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 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.


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.



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.



Although I live in New Jersey, I have ties to Texas and Florida so Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma affected me on a personal level.  I’ve never been to Texas myself but my brother lives in Houston.  He lived there for a few years for his medical research job before returning to New Jersey for medical school. Then he took a year off from medical school to do more research in Houston.  When he finished medical school he found Houston calling him for a third time. He was assigned a medical residency at Baylor University Hospital.

When Hurricane Harvey hit my family and I were naturally concerned for my brother. When we called or texted him to make sure he was okay he brushed aside our concerns and assured us everything was fine where he was.  He was off of work for the week because of the hurricane and the hospital he worked at was being evacuated the next day but where he was it was just drizzling and the streets weren’t flooded at all.  To prove his point he texted me a picture of his non-flooded street. Then he told me he was bored so he was going for a jog.

The picture my brother was painting of Houston was in stark contrast to the picture the media was painting of it.  CNN was giving accounts and showing images of neighborhoods underwater, people and animals who had been displaced, devastated or were dead as a result of Harvey. There were people who had been trapped by the storm and were desperately awaiting rescue. If they were lucky rescue came-usually in the form of rescue professionals or good samaritans  who were using boats to navigate routes that a few days earlier had been navigated by cars. While these people were grateful to have been rescued, many of them had lost everything.  Their homes had been destroyed and so had their lives as they knew them. Words like ‘catastrophic’, “unprecedented and ‘apocalyptic’ were used to describe the situation.

The fact that the situation was so dire in some areas of Houston but things were perfectly fine where my brother was impressed on me just how big a city Houston is. My brother told us not to listen to CNN because they sensationalized and were overly dramatic about everything. So he was basically calling Hurricane Harvey fake news, which is consistent with his affinity for a certain president who (dis) graced Houston with his presence in the aftermath of Harvey. I’ve noticed a change in my brother’s political and world views since he started living in Texas. Let’s just say I don’t consider it to be a change for the better.

Since he was off of work due to the flood he had time to engage in an hour long text message political debate with me.  It left me feeling rather exasperated. When he was working as a researcher in Houston he would attend Joel Osteen’s church. I brought up the issue of Osteen refusing to open his church as a shelter for flood victims. He said people were getting outraged over something that wasn’t a big deal. He’s become quite the contrarian. He’ll even argue with you about the weather.

We’d barely had time to process Hurricane Harvey before Hurricane Irma came along. I have stronger ties to Florida than I do Texas. I basically consider Florida to be my second home. I resided there for school for about three years, my parents have a vacation house there that I’ve visited several times, I’ve been on several expeditions to Disney World as well as expeditions to various other areas of Florida such as Key West and Miami.

Getting away from my stepfather was a very positive move for both my mother and me but the one downside was that it meant losing the house in Florida to him. It was truly not just a house but a home. It was a beautiful paradise where we relaxed and had fun. It was a place full of charm, character and spirit.  We even called it by an elegant name (the street it was on.)

That house was in one of the areas of Florida that was supposed to be hit the hardest. On the one hand we were attached to the house and didn’t want to see it destroyed. On the other hand it was unlikely that we would ever see the house again so if it was destroyed maybe we wouldn’t feel so sad about not having it anymore. Also the house now belonged exclusively to my stepfather who had released a destructive metaphorical hurricane on our lives that lasted for years so if his house was now destroyed…well….schadenfruede.

The house ended up sustaining only minimal damage but for a while there we were worried. We were only ambivalently worried about my stepfather’s house but we were truly worried for our friend Lucy’s house and for our friend George’s life. George had decided to remain in the area despite the evacuation order. Maybe he needed a more blunt evacuation order like the one issued for an area of Texas during Harvey that asked those who were not evacuating to write their social security numbers on their arm so their bodies could be identified.

George managed to survive the hurricane in one piece but he was so emotionally traumatized by it that now he’s considering leaving Florida for good. To me there’s something ironic about leaving Florida for good because of the trauma you experienced as a result of your refusal to leave it for a few days. Lucy’s house emerged from the hurricane relatively unscathed but her pool cage was damaged. When Lucy asked George if he knew how she could get her damaged pool cage repaired he told her that was an insensitive thing to say when there were people who were really suffering as a result of Irma.

As long as we’re talking about being insensitive, my guilty secret that’s not really a secret is that while I understand that natural disasters are a tragedy and I feel for the people who experience loss as a result of them, when I know I’m safe from them I also find them exciting and fascinating. I was glued to the TV during the hurricanes, enjoying my voyeuristic view in to the disasters that were unfolding.

