Friday, August 18, 2017

There's Everyone and Then There's Us*

Me, reading circa 1974

The last time I posted the photo above was many years ago, and it was basically yet another post where I rhapsodized about my general bookworminess. However, such was the confusion around the photo and the object in the upper left corner that I had to then post this one:


The title of the second post that accompanied the second picture was "Let's Talk About the Gun," and as of this moment, it's been read 31,907 times and is the fifth most "hit" post on my blog. Counting this one, I have 4,103 published posts and more than 4,000,000 "hits" in total. It's all about "the gun," you know, which is actually not a gun but a telescope, a big ugly brass and veneered wood one that sat in my family's den in a Tudor house on a large wooded lot in a subdivision in suburban Atlanta in the early seventies. I'm not sure what there was to see out the back sliding glass door that slid open onto a wooden deck that hung over a grassy yard and woods, but I'm not sure either why my hair looked like that, why I wore a red-checked maxi jumper or why I was so thin then yet so ample today,  and god, why can't I read like that now, so immersed and lost? I'm even more unsure why so many people search for "let's talk about the gun," or "talk, gun" or just plain "gun." Then again, the most hit post of mine is about paper cranes with more than 75,000 hits so I guess you could also say that more people look up paper cranes than they do guns.

The telescope is meaningful for me today both because we're all getting ready for The Great Eclipse, and because I learned that there are hundreds of armed militias everywhere in these Disunited States of Amerikkka who are prepared or plotting to take back their country from brown folk and those who enable them. Are you catching my drift? Drift. Yes, I can drift. Even though southern California isn't on the path to see the moon completely eclipse the sun, it's going to happen, and there's something going on in the atmosphere in general that's causing a ruckus in the brains of the sensitive. Sophie's had an unusual number of large tonic seizures over the past week or so, but she recovers from them quite quickly and has none of the co-morbidities that we generally see during other seizure clusterfuck times. I realize that Science has found no correlation between seizures and moon cycles, nor is there established causation, but we in the epilepsy community -- the refractory epilepsy community -- those of us with the tiny little mother minds™ know very well that something goes on with the moon and the brain. I've heard of four children in my community who've died over the last week. That I can type that sentence out amidst all this seemingly idle chatter is the reason why I'm writing this post. Sophie is particularly alert in between these seizures with a penetrating eye gaze and smiles, seemingly sharpened, perhaps tensed, maybe even waiting. Aren't we all though, these days? Waiting? Not just for the eclipse but for what else and what more as we watch our country diminished by louts,  our heads whiplashed, events waxing and waning (like the moon) willy nilly with just about everybody at everybody's throats. I, personally, feel muzzled by Identity Politics (the Tina Fey backlash, for one), and am both earnest and defiant. I feel like I'm dancing on the ridge with the carnies and Death in a Bergman movie,  could perhaps be walking toward Guido in 8 1/2, one of his women, perhaps in a dream or the woman in Beckett's Happy Days, buried up to her waist in sand yet cheerful and getting on with it. Children are dying and Sophie is seizing, the moon will blot out the sun for some but not all, we are to be serious with intent, but (thank you, Chris), isn't life a cabaret and all that? Love is the answer but what if you live the questions?




Is that a gun or a telescope?

There's everyone and then there's us.

















*The working title of my book in progress


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Ten Ways To Fight Hate in Ten Hours - Hour Five


From the Southern Poverty Law Center

5. Educate Yourself

An informed campaign improves its effectiveness. Determine if a hate group is involved, and research its symbols and agenda. Understand the difference between a hate crime and a bias incident.

