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.

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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.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Logical Fallacy of the Anti-Abortion Conservative & The Reason Trump and His Cronies Can Go Choke on a Communion Wafer

Anyone that has been following me for longer than one post knows I am a stickler when it comes to using words. Or maybe you don’t. So let me tell you. It can take me five or six hours to write a post sometimes because I keep trying to capture my ideas perfectly.

I never write unless I can compose on a computer, so I can open up Edge if I’m using Word, or a second tab in Edge if I’m blogging, and have up the Merriam-Webster website in case I need to look up a word.

I even have a whole collection of axioms I use when I’m teaching to stress the importance of being exacting when it comes to using words. I tell my students there is an entire lexicon of words to capture their ideas, so stop using the same 20 or 30. Do not rely on context clues to define a new word – I tell them – look it up. Do not use a word whose meaning you do not know, no matter how “sophisticated” you think it sounds.

I tell them there are no two less descriptive adjectives in the English language than “good” and “bad” – these words can mean anything to anyone. Adverbs are often just crutches for writers that don’t know a wide enough variety of action verbs. Very few words are truly interchangeable, and that is particularly true of the two words I’m going to break down in this post.

One of the defining characteristics of American political conservatives – who are mostly Republicans – is that they are “pro-life.” This term, as it is customarily used, refers to people purported to believe abortion is immoral and should be illegal.

John Hawkins, in an article differentiating conservatives and liberals, writes, “Conservatives believe that abortion ends the life of an innocent child and since we believe that infanticide is wrong, we oppose abortion.” To me – a liberal black Democrat feminist – this explanation captures perfectly the inaccuracy of the term “pro-life.” Conservatives are not really pro-life; they’re just anti-abortion.

They propagate the idea that human life begins at conception, and supposedly root their beliefs about abortion in that idea, but, when it comes to their other political beliefs, they expose an undeniable callousness about the preciousness of human life that ultimately undermines them.

Their “pro-life” language and optics can be pretty compelling, but I still say they are not convincing, and the majority of conservatives that oppose abortion politically and publically are not actually concerned with the immorality of the act of killing but rather the ramifications of a paradigm shift in America’s racial demography.

They don’t care about the poor lost babies; they care about the fact that white women obtained 39% of abortions in America in 2014 while black women obtained 28%, Latinx women obtained 25%, and other races and ethnicities only obtained 9%.

They care about the fact that 75% of women that obtained abortions in America in 2014 were low income or poor, and these abortions placed them in better positions to attend school, work, build, and retain some wealth.

According to Gallup, the majority of Republicans in America are white (89%),  and we know the majority of political conservatives are Republican.

The majority of conservatives in government are also Republican, white, and supposedly “pro-life,” and this now includes Trump – He Who I Shall Not Call President.

I think Trump’s pro-life views are just another guise for his all-consuming opportunism. I won’t say the thing I want to say about how likely it is that as a philandering billionaire, Trump has paid for more than a few hasty secret abortions in his time, but I will say that up until his Presidential campaign last year, he appeared to be – and he was quoted in 1999 referring to himself as – “very pro-choice.”

I think he flip-flopped to help win over the conservative electorate, and that would be fine with me if it didn’t translate into him making efforts at the federal level to strip American women of their abortion rights.

In regards to staunch “pro-lifers” like Vice President Michael Pence, I won’t say that they are lying about being Christians or believing abortion is wrong because there’s no way I can know that.

But I can and do conjecture that their religious beliefs are not the true basis of their official stance against abortion. They oppose abortion for political reasons and lie about it so they don’t seem like ruthless monsters or machines.

I say this because the prevailing sentiment throughout the New Testament is that disciples of Jesus should go out and try to win and save souls, but disciples are characterized as trained teachers and preachers in the Bible, and not laymen, and no Christian’s salvation is hinged by the Word on his or her ability to keep another Christian or another person from committing sins.

In other words, Christianity doesn’t mandate that believers actively block the sinful decisions and actions of others. It doesn’t encourage believers to interfere with other people’s lives that aggressively. The Bible says tell people about the Trinity, pray for people, model Christian behavior for them, but do not judge or seek to punish them because that is God’s job alone.

And anyway, even if these highly vocal conservatives in government do care about the souls of their constituents, their myopic focus on abortion as the main political conduit for conveying morality to the American people – if such a thing can even be done – says that isn’t the only thing they are trying to accomplish with their anti-abortion antics.

Because drug use, alcohol consumption, pornography, and prostitution are all still booming in America today, but you don’t see conservatives pushing for any legislation to more efficiently block Americans’ access to any of them.

And rape, divorce, defrauding people, gambling, persecuting others, and acting against the poor are all sins, according to the Bible, but American laws actually enable all of these things, and conservatives do very little, if anything, to change, improve, or strengthen these laws.

Unborn babies aren’t the only ones dying because of the wide berth our current laws give Americans to exercise their free will. Conservatives could take political umbrage with the way a dozen different issues are legislated at the moment, or make a dozen different strategic moves in this session of Congress, if saving lives is really what they wanted to do, but, as we should all see from the endless fucking stream of government articles on the Internet, they don’t.

Conservatives don’t want increased gun control in a country where there were 372 mass shootings that killed 475 people in 2015; there were 13,286 people killed by firearms (excluding suicides); and 60% of murders were committed with guns.

Conservatives want to repeal Obamacare before creating and implementing a workable replacement when research shows that 45,000 Americans died each year due to lack of health insurance before Obamacare.

Conservatives want to end government programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program a/k/a food stamps), Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance, yet, again, research shows that 162,000 Americans die annually due to low social support; 133,000 die due to individual-level poverty; and 119,000 die due to income inequality.

Conservatives give blanket support to law enforcement though American police killed an estimated 928 people every year for the last eight years, and there is no way of knowing – because of inefficient tracking procedures – which of these killings were justified and which were avoidable.

And while we’re at it – conservatives believe in a strong military, yet “approximately 165,000 [Iraqi] civilians have died from direct war related violence caused by the US, its allies, the Iraqi military and police, and opposition forces from the time of the [US] invasion through April 2015 . . . through aerial bombing, shelling, gunshots, suicide attacks, and fires started by bombing.”

According to their propaganda, human life begins at the moment of conception, but it also seems to end at the instant of birth – the point at which they stop trying to pantomime concern and exploit their preciousness for the sake of political expediency.

Conservatives want to outlaw the 1.2 million abortions that American women have each year, regardless of their reasons, but seem to have no problem with directly or indirectly facilitating the deaths of roughly half that number of full people through the exercise of a malignant passel their other political beliefs.

It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Where does their supposed Christian concern for life and will to save innocent souls go when they are tussling back-and-forth with Democrats that want to save Obamacare or toughen up gun control or stop the use of military torture on our so-called enemies? I mean, hey, Christians are supposed to love their enemies.

And if anti-abortion laws are really only about getting women to have their babies, then why don’t conservatives focus on getting women to have their babies willingly?

According to the Guttmacher Institute, “The reasons patients gave for having an abortion underscored their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life [emphasis added]. The three most common reasons—each cited by three-fourths of patients—were concern for or responsibility to other individuals; the inability to afford raising a child; and the belief that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents. Half said they did not want to be a single parent or were having problems with their husband or partner.”

