Sunday, June 30, 2013

Pride Weekend: Storming the Barricades

Anger Management
Vive la Liberté! Miss O's Happy Place Collection

What a week in Democracy! The yin, the yang! (We're kind of a Little China, aren't we?) Oh! The dizzying highs, terrible lows, and creamy middles, as Homer J. Simpson might say: Down with women! NO! Up with women! Down with blacks, other minorities, and the poor! Immigrants, maybe you can stay! Or not! Up with gays! And by "up,"I don't mean erect! Get federally married! But not in Alabama! The head swims!

So, how to FEEL, exactly? Fortunately, there are no absolutes when it comes to anything, especially feeling, but simmering underneath the celebrations and disappointments, nestled in Miss O’s love-brimming heart, is an anger that remains ever-present, ever nursed. One might call Miss O’ a grudge-holder. I prefer to think of this habit of anger-keeping as smart defense. Yet the question remains: Is it ever useful to hold onto anger?

I would say, "Fuck YES. It is."

Many years ago, when Miss O’ was in her late twenties, she was in the exquisite care of a LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) whom I’ll call Selma Moritz.  (I checked past blogs to see if I’d written the piece, “How I Found My Therapist,” but apparently I haven’t written about this.) Selma gave me my life back after what can only be called a breakdown. (Pardon your narrator if she does not divulge the cause(s) of the breakdown, won’t you? I know you will.)

When I first entered the office of Selma, sight unseen (she was given to me by referral from friends), I only knew she had shared her practice with a partner, in another office in the same suite. I looked at the two doors, wondering nervously which office I'd be stepping into, when one of the two doors opened, and a client (the term they use now, rather than patient) emerged, followed by a woman dressed in an ensemble straight out of a Talbot’s catalog: This being 1992, she had held to a preppy look: medium-length skirt, hose, and heels, topped by a cashmere crewneck sweater over an Oxford pinpoint blouse and silk neckerchief, all in soft, neutral colors. Her hair was short, ash blonde, perfectly coiffed. I froze, and then in a panic, I began to get up to leave, because there was no way in HELL I could tell my problems to anyone this gorgeously put together. The woman, mistaking my rising for greeting, put out her hand. “Hi, I’m Jan Kent,” she said. I took her hand and sat back down, explaining I was here to see Selma Mortiz. And then the other door opened, and a client exited. And through this door emerged the woman who would be my therapist.

At the office doorway that afternoon stood a short woman whose head sprouted a mass of dark roots pushing out bleached tresses in the style of late Einstein. Her face had no makeup. Her small form was sheathed by an ill-fitting colorless blouse tucked, sort of, into a plaid mini skirt, her bare legs partially covered in white go-go boots. She was so beautiful, I almost wept. “Hi, I’m Selma Moritz," she said, raising her bushy eyebrows into a smile that her mouth was more cautious about. "Are you Lisa?” I knew I could tell her anything.

And thus began the four years of weekly visits (with summers off for Miss O' to attend graduate school), including an overlap of one year of group therapy in addition, and Selma Moritz helped Miss O’ see through the fog, emerge from depression and anxiety, discover the origins of her survival difficulties, and compensate for her myriad blindspots—all through conscious behavioral modification, most of which have worked to this day (occasional depressive episodes notwithstanding), and KUDOS.

But there was one point of disagreement, a point which emerged in group therapy, when a man I’ll call Ken (one of a dozen others in the group) declined to “let go” of his “anger.” In every other way, on any other issue, Ken and I had not one overlap: He was rich, corporate, right wing, anti-public education; I was middle class, in public service, a lefty, and a public school teacher. (When he denigrated public schools in one session, I felt compelled to point out that I went to VA public schools when little old ladies born on farms in 1910 were some of my teachers, and I went on to study at Oxford as part of my master’s. He dismissed me as an exception, so I began to mention my many friends who had attended Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Johns Hopkins, and other fine schools, but he wasn’t interested in being, you know, wrong.)

