually more than one, and Muslims and Jews and Latinas and Hispanics and Asians and LGBT people, etc., etc., etc., and yes, these are people I see regularly and who come to my house and I go to theirs and we know each others’ families and other friends).

Before I left the church, I spent a summer as a teenager on a missions trip to poor, rural Missouri and worked with the kind of people profiled in those Trump voter pieces. And yes, that rural poverty is dire. My dad was the first person in his family – and the only one of his generation – to go to college. His sister and brother-in-law and their four kids, who live in a Habitat for Humanity house, have been on public assistance of one sort or another for 30+ years, and his other two siblings and their spouses are blue-collar. On the other hand, both of my mom’s parents had graduate degrees, as do both of her brothers, as do I and one of my 13 cousins (although many of the rest of them also did not go to college).

I volunteer on a regular basis with two different groups that bring me into contact with all sorts of people – school groups, workplace groups, people with intellectual disabilities, people doing their court-mandated community service, kids from under-privileged neighborhoods. I have ongoing relationships with some of these people. I ride public transportation almost every day and encounter a rainbow of people there – all colors, all ages, all social classes, all religions and sexual orientations and gender expressions. I get to eat food and hear music and see art and attend theater from all kinds of cultures every week.

I don’t watch TV news  – it’s shallow and detracts from, rather than adding to, our national discourse – but I read a wide variety of reputable mainstream and left news sources (yes to the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, Slate, MIT’s Technology Review, Vox, and The Atlantic – no to the purely partisan alt-left that’s nearly as bad as a alt-right, The Intercept and your fellow travelers, I’m looking at you). I’ve traveled to the overwhelming majority of the US states, including most of “flyover” country, and I’ve been to a bunch of places outside the US, too, and not just western Europe and the tourist Caribbean.

I’m not saying all this because I want some sort of pat on the head. I would guess that a decent amount of what I just related holds true for many – although certainly not all – of the people who live in my blue, highly educated, high income/cost of living coastal city.

I still live in a bubble. But my argument is that my bubble is pretty big and varied.

And I’m the one who needs to understand people who’ve never traveled more than 50 miles from the town they were born in and who’ve chosen to drastically narrow their world view by the media they elect to consume?

I don’t think so.

Do you remember The Fresh Air Fund? You know – the organization that packs city kids off to live in the country for the summer, so they can experience trees and cows and crickets and whatnot? They’re still out there, after 140 years, and that’s a good thing. But I think we also need a, for lack of a better term, Smog Air Fund, to bring kids from small town rural communities into the city for the summer, so they can see that our cities are not the dystopian hellholes so-called President Trump is trying to convince them we are, and meet some people of color and immigrants and gay people and see that they’re just regular people, and see some art and eat some interesting food and maybe go to a play or hear music they wouldn’t normally encounter, and expand their bubbles a whit.

I need to bust out of my bubble. I need to read Nancy Isenberg’s White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America. And Edward McClelland’s Nothin’ But Blue Skies. And Maharidge and Williamson’s Someplace Like America. I get that. But fixing the problems in the US isn’t – and can’t be – all the responsibility of one side. It’s time for those on the right to step up and own their bullshit, too.

Image found here.

Why I Stand With Planned Parenthood

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In my senior year, at the seriously deficient private religious school my parents sent me to, our civics teacher assigned us the task of doing class presentations on the policy topic of our choice.

I chose abortion.

(Now, mind you, this was a school that would give students an excused absence if you wanted to get on the church bus and ride to DC on January 23 to march with the pro-birthers. What can I say? I’ve always enjoyed kicking hornets’ nests.)

I quickly realized that we’d all been so indoctrinated with pro-birther claptrap that there was no way I’d get the class to actually engage with the issue.

So, day of, I started my boring presentation and then told a little lie.

“I’m pregnant.”

OK, maybe not so little.

Everyone in the class knew my boyfriend, who was in college at the time. And did I mention that they also knew that I’d already been offered a large scholarship to a good college myself?

They still came to the conclusion that, because of God, I had to keep my baby (thank you Madonna), but at least it made them actually think through the implications of that stance.

(Yes, I told them the truth at the end.)

In the intervening years, I went to college, graduated at the top of my class, went on to a top-20 grad school in my field and earned a graduate degree, and have had a very successful career that includes launching my own business several years ago.

So I stand with Planned Parenthood because I was raised in a world that told me that if I were a pregnant 17 year old, I had to have that baby. Not that none of that other great stuff would’ve happened if I really had been a pregnant teenager and carried the baby to term, but in the pro-birth world I was raised in, I HAD NO CHOICE.

