Domination and submission

What does god need with politics?

I was having a discussion about recent events last night, with some folks I normally do not engage in such discussions. I didn’t initiate that discussion, with recovery folks; it’s usually suggested to not engage in religious or political topics in our groups, in order to avoid partisan bias that could distract us from our common purpose of recovery. This turned out rather well, mainly because we were (fortunately) of like mind. All of us were appalled by the events of January 6th, mainly because of the incredibly vicious and brutal behavior of the insurgents. We didn’t really get into politically substantive issues, but agreed that climbing the walls of the Capitol, calling for death of legislators, and beating law enforcement officers was unacceptable. I surprised myself by broaching the subject of the hypocrisy inherent in the actions of the insurgents, citing a disconnect between the Christian allegiance those involved claimed, and the brutal illegal acts they perpetrated. What came to me later was that, according to the Bible, Jesus Christ became enraged that money changers and vendors were occupying the temple, his father’s house. He threw them out, disrupting business and upturning tables and merchandise. In no account does he injure the sellers or bankers, or incite his followers to do so. He destroys the means and property for the disrespectful market, and angrily proclaims they should not worship false idols, and should leave his father’s house because they have disrespected it. No beating of people with flag poles, no invectives (that we know if, anyway), no building a fake gallows outside the temple, no intimidation by hunting the offenders. How does that resemble the insurrection on Jan. 6th, or any of the other confrontations between extremists and the government (e.g. Ruby Ridge, e.g. Oklahoma City). It doesn’t. This zombie apocalypse was out of order, out of line, wrong, incorrect. There is nothing in ethical or legal discourse, history, theology, deism, theism, humanism, atheism, or common sense that can redeem the actions of January 6th. Nothing.

What concerns me more than the bad behavior of the insurrection crowd on January 6th is that, at this moment, a significant number of those who consider the results of the Presidential election illegitimate have not changed their opinion. They have not moved, have no further tolerance of other perspectives, nor acceptance of the reality of the situation. They are still as enraged as they were on January 6th, and they are still as unwilling to support anything that comes from the new administration. Playing both ends against the middle does not spell progress, it spells failure, unless you’re on one end or the other. If you’re in the middle, you’re going to have a really long day, and get bruised in the process. These folks would much rather we all sink than have the boat putter forward even a few miles, because it is better to be right than to be correct. But who gets to decide correctness?

I would contend that correctness, for our purposes in the year 2021, is more about adherence to universal law. There are some things we all have to accept as truth, like…animals want to be free. We are animals, and we all want to be free. We have an involuntary drive to be unconfined, to have autonomy. No one can argue that most animals – I personally believe all, mental health notwithstanding – will fight to survive. Until their last breath. Most animals will fight to protect their young. Desperation yields action born of immediacy and expediency rather than strategy and future success. Further, as a species, humans are herd animals. We retreat to our lairs periodically, but crave and depend upon interaction with our fellows. We establish dominance in unnecessarily complex fashion, but still find ourselves getting in line according to demonstrated power.

We are still a nation divided, and no amount of CNN special reports or AP coverage, NY Times op-eds, or lectures, workshops, and community education is going to fix that. A large number of people are simply not willing, and without the willingness, we are going nowhere. We cannot move from point A to point A.1, let alone point B. I still don’t know how to fix that, and neither does anyone else. Perhaps we can make small gains with things mentioned, but this will likel have slow and intermittent success, if any. Consistency and honesty will be required as much as willingness, and I’m not sure there is adequate capacity of any one let alone all of those things. Our sticking point is always who assumes the role of parent, and who assumes the role of child. Parent implies dominance, child implies subordination (interpreted by some as submission). No human responds well to subordination, loss of agency, restriction of liberty. Ironically, however, we willingly and repeatedly volunteer our agency to our political leaders, albeit with the proviso that we are in agreement. Does this constitute laziness on our part?

Our democratic experiment is merely one method of managing the common interest. So is communism, socialism, libertarianism. The real test of governance is defining common interest; even systems that purposely marginalize certain elements of the population have some common interest (managing the leper colonies was not done out of compassion, but to increase the quality of life for the larger population). Our democracy is no exception. Slavery was a symbiotic relationship – it was to the advantage of the dominant class to keep the slave population alive and in good reproductive health, so they were given the basic means to survive. The slaves found it to their advantage to work, despite brutal conditions, in order to ensure the survival of themselves and their loved ones. Despite the brutal inequities of the relationship, the American experiment has produced our current paradigm. This is problematic to say the least.

In the minds of many, the ends unequivocally justify the means. That doesn’t work long term, however, so here we are. Here we are, with a seemingly perpetual underclass whose unceasing cry for their promised slice of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness drives us nearly mad. Where is the milk and honey, and the chicken for every pot? What exactly constitutes liberty? What do we mean by happiness? In the context of utilitarianism, happiness is not always revelry, good tidings, positive emotion. In that context, happiness is more related to satisfaction and the associated motivation to produce, for the success of the nation as a whole. Emotional happiness is more tied to how well our individual experience meets our expectations, our sense of getting back what we’ve put in, having our needs met on all levels. If we’re not happy on that individual level, our satisfaction with the overall system wanes, and our motivation to contribute to a larger product wanes.

When there is a high rate of joblessness, there is greater unhappiness in the population, at an individual level. People cannot produce what a consumer economy requires – no money to pay for shelter, food, clothing, transportation. In turn, the system itself grinds to a halt, with no fuel. And when momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy. Is the system our mother? You betcha. We suckle at her breast for food, sustenance, shelter, and education, for learning how to get along in the larger world. When we’re old enough to make our own way, we don’t stray far, but simply multiply under her wing and emulate the paradigm we have learned. We all uphold the status quo. We don’t have a better way to provide for our common interest, and seeing as how we’re all living under roughly the same roof on this planet, it seems far safer to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We don’t quite know what might happen if we didn’t, so let’s not rock the boat.

All that utilitarian iconography is just dandy, and sometimes we can figure out why we’re doing what we’re doing, but we always come back to the quandry of … who gets to decide what exactly it is that we’re doing to ensure the common good, the base level survival? So how does that happen? How does a pride of lions decide who’s in charge? How does a pack of dogs figure out who’s at the top of the heap? Dominance, or by any other name, power. Two male lions who see to lead the pack will eventually fight it out, and the winner is recognized as the alpha, the pack leader. Repeating – ALL the other members of the group recognize the winner as the more powerful and dominant member, and they fall in line. The alpha usually gets to eat first, gets his pick of females, and so on. Nobody challenges that unless they want to take on the dominant for a physical fight, and tht doesn’t always go well for the contender. Everybody knows the rules, and they march on. The success of the whole group is contingent on that social order, since they stick together. Too much squabbling in the ranks would be distraction, making the group far more vulnerable to predators. So, Mother Nature provided tools to give them a fighting chance at success.

We humans, especially first-world nations like those in America, like to pretend that our societal order is far elevated from the brute force and non-intellectual paradigms of lower animals, but that really doesn’t seem to be the case. When it all boils down to gruel, we respect power. It’s a universal language. Power is the ability to get work done. It is not the ability to think about the work that needs to be done, or define the work, or research the work. It is the ability to get it done. That’s the language of corporate management, but power is far less complicated. It’s the basic “Hey, you wanna do something?”; “Yeah, let’s do something. Whatchoo wanna do?”; “I dunno, whatchoo wanna do?”: “I’m hungry, let’s go eat.”; “OK, I am kind of hungry…you pick where.”; “OK, I want Popeye’s, I can drive.”; “OK, Popeye’s it is, let’s go.” Ta da. Complete. That is how power WITH someone functions, as opposed to power OVER someone. Both parties have agency, and choice, and can bale at any time. But together, we’re gonna get fed, and still enjoy each other’s company (common desire for community). Both of us are satisfied, neither assumed more power than the other, and we’re not still there negotiating while starving.

Well, that sounds great, but…this is not an afterschool special, or a rom-com with a happy ending. And stuff like insurrection is about more than fried chicken and a biscuit; it’s just not that simple. When a toddler is having a meltdown over a broken toy, or refusal of a privilege or activity, they are not able to hear reasonable tone, or promises of better times, or respond to a hug and kiss on the forehead. In many cases, they are going to want to break things, scream as long as physically possible, and say mean things. They have lost something they had, or not gotten something they wanted, sometimes both at the same time. They are inconsolable. Big people are not much different, they just have guns and cars and knives and enough muscle to change things. That’s what January 6th was about. Big people who felt as though something they had was taken away, and they were not going to get what they wanted to return that, so … they had the means, motive, and opportunity to attempt to change that. Same mental process.

