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Saturday, December 31, 2016

It's Almost 2017

Twelve hours away from 2017. Blech.

Anyway, the past seven years of writing for the internet have been...interesting. On the one hand, I've gotten to interview some truly amazing people. On the other hand, I have witnessed the death of journalism, and the rise of click bait and fake news. I've been told I should kill myself, had a guy offer to drive over me in a bus, and been threatened with rape and murder. A C-list actor named Nick Searcy hates me. I am part of Todd Kincannon's Wikipedia page. I made the #1 spot on Reddit, and stayed there for over a day. I've been trolled, lied about, hacked, impersonated, and dealt with police when some random dude sent me my own address and said he was coming, with guns, to kill my entire family.

Which brings us back to 2017. While writing for the internet has been exciting (not necessarily in a good way), it's worn a bit on my soul. There's only so much a person can take before they decide to walk away from a bad thing. And writing online is a bad thing, at least for me.

I might, from time to time, sit down and put fingers to keyboard next year, but not very often. It's a waste of energy, energy I would rather use to volunteer, take road trips, go for walks, swim, read, garden. I want to live my life away from social media, away from death threats, away from click bait, away from the stress of checking AdSense once a week, and realizing I can't even make $100 a month.

I have great memories. Talking to Anne Rice on the phone. Laughing with John Fugelsang. Listening to Bobby Seale as he told me how he felt after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. Skyping with the original co-founders of We Are Woman. Interviewing Will Turpin, amazed that someone with that deep a voice could hit the high notes.

So thank you. Even to the trolls and the people who threatened my life, who wanted to rape me to death, who wanted me to kill myself. Thank you to the people who lied about me, and to me. Thank you to the good, the bad, and the in between. It's been a weird and sometimes wonderful seven years. And like most things, now it's over.

This website will stay up through next April, then I will most likely save the articles that mean the most to me, and delete everything else. My words will still float around online somewhere, like so much flotsam and jetsam. But I have come to the point where I simply cannot expend the energy required to do this anymore.

Happy New Year, hope we survive, don't drink and drive tonight (or ever), and thanks again.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

We can mourn Carrie Fisher and still care about Aleppo


Carrie Fisher, badass, movie star, writer, and outspoken advocate for ending the stigma of mental illness, died this week. Fans are posting their tributes online, dealing with our collective sorrow by coming together to watch clips of Ms. Fisher in "When Harry Met Sally," or "The Blues Brothers." We feel more connected in our grief this way, less alone while we laugh through our tears.

And as often happens when a beloved "celebrity" dies, some folks who see themselves as morally superior to the rest of us have begun shaming our sadness. How can we mourn Carrie Fisher when so much horror is happening in Aleppo? Why does her death "matter more" than the dead children in Syria? Where is the outpouring of grief for Aleppo?

We are filled with sorrow over Aleppo, Morality Police. But what would you have us do? We are limited in our responses, simply because we are just people. We can donate to charities on the ground in Syria, we can watch news stories in horror, we can wish we could get on a plane, and somehow help the people whose lives have been destroyed. We can mourn the dead, we can pray for peace in Syria, we can hope with every fiber in our being that the violence ends.

Grieving for Carrie Fisher does not diminish our grief for Aleppo. Or Nigeria. Or any other place on this planet where madness and power grabs and violence reign. We can do both. Posting diatribes on social media, attempting to force us to choose, and insulting us when we tell you we can't, is unfair, and frankly, offensive.

I am a recovered (as much as one can be recovered) borderline with chronic anxiety and depression, and mild to moderate PTSD. Carrie Fisher was a hero to me, and to many others who struggle with mental illness and personality disorders. She was open and honest about her own life being bipolar, she refused to be ashamed of her illness, and she battled with strength, humor, and grace to the very end of her life. We are allowed to feel whatever we need to feel about the passing of such an amazing advocate and fellow staggerer down the road less travelled.

Telling us that we are not allowed to feel sadness, telling us that if we do, we are bad people, shaming us on social media, and holding us to an impossible standard, is bullying. Something people like me have to deal with far too often. Carrie Fisher was a light in what is often suffocating darkness, and if we need to mourn her, if we need to laugh through our tears, let us. Because we can mourn Carrie Fisher and still care about Aleppo.






Thursday, December 22, 2016

Donald Trump's Christmas Letter

Dear Trump family, friends, subjects, and constituents who donated more than $250,000 to my campaign,

Merry Christmas! Yes, thanks to me, we are all finally free to say Merry Christmas! This is bigly. No more will you be harassed or bullied for believing in the spirit of Christmas. And what is the true spirit of Christmas? Me! I am just like Santa or Jesus (I plan to change the name Jesus to something less Mexican during my first 100 days...maybe Andrew, or Vladimir). If you're nice to me, I will shower you with gifts. If you're not, I will punish you with eternal damnation and a permanent job in a coal mine.

As you know, I am the president-elect. Could have knocked me over with a 24-karat shrimp fork. I didn't want to win, I just wanted to show that uppity Obama that insulting me in 2011 has consequences. I have no idea how to run a country; hell, I can barely run a casino. But as my father used to say: "Here's a million dollars, don't fuck it up." And I sort of didn't, so that's pretty yuge.

Melania is thrilled to be the next First Lady. She's been boning up on her English, reading Michele Obama's speeches, meeting with the few designers willing to clothe her, and putting the final touches on her anti-bullying platform. She tells me there's an epidemic of online bullying. I spend a lot of time on Twitter, and I know Melania is right. Some of the shit Crooked Hillary supporters Tweet to me is horrible. God, the ugly bitch lost, get over it already! Whiny babies with their safety pins and safe spaces. Pussies.

The first 100 days of my presidency are gonna be yuge. We're planning to take out ISIS with my super secret Taking Out ISIS Plan, we're finally going to get rid of Planned Parenthood, we're going to make sure American jobs stay in America, unless they don't, then whatever, we're going to reopen all the coal mines, and we're going to build a temple in Jerusalem even though I don't really understand why that's such a big deal. They're a bunch of Jews, for God's sake. Franklin Graham and Jim Bakker have been explaining this to me; how when Jerusalem is the capital, Jesus (seriously, that name) will come back, then everyone who believes he's the son of God will go to Heaven, and everyone who doesn't will spend eternity in a lake of fire, which means Jews. So, it's still okay to hate Jews, because even Graham and Bakker do.

Friends, I have a confession to make, something I could never say out loud in public. I kind of like the adoration of the alt-right. As you all know, I have hated minorities for a very, very long time, for the simple reason that they are inferior to me. I am the epitome of the Master Race. Look at me. Tall, handsome, incredibly high IQ, with great plans, such great plans, so much winning. That's why I appointed Bannon. I couldn't appoint Duke or Spencer, but Bannon will do just fine.

Well, it's time to watch the staff wrap presents. I'm giving all the kids guns, and Melania is getting first-editions of "Tintin In The Congo" and "Mein Kampf." I'd giver her mine, but I plan to use Hitler's little book a lot during my presidency.

Merry Christmas from President and Mrs. Trump.


Friday, December 16, 2016

It's beginning to look a lot like the War on Christmas!


General Bill O'Reilly has declared a win against the War on Christmas. This means we can all go back to saying Merry Christmas without the fear of being stoned in the streets, or strung up in the church rafters by our Uggs, or deported. Unless you say Happy Holidays while burning an American flag, then you're doomed, enjoy Siberia. Where there's a new reality show that "allows" rape and murder.

