Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Remember when Clinton supporters were outraged, swore they'd vote for McCain rather than Obama?

I'm seeing a lot of posts in my Facebook newsfeed from friends lamenting the anger of Bernie Sanders supporters, decrying thrown chairs in Nevada (though there are NO videos or photos of such an action), and whining that Sanders supporters are being sore losers and need to think about "party unity."

It all brings back memories of eight years ago, when loyal Clinton supporters refused to accept Hillary Clinton's defeat in the 2008 Democratic primary. They often responded: “Party unity, my ass!”, hence the nickname PUMAs. And they were ANGRY. And loud. And sometimes, downright mean:
  • Hillary Supporters Split "I feel that I’m going against her wishes, but I’m still waiting for Barack Obama to sell me, to give me a reason to want him in the presidency. We’re still not convinced.”

And the pot calls the kettle black. Or, as Shakespeare said in Troilus and Cressida in 1603 or so: "The raven chides blackness."

(no, it's not a racist term - here's more about the origin).

Monday, May 16, 2016

Goodbye, artist

Sometimes, I look online for people with whom I've lost touch. The motivation varies. Maybe some hilarious person from a high school English class crosses my mind, and I wonder where she is. Maybe I remember the name of someone from my childhood, and I wonder whatever happened to him or her. Maybe it's someone I want to avoid, and I'm just checking in to make sure we don't live anywhere near each other and I'm not visiting where they live any time soon. Rarely is it to reconnect with someone, and rarely do I reach out at all, because I think, at this point in our lives, given how easy I am to find online, anyone who wants me to find them, and wants to find me, can easily do both, so if we're not connected now, that's probably as it should be.

A "like" on the page of someone I was wondering-whatever-happened-to lead me to the Facebook account of a former co-worker I shared a house with for one year. I wouldn't call my housemate a friend - we rarely hung out, though we did throw quite a few parties, large and small, for our work colleagues, and our dogs loved each other. I lived in the house she rented - which was very much HER house - only one year, and my time there, and our relationship, ended badly - as did my job a few weeks before. Once I moved out, we had no contact. But I did learn some things in that year in her house, from her, that changed my life: how to make a really boring house quite interesting on even the tiniest budget (it was her idea to rig up an outdoor shower, with hot and cold running water, in a shoddy gazebo in the back yard - it was a rather brilliant idea), how much fun and worthwhile gardening is (yup - learned it from her), and the awesomeness of beautiful dishes. In fact, the dishes I have now look really similar to hers, because I really loved those dishes... She loved the movie Cool Hand Luke, and made me watch it for the first time since I was a kid on the day that I got royally insulted at work by someone that worked really hard to derail my career; she said it would make me feel better and, yeah, it really, really did.

I've never had any interest in reconnecting with her. And the feeling was probably mutual. But when I saw her "like" from two years ago on someone else's page, I was curious as to what she was up to, where she lived, etc. While our friendship was long over, I do remember her as an interesting person, though bitter about something in her past that she just couldn't seem to get over, and it colored much of her life, every day. I wished her only the best - a great job, and much happiness. So I clicked on her name.

She's gone. She died. And she lived right here in the Portland, Oregon area. We were living here at the same time for at least a little while, maybe a few years.

I feel profusely sad. Did she get over that bitterness and have a lovely, fun life at last? Did she make her home as cool as the other homes she's had? Did she stay active in theatre? Did she keep throwing great parties for co-workers? Did her beloved dog that she had when we lived together live a long, wonderful life? What happened to the dogs she had when she died? How close did we come to crossing paths here in the Pacific Northwest? It sounds like she was surrounded by people that loved her very much at the end, and I'm very, very happy for that. She deserved that.

We don't have any mutual friends anymore. The place we worked doesn't even exist anymore.

I feel sad. And weird. I'm so sad for her and those that loved her. Because while we weren't friends, she did matter in my life for an entire year, and some of her influence is right here in my house, right now. And she was a talented, interesting person. I'm so sorry she's gone.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Two decades of learning

20 years ago, I was in the middle of the worst year of my life - and it was about to get even worse. I was, or about to become, a loser in every way - romantically, professionally, financially and socially. I was betrayed and deceived by people I had trusted. People I thought were my friends went silent. By the time I limped to Austin, Texas near the end of 1996, I was very much alone and shattered. I still don’t know how I managed to find an apartment and move - it was like I turned on a machine and just let it run, but wasn't really involved at all. 

I got completely lucky just after I arrived - a job literally landed in my mailbox. A good-paying job I could do from my home. I’d gotten it because of something I’d been dabbling in, on my own, and talking about online. That job - and the Internet - saved my life - it not only gave me financial stability under a sea of debt, it also redeemed my professional reputation and jump-started my career. Austin also saved my life: I made friends that I still have in my life, that delight me even from afar, and the music all around me fed my soul, and still does, to this day. 