The only difference between toddlers having a tantrum and zombies in moose horns and face paint trying to perpetrate a coup d’etat is the ability to cause damage. A toddler having a fit may break their toys, or a dish, throw food on the floor. When an oversized and overprivileged adult has a fit, they may arm themselves with weapons that can end someone’s life, destroy an entire building, commandeer public resources so that others can’t utilize them. They may poop on the floor (which the insurgents did on January 6th) and spread all manner of germs. They may take other people’s property. They may break laws and set precedents for dangerous behavior that will survive longer than a lifetime. What they did on January 6th was to rip the common garment of our American identity, with all its contradictions and heartbreak, and expose something underneath that is no different than a brutal and lawless anarchy, where people are allowed to take what they want, however they want to, and shit on the floor while doing it if they want to. The brute strength that enabled people to scale the walls of the Capitol and break windows to storm inside was not power, but powerlessness. That was toddlers with better weapons and bigger muscles, bigger mouths, larger bowels. They got no work done; Congress re-convened hours later and did what they set out to do before the violence. The only result was chaos, and some people were killed. What the rioters also got, what WE got, was the sickening realization that we’re all handcuffed together on this ride. What you do affects us over here, what we do affects them over there, and what they do let’s us know that we don’t know what in the hell any of us are doing. We’re very intelligent, but we’re not gods. Right now, we have no humility, and we’re operating in hubris, believing that we’ve produced this entire experience, with our own little hands, and that we can re-create it at our leisure. Mother Earth has been bitch-slapping us for a while now, trying to remind us that whoever we are, we need to be living in harmony with Her (or, as some of us heard from OUR mamas…I brought you into this world, and I can take you out). Forces way more impressive than us have the power to get work done on a global scale, with or without our approval (to wit, viruses). so, we’d best get in line behind the alpha and understand where we fit into things. And remember…

Just whistle while you work
And cheerfully together we can tidy up the place
So hum a merry tune
It won’t take long when there’s a song to help you set the pace

And as you sweep the room
Imagine that the broom is someone that you love
And soon you’ll find you’re dancing to the tune
When hearts are high the time will fly so whistle while you work

So whistle while you work

Threat of harm

For some bizarre, or maybe not so bizarre, reason thoughts are clamoring to escape the confines of my tiny cranium. It really is tiny, not because I am tiny-brained or developmentally challenged, but simply because the physical area of a human cranium is not that impressive. I mean, seriously, not that impressive in terms of physical volume alone. There’s a lot of stuff in a relatively small space, and the more we know about how that all works, the more we know that we don’t know. What goes on in our brains is truly amazing, and if we believe that what our brains can accomplish is solely the basis of science, we’re smaller brained than I thought. But I digress.

What is clamoring for release is my thought about autoimmune disease. I have one, and naming it is not relevant nor deliverable, but that’s unimportant. Conventional wisdom on this subject has changed over the years, but there is a considerable and long standing theory attributing the mechanism of autoimmune response to a viral threat that generated a necessary immune response. The immune response was initially appropriate, but somehow went a little haywire and began confusing the invading virus with unintended targets, like joints and glands and nerves. The original threat was quashed, but the misguided immune response continued. The body has begun to destroy itself, in very specific ways, believing that its own cellular components are invaders, a threat.

On a cellular level, this is fascinating. Scientists and medical professionals have been able to isolate the specifics of which components have been compromised, and depending on that manifestation have named diseases that often become medical specialties. We love us some categories. There has been a great deal of progress in these categories over the years, however, and where some of these diseases were once sentences of death and debilitation, many are now manageable. This is a very good thing, particularly if you are diagnosed with something like Parkinson’s Disease or rheumatoid arthritis.

My point in all this is more esoteric, though. I understand the biologic mechanism of these conditions, of the errant immune response, but I strongly believe in the mind-body connection. Disease is dis-ease, lack of well being on some level. How that manifests, I believe, points to the root of the un-wellness on a non-physical level. When the disease is rooted in the immune response, I have to wonder whether a deep, non-conscious and non-linear sense of threat looms within. I’ve been pondering my own very conscious tendency to feel unsafe, to feel as though a threat of something or other is just beyond my sight, just around a turn, one step away. Never feeling comfortable, never feeling at ease. This base of operations has been with me since my earliest memories. I must always be one step ahead, uber-prepared for the worst case scenario, because there is always a threat of an ending; my hold on life as I know it is always tenuous. Always.

This sense of impermanence is not a perpetually conscious thought, and of course we are all impermanent, but I believe my body’s response has been one of constant stress, constant inflammation, constant readiness. Bracing for the blow, waiting for the attack, sure that disaster awaits. There is nobody to save me; if i am to survive I’ll need to be able to do that myself. So, my innermost mind has contrived this scenario, like one in Freddie Kruger’s world, where it’s only a matter of time before everything is destroyed. Only a matter of time. When you live in that nightmarish house of mirrors, it’s no wonder you’re stressed. And I’m stressed. I always have been. Anxiety, depression, fears real and imagined.

Every therapist I have ever seen has questioned whether or not I have been sexually abused, because I present like a survivor in that context. I have no memory of any such experience, but when you’re a klutzy fat girl who is not a raving beauty, has few social skills, and isn’t born with a silver spoon you’re abused on a sexual, albeit non-physical, level that is somewhere below intellectual comprehension. Fat people are constantly desexualized, or sexually shamed, or sexually invisible. Most people gravitate to pretty things, and the judgements surrounding un-pretty things is astounding. If you’re fat, you don’t care about yourself. If you’re fat, you’re just stupid. If you’re fat, you are making a choice to be fat. If you’re fat, why would anybody want to have sex with you? When you’re fat, you’ve found a reason to protect your innards, and what better way than with a physical barrier that provides shelter from the storm as well as a barrier for the wandering invader. I’ll have to say, though, the barrier hasn’t been wholly effective, because as I’ve said before, I still manage to grant passage to the occasional wandering rogue with ill intent.

I’ll also have to say, that my experience with being a fat woman are just that – my experiences. There are many, many deliciously empowered and unapologetic fat women that I know personally, and observe in the public sphere. Perhaps they do not have the specific combination of circumstances that I do, or their experience is simply not dysfunctional. Or perhaps they are rooted in dysfunction and have managed to orient differently. Who knows. All I know is how my own mosaic has been assembled, and since it’s mine, it is what it is. Without every piece of it, every experience – no matter how painful – I would not be here writing this at this moment, so I’m good with it. Reality is the real deal. Literally. And yeah, that’s trite, but sue me.

When I was in college, I lived in a women’s dorm, which seemed to be the best possible thing that could happen for me, since I was a budding baby dyke but didn’t quite understand what that meant. That’s another story. But, as usual, I didn’t quite know how to be with other people, and was socially inept. I had also discovered that alcohol would ease some of that anxiety, but I couldn’t quite control that, so pile on more ineptitude. I weighed FAR less than I do now, but was still “chubby” and believed myself to be as large as I am now. One day, I came back to my room, and on the little write-on-wipe-off board that I kept on the door, was a scribbled note that said “Lose weight and straighten your hair”. It was, of course, anonymous, and my verbal response (to nobody in particular, since I was alone) was “Asshole”. (Actually, there were several more expletives attached to that, but whatever.) For me to even remember that incident all these years (more than 40 at this point) is significant. That was an act of violence, and that was relatively minor. I am always waiting for that sort of assault, either explicitly or implicitly. The threat is always there, and my brain says that I have to protect myself. But there is really no protection against that sort of thing, because you can’t make people cease to be sizeist, or homophobic, or racist, or classist, or whatever their flavor of assholery might be.

So, all of that to say, when you are constantly in fear – literally in fear – of the inevitable next attack, your body reacts. The threat is real, or is it? Whichever the situation, be prepared. I believe that level of inherent stress causes my body to believe there is a threat, and it is prepared to do battle. All the time. How my body does battle turns inward, because my inner self is what needs to be protected. My spirit, my soul are under siege. There is no discernable difference between that perception of threat and a physical threat at the cellular level. So, my immune system does what it’s supposed to do – it throws everything its got to protect me. It’s just got its wires a little crossed, or its needing to have an eye examination, and the invaders are really my Self. That’s deep.

So, how do I stop destroying my Self? How do I ease this tension, this constant sense of threat, of danger, of catastrophe? I don’t know. This is why therapists have job security. Lately, I’ve been thinking part of my true healing effort is to learn how to more competently discern real threat from illusion. My recovery program tells me to inventory the past situations that cause me resentment, and to explore what is threatened by those situations or events. In so doing, I’m (hopefully) able to connect the dots and see the patterns in all of that, by identifying how I respond to fear. There is always a fear. When I’ve lashed out at others, or been self-abusive, it’s because I’m afraid of SOMETHING. Afraid of losing something, or afraid of not getting something. Afraid of being ended, being made invisible, being rendered inconsequential. That is death. And there is no return. If I am to heal from this impending sense doom, I suppose I need to generally see myself as safe, as being capable of safety for my Self. Of being a safe Self.

This is not supposed to make any kind of rational or even grammatical sense. I will probably need to work on this for a longer time period…i have just typed my way through not one but two 12-step meetings that I planned to attend this morning, but as I said from the beginning of this, this was clamoring to be liberated. Liberation is another subject entirely, but perhaps that is ultimately where this winds up. Liberation. Freedom. The cage is open.

