It’s like clockwork. All day and all night while I’m off doing something else like driving or whatever, words are banging around inside my head desperate for me to write them. Then I sit down when I have time and they have gone to sleep or left on vacation. Maybe both. Maybe they are sleeping on vacation. In any case, there is a disconnect between when I can write and when my brain has ideas I want to write about. It is a conundrum.
I was driving through Springfield. I saw the sign for Thurston High School. It reminded me of the shooting there. I struggled to remember the boy’s name. Kit? Kid? Kip. Kip Kinkel. I was driving. I asked my 18 year old to look up the date Kip Kinkel shot up Thurston High School. It was May 20, 1998, nearly twenty years ago. He only killed two, and wounded 25. Then came Columbine with its bloodbath of deaths and it is used as the yardstick against which we measure, and Springfield and Thurston High are largely forgotten, as are so many where only a handful are killed. Shortly after the shooting in Florida, an article was going around on social media challenging the allegation that there have been 18 shootings since the first of the year because in some cases no one died, or in others, the shooting was a suicide. I guess if lots of people don’t die or there isn’t outward hate then it doesn’t matter. What a fucking joke.
After Sandy Hook I wrote Safety is a Straw Man. In it I argued that the reason gun control legislation has nothing to do with safety or infringing on rights really, but the profits of the gun industry. Since I wrote that, a few others have said the same thing, but this topic never really comes to the fore. Those who don’t want control put out their memes on social media claiming guns don’t kill people, people do. Those who want gun control put out their memes about how fucking useless are the platitudes on thoughts and prayers. Meanwhile, the politicians and power mongers do nothing because ultimately they know there isn’t a damn thing the population can do about it. If we could, we would have. They keep their place of power, the gun manufacturers keep making their fortunes, and they all laugh at us fighting with one another on their way to the bank.
Yeah, I’m cynical.
I was in my twenties when a mentally ill 15 year old, white, male killed two children and wounded 25 other people in Springfield. I did not have children yet. Now my oldest daughter is 18 and in college and my youngest in school. I have acquired my teaching degree and license, and I have spent hours learning how to react if a school shooting occurs, all the procedures and codes and charts that are essentially about how not to get murdered and to know how and when to hide. A lot of damn time has passed and still nothing has been done. Calls for action. Horrible, heart-wrenching speeches. Hand wringing. Thoughts and prayers (which, if this shit worked, would have by now, one would think). Nothing changes.
To me all of these mass shootings are just another symptom of the brutal dysfunction of the United States. Everything this country stands for is a lie. Our military bases populate the world because the US is the world’s biggest warmonger (Are there German military bases in the US? Are there Japanese military bases in the US? Then why are our military bases there?). It is the bastard child of the almighty imperialist abusers, and it took the lessons of its forebears to heart. Still to this day if those in power want something they take it. The average citizen might not agree with stealing native American burial grounds for oil, but so what? If those in power want it, they take it, and they have the police and enough citizens to agree with them to get it done. The average citizen might know they are suffering under enormous medical debt, but those in power refuse to give up their profits so we can medically take care of ourselves. Average citizens might not want to blow off the tops of mountains or reroute rivers or kill wolves and polar bears, but those in power want what is under the mountain or the water in the river or the land where the wolves and polar bears live, and they take it. Rugged individualism is the lie that one by one, sitting in our bunkers with our guns, we can thrive. On an individual basis, most people in this country are decent and good, but also damaged and traumatized, and victims of damage and trauma have to spend their time taking care of themselves as best they can. They don’t have the ability or confidence that they can stop the almighty US of A and its narcissistic bullying. They know, have been taught since birth, have been brought up and propagandized to believe there is nothing they can do.
