Monday, December 28, 2015

A year of Lucinda the dog

We brought Lucinda home from PetSmart Beaverton / Washington Square Store #1532 on the Saturday after Christmas 2014, on December 27. We fostered her for a week, and then had the option to adopt her from the rescue group that brought her up from Mexico. And we did. Here's the whole story.

So we've now had her for a full year.

It is glorious to have a dog in our home and in our lives again.

I offer this blog entry in particular to those who are thinking of adopting a dog.

Lucinda amid the DafodilsLucy has come a long way in the year she's been with us, in terms of her fear of... well, everything. She doesn't bolt and run as fast as she can away from a loud noise or me falling down, though she's still very skittish of those things. She is no longer bothered by bins put out for garbage day - she no longer thinks they are daleks, about to come alive at any moment and chase her. She's no longer scared of the garage door, and will even sniff it when it rises, as opposed to trying desperately to get away from it as soon as it starts to move. She'll now greet people that she meets for the first time when we're out on a walk even if they don't have a dog - now, we have to work on her wanting to jump on people she likes. She does NOT like clapping in the house, but is fine if you do it at the dog park to call her when she's far away. She'll come about 40% of the time when she's in the yard and I call her, which is up 40% from a year ago. Or even six months ago. But she will NOT come to me in the house unless I have a dog treat and tell her, "Lucy! Want a dog treat?!"

She now sleeps in our bedroom most nights. She did that her first two nights for us, then refused to even come into the bedroom anymore for a few months. It all changed when we kept Harry the dog for a few days; Harry is about 12 or so, small, very laid back, and quite fearless: he's only too happy to go tromping absolutely anywhere, including into the crate in the bedroom that Lucy refused to go into for months and months. As soon as he got in, and then out after a few minutes, in she went. And she's been oh-so-happy to sleep in the bedroom with us ever since.

She sings for her breakfast each morning. She waits for Stefan's alarm clock to go off at 6:15 a.m. on a weekday and, when it does, she begins her Chewbacca / bugle noises as she waits for him to get up and let her out and then feed her. He feeds her most weekday mornings - it's part of our Stefan-is-not-scary campaign, which is ongoing.

Jayne, Stefan & Lucinda at University Falls, Tillamook State Forest, OregonShe LOVES to go hiking. LOVES it. Most recently we took her to Stub Stewart State Park for a post-Thanksgiving Day Hike. She's also hiked Bayocean Beach in Tillamook, Wilson River Trail in Tillamook National Forest, and University Falls Hike, also in Tillamook NF (that was her first - pictured at left).  We're cursing the record-rain in Oregon in December which has prevented us from taking her on even more hiking trips. We've taken her camping only once, to Gifford Pinchot National Forest, but we're hoping to do a lot more in 2016. She loved all the walking around the campground, and seemed to like sleeping in the tent - but she wasn't happy about just hanging out at the campsite, and would make herself into the tiniest ball on a blanket, waiting for us to either go hiking or go into the safe, cozy tent.

She's skittish but willing to go when walking inside PetSmart or Wilco or Ace Hardware - we haven't tried Home Depot yet - and I make a point of taking her when I go to any of these places, if at all possible. She hates walking to downtown Forest Grove or on the campus of Pacific University - she hates so many people walking and standing around, she hates the cars, she hates all the movement - but I make her do it regularly. We even dared to take her to the Forest Grove chalk art festival. She wasn't happy about it, but she tolerated it. In 2016, I'm going to try to take her to the farmer's market at least twice a month.

Our dog trainer has given us lots of tips on how to get her to be less skittish, and so many of her tips have helped Lucy in certain situations that used to give her a complete emotional meltdown when we got her a year ago. I so highly recommend you take your dog to an obedience class, no matter the dog's age - it will help you bond SO much. But you have to work with your dog every day.

Lucy & Murree at playGeesh but Lucinda loves other dogs! And people with other dogs! She plays SO well with other dogs - she's super gentle with smaller dogs or older dogs, and she loves to pounce on dogs that far out-weigh her, like Apollo the Rottweiller or Muree the 200 pound Newfoundland. When she knows and loves a dog and they get play time, she growls as they play like she's killing something - it sounds awful. And the other dog just completely ignores it and goes right on playing with her. She does it only with dogs that really know her and love her, which is a good thing, because if she did it with all dogs, she'd never have any friends - did I mention it sounds awful? For Lucinda, when it comes to dogs, familiarity breeds love - she is ecstatic at seeing dogs she knows, even if that dog has never been all that thrilled to see her, and bounces all around with joy. There are really only two dogs I've found that she doesn't like, and that's because she's scared of them - they're bullies.

I think her love of other dogs comes both from her breed mix and from growing up in dog shelters. She's always been around other dogs - we took her away from that when we adopted her, and of course adopting her was for her benefit, but I feel oh-so-guilty if she doesn't get to play with a dog every day. People will say that her fear of humans comes from being abused, but I don't think she was ever truly abused. I don't think she associates humans with abuse. I think humans are just these strange creatures she wasn't around much at all for the first seven months of her life - certainly not without lots of other dogs also being around. And I think it's in her DNA: when it comes to dogs, some aspects of temperament and behavior are carried on genes, and dogs have been bred specifically to produce certain temperament and behavior - that means that, no, not all of their behavior comes from how they have been treated.

She loves chasing squirrels. "Loves" doesn't really describe what comes over her when she sees a squirrel. Thanksfully, she understands that, when she's on a leash, I get to decide if she gets to chase or not - and when bark-at-the-tree time is over. She will walk away when I tell her it's time - I don't have to drag her away.

May she be off leash? I'm still really scared to let her off-leash much - she still won't always come when called, and until she does that, EVERY TIME, I'm keeping her on leash. I'm also pretty sure she'll bolt after a squirrel or rabbit and become deaf to me if she's not on leash. Inside the dog park or our back yard or an enclosed area or in a house, sure, she's off-leash. There's a big empty field across from us, and if there's a dog there, I'll let her off leash a bit for a bit to play - but I have to watch her like a hawk, because she'll eat just about anything off the ground. But when we're hiking, no, I won't do it - she stays on leash. I still don't trust her not to run away, or to bolt into traffic in pursuit of a squirrel or to run away from something scary.

Just recently, she's started picking up socks or other small clothing items off the floor and taking them in the middle of the living or dining room or into her crate for a chew. I've caught her most of the time - so far, she's destroyed only one sock - and I don't get mad, I don't say anything, I just walk over and take whatever it is she's not supposed to have. And that's been the right approach - she doesn't run away when she sees me approaching her, and just stares as I take away whatever it is she's not supposed to chew. She LOVES to chew up paper, or small plastic things, so we really have to make sure there's nothing on the floor for her to chew up when we leave her alone.

I've spoiled her rotten by working from home. ROTTEN. I sometimes leave JUST so she can remember that, yeah, sometimes, no one is here.

She will go to the back door and bark when she wants to go out into the back yard. That's HUGE. She's trained us in that regard. She won't pee in the house IF we hear her bark and let her out. We put her on a leash and take her out in the front yard after 9:30 p.m., before we go to bed - for some reason, she won't always pee then in the back yard - so that she can make it through the night. During the day, she can't be inside without a pee break more than seven hours. You probably don't need to know any of that... this part of the blog is more for me, so a year from now, I can compare where she is, pee-wise.

She is joyous to come to Stefan when it's time for a walk, though she can get so overwhelmed at the idea of going on a walk, with him or with me, that she runs into her crate, her refuge - but she doesn't shrink away in her box if you reach in to put the leash on, or just to pet her. She has a much bouncier step on walks if Stefan is walking her instead of me. She is happy to come to him and cuddle with him when they are on a walk together, yet, in the house and the back yard, she's still afraid of him, and will come to him only if it's time to go on a walk and he's in the utility room calling her. Otherwise, she runs from him. It's really hurt his feelings at how afraid of him she is inside the house.

Stefan, Lucinda & HarrySo we have a ritual that we started several weeks ago: after Stefan gets home and we've finished our supper, we go into the living room and sit on the carpet, and cuddle with Lucy. I call it worship-the-dog. Because that's what it looks like. We try to say the word "cuddle" repeatedly, because we're hoping she'll come to us eventually when we use that word. She still doesn't respond to the word when called - but she is loving the Lucy worship - and recently stayed with Stefan to cuddle even though I got up - probably because Harry the dog was with us and she wanted to make sure he didn't get petted as well. She initiates cuddle-time, walking onto the carpet in front of her living room bed and looking at me. I walk over, sit next to her, pull her into my lap, and she leans against me as I pet her ears and shoulders. And after a few minutes, Stefan walks over from his chair, and the worship-of-the-dog begins...