Because that’s the thing about pro-birthers. All they care about is the damn fetuses. Not the women who are the “hosts” (anyone else find yourself thinking of the movie Alien?). Not the people those fetuses become after they’re born. Just the fetuses.

And don’t think they give two shits about reducing unintended pregnancy, because they don’t. In their view, women who have sex deserve to be punished. We deserve anything that happens to us: pregnancy, disease, rape, you name it.

If they really cared about babies, women, and families, they would’ve supported Hillary Clinton (and of course you KNOW they didn’t).

What policies do we know, because of data, are effective in  reducing unintended pregnancy and providing support for women who become pregnant, so that they can choose the best option for them and their families?

  • Comprehensive sex ed
  • Easy, universal, free access to birth control
  • Comprehensive, free prenatal care
  • Universal parental leave
  • Subsidized, high-quality child care
  • Wrap-around adoption support

What policies do the pro-birthers support?

  • Abstinence-only education, despite data that proves that it leads to dramatic increases in teenage pregnancy and STIs
  • Classing most types of birth control as “abortifacients” – and then outlawing them (but don’t you dare touch their insurance-subsidized Viagra or Cialis!)
  • Trumpcare, which means that if you can’t afford health care, you should just “die, and decrease the surplus population”
  • No mandatory leave – that puts an “undue burden” on business, dontcha know?
  • Why would you need child care? A woman’s place is in the home (despite the fact that women of color and working class women have ALWAYS worked, but they only care about middle/upper class white women, so….)

The pro-birthers claim to LURVE Jeebus and the fetuses (worst band name ever), but they don’t give one single damn about actual humans actually living on the actual planet right now. They’ll fight tooth and nail for birth, but once you’re here, you’re on your own. Their “morality” is hypocritical bullshit.

That’s why I stand with Planned Parenthood. Because I see the pro-birthers for what they really are, and it’s ugly and evil.

(Oh – and 80% of Americans agree with me.)

Image found here.

Protest FOMO

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Sign-making skills getting a little rusty? Has it been a few weeks since you’ve busted out your pussy hat? Don’t remember what comes after “STAND UP!” in the protest chants?

You’re not alone. There is SO MUCH #TheResistance activity going on, it’s really easy to lose track of things. Next thing you know, there’s been a protest about something that really matters to you – calling for Jeff Sessions to resign, supporting the First Nations peoples at Standing Rock, calling for the release of so-called President Trump’s tax returns – and you missed it! You only find out that it’s happening as you begin to see photos of everyone’s clever signs on Instagram and hear their inspired new chants on Facebook Live video.

“Damn it!” you think. “I could’ve gone to this if I’d had a few hours’ notice!”

You have Protest FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out.

Rise Stronger to the rescue!

They are a new organization founded to “empower Americans to monitor and take action in response to the Trump Administration, Congress, and state and local governments.”

Among the services they provide is a “people’s calendar” of events, which includes protest, rallies, marches, town halls, vigils, teach-ins, talks, concerts, hack-a-thons, etc. with all kinds of useful filters – event type, state, mileage radius (i.e., “give me everything within 50 miles of my ZIP code”), politician attending, and date range.

You can even add your own events, and they ARE looking for volunteers to help with maintenance of the calendar and seeking out more events to include.

So that whole thing about choosing a volunteer activity that’s something you can and will do, that’s within your sphere of influence, and that’s something you can actually impact? Maybe you don’t like to phone bank or knock on doors, and maybe you’re tapped out on how much you can financially contribute to Planned Parenthood or the ACLU or Emily’s List, but you’re an outstanding researcher and plugged in to a lot of #TheResistance groups electronically. I’m just saying.

FOMO no mo’.

Image found here.

What They’re Really After

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-1-49-19-pmOne of the big stories of the 2016 election was that evangelicals went for so-called President Trump 80-16. In case you’re unclear, that’s a BIG margin.

This has been puzzling to a lot of people. After all, Trump is, aside from being a teetotaler (and many people have speculated that while he famously doesn’t drink, his behavior indicates that he does indulge in other illicit substances, cocaine I’m looking at you), famously libertine. He has five children by three different women, he’s had multiple affairs, he’s appeared in porn, he’s a compulsive liar and a thief, he’s boastful and vain – in fact, he often hits all seven of the deadly sins in one tweet.

How could the very same people who approved of impeaching a president over a consensual blow job vote for this guy?

Having been raised not just evangelical but fundamentalist, I’m not in the least bit surprised.

You thought Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was dystopian fiction? These people view it as an aspirational goal.

