Conversations From the Road – Long Time Coming

Today, June 24, 2022 the United States Supreme Court overturned the Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion in 1973. The Court’s majority opinion said that abortion was an issue to be left to the individual states to regulate in any way they choose to. Almost half the states have laws in place to outlaw and criminalize abortion and other forms of reproductive care. In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas said that two other Supreme Court decisions, Griswold vs. Connecticut which legalized access to artificial birth control and Obergfell vs. Hodges which legalized gay marriage need to be ‘reviewed’. ‘Review’ is a thinly-veiled code-word for potential decisions to be overturned.

I’ve known this decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade has been coming since the early 1980’s when I came of age under the Reagan administration and saw the rise of the Christian Right. The Christian Right has said since the late 1970’s that their goal was to outlaw abortion, access to artificial contraception, and outlaw all rights for LGBTQ Americans. The Texas Republican Party on their platform in addition to this also called for the overturn of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These people have been telling us what they were going to do and they got just enough voters along with a serious amount of dirty money from here and abroad to put enough Supreme Court Justices into place to over turn Roe vs. Wade and put the other laws in their crosshairs.

For forty years I was told not to make political or social issues personal. I was told I had to learn how to agree to disagree with people and tolerate them even if their beliefs were horrible and evil.

SILENCE IS A TOOL OF THE OPPRESSOR

Oppressors and abusers demand silence from their victims. Oppressors and abusers tell their victims that no one will believe them if they speak out against oppression and abuse.

The Christian Right are the oppressors and the abusers here. They have said for the last forty years they were under attack but that was NOT true. They have been on the attack against the rights of everyone who is not exactly like them: white, heterosexual, and Christian (only in name but not in practice).

Thirty-eight years ago, I began writing. Back when I started writing it was because I was in love with the magic of words. What I didn’t understand back then like I do now is this: I started writing to put my thoughts and feelings into words, to find words that didn’t hurt me like those that were said to me. Back then, I knew I wanted to say so many things yet I knew if I did it would not be taken well. I knew back then if I spoke out against things that hurt me and others the oppressors and abusers in my life would try to silence me. They did silence me by making me feel like I had no words that would break their power over me.

Six years ago, I came up with the idea of using writing to try and figure out why I thought and felt the way I did. I then added using writing to figure out what the hell was going on in our world and what we could do about it. At the time, I didn’t know what I was going to do with those answers. And I didn’t know how hard it was going to be to ask those questions and deal with the answers. Most of all, I know there are people in this world who don’t want to hear what I have to say. But my words are not for those that don’t want them, but for those that do listen to me.

Six years ago, I didn’t realize that I was going to do was break my silence. Back then, I didn’t realize how much silence I had lived with. I had retreated and hidden in silence in order not to be hurt by the words and actions of others. That’s a survival instinct but not a way to live. Running and hiding didn’t take away the pain inside of me, or the fear that if I came out of hiding that I would be forced back into that hidden place if I spoke out about my thoughts and feelings.

Right now, I know many people are feeling pain and fear at the rights being taken away from so many of us by our lawmakers and court systems. And they are asking what we can do to regain these rights. My first answer is BREAK YOUR SILENCE. Breaking your silence starts in your mind when you put your feelings into words and let those thoughts flow through you.

After you break your silence in your mind you can then find ways to break it in your daily life. It can be as simple as casting a vote that is the opposite of how you are being told to vote. And yes, I think it’s more than okay to lie about that if you have to because I understand the need for self-preservation.

If you can find the strength and courage inside yourself, you can then break your silence out loud. You can speak out against people who speak with hatred, contempt, and tell lies. You do not have to let hate-mongering and lying go unanswered. You can stand up for yourself and stay true to who you are.

I started by breaking my silence in my mind then I moved on to the written word like I am doing here. Now I’m getting ready to move on to the next stage of breaking my silence, which is creating a podcast so my voice can be heard out loud. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and like the other ways I had to learn to break my silence, this one involved a lot of hard work through fear and anxiety that created doubt and uncertainty in my mind.

