CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Out of the Mouths of Babes Series

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The Out of the Mouths of Babes series of posts is intended to serve as a place where real women of color can talk truth about female life with passion, wisdom, honesty, and insight.

Submissions of articles, think pieces, interviews, essays, poems, stories, and even videos to this series are more than welcome.

They just need to center on issues or themes that relate to women of color in the US or anywhere (everywhere) else.

Also, submissions should avoid the use of homophobic, transphobic, ableist, ageist, classist, xenophobic, ethnocentric, patriarchal, misogynistic, misandrist, and/or heterosexist language.

Contributors whose submissions are published will retain all copyrights to their material, and they will be compensated with free publicity on The Bluest i for any legitimate personal, political, or artistic projects or commercial products they wish to promote, as long as these projects are ethical, and these products are safe.

Readers that do not wish to contribute to the series, but have specific desires to see certain content (concerning WOC and intersectional feminism), should also feel free to send in suggestions.

Bloggers that wish to write a guest post or syndicate a post are also encouraged to contribute.

The more, the airier.

Please send submissions, suggestions, or any other communications meant for OTMB, along with your name, email address, website/blog URLs, and any social media IDs (Facebook, Twitter) you wish to share, to writermichellereneesmith@gmail.com.

 

 

 

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Babe Alert: Eris Eady

I first met this amazing young woman when she was in high school. She might’ve been a junior. She was already busting people’s heads in poetry slams all over the city of Cleveland, though. Her poetry was so breathtakingly real, I was either laughing, crying, or hallowing whenever I heard her.

Eris’s gift was – and still is – her genuineness. She is herself to a capital-T. She is unflinchingly honest. She boldly calls out her various communities for their willful faults, and she confesses her own flaws and fears with formidable – yes, at her young age – bravery, vulnerability, intelligence, and wit. She is witty as fuck.

In the years since high school, Eris has made herself into an all-around presence in our city. It wouldn’t shock me if – in the next few years – she ended up in a government office. She has so many of the qualities of a true leader.

Eris is under 35 and already a storyteller, organizer, event planner, promoter, logistical coordinator, trainer, public speaker, coach, curriculum developer, activist, advocate, media, integrator, graduate student, marathon runner, and jewelry designer.

Though she is considerably younger than me, I admire her greatly. I look up to her ambition, commitment, confidence, and authenticity. I adore her writing, and I have a deep affection for her spirit. I respect her candor and refusal to be silenced or shamed.

In a recent blog post, Eris wrote, “The climate of today’s world would lead you to believe that love should not be a priority. I’ve felt pressure as a queer black woman to let my activism and advocacy take priority over love, intimacy, and joy. In doing that, I’ve done myself a huge disservice.”

See what I’m saying?

This woman gets it. She knows what she needs to know.

BABE ALERT Q&A WITH ERIS EADY

WHAT IS YOUR NAME?

Eris Venia Eady

WHAT ARE YOUR ORIGINS?

My Grandma Alabama, my Granddad Louisiana . . . you mix that Negro with that extra Negro makes a . . . Cleveland girl.

HOW DO IDENTIFY YOURSELF RACIALLY/ETHNICALLY/NATIONALLY? HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY YOURSELF IN TERMS OF GENDER AND SEXUALITY?

A. I consider myself African American. I feel as though it is important to make the distinction that I did not immigrate here. We were snatched and rooted here.

B. I am a Cisgender Bisexual/Queer Woman.

ARE YOU A FEMINIST? IF NO, THEN WHAT TERM DO YOU USE TO DESCRIBE YOUR COMMITMENT TO WOMEN’S ISSUES?

Ehhhh . . . not so much. I do consider myself a Womanist. Feminism is dredged in privilege and founded in academia; it perpetually leaves out black, brown, poor, and, most importantly, trans women.

I also think it is important to note that I don’t like the word “female.” It is often used as an abrasive term that is essentially one “step” up from “bitch.” It’s a dog whistle word that resonates the same way as when white folk say “thug” when they really want to say “nigga.”

WHEN DID “BEING A WOMAN” BECOME POLITICAL FOR YOU? HOW WERE YOU POLITICIZED AS A FEMALE CITIZEN OF THE US?

I was born this way. In fourth grade, a white boy called me “Grease” the entire school year. Also, that year, my teacher threw my spelling book at me. For as long as I can remember, who I am and how I exist in this world has been a problem for the powers that be.

When I was about 26, I was pulled over and arrested, then held for hours while I menstruated on myself. I didn’t fight back. I will always remember that I survived this interaction with the police, and Sandra Bland did not.

WHAT ARE THE ISSUES THAT AFFECT WOMEN THAT ARE CLOSEST TO YOUR HEART?

Self-love. Reproductive justice, including sexual assault, domestic violence, intra-racial violence, access to abortion, infant mortality (Ohio is literally the worst state in the country for African American infant mortality), and women that are shackled during birth. Economic stability. The life expectancy of trans women of color (it is 33-years-old).

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU DO TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AND THE LIVES OF OTHER WOMEN IN THIS COUNTRY BETTER? DO YOU HAVE A “PASSION PROJECT” THAT RELATES TO BEING A WOMAN? WHAT IS IT?

I’ve chosen to love myself. Especially when it’s hard. Especially when I’m feeling most unlovable. I am kind to myself. I love my body at every phase and stage. I’m working on a project called “Black Girls Be . . .” It’s a space where black womanhood can exist without borders. Stay turned . . .

WHO ARE SOME OF THE WOMEN THAT HAVE BEEN MOST INFLUENTIAL TO YOU? WHAT IS THE MOST VALUABLE LESSON EVER TAUGHT TO YOU BY A WOMAN?

My mother and grandmothers.

Grandmother taught me to always have a safety pin in my bra.

Big Ma taught me that “you might not have what you want to eat, but you have something to eat.”

Mother taught me to “do what [I] know is right” and “fuck ’em and feed ’em Froot Loops.”

Zora Neale Hurston: “You heard me. You ain’t blind.”

Amy Rosenbluth. Amy taught me the two things that have remained constant in my life: poetry and community service. Without these two things, I’m uncertain who I’d be in this world.

My Golden Girls: my three best friends – Kisha/Rose – a poet’s poet, Jessica/Dorothy – my perfect complement, and Danielle/Sophia – my ram in a bush. She saved me when my high school years were scary and lonely. (I’m Blanche for obvious and not-so-obvious reasons.)

My niece Nijah and sister Eriane. Nijah taught me patience, gifted me joy and laughter, and showed me how to explain the vastness of the world in a way that is accessible to tiny humans. Eriane gave me Nijah, which allowed me to truly put into action my love for her.

WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR 13-YEAR-OLD SELF ABOUT SURVIVING THE PROCESS OF BECOMING A WOMAN, IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND TALK TO HER?

As my best friend Jessica always says, “It doesn’t get easier, but it will get better.” [I would tell my 13-year-old self] love yourself unconditionally and without apology.

NOTE FROM EDITOR:

Thank you so much, Eris, for taking the time away from your busy schedule to do this Q&A. Thank you for being one of the beautiful, badass black women that I get to know and from whom I get to draw inspiration and encouragement. Thank you for your art, and thank you for your light.

READERS–You can learn more about Eris and all the amazing work she does at http://www.eriseady.com/about.

You can pre-order Eris’s book Journey to Whole: Excerpts, Essays, and Exhales by clicking on this link.

You can watch Eris read her poem “Dear Tamir” (dedicated to Tamir Rice) by clicking on this link.

Babe Alert: Deep Roots Jessica

Last year, I wrote a post in which I debated whether I should call myself a “feminist” or come up with a different name for the woman-centered views that I hold and work I aspire to do (to help to internally build up black women and other women of color).

It probably seemed random to the followers that had been reading my blog since it began in January and seen me refer to myself as a feminist dozens of times in my various posts, but the post—or rather the question at the heart of it—didn’t actually come out of nowhere.

It came out of a conversation I got into with Deep Roots Jessica on Facebook about what it “truly” means to be a feminist.

