No Weddings, But a Funeral and A Rollercoaster

img_0081I hate rollercoasters. Let’s just get that down officially, shall we? It has been a rollercoaster week for me.

It began Monday, when one of the bigger triggers of my very-Cold-War-get-under-your-desk-kiss-your-ass-goodbye childhood was hammered by a news story where a restaurant owner ordered a “nigger” out of his place.  And yes, I AM going to by gods use THAT word just so you all can be reminded just how UGLY it is.    Yes, I grew up partially in the segregated South and that word was heard constantly.  Even in schools and (gasp!) churches.  I walked away from the news item reeling, holding back tears only half successfully.  I literally curled up in my bed in a pile of pillows and shut off the lights.

Tuesday was “date day” for the Minotaur and me.   We will see our 40th anniversary of marriage this month — and it has been “interesting” in the Chinese curse sort of way since we both suffer PTSD.  Mine is of standing clear to my childhood — he has it from a similarly abusive childhood AND the Viet Nam War.  So, pretty much one or the other of us is triggered at almost any given moment of difficulty.  The Minotaur, finally, after more than a year in VA counseling and marital counseling, IS in a better place.  Apparently, this cued MY little inwardly bleeding self to think it would be alright to cut loose and fall apart?

Because Tuesday, still tender from re-confronting memories of three months *of 5th grade hell in Louisiana — where the teacher opened each day crying “All you children who hate niggers raise your hands!” — I fell apart.  We were in the car, and the Minotaur was on auto-pilot “find a freeway” mode.  I hate our freeways; people drive Mad-Max-ish on them here.  So, I wigged out and we had a huge fight and no date time happened.  I beat myself up the rest of the night, barely sleeping and writhing in self-loathing for my personal failures.

*Only 3 months because I dropped out of school then.

Wednesday I put it on hold, choke-chaining myself into duty of re-stocking the cupboards before the other household residents got restless.  But, ah, Thursday — oh woe.  Thursday we went to the funeral of the 23 year old daughter of a guy from the Minotaur’s veterans’ group.

First off?  I am pretty sure the “Christian” god IS dead.  The funeral put me in a Baptist Church for over two hours and the very things I thought as the service droned on and on SHOULD have brought lightening down IF there was a god there, ok?  Yes, I know, harsh and melodramatic.

But rollercoasters bring out the melodrama in me, deal with it.

First, the “viewing”.  Oh my gods and goblins — she was SO young.  At 23, I got married.  She had just given birth to a pair of tiny twins.  Motherless twins, now.  It was shocking looking at that pretty young dead face.  There were Bible readings, the usual “green pastures” bits.  I told myself if it comforted the family, it was ok.  But of course, it was NOT ok.

Then the family members spoke with tear-stained faces of how much she meant to them, how she brightened every room and helped everyone she met.  Now THAT was brutal and grief-soaked.  Then there was a song about “holding the hand of God and keeping the mind on things eternal” and I began to risk a lightening strike.  Because for me, a humanist pagan?  This is NOT helpful or comforting at all — this is “shove that grief and anger in a bottle and be good little Good Book slaves!”  What about NOT thinking of the eternal and about questioning why the hell a 23 year old is DEAD? What failed that this young mother is DEAD?!

Then the youngish minister spoke.  He was incredibly proficient in trite platitudes about how time heals, god doesn’t give more than you can handle (apparently “god” thinks this family is a bunch of badasses?), etc.  He KEPT saying he was “almost done” and yet kept talking.  He explained that in times of grief and pain, it felt “as if God doesn’t make sense.”  Then he got downright revolutionary and daring and said, flat out: “God doesn’t always make sense to us.”  Of course, he went on to explain that was what “faith” was for — to help us through those things we cannot understand.  That’s when “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder began playing in my head at about 110 decibels.

