Sunday, December 14, 2014

Another Thug

It’s been really hard for me to figure out what to write lately, because I feel like the thing I need to talk about is Ferguson.  Brooklyn. Cleveland.  But I don’t want to talk about these things because nobody will think differently.  People will just evaluate what I say against their own firmly-entrenched beliefs, and, if they agree with it, support it, and if they disagree with it, give me ten thousand reasons why mentioning racism is, in fact, racist, and “thugs” deserve it, and, implicitly, that black people are shiftless, lazy leaches, and a drain on society.  Yes, I’ve heard it all before. 

So, I’m not going to talk about it. 

Here’s what I’m going to talk about instead:

When my son turned 16 and got his license, I sat him down and had a talk with him.  “If you’re ever pulled over,” I said, “you need to put your hands where the officer can see them.  You need to say, ‘yes, sir,’ and ‘no, sir.’  You need to keep your voice calm.”  Did I say this because I was worried about his manners?  No.  His manners are beautiful.  But my son is mixed, and it is a fact that black people are more likely to be pulled over and arrested than white people. 

Now some may say, “That’s because they’re more likely to be doing bad things.”  Really?  How do you know that?  If white people aren’t being checked, then how do we know anything about the good or bad things they’re doing?  But none of that matters to me.  What matters to me is keeping my son safe.  And I felt, as a mother, that I had to say this.  

And when my son went to college, I said to him – in fact I wrote it in this blog – “If you are at a party and the police show up, you WILL be arrested.”  Did I say that because I questioned his ability to be responsible in college?  Not at all.  I said it because he is mixed, and I know that, when there’s a group of people, the immediate suspect is the black guy.  And because I wanted my son to be safe, I gave him that information.  I told him that his right to speak his mind, to question the police, to in any way contradict them….well, he didn’t have that right.  Because the police don’t like being talked back to by black people.  Everyone knows that. 

And you may be saying, “You’re just paranoid.”  Except that I’m not.  My son has gotten pulled over plenty of times for no reason.  He was subject to a Terry frisk at college, for the suspicious behavior of standing with a backpack.  He’s a good kid, but he has to have the same wariness, the same watchfulness, the same worry as any black person, because….well, because people fear black people, and people distrust people, and black people are subject to a different standard than white people.  All black people. 


I’m not talking about Ferguson.  I’m not talking about Cleveland.  I’m not talking about Brooklyn.  I’m talking about a kid who was kicked out of a friend’s house by a drunk mother who didn’t want a black kid in her house.  A kid who has to listen to the “I’m not racist, but since I’m white, and I’ve never experienced racism, you haven’t either,” from his own relatives.  A kid who, were he murdered by the police, would be called a “thug” by countless morons on the internet.  I’m talking about my son.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Merry Christmas - You're Doing it Wrong

Here’s what I hate about Christmas, aside from green beans: how everyone always tells me how I’m celebrating it wrong.  If it’s not people demanding that I keep Christ the fuck in Christmas, it’s the losers who have to make everything into a competition and win Christmas.   Oh, and then there are the people who insist that I buy everything local, avoid Wal-Mart, spend time with the dumb people I love, make homemade everything, or do nothing at all, and ONLY read an obscure poem.  That they wrote.  I can’t hack it, people!

And I’ve been trying lately to understand why people have to have everyone do the exact same as they do. Like the “Christ in Christmas” people.  What are you so worried about? That people will mistake a candy cane for Jesus?  I just never read the part of the Bible where Jesus said,  “And I say unto you, that on each year, you will celebrate my birth with extra church and, by the way, if any philistine tries to ‘Seasons Greetings’ you, I command you to smite them with a frosty, ‘It’s Merry Christmas, bitches.’”  Although I have to say, I may have missed that part.  Most of my Catholic education focused on the leper-washing, wine-drinking Jesus, not the prune-faced dickhead. 

But don’t think you hipster agnostics are off the hook, either.  I am SO over you all demanding that I shop local.  Sometimes locals suck.  You know a local who sucks?  Liz Lessner.  Fuck you, Liz Lessner and your extra salty food, I’m glad you’re moving away.  But also: I don’t need all the soap/honey/hammered steel bracelets/crocheted purses/other useless stuff that’s made locally.  I need mass-produced and inexpensive things, preferably made by Indonesian children, because THAT’S WHAT CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT.  No, seriously, until the local folks can make sweaters and skinny jeans for 6’4” tall 21-year-old young men that don’t cost 1 million dollars, I’m getting my stuff online.  I AM SORRY, OKAY?

