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Archive for the category “Political”

Trump’s #FuckingWall

It’s only a few days into America’s new administration and I am reeling — which is why I’m unable to sleep, sitting at the computer at 4:30 in the morning drinking day old coffee out of my mug that has a drawing of an owl that looks like it wants to kill you and reads “I will fuck you up. SRSLY.”

I have been watching as executive order after executive order has been signed (hey, Republicans, where’s the outrage now?). We have an executive order that not only brings back the global gag rule but expands it massively, endangering the health of impoverished people all over the world (thanks, Trump). We have an executive order to go ahead with the Keystone pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline (because, fuck the earth). We have an expected ban on refugees (because give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free is so 2016). And, of course, we have Trump’s #FuckingWall.

There are so many things I could write about at this point — and they’re all bouncing around in my head. But since I have called Honduras home for a good two and a half years I have some words about the #FuckingWall.

The first point I want to make is this: all throughout his campaign, Trump demonized people of color, and seemed especially focused on Mexican immigrants and people of Mexican heritage. Calling them “rapists,” “criminals,” “killers.” For a lovely list of some of his most offensive statements about Mexicans, and other Latinos, you can click here. Now, if Trump was your crazy uncle sitting in a corner muttering about brown people he would just seem bizarre and pathetic. Give him a pat on the head and refill his cup cause dude is off his rocker. But he’s not your crazy uncle, he’s the president (excuse me while I gag on my day old coffee), and he’s profoundly dangerous. Our country was built by immigrants, our diversity is our greatest gift — which makes a vehemently anti-immigrant president all the more dangerous to our moral core. We should be able to agree on that. We don’t. That’s terrifying. As an aside, I don’t know what his particular hangup with Mexicans is, but for a possible explanation you can click here: The Man Who Made Donald Trump Hate Mexico. So there’s his unhinged hate, and that of his supporters. That’s a problem.

Then we have the wall. The #FuckingWall. Which will very soon be our other, incredibly expensive (anyone have $14 billion laying around? Yeah, me neither), problem. It’s not only a problem because it is a wall that will be built on bigotry and fear, it’s a problem because it’s a bad solution to a refugee crisis from Mexico that doesn’t exist. Nowadays, more Mexicans are leaving the US than are entering it (seriously, who can blame them). The refugee crisis is coming from Central America. And it exists for humanitarian reasons.

I have lived in Central America for nearly six years now. And I am so fucking sick of hearing my fellow US citizens demonize people who are my neighbors and my friends. People who have taken us in, treated us with kindness, patience, and warmth. Trump’s #FuckingWall isn’t the solution to the refugee crisis. The solution to the crisis is to do exactly what organizations like USAID, the State Department, and NGO’s are doing here — fighting corruption, fighting the narcotics trade, strengthening communities, educating children, empowering people. But don’t take my word for it, take the word of a former assistant secretary of homeland security for border, immigration and trade policy who served under both Obama and Bush (man, I almost miss Bush and his cute little, plastic poncho fighting ass) who wrote an articled entitled “Trump’s border wall attacks the wrong immigration crisis.” Rather than spend billions on a wall, let’s fully fund our State Department and USAID, let’s fund NGO’s, let’s work with the amazing local organizations made up of brave people who are hell bent on helping their countries reach their potential.

know the good, the progress, that is happening in countries like Honduras because I see it every day in the children I meet whose lives have been changed by participating in education programs, language programs, arts programs, robotics programs, leadership programs, on and on. Those children are the solution, they can solve this problem. Not the wall, not hate, not bigotry, not fear.

And, lest we forget, we are ALL Americans. Somos todos Americanos. And our future, our beauty, is in our diversity and our vibrancy. Hate will sink us.

How You Like Him Now?

This morning a friend of mine sent me this piece from The Daily Kos. Think what you will about The Daily Kos, this is pretty cut and dry. His people lied to his press pool, telling them that Trump was in for the night. Then he ditched his press pool (you know, those folks who follow the President-elect around so that we, the people, know what he’s up to) so he could go have dinner at a posh restaurant. This is all unprecedented and scary because it speaks to his level of transparency. But what made me doubly angry is what he said to the wealthy diners:

We’ll get your taxes down, don’t worry.

The video of Trump in the restaurant is in The Daily Kos piece, it’s also here, at the 5 minute mark

Trump’s rhetoric throughout the campaign was that of populism and, clearly, enough people chose to ignore the fact that this is a man whose sole purpose in life is to enrich himself because now he is the President-elect. Anyone who lives in a fact based world knew that his populism was just a ploy to get him elected, because he’s transparent AF to anyone who is even slightly grounded in reality. But to those of you who voted for him because you believed the garbage he was spewing — how you like him now? To those of you who voted for him who are maybe not racists or bigots or misogynists but were willing to overlook the fact that he, and all those who surround him (you can read about them here and here) are, because you thought he had your best interests at heart and so you were willing to overlook the very real ugly underbelly of Trump — how you like him now?

