On Voting in the Midterms at my Elementary School

On the morning of November 6th, 2018, it is raining heavily. This is a disappointment to me, because I have a mission to complete that day and I want to complete it as soon as possible. I also can’t help but fear that this terrible weather is a harbinger of a terrible outcome at the end of the day. On the other hand, the day of the last major election had started out beautiful and sunny, but had ended in disaster. The heavy rain the following day had reflected the overall mood of the nation.

Finally, at around 2pm the rain starts to let up. I put on a rain slicker, and walk out among the puddles and fallen leaves. It’s time for me to vote.

The path I’m walking is a familiar one. My destination is a place I have been to many times before, a place where I spent many days of my childhood. Yet it has been many years since I’ve set foot in the building.

I can’t help but question the wisdom of allowing the public to vote at an elementary school while school is in session. Ten years ago I wouldn’t have thought twice about such a practice, but a spate of national tragedies has made me see things in a horrifying new light. As I walk to my former elementary school to vote, I don’t know that the next day there will be a mass shooting at a bar in California, but if I’d been told that then I would not have been surprised. Mass shootings have become commonplace and expected. Our country has a major gun problem but most of the politicians in power won’t do anything about it. I wrote to a state representative about gun control earlier in the year and was pleasantly surprised to a get a response. I hope to vote for candidates who will advocate for gun control.

As the stone face of my elementary school comes in to view, so does the tiny Special Services building, which served as the town’s library when I was a small child. I made use of special services all through elementary school and beyond. When I entered Kindergarten, I had a diagnosis of elective mutism. That meant I could talk, and I often did talk with people I knew and was comfortable with, but with strangers or people I wasn’t comfortable with, I would remain silent or near-silent.

It is not lost on me that elective has the same root word as election, that as an adult I am going to symbolically make my voice heard at a place where as a child I often refused to literally make my voice heard.

I follow the signs pointing to the polling location and realize I am standing in back of my first grade classroom. The sign plastered on the window of my first grade classroom says “Vote Here” in English, Spanish and Chinese. Gazing in to the window, I can see the students sitting at their desks. I can’t help but remember that in 2012 a man walked in to a first grade classroom with a gun and murdered 20 children.

While some people have only blurred or faded memories of elementary school, mine are quite vivid. Wicoff School holds a special place in my heart, and I have many fond memories of it, but I also have some bad memories. The worst memories relate to complications from my elective mutism. They relate to times when I was too afraid to speak up for myself, to defend myself, to advocate for my basic needs.

That cluster of desks in my first grade classroom evokes memories of the little girls who sat at the desks that bordered mine, accusing me of cheating on my spelling test by copying their answers. Rather than accusing me directly, they complained about me amongst themselves and within my earshot. I wasn’t really cheating on my spelling test. I had no need to, as spelling was my strong suit, but rather than tell my classmates this, rather than defend my honor, I sat in silence, my head pressed down close to my paper, tears pooling in my eyes.

One time, in first grade music class, I had to go to the bathroom really badly, but I was too afraid to ask the teacher if I could leave the classroom. Finally, after about half an hour had passed, I stood up in front of the class and said I had to use the toilet. The words had barely left my mouth when a stream of urine trickled down down my jeans and gathered in a puddle on the music room floor. I had peed my pants in front of the whole class. I had waited until it was too late to make my voice heard.

****

When I was in Kindergarten, my father became a U.S. citizen. He had immigrated to the U.S. from Romania a few years before I was born. When he achieved his citizenship, my family threw a citizenship party for him in our home, which was located across the street from my elementary school. My father still lives in that house and I visit him frequently, so the elementary school is often on my radar. I see and hear the children playing and shouting on the playground.

My father’s citizenship party included red, white and blue streamers, miniature American flags and a cake that said “Congratulations.” My godmother composed a song about my father’s immigration journey and serenaded him as she played her guitar. I got the impression immigration was something to be celebrated.

In third grade my class went on a field trip to Ellis Island. I proudly pointed out the names of my father and sister on the wall of immigration and I traced over a sketching of them with a pencil and notebook paper. Of those children in my class who had a relative on the wall, none of them had a relative closer than a grandparent, but there I was with a parent and sibling on the wall. I got the impression that immigrants were welcomed in this country with open arms.

The public discourse on immigration has changed now. The president of our country ran on an anti-immigration platform, and he regularly flings vitriol at immigrants. The immigration wall in this country that gets the most coverage is the hypothetical one, which is being proposed to keep immigrants out. As his presidency progresses, the president’s rhetoric against immigrants becomes more brazen and outrageous. Now he’s proposing an end to birthright citizenship, meaning babies born on American soil to immigrant parents who are not American citizens would not be considered American citizens themselves.

I know that Trump’s ire toward immigrants and their families is really only directed at those with dark skin, so people like my father and I are ostensibly safe from its ramifications, at least for now. The Latin American immigrants who I teach ESL to are not so lucky. I hope to vote for candidates who will advocate for immigrants and push back against anti-immigrant policies.

***

I did not vote in the 2008 presidential election, because I was locked up in a mental hospital. By the time I left Wicoff School, I’d shed my diagnosis of elective mutism and learned to talk to strangers but throughout my life, I would be plagued by all kinds of developmental and mental health problems. In 2008 my mental health was at its absolute worst.

“Obama’s going to lose by one vote,” my mom joked, as she visited me in the mental hospital on election night.

