Grief Into Action

Earlier today a gunman walked into Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas and murdered eighteen children and three adults. I will not say the gunman’s name nor ever write it out here, and I will not speculate as to what his motive was. Instead, I will try to address a question so many people asked yesterday: what can we do to stop this from happening again in the future?

The following are based on my own observations, research, and beliefs that I am trying to put into action.

1) Take a stand. By this I mean take a position and stand on it. You don’t have to go public with it like I am. All I ask is that you make your position known in the voting booth. Your vote is now literally a matter of life and death. Choose wisely, and choose well.

2) Vote for candidates for any public office who have solid plans to address gun violence in our country. And if they are rated by the NRA (National Rifle Association), make sure their grade is F for this means they support sensible gun legislation and they don’t take any money from the NRA or other gun lobby groups, groups that are nothing but greedy butchers. The NRA and other groups like them have only stoked fear and outrage to enrich themselves. These groups have no conscience, no empathy, and no compassion for anyone.

3) If you want to give financial support, support organizations that are working for sensible gun control legislation. Two groups I recommend are Everytown for Gun Safety and former Congresswoman and shooting survivor Gabby Gifford’s group. These organizations have been campaigning tirelessly for years to save lives so if you have the means to support them, please do so.

4) In the coming days, weeks, months, and even years, crackpot conspiracy-theorists like QAnon adherents will accuse the families in Uvalde of being ‘crisis actors’ and that the murders didn’t happen. The families of the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School have been battling these monsters for years, so much that some of these crackpots are in prison for threatening the families. If anyone speaks to you like this, shut them down as hard as you can, so badly it hurts. There is no compromise or tolerance for these views.

5) If you are a gun owner, be a responsible gun owner. Know how to safely handle and store your weapon. Keep it away from children and other people at all times. And hope and pray you never have to use it because if you boast that you could shoot someone, know that if you do you will have to deal with it for the rest of your life. Don’t ever speak of being a gun owner in a cavalier way or be irresponsible in any way.

Most of all, be there for those who are grieving now. You don’t need to find words to comfort someone. To comfort someone all you need to do is be there and listen with an open heart and an open mind. Cry and share emotions such as sadness, pain, and grief. But also share emotions such as joy, and remember their loved ones, their hopes and dreams, and the lives they lived, even those lost at such a young age such as the children in Uvalde today.

This evening President Biden addressed the nation and talked of turning grief into action. Before President Biden has talked about turning grief into purpose but we already have purpose in our lives, and that is to live well, love well, and do no harm. Now we have to take that purpose and turn it into action.

I will tell you here that if you take a stand against gun violence there may people in your life who will not agree with you on this. You will have to agree to disagree though in my experience that is not really done. I have been told that if I don’t back down there will be no peace because I have to be silent in order to keep the peace. I say to that: there is no peace in silence. I have also been told if I am too outspoken that people will not want to be around me, or like me, or love me. I have been told if I am outspoken I will come off as hard and cold when I am anything but. To those who would seek to isolate me for my beliefs and my actions I will say this: I am alone here in front of you now, and if I have to live my life alone I will. But I don’t believe that being outspoken will isolate me like I have feared for so long. Because most of all, I still have hope for a better world, and a belief that our world is worth saving.

Turning grief into action will not be easy. Doing this may have you accused of being a troublemaker, of making trouble where there shouldn’t be, and that now is not the time to take action. To that I will respond with a quote from the late Congressman John Lewis:

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

– John Lewis, tweet from June 2018

Stand or Fall – Shattered Glass Ceilings

In 2021, I read a book called ‘Ashley’s War’ (by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon) about Lieutenant Ashley White, US Army Reserve who was a member of the first Cultural Support Team (CST). Lt. White was killed in Afghanistan, the first CST to die in the line of duty but her story will always be remembered. This book changed me simply because it made me realize that as long as I don’t give up on myself and focus on my goals in life, I can succeed like Lt. White and all her fellow CST’s did. Because what she and her fellow CST’s did was shatter one of the biggest glass ceilings there ever was in this country for women- the ban on women in combat which was lifted in 2013.

