Stand or Fall – The ‘Privilege’ of Writing About Political Issues

I put the word ‘privilege’ in quotation marks in the title of this piece because I’ve heard that accusation made to me and other women like me who write about issues and such. I’ve been told I’m lucky I don’t have a ton of responsibilities to focus on like children and family and work like so many people do so instead I have the time to be a ‘news junkie’.

Okay, I don’t have kids and I don’t have caregiving responsibilities. But when I did have caregiving responsibilities in previous years, I was still a ‘news junkie’ and I still read a lot. And I’m sure there are assholes in this world who felt like I should have been doing something else other than filling my mind with ‘dangerous ideas’ and such. So why did I keep to myself and continue to consume mass quantities of information? Because back in my twenties and thirties I felt like everyone’s eyes were on me and that no one felt like I had it in me to be ‘normal’. By ‘normal’ I mean someone who went out and socialized. I was made to feel like if I went out and partied and drank and did normal stuff (and yes, maybe some dumb-ass shit) the world would come to an end and someone would tattle on me to my parents. This is a story for another time so I’m going to stop here with that.

So because I gave in to that bullshit that I didn’t have what it took to be ‘normal’, I continued to consume mass quantities of information and store it and process it in my head. Now I write about it because I can, because I have the time, and because I want to. And like I said before, I don’t have kids or caregiving responsibilities but I do have to earn a living and I do so by putting in between forty and fifty hours a week on the road as an Uber driver. And this isn’t an easy or cushy gig because it’s unpredictable and I have to push through my own physical issues like allergies, hormonal craziness, arthritic joints, and the weekly case of the ‘don’t want to’s’ in order to survive. The rest of my time when I’m not on the road is my time. And my time is not a privilege I should be ashamed of.

Now I’m sure some readers here might be asking why would people think doing what you want to in your own time is a privilege they don’t have. I could say it’s just jealousy or mental and emotional diarrhea on their part. But why people mouth off at someone who takes the time to keep up on the world and then write about it is not something I need to think about because my life and my work are not about other people. And I DO NOT do this to feed off of people disagreeing with me or hating on me.

President Harry Truman once said this in 1948: “I’m just telling the truth and they think I’m giving them hell!” (he said this after a person in the crowd he’d just given a speech to yelled out, “Give ‘em hell, Harry!”)

With my writing, I’m telling the truth and not just the truth of facts and figures, but the truth of my own thoughts and feelings. And this ability to speak out as I do is not something I take for granted nor do I feel like I’m owed this right or that it’s a privilege that’s been afforded to me. Instead, I feel grateful that I have this space and opportunity to say what I want to say. And yes, I know I’m pissing someone off by dong this but I’ve been pissing people off since I could walk and talk simply by existing and I’m still here. But I don’t write to piss people off. I write to express my own thoughts and feelings in the hopes of reaching out and connecting with people like I have connected with other writers since I learned how to read.

My goal in life is to be a digital nomad, someone who lives and works on the road. And I’m starting from scratch here, one day at a time. It’s not a ‘privilege’ I’ve been given since I’m childless and such. It’s a personal choice that I feel should be respected, or at least tolerated. I respect other people’s choices to live their life as they please as long as they’re not causing any harm. I made choices over the years that led to where I’m at now.

The choice I’ve made to give a lot of my attention to political and social issues is mine and not made to defy anyone or defy convention or some bullshit like that. I’ve always been curious about the world I live in and yes, my curiosity is insatiable. In addition to that insatiable curiosity, I have a brain that process information at a very high rate of comprehension and memory. I think a lot of my desire to write came about because I needed a space to process all that information other than just inside my head. Also, so many other people in this world have taken the time and care to share their observations and insights with the world and I want to be a part of that group.

I’m not saying anyone has to be a hardcore news junkie, or do more than just vote. How people live and participate in this world is entirely up to them. But if anyone reading this thinks giving me shit about being a news junkie or writer is going to shut me up, you’re wrong. I don’t have anything left to lose in this life, and instead, I have everything to gain what I want if I put my hands on the keyboard let the words come out.