O'Reilly has an oped up at Fixed News about his big win, and it includes two lists. The "nice" list and the "naughty" list, both provided by the American Family Association, an actual hate group. Because nothing says Birth Of White Jesus™ like having a hate group tell you who's naughty or nice. These lists are to help super Christians shop at like-minded stores, and eat at like-minded restaurants. The nice list includes Cracker Barrel, Lowe's, Hobby Lobby, Rite Aid, and Neiman Marcus. Or, as my dad calls it, Needless Markup.

Coincidentally, Neiman's released their Christmas Book a week or so ago, filled with everything the discerning and outrageously rich Christian could ever need to prove how much they love White Jesus™. Some examples, from Today:

Tanqueray No. Ten Imperial shakerEver wanted the world's coolest cocktail machine? This is it. The 6-foot tall Imperial Shaker oozes authenticity, from its cast iron, brass, copper and silver materials to the elliptical shake created by the crank. Not only do you get a one-year supply of Tanqueray No. Ten®, but you also get a personal cocktail education session for up to 20 guests with a Tanqueray mixology expert is included. Forget going out for cocktails anymore, you're set.

Price: $35,000

His & Hers: Vilebrequin Quadskis Forget having to share jet skis or ATV on your next vacation — you can now have your own. Hailed as the world’s best high-speed amphibians, these machines convert from water cruisers to land lovers in just under five seconds. And if you're in a rush, your Quadski can accelerates up to 45 mph on land or water.
Price: $50,000

Luxurious linensIf sleeping or eating on the finest linens is your idea of a dream come true than this package from the Leontine Linens Home Trousseau is the present for you. Your induction to true luxury living begins with a personal in-home visit from founder Jane Scott Hodges where together, you will select bed, bath, and table linens for every room in your house to create a perfectly appointed home. 
Price: $55,000

Ultimate slot car racetrackMaybe you never had a race car worthy of the world’s most notorious tracks, but you’ve certainly dreamt of driving on one. Now, the checkered flag are yours with this 100 percent authentic 1:32 scale model of your favorite track. Iconic structures, pit crews, period slot cars and more help get you into the action while integrated track cameras capture and display it on mini screens. Racing legends, such as Vic Elford and David Hobbs, will co-host your inaugural race-night party. Gentlemen, start your engines.
Price: $300,000

A fragrance journeyEverything from your clothing to the decor in your home suits you perfectly. Isn't it time you had a signature scent that does the same? Your quest to fragrance utopia begins with two first-class tickets to Paris close to the Fontainebleau, where you’ll meet with sixth-generation Master Perfumer Olivier Creed to create the ultimate custom scent. While in The City of Light, you and a guest will dine with Creed, enjoy five-star accommodations, white-glove car service, private tours and other experiences befitting the royally amazing you. A few short months later, a fragrance nonpareil will arrive at your doorstep in 24 14-karat gold-gilded six-liter flacons and 12 14-karat gold-accented leather atomizers featuring your bespoke scent. 
Price: $475,000

Now, the stores that are on the "naughty" list include Barnes & Noble, Nordstrom, PetSmart, Office Depot, and Victoria's Secret. That last one surprised me. After all, a manager for Victoria's Secret threw two black women out of her store because another woman was shoplifting. One would think that alone would relegate Victoria's Secret to the "nice" list.

There is a war on Christmas, but it's not being waged by liberals, or atheists, or Muslims, or Wiccans. It's being waged by Madison Avenue. We are told for over a month that the only way to celebrate Christmas is to buy a Lexus, or a Mercedes, or a giant diamond ring, or a flat-screen television. We are told we must spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on toys made by slave labor for our kids.

The war on Christmas is also being waged by the very people who decry it: conservative Christians. Setting aside for a moment that Jesus wasn't born in December, and this entire holiday is based on Paganism, what do conservative Christians believe happened on December 25? They believe a white virgin named Mary gave birth to the Son of God, who was also white. The wise men were white. The shepherds were white. Everybody was white. And that Son of God would grow up to hate the poor, hate the gays, hate the blacks, hate the disenfranchised, hate the sick, and hate the marginalized.

Remember Megyn Kelly and her White Jesus™? They really believe that. Try explaining to a conservative Christian that Jesus really looked more like Osama Bin Laden than Anders Breivik, and they'll beat you to death with a Yule log.

So Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Saturnalia, A Peaceful Solstice, and all the other tidings of joy. Celebrate whatever you want. Just remember: Jesus was born to an unwed Middle Eastern refugee mother. The same sort of person conservative Christians refuse to welcome to our country.


         

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Handy Russian phrases for surviving Donald Trump's presidency

Image of Putin Trump mural from the BBC

Donald Trump is, sadly, the president-elect. Intelligence groups believe Russia had just a little something to do with this, and that little something is hacking. Trump refuses to not only listen to briefings on the alleged Russian interference, he's really not interested in any intelligence briefings, because he's so smart, he doesn't need them. And this morning, Trump nominated Rex Tillerson, former Exxon chief and man-about-Moscow, as secretary of state.

You may recall Donald Trump has lavished praise on former KGB agent Vladimir Putin, calling him a great leader. Given how much Trump hates the media, and that Putin jails journalists, it kind of makes sense that they are in the midst of a bromance. One can almost see the two of them, picnicking on the banks of the Volga: shirtless Putin, milking a cobra while singing, and Trump, wearing a red MAGA hat and a Member's Only jacket, stoning orphans. What an idyllic tableau.

But, as depressing and terrifying as it is, here we are. A month away from Donald Trump's inauguration. Our household is boycotting media on January 20; we have no desire to watch Cheeto Mussolini put his hand on "The Art of The Deal" the bible, and take the oath of office which he has already proven he will not take seriously at all.

There are things we can all do to survive the next four years. Donate money or time to organizations that are either fighting against Trump or will most likely lose funding. Volunteer at your local homeless shelter or food bank. And learn Russian.

Yes, Russian. We're going to be governed by a man who is nothing less than a puppet for Vladimir Putin. And we need to know how to communicate when Putin's thugs come to the door, looking for writers or fans of Pussy Riot or gay people or liberals or atheists or anyone who didn't vote for Putin Trump. So, here are some hand Russian phrases we should all learn to make it through the next four years.

1) YA byl v bol'nitse v den' vyborov. (I was in the hospital on election day.)

2) Zhurnalistika yavlyayetsya zlom. (Journalism is evil.)

3) On moy dvoyurodnyy brat.* (He's my cousin.)

4) Privetstvuyu Trampa. (Hail Trump.)

5) Ona moya dvoyurodnaya sestra.* (She's my cousin.)

6) Yeshche chetyre goda! (Four more years!)

7) Belyye lyudi izobreli vse. (White people invented everything.)

8) Gde khleb liniya? (Where is the bread line?)

9) Amerika yavlyayetsya samoy sil'noy stranoy v mire. YA imeyu v vidu Rossiyu. Podozhdite, net, pozhaluysta, ne ... (America is the most powerful country in the world. I mean Russia. Wait no, please don't...)

10) YA znayu, chto kholodno v kvartire, tak chto davayte poydem k szhiganiyu knig. (I know it's cold in the apartment, so let's go to the book burning.)

* 3 and 5 are for the LGBTQ community.

You can use Google Translate to find other hand Russian phrases just like we did. Click the speaker icon to hear each phrase pronounced.





