Small Things

Tonight wasn’t the night to be missing one ingredient for dinner. I was tired, and had changed out of my work clothes into my jeans and pro-science political T-shirt so I could pull weeds and wash some dishes. I tried to get Maverick to run my errand, but he was heading off with a friend. Everyone else was gone. It would have to be me.

Since the election, I exist on a reverberating wire of tension. There’s a charged electricity in the air of people just looking for an excuse to tell you what they really think. (Says the girl wearing the pro-science political T-shirt.) I decided to get gas first, and ended up behind a patriotic pick-up that was emblazoned with an American flag all across the tailgate and a Trump make America great again slogan slapped on top of it. I groaned and snapped a picture. I groan a lot anymore, like yesterday when I passed a pickup with two giant American flags fluttering behind it only to come across another one sporting a confederate flag. Just some good ol’ boys. People making statements. (Says the girl wearing the pro-science political T-shirt.) It’s a conservative town. I am the dissenting opinion. 20170602_222224

I decided on the humble bulk foods store over Safeway. I just needed some celery. And maybe an avocado… Oh, and milk! I made my way to the checkout line with the cold jug of milk in my hand. The man in front of me turned and said it was going to be a minute. The people a couple spots ahead of him were having trouble with their SNAP card. I assured him it was okay, that it’s always my line that has the problem. We chatted as we waited. The woman fiddled with the card reader while the checker exuded irritation. The man I was talking to called up ahead for the checker to just charge him for the item and give it to the people. She seemed not to hear. The couple thanked him and assured him it was alright. He paid for their item anyway and mentioned something about paying it forward.

When it was finally his turn, he bantered with the checker, spilling over with friendliness, making light of life and the high cost of groceries. She smiled. I smiled. I wanted to thank him for offering to pay for the groceries of the struggling couple. I wanted to thank him for being so kind, and so normal, and for talking to me as if I weren’t wearing a pro-science political T-shirt in a small conservative town. I was kind of glad I had to run out for one ingredient.

Some ingredients, it turns out, are indispensable.

Damage

As spokes of a wagon wheel of old
They radiate out from the center,
Intentions played out in actions,
Cruel words spraying out in torrents of hatred
And fear,
Until those who would seek to curtail the damage
Are flailed by ever loosening,
Wildly unstable shafts,
Radiating out from the center.


RIP brave souls who stood up for all that is right and human on the Max train in PDX last Friday. They came from divergent backgrounds, but a common humanity.

53-year-old Ricky John Best
23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche.

We should also not forget the surviving hero, who also put his life on the line. Thank you for stepping up, Micah David-Cole Fletcher. (21)

 

Blocking the Opponent

Let me start off by admitting that I’ve never been much of an athlete. I tried track in high school and got 4th out of 4 by hanging back to encourage a teammate during the mile. (She had the nerve to sprint ahead of me at the finish!) I was the kid shooting granny-shots in middle school basketball during the last 5 minutes of a winning game. So maybe my view is skewed, and maybe I have this wrong, but allow me an attempt at an analogy.

I remember during that middle-school basketball experience learning how to plant my body in front of my opponent to impede his progress. I don’t remember the name of the move, but I do remember that it was risky. Placing yourself in front of a charging, basketball-wielding player intent on hitting the goal might cause you, upon contact, to go flying across the court. It was also tricky. Not fully planting your feet would cause a foul call upon you. Your job as defense was to plant your feet firmly and road-block your opponent.

Progressives are now playing defense. Not only that, but we are playing against the team that is known for playing dirty, and they’ve probably bought the refs. But we can use and must use this play.

It’s time to dig in our heels and not chase down the players. It’s time to plant ourselves firmly in front of the player with the ball and not move. He may, and probably will, get around us, but hopefully we’ve given the blockers time to move into position to successfully throw the ball back to us. The opposition may score a few points, but this is a game we must win. Our democracy depends upon it.

Resist

There’s a whisper growing louder
(Have you heard?) –
Voices lost now being found
Sweeping up the scattered words,

Whipped by robust winds –
They are landing in the streets.
Upon people of all walks of life
They’ve found a pulsing beat

The heartbeat of America
A promise to deliver
As immigrants and native souls
Create a human river.

Words splatter over painted signs,
And rise from voices strong
Of dedicated people
Who sing their country’s song –

They sing of lofty principles
Inscribed on fragile paper,
By men of foresight long ago
Lest they dissipate like vapor.

These words are seared upon the hearts
Of freedom loving folk,
We are all created equal
And won’t accept the yoke

Of stubborn inequality,
Of silencing our voices.
Remember soon the season comes
When we renew our choices.