Our conversation started over another post I wrote back in March called “On Black Privilege.” In it, I wrote:

White people have so much. It’s not necessarily the fault of every white person in America that white people as a demographic fare so much better than every other demographic, but it’s undeniable that they do. They are the inarguable “haves” in [American] culture. And black people are largely “have-nots.” We are fewer in number, poorer, less visible, less free, less protected, and less respected. For many of us, the only things that we have that we feel proud of are our color, our lineage, our history, our belonging to a race and ethnicity that is known (if not credited) for its genius, resilience, and tenacity . . . We—Americans—talk about white privilege. But there is such a thing as black privilege, and it’s one of the only conciliations that we have for being so brutally oppressed. Black privilege is being able to talk about other black people in a tone that we don’t allow white people to use, the way that family members do. Black privilege is being able to use the word “nigger” when we want, how we want, because it’s a word that’s been used to designate us after all, and being able to use that word when white’s “can’t” is one of the only exclusive freedoms we have. Black privilege is having hair that white people don’t have. Color that white people don’t have. Lips and asses that white people don’t have. It’s talking in a way that doesn’t come organically to white people, having music that speaks to us in the way we speak, and customs that are a product of our history. These things may seem superficial, but they become extremely important when they are just about all that you have to bolster the way you feel about yourself—when you don’t have a lot of money or material comfort or social status or political power or acceptance or even just tolerance outside of your own community.

Jessica found my post through a link, read it, and then found me on Facebook. She very respectfully took issue with my use of the term “privilege,” we began to converse back and forth about that and then feminism and activism and FLOTUS Michelle Obama, and I could go on, but the point is these conversations got me thinking really intently, really deeply about my political views, what I consider to be my political work, and the most meaningful way for me to move forward as a black feminist.

I don’t know that I would be writing the posts I am writing now, about the BLM Movement and what the black community must really do to fight the proverbial power, if Deep Roots Jessica hadn’t gotten me to start thinking about things like imperialism, capitalism, and the true meaning of liberation.

Jessica really inspired me, and I thought she would be a perfect first profile for “Babe Alert.” Her conviction, commitment, knowledge, and vision make her a very powerful force and fascinating iteration of blackness, womanhood, and feminism.

The main thing I am aiming to do with Out of The Mouths of Babes and “Babe Alert” is inspire black women and other women of color to do the same thing Jessica inspired me to do: To think about who they really are, what they really want, and what they really want to do with their lives and gifts as women, people of color, citizens of this country, and feminists, if that’s what they consider themselves to be, or whatever other type of political person or entity they consider themselves to be.

I find that I come out of conversations with women that I like, love, and respect feeling so much more liked, loved, respected, supported, and—I’ll say it one more time—inspired than I do at just about any other time.

Conversations with other women give me life, and life is what I want to give to other women through my writing and especially the writing on this site.

I hope you enjoy getting to know her through this Q&A as much as I have enjoyed getting to know her through Facebook over the last few months.

Our connection is one of those things that make you grateful for the reach that social media gives you into other people’s lives and vice versa.

BABE ALERT Q&A WITH DEEP ROOTS JESSICA:

WHAT IS YOUR NAME?

Deep Roots Jessica.

WHAT ARE YOUR ORIGINS?

I was raised from infancy on up in a city in Iowa. My mother is white with English and German background and grew up in small town Iowa. My mom’s side of the family over the generations were poor farmers.

My father is black Guyanese. He immigrated here to the United States when he was 12-years-old. My parents divorced when I was two-years-old, and I have been raised primarily by my mother. I would visit my father during holidays and summers when I was growing up.

My family was very loving and supportive to me growing up. Things were not perfect (as they never are), but I wanted for nothing. I had support from my family in all the activities I was involved in. From choir, debate, to theater, they were at all of my events and performances.

HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY YOURSELF RACIALLY/ETHNICALLY/NATIONALLY? HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY YOURSELF IN TERMS OF GENDER AND SEXUALITY?

I am mixed, but I am black. Black for me is the word used to describe the racial caste system I was put into, but it is also a political identity. When I walk down the street, people do not see a half-black and never a half-white woman. That is how race in the United Snakkkes works.

I am a woman. If the average person were to ask my sexuality, I would say bisexual, but, in reality, pansexual is probably more of an appropriate description of my sexuality. I am attracted to a spectrum of people of various physical body types and gender expressions.

ARE YOU A FEMINIST? IF NO, THEN WHAT TERM DO YOU USE TO DESCRIBE YOUR COMMITMENT TO WOMEN’S ISSUES?

I have gone back and forth on this issue as I have developed politically, but, for now, I have resolved to call myself a feminist. To be specific about my politics in regards to women’s liberation, I would call myself an anarcha feminist. The simplest definition I can give for that is that I am for the abolition of capitalism and the apparatus of the state. I do not believe we can truly liberate ourselves as black women while these oppressive hierarchies exist.

The ambivalence I have had in the past about the word “feminism” is due to the fact that the word says only a little bit about one’s politics at this point in time. People who identify as feminists have a whole range of political views that also at times conflict with one another. There is now a backlash against what is called “white feminism” from many WOC, which has been a long time coming. Our contributions to the women’s liberation struggle have not only been overlooked, but, also, the issues that impact poor WOC and poor women in general were not centered in the work of white, liberal, middle class feminists. The issues most pertinent to poor WOC [have been historically] overlooked by middle class white women and still are today.

However, I would argue some of the same problems I see with what is called “white feminism” can be pointed out in some of the politics of black feminists as well. Why would we cheer on [President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama] if we had a strong understanding of how capitalism and white supremacy are intertwined? How could we cheer on figureheads for US Empire that bomb black and brown people and shill for the capitalist class? How could the effect of ongoing US colonialism in Caribbean and African countries be absent from our politics?

The answer is we wouldn’t [cheer them on, if we understood that] representation within oppressive institutions is not a victory. [Representation] is only the system adapting to the pressure of our social movements by giving us the veneer of progress [in our fight] against white supremacy and patriarchy. This is done by choosing [members of] the middle and upper class within oppressed groups to represent the interests of the ruling class. So, the fundamental problem with many circles of feminism today, be they white or black, is liberalism and reformism. The fundamental problem is that our movements do not truly [address] the nature of power and how it operates. For black women to be free, it’s imperative that we understand [who is truly oppressing us and how they are oppressing us]. It is imperative that our feminism is rooted in class politics—that it is revolutionary, not reformist.

WHEN DID “BEING A WOMAN” BECOME POLITICAL FOR YOU? HOW WERE YOU POLITICIZED AS A FEMALE CITIZEN OF THE US?

In high school, I was active in work to address homophobia and interpersonal violence against LGBT people and the violence against women predominantly perpetrated by men. The desires to subordinate women and police people’s gender and sexuality through violence are ubiquitous in our culture, and I saw this, from movies and advertisements, the church, and the ever-lingering threat of violence when simply going about [my] day. My place in society was abundantly clear to me, and, from high school onward, I worked to deprogram feelings of subordination within myself through both political education and involvement in work to stop violence against women and LGBT people.

WHAT ARE THE ISSUES THAT AFFECT WOMEN THAT ARE CLOSEST TO YOUR HEART?

The more I have grown politically, the more that I see how every social injustice is interconnected and how they are a result of and exacerbated by class society. [For example], I am employed as a victim advocate where I live, for women, most of the time, but really anyone experiencing inter-partner violence, domestic violence, stalking, harassment, and sexual assault. Part of my job is connecting women to safe housing and the resources [my organization] has available to help women transition out of abusive domestic situations. Resources such as women’s shelters were gains made by the women’s movement, along with the change in perception when it comes to domestic violence. With that said, [though], we never have enough resources. Shelters are always full.

There is no place within the United States where a person working [for] minimum wage can afford a one bedroom apartment by herself. Trying to do that while having to care for children without affordable healthcare is nearly impossible for many [women]. A study [conducted] in Massachusetts found that 92% of homeless women had experienced severe physical or sexual assault at some point in their lives; 63% had been victims of violence by an intimate partner; and 32% had been assaulted by their current or most recent partner (National Alliance to End Homelessness). So, when a woman has [to choose] between living out in the streets and staying with an abusive partner, what kind of “choice’ is that? There are ten empty homes for every homeless person in this country, so [homelessness] is not a question of a lack of physical resources. The problem is capitalism. So, when I am of the clock, work that involves building up the support systems and movements necessary to get to the roots of the problems that oppress women interpersonally and systematically is my utmost priority.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU DO TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AND THE LIVES OF OTHER WOMEN IN THIS COUNTRY BETTER? DO YOU HAVE A “PASSION PROJECT” THAT RELATES TO YOUR BEING A WOMAN? WHAT IS IT?