Saturday, November 19, 2016

Donald Trump wants an apology from the cast of "Hamilton"

Donald Trump took to Twitter Saturday morning to chastise the cast of "Hamilton" for exercising their First Amendment rights:

The "rudeness" Trump is referring to is a message Brandon Dixon delivered to Mike Pence after a performance. Take a moment and watch the video.


Was that rude? Was it some sort of attack on Pence? Absolutely not. Dixon starts by saying "There's nothing to boo here," and points out "we're all here sharing a story of love." He thanks Pence for coming to the performance. Dixon speaks about the diversity of the "Hamilton" cast, and says he hopes Pence is inspired to protect all Americans' inalienable rights after experiencing the play.

The theater is most definitely not supposed to be a "safe" place. Art is often not safe. Art can be shocking and educational, it can be moving and powerful, it can speak to moments in history long forgotten or glossed over.

Donald Trump's only response to the 400+ hate crimes being perpetrated by his supporters was to tell them to stop during a 60 Minutes interview. But when his VP-elect goes to the theater, and is gently reminded to protect every American, Trump takes to Twitter to demand an apology.

Once again, Donald Trump proves he is not presidential in any way, shape, or form. We, the citizens of this nation, have the right to protest in whatever peaceful way we see fit. Including a diverse cast of a hit Broadway show coming together to deliver a message of inclusivity aimed at the least inclusive administration in modern history.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How the Echo Chamber helped elect Donald Trump


Where do you get your news? Do you sit down at the kitchen table every morning, and read an actual newspaper? Or do you subscribe to the digital version of The New York Times, The Washington Post, or your local paper? Do you visit the BBC website, or Reuters? If you want to learn about events in another country, where do you go?

If you had been asked about Aleppo, would you have been able to respond any differently than Gary Johnson? Are you aware of the racism and xenophobia in Hungary? Do you know why Britons voted to leave the EU?

Like most Americans, you probably have a number of websites you visit every day. Websites that help you confirm your own bias, and allow you to live in an echo chamber. This echo chamber is not confined to one political view; both the left and the right live in one.

And that echo chamber helped elect Donald Trump. When mainstream liberals are getting their "news" from Addicting Info, Blue Nation Review, Daily News Bin, and Occupy Democrats, they are not learning anything. They are simply having their biases confirmed. When mainstream conservatives are getting their "news" from Fox, Breitbart, Drudge, and Newsmax, they're not learning anything, either.

People don't believe journalists, they believe bloggers, they believe Info Wars, or a misleading meme from US Uncut. They don't follow Dan Rather on Facebook, they follow Alex Jones, or Lee Camp. That bias, and those echo chambers, are part of the reason Donald Trump is the president-elect.

As someone who qualifies as a blogger, I am not held to the same rigorous standards as a journalist. I adhere to the journalistic code of ethics even so, because I think it's important to be truthful. But there are many websites and pundits that do not adhere to any code of ethics, because to do so would put a dent in their earnings.

Occupy Democrats has their own file at PolitiFact, as does Sean Hannity. Occupy Democrat's Alexa global rank is a staggering 4,837, while their rank in the U.S. is 837. Sean Hannity saw his ratings go through the roof in November, enjoying a 65% jump in total viewers.

Neither of these sources are news. Neither of these sources are reliable, and yet, the numbers don't lie. Occupy Democrats is one of the most visited websites in the world, while Sean Hannity is watched by tens of millions of people. And in both cases, the folks visiting Occupy Democrats, and watching Sean Hannity, are not learning anything. They are simply being given more permission to live in an echo chamber.

When confronted with their role in effectively destroying journalism, many content creators and cable news personalities become defensive. Especially now that a list has been published, naming sites that are fake, misleading, click bait, and/or hyperpartisan. That list was created by Melissa Zimdars, an associate professor of communication, and it is making some people very, very defensive. When he discovered his website, Daily News Bin, was on Zimdars' list, Bill Palmer served her with a cease and desist. Even though DNB is absolutely hyperpartisan, especially when it came to the presidential election, Palmer was so upset to be on that list, he wrote this on his Facebook page:

Thank you to all of you who notified me of that ridiculous "hit list" of supposed fake-news sites being circulated today by an assistant professor at Merrimack, a list which comically included Daily News Bin. The person who created it was obviously trying to gain internet fame through controversy, which is why I don't usually bite on these things. In this instance I did cease and desist her because she was trying to use the weight of her university's name to libel me, and she immediately removed Daily News Bin without reply. I've also contacted her department head and asked that corrective action be taken in the form of a public acknowledgement that she published the list without putting in any research on the sites she was libeling.

As the day has gone on, she's also removed five or six other publications from her list without any explanation – which in and of itself makes clear that her entire list is a sham. Who behaves like this? And this nonsense is being done by an educator? As a proud former public school teacher myself, I'm embarrassed for the profession.

So if you see someone posting that Google Docs list, feel free to point out that the entire list is a publicity stunt being made up and changed around on the fly, by a likely soon-to-be-unemployed assistant professor who sold out for fifteen minutes of internet fame. Even though my publication is no longer on the hit-list, other respected publications are still being libeled. And that's just wrong.

And he followed up with:
Every few months, some failed or faded political blogger assembles a hit list of "fake news" sites that always includes a number of legitimate and respected sites randomly lumped in with actual fake-news hoax sites. The losers who publish these lists are simply trying to gain attention for themselves, because they think the controversy and backlash will somehow help them. It never does. These people are never heard from again. And yet dummies keep making these intentionally dishonest lists. This is just the first time I've seen an educator make a phony list like this, and beyond internet fame, I don't fully understand her motivation. Usually it's dead-end bloggers who are jealous of the independent publications that are beating them out.

Melissa Zimdars is not a "faded political blogger," or a "dead-end blogger," and she is not making any money by publishing this list.  It is almost certain that if Mr. Palmer gets wind of his inclusion in this article, he will call me those things as well, but for now, he is attacking Zimdars.

The big sites on her list aren't taking any notice of this at all. They know it won't matter. People will still flock to Breitbart, or AddictingInfo, or Drudge, InfoWars, or Occupy Democrats, no matter how many lists are published. Those people don't want the truth; they want to live in their safe echo chamber, and have their biases confirmed.

Where do you get your news? Are you part of the solution? Do you fact check biased or questionable websites? Do you search for original content hidden within click bait articles? Or do you live in an echo chamber, content to only see or hear things with which you agree? Are your favorite sites on Melissa Zimdars' list?

Support journalism, get the truth, dig for facts. Don't visit or share sites whose only goal is to trick you into making them money. Get out of the echo chamber.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Snake Oil Salesman-Elect


Back in a time when tumbleweeds blew, when you had to surrender your gun to the local sheriff before entering the saloon, and when Mongo rode an ox, there were men who sold potions from the backs of covered wagons. These men would roll into town, roll up their sleeves, and hock their wares to gullible and unsuspecting townsfolk.

Snake oil salesmen claimed their concoctions cured everything from chronic pain to headaches to "female problems" to kidney trouble. One of the most famous of these con men was Charles Stanley, whose potion contained no snake oil, but it did contain turpentine. Other "healing potions" contained high levels of lead and mercury.

The people who bought these possibly-lethal potions were often just trying to feel better, and thus, susceptible to the snake oil con. Being told what you want to hear, even if it's a lie, is comforting. If a well-dressed man, who radiates confidence and authority, tells you his brand of medicine will cure your ills, you're going to listen. And possibly buy whatever he's selling.