So where are the conservatives pushing for the laws that increase and equalize women’s wages, mandate paid maternity leave and maternal job retention, subsidize childcare costs, or grant free family health insurance or childcare to enrolled college students?

You don’t see or hear from these conservatives because conservatives’ issue with abortion isn’t really moral, and their campaign against it isn’t borne out of compassion; it’s borne out of their bottomless cunning.

I think when conservatives insist that infant lives matter, they are prevaricating. They are couching shrewd political strategy in seeming ethicality. They’re not talking about saving souls. They’re trying to shore up political and economic power to comfortably sustain them into the country’s uncertain future.

Conservatives are, again, mostly Republican, and Republicans are mostly white. Whites have hegemonic power over America as a result of being the framers of the republic and authors and economic beneficiaries of slavery and the Industrial Revolution in North America.

A primary factor in their hegemony is their numbers; they are the majority, so, when they vote together, as witnessed in the last Presidential race, they can dictate the leadership of the country and choose such that the leadership acts primarily in their favor.

When conservatives fight to take away women’s right to abortion, they are not fighting the wages of sin. They are fighting to stave off the arrival of the mythological majority-minority tipping point date, on which they will no longer be the majority and so easily able to secure their hegemony. They are fighting, behind that, to saddle poor minorities with children they can’t afford, so they have a harder time educating themselves, working, and building wealth or rather encroaching on the money white people want to horde for themselves, and, behind that, they are fighting to keep a perennial underclass in American society that is made of mostly of minorities – a segment of the population that is persistently poor and mired in pathologies of poverty that keep its members from rising to the working or middle classes, where they could become competition for less affluent whites.

Conservatives understand that unplanned, unaffordable pregnancies are often “part of the vicious cycle of poverty,” in which “kids born into poverty are likely to remain there for their whole lives, despite the promise of the American Dream.”

They also know that “compared with having an abortion, being denied an abortion may be associated with greater risk of initially experiencing adverse psychological outcomes,” and “[p]sychological well-being improved over time so that both groups of women eventually converged.” Women that are denied abortions do not end up “happier” than women that are allowed to have them.

I think this is important for women to realize because we are – across communities – conditioned to care deeply about how we appear under the male gaze – to be “good” girls (see – that projective-ass word)  and – when the men with the loudest voices and weightiest opinions censure our options for our lives – it is difficult for many of us to bear up under that and fight for the resources and choices we need to be autonomous.

Conservatives make a lot of moralistic and misogynistic arguments against abortion (not the least is the sub-textual argument that women’s overall wellbeing in politically expendable), but the truth is the majority of women don’t use abortions as a means of birth control, and they don’t relish having to make the decision or go through with having an abortion. They do it because it’s what they feel they have to do.

The majority of women have abortions out of financial, psychological, and/or physical necessity, and they do not choose adoption because to do so they would still have to take on the financial, psychological, and physical of pregnancy, and those are not incidental in the least – no matter what conservative white male members of Congress that know everything they know about pregnancy and childbirth from watching their affluent wives and side chicks go through it might say.

And, despite the misleading way conservatives talk about cutting funding for institutions like Planned Parenthood, federal money does not pay for abortions in any institutional setting, even if abortions are given in that setting.

Sadly, anti-abortion laws don’t ensure either – in conjunction with blocking abortions – that every American child that is allowed to be born is adequately fed, clothed, housed, educated, or loved.

According to Children’s Rights, there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the US right now. Nearly six percent of children in foster care stay in for five or more years. More than half of the children entering foster care are racial minorities. Fourteen percent of children in foster care are not in family settings; they are in institutions or group homes.

In 2015, over 62,000 American children whose parents’ parental rights had been terminated were waiting to be adopted, and more than 20,000 young adults aged out of foster care without permanent families.

Research has shown that those who leave care without being linked to forever families have a higher likelihood than youth in the general population to experience homelessness, unemployment and incarceration as adults.”

Too, 686,000 US children in foster care in 2012 were victims of abuse – 78.3% of these babies were neglected, 18.3% were battered, 9.3% were physically abused, 8.5% were “psychologically maltreated,” and 1,640 died from abuse and neglect.

If conservative Republicans were really ’bout that life – as they say in the streets – where so many unwanted American children end up after everything is said and done on Capitol Hill – they’d be brainstorming ways to keep these young ones out of foster care, not shove more of them in.

If they were about life at all, and not just money and power, they’d focus on making America livable for everyone and stop using poor women’s wombs as metaphoric or spiritual suicide bombs.

 

America 101: Executive Orders and Presidential Memoranda

Like the abusive boyfriend that I called him in my last post, Trump has conditioned me to be suspicious of his smarmy grin. When I see it, I automatically think he’s up to no good. If he’s not wreaking havoc, why would his orange-colored ass be happy? He’s oppositional. He doesn’t get off on doing what other people want him to do.

News stories swiftly confirmed for me that Trump is indeed busy making trouble; he signed two presidential memoranda and is supposedly drafting an executive order that will bear environmentally racist, Islamophobic, and xenophobic effects.

The first – the Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline – directs the Secretary of the Army  to “take all actions necessary and appropriate to . . . review and approve in an expedited manner . . . requests for approvals to construct and operate the DAPL, including easements or rights-of-way to cross Federal areas.”

The Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline invites TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P. to “promptly re-submit its application to the Department of State for a Presidential permit for the construction and operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline” and directs the Secretary of State to expeditiously review the application, if submitted, and the Secretary of the Army, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “take all actions necessary and appropriate to review and approve  . . . requests for authorization to utilize Nationwide Permit 12 . . . with respect to crossings of the ‘waters of the United States’ by the Keystone XL Pipeline.”

Of course, both directives essentially ignore the fears of the citizens living in the areas through and around which these pipelines will pass, including large numbers of indigenous people from the Standing Rock Sioux and Oglala Lakota Nation.

Finally, the executive order that is in the works, according to The Huffington Post, would “dramatically restrict” the numbers of refugees admitted to the US and deny visas to people from countries Trump and his administration deem “high risk.”

Sources say the details of the order could block Syrian refugees from entering the US indefinitely; block people from countries with so-called “inadequate” security screening from obtaining visas (i.e. entering the country); and, most significantly, target Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – all Muslim-majority countries – because they are “terror-prone.”

It would not constitute a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” as Trump promised during his campaign, but it would be a betrayal of our democratic philosophy and identity as an immigrant nation, as well as constitute a failure to adhere to the principle of non-refoulement, which is regarded as customary international law, according to the United Nations.

I actually think such an executive order, if issued, would also represent an egregious abuse of presidential power because of its potentially fatal ramifications and bigoted logical and political bases. It would target Muslim refugees of color and exacerbate our seeming blindness to the fact that extremist domestic terrorism is a much realer and more dangerous threat to America than Islamic terrorism.

The nomenclature of these three directives – they are “memos” and “orders” and not “bills” or “amendments “- may make them sound less consequential or binding than customary multilateral legislation, but they are not; they have the full force of the law and dictate the actions of departments and agencies under the executive branch of the federal government.

Thankfully, they are still subject to judicial review if the Supreme Court finds that they are not supported by the Constitution or federal law.

Though reporters sometimes talk about them interchangeably, they are not the same thing. Executive orders have more prestige; they are more comprehensive; and they can take legal precedence over – they can interfere with the execution of – a presidential memorandum.