Stand or Fall – Not Ready to Make Nice

I’m starting Part One of my book, ‘Stand or Fall’ in 2003 when Natalie Maines, the lead singer of The Chicks (formerly known as The Dixie Chicks) said this in 2003 onstage at a concert in London, England just weeks before the start of the war in Iraq: “We don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”

To say that the shit hit the fan with this quote is putting it mildly. The backlash was outrageous and frightening at the time. They got death threats, banned from country-music radio (a ban that still holds to this day), and lost endorsements. And all because they chose to speak out against a war that was being started on a pack of lies. I knew it then and so did a lot of other people but the powers-that-be, from the White House to the Pentagon to corporate America were all hell-bent and determined to start a war and make a shit-ton of money in the process. What happened instead was a shit-ton of money was made while thousands of American soldiers and hundred of thousands Iraqi’s died and the country of Iraq plunged into a bloody civil war which they still haven’t recovered from. The truth was canceled here, not the lies.

Getting back to the Chicks and me: Natalie Maines and I were born in the same year but in 2003 I wasn’t anywhere near as brilliant as she was, and still is. In 2003, I was exhausted, grieving over the death of my mother, and trying to go out on my own for the first time in my life. I had also been entrusted then by my father to take car of him in the event he couldn’t take care of himself. But despite my grieving exhaustion and shaky steps to independence, I was still pissed off as hell that a war was being sold to the American people under false pretenses.

I stayed quiet back then because I feared if I spoke out in any way hell would rain down on me like it did the Chicks. I was afraid my relationship with my father could be sabotaged and severed. I was afraid of being sent into permanent exile and alienated from every single person on the planet. I was afraid of sabotaging myself before I had a chance to get a foothold in the world. And looking back, I think the possibility existed because as long as I was silent and nice, people left me alone for most of the time.

Now I realize they didn’t give two shits about me and my life, and that I think my dad would have seen through any bullshit spouted against me like he and my mom had when they were both alive. Because in the years after this, he and I came to the agreement that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were abject failures. He said to me that the United States needed to stop acting the world’s policeman, something I honestly thought I’d never hear from him in my lifetime.

I know it sounds ridiculous to some that politics and ideology could be so divisive but since 2016 it’s proven to be true. But to me, it’s not about policy and procedure, but about ideas and beliefs. I’m against war and especially war-for-profit, which is all the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were. Over five-thousand US soldiers died in both wars and thousands more have wounds they will never fully-recover from. Both countries are wrecked beyond belief and no real recovery is on the horizon. And right now, Ukraine is fighting to survive and paying a terrible price. Luckily, people who have spoken out against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, such as myself, haven’t faced cancelation and backlash like the Chicks and others did in 2003.

I’m just one voice but it’s all I’ve got left. Because every time I feel a frisson of fear I tell myself I’m a grown-ass middle-aged woman with nothing left to lose. My mother has been dead for twenty years this year and my dad has been dead for eleven years so the two people in the world who I would go silent for are not here to be used against me. And as for being isolated and alone, that’s my life now. I have my work, my goals and dreams, and a dog and cat so I’m good.

In the end, what I realize is this: it doesn’t pay to be nice and like The Chicks later sang, I’m not ready to make nice either, I did that for way too many years and just have a shit-ton of scars to show for it. And any attempt to cancel me for the truth will be met by my calling out bullies for doing this. Because that’s all people who try to silence the truth are: bullies. And when you stand up to a bully and are prepared to take the hits, you’ll survive and thrive because you won’t live on hate and fear like they do. Bullies aren’t remembered well by history or the people they leave behind. Heroes and good people are remembered well and their love and light lives on.

The truth can’t be canceled no matter how hard anyone tries. It’s just taken me damn near twenty years to realize that. But better late than never.

