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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Courage


A friend shared her story with me. It took a great deal of courage for her to write this. I am honored to publish this, and truly thankful for her trust. 



My Story


Name has been changed to “Julie Sloane”.

My story begins in a very sweet and simple way.  I was going to be a high school senior in September 1978 and have my 17th birthday in October.  I was asked by my HS teacher to attend a program for those affected with disabilities at the State Vocational Rehabilitation Center for a 6 week period beginning in July.  I agreed.  I would concentrate on occupational and vocational therapy.  It was a residential center but we could go home on the weekends.

One weekend in August I stayed.  There was a gathering of young people (aged 16 to 21) in the “rec room” and we decided to use the pool facilities.  One of the boys was a guy named Billy.  He was an adult as he was 21, had some mental health disabilities but was on medication so he shared.  The date was August 18, 1978 and it was a Friday.  Billy flirted with the girls and I responded as girls do and he said he wanted to get to know me better.  

We sat by the pool and talked and he started kissing me.  I responded.  I will say I did not have a boyfriend per se, but I had a boyfriend in the generic sense as he was my best guy friend.  There was alcohol at this function which was completely sanctioned by the staff as long as someone was 21 or older.  One thing led to another and Billy physically assaulted me – my breasts were bruised as well as my inner thighs and legs.  I did not drink a lot – it was less than 8 ounces of beer.  My height was 5’3 and I weighed 115 pounds, so my BAC could have been higher, but it was not taken.

I ran outside the facility to get away from Billy.  My clothes were not torn and there was no intimate sexual contact.  However, he did ask me to perform a sex act and I reluctantly agreed.  When I returned to the dorm area, I noticed the bruises and scratches.  I reported Billy to the authorities on staff.  They said since I was underage it was my fault.  I incited this bad behavior in Billy because I was a teenage temptress wanting an adult’s attention.  I had fought off further violence by hitting him with a beer bottle which did not cause any marks on him.  The cops told me I was “asking for it” because I wore clothing that stirred his male juices.  I was wearing a tee shirt and a pair of jeans.

I was not raped in the traditional sense as no sexual penetration had occurred.  I was a virgin.  I told my best guy friend about this incident and never once shared it with my parents or anyone else as I was too horrified to put it into words.  The people in charge asked me to leave the facility earlier than anticipated by a few days.  I told another police officer on staff but no one did anything.

I returned to school in September, but walls had been put up – I did not want a boyfriend and just wanted to get my senior year completed without any further drama.  I did not have an intimate relationship with a man until I was 25.  The man involved was older and had been a trusted friend.  My intimate relationships were not smooth or conducted in normal fashion as I believed all men would assault me as a sign of affection.  The man I was involved with suggested I seek psychological therapy which I did.  I admitted to him what had happened in the past and he reassured me that not all men were abusers.

This man and I had a loving and intimate relationship on and off for many years.  When I got married, my husband showed signs of being an abuser – he was also a paranoid schizophrenic with bipolar tendencies.  I stayed married to him until 2 spiritual advisers and a therapist said it was for my own good to divorce him.  I started divorce proceedings and was planning on marrying the man I called the love of my life – Jake Ryan (name changed).  Jake and I realized too many years had passed and we deserved to be happy.  Sadly, he became ill with cancer and died before we could marry.  My divorce was granted shortly after he passed away.  But the time we had together were filled with love, passion, adoration and sheer happiness.  It will be 36 years since my assault and I have gotten through it because I did not want to become A VICTIM.  I did nothing wrong.  I just was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I am sure that Billy by now is either dead or in jail.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Michele Bachmann, champion of hypocrisy

I make fun of Michele Bachmann a lot. I've been doing it for over three years. But there is one thing I have never included in The Bachmann Diaries: the rash of teen suicides that occurred in her district. Those children, those families, are sacred.