Until then we claim these words,
We use them as our tools,
Of building our foundation
That precludes your silly rules.

We stand together strong and proud
And raise collective fists
Declaring our autonomy
And pledging to resist.


Join us. https://www.indivisibleguide.com/

Resist


Photo credit: marcn via Foter.com / CC BY

When confronted with the Holocaust, one question many of us have is why didn’t the German people see this coming and stop it? Sane people recognize that Hitler was a madman. He somehow managed to pull people into his cause, to harness the energy of darkness and squelch the light. He was given license to commit atrocities against millions of people in a dark cloud of torture and killing that hangs over humanity to this day. So why didn’t the German people stop it?

Maybe they didn’t see it coming.

I remember as a child playing outside all afternoon. The sun would be going down and twilight descending over the land, but we could still see, so we remained outside. Only after coming into the light and looking out did we realize how dark it had actually become. This is what is happening to my America right now. Twilight is descending in the form of bans and firing of the acting A.G. It is enveloping us with the inclusion of an avowed white nationalist as a major player on the security council. Darkness is encroaching with attacks on our free press. For the moment, we can still see, but for how much longer.

Someone recently told me she couldn’t understand why people are protesting. She made a comment that good people had jobs and couldn’t be leaving their jobs to spend their lives protesting, insinuating that protesters are not working people. I pointed out that when a cause is sufficiently important, even working people make the time to protest. I live too far away from a major airport, or I would contribute one of my days off to joining in to protest the Muslim ban (or travel ban, or whatever alternative reality label you want to slap on it). I recognize the injustice of the EO, and I will add it to my ever-growing list of things to stand up against, policies that are not reflective of our American identity of leadership in the world and inclusion (ultimately) of our immigrants.

May we learn from Hilter’s Germany. Resistance begins with us.


As I finished typing this I got a notification that the senate had approved Mnuchin and Price without Democrats present by suspending the rules. Welcome to your new America. I encourage you to support your free press. Subscribe to a newspaper. Support the ACLU. Above all, resist.

Marching Forward

What a year! What an election! My recent posts make no secret of where I stand on Donald Trump’s presidency. If you voted for him, I hope you can reconcile the damage he is going to do to this country. If you voted for him and have buyer’s remorse, join us. It’s not too late. (Hey, it happens. My vote for GWB was followed by immediate regret.) If you didn’t vote for anyone, shame on you. If you voted for Hillary… or Gary…or even Jill, we have a lot of work ahead of us. Our marching orders have arrived, and they are pink.

I’m sad to say, I didn’t get a hat. I know I can still knit one. It may come in handy in the future. I’m relatively sure there wasn’t a run on pink yarn in my conservative town. Fortunately the color of my rain jacket happens to be the color of the resistance.

My original plan was to march in Portland with a friend, but her plans changed. Her husband would be joining her, and they were making a weekend of it. Figuring out the logistics of parking and meet-ups was too daunting. Then the Portland inauguration day protests took a violent turn (damn anarchists), which made me reluctant to head into the masses solo. I would go to Eugene instead.

After spending all of Friday cooped up and feeling powerless, binging on chocolate and watching news shows, I woke up Saturday refreshed and with a clear focus. I turned on a live stream of the DC march and was immediately infused with hope. I made one last plea for companions to join me and got no takers. My male support system doesn’t do pink. (I’m still working on that.) No biggie. I might go alone, but I sure wouldn’t be alone.

I was early and went directly to the parking garage suggested on the Facebook page. I found myself in a line of cars circling in vain up and around the structure. I finally found a parking spot blocks away from downtown, pitying the people who arrived later.

The meet-up area in front of the courthouse was packed. The crowd had overflowed into the still-active road by the time I got there. People of all ages, ethnicities, and genders were packed like sardines. I normally avoid crowds at all costs, but sometimes you have to make a sacrifice for the cause. I couldn’t hear any speakers, so at that point it was a matter of waiting, of lending my presence to a movement, of giving substance to my voice.

Marching orders were slow in coming. People around me were getting impatient. We didn’t know if it was a lack of organization/communication or if there were that many people who had filled in behind us. A drone hovered overhead and all eyes looked up and pointed signs. Finally a group to the side of me decided to peel away and walk down the next street, and slowly but surely, we began to move, a long, slow parade of people with hand-made signs touting different agendas who all came together as a statement that differing ideas were okay, but dividing us was not.