Another diagnosis had recently been added to the litany of diagnoses I’d received throughout my lifetime: schizoaffective disorder. My behavior had become so bizarre, that doctors assumed I must be experiencing hallucinations and delusions. I was not. My behavior was a reaction to mental anguish that I could not voice.

The doctors asked my mother if she wanted to become my legal guardian. My mother elected not to do that, but if she had, my right to vote may have been taken away.

***

When I was in elementary school, I had no way of knowing what the world would be like once I reached adulthood. I had no way of knowing that an invention called Facebook would allow me to reconnect with some of my classmates and teachers from elementary school. I had no way of knowing that the day of the 2018 midterm elections, Facebook would also allow me to have an argument with strangers over the importance of voting.

I had no way of knowing that one day my country would elect a president who had less maturity and self-awareness than most of my elementary school classmates and who displayed behavior that would not be tolerated at my elementary school. I had no way of knowing that one day I would see my country threatened by a mainstream agenda that went against all the morals, values, and even the science I was learning in elementary school. I had no way of knowing that one day I would return to my elementary school to vote.

As I step in to the voting booth and use my fingers to light up a vertical row of X’s in the column that says Democrat, I have no way of knowing how the midterm election is going to turn out. But I’m glad I’ve made my voice heard.

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The Kavanaugh Confirmation

Disappointingly but unsurprisingly, Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court. Just as I suspected, the FBI investigation was a sham meant to appease sexual assault survivors before the inevitable affirmative votes took place. Two of the three “swing voters” voted to confirm Kavanaugh. In her speech Susan Collins said that Ford gave a compelling and believable testimony but there was no evidence that Kavanaugh was guilty of what she accused him of.

No. You cannot have it both ways. They cannot both be telling the truth. One of them is lying or mistaken. Since you voted to confirm Kavanaugh, clearly you think that person is Ford. Don’t act like you’re sympathetic to Ford or have any respect for her when you just gave her a huge “Fuck you” by voting to confirm the man who sexually assaulted her.

It’s disappointing to see not only men discounting the voices of women, perpetuating misogyny and upholding the patriarchy, but women as well. Susan Collins is just one example.

In a post-hearing analysis a commentator said that for many Republicans it’s not a question of if the sexual assault happened. They think it’s fine that it happened and shouldn’t disqualify Kavanaugh from the Supreme Court. Sadly, I think that commentator is right.

Then there was talk of the partisan divide, the us vs. them mentality, the notion of voting along party lines no matter what flaws the individual candidate may have. A commentator said that what it all really comes down to is pro-life vs. pro-choice and that the real reason democrats hate Kavanaugh is because he’s pro-life.

I’m pro-choice but if a pro-choice Supreme Court nominee sexually assaulted women, I would not support him because I know someone who supports a woman’s right to have an abortion but considers himself free to sexually assault her is not really pro-choice, just like someone who stops caring about human life once it exits the womb is not really pro-life.

It’s no secret that I despise the Republican Party and everything it stands for. I would definitely prefer not to vote Republican but I know that Democrats can have unforgivable flaws too and that sometimes you have to put country before party.

I roll my eyes when republicans accuse democrats of being hypocrites for preaching tolerance but being intolerant of intolerance, yet I have to admit they have a point when they accuse democrats of being hypocrites for ignoring the sexual assault allegations against Bill Clinton. I’ve also spoken out against those democrats who were outraged about Al Franken being fired over sexual assault and who felt the need to point out that his accuser is a Trump supporter.

The most galling response to this whole thing has been the one that turns men in to the victims. Those poor men are never safe from having their lives ruined by sexual assault allegations. Don’t sexually assault people and it shouldn’t be a problem. Where are all these supposed cases of men being destroyed for accidentally brushing up against a woman or telling a woman she looks nice? Because I’m only seeing men being held accountable for raping women, groping them, forcing themselves on them.

And far from proving that men are not safe, recent events have actually proven that men are free to sexually assault women with impunity. Brett Kavanugh did it and now he’s a Supreme Court justice. But let’s rub salt in the wounds of all the sexual assault victims who have been deeply traumatized.

I’m lucky in that I’ve never been sexually assaulted in the way that Christine Blasé Ford and numerous other women have been but I’ve experienced unwanted sexual advances and harassment. I’d be surprised if there’s any woman who hasn’t. When the me too movement was first trending I wrote a blog about a scary experience I’d had with sexual harassment. There was also the time I went to a frat party and had my crotch grabbed by a drunken frat boy multiple times. I never went to another frat party again.

There are those who will say that someone’s life shouldn’t be ruined by a mistake they made when they were 17. If those people feel that way, they should turn their attention to the inmates in this country who are serving decades or life in prison for non-homicide crimes they committed when they were 17. Not being able to serve as a Supreme Court justice does not qualify as having one’s life ruined.

There are those who will say “innocent until proven guilty.” Since that is a standard that applies to criminal cases in the court of law and not job interviews for legal positions, those people should turn their attention to the inmates who are languishing in prison despite no evidence or exonerating evidence. They should turn their attention to those who have been persecuted due to racism, rather than those who are benefitting as a result of white male privilege. The fact that the Republicans’ talking vagina Rachel Mitchell said that she would not have criminally prosecuted Kavanaugh for a sex crime is irrelevant because no one was suggesting he be criminally prosecuted. We were suggesting he not be appointed Supreme Court Justice.