Stand or Fall – In the Shadow of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD)

Recently, I read an article where a college professor asked his students if they knew what the strategy of Mutually-Assured-Destruction was. Now please note his class is mostly under forty (Millennials and Generation Z) and they had been inadvertently downplaying the threat of nuclear war and the resulting nuclear winter because they thought there were missile-defense systems and also because they had no idea of the MAD strategy. They were shocked when their professor told them there were no real missile-defense systems because the funding for them got cut back in the 1980’s, and that MAD was still in effect. And I have a feeling they couldn’t list all the countries with nuclear weapons either (the United States, Russia, China, England, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel).

I think this lack of knowledge is yet another failure of the American educational system, and the fact that these two generations did not live with the saber-rattling like my generation (Generation X) and the generations before did. But it doesn’t excuse the Millennials for downplaying shit like this and that a significant number of them don’t believe the Holocaust was as bad it was (see next week’s blog entry for my take on that). This is why I think there has been a huge rise in support of right-wing bullshit like the Russians aren’t bad guys and Nazis weren’t that bad. No, they’re worse. Ask the people in Ukraine how bad the Russians truly are, and what the rest of the world has known for over seventy years.

In the 1950’s, the Cold War began. In school, we were taught it was a war of ideas, communism versus democracy (with the Russians being the Communist bad guys). From the beginning of the 1950’s, there was a massive development of nuclear arsenals, thousands of ICBM’s (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles: missiles that are launched from across continents and oceans). Then there was the development of MIRVS (Multiple Independent Re-Entry Vehicle Systems): nuclear missiles with multiple warheads (aka nuclear bombs) on top of a single missile. Now multiply that by hundreds if not thousands of these types of missiles around the world possessed by the nine nuclear nations and by the 1970’s the world began to realize that might not be a good thing. This led the first arms-control and arms-reduction treaties between the United States and Russia and older weapons were supposedly decommissioned and no new ones were built though I’m just cynical enough not to totally believe that. This is why my blood boiled pretty damn hard when the previous US Presidential administration talked about increasing nuclear stockpiles instead of reducing them.

We don’t need to blow ourselves to Kingdom Come. We don’t need to kill billions of people and kill the survivors slowly and painfully and destroy our planet in what is called a nuclear winter (that’s the theory that if enough nuclear weapons are set off there will be so much radioactive dust it would choke out the sun and freeze our planet to death).

So in the light of this insane rush to kill everyone a strategy was developed: mutually-assured-destruction. The idea being that if one side launched their missiles then the other side would launch theirs with the goal to try and knock out the enemy from launching more missiles after the initial strike before they could take out the retaliating side.

And if you don’t believe this shit watch the old 80’s movie, WarGames. It was a movie based on this MAD strategy. And as the computer says in the movie at the end of the simulation of the MAD strategy: “The only way to win is not to play”. But back then, the powers-that-be wanted you to think nuclear war was a game and that everyone wouldn’t die and there would be enough survivors to carry on.

In 1945, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing over two-hundred thousand people (estimates). These were civilians, men, women, and children. I was taught it was done to force Japan to surrender unconditionally to end World War II, and to prevent a long and drawn-out invasion of Japan. Today that would be considered a war crime, a crime against humanity and I agree with that. There had been enough death and destruction and the world didn’t need that. And most of all, nuclear weapons are not what has prevented World War III.

I grew up on that bullshit-idea, too, that nuclear weapons kept the world relatively free of war, that the ‘little’ wars that have happened since (Korea, Vietnam, the Balkan Wars, etc.) didn’t mean jack-shit in the face of what happened in World War II. Tell that to the people of the world who survived those wars, and especially try telling that to the people of Ukraine right now. Also, nuclear war hasn’t happened because cooler heads have prevailed in countless crises (like President Kennedy keeping General Curtis LeMay from running wild in 1962 – watch the film ‘Thirteen Days’ to see that), and also people brave enough not to follow orders (such Russian colonel Stanislov Petrov who in 1983 refused to call the Kremlin to order a nuclear missile launch because he knew his equipment was malfunctioning and the United States would not just launch five missiles to start nuclear Armageddon).