For my job, I assist women in getting emergency housing, safety planning, [and] group counseling sessions. [I answer] the crisis hotline, [write] restraining orders and orders of protection, and guide them the best I can through the options they have when in an abusive relationship and/or when making steps to leave. I consider this work important crises management work.

Under capitalism, these problems will continue to emerge. A violent system creates violent people. The divide-and-conquer of communities is necessary for [the system’s] functioning. [My work] on community self-defense and land defense [connects] to women’s oppression because safety in terms of clean food, air, and water, as well as community safety, [should] not [be] reliant on police that disproportionately kill black people and that have the function of protecting property relations for the rich. [The police] are not [who] we should be relying on long term to protect ourselves, families, and communities. So, building real solutions for women and the children they raise—solutions that rely on strong communities of resistance to Empire—is one of the issues I am most passionate about.

WHO ARE SOME OF THE WOMEN THAT HAVE BEEN MOST INFLUENTIAL TO YOU? WHAT IS THE MOST VALUABLE LESSON EVER TAUGHT TO YOU BY A WOMAN?

This is by no means an exhaustive list of women who have influenced and inspired me, however, for this blog’s purposes, I will limit it to three women: my mother and the performers Lucille Ball and Josephine Baker.

My mother raised me most of the time, and she always instilled in me that I was worthy, talented, and intelligent. She came to all of my performances and was one of my biggest cheerleaders. I learned from her at a young age the importance of treating people with respect and kindness, and the right ways you should treat people are lessons I take with me and that influence how I interact with people and my political work. I also learned when I was older the importance of people that support and believe in you and provide a safe environment [for you]. People who grow up without [these things] have problems that last lifetimes. We humans are not so different than plants. The degree to which we access the essentials we need determines how much or little we will flourish. A plant deprived of sun and water will wither just like human deprived of love and security are impaired [and thwarted] from reaching their fullest potential. It is this understanding that influences my political work and organizing. We are in a system that makes accessing the safety and love we need at our most vulnerable impossible. And, left with no options, people in one way or another cannibalize each other and the most vulnerable [among us]. The conditions of our lives shape the people we become. And I owe the person I am in large part to my mother.

Lucille Ball: I fell in love with her as a kid. As a performer, she is a great inspiration, and I remember how I adored her so because she was a woman that was funny. I would watch all the reruns of “I Love Lucy” when [I was] at home from daycare or school. I remember bringing one of my favorite episodes to Show & Tell in first grade and laughing boisterously but being surprised to see none of my classmates getting the jokes. For me, I think it was that fact that she wasn’t just arm candy for her husband, and she didn’t just fall into all the stereotypical housewife tropes. She got into trouble and was rebellious (admittedly against the authority of her husband, which, yes, is pretty weird and patriarchal). Seven-year-old Jessica could relate a lot to her.

Josephine Baker also captured my imagination as a teenager after reading a book about major figures during the Harlem Renaissance. I then went to YouTube to check out who she was. She had a charisma and talent that were undeniable. You see this from her first videos to the ones in her older years. She was the world’s first black superstar. She, too, was funny. Josephine also spent much of her life fighting racism, renouncing her US citizenship, and becoming a French citizen. [She returned] to the US [after leaving for France] to fight segregation in nightclubs and concert venues and participated in the March on Washington [as one of the speakers]. As both an excellent black female performer and someone that didn’t take racism silently, she is an inspiration to me.

I don’t know what it is I love about a woman that can make people laugh. There’s a self-confidence and social intelligence that shines through in great performers. And, as someone that has performed, [I know] it’s a powerful feeling to capture with your performance and hold the audience in the palm of your hand. When performing, you learn self-confidence and assuredness—traits that shine through in the great performers like the ones [I] mentioned.

WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR 13-YEAR-OLD SELF ABOUT SURVIVING THE PROCESS OF BECOMING A WOMAN, IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND TALK TO HER?

You are worth more than your fuckability.

Boys are not nearly as interesting as you think they are now. That’s O.K. You will learn.

Reading books is awesome. Keep doing that.

You already accepted not being straight within yourself to some extent, but do it all the way. You should not have to hide who you are, and, one day, you will have the courage and support system of friends [so that you don’t have to].

Bulimia will not make you feel better about yourself—neither will losing weight—because you are tying your self esteem to how you look. It has nothing to do with how you look and everything to do with unlearning the messages that you are not enough that society has taught you.

Your inability to “behave right” is not an indication of your moral failing, but you know that already in some ways, deep down. You will learn to adapt to some of the rules to “succeed” because you know you don’t have a choice.

You don’t need to straighten your hair; it looks better natural. You will figure that out in a few years, playing around with and mixing different gels left around the house.

Your parents are not perfect—no parents are—but most things [that] they said and did came from a place of love. To have the parents and [general] family support you have is something countless people would consider themselves blessed or amazingly fortunate to receive.

Those white boys are not more intelligent than you. Not even close.

Once you stop caring, you will be surprised how easy it is to make friends.

Debate, theater, and choir are exactly the things you should be doing. They will help you develop skills and build confidence in ways that you will carry with you the rest of your life.

Don’t be afraid people will hate you. You are amazing and more powerful than you know!

NOTE FROM EDITOR:

Thank you so much, Jessica, for giving me such open, thoughtful and thorough answers to these questions and sharing your experiences and ideas with my readers.

Readers—if you want to contact Deep Roots Jessica and speak with her about her work, email her at deep-rootsjess@riseup.net. Also, check her out her blog: https://deeprootsjess.wordpress.com/.

 

Babe Alert: Michelle R. Smith

As the originator and editor of this site, I felt it would only be right if I put myself through my own paces and disclosed some of the things about me that I am going to ask my future interviewees to expose about themselves.

I also think it’s important to let you–the readers–know who I am and why I’m doing this, so you can trust  and open up to me as an editor and writer.

I will ask everyone that I interview for the site these same nine questions:

1. What is your name?

2. What are your origins? (Where were you born? Where were you raised? What type of family did you have as a child?)

3. How do you identify yourself racially/ethnically/nationally? How do you identify yourself in terms of gender and sexuality?

4. Are you a feminist? If no, then what term do you use to describe for your commitment to women’s issues?

5. When did “being a woman” become political for you? How were you politicized as a female citizen of the US?

6. What are the issues that affect women that are closest to your heart?

7. What are some of the things you do to make your life and the lives of other women in this country better? Do you have a “passion project” that relates to your being a woman? What is it?

8. Who are some of the women that have been most influential to you? What is the most valuable lesson ever taught to you by a woman?

9. What would you tell your 13-year-old self about surviving the process of becoming a woman, if you could go back and talk to her?

In this post, I will answer these questions as honestly and fully as I can, as an example of the sort of transparency I am hoping to get from the Babes I will interview once the blog is fully underway.

I hope that I can be a source of interest, inspiration, empathy, and amity for you, readers.

I hope that my voice–and the voices of the other women I hope to bring to the conversation through this blog–help you to speak out and then act out in ways that affirm your womanhood and all other parts of your identity.

BABE ALERT Q&A WITH MICHELLE R. SMITH

WHAT IS YOUR NAME?

My name is Michelle Renee Smith.

WHAT ARE YOUR ORIGINS?

I was born in Cleveland, OH, in Mount Sinai Hospital, September 27, 1976. I think there’s significance to my being born during the country’s bicentennial year, but I haven’t become influential or famous enough yet to say exactly what that significance is. I haven’t done the thing I think I was put here to do, outside of giving birth to my daughter.

I was raised mainly in Warrensville Heights, OH–an all-black, lower middle and working class suburb of Cleveland, and that has had a profound influence on how I feel about race, gender, and class as well as my self-concept, for good and for bad.

I was raised by two college-educated parents–an English professor (Mom) and attorney (Dad). They valued education, hard work, literacy, respectability, and family. I value education, hard work, literacy, creativity, self-sufficiency, family, and autonomy.

HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY YOURSELF RACIALLY/ETHNICALLY/NATIONALLY? HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY YOURSELF IN TERMS OF GENDER AND SEXUALITY?