Early on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States military realized they were losing out on valuable intelligence because male soldiers could not interact in any way with women in Iraq or Afghanistan. These countries are Muslim and in strict Muslim society, women are not allowed to interact in any way much less speak to men who are not related to them by blood or marriage. Now women in these countries will talk to other women regardless of their nationality so the US military began pulling female soldiers, most of them in non-combat support roles, to interrogate and gather intelligence from women in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2009, US Special Operations Command began to formulate a plan to create all-female units to embed with combat units specifically to gather intelligence from the women in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now they had to take their time doing this because of the ban on women in combat positions. But in 2011, they put out the call for the Cultural Support Teams and thousands of women in the US military responded and answered the call.

The argument against women in combat roles was always this: the American public would not be able to handle the sight of female soldiers coming home in flag-draped coffins.

One-hundred and fifty-two female American soldiers have died in the War on Terror since September 11, 2001.

And you know what the reaction of the American people was:

ABSOLUTEY NOTHING!!!

I put that in all-caps to make a point. There were no protests at the sight of female soldiers coming home in flag-draped coffins. There was no outcry to stop women from being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, I will venture to guess that some readers of this piece will not even know how many female soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, or that the ban on women in combat was lifted almost ten years ago.

The reason I’m writing this here is because I see a right-wing conservative Republican movement that will not just replace the glass ceiling the CST’s shattered, but they will create a steel-walled prison for all women. I believe the goal of these motherfuckers is to take away all the rights of every woman in this country, and for them to determine the life-path of every single woman in this country. And for those that defy that, I believe these motherfuckers would torture those women who resist in ways that I don’t want to think about.

I’m sure some readers here may think I’m going off the deep end to even speculate about the future these motherfuckers may want to make a reality. In 1945, the world learned just what the Nazi’s were fully capable of and did, so much so that a new word had to be created to describe the mass-murder of millions of people: genocide. Do I think these right-wing bastards would commit genocide to achieve their goal of total world domination? Yes. And I believe they would start with subjugating women and imprisoning them in strictly-defined roles with a few women selected as evil overseers.

In my forty-eight years I’ve seen a lot of glass ceilings broken and shattered. I’ve seen a lot of battles for women’s rights fought and won. But what I’m seeing now is not just an attack, but a full-out battle being planned to take away all of those accomplishments. It isn’t just a race-war these monsters want, but war against anyone who isn’t white, male, heterosexual, and ‘Christian’ (I put the term ‘Christian’ in quotation marks because none of these monsters are true Christians).

In the book, ‘Ashley’s War’, the women of the Cultural Support Teams constantly wondered if they were good enough for what they were being asked to do. They worried they would fail, not just their fellow soldiers but that if they failed they would destroy any opportunities for other women in the military. So they never gave up, never gave in to those fears and doubts. And in my own small tribute to them, I have vowed to do the same with myself.

To any woman reading this who has ever been told she can’t do something simply because she’s a woman, I will tell you this: do it. And if you want to say anything to these motherfuckers you can say this: “Watch me.” Then go out and take names and kick ass as hard as you can and never quit on yourself, or your sisters-in-arms.

Stand or Fall – The Battle Has Never Ended

Recently I began watching the HBOMax series ‘Minx’ about the founding of a women’s magazine in the 1970’s a la ‘Playgirl’ and in the first episode the founder of the magazine, Joyce, goes through articles she’s written over the years prior to the magazine launch about such things as equal pay for women, access to birth control, and abortion. And all I could think was this:

How the hell did we make it out of the 1970’s?

I asked that question because I felt like I was watching something from this year but dressed up in polyester and bell-bottom pants. I was just flabbergasted that these issues are just as potent and under attack now as they were back then, if not more so now with the addition of social media disinformation from Russian troll farms. Because so much bullshit and lies on social media, where most right-wing conservatives get their information comes from Russian troll farms hellbent on destroying this country by turning it into a religious theocracy that Vladimir Putin can walk right into.

Good thing the Ukrainian Army is kicking the shit out of the Russian Army at the moment and that the leaked Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade has ignited a shit-storm that seems to have every conservative judge and US Senator shitting their collective pants and clutching their pearls so tightly I’m surprised their necklaces haven’t shattered into pearl-dust. But to think we’re hearing the same bullshit about abortion and reproductive rights, and continued attacks on LGBTQ people is tiring at times. For me, I’m  pissed off about history repeating itself yet again.

