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Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

Image from funny2014

We all make New Year's resolutions. Lose weight, work less, work more, get in shape or back in shape, spend more time with family, end a toxic relationship, eat better. And as that fateful date approaches, many of us are thinking about what we can do differently in 2014.

Voting is a good resolution. In 2010, a lot of people stayed home and we ended up with the least productive congress in American history. Men and women obsessed with a birth certificate and marriage equality and women's rights but not so much with bettering our country. Representatives who sold their constituents a bill of goods that hurt rather than helped, and convinced those same people that voting against their own best interests would somehow work out in the end.

There are grassroots organizations trying to create positive change in America, groups like Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America. Founded by Shannon Marmion Watts in the days following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, Moms Demand Action has helped bring the conversation about gun violence to Main Street, USA, often incurring the wrath of some very angry and violent people. Shannon and other leaders of Moms Demand Action receive death threats against both themselves and their families, rape threats and just the other night, a disturbed man from Idaho called Shannon at least thirteen times, leaving voice mails, including one that mentioned he "made love" to his firearms. He finally stopped when Shannon's sister-in-law answered the phone and yelled "WHAT DO YOU WANT?" 2014 promises to be a busy year for Moms Demand Action, and perhaps one of our resolutions could be to step up and support them in any way we can.

A Facebook page started by Michael Knote made national news this past week when none other than George Takei took Facebook to task on their behalf. Have A Gay Day posted an innocuous photo of two men kissing and that photo was targeted by right wing trolls. So many trolls reported it to Facebook that an automatic system kicked in and every administrator for the page was banned for at least 24 hours. A fan of the page shared that with George Takei and his staff contacted Facebook. Facebook not only apologized, but put Have A Gay Day on a list of "protected pages" so trolls will no longer be able to attack them. What a great way to close out 2013 for Have A Gay Day. I hope many people will consider helping this page as part of their list for 2014. Perhaps someday, everyone can be protected from hate. Which brings me to one of my own New Year's resolutions.

My first resolution is to be brave. Oh, I write brave, but I hide who I am and what I do from people in my town. At first I told myself it was to protect my son from backlash at school, then to protect my husband at work. What I finally realized is I'm hiding to protect myself. No more of that. If people ask me what I do, I will tell them I am a liberal blogger for Quiet Mike and Forward Progressives and right here at Poking at Snakes. That I'm proud to be a liberal because we fight for the little guy, we care about everyone and we understand who the true job creators are. Who knows, maybe I'll be able to have conversations with people and change their minds.
The second resolution is a task of epic proportions, and one I am not even sure I can perform. For over five years, I have wondered why bullycide-the act of bullying someone to the point where they take their own life-is not a crime, why it is not covered by federal hate crime legislation. Think about bullying. Bullies target people based on skin color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation and/or handicaps. If a person beats up a person because of those criteria, it's a hate crime, but if someone just uses words and hate speech to drive another human being to suicide, it's not.

Bullycide is an incredibly complex issue, because most of us realize bullies learn their craft at home. They either are bullied themselves or they hear parents, siblings or other relatives bully someone else. But again, with other crimes, while past experiences are often taken into consideration, very rarely is a perpetrator given a complete pass based on their life at home.

I've given myself two weeks to put together a mission statement, come up with a name for my project and find people to help. Luckily, I have some extraordinary journalists to whom I am connected via social media, and it is my sincere hope that as the details become more clear, they will join this cause. 2014 will also be the year I finally interview Jerry Trimble, a world-renowned martial arts expert and stunt coordinator who works with bullied kids all over the country. Maybe I can get him on board as well. The BULLY Project has already offered their support and assistance, which is incredible. My next goal is to get Senator Al Franken to take my phone call. Sen. Franken is an advocate against bullying and he would be a powerful voice for this endeavor.

2014 will be a big year for so many reasons. We have the chance to undo the damage of 2010, we have the opportunity to bring representatives to congress who will work for the country not the corporations. We can support groups like Moms Demand Action and Have A Gay Day. And perhaps, there will be a "we" involved with my project as well.

Happy New Year from Poking at Snakes. Let's change some things, shall we?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Lesson in Love

Falling in love is terrifying, especially if you've tried it before and failed. Even more so if you've thought you were in love only to have the person to whom you have given your everything turns out to be sort of a monster. Or cheats on you. Abandons you. Hurts you so deeply, you think you will never recover. They don't call it falling for nothing.

Some trip merrily into love, some stagger, some tiptoe. I jumped, every single time thinking "Yep, this is the one." Except the one wasn't the one. Until an elevator door opened fourteen years ago and I saw him. Tall, devastatingly handsome, a hesitant smile, a deep voice and he even smelled good.