I am black. I don’t use the term “African American” because I think it connotes a regret about being the descendant of slaves that I don’t feel. I am very proud to be a part of a people with a history of survival as incredible as black people in America.

I am a cishet woman that aspires to be a worthy ally of the LGBTQIA+ community.

ARE YOU A FEMINIST? IF NO, THEN WHAT TERM DO YOU USE TO DESCRIBE FOR YOUR COMMITMENT TO WOMEN’S ISSUES?

I call myself a black feminist because I think it’s extremely important to signify that my feminism is interconnected with my racial experience of personhood, gender, and citizenship.

WHEN DID “BEING A WOMAN” BECOME POLITICAL FOR YOU? HOW WERE YOU POLITICIZED AS A FEMALE CITIZEN OF THE US?

I was bullied in school–from fourth to twelfth grade–for being overweight, bookish, sensitive, awkward, and aspiring to be a creative. I felt helpless to do anything about it because the culture in my community and school–which valorized athleticism, toughness, slickness, and the European beauty standard–was deeply invested in maintaining itself. I knew, though, that certain reasons I was suffering came out of being female and measured in all of these superficial ways that were legitimized and regulated by men, like by the length of my hair or size of my breasts. So, when I heard the term “feminist” and learned what it meant, I was elated. Finally, I thought, a group of women that refuted this bullshit Olympic competition to be the prettiest or sexiest. I was 1000% with that. I think I might have been 14 or 15.

WHAT ARE THE ISSUES THAT AFFECT WOMEN THAT ARE CLOSEST TO YOUR HEART?

I think there is an intimacy crisis in cishet black community in which women are routinely abused–emotionally, physically, spiritually, and even financially–by the men with which they are involved either without realizing it or without feeling they can or should do anything about it. I hate that shit.

I think that rape culture has a really pernicious effect on black women in that we are taught this matriarchal ethic of “taking care” of black men, and so we will not report them to the police or press charges against them when they assault or attack or molest us or assault or attack or molest our children. I hate that.

I think that toxic masculinity is at the bottom of both of the previous issues and pumps air into a lot of other issues that affect black women, like colorism, for example, and I hate that.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU DO TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AND THE LIVES OF OTHER WOMEN IN THIS COUNTRY BETTER? DO YOU HAVE A “PASSION PROJECT” THAT RELATES TO YOUR BEING A WOMAN? WHAT IS IT?

Right now, I do my feminist work by writing–by blogging. But I have been talking with some more active, radical women online lately, and they have got me thinking about what organized action I can undertake to help make things better for women and girls in this country.

If I have a “passion project,” then it is making myself into a writer that can produce meaningful work and survive off the profits. I have this blog. I have my book of poetry (purchase information here). I have a chapbook that I just finished. I’m working on a novel; I have the manuscript for a third poetry collection on deck; I have ideas for a short story collection, a series of kids’ books, and a theatrical adaption of Octavia Butler’s “Parable” novels. Writing is what gives me life, so my plan is to keep working until it is my life.

WHO ARE SOME OF THE WOMEN THAT HAVE BEEN MOST INFLUENTIAL TO YOU? WHAT IS THE MOST VALUABLE LESSON EVER TAUGHT TO YOU BY A WOMAN?

By far, the most influential woman in my life is my mother. She has taught me, by positive and negative example, to trust my own thinking above and beyond that of any other person. Especially about myself.

WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR 13-YEAR-OLD SELF ABOUT SURVIVING THE PROCESS OF BECOMING A WOMAN, IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND TALK TO HER?

Do what the fuck you want to do. If they’re going to hate you for it, at least you can have the gratification of loving yourself underneath all that other shit.

 

 

Introducing: The Out of the Mouths of Babes Series

speech-bubbles

Last June, I launched a second blog – Out of the Mouths of Babes – that I devoted exclusively to women of color, to serve as a “place [they can] talk truth about female life with passion, wisdom, honesty, & insight.” I was really excited by the concept, and I really wanted to do amazing things with the site. Maintaining two sites proved to be a challenge that I couldn’t withstand, however, and Out of the Mouths of Babes, sadly, fell by the proverbial wayside.

Even with that, I couldn’t let go of the idea. I did this amazing interview for the site with a brilliant black anarcha feminist named Deep Roots Jessica (Garraway) that I met on Facebook; I got another one in the hopper with an amazing poet and educator named Eris Eady; and I didn’t want to toss either of these pieces away.

I called these interviews – and I had dreams of doing dozens of them – “Babe Alerts” – and, when I originally conceptualized the site, I thought they would be the centerpiece.

I also wanted to publish guest blogs and reader submissions – articles, think pieces, interviews, essays, poems, and stories – centered on issues and themes that relate to women of color in the US and anywhere (everywhere) else. I thought about having a couple of writers do monthly columns about special topics. I envisioned vibrant, affirming dialogue happening in the comments. I dreamt of creating a real, functional Internet community of women of color with OTMB, which would give its members easily accessible opportunities to connect, inform, inspire, and empower one another, as well as reaffirm and reify themselves.

As I said, that dream hasn’t faded, even in all the months since I stopped working on the site (it’s been almost six; the last post I published before I erased the site this morning was dated in September of last year).

So, to appease the thought in my mind that OTMB is too good of a thing to completely abandon – this thought that simply will not go away, even though it clashes pretty inharmoniously with the fact that I’m already incredibly busy – I am going to make Out of the Mouths of Babes into a series here on The Bluest i.

I am going to repost my Babe Alert and Jess’s, publish Eris’s for the first time, and put out a call for submissions today. Right now.

I hope that all you faithful readers of TBi will read and enjoy these posts, support this new series, give me some feedback, share links, comment, and, most of all, submit to OTMB.

OTMB – as I picture it – is entirely collaborative. Its success will depend almost entirely on enthusiastic and consistent engagement from contributors and readers.

I hope that we can work together to give it wings.

I want to see it fucking soar.

Don’t you?

MRS

 

 

I Almost Got Kicked Out of Macedonia Cinemark Taking Notes on This Movie, so, However Many Weeks Later, This is What I Thought About While Watching ‘Hidden Figures’

I live in a house located at the intersection of American Citizenship Avenue right before it turns into Black Woman Boulevard, where it crosses Motherhood Mount, right before it turns into Writers Way. It’s an exhausting place to live sometimes.

American is a ridiculously busy street where the traffic moves at an excruciatingly slow pace, and the drivers hop out of their cars frequently to argue out of frustration. Black Woman is less busy, but the cars move at lightning speed, so when they cross Motherhood and Writers, back onto American, they nudge the standing traffic, and everybody in those cars get all discombobulated. They start gesturing in their mirrors and talking shit out of their windows, and the occasional psychotic fool has been known to get out of his car with a gun in murderous overreaction. Motherhood is not as busy as Black Woman, but the drivers tend to get distracted by all the bright billboards with their didactic messages about how the road ought to be navigated. They make it so hard for the drivers to just trust themselves and fucking drive. Then, there’s Writers, which is lined on both sides by these massive lots where people can park for as long as they want to park; it’s hard to navigate because people are constantly pulling in and out of the lots and off and onto the street.

In other words, intersectionality is a fucking ass-kicker, and this is especially true, for me at least, with Trump in office, worrying the fuck out of me on every vector of my identity.

I feel obligated to write about him on this blog because I am an American and a mother – because I am black and a writer – but I also want – badly – to have times when I’m not thinking about what he is doing to this country.

I’ve figured out over the last couple of days that I have to make those times if I want them, then, because Trump’s governance is nothing but an abuser’s assault on America’s consciousness.

It’s deliberately relentless – designed to make it impossible for us to keep track of everything he is doing but at the same time caught in a reactionary cycle that keeps us too busy to plan a viable way to wrest his power back from him.

A few weeks ago, I did that. I made some time to enjoy my black mother writer self. I went to see “Hidden Figures” with my father, mother, and younger sister. I was moved, of course, by the story and the acting – they were excellent – and I saw in the themes of the film some things I thought that I would much rather put into a post than the next crazy thing Trump is doing.

I wasn’t lying in the title of the post; I did get so carried away with taking notes on the movie that I forgot about the rule against using cell phones in the theatre, and an usher came to my seat and told me that I would have to leave if I didn’t put my phone away.