Over the years I’ve heard that people tend to get conservative as they get older and I’ve wondered why. I can see now it’s a combination of cynicism and giving in to the feeling that you were entitled to something better but didn’t get it and it’s someone else’s fault now. That’s bullshit because no one is entitled to anything simply because they exist or for any other reason. Things don’t always work out and shit will always happen no matter what you do or don’t do. That doesn’t give anyone the excuse to shit all over other people, bully them into silence or suicide, or dictate what a person, or a woman can do from the cradle to the grave.

Part of me always wants to people to go fuck themselves when it takes having shit rain down on them to have any real compassion or empathy for anyone other than themselves. Instead, I just simply sit back and go alright, now you know and hopefully you’ll become a better human being because of your experiences. But if that’s the case for anyone reading this, then understand that other people who have been through shit and didn’t shit on others in the process may not trust you so easily or welcome you with open arms. When people have been insensitive, or worse cruel I find it hard to trust them because as my mother used to say: if they’ve done it once what makes you think they won’t do it again? Her rationale was that if someone has done something bad they’ve proven they have the ability to rationalize that decision and can do it again if they choose to. She used to say people like that very rarely, if ever, change. I believe people can change for the better but it takes time to heal from the damage they cause.

If you identify as conservative and feel like I’m backing you against a wall, that’s not my intent. I know the feeling of being backed against a wall but my feeling came from a fear that I would be hurt if I spoke out against people inflicting pain and suffering on others, and against injustice and oppression. Because if you’re conservative I want you to ask yourself this question: if you feel you have to suffer something yourself in order to understand another person’s suffering of the same thing, ask yourself why, and keep asking until you find all the answers you can.

I’m beginning to think it’s not that people genuinely don’t know what’s going on and how it can hurt so many people, I believe they’re looking away, and trying to walk away from it. I don’t believe people are pushed away but choose to walk away and look away instead.  I tell myself now not to look away from things that are painful, and that I didn’t walk away in the past from pain so I know I can handle it now. My father used to tell me you never truly know what you can deal with until you’re forced to deal with it, or you choose to walk away from it as I’ll say here now.

Battles will always be fought, and lost, and won. But to quote a line from the movie ‘Casablanca’: “Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win.”

Freedom of Choice Under Direct Attack – My Response

Earlier this week, a draft of an upcoming United States Supreme Court decision was leaked to the press outlining the overturning of the Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion in 1973. The identity and motive of the person who leaked this document is unknown at this time though I’m glad it was leaked so the battle lines are now clearly drawn.

The decision to me is poorly written and based on what I don’t see are valid arguments set by legal precedent and the Constitution of the United States. Instead, the decision is based on ‘deeply rooted history’. If you understand the history of this country and its’ founding, you need to understand our country was founded by a group of white men who only mentioned one other group in the Constitution, and that was slaves who were considered three-fifths of a white person. There was no mention of women, Native Americans, or any other group in our country’s founding. The authors of the Constitution created the amendment process because they knew as time went on things would change and the Constitution could not be set in stone and unchanged.

In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in the Roe vs. Wade case that a woman had a right to an abortion because the Court said abortion was a private decision between a woman and her doctor (though I recently read the decision was really about protecting doctors from being prosecuted for performing abortions and not so much about granting women the right to make their own healthcare decisions).

In the early 1970’s, abortion became an issue for the right-wing conservative movement in America because their previous big issue had been maintaining racial segregation which had been overturned by the Brown vs. Board of Education decision and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The right-wing needed an issue to galvanize their rapidly-retreating base of voters and they found it. They framed abortion as mass murder of unborn children and in the forty-nine years since the movement has become so extreme there are now laws being passed in state legislatures outlawing all forms of artificial birth control (the case of Griswold vs. Connecticut which upheld the right to use artificial birth control was cited in the draft decision leaked this week as ‘not being deeply rooted in history’ and possibly subject to being overturned after Roe vs. Wade), artificial means of conception such as IVF treatments (because these treatments result in the destruction of non-viable embryos). criminalizing miscarriages including ectopic pregnancies, and no exceptions made for rape or incest.

In plain English, these right-wing bastards want to control every aspect of a woman’s health from the cradle to the grave and decide when she can have children and if she is to die from complications such as an ectopic pregnancy or untreated miscarriage.

At this point, if you identify as pro-life you may be feeling like you’re backed against a wall and have to defend yourself. You may be thinking this extremism isn’t true at all or just exaggeration. You may be thinking there is no need to restrict the use of birth control and artificial means of conception. You may be thinking abortion is acceptable in cases where the mother’s life is in danger, or in cases of rape and incest. You may be feeling overwhelmed but also scared. Not scared as to what’s happening but scared because you feel your mind wanting to question the deeply-held belief you have had in regards to the issue of abortion.