Which is precisely what happened on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. People who believed Donald Trump's particular brand of snake oil could cure everything that's wrong voted him into the Oval Office. Lost your job? Vote Trump, and he'll get that job back. Scared of ISIS? Vote Trump, and he'll "bomb the shit out of 'em." Hate Obamacare? Vote Trump, and he'll get rid of that awful thing that gave millions of people access to health insurance, many for the first time.

Oh, but wait. Donald Trump is now waffling on the ACA, stating he's considering keeping two parts of the law: letting parents keep their children on their policy until age 26, and barring insurers from refusing coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. The snake oil salesman, the con man, is slowly revealing himself.

Trump said whatever he needed to in order to sell his brand of toxic sludge to America. He'll build a wall, he's create a deportation force, he will make us a nation under one god. He's gonna drain that swamp! Anti-establishment! No lobbyists!

Well, except for the Washington insiders and establishment members rumored to be on his list of cabinet members. Insiders like JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, who is about as establishment as a person can get. Establishment members like Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, and Chris Christie. Governors, former governors, right wing politicians-all are being considered for Trump's cabinet.

Donald Trump's con was so complete, so perfect, he got veterans to vote for him. After stating John McCain was not a war hero because he had been a POW, after attacking a Gold Star family, after bragging not getting any STDs during the 60's was his Vietnam, after saying he had always wanted a Purple Heart, and after saying attending an elite, private military school was the same as serving in the Armed Forces, he still managed to convince veterans he was their candidate.

His con was so expertly executed, he got women to vote for him. Pussy grabber, sexual predator, sexist, misogynist-married white women over 65 didn't care. Heck, Jordan Klepper even found a woman at a Trump rally who didn't think a woman should be president because of hormones. She's probably right; whenever I have a hot flash, the first thing I want to do is blow up Monaco.

On January 20, 2017, we will witness the inauguration of a bonafide snake oil salesman. Whose supporters might be slow to realize they've been conned, but once they experience it-no magically appearing jobs, no overturning of the ACA, no deportation force, no theocracy-they're going to be pissed. Sure, at first they'll blame all us "libtards" and "feminazis," but eventually, they will be faced with the realization that Donald Trump lied to them in order to put another notch on his Trump belt.

When that day arrives, it might be a good idea to stay home. Because the shit's going to hit the fan.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Donald Trump Will Never Be My President

Many of my friends are posting this morning about coming together. Facebook looks like a group of campers, sitting around a bonfire, singing "Kumbaya My Lord." Right before Jason pops up and stabs them all to death. And many of them are writing that, for better or worse, Donald Trump is our president. Fuck that.

Conservative white nationalists have been screaming for eight years that President Obama wasn't "their" president, based on his skin color. I am not that shallow; Trump's orangeness is not the reason he will never be my president. That's more of a he's an actual sociopath, a sexual predator, his entire campaign was one giant trigger, he wants to commit war crimes, he hates minorities, our allies are freaking out right now, children are waking up today terrified their parents are going to be deported, and he has emboldened some pretty violent people to be even more violent kind of thing.

"Bernie would have done better." No. He would not have done better. The people who adore Trump also hated Bernie Sanders. He's an elitist, just like the rest of us who have an IQ higher than 100. From his liberal Vermont, preaching about a higher minimum wage, talking about how Black Lives Matter, calling for an end to Citizens United, that damn bird. The neo-Nazis who elected Trump last night would never have voted for Bernie. Ever. By the way, we lived in Vermont. We love Vermont.

"Well, I hate Shillary, so I didn't vote." Fuck you. In the face. With a rabid badger.

"Trump speaks his mind, he's totally not PC, he's a real man." That "real man" may have raped a 13-year-old girl, that "real man" bragged about sexually assaulting women, that "real man" told Howard Stern it was perfectly okay to call Ivanka Trump-his own daughter-a piece of ass. He speaks his mind? Like calling Mexicans rapists, or stating he will ban Muslims, or promising to sue all the women accusing him of sexual assault, or making fun of Heidi Cruz's appearance? Trump is completely un-politically correct, so much so, our allies in Europe are absolutely terrified.

We watched NBC's coverage of this clusterfuck last night, and a big thank you to Richard Engel, the only actual journalist left on the planet. While Chuck Todd was trying to shove his own head up Trump's rectum, Richard Engel talked about the great harm a Trump presidency will cause. He talked about world markets, security, NATO, domestic policy. His voice rose just a smidgen when Tom Brokaw tried to explain away the damage Trump will cause. Richard Engel deserves a Pulitzer just for not slapping the shit out of the NBC election lineup.

It seems that we, normal, rational Americans, may have underestimated the hatred many of our neighbors have for everyone who isn't just like them. We also may have overestimated the intellect of the American voter. When Michigan was too close to call, my husband, a native Michigander and former employee of the auto industry, said "They're falling for his con. They really think he can get their jobs back. Holy shit." Trump can't get those jobs back, FYI.

And overnight, my Facebook page lost a like, and I also lost a Facebook friend on my personal page. Not sure what that was all about; maybe I wasn't presenting myself as a tree-hugging, folk song-singing, hand-holding, coming together, lovey dovey liberal. Maybe I was filled with sorrow and anger and frustration. Maybe I was trying to figure out how much of our retirement just disappeared. Maybe I was thinking about my Muslim friends, my Mexican friends, my LGBT friends, my African American friends, and how they now live in a country that elected a president who hates them. Maybe I was thinking about the women who will die because Donald Trump has promised to elect justices who will overturn Roe v Wade. I'm so sorry~.

Donald Trump will never be my president because I am a daughter of the American Revolution. Not officially, because they scare me, but by blood. My family helped found this country, and last night, America unzipped its fly, and pissed all over the graves of every single man and woman who gave their life for this nation. America elected a man who called avoiding sexually transmitted diseases his own Vietnam.

Donald Trump will never be my president because I am a survivor of rape and domestic violence, and he's a misogynistic asshole. Who sees women as objects, which, coincidentally, is how serial killers and serial rapists see women.

Donald Trump will never be my president because he hates the things that make America great: diversity, equality, social programs, facts.

Donald Trump will never be my president because I refuse to accept that we have become a nation of hate, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and (more) war crimes.

So stop telling me to get around that bonfire and sing. Stop telling me we need to come together because he's our president. Stop telling me how to feel about this fucking nightmare.

Because Donald Trump will never be my president.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders Supporters


Dear Bernie Sanders Supporters,

Like you, I yearn for a more progressive government. A government for the people, not for the corporations. A government that looks out for the middle class, supports American workers, welcomes immigrants, respects a woman's right to choose, and a government that respects all our citizens. And I understand your frustration with this presidential election.

Next Tuesday, you have the opportunity to vote. Not for the candidate you hoped for, but for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Many of you have stated you will vote for Jill Stein, write in Senator Sanders' name, or not vote at all. You're tired of feeling marginalized, you're sick of big money in politics, you want real change.

Which candidate do you believe would be more amenable to moving farther left-Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? Which of these two individuals is more likely to listen to you, to us? Which administration do you trust to nominate Supreme Court justices who will uphold the rulings on DOMA and DADT, and not overturn Roe v Wade? Which candidate believes the science of climate change?

Donald Trump will never move to the left. He chose a running mate who used state money to fund conversion therapy, and signed a law giving businesses the right to discriminate against the LGBT community. Trump believes climate change is a hoax, perpetrated by the Chinese. He wants to ban millions of people from this country based on their religious beliefs. He wants to deport over ten million immigrants, ripping apart families. Donald Trump believes more countries should have nuclear weapons, and bemoans the fact that we don't use our own. He wants our military to commit war crimes. He has stated he "loves war."