But I keep thinking one thing: I have nothing left to lose. I have nothing no one can take away from me. I am a broke, middle-aged woman living on next to nothing. Yet I have found peace and happiness like never before in my life. I found that peace and happiness by finding my voice and breaking my silence. And most of all, I found peace and happiness by being on my own, not alienated and ostracized. I know I’m not perfect, but I also know no one else is either even if they profess to be perfect.

As a child, I found word could take me away to places far away from the lonely and painful reality I lived with. Then I found words that provided knowledge and showed me the wonders of the world. I found words that told of pain and suffering, and how to overcome that. I found words that provided comfort when I had no other form of comfort for myself. Most of all, I know my words and the words of others have meaning, and can be used for good, and can provide comfort and strength to those in need.

Today may feel like a dark day even though outside the sun is shining high and blazing with summer heat. And I know this day has been a long time in coming, and that knowledge is what has given me focus today and kept my heart from trying to pound its’ way out of my chest. Because I’ve lived with this knowledge for so long, I realized I have lived with the words inside of me, too. And now I have the ability to share those words and hopefully give hope to others, and to provide a plan of action.

BREAK YOUR SILENCE

Stand or Fall – Tolerance Doesn’t Equal Silence

From as far back as I can remember, I heard that you had to tolerate people and their bullshit which meant that you just had to sit and listen it without calling them out on it. I was taught that you can’t change people and that you have to let them be who they are. And for myself and way too many other people, we thought it meant we couldn’t speak out against their bullshit and actively campaign against their reign of terror.

We were wrong. Tolerance failed and officially died on January 6, 2021 in the halls of the United States Capitol Building when a mob of right-wing monsters tried to overthrow the duly elected government of the United States.

In the past, I’m sure someone would be calling me out on the above paragraph telling me not to get overwrought or that I’m exaggerating things. Fuck that shit. And fuck those assholes no matter how well meaning they might think they are, or were back then. They were wrong then just like they are wrong now.

I know I can’t pull someone’s head out of their ass for them, but I can sure as hell call them out on it. I used to think I didn’t have it in me to call someone out on their bullshit but I know I do now. Because I have taken the time not just in the last few years, but all my life really, to think things through as best as I can and try to do the right thing. And to be shit on for doing the right thing caused me some serious wounds but wounds do heal over and you can put up shields to keep people from hurting you again.

I recently saw a quote from the late rapper Tupac Shakur: “Just because you lost me as a friend doesn’t mean you gained me as an enemy. I’m bigger than that. I still want to see you eat, just not at my table.”

So in staying with Tupac’s statement here, I can say tolerance doesn’t mean letting someone sit at your table and give you and your guests shit simply because they’re different and not doing anything wrong by being different. If you want to sit at my table, you don’t talk shit to people to their face or behind their back, or with thinly-veiled well-meaning bullshit either.

I used to think I had to sit and take people’s shit simply because if I pushed back on it then I was the bad guy. That’s gaslighting because it’s like saying I’m the one doing something wrong when that’s not the case. It hurt like hell to be accused of being a hopeless idiot for believing in the good of this world and in good people instead of those who were hurting people left and right.

I can be a cynic with the best of them but practicing tolerance with silence gave shit-headed people an opportunity to try and use that against me. They tried to use that against me by amplifying cynicism instead of combating it. Being cynical is a human reaction to massive amounts of bullshit and pain but it’s not the way to live. It’s wrong to say all people are shit-heads and that everyone will eventually shit all over you, except of course the person telling you this who has shit on you yet tells you to be grateful in taking their shit.

Sorry for the excessive use of the word ‘shit’ here in all its’ forms but the word fits because that’s what lies and manipulation are. And as the great Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you what they’re truly like, believe them.”

People know what they’re truly like even if they don’t want to completely admit it and take responsibility for themselves. And only an individual person can change themselves, no one else can do it for them. Or as I like to say now, no one’s purpose in life is to pull someone’s head out of their ass for them.