The tear-soaked tissue in my hand was balled into a rock-hard ball by now.  I was SO hurt for the family in front of me suppressing sobs.  THIS is all their “faith” had to offer them?  Platitudes?  Hollow phrases about just getting through it?  Hel’s bells, I TOLD them that a couple days after we got the news: “When you are going through hell, KEEP going.”  The minister told them their tears should “endure through the night, but joy comes in the morning.”  What IS that — a Christian order to “shake it off” that a beautiful, smart, loving woman doesn’t deserve more mourning than that because god says so?!  What about WHY she is dead, what societal failure – aided by religious opiates of “stop bawling and move on back to work, etc” – made it so unremarkable that she IS dead?

So yes, here is Friday.  I feel like a beehive has been tucked into my ribcage.  If “God” is the answer, I think we are asking the wrong fucking question.  But I’m just a “godless heathen” — so surely my opinion is to be discounted if not ignored entirely.

 

The Discomfort Zone – Are We Recycling Selves in Shame?

2017-01-08-107nc_df_0-2I’ve been struggling for a good while now with certain trends in society. I’ve fought racism and sexism all my life — I started taking hits for doing this as early as fifth grade for the first, and my junior year in high school for the latter.  So, I’m not a novice, exactly to the field of change vs progress.

I think progress is the goal, rather than just any old change that comes along being labeled as progress.  And I’d really rather not watch those I think of as allies doing what is commonly referred to as “eating their own.”  So, I admit, a relatively recent phenomenon in feminism makes me squirm with discomfort: the seemingly harsh take of some feminists about trans-women.  The level of “cut them from our herd” behaviors makes me wince, to be honest.  I first noted it being written about in relation to some pagan conventions, when certain women’s spirituality groups banned trans-women because they weren’t “real” women, weren’t “born” women.(Just as a small linguistic aside?  Let me say the term “cis” for those “real”, “born” women makes me think of the word “cyst”.  Make of that what you will.)

One acquaintance tried to make the case for being anti-trans inclusion by asking me if Rachel Dolezal was black.  No, she isn’t black although she chooses to identify as black.   What does that objectively (if not objectionably) mean?  When I first read about the outing of Rachel as white, I spent a good deal of time trying to get inside her head.  Why would she do such a thing?  I began to speculate and review my own memories and experiences in search of explanation.

As I was graduating high school – with a grade point average artificially reduced because my Principal, who was pissed at me for getting a petition allowing girls to wear pants instead of skirts/dresses only, said in spite of my A-average, I had “too many unexcused absences” and reduced ALL my grades to mere B’s – I read “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.  It broke my little all-but-entirely-white heart into little bitty guilt-stained pieces, let me tell you.  I have a grandmother I’d been told was Comanche — though whether she was a “half-breed” or a mere quarter was lost somewhere in shamed white pride in the family.  Oh, reading that book and then soon thereafter following the white cop/FBI confrontations that ended with Leonard Peltier in prison, sure made me wish I could claim another race than white!  This would have been complicated by my blue eyes and blond hair, right?  But that didn’t stop Rachel Dolezal, did it?

So, it made me wonder, if my late adolescent desire to be Indian instead of white (in spite of having only a few drops of Amerindian blood) was motivated by shame?  Was that the motivation, if only subconsciously, for Rachel Dolezal?  And yes, I know some several someones out there on the web will take umbrage and get insulted at the idea that shame could be such a motivation.  Tough.  Shame IS a motivation in society, otherwise slut-shaming and other such egregious behaviors would not exist.  I DID manage to not present myself as anything but what I am — a blend of Northern European with a drop of Amerindian to lend me lactose intolerance, yay? (And coincidentally, much later on being told by an Indian, that I was NOT Indian because I was not reservation-raised.  Gee, I feel so excluded by choices I did not get to make?  Maybe?  So, is a black woman not black if she didn’t grow up in Donald Trump’s hellish “inner city”?)