Hillary Clinton is not a perfect candidate. However, if you want a more progressive government, she is the only choice on November 8. Hillary Clinton is much more likely to listen to progressive ideas, and embrace liberal policies, than Donald Trump ever could or would.

Donald Trump is not an option for progressives or liberals. He simply isn't. And while writing in Bernie Sanders, or voting for Jill Stein, may feel good, it won't help us move this great nation in the direction it needs to move. If you want a more progressive government, run for office, like my friend Arik Bjorn. Support progressive candidates on the down ticket. But next Tuesday, vote for the presidential candidate who supports women, who stands with science on climate change, who will not take away the rights of the LGBT community, who will not ban Muslims, who will not deport millions of immigrants, and who can be convinced to usher in an era of progressive government.

You will not be voting for the lesser of two evils. You will be voting for the future, for the opportunity to move this country to the left. If Donald Trump is elected to the Oval Office, he will destroy all the progress we have made over the past decades. All of it.

Please vote wisely November 8. Think about the next four years, think about your LGBT friends, your Muslim friends, your Mexican and Hispanic friends, your African American friends. Think about your friends and family who are living paycheck to paycheck. Think about the rest of the world, a world Donald Trump doesn't understand, and fears. Think about our gun violence epidemic.

Think about the future.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Alex Jones believes Hillary Clinton is a demon

Image of Alex Jones from Esquire

Alex Jones went on a verifiable rant during his cable show earlier today about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and President Obama. During the rant, Jones said Hillary Clinton and President Obama are both demons. Actual demons.

Let me ask you a question. If you were walking down the sidewalk, and happened upon a man standing in a doorway, or sitting on a stoop, who said what Alex Jones said, what would your reaction be? Would you say "Hey! We need to get you a show, and make sure you rake in the cash, buddy!" Or would you be more likely to wonder if the man needed help, if he was okay, if there was a way to get him to a doctor?

What if the man said juice boxes make our kids gay? Or talked about "secret documents" only he had ever seen? Or screamed at the tops of his lungs that we needed another revolution, and the government had secret camps, and a weather machine? Would you take what he said to heart? Would Donald Trump call that man a friend, and an ally?

It has long been a theory of mine that Alex Jones is schizophrenic. He has auditory and visual hallucinations, he believes in things that are not real, he claims important people within the government tell him secrets. When his delusions are challenged, Jones often becomes enraged, or he will blame a global conspiracy. He believes government officials are trying to kill him.

Which is why it is so difficult to write about Alex Jones. On the one hand, he is obviously very troubled, and seems to meet much of the criteria for schizophrenia. On the other hand, Jones is a public figure, with tens of thousands of people who believe whatever comes out of his mouth. Donald Trump considers Jones a friend, and someone he wants to impress.

Do we try and feel empathy for Jones, given that he obviously has some sort of mental health issue, or do we mock his bizarre conspiracy theories? Are there people who really believe what he says, who believe that Hillary Clinton and President Obama are actual demons? Here are some comments from his Facebook page:

Debbie Armento NOT a good sign! IN the bible .....Beelzebub or Beel-Zebub (/biːˈɛlzᵻbʌb/ bee-EL-zə-bub or /ˈbiːlzᵻbʌb/ BEEL-zə-bub; Hebrew: בַּעַל זְבוּב‎‎, Baʿal Zəvûv; Arabic: بعل الذباب‎‎, Ba‘al adh-dhabâb) is a name of a demon. In Christian and Biblical sources, Beelzebub is another name for the devil.[1] In Christian demonology, he is one of the seven princes of Hell according to Catholic views on Hell. The Dictionnaire Infernal describes Beelzebub as a demonic fly who is also known as the "Lord of the Flies". The god of the Philistine city of Ekron, a Canaanite god.[2]


Claire Burkus Beelzebub......satan ....lord of the flies.....also landed on Obama.....New York honors Arch from temple of Baal....Baal..worship was child sacrifice, temple prostitutes, priests having relations with worshippers....total evil.....exActly who this family worships today..... such a sign from God on national TV!!!!!!!!
There are many more, hundreds and hundreds, most of which agree with Alex Jones and his conspiracy theories.

Is Alex Jones a schizophrenic, or has he simply discovered a way to make money and get attention? Should we view him with empathy, or with disdain? If you watch the video, it certainly appears Alex Jones believes Hillary Clinton and President Obama are demons. He references anonymous sources in government who have told him both Clinton and Obama smell like sulfur. At least some of Jones' fans agree with him, and are now convinced the President of the United States and the Democratic candidate are actual demons from hell.

Honestly, I prefer my demons with a side of Sam and Dean.













Friday, October 7, 2016

Why Donald Trump Isn't Prepping for Sunday's Debate

Donald Trump is prepping for Sunday's presidential debate the same way he prepped for the first one: not at all. He held a "town hall" in New Hampshire last night, but his campaign swears that town hall had absolutely nothing to do with the town hall-style debate on Sunday. From reports on the "whatever it was" Thursday, Donald's campaign told the truth: it had nothing to do with Sunday. Or being president. Or even running for president, which is the thought that bombarded my brain about fifteen minutes ago.

There are two possible explanations for Donald Trump's cavalier attitude about the presidential debates. In order to understand the first one, let's take a look at one of Donald's most famous statements during the election:


He's right. Donald Trump could shoot someone, and his fans/minions/pet white supremacists/MRAs would still love and support him.

Which means Donald can do anything on Sunday-show up nude, set a kitten on fire, call Hillary Clinton names, flip off the cameras, anything-and his supporters will declare him the winner. He doesn't have to work for this; his supporters adore him no matter what.

The second explanation is a bit more, well, disturbing, at least for the country. What if this is a "Here, hold my beer a sec" moment, just dragged out over an entire election? Like some idiot at a barbecue who says "Here, hold my beer a sec, I want to ride my bike off a roof."

This might be the longest episode of "Jackass" ever. The problem is it's not the actual show. Steve-O stapled his scrotum to his own thigh, but the rest of the country didn't feel the pain. Johnny Knoxville got hit in the nuts with a sledgehammer, but he didn't make the rest of us do it. In Donald Trump's case, he may be having a "stick a sparkler in between my butt cheeks and light it, dude" moment, but it's everyone in the U.S. who will catch on fire.

My prediction for Sunday's debate: Donald Trump will show up with nothing but insults, rhetoric, and bullshit, while Hillary Clinton will offer details, policies, and ideas to help our country. Conservative media will declare Donald the winner, normal people will declare Hillary the winner.

And on Monday, the people who watched Donald Trump metaphorically staple his scrotum to your  thigh will ask others to speak a bit more softly, drink quite a lot of coffee, and rock back and forth in their office chairs, silently weeping.



Saturday, October 1, 2016

Introducing The Trump Translator!


Do you try to listen to Donald Trump? Are you often confused by the words coming out of his mouth? Have you noticed your eye twitching uncontrollably while attempting to decipher Donald's speeches? Have you begun muttering in your sleep, or suddenly running outside to yell at the sky?

Well, we here at MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) Institute have created The Trump Translator™ (patent pending) just for you. Combining ancient Mayan technology, copious amounts of alcohol, cockroach DNA, and musings from my cat, The Trump Translator™ (patent pending) allows the average viewer or listener to painlessly* decipher anything Donald Trump says.

