What it means to be an artist

To be an artist means never to avert one’s eyes.
~ Akira Kurosawa

zoey-averting-her-gaze

Yes, I absolutely agree with Mr. Kurosawa. Art calls for the unflinching truth. However, sometime’s I’m with Zoey and just want to avert my gaze. Sometimes it’s just too damned much to process.

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Signs of the times

obama-administration-sign

I just removed this sign (h/t Bob Herbert) from the back window of my Prius. It’s faded from approximately six years of sun exposure. I put it in my car after attending the Democratic county assembly in March of 2010 that was nothing more than a lovefest for Obama. It wasn’t cool with me that the Democratic party was overlooking the horrible policies it’d (rightfully so) shrieked about during the Bush/Cheney years once it was a Democrat enacting those policies. I was disgusted by the lack of spine. I taped the sign in my car and revoked my membership in the Democratic party. I became an Unaffiliated voter.

Here it is, nearly six years later, and we’re facing a loathsome soon-to-be president whose election was largely enabled by that same spinelessness. The corporate Democratic establishment opened the door to this nightmare and, because Obama doubled down on many Bush/Cheney policies, shit’s about to get real in a way many people didn’t see coming.

Right now it feels as if I could cover my Prius windows with signs and it still wouldn’t be enough to address the realities of Agent Orange. But whatever signage I adopt, it can’t be all about him. That madman exploited the situation put in place by people who were/are supposed to be the opposition party, and right now I’m not seeing a whole lot of spine.

I just hope I’m not the only one calling them out on it.

 

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One hawk, two thoughts

Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.
~  Salvador Dali

Cooper's Hawk. Photo by Zippy.

Cooper’s Hawk. Photo by Zippy.

For a successful revolution it is not enough that there is discontent.
What is required is a profound and thorough conviction of the justice,
necessity and importance of political and social rights.

~  B. R. Ambedkar

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Stand tall, y’all

When I searched my photos to see what image spoke to me today, I decided to use this picture from two months ago:
praying-mantis-on-screen

And as I looked at that slightly freaky, somewhat off-putting creature, I pondered the connection for today. Clinging? Holding on for dear life? Prayer? None of those resonated with me so I did an online search for “praying mantis facts,” and found my answer:

Instead of running away from a threat it will stay put and try to look bigger. It will raise its wings and raptory arms and try to stand as tall as possible. Maybe even rocking from left to right to seem more intimidating. Does it work? Actually, it does! Animals that are not particularly interested in eating the mantis or have not yet experienced this are a bit suspicious of a prey that does not run away.

In light of the current political freak show and our soon-to-be bully-in-chief, aka the Circus Peanut, I think we should all take a page from the praying mantis.

No running away!
Stand as tall as possible!
No running away!

And, if necessary, rip the bastards’ heads off and devour them.

 

 

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Don’t fear resistance

I received texts from family and friends after the election, asking how I was coping with the world’s new Agent Orange reality. I replied, in part, that there was still hope for the future if, out of this debacle, the Democratic party reassessed and became a true party of resistance.

And while the establishment Dems who pushed so hard for a Clinton candidacy are still deeply in denial regarding last week’s beat-down, there are glimmers of hope. People on my Twitter feed who have never, to my knowledge, tweeted anything remotely political or activist, are now engaged in the democratic process. They’re calling their representatives. They’re adding those representatives’ phone numbers to their contact lists. They’re writing letters, signing petitions, and asking others to do the same.

They’re taking to the streets and pushing back.

We have Donald Trump’s ugly authoritarian character to thank for that, and while that might not feel like much right now, it’s a legitimate silver lining.

Image found on Morguefile.com without any identifying info so if you're fortunate enough to happen upon this sculpture, please let me know where it is.

Image found on Morguefile.com without any identifying info, so if you’re fortunate enough to happen upon this sculpture, please let me know where it is.

The strength and power of despotism consists wholly in the fear of resistance.  ~  Thomas Paine

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A white male millennial response

My 20-year-old son (known here as Zebu), is studying in Sweden this year. He’s been there since the middle of August and has found much to like and admire about that country and other places he’s visited in Europe.

Today we had a lengthy text exchange. My opening message was to ask if he’d already found a Swedish girl to marry so he could remain there rather than coming home to Agent Orange (aka Trump).

Here’s his reply:

Many people have asked if I’m just gonna stay in Europe, admittedly they ask jokingly, but I really thought about that. I feel like it’s almost a requirement that not only I come back but I spend a lot of time fighting back and doing real work. As a white male, my life changes very little. But a lot of people just had their agency put in danger. That’s bullshit for me to leave at this time and allow a steamroll of those who don’t have a soapbox.

