Posts Tagged ‘social justice’

Why #cancersucks, the #TracyMafia rocks and the past month (or so).

April 17, 2014

In the most obvious statement, cancer sucks. I hate it. Aside from the most isolated research biochemist who has the social skills of a dead tree on the planet, who is going to run around saying yeah cancer! (The idea of doing that reminds me of a professor at Hollins who mocked Nancy Regan and her “Just say No!” Campaign because where we really going to tell our kids to go get high? He then paused and said that might not be a bad f’ing idea). I digress.

Tax day was the anniversary of The Marathon Bombings. Like many who live in and around Boston, I’ve begun to grasp what New Yorkers went through on September 11, 2001. The interwebs crawled with the more than normal narcissism of Bostonites and how other towns did things one way versus another. Whatever. Even growing up in the Chicago ‘burbs, the Boston Marathon has its aura. I mean, we run 26.2 miles to celebrate starting a country. We are slightly crazy. We don’t go through Lexington and Concord. Nope we wind through a few towns and turn left on Boylston to finish mid-block on the third Monday in April because you know, that makes sense. Oh, and you have to qualify by running an aged based time and even then you have to win the lottery. Uh, yeah ok, like I said it was the more than normal narcissism of Bostonites. Basically, we want to have a 26.2 mile drinking party and created an event that involves a baseball game getting out as the “commoners” are making that turn. That, my un-Boston friends, is the Marathon. And last year, 2 jackasses killed 4, injured hundreds and basically made this town turn into a giant how can I help on twitter feed. And ok, we’ll stay inside when you want to find the terrorists. (Seriously, it was strange, but live through a New England winter, it was a Nor’easter minus the snow complete with whackadoodle TV coverage). So yesterday when everybody started to descend on the city, I found myself in tears a few times.

I realized later that night: April 15, 2013 was the last time my mom was my MOM in that nothing can fix this but I need my mom sort of way. I was a few days out of a major shoulder surgery, in a bit of a narcotic haze and then they blew up our block party. And I freaked and started doing a lesson learned of 9/11 in texting, tweeting, facebooking: Mom and I are safe, didn’t go to the Marathon today. I played a twitter find shelter give directions with a California friend, called my sister to tell her to TELL the medium sized girls before turning on the car. And I cried, I was angry, I was scared. And I spoke in the strange half sentences like “Omg that is right by the place where, I don’t get it, I mean, it’s the Marathon” and my mom just watched the news and said they’d catch who did it. She could not say much to console me; she didn’t even try and for one of the rare times in my life, I was glad my mom was here because my mom told me they’d get the bad guys so everything would be ok (I’m going with the theory that the Percocet haze helped this work because the idea that I fell for it is lunacy!).

Somewhere along the line late last summer, I knew my mom’s cancer was back. I cannot pinpoint it, she said her reports were good but I did not like the way she looked. Or coughed. There was something off. And because I’m insane I saw a friend posting on FB about running his first marathon …. After picking up running as a lifestyle change after his second surgery for cancer and did anybody want to run the Philly marathon with him. Not for a cause but just to train and run. I laughed a bit as Tracy was pleading in his Tracy way and I finally said, hey I just registered for the half to walk it. The response from just about everybody: you’re NUTS. (Ha! I said nuts!).

You have to understand Tracy: he married a college classmate of mine. He then voluntarily attends class reunions. Of hundreds of screaming women who drink too much wine and act like idiots. I don’t think he’s missed one: our college doesn’t have a mascot. But our class has Tracy. We get our hair and fashion tips from him (and so do lots of other people). And bacon reviews. And there is something about not liking pie. As in the dessert but Whopie Pies are trick pies because they have frosting. Basically, he is the younger brother/older brother/best friend/half of the most positive couple you’ve ever met type of person. We chatted in Philly about his cancer, my mom’s cancer and how much cancer sucks.

And then my mom died. Who starts to reach out? While quietly finding out his own news? T and his wife. People who’ve walked in the shoes I stood in who had EVERY reason to make a quick hang in there, I’m here for you post and allow what they knew would come out to stand as the reason because we’ve known each other that long. But they didn’t. That’s why cancer sucks. Cancer doesn’t go out and use natural selection. Cancer can be so random, so unfair.