She not only loves the dog park (if there are dogs there), she also loves trying out all of the obstacles loves trying out all of the obstacles - except the tunnel. I really should train with her every day - she is soooo trainable.

Lucinda and Gray Max - caught in the act of friendshipShe and Gray Max the Cat have a love-hate relationship. In the mornings, when I let him in from outside or from the guest room, she nibbles the top of his head, and he loves it, and pushes his head against her teeth. They will even sometimes - though rarely - sleep near each other (usually when supper time is approaching). Max eats on an upper level of his kitty platform, and Lucy doesn't bother him during such, and is fine with him drinking out of her water bowl. They don't play - Lucy tries, so hard, but Max will have none of it. If there's no other dog in the house, Lucy pretty much leaves him alone - maybe a sniff here and there, and he's fine with that. And when she's on leash and we see Max out in the front yard, they sniff each other and then ignore each other as they walk side-by-side to the door. All is well. But if we're dog-sitting Harry, or she sees Max out in the back yard, she LOSES HER MIND and chases after him in an absolute FRENZY. It's scary to see. My first dog, Buster, was the same way - tolerated cats, even liked them, when it was just he and a cat, but if another dog was around, he lost his mind and raced after the cat.

She will play with a laser pointer in the house, or with Harry when he's here inside the house, but that's it; she won't play with a toy in the house, or with me in the house. It's actually really hard to get her to play with me even outside. She'll play with another dog, and she's happy to join in if I start playing with that dog, and she'll even play by herself with a toy outside - it's hilarious to watch her pretend a toy is something fierce - but she seems overwhelmed if I try to play with her outside, throwing a ball or toy for her to fetch.

I say all this because it's taken a lot of work to get her to this stage, a lot of trust-building. I've worked on it every day in some way shape or form. It hasn't been easy, but it's been so worth it. In addition to all that work on our part, so much changed, for the better, after her stay at the dog camp, when we came back from our motorcycle trip to the Yukon: I think that, when we took her to the camp, she thought, okay, another shelter, another new home, that's that. But when we came and got her two weeks later, and she returned to a place, for the first time ever, she realized, oh-my-gosh, I belong to Jayne and Stefan! They are mine and I am theirs! Wahoo! She became MUCH more affectionate. And, okay, more needy - but I love that she is willing to be needy now for petting and comfort - it sure is better than trying to coax her from out from under the couch!

Oh how I love Lucinda the dog. I didn't think I could love a dog as much as I loved my very first dog, Buster. To think I could ever love a dog as much as Boo seemed to mean I didn't really love him as much as I thought I did. But what I found is that I loved each dog I got after I got Buster - Wiley, then Albi - just as much. It was just different.. I've had four dogs since 1990. All were "rejects" - unwanted by their original owners or never owned by anyone. Lucy is my first puppy. It's a LOT of work, but I love it.

Years ago, I decided that I would always have this purpose: to give a loving home to a dog or cat that wouldn't have a home otherwise. If I've done nothing else in my life, I've done this. And I've received so much as a result. Please consider welcoming a dog or cat into your life. Visit area shelters and local pet stores that host dogs and cats from shelters and rescue groups. And PLEASE spay or neuter your pets! Also, consider an older dog or cat: they are often already house trained, and settled - I've had an amazing experience adopting older dogs. If you want to donate money, give such to the nearest animal shelter or rescue group to you, and/or to the wonderful Mayhew International, which I got to know in Kabul, Afghanistan - they not only help spay and neuter dogs in several countries, they also host classes for communities in those countries, like Romania, to help change attitudes about stray animals.

And one last thing: Why I hate ASPCA TV commercials: they never suggest that you spay/neuter your pets, never tell you "Adopt a shelter pet today!," never tell you "Don't leave your dog outside at night" or "Never leave your dog outside on a chain ever ever ever" - they just say, "Send us money because look at these poor animals!" PetSmart does a better job of encouraging animal shelter and rescue group adoptions and kind, humane care of your pets!

Also see:

Video: Lucinda the dog's first video

Video: Playtime with Murree & Lucy (3 short clips)

Video: Lucinda the dog with her toy Olaf

Video: Lucinda & Apollo playing (2)

Video: Lucinda and Apollo playing (1)

Video: Lucinda, Apollo & Ziggy play time

Video: Lucy jumps obstacles in dog park in Thatcher Park in Forest Grove, Oregon

Video: Lucy climbs an obstacle at the dog park

Video: Lucinda sees running horses on Bayocean Beach, Oregon

Video: Lucy in the Wilson River

Video: daisy dog and lucinda the dog

Reasons to Adopt a Dog & Myths About Shelter Adoptions (& please do NOT give up on your dog!)

A broad sometimes abroad: February Lucinda the dog update

A broad sometimes abroad: April Lucinda the dog update

Major Lucy triumph

A broad sometimes abroad: Our own not-so-viral dog videos

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Memory: The Art of Star Wars exhibit, Dec. 27, 1994-March 12, 1995, San Francisco

In honor of The Force Awakens, which I've already reviewed, which I've already reviewed:

art of star wars 1995At left is my poster from The Art of Star Wars, an exhibit of props and costumes from the original trilogy, shown at the Center for the Arts in Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco, California December 27, 1994 through March 12, 1995. At the time, it was the largest display of Star Wars props, costumes and masks ever exhibited to the public. The unexpected HUGE success of this exhibit, and the unexpected WILD success of the original trilogy re-releases in the 90s before the prequels came out, lead to the creation of the much better known, much slicker, and smaller Star Wars exhibit tour in 2000-2002 (which I also saw) that dumped you at the end into a gift shop packed with Star Wars-related merchandise.

The poster at left is now in my home office (which has purple walls, OF COURSE). I went to this original San Francisco exhibit on my 29th birthday in January and wrote a lovely, emotional review of the show on the America Online Star Wars group - sadly, I didn't save that review.

But here's what I remember:

A full-sized Yoda puppet stood by the entrance, in a glass case, but the light showing it didn't stay on but for a few seconds. It was the same for the Darth Vader costume. The sign said something about doing that because you only got a glimpse of them in the movies, never a long look, and they wanted a similar experience in the exhibit - indeed, viewing Vader's costume up close made it look cheaply made, definitely not intended for long closeups on screen. Then came the ships. Of course I lost my mind seeing the Millennium Falcon model up close, as well as the little toy ship Luke is playing with in "Star Wars" when he says "It just isn't fair..." - that was actually a ship model for the movie, a version of which was used as the shuttle in ROTJ. I seem to recall the escape pod from Star Wars was pretty much just a bucket. All of the props, up close, under that direct light, didn't look like anything special - and I kind of loved that, knowing that these simply made things look oh so magical in the movies. I remember one of the matte paintings on display from ROTJ, I think, had a storm trooper that had a white smiley face instead of a proper helmet - off to the side, would never have made it on screen. And I cried when I came into the hall with all the costumes - just burst into tears and had to sit down.

Here is an awesome fan-made video of the exhibit

Here's a blog by a guy who was actually at the opening when he was a kid

There's an archive of exhibit photos by a fan, and his impressions, here

Here's another fan's archive

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Another Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review & Fan Girl Meltdown

BECAUSE WE JUST DON'T HAVE ENOUGH COMMENTARY ON STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS!!!

Some warnings:
  1. This blogged review is packed with spoilers. Please, please don't read it if you haven't seen the movie. Even if you don't intend to see the movie, don't read, because you'll say something later to someone who hasn't seen it and you will FREAKIN' SPOIL THE MOVIE. And that's just total dark side stuff right there.
  2. I am a HUGE Star Wars fan. HUGE. The original trilogies were MY LIFE from the time I saw A New Hope until Return of the Jedi came out. I would recite the first two movies on family car trips, under my breath, as scenery rolled by. I skipped the last day of high school to see the first showing of Return of the Jedi in Evansville, Indiana - the nearest theatre showing it to my hometown of Henderson, Kentucky. I would watch A New Hope over and over and over when it came on HBO, and my mother would beg me, no, not again, Jayne, please, not again... I had the albums from all three movies - yes, I had the soundtracks, but I also had the albums where clips from the movie were used to tell the entire stories of each movie on one LP each. When I interviewed for a job in 1997, I said, "Oh, one thing: I'll have to have the day off when tickets for the new Star Wars movie go on sale, and another day off when the movie premieres. That will be in 1999, and I'm not sure of the exact date yet, but it's not negotiable - I have to have those days off." So sad that I hated the prequels with every fiber of my being. But I still have a life-sized, cardboard Han Solo that lurks behind me during conference calls from my home office, I still have two Star Wars-related posters framed and up in my home (it's art, dammit!), and there's a Han Solo tree ornament right beneath my Flying Spaghetti Monster tree topper. Always. 
So, knowing those two points, here are my reviews of Star Wars: The Force Awakens:

Quick review: far better than the prequels, better than Return of the Jedi, but still not as good as A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back - but nothing can be, so, well done!