So back at Group: Selma, who shared the facilitating with Jan, as well as Ken’s therapist, Ed, was perplexed by Ken's statement, but I realized I could relate. “If I have my anger,” I explained, “and someone is hurting people I love, I can defend them to the death.” Ken agreed that anger was a potential protection, and while no one wants what I had—a hair-trigger temper, an anger so violent when it did manifest itself that it terrified anyone who was around it, let alone the target of it—I also didn’t want to be “anger-free.” I believe in righteous anger. Boundaries are boundaries, and anger tells you when a line has been crossed.

I share all this because this week was one hell of a fucking mixed up week in the realm of American politics. Boundaries have been crossed, my friends, and while I celebrate some victories, I hold my anger near my heart, in case.

Chasing Rainbows

First off, let’s salute future governor of Texas (if women-supporting fans of America and righteous citizens of Texas are any barometer), state senator Wendy Davis. Her 11-hour (or 12-hour, or 13-hour), citizen-supported filibuster of a rightwing bill contrived to close abortion clinics for things like having parking lots that are too small, for example, prevented the bill from reaching the floor for a vote. To effect this outcome, she had to stand and talk ON TOPIC for all of those 11 hours, no breaks, no peeing, no rest, and she fucking did it. Texas Lt. Governor Dewhurst gave her three strikes—one of the “strikes” was talking about their closing of Planned Parenthood clinics that provided abortions as being “off-topic”—but that brilliant woman kept at it until the bill expired one second after midnight, and won. She is a hero of democracy.

Change in any society, as we see daily, even hourly—on television, via Internet, or (less often, sad to say) in person—is part physical revolution, part legal process, ALL democratic participation.  It’s messy, long, and generally always blocked for as long as possible by the (white, wealthy, or wealth-identified, male, or “cheerfully” male-oppressed) people who can say, loudly and defiantly, “I got mine.” (Curiously, Gov. Rick Perry tried to discredit Wendy Davis by calling out her choice to have her child when she became pregnant as a teenager, because if Wendy Davis chose to have her child (discounting Davis's stance that all women should get to choose what is right for them), then Rick Perry should get to decide that all women should be made to carry their pregnancies to term. Because that’s so logical.)

Shared on the "Binders Full of Women" page on Facebook

Not to throw douchebag water over this week’s good times, especially on the day of National Gay Pride Parades in America, but Miss O’ feels compelled to point out these little tidbits:

So this week in America, we saw the Supreme Court of the United States take its citizens back to Jim Crow and also ahead to Gay Pride, but in both rulings there is one common denominator: White men (Clarence Thomas does not identify “black,” whatever his gene pool or his family’s personal history) decided that voters and homosexuals can be freely oppressed according to the laws of their individual states. Not only can state legislatures prevent minorities, the working classes, and the poor from reasonably casting votes, they can also choose not to recognize a marriage that is sanctioned by the United States government. (You know how when you move from New York to Alabama, and your heterosexual marriage doesn’t count anymore? It’s like that. Oh, wait.)

“States’ Rights,” as we all know, amount to little more than protecting the “rights” of the bigoted, ignorant, and fearful so that they may enslave, oppress, or otherwise prevent the comfort of the poor, minorities, immigrants, and women. That’s pretty much it. On paper, states’ rights sounds like a “checks and balances” safeguard, but in my lifetime I have yet to see the “balances” part, unless it's that progressive states pave the way down Shame Alley that oppressive states will eventually have to move through. So, okay, sometimes states' rights rock.

The images of revolution around the world—images of the revolt by oppressed people in countries around the world, including ours—against corporate-controlled, oppressive, totalitarian regimes (I speak of our Republican House, here) are unprecedented. (Note: You may have noticed that Miss O' has not commented on the NSA/Snowden Reveal. She has decidedly mixed feelings about the whole business, not that you have been holding out hope of her opinion. It's sordid, isn't it? No one will get out of that mess looking remotely shiny; so we wait.) I see all the images coming out of Egypt, out of Turkey, ...and the silence I experience: It makes me wonder if Congress ever turns on a television. Oh, wait. Corporate sponsors prevent the television stations from broadcasting much of that stuff. Funny how we learn about it anyway. And status update or tweeted twat, this freedom of speech, one by one and also en masse, is what gives me hope. 