Are we deadlocked here then? Never able to find a common ground? My answer to those questions is that the ball is not in your court, but in their court. I know where I want to go in life and what I want to do. I want to leave this world better than it was when I came into it. I want to lift people up from sadness and despair. I want to give people hope when they feel helpless and weak. And I want to be a defender. I want to stand in front of those who hurt others and say to them, “I’m not afraid of you anymore.” And yes, I am prepared to take their blows no matter how hard they hit, or how much of my own blood I might taste. But in reality most people who hurt or destroy are cowards, weak and scared. They’ve just taken that weakness and fear and turned it inside out-mean as my father used to say.

Tolerance doesn’t have to be silent. Tolerance means standing up for what’s right, and true, and to make the world a better place by standing up for others and defending and comforting those in need.

Stand or Fall – Preaching to the Choir

One question I’ve asked myself with this project is who is this book being written for? I’ve said to left-leaning folks like me it’ll probably be like preaching to the choir and to right-leaning folks it could create some serious cognitive dissonance. But now I’m beginning to think that cognitive dissonance could also happen to my left-leaning readers and that’s because I don’t think my left-leaning readers are going to like me telling them they fucked up and fell down on the job.

I think the biggest failure of us Lefties is our stupid default setting of giving up and quitting when things get really loud and shitty. I hate hearing people talk about not voting anymore, or not voting because of one thing, and I really hate people talking about packing up their shit and leaving some place like the idiots who talked about quitting when Elon ‘Dickhead’ Musk announced he wanted to buy Twitter (the deal is on shaky ground as of this blog post). I want to say if you do this, you’re a fucking idiot and I’ll put a verbal foot up your ass and boot you out of the room if you don’t want to be in the room where it happens (with acknowledgement to the great Lin-Manuel Miranda and the ‘Hamilton’ team).  

There’s an old saying, ‘If you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen.’ And that is so freaking true. And if you don’t want to be in the kitchen simply because things aren’t going your way or because you don’t get to run the show, then get the fuck out. Being a spoiled brat is being an absolute asshole no matter what side these brats lean to politically. Left-leaning ones will step out of the kitchen while right-leaning ones will stay in the kitchen mouthing off. Either way, both are wrong and both either need to get the fuck out of the way so others can do what needs to be done, or shut the fuck up, roll up their sleeves, and get to work.

It’s taken me a long time to really believe I can be in the room where it happens and that I have just as much right to be there as anyone else. Most of my life, I used to go silent whenever someone would get loud or get right up in my face. Now I know that’s just a tactic assholes use to intimidate someone into silence because that person is just trying to call them out on their bullshit. It’s why I’m working to teach myself not to back down or go silent in the face of someone getting up in my face.

No one is perfect and to insist on perfection in people is total bullshit. In 1992, I voted in my first Presidential election. I got swept up in the idealism and rock ‘n’ roll of that campaign and by the end of the decade I watched it crash and burn. I recovered some of that idealism in 2008 but watched it go down in flames in 2016. By 2020, I turned that idealism into pure dragon’s fire. Because as far as I’m concerned, we don’t have the luxury of idealism anymore. The clock’s running down fast and no one is sure if we’ve hit the point of negative return (that’s when a spacecraft launches and at a certain point they have to make orbit because cutting the engines and trying to return will get them barbequed in the atmosphere). I don’t think we’ve hit negative return yet but I think we’re close.

So to my left-leaning choir here I want to say this: don’t back down. If someone gets in your face tell them to back off and shut the fuck up. And yes, they won’t like that. They also won’t like it when you tell them not to change the subject because that’s a common tactic the average loud-mouth asshole likes to use when they know they don’t have jack-shit to stand on.

Lately, I’ve thought about just not engaging with loud-mouth assholes at all but instead, I’ll take the tactic of challenging them to listen to me like they force the world to listen to their bullshit. Most of these loud-mouth assholes don’t have the tits or balls to face someone directly or take a stand on their own (they’re real good at being good little cult members and parroting talking points handed to them). I read from a college professor online that when he asks a conservative student why they hold certain views they start off by saying, ‘well, in my family-.” And he stops them right there and goes, “No, what do YOU think?”

That’s what I want to do with my ‘Stand or Fall’ book: I want to make people think when reading it and after they’re done reading it. And honestly I don’t care what side of the political aisle my readers are on because if you can’t think for yourself and determine your own path, it doesn’t matter what side you’re on. Because I believe if you can think for yourself, then you can find the right path to go on.