That very dark time is always in the back of my head, though I don't dwell on it. Now, exactly 20 years later after that horrible time, it's been more prominent in my thinking. I’ve been thinking in particularly about what I learned since then:
  • I’m much stronger than I thought I was. 
  • You can get better alone - but a good therapist is worth the money. 
  • Listening to music, and drastically reducing the amount of TV you watch, is great for the soul. 
  • To get better, you have to want to get better. 
  • To get better takes more than time - it takes hard work. 
  • To get better, you have to focus not on what you don’t want, but what you do want. You can’t just say, “I hate that such-and-such happened/is happening, I wish it would stop.” You have to focus on what you want instead, and do all you can to live that reality. 
  • Do what you love, no apologies to anyone. 
  • Anyone who tries to separate you from the activities you love should be dropped from your life immediately. 
  • Everyone wastes at least some time on crappy people. Learn from it and forgive yourself. 
  • Friends build you up, and when they criticize, it’s from a place of care and love. Toxic people speak from a place of contempt for your life and your choices, particularly regarding things that make you happy. 
  • You don’t need any dramatic speeches to get rid of toxic people in your life - just stop engaging with them. Most will never notice you’ve dropped them.
  • In the USA, you always have choices. You may not like them, but you have them. If nothing else, you can improve your health. 
  • If you are still complaining about the same thing two years later, the biggest problem is YOU. 
  • Moving is expensive, and you lose a lot in terms of friends and comfort, but it's also a glorious fresh start. In a new place, no one knows anything about you that you don't want them to know, and you are free to be the person you want to be. And sometimes, it's exactly the change you need. 
  • It really does get better - if you want it to and are willing to work at it. 

It took two years for me to really start recovering. And I’m very pleased with all I’ve done professionally since then, but I’m even more pleased with all that I’ve done personally: all the travel, learning another language, learning to cook, singing in public, and learning to ride a motorcycle and taking it some amazing places. That I’ve married a man that loves me for who I am is delicious icing on a cake I made myself. 

I hope this blog helps someone out there who feels like all is lost. It's not. You may not get the life you planned on, by a happy life is possible. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The battle between compassion & concerned-for-my-safety sides of me

The compassionate side of me wants to realistically, systematically and humanely address the conditions of growing number of homeless people in my community. They come in on an express bus from more urban areas of our metropolitan area, and I know they come here because our small town is safer than most other places, that it's easy to find a safe place to sleep or to sit quietly why the drugs flow through their bodies and feed their addiction. They are addicts and/or have mental issues, and are in urgent need intensive medical care - and cannot get it because of lack of services, waiting lists and lack of money. They are frequently targeted for sexual assault and robbery - crime victims as much, and maybe more, than they are perpetrators. They will say, "I chose to be homeless," with pride, but you know it's not true; the young people have left abusive homes, or are gay and have been thrown out, the older people have lost their job and families because of their addictions and mental issues, and they'd each love to have a safe place of his or her own. They all seem broken in some way, even when they are talking full of bravado, the result of abuse, combat trauma, chronic pain or mental disabilities. Many are suicidal, and this is their way of killing themselves - slowly, fully medicated all along the way. They are so young, or so old, and they often look like they are dying - too skinny by far, sores on their face, thick winter clothes on a sunny day. I know that they can't simply take a shower, get some clean clothes and get a job - you're an addict, you're disabled, you don't have the capacity to hold a job. And I know that if they get removed from their campsites near my house, they will just be another community's problem.

The concerned-for-my-safety side of me is angry - really, really angry. I'm outraged that I'm scared to go out of my front door after dark to walk my dog one last time, because of the times their off-leash dog has come hurtling out of the darkness towards us, or because it's frightening to see a hooded figure, hands in pockets, walking toward me on the oh-so-empty block. I'm outraged because of the needle and cans and trash I've found in my yard, and my fears of finding much worse, or my dog being harmed because of what you've left in the yard. I'm angry because I have to walk out of my house at various hours of the day and night and around the corner where my house sits and tell people sitting on my wall to please move on because they are so loud they woke me up or I can't hear my TV or they are screaming - and the reaction may be "Sorry ma'am" or it may be "Fuck you, bitch! I don't have to move!" I'm angry because I have to lock my door when I'm out in the front yard gardening in the middle of the day, because it would be oh-so-easy to slip into my side door without my seeing someone doing it. I'm angry that the bus I take stinks from the stench of so many of these people, and I have to be careful of where I sit because of what they may have left behind, and I'm too scared to listen to music or a podcast because of your fights and outbursts. I'm angry that I no longer feel comfortable walking on the hiking trail near my house because groups of homeless people emerge out of the woods or up from the creek, hungover or in the throes of the high, either way, volatile, or because you have sex under a bridge on the creek, for anyone to see. I'm angry because I'm tired of calling the police to get homeless people off my property and to stop screaming. I'm angry that I have to be afraid of pissing you off and that you will retaliate in some way because I told you to move or called the police. I'm angry that these people tried meth or opiates or heroin or crack or whatever horrible drug that no one - NO ONE - gets away with using without consequences, or are alcoholic and won't go to the oh-so-many AA meetings all around town. I'm angry because they don't really seem to want any help.