So I’m thinking of what it means to Storm the Bastille, to set up and advance through barricades. I’ve been reading (for months, as for bible study) a fascinating history, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough. In Chapter 9, “Under Seige,” McCullough shares descriptions of Paris under siege by the Germans in 1870, through the eyes of an American minister who was living there at the time. It’s an apt description of almost any war situation.

There are no carriages passing on the grand avenue, that great artery through which has passed for so many years all the royalty, the wealth, the fashion, the frivolity, the vice of Paris… and here is the silence of death.

“Has the world ever witnessed such a change in so short a time,” he wondered. “It to me seems like a dream.”

—American minister Elihu Washburn, 1870

Paris had become an armed camp. There were soldiers everywhere—encamped all about the Arc de Triomphe and down the Champs-Elysees—more than 300,000, he had been told, ….

The day before, Sunday, the Germans had cut all roads into the city…. The Germans were at the gates and nearly 2 million people, civilians and soldiers, were now trapped.

“And it seems odd to be in this world, and still not in it,” Washburn wrote.

This is how gays feel every day. This is how aware women can be made to feel at most any workplace in this nation. This is how blacks feel in the South. This is how legal immigrants feel, how refugees feel, how the poor feel, most anytime they turn on the television. In a media world abounding in displays of too-perfect beauty, its vitriolic rhetoric is what passes for news analysis; and too often in the 5-4 decisions of a rightwing Supreme Court, it must seem odd to be in this country, and still not in it.

Via Facebook. Thanks, Jesus H.

It's Not Easy Being Green

Promotion only, and no copyright infringement, is intended.
Seriously, Miss O' lives for this magazine's weekly arrival.

When she saw this splendid New Yorker cover posted on Facebook, Miss O' wept. I also realized that it’s a cover that would work whatever the outcome of the Supreme Court vote, so kudos to editor David Remnick and cover artist Jack Hunter. When I awoke on Saturday morning, I discovered via the internets that loads of Americans were very UNHAPPY about this cover. Gosh! Miss O’ was once again gob-smacked at the capacity of rightwing Americans to see SEX, FORNICATION, FELLATIO, and BUTTFUCKING in a sweet gesture of affection and support. (And Jesus wept?)

So here is what I posted on Facebook:

On The New Yorker Cover: Years and years and years ago, when I was born--this would have been 1964--my dad, Bernie, asked his old Air Force buddy, Bob Kent, who happened to be bartending in Arlington, VA, where my parents were living, to be my godfather. Bob lived with his roommate, Pete Madeo, and I remember adoring these two men. Around the time I was five, my parents figured out that Uncle Bob and Uncle Pete were more than roommates, that Uncle Bob was, in fact, my "fairy" godfather; and they just sort of stopped speaking to them. About 35 years and an activist daughter later, ol' Mom and Dad realized this was stupid, and wrote them a letter. Bob and Pete were in the phonebook, still together, too--just like my mom and dad. "Bert and Ernie," as everyone knows, are Sesame Street characters, they are buddies that kids can relate to. The cover illustration is neither "sexualizing" Bert and Ernie, nor is this moment representing Sesame Street: The cover is a tribute of love to all the men and women out there who had to "pass" themselves off as "roommates" or "brothers" or "sisters" in order to share living space, to share their lives. The New Yorker is a magazine for grownups, and all of us have a history with Sesame Street. Most of us were instantly touched. My feeling, for what Miss O's feelings are worth, is to enjoy the love.

Another American icon, George Takei, a national treasure of a celebrity if ever there was one, was interviewed by The Huffington Post about gay rights, about how his life and times have been shaped by social media, and what it has meant for his career post-Star Trek:

As with Sesame Street, the role of Star Trek cannot be overestimated in the shaping of our culture, too, in Miss O’s humble opinion. As Mr. Takei notes:

Some of the cast and creatives were aware that I was gay, and I did, on occasion, bring a male date to parties. “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry was aware of my sexual orientation and very supportive. That was the extraordinary thing about “Star Trek.” That we were a diverse crew of people representing so many colors, backgrounds and heritages. That was the promise of the future. And, now, in the J.J. Abrams reboot, an openly gay actor is playing a Vulcan in love with an African American. I'm not really surprised by this. “Star Trek” taught us to look ahead to a time where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream was fulfilled. Being a part of that vision was -- and has remained -- a tremendous honor.