Thankfully again, neither executive orders nor presidential memoranda allow the President to circumnavigate or work around the approval of Congress when it comes to creating or changing major laws and regulations, however both can skirt the need for bipartisanship or cooperation between Republicans and Democrats, which can be problematic with these instruments can affect some very serious, wide-reaching issues.

In fact, the integration of the armed forces (President Harry S. Truman) and desegregation of public schools (President Dwight D. Eisenhower) – historic changes to American history and culture – were both enacted by executive order.

Tragically, an executive order issued by in February 1942 – No. 9066 – also set the stage for the internment of 120,000 innocent Japanese Americans (70,000 of whom were American citizens) during WWII:

Whereas the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material, national-defense premises, and national-defense utilities [it read] . . . as Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War . . . to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he . . . may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion.

In response to Executive Order 9066, General John L. DeWitt issued Public Proclamation No. 1, which designated all of the states of California, Washington, Oregon, and Arizona as Military Areas 1 and 2.

Then, with the power to “exclude” people from these areas as a matter of safety, DeWitt determined that all people of Japanese descent in Area 1 (the western half of Washington and Oregon, the southern half of Arizona, the western half of California from the Oregon border to Los Angeles, and all of the area south of Los Angeles) would be “evacuated” and “relocated.”

Japanese Americans in Area 1 were encouraged to “voluntarily evacuate” to Area 2 and other inland states, but, when many failed to move because of financial constraints, DeWitt issued Public Proclamation No. 4, which prohibited Japanese-Americans from leaving Area 1 and began their forced removal.

This effort culminated in Japanese Americans’ eviction from all of California except war camps in Manzanar and Tule Lake, which entailed the irretrievable loss – in the majority of instances – of their businesses, home, and farms.

This abhorrent episode of our nation’s history reveals how directives from the President can actually facilitate egregious abuses of power by facilitating government actions that disfranchise and oppress less privileged and valorized segments of our population.

As a true example and not a hypothetical scenario, the legality and approbation of Japanese American internment in the US, when weighed with the white supremacist tone of Trump’s campaign platform and erratic personal and professional tendencies, make me afraid for the indigenous people fighting against the construction of DAPL and Keystone XL Pipeline, quite honestly.

I am afraid that Trump’s memoranda might rob a large number of them of the protection – which is not always a matter of shielding someone from violent attack – Presidents are duty-bound to provide American citizens.

I haven’t written on the blog previously about the DAPL or Keystone XL Pipeline, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t troubled me. Regardless of what their builders of the federal government says, they’re not energy or employment pie in the sky.

Their means will not justify their ends if in the end they poison American citizens by order of the nation’s top executive. And this is exactly what it appears they will do, according to probability and well-known research on the dangers of oil contamination.

The DAPL is described on Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access Pipeline Facts website as the “safest and most environmentally sensitive way to transport crude oil from [the Dakotas to Illinois] to American consumer.” The site also claims that the pipeline “crosses almost entirely private land” and not the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.

“United States Army Corps of Engineers alone held 389 meetings with 55 tribes regarding the Dakota Access project,” the site says, and “reached out to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe nearly a dozen times to discuss archaeological and other surveys conducted before finalizing the Dakota Access route.”

“We have great respect for the concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and plan to continue to work with their leaders to address those concerns.”

In a similarly slick and reassuring tone, the Keystone XL Pipeline is described on the TransCanada website as a “critical infrastructure project for the energy security of the United States and for strengthening the American economy” that will “create thousands of well-paying construction jobs” and “generate tens of millions of dollars in annual property taxes” and an estimated $3 billion in gross domestic profit.

All of this copy makes these projects sound amazingly beneficial for the American public, but I will take an educated guess that ETP and TransCanada paid very high-powered, highly skilled consultants to come up with this transparent-seeming language in an attempt to hide the truth that they cannot control every single variable that could play a part in building and maintaining these pipelines.

According to the sales pitch, the DAPL will whisk oil out of the Dakotas on to Iowa and Illinois, and a panoply of perfectly functional, impeccably maintained, and painstakingly inspected safety measures will prevent it from hurting anyone – the same with the Keystone XL Pipeline, transporting oil sands from Alberta, Canada. Yet, numerous credible media reports counter this copy with negative claims about what the DAPL and Keystone XL Pipeline will really do once they are completed and operational.

ETP and TransCanada – and now Donald Trump – posit that these projects will resolve major issues with energy development and production, employment, and our economy. The Standing Rock Sioux argue that as it passes underneath their Lake Oahe, the DAPL may poison their main source of drinking water, and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) warns that by providing more oil to America, the Keystone XL Pipeline will contribute drastically to global warming by producing high levels of greenhouse gas emissions from the transport of tar sand.

Toxic leakage into ground water from the Keystone XL Pipeline is also a likely possibility with extremely harmful results.

Time Magazine captures the wholly justifiable upset indigenous residents in the Dakotas are experiencing in regards to the construction of these pipelines in an article entitled “What to Know About the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests.” 

“Builders . . . insist that they have taken extraordinary measures to safeguard against disaster,” it says, “but . . . even the safest pipelines can leak.”

As with math, history is not on the side of ETP or TransCanada, either: “The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has reported more than 3,300 incidents of leaks and ruptures at oil and gas pipelines since 2010,” according to Time. “And even the smallest spill could damage the tribe’s water supply.”

Research posted on the Auburn University website elucidates the “damage” referenced in the Time article.

It reads: “Ponca City, Oklahoma is an example of one of the cities that is being affected by the expansion of the Keystone pipeline. Ponca City is now receiving an increased amount of toxic emissions from tar sand transport  . . . Tar sand produces 17% more greenhouse gases than traditional crude oil [here the author cites NPR].

“The air quality [in Ponca City] has become life threatening, and residents are forced to breathe in dangerous emissions. Children in surrounding [areas of] the new pipeline are 56% more likely to develop leukemia versus children that live ten miles away.”

The Tar Sands Blockade website explains in further detail: “Tar sands, a mixture of sand, petroleum, and mineral salts, must be diluted with a highly toxic class of chemical . . . [they] are known to sink in water, making cleanup exorbitantly expensive and practically impossible . . . [and when] exposed to air, its diluents [diluting agents] evaporate like paint thinner forming heavy toxic clouds near at ground level.”

CNN report also confirms that, yes, extracting oil from oil sands does pump approximately 17% more greenhouse gases into the air than standard oil extraction

Toxic exposure from breathing these clouds, the Tar Sands Blockade says again, has happened in every instance when tar sands leaked from the existent Keystone Pipeline near residential areas, and it has given people “painful rashes, breathing complications, chemical sensitivities, nausea, migraines, and exacerbated cancer activity.”

I couldn’t locate exact numbers of people essentially poisoned by leaks and emissions from the existent Keystone Pipeline, but I did find this interesting, and horrifying, anecdote about the effects of oil sand poisoning on a Canadian newspaper website (the pipeline transports oil sands from Canada into the US):

In 2006, Dr. John O’Connor, a traveling physician in Canada’s northern Bush found in Fort Chipewyan, downstream from the tar sands’ processing operations, exceptionally high incidences of cancers in the Mikisew Cree residents: ‘The cancers are sort of one extreme — blood and lymphatic cancer, thyroid cancer, central nervous system cancer and bile duct, biliary tract cancer … I saw a lot of auto-immune diseases, like Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, a lot of skin disorders, gastro-intestinal disorders of various types, just a lot. Taken as a whole in the population that was only 850 — it was just phenomenal. It didn’t make any sense.’