The compassionate side of me and the concerned-for-my-safety side of me are in full battle right now. I am at a total loss of what to do.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Why I'm voting for Bernie Sanders

In 2004, I worked for the first time on behalf of a presidential candidate: Howard Dean. I chose him after reviewing the web sites of all the Democratic Party presidential candidates. He was, for me, the obvious choice. I was living in Germany, and I got the opportunity to caucus for Dean in Frankfurt. It was a surreal experience: I didn't fully understand what was going on. What I wasn't expecting was how ugly it would be; the John Kerry supporters said things like, "You have to vote for John Kerry. He has the best chance. You're wasting your vote and our time." No policy positions were discussed - and it's policy positions that drive how I vote. I should have left feeling like, wahoo, I participated in my country's democracy even though I'm thousands of miles away! Instead, I felt marginalized and dismissed. I left feeling angry. I did vote for John Kerry in the general election, but it was without enthusiasm, and I didn't work for the campaign at all.

Four years later, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton squared off. I was still in Germany. And I was torn. I literally made lists of why I should vote for one or the other. They were so alike, policy-wise. I loved Obama's energy, but I loved the idea of a woman President at long, long last. I felt like both would compromise later on most of what they stood for in the election - they were both very much Clinton Democrats, in that regard. I would wake up for one and go to bed for another. I cried over it at one point. How did I decide? I'm not going to tell you. Because it was a rather random reason that I finally decided.

Barack Obama's Presidency was brilliant in ways I never imagined. But it's been disappointing in others. He saved our country in terms of its economy - there's just no debate in that regard, the facts speak for themselves. But not one person went to prison for the criminal acts that almost brought down the world's economies. Not one. People lost their homes, they lost their houses, their credit was ruined - and billionaires stayed billionaires. I'm also disappointed that he turned his back on Elizabeth Warren, that he has not been aggressive at all on financial reform. President Obama stood firm on reproductive rights, just as Bill Clinton did - no compromises - and I am grateful - and I am unforgiving regarding any compromise on that issue. I think history will show that President Obama's foreign policy of not putting more troops on the ground was right on, but it will also show that his policy of drone bombing has been a disaster. He ultimately came out against the Keystone pipeline - and I think that's because of relentless, well-organized and well-spoken grassroots pressure. I wish he had led on the issues of gun control, gay marriage and human rights abroad - particularly Saudi Arabia - but I'm glad that he has spoken about the rights of gay people in other countries, often to a great deal of derision, and has not shied away from talking about the economic and social realities of being a black person in the USA.

Now, it's 2016, and all signs are that the financial crisis is going to happen again. Bankers are engaged in most of the same reckless behavior that almost killed the world's economy. Dodd-Frank is becoming toothless. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is being marginalized. Banks are getting bigger. Pension funds are being raided. Privatization of public services, from prisons to schools, is rampant. There's a strong push to give the corporate sector control of universities, of national parks, of so much that has been the domain of the government of the people. People are working longer hours for less money, and are experiencing a level of financial insecurity that should scare everyone.

I'm scared.

I want a candidate that is going to address those economic issues, that's going to put the USA back on track in terms of the financial security of the 99%. And that's the primary reason I'm supporting Bernie Sanders. He's got the ideas, the skills and the experience to do what needs to be done in terms of our economy and our future. We need dramatic action, bold action, regarding our economy, and he's going to bring that action. He's been talking about this for decades, and so much of what he warned about has come true. He's not just a wide-eyed idealist; he has the knowledge and capability to protect our financial security.

There are other reasons I'm voting for him as well: he's got a long record of supporting environmental causes, abortion rights, civil rights and the rights of workers. He was against the invasion of Iraq and will be against other foolish foreign interventions. I don't see him flip-flopping on issues the way Hillary has regarding Palestine and Israel, foreign trade deals, minimum wage, gay marriage, and on and on and on. I don't see him saying things just to please a certain group of people, particularly when saying such would go against what he's supposed to support. I know where he stands, even on some issues on which I don't agree with him. I know what I'm getting with my vote.

Yes, I know, he's not going to win the primary. But his huge percentage of votes nationally, particularly among young people, is a wake-up call to the Democratic Party: you have ignored progressive issues, you have cow towed to banks and corporations, and we aren't going to take it anymore. Ignore us and lose future elections, it's that simple.

I'm not a wide-eyed optimist either. I'm 50. I've been all over the world. I've lived in other countries. I've seen what works, economically speaking. And I'm voting for Bernie Sanders.