Last week I watched a 60 Minutes interview with Donald Trump in which the interviewer asked if he thought it was okay for him to have mocked Christine Blasé Ford in the way that he did. He replied that it didn’t matter because they won. I can’t remember if this was before or after he yelled at the interviewer “I’m the president and you’re not!” I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that someone like Brett Kavanaugh is a Supreme Court justice when I consider the kind of guy who appointed him and who is unfortunately our president.

Even though this development is disheartening and disappointing, all is not lost. Even though Christine Blasé Ford could not stop Brett Kavanaugh from being appointed, her testimony made a difference. It may not seem like she made a difference in anything that matters because patriarchy insists that men in power are the only ones that matter, but we are seeing just how contagious her bravery is. So many women are coming forward with their stories and are putting an end to their decades of silence. Clearly, the Ford testimony mattered to them. I don’t usually sign petitions or letters on the internet but when asked to sign a letter thanking Ford for her testimony, I added my name to the list.

I prayed for a miracle when it came to the Kavanaugh vote and that ended up not happening but I’ll set my hopes on a blue wave in next month’s election. The time may be ripe for a wave since when it comes to stories of sexual assault, the dam of silence has burst and the floods of anger are pouring forth. I know that thoughts and prayers won’t cut it though so I plan on getting out there and voting. You too.

The Kavanaugh Hearing

On September 26th my mother told me that the following day her friend Sally would be staying home to watch the Kavanaugh hearing. I’d heard that Brett Kavanaugh had sexual assault charges brought against him and that his supreme court nomination was being called in to question but I didn’t know the hearing was the following day. Since Sally was staying home to watch it, I figured it must be a big deal and I decided I would watch it myself.

Being jobless and home alone all day is a real sore spot for me and in general I hate it but on September 27th, 2018, I was grateful to not have a job and to be free to watch the Kavanaugh trial in its entirety.  Ultimately I would have wished for the Kavanaugh hearing to not be happening in the first place because I wish that no women were sexually assaulted and I wish that Kavanaugh was never nominated and I wish that the man who nominated him had never been elected president but since it was happening and it was all the rage and all the buzz across the nation, I was glad to have the privilege of being glued to my television set.

I actually fell asleep waiting for the hearing to begin and as I drifted in that no man’s land between sleep and wakefulness, I heard the horrifying details of Dr. Ford’s account of being sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh. I was fully awake as Ford was questioned and “cross examined” for hours regarding her experience.

Going in to the hearing I was pretty sure Dr. Ford was telling the truth. By the time Dr. Ford finished giving her testimony I was 100% positive she was telling the truth, just like she was 100% certain Kavanaugh was the one who assaulted her. When asked how she was so certain by someone in the courtroom she replied “The same way I’m certain you’re the one standing in front of me now.” I thought that was a solid answer but I also liked it when she responded to questions about her memory with her expert knowledge of neuroscience and how human memory works.

It was clear that she did not want to be there but she felt compelled to be there out of a sense of duty to our country and to all the women who have been sexually assaulted. It was clear that being there took tremendous courage on her part. She had no reason to lie. It would have been much easier for her to stay quiet but she chose to speak out. As a result other women who have been sexually assaulted have spoken out and more will continue to do so because as one of the judges said, courage is contagious.

Everyone acknowledged that Dr. Ford’s testimony was convincing, heartbreaking and harrowing. Everyone acknowledged that it would present a challenge to Kavanaugh. And then Kavanaugh walked in to the room with all guns blazing.

Like Dr. Ford he cried throughout his testimony but unlike Dr. Ford, he also yelled and got belligerent. He swore he never assaulted anyone. He went on about how unfair and outrageous it was that he was being accused of such a thing when he’d always been such an upstanding citizen.

Some people thought he seemed credible and that the intensity of his emotions suggested  he had been wrongfully accused while others suggested he was putting on an act and crying crocodile tears. I personally do not doubt that his emotions were genuine. I think he was every bit as angry and upset as he appeared to me. However, I don’t think it was the anger of a man who was wrongfully accused. I think it was the anger of a man who was rightfully accused. It was the anger of a man who was suddenly being held accountable for actions he had gotten away with all his life. It was the anger of a man who was used to praise and adulation having harsh words spoken against him. It was the  anger of a man having a position he felt he was entitled to jeopardized.

He opened with some conspiracy theories about how the democrats were out to get him and shared some anecdote about how at dinner the other night his little daughter said the family should pray for Dr. Ford. I guess the anecdote was supposed to be heartwarming but I found it nauseating because the subtext seemed to be “My daughter is so pure of heart that she was able to find compassion for this evil woman who wronged our family.”

Kavanaugh acknowledged that someone may have assaulted Dr. Ford but was adamant that it wasn’t him. If someone assaulted Ford and several years ago Ford claimed that someone was Kavanaugh and this whole thing is a Democrat conspiracy against him, how exactly does Ford fit in to that conspiracy? I guess in 2012 the Democrats anticipated that six years later Kavanaugh would be nominated for Supreme Court justice and they realized they had to somehow stop him from getting the position so they came up with a devious plan. They searched far and wide for a woman who had been sexually assaulted by an unknown man until they found Dr. Ford and hypnotized her in to believing it was Kavanaugh that did it.

I don’t really know what the supposed explanation is because maddeningly, Kavanaugh was never asked to give one. This was in contrast to Ford who was asked to explain everything. She freely admitted when she didn’t remember some things and later that scumbag Trump mocked her for it.