Extended reviews: I went to see the movie in Portland with one of my best friends from high school who just happens to be living in the same part of the world as me all these years later, and his lovely family. I just need to give that shout out. I had expected to see the movie all by myself - what a treat to see it with family.

Also, I burst into tears as soon as "A long time ago.... " came on the screen. But I did that for the first prequels too, so.... I was still worried.

The film: I thought it was terrific. Not absolutely great, but very good - the prequels aren’t even close to the league this film is in. It was so nice to have the FUN back in a Star Wars movie! I’m so glad Lucas was NOT involved.

I’m really intrigued by how deliberately derivative the plot is - my theory as to why that is is that JJ and Kasdan are going to try to resolve a bunch of stuff Lucas did NOT in Episodes IV - VI, like Yoda saying to Luke, “If you leave now, help them you could; but you would destroy all for which they have fought, and suffered.” There's a method to this derivative madness, and I'm going with it.

LOVED Daisy Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn - perfectly cast - and loved those two characters oh so very much. I can’t wait to watch them through two more movies, and I don't just mean for a romance! I'm so intrigued by the character of Finn. He's entirely original, and very much needed in this universe: a storm trooper who realizes what he's being asked to do and decides, um, NO. A true rebel. And no special powers, just sensibility and heart. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that. A friend said this, and it's stuck with me: "I'm so ready to see Rey's backstory and, although I know Finn is supposed to be infatuated with her, I'm kind of on the fence about her having any type of love story. I hope she is the Luke of this trilogy rather than the Leia." I so get that.

I was stunned that Han Solo was a primary character and in much of the movie - I thought he’d be just a cameo. Yes, even though he's been marketed front and center, I still thought he'd have maybe 15 minutes in the film.

Way to go, Carrie Fisher - you are still Leia. I was skeptical you could do it. I so stand corrected. You aren't a Princess - you are a Goddess.

I’m confused by Maz Kanata - I’ll be interested to hear how this female Yoda came to be with a magical basement in her bar. That whole thing felt out of nowhere, so I hope to get some backstory in the next film.

Only one thing I couldn’t quite get my head around: when Kylo Ren took his helmet off, I had to stop myself from saying out loud, “What in the hell is Severus Snape doing in this movie?!?” I don't think he looked like the son of Han and Leia. He looked like the child I would have with Alan Rickman. Oh, wait, I've said too much... Rey, on the other hand - wow, if she isn't their child, I'll be stunned.

And, my joke as the credits rolled: My god, how did Mark Hamill remember all his lines?!? Seriously: I am on the edge of my seat to see him in the next film!!! The ending of this movie was EPIC AND PERFECT!!!! Loved hearing a "Noooo!" from behind me when the credits started.

This movie was completely free of midichlorians, and for that, I think we're all thankful.

But there is a DARK SIDE to the whole showing: someone spoiled the big moment in the movie before I saw it. I had vowed to stay off of Facebook as of Thursday morning and not go on it until after I saw the film on Friday, and I turned off all interviews about and previews of the movie on TV in an effort to remain spoiler free. I hate spoilers. I hate not getting to experience surprises in a film. But on Wednesday, some asshole - probably a guy - wrote this comment on a Facebook page story that had nothing to do whatsoever with Star Wars - like, something on the National Geographic page or something about Yellowstone or whatever: "Han Solo is killed by his own son." I read the sentence before I realized what it was. So someone just went around to random Facebook pages that had nothing to do with Star Wars and wrote that just to ruin people's experience. WHY WOULD SOMEONE DO THAT?! What kind of person gets off on just robbing people of an experience? A psychopath. The things I hope happen to you cannot be written on this blog for fear of being arrested for making a threat.

So, other than THAT total dick move...

I had a wonderful experience watching the movie. The FUN of Star Wars is BACK!!

Postscript: All of the things I was worried about on my way to the theater in Portland to see Star Wars yesterday: My bus breaking down, that while on the train we could come to standing water on the tracks and, therefore, we couldn't proceed, that a homeless person in Portland would pee on me (always worried about that), that the second bus I took after the train would break down, that even MORE people would spoil MORE plot surprises before I got to the movie, that Gregg would announce he and his family had already seen the movie at a special screening and they'd just drop me off at the theater on my own, that my online ticket would be rejected at the box office, that projection break down, that there would be a power outage, and that there would, at some point, be mention of midichlorians. ‪#‎firstworldfears‬

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Who is the enemy?

From Seven Days in May (1964), one of my very favorite movies: a speech by the President Jordan Lyman (Fredric March), as he is about to speak to Gen. James Mattoon Scott (Burt Lancaster), who planned to stage a coup and take over the government:

He’s not the enemy. Scott, the Joint Chiefs, even the very emotional, very illogical lunatic fringe, they're not the enemy. The enemy is an age. A nuclear age. It happens to kill man’s faith in his ability to influence what happens to him. And out of this comes a sickness, a sickness of frustration, a feeling of impotence, helplessness, weakness. And from this, this desperation we look for a champion in red, white and blue. Every now and then a man on a white horse rides by and we appoint him to be our personal god for the duration. For some men it was a Senator McCarthy. For others, it was a General Walker. And now it’s a General Scott.

We could rewrite this now, substituting an age of terrorism for a nuclear age, and substituting Donald Trump for General Scott.

Monday, December 7, 2015

December 7

On this day in 1941, Japan attacked the USA, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 were wounded. The USA thus entered WWII, and my paternal grandfather fought the Japanese in the barren lands of the Aleutian Islands, a service he was proud to give and for which I am thankful.

But the USA also forced the relocation and incarceration of more than 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry in the USA - 62% of the internees were USA citizens. In 1980, President Carter opened an investigation to determine whether the decision to put Japanese Americans into internment camps had been justified by the government. His commission's report found the incarceration had been the product of racism. In 1988, President Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act, which apologized for the internment on behalf of the U.S. government and authorized a payment of $20,000 to each individual camp survivor. The legislation admitted that government actions were based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership."

The two people murdering co-workers in San Bernardino doesn't make me think of Pearl Harbor, but the rhetoric I'm hearing regarding Muslims Americans is making me think of those internment camps.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Syrian refugee myths - DEBUNKED

Refugees have killed people in the USA!
No. No refugee has ever committed an act of terrorism in the USA. The Boston Bombers, the 911 killers, the Chattanooga shooter were all LEGAL immigrants. In fact, the Boston Bombers were, literally, Caucasians.

Refugees could be terrorists!
So could your neighbor - he could be a follower of Timothy McVeigh (white guy) or Eric Rudolph (white guy) or the Roseburg shooter (white guy) or the Charleston shooter (white guy) or the Colorado theater shooter (white guy) or the Columbine murderers (white guys). How do you know you don't have a neighbor that is a pedophile Catholic priest, or someone that helped cover up the actions of a pedophile priest? Refugees undergo 1-2 years waiting for background checks and undergoing interviews before they are allowed to come to the USA. Also, all immigrants - never refugees - who have committed acts of terrorism in the USA were radicalized in the USA.

The French attacks were done by refugees!
No. The attackers in France were French citizens. A forged Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the slain assailants. It bore the name of a Syrian national who apparently transited through Greece in early October. So we do NOT know if that guy was a refugee.

Muslim countries aren’t taking in Syrian refugees!
As of September 2015, Turkey has taken in 1.9 million refugees. Lebanon: 1.1 million. Jordan: 629,000 (and nearly half of Jordan’s 7 million population is of Palestinian origin). Iraq: 249,000. United Arab Emirates: 250,000. Egypt: 132,000. The darling close allies of the USA, Saudi Arabia & Kuwait? 0 As of Sept., the USA has taken in a whopping… 1,500 Syrian refugees.  Source.

The Muslims Holy Book preaches violence!
It does - as much as the Bible does. It also preaches peace - it does that far more than it supports violence. Unlike the Bible, which is rife with violence against non-believers.

Muslims hate Christians!
No. This particular sect of Islam, Daesh, hates Christians - and Shia Muslims and Sunnis they don’t think practice Islam in the “right” way. They have killed far, far more Muslims than Christians.