Of course safety is ultimately more important than thrills or adventure. I was glad to learn that not only was George safe but so was everyone else I know in Florida. That “mark your safe’ feature on Facebook is a wonderful thing. I even found out that the animals I was concerned for were safe. The chickens of Key West had been evacuated with their wings wrapped in newspaper and the six toed cats of the Hemingway house had weathered the storm with the volunteers who had stayed behind. I am sorry for all the people and animals I don’t know personally who did not survive the hurricanes.

Shortly after Irma hit, there was a third powerful storm, Maria. I don’t have any significant ties to Puerto Rico but I did vacation there once as a teenager. It’s a beautiful country that has truly been devastated by Maria. My heart goes out to all its residents.

These natural disasters bring out the best and worst of human nature. There are people who go out of their way to help those who have been impacted by the hurricanes, who open up their hearts, homes and wallets. Then there are jackasses who would rather use tragedy as an opportunity to brag about crowd sizes and insult a society’s infrastructure, who would rather focus on arguing over the national anthem at football games than helping those in need.

All of this while denying that the likely cause of all these hurricanes-global warming- actually exists.  Pretty soon there won’t be enough letters in the alphabet to contain all the hurricanes that occur in a year, to say nothing of all the metaphorical man made hurricanes.

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From 9/11 to 11/9

Monday was the sixteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that took place on September 11th, 2001. I was sixteen years old at the time.  I was sitting in 11th grade English class when I first heard about the attacks. The school had sent out a memo about it that was laying in front of my teacher, Ms. Madigan, on the table where we were gathered for our English lesson. There would be no English lesson that morning though.

I glanced over at the memo and saw something about a plane crash around the World Trade Center. “A plane crashed into the World Trade Center? ” I asked Ms. Madigan. She hesitated for a moment, took a deep breath and said “Yes, two planes have crashed in to the World Trade Center and another has crashed in to the Pentagon.”

“How did they manage to do that?” I replied, thinking it had been an accident. It took me a minute to realize that this was no accident. This was a deliberate terrorist attack.

I was grateful that my mother no longer worked in New York City, as she had for several years, so I did not have to fear for her safety. But of course the attacks left me feeling shaken and fearful, as they did everyone in America.

Towards the end of the school day I sat surrounded by my peers in a therapy group led by  Delilah, a school social worker. “Is this attack a big deal?” a boy named Evan asked.  “Of course it’s a big deal!” Jacob snapped. “I wasn’t asking you, jackass!” Evan snapped back.

“They’re making a big deal about this because white people were killed by Arabic people but no one makes a big deal when Arabic people are killed by white people”, Layla, an Arabic girl pointed out.

It wasn’t until I got home and turned on the television that I comprehended the true horror of the situation. It was then that I saw visual representations of the destruction, the violence and the carnage that had occurred.  I saw the planes crashing in to the towers, the towers toppling over, the flames, the smoke, the terrified onlookers and survivors, the indistinct forms of those who had not survived, who had chosen death by jumping over death by fire. While most of the images that remain in my memory of September 11th are disturbing images that horrify me, there is one image I find quite poignant. It shows a group of firefighters holding up an American flag amidst the rubble of the World Trade Center.

I knew from history books that the Pearl Harbor attacks made December 7th a day that would live in infamy. Now I knew from my own first hand experience that September 11th would be a day that lived in infamy.

Things would never be quite the same after September 11th, 2001.  We were all forced to adjust to a new normal. Air travel became much more complicated and fraught with worries. Last year I had to fly on September 11th and it made me nervous even though I don’t really believe in superstitions and I knew that ever since September 11th, 2001 I’d probably been safer on flights due to increased security protocol.  I have been subject to multiple post 9/11 airport pat downs (and I’m a white woman with a baby face.)

Thousands of people lost their lives on 9/11 but I know they’re not the only ones who died as a result of that fateful day and I know that the people who lost their lives as a result of it are not the only victims.  A few weeks after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush announced the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, a war that continues to this day. Countless people have lost their lives as a result of that war. I cannot pretend that they all deserved to die or that they were all guilty by association.  Although I’ll never hear about those people on the news or read their names on memorial plaques, I cannot pretend that their deaths are any less of a tragedy than the ones that occurred on 9/11.