Kavanaugh kept trying to claim he was exonerated by the other people at the party saying they don’t remember the event but it doesn’t work like that. What are the chances you would remember a small party you went to 36 years ago if nothing significant happened to you there?

Even putting aside the issue of sexual assault, Kavanaugh clearly lied in court multiple times. For example, boofing is not farting like he claimed and Devil’s Triangle is not a drinking game like he claimed. In other words, he committed perjury but sadly no one seems to care. It’s just another example of him being immune from consequences for his actions.

As I listened to Kavanaugh repeatedly evade the questions he was asked, I was reminded of something my friend Delilah says. When she asks someone a question and they reply in a way that doesn’t answer the question, she replies to them “That’s the answer to the question …… I asked you…….”

Brett Kavanaugh,  “I went to church every Sunday, I was captain of the basketball team, I graduated at the top of my class, I got in to Yale, I volunteered with the developmentally disabled, I’m a respected lawyer” is the answer to the question “What life accomplishments are you most proud of?” You were asked if you would consent to an FBI  investigation.

Of course that begged the question of why he wasn’t advocating for an FBI investigation. Dr. Ford said an FBI investigation would be helpful and you’d think Kavanaugh would be eager to have his name cleared by the FBI since he’s so innocent. Also, I hate to burst anyone’s bubble but going to church, going to Yale, getting good grades-none of that precludes being a rapist or sexual assaulter, just like being an alcoholic does not preclude achieving any of those things. I don’t know if Kavanaugh is an alcoholic but does anyone actually believe that he only drank in moderation and never blacked out from drinking? I’ve got a bridge to sell you…

I realize this is kind of like criticizing the paint job on the Titanic but was anyone else horrified that all those creepy, rapey, sexual comments were published in the school yearbook? When I heard about them I assumed one of the dirtbag students had written them in pen when he signed Kavanaugh’s yearbook but no, they were there in print with the school’s approval

Anyway, the hearing was a circus and a shit show. The Republicans became outraged on Kavanaugh’s behalf and made him out to be the victim. Men turning themselves in to the victims in this me too era is really disgusting and I have to agree with the commentator who said this hearing  was a big “you know what” to women but since I don’t have to abide by FCC guidelines, I’ll say it was a big fuck you to women.

As I said on Facebook, with all the men whining about how terrified they are by the me too movement, a business that specializes in manufacturing microscopic violins could make a real killing right now.

Most of the commentators seemed to agree that nothing was really accomplished by the hearing because people were just going to see what they wanted to see. It was described as a political Rorschach. Sometimes Rorschach tests are used to diagnose mental illness and I say that if you watched that hearing and your sympathy is with Brett Kavanaugh and not Dr. Ford, there’s something wrong with you.

Most of the commentators also believed that Brett Kavanaugh would be appointed to the Supreme Court. My heart sunk when I heard that because I’m afraid they’re right. I was happy when after being pressured by sexual assault survivors in the elevator, Jeff Flake delayed the vote and ordered an FBI investigation in to Kavanaugh but I’m afraid that was just a stopgap measure meant to appease. Now the FBI investigation is complete and signs are pointing to Kavanaugh getting confirmed. I’ll probably have more to say when/if that happens but for now I’m going to hope against hope that the senate does the right thing and votes against Kavanaugh. This is not a man who deserves to be a Supreme Court justice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A March for Our Lives in March

I went to my first March last Saturday. It wasn’t the one in Washington but there was a local one that I decided I wanted to go to at the last minute. I didn’t have a sign so I wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate for me to go but I asked about it on Facebook and was assured that marchers without signs were welcome.

The crowd was large and parking was hard to find. People of all ages were there from babies to senior citizens. The bottom of one kid’s sign said “Babies against guns”. The top said “My right to live is above all rights.” His brother’s sign said “NRA go away.”

Other signs carried by children said “I can’t have peanut butter in school but you can have guns?”, “Arms are for hugging”, “School is to get an education not murdered”, “My life is more important than your gun” and “No guns, for safe schools.”

Adolescents and young adults held signs that said Protect kids, not guns, One life is worth more than all the guns on earth” “Students call BS”, and “18th century laws can’t regulate 21st century weapons.”

I took a picture of a “No more school shootings” sign perched atop an empty stroller. A woman commented that it was a good picture and I asked if I could take a picture of her sign, which read “I’m a ballet teacher. Should I carry a gun too?” with a picture of little girls in tu- tus next to a picture of a pink gun. Other signs that commented on the ridiculousness of arming teachers included “Bullets are not school supplies” and “Arm teachers with pencils not guns.”

A middle aged woman held up a sign with a picture of Maria from The Sound of Music that said”The Schools are alive with the sound of bullets.” A woman standing on the remnants of a dirty snow bank held a bright red sign that said “SOS save our schools from gun violence.” A man held up a sign that said “Taught not Shot.”  A woman standing next to him held up a sign that said “Finally a pro-life rally I can attend.” Then there was the woman whose sign had a list of things that were regulated more than guns: Alcohol, Sudafed, lawn darts, Roquefort cheese, Kindereggs, cars, fireworks and her uterus.

Older adults held up signs that said “Guns kill. Period”, “We are the majority”, “Choose life. Tighten gun laws” and “Resist, insist, persist, vote.”