All throughout the campaign I tried hard to understand why anyone who wasn’t a bigot and a misogynist would be willing to vote for him — him, a man accused of raping, beating and imprisoning a 13 year old girl. I had people I love and respect ask me to try to understand that people are scared because they’re on the economic brink and that was blinding them to the nastiness. And I did it, for a while. As a friend of mine messaged yesterday, I tried to step back and be a listener. But, honestly, I’m done. I’m done because those of us who live in a fact based world tried to tell those of you who voted for him for economic reasons that he was going to screw you over the first chance he got. And not just in a “we have to tighten our belts a bit more for four years” sort of way but in a royal, outrageous, man are we all fucked, sort of way. But you chose not to listen.

Those of you who voted for this false populist, thinking he was going to be your man in the trenches — you allowed yourselves to be duped. And now we’re left with hate crimes going through the roof because bigots and racists and misogynists feel empowered and they are on a fucking bender. And we’re left with people whose ugliness runs so deep it is truly terrifying being put into some of the most powerful positions The White house has to offer. And we’re seeing a dramatic spike in calls to suicide hotlines for members of the LGBTQ community — and most of those calls are coming from children. And this administration is the one we’re left with, an administration that has the wealthy cheering and Wall Street celebrating. So I’m done. I’m done trying to understand, I’m done trying to be a listener. Maybe I’ll get back to the place where I can do that again but, right now, I’m just pissed that people who claim to be decent folks — not racist, not bigoted, not misogynistic — voted for this psychopathic asshole who has done nothing but show his true colors. Because ya’ll fucked up. And we’re all going to pay the price. Except for those people in the restaurant cheering for him. They’re good. And they’ve always known it.

 

Today I Run

Tuesday evening this was me, ready to shatter a glass ceiling into a billion pieces as we welcomed our first female president elect

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Yes, I was pantsuit clad and beyond the moon, round my neck the last piece of jewelry my Da gave to my Nana before he passed, which was then handed down to me when she passed — a heart with each of their surnames engraved, and birthstones embedded, in it. Those surnames are important because, in an age when women were expected to lose their identity in their husbands, my Nana never did, and my Da never wanted her to. That was how I was raised. And I wanted that piece of them to be with me when we celebrated the moment when women finally reached a level of equality we could only dream of before. And then I watched in horror as that all fell to pieces.

For most of the evening I was at an embassy event, trying very hard to keep my abject terror to myself. And failing miserably. But then we went home and watched with our children. I had one child who, literally, got sick because of what was happening. And another, our daughter, the most kind and compassionate person I know, cry because our country — the country we serve overseas — just elected a man who dismisses her humanity and would treat her as an object to be used and tossed aside given half the chance. Such betrayal. Such disbelief.

Yesterday I grieved. Hard. I cried.  And, thankfully, I was helped through the day by friends and family as we vented our disbelief and fear to each other. And laughed, and then cried some more. And when I watched Secretary Clinton’s gracious and eloquent concession speech I was even more mesmerized by her then I’d been before. And then she said this

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And I broke into ugly tears. Because THAT is the country I want my daughter and sons to grow up in. THAT is the leader I want them to look up to and emulate. Not someone who says not only is it perfectly acceptable to grab women by the pussy but, hell, men are entitled to that.

I still cannot wrap my head round the fact that my country, the country our family has proudly served overseas for going on twelve years now, elected a man who I would not leave my daughter alone with and a man who thinks I, as a bi woman, should be subjected to electroshock therapy. How? How did this happen? How did we get here? I’m going to leave the answer to that question to people more capable of answering it than I am, like Van Jones, whose voice and reason I am even more grateful for than I was before the Tuesday that flipped our country upside down.

Yesterday I sobbed. Today I’ve cried. But I also steeled myself. I have a six mile run to do, I considered slinking back to my bedroom and burying myself under my covers with a glass of wine and a good book. Because that sounds so appealing right now. But that was yesterday. Today is today.

And today I will run. I will run to remind myself that I’m a goddamn fighter. To remind myself that I, like Secretary Clinton, have a fucking spine of steel. To remind myself that I don’t back down. Ever. That my voice, our voices, are needed now more than ever. To remind myself that I have children to protect — not just mine but a nation’s — and I will fight for them with every ounce of strength I have in my body. And my body is strong. It’s powerful. I will run to remind myself that I don’t run from my problems, I run into them, head on. I run to remind myself that I am a fucking force of nature and nobody — not the misogynistic psychopath who is now our president elect, or his bigot of a running mate — can take that from me. I OWN it. It is MINE. And I will never surrender. We are warriors, and it’s time to pick up our proverbial swords.