So, if one makes a leap from feeling such horror of actions done by one’s race can make you wish you were something else, could horror over what things have been done by one’s sex make you crave a different identity?  I have no idea if horror at male behavior could make some men actually say, “You know, I don’t want to be THAT guy – in fact I don’t want to be ANY guy!”  It seems doubtful to me.  Trans people I know say they just knew they were in the wrong body.  A few I have read about might have a point – certain people born with confusing combinations of sexual parts – who might once have been called hermaphrodites, might have had a snap decision made by a doctor or parent in their infancy.  I could easily see that causing them to want to be something other than that random “assignment.”

Feminists have been at lengths to rationally explain that there are two “sexes” determined by physical attributes at birth.  But what does that mean for people with indeterminate sexual bits, eh?  On the other hand, gender, they tell us, is societally imposed bits assigned to those bearing said physical attributes.  My school Principal, seeing bumps on my chest, assigned “wears skirts” to me as a gender attribute to match my physiology, for instance.  Perhaps my demand to wear pants violated some deeply held belief in a Biblical injunction against women wearing men’s clothing?  (Never mind, of course, that in Biblical days NOBODY wore pants!)

So, if I am understanding the trans objections of certain feminists, they are against the idea that trans people wear the clothing of their chosen gender as an outward sign of the sexual identity they wish to adopt?  Gender is an artificial and negatively affecting condition and thus to be wore down, ground out, and destroyed, you see?  So the trans idea of men wearing feminine attributes like skirts, bras, make-up only reinforces the subjugating force of gender and must be opposed?  Am I getting this right?  My mind does boggle at this, you see?

I get into these moral dilemmas when ideology seems to completely cut people, who are surely suffering, out of the equation in the service of an idea.  What are these suffering people left on the margins in the pursuit of a perfect ideology, if not some kind of snarling logicality induced collateral damage?  If one assigned this same rational to homosexuality, by saying, for example “Men being fucked like women reasserts gender roles, so by Logic, we canNOT have THAT happening!” it wouldn’t wash, would it?  Oh, wait, something very like that IS what homophobic religious jerks DO say, isn’t it?  We have seen how that played out, haven’t we?

Thus, my problems with being anti-trans because “feminism opposes gender.”  I care about the people it is happening to more than I care about an idea about reinforcement of “gender”.  And what has this to do with a photograph of pretty glassware at the top of this random mental ramble?  Well, those lovely “glasses”?  They were once soda bottles.  They were TRANSformed into pretty, bright, colorful glasses to drink beer, wine, martinis — or water — out of instead.  So, I expect that any day now, we should catch hell from the Mormons decrying the natural non-alcoholic use of that GLASS being TRANSformed into something promoting the use of demon rum, etc, etc, etc.  Recycled soda bottles should only be made into more soda bottles, damn it all!

We are chasing our semantic tails round and round and forgetting people.  This disturbs and troubles me.  There are plenty of oppressors out there, I’ve met them.  It is when I meet them looking like ME that I am most disturbed.  I cannot “see” a trans woman being an oppressor by “reinforcing gender roles” because she is wearing a dress and has her hair permed.  No, I cannot.  I will not.  And no, I can’t just sit on my fingers or keep my mouth shut.  I am deemed an idiot, occasionally.  The reason is, I keep saying things like this: What would the world look like IF everyone actually COULD choose who/what/how to be?  Is that not really a suggestion of what a post-racism, post-sexism world might look like?

And yes, thank you.  I’d rather be an idealistic idiot than a snarling logicality-induced bit of rhetorical rubble.  I’m pretty ashamed to be American in the wake of the November election, but I don’t think I can be anything else.  I’m also pretty ashamed to be a human, in light of human behavior.  So, I will stick with idealistic idiot until I find a wolf pack that will take me in in spite of my inadequate hairiness.

Are You A Warrior?

standing_rockWhat will you fight for? Are you a warrior? Protesting Trump in the streets is futile. So why do you protest him? What does he threaten that you love?

People of color?
Your gay and lesbian friends?
Women’s rights?

Treaty obligations domestic and abroad?
Our planet’s health and ability to sustain us ALL?