George Takei is excited by how much America has learned from a cool television show. 

Meanwhile, the Texas attorney general thinks that the student who led the protests against the abortion bill should be thrown in jail. Ain't that America? I mean, what are we teaching our young people if we tell them they are free? if we allow them to have role models that show them how to use their voices to effect change? if we let them watch fucking Star Trek and learn from it?

Because you knew somewhere Miss O' would have to get to education.

Common Ground: Where Is Our Common Core?

Next week, or sometime after the summer, Miss O’ will spend a good long time talking about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which is the subject of controversy in school districts all over the country. It seems to Miss O’ that between this country’s astounding ignorance about the Common Core, as well as its unforgivable ignorance of Constitutionally guaranteed rights and citizenship responsibilities, it would be awesome if our national media could be commandeered for one little day to help us all. I think two things in particular are desperately needed:

1.     All the national and cable networks need to do one evening of education on the Common Core State Standards for Reading Comprehension, Language, and Writing—an hour special, with only one commercial interruption to let educational guru Dr. Tim Shanahan, or example, explain how they work.  (Ha, ha! I know.)

2.     All the national and cable networks need to allow one hour, two or three times a year, to educate all Americans on CIVICS. Have a charming person, such as Stephen Colbert, beloved by Yankees and Crackers alike, to teach civics to all of us, making it mandatory viewing for all elected officials in this country. In each little boardroom and hall of power, provide a really solid history professor to stand by for Q & A.

Too many fucking mud dumb idiots are getting elected at the pleasure of corporations via their money, and as a result don’t know for example, that 1) Americans do not spend their entire lives in one state, and therefore having their years of study confined to one state’s version of what is educationally useful can be pretty fucking debilitating; and 2) Americans have many nationally guaranteed rights, such as the right to peaceably assemble, which includes chanting, and that showing up at a hall of power—which is maintained at the pleasure of the CITIZENS, and not the elected, by the way (remember “We, the People”?)—is not, as Texas State Lt. Governor Dewhurst believes, terrorism. He and his compatriot Sen. Bill Zedler actually think this.

During the filibuster, hundreds of pro-choice supporters gathered in and around the Texas State Senate and gave jeers to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst when he struck Davis’s discussion of ultrasound testing as off-topic. Dewhurst also gave Davis an off-topic strike when she requested a back-brace to curb discomfort from standing for a near 11 hours. After the vote was taken and the bill died, Dewhurst called the protesters “an unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics.”
As if that wasn’t bad enough, around 11 o’clock on the night of the filibuster, Texas state Sen. Bill Zedler (R) posted on his Twitter that “We had terrorist in the Texas State Senate opposing SB 5.” Apparently, to Zedler, invoking the first amendment right to assemble is an act of terrorism. If the protesters were pro-life, these “terrorists” would, assuredly, automatically turn into “patriots” for him. Not only are Republicans sore about the loss, they are ever-persistent.

Here’s more of the story:

Dewhurst also wanted to have the media arrested for covering the story, and then decided against it. (I suspect the First Amendment and a capable attorney made the decision for him.)

Read more:

As writer Joshua deLeon points out:

If politicians like Wendy Davis, and their supporters, remain steadfast in their track for pro-choice legislation, it could prove to be another loss to Republicans who throw around the word “terrorist” and try to demean people for exercising their right to assemble.
—Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.

And finally, in all the mire, the mess, the devastations and elations, I give thanks as ever to Stephen Colbert. Here is a sampling of his wisdom, in this post on Facebook today:

The Colbert Report
"In DOMA and the Voting Rights Act cases, it was about states' rights, not the people in those states. That's why the first words in the Constitution are, 'We the states.' I think, it's really hard to read those gay letters." -- Stephen Colbert

And so on this Pride March Day, the 43rd since 1970’s first one, in honor of the Stonewall Riots of 1969: Peace and love to all; and especially to those who fight for their rights and endure the mantle of “activist,” when really all you are doing is claiming your own, Miss O’ salutes and hugs you.

Pride Flag from The Community Center in Idaho, via Google Images
Yours as ever,
Miss O’

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