Eruptions of hate generally produce one of two reactions: apathy (“It’s just an isolated act by some kooks”) or fear (“The world is out of control”). Before reacting, communities need accurate information about those who are spouting hate.
The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks hundreds of active hate groups in the U.S. Some are small — a handful of people — but armed with a computer, email, and a website their reach can be immense, their message capable of entering a child’s bedroom.
Through their literature and websites, hate groups spread propaganda that vilifies and demonizes African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, Jews, LGBT people and other groups. Like some of their fellow extremists in militia groups, they also sow fears of losing control of “their country” to a “One World Government” dominated by Jewish bankers, multinational corporations, and the United Nations. More often than not, members of hate groups use other groups as scapegoats for their own personal failures, low self-esteem, anger, or frustration. They frequently use music or other means to recruit and indoctrinate disaffected teens.
Though their views may be couched in code words, members of hate groups typically share these extremist views:
  • They want to limit the rights of certain groups they view as inferior.
  • They want to divide society along racial, ethnic, or religious lines.
  • They demonize the groups they hate with false propaganda and often outlandish conspiracy theories.
  • They try to silence any opposition.
Most hate crimes, however, are not committed by members of hate groups; the Southern Poverty Law Center estimates fewer than 5 percent. Many hate crimes are committed by young males acting alone or in small groups, often for thrills. While these perpetrators may act independently, they are sometimes influenced by the dehumanizing rhetoric and propaganda of hate groups.

When Hate Comes to Church

Dylann Roof was a troubled teenager in South Carolina who was indoctrinated into white supremacist ideology online. The radicalization process began when he searched for information about “black on white crime” after hearing about the case of a black teen, Trayvon Martin, who was killed by a neighborhood watchman in Florida. Roof landed on the web page of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a rabidly racist hate group descended from the old White Citizens Councils formed in the 1950s in the South. There, he found page after page of racist propaganda. Roof later wrote in an online manifesto that he has “never been the same since that day.”
As he delved deeper, he was soon immersed in hate materials, writing that he “found out about the Jewish problem” and became “completely racially aware.” One of the sites he visited and began posting comments on was Stormfront, a notorious neo-Nazi forum.
On June 17, 2015, Roof walked into the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, where a Bible study was under way. The church, known as “Mother Emanuel,” is famous for its historic role in the civil rights movement.
After about an hour of listening in the meeting, Roof pulled out a .45-caliber pistol and aimed it at an elderly women. According to witness accounts, he said, “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” Then he began firing methodically, killing nine African Americans, including the church’s pastor. He left one woman alive, he said, so she could tell the world what had happened.
Roof was arrested the next day. In January 2017, he was sentenced to death for the murders. He had, by then, become emblematic of a growing phenomenon: the “lone-wolf” terrorist who acts alone after being radicalized by hate propaganda online.

>> What Can You Do?

Start by educating yourself on the definitions.
  • hate crime must meet two criteria: A crime must happen, such as physical assault, intimidation, arson, or vandalism; and the crime must be motivated, in whole or in part, by bias. The list of biases included in state or federal hate crime statutes varies. Most include race, ethnicity, and religion. Some also include sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and/or disability. As you respond to a hate crime, check specific statutes in your area, then consider working to add missing categories, to protect vulnerable community members.
  • bias incident is conduct, speech, or expression that is motivated by bias or prejudice but doesn’t involve a criminal act.
Learn the difference. Hate crimes, if charged and prosecuted, will be dealt with in the court system. They typically carry enhanced penalties, such as longer sentences. Bias incidents occur with no clear path or procedure for recourse. Both, however, demand unified and unflinching denouncement from individuals, groups, and entire communities.
Know the impact. Hate crimes and bias incidents don’t just victimize individuals; they torment communities. When someone scrawls threatening graffiti targeting Asian Americans, for example, everyone in the community may feel frightened and unsafe, as may members of other ethnic or racial groups.







Ten Ways To Fight Hate in Ten Hours - Hour Four



From the Southern Poverty Law Center

4. Speak Up

Hate must be exposed and denounced. Help news organizations achieve balance and depth.

Do not debate hate group members in conflict-driven forums. Instead, speak up in ways that draw attention away from hate, toward unity.
Goodness has a First Amendment right, too. We urge you to denounce hate groups and hate crimes and to spread the truth about hate’s threat to a pluralistic society. An informed and unified community is the best defense against hate.
You can spread tolerance through social media and websites, church bulletins, door-to-door fliers, letters to the editor, and print advertisements. Hate shrivels under strong light. Beneath their neo-Nazi exteriors, hatemongers are cowards and are surprisingly subject to public pressure and ostracism.