I didn’t put it away, though; I turned down the backlight on the screen and finished doing what I needed to do. So here they are – my ruminations on “Hidden Figures” – minus this one I’m going to put right here at the head of the list, which is –

If white people would be the benevolent leaders of all these institutions they fight so hard to dominate, rather than acting from fear of losing their often undeserved or unearned leadership roles – fear of having their mediocrity exposed and/or their positions ascribed by it and not their privilege – they wouldn’t have to create fictional characters like “Al Harrison” or fictionalize the parts white people played in iconic situations like the one depicted in the film.

Moving on . . .

The movie is about tolerance and progress – the not-so-inexorable march of history – its actual capriciousness – its dependency on us to make it happen – but mostly it’s about sisterhood, and that was my first observation. This reflection here –

The absolute vitality of sisterhood among women cannot be overstated or exaggerated, especially if we are serious about overcoming gender oppression, which we fucking should be. Women are the only ones that truly understand how hard women have it in our society, so they are the only ones that know what aid to give women that are trying to be and do their best despite the entrenched sexism and misogyny in our culture.

Women have to commit to being sisters to other women, between and across secondary demographic lines, and they have to open up to the love and support that other women are able to offer them. This is mandatory, especially with that fucking pussy-grabbing . . . no . . . no . . . I said I wouldn’t write about him anymore in this post. I meant that.

Women – we can’t mistake “compassion” for projection. Remember the scene in which Janelle Monae’s character, Mary, is talking about becoming an engineer, and her husband is telling her not to pursue that goal because it’s impossible? It may have sounded like he was concerned and trying to steer her away from being hurt, but he was projecting his own limitedness onto her. Sad to say.

Our loved ones do this sometimes. They give advice that is based on their fears and aversion to struggle or disappointment. Or they pretend to be afraid for us when they are really afraid of us and what will happen if we grow or change while they remain the same.

No is your choice, not theirs. When Taraji P. Henson’s character, Katherine, needs, in order to do her assigned calculations, to see the redacted information that her white colleague keeps officiously blacking out in order to assert his “superiority,” she lifts the blacked-out (with Sharpie) sheets of paper up to the lights in her office ceiling so she can see the information he is trying to hide from her. She refuses to be blocked.

She could’ve taken his refusal to share the information as final, but she didn’t. He said no, but she said yes, and she figured out a way to get done what she needed to get done. She chose yes. We all either choose yes, or we choose no, in so many changeable life situations.

Numbers don’t lie in real life, either. Katherine says this time and again when her white male colleagues question her theories and calculations, and I’m saying that black people need to talk in terms of numbers with white people that seek to oppress or discriminate against us in the real world as well.

Black people in America have $1.1 trillion in collective buying power. We are 13% of the registered voting pool. That means that Big Business needs us. Politicians in danger of losing certain elections by narrow margins need us. We only receive 26% of the food stamps doled out in the US (whites receive 40%), and 62% of Obamacare enrollees are white while just 17% are black. That means that altering or ending these programs will hurt them more than it will hurt us. We are a force – a vital, productive part of this country and not some horrible drain. 

Complaining ain’t fighting. There’s a scene in the movie during which the three main characters, played by Janelle, Taraji, and Octavia Spencer, are hanging out, playing cards, and Janelle – Mary – is complaining that she can’t attend the engineering courses she needs to move up at NASA because they’re offered at a segregated white school. After a few minutes, Octavia – Dorothy – tells her to do something about the situation – sue the state for the right to attend the classes – anything – just stop complaining because she wasn’t accomplishing anything by complaining.

Complaining can feel revolutionary to people that have been historically silenced, or have silenced themselves, and I believe it is the first important step in personal politicization. But it’s only the first step – articulating your grievances. If you want to fix or change anything, you have to brainstorm, plan, mobilize, and do some strategic thing to fight the fucking power.

You have to either sacrifice or settle. Each of the secondary storylines illustrates this for us viewers. Katherine leaves the comfort of the segregated black female computer pool to work in a more highly powered, but hostile, white male pool so she is able to reach her full professional potential. Dorothy steals a book from the Whites Only section of the public library so she can teach herself computer programming and remain relevant after NASA transitions from using human computers to an IBM. Mary risks alienating her husband to take those engineering classes to which she finally gains entrance and become the first black woman engineer to work for NASA, and her decision connects directly with the next idea on this “list,” which is –

Take whatever chance you are able to get, especially if it will ultimately lead to the accomplishment of your goal. Don’t be so nitpicky that you select yourself out of an opportunity.

When Mary does go to court to gain entrance into those engineering classes, the judge only grants her entrance into the night classes, but Mary rejoices like she got full run of the entire school. She has fought as hard as she can and gotten her case the highest level of adjudication she can obtain, and she has been given a judgment that – while not earth-shattering – will allow her to become an engineer in the end. So she accepts the judgment. She doesn’t bitch or brood because it doesn’t provide the ideal circumstance.

At the start of the next scene, she’s right there, in the corridor of that segregated school, at the doorway to that unblocked classroom, ready to get it in.

Dorothy’s decision – to learn to program the IBM so she can stay on at NASA once human computers are phased out – teaches another cluster of lessons, too. Learn some shit if you want to come up on some shit. Know your shit if you want to be allowed to do some shit. And if you’re useful, you’re welcome.

Nothing beats being ambitious, knowledgeable, skillful, and effective when it comes to securing employment. Even the most discriminatory bastard – if he or she gives the slightest fuck about productivity or profit – will concede to someone that is black or a woman but excellent at getting shit done.

Because to hold someone back, you have to stay back with them. Next point. Really important one.

It sounds basic, but people forget this. They somehow think they can work full-time on sabotaging other people and still get their own shit done with adequate attention and effort.

But fear is a bitch and generally makes a bitch of those that practice it as an ethic. The movie illustrates this wonderfully, with the working relationships between the main characters and the white men with which they work.

The white man that supervises Mary encourages her to become an engineer so she can better help their team perfect the capsule in which John Glenn will eventually return to Earth after the first orbital launch, and that’s exactly what she does. The team figures out how to keep it bolted together despite the extreme temperatures to which it will be subjected upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere. Together.

In contrast, the white scientist that works with Katherine is so insulted that he is being forced to work with a black woman, and her job is to double-check his math, that he blacks out classified information on the printouts that he gives her. He argues with her every time she puts forth a suggestion about how they can successfully calculate the coordinates to launch and land the orbital ship, and he tries his hardest to bar her from informational briefings that would keep her equally as informed as the rest of the team working on the coordinates.

Now, never mind that Katherine knows analytic geometry – is the only person on the NASA complex that knows analytic geometry – and he doesn’t know analytic geometry, but the team desperately needs someone that knows analytic geometry. This fool, Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons), blocks Katherine at every available turn from being as efficient at her job as she could be if he would just leave her the-fuck alone. He is so afraid that she will formulate the coordinates before he can formulate them that he not only loses sight of the bigger picture, but he loses his own mathematical mojo. And the whole project takes longer than it needs to take, which undermines the credibility of the entire team in the eyes of the White House and military and puts the project in danger of being shut down.

Stafford plays so many stupid games that Kevin Costner – whose character Al Harrison is both their supervisor and the film’s requisite white savior – in order to save the project and get those coordinates – has to step in and singlehandedly desegregate the bathrooms, bump up Katherine’s security clearance, get her into the informational briefings with the military brass, and put Stafford in his place – behind the person with the chops to do the fucking math – and rightfully so.

Stafford’s behavior illustrates another truth, too. Greed very often trumps (Trumps) honor. Once Harrison stops Stafford from blacking out information on the calculation printouts, and Katherine is able to start checking the math and coming up with math of her own, she has to type up her math and put it into reports for Stafford to present in the informational briefings (this is before she can attend them). Each time she types up a report, she puts his name on and then hers since she is the one that has done the math. Each time he sees her name, Stafford insists that she take it off because “computers don’t write reports; engineers write reports.” This is a blatant theft of her knowledge. It’s an act of despicable fraud. But that doesn’t stop him. As I said – greed very often trumps honor.

Stafford wants the shine that he gets from entering into those briefings, seeming to have come up with “the answers.” He doesn’t care how debased the desire is or how indecent the method is by which he fulfills it. And, sadly, his character is not atypical.

And that brings me to my last little reflection. Dreamers need lovers. We need people that believe in and support us but also want us even after we have failed, which we will, over and over again.