Today, that devastatingly handsome, brilliant man and I have been married for seven years. Our road wasn't easy at all; it was filled with glass shards and barbed wire fencing and boulders and land mines. We parted ways physically but never emotionally, we fought like rabid hyenas, barking insults and screaming in the night and through all of it, we kept loving each other.

There is something magical about being married to your best friend. We finish each other's sentences, we forgive each other's missteps and misstatements, we learn every day how to be better partners. He is a magnificent stepfather to my son, the only steady male role model in his life for almost ten years. This is a man who cried at my mother's funeral not because she was gone, but because he finally understood what she survived.

So, what lesson did I learn from falling in love for the real first time, and the last time? I learned that you can't be looking for love. Love finds you at the most inconvenient moments and it takes you completely by surprise. I learned love is not all the things Hallmark says it is; love is messy and filled with obstacles because the point of love is to deal with the messes and the obstacles together. If you're in love with someone who won't stand next to you when the shit hits the fan, that's not really love.

Stop looking for love. If it's right, love will probably find you when your life is the most messy, your heart is the most frigid and your energy is focused on five hundred other things. Like the day after you talk to a lawyer about divorcing the father of your child and just want to get the laundry done. Maybe you'll be standing in the hallway of an apartment complex, waiting for the elevator and when the doors open, you'll look up and realize that all the frogs you've kissed have led to this moment.

I kissed a lot of frogs. Then I found my prince. He didn't save me; he stood by me while I saved myself. He loves me when my hair looks weird, if I have a zit, he doesn't care that I'm getting older or that I am always going to be more emotional than average. And I don't care that he has a few more wrinkles than he used to or that his hair is grey or that he loves watching stuff on You Tube about aliens. Someone told me that we have the kind of marriage other people crave. Maybe we do, I don't know. What I do know is this: getting here, to the point where we are completely happy and in sync wasn't easy. But it was worth it.

It really was.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays from Poking at Snakes!

First, I want to wish everyone who celebrates a very Merry Christmas. Secondly, to folks who celebrate something other than Christmas, Happy Holidays. Third, for those who don't celebrate anything, love and peace and joy know what? This is freaking stupid. So here:

To all my readers, my followers, my friends and even the people who hate me, have a wonderful, joyous, loving and fabulous season filled with laughter and good cheer. Bring your pets indoors. Bake cookies and give them to a local nursing home or the ER staff at the hospital. Sing, dance, giggle. Play a board game from your childhood (we're playing Clue tonight). Go for a walk and hold hands with someone you love. 

Oh. I almost forgot. Merry Christmas you heathens from The Bachmann Diaries

Monday, December 9, 2013

Newt Gingrich's racist chickens have come home to roost

Image from The Atlantic

After the passing of Nelson Mandela, Newt Gingrich posted a statement to his Facebook page, expressing his condolences. Gingrich called Mr. Mandela "one of the greatest leaders of our lifetime." And like other right wing politicians who posted similar sentiments, Gingrich watched his base go nuts. Here is a sampling of the comments Newt Gingrich's "fans" wrote underneath his post.

From Mario, we have "Newt, I was for you to win the primaries and become the next president; please tell me your joking!! Mandela was a commie murderer!!" Mario's comment has garnered 43 likes. Chad chimes in with "You, along with all the Democrats and Republicans what's wrong with America's political system, Newt. THIS GUY WAS A COMMUNIST. You're all so desperate for votes that you'd suck off Satan and say you're a Christian. All the while believing yourself." 40 likes for Chad. Finally, let me present Eric who writes "He was a communist and a murder similar to our currant president. Are you too being baffled by the mainstream media." [sic] Eric has received only 15 likes for his erudite view.

Mr. Gingrich appeared on CNN, and expressed "surprise" at the litany of negative comments that greeted his heartfelt post on the death of Nelson Mandela. He even wrote a response, and The Atlantic correctly points out that Gingrich was one of a "cadre of conservatives" who opposed their own party's views on Apartheid and helped override Reagan's veto. That, of course, was the old Newt Gingrich.

In October of this year, Mr. Gingrich said during an interview with The 700 Club, that President Obama "refuses to behave like an American president." Gee, I wonder which part of his base that comment was meant to enrage. Racists, birthers, people who falsely believe the president is a Marxist, socialist, communist, Muslim Nazi? Nah.