Dealing with Media

Some tips for an effective media campaign:
  • News outlets cover hate crimes and groups. Don’t kill the messenger. Consider hate news a wake-up call that reveals tension in the community. Attack the problem. Reporters will then cover you, too.
  • Name a person from your group to be the main contact for the media. This keeps the message consistent and allows the press to quickly seek comment or reaction to events. Invite the press to public events you hold.
  • The media like news hooks and catchy phrases, such as “Hate Free Zone.” Propose human-interest stories, such as the impact of hate on individuals. Use signs, balloons, or other props that will be attractive to media photographers.
  • Educate reporters, editors, and publishers about hate groups, their symbols, and their impact on victims and communities. Put them in touch with hate experts like the Southern Poverty Law Center. Urge editorial writers and columnists to take a stand against hate.
  • Criticize the press when it falls short. Remind editors that it is not fair to focus on 20 Klansmen when 300 people attend a peace rally.
  • Do not debate hate group members on conflict-driven talk shows or public forums. Your presence lends them legitimacy and publicity. They use code words to cover their beliefs. And they misinterpret history and Bible verses in a manner that may be difficult to counter during a live forum.

>> What Can You Do?

Share this with media contacts you know, or simply tweet or share it on Facebook with an editor, anchor, columnist, or reporter: A newsroom that covers race issues thoroughly and regularly sets an agenda for the community. Nuanced and thoughtful coverage — rather than shallow, reactive stories or stereotypical images — deepens our community’s discussion and understanding of race.
Ask the media to consider the following:
  • The masked, mysterious Klansman, like his burning cross, is an emotional image loaded with historical associations. Don’t let this cliché control the story. Include a serious look at the Klan’s numbers and influence, its involvement in hate crimes, and the hypocrisy of its pseudo-Christian message.
  • Don’t allow hate groups to masquerade as white-pride civic groups or “heritage” organizations. In their literature and on their websites, they denigrate certain groups of people, typically people of color and Jews. Seek out comments from local police, state human rights commissions, the Southern Poverty Law Center, or the Anti-Defamation League.
  • White supremacist and other extremist groups represent the outer fringes of American society. No meaningful dialogue can occur when it is framed by such extremes. Seek deeper, more thoughtful coverage of issues of race and other -isms.
  • Take hate crimes and bias incidents seriously and report on them prominently. Monitor the impact of hate on victims and other members of targeted groups. Become an activist against hate, just as you are against crime. Sponsor a forum or other community journalism event tied to these issues. And don’t miss the “good news” as ordinary people discover unique ways to promote tolerance.
  • You are part of our community, and you must be part of our fight against hate.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Ten Ways to Fight Hate in Ten Hours - Hour Three


from the Southern Poverty Law Center


3. Support the Victims

Hate crime victims are especially vulnerable.

If you’re a victim, report every incident — in detail — and ask for help. If you learn about a hate crime victim in your community, show support. Let victims know you care. Surround them with comfort and protection.
Victims of hate crimes often feel terribly alone and afraid. They have been attacked simply for being who they are — for their disability, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation. Silence amplifies their isolation; it also tacitly condones the act of hate. Victims need a strong, timely message that they are valued. Small acts of kindness — a phone call, a letter — can help.
Often, hate attacks include vicious symbols: a burning cross, a noose, a swastika. Such symbols evoke a history of hatred. They also reverberate beyond individual victims, leaving entire communities vulnerable and afraid.
And because they may fear “the system,” some victims may welcome the presence of others at the police station or courthouse. Local human rights organizations often provide such support, but individuals also may step forward.
We urge victims of hate crime to report it to police. If you are a victim of a hate crime, only you can decide whether to reveal your identity. But many victims have found the courage to lend their names to fighting hate. You can, too!

>> What Can You Do?

