Thanksgiving, 2016

I have a complicated relationship with Thanksgiving.

I still cherish its nostalgic memories–family getting together, waiting for the turkey to cook, going out to my grandpa’s mysterious shop where he made beautiful jewelry from gems he and my grandma had ’rock-hounded’ when they were younger. His shop smelled of stone dust and oil and mystery, and was usually noisy. I inherited his favorite rocks when he died, because, apparently, I loved his shop as much as he did. I remember their electric knife, with which they carved the turkey for their kids and their kids’ kids. I remember playing in and out of that house all day, both before & after the meal. Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday for me, was simply about family.

But for me, it was also, as a kid, about inclusiveness–about Pilgrims and Indians feasting together, having a party to celebrate their survival, together, in the face of long odds and unlikely friendships.

My grandma got old after my grandpa died. I moved away, as did a few of my cousins. Thanksgiving became a smaller holiday for me, but still a treasured one. It invoked the ideal of a harvest festival for me–“Let us eat and be merry, for winter is coming, but we are warm and safe and have plenty of food to eat lavishly today, either with family or friends.”

And in here, of course, I had to start questioning the schoolkid narrative. I had to come to terms with the fact that my holiday, celebrating friends and family, celebrating plenty and ’counting blessings’ was sometimes seen as an affront to the relatives of Native Americans whose friendship the holiday purported to celebrate.

The fight over DAPL rages even as I’m writing this. A protesters is likely to lose her arm today after being hit by a concussion grenade. Think about that – American protesters are being treated like enemy combatants. Trump is an investor in the pipeline company. I think we all can guess how this story is likely to play out. The Thanksgiving irony is overwhelming and not at all funny.

The racism that has always plagued our country has been normalized. It’s walking around right in the open now, ‘Heil’ing Trump on videon–complete with salutes, for god’s sake. Swastikas and other hateful graffiti are showing up damned near everywhere. Minorities are being threatened and physically assaulted. In my lifetime, we–as a nation–have never been further from that Thanksgiving ideal of friends from many cultures, sitting down to the same table, together.

There are so many things to feel concern about right now, it feels a little like stamping out sparks in the midst of a forest fire. Conflict of interest? The threatening of journalists? Fraud, both election and monetary? The normalizing of racism?

This year is the first year my parents have lived nearby since I was in high school. We are having them over for a big thanksgiving feast, and then tomorrow we’re going to my husband’s parents’ house for another. So much turkey. So much thanksgiving.

And I am trying. Trying to be mindful and grateful and all of that. On a personal level, I do believe in the power of gratitude. It got me through some very dark, personal times. I’m not sure it’s as useful in the midst of dark cultural times. It might even endanger the cause of right, if people who should be speaking out get too involved with ‘looking for the bright side’.

But for today, at least, I am going to try to give thanks, to salvage a shred of meaning in a very dark time, on what used to be my favorite holiday.

My favorite poem for dark times, “Thanks” by W. S. Merwin feels very appropriate today. Eat some turkey tomorrow if you’re so inclined, but on Friday, let’s get something done. A phone call, a letter, a show of support for someone who’s hurting. Be the change, people. Be the change. And instead of saying grace, I’ll be reading this….

Listen 
with the night falling we are saying thank you 
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings 
we are running out of the glass rooms 
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky 
and say thank you 
we are standing by the water thanking it 
smiling by the windows looking out 
in our directions 

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging 
after funerals we are saying thank you 
after the news of the dead 
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you 
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators 
remembering wars and the police at the door 
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you 
in the banks we are saying thank you 
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us 
our lost feelings we are saying thank you 
with the forests falling faster than the minutes 
of our lives we are saying thank you 
with the words going out like cells of a brain 
with the cities growing over us 
we are saying thank you faster and faster 
with nobody listening we are saying thank you 
we are saying thank you and waving 
dark though it is

 

11-19-16–This is not normal. This is not ok.

Here we are, ten days after and we’re beginning to get a feel for what this administration is going to stand for:

Hate crimes have spiked. Last night, a playground in Brooklyn named for a (Jewish) member of the Beastie Boys was painted with symbols and words of hate. Because that’s how Trump fans are celebrating his win–by terrorizing 6-year-olds.