Muslims commit acts of violence!
Indeed, many of the people committing acts of terrorism in the world are Muslim. Whereas there were far more Christian terrorists in years past, Muslim terrorists have been winning the body count war lately. But just as the KKK and the Charleston church shooter and Eric Rudolph and David Koresh and Warren Jeffs aren’t representative of MOST Christians, just as pedophile Catholic priests and priests and nuns that enslaved single mothers in Ireland and stole their babies in Ireland in the last 100 years aren't representative of all Catholics, Daesh, Al-Queda and others of a similar, murderous nature aren’t representative of MOST Muslims.

Muslims don’t speak out against ISIS (Daesh)
They do, regularly, often, on the Web, via their media.

Ronald Reagan was SO much more tough on terrorists!
In 1982, President Ronald Reagan sent Marines to Lebanon on a peacekeeping mission. In 1983, a bombing at the Marine compound in Beirut, Lebanon killed 241 US service personnel. 3 1/2 months later, and after repeatedly pledging not to do so, Reagan ordered the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Lebanon. Where I’m from, we call that a "cut and run.”

Obama needs to bomb the hell out of Syria!
As of November 18, 2016, the USA has dropped more than 6300 bombs on Syria.
Source 1. Source 2.

We should help our veterans first!
The USA has plenty of money to help both veterans and a measly 10,000 Syrian refugees. We have more than enough money - just cancel some of the military contracts the military *itself* wants canceled (but Halliburton and various Senators want to keep). Also, if every person who put a yellow ribbon or pro-veteran meme on their Facebook page also donated $10 to services that help veterans, programs would be fully funded. There is nothing stopping YOU from donating money to a veterans support group nor writing your congress person and Senators to demand better support for veterans - have you done either?

We can’t have Syrian refugees here - it would be too easy for them to get guns!
And…. scene.

Monday, November 16, 2015

How to defeat Daesh - no, really, this will work

How to defeat Daesh (what others call ISIL and, unfortunately, the same name as the Egyptian goddess, ISIS)? Not by even MORE bombing of Syria. What a stupid idea. Didn't work in Vietnam, won't work in Syria.

Send in our troops? Anyone saying that has to sign up themselves to be a part of the invasion and occupation, OR, get at least one of their children to do such. Otherwise, you aren't saying "We should go", you are saying, "Someone that's not me should go."

The murderous problem with Daesh will not be solved militarily any more than problems with any terrorist group has been solved militarily.

Here's what I don't hear anyone saying - and, yet, these, all together, would work, because they've worked when fighting Christian extremists and any other large terrorist movement:
  1. Cut off the money. “Grossing as much as $40 million or more over the past two years, ISIS has accepted funding from government or private sources in the oil-rich nations of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait—and a large network of private donors, including Persian Gulf royalty, businessmen and wealthy families.” These countries are allies of the USA. It’s overdue to tell them there will now be consequences for funding terrorism. Also, start saying loudly and clearly that those found with antiquities stolen from Syria and Iraq will be prosecuted even 100 years from now - no “I didn’t know!” defenses allowed for 100 years. If you are caught with stolen items, you go to JAIL. Period. More about how Daesh is funded.

  2. All intelligence agency workers, law enforcement, and politicians, nationally and locally, world wide need to learn about Islam - and not from fundamentalist Christians - and develop meaningful, strong ties with the majority moderate Muslims in their countries. They need to build trust with these organizations, such that Muslims will feel comfortable coming forward and saying, “I’m worried about my nephew/my Uncle/my neighbor…” Remember: when mass shootings at schools and work places have been prevented in the USA, it’s been because students, family members or co-workers heard someone talking about their plans and, despite that person being a friend or family member, they contacted law enforcement.

  3. Every country needs to encourage regular inter-faith events with Muslims in their midsts. That goes against everything Daesh stands for. Daesh hates hates hates any mixing of Muslims with non-Muslims - in stark contrast to Mohammed, who welcomed Jews and Christians into his mosque in Medina. Peace between warring religious groups is possible. There was a time when Catholics and Protestants killed each other - yet I don’t know anyone still calling for vengeance regarding the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of 1572, when French Catholics murdered between 5,000 to 30,000 Protestants.  On Sept. 11, 1857, in a meadow in Utah, a militia of Mormons began attacking a wagon train of Arkansas families - all Christian but not Mormon - bound for California, and slaughtered 140 men, women and children. Several historians believe Mormon church leaders ordered the massacre. And the Catholic and Lutheran majorities of Germany actively participated in the expulsion and murder of Jews. There are still calls for accountability and atonement and remembrance regarding all of these tragedies, these murders, as there should be - but no one is blowing anyone up over these events anymore, because we actively work for understanding and reconciliation and humanitarianism.

  4. Christians have to condemn Christians that call for oppression and even murder of Muslims just as they call on Muslims to condemn acts of violence by people who say they are Muslims. Christians have to distance themselves from extremist Christians in the same way they demand Muslims distance themselves from extremist Muslims.

  5. Mainstream Muslims and all governments have got to get way better at propaganda, including on social media. The narrative regarding Islam among non-Muslims and non-religious youth born in Muslim families MUST be changed. Anti-Daesh efforts on social media are *pathetic*. Give groups like Quranalyzeit and Sisters in Islam huge grants to hire more staff and be WAY more active on social media with their moderate, peaceful, loving, pro-women, Islamic-based messages. Those two tiny organizations are doing a *brilliant* job of countering extremist messages regarding Islam, and doing it as Muslims and from an Islamic perspective. But they are drowned out by Daesh. Governments also need to heavily promote the help they are providing Syrian refugees and people in primarily Islamic countries. But do it right - don't do this.

  6. And last, but never, ever least: fund Islamic women's groups. Give them more money! LOTS MORE MONEY. There's no better way to counter the narrative of Daesh, Al-Queda, or any other extremist Islamic group, than giving Islamic women's groups REAL RESOURCES.

This would work! Of course, Haliburton and others that profit from wars wouldn't be able to make any money from it, so it won't happen...

Here's some terrific resources for more reading:

Friday, November 6, 2015

Don't mess with my gender identification

The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler premiered in 1996. Based on interviews conducted with more than 200 women, it is a staged reading of monologues about sex, love, menstruation, rape, birth, self-love, and more. It has been translated into 48 languages and performed in at least 140 countries.

I saw it in 2001 in Austin Texas (I think - could have been earlier), with a cast of readers that included Linda Ellerbee. It was a glorious, raucous night, and the crowd went wild several times with cheers. I can’t remember when I laughed that hard. And oh how I cried at times. So much of the show hit home for me - it was very personal at times. When I left the theater that night, I felt glorious. In fact, that evening changed the way I talk about women’s genitalia forever.

But I’m not supposed to say much of that, at least not the way I've said it. Instead of “interviews with more than 200 women,” I should say “interviews with more than 200 people with vaginas.” I’m not supposed to say “women’s genitalia” - I’m supposed to say “genitalia that is traditionally identified as female.” Mount Holyoke College, a school for women in South Hadley, Massachusetts, cancelled a scheduled performance of the play back in January 2015 because the play “is not inclusive of transgender women.” Indeed, a play called The Vagina Monologues is not inclusive of people that don’t have vaginas.

If you identify as a woman, but were born with male genitalia, and you want me to refer to you with a female name, you want me to use female pronouns in reference to you, and you want me to share women’s bathrooms with you, I will. I think the fears that male child predators will stalk women’s bathrooms dressed as women if laws protecting transgendered rights are passed are ridiculous - I’m much more worried about the safety of someone who identifies as a woman, who dresses as a woman, being forced to use men’s bathrooms.

But I also identify as a woman because of my genitalia and other physical features and how I have been treated all of my life, and it is NOT wrong for me to do that. I am very angry that I am being told I may NOT feel empowered as a woman at a performance of The Vagina Monologues, that it's wrong for me to identify as a woman because of my genitalia, that the show "offers an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman," and that it is "inherently reductionist and exclusive" (that's what the student spokeswoman at Mt. Holyoke said). You are, in short, denying how I identify as a woman, and that's just as wrong as denying transgender identification.

To cancel a performance of The Vagina Monologues because it might hurt the feelings of people that identify as female but don’t have vaginas is like canceling a showing of the movie Chariots of Fire because not everyone can run. Or The Turning Point because not everyone can dance. Or Amadeus because not everyone can hear the music. Or Call the Midwife because some people cannot have children that want to. We have become obsessed with trigger warnings - we've gone from trying to be compassionate to trying to control conversations in the name of "creating safe spaces." To quote The Atlantic: In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.