“It didn’t make any sense,” O’Connor says, i.e. its causes weren’t genetic; they were environmental.

Federal policy that fails to protect a specific racial group, even in the case of environmental policy, is illegal under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states, “Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races [colors, and national origins] contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes or results in racial [color or national origin] discrimination.”

In pushing forward the construction of the DAPL and Keystone XL Pipeline, Trump is breaking Constitutional law, shirking his duty to faithfully execute the law, violating human rights, and potentially sacrificing thousands of indigenous lives for billions of dollars, yes, but just 50 permanent jobs, at least in the case of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Whether the indigenous population of America was 1 million, 5 million, or 12 million before colonialism and westward expansion – theories various camps of historians argue among one another – what is fact is there were only 250,000 indigenous peope left in the continguous US that by the end of the 1800s. The indigenous that died were killed – at the highest level – by government policy – a shameful truth for which America can only atone by working as hard as possible to honor the descendants of those lost.

Trump’s memoranda are mere extensions of the US government’s history and perennial policy of taking over indigenous lands, disfranchising indigenous people, and murdering them, even if this time it will happen indirectly and “accidentally.”

These memoranda – along with the executive order on immigration – which is not only ahistorical and isolationist, but also reductive, triangularly biased, and morally disingenuous (it pretends to be fair to Muslim refugees seeking asylum but is really rather simple to misuse) – distort what should be the true purpose for the President to issue a directive. That is to make the executive branch of our government run more smoothly so that it may better serve us – the people.

They distort the true purpose of Presidential office as a whole, but they reveal the true nature of the person this country has elected to be its President.

Trump is a nihilistic capitalist with so little respect for the lives of people of color that he might end up putting Millard Fillmore, Andrew Jackson, or Andrew Johnson to shame when it comes to instituting racist policies with profoundly negative effects on the entire culture.

He said he would make America great again, but he also said he doesn’t read, which might be why he can’t tell the “GR” phoneme from “H.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A hortatory memorandum is issued as a broad policy statement

Trump is Our Bad Boyfriend, and We the People Are Getting Gaslighted

I don’t hate anyone in my real life (versus my political life) except the asshole to which I lost my virginity.

He taught me about gaslighting, and he is probably one of the only people in this world around which I would consistently lose my shit–if I ever allowed his ass around me.

I even skipped my cousin’s last birthday party because I saw on Facebook, in a comment, he planned to come, and I refuse to be closed up in the same room with him. I will do any- and everything I can so I don’t have to speak to him.

He didn’t assault me when we hooked up, but he was a significantly older boy with much more confidence, aggression, emotional dexterity, and sexual experience. He was able to perceive and assess the power differential between us much more quickly and intelligently than I was and exploit it easily and slickly because I was so inexperienced and intimidated by him.

And I hate him for being willing to do that. To ignore all the signs that I wasn’t ready for what was happening or sure I wanted it to happen. To look at my confusion as an advantage of the situation. To be so deeply lacking in empathy or decency.

But I also take responsibility for the fact that I didn’t use my own agency to get out of what I perceived pretty early on as a bad situation.

When I say that this asshole has gaslighted me, I’m not talking about what he did that one afternoon; I’m talking about what he’s done to me ever since that afternoon, every time I have the misfortune of talking to him.

He pretends like I cared for him. Like I invited him into the room and initiated intercourse with him. Like the fact that I didn’t want to be around him in the aftermath is because I am so terribly attracted to him, it makes me afraid and/or embarrassed of myself.

He pretends like we had a relationship. Like I told him that I wanted to be with him. Like I “refuse” to be with him because I am intimidated by his virility and all this other imaginary “good” shit he doesn’t have going for himself.

When he contacts me on Facebook, which he’s done more than a few times, he talks like he knows my desires and understands my preferences and habits. He tells me what I want and what I feel and what I would like to happen between us.

When I tell him to fuck off, he tells me I don’t really mean it. I’m being coy. I need to stop pretending. The reality is, though, of all the wrongheaded shit I’ve done in my entire life–and, mind you, I lived with undiagnosed ADHD for 39 years–having sex with him is what I regret most deeply.

I really do consider him to be the most reprehensible human being I know, namely because he is willing to play such sick games with people’s minds.

In my political or civic life, there is, unfortunately, an equivalent to this asshole, and he is Donald Trump.

(And you might as well resign yourselves–those of you hung up on formality or custom or whatever–because I am not going to call him “President.” Ever.

I’m not going to dignify him because he refuses, much like The Asshole, to acknowledge what he did to the American electorate and deal from a place of accountability.)

Trump is the nation’s bad boyfriend, and he’s gaslighting the shit out of us.

Gaslighting is the deliberate attempt to make a person believe that his or her perceptions of an occurrence are not only incorrect, but that the perceptions are the result of that person’s own mental or emotional instability.

When I say Trump is gaslighting us, I’m not talking about the way he is enacting his electoral agenda. In that area, he’s actually demonstrating some integrity, even though his actions are still damaging as hell.

He said he would repeal the Affordable Care Act, and he signed an executive order yesterday that most experts view as the first significant step in rolling it back– have mercy.

The order makes it possible for the Secretary of Health and other officials to interpret ACA regulations as loosely as possible–to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from or delay implementation of any provision or requirement . . . to the maximum extent permitted by law” and ostensibly interfere with the administration of healthcare to 20 million needful Americans.

This is horrible, but it may actually be the only transparent thing he’s done since winning the election last November.

It begs the question why so many people that are dependent on the provisions of the ACA voted for Trump, but that’s a question for those people to ponder. I voted for HRC, and my conscience, in that respect, is clear.

When I say Trump is gaslighting the American people–and he is–don’t doubt it–I’m talking about his responses to two situations in particular–Russia’s interference in his election and yesterday’s Women’s March on Washington.

If we look really closely at the things Trump has said and done to control the way we–the American public–perceive and process both of these occurrences–we will see that he is employing numerous toxic diversion tactics to persuade us there is nothing wrong with the way he conducted his campaign, or has proceeded since his win to ignore the rising concerns of the electorate–and, if there is any “problem,” it is us.

An article on Thought Catalog lists 20 different diversion tactics that sociopaths and psychopaths use to–and I think it’s particularly germane to this post that the writer uses this term–“silence” the rest of us.

“Toxic people . . .” Shahida Arabi writes, “engage in maladaptive behaviors [and] use a plethora of diversionary tactics that distort the reality of their victims and deflect responsibility.”

Apropos of Trump, Arabi writes, “[A]busive narcissists use these [diversionary tactics] to an excessive extent in an effort to escape accountability for their actions.”

And in the last few weeks, Trump has not only used gaslighting, but projection, blanket statements, nitpicking, moving the goalpost, changing the subject, threats, name-calling, smear campaigning, shaming, and controlling (so a total of 11 out of 20 tactics) to prevent the American public at large from critiquing his words, condemning his actions, and/or opposing his inauguration.