I think we both did a half marathon (I use the word ‘both’ so liberally) the weekend he let people know of the cancer returning. I was sick, I was pissed and the smart person wouldn’t have been at Hyannis. I do not know how he was feeling but there was a lamentation on not being under 2:00 in Rhode Island that same weekend. I will lay money there have been tears and anger and all of that: but the quintessential New England response was FU cancer. I have my family, friends and my very own mafia. I have to travel. I have to run half marathons (while trying to con my wife into one on FB) and I really want to run NYC (and probably secretly qualify for Boston because you know, I’m a Sox Fan).

I remembered Steven Colbert’s opening remarks on 4/16/2013: after running a marathon they went to give blood. That’s the type of person Tracy is. That’s the type of person his wife is. That’s how my mom was. There are people like me who float around in corporate America and then there are people out there advocating against the injustices that we layer or are layered upon us by genetics or circumstance. And when a person who works for the greater good is dealt such a blow, you want David Ortiz to say and FU for them. Because it hurts. It hurts where you don’t know it can hurt just when you thought you were done with the hurting.

Then you look back at the reaction to the news: Ok, I’ll deal with it. I’ll have surgery and in-between finding out and surgery, “squeeze” in 4 half marathon’s (including under the 2:00 barrier!) and a few 5K’s. And the other way: curl up at 3 am wondering if there is sleep, wander through a half marathon in a time that a snail would be embarrassed by and say it sucks as a mantra.

Today is not going to suck. Today the mafia don kicks cancers ass. Tomorrow, he starts training for Richmond (where we know he’s secretly going for a Boston qualifying time, a Ranger’s Stanley Cup and some free hair conditioner). And I’m wearing a blue shirt with tan pants. I will think about all of my friends whose shoes I’m standing next to in fighting the fight. I love you all very much.

When Extreme Liberalism Finds the Touching Point of Extreme Conservatism in a Church Function

March 31, 2014

Hopping mad. Like the Easter Bunny had nothing on me. That was how I drove home last night in the pouring rain. I attended a book group meeting. I had not been for the past few months (for obvious reasons). We are reading Saving Jesus from the Church which I happen to like. Like as in I haven’t stopped reading it out of boredom or over reliance on dead German theologians. I left about ready to punch a wall. Preferably brick. Preferably hard.

Why? I was lectured on “white privilege” by a white, heterosexual male who is working on his PhD at a university that starts with H and has a yard you (can’t really) park your car in. Excuse me? If anything defines white privilege MORE than an Ivy (or Chicago or Stanford) degree, I’m a bit surprised. Somehow we wound up on the topic which basically brushed up against a personal example of shibboleth. And that is where the extreme left met the extreme right in the Christian realm. I mostly kept quiet: I’m in that state of having beliefs challenged and rethought. I’ve always questioned the dichotomy of heaven and hell and the idea of forgiveness then mix in my mom dying? I was pressed a bit. I said, I’m not out to question anybody’s religion. I’m Christian because I was born to Christians, raised in a fairly liberal church but if I was Jordanian, I’d probably be Muslim. Shrug.

It doesn’t bother me. I lost track of the conversation as it was veering to the point that my lack of interest became apparent to the host. It isn’t fair when the host is a law professor. She asked me what I was thinking. I said the words that REALLY aren’t welcome in a lot of gatherings. I’m not sure it really matters to me if Jesus was a real person or merely an archetype or a narrative of a movement. Silence. What? One person said but the gospels were only written something like thirty years after Jesus died. (Never mind life span, the fact they contradict each other and John I swear was written after drinking some wine). I said it didn’t bother me if Jesus was real: it’s the message. I don’t know about works versus deeds. Or predestination. Or the bazillion interpretations we have all seem to come up with when reading one part of a correspondence and how the structure of the church doesn’t have the entire sacred text read in a 3 year cycle. It doesn’t matter to me. I can very easily profess my faith without having to know that.

You would have thought I had traded David Ortiz.

The PhD in ethics want to be said something like “how can you not feel called to seek justice” (uh, I didn’t say I didn’t) and how can I be ok with not being bothered by religions that are not tolerant to women or LGBTQI people? I said, well, if that bothered me I couldn’t be a Christian.

You really would have thought I had traded David Ortiz to the Yankees.