I do not think that The Vagina Monologues is saying "Being a woman means to have a vagina and if you don’t have one, you’re not a woman” But it is, most definitely, and unabashedly, a celebration of the vagina - and of women that have them. And that celebration is DESERVED. It's overdue! There is no denying that a physical aspect of womanhood that involves having a vagina, that it involves fertility, and involves cycles. We talk about these things, celebrate such, complain about such, embrace such, are discriminated against because of such, are loved because of such, mourn when we lose or give up such - it’s who we are, it’s part of our identification as women. To deny those aspects of womanhood means you are denying *my* identification. And it fucking pisses me off.

Spare me the comments about being transphobic. I’ve made it clear that I support people’s rights to identify however they want to identify when it comes to their gender. If you want to identify as a woman, despite having male genitalia, that’s fine with me. But if you don’t like The Vagina Monologues, then don’t go.

I am woman. Hear me roar.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Gun control NOW

Does requiring everyone to have a driver's license and having speed limits mean that EVERYONE follows those rules all the time? No. There are still speeders. But those laws make a HUGE difference in our safety. HUGE. No one can dispute that.

Do restaurants sometimes flout food safety laws? Yes. But food safety laws have DRASTICALLY reduced this happening, creating an environment where unsafe handling of food is not tolerated by most people. Those laws make a HUGE difference in our safety. No one can dispute that.

Do people sometimes flout laws regarding littering? Yes. But laws, and public awareness campaigns, have drastically changed the American landscape since the 1970s. Remember how the sides of highways were lined with trash? I do. You will still see trash on the landscape, but not nearly as much as when I was a kid. Those laws and public awareness campaigns really have kept America beautiful. No one can dispute that.

Go to countries where they don't have these laws, or where the laws aren't enforced, where no one is educated about these situations. I have. It's horrific.

And yet, people are saying more gun laws and more enforcement will make no difference.

Other countries have people with mental illness. Other countries have people that want to do harm for others. But we're the only industrialized country where mass shootings happen again and again and again. Yes, there have been mass shootings in Norway and German and France and all over Western Europe where gun laws are oh-so-strict. But they are rare. They aren't rare in the USA. Not at all. Compare ALL industrialized countries with the USA when it comes to gun violence - in domestic violence, in suicide, in mass shootings, in robberies. And that's that - the facts win. Gun control works.

I've read comments online like this: "Germany doesn't have speed limits on the Autobahn and they have less traffic accidents than in the USA." First of all, Germany DOES have speed limits on the Autobahn - there are only a few places where there is no speed limit. Secondly, to get a driver's license in Germany, a person has to take very lengthy, difficult driving tests, both written and practical, and requires that every person to take a very long, expensive driving class before attempting the tests. I'll be all for getting rid of speed limits on remote stretches of American highways when we have similar intensive driving training and testing.

It’s time for every sensible person to reject the notion that laws and enforcement won't prevent gun violence, or that more guns will lead to less violence (just look what widespread gun ownership has done for Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq and too many other countries to name).

Let's license every gun owner just like every car driver. Let's license every gun just like every car. Let's require every person that wants a gun to undergo an extensive background check and to take an extensive, intensive class on both gun violence and gun safety, and then have to take a test to prove they have the capabilities for responsible gun ownership. And let's set a limit on the number of guns in a household.

Let each of us no longer tolerate jokes or comments about killing people. Let's call our friends and family out when they say, "I'd like to shoot that place up" or "I'd love to just kill them all." It's not funny. It's not normal.

Let's remember that there's no way the writer of the Second Amendment ever intended for the words well-regulated to be dismissed, and never intended for an American to have an arsenal of guns that could kill dozens of people in just 60 seconds. If everyone wants an 18th century musket, ala what our Founding Fathers had, I'm fine with that.

And one more thing: someone on Facebook, on a friend of a friend's post, said, "But there must be a way to know if somebody has been hospitalized for or has been medicated for a mental illness, and not allow them to purchase a weapon." Treatment for mental illness doesn't mean someone is more prone to violence. There's ZERO studies that say that. ZERO. Stop trying to steer this away from the reality there are too many guns and we have a cavalier attitude about them, one I've seen in only one other country of the more than 35 I've been to: Afghanistan.

Gun control now.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

September update: we start with Monty Python, then move on to trees

eric idle replies to me on Twitter

Yeah, so, that happened. I finally got the attention of a member of Monty Python. At least it wasn't followed by a restraining order.

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I have no nostalgia for the homes of my childhood, no desire to return to any of them. But curiosity got the better of me recently, and I decided to have a look on Google Street View at the house I lived in longer than any other in Henderson, Kentucky. And I was stunned: all of the trees in front of that house, and most of the trees on that part of the street, are gone. The street was shady in my childhood, with many of the trees heavy with blooms in the spring. I remember the smell. I remember the shade, providing relief on scorching hot days. I remember the birds, sometimes overwhelming in the noise they made in the evenings. The street now looks barren - and cheap. I wonder how much everyone's air conditioning has gone up without all that glorious shade. It's just another ugly street in the USA now.

I live in a historic neighborhood now, in Oregon, covered in trees. People are out walking through it all the time. There's a house near us that isn't historic, isn't all that attractive, on its own. Probably built in the 70s. But the three gorgeous Oregon pine trees out front made it beautiful, cozy... sweet. I'd look at it as I walked by and think, it's amazing how these trees make this place look so appealing.

The long-time owner of the house died recently, and the new owner moved in almost immediately.

And those three trees are gone. The trees weren't hurting the sidewalk, nor the foundation, and were oh-so-healthy.

The tiny, sweet front porch that looked so inviting now looks like the cheap tack-on that it is. The shady sidewalk I sought out all summer now bakes in the full sun for hours. The house looks like just a cheap pre-manufactured home.

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Did you enjoy my travelogue for our 16-day trip to the Yukon and back? Or the photos?

Where to next? Not sure. Lots of dreams...

What about the chalk art festival photos?

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"Portlandia" was filming this month at a store very near us. If I'd known, I would have stood outside with a sign that said, "Rose City Rollers storyline NOW!!!"

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I've now lived in Oregon longer than any other state in the USA except Kentucky. I've lived in Oregon for six years, longer than I was in California (five years, 11 months), Texas (four years, three months), Connecticut (almost two years), Massachusetts (two summers) and New York (two months).

I'm a gypsy. I know, it's not the politically-correct term, but I love it so much more than the term that's in vogue now: nomad. The longest I've been at a job is just over four years. The longest I've been at the same address since I was 22 was four and a half years - that was in Sinzig, Germany.

I love getting to know a new community, starting a new job, etc. I've always loved it. It's been a much more affordable way to see different places in the world than continually traveling. But... I'm also so tired of moving. Since my time at university, I've moved more than 15 times. I'd like to keep traveling as long as I can - travel is in my blood - but I'd really like to stay here in our home for a while, at least longer than I've lived at any other address, which means I'd like to stay put at least through July 2017. 10 years would be January 2023. I'll be 57. How frightening...

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On the night of the lunar eclipse, I did an interpretive dance with a tennis ball to illustrate to Stefan the difference in a New Moon and a lunar eclipse. He did not applaud at the end.

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From my living room window, I saw a guy last night sitting on the steps of a nearby church, frantically swatting away imaginary bugs crawling all over him, or putting out tiny imaginary fires all over his body. I debated what to do. Call the police - because he was tripping and who knows what he'd do next, he might hurt himself, he might need medical attention... don't call police because he isn't bothering anyone, he is obviously in a very vulnerable state and could be harmed by others and needs to be alone, he has no where else to go, I'd rather him be there than in someone's back yard... I ended up calling. Police arrived, the bugs immediately disappeared, they talked, they drove away, he walked away. Problem in no way solved, situation in no way improved. And I'm still debating.

*     *     *

Off to Kentucky in a few weeks...

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Finally watched Birth of a Nation. Yuck.

According to the dictionary on my computer, the term racism means "the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races." There are a lot of people that would read that definition, without the word racism, and happily, even unashamedly, identify with the phrase. I am not one of those people. But they are all around me. That belief about different races is not limited to only people descended from European tribes, I've learned as I've traveled the world. And when people tout any race - their own or someone else's - as smarter, kinder, more family-oriented, sneakier, more violent, more passionate, more creative, better with money, or WHATEVER - than other races, I get a really ugly pain in my stomach. Racism is real.

In our vernacular use, most people, when they say something is racist, mean something much stronger: they use the word for something that has a message that is demeaning at best, and hateful at worst, regarding all people of a particular race. When someone says some book or movie or play or whatever is racist, that's usually what they mean: that the piece is demeaning to an entire race.