*Burp*

Pushback, and race riots for all

I don’t remember this at all. It’s pretty interesting, and I noted with great interest that streetcars were horse-drawn back then. I can’t imagine a horse lugging that whole contraption with several people aboard. Hopefully, they treated animals better during those times, because when there were still mules dragging carriages full of tourists around the French Quarter, they weren’t treated all that well. The mules were usually old, and underfed, and didn’t look particularly happy. Of course I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a mule that looked happy, so that may be the story I told myself. They finally dropped the mules just a few years ago, due to the heat. They should have dropped the whole carriage routine long before that, since the buggy drivers were telling people all kinds of lies to get bigger tips. One of them crashed into the back of my car several years ago, taking out the tail light. And so it goes.

Anyhow, back to the streetcar protests…I’m amazed they were able to make any headway with it. In typical New Orleans style, the issue was resolved when protesters and the establishment finally reached a stand off, and street car traffic came to a grinding halt. The police chief said called it quits, and the rest is history (I won’t give away the article, which I found interesting). From what I read, that protest briefly inspired similar actions, and there was actually some integration of public transit in several places. But, all good things come to an end, and along came Jim Crow. Protests like this one in New Orleans, ironically, inspired the Jim Crow era in their own way.

The reason I am so interested in all this is that it supports my long-standing assertion that whenever Blacks enjoy some level of success at disrupting status quo (i.e. white supremacy), there is pushback from the dominant culture, the power structure. Jim Crow was the pushback for Reconstruction, and progress in a fledgling civil rights era in the late 1800s. That pushback was vicious, and overkill (literally and figuratively). By 1890, Confederate monuments began to appear in courthouse squares, and that continued until the at least 1930. Many historians agree these monuments weren’t erected to pay homage to Confederate war heroes, but to intimidate free Blacks, to remind them of old days gone but not forgotten. Interestingly enough, many of these monuments were erected by the Daughters of the Confederacy, who seemed to have somewhat of a mission to dot the landscape with formidable evidence of the Confederate cause.

By the beginning of the 1900s, the KKK was riding high, with Jim Crow on its right shoulder. Once again, the end game was intimidation of people of color and maintenance of white supremacy, by any means necessary. Lynching became nearly an art form, and were not entirely spontaneous acts of mob violence. Some were advertised in the town newspapers, and entire families would turn out for a picnic lunch to enjoy the spectacle. Bodies were drug through the streets, mutilated, souvenirs made of body parts. I cannot imagine the utterly macabre horror of this practice, let alone bringing children to witness such things. But, this was civil society in those days.

The lynching, the killings, the rapes, the beating, the house burnings…all in a good night’s work, then off to grab a brew. The number of people who were victims of this domestic terrorism will never be truly know, but there are some records. The only point to make about all of this is that it could very well happen again, in these times, when video cameras are in the hands of even small children. And still…we have unarmed black men killed in major U.S. cities, in small towns, in rural areas, on the sides of highways. This is sickeningly familiar for some, no all. We’ve been fed a steady diet of these killings for more than a decade, and that’s only because there’s now easy access to video. The Black community, the LatinX community, the indigenous community have all been witness to police brutality and homicide for decades. It was unbelievable to the larger community until very recently, and even now, there are unbelievers. There are many who blame the victims for their own deaths. If the victim had not been doing SOMETHING wrong, there would have been no reason to be stopped by the police, if the victim had not questioned the actions of the police, they would not have been in a position to be shot. And so on, and so on, and nauseatingly so on. Unfortunately, there have been enough of these situations with clear evidence that officers went beyond the pale, went too far, committed outright homicide. While that provides some affirmation for the community, that is a bittersweet moment, because it has come at the expense of someone’s father, brother, child, sister, mother. We’d rather have those lives back, than be proven right about police brutality.

The events of January 6 showed our country what a large crowd of angry people can do. This was mob mentality, and chilling in its focus. Until it became evident there was careful advance planning to occupy the Capitol, this seemed like a spontaneous protest over political issues. Some participants truly believed they could overturn the results of the Presidential election, and could accost legislators they held responsible for that outcome. As reports continue to surface, there is no question there was a conspiracy, inciting the large crowd with false hope of achieving their goal. The advance planning had spurred thousands of people to attend this event, clad belligerently as a First Amendment exercise. The wolf beneath that sheep’s garb was sedition, and the plan was to literally overthrow the U.S. government’s exercise of Constitutional mandates.

This coup d’etat was not unlike the other recognized coup d’etat in the United States, that of Wilmington, North Carolina in 1898. A white mob stormed the state Capitol, and physically removed legislators who had been recently and lawfully elected. The crowd replaced the mayor and several members of the state assembly with its own selections, including at least one member of the KKK, and then began killing people in the streets. So-called protestors, who soon revealed themselves to be murderers, had been brought in from other states via the network of KKK-like hate groups, and their marching orders were to kill as many Black people as they could. They burned Black neighborhoods, homes, the newspaper offices, stores. Hundreds were killed, their bodies scattered in the streets and yards like twigs. They had a mission, these protestors, just like the ones in Washington D.C. on January 6h of this year. They were going to overturn an “illegitimate” election, replace the false leader, and take back their city, their state. They had to restore order, as they knew it, because Black people had been doing well in Wilmington. The rioters had no choice but to return status quo, by any means necessary. The attempted coup on January 6th follows this allegiance to status quo exactly, but was fortunately unsuccessful. I contend that was a stroke of luck, or ineptitude of the rioters, but could have turned out very much the same. In both cases, a large swath of dominant culture became so panic stricken that life as they knew it was over, their societal status disrupted, they were willing to do just about anything to return the hierarchy to the usual order. The usual order.

So. January 6th wasn’t a novel idea, it’s something that has been seen before. There were several race riots at the start of the 1900s – Wilmington, Tulsa, Rosewood (FL), Chicago, and others. Race is still a powder keg in our country, and whenever there is systemic stress – such as with a pandemic – the fuse is lit. When people have to compete for resources, or believe they have to compete, they become feral. They go into survival mode, and they become desperate. Mentality of scarcity, and a zero-sum game – those are lies we’ve been taught.

This has somehow became one gigantic rant, but there are such lies beneath all of the inequity that we find surrounding us now, and it’s making me a little crazy. OK, craziER. But there is enough for us all, we just have it doled out inequitably. There are some literal devils in the details, human ones, and we’re starting to see them…but some of us can’t believe what – and who – is being revealed. So we refuse to accept, we revise history, we return that mail to sender. When a husband cheats on his wife, a lot of the time a betrayed wife will blame the other woman more than the philandering husband. Go figure. I suppose that’s always been the case with us puny humans, but my question these days is…what exactly are we so afraid of? Why are so many people more comfortable with lies, hatred, and blame than with honesty, community, truth? Trust no one. Truly, the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, in tenement halls. And they are definitely not whispered, and that is not the sound of silence.

All means ALL.

War is hell

Dateline, domicile central. 22 January 2021. In an unprovoked attack, my lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract waged war on my wholly unsuspecting physical apparatus (body). The otherwise ill-prepared body was unable to fight back, and the GI tract secured its first victory in a long-standing conflict. Citing multiple grievances involving spices and snacks known to be irritants, together with inadequate water intake, the GI tract agreed to a cease-fire, after a long period of active conflict. The agreement is contingent on the body’s agreement to shut down ingress and egress for the body of all substances, with the exception of water, for the remainder of the day. Both parties agreed that rest and light duty are in order for the next 24 hours, contingent upon continuous and unrestricted access to the latrine. The GI commander was heard to say, “Damn the torpedos! If trapped, we’ll fight to the end if we can’t get a good escape route! Let that be a lesson to you!!” There was no response from the conquered body. That is all.

Incoming!!!!

A Bridge Too Near

A bridge too far is a phrase allegedly spoken by an Allied commander during a WWII skirmish with the Germans. That particular battle did not go well for the Allies, and the commander suspected they had bitten off more than they could chew. Such is life. Best laid plans of mice and men, as they say. Good intentions pave the road to hell, as I say.

I suppose that good intentions are sometimes all we’ve got. Whenever I feel that my efforts have been inadequate, or I have fallen short and should have known better, I fall on my sword and rationalize that I meant well. I’m usually only trying to convince myself, it seems. Self-forgiveness is a Herculean task for me, even when facts bear out that nobody saw a thing and they can’t prove nothin’. More to the point, I find it nearly impossible to forgive myself for things proven to not my fault, when I couldn’t have know better, when I did the best I could. Perhaps that is the issue, I’m rarely convinced that I have done the best I could. If I had done the best I could, wouldn’t I have succeeded? Hm. That right there is some fucked up logic.

I was having a conversation with a friend last night about some of this self-forgiveness and perfectionism stuff, about making mistakes, about taking risks. About vulnerability and trust, trust in oneself. I trust myself to survive, but not thrive. These days, I trust myself to not kill anyone when rage overtakes me, but that was not always the case. More than 30 years ago, I was convinced that it would be merely a matter of time before I killed someone in a blackout rage. I knew that I could never commit such an act consciously, but could not be assured of what might happen in a disembodied state of emotional warfare. I knew that I could never premeditate such a thing, but truly did not trust myself otherwise. Particularly if inebriating substances were involved. So, that’s no longer a factor, and I am reasonably sure that homicide is not on my white board.

