American Elegy

black-boxThis is not an elegy for America, the beautiful; America land of the free. It’s not an elegy for  geography, latitude and longitude, tectonic ’tis of thee.

The land, blooded and let, bartered for pretty trinkets, stolen for a woolen blanket and a few bottles of booze–she will remain. Purple mountains majesty, fruited plains. Red clay, cityscape, amber waves of grain, corn-fed, big sky. The land, she will survive. She always has.

This is not an elegy for a nation. A nation steeped in blood, built upon the yoke of broken promises and broken backs. Founded in revolution, fed by division, fueled by that trickle of hope left in Pandora’s box. The ghosts of America Past keep that nation alive. They rise, clanking their rusted chains, shimmering like so much heat above those ribbons of highway.

This is not an elegy for a president. His name will stay marked, bold and black, in the history books. No legislation, no course of action can erase his existence from the march of time. It is not an elegy for a leader, an office, or even a string of promises amplified by a Greek chorus of millions.

 

In America that rich, red clay has soaked up oceans of spilled blood–on battlefields and city streets, on living room floors and dirty make-shift beds. In America, when a child plays under a chestnut tree, above her head there are ghosts swinging from nooses tied round its limbs. In America, the skeletons of all those left behind dance along side the movers and the shakers, the farmers and the cowboys. In America, history is sodden with trails of tears.

That spilled blood runs through the veins of all of us, no matter what our vision is or was. You can’t escape history, cannot twist away from the truth no matter which way you caress it in the text of your history books. No matter how many untruths you heap upon it, no matter which new phrases you coin–it won’t take the scorpion sting out of the truth. You can’t turn your eyes away from the bloated face of a black man swinging from a tree, the bled out body of a woman in a dark back alley, the ravaged body of a teenage boy tied to a paddock fence, or the bullet holes in a seven year-old girl on a classroom floor–you can’t turn away from that simply because the alternative seems too insurmountable or unpalatable or difficult or it’s not your problem. You may think you can. But not for long. Not before it rises up to haunt you like so many clanking ghosts.

This is my American elegy–not for a country or a people or a nation, but for the gauzy future of a country I held close to my heart, even when I was not there. In that future, we acknowledged those ghosts, paid homage to the land we’ve ravaged and raped, paid tribute to the broken backs upon which we’ve all walked to get right here. In that vision, the skeletons of the past rose up to dance, leading us forward in that arc toward justice.

Today though, the skeletons are still, heads bowed. One step forward and four steps back; not so much a dance as a stumble.

Today, I wail and keen through words, in an elegy for an idea which seemed close to bursting forth through the earth and into the light. Today I recognize that idea was further away than I thought. Today I apologize to all of those who understood that before I did.

Today that much vaunted arc seems pretty damn far away.

 

 

 

 

Dear 2016, Suck It

hangoverDear 2016,

Well, here we are. December 31st. If you’ve got any more surprises up your sleeve–say Harrison Ford dropping dead or Simon le Bon suddenly suffocating, the sudden annexation of Poland by Russian troops-you’ve got less than 24 hours to do your dirty work.

The (not so) funny thing is that you, 2016, you weren’t even close to my worst year. I’ll save that accolade for the Annus Horriblus of 2004-2005, 13 months in which I lost my uncle, my grandfather, and my father in quick succession. Oh, and my oldest son was born with Meningitis. Nothing says suck-ass year like learning your father has terminal cancer followed by wondering if your child is going to live through the night. But well, you were a doozy, 2016. Not only did you steal my favorite actor, you made me question my time left on this Earth by allowing the icons of my youth to shuffle-ball-change off this mortal coil one after the other.

Oh, and then there was all the political stuff.

In June my British husband and I picked our jaws up off the floor as the UK voted to leave the European Union, mere months after we’d finally secured our kids dual citizenship in the misguided expectation all of Europe would be held in those passport pages. In July I watched, with great, gulping sobs, the first American woman receive a major party nomination for president. In November….