So here we sit, twenty years after a damaged boy damaged countless other lives, and it will happen again and again because hand wringing, thinking, and praying doesn’t stop those in power who take what they want when they want it. Guns make a profit. Controlling those guns will slow that profit and those in power will make sure this never happens. This way of being is a cancer on the soul of an ugly nation and an even uglier civilization with a long, ugly history of taking what it wants when it wants it. That we have a “leader” who symbolizes this isn’t an accident. The individual traumas that go unhealed, the wounds we carry and pass on, have created a collective that has metastasized into a place where children are shot up in schools every week, where children are stolen from their parents because they are brown and then shipped to countries they have never been to, where going to have a broken arm fixed costs a month’s wages, where a month’s wages won’t buy shelter and food, where mountaintops are blown off, where oil is sucked and spilled on the ground, where rivers are rerouted, where men can beat and rape their wives and children, but if those women or children kill them in defense, they will spend their lives in prison, where police murder black people just because they are black and suffer no consequences, where…
I could go on and on. The list is so long, the dysfunction of this culture and this country is so pervasive and complete that it is the norm. It shuts people down. It creates more of the same: rampant, hideous narcissism and the consequential dysfunction and trauma. We can only address it if we bring it down to a much smaller level.
Yesterday I saw an article that told the story of one teacher who is stopping gun violence in schools. She isn’t packing a pistol or learning how to better hide. She isn’t doing anything that is a band aid to the problem created by this sort of violence. Daily, she pays attention to her students. She asks the students who they want to sit with and has them write it down. She also asks the students to write little excerpts about how they are feeling. She then analyzes the information on a regular basis to determine which children are being left out, which children are likely the lonely ones, and she addresses these issues individually. One by one, she is trying to find the children who are hurting or lonely, and then goes to them individually to try and assuage their pain. She is bringing down these problems to an individual level to help and heal pain. It isn’t easy, but why should this kind of work be easy?
All of us can do this. In each moment, we can react to that moment, and work not to react to previous moments of pain. Anyone who isn’t so stuck in their own pain and trauma can help those who are. Those who are stuck in pain and trauma can try to heal themselves so that they don’t create pain and trauma for others. We can resist the tyranny of this culture in every way possible. I’m not trying to offer platitudes and comfort for the downtrodden in a single blog post, but I do believe that if enough people stopped hand wringing and blaming and participating in a culture that creates isolation, rage, and damage, we can make some small difference, and this has to be better than what we have now.
Reposting my Valentine’s Day post from ten years ago. It is interesting for me to read. Three days after writing this, I met Isabel’s dad. What a different human I was then. The Valentine’s Day stuff is very interesting, though (although it doesn’t mention the self-flagellation with the skin of goats, which I am positive I have written about at some point on some Valentine’s day). And my unwillingness to be the Martha Stewart of mothers is completely entrenched. Neither child is the worse for wear for it, so no angst there. Also, happy birthday, Oregon! I love you!
Death and Loving
Ah, Valentine’s Day, Valentine’s Day. This is the first year I can ever remember when I haven’t either wanted a romantic Valentine’s Day or the not wanting it isn’t sour grapes. There have been a few of those years, ones where I pretended to myself that I didn’t care but deep down it hurt that there wasn’t someone special to remember the day for me or I had someone who was careless about such things. Right now, I am honestly happy just being who I am and love having my little girl as my Valentine. As a result, this is a really nice Valentine’s Day, at least thus far.
Milla is so sweet. Last night the two of us took heart cookie cutters and cut beeswax hearts for her classmates. We then wrapped them in tissue paper and tied them off with yarn. As is often the case in these sorts of projects, I had the assembly line going. There have been moments in the past where I go off half-cocked trying to be Martha Stewart mom and decided to make 28 Valentines from scratch. 16 Valentines in and 4 hours later I’m ready to slice my wrists with the scissors and poke the glue sticks in my eyes. One year we hand-cut hearts from construction painting paper, then watercolored hearts on each one, then I helped Milla sign her name to each one. It was fun for the first 8 or so, then Milla was getting mad because she was sick of signing her name and I was getting mad because there was paint on the ceiling and walls and we were both ready to kill each other so I’ve learned my lesson. I’m not the Martha Stewart of mothers. Now I know when it comes to large crafty projects making multiples of anything, go for the assembly line approach. These kids won’t know the difference and ninety-percent of them will likely end up in the trash anyway.