There were chants of not my president. I couldn’t lend my voice to that one. For better or worse, he is my president, but that doesn’t give him license to do whatever he wants. As America Fererra said, the president isn’t America; we are America. Lest anyone forget that, there were chants of this is what democracy looks like. That one I can get behind, and that one I will defend with everything at my disposal.

And so I marched. I marched with young and old. I marched with gay people and straight. I marched with mothers and children, fathers and sons. I marched for the future, for inclusion, for justice. I marched for the world I want my children to live in.

There is strength in numbers. We’ve shown we are strong. We must resist. Failure is not an option.

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Yes!
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Did I mention I don’t do crowds?

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A New Day

It’s a new day, America.

I watched our new president’s inauguration speech this morning on YouTube/PBS. Being the stubborn person I am, I refused to watch it live and increase any potential ratings. As I watched, and you must watch to get the full effect, I started hearing ominous background music in my head, the kind that comes at the start of The Hunger Games or any other movie where you know the politician in charge is up to no good and you’re all going to be screwed.

The gist? We’re going to make America great again, damn it. How are we going to do it? Well, with police and military, protectionism and patriotism (read nationalism). In this speech we found out that the blood of all patriots is the same color regardless of the color of their skin. (Do I need to add that the blood of everyone else in the world is also the same color? Such rhetoric.) We’re going to end the “carnage” of inner city drugs and gangs and make sure Americans are first.

I don’t know about you, but I found the use blood and carnage in an inauguration speech horrifying, especially given the tone. This is not your Obama hope and inclusion speech.

America, I fear there are dark days ahead. Women will march tomorrow in solidarity, sending a message that our voices count to a man who claims to be for us, the people, but has a penchant for sexual assault and misogyny. And it won’t just be women marching, but the men in our lives who support us. We won’t be silenced.

But I imagine they will try.

One part of the president’s speech rankled me.

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.

I consider myself a patriotic person. I am not a flag-waver, singing “Proud to be and American” at the top of my lungs. I’m a quiet patriot. If you come after my country, I will be there to defend it through words or whatever implement I have on hand. But I understand that in our country, there is room for dissenting views. That’s the essence of the First Amendment. What will constitute a “total allegiance” to the USA, and who will decide what loyalty to our country means? For example, to me, loyalty to our country means honoring the free press and the constitutional amendments. It also means working with the system and not refusing to even hear a supreme court nomination. It means listening to our intelligence community and giving credence to the work they risk their lives to provide. I imagine under the Trump administration, “total allegiance” will take on a more sinister tone of agreement with the powers that be. I hope I’m wrong.

Our allegiance is to the United States of America, to its institutions and its Constitution, an ideal put to paper that we must defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Yet we must be very clear about what that threat is. Burning a flag is deplorable, but not a threat to the greatness of the United States. Clamping down free speech is.

It’s a new day, America, a day to ask yourself if you are willing to risk exposure and speak up against any and all attempts to destroy our freedoms? Stand up. Speak up. Don’t risk losing those rights.

They’re Here

Mercilessly they came,
Gnashing their teeth,
War whoops televised over broadcast news.

Slyly they came,
With a wink and a nod,
Manipulating words and ideas through the airwaves.

Smugly they came,
Tweeting their way into power,
Lambasting the good and worthy throughout the internet.

Slowly they rose,
Climbing on the willing backs
Of those already bent from daily pressures none of them would ever face.

And a chant rang out,
“Lock her up” and “Build that wall,”
Inoculations activating a hard shell of resistance…

To ideas…

To community…

To differences.

Joyfully they came,
Looting and pillaging their aim,
As the shining city on the hill sat vacuously waiting.


In response to The Daily Post’s prompt: Pillage

Build-Up Economics

I’ve been a news junkie lately. I can’t help it. It’s the election, and the subsequent insecurity about what changes will take place in my beloved country. I live on the edge of fear and a feeling of being activated, and I have oh, so many questions.

Today, for example, I was watching a segment of Morning Joe in which they were discussing the future of manufacturing in America. They were talking about the loss of jobs to cheaper labor in Mexico and China, about how $35/hr wages were being replaced with $15/hr wages here in my country, and that was compared to $5/hr in Mexico and $2.5/hr in China. If you listen to the pundits, the vast midwest was a deciding force in our election, and it’s full of people who lost good-paying jobs due to trade deals. So what’s the solution?

On this segment of the program, they discussed the realities of these jobs returning. The prospect was bleak. Automation is geared to replace workers, despite a return of manufacturing. My husband is the warehouse manager of a seed production warehouse. Even here they have automated, increasing production and making a backbreaking job much easier. Fifty pound bags of seed travel by conveyor belt instead of being hoisted from seed filler to pallet, as was the case when he started working there. Still, when he comes home complaining about the attitudes of the guys who work for him, their complaints about the hard work and long hours, I hear in his voice the frustration of dealing with actual human beings. On occasion he’s expressed the desire to fully automate. So where does that leave the American worker?