So when I see Michele Bachmann proclaim herself some sort of champion for kids, I become enraged. She considers herself "pro-life," when she is anything but. She calls herself a "protector," when the truth is, she isn't interested in protecting anything but her standing in the Tea Party, and her bank account.

There are moments when hypocrisy is so blatant, so obvious, that it stops you in your tracks. That happened to me earlier Wednesday evening when my friend, Robert posted the photo below to Facebook. When I saw this, when I read the text, I could feel the heat bloom in my face, my stomach became a knot, and I couldn't comprehend what this was. It made no sense. 


This was on Michele Bachmann's Facebook page. She shared this on the 41st anniversary of Roe v Wade, because she says she loves children. If you believe for one nanosecond that Michele Bachmann actually loves children, let me clear a few things up for you.

In a period of two years, nine students in Michele Bachmann's district took their own lives. Many were bullied because they were gay or lesbian, or perceived to be such. And thanks to Bachmann and her supporters, the schools were forbidden from helping. The Minnesota Family Council and the Parents Action League, two vehemently anti-LGBT, right wing "Christian" Groups and staunch supporters of Michele Bachmann, had pressured the school district to enact legislation nicknamed the "No Homo Promo" policy. In essence, this legislation silenced educators, telling them if they spoke about, addressed, or in any way acknowledged LGBT students, they could be fired. Both these groups also lobbied to put literature promoting repartive therapy in public schools.

Michele Bachmann ignored those children. She ignored those families, so much so that during her campaign for president, then-Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi told The Advocate:


I would think that if she wanted to be the president of the United States, she would understand that this is a larger issue than whether someone is gay or not, but as to whether someone is harassed and bullied to the point of seeing no way out.
On her Facebook page, to accompany the photo, Michele Bachmann wrote this:


My heart is with the children, moms and dads, and families who are joining the March for Life today to bring hope and positive, pro-life alternatives to their communities. Since Roe v. Wade, 56 million unborn babies were tragically robbed of their chance at a future. Every life is precious, and we owe it to the most vulnerable to defend them when they can’t defend themselves.

Every life is precious, and we owe it to the most vulnerable to defend them when they can’t defend themselves.

In 2006, Michele Bachmann gave an impassioned speech against anti-bullying legislation. Against. Michele Bachmann believes that bullying is some sort of right, and trying to curb it will stifle free speech and turn our boys into girls. Just a few days ago, Bachmann Tweeted that trying to enact anti-bullying legislation is an attack on our values:


This is bad legislation taking away innocence from kids and denying parental rights over values taught to our kids.
This is not a woman who cares about children, this is not a woman with a caring bone in her body. When Justin Aaberg's mom, Tammy, delivered a petition to Bachmann's office after Justin's suicide, the congresswoman was quick to point out that she is not the only person representing Anoka. She was, and is, however, the only representative in the district unanimously supported by the Minnesota Family Council and the Parents Action League. 

Champion of hypocrisy, your name is Michele Bachmann. And I will never let you forget it.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

When trolls attack


If you spend any time on social media, you have met at least one troll. A troll is a person who uses a fake name and spends time visiting Facebook pages, Twitter posts and other outlets, posting humorous and often inflammatory comments. Some trolls do this for good-calling out hate and bigotry-while others do it with malice. While I appreciate the good trolls, it's the malicious ones who are the focus of this piece.

I am very lucky to write for two other blogs who do not allow aggregating. Aggregating is taking someone else's original content (video, meme, article) and reposting it on another site with a little wraparound text. More often than not, the person who created the original content does not reap the benefits of this aggregation. A great example of this is Upworthy. Upworthy grabs videos from You Tube, slaps them onto their own site with an intro and gets hundreds of thousands of views for each post. The individual who made the video usually does not see a huge boost in their numbers, because people watch the video on Upworthy, then share the Upworthy link. Most do not click the You Tube icon in the lower right hand corner of the video, watch it from the creator's page, and share that way.