So young ones, and Millennials, this is why your elders and not-so-elders get freaked out when there is talk of nuclear war. We know how close we’ve come, but we also know there are people on this planet who honestly don’t care whether they live or die (because they’re under the totally-fucked up and misguided belief that if they commit mass murder they’ll be welcomed into Heaven and not Hell) and who wouldn’t hesitate to hit the big red button and end it all. And for what? To not live in a world beside people who are different from them, who don’t want to live their lives in hatred and anger, and who don’t want to destroy but to create and heal?

It was said Albert Einstein called the development of nuclear weapons akin to opening Pandora’s Box and unleashing pain and suffering on the world. He was right. He also said, “I don’t know what World War III will be fought with, but I do know what World War IV will be fought with: sticks and stones.”

Stand of Fall – Crosses

“Some of those that work forces, are the same that burn crosses”

From the song, “Killing In the Name” by Rage Against the Machine, 1995

This song was written after the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles but the phrase ‘burning crosses’ has come into my mind as a rebuttal against people who hate anyone who isn’t like them, such as people of color, LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer), Jews, and others. Hate-mongers say that those people of color, LGBTQ, Jews, and others are coming for them. They say those people are trying to exterminate the white race, or oppress white people, or deny the existence of heterosexual people. They say that people of color, LGBTQ, Jews, and others not like them are hell-bent on destroying the world.

I have one thing to say to that: has any person of color, LGBTQ, Jews, or others who are not white, heterosexual, fake-Christian, burned crosses?

Answer: No.

Has any LGBTQ person or organization tried to pass legislation to ban the discussion of heterosexual health and well-being?

Answer: No.

Have Jews ever rounded up Christians and sent them to gas chambers?

Answer: No.

Now, at this point I’m sure someone is thinking: what about the Los Angeles riots in 1994, or in Watts in 1965, Boston/Newark/Detroit and other cities in 1968 after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr that burned down whole city blocks?

Answer: They weren’t predominately-white neighborhoods. Beverly Hills was not burned to the ground in 1994. Anger and rage were turned on the poverty and neglect of Watts and other places and that’s why those areas were destroyed by rioting and looting.

Another question: was any all-white area bombed and razed to the ground like the Greenwood area of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921? The first time aerial bombardment was used in the United States?

Answer: No.

No single group of people or individuals are completely innocent or without sin. I’m not saying that here. But in the United States and the Western World, governments and other political, social, religious, and business institutions are led by predominantly-white, heterosexual people, men mostly in top positions of leadership. And when they’re leadership is threatened, they don’t take it well. What they fear the most is people like them (white, heterosexual, etc.) will turn on them and reject their greed and hatred.

Right now, the true evil I see in this world is the oligarchs, and not just the Russian ones. Oligarchs live all over the world as people who acquired wealth and power through illegal, immoral, or unethical means. People who steal and hoard wealth and resources and drive people into poverty, disease, and death. People who oppress others in order to keep them poor and struggling just to survive.

The oligarchs are the ones that burn crosses and fund the ones that drop bombs on hospitals in a place called Ukraine. They are the ones that have stolen trillions and are also the ones trying to kill our planet. Wealth without conscience.

Some would say I’m being an extremist here. I’m not an extremist or alarmist when I see the world on fire, when I hear hatred every day, see it in legislatures here in my own country of the United States of America. When I know there are people in this world, in my own country, who would finish what Nazi Germany started over seventy years ago if given the opportunity.  

And to those reading this who ask why don’t people of color/LGBTQ/Jews, and others reach out to those who speak out against them and risk their lives and well-being? I believe it’s a choice people are free to make whether or not to engage with those that spout hatred.

And please don’t spout the bullshit of hating the sin but loving the sinner. Being a person of color speaking out against oppression and discrimination, or being LGBTQ, Jewish, or anything defined other is not a sin. As John Pavlovitz said in his book, ‘If God Is Love Don’t Be a Jerk’: If someone is uttering the phrase “Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner”- They’re usually doing something hateful to another human being and trying to pass the buck to God.” True sinners burn crosses, not die on them.