This is not an exaggeration.

The U.S. intelligence community, which includes the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), released a declassified assessment of the Russian “hacking” of the Presidential election on January 6 that stated “Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign” with the goals of “undermin[ing] public faith in the US democratic process, denigrat[ing] Secretary Clinton, and harm[ing] her electability . . .

The media by and large used the vague term “cyberattack” to reference Russia’s efforts to sabotage Hillary Clinton, but the intelligence report is much more detailed in its explanation of what Russia did:

We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency. 

We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.  

In trying to influence the US election, we assess the Kremlin sought to advance its longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, the promotion of which Putin and other senior Russian leaders view as a threat to Russia and Putin’s regime.

Putin publicly pointed to the Panama Papers disclosure and the Olympic doping scandal as US-directed efforts to defame Russia, suggesting he sought to use disclosures to discredit the image of the United States and cast it as hypocritical.

Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him.

Too, Putin wants–note the shift to the present tense here–to “befriend” America for economic reasons. Of course. Is there anything any of these leaders do that isn’t motivated first and foremost by money? (It’s called imperialism.)

According to a CNBC article on Putin, Russia is a “petrostate”–it makes the bulk of its money from oil and gas exports, so, when oil prices drop, or other countries place sanctions on Russia, its economy suffers terribly.

After taking over part of Ukraine in 2014, and being sanctioned by the US and a number of our Western European allies, Russia’s gross domestic product has dropped over 40 percent, but its massive population hasn’t.

So Putin is seeking to lessen the economic pressure the US is putting on Russia. He wants Trump to lift the old and new sanctions against Russia that were ordered by Obama.

According to former Russian ambassador Stephen Sestanovich, he is also seeking “some sort of get-out-jail free card” that will keep the US and Europe from interfering in Russia’s affairs if and when it makes more aggressive moves against other countries.

The Economist says:

Every week Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, finds new ways to scare the world. Recently he moved nuclear-capable missiles close to Poland and Lithuania. This week he sent an aircraft-carrier group down the North Sea and the English Channel. He has threatened to shoot down any American plane that attacks the forces of Syria’s despot, Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s UN envoy has said that relations with America are at their tensest in 40 years. Russian television news is full of ballistic missiles and bomb shelters.

And Russia will keep making moves like this because the country’s economic problems have created unrest between the government and the middle classes in Russia’s largest cities.

Economist staff writes, “Mr Putin has sought [also] to offset vulnerability at home with aggression abroad.”

They claim:

With their mass protests after election-rigging in 2011-12, Russia’s sophisticated urban middle classes showed that they yearn for a modern state. When the oil price was high, Mr Putin could resist them by buying support. Now he shores up his power by waging foreign wars and using his propaganda tools to whip up nationalism. He is wary of giving any ground to Western ideas because Russia’s political system, though adept at repression, is brittle. Institutions that would underpin a prosperous Russia, such as the rule of law, free media, democracy and open competition, pose an existential threat to Mr Putin’s rotten state.

This explains why Putin worked to sabotage the Presidential election on two fronts; he wanted to win favor with Trump so Trump will lift the sanctions, and he wanted to make democracy look less attractive to his own dissatisfied citizens.

Yet another reason Putin sabotaged the election, according to experts, is he hopes that by helping Trump win, he has convinced Trump to do business in Russia.

Trump has a history of doing business with Russians. When Trump’s professional failures lost him credibility among US investors back in the 1980s, he traveled to Moscow to gain new investors for his real estate ventures.

Consequently, many of his high-end condo buyers in New York and Florida over the past few decades have been Russians; many Russians have developed their own American properties and paid royalties to put the Trump name on these buildings.

In 2008, Trump’s son, Donald Jr., reportedly told investors in Moscow that Trump had trademarked his name in Russia and planned to build real estate in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Sochi, as well as sell more licenses to other Russian developers.

“We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia,” Donald Jr. apparently said at the time.

It’s not implausible that Putin wants to work with Trump to somehow make good on those old, abandoned promises, and perhaps placate the middle class with new opportunities, since Russia’s current economic landscape is so bleak, and so many Russians are so angry about it.

It’s even more plausible that Trump knows this, right? It’s likely that he knows all of this.

He knows about Russia’s failing economy; he knows about Putin’s fascist military tactics; he knows that Putin wants to do business with him; and he knows the “cyberattacks” on the election helped him to win it.

Yet, what has he said and done in response to these “cyberattacks”?

He called the government effort to get to the bottom of the hacking a “witch hunt.”

He asked, “If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act?” 

He ignored the fact the White House announced in October that it believed Russia had hacked the DNC and leaked its emails.

He conjectured that “unless you catch ‘hackers’ in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking.”

He tweeted, about the CIA, “They were wrong about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction[,] so why trust them?”

He goaded the intelligence community at large: “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”

And when he was called to task for saying and doing these things, he accused the media of being “dishonest” and spreading “lies to make it look like I am against ‘Intelligence’ when in fact I am a big fan!”

He blamed the proliferation of computer technology in our everyday lives for the hacking and not Putin and his government: “The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure we have the kind, the security we need.”

Then, after he attended an intelligence briefing on the hacking, in the last week of December, and his inauguration was sparsely attended and deliberately skipped by many members of Congress, he went to the CIA yesterday–during the Women’s March no less–and told the same people he’d spent weeks attacking: “Very, very few people could do the job you people do and I want you to know I am so behind you.”

See what I’m saying?

He acted as if he didn’t attack the intelligence community, just like he acted as if the intelligence community had wrongly or unfairly attacked Russia and him.

Gaslighting.

And there’s all the rest of it, too.

Projection: “The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on.”

Blanket statements: “Unless you catch ‘hackers’ in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking.”

Nitpicking: “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”

Changing the subject: “They were wrong about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction so why trust them?”

Shaming: “If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act?”

Love-bombing: “Very, very few people could do the job you people do and I want you to know I am so behind you.”

Controlling.

Trump is trying his hardest to control the way that we perceive him. He is setting up to abuse his office and its power but at the same time conditioning us to think negatively about institutions that could help us to stay truthfully informed of his actions.

He is also conditioning us to question our impulse to question him.

You can see this attempt to exert malignant control in his inaugural address, too.

“Today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another,” he said, “but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.”

“For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished — but the people did not share in its wealth . . . The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.”

“That all changes — starting right here, and right now,” he vowed, “because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.”

In his conclusion, he reiterated that “[we] will never be ignored again.”

“Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams,” he said,  “will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.”

Yet, Trump lost the popular vote by 3,000,000.

Yet, there is, again, evidence that the election was fixed, even if to a minimal extent, by the Russian government. 

Even his so-called fellow Republicans acknowledge the veracity of the intelligence community investigation into the Russian interference in the election. 

Since it occurred last November, hundreds of thousands of Americans have expressed misgivings about Trump’s promise to repeal and replace the ACA, yet he hasn’t addressed our concerns in any real way.

Trump’s inauguration had the smallest attendance of a Presidential inauguration in 12 years, according to estimates. Dozens of entertainers reportedly refused to perform as part of the celebration, and many members of Congress refused to attend. And almost immediately after it, the Women’s March organized in opposition to Trump brought over a million protesters to the main march in DC and “sister” marches all around the US and rest of the world.