What many original content creators have found over the past year or so is that there seems to be a focused attack coming from one or two aggregate sites against us. Articles we spend hours, sometimes days researching, writing and editing, are reported as spam by self-professed liberal trolls. We share links with other pages via email or Facebook message and are ignored. We later learn those pages are connected to the one or two aggregate pages sending out these trolls. 

Combine that with Facebook's new algorithm, and it's a recipe for disaster. Smaller pages, smaller websites, simply aren't getting the views and traffic they deserve because of those one or two aggregate sites' declaration of war, and Facebook's declaration of profit before people. Personally, I sent a link to an article I wrote for Forward Progressives to three large women's rights Facebook pages. Not only did I not receive a response, the article was never shared. Oddly, two of these pages have shared my work in the past, but I discovered that all three now have a relationship with at least one of the aggregate pages waging war on original content creators.

If you want to grab content from other places, slap a click bait headline on it and make your millions, fine. But let the people who work their asses off creating original stuff do our thing. Don't release your hounds to report all of our work as spam, don't threaten us or other people who share our work. Don't send trolls after everything we write or create. Just leave us alone. And if the general public sees an article, meme or video on one of these sites, fine-click the link, give them their numbers. Then head over to the original website or You Tube channel and share from there. 

I know why I am targeted by these sites and trolls, and I know why many of my friends are targeted by these sites and trolls. It's been what, three or four or five years? Can we just stop now? You do your thing, and let us do ours. No one is saying it's wrong to make money on the internet. It is wrong to do that by trying to silence original content creators. Let us write, let us create our memes and You Tube videos. 

Content that should by all rights go viral gets reported as spam. Good people, talented people, are reported to Facebook because of a grudge. We're supposedly all on the same side, we're supposedly all fighting the same battles. Or maybe we're not, I don't know. What I do know is learning that pages who used to share original content are no longer doing so because they're "in bed" with people who use bullying and harassment to quash liberal creators is sort of depressing.

We're going to keep writing and making memes and You Tube videos. What we'd like is to be able to do that in peace. What we'd like is for pages and websites to have the courage to stand up to these trolls and aggregate sites and say "We'll share what we want." If it's not our stuff, fine. But don't cave to a few people just because they offer you money, or say they'll send their trolls after you. 

Don't let the bullies win. 

Homage to a killer

Image created by Jay Branscomb.

In the weeks following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, many Americans chose to do something rather odd. Instead of paying tribute to the twenty children who were blown apart by an AR-15, these people ran right out and bought the weapon used to blow those children apart. While most of us were trying to come to grips with the worst school shooting in American history, gun lovers paid homage to the young man responsible for so much death.

You see, in their eyes and minds it wasn't the gun that dismembered those first graders. On the same day in China, a crazed man entered a school with a knife and stabbed over thirty children. He didn't kill anyone, but gun lovers drew a direct line from China to Connecticut and made horribly sarcastic comments about banning knives. One pants pooping, teenage girl adopting musical has-been lit up Twitter with his musings about cutlery. Dead kids? Screw that, we need more guns.

When the disconnect within one's brain is that powerful, there isn't a second thought given to purchasing the exact same weapon used to mow down twenty little kids. It's their God-given right to own as many guns as they can fit in their F-150. It isn't, but if you try and explain that, they might threaten to shoot you.

These are the people who conveniently forget the "well regulated" portion of the Second Amendment. These are the people who want to carry concealed firearms into bars and grocery stores and churches and their kids' schools and soccer games. Just because they can. Remember all those photos of Tea Partiers at rallies and protests, shotguns and semi-automatic rifles hung over their shoulders? Dead kids? Screw that, Obama's gonna take away my guns, so I need more guns!

The NRA represents less than five million people, yet they have more power than any other lobbying group in America. Why is that? It's actually very simple: they prey on fear. If all the teachers at Sandy Hook had been armed to the teeth, none of this would have happened. Forget the fact that Columbine High School had an armed deputy on the property who was unable to stop what happened there. In fact, the NRA would very much like you to forget that. The NRA would like you to think that "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." Do I really need to list all the good guys with guns who have been shot or killed since Newtown?