I suppose there are other far less dramatic things I distrust about myself…such as talent. Intellect. Aesthetics. Coolness. I have never been all that cool, at least I don’t think so. I can’t dance. My father couldn’t dance, and I don’t think my mother was cuttin’ a rug at any point, either. I never could seem to learn dance steps for any of the trending dances, like The Hustle. I feigned disinterest in such childish, silly things. Who wants to work that hard, right? I could not keep dance steps in order. It was just hopeless. Not much has changed, either, except that I kind of don’t much care at this point. I repeat – who wants to work that hard? But dancing isn’t particularly self-defining. I don’t think I’m talented at much of anything. There are some things I can do reasonably well, but don’t find my performance exemplary by any means. I can write an intelligent sentence, play a few musical instruments, do some problem solving but consider my level of prowess to be dangerously mediocre (my term, trademark pending). In short, whatever it is that I do, I do not trust that I am doing it very well, and that many others are doing it much better.

I say all of that to say I suppose I don’t trust that I have very much to offer, although some people say that I do. I do consider myself to be a good friend, but also a pushover and a people pleaser. I’m a magnet for narcissists and sociopaths, transmitting some kind of tractor beam that enables those kinds to find me in the middle of a football stadium filled to capacity. I describe that phenomenon as having the pyscho con guy who sells overpriced peanuts in the stadium finding me, sitting in the topmost row of seats in the whole place, and he sells me 3 bags of peanuts, and i don’t like peanuts. What. The. Fuck. So, once again, I remain…my own worst enemy. This pattern does NOT work for me, and I suppose it’s better than it used to be, but I still get my butt kicked from time to time when – knowing that I’m in a horror movie – I ignore all warnings, bolt past the running car in the driveway and sure escape, vault across an alligator-filled moat to triumphantly enter the dark castle that i convince myself is eerily beautiful and has stunning architectural detail, and then breathlessly break down several locked doors that lead to … the basement stairs. You never go into the basement in a horror movie. Everybody knows that.

So there I am again, in the basement, with the same person I always find down there. Different face, same person. Same asshole. Same old me. I gotta work on that.

Go ahead. You know the way.

The morning after

It wasn’t really that bad, was it?

So, it’s the day after. The day after the most historical transfer of power in our democracy. This morning, i was having the music to “The Morning After” by Maureen McGovern (from the Poseidon Adventure, which I remember mainly because Shelley Winters was in it and she did a swim scene to save the survivors and comics used that as mean-spirited joke fodder for months…fat women are not supposed to be heroes, or show their fat legs to the camera, or look vaguely competent. But I digress.). Anyhow, the song was a little sappy, or at least the lyrics were, but it hit a 70s trip switch in my brain, which is unfortunate since I don’t quite know how to turn it off. That period of time in my life is when I figured out that fat girls get no respect, even when they save the sorry asses of people who can’t do what we can do. Shelley Winters shoulda let ’em all drown. But once again, I digress.

Now that my 1972 temper tantrum is done, the only reason “The Morning After” came to mind is when I began to write this, it was the morning after one of the most historical, yet anxiety-ridden, moments in our nation’s political history. It’s now a little past morning, and well beyond a Hostess cupcake, a Rice Krispies treat, some tuna salad on crackers, and grapes, but the fact remains that a new President and Vice-President are in office now. This inauguration was fraught with dissent, division, and questioning nearly every aspect of the American experiment. In the days leading up to yesterday’s transfer of power, we saw a veritable zombie apocalypse that sought to prevent the peaceful transfer of power between the outgoing President and the incoming administration – no concession of power by the defeated incumbent, futile legal challenges that went on for months, an attempted coup d’etat, and generally very bad behavior by some of the nation’s legislators and executives. Holding an inaugural event on virtually the same spot as the recent coup attempt gave necessary pause and raised anxiety for many. Fortunately, security provisions were more than adequate, further insurgency failed to materialize, and nothing occurred to block the successful transfer of power to a new Presidential administration.

Most of us have seen a series of inaugurations in our lifetime, but this inauguration was anything but ordinary. First, the outgoing commander-in-chief refused to attend. That hasn’t been done in more than a century. Civil decorum usually dictates that outgoing leaders graciously welcome the victor, extend offers of assistance, and wish them well. Not this time, kiddies. Issues of national security and continuity of government not withstanding, the nation was faced with a nearly comical display of a a defeated septaugenarian visibly pouting, attempting to distract attention from the victor’s assumption of power, and flying away in a military helicopter to his own farewell celebration. That was amusing enough, especially since the music playing loudly on his departure was a song popular several years ago – “House of the Rising Sun”. I almost spit out my coffee because the lyrics relate a tale of a wayward you at a New Orleans brothel, and were hilariously double-entendre for the occasion…doesn’t anybody check that kind of stuff? As the helicopter’s sound faded away, pan cameras Stage Left to a doorway at the Capitol, enter the incoming President, also a septaugenarian, who has been waiting for the other guy to leave the stage (figuratively).

Then, fast forward to septaugenarian #1, who is now at his permanent departure point for the big ole jet airliner that’s gonna carry him so far away (to Florida) and … more music. This time, it’s “Gloria” by Laura Brannigan, and the lyrics are even more hilarious (if you replace the name Gloria with the departing guy’s name) , at least for my warped mind …

don’t you think you’re fallin’?
If everybody wants you, why isn’t anybody callin’?
You don’t have to answer
Leave them hangin’ on the line, oh oh oh, calling Gloria
Gloria (Gloria), I think they got your number (Gloria)
I think they got the alias (Gloria) that you’ve been living under (Gloria)
But you really don’t remember, was it something that they said

And then…for the parting shot…the final song playing is “YMACA” by the Village People. This one was almost too much, it HAD to be someone’s idea of a really bad joke:

Young man there’s no need to feel down
I said young man pick yourself off the ground
I said young man ’cause your in a new town
There’s no need to be unhappy
Young man there’s a place you can go
I said young man when you’re short on your dough
You can stay there and I’m sure you will find
Many ways to have a good time.

And…not to mention “YMCA” is something of a GLBT national anthem. My goodness. So finally. The sulking one uttered a few words, telling people he loved them or something, and that it shouldn’t be long before he is with them again, and *poof* off he goes.

Now, back to septaugenarian #2, where we’re still focused. It was HIS inauguration, after all. He’s the oldest President to be taking the oath of office for a first term. He’s been an elected official for nearly half a century. His running mate Kamala Harris is the first woman, first woman of color, first person of African descent, first person of East Asian descent to EVER hold the office of Vice President. She wore purple, as a tribute to Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress and the first Black person to be a major party candidate for President. Purple was her campaign color in her bid for the Democratic nomination in 1972. So, the incoming Vice-President was very intentional about her fashion choice, which gave me great joy. I remember Shirley Chisholm in the 70s, and she was one of my first heroes. I had the opportunity to see her speak in person one Martin Luther King Day in the 80s, and I remember very clearly her calling out the Black community, urging us to continue fighting to achieve equity, parity, liberation. She likened the community to sleeping dragons, with such great power but … asleep. If awakened and realizing the full power inherent in such a great multitude, we would be frightening indeed.

Some days, it seems as though not much has changed, but mama said there’d be days like this. I suppose it could be worse. We’ve seen worse. Much, much worse. Like anybody else, I am guardedly optimistic about the new political landscape that is now reality. I am overjoyed that we don’t have to look forward to four more years of being represented by someone who most assuredly did not have my best interests at heart. Someone who seemed to deny every cell of my being, every core value that I hold, every notion of faith and decency to which I aspire. The cognitive disconnect was becoming too unwieldy, too uncomfortable. Every fiber of my being was finding it to be an increasingly insurmountable climb to reach acceptance of the state of affairs. I found that many of us were becoming desensitized and numbed to the daily barrage of confusing disinformation, misinformation, absent information, and then all of the regular tragedies and catastrophes that constitute normal churn of 7 million humans on the planet. Too. much. I have been numb before, when life was overwhelming and my coping skills were inadequate, or nonexistent. Finding yourself numb is a maddening and horrifying sensation…you know that you should be having sensation, but there is none. Your brain cannot grasp how and why it feels nothing when there is a stimulus, and the cognitive disconnect on a long term basis can drive one quite insane. This is why kids cut themselves, to see if they can feel something and prove they’re alive. So, I understand why we’re all just a little bit nuts right now, why we’re trying to cut ourselves in a very real sense, to see if we can still bleed, to see if we can still feel something, because we know something’s happening and our brains are telling us that it should hurt, but … it doesn’t. So, hey y’all – watch THIS!