Mary’s husband finally comes around after she gets into those night classes; he comes to her and tells her that he is proud and certain that she will make an amazing engineer. It is only then, in that moment, that we get to see how badly Mary wanted and perhaps even needed that sort of assurance from him. It is only then that she voices her own doubts about her ability, which is something that even the most ardent dreamer needs to be able to do sometimes, but in a safe space.

Dreamers need lovers, and I venture to say that lovers need dreamers, too. To inspire them to keep on opening and pouring out themselves, which is just as hard to do as building some imaginary thing out of thin air. Or harder.

I liked “Hidden Figures.” It was formulaic, sure, but it was well-done, wise, and wonderfully acted. I saw it twice, and I enjoyed it twice.

I took my Girlie, and she loved it. She left with stars in her eyes and hope for her future self beating in her chest. She told me that she really believes now that she can become a video game designer. So there you go.

Mission accomplished.

Daily Prompt: Seriousness

via Daily Prompt: Seriousness

I am beginning to doubt the seriousness of Americans that say they want to stop Trump.

There – I said it.

I don’t believe the Democrats. I don’t believe the so-called moderate members of the GOP. I don’t believe the women. I don’t believe the black people. I don’t believe the undocumented immigrants, their documented family members, or their family members that are citizens.

I don’t believe the families of those affected by the “Muslim Ban.” I don’t believe the Democratic or neoliberal pundits or talk show hosts like Bill Maher or Trevor Noah.

Because everybody is talking about stopping Trump – feeding his martyr complex and narcissistic paranoia – his Twitter feed and whatever personnel machine is rolling out his executive orders like copies of Those Damn Nazis – but nobody is doing anything that will actually stop him.

I chose Those Damn Nazis as my example strategically. I’m pretty certain that very few of you – my regular readers – if any of you – have ever read it. However, it begins with this sentiment that could just as easily undergird Trump’s brand of republicanism as it did Hitler’s “National Socialism.”

“We are nationalists because we see the nation as the only way to bring all the forces of the nation together to preserve and improve our existence and the conditions under which we live,” it reads.

The nation is the organic union of a people to protect its life. To be national is to affirm this union in word and deed. To be national has nothing to do with a form of government or a symbol [emphasis added]. It is an affirmation of things, not forms. Forms can change, their content remains. If form and content agree, then the nationalist affirms both. If they conflict, the nationalist fights for the content and against the form [emphasis added]. One may not put the symbol above the content. If that happens, the battle is on the wrong field and one’s strength is lost in formalism [emphasis added]. The real aim of nationalism, the nation, is lost.

The Constitution established three branches of federal government in Articles I-II and prescribed their respective duties in such a way that each branch would check and balance the powers of the other. That is the form of our republic, to use Joseph Goebbels’s terminology. There is an intentional separation of powers, thanks to James Madison, John Rutledge, Edmund Randolph, James Wilson, and the other members of the Committee on Postponed Parts of the Constitutional Convention. This separation of powers is intended to prevent any one branch of government from taking over the government of the nation.

Luckily, every President from 1-44 has been a Constitutional formalist, more or less. But not 45. No – 45 apparently believes what Goebbels believed, if we take these first weeks of his presidency as indicators of where he stands on the question of whether nationalism should outweigh constitutionalism.

We see this is the way that Trump has consistently circumnavigated the reach of Congress by issuing executive order after executive order.

According to the National Constitution Center, “For almost a century after the founding of the United States, the amount of ‘executive orders’ was relatively limited. That may be because there is no actual provision in the Constitution that speaks to executive orders [emphasis added]. The power has developed over time, with presidents using Article II, Section 3—the “Executive” should “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed”—as a basis for creating law without Congress as long as it holds true to the Constitution [emphasis added].”

To contextualize Trump’s issuances, Maggie Baldridge, an intern at the Center, explains:

Perhaps the most famous executive order, the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln, marked a shift in the power of the executive branch to essentially circumnavigate Congress when deemed necessary . . . However, the deteriorating state of the nation and the urgency of action on both practical and moral levels could justify what many believe was an increase to the power of the executive branch [emphasis added] . . . While the average number of orders increased in the latter part of the 19th century, three men in the 20th century truly expanded the power of the executive via the executive order: Theodore Roosevelt with a total of 1,081 orders, Woodrow Wilson with 1,803[,] and Franklin D, Roosevelt with a lofty 3,522 total executive orders . . . The federal government [and] executive branch . . . as we know them today are results of these presidents and the actions they took. [However,] [s]ince Eisenhower took office in 1953, no modern president has come close to the number of orders of even Theodore Roosevelt. Ronald Reagan had 381 over his 8 years, George W. Bush had 291 and Barack Obama had a total of 276.

Baldridge notes that Obama issued 10 of his total 276 executive orders in the first nine days of his first term, but she still questions whether Trump should be issuing so many executive orders so early in his administration.

She asks, “Should executive orders be considered constitutional in the first place? Do they give too much power to one branch of government and therefore obscure the system of checks and balances intended by the Framers of the Constitution?”

I think the more relevant question is whether Trump’s executive orders are justified or they constitute an attempt on his part to outmaneuver the separation of power in the Fed and run the country like some sort of dictatorship.

Trump inherited an America in which President Obama, over his two terms in office, maintained a low inflation rate, cut the federal deficit by two-thirds, reduced the unemployment rate (which had skyrocketed during the recession in 2009), and fostered the expansion of US exports, the improvement of stock prices, positive if minimal growth in the GDP, job growth (also minimal), and global growth (yes – also minimal – but positive). Despite the lies Trump propagates about the state of the union after Obama, the US is not in a “deteriorating state” or crisis, as would necessitate his need to push through all of this self-written (or ghostwritten) policy. So, Trump is doing something other than “saving” us with all of these directives, which I think we all knew, but, you know, in the interest of fairness . . .

On the surface – and especially for those with sparse knowledge of the legislative process – it probably just looks like Trump is pandering to his electorate, churning out all these orders to “make good” on his campaign promises. I want to point out, though, what may not be obvious about this approach of Trump’s, but should certainly be troubling to all Americans and galvanizing to the Democrats if they really do care anything about, oh, you know, preserving our governmental structure, honoring the philosophy of democracy, and doing their fucking jobs.

By issuing directives rather than drafting bills, Trump is crafting a style of leadership that is going – at least partially – unchecked and unbalanced by Congress.

Executive orders and presidential memoranda – as – again – I explained in an earlier post – go directly from the Oval into effect and carry the weight of law.

This is problematic, to say the last, for a dubious instrument of executive power, particularly when its use is virtually unlimited.

It’s problematic, but it’s still workable because executive orders can be nullified at the state level, according to Amendment 10 of the Constitution. It reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

Since the Constitution does not explicitly or formally grant the President of the US the power to issue executive orders, the states can legally refuse to comply with Trump’s orders, if they want to. They would probably just have to do some form of battle in the Supreme Court with Trump if they refused to comply. But I say, so fucking what?

It should be worth it to the Democrats in Congress – and Republicans, for that matter – because it’s the right thing to do. Trump didn’t win the popular vote. That means the majority of Americans didn’t want him to be our President. So, if our representatives are in fact our representatives, and they are serious about fulfilling that duty, they shouldn’t be going along to get along with this guy and the authoritarian bullshit he keeps pulling out from under his disastrous toupee.

Representatives and Senators from both parties should have by now confronted the fact that heedless power-hunger on the Right and neoliberal arrogance on the Left walled us all into this preposterous Trump presidency. And they should be doing everything in their power to get us out it, and we – the people – should be demanding that they take definitive action lest we refuse to vote them back into office come 2018. Especially the Democrats.

They, in particular, have an opportunity right now to stand up. Literally right now. They can show their seriousness and possibly get Trump impeached. If they’re daring, and they’re dogged.

Because several reputable news sources are reporting that Michael Flynn – Trump’s former security advisor – “former” after less than a month in the position, mind you – lied consistently over that fragment of a month about his interactions with Russia’s ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, and may have played a peripheral role in the Kremlin’s interference in our election.

Flynn told Mike Pence, other unnamed White House officials, and investigators for the FBI that when he spoke to Kislyak back in December he did his appointed duty – he set up a phone call to take place between Kislyak and Trump after the inauguration.