I believe the appeal of authoritarianism is that it gives people the ability to let someone else do their thinking for them. It makes them feel like they’re a part of something though they don’t realize acceptance comes at a very steep price, and that price is a person’s mind, heart, and soul belonging to someone else. I’m an outsider and I always have been, and I always will be so I’ve never seen the appeal of right-wing authoritarianism because I know I wouldn’t be accepted by that side simply because I’m different and have a brain that never shuts down. I think I’d be like Captain Kirk in the movie ‘Star Trek V: The Final Frontier’ when he asked, “Why does God need a starship?”

So let’s start asking questions until we get all the answers we can.

The Debate Is Over

ABC World News Tonight has a feature each Friday called ‘Person of the Week’ about someone who had done good or made a difference in the world that week. One week in 1989  it was called ‘Persons of the Week’ in honor of the people of Pulaski, Tennessee. Shortly after the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan was founded there and every year on the anniversary of the founding the KKK and other Neo-Nazis descended on the town to spew their filth and hatred to the people that lived there (and who were nothing like those monsters). That year in 1989 the townspeople did something very different: they closed their businesses and went into their homes and closed their doors to these bastards parading through their town. They gave these monsters their freedom of speech and assembly, but in return they gave themselves the freedom not to listen to this filth or see the Nazi salutes and other symbols of hatred. It was a powerful image to see a bunch of Nazi’s and KKK-limp dicked assholes parade around to nothing but silence.

I tell this story because it wasn’t just a powerful example of non-violent counter-protest. It was also a way of showing the world there is no debate with people who put their own hate-filled lives above all others.

When I saw the debate is over it’s not just stopping debate with right-wing neo-Nazis and their filth. It’s also stopping debate over policies, or lack of policies that have been proven not to work. Arguing with someone who refuses to accept the truth of their failures or of their support of failed policies and positions is pointless. But worst of all, someone who refuses to acknowledge or accept that something doesn’t work won’t budge from that position. Instead, they’ll keep you coming at them until you wear yourself out, get tired, and back down instead of standing back then turning and walking away.

Now at this point I’m sure some reader here will be wanting to ask me: am I saying to give up on people?

Yes.

By yes I mean I’m not going to argue with someone who won’t admit to failure, or someone who holds a position or belief that causes harm to others, or lets harm to come others without working to stop that in some way. I’m not going to let anyone like that batter me into submission because I have in the past and all I have to show for it are a lot of scarred-over wounds.

But this doesn’t mean I’m retreating into silence and running and hiding, far from it. It means that I am going to continue speaking out in truth, but also asking questions out loud and working to find the answers and share them. Because as I’ve said before here, my purpose in life is not to pull someone’s head out of their ass, nor is it anyone else’s purpose in life either.

Instead, I’m going to talk about problems and solutions, ask questions and find answers. And I’m going to work on providing a happy and pleasurable respite from the pain and darkness of this world. It’s been said the Universe likes balance so I think we need to start working on bringing that balance to life.

I’m not going to back down from sharing my thoughts and feelings, and I’m not going to back down from sharing other things like facts and figures, too. And I will keep telling readers here to ask yourself why you think and feel the way you do and keep asking until you find all the answers that you can though I will warn readers they may not like the answers they find and that they will have to deal with them sooner or later. And I’m not going to stop telling people they are so much stronger than they will ever realize, either. But if someone just comes at me like a battering ram, I’m not going to let them batter me into submission ever again. I will resist and fight with every ounce of strength I have in me against that battering. And I will not tolerate nor listen to any attempt to manipulate me or gaslight into doubting myself, and most of all, I will not let anyone heap shame and guilt onto me for things I haven’t done wrong.

I will not ‘debate’ someone over things that clearly cause harm or don’t work. If someone wants to listen to me I’ll listen to them in turn. But if I don’t agree with them and they can’t accept that and try to batter me into submission, I will walk away in silence.