Today is the first full day of a new President and a new Vice-President. Congress is working (I hope) to confirm cabinet appointments (such an amusing term for the leaders who function closest to the President). I remarked just recently that no matter what one thinks about these officials, whether you voted for them or not, whether you approve of them or not, you have to admit the damned house is on fire. Our house is on fire. And these are the people who are running into the blazing structure, like fire fighters always do, while all the rest of us are running out. We need to stay behind the fire line, unless we’re going to do something to help. Even then, no firefighter benefits from an armchair quarterback or someone whose only experience in the high-risk endeavor of fire fighting is their ride on the fire truck when they were seven. We all have an opinion. I have several of them, at any given moment, and they are ALL very important. However. They are usually important mainly to me, unless someone has asked for them. So. Most of the time, the best and most merciful thing I can do for everyone concerned is…keep my mouth shut and post my erudite thoughts on social media. Then have a snack, talk to my dog, and play a mindless computer game. By then, something else will have occurred, and I will forget what the hell it was I so urgently needed to say. On to the next one.

Hitching the wagon

some days it be like this…

I’ve always found that it’s really hard to get what I want. Not what I need, but what I want. I don’t say that to start a pity party (I can do that at anytime, don’t need to waste keystrokes on it here), but just sayin’. I also don’t say that to give myself a pass on how I get in my own way and contribute to the less than stellar track record of realizing my own goals. I understand how I am frequently my own worst enemy, and how I sabotage my own success.

All of us have our own wagon of … stuff … that we drag with us everywhere we go. It’s been said that where you go, that’s where you are. And that’s where your … stuff … is. I have a lot of stuff, i suppose. Most of us do. The older I get, the more stuff I have accumulated. There are times when I’ve needed to purge, and did. There are other times when I’ve needed to purge, and didn’t. I’m a slob, it seems, retaining things with no further usefulness, piling them on top of the last batch of things that have long stopped working, long run out of battery power, long been outdated and replaced by newer models. I guess it’s emotional hoarding. The floor is going to need support very soon, and the house may be condemned as not fit for human habitation. This is not good.

So. my recovery program instructs me to clean house, do a searching and fearless moral inventory, throw out what no longer serves me. Perhaps it is time for doing that again, but I would much rather deal with the stuff coming into my emotional field from external sources. No use embarking on internal spelunking when I can solve the problems of the world from my bedroom. That’s far more non-productive than anything i can come up with.

Speaking of non-productive, I am simply fascinated by the amount of diatribe still resounding from the January 6th insurrection. The talking heads are rehashing all manner of pseudo-analysis they can to find the single answer for how we got here. How thousands of people managed to come together in frighteningly organized fashion to do a break-and-enter on the nation’s Capitol. It’s not hard to see how this happened, unless they want to pretend this is shocking and totally unprecedented. This kind of malicious and malignant activity has been happening on this land for generations. This is where we come from. America is a colonial enterprise, and the original colonists were not the best and brightest that Europe had to offer. They were dissastisfied rebels, convicts, malcontents, and opportunists. To their credit, they were risk-takers and adventurers who had more than average hunger for something different. As a nation, we’ve culturally maintained all of these attributes, even though some of them have no further use in our body politic.

Some time ago, I began reading essays about the “culture of outrage”. We are just looking for a fight. All the time. We’re outraged by the price of gas, the price of housing, the price of cigarettes, and the price of history. All of this is relative, of course; when I was a kid, my father was outraged at paying $.39/9 for a gallon of gas. His head would have exploded with today’s prices. We’ve all learned so much about how the price at the pump is derived, and THAT’S what outrages me. There is politics involved in what we pay more than we’d like to believe. But I digress.

In my life today, if I choose to interact with the world outside my body in any way, I have to settle a bit, and accept certain realities. I have to abandon my innocence, as a wise minister friend of mine once said, and accept the fact that my experience is not mine alone, nor is it a perfect representation of what I want. We are living in essentially a communal arrangement, where there are certain common elements that must be maintained. We’ve all entered into some manner of contract with each other to do that, which is the U.S. Constitution. The Preamble to the Constitution says that we establish a common defense, and promote the general welfare. Common defense. General welfare.

I do not feel commonly defended, nor do I feel that I enjoy general welfare. I feel, more often than not, that I am not defended from the hate and toxic bending of reality by those with larger voices, who are usually those with larger bank accounts. I feel that many of us who are not dominant culture members have been left mostly to fend for ourselves. If we were simply left to our own defense, though, I might be able to deal with simple neglect. However, non-dominant identities are under attack by targeted strategies of oppression, like voter suppression, systemic allowances of discrimination and bias on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity, and stigma that provokes aggression and harm. We continue to say “this is not America”, but it is totally America. We have to own that if we are going to progress toward our founding vision of common defense, and general welfare, and liberty for all.

Liberty. Over this past summer, there were crowds of people who protested their states’ response to the pandemic. They found it entirely unacceptable, and a withholding of their liberty by the government. These were largely white crowds, for purposes of description, and they were largely non-compliant with the state guidelines that called for use of masks in public, closure of beaches, closure of gathering places like bars and gyms, and so on. These folks were enraged to the point of irrationality, and certainly to the point of oppositional defiance. I can never un-see one shirtless man explaining to an interviewer that he had not been able to get a haircut for three months, and had the right to get one, and the government should not be able to restrict him from getting a haircut. To my working class mind, this is an amusing first-world problem. My first response was to advise him to get that mixing bowl his grandma used back in the day, put it on his head, and have someone run the scissors around the rim. That’s how it’s done when you have no money, and no transportation to get to a barber or salon. Talk to me about not being able to get to the hospital because there’s no ambulance service for your area. Talk to me about not being able to afford medication that’s going to keep you alive, or not being able to go to a doctor in the first place. Talk to me about running out of diapers for your baby and no money to get more.

My working class experience (both my parents were teachers) did not mean that I didn’t have enough to eat. It did not mean that I couldn’t go to school, or have clean clothes and decent shoes. It didn’t mean that I was ignorant of social norms or didn’t learn right from wrong. It meant that I understood, from a very early age, that some other people had way more than I did. That other people got more of what they wanted, and not just what they needed. I understood excess and disposable income before I was five, and certainly by the time I was looking down the barrel of adulthood.

When I moved to the State of South Carolina, just before theY2K, I had never lived outside of my home state before. I found life there fascinating, sometimes macabre, and enlightening. I though I knew what racism looked like, but I developed a new sense of it once I lived away from home. There were many there who proudly displayed their allegiance to the Civil War Confederacy, members of Sons of the Confederacy and participants in Civil War re-enactments on the regular. One of my managers explained to me, very matter of factly, that KKK meetings were still held in particular areas not from our work site, so if he was me he’d just want to know that. I was grateful for that information, but confused by the need to know that.

What I found while living there, however, was that many people my age and older had never encountered a Black person who was not black or brown-skinned, and had not encountered anyone who was non-white until the desegregation of schools in the 60s. This multiculturalism was very new to them, and I needed to understand that or summarily dismiss them all as blatant and hostile racists. I learned that people of all colors shared theology, in large part. Black people were not particularly enraged by the obvious racism, or the apparent social engineering present for generations, but they understood and shared the Christian experience. The Confederate battle flag was flying over the State Capitol when I moved there, and had been so for many years. They don’t put that sort of thing in a new employee’s relocation packet, so it took me several months to comprehend that.

The final learning that changed my concept of what a racist looks like, though, was this: despite all of the seeming intolerance, and inherent contradiction of being a Civil War loyalist in the new millenium, despite having so little in common with my life experience and my world view, there was not one of those people I encountered personally who would not have helped me had I needed them. If I had called any one of those Sons of the Confederacy members in my workplace at 3 a.m. to help me if I was stranded on the roadside, or in some kind of trouble, they would have broken their necks to help. I knew this unequivocally, and I felt safe with them. I could not classify them as blatant racists, although before I knew them on a personal level I might have done just that. There is way more gray area in what a racist looks like, and I don’t know if those folks really fit the definition of racist. Today, I would say they are supremacists, but they don’t know it, or at least don’t see it that way. It was my understanding that had to expand, and it did. It’s complicated.

My experience in South Carolina has been so necessary in how I comprehend racism, how my vision for non-racist society has evolved. I did not have language to differentiate my thought process between non-racist and anti-racist. I did not think in terms of multiculturalism, but only in the binary – black/white, white/spanish-speaking, white/non-white. i did not fully understand the ongoing effects of colonialism on the dynamic of this country, and i definitely did not consider all of the genocidal efforts that formed this country. My exploration of things like generational wealth and cultural cancellation had stopped at slavery, but there was so much more. Living in North Carolina at this point has allowed me to go far deeper into the true history of this nation, and my own heritage. It has allowed me to delve into the manner in which culture is cancelled, how classism was expressed in music as well as economics. These days, when I claim my citizenship and my voting rights, it angers me to remember that people who resemble me had to die for me to have both citizenship and the vote.