He insisted that he did not discuss sanctions being imposed by President Obama at the time. Sanctions imposed in answer to Russian interference in the election. Interference that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in its declassified report on the incident, described as

 . . . an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election [with the] goals . . . to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency [as well as]  help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.

The intelligence report on this “influence campaign” states that “[a]ll three agencies agree . . . [the] CIA and FBI [with] high confidence [and] NSA [with] moderate confidence . . . [that] [Moscow]. . . followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls.'”

The report reiterates: “Russia’s intelligence services conducted cyber operations against targets associated with the 2016 US presidential election, including targets associated with both major US political parties . . . [and] obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards.”

The only thing of which Russia is not guilty, according to the report, is tampering with vote tallying.

This is why Pence and Sean Spicer took Flynn’s first stage lies about his conversation with Kislyak and passed them swiftly on to the media and public in mid-January, on the heels of the release of the intelligence on Russia.

Pence and Spicer knew that anyone with a mustard seed of logic was putting two and two together and reasoning that Flynn was passing covert messages from Trump to Putin through Kislyak.

Yes. It’s not only plausible but likely that Flynn’s “interactions” were assurances that Putin would be rewarded in some form for helping to cement Trump’s victory, the most obvious and simple being that Trump would drop the sanctions against Russia as soon as he got into office.

But even if Flynn wasn’t assuring Putin of his grand prize – or – worse – instructing him on how to hide the fact that he colluded with Trump to tamper with the election – might Flynn still have been legally wrong for talking policy with Kislyak before the inauguration? The American people need to know.

Trump was not President until January 20, 2017, so, if he was ordering Flynn to say anything to Putin about sanctions or any other governmental policy matter in December of 2016, was that treason? The American people need to know.

Did Trump – through Flynn – ask Putin to interfere in the election or grant him permission to interfere? Did Flynn pass along tips on how to most effectively weaponize their espionage or take notes to report to Trump?

I don’t know, but the answer seems to me like a solid-ass “maybe so.”

Disinformation is a legitimate form of electoral fraud. It is defined as the distribution of false or misleading information in order to affect the outcome of an election.

The UC can’t indict Putin for electoral fraud, but, if Trump worked with Putin, then he may be an accessory to disinformation, and the Trump administration might have its first legitimate scandal on its hands – a plot to “fix” the election that could include Trump, Pence, Spicer, Flynn, Comey, and maybe even former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

The story unfolds with typical political intrigue and tells of typical political subterfuge – and it leaves the same old unsavory taste in my mouth, at least, as establishment politicians’ deception, even though Trump promised he would be “different.”

Flynn’s phone conversation with Kislyak was “intercepted” by the “American intelligence apparatus that typically monitors Russian diplomats.” The Justice Department received and reviewed a transcript of the conversation, and it showed that Flynn did talk about sanctions with Kislyak after all.

What else could he have logically been saying other than Trump would drop the sanctions, so Russia didn’t need to react to them?  I mean – Trump himself said, days before the election, “If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?

Trump also downplayed the vitality of Russian interference in the election by insisting that because there was “no tampering whatsoever with voting machines” – prevarication like an MF – “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election” – and I find this suspicious since electoral fraud is such a serious crime in our country.

Too, Trump’s staff sat on the revelation that Flynn had lied about his conversation with Kislyak for days before Flynn resigned yesterday – at Trump’s behest. Both The Washington Post and The New York Times reported, within hours of his resignation: Sally Q. Yates, the acting attorney general fired by Trump on January 31, told White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, on January 26 that Flynn discussed sanctions with Kislyak during their phone conversation, and Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Moscow because he had lied on the record.

He was a serious – speaking of – threat to national security, but Trump did nothing about him. Not until the story broke in the news that Flynn lied to Pence. Then, Trump asked for Flynn’s resignation. This makes it seem as if Trump had no problem with what Flynn told Kislyak until Trump stood to get raked over the coals in the press for it.

However it went, Flynn is out of the White House now, and the FBI is investigating him. Prominent Democrats and Republicans in Congress are calling for a Senate committee investigation of his correspondences with Russia (there was more than the one), and I heard a few journalists on the cable evening news shows saying there should be an independent, impartial investigation with a high degree of transparency.

I say the Democrats should do something more drastic than “call for” a potentially abortive investigation by the Senate if they want a snowball’s chance in our overheating climate of gaining back some Congressional seats in 2018.

I’ve been watching all of this Trump drama closely, and what I’ve seen so far, as Trump et al. have stupidly ravaged the ACA, the Dodd-Frank Bill, the fiduciary rule, National Security Council’s Principals Committee, federal funding for sanctuary cities, reproductive health advocacy, the TPP, sacred lands belonging to the First Nation people, and perfectly viable immigration policies, among so many other things, is the Democrats in Congress putting up a very weak, ineffectual fight against their autocratic sweep into power.

That’s why I haven’t written here in so long. I’ve been depressed. I’ve begun to think the neocameralist society for which the alt-right seems to be pushing is a mere one or two executive orders away.

A fellow WordPress blogger, a couple weeks ago, wrote an anniversary tribute to the publication of James Baldwin’s canonical text, The Fire Next Time, and began the post with this quote: ” . . . [A] civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless.”

When I read this, I can’t lie; I thought immediately about the Democratic Party and what is happening politically in America right now.

As I said, though, this Flynn situation is an opportunity. Democrats can use it to do a few things they have desperately needed to do to clean up their share of the mess left after the collision of Hillary and Trump.

First, the Democratic Representatives and Senators should unite with any Republicans they can to formalize a civil resistance campaign against Trump whose main tactic is refusing to follow any of his executive orders that elicit “notable” opposition from their constituents (hundreds of thousands of signatures on petitions, phone calls, postcards, and so on).

As I pointed out before, Amendment 10 says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” This can be the legal grounds for their action.

They cannot be charged with treason. The Constitution defines treason as “levying War against [the United States], or . . . adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Even Trump – with his gift for deliberate misconstruance – can’t frame the sort of civil resistance I’m proposing as that. And, anyway, if the campaign is bipartisan, Trump would be hard-pressed to discredit the motives of his own party members. He can’t accuse Republicans of trying to wrest power for their party because they are his party, and they have a super majority right now.

Second, the Democrats should launch a speech campaign. They should have the best-liked members of the party – Warren, Sanders, Pelosi, Booker, Waters – go to the states where they are in the most danger of losing seats in 2018 or where they could finagle seats if they strike the proper chord with fringe voters and hold major televised “meetings” designed to rebrand the party.

During these events, they should talk about the boycott against Trump, couching it in a rhetoric of patriotism and service. They should tell America their reluctance to support Trump is rooted in a deep concern for the future well-being of all Americans – and especially those that held their noses and voted for Trump – who will likely have hardest time swallowing the bitter consequences that are already coming to pass.

Because that’s the Democrats’ biggest problem right now, as far as I can see. Nobody wants to buy their brand. In the aftermath of the election, they look like pussies (no macho). During the election, they looked like snobs.

They made Hillary their proxy, and, even though she is an up-by-her-bootstraps or “self-made” American, she put on airs. She discussed Americans that refused to parse or acknowledge the trickery of the GOP’s antics like they were stupid when she should’ve cast them as “suffering” or “afraid.”

At the LGBT for Hillary fundraiser back in September, we all know what she said:

And if you have read about the ones he says he’s likely to support, he’s not kidding. In fact, if you look at his running mate, his running-mate signed a law that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT Americans. And there’s so much more than I find deplorable in his campaign: the way that he cozies up to white supremacist, makes racist attacks, calls women pigs, mocks people with disabilities — you can’t make this up. He wants to round up and deport 16 million people, calls our military a disaster. And every day he says something else which I find so personally offensive, but also dangerous. You know, the idea of our country is so rooted in continuing progress that we make together. Our campaign slogan is not just words. We really do believe that we are stronger together. We really do believe that showing respect and appreciation for one another lifts us all up.

She made Trump supporters feel small when she should’ve been offering them “empathy.”

I don’t care what anybody says. Americans can be like spoiled children about our so-called “comfort levels.” We live in one of the most prosperous countries – still – in the world, and we do not deal well with having to forego things we want or feeling like our needs are being overlooked. Even our poverty is less punishing than other countries’ poverty.