There were signs calling out the NRA. One sign had NRA standing for national recall of arms. Another sign had it standing for no responsibility for arms (or children.)  There was a sign that said Ditch NRA or ditch office, a sign that said NRA, let go of my country  and a sign that said “The NRA can kiss my ass. Your blood money ends now. ” The most darkly funny sign said “Who’s afraid of the NRA? with the NRA as the big bad wolf and Donald Trump, Mitch Mcconnell and Paul Ryan as the three little pigs.

There were several signs pointing out that what we need is action and change, not thoughts and prayers. There were signs that stressed the importance of voting.  A woman wearing a shirt with the word Change beneath Obama’s picture was carrying a sign that said “I demand gun control and I vote!” I saw a sign laying on a table that said “We’re with the teens.  Get out and vote!” There was a sign that simply said “Vote, vote, vote” over and over again.

Some signs kept their messages simple but powerful.  There was a sign that said Disarm Hate.  There were signs that consisted of one word : Enough.

Another one-word sign simply said Love. And in the midst of all the anger and indignation at that rally there was a lot of love. People hugged, held hands, draped their arms around each other, carried one another on their backs.

There were signs that listed the names of the Parkland victims and signs that displayed the pictures of the Parkland survivors who are acting as advocates for gun control. While I was participating in a local march, those survivors were participating in the national march in Washington D.C. where they gave moving and eloquent speeches. They were mostly lauded for their bravery but some rabid defenders of the second amendment had a real problem with them exercising their first amendment rights.  I never would have thought anyone would have a problem with survivors of a horrific tragedy taking action to prevent such a tragedy from happening again, much less target those survivors in a cruel manner but these are interesting times we’re living in.

In addition to the signs, there were also powerful speakers at this rally. One young man described his terrifying experience as a student in a school that had an active shooter.  He sat huddled under a desk wondering if he was going to die. He pointed out that the shooter was not a bullied social outcast as the media stereotype would have you believe. Another young man discussed an aspect of gun violence that doesn’t get as much media attention: suicide. He described a friend of his who died of suicide by gun. He argued that although it’s commonly believed that people who commit suicide want to die, the truth is most of them don’t want to die. It is an impulsive act of desperation, as evidenced by the fact that most suicide attempt survivors do not try again. I’ve often felt depressed and thought about wanting to die but I’ve never attempted suicide or formulated a plan. I wonder if things would have been different had I had access to a gun.

When the talk became about the politicians who bow to the NRA, the crowd chanted “Vote them out! Vote them out!” Acknowledging that he felt awkward taking the stage amidst those cries, a New Jersey state representative explained that although he owns a gun, he supports gun control laws and will not bow to the NRA. I have no interest in owning or using a gun myself but I appreciate the voice of reasonable gun owners in the gun control debate. I’m annoyed that it’s even a debate to begin with. Gun control just seems like common sense to me and those feelings were obviously shared by a woman carrying a sign that said “Pass common sense gun control laws”. Another sign that sums up my feelings well said “Sensible gun laws!  Save lives. Don’t violate the second amendment. Worth the “hassle”. Arrrrgh.”

As the speaker portion of the march drew to a close we were reminded that we shouldn’t just go home, feel good that we participated in a march and then do nothing else. We need to take other actions as well, such as writing to our representatives and voting in upcoming elections. About a month before the march I wrote a letter to one of my representatives about the gun problem and a few weeks later I was pleasantly surprised to get a response, outlining the steps he was taking to address it.

“Do you want to visit your brother? He’s here” my father said as we left the march.  At first I had no idea what he was talking about. Then I realized we were walking by the cemetery where my stepbrother is buried. My stepbrother did not die of a gunshot wound but he did die tragically and unexpectedly at a young age, as did the kids whose lives were ended by bullets ringing out in the hallways of their schools-in Parkland, in Columbine, in Sandy Hook and in so many other schools throughout our nation. As did those whose lives were ended by guns shot by madmen at a concert in Las Vegas, at a club in Orlando, or at a movie theater in Colorado. As did those who were shot in their church or in their own home by a relative, by a friend, by an enemy or by their own hand. My stepbrother was a victim of another poorly handled and hotly debated epidemic that is sweeping this nation-the opioid epidemic.

Afterwards I discovered that several of my friends also attended the march but I did not see any of them them there, probably because the crowd was so large. Although I could not kid myself in to thinking I had made a big difference in my country’s gun violence problem, I allowed myself to feel good about the fact that I had participated in my local March for Life. It was an energizing, valuable and worthwhile experience. I look forward to my next march.

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The General Insanity of It All

We have a president being sued by a porn star over an affair he had with her and somehow that’s not even the biggest news item or 45’s tackiest, most classless, most horrific behavior. And to think of how scandalized I was by the whole Monica Lewinsky affair back in the 90’s…or how much I dreaded a Romney presidency back in 2012…

I was in 8th grade when the Monica Lewinsky scandal happened and I think I was also in 8th grade when Columbine happened. Of course I’ve heard about countless shootings since then and nothing has been done about this nation’s gun problem. After the Las Vegas shooting I wrote a blog post about gun control that ended up getting posted on a site called Writer Beat and I ended up wasting my time arguing with a bunch of gun-loving idiots.  I realized they were truly insane when they said that liberals don’t really care about the lives that are being lost as a result of gun violence, they just want to take away the guns so they can run roughshod over the rest of the population.

It’s incomprehensible to me that so many people are still opposed to gun control, just like it’s incomprehensible to me that so many people still support 45. He truly disgusts me and he’s as evil as he is stupid.