Last, I don’t need anyone posting pictures on Facebook of their families with the caption, “This is what the holidays are all about.”  Families can make you twitchy sometimes, with their weird politics and dumb life choices and mannerless kids or whatever.  For some people, a merry Christmas means having a couple of days off of work, watching a Law and Order SVU marathon, and getting drunk on Kahlua.  Who are we to judge?  And stop bragging about your 70-degree temperatures, non-Ohioans!!!!  WE GET IT, YOU’RE WARM! 


We are in a tender place right now in this country.  One party just got smashed in an election, people feel misunderstood in their own communities, and God keeps punishing OSU quarterbacks. We don’t need to foment more misery by forcing our own ideology of how the holidays – and I mean whatever holiday you do or don’t celebrate – should be celebrated.  Just try to be nice, okay?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

An Incredible Lack of Empathy

I was reading the USAToday.com this morning, and the headline was that Marion Barry had died.  He was 78, and not in good health, but all the same, it was unexpected, and I am sure that his loved ones and family are feeling pretty sad right now. So imagine my surprise when I scrolled down to the comments, expecting condolences, and saw the following:

“Good riddance! Now come back and take some more undesirables with you, like Obama, Biden, Reid, Pelosi, Sharpton.”

“Thank goodness he’s gone.  He surely won’t be missed.”

“The world is now a little bit better without that crook.”

“I hope this is a good start.  Next up: the Clintons.”

And on and on and on.  Now, I know that I have bemoaned the utter assholery of USAToday comment posters before, but sadly, this merely echoes what I see on Facebook, Twitter, read in the news, and hear in conversation.  And it’s ugly, and it’s heartless, and it is a blatant rejection of empathy. 

Here is another example: you know those poor parents who lost their child in Ferguson?  The Browns?  Well, the mayor of St. Louis invited them to take part in a tradition of handing out Thanksgiving turkeys to those who can’t afford it.  Mr. Brown said that it was healing for him to help others, especially since so many others had supported him in his grieving.  Here were some of the comments:

“His biggest turkey is pushing up daisies.”

“How about they give back to the store owner the college bound baby robbed?”

“FREE food for future RIOTERS???”

(This next one from a poster who purports to be from Columbia University) “He should do something to give back. UM, robbery with a gun or a dead son who robbed. Son robbed the store and the turkey got plucked. the father used his turkey son and robbed us and we got F*********”

And on and on.  Now, just a reminder, these are PARENTS who lost their SON, and who are HANDING OUT TURKEYS.  TURKEYS!!!!  The absolute lack of empathy is deafening. 

And I guess this is what I don’t understand: what is the benefit of being so obtuse, so small, so hateful?  Who is it helping?  What feeling do people have in their soul that can only be satisfied by this kind of callousness?  If I only saw this shit from strangers, then I would figure it was just a fringe segment of the human race, using to full advantage their ability to speak to a broader public.  But I see this shit from people I know:  Women who get raped should know better than to dress like that.  Deport all the illegals.  Arm yourself against the Ferguson protesters, because, God knows, black people are dangerous.  Fuck the poor who dare to want healthcare.  Bomb the Middle East back to the Stone Age, because it’s not like they have children or non-terrorists there.

This lack of empathy is a sickness.  But it’s a sickness with a cure.  Anyone can learn empathy.  It just takes imagining how other people might feel.  Give it a try.    

And rest in peace, Mr. Barry. 




Monday, November 17, 2014

How to Lose Your Woman

Someone posted this article, titled, “How to Lose the Woman You Love for Good” on Facebook the other day, and it made me want to vomit.  It should be titled, “What Stereotypical Women Want.”  Listen, I don’t believe that women and men are the exact same thing, but I also don’t think that women are so fucking simple.  Here are five suggestions from this article, along with some gems in quotes, along with my response:

1. Stop doing the little things like holding her hand and looking into her eyes “Touching her hair, letting distractions pass when she’s talking, and kissing her goodbye are the golden moments she lingers over in her mind’s eye when you’re away.”   Golden moments she lingers over?  No.  You know, it’s possible that the golden moments she lingers over are her own successes and accomplishments, or good conversations or fun times you’ve had together.  I’ve never met a woman who said, “Thank God my man touches my hair, it really lets me know he cares.”

2. Don’t ask her questions or get to know herFor a short period of time, you might be able to hold her attention through flattery of her physical appearance, but women are smart and they’ll eventually sense the emptiness of your connection.”  Incorrect.  Please flatter my physical appearance a lot.  Also: I know I’m smart, and you being physically attracted to me does not lessen that.  It’s not an either/or.  Again, continue with the flattery. 