Here are some real Americans talking about how The Trump Translator™ (patent pending) recently helped them:

I watched the first part of the debate without The Trump Translator™ (patent pending), and I thought Donald was winning. When I turned it on, I was shocked to learn that the guy I had been supporting was a sexist creep and a bully, who knows nothing about the world. I thank God for The Trump Translator™ (patent pending); without it, I might have actually voted for this numbskull! Amy F.

Thank you, MAD Institute, for The Trump Translator™ (patent pending)! My wife has been driving me batshit insane with her support of Donald Trump. I've tried to explain that he hates women, and wants to date his own daughter, but all she can say is 'He's gonna save us from the Mexicans.' Well, I hooked her up to the translator, and within 15 minutes, she was staring at the teevee, shocked that Donald was up at 3 AM, attacking some poor girl on Twitter. MAD Institute, you saved my marriage! Hank B.

The Trump Translator™ (patent pending) works by removing the DWN (Dog Whistle Neurons) from your brain, thus allowing you to hear actual words. For example, when Donald Trump says "inner city," The Trump Translator™ (patent pending) automatically translates that into "black people are scary." When Donald says "I love the bible," TTT™ (patent pending) will immediately reveal what he really means: "I've never read it but I need right wing Christians to vote for me."

And now that Donald has decided to go after Hillary Clinton by focusing on her husband's infidelity, The Trump Translator™ (I don't want to type patent pending anymore) will be working overtime. If Donald mentions Gennifer Flowers, TTT™ will helpfully remind you that Donald cheated on Ivana with Marla Maples. If Donald brings up Monica Lewinsky, TTT™ will gently point out Donald Trump pleaded the 5th over 90 times to avoid answering questions about his own adultery.

MAD Institute is extraordinarily proud of The Trump Translator™, and cannot wait to make it available to the public. Unfortunately, we've run into a bit of a problem. In order for TTT™ to work, it needs to be hooked up to a human brain. And to do that, scientists here at MAD (aka my husband) need to drill a hole in your head, remove part of your frontal lobe, insert a highly classified and very complicated metal plate with stuff welded to it, and then hook the TTT™ to that plate. So far, we've only found 3 people willing to do that.

We here at MAD Institute are hopeful that we can streamline** the interface process, and submit The Trump Translator™ to the FDA, or the FCC, or the DEA, or the FBI, or one of those other government agencies with letters within the year. You're probably thinking "But if Donald loses, we won't need The Trump Translator™!" Oh you dear, sweet, naïve, creature. He's not going down without a fight, and he's never, ever going away. Not after this. Not after bringing together the alt-right, insulting the Pope, women, the LGBT community, African Americans, Muslims, Mexicans, not after starting then "ending" the birther movement, and not after getting so close to nuking Europe.

We will be stuck with Donald Trump after November 8, so we might as well be able to understand the things he says. And with The Trump Translator™, you can! Watch this site for more information, including how conservatives can participate in our next round of testing.

*Painless is not actually...okay, it...look, this is Donald Trump. Just watching him on television without hearing him is offensive. We'll try-we can give you laughing gas, or a pitcher of martinis, or Xanax, but we can't really guarantee it will be painless.

**Our next step is to coerce an actual conservative into a van, using promises of candy and Sean Hannity's phone number, then use The Trump Translator™ to remove their DWN. We just need more duct tape.



 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Someone needs to remind Donald Trump America is Employee-Owned


If you watched the debate Monday evening, you probably noticed Donald Trump talked a lot about his alleged business acumen. How rich he is, how successful he is, how he owns buildings in cities. Donald spent a great deal of time on Monday talking about himself. When he spoke about America, it was with disdain, negativity, and an almost dystopian view of our country. Donald Trump made it very clear he wants to run the United States like one of his businesses.

There's one problem with Donald's vision: America is employee-owned. We the people are ultimately in charge. We vote, we canvass, we run for office, we exercise our First Amendment right to protest, and it's our voice that matters. We are not a casino, or a hotel, or a condominium. We are African American, Hispanic, LGBT, Atheist, Buddhist, Christian, Wiccan, Jewish, poor, middle class, renters, homeowners, Caucasian, immigrants, Native Americans, and this is our country.

It's our vote, our support, that elects a president, not a board of directors. America is owned by we the people, something Donald does not seem to understand. Or perhaps he just doesn't care. This is the man, after all, who said he could shoot someone and not lose any support. His supporters back up that statement every single time they defend yet another of Donald's horrible, awful, sociopathic comments. They honestly don't care if he is a sexist, hateful bigot; they just care that he hates the same people they hate.

We are not a business to be managed. We are a country of individuals, struggling to pay our bills, and put ourselves or our children through college. We go to work when we're sick, we go to work when we're exhausted. We want a president who cares about us, who wants to help us make better lives, who wants us to have more opportunity, who supports all of us. Donald Trump would not be that president.

Donald wants to ban all Muslims from our country. He refuses to say he would never use nuclear weapons against our allies in Europe. He admires Vladimir Putin, a man who jails journalists and dissidents. Donald tells a lie every 3 minutes. He lies about lies he's told before, like China creating climate change. Donald lied on Twitter when he wrote climate change was invented by the Chinese, then during the debate, he lied by saying he had never told the original lie. Donald Trump lied during the debate when he argued he'd never called pregnancy an "inconvenience" for business, because he did say that:

...a wonderful thing for the woman, it's a wonderful thing for the husband, it's certainly an inconvenience for a business. And whether people want to say that or not, the fact is it is an inconvenience for a person that is running a business.

Many of us, the employees who own America, see through the con Donald Trump is running. We've pulled back the curtain, and we see him for what he really is: a sociopathic megalomaniac, who thinks he is the best at everything, who sees women as objects, who sees minorities as lesser people, and who will, if elected, destroy this great nation. The United States is not an island, we cannot survive a president obsessed with isolationism and nationalism. We are part of a global community, and we need a president who understands that.

America is employee-owned, and the only way we are going to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office is if all of us come together on November 8 and stand up for ourselves. Stand up for your neighbors, your children, and strangers who will be harmed if Donald Trump is elected. It's up to us to make certain a racist, xenophobic, egotistical bully does not become the 45th President of the United States.

If you are not registered to vote, please visit RegisterToVote.org. You can register online in just a few minutes.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

When A Stranger Tells You To Kill Yourself

Image from the Los Angeles Times

A few days ago, a man named Marshall Beck told me to kill myself. He told me to "draw a bath" and "grab a razor." The reason Marshall Beck wants me to end my own life is because I wrote a snarky comment underneath a ridiculous article written by a guy who will never date a feminist.

I took a screenshot of Marshall's comment, because I wanted to preserve it. I wanted to remind myself there really are people out there who are awful, horrible, cruel individuals. This screenshot:


He also called me a mentally ill moron.

If you read my stuff on a regular basis, you know my history. You know I have survived two suicide attempts, rape, domestic violence, and a childhood that was sort of awful. You know about my mom. And the priest. You know about CTC. You know that I am a borderline, and have been diagnosed with chronic depression, anxiety, and PTSD. You know I used to self harm by cutting my arms, legs, and face, with a razor blade.

For all those reasons, Marshall Beck's comment stopped me in my tracks. A stranger, a man who doesn't know me at all, hates me so much he wants me to end my own life. You can read more about Marshall in my article about him here; I even included a link to his Facebook page, so you can see for yourself what a truly deplorable person he is.

I'm never going to end my own life, or even try. I've fought bigger monsters than Marshall Beck, and I always win. But I'll be honest-that comment triggered a ton of awfulness inside my head, and my heart. And ten years ago, I would have sat in this dark place for awhile, then perhaps, self harmed.