People who resemble me are still dying for me to have full citizenship and a vote that is counted. I take that seriously. So, when I consider who gets my vote for public office, be it local or state or federal, I bring all of those who did not have this choice. I am consciously bringing their voices into the voting booth, or onto the ballot that I fill out manually or electronically. I am choosing to hitch my wagon (with all my stuff in there) to the train of the candidate who I feel most represents me and those I am bringing with me. To have an entire class of people violently display that my vote is fraudulent, and patently wrong, is beyond insulting. It is negating of all that I am, all that my ancestors were. Those who discount my ability to make a creditable choice, and have it stand, discount me as a full citizen and that is unacceptable. To demonstrate their discontent, they trashed the people’s house, which since I am part of “the people”, is MY house. Their action was, at best, unsuccessful. At worst, it was rude, stupid, and typical white supremacy. That is not a train I’m willing to hitch up to. It’s going to derail pretty soon, and I’m bound for some place other than the ditch. People get ready…there’s a train a-comin’…don’t need no ticket…you just get on board.

I beg your pardon…

I beg your pardon
I never promised you a rose garden
Along with the sunshine there’s gotta be a little rain sometime
When you take you gotta give so live and let live or let go
I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden

(Lynn Anderson – 1970 – songwriter: Joe South)

Yeah, i was never promised a rose garden. Never expected one. I prefer tulips, actually…brighter colors, lots of different colors, primaries, pastels, practically neon. When I was a little kid, there were some books I had and coloring books that had pictures of Sweden, with Dutch people wearing clogs and walking down sidewalks with flower boxes full of tulips. i loved to color them, and the brighter the better. None of those light or pale Crayola colors for me.

I’m still a lot like that – give me the strong, bold colors. Bright and vivid. Tastes as well. If I’m going to drink coffee, it needs to be strong and not leave me wondering if it’s really coffee or some other coffee-flavored beverage. It needs to do its job, and come with the caffeine. Otherwise, I would be drinking something else.

Trying to find a way out, or a way home?


Here’s the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, which states the purpose of the document:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

After looking at this insurrection, and the succeeding comments all over the interwebz, it occurs to me that people supporting the outgoing President are not totally in agreement with this. It all sounds pretty good until you get to the part about “common” and “general”. I have to keep in mind that when the document was created, non-white people didn’t really exist as citizens, as full human beings. The ones found in the New World were definitely savages, so there was no need to spend time on equity for them. The ones brought here, naked and in chains, no question about their status as non-human. The only humans, in the minds of many members of the still-dominant culture here is…them. The only superior beings are…them. Even if they can’t spell their own names. Even if they don’t know how much they themselves are subsidized by the government they are trying to overthrow.

I suppose this is not supposed to make sense. This is raw fear, primal fear. These folks are so desperately afraid, they are feral. They cannot be reached. Compassion is not a resource available to them, so I no longer expect that. These folks are desperate, because in their stilted world view, they are losing their status, in the country and in the world. Some of their basis implies that “you may be poor, but at least you’re not Black, so it could be worse.” That little sound byte of bias implies that even the most down on his luck white man is far better than any Black man. So where does a white man go from there? He goes to the army/navy surplus store, buys camouflage and boots. Then he goes to WalMart and buys rifles and ammunition. And that’s where he goes. And now, he’s ready for whatever comes. Now he’s ready for Armaggedon, with nothing much to lose. So bring. It. On.

We’re into this deep now. I cannot figure out how to have a reasonable conversation with someone who was breaking windows at the Capitol, or seriously believing that was a reasonable response to anything. I cannot figure out how to have a reasonable conversation with someone who believes there was an equivalence between BLM protests and marches over the summer and this crap on January 6th. I cannot figure out who these people are. They claim to be patriots, and I’m not seeing that. They claim they have the right to bring weapons to demonstrations and into the seat of a state government building. They claim they have the right to not wear medical-grade masks to avoid transmission of COVID-19, refusing to comply with state government guidelines/orders. That endangers my life, but i suppose that’s not worth as much as resisting big government. Who makes those rules??? The problem is not with the rules as much as with who gets to interpret the rules, and who gets to enforce the rules. I don’t know exactly how to fix that, and realizing there’s no apparent solution scares me silly.

Writing about a problem with no apparent solution makes me think back to times when I believed there was no solution to problems I had. Those were awful times, feeling trapped, feeling disempowered and powerless, feeling vulnerable and small. Trapped – I have to say that again. Feeling trapped leads to feeling desperate, and feeling desperate leads to feeling like a small point of light in a black sky that can be extinguished at any instant, with no warning, no reason. This is how so many of us experience our lives, never knowing if this will be the last instant of our existence. Never knowing if we were really here at all, if we really had any impact on the general dynamic of the world. When you’re not sure of that, you’re never sure of how, or if, you fit into the fabric at all. You’re never sure of much of anything, except that you’re not seen. That sucks.

So, now it’s the final countdown. (I think that’s a song, but not one that I know well or even like.) I’m very anxious to see the whole inauguration ceremony happening outside…I would rather them do it in a judge’s chambers, televised, and then have a street party when the COVID lockdown is lifted. I really hope there are no problems on Wednesday, and I hope they can get right to work without having to do in bullet-proof vests on and looking like the Michelin tire couple, all bulked up with appendages they can’t really move. I have so much optimism about our experience post-inauguration, so I’m ready to rock with them. I’m readier than ready.

I’m not OK, but that’s OK

Today has been…productive? Maybe. Therapy session this morning was surprisingly illuminating (not that illumination is a total anomaly). Somehow, we got onto the subject of some things I’ve been writing about here, and found ourselves on the topic of developmental issues of childhood, issues like attachment. I had never explored this issue before, and the phrase “attachment disorder” came up in our conversation, and a huge bell sounded in my head. As I learned more about it, and the reverberations stopped, I felt as though blocks were falling into place, puzzle pieces were interlocking, the picture was somehow becoming more clear, more defined. I was sent an article and the suggestion of doing some further research on this (since I am the Google queen). I’m very motivated to do this, and feel as though I might be on the verge of turning a corner in my recovery, or maybe i should say…discovery. The uncharted land of Ann. Get it? Land of Ann. Some days, I get really tired of fooling with myself….

OK, I started writing that yesterday, so now it’s today, and nothing much has happened. Of course, I have not left the apartment, and I have only had one cup of coffee. I slept reasonably well…only got up once to relieve the trusty bladder, but was able to go right back to sleep. I woke up a few hours later, loved on the dog for a minute or two, or maybe five, and got up to make coffee. Life is…okay so far. I can’t tell if it’s going to rain or not, but if i am smart, I’ll get up and take the dog out while it’s not precipitating. Not sure if precipitate can be used in that fashion, but whatever.

I’m not sure exactly what’s on my mind this morning, but there’s something in there rattling around. I suspect it’s a little more about what I’ve learned about this attachment disorder concept. That feels right for me, like it explains a lot of stuff about the how and why my relationships are so fucked up. Some of that isn’t exactly my fault, but i need to figure out how to do something about it. Still not looking for any kind of romance, or capital R relationship, but would not mind getting along a little better with my fellows. Having a little more of a support circle. Maybe not feeling as though I’m living in some rural area where the nearest neighbor is a couple of miles away. The space to spread out is great, but the solitude gets a little old. I hold people to distances like that, which has been my choice, but I am starting to second guess that now. We’ll see.

I’m now listening a bit to CNN, and it amuses me just a bit how the media is just beginning to give steady coverage to what they are terming “right wing extremism”. This is white supremacy, y’all. Nothing more, nothing less. This is the KKK v.3. The hatred and the insistence that white people are deserving of the apex of all things has not changed. It’s how this country was founded, and the white people who showed up on the shores of Massachusetts were not the best and brightest of Great Britain. Mix superiority with mental illness, narcissism, greed, selfishness and you get genocide, you get murder and mayhem, you get slavery, and you get…the United States of America. We an overcome that, but we choose not to.

Intentional digression here…as a person of color, I have to accept that no matter how much the “system” of white supremacy oppresses me and other non-white people, I participate in it, uphold it, support it in all kinds of ways. This is beyond frustrating, but unless I can remove myself from the grid of life in a first-world nation, I have no choice. Every dollar I spend contributes to the complex and inequitable network of capitalism, and puts more money into the pockets of those who already have more than enough dollars. I don’t know how to fix that. I can make small personal changes, and I do – I support small businesses when i can, like my chiropractor, a black-woman-owned business. I could go elsewhere, but I choose to stay with her specifically because I feel that it’s the right thing to do. So yes, I can make certain personal choices that support the businesses and efforts of those not part of the 1% of our society, but unless we ALL do that, we’re just dropping fractions of pennies into the fountain. I suppose on some esoteric level, that’s still productive in changing the dynamic, but it would be nice to see visible change, on a larger scale. We hear that “it’s not time yet, it’s going to take some time”, but damn. When IS it time? People are dying from this fucking coronavirus, and diabetes, and high blood pressure, and heart disease and HIV and still…those at the top of the pyramid have a far better chance than all the rest. They don’t have time. So let’s get on with this.