Stand or Fall – In the Shadow of the Mushroom Cloud

The title of today’s blog entry comes from the song, “Hammer to Fall” by Queen. I first heard it on the soundtrack to the film ‘Highlander’ though the song was released first as a single from Queen’s 1984 album ‘The Works’. Written by Queen guitarist Brian May, it’s about growing up during the Cold War when both the United States and Soviet Union (now Russian Federation) would get into a dick-swinging contest but swing around nuclear missiles instead of their own pencil-dicks.

Two days ago, Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin said he put Russian nuclear forces on high alert and of course all of us Cold War-babies had flashbacks to duck-and-cover drills, ‘The Day After’, ‘Threads’, and other dystopian nuclear apocalypse imagery. My father used to tell stories of watching nuclear bomb tests on live television in the late 1950’s and also that he got sent to the principle’s office one time for saying during a duck-and-cover drill, “Shouldn’t we all just put our heads between our legs and kiss our asses goodbye?” (when my grandfather came to pick my dad up from school and my dad told him what he’d said, my grandfather said he couldn’t punish my dad for being honest).

By the time us Generation X kids came of age, we grew pretty fatalistic about nuclear war. We hoped we’d be close enough to the blasts to get vaporized because that’s a pretty quick death. If we survived, we knew we’d have to forage for Pop-Tarts to survive (Twinkies are the foraging goal for the zombie apocalypse). But we also knew since 1945, cooler heads had prevailed, and there were people who had the balls not to push the big red button or make phone calls to the Kremlin or the White House. Because if those missiles launch, it’s all over and there won’t be anything to do except sing REM’s classic song, “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I feel fine)”.

I saw something yesterday online where a teacher asked his Generation Z students if they knew what the strategy of MAD (Mutually-Assured Destruction) was. They didn’t know and he had to tell them and they were pretty shocked. I grew up with that like my dad and his generation did. Because that’s the nuclear strategy the world has lived with since 1945 when the first and so far, only atomic bombs were dropped. The strategy is that if anyone launches a single missile, everyone else launches all of theirs in the totally fucked-up misguided idea that if we launch a counter-strike we’ll knock out some of their missiles. Yeah, I don’t think they thought that one through.

What I will say now is this: pray that cooler heads will prevail and keep the monsters from hitting that big red button and blowing us all to Kingdom Come. Pray for steady leadership like President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and for people to stand up to a President and tell him to quit joking around about bombing Russia (thanks to President Regan’s White House advisors for telling him to knock that shit off). Pray for their counterparts in Russia who are probably risking their lives and hoping they’re not near a meat-hook or a window to get thrown out of.

Most of all, stand up for what’s right and true. If a politician or pundit has voiced support for murderous dictators like Vladimir Putin, make sure to remind them at every opportunity and hold them accountable. If they’ve taken dirty money to destroy democracy in this country and around the world, hold them accountable. Vote them out of office and support investigations into their criminal and treasonous behavior. There is no middle ground when it comes to preventing nuclear war or the dirty war of misinformation and the destruction of democracy.

As I write this, the people of Ukraine are getting the living shit kicked out of them by the Russians. They’re fighting just to stay alive and hold out long enough to get reinforcements and hope for a coup in Russia. They’re hoping the world doesn’t cave in and abandon them like the world has before.

It’s hard to live in the shadow of the mushroom cloud. Yesterday I looked up at the clear blue sky above me and thought what a total waste it would be to see it on fire. Instead of getting scared and sad, I was pissed off as hell. I was like, “Not this fucking shit again!” I reminded myself all I could do was get on with my day and pray that cooler heads will prevail yet again. I know we got a cool one here in the United States in the White House. The one in the bunker in Russia I’m not confident in at all but I hope enough of his stooges find their balls and keep him away from the red button.

To those who are feeling the terror of that mushroom cloud, come on in. Grab a pack of Pop-Tarts, take a seat, and turn up the music.

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