Now? Now I say look at what I have done, look at who I am, look at the life I have made for myself and my family. My interview with Bobby Seale is part of an archive collection at U.C. Berkeley. I talked to Anne Rice on the phone. I interviewed John Fugelsang. I made the number one spot on Reddit's political page. My husband and I will celebrate our thirteenth wedding anniversary this December.

The Marshall Becks of the world are insecure, ignorant, hatemongers, who think they have power online. Yes, I brought attention to him, because I am a huge fan of dragging hate out into the light. Plus I cannot stand bullies. But there will always be Marshall Becks. The key to dealing with them is remembering they're pathetic cowards, hiding behind a keyboard.

Marshall Beck has a website where he lists, among other things, his affiliations, including Brain Damage Films. Brain Damage Films specializes in selling B-list horror movies. On the off chance they might be interested in knowing Marshall Beck told me to kill myself, I sent them an email. This was the response I received from the president of Brain Damage Films:

Erin,
I have received your message (below). Mr. Beck is the lead singer for a band in which Brain Damage Films subsidiary Brain Damage Musik released a CD for his band Reign of Vengeance 4 years ago.  Other than quarterly reporting for sales and licensing made of his music, he has no association with our company.  I have been in touch with Mr. Beck regarding the matter and after a tiny bit off fact gathering; it appears you are known for voicing your opinion publicly on many topical issues we are all dealing with in this world.  My thoughts on the matter:  if you want to make your ideology and beliefs public and engage in “snarky responses” than you need to accept others opinions in a public forum that you started, whether you agree or disagree.  I was also taught at a very young age, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will NEVER hurt me!”.

More than anything, I simply felt it necessary to give you a response, rather than ignore you.

Darrin G. Ramage
President – Brain Damage Films

In Mr. Ramage's world, when a woman dares to share an opinion online, she deserves to be told to kill herself.

This is why, when confronted with an internet bully, I am never ready to play nice.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Trump's Basket of Deplorables

It's no secret that Donald Trump's entire presidential campaign has been fueled by deplorableness. Hate, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and violence, are all key parts of Trump's message to America. And Americans love it. Not all Americans, just the people who believe that immigrants are stealing our jobs, all Muslims are terrorists, tax cuts for the rich somehow help the middle class, Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization, and beating the shit out of people who disagree with you is perfectly acceptable behavior.

Hillary Clinton drew attention to this deplorableness during a speech she gave at a recent fundraiser. She highlighted the hate that swirls around the Trump campaign, and said that half his supporters belong in a "basket of deplorables." Naturally, the deplorable people went ballistic. People who support discrimination against the LGBT community. People who believe African Americans are all thugs or welfare queens. People who have called for the death of Hillary Clinton. People who compare President Obama, and our First Lady, to apes.

But by all means, Alex Jones and David Duke, and Ted Nugent and Ann Coulter, and Sarah Palin and Andrew Englin (founder of The Daily Stormer), please tell us why you don't belong in the basket of deplorables. Alex Jones thinks every mass shooting, including the Sandy Hook massacre, is a false flag, and has mused that Michelle Obama is a man. David Duke is a Holocaust denier and a 100% white supremacist. Ted Nugent told Hillary Clinton to suck on a machine gun. Ann Coulter once wrote she wished someone would fly a plane into the New York Times building. Andrew Englin is a white nationalist. Sarah Palin is...well...Sarah Palin.

What the media isn't showing you is the second part of Hillary's speech. The part where she draws attention to the other half of Trump supporters, who do not belong in a basket of deplorables. The people who have lost their jobs, their homes, their savings, who feel as if the government doesn't care. Those people crave a message of support, a message that speaks to their pain, and honestly, if the message makes sense, they don't care about the messenger. Yes, Trump is a bully, and a smarmy snake oil salesman, and most of us wouldn't invite him into our homes, but he says things that appeal to angry, disenfranchised Americans.

Those folks don't care that Trump pals around with neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and conspiracy theorists, they don't care that he's publicly stated he would date his own daughter. They don't care that Trump wants to ban and deport millions of people because of their religion. They don't care Trump said John McCain wasn't a hero. All they care about is Trump promises to create jobs.

They ignore the fact that Trump has no idea how to do this, how to create all these jobs. Trump refuses to give details about any of his ideas, not jobs, not Isis, not Russia, nothing. It's more of the same bullying rhetoric, blaming brown-skinned people for all our problems. They need a savior, a president who gives them a scapegoat on whom they can blame all their misery.

Donald Trump desperately needs his non-deplorable supporters to ignore his racist past, his horribly sexist comments, and he really, really needs them to not look behind the curtain to find his neo-Nazi, white nationalist, supporters and staff.

The other half of Trump supporters have probably never watched InfoWars. They most likely don't care for David Duke, or Stormfront.org, or subscribe to white nationalist websites. They just need a candidate who says all the things they want to hear, and gives them someone to blame for their problems. Someone more vulnerable than they are.

It's September 10. Tomorrow is the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, and one wonders how Donald Trump will treat this solemn day. Will he be respectful, or will he be his usual awful self? Will he lie once again about Muslim Americans celebrating the attacks in New Jersey? Will he bark about banning and deporting all Muslims? Will he, as most conservatives do, use 9/11 for his own political gain? And will his deplorable supporters cheer on his hate and divisiveness, yell racist epithets at Muslims, perhaps desecrate a mosque, or beat up a Muslim business owner?

Donald Trump seems to be successfully running a con on the citizens of this country. A con designed to appeal to the worst of humanity: hate, fear of the other, racism, bullying, sexism, and violence. If he wins, if Donald Trump becomes president, what will become of the United States? Will we have a government based on paranoia and xenophobia? Will Roe v Wade be placed on the "ash heap of history"? Will Mike Pence's dream of government-funded conversion therapy for members of the LGBT community become a reality? Will President Trump deport our Muslim neighbors, spouses, siblings, friends?

President Trump. We live in a country, and in a time, when that could truly happen. Our society is so riddled with hate, we could actually elect a man who counts among his friends white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

What a truly frightening thought.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Dogs versus Cats


It seems to happen at least once a week. A dog saves the life of a baby, or an entire family, by selflessly putting itself between danger and a human. Dog Saves Infant From Fire, Dog Saves Family From Fire, Dog Rescues Toddler. Dogs are, from all appearances, better people than most people. Which explains why dogs are so popular as pets.

Cats, on the other hand, will most likely not risk their lives to save a person. Oh, there are some stories about a cat protecting a child, or Meatball, the French cat who saved eleven people in a fire. For the most part, though, cats are jerks.

We have a cat. Her name is Princess, and she has appropriated all the furniture in our living room. Princess is almost eighteen years old. She is a rescue kitty, fat and happy, shedding all over the damn place, chewing on carpet, puking on carpet, floors, and yes, her furniture, and I love her desperately. I do not, however, think Princess would save my life during a fire.

I would save hers, no question. If we had a fire in our townhouse, I would grab her first. Then maybe a scrapbook, my wallet, my phone, and some underwear. Odds are, I would probably try to get some of my mother's art out of the house before my husband dragged me onto the lawn. But I would get the cat first.

And I guarantee that while I was grabbing Princess, she would yell at me, struggle, maybe try to bite or scratch me, because she hates to be held. So as I was saving her life, she would be pissed. Cats are jerks.