So, back to the whole “right wing extremism” thing. These assholes that believed they could actually take over the U.S. Capitol and overturn an election are the same assholes, or at least their demonic spawn, as the ones who resisted Reconstruction after the Civil War, the same ones who formed the Klu Klux Klan, the same ones who brutally massacred and lynched Black people, burned entire Black communities, burned houses of worship with people inside, denied education to Blacks en masse, and socially engineered this entire nation to ensure their kind came out on top. This is why the zombie mutants parading around in the Capitol, waving Confederate battle flags and carrying podiums, believe this is THEIR country. That’s the reality of how this was created, and that’s what they’ve been taught and what they’ve seen. That’s what everyone has seen. This is not “our” country. There is no “our”, there is no “us” for most, wherever you stand. We’re boxes on an organizational chart, we’re body counts, we’re demographics, but we’re not people very often. We’re metrics. And for some, we’re short-lived chalk outlines on the asphalt, and evidence of our lives are found only behind crime scene tape. Invisibility is a cognitive disconnect. You know you’re here, you know you are seen, but the only evidence of your reality that you get is the negative reaction to your mobility…the panic-stricken clutching of a purse in the elevator, the hurried buttoning of a jacket, the quickened pace and step to the other side of the street. When that is the only evidence you have that you are really visible, it’s maddening. Makes you wanna holler.

This is our narrative. How they do us, make you wanna holler. So holler we do – loud music, loud voices, loud living. Look, dammit. Here I am. Over here. Oh, you’re gonna turn your head, well, I’m gonna holler louder. Oh, you gonna cover your ears? Well, I’m gonna turn up my speakers and make you hear me, make you see me, make you understand that you are not the only motherfucker here. Oh, you gonna shoot me? Call the police and have THEM shoot me? How about that. Fine, what do I have to live for? Tell me – what do I have to live for? Explain to me what exactly I have to live for. I have no other way to let you know how much this hurts, how desperate I am, how hopeless I am, how badly this feels, how enraged I am, with no place to go. The only thing I know to do is punch you right in your arrogant, ugly, lying face. You who think you are better than me, smarter than me. You who get what you want when I get nothing. If I punch you, beat you until the blood leaks out of you and onto the ground, I’m gonna die. But I wanna punch you, over and over and over again, until you stop talking, until you stop moving, until the ground is flaming red with all that shit that you throw at me every day. But I don’t know if I wanna die, so I’m gonna leave. And you laugh, and you are screaming evil words at me, and telling me I’m nothing. But I leave. And I’m still mad. So mad. And now it’s days later, and I’m still mad. And now it’s months, years later, and I’m still mad. And I don’t know how to get un-mad, because it keeps happening. And now I’m not a kid anymore, and now it’s not about loud music and how I wear my pants. Now it’s about how you won’t hire me and pay me right to do a job I know something about, so all I can do is this restaurant shit, still having to smile at you and serve – fucking serve you – and do what you tell me to do, because I have to follow your rules. Like always. Your rules. And I’m still mad. And when I get home, the baby is crying and the woman is bitching and we don’t have money, even after I have put up with all your crap and cleaned up all your shit. I’m going out, I’m gonna hit it with my homies, hang with my fellas, ’cause they understand me. I don’t have to explain nothin’, don’t have to follow anybody’s rules. We know what time it is. We gon’ smoke a blunt, we gonna have us a 40, we gonna just…be out here. Nobody askin’ us for nothin’. Now here you come again, blue lights, all macho, wanna know what we doin’ out here, somebody called. Somebody scared. We not doin’ nothin’. Oh, you smell mary wanna? Now you wanna search me. Now you wanna make me stand over here with my hands against the wall. Well, fuck – i know what you do next, and I’m not gonna stand here and wait for that, so I’m gonna run. I’m gonna get away from all this shit, all these rules, your rules. I got nothin’. Nothin’. And jail is not somewhere I want to be. So I’m runnin’, I gotta run, and I want out. And then…there it is…that sound. And another one. Then everything is kind of silver-gray and way too bright for nighttime. And I’m falling in slow motion, and then I’m down, and I think there is motion, somebody grabbing at my neck, but everything is haze and it’s all echoing, and then…nothing. So now I’m dead. Fuck.=

Congratulations.

When you can run, you run. When you can’t run, you stand your ground. That’s fight or flight on the street. If you fight, you defend yourself by any means necessary – with distance weapons, with restraint of your opponent, or with close-range implements. In either case, the impetus is the same, or at least that’s what is said…I was in fear for my life. Reasonable, understandable…assuming the threat is real, But regardless, that is where the similarity ends. If you are the runner, and in fear for your life, the risk of death is high. If you survive, you’re going to have a criminal consequence, because the law is going to descend on you like the raven of gothic stories and screech “nevermore” as the cell doors close. You’re not going to be running anywhere for a while.

If you don’t survive, your death will inform all comers that your flight was unsuccessful, unjustified, and that you were resisting the commands of law enforcement personnel. Whether your death was justifiable in the eyes of the law remains to be explored, but … regardless of that determination, you are undeniably dead. This is an irreversible circumstance. There is no second chance, no photo replay that will reverse the outcome. You are done, game over, no points this round, another coin will not render you another chance.

The real battle in a situation with a fleeing suspect seems to be more about whose life is more valuable. The prevailing norm is that an officer’s life is more valuable, and that an officer is justified in taking the life of a suspect when the officer must preserve their own life. One of the officers at the Capitol on January 6th, who was pulled into the hostile crowd and attacked, explained that he was armed; people were attempting to remove his gun, and others were urging that someone shoot him with his own gun. I cannot imagine the officer’s terror while in this situation. The officer, however, said that he did consider using deadly force, but decided against that because he knew he couldn’t neutralize everyone in that huge crowd that surrounded him. He knew that if he killed a few of his attackers, the others would feel absolutely justified in shooting him. He knew that he would not survive that, and he knew that he would possibly harm people that were not actively involved in the assault on him. He said that he decided to appeal to their humanity, and shouted out that he had kids. That seemed to work, he said, and a few people began to form a circle to protect him. He survived. And he did not kill anyone else. This is the crux of the entire conflict, and i am sure this all happened in mere seconds, while in a state of abject terror. But it is possible to pause for a split second and make a more equitable decision, even though your life is still in danger. The argument after death of a fleeing suspect is difficult, pretentious, and outright contentions. If you weren’t guilty, why did you run? If you ran, you must have been guilty of something. It looked as though you were reach

So. Back to the insurrection. It certainly ain’t over. The revolution is happening in slow motion, but it’s happening. We won’t see it until history shows us. And that’s really ok, because if we could see the whole thing in wide-screen view, it would be so horrifying that we’d move to another planet and start from scratch.





Wasted

Is time wasted when you have no measure? Is a lesson wasted without a student? Is beauty wasted without the beholder? Is talent wasted without an audience? Time keeps going, lessons keep teaching, beauty keeps flowering, talent keeps making itself known. We keep finding reasons to be humbled by the effortless effort of the Universe to show us that life is its own journey, and worth every step.

Well, yesterday was something of a waste. Still battling with the pharmacy and the doctor’s office to get a maintenance prescription refilled. Pharmacy said they needed a new prescription from the doctor. They called, I called, finally got the new script delivered. Now, the pharmacy says they need a pre-authorization from the doctor, which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. So once again, I am caught running between the bases trying to get the doctor to authorize what they’ve already authorized so the pharmacy can send me the bloody medication. Good lord.

I’m still processing all of this insurrections detritus, and more importantly, making the effort to understand how human beings can believe that actions like that can truly effect the change they want to see. This was virtually useless, except to provide an outlet for the culture of outrage to garner more initiates. Those of us who have not been motivated to go this route are left trying to make sense of this, and manage our the escalating fear of the inauguration, as well as the path forward. Those rioters have not walked into a disintegration chamber at the end of Pennsylvania Avenue in D.C., or anywhere else, and so they are still with us. And they’re still mad as hell. This is not over.

I’m fiddling with myself today, and yesterday as well. For a really long time, at least since adolescence, I’ve felt like I was nuts cllinically nuts (not quite the medical term, but it gets the point across). I continue to employ methodology for living that does not work for me, I continue to hide my head in the sand and expose my ample arse to risk of damage. This has been going on for decades now, and I have been somewhat obsessed with figuring out why, or at least the cause for it. I’ve gone back and forth with this, at least in my own head, and whenever I am starting relationship with a therapist, my biggest question is always “What’s wrong with me? What’s the diagnosis for this?”. The one I’m seeing now diagnosed me as human. If we had been face-to-face I might have slapped her. We just stumbled onto something recently, however, that sounds promising in my endeavor to point me toward answers.