Newt Gingrich also called President Obama's comments about the murder of Trayvon Martin "disgraceful." While appearing on Red Meat Tosser Sean Hannity's radio program, Gingrich came out swinging when he asked "Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be okay because it didn't look like him?" Yet now, Mr. Gingrich is "surprised" by his base's reaction to a statement of condolence regarding the death of Nelson Mandela.

Lest we forget, John McCain had to address the Muslim issue during his presidential campaign thanks in no small part to his running mate, Half Governor Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin tosses that red meat to the base as well as anyone, and people like Newt Gingrich have no idea what to do. On the one hand, Gingrich needs those racist birthers if he plans to run for president again in 2016. On the other hand, somewhere, deep down, I think Newt Gingrich wishes he'd never aligned himself with a party that chums for white nationalists at CPAC. 

Newt, you built this. This hate, these comments, are the result of almost a decade of praising Ronald Reagan as some sort of saint while using thinly-veiled code to demean and attack President Obama. Kudos to you for being part of the group that stood up to Reagan during Apartheid. Once upon a time, you had courage. You seemed to find a bit of that in the days since the death of Nelson Mandela, and it is my sincere hope you hang on to it. It would be nice to see someone as famous as you come out and tell the truth.

I won't hold my breath.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Paul Walker's death matters

Photo of Paul Walker as Skip in the movie "Pleasantville."

On Saturday, actor Paul Walker was killed in car accident. He was the passenger in a car that crashed into a tree. Both he and the driver are dead. Both leave behind family, friends and both are being mourned. Paul Walker was forty years old.

At first, his death was questioned as a hoax. There are many sites online publishing fake celebrity deaths every day, and unfortunately this often leads to disbelief when anyone famous dies. Unfortunately, the news was real. And as the information spread, so did the hate.

Yes, hate. Liberals, people I know, were posting the most horrific jokes about the death of Paul Walker. Walker starred in the "Fast and the Furious" franchise, and almost immediately, comparisons were being made between those movies and the car accident that took two lives. From what I read, it seemed to be a bunch of "humorists" who attacked anyone disagreeing with them by using shame. For example, how can you care about one famous person dying when you don't care about kids dying in Africa, he was a C-list celebrity so who cares, I hate it when people get all worked up about some movie star dying but don't care about their next door neighbor.

You know who those liberals sounded like? Conservatives. Remember when Whitney Houston died? Conservatives wrote and said the most awful things about her drug habit, her daughter, her music, her life. They screamed when Chris Christie lowered the flags in New Jersey to half staff. They called her a crack whore, stated the world was better off without her, called her ghetto, you name it. They made fun of her death, ignoring the people she left behind who were devastated and grieving. Truly nasty comments were everywhere, and when someone dared to question the lack of empathy behind all the hate, we were told many of the same things liberals are saying in response to being questioned about their response to the death of Paul Walker.

It is possible to say "Man, this is awful, he was so young" while at the same time, giving money to Heifer International or Doctors Without Borders. I don't know anyone who only cares when a celebrity dies. In fact, most of the people in my life care whenever anyone dies too young. When Andrew Breitbart died, I took a lot of heat because I felt badly for his family. I was supposed to (I was told in many different ways) hate him, rejoice in his death and have no feelings of sorrow for anyone related to him. You know, like conservatives did when Ted Kennedy died.

Paul Walker was part of the cast of "Pleasantville," a pretty good movie about what happens when you let light and color into a black and white world. We live in a black and white world, and when one of us strays from the monochromatic script written by mysterious people on their high horses, we get in trouble. I refuse to live in that world. Paul Walker was a good actor, and a young man who was taken in a very tragic way too soon. The driver of the car is being mourned today as well, even though we don't know his or her name. Funerals are being planned, family members are walking around in shock, as family members always do when a loved one dies suddenly. And yet, we have people in our social media circles who think this is funny, and chastise anyone who dares to take a moment and say "This is really a shame."

It is a shame, in more ways than one. It's a shame that Paul Walker and the driver of that car are dead. It's a shame that speed may have played a part in the accident, meaning that it might have been avoided. It's a shame that a few liberals (and perhaps conservatives; I haven't checked their side of social media recently) feel it's perfectly okay to minimize and make fun of the death of another human being simply because he was famous.

It is my sincere hope that the families of those two people never have to see the things being posted about that accident. Paul Walker's daughter does not need to view a bunch of self-important narcissists making fun of the death of her father. No one does.

Update: Mother Jones has a fantastic piece on Paul Walker's charity work.

Update #2: When I wrote this, the driver of the car had not been identified. Since publishing, his name has been released. He was Roger Rodas. Click this link to find out more about him, including his charity work and work in Central America with green energy.