June 30 2017

Halfway through the year.

Yesterday I:

Did three loads of dishes
Washed and blocked a knit hat
Cleaned the worst sins out of the fridge
Had a really nice dinner with J and M
Knit some more on a pair of slippers
Wrote and called various members of congress, state, and local government about healthcare and the forthcoming “electoral integrity” voter suppression policies
Schlepped M home from his LARP
Supervised K doing her chores and school and cleaning
Did some room cleaning with M
Made a doctor’s appointment
Watched an episode of Pottery Throwdown

A lot of what I do when I am home is be the external executive function for people who would rather use their own executive function for something more rewarding, like watching The 100 or playing Warframe. (To use examples not-at-all at random.) So I have to, like a lot of parents, I expect, remember what *I* was supposed to be doing with my day *and also* what two other people are doing with their day.

I mean, sure, I could leave them to succeed or fail on their own, and sometimes that is exactly what happens. But K not doing her chores affects the welfare of the household, and I *want* both of my children to do decently at school work even thought right now they are not motivated by that goal. So I make lists, and I check that work is done, and I remind, and somewhere in all of that I just absolutely forget everything I meant to do in a day.

This is why I make lists.

Ah, well. More of the same tomorrow.

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I am a patriot.

I love my country.

This is, well, not exactly news to me, I mean, I’ve always been sort of vaguely in favor of defending the United States of America. And, I mean, I’ve sworn some oaths to uphold the laws of the land and protect the interests of the American people, etc. So I might even have been more patriotic than a lot of folks.

But this year, 2017, has made something painfully clear to me. Painful, like endless sandpaper abrasions, painful like a bad sunburn, painful like a pulled back muscle that aches when I breathe.

I’m a patriot. I actually… I love my country. I’m invested in it, in its continued existence, success, and welfare. I want the U.S. to grow and learn and become better for its citizens and for the world.

I didn’t know that until I was scared I wasn’t going to have it.

I’ve often been cynical about my government. The Gulf War, the Clinton impeachment, the refusal of the federal government to acknowledge the existence of AIDS, the Iran-Contra hearings, the second Gulf War. The war on drugs, the CIA in Central America, the three-strikes laws, don’t ask don’t tell. There’s a lot to inspire cynicism. But I never thought very deeply about what I wanted for and from the United States. I never tried to imagine what I wanted instead of what we had.

The current national leadership has made me realize everything I want for the U.S., by threatening to take it away. Now, some of these things have never been an actual reality. Racial equity? Nope, never been real. Restorative justice? Naw. Equal rights for women? Still not a thing. But I thought, I thought, for the last couple of years I thought, we would get there. Slowly, tediously, with setbacks, we would get there.

And now I’m afraid that we won’t.

So now, now I am a patriot. A fighter for my country.

The country I fight for is one that has never really existed. I do not want to “make America great again” because I know all too well that greatness for some has always been purchased with the lives of others. I do not want to go back to any part of American history. I want to go forward. I fight, I argue, I call, I give, I protest, I march for an America I have never seen but which I believe in with all my heart.

The America I stand for is one which believes in basic rights for all people. One that believes that the wealth of a nation best serves its most vulnerable citizens, and puts this believe into practice.

I believe in an America that holds people to their word, that turns its back on liars and thieves, that protects people from the dishonest and fraudulent. In an America that values all people within its borders for the accomplishments they may yet contribute to our world, not for citizenship or physical appearance or place of birth. In an America that values families of all compositions and expresses this value by supporting the health and welfare of those families.

The America in my heart values truth, science, and education. It makes decisions about the future based on the painstaking work of learning about the past and present. In this America we turn our immense power and wealth towards improving the planet for the future of all species, because it is in our obvious best interests to do so.

In my America, we colonize other worlds while at the same time we feed the hungry, heal the sick, and educate all.

I have never in my life lived in my America.

But that’s no kind of fucking reason to stop fighting for it.