So last night Milla and I lined up the wax and started cutting the hearts. Then we piled them up in twos. Then we cut the yarn for the tissue paper. Then we cut the tissue paper into squares. Then we wrapped them and she tied. At one point she tried tying bows but that deteriorated after about 3 sets because it was a huge pain in the ass. The yarn kept getting caught on her fingernails and she’d pull the whole lump out of my hand and we both got irritated so we quit that. We managed to complete the entire project in under an hour, so that was all good. Of course, we got to school this morning and it turns out her teacher doesn’t do a Valentine’s Day exchange, but with my luck if we’d skipped it there would have been an exchange and I would again look like the mother that couldn’t. I’m good at that.
Valentine’s Day is kind of a weird holiday. In some regards it seems almost like Mother’s Day; designed entirely by the greeting card industry to make people spend money. But it has a really cool history and dark side that appeals to me. There are all these legends about who St. Valentine may have been, but in all of them, he’s rescuing someone and doing all these good deeds and as a result, he gets killed off. I suppose that’s the nature of Sainthood, but I find it somewhat ironic that his life is held up as the namesake for a holiday about romantic love. Isn’t the murder of St. Valentine for all his good and loving deeds kind of a perfect analogy on some level for the way we lose ourselves in romantic love? It’s all good if both sides are party to the celebration, but more often than not I think it all ends in despair. And even when both sides are happy about things and ultimately stay together, the romantic part inevitably ends. And most sane people I know are glad that it does. It’s almost like death in some ways to be in that place where you’re so in love you can’t eat or sleep or think or do a damn thing and you might as well be dead. It’s a good thing that part ends or we’d never get anywhere.
Another interesting consideration in the history of St. Valentine is when it’s celebrated. Some say the mid-February date is to commemorate St. Valentine’s death. However others argue it was an active choice on the part of the Christian church to obliterate a pagan festival called Lupercalia. It was one of those native festivals where people prepared their homes for spring and celebrated fertility through a festival to the Roman God of Agriculture. Well, we certainly couldn’t have people worshipping any Agriculture gods, now could we? That would be idolatry. So the Christians murdered off the local religion with a nice little holiday of their own. How special! I do find it quite fascinating that in all the history surrounding Valentine’s Day there is quite a lot of death. And loneliness too. As I understand it, St. Valentine spent his last days in prison before being put to death. There he was trapped in his lonely heart and then he was killed. Wow.
On that special note, I think I’ll sign off. Someone I know told me he likes my blogs because I just go on my rant without making a point. Yep. That’s me. Pointless. Ha! Well, I have a point today, and that’s to enjoy the beautiful girl I made while in the throes of romantic love that ended with a sputter. Her father and I may have our differences, but if I could go back and choose whether or not to toss that condom across the room (Yes, mom. That’s what happened. It didn’t break like I told you.), I would do it again in a heartbeat because the love I have for her is better than any romantic love I’ve ever experienced. I suppose that’s the point, though, isn’t it? To fall in romantic love so you breed, have children, and ensure the continuation of the species. Who cares if the species grows up, falls in love, and ends up killed over it. As long as the breeding took place and the children were born first, it’s all good, right? Kind of senseless and weird, but it must work or we wouldn’t have a population explosion.
A small boy’s father abuses and rapes his mother. This goes on for years until the mother kills herself. The boy can’t imagine being a man. Men hurt. He doesn’t want to be one so he changes his name, his clothes, his hair, and becomes a girl. Girls might get hurt, but they aren’t rapists.
A girl is molested by her uncle. For years he sneaks into her bedroom and rapes her. Finally, at age thirteen, she decides to tell her father, hoping he will stop his brother from doing these things. She works up her courage and goes to him. He looks at her like she is insane and tells her to stop making up stories. He tells her that if any of what she says is true, it’s because she asked for it. He tells her that girls are for men to have sex with so she should just grow up and go with the flow. Feeling destroyed, she determines that she will not be a woman. She changes her name, her clothes, her hair, and becomes a man. If she isn’t a girl, then she can’t be hurt.