The reason evangelicals freak out so much about “creeping Sharia” isn’t that they’re anti-theocracy or big supporters of the separation of church and state. Nope – they’re worried another religious group will beat them to the punch, and they won’t get the exact brand of theocracy they most prefer.

Far from fighting authoritarianism, their entire worldview encourages it. Don’t question, don’t think for yourself, just listen to authority (God, the minister, your father, your husband) and do what they say. Trump fits that mold PERFECTLY.

“Do good to those who hate you”?

No – they’re down with hating anyone who isn’t exactly like them.

“Love your enemies”?

Try: “From hell’s heart, I stab at thee; for hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee.”

“Blessed are the poor”?

No way, we now worship at the altar of Ayn Rand – it’s everyone for himself.

Evangelicals love to talk about Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, but when it comes down to what they do, it’s like they’ve never cracked open a bible or any other “holy” book. #FakeChristians.

(Rant interlude, where I have to give a huge shout-out to the good people of the christian left, like John Pavlovitz and Shannon Dingle, who are doing their best to try to salvage this. I’m pretty sure, with patriarchal religion, that the effort is futile, but I wish them the best in their attempts.)

And they’re now ascendant, and emboldened by having put their guy in the White House. The fact that he’s banning refugees and Muslims, nominating Neil Gorsuch for SCOTUS and Scott Pruitt for EPA, and condoning violence against transgender people is a FEATURE, not a bug.

“I’m a christian white person (well, I go to church on Christmas and Easter, anyway), though – I’ll be fine, right?”

Nope. Because in their minds, you AREN’T a christian. Do you like to have a beer or the occasional cigarette? Take the wife out dancing on a Saturday night? Go to the movies? Play gin rummy with your grandpa? Say something stronger than “fudge” when you hit your thumb with a hammer? Sorry – not a christian, at least not to them. We think the left has issues with “purity wars”? Evangelicals love to eat their young (particularly if they happen to be women) over “you’re not REALLY with us.”

And it’s all about the slippery slope with evangelicals. Take the purportedly “pro-life” (actually pro-BIRTH) movement. If you look back at the days of Operation Rescue’s Randall Terry, you’ll note that their rhetoric has changed dramatically: women are no longer “murderers” who deserve to be “punished” – women are now “being taken advantage of” while in a “confused” state. In some ways, the new rhetoric is actually worse, as it’s taken away women’s agency and positions us as fools and children who’ve been duped.

Here, Trump’s “slip” about abortion on the campaign trail, “there has to be some form of punishment,” is illuminating. Evangelicals might be using more “market-friendly” terms, but what they think at root hasn’t changed.

It looks like the beginnings of christian sharia (because that’s exactly what it is) will be assaults on women’s reproductive rights. And it’s insidious. Screaming “murderer” at women entering the local Planned Parenthood doesn’t poll well. But “doctors need admitting privileges at the nearest hospital or we’ll have to shut down the clinic to protect women’s health” or “we’re instituting a 72-hour waiting period to ensure women have really fully considered such a momentous decision” or “we only want to place limits on what’s allowed after viability” all sound so reasonable. But that’s not the end – that’s the beginning. Once they get that, all of a sudden “viability” is a lot earlier. And then it’s “heartbeat” bills. And then it’s “hormonal methods of birth control are actually abortifacients, so we need to outlaw them, too.” And then it’s “it’s immoral for unmarried people to have sex, so only married people can buy birth control – which, by the way, is now ONLY available as barrier methods.” Where does it end? Offred.

What’s next? My guess: LGBT rights, which has already started with overturning the Obama administration rule requiring schools to allow kids to use the correct bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. After that? Well, it’s still OK to discriminate against people in housing and employment based on sexual orientation in many areas, so the next step would be federal or state “preemption,” forbidding any jurisdiction under that authority from passing more progressive non-discrimination ordinances, as the state of North Carolina has already done in Charlotte. After that? Marriage equality is probably on the chopping bloc, and forbidding same-sex couples from adopting children. Re-criminalizing “sodomy” is probably up there. too. Pink triangles? It’s anyone’s guess, but I would say it’s not out of the question.

And it won’t stop there. Outlawing porn? A return to prohibition? Muslims as “infidels”? The Jews killed Jesus? It’s all on the table. You know, the bible talks an awful lot about slavery and the “sons of Ham”…

What you have to understand is that these people want their iPhones, internet, fast food, and HGTV, but other than that, they want to live in the ’50s – the 1850s.

That’s why our work is so important. That’s why we fight. That’s why #TheResistance. That’s why so many of us are willing to die on EVERY hill these days.

So be scared – you should be. Be angry. Be bold. Stand up. Fight back. The future depends on it.

Image found here.

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.