I’m not surprised by his attitude. I am, however, very proud to be his mother.

zebu-playing-chess

The ever-thinking Zebu playing chess. June 2016

 

 

 

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Keep on keeping on

I think that the thing that we learned,
back in the day of the civil rights movement,
is that you do have to keep on keeping on.

~  Charlayne Hunter-Gault

Beauty blooming in the swamp at Kapok Park.

Beauty blooming in the swamp at Kapok Park.

No matter what the outcome today,
gotta keep moving forward.

 

 

 

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Old Dog political perspective

I’m an old dog; I don’t get too excited.
I don’t get caught up in all the mass hysteria.
Tim Howard

This sweet old dog photo courtesy of Morguefile.

This sweet old dog photo courtesy of Morguefile.

I literally made myself ill in 2004 working against a second G.W. Bush/Cheney term, and today saw a photo of the radiant Michelle Obama embracing the loathesome Bush who created the cyle of death and destruction that continues today. Seeing them together like that was a kick to the gut.

And then I realized I shouldn’t be at all surprised.

Michelle’s husband expanded many of the immoral programs Bush put in place (drone program, for example), giving those Republican programs a bipartisan blessing that effectively cemented them as permanent U.S. policies. Now we’re about to have Round Two of a Clinton presidency, and the power structure keeps rolling along.

 An oligarchy runs this country and exploits the rest of the planet, and while it infuriates me, I refuse to make myself sick over it.

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A hit of Molly

So keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds,
but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it.
Lord, let your laughter ring forth.
Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats,
rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce.

~  Molly Ivins (1944 – 2007)

360_molly_ivins

Just really missing ol’ Molly today. She’d show us the way through all the dumb and ugly raining down on us. She knew the cost of fear.

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Endless series of little details

Wine glass

 

A mountain is composed of tiny grains of earth.
The ocean is made up of tiny drops of water.
Even so, life is but an endless series of little details, actions,
speeches, and thoughts.
And the consequences whether good or bad of even the least of them
are far-reaching.
 ~ Swami Sivananda

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On becoming numb and desensitized

I just saw this tweet:
adam johnson iraq tweet

I responded with this:

And now I can’t stop thinking about how for years and years I maintained an Iraq death toll sign in my front yard. Every day I looked up the death tolls for Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops, and changed the numbers on the sign. The sign Zippy and I kept chained to our locust tree after other versions were stolen. The sign that resulted in vandalism and harrassment from people in our neighborhood. The sign that was my voice after my elected “representatives” refused to listen to me and the millions of people around the globe who took to the streets to demand the United States NOT invade Iraq in 2003.

Death toll numbers as of August 8, 2014

Death toll numbers as of August 8, 2014

That photo is from a post on August 8, 2014, when Obama started bombing Iraq some more. I never put it out again despite the ongoing, never-ending death and destruction following the U.S. led invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Which brings me back to Adam H. Johnson’s tweet and my shame.

The corporate elites and imperialists count on us to be apathetic due to overwhelm, but it’s on me that I’ve let the people of Iraq slip off my emotional radar. Just as it’s on me that I’ve pretty much become numb and desensitized to every single instance of death and destruction. I don’t want to feel numb and desensitized, I really don’t. I’d rather be angry and in the streets with a pitchfork.

But everything feels like too fucking much.

 

 

Self-Preservation 101

On this election night, I’m taking steps to avoid a full-on freak-out:

  • I vacuumed up the dog hair, cat hair, geranium petals, and miscellaneous debris because I feel less angst when I’m doing something, even if that something is a mundane housekeeping chore.
  • Then I listened to The Clash’s Combat Rock at full volume while lifting weights.
    Combat Rock album cover“Know Your Rights” felt particularly timely and I pumped that iron with a fierce determination.

 

 

 

  • I just remembered the photos I took this morning, of the tenacious cottonwood leaves clinging to the tops of the trees down the hill from me. I’ve been watching and admiring them for the past week and I’m posting them here as a reminder that all the political ignorance and ugly out there right now is no match for nature’s beauty. So take that, climate-change denying authoritarian soulless candidate who might be my next “voice” in the Senate!
    Lone cottonwood leaves 001
  • Beer.
  • Netflix.
  • Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

(And you know what else? In the spirit of self-preservation I’m also gonna quit wasting my time trying to get that effing bullet point to line up where it should line up!)

Friday Five: The Next Chapter

(1) Zippy and Zebu were at the tail-ends of their colds when I got sick two days before we had to start our drive to Washington. Of course. We left on Thursday morning with a big box of ultra-soft tissue and the rental car trunk loaded with Zebu’s stuff. We’d chosen a chevy impala trunkChevy Impala for its impressive trunk capacity and ended up getting one equipped with satellite radio. We drove many of our 1600 miles laughing at comedy routines and only once did I fear for our safety when Lewis Black had Zebu and me (behind the wheel) in tears. I highly recommend comedy for road trips.