Well, we all know how I felt in November.…and December. And possibly how I’ll still feel in January.

Then, a brighter side. In quick succession in November, a duo of writing successes: a big contest win and even bigger accomplishment, securing an agent for my novel. In December, news of a Pushcart Prize nomination. The champagne I’d been saving for a certain occasion (see November), sitting forlorn in the fridge, was put to different use.

**************

When I wake on Sunday morning a new year will have dawned, bright and beautiful. Yet, Alan Rickman will still be dead. Donald Trump will be even closer to being sworn in as he 45th president of the United States of America, LLC, and Teresa May will still be wetting herself trying to figure out how to extricate the UK from Europe. Putin will still be laughing into his vodka, Paul Ryan will still be looking as throat-punchable as ever, women’s reproductive rights will still be under attack.

hangovers

On Sunday, a child will accidentally shoot themselves and die. A woman will be violently raped. Another will be beaten black and blue. A son will overdose on heroin, a daughter will come out as gay and be disowned by her family. A teenage boy will transition to life as a teenage girl and wobble forward on Bambi legs.

On Sunday, life will go on, the step from one year to the next no more than a countdown on the television, the ticking over of the second-hand on the clock. Bombs will still fall. Lovers will swoon. A heart will be broken, an engagement announced. A child will be born, a grandmother will die, couples will say “I do.”

Sunday will be no different from Saturday. January 1st no different from December 31st. It is both humbling and horrifying, the expectation held in that split second–as powerful as the Big Bang, as mundane as  8:43 ticking over to 8:44 on a random Tuesday in March.

I’ve always been a fan of New Year’s Day, the potential bottled up in a fresh new notebook page of a day. The feeling is muted this year. But, I won’t let you steal it from me completely, you son-of-a-bitch of a year.

You won’t be the last mostly shitty year, 2016. I imagine there will be years that seem tame by comparison and others that make this one look like a cake walk. I imagine I will look back at 2016 the same way I look back at pictures of myself in my 30s, laughing at how old I thought I was.

Thanks for the lessons, 2016. I learned a great deal: Don’t apologize for things that don’t need apologizing. Stop justifying. Stop asking politely, because while kid tested and mother approved, it doesn’t work when it comes to things like equality. Oh, and the most suck-ass-iest lesson of all? You can play by all the rules and life is still going to kick you in the teeth like a blue-balled donkey.

END OF THE NEW YEAR S EVE PARTYPerhaps it’s for the best. 2016 added a few layers of midlife fat to my midlife midriff, but it stripped away a few layers as well. Assumptions were shed like so many of Salome’s veils. Naive expectations crashed like so many tumbling bricks. You were the year, if not without a Santa Claus, than in which I felt like the foundation on which I stood crumbled away underneath me. But you were also the year I learned that I can regain my balance on the smallest of precipice, the tiniest bit of standing rock. Hell, there were days I felt like I could grab a broomstick and fly above the fire of my rage if I needed to.

I won’t lie. I’m not sorry to see the ass-end of you. But I’m ending it stronger than I’ve felt in a long time. Fatter, grayer, more short-tempered, but stronger for sure. If I’ve ever doubted my commitments before, my abilities, my intelligence, my voice than you, 2016–you shit-storm of a year, have taught me that I’m louder than I ever thought possible.

Love,
Me

 

Faux News

If satire is the highest form of wit, well, this is my way of going high. Right now, it’s all I got.

santaReuters: U.S. Constitution Discovered to Contain ‘fine print’. Supreme Court Nominee Rudy Giuliani Tells Reporters He was Able to Uncover the Text With a Decoder Ring from his BooBerry Breakfast Cereal.

People: After Months of Speculation, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin Finally Go Public with Their Relationship. Read ALL the Details of the Couple the Media has Already Dubbed “Prump”. Glad!!