I’m sorry if you’re hurting right now questioning the insanity and horror of the extreme right-wing conservative movement. I’m sorry you’re feeling what is known as ‘cognitive dissonance’, which is when a deeply-held belief is challenged by overwhelming evidence contrary to that belief. I’m sorry you’re feeling hurt by what’s happening because your mind is trying to question and possibly change your way of thinking and feeling.

But your pain is nowhere near the fear those of us feel as our right to privacy, freedom of choice, and to exist is under direct attack. As a woman, I am very scared of these bastards even as I stand and fight here with my words against them. I know how deeply they hold their beliefs and what they’re willing to do for them. These are the same bastards that stormed the United States Congress on January 6, 2021 and damn near overthrew a democratically-elected government. These are the same bastards who have inspired extremists to murder doctors, bomb clinics, and threaten and harass women seeking medical care. They are the jack-booted thugs who throw up Nazi salutes and call for the imprisonment of any group of people not exactly like them. For this decision that was leaked this week isn’t just an attack on abortion rights. It’s an attack on the freedom of people to live and love whoever they choose to (the decision of Obergefell vs. Hodges which legalized gay marriage and the decision of Loving vs. Virginia which legalized interracial marriage were mentioned in the leaked decision as ‘not deeply rooted in history’).

Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for abortion and the freedom of women to make their own reproductive decisions in private with no outside interference from any government or religious institution. Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for the right of people to access birth control and to conceive children through artificial means without any outside interference or restriction from government or other institutions. And poll after poll shows overwhelming support for people to marry whomever they chose regardless of the color of their skin or their gender. I want to believe the majority will prevail, but I also know a good number of people have very little to no faith in standing up to a terrible minority who seek to control the majority through any means necessary. These are the people who will not even make an effort to vote at all nor speak out and take a stand.

The time for silence and inaction is over. For it was silence and inaction that led to the rise of Nazi Germany, and the murder of six million Jews. Silence and inaction led to the deaths of thousands of women from inadequate medical care and back-alley abortions. Silence and inaction led to the storming of the US Congress on January 6, 2021 by people who refused to speak out against the lies and hatred of the Republican Party and right-wing extremists.

For many years, women and other groups have been called hysterical and crazy for saying freedom for all people except white, Christian, and heterosexual men was under attack. Women were told the Supreme Court would never overturn the Roe vs. Wade decision. Three Supreme Court justices said they would not overturn the Roe vs. Wade decision in their confirmation hearings. Yet there is a leaked draft decision that has been confirmed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court as authentic stating otherwise.

I have always been Pro-Choice when it comes to abortion. I grew up on stories of back-alley butchery, of young women being sent away from home when they pregnant and forced to give up the children they had. I grew up thinking a woman had every right to make her own healthcare decisions, including whether or not to have children and how to deal with an unplanned pregnancy. Yet all my life that right has been under direct attack by those who feel they have the right to decide how women live and die.

In my early thirties, after a lengthy discussion with my doctor, I decided not to get pregnant and have children. I made this decision because my doctor advised me if I got pregnant it would be a very high-risk pregnancy due to some health issues I have. I did not have the financial means at that time to manage those potential risks to my health or the health of any child I did conceive as a high-risk pregnancy not only affects the mother but can also affect the child. It was a painful decision for me as I wanted to have children even though I was not married (and never have been). And I decided not to pursue fostering or adoption because of the lack of financial means to do so which was a painful decision that I had to work through.

I know women who have had abortions and in some cases I was told why they made that decision. I will always keep these decisions in strict confidence. And I did not judge these women in any way and I never will judge any woman for making the decision to abort. They are the ones who will live with this decision, not the right-wing monsters who vilify them for a decision they had no part in at all to begin with.

I’m writing this here to get all these thoughts out of my head and out into the world. I ask anyone reading this here to think about your own beliefs and your positions on any issue today. I ask anyone reading this here to ask yourself why you think and feel the way you do, and to keep asking questions until you find all the answers you can. But I will warn you, you might not like the answers you find. And sooner or later, you will have to deal with them.