My Ice Bucket Challenge Rant

So last night, while chatting with my DH, I realized how much something is bugging me, namely, this new anti-ice bucket challenge stuff I’m seeing and hearing. I know ice bucket challenges are filling up FB newsfeeds, and maybe people are over it but, damn, it’s raised a big buttload of money for the ALS Association so I just don’t get how people can think it’s meaningless or a stunt or any of the other words I’ve seen tossed about. As of August 27, $94.3 million dollars has been raised for ALS! In the same time period last year the amount raised was $2.7 million. Don’t you think that’s worth a little newsfeed clogging? How can you diminish those numbers and the good that is being done? And, more importantly, why would you? People are having fun and doing something good. To me, pushing against that is just cynical. There are WAY more important things to complain about.

I guess the other big pushback I’ve seen from folks is that this is wasting water. Water is scarce in many parts of the world but I’ve seen people who live in some of those parts handle this creatively (like by using a cup instead of a bucket) so it can be done. We live in Honduras, I used the water that came from our cistern (and that’s what I made my ice with as well). Cistern water is what comes out of our taps–apparently it’s fine for bathing and it’s cool to ingest it if you boil it for five minutes but it’s otherwise not supposed to go near your mouth. So it’s a good thing I held my breath when I did it! We’ve also lived in Guinea, West Africa, where our water came from an above ground cistern, including the water we drank. It went through a distiller before that happened so it was, technically, disease free. Which I reminded myself when I made the massive mistake of looking in the cistern and seeing our water with a thick coat of green slime on it. Yes, folks, that’s what we gave the kiddos, no wonder they’re so hearty. So, I’ve got to be honest, I get a little eye rollie (rolly? whatever) about being lectured on water usage by folks who have likely always had all the clean water they need. We’ve gone without water, we’ve lived with chronic water shortages, we’ve stared into empty cisterns and called for the water delivery guy, until the point when it was too dangerous for 18 Wheeler (that was his handle) to deliver water to us because of civil unrest. This, of course, is exactly when our well decided it wanted to throw a temper tantrum, which not only meant we had no water, it also meant that all our neighbors who lived in shacks around our house, for whom we turned on the outside tap twice daily so they wouldn’t have to hike miles for their water, had no water. And, yet, I still think this challenge is worth the water. Because let’s look at the reality of water waste in the US:

According to an article I will link to at the end of the blog (I’m on my iPad and too lazy to figure out the WordPress app bells and whistles in order to insert the link here), about 95% of the water that comes into a home goes down the drain. 95%! Over 1/4 of all drinkable water is used to flush toilets and older toilets can use about 3 gallons of water per flush, which is the amount of water many in other parts of the world survive on daily. We taught our kids the old, if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down saying for a reason. And I would like to know if people screaming about how much water is being wasted by the ice bucket challenge turn off the tap while they brush their teeth because, if not, you’re wasting about 4 gallons of water. How about when you shower? Do you get wet, turn off the taps, lather up, then turn them back on for your rinse? I don’t have the number on how much water you’re wasting if you don’t but I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t be moaning about someone who dumped a bucket of water over their head for charity wasting water.

So, in my opinion, if you are really so worried about water being wasted by this massive fund raising effort then you can start making some changes in the way you use water in order to offset this, kind of like planting trees to reduce your carbon footprint. Then, once you’ve done that, you can let go of your cynicism and eye rolliness and have some fun while raising money for a very worthy cause. Problem done and dusted!

PS: Ive been told that some folks doing the challenge are using things like confetti and wine (oh, the humanity), which misses the point of the ice and cold water, which is to mimic, on that moment of impact, the way ALS makes a body feel. Also that some folks aren’t even mentioning ALS. I understand this kind of stuff happening is the nature of the beast, things like this grow arms and legs and whole bodies of their own. But I DO think losing sight of the original challenge diminishes the importance of the challenge, which is too bad.

water waste in the US

ALS Association

My Chelsea (Bradley) Manning Purge

Fair warning, this will be less blog and more rant but if I don’t get this out of my system I will become completely non-productive and I just have too much to do for that to happen. So … I swear to God, if I read the impassioned words of one more human rights activist who is defending Bradley (now Chelsea, so I will refer to her in the feminine from here on out) Manning I’m going to scream.