I pointed out he was ordained Southern Baptist and they don’t allow the ordination of women, let alone non-heterosexual individuals. How could he stay in the church (apparently he’s working for change which since he works for on UCC church and attends the same UCC church I do, I’m NOT really sure how he’s going to change the SBC)? I said it wasn’t my place to call somebody out for being a member of a tradition I disagreed with: maybe that is my deep belief in The Constitution. I don’t care if somebody holds different beliefs than I do: I do care if they seek to harm another. But I’m not going to go up to an Amish person and criticize their beliefs as much as I’m not going to say to a Catholic friend how I don’t see how she can stay with her church to a Muslim friend, you know, your sister shouldn’t have to wear a head scarf. The wide swath of the middle of really almost any faith tradition is fine with me. Fringes cause the problems.
I know I’m cranky. But I don’t need a guy telling me I need to be offended because something oppresses women: I think I can navigate that one on my own. I don’t need to be told I should work for the tolerance of LGBTQI individuals (no, really, I LIKE being a second class citizen with the perks and all).

Madder than a rabid Easter Bunny? Yeah, that is where I was when I left. And I am still irked today: we don’t get anywhere by telling people WHAT to believe. We only get there when we work to removing barriers. And I don’t know of a tradition that call for oppression of people. But then again, I won’t have a degree from that side of the river.

Food waste? Thoughts for the New Year

January 1, 2014
It's what's for dinner

It’s what’s for dinner

 

I read somewhere along the way that Americans waste approximately 40% the food they bring into their homes (I’m not sure if the statistic is true but it brought home a point).  How much to we ‘over buy’ at the grocery if we have the luxury? One of my lame-ass New Year’s Day traditions is to clean out my refrigerator.  I was shocked to see what I tossed:  odds and ends of cheeses, a few science experiments, long ago expired milk (in defense, I did buy the smallest container available for one item and I just don’t drink the stuff).  I made a quasi-resolution.  I’m going to eat what is in my freezer, pantry, fridge before heading to the farmers market.  Yes, there will be some things that I need to buy but I was stunned what I had versus what I thought I needed to go buy.  Dinner/lunch for the reset of the week is above:  a pork roast done in the crock pot with balsamic vinegar, onions and honey.  Mashed potatoes.  I do need to pick up salad stuff (but trust me when I say that will wait until the snow has past!).  Also cooked for the week ahead? A chard/corn/cheese frittata for breakfast.  And with the exception of the cheese and balsamic vinegar? All locally sourced.

 

I have no idea how long this experiment will last: fresh vegetables are hard to find in New England this time of year.  It will be an interesting, creative experiment.  If anything, it might help me learn what I actually eat versus buy because “it was a great price”.  But right now I’m mourning the mac and cheese I could have made had I only been paying attention!

You say #Trayvon, I hear Evan.

July 14, 2013

Every time I hear the name Trayvon Martin, my mind changes it to Evan.  Evan is my towheaded perfectly adorable nephew who happens to be bi-racial.  There are plenty of times I’ve been out with my brother and his family and observed racism.  I’ve wanted to scream (on more than one occasion) after I’ve noticed my brother and sister-in-law being followed in box stores “They are BOTH better educated than you!”  (I know, way to counteract racism with classism.)

I spent a few hours coloring with my nephew on his 6th birthday.  Coloring a family picture, he was matching up skin tones to crayon colors.  Innocence.  I wonder when he will learn he is seen as “different” than his cousins: not for his unique characteristics but because he is not white.

My nephew is being raised bilingually (or, better stated, my sister-in-law is attempting to raise him bilingually, Evan is known to state his Spanish ears aren’t working).  His parents are instilling in him to be proud of his unique heritage that spans European, South American and Caribbean roots.

And I worry about them.  I worry about them as they travel in this country, where all three of them were born, what happens if they are pulled over because of profiling.  I tell my brother he needs to travel with passports when they leave the area where they live since how else can he “prove” he is a citizen? (Not that they should have to!).

But most of all, I worry about the day when my nephew discovers he is “different” and some people a suspicious of him because of how he looks.  I wonder what will happen when he is a teenager and he goes to the convenience store to get something to eat.  I hope by then we will have evolved as a country so that his parents won’t have to hear a knock on the door letting them know that somebody thought their child didn’t belong in the neighborhood.