So many options, see. Take the defense to that which he threatens — fight to preserve that which you love!

The “Skies Are Crying” Fall of the Old Year

samhain-walkAs I wrote, to almost nobody last week, I began my new year at the New Moon. Sure, the family had a good meal — one of the rare red meat meals for me and the Minotaur — and lit a fire in the outside drizzle. We passed around a horn and “toasted, boasted, and vowed” in sumbel style.  There were serious conversations and light hearted joking as well.  We farewell’d what we wanted gone and greeted what we wanted to carry forward.  It was merry and bright around the fire.

But I didn’t feel merry or bright. I drank a bit too heavily of the passed horn filled with mead we brewed two years ago….meaning more than one single slim glassful in my booze-lightweight age. Earlier in the afternoon before the utter failing of daylight, you see, I had gone to the Labyrinth for year’s end rites there. No names, merely a tolling of the brass bell – once for every year of the current ongoing, never-ending wars and then a silent walk to the center. And then a walk back out, slowly — the intent being that as many old pagan traditions say — tis the day they dead can come back to join the living for a night and I would lead them back on that pathway wherein I walked them inwards.

Usually, this is a neutral walk — even on the years when I occasionally gruelingly read the entire list of names of Us and Coalition dead in both the Afghan and Iraqi wars.  But this year, every step back outward felt like I was walking from a place of peace into a sort of hell.  I felt laden with grief and despair, my mood blackened as the astrologically “black” moon invisible in its orbit.  That dreadful sense of “something dire coming” possessed me and the helplessness of it made my chest hurt.  “Death inbound” is how I characterize this feeling and I hate it so much.  And in less than a week — yes, five Americans dead in our ongoing foreign adventures.

Attachment-1Do I believe in prescience?  Lets say my experience makes comfortable disbelief impossible.  It is somewhat typical at the end of the year — whether in October or December — to question, to formally doubt, to make new choices and discard what baggage one can leave in the dust.  I’d like to leave this grief, this fear, this dread behind me.  But it follows me like a shadow, a vampiric shadow that feeds on the anxieties and miseries of this election.  It is not just fear of a President who reminds me of Beast Rabban (Harkonnen); it is the utter cruelty of his followers in being perfectly ok with his denigration and diminishment of women, immigrants, people of color, gays, lesbians, disabled people, poor people.  One would think that those people have never met real people in their lives!

I cast about for newness, for purpose, for connections as I feel more hermitic than ever.  The German ladies I left over the casual white privileged callousness of one of them want me back — well, five of them want me back.  Can I go back?  It dawns on me that the majority wants me back because I told off the domineering one; but is that the role I want in a circle I had considered friends?  I tell myself it wouldn’t be my only role, but I still fear just becoming a “novelty” of some sort to women I wanted to be friends with on common basis of work, family, and so forth.  I was too under the weather this year to go on the 2 1/2 hour drive a Day of the Dead party; and stricken to realize how few friends I have and all of them very far away.

And yet I find myself considering cutting more connections even in online life.  I am so angrily sick of the Apple i-Phone nonsense of touch-pad failure and no word on Apple acknowledging or fixing it in ever more impossibly expensive phones, for instance.  Thus, as my phone begins to give me grief, I consider shutting off the account entirely and “bundling” in a old school house phone with the equally hated Comcast/Xfinity.  This means I’d be largely disconnected from all online associations – my aging Mac Mini stutters when I use it, and if/when it fails I may not even replace it.  A whole group of semi-connected associations will fall away like autumnal leaves then, too.  I have found that nobody wants to write old style letters…nobody at all.  For years, I’ve sent fifty or more holiday cards on various holidays and got back fewer than a dozen.  Connection apparently is not allowed to take longer than five seconds or cost even forty five cents?