I’ve thought through my beliefs and positions and have asked as many questions as I can and continue to ask. In my answers I have found one of my core beliefs is that although pain and suffering are a part of life, we all have a responsibility to alleviate pain and suffering in any way we can. Another of my core beliefs is that people have the freedom to make their own choices in life as long as they don’t cause harm. And my strongest and most deeply-held belief is that all people should be free to live and love whoever they choose and however they chose to. For in love, comfort and joy are found, along with an embrace of those in pain and suffering. Although I have felt the white-hot fires of anger and rage at the attacks on my rights and the rights of others, those fires die down to feelings of pain, sadness, and love unfulfilled.

Choose wisely.

Choose well. And choose with love.

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.

Stand or Fall – An Origin Story

The idea for this book came to me after the US Presidential Election in 2016, a time when I simply asked, “What the hell happened?”

I’ve been a flaming-liberal progressive Democrat all my life and have voted that way since 1992. I’d gone from the high of the first Clinton administration to the low of the second one. I’d gone through eight years of war-mongering and rising right-wing bullshit of the Bush, Jr. years. I fought to maintain hope through the Obama years and thought it would be Hillary’s time after that. But my gut was also telling me it wasn’t her time and hadn’t been since 1992 when she became the right-wing’s favorite villain.

But in the six years since that fateful election in 1992, I’ve seen just how bad things can get. They make the nuclear scares of my 1980’s childhood look tame because in addition to those nuclear fears (which have never gone away), I also fear the slow and painful destruction of our world through environmental destruction, pandemics we won’t be able to respond to, and genocidal violence from far-right groups around the world who want to finish what the Nazi’s started over seventy years ago.

I have struggled hard to even start writing this book because I was watching history happen before my eyes that would culminate with millions dead around the word from an pandemic that may have been contained if the right leadership had been in place worldwide. But most of all, I struggled to write this book after being told all my life that I have no ability to talk about politics or political and social issues. And all from people who honestly didn’t give two shits about me or what I think and feel about the issues of our time. I’ve been an avid follower of political and social issues since my age was in single-digits and though I’m not an expert by any means, I feel I have a perspective that’s not dry, too scholarly, or inaccessible.

I was born in May 1974, three months before Richard Nixon resigned from the Presidency. My late father was an avowed Nixon hater and at times I thought it was mostly just his raving paranoid lunacy. But as I learn more about Nixon and the rise of the modern right-wing conservative movement from the early 1970’s onward, I’ve begun to realize my father was right when he used to go on about Nixon and company wanting to bring back the Fourth Reich as he called it.

For me in the 1980’s, I felt like conservative Republican were just like the bullies I dealt with in school. These bullies singled me out for abuse simply because I was ‘different’ though I was only different because I was fat, shy, and clumsy. I’m a straight, white, heterosexual female but add in the ugly appearance, creativity, and compassion and you can see why I was targeted. So yes, my feelings towards conservative Republicans are personal. To me, any argument that politics isn’t personal is total fucking bullshit perpetuated by people who only want to silence anyone who isn’t falling into lock-step, jack-booted, Nazi-red MAGA hat wearing perfection.

But don’t worry, I won’t leave the left out on this one either. I don’t like left-wing purity culture that’s only minus the fucked-up sexual purity of right-wing purity culture. I also don’t like the doom-and-gloom of the left-wing sometimes, so much that I would love to bitch-slap anyone who jams their head up their ass instead of taking names and kicking ass by voting and giving a genuine shit about the world we live in.

What really prompted this book is the right-wing desire I see to destroy this entire world and everyone in it if they can’t have it all for themselves. In the 80’s and 90’s I thought right-wing Republicans were mostly harmless. Since the 2000’s, they’re deadly. They started two wars, one on false pretenses, and let an epidemic kill a million people in this country. And worst of all, they’ve openly embraced fascism, neo-Nazism, and attempted a coup on January 6, 2021 they still haven’t answered for in a court of law.

I have fought like hell to maintain hope that we’ll put this one out but sometimes I’m fond of saying, “I’ve seen this movie before and I know how it ends.” I grew up on dystopian science-fiction and it always gets worse before it gets better. Just how much worse, I don’t know. Before my generation got bogged down and gave in to the latchkey-pessimism we were raised on, I had hope. Or at least I did in 1992. By 2000, that hope had been broken and I’ve been trying to pick up the pieces ever since then. This book is the story of hope found, lost, and hopefully found again.

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