Meanwhile, the pres-elect’s cabinet appointees aren’t qualified for anything if the dress code doesn’t include white hoods:

Chief Strategist & Senior Counselor–
Stephen (“I don’t want my kids going to school with Jews”) Bannon
He was the CEO of Breitbart News–a mouthpiece for white supremacists. He will be in charge of the president-elect’s transition to power. Yesterday he said–on camera, “Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.” He was, apparently, being serious. Let that quote sink in and see if you can figure out what he’ll be strategizing about.

Attorney General–
Jeff Sessions was deemed too racist by Republicans in the 80s to hold a judicial post. Among other choice quotes, he said that a white lawyer was “a disgrace to his race” when he defended black clients. He called an African-American colleague ’Boy’, and warned another man “Be careful what you say to white folks.” He will be the chief law enforcement officer, and the chief lawyer for the US government. Which is to say, the man in charge of making sure our legal system is run fairly and competently. Think about this.

National Security Advisor–
Mike Flynn calls Islam “a cancer” and claims that Muslims want to be “drinking our blood.” He advocates the use of torture. He led ‘Lock her up’ chants during the election season. He was just appointed National Security Adviser, putting him in a position to control the flow of information to the pres-elect once he takes office–this was Kissinger’s original office. Flynn was fired from his position as head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014 for politicizing his office.

The first three cabinet picks, all documented racists.
All across the country, hate crimes are up.

This is not a coincidence. These people feel empowered–as well they ought. One of their own is poised to take the highest office in the land, and he’ll seed the rest of government with others of his ilk.

If you aren’t scared, you’re not paying attention.

Talk to your Senators. Register your unease with these choices for governmental office. Jeff Sessions needs senatorial confirmation. If he gets it, let no voting senator claim that they didn’t know the will of the people.

 

 

 

So yeah. That happened.

The past week is a blur.

I have wept more in the last seven days than I have in the seven years previously.

This blog is about to get political AF. Probably also as profane as fuck because that’s where my brain goes when I’m scared and horrified. If this offends you, I still hope you keep reading. Engage with me, let’s talk about this shit that’s going down.

This is a dark time. The darkest time I can imagine–hell, I think this lack of ability to imagine how bad it could really get is at the heart of what the real problem is. The country’s problem isn’t that a megalomaniac took the presidency somehow–it’s that he was voted in every step of the way by my fellow Americans. By people I know and love.

This is the hardest for me to accept. That people I know and love are willing to vote for someone who has promised to curtail the rights of people whose only crime is that they don’t look or think like them, in exchange for some nebulous ’change’ they think will better their lives. This is obviously (I thought) bullshit. Enough people will obviously (I thought) reject any promises made by a would-be tyrant as unacceptable.

I was so wrong.

I am so scared.

But I’m also encouraged by the fact that at the time of this writing, Clinton is projected to win the popular vote by more than 1.7 million votes. This changes nothing officially. These uncounted ballots are almost all in states whose electoral votes she already won handily. But it’s a good reminder. We are not so alone as it feels, sometimes.

I turned 47 this week. Leonard Cohen died this week. The world changed utterly this week, and while I don’t know yet exactly how I will resist, I know with every fiber of my being that I will.

Ground rules for anyone playing along on this blog. Respectful comments are welcomed, but this is my house, my rules. If anyone–anyone–attacks anyone else on the basis of race, religion, sexual or political orientation, ANYTHING, they’re outta here. If I don’t like your tone, I’m deleting your comment. If you make threats to anyone, I’ll report your ass. That shit’s not happening on my page. Also, please resist the urge to name-call. Resist the urge to lay blame at anyone’s feet.

Because at this point, we’re fucked and we’re all in this together. The ship’s gone down and we’re paddling with our hands in a lifeboat, maybe. A lifeboat with a big tear in the side. Let’s fix that rip that’s wheezing air out almost faster than we can re-inflate it. Because if our lifeboat goes down, we’re all going with it. Righteousness won’t make you float any more than being right will, so stop pointing fingers and do the work. And yeah, maybe learn to swim. (Try not to think about sharks, it’s not doing you any good at this point.)

Less metaphoricially, here’s what I’m starting with.