A young boy feels alienated from his peers. His parents divorced when he was five, and he hasn’t felt quite right since. His mother and her new husband are extremely conservative. They make him go to church four times a week, which he hates. The church tells him homosexuality is a sin and that homosexuals will die in the fiery bowels of hell. He knows he likes boys, and is scared that he might go to hell. His father is more supportive, but he only gets to stay with his father every other weekend. There is a group of kids at his school who tell him that he doesn’t have to be a boy. He can become a girl. He can change his identity. He decides to do this. At least if he becomes a girl then he won’t end up in hell for liking boys.
There are many reasons why biological males wish to be female and vice versa. For many, the desire to be something different comes from a place of pain and trauma. The change in identity becomes a way to deal with the hurt, an attempt to heal a wound that feels almost too deep to ameliorate. It is difficult not to sympathize with the person in this situation, to feel empathy and compassion for their pain. It is from this place of compassion that most people support identity changes. It is automatically assumed that someone who is making such a change must need to (otherwise, why would they do it?), and why not support this?
What has followed is that well-meaning people, in an attempt to show compassion for victims of trauma, label their bathrooms for “those who identify,” or cheer in victory when a trans person is elected or appointed into a place of power. Yet I very much doubt that when Unitarian churches added “or those who identify” to their female bathrooms they gave much thought to the female who had been raped and didn’t want to share an intimate space with a male, even if that male was traumatized as well. I very much doubt it was their intention to sweep thousands of years of male oppression under the rug when they allowed males into this female-only space. Unfortunately, though, that’s exactly what they did. And this is a problem.
What is essentially eliminated in these actions are the thousands of years of normalized violence against females (usually by heterosexual males). (There has been so much hand-wringing and exclaiming over the sheer numbers of #metoos, when really, what should be surprising is if there are any women left who haven’t experienced some form of violence or oppression.) The real tragedy is that oppression and violence are common. It is normalized in most places. It results in continuing trauma and violence against anyone who doesn’t conform to strict norms and often excused by systems that exacerbate and were created to keep things the way they are. Most of the time, the need to change one’s sexual identity is because of this normalized violence and oppression. If we didn’t live in a world where fathers raped mothers, or people think homosexuals should burn in hell, or uncles (or fathers or brothers and on and on) molested children, there would likely be no need to cut off breasts or penises to escape the pain.
Yet some men decide they want to become women, and although they may be doing so because they were the victims of violence, for whatever reason they use their reaction as an excuse to be controlling and violent. This very vocal and very abusive group of males who call themselves trans women are violent and abusive to anyone who supports female-only spaces or anyone who calls for an end to violence against women, or even anyone who has the temerity to suggest that they have experienced sexual violence, as if the violence of the trans person is the only violence that counts, and if they speak out about their own personal experiences, they should have more violence done to them. These trans activists have managed to get all the progressives to agree with them, using the compassion people feel for those who have suffered trauma and pain to get them to automatically jump on board with anything trans, without really putting any kind of critical thought into what is being done. Any statements questioning the means of acceptance of trans people are automatically labeled transphobic. Any questions on the subject are automatically shut down. Any attempt to engage or explain is stopped through force with name calling, threats of violence, and in some cases, actual violence. Any stories of one’s own experiences of pain and trauma are belittled and shamed. These perpetrators of violence and threats are males who have decided that they are female and therefore they want access to female experience and female spaces, and they don’t like being told no. When females question their intrusions into female experiences and spaces, their response is decidedly male when they start talking about committing rape or murder against those who would dare to question them.
Here are some examples:
A long time social justice activist, socialist, Green, and civil rights lawyer was cyberbullied on social media by a group of trans-activists and their supporters. The bullies called her a TERF (“Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist”). They called her a “Nazi.” They called her a “rapist.” They called her a “racist.” They called her a supporter of “genocide” and a hateful bigot who deserved to die. Several people contacted her employer in an unsuccessful attempt to get her fired from her job. The reasons for these hateful actions were that she had written that people who are born as female are oppressed on the basis of being female, and that males often do not recognize this. That’s it.