 

(2) Zippy and I are now officially empty nesters (if you discount the two dogs and two cats), and I’m handling the transition pretty well. We arrived back home late Sunday night and while I did wash my face and brush my teeth on Monday, I spent the day in my jammies on the couch, watching flawless movie stillmovies (Party Girl with Parker Posey and Flawless with Philip Seymour Hoffman, pictured here with Robert DeNiro), some television (The Mindy Project and Californication), and staring into space. I’ve since roused myself, put on real clothes, and rejoined society.

(3) Now that we have Zebu settled at college, I can no longer put off finishing my YA. I thought my slow progress was solely due to feelings of trepidation regarding what happens when a manuscript is polished Daggerand ready to go (something that feels like the equivalent of putting my heart on a platter so that others can stab it over and over again), but a couple days ago I had an epiphany about my slow progress. I haven’t just been procrastinating in an act of self-preservation, but have been writing slowly because I was headed in the wrong direction. I thought I knew the ending, but I did not. Rather, I knew the final scene but had a few key details wrong. I believe my middle-office mind knew that and was patiently waiting for me to wake up to the truth of the story.

(4) I applied to and was accepted into the Rutgers One-On-One Plus Conference held next month, which is another motivator for finishing my manuscript. Yikes.

(5)  I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, but as a result of all the preparations and then the emotional aftermath of getting Zebu off to school, I’ve largely ignored the fear-mongering and bloodlust dominating the airwaves. May I just say, for the record, that I am so very tired of the U.S. government thinking it can end fundamentalist ideology by bombing it out of existence? It hasn’t worked before and it won’t work now. Also? Not only is it stupid, this latest bombing is illegal. But, hey, we’re Team USA! However, . . .

file0001704817445

Major Regret OR I Told Me So

Even though I saw it coming, Obama’s recent budget proposal to cut Social Security benefits via a Chained CPI makes me want to puke.

 

Cutting benefits for society’s most vulnerable is a callous act. It’s cruel and unnecessary, and I’m deeply ashamed I voted for Obama in November. I knew this was coming and yet I caved at the final hour and cast my vote for someone who is clearly not a Democrat because of my disgust for the Republicans’ voter suppression campaign.

I wish there was a time machine that would give me a redo so that I could cast my vote for someone who doesn’t help the rich get richer at the poor’s expense. Alas, no such device exists and I must live with my vote. And if I’m ever again tempted to vote for someone who clearly doesn’t care about the powerless, I need only remember this sick feeling in my gut. In the meanwhile, I’m making sure my “representatives” know where I stand on a Chained CPI.

Iraq War Veteran Tomas Young’s Last Letter

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Millions of people in the U.S. and around the world took to the streets in opposition to the invasion. We wrote letters and made phone calls to our so-called representatives in this so-called democracy. We knew an invasion would be a crime against humanity.

I was in San Francisco on spring break with my young family when the first bombs were dropped on Baghdad. Protesters chained themselves in the streets, outraged by what our government was doing in our name. We knew it was a crime, but the people in power did not care. They still don’t care. That invasion didn’t affect their lives except to make them richer and expand their power base. Fear and greed ruled that day, as it continues to rule.

Please read this powerful letter to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney from a man who paid the ultimate price for their invasion (from Truthdig – The Last Letter):

Tomas Young

Tomas Young

The Last Letter

To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young

I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.

I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some one million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all – the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.

I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans – my fellow veterans – whose future you stole.

Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.

I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level – moral, strategic, military and economic – Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.

I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love. I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.

I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration. I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned. You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian. But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins? I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul.

My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.

To: Mr. Tomas Young                                                                                                             From: Tracy Abell

I am so very, very sorry. I wish you peace and comfort.

Friday Five: The Rejoice Edition

1) We survived the onslaught of election calls and advertisements mostly intact.
Bronco Bama girl

Rejoice!

2)  There were some awesome outcomes on Tuesday, including:

  • Elizabeth Warren is now Senator from Massachusetts!
  • Tammy Baldwin is now Senator from Wisconsin!
  • Alan Grayson is back as Representative from Florida!
  • Allen West was voted out of office and no longer represents Florida!
  • Joe Walsh was voted out of office and no longer represents Illinois!
  • Messed-up-in-the-head, anti-women Todd Akin gone!
  • Forced birth nutso Richard Mourdock lost senate race in Indiana!
  • Raul Grijalva is still Representative from Arizona!

Rejoice!

3)  Gay marriage was legalized on Tuesday:

  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Washington

Rejoice!

4)  Marijuana was legalized on Tuesday:

  • Colorado
  • Washington

Rejoice!