I think it's time for gun lovers and NRA supporters to just own up to their own sociopathy. They don't care about dead kids, dead moms, dead cops, dead anybody. The NRA doesn't represent gun owners, they represent gun makers. Bushmaster, Remington, Smith and Wesson. Those are the people the NRA cares about, that's where they get their money and that's how the NRA can pay Wayne LaPierre a million dollars a year.

So the next time someone tells you how patriotic they are because they bought the same weapon used to slaughter twenty children, ask them why they felt the need to ignore the carnage and pay homage to the man who destroyed so many families, including his own. Ask them how they balance their alleged pro-life stance with honoring a murderer. Ask them why an AR-15 is more important that twenty dead kids.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Gratitude



It's been a rough couple of days. I met a true blue misogynist, watched a video of a United States senator say marital rape isn't a real thing because wives wear nighties, and wrote two articles, both of which wrecked my soul a little. And through all of this, friends and family stood by me, supported me, and cheered me up with Friday's Joke Night. So I want to take this space to thank some folks who have been marvelous during this rather interesting time.

As always, my husband. He puts up with me hunched over a keyboard up to eight hours a day for no pay (he's looking forward to my Adsense account going active almost as much as I am), he rubs my shoulders, he soothes me and he listens to me swear. I tend to swear when I write about Bobs. He also brings me chocolate.

Christopher Warren and I have grown a lot closer since Wednesday. The Bob showed up on a thread on Chris's Facebook page (he welcomes followers) and Chris, along with myself and other friends, shut Bob down. It was empowering and wonderful to behold. Thank you, Chris.

Mike Weishar, my editor at Quiet Mike, always lets me write. He never says "Well, I don't know if that will work," he just says "Okay, I trust you." That's rare. He finds my glaring errors, but never tells me about them, and he's just a really nice guy. Rumor has it, he's getting married this year (AHEM), and I plan to send one helluva a gift.

I'm very lucky to have two great editors, the other being Manny Schewitz (so not his real name). Manny writes and edits for Forward Progressives, another really great progressive website/blog. Manny is encouraging, inspiring and funny, with an eye for what I do right and what I do wrong (spell). There's a line in Saturday's piece about the GOP's horrific problems with women that, according to Manny, caused a spit-take. Read it, and see if you can tell what it was.

After Thursdays With Bob, many of the women on the thread connected. It was an extraordinary response to Bob's hate. Not only did we join together on the thread, we joined together on Facebook. To all those women-we are victors. Or as Bob called us "radical feminists." Snort, guffaw, sigh.

Finally, Leslie, Lynne, Roger, Lee, Shannon, Dave, Deb, Karen, my stepson Steve, Josh for the Wonder Woman spin, Josh's husband for spinning, and everyone who calmed me, supported me, and participated in Joke Night-thank you. You make it better, you make me better, and you are all wonderful.

Gratitude is a powerful thing. It makes you realize how good your life is, how blessed you are, and that you should never take any of that for granted. I promise never to take any of this for granted.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Water into wine


Every year, my father attends a Catholic men's retreat. My dad is a liberal Catholic who believes in social justice, forgiveness and has a great and loving heart. This retreat is his way of letting go of the world for a few days and getting back in touch with things he considers important.

On his most recent retreat, the leader asked the participants to choose a Gospel passage, put themselves into the story and write about it as if they are present at the time or event. My dad chose the wedding at Cana, the site of Jesus' first miracle. We all know the details: Mary asks Jesus to change jugs of water into wine because the wedding party has run out. Jesus tells her it's not time yet, but acquiesces to her wishes. This is the first miracle Jesus ever performs.