When someone says, "Hey, that's racist" about a movie or book or play or whatever, if I haven't seen it or read it or whatever, I'll give it a look. And sometimes, I don't find it truly racist - I don't always think the author or screenwriter or whatever is trying to say something specfici about all members of a race, good or bad. Maybe I do think it's racist, but I think it's more a relic of a time - presentation of stereotypes and sweeping generalizations we all, surely, know now aren't true, right? Often, I think, yes, it's racist - but it's far, far more sexist, so why aren't we talking about that?!

In short, I'm not quick to jump on the oh-my-goodness-that's-racist! bandwagon. So knowing that's my MO, please take this for what it is worth:

I finally watched Birth of a Nation, all three plus hours of it, and it's the most hateful, racist-filled crap of a movie I've ever seen in my life. By far. It's absolutely reprehensible. It's so much worse than I ever imagined. To call it racist doesn't even begin to describe its horribleness. It is hideous.

Tons of old American movies are racist. Maybe all of them. Maybe all of the new ones as well. I love old movies, but loving old movies, like Gone With the Wind, is like loving my grandparents (one of whom I'm relatively certain was in the White Citizens League back in the 1950s): racist, painfully so at times, but there are so many, many other wonderful things about them that are worth loving, worth loving deeply, and I do so, even if, at times, they make me cringe - or even make me angry and ashamed. I look at the entire picture, and see what the heart of the message is, and what might be a product of the time, and see if I can reconcile, if the heart is good and greater than the unpleasantness around it. Sometimes I can, sometimes I can't.

There's a racist joke and a couple of racist scenes in my beloved Duck Soup.  There's oh-so-much racism in Red Dust, yet another film I adore. There's a couple of cringe-worthy comments in His Girl Friday, a comedy we all claim to love. Often, in a quest to not address racism, movies simply ignore that black Americans or Asians exist at all - not exactly racism, but most definitely not anything to applaud. I am fully conscious of the racism every time I watch these films, but it doesn't keep me from enjoying them, because there is so much more there, so many wonderful portrayals of the human spirit and of human values. If I avoided movies that could be considered racist, I wouldn't watch any movies.

And I'm always amazed at how the people so quick to tell me what is and isn't racist will roll their eyes when I start to talk about sexism in movies - especially when I go off on The Philadelphia Story, a movie I LOATHE for its horrible sexist message: men cheat on their wives, but as long as they go back to their wives eventually, or don't entirely leave them, they are just being normal and women should accept it. BITE ME.

But the obvious, hateful agenda of Birth of a Nation... its entire story, its characters, its presentation - EVEN THE TITLE... it is all beyond anything I can get my head around. It has no other purpose than to say that African Americans are sex-crazed buffoons naturally prone to violence, that their subjugation was (and is) for the good of everyone in the USA, and that the only way to have world peace is for white people to be united in their subjugation of Africans everywhere. It also promotes a twisted view of history, saying explicitly that, before the Civil War, there was no one nation, there was no union - just happy independent states doing entirely as they pleased (which makes it perfectly in-line with the modern-day GOP, but I digress...). Birth of a Nation has NO OTHER PURPOSE than inspiring hate and feelings of superiority by white Americans, and to say that the USA should give states the right to subjugate black Americans. It wasn't made primarily to tell a love story, or a survival story, or a horror story, or any kind of story: it was made solely to say horrific things about one race of people, and to claim it was best for the people of that race to be enslaved by another race of people, who the movie says are superior intellectually, emotionally, culturally and spiritually. It promotes a passionate, irrational hatred of black Americans - and it makes the Ku Klux Klan the heroes. That's its message, first and foremost.

Geesh, the movie is so freakin' racist that many of the black characters are played by white actors with make-up, when those characters were required to come in contact with a white actress. This film is widely credited for reviving the long-dead Ku Klux Klan - and I completely see why.

I have always hoped, having not seen it, that maybe it was just really outdated, that it would turn out, once I saw it, to be just to be just archaic and misguided. At worst, insidious. Nope, there's no stealth here - it's infused with angry, intense, unashamed arrogance regarding the film-maker's supremacist beliefs. No subtlety at all.

I can't admire the film-making techniques of Birth of a Nation any more than I can in Triumph of the Will. I don't give a rat's ass that this movie pioneered panoramic long shots, iris effects, still shots, night photography, panning shots, the staging of battle scenes, color tinting and having its own musical score. I DON'T CARE. It's like saying, "Sad about the stabbing of that family, but look how well the knives worked! What technique!"

D.W. Griffith didn't make Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages as a follow-up in order to apologize for Birth of a Nation - isn't it OBVIOUS that he made that follow-up because he was so upset at people disgust at B of a N, that he felt the criticism was, itself, intolerance and that such was unfair? Well, DW, yes, the criticism, the disgust, were - and are - intolerance. And humans have a right to express such, to reject your pathetic world view. No, I don't think this movie should be banned. But I also think it needs to be presented honestly and openly for what it is - no sugar-coating, no oh-but-the-film-techniques! justifications. Let's present it as the love letter to white supremicists that it is. That is what it is. Period.

I'm really glad Turner Classic Movies (TCM) showed it. I'm glad I've seen it. But I'm disappointed to learn it's even more horrible than I ever expected. Wow.

On a side note: I was on the light rail coming home from Portland in 2013, and was eavesdropping on a group of African women, I think from Tanzania, and a group of Indian women talking about movies they love. And they all love Gone With the Wind, and went on and on about why. They loved it like I do. No mention of its racism was ever made - I kept listening for it, but it never happened. Sometimes I wonder if people in other countries, even Africans, understand the horrors of slavery in the Americas... but I kind of loved that they loved the film without experiencing any racist subtext. The way women are expected to enjoy so many films without getting upset about the sexism.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What is Southern heritage? What is worth celebrating?

What is heritage? It's a thing that can be inherited. Heritage is valued objects and qualities: cultural traditions, music, art, natural landscapes, historic buildings and a particular, shared history that come from previous generations.

Following up to a previous blog, I've been thinking a lot about what being from the South means to me, what heritage that it is a part of it that I want to celebrate.

The first thing that comes to mind: food. Stereotypical, I know. But there is no better comfort food than Southern food. Barbecue, biscuits and milk gravy, fried chicken, sweet corn on the cob, chicken and dumplings (dumplin's!), breaded and fried catfish fiddlers, burgoo... okay, not the healthiest cuisine in the world, and since leaving Kentucky, I've changed my daily diet rather significantly. But I still indulge in those Southern foods every now and again, usually when I want to celebrate something - and always when I visit the region. Going into a soul food restaurant on the West Coast makes me feel at home - waving a Confederate flag does not.

The second thing that comes to mind: music. Everyone from the Carter Family to Bessie Smith to Loretta Lynn, from Elvis Presley to Fats Domino to BB King, from Dolly Parton to Rhiannon Giddens, Southern Culture on the Skids to REM to the B52s to Government Cheese. It's country, bluegrass, gospel, rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, zydeco and on and on.

The third thing that comes to mind: our way of speaking. It's not just our accents - it's our cadence, our choice of words, our narratives, our poetry, our manners - it's what we say and how we say it and our intent behind it. If you've read William Falkner, Tennessee Williams, Maya Angelou, Richard Wright, Robert Penn Warren, Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor, Carson McCullers or Alice Walker, you experience this.

The fourth thing that comes to mind: our violent history. The white settlers drove out the native people of the region - and some Indians on the trail of tears took the African slaves they owned with them. Every Southerner wants to claim native American history, but not ancestry that drove out native Americans. Our ancestors were slave owners and slaves, and the time of slavery was never a universally-happy, simple time; rather, white Southerners wanted black Southerners to work in menial jobs, cook their food, entertain them, and take care of their children - but they wanted them otherwise completely segregated and subjugated, living in poverty, and were willing to undertake violent means, even long after the Civil War, to ensure that status. Some of us choose to be in denial about that history, some of us choose to sanitize, even glorify, the history, and some of us would like for it to be acknowledged, remembered, and taught in school - unfiltered.

The fifth thing that comes to mind: how we think of family and community and class. Every culture on Earth will say family is important, and the South is no different. But there's something particular about family and community and South, the way religion permeates it - even if you are Atheist, you cannot get away from religion in the South. There is so much prayer. The only place I've seen people praying that often has been in Afghanistan. Also, how you are related to other people in the community matters - who your blood relatives are, what families you are related to by marriage, and on and on. There are family aristocracies even in the tiniest, poorest communities that can hold a person back from jobs or social advancement. I learned the term trash from my black friends back in Kentucky, who used the term for people that, whether they had money or not, and no matter their racial identification, lacked propriety, decency, tact and grace. And, of course, there is our sports culture. The only place where I have seen sports treated the way we treat it in the South - like a religion - is in other countries where soccer is King. Entire communities here will shut down for the "big game," which might be American football, might be basketball, might be a softball game. And it will be talked about long after that game is over.

