merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
 I'm not watching the debate, because I'm already sick right now. We're watching a movie instead. But Twitter exploded with the news of Scalia's death (I will not give the title "Justice" to the man who wrote that actual innocence is not grounds to overturn a death sentence), and I'm fucking appalled at the number of elected officials who took oaths to uphold the Constitution and who want to delay appointing a replacement for almost a freakin' year. Presumably they read the Constitution? The power to appoint Supreme Court justices belongs to the President. Even a President you don't like. Even a Black one. Even in an election year. UGH.


Sep. 11th, 2012 12:45 am
merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
A professional acquaintance of mine, a fellow with over 30 years of Texas politicking under his belt, just posted this in a public status on Facebook, quoting from this post at

See, here's the deal. We have two parties in this country right now. One party is a center-right party that believes that it is unseemly to let old people die in the streets. And the other party is insane. In any "conversation," the first people in the first party say, "Well, okay, then we'll cut here and here and you, maybe, ask some people to pay a little more." And then, the other party says: "Roogie-roogie! Gabba-gabba-hey!" and throws its Maypo against the wall. That is the "conversation" in our politics today.

Um, holy shit, y'all. He uses that FB account for work stuff. He is known as a deal-maker and a pragmatist. And even he is so frustrated that he will post this - which, you know, happens to be pretty much totally accurate - right out there in front of God and everybody. Wowsers.

In a weird way, this makes me feel good. I feel less alone. I am sick to fucking death of people being all, oh, you shouldn't say rude or angry stuff about the other party, your friends and neighbors and family could be in it. I mean, yes, I wish everyone everywhere, particularly middle class white people in the US, would stop saying shit like, "People who vote for <x> should be taken out and shot," because hey, assholes, that bullshit is gigantically fucking disrespectful to the millions of people who died in exactly that fashion, and unless you are a person of color in the US, that has literally never existed as a possibility in your world. Shut the entire fuck up.

But really, folks? If it is more important to you to avoid paying taxes than it is for queer people, women, poor people, old people, people of color, transfolk, and all the intersections thereof to be treated as full human beings? I get to be fucking angry at you, because that is my life and the lives of people I love that you are throwing under the bus. If that is your position, you are not my fucking friend, because you are straight up saying that my life is worth less than your wallet. I get to be angry about that. 

And I will not apologize for that. Not for a goddamn second. And if you want to argue with me about that, think first about the part where I am less than a year away from two master's degrees in understanding many, many details of how all that works. Also, be aware that explaining in a patronizing way about how no, you care about economic growth is going to make me want to slap the face right off your damn head. I understand this extremely thoroughly. That is a crucial part of why I am so angry. I'm staying with an engineer friend right now who was asking me about health care reform, and he was curious about why everything is so fucked up, why can't we fix it? And I said, honey, we CAN. We totally could. We know how to do it. We have goddamn reams of data from all over the world because we are the only wealthy industrialized democracy on the planet that does not have some kind of national health care thingy, whether that's single-payer in the UK or a mandate and heavy public regulation in Switzerland. The US is the late adopter here, and we can learn from their mistakes. We know how to do it. These unutterably selfish assholes just refuse to listen to the facts and the options and make the hard choice. The more I understand about policy, the angrier I get. We know how. So let's make it happen. If you don't want that, um, seriously? Like the guy at Esquire said, you are pretty much saying that you are okay with poor people dying in the streets. And I wish you would seek some therapy or fucking go live somewhere else where you do not get to vote on what happens to the lives of people who aren't as lucky as you. 
merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
I had to stop reading Facebook and pretty much any news for a full day because I was so triggered by all the "legitimate rape" horseshit. I feel like sending the Republican National Committee my therapy bill for the week.

Group of people I am personally most frightened of in the US: Republican primary voters. They are the ones who have systematically tossed out almost every R with a lick of sense and put in their place people like Todd Akin, who believes in magic rape-detecting vagina juices and whom the other fuckwits they elected nonetheless chose to put on the Science and Technology Committee, and Steve King, who just described all the multicultural groups at the flagship public university in his state as, "people who feel sorry for themselves." 