The first time I ever read that story, I wondered what would have happened if Jesus had said no. Would he still have wound up nailed to a tree for telling us to be nice to each other? Would the very people who claimed to follow God have decided Jesus wasn't the right kind of Messiah and deserved to die? Would modern right wing Christians twist his message of love and acceptance into something dark and cruel? Or would he have just been another prophet, with a few mentions in the Bible, allowed to live a long and happy life?

My dad wrote a poem about the wedding at Cana which he shared with me. He gave me permission to share it with you.

My Hour is Not Yet Come

Not yet, Mother. They don’t need more wine.
Look at Simon and his brothers.
Do they look like they need more wine?

It is way too soon for a miracle, Mother.
You know that once I do one miracle, everybody will want one.
We don’t need that kind of attention: the lame, the possessed, the disfigured.

Look up on that hill, Mother. See them up there?
The three crosses?
These Romans don’t mess around; they know what they’re doing.

Wouldn’t you like to come to my wedding, Mother?
Don’t worry, we will still go out and preach loving your neighbor,
Forgiving your enemies, throwing no stones.

We can just skip the miracles, Mother.  At least for a while.
Raising the dead, driving out demons, that can wait.
The dead and the demons are always with us.

I haven’t even finished dancing, Mother.
Do we really need to disturb the universe this very minute?
If I make this water into wine, I can’t turn it back into water.

You win, Mother. Send them over.
Tell them to do what I say.
But then stay with me, Mother, stay with me.

Jesus knew that performing this miracle would be the beginning of the end of his life. He knew the Pharisees and the temple priests and the Romans would see him as a troublemaker, a zealot, a traitor. But Jesus also knew his death served a purpose and provided a moment for humanity to redeem itself. What he may not have known is how people who say they love him would take his message and use it as a club against people they hate.

If Jesus, the actual Middle Eastern, poor, homeless, barefoot and scruffy Jesus came back today, what do you think would happen? Would the people who have twisted his message into one of darkness and hate embrace him and trumpet his return? Would they lie in wait for him to change the water into wine, then demand he perform more and more miracles to prove himself? Turn this lead into gold, Jesus, make my house bigger, Jesus, fill my bank account, Jesus, make me a king, Jesus.
My dad told me when he shared this poem with the Jesuit leader of the retreat, the line that hit home for that man was "I haven't even finished dancing, Mother." Deep down, I wonder if Jesus just wanted to be normal. Get married, have kids, yes preach kindness and love, but also grow old. Maybe he wanted to dance more. 
The line that punched me in the stomach was the last one. Stay with me, Mother. He was afraid. Jesus was afraid at the wedding and he was afraid in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he begged to have this cup taken away from him. 

When I interviewed Anne Rice, she told me something marvelous about her own spirituality. She said she doesn't follow a religion or a dogma or priests or pastors. Anne Rice follows Jesus. Men have tried for thousands of years to change what Jesus was, and when we follow men, we end up lost. Ignore the people trying to tell you what to believe. Focus on the man who stood at a wedding, looking at his mother, knowing that changing water into wine would be the most difficult miracle he would perform. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Don't Get a Coffee Enema at Starbucks: An Interview with John Fugelsang

Image of John Fugelsang from Mediaite.


As most of you know, I love comedy, especially political comedy. One of my favorite political comedians is John Fugelsang, because as a fairly liberal woman and lapsed Catholic, his words hit home with me. So I sent John Fugelsang a message, asking if he would let me interview him. Being the nice guy that he is, he said yes.

John Fugelsang's upbringing was interesting. Interesting was my word; he told me his parents had much longer words to describe his childhood. His father was a former priest, his mother a former nun. One confusing part of growing up for John was being chided by his mother for his long hair and beard on the way to church to worship a guy with long hair and a beard. John's brother is a long-haired, bearded carpenter in California, but doesn't really believe in Jesus, just to add to the irony.