The sixth thing that comes to mind: the influence from African slave culture and of segregation. Our food, our music, our way of speaking, and how we think about our history are all affected by African slave culture and segregation. You will find a history of segregation and subjugation in other regions of the USA, but you will never find such infusing the food, the music or the way of speaking to the degree you will find such in the South. There's no way to experience our culture without seeing the deep infusion of slave culture and influence of segregation.

That's our beautiful and ugly, gentle and violent, welcoming and hateful, inclusive and exclusionary. I love it, I hate it. I accept it. And there's no way you can say the Confederate battle flag represents all that, and all of the people of the South - it does NOT. I want a symbol for ALL of the South.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Hijacking each other's causes

Like so many thousands of other people, I was beyond saddened by the senseless, pointless killing of Cecil the Lion. The lion population continues to plummet, lions that are still in the wild are getting smaller (because trophy hunters are killing the biggest), and communities are deprived of the significant, long-term economic prosperity living lions bring. Plus, who in the hell wants to live in a world without lions in the wild?!

But the pushback against those of us that expressed our sadness was immediate: on my own social media, I got chastised by a vegan friend who felt my outrage was misplaced and misguided. I saw another friend reprimanded by someone who said she should be more upset about the soldiers killed in Chattanooga. I saw anti-choice/forced-birth activists go after people upset about Cecile. I saw people rebuked by others who said it was insulting that they were talking about a lion in Africa “instead of” #blacklives matter.

How did it make me feel when someone tried to hijack sadness about Cecil? Angry. In fact, it made me instantly double-down, to post MORE about Cecil and related issues, not less. It did not make me want to start posting about the aforementioned causes at all - and many of those causes are ones I support and frequently post about (but NOT the anti-choice/forced-birth folks).

As an activist regarding various causes since the 1980s, I know that pushing a cause always inspires “but why aren’t you protesting such-and-such” pushback. Always. But these days, it seems fashionable to try to hijack someone else’s cause. The most recent example are the people that rushed the stage when Bernie Sanders tried to speak in Seattle. They demanded the crowd give 4 1/2 minutes of silence for Michael Brown, the young man killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri last year. I cringed, just like I cringe when someone demands I bow my head in prayer (I’m an atheist - I will NOT do it) or demands I put my hand over my heart and recite the Pledge of Allegiance - which I will NEVER do. The #blacklivesmatter activists refused to let Sanders speak at all. It wasn’t enough for them to get their message out - they wanted to shut down the event and not allow any other message to be said. And as a result, they turned away some potentially really great allies.

I’m not vegan, but I’m happy to significantly reduce the amount of meat in my diet - I know now, through the education efforts of others, that a plant-based diet is healthy, and that meat is not raised in a healthy manner in the USA or a lot of other places - and I'm  happy to hear about delicious vegan recipes - but if you’re going to belittle my compassion for another animal-related cause, I’m going to turn away from you. I’m going to unfollow you on Facebook and turn down your invitations to get together. I am horrified by the murders in Tennessee - but I’m going to stop communicating with you if you badger me about that every time I post about the murders in Charleston or Lafayette, saying, “But why don’t you care about OUR TROOPS and Islamic terrorism?!?!?” I am horrified by the systematic racism in law enforcement and the denial about that racism, and I’m trying to promote ways to improve that as a part of my professional, daily consulting work - I want to be an advocate in every way, not just on the weekends and on social media - but I will not support shouting down allies or demands to adhere to a particular script.

Yes, activism often is most effective when it's in-your-face, when it's disruptive, when it's loud and it's impossible to ignore it. Queer Nation's tactics in the 1990s are a great example of this. But their tactics generated not only awareness, but allies - like me. I credit them with waking up me, a straight girl, about gay rights. They made me an ally. They made me WANT to be an ally.

I will listen. I do listen. Talk to me, not at me. Be explicit in describing what it is you want me to do to support your cause in a meaningful way. Educate me. But don't just shout slogans. And don't belittle my compassion. This isn't about who shouts the loudest - it's about changing hearts and minds.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I want a symbol for ALL of the South

I’m from Kentucky. I lived there for the first 22 1/2 years of my life. Kentucky was a slave state that stayed in the Union. Kentucky was the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. Kentucky had more union divisions than confederate divisions, but I wonder some times if Kentuckians know this, as they love to talk about - and invent - Southern veterans among their ancestors. With such a mixed history, is Kentucky the South? I think it is. Having traveled extensively all over the USA, Kentucky, in my mind, fits better in the South, culturally speaking, than the midWest. I have always identified as a Southerner.

We don’t need the Confederate flag to represent the South. We never have. It represents only one group of people: white Southerners who believe Southern states had a right to enslave black Africans and their descendants. That is the heritage it represents, period. It's a hurtful symbol not only for black Americans, but for white Americans, like me, who find it a painful reminder of inhumanity that permeated the region I call my home. It represents the worst that white Southerners can be. To see it flown outside state legislatures, to see it a part of state's flags now, is disgusting.

There are so many better representatives of the South: our food, our music, our literature, our friendliness and kindness, our diversity, and on and on. People descended from African slaves are an integral part of the vibrant soul of the South, of the overall culture I love. I love it all. I love the South. And I think the South deserves its own symbol - because we are special, we are unique - but one that represents ALL people in the South and what’s best about us - all of us.

That’s a flag I’ll proudly fly.

I've also traveled all over the world, and it's disturbing to see the Confederate battle flag so popular in so many countries. I've seen it in parades, and sold in gift shops on hats. I've asked people if they know what it means. Some have no idea, and some say they think it means rebellion. But I've no doubt some of them know it's a symbol of oppression against black Americans - and that it's their legal way, in their countries, of expressing "white pride."

The battle over this flag and what it represents has to go worldwide. And we've also got to let people worldwide know the beautiful land and culture that is the South - they really have no idea.

Someone commented on a similar rant, "Are we going to eridacate[sic] the entire Civil War from our history also"? No. Just as Germany doesn't fly the flag that flew over its country and soldiers during World War II, but still remembers and acknowledges that war.

Also see: The meaning of the Confederate flag is best discerned in the words of those who bore it.

One more thing: the majority of Confederate states had armed military divisions fighting for the North. Yes, you read that right: people from each of nine Southern states banded together, under their Southern state identity, formed a military division, and fought for the Union during the Civil War. Only two non-Confederate states, California and West Virginia, had divisions fighting for the South (Kentucky, Missouri and Maryland, which also had at least one armed military division that fought for the South, each had rebellion groups that claimed to be a part of the Confederate government, and these were recognized by the Confederacy). So if you think the South has always been a unified in its hatred of Abraham Lincoln and the North, you would be wrong.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

May Snippets

In a moment of frustration, I tweeted, "Are any of my Twitter followers real? Are any of them NOT bots, and/or trying to sell me something?" And a company in England that specializes in safety & security training & advice for people working humanitarian efforts wrote back "we're real! And we now know what corn hole is thanks to you!" I'm a giver.

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Local news showed a story re: a couple celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary, and how they’ve received notes from famous people, including a hand written note from George Clooney. I wish we’d done that for my maternal grandparents when they celebrated their 70th. And then, when Mama Cym got a hand written note from George Clooney, she would have said, “Who is he? Is he related to Rosemary?”

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Saw "Mad Max", to put myself in a better mood after a motorcycle class fiasco (don't ask). Spoilers abound in the following: (1) I want a Furiosa action figure AND I WANT IT NOW (2) the old women at the end have given me a great vision for my retirement community someday (3) Even with all that said, I really don't get all the hubub about this being an "aggressively feminist movie." An aggressively feminist movie would have had a lot more than dainty women in white whining to be saved and sometimes shooting guns, old women on motorbikes, and a one-armed bad ass woman truck driver. An aggressively feminist movie would have had a woman chopping off a guy's head, drinking his blood, and screaming "I HATE PENISES!!!" Oh well, off to write my screenplay.

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We had a very nice hike to end May. I took a few photos, as well as a short video of what may be Lucinda's first time in the water. I freaked out the eager Tillamook Forest center worker. "Do you know much about the rough-skinned newt?" she asked from behind her information desk. "Well, yeah, I did my PhD thesis on them." Her entire face fell. And then I told her I was kidding. I don't think she was amused. So I asked lots of questions about the rough-skinned newt to make her feel better. She also said, "These are the most toxic creatures in Oregon!" And I said no, honey, *I* am the most toxic creature in Oregon." And her colleague laughed, and she looked horrified. I shouldn't be let out, I really shouldn't.

