In Search of Subtitles (for my books)

Image by hudsoncrafted from Pixabay

Ever since I started my non-fiction book projects, I’ve been in search of a subtitle for each one that fits the book. Why? Because I feel like the subtitle gives the reader an expectation about what they’re going to be reading about. The title is like a summary and the subtitle is like a bit more detail. Today as I got out of the shower, five subtitles came to me and I scribbled them down onto a piece of notebook paper before I updated each page here with the subtitle. Now here’s the story and meaning behind each one:

Breaking Radio Silence: A Self-Help/Memoire Hybrid

In the Fall of 2016 when I first conceived of what would become ‘Breaking Radio Silence’, I simply labeled the file ‘Untitled Self-Help/Memoire Hybrid’. The goal at that time was to use writing to try and figure out why I thought and felt the way I did and to use my own experiences to illustrate anything I learned in the process. The title ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ wouldn’t come to me till the Spring of 2018 and it fit perfectly from the moment it came to me. But for the last four years this has been a book project in search of a subtitle until today. And as I start writing this book in earnest now, I need all the focus I can get so this is why a subtitle was so important for this project.

Stand or Fall: A Rebellion of Hope

After the US Presidential Election in 2016, I (along with millions of other people) went, “What the hell just happened?” I came up with an idea to use writing to try and figure out how things got so fucked up. Now of course I didn’t know what the next six years would go nor could I have imagined what’s happened even in my worst nightmares. At the time I first came up with this project-idea, I simply labeled the file, ‘Untitled Political Book’ because at that time I knew this book was going to be seen as political. Like, duh but I’m not a scholar so I thought I’d make it personal and tell my own story alongside what’s happened in the last forty years or so in terms of politics and the world in general. I was searching for a subtitle for this book because I kept asking myself what the purpose of writing this if not just for myself? And then the quote from the movie ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’ came to my mind, “Rebellions are built on hope.” That’s what I want this book to be, a statement of rebellion and hope.

Behind the Story: How I Write and the Stories Behind My Writing

This book’s origins are a bit murky though I think I came up with this one sometime in 2018, I think around Fall if I remember correctly. Initially I wanted to do a straight how-to book but then I realized for me writing is more than just how-to. There’s a lot to my writing and I think my story in regards to that is worth telling. Now the title of this book was a struggle for me as the title just came to me a couple of months ago but without the subtitle until today.

Uber Tales: Stories and Observations From Behind the Wheel as an Uber Driver

Not long after I started working as an Uber driver in 2017, I began to post on my personal Facebook page stories and observations from the road that I titled ‘Uber Tales’. They took off and people really like hearing my stories and observations so I began to think there was a book in there. As of right now, I don’t have any really crazy or outrageous stories from the road and a lot has happened and changed since I started driving. Also, I’ve read a lot of news articles about Uber driving and I don’t really think a lot of these journalists have talked to a lot of drivers, or any at all. So I want to tell my story and it’s just my story because each driver has their own unique experiences and observations though over the years I’ve talked with other drivers and we do share some common thoughts and experiences.

Dirty Thoughts and Stories: Talking Dirty About Sex and Other Naughty Things and Fiction Inspired By My Dirty Thoughts

This is in its’ earliest stages right now mostly based on my blog here though I think over time I’ll have enough material for a book. This is a mix of non-fiction blog entries that might get expanded into longer essays along with fiction stories. The title is sort of self-explanatory as talking about sex is seen as dirty by a small yet very vocal segment of our population who really just need to learn how to get over their hang-ups and have some fun in life instead of trying to control every aspect of everyone else’s life, especially their sex lives. And naughty fiction is just fun to write and I’m not going to back down on that.

So this is where I’m at on these projects just to give out an update. It feels good to have subtitles I like and that fit well. Now I just need to get my ass to writing, which I will be doing in addition to everything else I need to do (like earn a living, eat, sleep, bathe, take care of my pets, etc.).

Stand or Fall: Rebellion of Hope

Rebellions are built on hope.”

Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Huffman from the movie ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’)

(screenplay by Chris Waltz and Tony Gilroy, Story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta, based on characters created by George Lucas)

In 2016 when I came up for the idea of this book, I didn’t know how things were going to turn out in the years since. I feel like we’ve had a lot of worst-case scenarios come to life, most recently with the overturn of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision, but I’ve also seen hope for a better future, most notably the Presidential Election of 2020. Now we’ve got the mid-term election coming up and it’s all coming down to the wire yet again. And my thinking has changed now from seeing this as a battle against fascist White Nationalism-Neo Nazism to rebellion not just against that shit, but also against hopelessness, fear, doubt, and people being a bunch of dumb-asses like they always are.

As I thought about the term ‘rebellion’ the line from the movie ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’ came to my mind. It’s one of my all-time favorite lines ever because to me it says so much. Because the question isn’t what are you rebelling against, but what are you rebelling for? What do you hope to accomplish with your rebellion?

Deep down inside of myself I’ve always felt like I’ve been rebellion against so many things. I feel like I’ve been rebelling against bullying, for being alienated and ostracized not just for being different, but for doing the right thing and making people project their shame and guilt onto me (which they can take and shove up their asses where it belongs). I feel I’ve been in rebellion against narrow-minded and insensitive hypocrisy with people shooting their mouths off about one thing but doing another, like right-wing pro-life assholes who get abortions for themselves or their daughters, or their mistresses.