I really feel like posting on Facebook something like, "If you are willing to put these anti-birth control, anti-abortion, anti-health care, anti-poor, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, racist, anti-government, magical-thinking, radical right-wing religious fanatics in office just so you don't have to pay taxes, get the fuck away from me. I think you are cruel, self-centered, and a bad person, and I don't want to talk to you ever again. You want a libertarian paradise? Move to Somalia. They have very few laws there. You know what else they don't have? Accessible health care, reliable roads, effective public schools. You know what they do have? Pirates, cholera, and a staggering amount of preventable human suffering. Have fun with that. Also, you know where they learned how to organize a country based on a system run by wealthy elites on the backs of huge swaths of grindingly poor people? White colonizers. So take your racism and shove it right up your ass. Or, you know, die in a fire. That works, too."

One of the nice things about being rich is being able to put resources toward things I think need doing. My partner suggested a few weeks ago that we spend a non-trivial amount of money on political contributions; I enthusiastically agreed, because there are a lot of state legislative races in which $1,000 can literally make the difference between a good candidate winning and a total fuckwit winning. Last night we had a lovely evening with some friends who are political professionals, eating Taiwanese food and talking through some candidate profiles so we can decide on the most effective places to spend our money. I have a wee twinge of discomfort about this for ethical reasons. The fact that we have money should not allow us to exert disproportionate influence on the political process. But in a post-Citizens United USA where the Koch brothers have fairly effectively purchased themselves most of the US Congress, I guess you gotta fight fire with fire.
merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
- I did not expect to like Vienna so much, but I really did. Apparently I watched too many movies about WWII as a child (this may sound like I'm kidding, but I'm not - my father made us watch a zillion of 'em), so I have this deep-seated, irrational resentment of Germany and Austria. I realize that it's been 60 goddamn years. I realize that there are people from both countries who fought against the Nazis with their last breaths. I realize that I would not want people to judge me by, say, George W. Bush or Rand Paul. And I realize that Hungary's politics are currently WAY scarier than either Germany's or Austria's. I get all this. I realize that it's irrational and that I should grow the hell up and approach Vienna on its own terms. So I did.

And it turns out that ending up in Vienna was a great thing for us, because we both really dug it. It's a beautiful city with a delightfully cranky and effective history of socialism (you go, Red Vienna!), excellent coffee and associated ridiculous coffee beverages, fabulous music and art all over the damn place, wonderful architecture, leafy boulevards... So much to recommend it.

- I wish Google would fuck off and stop "helping" by noticing that I'm online in Austria and Hungary and thus switching its default language to German. FUCK OFF. People travel! Stop helping me!

- Cool, rainy weather feels like heaven after a miserably, punishingly hot, dry Texas summer. Y'all, I wore A SWEATER. Because I was COLD. It was kind of awesome.

- Many men in Vienna and Budapest wear too goddamn much cologne. Dial it down if you're going to take crowded public transportation, people!

- Viennese folk are very, very good at creepy things. I imagine it's a good city to be Goth in. The natural history museum is fabulous in ways that demonstrate this clearly - lots of creepy little tableaux about. There's also a charmingly mordant sense of humor on display - like the butterfly sitting cheekily on the nose of a taxidermied caiman (which is like a wee alligator).

- I stood in front of the Venus of Willendorf and realized how small she is, but how beautifully detailed. Humans could make art with such care and grace 25,000 years ago! Cool.

- I do okay with basic courtesies and stuff in German, but holy craptacular, Hungarian is HARD. I've just had the hardest time wrapping my head around the pronunciation.

- Poor Hungary has pretty much had the shit kicked out of it forever. Part of this is just bad geographical luck - like Poland, it stands between western European powers and Asian ones, and it gets ground like grain between them. But Hungarian leaders also just seem to choose tragically badly, to end up on the wrong side of history.