Brietbart: Six Steps to Tame Your Feminist Wife. Take it From Us, These Tricks Will Change Your Life! Hint: You’re Going To Need a Bigger Basement, Chains, and a Padlock!

NY Times: Trump Demands Statue of Liberty Apologize for Welcoming Tired, Poor and Hungry. “Have you seen her? She’s no more than a 3. Sad!”

Country Homes and Garden: Jeff Sessions: Down Home with Alabama’s Favorite Son. We Talk to the AG about His Plans to Overturn the Emancipation Proclamation While Enjoying a Down-Home Barbecue in Beautiful Ante-But-Soon-to-Rise-Again-Bellum Home.

lincoln

Guns and Ammo: Supreme Chancellor Trump Declares Open Season on Sore-Loser Pussy Libtards. No Background Check! No permit! Hunting Season Runs November Through Late January.

Nexus News: Trump to Move 2nd Amendment Up to 1st  Because “I can.”

Elle: Canadian Women Hailed as Heroes for Founding Underground Railroad for American Women Seeking Birth Control.

NPR: The Rise of White Supremacy: Do Endless Headlines, Interviews, and Articles Only Help to Normalize It?

Entertainment Tonight: Listen to Our Exclusive Interview with Twitter Sensation Milos Greeklastnameolis Who Wished a Pox, Rape, and Cancer Upon a Senator’s Family for Wishing him “Happy Holidays”.

preview_newspaperBoston Globe: GOP Scrambling to Spin Trump’s Late Night Twitter Admission: “I thought ‘Hypocrisy’ was just a nickname for a  Hippopotamus named Christina.”

BBC News: Britons Send Congratulations to Americans For Their Stunning Upset at This Year’s Darwin Awards.

Ham Radio Monthly: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot???!!!

Hollywood Reporter: Motion Picture Association President Considering Petition to Include America! in This Year’s Oscar In Memoriam.

 

 

Stop Telling Women to Chill Out

angry-womanDudes.

I keep reading and hearing about women whose husbands or brothers or male family members or bosses or strangers are telling them to chill out.

Sometimes this is thinly veiled code for “Oh My God, I am never going to have sex again.” Most of it is male cluelessness. Sometimes that cluelessness (I’m done mincing words) comes from a place of benign unawareness. Sometimes it’s more than that.

Before I delve into what promises to be the mother of all profane and rage filled rants, I need to clarify a few important things. My husband is a white male. He is categorically not one of these men. That is one of the many reasons he IS my husband. For the most part, the husbands of my friends are not these men either. There are always one or two, and for them, I have zero fucks left. Many of the men I interact with on a daily basis are not either. Some are. I see them, nodding along, inwardly hoping I shut the hell up.

Yeah…nope.

I will not chill out and if you are a woman, neither should you. Nor should you chill out if you are a minority or an immigrant of a Muslim or LGBTQ. And please, if you are a man who is ready to put his money where his mouth is, you should not chill out either.

Other things you should not do: Apologize for being angry. Explain. Justify. Rationalize.

The US just elected, by a margin that’s so disgustingly small it pains me to think about it, a man who normalized sexual assault. To the point where it is apparently now a thing to grab a woman’s body and shout “We can do this now!” or to demand she open her legs to allow easier access (culled from first person accounts). It elected a man accused of sexual harassment by over ten different women. A man who, on 60 Minutes, said he has all intentions of nominating SCOTUS judges who will overturn Roe v. Wade. A man who has suggested that women who seek abortions be punished. A man who has surrounded himself with, surprise surprise, a cadre of old, white conservative men who care about three things: money, their dicks, and apparently, making the lives of women as miserable as possible.

You may say, “Oh, but he won’t do that!” To you I say, “Why the hell should anyone trust that he won’t do exactly that?”

So no, thank you very much, I will not simply chill out.