Lucy and the Wilson River
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We had a party on Labor Day and invited several neighbors over, including their dogs. There were five in the backyard at one point. The next day, Lucy just could understand why our backyard cannot be full of dogs all the time. I swear that she was mad that our Memorial Day party didn't mark the beginning of every day cookouts and dog visits.

And: can you find Gray Max the cat?

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"BREAKING: Swiss Police confirm that, when arrested, all seven FIFA officials threw themselves on the ground and pretended to be injured." -- Bret Bearup (yes, that one, the former U of KY player. He's hilarious)

And on a related note: shame on every country rep that voted to re-elect Sepp Blatter. SHAME ON YOU.

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Mayhew International, an organization I became familiar with when I worked in Afghanistan, has recently carried out the first ever Street Dog Survey in Kabul, Afghanistan: a fantastic team of local volunteer vets & vet students have laid the groundwork for future mass vaccination and dog population management projects in Kabul. Donations made this happen. Please follow them on Facebook, share thehir status updates, and help this excellent organization that I love so much.

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I wish everyone knew this: in Oregon, every intersection is a crosswalk unless marked otherwise (ORS 811.028). The crosswalk does NOT have to be marked with white lines or a sign (like that pictured) to be a pedestrian crossing. The law states that if you see a person waiting to cross an intersection at a corner, and that person has made some effort to demonstrate their desire to cross (such as a foot moving into the roadway, a hand extended out into the crosswalk, etc.), and you’re able to stop in time, you must stop and let that person cross.

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Oh, what a surprise - drug testing welfare recipients is a huge waste of money, doesn't prevent drug use. Awesome.

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"So a gay person wanting to pay you to do what you do for a living violates religious freedom but guys w/ guns surrounding a mosque doesn't?" - LOLGOP

Friday, June 12, 2015

Ethnic, cultural, gender identity - good luck with your definitions

What makes a person whatever it is they say they are? What makes a person male, female, black, white, Scottish, Native American, whatever? I’m having trouble coming up with absolute definitions for any of those identifiers. Is that a good thing? Should we all just be people? Or is the elimination of identifiers from our language taking something important, something precious, away from people who use those identifiers for themselves, who take value from being a part of the community that embraces that identity? After all, strongly-held racial identities and a passion to preserve such can lead to strife - and death.

I really don’t have an answer to any of those questions.

My husband is German - born and raised in Germany, German is his native language, his parents and grandparents and great-grandparents are also native born and native speakers, etc. Not at all patriotic except during the football (soccer) World Cup. Often, someone here in the USA will say to him, upon learning he’s German, “Oh, I’m German too!” When he first moved to the USA, in response to such a comment, he would say, “Wo sehen Sie kommen?” And the person would laugh and say, “Oh, no, I don’t speak German. I’ve never been to Germany! But my great-grandfather was German, so…” Often, they didn’t know where that relative was from in Germany, or even the person’s name - they were told, by family, that they had a German relative, and so they identified as German. But are they?

For much of her life, Senator Elizabeth Warren identified as, in part, Native American. She was told by her family that she had a great-great-great grandmother that was Cherokee, and perhaps other ancestors that were Delaware. She was proud of this heritage. She was even listed as a minority in the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) directories. But that heritage has been called into question - there’s no documentation at all to support it. She wasn't trying to deceive anyone - she was just going with what her family believed. So… is she part Native American, having no confirmed ancestral ties to a tribe? Or not? I worked with American Indians in the San Francisco Bay area back in the 1990s - those I worked with preferred that term to “Native American” - and many times I heard them arguing about who is and isn’t “really an Indian.” Do you have to grow up on a reservation to be Indian? Do you have grown up regularly attending tribal events to be an Indian? Do you have to have a story about a time when you were treated differently - and negatively - based on the perception of your Native American appearance to be a Native American? If you can pass as “white," are you Native American? If you never identified as Indian, and then you confirmed Native American ancestry through solid documentation, do you get to list “Native American” on university and job applications, start wearing tribal dress, etc.? The debates would rage regarding all these questions - even turn ugly. I would sit at the side, have no answers, and hope we could eventually move on to the causes at hand (job development, health promotion, etc.).

I recently took the Ancestry.com DNA test to know what my genetic ethnicities are. The results: I’m
29% Scotch Irish, 22% Scandinavian, 18% Western European (Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands etc., 16% English, 14% Italian/Greek, and 1% Iberian Peninsula (Spain & Portugal). So… do I get to start wearing a kilt and talking in a Scottish accent and supporting Irish and Scottish independence? Would Greeks be offended if I declared myself Greek - having never been to Greece and not speaking Greek?

I think of all this as controversy swirls around Rachel Dolezal, an African studies professor at Eastern Washington University and an NAACP leader in Spokane, Washington. She has been identifying for many years as mixed race, as part black American, but has no proof of black African ancestry and, in fact, has two white biological parents asserting she has no black African ancestry at all. She posted a photo to Facebook, implying that a black man she was standing next to is her father - he’s not. Many people are angry. Others say she should adapt the same words that Caitlyn Jenner used in identifying as female: Caitlyn Jenner says she has always felt she was female, and is only now getting to live as her true self. The transgendered community supports her and says biology is not the determinate of gender identification - a vagina doesn’t mean, automatically, that one is a woman, a penis doesn’t mean a person is a man, etc. So, does skin color or appearance determine race? Or how one was raised? Or how one is perceived? This blog, titled Here's why every Rachel Dolezal-Caitlyn Jenner comparison is wrong, does a rather lousy job of proving its title, but it does do an excellent job of showing the range of opinions about Dolezal in relation to Jenner.

Of course, the big difference in Dolezal and Jenner is that Jenner has never lied about her family, how she was raised, her heritage, her life as a man, or her genitalia. Dolezal has lied about such things, even claiming a black father.

If I was working at an accounting firm, and I found out a woman I had been working with for a year was transgendered - had been born with male genitalia, raised a male, and only started publicly identifying as a female in the last five years - I’d be surprised, but not at all offended. And I’d go right on treating her as her.

If I was a donor to an organization that advocated for the prevention of ovarian cancer and better treatment for women with ovarian cancer, and the woman who ran the organization for two years, who talked passionately about her family’s history of ovarian cancer and how, therefore, she  fears getting it herself, turned out to be transgendered - had been born with male genitalia, raised a male etc., had lied about being born a female and having ovaries or a risk of ovarian cancer - I’d be angry. I would have felt a fraud has been perpetuated upon me.

Maybe that’s how I feel about Dolezal - she may be able to speak to what it’s like to be a black American for the last 10 years or however long she’s been living her life as such, but she’s been deceptive about how she grew up and what her family life was like. That’s troublesome.   

But this Jenner comparison has given me pause, even if it mostly doesn't fit in this case. I fully support people that want to dress as a gender different from their genitalia, who want to be treated as a gender not represented by their genitalia. I’ve had no issue walking into a bathroom and seeing a woman standing there that I am relatively certain is transgendered - if she feels she is a woman, and presents herself as a woman, and wants to use the women’s bathroom, that is fine by me. But how would I feel if the head of a pay equality group was transgendered? Could she really understand the plight of girls and women who struggle with lower pay than men in the workplace? Should she really speak for something that she may never have experienced herself? Would it matter the amount of time she had publicly identified as a woman - 5 years? 10 years? 20? My answer: I just do not know.

Elinor Burkett, a journalist, former professor of women’s studies and an Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker, tried to delve into this in a New York Times opinion piece; she was eviscerated for her commentary in this Jezebel piece, which made a point of finding an unflattering photo of her to show with the piece. Even attempting to discuss this can bring a LOT of grief... I wonder what I'm inviting by daring to blog about it...

Identity. What are the boundaries? What are the definitions? Can we really say anymore, with certainty, who is and isn't male, female, black, white, whatever? Does it matter? I do know ethnic, cultural and gender identify are each very personal things, sometimes even precious things, and that many people, even me, are possessive of how they identify. That's something to keep in mind if you work with… well, people.

What is the point of this blog? I don't even know anymore.

Oh, and one last note: I am not Caucasian, and I refuse to check it when it’s the option given on any form - I'll check "other" instead. Caucasian means people from the Caucasus region of southeastern Europe. The term was applied to all white Europeans by German physiologist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, who believed race was determined by his cranial measurements. I consider it inaccurate at best and racist at worst and refuse to use it. And I bristle at reading the word anywhere outside of stories about people from the Caucasus region of southeastern Europe. Call me white, call me a Kentuckian, say I'm of European descent, call me a mutt - just don't ever call me Caucasian.