- Today we went to Terror House (museum and memorial to those killed by the Nazi occupation and then the Soviet occupation) and the Great Synagogue (second largest in the world, very beautiful, with memorials outside to the Hungarian Jews who died in WWII). The seemingly endless list of names and catalogue of those killed during the occupations covers a staggering amount of wall space at Terror House. The tree of life memorial outside the synagogue, with the name of a Jew who was killed engraved on each leaf, is beautiful and gut-wrenchingly sad. As often happens to me in Europe, I feel like I've spent all day tripping over bones. I'm glad I saw these things. They are heartbreaking, horrifying, and important, especially for people from the US who have not experienced war or occupation on their own soil. It's too easy for us to forget that when we talk about sending troops somewhere, this is what we ultimately mean: homes, bridges, roads, schools, lives, and families destroyed. It's too easy to forget what a country looks like when people are bullied into policing their neighbors and themselves, when the panopticon leaves us hating and fearing any difference or deviation. I left nauseated, tearful, and more committed than ever to fighting my own country's fascist tendencies.

But can I tell y'all something wonderful I learned today? Outside the Great Synagogue, there's also a memorial to Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who literally, personally saved thousands of Jews. He issued protective passports, as many as his office could churn out, which were totally illegal but which allowed hundreds of people, maybe more, to escape. He organized a group of over 300 folks to help out and raise money to rent buildings (32 in all!!) and he declared those spaces Swedish territory - where he and his allies housed 10,000 people who otherwise would have been tortured and/or killed. Ten. THOUSAND. People.

One of the people Wallenberg saved was Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), who died in 2008, but who was a tireless champion of human rights, co-founder of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, a fierce progressive (on almost every issue - unsurprisingly, he was more than a bit hawkish on Middle East issues), and a particularly strong environmentalist. Lantos fought in the Hungarian resistance and was the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the US Congress. He was not unproblematic, but damn, dude got himself arrested for civil disobedience protesting in front of the Sudanese embassy over Darfur issues when he was 78 years old. I have no doubt that he was treated much more gently by DC cops as a sitting member of Congress than he ever was when detained in his youth, but still. That's pretty hardcore for a man pushing 80 years of age. His grandson, Tomicah Tillemann, is now a speechwriter for Hillary Clinton. His grandaughter, Charity Tilleman-Dick, is an opera singer. And that's just some of the ripple effect from one of the thousands of people Raoul Wallenberg saved.

So that's today's powerful reminder that one person who chooses to be brave and kind can change the world in unimaginably beautiful ways that will echo through time long after xie is gone. Blessings on you, Raoul Wallenberg.
merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
So I will probably never live outside the US. I want to stay close to my brother and sister-in-law and their kids, my BFF and her kids, my friends. He wants to stay relatively close to his family. And fundamentally, my partner does not like change, and that is just WAAAAY too much fucking change for him.

But I'm pretty much fucking sick and tired of this country right now. The allegedly Democratic president is pretty much a Rockefeller Republican - and yet millions of people here are so badly educated about their own history that they think he's a fucking socialist. I'm sure most of you have seen the clip of Republican debate audiences cheering at both the execution of 234 people by my own home state and then at leaving people without health insurance to die come across your FB or Google+ feeds. No one in DC seems to be taking seriously a jobs bill this country desperately needs, as we suffer the worst unemployment since the Great Depression. Apparently all you have to be to get detained by Homeland Security is brown-skinned and on a plane. I can't even talk about the cuts to the Texas budget without sputtering in rage. Etc etc etc. The catalog of horrors is almost endless. We are displaying every single characteristic of fascist regimes. I'm tired. I'm angry. I'm scared. I'm disappointed.

This is my home. I will not give it up to these horrifying assholes without busting my butt to try to save it. This is where the war is, so this is where we fight.

But sometimes I need to fantasize about someplace I could go and just be without having to fight so hard all the goddamn time. And here's how I know I am a pragmatist at heart: I want my fantasies to make some sense. Here are my parameters:

- Fundamentally democratic socialist system of government - national health care, genuine social safety net, all that good stuff
- Fundamentally values human rights
- At least doesn't outright hate women or queers. For proxy variables, let's say that abortion and same-sex marriage, or at least civil unions, are legal and accessible.
- At least acknowledges that racism exists and that we should do stuff to try to fix that.
- Not too close to either pole, as I have seasonal affective disorder and can't go without seeing the sun in the winter
- Relatively temperate climate - preferably doesn't get below about 20 degrees F/-6 C or over 100 degrees F/38 C
- Forests and water, whether lake, river, or ocean, are nice
- Good restaurants
- Either English-speaking or the language spoken there isn't too hard for an English/Spanglish speaker to pick up (so, like, not Hungarian, Finnish, or Russian, and I've never been able to get my mouth around Portuguese pronunciation)
- Travel back to the US is relatively easy