When someone starts creating nonsense legislation targeting penises, then come and talk to me. When someone starts slicing and dicing at health care plans and organizations which protect the health and well-being of penises, then you can tell me it’s not that bad. When someone starts normalizing women giving the old ‘twist, pull, twist’ on random male testicles, because “They can do this now!” then come and tell me we should just wait and see. When only men are held responsible for the upkeep of children, maybe then you can tell me to chill out. When, law after unconstitutional law is created which outlines and legislates penis upkeep and usage, then fine, we’ll talk.

Until then, uh-uh.

I am so weary of managing the emotions of angry, white men. Because let me tell you something. All those post-mortems and studies which show that the white, working class is angry about being left behind? Those are white, working class men. Do you know how I know?

Because women and minorities and immigrants have been working shit jobs for decades and getting left behind. And….wait for it…they’ve continually had their civil rights under threat as well! I imagine they’re pretty angry too. But I’m also fairly certain the white working class women who have been busting their asses in dead end jobs will continue busting their asses in dead end jobs. Because all those magical jobs which are going to fall out of the sky like so many manufacturing unicorns? They’re not going to be for women. Women will get left behind again. Including whatever margin of white, working class women opted to vote for ‘change’.

And they’ll still get told to chill out.

So now the rest of us have to stop what we are doing to manage the emotions of the white, working class male who is having an identity crisis as his role of sole provider is changing in a global economy.

anger-title-image_tcm7-187841

Goddamn. And they call liberals cry-babies.

What do you think women who have been abandoned by their husbands, left alone to raise kids, forced to have kids by restrictive abortion laws, have had to do for the last fifty years? Women who have gaps in their work experience from staying home and supporting their husband’s law career? Women who never had work experience in the first place because they were told they’d be provided for…until they weren’t? What do you think ALL THOSE WOMEN have been doing? They take a crap job cleaning toilets or working at McDonald’s or in some office, where they then have to deal with some asshole groping them. They do it to feed their kids. They put their heads down and get on with it while they figure it out. And let me tell you, administration after administration left those women behind. And so they chilled out. And got left behind again. I imagine they’re pretty pissed off too. Substitute minority or immigrant in there for women and the same holds true.

One article I read suggested the white working class male felt hard done by. They felt they were being laughed at by younger professionals. Their pride was hurt.

Holy shit.

Now the rest of us have to hold the line while white male identity figures out how to rebrand itself? We are here, on the cusp of having to fight another goddamn war over reproductive rights because men felt like they were being laughed at?

This is what privilege is. Privilege is bringing a country to the brink of cultural revolution because a white man feels like he is being laughed at. Fuck me gently with a chain saw.

Sure. You got left behind. Yes, the government should have done more. And yes, you should hold the government accountable. Hell, you should be angry. But you are not the only ones who get left behind. Yet you are the only ones who went and flipped the whole table over because if YOU can’t sit at the table, then by God, NO ONE is going to sit at the table.

So no, women do not need to chill out. What women really need to do is allow themselves the anger that they’ve been denying and supressing for years.

My mother told me about a show that studied the biological desire in males to conquer. How there is speculation that because there is so little left to conquer and explore, all that pent up energy has nowhere to go.

May I suggest the outer reaches of Russia? I think there’s a lot of space up there. You can roam around and shoot things. Or each other. Plant a few flags and deal with all the feels of manliness. If your pride gets hurt you can punch someone in the face.

Then if you’d like, come back where the rest of us have been carrying on doing what we need to do. Where we’ve been dealing with being laughed at, harassed, assaulted, groped, denied, oppressed, all the while still managing not to flip the fucking table over.

unknownSo don’t give me the spiel about how this is all about the white working class male regaining his pride. If the white working class male’s only way of regaining pride is by stepping on the necks and rights of others, than hell yes, I’m going to be angry.

And so should every other man, woman, immigrant, minority, Muslim and LGBTQ American that feels the same.

So no. You chill out. I hear Russia’s really nice.