I also cannot pretend that I’ve never had prejudiced feelings towards Muslims or felt uncomfortable around them in the post 9/11 world. But then I remind myself that they don’t have to apologize for the atrocities that were committed in the name of radical Islam any more than I have to apologize for all the atrocities that have been committed in the name of Christianity. I remind myself that with all the prejudice and discrimination they’ve faced after 9/11, they’ve suffered as a result of it far more than I have.

In May 2011, Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind 9/11, was killed. I try not to rejoice in anyone’s death but I wasn’t sad to see him go. On September 11, 2011 the 9/11 memorial museum opened in New York City. In December of that year I saw the movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which was based on a novel about a boy whose father died in the 9/11 attacks.  It was the second movie I’d seen about 9/11.  I’d chosen not to watch the movies about 9/11 conspiracy theories but In 2006 I saw the movie United 93 about the plane that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania on 9/11 after the passengers overpowered the terrorist hijackers. I cried, as did the people sitting next to me in the theater. The tears flowed again in 2016 when Bretagne, the last surviving 9/11 search and rescue dog was given a hero’s salute by a group of firefighters as she was walked in to the veterinarian’s office to be euthanized and when her body departed the animal hospital draped in an American flag.

‘Never forget’ is a slogan often associated with 9/11.  On September 11th, 2001  Facebook did not exist but now that it does, on every 9/11 anniversary, it’s filled with tributes to and remembrances of the day. This year was no exception. Some of the tributes were quite poignant and touching, others were frankly quite tacky and tasteless. Tributes or not, I’ll never forget 9/11 and I doubt anyone else will either.

In November 2016 I sat in a booth at a pancake house across from my friend Vanessa from high school.  She had been in English class with me on 9/11/01.  Sitting beside me were Ms. Madigan and Delilah. Vanessa told us how disgusted she was by the results of the recent election, a sentiment we all shared.  The conversation then turned to our classmate, Layla. In the wake of the election Layla had had to change her name on Facebook because she was being threatened and harassed due to her Arabic name.

The election of a president whose campaign was based on hateful rhetoric towards Muslims ( and various other minority groups) had emboldened racists and xenophobes to act out, to turn their hateful thoughts in to hateful actions. Trump often used references and allusions to 9/11 to argue that Muslims were a danger to our country and that they needed to be done away with. He also told a lot of lies and made a lot of tasteless comments about the tragedy because that’s just the kind of person he is.

Tragedies like 9/11 are by their very nature devastating events that cause tremendous suffering. Yet there is always potential for some good to come out of tragedy. It can inspire unity, compassion, awareness, activism, strength, determination, a desire to help others. We certainly saw some of that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and we certainly continue to see some of that today as a direct or indirect effect of the attacks that occurred on that fateful day.

Yet I fear that these days we are moving further towards being poisoned by the kind of hatred and disregard for human life that was in the hearts and minds of those terrorists that attacked us on 9/11/2001, that we are emulating it rather than opposing it.  It’s in the call for a travel ban on Muslim countries, a Muslim registry, a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.  It’s in the decision to uproot the children of immigrants from the only home they’ve ever known, to ban transgender people from serving in the military, to cut healthcare and education funding from the poor, the sick and the vulnerable. It’s in the countless shootings and beatings that have occurred, the countless people who have been discriminated against, attacked or murdered for their religion, their sexuality or the color of their skin.

It’s in the horrific demonstration that occurred in Charlottsville last month in which white supremacists marched through the streets exposing their faces to the world, carrying guns, torches and Nazi flags, spewing insults and threats at minority groups, committing violence in the name of racism and antisemitism until one of those protesters plowed his car through a crowd of counter protesters, injuring 19 and killing 1.  All of this was followed by a president who for days refused to denounce the white supremacists and who never labeled them as the terrorists that they are.

I saw a tweet that read “The 9/11 attacks were a horrific event in US history, but the election of Donald Trump will be seen as equally disastrous, if not more so.”  Some people were offended by that tweet, claiming it made an insensitive and inaccurate comparison.

To those people I say, tragedies that occur on one specific day and result in the immediate physical death of thousands of people are not the only kind of tragedy.  Terrorist attacks that involve deliberately crashing airplanes into office buildings are not the only kind of terrorist attacks. Terrorists who have brown skin and are from middle eastern countries are not the only kind of terrorists.