Suggestions? Right now my only candidate is Vancouver, BC, but that whole problem where people riot and set cars on fire when they lose a sports game is distressing.
merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
So my Facebook feed is full of appalling jubilation right now. So many people I know are expressing joy that Osama bin Laden is dead. CNN is showing crowds of people gathering in front of the White House and at the site of the Two Towers, cheering, waving the US flag, chanting, "USA, USA." I was particularly nauseated to read that some of those crowds were singing, "na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye," like the death of another human being is like a goddamn hockey game. The president I voted for made a rather stiff speech in which he said some good stuff (reiterating that we are not at war with Islam, acknowledging the losses suffered by the families of those who died on 9/11) and some distressing stuff (the laughable assertion that 'we know the costs of war' when it's been more than 60 years since any war has touched US soil, talking the same bullshit about national unity that totally glosses over the post-9/11 rash of racist vandalism and violence against brown-skinned people in the US, reiteration of US exceptionalism, etc).

The thing that turns my stomach the most is the assertion that this was justice. This was not justice. bin Laden was not arrested and taken into custody. He will never be tried. He was shot and killed. A team of Navy Seals and special ops personnel stormed his home and shot him. According to ABC's reporting of US officials' statements, here's what happened:

According to U.S. officials, two U.S. helicopters swept into the compound at 1:30 and 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Twenty to 25 U.S. Navy Seals under the command of the Joint Special Operations Command in cooperation with the CIA stormed the compound and engaged Bin Laden and his men in a firefight, killed Bin Laden and all those with him.

Two Bin Laden couriers were killed, as was one of Osama Bin Laden's son, as was a woman reportedly used as a shield by one of the men. Other women and children were present in the compound, according to Pakistani officials, but were not harmed. U.S. officials said that Bin Laden himself did fire his weapon during the fight.

That's not justice. It's vengeance.

I spent most of 9/11 at work at a state agency, with a colleague whose brother was working at the Pentagon that day. I sat with her while we watched the towers burning and collapsing, the smoke rising from the plane crash in Pennsylvania, and the wreckage at the Pentagon. I held her hand while she waited to find out if her brother was alive. She was lucky; he was fine. I felt sick and scared just like everyone else in the US. It was a horrifying, heartbreaking day.

So I'm not sorry to hear that the man responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people is dead. But I will not call it just. And I'm not celebrating. I'm not singing.

I keep thinking about the footage that several networks ran, just after 9/11, of a crowd of jubilant brown-skinned men, women, and children in a dusty street in Palestine, supposedly celebrating the attacks. I remember feeling so horrified by those images - and then infuriated by them. Of course I found out later that there were also candlelight vigils all over the world and that everyone from Hezbollah to the Taliban condemned the attacks. And then I was ashamed of falling for the blatantly jingoistic and racist visual rhetoric being deployed there.

And now tonight's accurate footage of crowds singing and waving the flag will run all over the world. I don't think it's any more okay to cheer violent death now than I did then. Who was that woman who died, used as a human shield? Who mourns her? Who will see those images of (mostly white) USians and feel hatred because of them? How does any of this make anything better?

I feel sick. I'm saddened and disgusted. I don't really know what else to say or what to do. So I'll just pray. Tonight I pray for peace and justice for all people of goodwill everywhere on this planet. And I hope and pray that we as a species are, however slowly, getting smarter and kinder.
merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
So on the way home from seeing the new Harry Potter, which we liked, we stopped to get our mail.

In our mail was an invitation to donate to George W. Bush's presidential library. Somebody did not do their database vetting very well.
merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)
- i'm totally brain-crushing on liss at shakesville today. this piece on the myths about female friendship gets a big amen from me. she breaks it down beautifully and eloquently, as always.

- tim wise at alternet offers a stunning thought experiment showing how white privilege functions in the cultural conversation about the tea party protests. highly recommended.