To be sure, Reuters confirms that “[t]he demonstrations . . . highlighted strong discontent over Trump’s comments and policy positions toward a wide range of groups, including Mexican immigrants, Muslims, the disabled and environmentalists.”

Trump should’ve had a direct response to this, but, instead, he hid somewhere in the White House and sent his Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, to deal with the issue of the protesters before the media cameras.

This was a very deliberate and clear devaluation of their opposition and yet another of those diversionary tactics that malignant narcissists regularly employ.

Spicer held a televised media briefing yesterday evening, but, instead of addressing the protesters’ grievances, he spent his time and energy lashing out at the media for its coverage of the inauguration on Friday.

He acted as if the march wasn’t still happening, and it hadn’t received staunch support from people in France, England, Australia, and South Africa.

“[Friday’s] was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period — both in person and around the globe,” Spicer said. “These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.”

“We’re going to hold the press accountable as well,” he also said. “The American people deserve better.”

There it is again. Gaslighting. Lying. Threatening.

Spicer bitched about a reporter that tweeted on Friday that Trump had removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from his office even though the reporter had already said he was wrong and apologized.

Changing the subject. Nitpicking.

And Spicer talked about Trump’s meeting with the CIA rather, which really came off then like a diversion from the march. He criticized the Democrats in the Senate for “playing politics” and refusing to let Mike Pompeo lead the CIA.

“It’s a shame that the CIA didn’t have a CIA Director to be with [Trump} today when he visited,” Spicer said.

Blanket statement. Moving the goal post. Sarcasm.

All of this–destructive conditioning.

I didn’t write anything about the inauguration on the blog on Friday because I needed to get my thoughts together before I wrote something long form. However, I posted quite a few things on my Facebook about the events of the day, and I read dozens of posts about them, too.

Most of my friends on Facebook were upset and just as adamant as I was about letting everyone else know they were upset, but a lot of them were urging the rest of us to just “accept” that Trump won the election and get back to living our lives.

My response to that was “If you put your head in the sand, all they have to do then is bury the rest of you.”

If my research about the Cabinet taught me nothing else, it’s that government affects just about every aspect of your life, right down to how much you pay for your tampons (it’s called the Pink Tax).

If you ignore what the government is doing, it doesn’t stop the government from affecting you. You are still subject to every decision made under its auspices, whether you know the decision has been made or understand the ramifications of the decision.

That said, I think it’s better to know, and I think it’s better to fight whatever inequities get passed down.

Despite himself, Trump is now in control of our government. Many people–myself included–believe he is a sociopath. But, even if he isn’t, he is clannish, delusional, opportunistic, indulgent, unstable, dishonest, and greedy.

He is a danger to the American people and system of government, and I don’t care what the fuck he says.

His verbal behaviors speak much louder than his actual words.

And, sadly, we Americans that do not want him or trust him to lead us cannot shut him out of our lives like I have shut The Asshole out of mine.

We are forced to reckon with him for at least the next four years, or until he gets impeached, whichever one comes first (I’m praying for the impeachment).

But, in the meantime, we cannot allow ourselves to become complacent–to be lulled into some “honeymoon” with him that will inevitably blow up in our faces.

Anyone that has ever had an Asshole like mine, or a bad boyfriend, knows the routine. You know how hard these men try to get you to surrender to them.

They keep hammering at you, and, even though you know it’s craziness, you weaken. You start believing the things they say and do to you. You do it to reconcile the dissonance between your rose-colored ideas of human decency and compassion and the black-hearted truth of human nature and intentions.

He must be telling the truth–you say to yourself–because it’s easier to believe that you are wrong than to believe someone could target you for victimization at the most intimate level without you deserving it.

That’s our problem, as I see it: We act like kids when it comes to causal reasoning. We want the things that happen to be neat, clean, and accountable, but they’re more than often not.

Yet, no matter how many times life teaches us this lesson, we never assimilate it because it makes life seem harder and uglier when it’s really the same old life, teaching us the same old lesson.

There are reasons Trump got elected–some we know and some we don’t–and even though it’s scary–the thought that invisible powers put him in office–the reality that he is in office–we can’t cave to the impulse to normalize it. 

It won’t make his time in office any easier on us.

Trump is gaslighting us into believing it will, but we need to stay vigilant against his efforts.

He is not the benevolent or capable leader he is pretending to be; he is the same cloddish fuck he’s always been.

We cannot let him destroy our country, if we can help it, and we cannot allow him to be re-elected in 2020. Nor can we gift him another super majority in 2018.

My husband said, rather flippantly, as we watched the Women’s March on MSNBC earlier, “Marching is more fun than voting.”

Yet, I believe voting is ultimately more meaningful because it allows for policy changes.

So we have to vote Trump out when it’s time. Simple as that. We have to stay motivated to do what’s right, even if that means bumping up against all of Trump’s convoluted bullshit on the long way back to the Presidential polls.

We can’t let his destructive conditioning stick. We can’t let him convince us that we are in the wrong for refusing to accept his so-called presidency. We can’t get accustomed to him, fuck around, and forget how bad he is.

In all the years since The Asshole, I am proud to say I have never let him pressure me. I have never changed my story about what happened to make it “prettier” or “sexier” and my decision seem less toxic than it was.

Holding to the truth of that experience has helped me to never replicate it. It has made me smarter, stronger, and more strategic about what I do with my body and with whom I share it.

I think the same principle can hold with Trump’s election.

We can learn the lessons of this experience, and let them make us–Americans, Democrats, liberals, women, whoever, whatever–more strategic when it comes to picking our next President.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fathers, Fairy Tales, and Lies: Why We Can & Should Hold Black Male Celebrities Accountable for Their Crimes

I wrote this back in May of last year, but all the Bishop Eddie Long apologists I’m reading on Facebook brought it back to my mind and renewed its relevancy, at least to my thinking.

I will say the same thing here that I said on Facebook about some people’s refusal to be silent about the sexual abuse allegations against Bishop Long in the event of his death:

You recount the mistakes to distill the lesson.

The black community should’ve held Eddie Long accountable for the wrongs he committed while he was still alive if so many of its members find it distasteful to indict a dead man.

But what the black community shouldn’t do–through its parochial responses to Long’s accusers–is continue to make the black community unlivable for sexual abuse victims or make it a safe space for sexual predators.

That–if you ask me–is a sin.

MRS

Even though I grew up in a household that was an approximation of the black middle class ideal, I still wanted to be a Huxtable.

I wanted more siblings than my one baby sister, who, at eight years younger, could do nothing but annoy the hell out of me; I wanted to live in a brownstone in the biggest and busiest city in the world; I wanted to have all four of my grandparents within walking distance and visit with them regularly; I wanted a mother who allowed my friends to come and visit our home every day after school; and I wanted a father just like Heathcliff.

When I was young, my father was a workaholic with ambitions of becoming the next Johnny Cochrane; he was gone most of the time, and, when he was home, he was still busy with work. He had his own father’s heirloom sarcasm. He wanted his daughters to be ladies even though our mother was raising us to be women. His expectations could loom higher than a Detroit skyscraper at times, but his temper could be as ugly as the Detroit River. He never spanked me once in my life, but he did smack me up a time or two with doctrine—the proxy hand of God—when he thought I was getting too out-of-control with my damned independent thinking and insistence on eking out my own identity.