It troubles me that we have the promises of technology about never being disconnected, but it feels as if as humans, we are more disconnected from each other, more isolated than ever before.  Recent reading has told me I am not the only one to notice this with a sense of despair — Sebastian Junger’s book Tribe attributes this biology/psychology skewing trend with facilitating lasting PTSD, depression, and suicide.  We seem to be forgetting how to be people for each other!  So my end of year does feel very dark as the cold rain falls daily now and colored leaves fall to leave monotone firs looming like wraiths in the gray sky.  I remind myself that gray days mean I must try harder to find something light.

But I feel like embracing the darkness, exploring every shadow and misery is what I really will be doing this month before I put up the lights and decorations for Yule.  I’m not looking for a sunshine enema.  I’m looking for the cause of the darkness, I think.  Just typing that makes me want to slap myself for grandiosity.  But there it is, I just can’t get around the feeling and sensation that, to coin off of Tolkien, one must go through the dark mines of Moria to find light on the other side.

It may take some time.

 

Black Moon : One, Two, Three, Four

…Tell me what are we fighting for?

two-toweringYes, the second new moon of the month, the “black moon” rose invisibly this morning — lost in the rosy first rays of the sun.  (No, ABC, you twits, it will not rise “tonight” — new moons rise in the dawn, one reason they are invisible in the sun’s glare – also because the bright reflective side is facing the sun, not earth!)  As I promised, I rose, and prepared to try to “change reality in accord with my Will.”  This new moon is in the sign Libra — the scales.  You know, like Lady Justice allegedly holds?  Does the toll of black bodies not yet outweigh white fears and misperceptions to balance those scales?

I bathed, watching steam rise in the unheated September air.  I dressed in black, red, and white — colors I often choose for magical work, but more than usually today as my sleepy mind paraphrased Joan Baez singing about Biko to be, “…at night I only dream in red; the outside world is black and white, with only one color dead. Oh, because…because…because…”

Are there two Americas?  One for whites and one for non-whites?  It is my paraphrase “because” that lit the candles of my mind to craft my working with the energies I gathered yesterday — looking up at towering twin trees, both lightening blasted at their tops — like the Tower of Tarot.

oneAmerica decried apartheid in South Africa.  But here at home, de facto segregation and educational/economic apartheid is very real and an unspoken blight upon what our nation meant to be in my youth.  We don’t confront the ideas that don’t match our action, do we? The storm we refuse to see coming can fell us all the same?  What light can shine into our minds to warn us?

One – if the element Air flows betwixt us all, does it carry/bear witness to all those who respire, aspire, conspire on this solitary blue sphere in the void of space?

Air carry my my thought,

Black lives and white lies matter,

See through dark fear’s fog!

twoTwo – the very Earth beneath our feet, the earth that trembles beneath armies and soaks up the blood of our ignorance and turmoil, is the basis of our life.  What could it bring to live out of fertile blood spilled?

Earth run energy,

As a seismic wave of change,

Germinate justice!

Three – our emotions flow as fast and changeable as the element Water, reflecting things true and illusory.  Is it too easy to not feel what isn’t happening to you?  Your blood is as red as the blood being shed from darker skins, is it not?  How is it that your white face does not flush with grief?

Water seep redly,

Crack the privileged hearts,

Paint empathy there!

threeFour – is our Will, our ability to work for change and progress as hot as it should be?  Is it the Fire in our lives, lighting the dark rotten hollows we never look at?  Do we quail before the task, thinking it too vast?  I walked the length of a fallen giant yesterday – reciting to myself, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”  And yes, any small breeze of beginning can catch in the wind to be a bigger fire.  Light a light –give it the wind of change to burn away the wrong?

Firepower by gun,

But not for every color?

Turn against that Fire!

Can we, Americans, recognize that there are many trees that make a forest; many peoples to make a nation?  And that if one tree falls in a forest, more trees grow from that loss; but in a nation that chooses to repeatedly burn down only certain people, what grows from that might burn down a nation?