5)  Karl Rove (aka Turd Blossom) and his $300 million Super PAC
had a 1% success rate in the elections PLUS he suffered a public
meltdown on FOX News as he begged them to not yet call Ohio for
Obama.

Rejoice!

6) BONUS: Here’s Jon Stewart documenting the collective FOX meltdown.

Rejoice and laugh!

Laughing girl for post 11.9.12
image from morguefile.com

Vote Against Romney or Vote My Conscience?

Several years ago I decided I would not, could not vote for Obama again.
Not because I believe Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim Socialist who was
once The Most Liberal Senator Ever; there are boatloads of facts refuting each of these
claims and I wish people would either do the research or shut the hell up.
Really, it’s disheartening to share citizenship with so many people who
grasp at faux issues rather than recognize that our two-party system is offering us
two candidates who operate right-of-center and are both bent on creating an oligarchy.
The differences between Obama and Romney** are mostly a matter of degrees (see the Foreign Policy debate for their Israel love-fest, Iran hate-fest, and who-would-use-more-predator-drones-to-kill-more-Muslims-fest).

Here’s a partial, reality-based list of reasons for my anger at Obama:
climate change inaction
predator drone murders
assassination of US citizens without due process
the Tuesday morning kill list
war on whistleblowers
“Grand Bargain” to destroy Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security
income inequality
Wall Street profits
blocked investigation/prosecution of torture
record number of immigrant deportations
Not to mention, the oft-cited truth that while Republicans fear their base,
Democrats hate their base.

There are many other reasons, some less quantifiable than others.
For instance, Obama’s betrayal of young people’s hope and involvement
after he rode in on an overwhelming mandate and then squandered the
opportunity for positive action, thereby creating mass disillusionment.

Also, the fawning Democratic establishment that thinks as long as it’s
a so-called Democrat in the White House, all actions are justifiable (even
those actions that caused outrage when committed by a Republican president).

And a related item: as a result of that Democratic denial, a lack of an opposition party
which means Obama reacts to extremists and continues to move the discussion/policies
to the right with few in power willing to call him out on this, much less put up roadblocks.

So.
After living through what is essentially Bush’s third term, my thinking was I’d be a hypocrite
if I voted for Obama after raging against the Bush administration’s policies for eight years.
I would definitely vote for either Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson or Green Party
candidate Jill Stein.

Then I read Daniel Ellsberg’s piece on why angry progressives in swing states should vote
against Romney/Ryan by voting for Obama. I have huge respect for Ellsberg
as a whistleblower and an anti-war activist, and his words carry tremendous weight
with me. If this nation’s most famous whistleblower believed it was in the country’s
best interest to reelect the president who has prosecuted more whistleblowers
than all previous presidents combined, I needed to think hard about my vote.
After much thought, I decided I’d vote “for” Obama.

020
(Coco doesn’t care about the election, but I thought she’d provide a fun break in the text.)

That decision only lasted several days. Because then I read Matt Stoller’s piece
making the progressive case against Obama, and I remembered all over why
I didn’t want to cast a vote in Obama’s favor. I would vote Anderson or Stein.

But then I read Dan Froomkin’s article about the betrayal of progressive activists working on a multitude of issues. These are people who devote their lives to activism and who were shut down by the Obama administration, yet some of them believe it’s still best to reelect Obama rather than Romney. If they could swallow their disappointment and keep fighting Obama on those issues, maybe I could, too. After all, the LGBT community put the pressure on him and he finally came out in support of gay marriage (a HUGE step and one for which I give Obama absolute credit.)

Tomorrow is election day and I still don’t know how I’ll vote.

I have never been more conflicted about a presidential vote in my entire life.
I have always been disappointed in the candidates and have always voted the
“lesser of two evils,” but I don’t know if I can do that again.

But no matter what, I will cast a vote for president.
(And I can only hope if Obama loses Colorado by one vote,
Zebu doesn’t keep his promise to throw a rock at my head).

**While it’s true Romney/Ryan are bat-shit crazy regarding women’s reproductive rights,
the Democrats are always willing to use women’s health issues as a bargaining chip
so I’m not convinced it’s a big enough reason to vote against my conscience on every other issue when the Dems happily enable the erosion of women’s reproductive rights.

Hey, That’s My Line!

As many of you know,
I am partial to the word PREVAIL.

It is my rallying cry and motto,
my personal talisman.

So it was hard enough discovering PREVAIL
is also a brand of adult underwear.

But now this?!

I have to share my glorious PREVAIL
with these poster boys for All That Is Wrong With This Country?!
(Just to be clear, I’d be equally sickened if it was Obama
or any other enabler of the 1% on the cover).

Ah, well.
PREVAIL means To be or become effective; win out. To succeed. To triumph.

I know what I must do,
and if I begin to lose my way
there’s always a reminder.