He was a lot more complicated than Heathcliff Huxtable–less fun and way more demanding–and, since I had that TV image with which to compare him, I often found myself wishing my dad was less himself and more like a sitcom character.

I would fantasize about him reacting to me in the warm, goofy way that Heathcliff reacted to his kids, and I would feel a bit cheated because it was work being his daughter, and no one applauded for me as I did it.

Now, at 39, I realize that work was some of the most valuable that I’ve ever don–that he–my father–and I were building me into a decent, hard-working, and responsible person (with a wicked sense of humor, enviable taste in music, an elegant sense of style, and a deeply-rooted notion of fairness).

I understand now that navigating one’s relationship with one’s parent(s) is one of the most influential parts of growing up, and I wouldn’t be anyone close to the thinker, writer, teacher, mother, sister, or friend I am if I hadn’t been my father’s daughter–and mother’s daughter–first.

I also see–in thinking through why Heathcliff Huxtable was such an appealing character to me–what a juvenile concept of the “father” most of black people retain throughout our lives.

This is important to point out because I think it has a lot to do with why so many us, who love(d) Heathcliff Huxtable, are having such a difficult time accepting that Bill Cosby is a rapist that deserves to be punished for his crimes.

Rather than an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, whispering to black people about what fathers are and are not, we have a fairy tale weighing on one shoulder and a pack of racist lies weighing on the other.

These two false images make it difficult for us to be realistic or real about our fathers and father figures.

The fairy tale is of the white father–a romanticized figure that is an amalgam of the Judeo-Christian God and Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. This man–because of his social privilege and inherent moral superiority and intelligence–conferred by his whiteness–is the perfect father. He is always there for his kids; he always has to proper solution for their problems; he can provide for his children’s every need; and he never fails them. He is the polar opposite, conceptually, of the paradigmatic black father.

The lies on the other end of the binary are that black men are inherently bad fathers. That slavery stole the ability to parent permanently from them. That institutional racism bars them–across the board–financially, emotionally, and spiritually–from adequately supporting their children. That being the victims of oppression, suppression, deprivation, and violence makes them ineffective and even damaging.

Charles Blow of The New York Times does an excellent job of describing this manifold misconception: “[We believe],” he writes, ” . . . there is something fundamental, and intrinsic about black men that is flawed, that black fathers are pathologically prone to desertion of their offspring and therefore largely responsible for black community ‘dysfunction.’”

Both of these mythoi–of the good white father and bad black father–conveniently–or inconveniently for black men–ignore the facts–which must be considered in order for black people to gain a more realistic–and serviceable–concept of the “father.”

The first is that, historically, many white men have failed spectacularly at parenting. See Joseph Kennedy, who had his daughter Rosemary lobotomized at age 23 without his wife’s knowledge or agreement, or Woody Allen, who had an affair with the adopted daughter—Soon-Yi Previn—of his long-time girlfriend Mia Farrow. They have proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that white men in general are not automatically “better equipped” for parenting.

On the other hand, black men are more than just the “serial impregnators” portrayed in the racist mainstream media.

Though 72% of black women having babies are single mothers, this doesn’t mean that they don’t live with the fathers of their children. It actually means they aren’t married to them. Many still live with the fathers of their children. Only 55% of black children live in single mother households.

And even though a lot of black fathers don’t live with their children, about 2.5 million black fathers do live with at least one of their children.

Too, according to the CDC, black fathers–in and out of the home–provide more actual child care than white or Hispanic fathers. Yes–black men regularly feed their children their meals (78.2% black>73.9% white>63.9% Hispanic), dress their children (70.4% black>60% white>45% Hispanic), and read to their children every day (34.9% black>30.2% white>21.9% Hispanic). They are not all flailing or failing to fulfill their parental duties, despite what even a large segment of the black community maintains.

It is fair to acknowledge, too, that many of the black fathers that are missing from their children’s lives are missing because of factors related to institutionalization.

As reported in The Washington Post, “Incarceration [is an]  overwhelming [driver] of the gap [in the number of black women and men in the free population].

“Of the 1.5 million missing black men [out of 8 million] from 25 to 54 [the prime age span for fatherhood]–higher imprisonment rates account for almost 600,000. Almost one in 12 black men . . . is behind bars, compared with one in 60 nonblack men . . .”

These numbers prove that black men are not pathologically neglectful of their children.

Black fathers are still more absent from black homes than white fathers, but their patterns of abandonment can be linked to the historical legacy of slavery–how it has shaped today’s law enforcement and justice system, created genetic pitfalls for black people in terms of their health (which result in earlier deaths), and facilitated the demonization of black men in order to justify its reprehensibility.

Often, it is their internalized self-hatred–their own belief in their badness–that impels black men to leave their children alone–in the wrongheaded attempt to protect them.

Because black men struggle on a lot of levels to be present for their children at the same rates as nonblack men, and black people as a whole have a lot of misconceptions about how structural racism impedes parenting, the absences of black fathers lead many black people to cling to idealized father figures like Heathcliff Huxtable.

They set these father figures, usually found in entertainment, on pedestals because these men seem to have overcome whatever obstacles they needed to overcome in order to “get it right” for their children and co-parents (which are more often than not their wives).

Those that actually are or that just feel fatherless worship these figures in a sense, and this may be because one of the predominant figures in this improvised pantheon of imaginary surrogates is, in fact, the Judeo-Christian God.

Just listen to the way that many black religious leaders speak about God. They very liberally and munificently humanize Him. They do this because they know that so many black people suffer from an acute psychological sense of fatherlessness. They want to fix it, so they offer their congregants a God that is an eternal, omnipotent father.

They take that Biblical address, that ancient, enduring metaphor—“Our Father”—and literalize it–to effect some sort of spiritual healing from parental abandonment. They create a model of fatherhood that–while it may not shape the way that real black fathers do their jobs–shapes the way that the fatherless envision the role of the father. Then, celebrities, cultural icons, and imaginary characters like Heathcliff Huxtable do the same thing, but on a lesser level.

These famous “fathers” provide the fatherless with an unrealistic ideal that they attach to as “theirs” to fill the absence of an actual father. These “fathers” give the fatherless ridiculously high standards for what a father is, but, since they appear to meet these standards, they also inspire immense amounts of love and loyalty. It is this love and loyalty–and the painful prospect of losing yet another “parent”–that make it so difficult for people to accept it when father (or maybe it’s more apt to say “fatherly”) figures like Bill Cosby commit terrible acts.

Since so many black people do suffer from fatherlessness–or even from the idea that their “regular” black fathers are inferior–they do not want to give up their adoptive fatherly figures.

They do not want to face the fact that a character like Heathcliff Huxtable is a personage and not a person.

They want their fatherly figure to be innocent, or, if he cannot be innocent, they want him to be exempt.

So when their fatherly figure is put on public trial, these “children” argue that his positive contributions to society or culture or the black community must outweigh his crimes. They vilify his victims in order to lessen his culpability and depravity. They deny that his behavior is actually harmful, or, worse, they say that his victims are the ones doing the harm, by ruining the fatherly figure’s so-called legacy.

They make that same tired argument every time–that if Guilty Black Fatherly Figure were white, he wouldn’t be held nearly as accountable for his transgressions, as if that somehow justifies his transgressions. But the truth remains.