The unintended waypoint that was discovered is “attachment disorder”, and nearly as soon as she mentioned it my senses alerted. The bell tolled, and it tolled for me. This could be what I have been seeking out, running blind through the DSM over the years with my ears pinned back like my dog when she runs. It’s mostly developmental, and seems to fit with my very early childhood experience when newborns attach to their mothers…or not. My mommy was ill for a large part of my very early development, and i think we missed some steps. From what I’ve read, and from what therapist says, it can be remediated, although it will take a minute. That’s fine. I’m old enough to accept the fact that it will not be exactly cured, but having a category for it helps my quasi-linear mind (i.e. the control freak part of me) have a point on the map to envision. It’s kind of an explanation that I needed to relieve myself of the self-imposed burden of hopeless insanity. And the guilt of feeling as though it’s something I’m doing to myself, something I’ve not had the strength to fix on my own. It’s easier for me to give myself a break if I feel that it’s something that needs a hand from a professional, something that is experienced by others, and something I didn’t cause in the first place. Like the Al-Anon mantra – I didn’t cause it, can’t cure it, and can’t control it. I can improve it, cope with it, probably compensate for it, but I can’t really control it. And I am working on accepting that. That might not make sense to anybody but me (especially the control part, which is a fine line to walk) but it makes sense to me. It makes sense to me a lot more than anything else has, so I’m sticking with it. To be clear (for myself, at least), I don’t think any of this absolves me from doing the inner work I need to be doing, the recovery work, the responsibility work, the work to unravel this big knot of Self.

On another note, but not really entirely divergent…I was reading an article about the radicalization of one of the insurgents who died during the January 6 debacle at the Capitol. It was sad. This was a guy who had been an Obama supporter, a die-hard Democrat, and then some things began to go wrong in the country, and he became convinced that more fiscal conservatism and GOP economic strategy was the answer to these ills and so he became a die-hard supporter of the 45th President and his perspective on the economy and business. He began watching more alt-right media sources, and became – by definition – radicalized. Believed the election had been stolen. Believed Congressional members had betrayed us all, and believed that some of those leaders should pay the ultimate price with their lives in order to get the country back on track, according to the radical right perspective of what “back on track” meant. He died in the unrest, suffering a heart attack while talking on the phone to his wife.

I am very interested in what transforms people from reasonable and tolerant human beings to radical and violent harbingers of hatred and blame. This man had been posting messages urging other rioters to bring their weapons to the insurrection and to “take back their country”. I struggle with believing that simply watching Fox News or News Max is enough to get somebody to participate in a violent overthrow of the government. Over the past few years, we’ve seen this radicalization in the Middle East, when radicals there were beheading folks. Government overthrow happened on the regular, and here in the west we muttered about “those people” and how savage they were. Looking at what’s just happened over here, though, I don’t believe we are that far removed from “those people”. One of the somewhat disgraced White House advisors commented that he WOULD behead a selected officials, and mount the decapitated heads on stakes that would be erected at specific points on the White House grounds. He wasn’t kidding. This man has the current President’s ear. I’m still finding that difficult to comprehend.

Us sophisticated folks over here believe that we’re far superior in character and intellect to those sand torn, ignorant, depraved jihadists in the Middle East. After all, they’re not Christians – that’s mainly their problem, of course. When racist ideologues bombed churches and homes in America during the 60s, many of us found this horrible, but there was a core group of people who found those acts to be … necessary. They proclaimed themselves uber Christian, and uber American, saving our country by whatever means necessary. Those battle cries still resound in the voices of the insurgents who attempted a coup on January 6th. Same as the jihadists in the Middle East. Same as it’s always been during times of revolution. Contrary to popular belief, the January 6th insurgents really aren’t that special.

I have believed for a while not that we’re well into a revolution in the United States. It’s proceeding in slow motion, and is characterized by moments of brilliance followed by longer stretches of abject stupidity, but it’s happening. There’s a polar shift going on, and in its simplest form it looks like radical change, it looks like glass ceilings shattered, it looks like Black Lives Matter, it looks like the fight for living wage. Change in a society appears to be predictably cyclic, like geologic change and volcanic eruptions. Those cycles, however, can span a lifetime, a generation, a century, or millions of years. Societal changes seem to follow much the same course., only slightly quicker. Slightly. Since the earliest recorded history, there have been major geologic upheavals on this planet, and the same for societal cataclysm. It must be a universal law, that nothing can stay the same forever, no matter how short-sighted we are. Global scale, and universal scale, are more than we can comprehend. Those church bombings I mentioned were a favorite tool of the white supremacist resistance during the U.S. Civil Rights era. The KKK fighters and some elected officials swore they would never allow school segregation to become a reality, or rescind Jim Crow laws. They were convinced that changes such as those would bring about the demise of the nation. Obviously, the nation did not fall due to de-segregation of schools, lunch counters, public restrooms, water fountains, public transit, the ballot box, or anything else that elevated Black people to full citizenship. But, in those days, the fear of change was pervasive that it became toxic, and some were more than willing to die in order to maintain status quo. Sound familiar?

We’ll be unsnarling the hatred and divisiveness of these past few years for quite a while. To do that, however, we’ve got to stop putting more loops in the ribbon. I’ve been saying for quite a long time that you can’t say it’s history if you’re still doing the same thing, if nothing has changed. It’s still current events as long as unarmed Black men (and women) continue to die regularly at the hands of law enforcement officers, or white vigilantes, or the health care system. It’s still current events when Black and Brown students are significantly more likely to miss high school graduation, and significantly more likely to be incarcerated by age 18. It’s a 100-year event when a pandemic strikes, but it’s business as usual when Black and Brown communities are impacted by such a an event at disproportionately higher rates, and have far less access to diagnosis and treatment.

So, none of this is news, but juxtapose all of that with the insurrection. The battle cry of “we want our country back”. That’s not new, either, although the guns are bigger and the instigators are more organized and better networked. This is not going to go away any time soon. It’s the same battle that has been raging since Europeans first showed up here. When Birth Of A Nation was released, the opening lines equated problems in the country with the arrival of the Africans. That sentiment hasn’t gone far – everything wrong here is because of non-white people. Crime, economy, education, morale – all bad, all because of non-white people. Even killer bees were “Africanized”. What to do, what to do??? Get our country back, that’s what needs to happen – we have to get our country back. Things were so much better before THEM … well at least before they started being able to do everything we were doing, like vote and go to good schools and sit in the front of the bus, and stuff like that. THEY are ruining everything, ’cause THEY don’t know how to act.

Hm. That’s pretty oversimplified, but it’s out there. Just like it always has been. The names have changed, the faces, have changed, but it’s the same caste, the same divide. Here in America, it’s largely divided on skin color and class, and there is overlap between those strta. In the Middle East, the radical jihadists fought against people who looked pretty much like them; the conflict was over religious and political ideals. Rwanda in the 80s – same thing (although the Belgians had a little something to do with it). Once again, it all boils down to power in the final analysis. If it wasn’t about skin color here in the U.S., it would be about something else – mental health, intellect, hair color, beauty, shoe size. Sounds ridiculous, but read Lord of the Flies sometime. When left to our own devices, and with a dearth of resources (or perceived dearth), we human animals will go wild on each other. Just about any animal will do the same thing – put its back up against the wall, threaten basic sustenance, and they will kill each other to survive.

We’re supposed to be the greatest nation on the face of the Earth, so why do we feel that our back is against the wall? Why are our people starving on the streets, while a short distance away a small number of people are living in such opulence they don’t know what to do with it all. Why are we at each other’s throats? Why do we question whether or not there’s enough? I contend it is because we continue to operate in a mindset of scarcity, believing our resource pool is a zero-sum game. If there is a finite supply of ‘stuff’, I’ve got to keep my stash protected, because somebody is going to want it for themselves and I don’t know if I can get more. If I’ve got to get the biggest gun ever made to protect my stuff, then so be it.

My feeling on all of this is … we’re addicts. We’re obsessed with the thrill of having more than the other folks, because that makes us feel good. Feeling good releases endorphins, so we want that feeling all the time. We’re addicted to having things outside of ourselves make the insides of ourselves feel good – drugs, big screen televisions, booze, clothes, sex. Sex and drugs and rock and roll. There’s a rush of adrenalin when one feels they’ve won some type of contest, some competition, some demonstration of being more than someone else. If excess wasn’t a commodity, we’d be much better off. If one upmanship wasn’t our SOP, we’d be eons ahead of ourselves. If we all felt secure in our inner most selves, we’d be happier.

So, right now, as of this writing, my goal is to make it through Wednesday. Earlier, I posted on social media that no matter what one thinks of the incoming President and Vice-President, they are going to be taking office on Wednesday, at noon. I’m very apprehensive about the potential for violence, and Washington D.C. apparently shares my concern because the city looks like a war zone. Thousands of military and law enforcement personnel are guarding the streets, roads are closed to vehicular traffic, there’s an early evening curfew, and the news media is so excited they’re about to pee on themselves. The people’s house is on fire, and most everybody is running away from it…except the incoming President and Vice-President and associated staffers. They’re the fire department, running in to put out the fire, as civil servants always do. They’re either nuts, or they give more than a damn about this country, about we the people. The least I can do is shout out a heartfelt good luck wish, and stay behind the fire line. The incoming President is hitting the ground running, slowed down just a step by juggling all the balls that are in the air right now (COVID, racial equity, the economy, law enforcement reform to name the big ones). But they’re going in, where angels and sensible people fear to tread. The rest of us should remain seated and keep our seatbelts securely fastened until the captain has turned off the seatbelt sign. Let’s do this.