America faces threats not just from other countries but from within itself, from those U.S. citizens who feel they have license to terrorize their fellow Americans for not being white, for not being Christian, for not being heterosexual, for not being gender conforming, for not having a penis, for not being healthy, for not having been born into privilege.

One of the reasons we must never forget our painful past is so that we don’t repeat its mistakes. Our painful past didn’t start or end with 9/11 and while the attacks can hardly be considered a mistake on our part, some of our responses to it have been. While humans as a species are characterized by their ability to learn from the past, they are also unfortunately characterized by their refusal to do so.

I felt a certain kind of  shock and terror on 9/11/01 and I also felt a certain kind of shock and terror on 11/9/16. While no airplanes had been hijacked by terrorists on 11/9/16, it felt as though our country had been hijacked by a monster who would institute a reign of terror. While on 11/9/16 I would not watch buildings fall or go up in flames over the course of an hour as a result of severe structural damage sustained from terrorist attacks, I could envision a future in which over the course of four years I would watch the pillars of American society crumble and fall as a result of severe damage sustained to the foundations our democracy was built on by repeated attacks from within. I could envision a future in which I  would watch all the progress and advancements that had been achieved within the last forty years in terms of civil rights and equality go up in flames within four years.

On 11/9/16 I did not see people choose to jump out of a burning building rather than remain inside but I heard the voices of people who were considering moving out of this country rather than remaining here. On 11/9/16 thousands of Americans did not die as a result of a terrorist attack nor were they grievously physically injured but millions were grievously injured spiritually and emotionally.  They saw the deaths of their hopes, their, dreams, their sense of safety and security, of their trust, faith and belief in the American people and the American system.

The 9/11 attacks were perpetrated by outsiders that made it clear that they were our enemies, that they wanted to harm us, that they hated everything we stood for.  This prolonged attack on our nation, the reality of which began to set in on 11/9/16, is being carried out by a man from within our country who claims to be our friend and ally, who claims that he will help us, that he has our best interests at heart, that he represents our values, a man who we have elected as our leader. The incidents that occurred on 9/11 were surprise attacks that none of us anticipated and none of us consented to.  Millions of our own citizens consented to and brought about the 11/9 attack that is still currently being waged on our country and will continue to be waged on our country for years to come.

Along with ‘never forget’, there are two other ‘never’ slogans that come to mind-‘never give up’ and ‘never give in’.  They apply to the attitude we must take towards the Trump administration, as does a certain one word slogan- ‘Resist’. Resist the Trump administration just like those passengers on the United 93 flight who managed to divert the plane from its intended target resisted the terrorist hijackers.  Resist,resist, resist. Never forget 9/11 and never forget 11/9.  Never give in to the kind of hatred and evil that brought about the events that occurred on those dates and never give up on fighting for what’s right in the face of the hardships 9/11 and 11/9 have brought to us all.

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Top ten things that are pissing me off right now

1. Sexist men telling me to smile-I posted this friendship anniversary thing on Facebook that showed the profile pictures of me and my girl friend.  This guy comes along and says “You both need to learn to smile, it goes a long way”.  I told him he needed to learn not to make inappropriate comments on womens’ social media pictures, it goes a long way.”  He wasn’t smiling in his profile picture either but of course it’s only women who need to smile to please men. This guy said he didn’t understand why I was so angry over such a simple thing when he was just pointing out that smiling would make us look better and if I had a problem with him I should unfriend him.  I took that last suggestion of his. Bye Felicia.

2. People who are judgmental of suicide victims on National Suicide Prevention Day- I saw all these nice, thoughtful, supportive blogs on suicide, which I appreciated but then I come across this blog where someone says they consider many people who commit suicide to be cowards. Their rationale was that people who commit suicide have low self confidence and self worth and people who have low self confidence and self worth are cowards. They used to believe all people who committed suicide were cowards but then they had a gracious change of heart and decided it’s only the suicide victims who didn’t just reach out for help that are cowards. If they did reach out for help, their loved ones are to blame for their death.  This blogger then assured people contemplating suicide that things would get better and offered a listening ear to those who are struggling. I guess the fact that judgmental attitudes like theirs are what prevent depressed people from ‘just reaching out’ is lost on this blogger. But hey, what do I know, I have low self confidence and self worth, so therefore I’m a coward.