His brilliant solution to the opioid crisis is to put drug dealers to death, which is an idea that is as evil as it is stupid.  Does he not realize that opioid addicts and opioid dealers are often one and the same? So he’s going to try to solve the problem of people dying from opioid addiction by killing opioid addicts. Great.

Speaking of the death penalty, it’s being sought for the Parkland shooter. How disgusting that it’s easier to get the state of Florida to consider killing a teenager than to consider implementing gun control.

I think the same kind of toxic masculinity that’s responsible for the U.S. gun culture is responsible for the death penalty. People stock pile loads of ammunition, thinking it makes them look big, and bad and tough, that it will protect them and keep them safe but the reality is that it puts them in danger and causes more problems than it solves. People also think killing vulnerable prisoners makes us look, big and bad and tough and will protect us from future crime when the reality is it doesn’t. It just needlessly ends a life, wastes money and makes us a sick society.

Enough with these claims that mental illness rather than guns is to blame for the shootings. The mentally ill are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it and mentally ill or not, you can’t shoot someone without a gun.

It’s also disturbing to see kids shamed for protesting gun violence. They’re being told that they should be nice to people instead. Puh-lease. That is some victim blaming bullshit.  Shooters are not typically those who have been bullied by their peers and I see no reason to believe the students taking a stand against gun violence are bullies. You can be a nice person and support gun control. The two are not mutually exclusive. Just like fighting for better mental health care and fighting for gun control are not mutually exclusive. In fact I’d say they tend to go hand in hand, whereas the gun nuts don’t really care about being nice to people or attending to their mental health unless they can use it as part of their asinine arguments as to why they deserve unrestricted access to dangerous weapons.

45’s brilliant solution to the problem is to arm teachers, proving that his IQ is as low as his approval rating.

I’m going to bed now. I expect the world will only be more insane when I wake up.

 

Another Day, Another Mass Shooting

“I’m sitting in an undergraduate psychology class when this guy runs in to the room exclaims ‘You gave me a D! Now I’ll never be a psychologist!’  He then draws out a gun, aims it at the professor and the professor falls to the floor. ”

“Oh my god” I say from my desk.

It’s February 12th, 2018 and I’m sitting in a different undergraduate psychology class listening to my professor describe one of her experiences as an undergraduate .

“Then the professor jumps up and says  “Okay, everyone, now I want you to write down what just happened and give a description of the guy who shot me.’ ”

“Would an experiment like that be allowed today?” I ask.

“I certainly wouldn’t do that kind of experiment today, not with all the school shootings we have and guns being everywhere” my professor replies.

Two days later, on February 14th, 2018 I’m doing my readings for that class when I get a text from a friend.

“I see there was yet another shooting, this one in Florida.”

I feel no shock or surprise, just sadness and disgust.

“What part of Florida?’ I ask. I’ve traveled the state of Florida pretty extensively so I can’t help but wonder if this latest shooting happened in an area I’ve been to. Maybe it even happened in a building I’ve walked in front of.

“Parkland in Broward County” my friend replies. The town’s not familiar to me but the county is.

I Google “Florida shooting.”

“20 people injured.  At least it doesn’t say anyone is dead”

“It’s a developing story.  Hopefully they all stay alive” my friend replies.

A few minutes later another text comes through saying “Unfortunately, there are ‘a number of fatalities’. ”

“Happy Valentines Day, America!” I exclaim in to my phone.

“What a loving country. This is at least the eighth school shooting in seven weeks.”

More details from this latest shooting emerge. 17 people were killed. The shooter was a 19-year-old male who had been expelled from the school for fighting. The guns he used were purchased legally. He had a long history of disturbing behavior but the FBI failed to follow up on reports they got about him.

We’ve reached the point where shootings that result in few or no fatalities barely make the news-I couldn’t tell you the details of any of the other school shootings that happened this year-but the Parkland shooting has resulted in enough carnage to get everyone’s attention. It has resulted in a mass outpouring of grief and outrage. At first I try to limit the amount of memes I share on social media advocating for gun control and calling out the corrupt politicians for their complicity in the deaths of children but then I decide to share every last one of them.

When I return to school on Thursday the flag in front of the library is at half mast in honor of the victims of the Parkland shooting. It’s a nice gesture but it won’t prevent future shootings. I can’t help but wonder “Is this school next? Will the next school shooting be in the very library this half-mast flag is in front of?” The last school I attended had a shooting in its library.

On Friday night I’m watching a news show. The talk centers around the Parkland shooting. One guest points out that none of the other school shootings have resulted in change so what’s going to be different this time? Another guest points out that’s what different this time is that the child victims of this tragedy are speaking out.

The kids who were in that school are sharing their experiences, staging protests, calling out those who oppose gun control, making their way to Tallahassee to speak to their representatives.

Maybe he’s right. Maybe the outraged voices of those whose lives have been torn apart by our country’s gun epidemic are reaching a crescendo. Maybe they are becoming as loud, as regular, as impossible to ignore as the gunshots that ring out through our school hallways. Maybe they are becoming as threatening and dangerous to the anti-gun control crowd as guns are to this country. Maybe this is another ‘me too’ movement of sorts-“I too have been affected by gun violence and I will not stand for it anymore.” Maybe the addition of the voices of children who have watched their friends bleed to death on a schoolroom floor are what will push us toward a tipping point.

One can hope.