Despite how prevalent fatherlessness is in the black community, or how painful it is, we—the collective—cannot use it as an excuse to dismiss the crimes of our famous black men. Our imaginary “fathers” are no less responsible for their actions than our actual fathers. Fame, wealth, and talent–while they are rare–impressive–enchanting–still do not cancel out brutality, cruelty, perversity, or decidedly unchecked psychopathy.

The ugly truth is, then, that Bill Cosby is somnophiliac that–because he prefers to secretly drug women rather than gain their consent to have unconscious sex–has allowed the pursuit of his paraphilia to make him a rapist.

He has admitted on the record to drugging women and raping them. He has paid these women–by order of the court and on his own—as his atonement for raping them.

He has exploited his image as a fatherly figure, his power, and sexist stereotypes like that of the female groupie or gold digger to ruthlessly cover for his crimes.

He has been allowed and–yes–encouraged–by his wife, entourage, the Hollywood establishment, the legal system, the patriarchy, and, yes, the black community–that deifies him–to violate a group of 50 women–that we know of–between 1965 and 2008–without suffering any losses to his fame, wealth, reputation, or freedom.

And before any of you reading can make the reflexive argument that erroneously links the veracity of their accusations to how long it took certain of his victims to come forward on the record, let me let you know–

American culture and the nation’s justice system are criminally inhospitable to female rape victims, and this has a profound effect on their willingness to report their attacks.

In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that only 15.8 to 35 percent of all sexual assaults are reported to police.

This is because when women are assaulted by a friend or acquaintance (neighbor, classmate, coworker, boss), they fear they will not be believed.

They fear retaliation from the accused, other people finding out they’ve been assaulted, being branded as a rape victim, and/or being disrespected and/or mistreated during the trial process.

They believe that the police will not do anything to help them.

They believe that they have a lack of adequate proof or evidence.

They have their own misconceptions about what actually constitutes rape and do not actually know or believe that they have been raped.

Men may not be able to relate to these reasons–or they might refute them in order to abstain from inverting and being implicated by them–but women–if we’re being honest–know that they are very real.

Too many of us have either been raped or molested and experienced these paralyzing fears or doubts firsthand, or we have imagined being raped or molested and projected these fears and doubts onto our imaginary selves and into our possible futures.

Another reason not listed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics that women don’t report sexual assaults is the terrible lack of credibility attributed to them by certain principles of rape culture.

Patriarchal notions that men hold–about how desperately women want to please them, how deserving “promiscuous” women are of punishment, and how important maintaining a “good girl” image is to women–make it easy for men to believe that women are lying when women say they’ve been raped.

Men like this think women are so universally “afraid” of being typed as sluts that any and all of them would lie about having consensual sex–call it rape–to avoid retribution or requital for exercising their sexual freedom.

And these men hold to the unfortunate truth that some women have lied about being assaulted—they have falsely accused men to avoid shame, exact revenge, or hide infidelity.

In the case of Cosby’s accusers, we must also concede they were up against the unlikelihood that a woman that is a “nobody” would be believed over a cultural icon.

Look baldly at how his accusers have been treated, and it’s easy to see why so many of Cosby’s victims felt for so long that reporting him to the authorities would be pointless.

People conflate Cosby with Heathcliff Huxtable. They think Bill Cosby is Heathcliff Huxtable. And, as devotees of the character, it is impossible for them to imagine Heathcliff raping a woman. So they struggle with believing that Cosby is a rapist. Still, the numbers of victims—as well as Cosby’s own accounts of his encounters with them and court settlements to which he has agreed—make it impossible to ignore that Cosby is guilty of a pattern of illegal behavior for which he deserves to be punished.

It looks as if the same thing, unfortunately, can be said about legendary hip hop culturalist Afrika Bambaataa, who has been accused in the last couple of months by four men of sexually abusing them during the 1980s.

Allegedly, he showed them—as boys—pornographic materials then performed oral sex on them.

Along with assaulting them, he gave them shelter, food, and money when they needed it, and he maintained a “father-son” relationship with at least one of them into adulthood. That is—in fact—what the boys called him: “Poppy.”

It’s reasonable to assume that fatherlessness, shame, machismo, and a distorted sense of loyalty are what kept them from reporting their abuse until now.

Again, before those of you that are inclined start doing that victim-blaming “thing” we so often do when we hear that victims of sexual assault have waited to name their accusers, I want to go back to one really significant concept I brought up previously, and that’s loyalty.

I honestly believe that malformed and misdirected loyalty are what keep a lot of black people silent about the terrible things that other black people do to them or in their presence.

We have such a profound mistrust of law enforcement and the courts that we do not want to turn a supposed “brother” or “sister” over to them if we can help it.

So many of we black people refuse to report crimes committed against us by other black people—and we uphold our own abusers in a lot of instances—in order to show our racial awareness and solidarity.

We romanticize our victimization as a sacrifice of sorts, and we shame those that don’t adhere to this dysfunctional “code” of honor and silence. But this behavior is a throwback to the plantation and the inhumane treatment our ancestors often suffered when they didn’t cover and/or lie for each other.

As a people, we have to start moving past our past, in this sense. We either have to abandon this anti-“snitching” ethic and turn the offenders in our community over to the law, or we have to figure out our own ways to hold them accountable for their choices to damage others and refuse to seek help for their sicknesses.

I said it before—navigating one’s relationship with one’s parent(s) is one of the most influential parts of growing up. James Baldwin even said that loving someone—that act in itself—is a growing up.

It’s a process of shedding the pretty, pretend ideas we get from fairy tales, and the hyperbolic or fantastical ideas we get from lies, and embracing new ideas about ourselves—bolder concepts of ourselves—that protect and empower us, female and male.

And here are a few—

We can love Heathcliff Huxtable—what he represents—the will to father black children lovingly and joyfully—without reifying him.

We can admire Bill Cosby as an entertainer, philanthropist, actor, and producer without deifying him.

We can condemn Bill Cosby for raping those women without killing the image of Healthcliff Huxtable.

We can support a conviction of Bill Cosby’s guilt and maintain a sense of our highest and not our basest form of integrity.

We can condemn Afrika Bambaataa without indicting hip hop culture or erasing his contributions to the culture from its history.

We can support a conviction of his guilt.

We must.

Nothing can justifiably counterbalance wrongs like the ones Cosby or Eddie Long committed except confession, contrition, reparation, and rehabilitation.

So we cannot keep perpetuating this cult of fragile black manhood—this concept that black men cannot answer for their actions—if we want black men that ultimately inspire more than pity, mistrust, resentment, or fear in us. Or that can only truly be great when they are standing framed in our blind spots.

We cannot keep perpetuating this cult of fragile black manhood if we want to evolve into a culture that is characterized by more than its pathologies.

In order to grow out of the desperation of fatherlessness and demand what is actually attainable from our famous men–decency–we have to leave the childish notion that fathers are faultless behind us, once and for all.

We have to process the ugly truths about our fatherly figures. Topple them from their pedestals. Let them shatter and clean up the messes they’ve made.

This will help us to not only heal from their abuses, but it will help us to better appreciate our real fathers.

It will open us up to accepting that many of them are bending over backward, being their best for us.