Report every incident. If you are a member of a targeted group, harassment could continue. What began as egg-throwing at five black families in rural Selbrook, Alabama, escalated for 18 months until hate mail made it a federal offense. The story made the news, police patrolled and harassment declined.
Speak to the press. Your story, with a frank discussion of the impact on your family life, can be a powerful motivator to others. Copycat crimes are possible, but rare. More likely, you’ll be encouraged by love and support. In Watertown, New York, a black minister talked about the vulgar hate mail he received. His community held a special unity rally. “Denying that racism exists, or not talking about it, will not cause it to go away,” he said.
Research your legal rights. After enduring racial slurs, slashed tires, broken windows, the wounding of their dog, and a six-foot burning cross planted in their yard by a white neighbor, Andrew Bailey and Sharon Henderson of Chicago filed suit against the perpetrator. A federal jury awarded them $720,000.

amplifies their isolation; it also tacitly condones the act of hate. Victims need a strong, timely message that they are valued. Small acts of kindness — a phone call, a letter — can help.
Often, hate attacks include vicious symbols: a burning cross, a noose, a swastika. Such symbols evoke a history of hatred. They also reverberate beyond individual victims, leaving entire communities vulnerable and afraid.
And because they may fear “the system,” some victims may welcome the presence of others at the police station or courthouse. Local human rights organizations often provide such support, but individuals also may step forward.
We urge victims of hate crime to report it to police. If you are a victim of a hate crime, only you can decide whether to reveal your identity. But many victims have found the courage to lend their names to fighting hate. You can, too!

>> What Can You Do?

Report every incident. If you are a member of a targeted group, harassment could continue. What began as egg-throwing at five black families in rural Selbrook, Alabama, escalated for 18 months until hate mail made it a federal offense. The story made the news, police patrolled and harassment declined.
Speak to the press. Your story, with a frank discussion of the impact on your family life, can be a powerful motivator to others. Copycat crimes are possible, but rare. More likely, you’ll be encouraged by love and support. In Watertown, New York, a black minister talked about the vulgar hate mail he received. His community held a special unity rally. “Denying that racism exists, or not talking about it, will not cause it to go away,” he said.
Research your legal rights. After enduring racial slurs, slashed tires, broken windows, the wounding of their dog, and a six-foot burning cross planted in their yard by a white neighbor, Andrew Bailey and Sharon Henderson of Chicago filed suit against the perpetrator. A federal jury awarded them $720,000.

Ten Ways to Fight Hate in Ten Hours. - Hour 2

From the Southern Poverty Law Center

2. Join Forces

Reach out to allies from churches, schools, clubs, and other civic groups. Create a diverse coalition. Include children, police, and the media. Gather ideas from everyone, and get everyone involved.

Others share your desire to stand against hate. There is power in numbers. Asking for help and organizing a group reduces personal fear and vulnerability, spreads the workload, and increases creativity and impact. Coalitions can stand up to — and isolate — organized hate groups. You and your allies can help educate others as you work to eradicate hate.
A hate crime often creates an opportunity for a community’s first dialogue on race, gender identity, or religious intolerance. It can help bridge the gap between neighborhoods and law enforcement. More people than we imagine want to do something; they just need a little push.

>> What Can You Do?

Call on groups that are likely to respond to a hate event, including faith alliances, labor unions, teachers, women’s groups, university faculties, fair housing councils, the YMCA, and youth groups. Make a special effort to involve businesses, schools, houses of worship, politicians, children, and members of targeted groups.
Also call on local law enforcement officials.Work to create a healthy relationship with local police; working together, human rights groups and law enforcement officials can track early warning signs of hate brewing in a community, allowing for a rapid and unified response.

Ten Ways to Fight Hate in Ten Hours - Hour One



1ACT
Do something. In the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance by the perpetrators, the public and — worse — the victims. Community mem- bers must take action; if we don’t, hate persists.
“A hate group is coming to our town. What should we do?”
“I am very alarmed at hate crimes. What can I, as one person, do to help?” “I find myself wanting to act, to show support for the victims, to