I’m curious to know what human rights activists who are defending Manning think about the fact that her actions have further exposed people around the globe who are also human rights activists–civil society activists, opponents of repressive regimes, people who risk everything to try to make their countries more just places. Their names were in the classified State Department cables and now any foreign service intelligence agency can see who they are, they are at great risk. Many already risk everything on a daily basis–their jobs, their freedom, the safety of their families, their lives–in order to try to make their countries more humane and just places. When they interact with the State Department their identities are classified for a reason and, for the sake of diplomacy as well as for their sake, they need to stay that way. Manning’s actions weren’t a precise revealing of war crimes, she made a massive document dump, an indiscriminate revealing of information that has now put at risk people whose anonymity needs to be protected. How are those the actions of a heroine and why is that something some human rights activists are applauding? I’m gobsmacked, seriously. Do they not realize how much more at risk those people now are? Are they not thinking past the headlines surrounding the now folk heroine? Are they just jumping on a bandwagon? Jesus. I expect more from organizations like Amnesty International and School of the Americas Watch (whose founder, Father Roy Bourgeois, is an absolute hero of mine). Shouldn’t they be more worried about protecting and advocating for the people Manning exposed? People whose lives are at actual risk? People who could be tortured and murdered, dumped by the side of the road? Their support of her makes me want to beat my head against a wall.

My personal pissed offness has also been focused on the fact that her actions potentially put at risk people like my husband and other diplomats, and her fellow soldiers. Yes, I realize it has been established that no evil things transpired because of the leaked cables but she did not know what she was revealing, she just did a flat out, no holds barred, dump and could have very easily revealed things that put those people at great risk–my inner mamma bear is poked big time when someone potentially puts my family at risk. Period. So there’s also that.

Manning is being treated as a heroine. She isn’t. She took an oath and part of that oath is to keep classified documents classified because they are classified for a reason. I have a husband with a security clearance and I have never, not once ever, asked him to reveal anything to me. I wouldn’t do that. Nor would he, not in a million years, reveal anything to me. Because he took an oath, because it’s his job, his career, his duty to our country and, if at any time he felt he couldn’t uphold that duty to the absolute highest standard, he would resign. If you feel, morally, you cannot believe in the oath you take when you have a job like Manning’s then step down and I will applaud your moral strength and integrity. Until that point, do your freaking job because lives actually do depend on it.

Speaking Out About PETA–and Why No Animal is Beyond Help

Our home is full of animals who have been cast offs at one time or another. Each one of them has ended up with us because they were abandoned, neglected, sometimes abused, and each one has had, through no fault of their own, at least one human turn their backs on them. A pathetic reflection on some people but their loss is our gain, and, though I wish very much our four-legged babes hadn’t had to trot through hell to get to us, our animals help make our house a home, they ground us, they are an integral part of our family and our traveling roots.

Before we had kids I worked with the animals who were cast offs, first at the Humane Society in Missoula, Montana as an animal caretaker and adoption counselor, then at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, (PETA) where I was a field worker investigating abuse cases, promoting our spay neuter program, teaching people how to properly care for their animals, and, among other things, euthanizing animals. In both those places I saw the best and worst of humanity. I worked with people who were passionate about animal welfare and passionate about furthering the humane treatment of animals. I encountered people who were abusive, who thought nothing of beating or abandoning an animal. When I felt overwhelmed by the brutality I had to remind myself of my goal–it wasn’t to hate people but to help animals. In my interview with the director of the Humane Society one thing she said to me really stood out: part of our job is to help these animals regain their self-respect because they’ve often been treated so badly that they are beaten down, but they can be brought back to a place where they trust and love again. It’s such a gift to be able to help an animal rediscover that there is kindness and love, and that they deserve those things.

Which is why when I read a recent article about PETA in the New York Times I went on such a rant that even my husband, used to my fire-filled venting sessions, was a bit taken back. Especially because it went on for a looooong time, poor guy. I lasted about eight months at PETA before I could no longer fall in line, which was fine because I was pretty much burned out with trying to do that. I was treading on thin ice for my last month or so, no longer buying into what I thought of as the triage mentality with which my department was supposed to operate– we were just stopping the bleeding temporarily rather than preventing it and I was desperate to turn that around. I asked if we could open a small shelter in the area where I did most of my work, that way I could spend less time in my van, we could do spaying and neutering right there, I could more easily integrate into the neighborhood and get to know people, and we could actually adopt out animals instead of euthanizing them. I was also really wanting to start a comprehensive foster program so animals could be in homes rather than in a shelter and so animals who needed more socializing or physical care could be given another chance instead of euthanized. I was met with absolute resistance, it was never going to happen.