I think it’s an act of rebellion to think at times, and to feel emotions, too. I think the appeal of right-wing fascism is that it doesn’t require a person to be original, or to be unique, and it gives them an ability to avoid having to do the difficult things of feeling like shit or feeling pain for those in need. I think it’s also because this right-wing bullshit means that as long as you toe the party line they won’t turn on you. But as someone who has taken shit all my life for things I didn’t do wrong, I saw through this at a very early age. The worst part of this is making things like compassion, empathy, and genuine kindness seem weak and worthless, and try to make people feel like shit for having those feelings and trying to live by them.

That scorn against compassion, empathy, and kindness to those in need is really turned me against right-wing conservatives in this country. The ‘fuck your feelings’ shit I heard in 2016 really exposed the cruelty behind fascism and how easy it was for people to embrace that. And the answer to why that is isn’t one I need an answer to because it’s not my fucking problem.

Instead, what my purpose is to not only live the life I want to in the way I want to, but to fight the rights of others to live freely, openly, and to make their own decisions without anyone else’s interference. At times, I think it’s a lot easier to get someone pissed off and outraged over something than to have them actually leave someone alone to live their own life. I think if right-wing conservatives quit worrying about other people’s lives that have nothing to do with theirs and aren’t hurting anyone else they’d be a lot happier. But it’s not happiness they’re after at all because deep-down the root of conservative ideology is that happiness is wrong unless it’s expressed or lived within very strict confines.

I want people to be happy and healthy. I want to live on a planet that’s healthy and life-sustaining. And I don’t believe suffering is noble but something to be alleviated as much as humanly possible.

My book ‘Stand or Fall’ has been in a constant state of evolution since I started the project six years ago. It’s a hybrid of memoire and history but also commentary on the past and present, too. It’s not just me asking the questions of why things happened, but how we can learn from the past. Because I will tell anyone I can, you don’t have to do the same shit you did before simply because you did it before. You can change the future by making different decisions in the present. And if someone doesn’t like that they can that opinion and shove it up their ass where it belongs.

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.

God Is Love

Many years ago I read about a Nazi-occupied town in Europe during World War II in which a group of Resistance Fighters were hung in the town square. The group of fighters included a young boy of about twelve or thirteen. The story goes that there were two men in the crowd watching the hanging when one asked, “Where is God? Where is He?” And the man next to him replied as he looked at the young boy as he was dying, “There He is.”

I’ve thought about this story a lot over the years since I’ve heard it and the idea that God was a single omnipotent being watching over us and meting out judgment, punishment, along with mercy and divine intervention just didn’t work for me. To me, God is a singular reference point our tiny human minds use in order to try and understand the infinite vastness of the Universe we live in. To me, The Universe is all that we are, all that we were, and all that we will be. It is all of our lives, our souls, our consciousnesses, our thoughts and feelings, our dreams and our hopes, and our pain and suffering. But in that vastness is one thing that drives the direction we all go in: free will.

My father used to say ‘free will’ was a tricky concept and I understand why he thought that way. Because if we have the freedom to make any decision we want to, how do we know which decisions are the right ones?

I believe the Universe, God, has provided us with the guidance needed to choose wisely and choose well. From the Prophets of the Old Testament of the Bible to the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Apostles in the New Testament, to other religious faiths such as Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and countless others, and also from countless men and women throughout the history of humanity. The guiding belief is to love another, to do no harm, to care for those in need, and to change the world for the better. I believe all these teachings come from conscience, empathy, compassion, and love. So in turn, teachings of hate, harm, and oppression come from teachings with no conscience, no empathy, no compassion, and no love.

So why are the voices of hate, harm, and oppression so loud, loud enough to cower people into silence? My answer is they are loud because they are without any restraint of conscience, empathy, compassion, or love. When a person is devoid of those things, the only holding them back is their own decision to do so. I’m willing to believe that some who talk in an awful way or who have caused harm to others may have tiny shreds of conscience, empathy, compassion, or love inside them. But I don’t believe that’s for other people to reach out and find in those people who live their lives by hate and harm. In the spirit of free will, I believe each person has to find their own way in this world through the good and the bad. Therefore I say to those who have done harm and continue to do so: ask yourself why you think and feel the way you do and keep asking until you find all the answers that you can, but I will warn you that you might not like the answers you find, and sooner or later you will have to deal with them.

I believe the Universe runs more on good than evil. I think our planet here is a good example of that because good has triumphed over evil by the fact that we haven’t nuked our planet into oblivion, and that this little blue ball is still hurtling through space full of life. Yet in order to save this little blue ball of ours, we can’t give up hope for a better life. We can’t choose evil over good. We can’t back down in the face of hate or be drowned out or cowed into silence by voices of hate and harm. We must always strive to live our lives with love, and the reading below shows us the way:

From the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8a):

Brothers and sisters:

Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.

But I shall show you a still more excellent way.

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have

love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.

And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all

mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to

move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over

so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous,

it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own

interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood

over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but

rejoices with the truth.

It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,

endures all things.

Love never fails.

Grief Into Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– John Lewis, tweet from June 2018

Stand or Fall – Shattered Glass Ceilings

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

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

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

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

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

ABSOLUTEY NOTHING!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stand or Fall – The Battle Has Never Ended

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freedom of Choice Under Direct Attack – My Response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choose wisely.

Choose well. And choose with love.

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