When Princess goes to the rainbow bridge, it will break my heart. Despite her quirks, and the cat hair all over the place, and all the times we have stepped in warm, squishy cat vomit, and the fringe missing from a Persian rug I inherited from my mother because Princess ate it, and the cat food she sprays under the dining room table, and how she shoots litter five feet onto the floor, I really love her. I will mourn, I will cry, I will miss her terribly, and then I will get a dog.

A small dog, but not one of those dogs you see being walked from a distance, and think to yourself "Why is that person walking a rat?" Our association has a weight limit on pets, which, sadly, means I cannot have a Newfoundland. Or a pony, but that's a different issue altogether. What I really want is a pug. I love the snarfling noise they make when they're happy, and how their whole butt wags.

Having a dog comes with one major drawback: walks. When it's pouring rain, or twelve below, or snowing so hard you can't see across the parking lot, the dog needs to be walked. When it's ninety degrees, with eighty percent humidity, the dog needs to be walked. If you have the flu, or a migraine, the dog needs to be walked. And it has been made very clear to me that if "we" get a dog, "I" will be responsible for the majority of the dog's care, because my husband doesn't really want a dog.

My husband had a black Lab named Joey many years ago. Joey was a great dog, according to my husband. Joey loved my husband so much, he once brought half a deer carcass home as a present. That image-an adorable black Lab, dragging half a deer carcass across the road, tail wagging as he anticipated how happy my husband would be to receive this wondrous gift. Shockingly, my husband was not as pleased as Joey hoped to have half a rotting corpse deposited in front of his house. But he still remembers Joey with love.

I've never had a dog; we've always been cat people. And maybe, someday, when the opportunity presents itself, I'll get another cat. I just really want a dog. I will run across the street, or walk half a block out my way, to pet and chat with a dog. Dogs like me, because I have a special "talking to animals" voice. It's soft, and low, and gentle. It probably wouldn't work on a wildebeest, or a tiger, or a venomous snake ("Hi! Oh, who's a pretty snake? Now, let's not do that, sweetie, no, we don't have to HOLY SHIT YOU LITTLE BASTARD I NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL OH JUST FUCK YOU SNAKE!").

We will have to wait and see if a dog becomes part of our family at some point. Until then, I will care for Princess, and adore her, all the while knowing that she would never, ever save me from a fire. It is more likely that she will, one day, be successful in tripping me as I walk next to her, I will fall and die from a head injury, and she will snack on my corpse.

And then she'll puke on the rug.




Thursday, August 18, 2016

An Evening Surrounded by Heroes


Wednesday night, a group of survivors gathered in Minneapolis. Some were there to lend their support, some were there to speak, while some were there for the very first time. Survivors of rape, incest, sexual assault, sexual violence, and abuse, sat shoulder to shoulder to Break the Silence.

One by one, men and women walked to the front, sat down, took a microphone, and shared their trauma with a room of strangers. But we weren't really strangers; one thing I have learned over the past year is survivors are bound together by a thread. Sitting in the back, my hand gripping my husband's knee, I listened to shaking voices, failed attempts to choke back tears, and the woman behind us shared her box of tissue, as the young African American women next to me silently wept.

Heroes walked into a room in Minneapolis last night. Whether they spoke or not, just walking into that room was enough. Lending a shoulder, or giving a Kleenex, or writing down a message of hope to place anonymously in a brown paper bag, were all acts of heroism.

I spoke. I was number 103. I don't remember much of what I said; I probably laughed awkwardly at the wrong time, because I do that when I'm nervous. I do know I spoke about Children's Theatre, and when I did, my husband said the woman in front of me began to shake. When she took her turn sharing her story, she mentioned CTC, and I sat straight up in my chair. Another thread.

After each survivor spoke, they were given a lit candle to add to the circle of candles on the floor. The candles represented light, and hope, and honored every hero who had broken their silence.

We cried, a lot, last night. But after the event, laughter began to ring out. Men and women were hugging, and talking, and yes, laughing. Because even in the darkest moments, we found joy. We made friends, exchanged email addresses and phone numbers. And we laughed.

I spent an evening surrounded by heroes. It was an honor, and a blessing, to watch amazingly brave men and women, take back their power. It was also incredibly sad to see young people, some my son's age or a bit older, speak about what they have survived. Last night was a reminder of how many people survive sexual assault, sexual violence, rape, and abuse.

To everyone who spoke, to everyone who came to support us, and to everyone who did not speak, but felt the love, and felt believed and validated, thank you. Thank you for your bravery, your empathy, your honesty, and your light. The world is better for having you in it.

I'm Erin, and I am breaking the silence.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Daniel Fitzpatrick: Another child lost to bullycide


This past Thursday, 13-year-old Daniel Fitzpatrick hanged himself. Daniel, a student at Holy Angels Catholic Academy in Staten Island, was a victim of bullycide. From The New York Daily News:
Before he took his own life, Daniel Fitzpatrick, taunted and bullied, wrote a final, heartbreaking letter lamenting that nearly no one tried to help him.
The 13-year-old Staten Island boy, mercilessly badgered over his weight, grades and his innocent heart, pleaded to his school for help.
But teacher after teacher at Holy Angels Catholic Academy — the principal, too — turned a deaf ear, refusing to intervene, he said in the letter that was never sent.
Finally, overwhelmed by the torment, Daniel hanged himself, his family said.
His innocent heart. According to Daniel's mom, Daniel didn't want to grow up quite yet. Maureen Fitzpatrick told The New York Daily News:
He just wanted to be a kid. He didn’t want to be involved in things that were too mature for him.
A gentle soul, still a child, who just wanted a safe place to go to school.

We lose far too many children to bullycide. And frankly, listening to pundits and politicians, and reading social media, it's no wonder that parents are raising bullies. A presidential candidate who encourages his own supporters to use violence against people with whom they disagree. Cable news hosts and guests, demeaning those less fortunate. Social media posts, body shaming anyone who isn't aesthetically perfect, insulting people with average, or lower-than-average IQs, blaming victims of violence for their own pain and trauma. Society has created the perfect environment for bullycide.

A 13-year-old child wants to be safe, loved, supported, and encouraged. Daniel Fitzpatrick should have been able to reach out to teachers at Holy Angels Catholic Academy with the expectation those teachers would do something to stop the bullying. No one, especially a 13-year-old child, should ever be allowed to reach a point where suicide is an option.

Children learn what they live. Adults who are keyboard warriors online most likely carry their rage and intolerance into their day-to-day lives. If those adults are parents, their children hear them. They hear the racism, the hate, the anger, the cruelty. They carry that with them to school, where they might find a kid who is brown-skinned, or smarter than they are, or not athletic, or just different. They might remember their parent, yelling about Muslims, or immigrants, or the LGBT community, or women, or intellectuals. And those kids who have been immersed in hate might drive a peer to a place of terror and desperation.

As adults, it is our responsibility to raise children who are not bullies. We do that by not being bullies ourselves. As adults, it is our responsibility to listen to children who are being targeted in school, and help them. And as difficult as this may be, it is also our responsibility to help the bullies. We simply cannot throw those kids away; we must provide them with a safe place, too.

Ending bullycide will take a village. It will involve social media like Twitter and Facebook, neither of which take online bullying seriously enough. It will involve schools implementing programs and training for administrators and educators. It will involve parents willing to stop teaching their own children to hate. It will involve an end to stigmatizing mental illness, or anyone, of any age, who needs help.

We can be that village. We must be that village.

If you are being bullied, or are a parent who needs resources, please visit StopBullying.gov, and PACER.org.