I should have guessed it was going to go down that way since I had to fight hard for each animal I adopted out or brought to a local shelter. Every time I said “This animal is perfectly adoptable, I want to find a home for him/her” I was met with a stare from the President, Ingrid Newkirk, that conveyed complete disdain and clearly was meant to communicate that I was completely naive and foolish. I suspect the final cut to my short-lived time at PETA happened in a meeting where we were discussing paying for the spaying and neutering of pitbulls. Ingrid wanted to stop paying to neuter pittbulls, continuing only to spay, in order to save money. Again, I felt this was such a triage mentality, especially for an organization with a lot of resources. I reminded her that overpopulation, while a big part of the battle, was not the entire battle. I reminded her that an intact male is vulnerable to being used in fighting, which creates such a cycle of brutality and violence for children that the fight we ultimately were fighting–changing the way people thought about animals–was very much harmed by not tackling the whole problem. When she gave me that look of hers I continued to talk, to the point where a friend of mine who was also at the meeting was looking at me with a wild eyed “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?” look. Shortly after that I was fired, told, essentially, that I wasn’t good at my job and should look into another line of work. This, of course, was hot on the heels of an excellent review and a raise just a few months prior to my being told I was a disaster in the field. I was pretty upset because, even though I was burned out and happy to leave, I was pissed off that I’d gotten fired for voicing my opinion and that lies had been invented to cover up that fact. I remember talking to my dad, someone who has volunteered for and worked with and for, many non-profits. He told me a downside of an organization like PETA, one that is driven not just by a mission but by one strong leader, is that they often become a cult of personality and if you don’t fall in line you are tossed out of the cult because there will always be people clamoring to work for them, who will fall in line–no point in dealing with troublemakers no matter how good they are at their jobs.

On to my present day rant, started by this article, “PETA Finds Itself on Receiving End of Others’ Anger,” in the New York Times. It’s primarily about the number of euthanasias that PETA does, which I only want to address by saying it’s WAY, WAY too many and not nearly enough is done as an alternative to them. I believe, ultimately, that stems from this idea:

For their part, officials at PETA, which has its headquarters and only shelter here in Norfolk, say the animals it rescues are in such bad shape from mistreatment and neglect that they are often better off dead than living in misery on the streets or with abusive owners.

“It’s nice for people who’ve never worked in a shelter to have this idealistic view that every animal can be saved,” said Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA’s vice president for cruelty investigations. “They don’t see what awful physical and emotional pain these poor dogs and cats suffer.”

And my response to that is to call absolute bullshit. Yes, many of the animals I took in were in rough shape emotionally and physically and, yes, it is a drain on resources to take an animal like that and rehabilitate them to the point where they can be adoptable but it is entirely possible, especially with a good network of foster homes (see above, my request to start working on a foster network that was roundly refused). And a fair number of the animals, I’d say the majority, I took in were absolutely adoptable–immediately, without hesitation.

I used to work in a shelter, and I’m a realist, I completely understand that, while working towards a no-kill nation is absolutely the right and possible thing to do, we aren’t there yet in most parts of the country and, until we get there, animals will continue to be euthanised because of a lack of resources and a lack of homes. As completely crappy as that is I get it. But PETA asserting that the adoptability of the animals they take in is the reason they don’t adopt out most of their animals is false. Period. I know, I used to feed people the same BS line when I worked there. Part of me believed it because I had, in a short time, become quite jaded but, eventually, I realized that I was wrong, that PETA was wrong, that they were doing it wrong–that’s when I burned out on the mission and I became so conflicted about continuing work that I believed in, in many ways, but I also wanted to put an end to the things that I could no longer comply with. I’m not writing any of this to jump on the “PETA is evil” wagon because, for the most part, I don’t believe that. I believe in their aims and their mission, not all parts and not always the way they go about it, but the work they’ve done with exposing cruelty on factory farms, in the fur industry, in science labs that use animals, in circuses, to name a few, has been groundbreaking and absolutely vital. But their work with companion animals–no. My belief in the larger good of PETA is the reason it has taken me 13 years to speak out about this but I cannot, in good conscience, keep quiet when the assertion is made that so many animals are too broken to be saved.

Others are working hard to get the message out that animals who end up in shelters are not damaged, or beyond saving, or broken …

… and PETA, in an article in the New York Times, states that the animals it takes in are usually too damaged, beyond saving, too broken. What. The. Ever. Loving. Fuck? THAT is putting the organization over the well being of animals, THAT is upholding stereotypes about shelter animals, THAT is utter bullshit.