3. Evil stepfathers who steal my dog from me- Lily is gone for the next few days and I miss her. The bastard doesn’t deserve half custody of her and sharing custody of a dog is stupid anyway

4. People who just don’t give a fuck about spelling or grammar- If you’re going to insult me you can at least use proper spelling and grammar when you do it so you don’t look like even more of an idiot than you already do. I know there are people who think spelling and grammar don’t matter on Facebook but I don’t understand how people can have the same attitude about WordPress. How am I supposed to take what you’ve written on your blog seriously when it’s making my eyes bleed?

5. People who deflect from the issue at hand by attacking me with irrelevant bullshit- I’m trying to explain to this guy on Facebook that there are sound ecological reasons for not allowing dogs in certain nature parks and the rules aren’t just in place to ruin his fun when he decides to bring up a completely unrelated  traumatic incident that happened between me and him more than 10 years ago. He claims that I was the one in the wrong then when he was actually the one in the wrong but that incident had nothing to do with anything anyway. Grumpy grudge holding guy got unfriended just like sexist smiley guy did and his grammar was just as bad.

6. Hypocritical Nazi apologists who tone police me-This is  an example of someone unfriending me rather than the other way around but she acted as though I was the one who unfriended her, telling me that I should realize that politics doesn’t define a person, that you can still be friends with someone when you disagree with them politically and condemning someone else for unfriending her over her political views.  She then blocked me because I was “unnecessarily angry and hateful” towards people I disagreed with. Excuse me for getting angry over gross violations of human rights and for not playing nice with racists, homophobes and Nazi apologists. It’s cool to be sympathetic towards grammar Nazis. It’s not cool to be sympathetic towards actual Nazis.

7. The word ‘unnecessarily’- It’s a good word but it’s a bitch to spell and after complaining about people with poor spelling and hypocrites, the pressure was on me to spell it correctly in this blog post.

8. The way everything on the internet is a fucking slideshow these days-Ain’t no one got time for that.

9. People who say to people who are unable to work due to illness or disability “It must be nice to not have to work”-  To these people I say “It must be nice to not be ill or disabled.”

10.Donald Trump-Just fucking everything about him. He’s a disgrace to this nation. In fact, he and the kind of mindset he and his followers exemplify are also responsible for many of the other items on this list.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this unnecessarily angry list of mine and that you also enjoy this picture of me not smiling.

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Fed up with Forty Five

As if the threat of nuclear war wasn’t bad enough, now we have this tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia. We can thank Forty Five for that one too.  Anyone who thinks this was not a direct result of his hateful rhetoric is naïve, stupid or lying to themselves. Of course he condemned hatred and violence on “all sides”.  He wouldn’t want to call out white supremacists and risk alienating his biggest fan base!  The mother of the killer said she thought her son was going to a 45 rally, not a white supremacist rally. Guess what, lady, there’s a fine line between 45 rallies and white supremacist rallies.

The difference was that up until now 45 supporters were slightly more subtle about rallying for hatred and bigotry than the Ku Klux Klan.  Now when 45 supporters rally together they’re basically the KKK without the robes. Since these assholes in Virginia showed their faces alongside their Tiki torches, I hope they’re fired from their jobs, expelled from their schools and shunned by their communities. I don’t want to hear any ‘freedom of speech’ nonsense. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences. I also don’t want to hear any ‘slippery slope’ arguments.  Refusing to tolerate expressions of hatred and threats toward minority groups does not mean it’s only a matter of time before your neighbor is arrested for professing his dislike for a Backstreet Boys song.

You know what did send us down a slippery slope though? Electing 45 as president. And you know who I will not hesitate to profess my hatred for?  If you guessed 45 again, you’re correct. I despise him more than I’ve ever despised anyone in my life. I know I’ve never met the guy and that objectively there are people who are worse than him but those people aren’t constantly in my face, polluting almost every aspect of the world around me.

I’m sick of seeing his evil, ugly, smarmy disgusting face all over the internet and the newsstands. As you can see, I’ve mostly stopped using his real name when I refer to him because I don’t want to give his name any more power than it already has. His name should be treated in the same way the media treats the names of school shooters. Rather than glorifying the name of the criminal, focus on his victims.

And everyone is a victim under his presidency, even those who support him. I can’t believe Caitlyn Jenner or anyone else actually thought he would be an ally to the LGBTQ population.  I can’t believe any one does still support him, I can’t believe people are still defending his words and actions, I can’t believe he’s still president. Yes, I know he’s only been president for seven months but it’s been a long seven months and he’s managed to do so much damage in so little time. While I haven’t given up hope that he’ll be impeached or removed from office, I’m feeling pretty jaded at this point.