A woman ran for the school board in Minnesota, hoping to fix problems like lead in drinking water and improving the quality of education. She also took a strong stand against school bullying, including on the basis of gender identity. Because she expressed gender-critical views, within 24 hours of announcing her candidacy, bullies began attacking her. On social media she was called a “loathsome snake” who spreads “venom” and “hate.” One person told her to go home and masturbate. She was threatened with death. Ultimately, she dropped out of the school board race because she couldn’t focus on the issues that were important to her.
The reality is that women have experienced violence at the hands of men for as long as there has been civilization and men pretending to be women are no exception when it comes to perpetrating violence.
What has happened is that a rather large number of people who support these people who have attempted to change their biological sex identity, in their attempt to be “supportive,” automatically presume that anyone who questions the policies and actions of trans persons must automatically be “transphobic,” and that they can have no valid purpose or argument. The efforts to be inclusive have turned truly bizarre. Major midwife groups have changed their guidelines to take women out of their language, changing “woman” to “person” in order not to exclude transmen (women who consider themselves men (as if somehow they are no longer women, so using the word woman would exclude them)). Young males decide to become females and are then allowed to participate in sports as females, their male physical bodies and strengths notwithstanding. A city in Canada passed an ordinance where misgendering someone can get you fined. Parents give children as young as four irreversible sex hormones because the child thinks they might be a boy instead of a girl or vice versa (apparently a child can make a decision this drastic this young, but they don’t have the judgment to drink alcohol before they’re 21?). It is the world of Animal Farm on steroids. Say it is so and it is so, even when reality says otherwise.
When actress Rose McGowan spoke out about the abuse she suffered and that millions of women suffer daily, a trans woman screamed her down. He disagreed with some remarks she had made in the prior year stating that the experiences of trans women are not the same as biological women. Essentially, his argument was that his experiences and those of others like him should override all others’ experiences of trauma and abuse. Rather than support McGowan in her willingness to come forward and describe her experiences as an assault survivor, Seattle Arts and Lectures cancelled her speech. In today’s world, speaking one’s truth about an experience that half the population lives with on a daily basis isn’t enough. That experience must be truncated by the male experience and if it isn’t, it will be silenced.
We must not conflate the taking care of those who have been traumatized with the desire of abusers to act with violence and cruelty against those they want to control. The mistake so many well-meaning people make is to assume that because someone is trans that they are automatically to be supported and that their version is the only truth. People must stop claiming that speaking out for women, calling for protection of female-only spaces, and ending violence against women is transphobic. Just because someone calls a person a transphobe doesn’t mean that person is a transphobe. People must stop believing that describing our experiences somehow negates those of a trans person who has been harmed. It is possible for the two to exist simultaneously. It is even possible to understand that the two are sides of the same coin. However we will never get to that discussion as long as those who have some genuine criticism to offer are automatically shut down (or shouted down, or beaten down, or shut out). There are real issues around transgenderism that should be discussed without fear of repercussion against those who think there are major problems with allowing men into women-only spaces, with making biological changes to children, and with erasing women by claiming that biological sex is a choice and social construct and not biological reality. This doesn’t discount those who have experienced abuse and trauma, it just adds a sorely needed dose of reality to a world that increasingly seems hell bent on insanity.
1. Do you believe that being born with the kind of body that has the potential to gestate children – a body with a uterus, ovaries, and a vagina – is of any political significance? Does having that kind of body have any bearing on a person’s likely opportunities and outcomes?
2. Do you believe that people born with those kinds of bodies have historically been subject to any distinct forms of injustice, oppression, exploitation or discrimination? Have they historically been subordinated to the people with penises and testes?
3. Do you believe that people born with those kinds of bodies continue to be subject to any distinct forms of injustice, oppression, exploitation or discrimination?
4. Do you believe that people born with those kinds of bodies often suffer physical and sexual violence, abuse and harassment perpetrated by the people with penises and testes?