Meet our dog Firu …

Firu

Firu

When he lived on the streets, he was mowed down by a car that was going so fast it broke his femur in half and dislocated his hip. Was he not worth saving? Thank heaven the person who found him shattered on the side of the road thought that he was worth saving, and thank heaven the shelter here, which operates (in stark contrast to PETA) on a shoestring budget, where she brought him thought so too. The one thing they weren’t sure of was if he would make it because he was in such bad shape, but they believed in doing everything in their capability to help him. Firu underwent an operation that not only saved his life but his leg and now we call him our 3 1/2 legged baby because he often treats his injured leg a bit gingerly but, really, he just knows that he gets sympathy from his limp.Yes, he was damaged emotionally and physically but he was far beyond hopeless and you don’t just throw animals away, even if you tell yourself that you’re doing it in the name of mercy.

Meet Squiggles …

Squiggles

Squiggles was discovered in a garbage bin with his brother and sister, someone had tied them all up into a plastic bag and dumped them when they were about a week old. They were filthy, our vet said they’d likely been in the bag for at least a day or two judging by the amount of waste in the bag. They were full of parasites, external and internal, and the other boy was very near death. Our vet kept the very sick kitten, who died later that day, and we fostered the other two kittens, named Squiggles and Cookie by our daughter. Cookie also later died, her parasites weren’t treated in time, but with a lot of intensive work Squiggles pulled through and is now a member of our family. His full name is Sir Lord Wesley Squiggleton the Third, we believe he deserves to be treated like royalty. Was he not worth saving? Were his siblings not worth fighting for?

I understand having to make choices, I understand knowing that you can spend a ton of money to save one dog or you can care for ten for a month, and those choices blow. But those choices are not why PETA makes the decisions that drive their animal companion program. I believe what drives their decisions is the belief that too many humans are inherently bad and undeserving of animals, that overpopulation is too overwhelming, and that you must euthanize and euthanize in order to combat it. But there are a whole lot of good people who want to make animals part of their family, and euthanasia should only be the very last option, it shouldn’t be a matter of course, it shouldn’t be the first, often only, choice.

Working with animals who have been neglected, abused, abandoned isn’t about bailing water out of a sinking ship, it’s about patching up the holes, rebuilding, preventing what caused the crisis in the first place. And what really bites at me is the folks at PETA must know this, either that or they are so completely jaded that they’ve given up on humanity entirely and, in turn, have given up on the animals we have a duty to care for. And that is a sad state of affairs for an animal rights organization.

PS. As an aside, I’m not interested in bashing PETA, or in communicating with people who do. There’s a difference between flat out bashing and pointing out problems, I hope I’ve made it clear that I believe there are big problems within PETA but they also do a whole lot of good so, really, it should just be about shining a light on the problems and hoping the people who have the power start to make changes.

Equality is a Beautiful Thing!

So much has been said and written about yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act that I wasn’t going to do more than just jump for joy and yell “YES!” in the background. Then I watched this clip of Andrew Sullivan talking about what this means to him personally and I just had to share it:

He emphasizes that Justice Kennedy used the word “dignity” nine times in his opinion. Dignity. Exactly. All of this, at its core, is about dignity, about equality, about justice, about all the things we’re supposed to stand for in America but still struggle with every single day. We are far from perfect in how these ideals play out in our country, but the fact that the struggle for marriage equality, for equality for LGBT people in general, is finally being seen as a civil rights issue and finally being embraced by majorities in our country is huge. The first sitting President to say he believes in marriage equality, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, DOMA in the trash, thirteen states where same sex marriage is legal–we can, with confidence, say to bigots “You are on the wrong side of history. You and your bigotry will be left in the dust.” I know there is a lot more progress that needs to be made but I’m so damn excited about this, what it means for our country, what it means for LGBT people, what it means for my children to know equality isn’t just an ideal! And a big cheer to the State Department for releasing this photo with a statement by Secretary of State Kerry (yea, my hubby has an awesome boss and for all the complaining I do about the Department I LOVE that it embraces equality and has for quite some time)

"The U.S. Department of State applauds the Supreme Court’s decision striking down an unjust and discriminatory law and increasing freedom and equality for #LGBT Americans." - #SecKerry (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) http://t.co/eOQeMmqK1s

“The U.S. Department of State applauds the Supreme Court’s decision striking down an unjust and discriminatory law and increasing freedom and equality for #LGBT Americans.” – #SecKerry (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) http://t.co/eOQeMmqK1s

 

When I opened my Facebook yesterday morning one of the first things I saw was the status of a friend of mine who married her wife quite some time ago, yesterday she proposed to her and now they get to be legally married and given protection under federal law. It’s just so exciting! I haven’t seen my friend in ages but she is such and sweet, kind person and when I see pictures of her with her wife the love that they have for each other shines through. And, now, that love is going to be legally recognized! Have I said I’m excited?