Top ten worst ways to respond to sexual harassment allegations

1. Accusing the victims of lying- Very few sexual harassment victims who publicly come forward and pursue legal recourse are lying about their experiences. Being examined, cross examined and picked apart in the court of law and public opinion about sexual matters is not a pleasant or easy experience so it’s unlikely that someone would be willing to subject themselves to that if they didn’t have a legitimate claim. By accusing victims who do come forward of lying you are making victims who have so far remained silent afraid to come forward. That’s not to say that no one has ever lied about sexual harassment but the exception to the rule should not be our default response.

2. Discounting their experiences because they weren’t bad enough-  Don’t turn sexual harassment in to the suffering/trauma Olympics. It’s not kind or productive to tell someone their trauma doesn’t count because you had it worse. Rape is not the only kind of sexual assault and sexual harassment takes many forms. It is any kind of unwanted sexual advances or comments. Just because you think you wouldn’t be traumatized by certain words or actions doesn’t mean other people aren’t traumatized by them. By excusing and minimizing microaggressions you are contributing to rape culture. I’ve heard rape victims say that women who come forward about ‘lesser’ sexual transgressions are being disrespectful to rape victims. I’m going to respectfully disagree and say that I think it’s the people who minimize the experiences of sexual harassment victims who are being disrespectful and are doing a disservice to women everywhere.

3. “Boys will be boys”- This is such a lame and problematic thing to say. First of all, these aren’t boys we’re talking about, they’re grown-ass men. I’d like to think being a sexual predator isn’t hardwired in to every male’s penis but even if  it is, living in a civilized society means taming your impulses and behaving in a pro-social manner. Unfortunately our society conditions men to do just the opposite with its toxic masculinity and rape culture. I liked the shirt I saw on social media that said Boys will be boys decent human beings.

4. “Not all men are awful”- Yes, we know that, there’s no need to point that out or to take “Men are scum” type statements so literally (and Facebook, there’s no need to ban women for saying “Men are scum” while letting misogynistic and racist statements fly.) Ironically it never seems to be the men who actually are decent who feel the need to respond to such statements by pointing out that decent men exist. If after hearing a woman talk about how awful men can be your immediate concern is for the feelings of men who are butt hurt by that statement and not for the physical/emotional safety of the women who are preyed on by men, you need to readjust your priorities.

5.  “Oh no, now men have to worry about being accused of sexual harassment. It’s so hard to be a man these days!”-  Replace the word man with the word sexual predator and that statement makes more sense. Don’t be a sexual predator and you won’t have much to worry about. Please don’t insult our intelligence by suggesting you’ll be charged with sexual harassment for hugging a woman, shaking her hand or accidentally bumping in to her in the stairwell. It’s hard to be a man these days in the same way it’s hard to be white these days, meaning it’s not. It’s an obnoxious example of victim reversal- when the privileged oppressors turn themselves in to victims because they’ve been called out on the shitty way they treat the underprivileged oppressed group.

6. Pointing out all the good things the sexual predator did-  I’m glad that predator did some good things but that doesn’t mean he should get a pass for sexually harassing or assaulting people. The sexual predators are real people, not Disney villains, so of course they’re not all evil, all the time. Sexual harassment is still wrong and they should still face consequences for it.

7. Expressing outrage that Al Franken was forced to resign- Most of my Democrat friends reacted with outrage to Al Franken’s resignation whereas my reaction was “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out,you smug son of a bitch.” He’s not sorry about what he did and I’m not sorry to see him go. I agree that it’s outrageous that he was forced to resign while Trump is still in office but that means I think Trump should resign too, not that Franken shouldn’t have resigned. If you want to point out that what Franken did isn’t as bad as what Trump did I feel the same way about that as I do about # 2 on this list. To touch on my previous point, I’m glad he was a champion for women politically but he still needs to go. Maybe he’ll be replaced by a man who is a champion for women without also being a sexual harasser. I’d like to think such men exist but how about we replace him with a woman?

8. Blaming the victim,saying she had it coming, smearing her reputation- Slut shaming is not cool. A woman does not ask to be sexually harassed or assaulted by the way she dresses, speaks or behaves. You can wear revealing clothing, you can flirt with a guy and you can accept his offer of a date without deserving to be sexually harassed or assaulted. You can work at jobs or environments that involve sexual or flirtatious behavior without deserving to be sexually harassed. You can even engage in questionable behavior yourself without deserving to be sexually harassed or assaulted. And guess what? That even applies to people I personally dislike or am opposed to politically, as do all of my above points. So Leanne Tweeden being a Trump supporter, accusing someone on ‘my team’, being involved in a show that included  lascivious acts, possibly forcing kisses on other men-all of that is irrelevant. She’s still a victim of sexual assault who deserves to be believed. There’s even photographic evidence of it for god’s sake.

9. By sexually harassing a woman on twitter and gaslighting the people who see it as sexual harassment- To both Donald Trump and Sarah Huckabee Sanders I say fuck you and suck it.  If you see anything sexually suggestive in that statement your mind is in the gutter.

10. By voting for a pedophile- Too many people voted for a pedophile. The 65% of white women in Alabama who voted for a pedophile were also voting for a man who doesn’t think they should be allowed for vote. Thank you, black women for having more sense than that (the guy also supports slavery.)I’m so glad that Roy Moore lost (I cried with joy when Doug Jones’ victory was announced) and that this blog post can end on a happy note. It’s good to know that the republicans of Alabama do have some moral standards and they do draw the line somewhere. We still have a long way to go in terms of addressing sexual harassment and assault but this is an encouraging sign, as are all the sexual harassment victims who are coming forward with their stories. There’s hope for humanity yet.