That invisible black moon is high in the noon sky, as invisible, alas, as the insidious secret bias and racism and fear of “otherness” that blights and ends black lives in America.  The blaze of the sun hides every new moon, sadly like “all lives matter” non-sequitors try to hide that black lives matter because THOSE are the lives being TAKEN.  

But that moon is there.  Pulling tides and fault lines, invisible and easy to ignore until the moment when it blazes from the sunless sky — white as the lies privileged America prefers to cold brutal truth and grief and death.  Embrace that black moon, it is the monster we carry unacknowledged and uncontrolled.  Face your fears, destroy the lies, empathize and stop the killing!

 

Nearly, And Then Not – This “Spy” For Humanism Cannot Come In From the Cold

LiveI spoke to my best friend amongst the German lunch ladies yesterday.  I have missed two weeks of coffee and lunch with them since the day I shouted at the one loud, bullying, black-lives-matter-detractor and walked out before finishing my soup.   It hurt, walking away, even while angry.  Because from the moment I stood up, I knew I might not ever walk back into a circle of friends.  Sometimes you know a mind is not going to be changed, and to acquiesce is impossible.

I told B. yesterday that I had thought of coming to lunch again — but then two more black men were shot by cops.  And if M. said one freaking smart-assed thing about that, I would do something thermonuclear and that would be bad.  So, no — Thursday will not be spent in a Mexican restaurant so washed out into boringly white flavors that it is not worth the name.   The longer it is before I walk back into that circle of women, the less likely it is that I ever will be amongst them again.

It is hard to be on the outside.  But I cannot be “inside” something if it means silent agreement with something wrong.  I have left jobs over similar things — I quit the German Deli that brought us together over something very much the same.  A beautiful young Moslem woman,  came to work there.  She was a good worker.  But the boss-lady picked on her relentlessly.

I blew up when she was driven back out to the work-floor for the “sin” of daring to take a 20 minute lunch-break, just as all the other women did.  I argued with Frau H.  I told her she was violating Washington State labor law by forbidding this normal lunch time to this single employee.  She blustered.  I persisted.  She told me it was none of my business.  I told her allowing her to abuse that young woman certainly was my business.  She told me she was the boss and could do as she liked.  I took off my apron and told her “Well, if you are going to break the law, I am not going to work for you and thus signal agreement.”  I walked out, with her on my heels asking, “Why can’t we talk about this?”  I turned momentarily and said “We just did talk about this, that is why I am quitting.”

She seemed utterly confused.  That confused me.  What part of  “You are discriminating against this woman, I am calling you on it, stop it!” is unclear?  Was it the idea that just because it wasn’t happening to me, I should have no cause to intervene?  Was it the idea that my skin tone was a shade or two lighter than the picked on younger woman?  Was there a presumption that I was not Moslem, thus should be in agreement with bullying one?

What has happened to humanity – when a person, even with nothing to lose, cannot stand up for someone with everything to lose?  I’m always the one dismissed as an idealistic twit.  Well, that and a “communist damned democrat” in certain circles.  I used to stand and fight bitterly.  Now, I will make my case in a couple lines, delivered with as little heat as possible – and then, when the other side dismisses me, or tries to out-shout me, I simply walk away.  I say to myself “You can’t fix stupid.”  But that is really a dodge, isn’t it?

I don’t believe I can win the fights any more.  Even science seems to find that people don’t want facts, they prefer their comfortable (and often biased) opinions.  It did take the wind out of my sails to find that even allegedly sensible, educated people clung to the death to some pretty horrid, hateful opinions that gave them something psychologically more comfortable than the struggle to deal with facts.

It is cold and lonesome out here on the edges.  Liminality is not nearly so appealing/sexy/edgy in experience as it sounds in stories, you know?  But this is where I will be staying, out here in the cold with the facts.  Luckily?  I know I am not the only one who has fled to the edges.  If I can be as true to the struggle as one of my icons was, if I can, like her, continue “pen still held firmly in her my hands, eyes steadfastly open to the darkness around her me.” – I will find what contentment I can.