A great #gay day. No, really. Take that #DOMA

June 26, 2013

I started today posting on Facebook about my very real fears regarding my rights remaining as the status quo, which would mean that I would not be a full citizen of the country of my birth.  Over the past ten years, I’ve watched this country become more accepting to gay marriage but I feared the decision coming from the Supreme Court.

As I waited for the decisions to be handed down, I felt the acid rising in my stomach.  I sat at work and desperately tried to focus.  I received a text shortly after I knew the decision had been handed down (damn my work place for blocking live stream!).  It simply said “well, shit.”  What? Followed by a virtual text explosion.  Almost every gay person I know started texting each other: stunned euphoria. Yes, we’d have liked for a broader reach, yes there is much work to be done but in a matter of minutes, gay people in 12 states and DC had the same federal rights as everybody else.

Tears started to slide down my face.  It was (almost) everything I asked for.  It didn’t take the sting away of having my civil rights be adjudicated. It doesn’t end homophobia.  It didn’t settle the constant state vs. federal rights battles.  As my co-workers started following the story of some football player being arrested for murder, I wanted to yell at them to shut up, to revel in the moment that for a lot of people today will be one we won’t forget because we were told what we knew: we are equal.

I realized that for them, the SCOTUS decisions weren’t that important.  A few passing comments were made, mostly “I thought we got rid of that a few years  ago”, but for the rest of the day, I kept checking my twitter feed to make sure, yes, that really did happen.

Tomorrow, we can start working on equality in all states.  But tonight is for celebration.

The Firebird, a Ballez #queer #dance #kickstarter #feminism

May 16, 2013

“This ballet is the one I wish I had seen” . . .words, of course, you would expect to hear from the artistic director. The reality is that in the context of  The Firebird, a Ballez this is much more than a true statement.  Katy Pyle has re-envisioned Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird in a new image.  A queer image.  The clip from Kickstarter IS the ballet I wish I could see if I was in NYC this weekend.

I am far from a lover of ballet, I am impressed with the skill it takes to dance on ones toes (I’m thrilled to get through one day with stubbing a toe) but I’ve never felt a connection (I vaguely remember The Nutcracker and by vague, I remember this idea of child running around and the prince/princess and always been freezing cold in the theater) to ballet.

I clicked on the Kickstarter campaign because the artistic director is the sister of a college classmates.  I believe in projects in Kickstarter: we are all on this planet together and well, in this country we really don’t grasp “the arts” or funding for the arts.  As I watched the clip and listened to Katy’s reasoning for funding the project, I went back and watched the clip again. Without sound.

I saw me: not just the gay me.  But me.  The person who doesn’t look like a dancer. I saw people of different ethnic origins.  I saw not male/female roles but artists expressing their craft in a very gender scripted medium.  Yes, there were dancers who looked like dancers but compare the clip above to this one I grabbed from you tube.

Pyle’s project is more than just a “queer ballet and orchestra”.  The dancers look like everybody.  They present healthy body images with varying frames.  As I’ve replayed the clip in my head all day and thought about what I wanted to write about this amazing project.  I realized that Pyle is correct, this is a ballet I wished I would have seen.  Maybe somewhere in the back of my childhood brain I knew I was gay.  Maybe somewhere in the back of my head I knew I never had the body type to BE a dancer (even if I had the coordination).

The LGBTQ community has spent much of the spring in celebration as states grant the right to marry.  Now it’s time to show how it’s getting better in different areas of life.  The myths and fables of childhood which provide many of the gender norms which continue to be presented as acceptable need to be broken: not just for the LGBTQ community but for everybody. Every time I think of this ballet, I am amazed at the creativity.  I am in awe of the courage and I give thanks.  Maybe there will be a child watching who when s/he grows up s/he will realize s/he is LGBTQ and that the ability to dance doesn’t cross a gender bounds, that the stories presented in the struggles, the fantasy, the mythology of dances can be presented not as straight or queer but as what they are: human struggles.

And we are stunned by #Abercrombie & Fitch #feminism

May 9, 2013

I’ve seen variations of the following article discussing the idiocy of Abercrombie & Fitch in various versions all of over social media. This is the latest one to hit my Facebook feed.