I never thought I’d ever see as many swastikas, confederate flags and KKK robes in one day as I saw today on Facebook. Many of them were memes protesting those things but the fact that we still need to protest those things in the USA in 2017 because they’re still being publicly displayed in the USA in 2017 is disgusting. I’ll also never look at Tiki torches the same way again but that’s the least of my concerns.

Can you imagine what the reaction of 45 and his supporters would have been if the driver of that car that killed one and injured 19 had been Muslim or Mexican? The reaction of the police if those protesters with their Tiki torches had been black? White privilege means getting away with doing those things without being injured or killed, without being labeled a thug or a terrorist.

Privilege is a subject for a whole separate blog but many of us are privileged and take our privilege for granted. I haven’t loved all the presidents I’ve seen in my lifetime but I assumed that as an American living in the 21st century I would always have the privilege of having my country led by a sane, mature, respectable, halfway decent human being who would adhere to the principles of justice, equality and democracy. How tragically wrong I was.

Going Nuclear

Ever since I was a small child I’ve been afraid of nuclear war. Learning that we as humans have the power to destroy the world with nuclear weapons struck terror in my little heart.  The Cold War was over by the time I was born so I did not grow up in an era of school nuclear bomb drills, forced at least once a month to contemplate the possibility of a nuclear Armageddon and the uselessness of a wooden desk over my head in the face of it.

I’m a morbid person though so even though I wasn’t forced to contemplate a nuclear Armageddon, sometimes I contemplated it anyway.  I even read “On the Beach” and watched “When The Wind Blows” with horrified fascination.  While I could handle and even enjoy in a way fictional accounts of our planet’s nuclear annihilation, news about real life possibilities of nuclear attacks put me on edge and I did not enjoy it in any way, shape or form.

Luckily for most of my life, reports of the possibility of nuclear attack were fairly few and far between.  If I came across a report of the possibility of nuclear attack, closing my browser window usually solved the problem. In recent years North Korea has become an increasingly dire threat but their talk of development of nuclear missiles appeared to consist mostly of hot air.

I thought the threats North Korea made to us over that movie The Interview were ridiculous. I’m anti-censorship and pro free expression so although I felt I should support the release of that movie, there was a part of me that thought “Come on, America, is some silly movie really worth risking the possibility of nuclear war?” but once the movie was released, yet another threat from North Korea proved to be bullshit.

Fast forward about two years later to the election of our 45th president. I was very upset by the results of that election. One of my biggest concerns about having such a volatile, hot headed, immature, impulsive, egotistical, moronic buffoon as our president was that he would propel us in to a nuclear war. Fast forward a few months later and he appears to be doing just that.

When I first heard the news that 45 was making threatening, provocative, inflammatory statements to Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Un was responding in kind, I felt dread in the pit of my stomach and a quickening of my heartbeat.  At first I tried to just ignore the news but it filled up my Facebook feed. I went off of Facebook and sifted through a digital collection of old photographs but was distracted by multiple pop up news alerts informing me that 45 had escalated his threats to North Korea. My mom suggested I come watch Colbert with her because he would joke about 45 and take my mind off my anxiety. One of the first things out of his mouth was “We’re all going to die!”

I posted a Facebook status about how anxious the threat of nuclear war made me and requested that no one respond by telling me we were going to get nuked.  Nevertheless a friend of mine informed me that she’d heard that North Korea would have its missiles ready to launch by mid August. Another friend told me that the only thing left to do was to turn to Jesus. Since I don’t believe in Jesus, I didn’t find that very comforting.

I did some mental math and realized that the time when North Korea will allegedly have its missiles ready coincides with my mini vacation to Block Island. I started thinking that maybe I didn’t want to be away during a time of potential nuclear attack. Than I started thinking about the trip to Chicago planned for next month. Then I realized that we could be in a state of potential nuclear crisis for years. I decided that in the meantime I don’t want to put my life on hold or stop doing things I enjoy.

I’ve been reading articles about 45 and North Korea.  Some say that the threat is very serious, other suggest that it’s not as serious as it appears on the surface. The one thing said by a friend about this issue that actually comforted me was “We survived the cold war, we’ll survive this.”

Maybe he’s right about that, maybe we’ll all go up in a ball of fire tomorrow. Regardless, this may be a good opportunity for me to start living like I’m dying, or at least to start blogging like I’m dying.