Being raised by a father who was a history teacher instilled a love of politics early in John's life. As a child, he wanted to be a Broadway actor, and got close to his dream with his off-Broadway show, "All The Wrong Reasons." John's professional interests have run the gamut, and continue to do so. He's proud of his "psychotic" resume, and would at some point like to create puppet shows and sing Skat, though not at the same time. John has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, Current TV and has his own You Tube channel, "Caffeinated." He has also been murdered on "CSI," an honor of which he is very proud.

John has some truly inspired views on religion and politics, including a few opinions about the current war on contraception. To illustrate the insanity of the religious right's obsession with birth control, John tells us about Onan, the first man to use the pullout method. The story of Onan is the origin of shame, just as the story of Eve and the apple is the origin of guilt. John points out that Onan's tale has been used to demonize masturbation, same-sex relationships and contraception, even though the actual story doesn't mention any of these things. What John likes to remind us is that at the time of Onan, there were not a lot of people around. Everything was geared towards keeping the tribe's numbers up. We don't need to do that anymore, but try telling that to a conservative.

David Duke has said of John Fugelsang "This man hates himself." There is a story behind that quote, and it involves Bill Maher. John and David Duke were both appearing on The Bill Maher Show, and John found Dr. Duke to be a vile, vulgar racist. He offered to have "hot, passionate gay sex" with Duke if he would just stop being such a racist. David Duke responded by telling John he "hates himself" for being white. John clarified Duke's statement, replying that he doesn't hate himself because he's white, he hates himself because he's Catholic. What's amazing about this event is that John wound up feeling sorry for David Duke. Duke is a professional racist, and John reminded me that David Duke went to prison for bilking his "followers" out of a great deal of money in order to fund his gambling. John put it this way: it must be tough when you "can't even count on your fellow Klansmen."

I asked John about the current right wing, and if they've always been there but we're just starting to pay attention. He told me it took Hilary Clinton to show him how many sexists there still are in our society and Barack Obama to show him how many racists there still are in our society. "It's okay to be black," John commented "if you vote and talk and think like they do." If people in America are hell bent on having a government based on religion, where sexism and separatism are lauded, John suggests those folks move to Iran.

John is the recipient of a lot of hate, and he has noticed that the most hateful people are usually the ones who call themselves fervent Christians, much like the people who really hate America are typically the folks who have the American flag covering their Twitter or Facebook page. He learned early on to have a thick skin, and has a simple rule: if you want to fight hate, don't "whine" when someone slings it at you. "Wipe it off, before it sticks."

As we spoke Sunday, Henry Jack Fugelsang cooed in the background, and as much as John pokes fun at his new role as a "breeder," you can hear how amazed he is at the little person in his life. He appeared on CNN with Soledad O'Brien right after the birth of his son, and claimed he looked like the Cryptkeeper. John hadn't slept in 96 hours, rising at 4 AM for a 4:30 car pickup. Now that Henry Jack is older, his routine has become much more stable, and John's wife, Charmien LaFramenta, has been instrumental in teaching Henry Jack his sleeping technique. Charmien is also responsible for the famous Fugelsang hair; she likes it longer, so John keeps it longer. Not as long as a few years ago, when, as John describes it, he looked like "Oscar Wilde's awkward straight boyfriend."

I don't have the words to thank John Fugelsang for taking the time to chat with me. This was honestly a once in a lifetime experience, and I was floored by his kindness, his generosity of time and energy and how easy this interview was. It was like talking to a friend, if that friend is a famous comedian, brilliant political commentator and has really great hair.

Oh, the title of this piece. John has a comedy bit where he talks about coffee enemas, and how one of the reasons he could never get one is it would really upset the barista at Starbucks. Sound advice from John Fugelsang.

To learn more about John Fugelsang and experience his brilliant comedy and commentary, please visit his Facebook page and website. For the story of Onan along with other political hilarity, check out John's You Tube channel. You can reach everything via the links below.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-John-Fugelsang-Page/180058246050

http://www.blog.johnfugelsang.com/?page_id=23

http://youtu.be/lsse14ulb4Y