Here is the deal: this isn’t like the CEO of Macy*s saying such a stupid remark.  A&F has a long, long, long history of questionable business ideas.  Deciding to boycott A&F now ranks up there with the idea of “Hey, I wonder if we can land a person on the moon?”.  Abercrombie & Fitch has long been worthy of a boycott, banishment and a simple refusal by sane people to not purchase their clothing.  Here are some of the highlights:

 

1) Employees are refered to as ‘models’.  Yup, you read that right, models.  I’m not going to go on an anti-model rant but in the context in of the 21st century model is just this side of “allowing for objectification” and “we won’t hire ugly people.”

2) In 2005, the company was subject to a federal consent decree due to a hiring and promotion practices.  A consent decree essentially means that the federal government has found their violations of federal laws has been so egregious that a third-party is required to monitor such activity.  I work in a heavily regulated federal industry, it’s extremely hard to wind up with a consent decree when matters of health, medicine and transportation are involved.  It’s damn near impossible when clothes are concerned.

3) A&F has a history of discriminatory practices against Muslims and people with disabilities.

4) Countless ads that objectify and/or sexualize children, ads that are xenophobic, employment practices that are far out of line cultural norms.

Look, this is a company that has united feminist groups, Bob Jones University, liberal religious traditions and several unions.  Yes, they did donate $10 million dollars an emergency department at a children’s hospital.  But the larger question is this: this is a company that at every turn manages to purposefully offend every non-white, thin, attractive member of the population.  Ten million dollars probably doesn’t even begin to cover the damages they have done.

The bigger question is this: Why the hell have people been shopping them for so long?

Angry Lesbian Rant Year After Amendment One #lgbt

May 8, 2013

FB this morning is that it’s been a year since NC declared I’m not an equal person. Most days, I shrug states rights. Ok, no days do I think that. But the year anniversary the day after Delaware made me completely disheartened.

You know, I’m sick of defending the South and Southwest where a chunk of my family and friends live. I pretty much think your states all suck. How you can look me squarely in the eye and say you don’t think I deserve the same rights as every other citizen is beyond me. This isn’t about marriage in the religious sense but about marriage in the legal citizenship sense. Don’t flatter yourself: a gay guy or a lesbian woman isn’t looking at you or your spouse plotting how to break up your marriage so we can ‘convert’ you. Really. And if you are worried about that? Find a therapist. Homophobia is curable.

If you can say you feel my right to marry a woman is “immoral” ok. Chances are you’ve done things in that Bible you want to shove in my face I could probably find a list of ‘immoral acts’ you’ve committed: starting with the shellfish argument, the clothes you wear, the fact you are ‘casting a stone’ created completely in your own mind(s). While I’m at it, while you are shoving your morals on my rights, do you even bother to attend church let alone tithe? Or do you stand on the judgement of others because you think it is your God-given heterosexual right?

Here is the piece which you probably won’t read. Gay people probably aren’t going to run a church that they know is gay unfriendly asking to be married. If you attend church, you probably know that the minister of a church usually retains the right to perform the ceremony. Marriage is both a civil and religious ceremony. I could give a rats ass about your church polity. My church polity allows for marriage, unions, blessings of same-sex couples. My state grants the same rights (it’s the part where the minister says “by the power vested in me from the state of xxxx”). You can keep your interpretation of God. I demand my civil rights: as a tax payer, as a citizen, and as a human. Until then, I think 39 states suck.

My take away from AWP and a mini-Hollins reunion? Travel as a Need.

March 10, 2013

Yesterday, I listened to writers discuss their craft at the AWP convention. I jotted down snippets on a legal pad out of habit and in the middle of listening to a panel discussion on writing in translation (for a very cool and free literary journal check out wordswithoutborders.org). It really wasn’t about writing in translation but about bringing the writing to translation. I think. It’s not the fault of the presenters; they were muses at that point. I realized there was passion. Artists, in general, receive the stereotype of passionate. As some point, and with great apologies, I lost track of the discussion and realized what I was hearing was passion OF career, something that is and has been lacking in my world.