I’ve lost more arguments than I’ve won simply because I gave in rather than hold my position. I won’t do that anymore. But life is not an argument to be won or lost. Life is about living, and not just living in fear and pain. Fear and pain will always be a part of life but it is no way to live, and neither is living in fear and outrage. I’ve felt a lot of anger and rage in this past week and I’ve had to let it run its’ course. But I’m working to focus instead on action that will result in change for the better. I’m not going to stand around and debate with someone when there are things that can be done to make things better for the future.

Now let’s get to work.

Grief Into Action, Part Two – BREAK YOUR SILENCE

Silence is the tool of the oppressor.

This is a thought I had some years ago as I dug through the wreckage of my heart and soul and that was because the people who hurt and oppressed me demanded my silence more than anything. They lied to me and said if I was silent they would stop hurting me, and that if I was silent I wouldn’t be hurt anymore. But the damage was done and they didn’t care to repair the damage they caused. They were the ones who walked away from me and left me to deal with everything up to and including death and the grief that followed it alone.

During the last few years, I realized how much shame and guilt I felt for things I didn’t do wrong. But that shame and guilt kept from doing the things I should have done so one set of shame and guilt has been replaced by another. Now some may say I shouldn’t feel shame and guilt over being driven into silence by fear and grief and pain, but I feel shame and guilt for my silence. I know how deep a hole inside yourself shame and guilt can dig so I remember what my late father always used to tell me, “The easiest way to get out of a hole is to quit digging and start climbing.”

Digging yourself out of a hole is not going to be a popular decision with some people, whether they be stranger or someone you know. Having you out of sight and silent keeps them from dealing with their own feelings of contempt, cruelty, and lack of compassion. Being silent keeps people from facing their own failures and accepting responsibility for them. But their feelings are not yours to deal with. And another thought I had in regard to this recently was this: no one is responsible for pulling someone’s head out of their ass for them. If someone has their head jammed up their ass and is refusing to take it out, just walk away from them.

If anyone reading this feels like I’m backing them up against a wall, or is feeling uncomfortable, or maybe even feeling pricks of guilt, shame, or remorse, those are your feelings to deal with, no one else’s. Your discomfort means NOTHING in the face of so many people grieving in pain. My feelings of shame and guilt mean nothing in the face of those grieving in pain but I will not drive anyone into silence simply because I’m feeling things that are painful, such as shame and guilt. Instead, I will try and turn my feelings into a plan of action to try and save lives and keep other people from going through the absolute hell twenty-one families in Uvalde, Texas along with thousands of other families in this country whose grief has roared back to life with a terrible vengeance.

To those of you reading this who have felt helpless and full of fear and anxiety over speaking out against the oppressors of this world both near and far from you, I understand your feeling and where they come from. I want to tell you what my father used to tell me: you are so much stronger than you will ever realize. I want to say that you have the courage and strength to break your silence and stand and fight for what’s right and true in this world. I want to say your compassion, empathy, kindness, and love for others are your greatest strengths.

When I first started blogging again recently and became active on social media I had a fear to work through: the fear that I would have to deal with someone coming at me and trying to silence me. But as I continue to break my silence and work through the thoughts and feelings that come with that, my fear had begun to recede. And it continues to recede every single day I write and live my life. Breaking my silence is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. And I know the day will come when someone will try to come at me over something I say here or elsewhere. But I know I can choose how to respond, from a simple ‘agree to disagree’ to a blunt ‘fuck off’, or silence and block, the choice is mine. And the choice is yours, too.

To all of us feeling shame and guilt over the decades of active-shooter drills for our children and teachers, let’s tell the truth about what these do and don’t do. Break the silence around this horror and let’s work our asses off to end the need for these types of drills and give future generations of children a safe environment to live and learn in. Let’s break our silence on gun control legislation and speak out about it even if someone tells not to. Keep talking, and don’t stop talking. And let’s turn grief into action once and for all.

BREAK YOUR SILENCE

Stand or Fall – Shattered Glass Ceilings

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

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

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

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

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

ABSOLUTEY NOTHING!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stand or Fall – The Battle Has Never Ended

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stand or Fall – Not Ready to Make Nice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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