5. Do you believe that people…
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Are there toothbrush design teams? What I’m wondering is if there are people whose job is to design various toothbrushes. These people would come up with bristle thickness and placement, handle designs, widths, colors, etc. Then they would get together with other designers from the same company and decide which ones to make. Or maybe all the toothbrush designs have already happened so now companies just pull from old archives. Maybe they can mix and match, take brush heads from one design, mix with handles from another, and colors from yet another, to create a brand new toothbrush. They could have multiple options, depending on how many choices they have to pull from.
I wonder if there are toothbrush wars. Oral B, Colgate, Gum, Sonicare, Reach, or Crest (I’m sure I left some out) having it out over whose design was theirs. The way corporations are–the truly litigious among us and NOT average citizens as those who would silence us would have us believe–I would not be surprised. There could be a movie about it, with corporate moles sneaking into the design rooms of other companies to take their toothbrush secrets. It’s fascinating to contemplate.
Actually, as I began to contemplate this, I did a little internets searching and discovered many Chinese companies selling toothbrushes in massive bulk. You can get “cheap” toothbrushes for 15 cents apiece. You just have to buy 30,000 of them. What a great deal! I can just imagine the island of plastic these will create in the ocean. Colorful and massive. Ooh! I can get a bamboo toothbrush for only 25 cents, and I only have to buy one! What a great deal.
Further searching produced a site dedicated specifically to toothbrush designers who wish to avoid “ugly” toothbrushes. My god. A perusal of this is like viewing a microcosm of so much that is wrong in civilization today, with its hyper dependence on technology and ability to spend time in useless ways. There are toothbrushes you can connect to your phone to “track” your brushing. And toothbrushes that play music so you’ll brush longer. Toothbrushes that clean with “nanotech ions” instead of toothpaste. Minimalist toothbrushes that are alternatives to “ugly” toothbrushes. Toothbrushes with “two-tone” bristles because you know, the two tones in the average drugstore toothbrushes are so last decade. There was even a toothbrush with a hole and a tunnel in the arm so you could run water into it, thereby creating a toothbrush water fountain. My, oh my. Oh! And a special, “functional” package to carry around your tooth-cleaning twig, should you be so inclined.
The ways in which humanity entertains itself. It boggles the mind.
I had no idea. I just had a silly idea to wonder about toothbrush designers because last week my old toothbrush wasn’t doing its job (I always know it’s time to switch when the back of my teeth still feel fuzzy after brushing) so I went to my toothbrush stash (yes, I admit, I have a stash) and picked out another toothbrush. I used it for a few days but it was so harsh on my gums I went to the stash and exchanged it for one that turned out to be identical to the one I had replaced. The prior one had an enormous head and a clunky handle with even clunkier primary colors. The bristles were super stiff. It hurt to use, even gently. I’m not sure whose mouth it was intended for. A horse? The other toothbrush has a delicate small head with soft bristles (in only one color–the shame!) and a two-tone, smaller handle. All this led to the thought process behind this post and now here I am. I have whiled away 20 minutes and know more than I ever thought I would about toothbrushes. I can’t even believe the crap that is out there for people to waste their money on. No wonder Earth is covered in garbage.
I love chocolate. Specifically I love dark chocolate. I do not really care for milk chocolate. I love hot chocolate, too.
I also like shelled pistachios. I don’t mind the shelled kind, but the delayed gratification aspect of eating them with shells on can be slightly frustrating. Also if the shelled kind are salty, my lips hurt after a bit when I eat them.
I really love ginger beer and ginger ale. The best kinds are the ones with lots of ginger in them. That Seagram’s crap shouldn’t even be allowed to call itself ginger ale–there isn’t any ginger in it! My best favorite right now is Bundaberg ginger beer. Oh, my. It is simply delicious.
Sometimes when I’m at the barn I nibble on pieces of hay. I really love alfalfa. It’s got a good, grassy taste and it’s kind of heavy. It is good to have a piece between my teeth while brushing my horse.
These are my observations for today on things I like to eat.