I’m done. Not in a suicidal rage done, merely done. At the point of exhaustion, I see what the causation. Living without passion is not living. It’s survivalism. I have a few things I have to get done (notably that pesky shoulder surgery in exactly 37 days not that I’m joyously counting down). And then I’m leaving. On a jet plane. Ok, there are some very real steps in between: sorting through a few decades worth of junk to what will fit into a small storage unit in the town my parents reside, figuring out the where I want to go, where I need to go and uh, how to translate “I’m deathly allergic to shellfish” in every language known on the planet. I plan on leaving in roughly a year after I’m done with my shoulder rehab.

I am a huge proponent of knowing needs versus wants. I need to travel. I don’t need Disney; I don’t need turn down service. I need my backpack, my passport and well, the aforementioned card that says please don’t serve me anything with shellfish. Travel, of me, is activism. It’s the part that allows me to say to the world “no, not all Americans are like that” and to hear “No, xxx really isn’t like that.” I need to see the world, to take in the sights, the smells and show, if even to myself, that the world is much better and far less hateful than media outlets make it out to be. Travel is my idealism. Travel is hard; there is nothing worse than being curled up in a hotel room, in a foreign country 14 time zones from home where you don’t know the language or anybody and are miserably sick (ok, there are a LOT of things that are worse) without a common alphabet in common to figure out what medicine you might be taking (Ah, Tokyo. I really want to visit you again!). There is nothing more wonderful than being surrounded by a gaggle for elementary school students in Hiroshima practicing their English in the shadow of the destruction your country created peppering you with questions because they’ve found a ‘real’ American from Boston (where apparently a Japanese player was playing for the Red Sox) to pepper with questions about baseball, Boston and lots of questions that were not on the list.

I know when I plan to leave. I don’t know when I’ll be back. But I know, for probably the first time, I will be following my passion. And (almost) everything else is irrelevant. Of course, all of this is completely dependent on my mother agreeing to cat sit world’s dumbest animal. Completely open to ideas on where to visit anywhere on the planet outside of Western Europe, good travel blogs and volunteer stops along the way.

The Act Bearing Witness: The Campaign for Southern Equality

January 13, 2013

I’m lucky: I live in a state that grants equal rights to all citizens. You know, that little tiny one that has a host of legal benefits called “marriage”. There is an organization that is working in the south try change the laws so that all citizens have the right to marry the person they love. The Campaign for Southern Equality is working to raise awareness, change the laws and bring equality to citizens in one of the most hostile regions of the country.

I’ve said it a thousand times and I’ll say it a thousand more: I don’t care what your religious doctrine says about gay marriage. I truly don’t. My religion, church and congregation affirm marriage of all couples (and was one of the first in the nation to do so). It’s welcoming in the definition of the world welcoming: not the hip/trendy we are for gay rights that seems to permeate many congregations. I really, really, really don’t care what your interpretation of God is when it comes to my rights (but, unless you are willing to live by the entire literal teaching of The Bible, I’m also not interested in a discussion with you on the subject.

About this time every year, I become angry as I’m reminded I’m not a full citizen in the eyes of my government. I find it odd since apparently I qualify as a “Daughter of the American Revolution” (yeah, something about leaving Massachusetts for Ohio in the 18th century) and have some indigenous heritage as well (talk about not having the energy for apologist history). Every year when I complete my Massachusetts return, I’m reminded how in the eyes of the federal government, I don’t have the same rights. I don’t have the right to survivor benefits (Sally Ride’s wife doesn’t; Neil Armstrong’s wife does), I am not automatically given the right to make medical decisions for my spouse, don’t even go there with what can happen to inheritance issues in states that don’t recognize marital equality.

I’ll never understand how anybody can think my (non-existent) marriage can be a detriment to their marriages. This is civil rights: this is the equality of all citizens.

Tomorrow, two friends of mine will apply to have their legally obtained marriage license registered in the state of their current residence. It will be denied. They know it will. It won’t make it hurt less. It doesn’t make it less wrong. All it means is that in the 21st century, two people who I’m honored to call friends will be denied the rights that straight people take for granted. They both hold advanced degrees; they both work for justice. One likes basketball, one likes the Oscar Ceremonies the point of obsession. They are both normal women who love each other. And tomorrow, in the land of the ‘free’, they will be told and all of us who love them will be reminded of how they are oppressed by the state they live in and by the federal government. Yes, we’ve come a long way in under a decade, but we have so further to go. And until then, people like my friends will be told to their faces “their kind” (my kind) isn’t welcome in our country. And that is nothing short of shameful.