I do not believe the story the liars of this nation tell. They say greed is good. They say that vile outsiders are coming to rape and rob and kill us. They say uteruses and breasts are valuable, but women are worthless. They say the lives of the wealthy are worth more than the poor, that some people are being punished by god and deserve to die. They say black men are monsters and Muslims are terrorists and Latinos are thieves, and I do not believe their endless lies. They say science is a lie and that only they speak the truth, and I do not believe.

They say there is never enough. They say that we must fight and kill each other over scraps because there will never be enough, they say we must hate and mistrust each other and be grateful for the little we are given.

These are lies, and they are not true of the country I fight for. They are not true of the America in which I believe.

There is enough. There can be enough. We can have universal basic income, we can have universal health care. We can stop insisting that food and medicine are realms of profiteering. We can insist on science. We can insist on truth. We can reduce and reform the laws of the land to remove the ability to profit from slavery. We can believe women and people of color and those who are victimized.

We can be better.

I believe we will be better.

And so I find myself a patriot, here in the year of 2017, with this government under criminal investigation and a world on the edge of ecological collapse. I like my America better than the one being offered to me right now. It’s a world worth fighting for.

I’m a patriot.

I hope you are, too.

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Happy Solstice

It’s the longest, lightest, day of the year here in Minnesota.

I always think, during this part of summer, about times past. About how very little could be accomplished in the dark. About these long, hot, summer days of work and accomplishment, warehoused against the turning dark.

I think it’s supposed to be cloudy and rainy today, to be honest.

But that doesn’t stop the light.

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Teenagers!

M is off to a week of camp. It’s his third year, and he is an old, experienced hand at it, and the departure went without a hitch.

K is working hard at her circus classes, including teaching herself a trick one of her coaches said she’d never learn to do.

The summer is going well.

They are good kids.

They are also, oh my god, teenagers. Frustrating, frustrated, aggravating, empathetic, selfish, competent, thoughtless, variable teenagers. I’m not going to post their minor failures and faults here; they are their own people, and get to share that or not.

But let’s just say, I love them to pieces, but this blog post was indeed inspired by events.

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#JusticeforPhilando

Officer Yanez was found not guilty on all charges yesterday.

There is no justice for Philando Castile.

He died on live video as his girlfriend tried to console the officer who murdered her boyfriend, in the hopes that he would call 911.

Officer Yanez was not found guilty of even reckless discharge of a weapon, despite the presence of a four-year-old child in the back seat of the car.

I watched Unicorn Riot’s coverage of the protest last night for an hour or so. I wished I could have gone and marched.

What would justice be? What do I want to happen now? What on earth do we all do with a system that, after Graham vs Connor, enshrines into law the right of law enforcement officials to murder anyone who scares them?

That’s not hypothetical. I’ve been trying to figure out the answer all of yesterday and this morning.

I think there are three basic approaches:

1) Retrain law enforcement to not be reflexively, racistly, terrified of black men.

2) Make shooting citizens cost-prohibitive for police departments and cities.

3) Disarm law enforcement.

Looking at item three, first, it seems that having a large contingent of police officers carry ONLY non-lethal ordinance might help. There are still problems with the use and abuse of tasers, chemical spray, etc., but it might help prevent murder.

If we as a society charge and prosecute as many instance of police violence as possible, it may become too costly for cities to bear, and police departments may be forced to change their policies and culture out of self-defense.

If law enforcement training focused *at least half* of its hours on deescalation, anti-racism, and how to not be a dick to your citizenry, it might help establish new, less lethal, reflexive actions under stress.

There’s no reason we can’t do all three.

(This letter sent to my local government this morning.)

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June 14 2017

I’m not who I was, seven months ago.

I care more now than I did then. I care more about people I know, people I’ve never met. I care about politics both large and small.

I read the news every single day, the BBC, the New York Times, Vox, the Washington Post, the Pioneer Press, Twitter, Tumblr. I take in all this information about the world and the people in it, and I care.