The issues are real. I can’t imagine right now stressing about my family’s future, but I’ve been in that position. I understand the desire to change, to find something else, something that might work, anything that might work. I can even kind of understand the nostalgia of going back to a time of production and employment that benefitted everyone.

Then my scientific mind kicks into gear and I think of osmosis. For those of you who are not scientifically inclined, osmosis is the process in which a solution is striving for equilibrium. If you put water that has salt water next to fresh water, separated by a semi-permeable membrane that only lets water molecules through, the water will migrate to the salt water space seeking equilibrium. I’ve often thought of this with regard to Mexico and illegal immigration. I used to wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to help Mexico improve its economy and standard of living for its own people. After all, who wants to uproot his or her life, travel to a country where you don’t speak the language, live in crowded conditions, and save as much as possible to send home? It’s a cost/benefit scenario. Osmosis. People who have little in the way of resources migrate to a place of greater resources because the resources can’t get through the membrane in the opposite direction. Societies, like solutions, striving for equilibrium.

Now we have an imbalance in economy. Wages in the U.S. are high, though still not a living wage for many. It’s still cheaper to ship supplies across the Pacific, assemble them, and ship them back than to make them locally.

I live in a small, conservative area that was hit hard by a decline in logging. People are budget minded, I get it. Still, the people of my town who probably voted for Donald Trump are the ones who support the king of low-cost shopping, Wal-Mart. They eat at Taco Bell and were excited when the new, expanded McDonald’s opened up. I know this because I watch it unfold on a daily basis over social media.

So here’s my question: Why do we look toward one person for solutions to this issue when there’s really a lot we can do for ourselves?

Personally, I choose not to shop at Wal-Mart if I can avoid it.If I do end up at Wal-Mart, I will stand in line and avoid the self-checker at all costs. I don’t want to see jobs replaced with automation. I don’t mind spending a little extra for human contact and the knowledge that people in my town have a chance to bring home a paycheck, however small it may be. I will buy the same products from employee-owned Bi-Mart, often for the same price or slightly cheaper. But those products are still mass produced overseas. Some things I have little control over. I’m hoping that my daily decisions have an impact, however small. I’ve heard that within a few years, most products will be distributed using self-driving trucks, putting many, many people out of work.

It’s all about choice. Do we want cheap and mass produced, or do we want a sense of community and national pride at being able to say we produced it ourselves? We live in the time of kickstarters, where a good idea and some people who believe enough in the idea to provide a little backing can transform the lives of whoever is associated with that supply chain. I’ve always thought that my little town could easily set up a small production of a specialized product, a quality apparel item, a craft food product, or sporting good. Small and specialized might be the way of the future. Of course you have to be in a good financial spot to even consider this, and that’s what many people in my country are struggling for right now.

We need to make some tough decisions. I realize that I’m at a good place in my life right now to be able to say I’d take quality over quantity or economy. It took time to get here. It took a vision of a scaled back life, where a smaller home and years of used cars allowed for freedom of financial choices. I think this is something to aspire to. We used to eat in all of the time. Now I’d rather pay a couple dollars more to eat at a local restaurant than to funnel my money up through a chain restaurant to an executive at the top. I’d rather buy my kids bottled soda on rare occasions than boxes of Coke that are on sale at the local Safeway. Even produce can be procured at local farmer’s markets, beautiful, sometimes unique foods that are fresh and support local people. (Though I noticed that local markets often buy local produce.) Those of us who can, should support this local economy.

Committing ourselves to each other needs to be a part of the national discussion. Billionaires are stingy folk. That’s how they got and kept their money. Trickle down economics don’t work. We need to take care of each other.


Photo credit: Tom Simpson via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Table Talk

A table dressed
In Autumn red and gold,
Flickering tapers beckon –
Come,
Eat,
Share.

The feast awaits –
An amber bird, trussed and tied,
Overflowing with succulent stuffing,
Rests in a fragrant cloud of scent,
Next to humble mashed potatoes
And glistening candied yams,
Sensible salad and unassuming rolls.
A hush of appreciation falls
As the finely dressed are seated
Before the best china and crystal,
Spreading linen cloths across their laps.

Hand in hand,
A mumbled prayer of thanks
For goodness given,
Is all too soon
Drowned out by pungent words
As battle lines are drawn.