demonstrate my anger and sorrow. But I don’t know what to do or how to begin.”
If you’ve opened this guide, you probably want to “do something” about hate. You are not alone. Questions like these arrive daily at the Southern Poverty Law Center. When a hate crime occurs or a hate group rallies, good people often feel helpless. We encourage you to act, for the following reasons:
Hate is an open attack on tolerance and acceptance. It must be coun- tered with acts of goodness. Sitting home with your virtue does no good. In the face of hate, silence is deadly. Apathy will be interpreted as accep- tance — by the perpetrators, the public, and — worse — the victims. If left unchallenged, hate persists and grows.
Hate is an attack on a community’s health. Hate tears society along racial, ethnic, gender, and religious lines. The U.S. Department of Justice warns that hate crimes, more than any other crime, can trigger commu- nity con ict, civil disturbances, and even riots. For all their “patriotic” rhetoric, hate groups and their imitators are really trying to divide us; their views are fundamentally anti-democratic. True patriots ght hate.
Hate escalates. Take seriously the smallest hint of hate — even what appears to be simple name-calling. The Department of Justice again has a warning: Slurs often escalate to harassment, harassment to threats, and threats to physical violence. Don’t wait to fight hate. 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?
» Pick up the phone. Call friends and colleagues. Host a neighborhood or community meeting. Speak up in church. Suggest some action.
» Sign a petition. Attend a vigil. Lead a prayer.
» Repair acts of hate-fueled vandalism, as a neighborhood or a community.
» Use whatever skills and means you have. O er your print shop to make iers. Share your musical talents at a rally. Give your employees the after- noon o to attend.
» Be creative. Take action. Do your part to ght hate. 

*from the Southern Poverty Law Center

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Charlottesville



I sat at my turquoise tile table this morning and fed Sophie oatmeal, peaches and almond milk. She has several scabs on the bridge of her nose, and a bit of swelling from a fall. She fell into a pile of toys the other day, in a corner of her room, a tiny spot not covered in padding, her head face-down, catching the edge of something hard. Language can and should be brutal. I saw that or have seen that spot, have looked away. It would seem that chance conspired with my moment of looking away to cause injury. Is it in my power to control, literally, everything? The injuries she's acquired as a result of disability and epilepsy make my heart ache more, I think, than anything else. I don't need to explain why, and you don't need to tell me.

While I fed her, I looked at the photo above. I stared at the photo above, at every inch of it. I saw it yesterday in the frantic period after what happened, and I looked away. Some insist that we should not allow "in" images like the one above, while others insist on the importance of being a witness to what is illustrated. There is a risk of voyeurism and a risk of dissociation. I believe in confronting what is difficult and sitting with what is uncomfortable, even traumatic, particularly if I am able to do so, and I am very much able to do so. Tears stream down my face, but I am able to do so, to look, to confront.

An old friend asked this morning on Facebook whether we were capable of extending compassion to those who wrought that. All persons are worthy of compassion and need to be heard. To be seen. To be heard. If you could ask them one question, she wrote, what would it be? I quickly responded and then quickly deleted my comments. I tried to imagine what I'd say to the people who wrought that and realized that it was too early for that. Too early, too raw. Obscene. The asking, the telling, the looking, the looking away.

Right now, though, I know the question. I'd ask them what they saw when they looked at that, when they looked at that photo. What do you see? I'd ask.

What do you see?







I see that person there, in the right lower corner, with one foot on the ground, the other vulnerable and resting on the bumper of the car. I see the man in the center, caught in flight, the man to his right, upside-down, his shirt riding up, exposing his tattooed back. I see the colors of their skin. Next to him, I see the sign LOVE it says. LOVE, it says. I see the person to the left, his hand at his face. I see the woman to his left, her mouth open in a scream. I see stop signs STOP and the rush of movement even as it is suspended. I see a Black Lives Matter sign, a peace symbol, both upside-down, next to a man's legs, toes pointing to the sky, upside-down. The world upside-down. A sign that says Solidarity, right side up, a fist raised to the sky, below it a foot, a leg, a crumpled body the glint of metal. Death in light.

I can pore over this photo and see everything, everything there is to see. Language can and should be brutal. We can live questions without answers. I will not look away and you should not either.