Top ten things Trump and his ilk have ruined for me

1. Statistics- I’d heard that quote “There are lies,damn lies and statistics” but before the 2016 election I trusted statistics. Since statistics had Hillary’s chances of winning at around 97% I was confident she would win. Yeah, we all know how that turned out.

2. Red hats- Whenever I see someone in a red hat from a distance there’s that moment where I wonder if they’re just harmlessly showing their support for their favorite sports team or their alma matter or if they’re someone I should avoid because they want to Make America Great Again.

3. Tiki torches- They were a regular staple at outdoor meals at my father’s house but after Charlottsville I’ll just never look at them the same way again.

4. The name Donald- Before I associated it with a duck that was kind of silly and stupid but harmless and lovable. Now I associate it with that dangerous, unlikable orange idiot who occupies the White House. Mamas, don’t name your sons Donald.

5. Thoughts and prayers- Before it was a sweet way of telling people who were going through a hard time that you loved them and were concerned for them. Now it’s the stock phrase thrown out by politicians in the wake of every mass shooting in lieu of actually trying to do something to prevent gun violence.

6.  Snowflakes- Before they were those beautiful, magical, unique wonders of nature that fell from the sky. Now it’s a lame-ass insult that conservatives hurl at liberals when they suggest behaving with compassion and human decency or are upset by a lack thereof.

7. “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”- Because you know that when Trump and his ilk say that they’re not just referring to the snow.

. The number 45-  I often use it in lieu of his name to avoid giving power to his name and it now seems much more unlucky than 13.

9. My relationship with my brother- I still love him despite the fact that he’s a Trump supporter but I’ve discovered he’s the stupidest smart person I know. We always vow not to talk about Trump with each other because it just results in raised voices and frustration but we always end up discussing it anyway. Arguing with him about Trump really is like banging my head against a brick wall ( hey, ‘wall’, there’s another term that’s been ruined for me thanks to Trump.)

10. The Republican Party- It’s been going downhill for a while now but a big orange straw broke the elephant’s back ( and then lifted the ban on hunting it for its tusks.) Now it’s taken the leap off of batshit cliff and the nail is being hammered in its coffin.

 

 

Panacea

via Daily Prompt: Panacea

Another SAT vocabulary word from WordPress. I’m familiar with this one though. I’m sure most of those gun-crazy assholes who become outraged at the prospect of enforcing gun control in the wake of every mass shooting don’t know the definition of panacea. They probably think it’s some kind of STD. However, if they’re not arguing that gun control violates the second amendment, they’re essentially arguing that we shouldn’t bother with gun control because it’s not a panacea to the violence and murder problem.

They’re absolutely right about that last part. Enforcing gun control would not completely eliminate all violence, murders or massacres. It would not even completely eliminate all violence perpetrated with guns. There will always be criminals who slip through the cracks.  However, that does not mean that enforcing gun control is pointless. Gun control would drastically cut down on the number of gun related deaths and injuries  (and overall violence related deaths and injuries as well. Despite what gun lovers imply, gun control would not result in the number of deaths and injuries caused by other weapons rising to the level of damage caused by guns.) That is certainly something worth striving for.

It would be nice if we could take one action that would end gun violence once and for all but true panaceas of that sort are very rare. When it comes to the major problems that are plaguing our society today they really don’t exist-not for gun violence, not for domestic violence, not for rape, not for sexism, not for racism, not for mental illness, not for poverty.  The reason no one solution will serve as a panacea is that none of those problems are caused by only one factor. They are caused my a multitude of factors converging.

Our culture of toxic masculinity contributes to the gun problem- the kind of culture that causes boys and men to use big guns as compensation for small penises. Then there’s the culture of selfishness that leads those men to believe their right to have unrestricted access to high powered assault rifles trumps (pun intended) the right of others to remain alive and safe.  Those issues need to be addressed in addition to not instead of gun control.

We all need to do just do our best to help ourselves and each other, knowing that our best will not result in perfection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fuck Off, Forty-Five

Another day, another mass shooting, another idiotic response from forty-five. He ticked off pretty much every box in the gun crazy asshole’s guide to responding to a mass shooting.

*”Who would have thought something like this could happen?”

*”Now is not the time to talk about guns.”

*”A civilian with a gun is what saved the day.”

*”This is not a guns problem, it’s a mental health problem. It’s a mental health problem of the highest order.”

Gee,Charleston, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Orlando, Las Vegas and the countless other mass shootings, none of those gave you an inkling that something like this could happen? None of those shootings were the time to talk about guns either. When is the time to talk about guns? At a time when no mass shootings have happened recently? A time like that doesn’t exist in this country.

I’m pretty dubious of the claim that this tragedy would have been so much worse if a civilian with a gun hadn’t intervened. Even if it is true 26 is an unacceptable number of fatalities and the fact that he was able to kill 26 people shows that civilians aren’t all that effective at stopping people like him. Furthermore, a civilian never would have needed to stop him if a guy who assaulted his wife and child and was dishonorably discharged from the military hadn’t been given a gun.

This is only a mental health problem because the shooter was named Devin. If he was named Muhammad or Pedro, it wouldn’t have been a guns problem, it would have been a terrorist/immigration problem and we would have needed to talk about the terrorist/immigration problem right this second.

Of course this is a guns problem, you fucking moron.  YOU’RE a mental health problem of the highest order.