And a word to people who are upset about this …

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Equality is a beautiful thing!

Thatcher the Milk Snatcher, and Why Progressives Need to Stop Lamenting Her

I woke up this morning to the news that Margaret Thatcher is dead. Good. I hate very few people, I hate Margaret Thatcher and I’m damn glad she’s dead. I’d love to be able to rise above that feeling, because hate is not a good thing, I guess I will eventually. But I have no sympathy for her, no compassion for any suffering she experienced.

That’s not really the point of this blog though. The point is that I am gobsmacked at the number of people who call themselves progressives but who seem to hold her in high regard. What. The. Everloving. Hell? WHY? I cannot for the life of me understand, but I have a theory. I think she gets a pass because she’s a woman. I think when many progressives look at her they don’t see a politician whose policies gutted trade unions, who refused to enact sanctions against Apartheid South Africa, who rubbed elbows and had tea with Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who supported the homophobic Section 28 law, and who was a war hawk whose BFF was Ronald Reagan. They see a woman who held power. But, FFS, what did she do with that power? What is it about this woman that you admire? She was a woman, the only female Prime Minister of Great Britain, I get that. But if it were a man who had done these things she would not be revered by progressives, she would be reviled.

Think about it. You support someone because of their body bits? You fondly remember a politician not because of the things they believed, or the things that they achieved, but because they had lady parts? In what universe does that make even a lick of sense? This is why identity politics sucks. Honestly, you cannot even call yourself a progressive and admire her rise to power, woman or not, because think of how she did it –on the backs of poor and working class people (there is a reason she was called “Thatcher the Milk Snatcher,” people!), on the backs of people struggling for freedom and equality, on the backs of people whose own government terrorized them, on the backs of Irish hunger strikers, and of the Irish people. While the world looked on in horror, her refusal to acknowledge that Bobby Sands, and others like him, were political prisoners and not common criminals led to their deaths (and anyone who wants to hound them for going on hunger strike in protest, please kindly read the cultural and political history of the hunger strike in Ireland here).

So come on, people! Look past her sex and to her actions, to what she stood for, to how she behaved while she was in power. Her legacy is not one that progressives should be putting on a pedestal, it flies in the face of the things we are supposed to hold most dear–equality, social justice, caring for one another, compassion, kindness. Truly, people, wipe off those rose colored glasses and see her as a person, not as a woman. To do otherwise is just sexist.

And now for a bit of levity …

How Can You Not Love the Softies?

I’m not much of a football fan, more of a rugby girl, but football is a big deal in my house, more to the point the Baltimore Ravens are a big deal in my house. I married a Baltimore man who has passed on his love (or obsession, you know, whatever) for football and the Ravens to our children. While I love that the hubby and the kids get the chance to bond over football, and I find no small amount of amusement listening to them yell at an inanimate object while watching a game, game time was always just “me” time–time to read a book or do my nails since I had zero interest in football. Then I learned that several of the players on the Ravens are involved with an awesome campaign called Show Your Soft Side, which promotes kindness towards animals, and I immediately went from “don’t care a bit about football” to “awww, how can you not love a bunch of big, tough softies and want them to win?” I mean, seriously, how can you not love this

Torrey Smith with his ridiculously adorable dogs

I even sat down and watched a game when the Ravens played the Eagles, in part because I took great pleasure in watching Michael Vick get the snot sacked out of him by the Softies (as the Show Your Soft Side guys are called). I’m not usually an advocate for violent retribution but I make an exception for Vick and his dog torturing, dog fighting ass.

Each time a photo from the Show Your Soft Side campaign pops up in my FB feed I smile. Far too often we only hear about the bad things that happen in cities like Baltimore, but it’s so important to focus also on the good that people do in order to combat cruelty and promote kindness. As I started learning more about the ways in which these Softies not only promote compassion towards animals but also involve themselves in their communities I found myself slipping deeper in love. A shining example of this is Running Back Ray Rice who, when he learned about an 8-year old fan whose family lost their home and their pets in a fire, and the ways her school was rallying around them, decided to throw a school-wide party for the students. The girl’s mother said “It was shared with Ray Rice on his Facebook page. His publicist came out and contacted us immediately and he was touched by two things. He was touched by the kids kindness and the school because he is all about anti bullying, and about the pets, the loss of the pets.” I’ve never been someone who thinks that sports figures, or celebrities in general, should be held up as heroes simply for their talent but these are some awesome guys who have involved themselves in their communities and with campaigns that make a difference.