Friday, August 11, 2017

"A good practical sort of immortality"


Just a couple of hours outside of Los Angeles, you pass through the most incredible landscape of farms and hills and endless road. It's where most of your produce is grown, folks, and last I heard, a lot of California farmland is filled with rotting produce because of that goon in office and his henchmen, busy Making America Great. They've cracked down on brown immigrants who work the fields, and the Real Americans are not stepping up to do the work. You can read about that here.


That isn't fake news either. But this isn't a post about the Pussy Grabber in Chief or his racist Attorney General Keebler Elf, so let's move on.

We stopped in the town of Earlimart to get gas and victuals.


The gas station had the best moniker I've ever seen yet was in direct sight of the Earlimart Market for World Peace.


Doesn't she make you want to pile the Bud into the trunk of your car and drive backward to when America was truly great?

Bless her heart.

Cast my memory back there Lord, sometimes I'm overcome --

Despite the Goon in Chief and his Band of Billionaires, you can pass through a lot of California now and see only a few "white" faces. This evidently terrifies a lot of people.

I find it thrilling that boundaries are blurry.




You can drive approximately five hours from Los Angeles, the sprawling home to over 8 million humans of every color, creed and culture and reach the south entrance of Yosemite National Park. My friend Cara, her two girls and my two boys have been numerous times together, and this year we stayed in a little cabin in the woods inside the park in an area called Wawona. We largely avoid the crowds in the valley and stay up and around the secret places near the park entrance.

We don't do much of anything, really, but wander around and look up and down, float on the river and lay on our backs on sun-warmed rocks. We laugh a lot, mostly at Oliver who can imitate anything and anyone. We all have riotous senses of humor. The girls balance the boys, while Cara and I eschew exercise and adopt the life patterns of marmots for the most part. Oliver did not let us forget our general "cringiness." If you need a translation, let me know.







We do this kind of thing:





and a little of this kind of thing:







and some of this kind of thing:










We even had a roadside "adventure" this year. Cara's car had an electrical short, we think, so we were mysteriously locked out of her car in the middle of Nowhere just after finishing up a roadside picnic. Our purses and phones were locked inside the car, and the teenagers, despite their phone appendages, were not connected to the world wide webs or the vast cell satellites arcing overhead, so we basically did one of those survival kind of things and put our privileged heads together to try to figure out WHAT TO DO.



I can tell you that everyone has an idea or opinion on how to break into a car.




You know what? We city slickers now marvel at just how hard it is to break into a car. Given how many of ours have been broken into in the big shitty, who knew that the windows are virtually indestructible, the locks un-pickable, the whole American metal machine invulnerable?

A few tourists did try to help, offering hangers and various tools. I have actually quite successfully broken into several of my cars, during days of yore, but my tried and true techniques just didn't hack it. I'm a woman of twentieth century crime, I guess. Other tourists just stared at us and took videos. Stupide americaines.  Our favorite samaritans were two women with blue hair and heavy Eastern Europeanish/Russian accents (think female versions, just barely, of what you might imagine our goon-in-chief's best Russian buddy sounds like)who walked over with crow bars from their rental and said, in what became a sort of anthem that Oliver repeated, over and over for the rest of the trip: Let me help you break open car.

Henry, who had otherwise made the women, men and children of Yosemite swoon everywhere we went, had no luck with a rock and muscle, and neither did the rest of us. I thought, in my optimistic way, that a solution would come to us, eventually, that we wouldn't perish with so much cheese and crackers and cans of limonata in the cooler and surely two marmots and a passel of teenagers wouldn't be attacked by any animal or human should it get dark.

Eventually, though, a couple of rangers pulled up on the scene, hammered a few wedges in the doors and saved us. To be fair, it did take them at least twenty minutes, and they were armed. We secretly hoped they'd shoot the car open, but that didn't happen.








We also did some more of this:











Oh yeah, and this:










I know. I know. It's almost ridiculous, except it's not. It is respite and wildness, air and water and earth and fire. I honestly think Yosemite is one, if not the holiest places on the planet, and my gratitude both for its proximity and my privilege to visit it, over and over, is boundless.



Another glorious Sierra day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed and sent pulsing onward we know not where. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality. 
John Muir,  My First Summer in the Sierra, 1911

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