- chloe at feministing talks here about michael kimmel, a great male ally. for those of us who struggle to understand and talk to some of the dudes in our lives, this has some useful bits. and i'm really curious to read his book now. (as an aside, i want to find and deprogram the asshole mentioned briefly here who wouldn't let shelby knox into a UT frat party because she was "too fat." fucking seriously?)

- i have mixed feelings about stephanie herold's piece about how young feminists are awesome and mostly online. many of the young feminists she interviewed are doing some badass stuff, and that's awesome. but i kind of feel like she's saying that online feminism is What We Do nowadays, that this is the official third/fourth/wtf-ever wave way to do feminism, and i think that's reductive and short-sighted. you know i loves me some interwebs. email is great. blogging is great. twitter... is okay. online tools that allow you to email your representatives in one click are fine. but these days, it's necessary but not sufficient. for example, unless you have a compelling personal story to go with it, sending a boilerplate email to your state rep or member of congress is not very effective anymore precisely because it's trivially easy; they know that, and they value it accordingly. they've got to get an avalanche of such emails for it to make a difference, and for that to happen, you've got to be hooked in with an interest group, at least to the extent that you're on their mailing list.

saying brilliant things online is wonderful, but it's just one part of a larger struggle. it's not a substitute for voting, running for office, donating to or volunteering for pro-woman candidates, donating to or volunteering with pro-woman organizations, writing op-eds or letters to the editor, offering workshops, calling people out at your workplace or holiday dinner table, or any of the other million ways to do feminism. i don't think it is true that we're "mostly" online, but if that were the case, then frankly, i don't think we would be doing our share.

i'm sympathetic to her irritation at older feminists for clinging to their power and excluding younger women from leadership positions talking smack about how younger feminists are lazy or nonexistent or don't get it. it's really damn annoying. i have been tempted many times to write to certain big national feminist groups (hell, most of them) something like:

"hi there! i worked for your organization for free! a lot! i do a whole helluva lot of feminist work! i weave it into my everyday life, and i also do a nontrivial amount of all that formal stuff you talk about. now that i have money, i give it - to women candidates and feminist nonprofits. i go to lobby days, i track bills, i harass my friends and family to call/write/vote... i play the game exactly how you say it should be played, and you know what you haven't done? you're so busy thinking about *your movement*, you can't see that it's *ours* now, and you haven't asked me what i think or care about. if you have asked, you haven't listened or incorporated what i say, because i'm just a kid and what do i know? you haven't offered me a spot on a committee where i can make a difference, because, hey, we've already got one feminist under 40, do we need more? and while you're happy for the organization to take credit for what i accomplish, you don't listen when i say here's how we can do more and better. and on and on and on.

so hey, feminist leader who's all 'i'm kind of a big deal,' get the fuck over yourself. have you ever thought that maybe there are things YOU don't get? work on your intersectionality. listen to your younger colleagues. i have about a million more suggestions, and am available to discuss them. <3 me."

whew, check the pent-up anger there. see? i really do get why she's frustrated. but it's not okay to just be like, "i took my toys and went to the internet, so EFF YOU, ellie smeal/kim gandy/gloria feldt/dolores huerta/whomever! we younger babes will just do feminism in our little online sandbox!" that's no way to effect change. it's hard, and it sucks to feel like you're fighting your own organization/movement at the same time you're fighting everyone else. heaven knows i'm aware of this. but if we want big, structural things to change, like health care infrastructure, pay inequity, laws about violence against women, etc, we've got to use every tool at our disposal.

note that i'm not saying every feminist must take part in every kind of activism. i'm addressing this article in this way specifically because it explicitly purports to be a state-of-the-movement update. the internet is one tool in the box. but it isn't the whole box, and it can't and shouldn't be. i grant you it's kind of a swiss army knife - it works for conversations, fundraising, keeping people informed, linking up members of small groups spread over large areas (trans* folk in particular have used it to great effect), all kinds of things. but have you ever tried to use your swiss army knife screwdriver to put in or take out more than one screw? it kind of sucks, doesn't it? i bet you went and got your regular screwdriver or even a fancy battery-powered one, because you know what? there are other tools made specifically for that purpose that work better for that job. and if you're trying to dismantle the master's house, there's a big damn lot of things that need doing, and they cannot all be done with a single tool.


merielle: purple passiflora on a barbed wire fence (Default)

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