  • Call your representatives. Call your senators. Call your governor and your mayor and your city’s or town’s representatives. I’ll get a link in here soon to help you find their contact info if you don’t already know it.
  • Try to register your displeasure with specific issues. You can only tell your senator so many times that you really wish the democrat had won. Sadly, I suspect we’re going to have the chance to speak out about a lot of specific things. This week, I’m talking to anyone who’ll listen about the inappropriateness of appointing a white supremacist to a position of influence in the transition team. By next week I suspect I’ll have something new to talk about.
  • Write to newspapers’ editorial boards. Cancel subscriptions. Initiate subscriptions–Washington Post won me over during the election, and I continue to be impressed with their coverage. Pay attention to the source of your news. High quality journalism is important and worth paying for. Feel free to sign a change.org petition when they pass by, but please don’t let that be the extent of your activism!
  • Donate money and time to organizations providing services that will be impacted by the next administration. People are going to need real, concrete help. Be there for them.
  • Also try to be there emotionally for people who may be more impacted than you are. This is terrifying for me–a white, straight, middle-aged, well-educated, woman who’s in no danger of losing her health insurance–so how must others be feeling? Don’t let your angst be the center of every conversation.
  • Talk to people who disagree with you. Don’t unfriend them on social media. Speak with them–this is hard for me, too. But most people don’t see themselves as villains. Explain why we are scared. Try to get through. Keep trying.
  • Organize. Pantsuit Nation is proving to be a force for good. Meet other people nearby who feel the same way you do. It helps. Get together with others and go hold signs in front of your city hall or march in a protest. (See you in WA DC in January?) As long as the protests are peaceful, there’s everything to be said for being seen by the eyes of the world to be opposing this.
  • Stand up for anyone you see being harassed or intimidated in public, in private, or online. Hate crimes have spiked and people are legitimately frightened. Be there for them. Don’t make a victim ask you for help, just do the right thing and speak out, even if your voice shakes.
  • Remind your friends that you love them and that you’ve got their backs. Remind your Trump-voting family that you love them too–we’re fighting for their rights, as well as everyone else’s. Bless their hearts.
  • When they go low, we go high. Michelle Obama’s words are words to live by. Be gentle with everyone you meet. Don’t assume you know their struggles, but assume they’re struggling. Most everyone is, one way or another.

And finally, if you haven’t seen it yet, this video below is well worth the watch. And when you’re done weeping, go out and do something.

 

November 4, 2016

I’ve been trying not to talk so much about my son on this blog (sorry to grandparents & other family who are reading this only because I do sometimes write about him!) both because he’s old enough to own his own stories, and also because it’s nice to have a place, a presence where my identity isn’t limited to “X’s Mom” (Which I do still answer to in public, if the speaker is less than 10 years old.)

But.  Something happened that I want to brag about, and I want to have the record of for some time in the future when I’m worrying because parenting is hard, and the world is a scary place, and what if I’m doing this all wrong?

As I was working at the school book fair last night, a grandparent-caregiver came up to me and told me very quietly that she wanted to compliment my son. She told me that last week her grandson’s pants split right down a seam at lunch and everyone laughed. Everyone except my son, who told him it was ok, and that the same thing had happened to him last week. And he didn’t laugh, even when everyone else did. That made a huge impression on her grandson–My son didn’t laugh at him.

I was surprised I hadn’t heard anything about this. So at home I asked my son what had happened. He admitted, “Yeah, it really was pretty funny, and everyone else was laughing which made it harder not to join in. But I held onto my laugh and tried to make him feel better. I don’t like being laughed at, either.”

So not only did he not laugh at someone else’s misfortune, but he actively allied himself with the poor kid who found himself on the uncomfortable end of the joke, and tried to make him feel better. At his age, I probably wouldn’t have laughed, but I’d have been too nervous about going against ‘the group’ to visibly ally myself with the odd kid out. He’s so much braver than I was.

And after he relayed his story in his serious, matter-of-fact way, my 6yo made a fart-noise by blowing into his hands, and I told him to knock it off, and he giggled and did it again, shrieking with glee until I tickled him into submission. Then he was my very little boy again. very little and very very silly.

But for a minute there, I saw the wonderful man he’s going to be.  Oh, my heart…