3. Don’t listen to her when she talks to you or even better yet, interrupt when she’s sharing her heart with corrections to her thinking and answers for her problems - Women solve problems and soothe their own stress by talking to someone that will listen. If you don’t hear her out, she will talk faster and faster repeating herself over and over again, getting louder and more emotional until she just finally stops trying.”  Getting louder and more emotional?  Is that, perhaps, because you’re having a robust dialogue?  As noted above, “women are smart,” and can totally take someone challenging our thinking.  We’re also smart enough to start a sentence this way, “I just want you to listen here, not offer suggestions,” if that’s what we want.  As far as this, “soothe their own stress by talking,” that is a gross supposition to apply that to all women.  You want to know how I soothe my own stress?  I hit the fucking treadmill, hard.  God. 

4. Don’t allow her to feel safe and relax into your love“When a woman is falling deeper into love with you she will push back a bit, test you and question your actions, words and motives to see if you’re the real deal.”  Barf.  Oh, the women, we need to set up the tests.  Because, you know, we’re women, and we can’t just say what we want or feel.  And what does that even mean, “relax into your love?” You want me to relax?  Don’t be a dick.  Period.

5. Don’t make her special or allow her to relax into knowing she’s your womanBy keeping the doorway open to many others through Facebook flirts and cute little text, you’ll ensure that there’s nothing special between the two of you other than sex.”  Actually, I am a secure goddamn woman, and I can take it if you want to, you know, have friends who are women.  And I’m also smart enough to know that a man who’s going to take up with another woman is going to do so whether I am a loser who doesn’t even want him to so much as text another woman, or I let him do whatever he wants.  And again, what’s with the “relax into?”  Wait, there’s more: I am my own woman, not anybody else’s.  I don’t need to be labeled as someone else’s belonging to feel okay.  Really. 

Bottom line: Women are not fragile flowers, constantly in a state of anxiety, and unable to articulate our actual thoughts and feelings. This kind of “women are sensitive and mercurial creatures” writing does nothing to emphasize that women are strong people, capable of managing ourselves and speaking our minds exactly as well as the boys. 

 







Saturday, November 8, 2014

#Pointergate

There is this thing happening in Minneapolis right now, called Pointergate.  Google it; I’m telling the truth.  So, here’s what happened:

The Mayor of Minneapolis, Betsy Hodges, who looks exactly like a middle-school PTO mom who runs half-marathons, went over to a get-out-the-vote event, held, or at least supported, by a group called Neighborhoods Organizing for Change.  With me so far?

One of the employees of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change was a man who had a perspective that was probably helpful to the organization, in that he was a guy who had been a criminal, and had done time in the pokey.  This man, Navell Gordon, and the Mayor posed for a photo op (after all, this guy is an example of someone turning his fucking life around.  He can’t even vote, but he is trying to get others who have that right to use it), and in the photo op, the two pointed at each other like so.  I think I have several pictures of myself like that.  This is still not the problem.

But in case you’re not following along so good, allow me to recap:

Mayor visiting get-out-the-vote effort – totally okay
Get-out-the-vote effort – totally okay
Convict doing time and being released from prison – okay + Constitutional
Former convict getting job – totally okay and even desirable
Former convict and mayor posing for picture together – okay!
Former convict and mayor using goofy hand gesture – sure, totally okay

HERE is the problem: this FUCKING ASSHOLE by the name of Jay Kolls, who works for Minneapolis TV station KSTP, decided to spin the story with this lead-in:

“5 Eyewitness News has obtained a photo of Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges posing with a convicted felon while flashing a known gang sign.” 

I shit you not, that’s the way this was spun.  A known gang sign.  Did you see the picture?  Look at it again.  Does this look like a gang sign?  Do you think the intent was to “flash” a “known” gang sign?  What message was the mayor trying to send?  Gangs, come to Minneapolis for the Jucy Lucy and stay for the vibrant gang scene?  That she, herself is part of a gang?  That she condones gang behavior?  And what of the young man, who was WORKING TO SERVE ONE OF THE CORNERSTONES OF OUR GREAT NATION, despite the fact that, as a convicted felon, his right to vote was stripped from him? 

This story was not about journalism.  It was about journalists and a news organization who have completely lost the thread.  This video shows the actual work that Mayor Hodges and Navell Gordon did.  What KSTP did was foment fear and suspicion, which was absolutely not their job. 

However, on the off-chance that they were correct, I’d like to make you aware of a bunch of other people throwing known gang signs: Here’s Minneapolis native Prince, known gangsta Garth Brooks, this criminal baby, these creeps, known leader of the "Gang of Twelve",  no one should be surprised by this guy, but also this guy and this guy, and, of course, this guy.  Damn.  Maybe we should be worried.