It’s painful. It’s enraging. It’s exhausting. It hurts, a lot, to care to helplessly.

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When my kids were infants, I discovered I could no longer watch new horror movies. I could watch the ones I’d see before I had kids, those were still fine. But I could not watch any new horror movies. You see, instead of identifying with the protagonist, or even the victims, I imagined myself in the place of the grieving parents. Confused, afraid, uncertain how it was that their lives had come to this point of watching the morgue attendant unzip the heavy bag containing meat that used to be their child.

I couldn’t do it. I would burst into loud, snotty, sobbing tears.

When my children were infants I would find myself crying in the shower, probably partially from exhaustion, but also because my heart had left the safety of my body and was now sitting out in the world, raw and exposed to every passing harm. There was so little I could do to protect them, to protect my heart. Loving things, loving people, it sucks sometimes. It’s full of uncertainty and fear and helplessness and it just hurts.

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When I was a young adult I was surprised to find that the world still existed. I had grown up knowing — not fearing, but just knowing — that the world would end in nuclear nightmare long before I had a chance to be an adult. I was not worried about this anymore than I was worried about the heat death of the universe. It was bad, sure, but simply beyond my control. No sense getting worked up about it.

After the Cold War ended, though, I began to realize that there were other bad things in the world worth my time and attention. I sort of tried caring about a few of them, but I always backed away from real, genuine involvement. I went to Pride, I voted, but I never volunteered time or money to making change in the world. I always told myself it was because I was too busy, and other people were doing the work anyway, and most problems weren’t going to be solved by me in the first place.

Those reasons were lies.

I lied to myself because caring about people or things was and is painful, and I did not like feeling hurt.

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Since November 9th, 2016, I have not been able to stop caring.

It’s not a lot of fun, all this caring. I am frequently just angry, in my head, all day, every day. It’s an anger composed of seeing the harm done in the world, by action and inaction, and seeing other people refuse to do what is needed to stop the harm. The anger comes from helplessness, from knowing I do not single-handedly have the power to effect change, and begging other people to do what is needed. Sometimes they do it. Sometimes not.

I am furious that GoFundMe and YouCaring are becoming major sources of health care funding, when as a nation we have the capacity to provide for everyone. I am furious that the money that could save 24 million lives is instead being handed to the very richest people in our country.

I am furious that my country is refusing to accept the Paris Climate Accord, the small, self-generated promise to start trying to work on reducing human contributions to climate change. I am furious at the condemnation of the future, of my children and grandchildren, for the sake of some spurious concerns about making money.

I am furious that law enforcement organizations, including border patrol, are welcoming open members of white nationalist organizations into their midst. I am furious at the continued cultural insistence that black people are inherently monstrous and thus deserve to die at the hands of fearful police.

I am helplessly, furiously angry that I cannot do more, give more, be more for those in need. Every plea for funding that I can’t contribute to makes me angry. Every recalcitrant member of Congress in another constituency who I cannot call makes me angry. Every jury who lets another uniformed murderer go free makes me angry. Every municipal budget passed that cuts funding for arts, science, and education makes me angry.

Caring about things hurts, y’all. I really don’t enjoy it.

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But I like who I am. I like that I will be able to look back on myself from some future time and say, yeah, I did my best. I like that my kids are seeing me call Congress, seeing me donate money and goods to those who need it, seeing me go to some marches and rallies.

I hear people say, “I just can’t care too much about what’s going on right now,” and I get it. But that’s not me here in 2017. I seem to have started caring, and it’s not really going away. Not yet.

I’m not who I was last November. This new, caring, me isn’t always happy about the state of the world, and that is frustrating as hell. But I am happier about being me.

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Sleep apnea!

Well, yesterday I picked up my CPAP. Last night I used it for the first time. It was … fine? Awkward, but not impossible? Will take some adjustment?

And for the next thirty days I am on administrative duties at work, until the Flight Surgeon is assured that I am complying with treatment and that the treatment is effective.

Onwards!

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