So politicians that want to win our favor have to coddle us. It’s true. We buy wholeheartedly into the concept that they are beholden to our votes, and we expect them to be actual public servants. That is why successful politicians like President Obama and, yes, Trump very scrupulously filter out even the slightest undertone of disapproval when they talk to us about ourselves.

These politicians assure us that our fears and petty feelings of rivalry and neglect are understandable and forgivable. They reassure us. I may not be able to give you this, they say, but what about this other thing? See, they say, I’m not asking you to do without everything or accept just anything. I want what you want; I just want these other things, too. Let’s just see if we can’t compromise. I give; you give.

The Democrats should see this more clearly now than they ever did before. They should not go on the offensive, attacking Trump voters or blaming them for getting American into this morass. They shouldn’t attack Trump, either, who is their proxy – the septuagenarian trust fund baby with narcissistic personality disorder that wants to be a hillbilly and holy icon at the same damn time.

Rather than cataloging all of the outrages Trump has committed, the Democrats should explain: ensuring America doesn’t lose its ideals and advantages in the age of globalization is a more complicated matter than attempting to turn back the hands of time, and, even if the government could turn the tide of globalization, which it can’t, the answers to America’s real problems – a relatively sluggish economy, gun violence, pollution, terrorism, dependence on foreign oil, and, yes, partisan polarity in politics, do not lie in the past.

Then, one by one, they should address each problem triangularly: W. did this, and it didn’t work in these ways; Obama did this, and it didn’t work in these ways; Trump is proposing that we do this, and it won’t work, either, in these ways. They should be honest, and they should speak in clear, accessible terms. Fifth grade, sixth grade level of vocabulary. Like Trump.

Establishmentarianism isn’t going to fix our problems – the Democrats should acknowledge – but pulling the rug from out under the establishment won’t work either – they should argue – because it will violently disrupt everything that the US has in place that is working.

Then, they should explain what is working or at least what was working before Trump got into office.

They should tell us that their primary goal now is actual productive bipartisanship. We want to be a party whose different demographics are united – they should say – and we want to unite the different demographics that populate the nation, no matter each person’s individual political affiliation.

They should point out that there are nearly 50 ongoing armed conflicts occurring in the world today in a total of 44 countries – the oldest one dating back to 1922 in Iran – and the majority are not between countries fighting each other; they are between countrymen and countrywomen fighting each other.

They should remind us that just like the boom eras of the 1920s and 1950s are in our history – the one to which Trump appears to want to return – so too is the Civil War era – during which Americans split up regionally and along lines of economic interest and threatened to destroy the entire nation’s solvency with their refusal to work through out their differences peaceably.

They should be serious, but they should not be snobbish.

Bravado has its appeal, but so does vulnerability. So does humility. Americans have shown through their embrace of Trump that they appreciate an unvarnished approach to politicking, but, through their embrace of Obama, they have also shown that they can appreciate a subtle approach just as much.

Obama never called anyone names – well – except Kanye West that one time. He kept the Tea Party at bay and got two terms in office by being subtle. Something Trump will never be. An art the rest of the Democratic Party better master.

Obama legalized gay marriage, but did not make a highly publicized deal out of the fact that he appointed more openly gay officials to government than Clinton and Bush combined (including the first openly gay US Army Secretary). He withdrew troops from Iraq, but kept them in Afghanistan. He dealt diplomatically with Iran, but continued to fight W. Bush’s drone war in Pakistan.

Obama admitted Syrian refugees, but deported millions of undocumented, mostly Mexican immigrants with criminal records. Obama gave highly performative, emotional speeches about the several mass shootings and instances of fatal, racist police brutality that occurred while he was in office, but he didn’t make major changes to gun laws or push in a concrete way for reforms in law enforcement even though he had the leverage to do so (police departments do receive federal funding to which he could’ve attempted to add stipulations).

Obama never directly addressed disaffected lower middle class, working class, and poor white Americans the way Trump did during his campaign, but he demonstrated, in the way he handled certain issues, that he “cared” about the issues that upset and economically affected them. He made sure the ACA was universally effective, created 15 million jobs (800,000 in manufacturing), and spent $80 billion bailing out the auto industry.

Obama had the same neoliberal “high road” patter as Hillary, but without the superiority complex. When he was campaigning for Hillary, he didn’t deride the offensive things that Trump did on the campaign trail. He was savvy enough to realize that Americans are more adept at seeming evolved than they are at evolving.

And that is what the Democrats in Congress have to accept as well. The party ran Hillary because they thought the electorate couldn’t resist the opportunity to put the first woman President in the Oval Office; they mistakenly projected their own smugness about their ability to “transcend” the entrenched racism and patriarchy of our culture onto the American masses.

They thought the rest of America was as high on self-righteousness and self-adulation as they were in the aftermath of Obama. They thought we wanted more – we wanted another eight years of being able to pat ourselves on the back for voting as what that indubitable guru of personal growth Oprah Winfrey calls our “best selves.”

They thought every single woman in the country that wasn’t a Republican would dive at the chance to cast a vote for a woman, despite the fact she is a member of the white ruling class, and her tone-deaf promises that the “future is female” do not placate people of color – some of which happen to be women too – that still need seats at the table of power.

The Democrats also thought they could exploit the public’s mental association of Hillary with Obama – substitute his likability for her lack – and win over his – yes – fans – by making her platform a lazy extension of his slightly over-intellectual – at least by American standards – agenda.

They assumed that smart Americans could see straight through the trumped-up accusations related to what Politico calls the “scandal of [the] ‘home brew’ email server,” and they would delight throwing the GOP’s corruption and Trump’s ridiculousness back in his face.

They ignored the implications of the catalyzation and legitimization of the Tea Party and opted to believe that between 2008-2016 the US realized – pretty much wholesale – the “worthlessness” of institutional racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia.

They stuck stubbornly to the idea that people want their government to lead them down the supposed “high road” to safety and comfort when in truth most Americans don’t care how they get “there” just as long as they do.

They also ignored the animal nature of human beings and the way large groups – with their anonymity and companionship and safety – make people feel they can safely misbehave.

They made what amounted to a huge mistake, and, now, they can fix it, but they have make a concerted effort to do something – fuck – if it can’t be new then – else. They have do something other than what they’ve been doing. Obviously.

So, during their speech campaign – I’m back to my plan now – they should admit that Hillary was an imprudent choice for the party’s Presidential candidate. They should acknowledge the need for “fresh” faces and voices in the fore of the party and set the stage to push a carefully selected crop from the back of the proverbial bus.

They should name the names and flash the faces of the new Democratic vanguard that will work “tirelessly” to make up to us – the people – the inadvertent way the forgivable misunderstandings and misconceptions of the old guard pushed so many Americans to put their faith in a shyster like Trump.

To seem like they are on “our” side, and not Trump’s, they should encourage dissatisfied demographics to strike, and they should aim that encouragement very deliberately and sympathetically at fringe Trump supporters that stand to lose their health insurance when the ACA is repealed or Trump supporters that failed to anticipate the stringency of his immigration policies. Their anger is usable.

Politics are a game, but they are a deathly serious one. They are a game, and people don’t like that, but the saving grace is games have rules. People that want to keep playing know that they need to follow them.

If the Democrats in Congress play fair (enough) – if they do right – they can get back into the good graces of the American people – and either depose Trump or vote him out of office in 2020 – God willing.

They just need to get serious about their oath, which says, “I . . . do solemnly swear . . . that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

And the rest of us – women, blacks, Latinx, LGBTQIA+, First Nation – that swear we cannot live under Trump need to get serious, too, and start acting like it. Or shut the hell up, bend over, and take these four years of oppressive political ass-whipping like some Gs.

I’m not saying that we’re not doing anything, but we’re not doing enough.

We can create our own campaigns of civil resistance like a large-scale tax resistance or demonstrations. We can boycott. We can strike. And, when the midterm elections come, we must vote. We must also vote in 2020, especially if Trump is running for re-election. We have to defend ourselves from his manipulation and dangerous misrule.

Because that guy is a domestic enemy of the United States or at least any United States in which would like to live or raise my daughter.

The threat he poses to us is beyond serious, and, if we don’t do something to curb his craziness, we will either live to regret it, or there is the terrifying possibility that some of us – a lot of us – won’t.

(China. Iran. Iraq. North Korea. Russia. Syria. Yemen.)