Which brings me to Brendon Ayanbadejo (you can find him on Twitter here). Ayanbadejo is not only a Softie but also an outspoken advocate for marriage equality which, particularly in the arena of professional sports, is a big freaking deal. In an editorial he wrote for the Huffington Post in 2009 Ayanbadejo wrote

If Britney Spears can party it up in Vegas with one of her boys and go get married on a whim and annul her marriage the next day, why can’t a loving same sex couple tie the knot? How could our society grant more rights to a heterosexual one night stand wedding in Vegas than a gay couple that has been together for 3, 5, 10 years of true love?

He also made this spot in support of marriage equality in Maryland

And did this photograph for the NoH8 Campaign

Apparently he and Viking Chris Kluwe, who backed Ayanbadejo up when he caught heat for being so outspoken about marriage equality, were even named Honorary Gays of the Year by GQ. I didn’t know that was a thing but I’m going with it.

So what’s my point, other than indulging in some post-Superbowl rah-rah for the first time ever? My point is that I LOVE to see these big, tough football players do tender things, love to see them speaking up for equality and kindness, love to see their acts of compassion, their dimensions, their depth, and to see them live with grace and courage (Wide Receiver Torrey Smith, who features in that first Softie photo up there, is a perfect example of living and playing with grace and courage.)

One lesson we’ve always driven home while watching sports with our kids is that you don’t succeed by giving up, or losing faith in yourself. You succeed by moving forward, sometimes slogging through. We’ve also stressed that success doesn’t always mean winning a prize or a game, it’s also defined by graciously accepting defeat, and by having the courage and determination to give whatever you are doing everything you have. So thank you, Softies, for being a great group of guys and for doing good things. I feel pretty darn good about holding these guys up as examples for my kids of good men doing good things. Congratulations on winning the Superbowl and we look forward to another season of you giving it everything you’ve got!

Put Those Single Mothers Back in Their Binders!

So, here’s my “To Do” list for today, inspired by Mitt Romney’s assertion that single mothers are responsible for gun violence in the US:

  1. Break it to my mom it’s all her fault that gun violence in our country is out of control.
  2. Break it to my dad it’s on him too (I believe in spreading the love)
  3. GAG

Of course, this isn’t the first time a politician has shifted the blame for all that is wrong with our country onto the shoulders of single parents, ahhhh, Dan Quayle, bless that tiny, shriveled pea passing for a brain in his noggin.

During the debate I was messaging with an Irish friend of mine, in part because he’s awesome and in part because I am always interested in what folks who aren’t American think of our politics. This was his response to Romney’s statement

ooooohhhh!!!! there he is again with the moms n dads thing!!!!!
single parent family more lio raise violent kidskely t
my keyboard just went backwards
I hate that point, it’s as backwards as me keyboard

Yea, couldn’t have summed it up better myself. Rather than addressing the question about gun violence in our country he meanders down a rambling road of, what? Moralizing? I don’t even know because my brain went “pop!” when he did the “just blame the single mommies” thing.

Then there was the whole charming “binders full of women” comment, the basis of which, turns out to be false. In my mind, however, that’s not even the offensive part of the whole quote (and it has resulted in some hilarity, which is awesome). In my opinion, this is the truly offensive quote:

 We’re going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the economy I’m going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they’re going to be anxious to hire women.

Wow. So anxious that they’ll even hire women? Gosh, we’re humbled, really. It’s not even the quotes, or the missteps, or the fumbles, it’s the ideas those things reflect. The idea that women are not capable of making decisions about our bodies, that fact that he won’t stand up for fair pay for women, the belief that we alone are the ones who need to be home to get that dinner on the table. Hey, you know who else likes to make dinner for his family? My husband. Yup. Sometimes he even does it without me in the room. Sometimes he even does it when, gasp, I’m. Not. Home. I know, it’s crazy.

So, damn. Nothing about last night’s debate surprised me. To be honest, I don’t even bother being personally offended by Romney because what’s the point? Plus, in contrast to what some people seem to think, single mothers, heck, mothers in general, can poke fun and put together things like this:

Romney’s views are, however, offensive. Simple as that. They’re also dangerous to women and, I don’t know about you, but I’m happy in 2012 and would prefer not to go back to the days of back alley abortions and even lower glass ceilings.

It’s also no surprise that I thought our President was awesome–strong, focused, detailed, even dressed Romney down nicely when he forcefully made this statement

The suggestion that anybody on my team, whether Secretary of State, our UN Ambassador, anybody on my team, would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do, that’s not what I do as President, that’s not what I do as Commander-in-Chief.

In the end, because the political is personal, the first few seconds of the President’s answer to this question brought a huge, “OHMYGODHELOVESUS!,” grin to my face

Mr. President, you have our backs and we have yours. Forward!

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