Race/Color/Heritage/Identity


The first thing I learned in Lit Theory was that the relationship between the Signifier and the Signified was completely arbitrary and it blew my mind. This is the theory of Semiotics and quite frankly it makes a huge difference on how I look at language as a whole. Basically, we have words for things (signifiers) and we have things (signified) and there is literally no logical connection between them, no fixed state. The word is not the thing and vice versa.

Completely lost yet? Yeah, that’s how everyone starts with this theory. So I’ll give you the example my professor used to make it less foggy. Take the word “chair.” You know what a chair is. You can picture it in your mind. And even if everyone in the room with you is picturing a different chair, they are all essentially a chair. There must be, then, a Universal Chair, one which embodies the word and is imbued with the word at the same time. Except, well, no there isn’t. The word chair has a basic definition, true. But it is also burdened with connotations. Let’s look at a synonym for chair, “throne.” Now, a throne is definitely a chair, right? But is a chair a throne? Not really, no. Throne has different connotations. If you follow this logically, moving from synonym to synonym it is possible to eventually reach a word that is absolutely not a synonym for chair. Or to think of it in another way, we could translate the word “chair” to a different language. I went onto Google Translate and did just that. I went English to Spanish to Chinese to Russian to Scottish/Gaelic. And then I noticed that when I switched the Russian back to Gaelic, the words changed. So I went back and forth between them a few more times and then translated the Gaelic back to English. Suddenly the word was “home.” I could probably stretch my thinking to where home and chair are synonyms, but it’s a pretty far stretch. Language is pretty neat like that.

What this means is that the word “chair” and the object “chair” are not intrinsically linked. In other words, all language is made up and each and every word is encumbered with rich meaning and history. When we name things, we define them and those definitions shape them. But we must never forget that the name itself is arbitrary. The name isn’t the thing. The thing isn’t the name. The words change, the meanings change and this is absolutely the way it should be.

I started with that because I want to talk about race, color, heritage, and identity. These words are powerful and dangerous and sticky. They are not synonyms for each other and should not be treated as such. Are they connected? Yes, as are all words. That is the nature of language. But we need to divorce ourselves from the notion that it is all one and the same.

Heritage and Identity are big words. I may touch on them later.

Race and Color are also big words. I’ll deal with those now.

To lay out my credentials, I have none. I read stuff. I have a bachelors in English. I am white. I have no right to speak on this, but I’m gonna.

Race and color are not the same thing. Race is a social construct. Color has to do with skin pigmentation. The connection between the two is arbitrary, just like the word “chair” and the object “chair.” You probably already know this if you think about it.

When Europeans colonized (re: raped and pillaged indigenous civilizations in a quest for power and resources) the world, they did so under the banner of spreading civilization and the Christian faith. I’m generalizing, of course. That’s a huge chunk of history that includes hundreds of years and dozens of empires, but that’s the gist of it. Europeans needed resources and the best way to get them was to discover new lands, that coincidentally had been discovered thousands of years before by other people. And instead of abiding by the dibs rules, they decided to bring plague and slavery to the natives. They called it civilizing the savages, even when those savages were significantly further along in the indoor plumbing department. And then they had to justify all the violence, because even in those days you couldn’t just enslave a people without good reason. Ah, well, they’re savages, they aren’t really people. How do we know, well, LOOK THEY’RE BROWN.

Now I am definitely conflating the conquest of the New World (the Americas) and the colonizing of Africa, India, Australia, etc, which are not precisely the same thing. The motivations are the same (Europeans want more stuff), but it’s not like Europeans forgot that there were brown-shaded people when they traipsed across the Atlantic. People with darker skin-tones have always existed and Europe was never some kind of pale utopia wherein a time traveling sunscreen salesman could be king. For all of human history, race wasn’t a thing. Color was, sure, definitely not contesting that. But race? Nyope. Do I have sources for this? I have a NatGeo article which is very interesting and points out that scientific racism wasn’t a thing until the 1800s.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/04/race-genetics-science-africa/

There are actually a ton of articles on the subject and most of them seem to agree that the concept of race as we understand it is incredibly new. And it’s confusing really. Cuz we have this idea that people can identify as their race. I’m white. Other people are Black or Asian or Indian or Middle Eastern or Hispanic or First Peoples and you know what they are because they look like their race, right? That guy is black because he looks black. I’m white because I look white. But again, we all picture that Universal Chair and it turns out we mean home.

Race isn’t synonymous with skin color and the proof is the concept of “passing.” Now how is passing as another race possible if color and race are inherently linked? Someone who passes as white can still be black or Hispanic or Native. To be defined as POC, all you need is one POC in your bloodline (defined, not identify, which is something else). To be defined as white, you can’t have any. Which is impossible since all bloodlines started in Africa. If you’re a white supremacist, DO NOT get one of those ancestor DNA tests. You will be very disappointed. No, nevermind, do it. Enjoy some reality. (Did you know that some DNA tracing businesses will falsify data for customers who refuse to believe they have any African heritage?!?)

But wait, if race doesn’t exist according to science, how can people identify as a race? I’m glad you asked. It’s pretty complicated. You see, when Europeans colonized places, they gave priority treatment to pale people. And then they came up with science that made that okay because the not-pale people were OBVIOUSLY a different species. They labeled people, created boxes for specific characteristics and then said THIS BOX IS BLACKS AND THEY ARE INFERIOR AND YOU CAN TELL THAT BECAUSE THEY’RE DARK-SKINNED. In this way, colonizers not only justified the murder and enslavement of entire civilizations, they convinced the conquered people that they deserved to be murdered and enslaved because they didn’t look European. This was totally new. You murder and enslave people for land and ideology, not because they look different (I’m guessing).

Think of it this way. Some people like to point out that a lot of the slaves sold in Africa were sold by natives. See?!? Savages! Blacks sold their OWN KIND! Except that assumes that Africans are all one people when they are in fact the most diverse continent on the planet. They weren’t selling their own kind, they were selling slaves from other tribes. Slavery has been around a loooooong time and just about every civilization has had a hand in it. It was only in the recent past that it became hereditary, but I digress.

So Europeans invent race. We are good because we are White. You are bad because you are Black/Asian/First Peoples/etc. If you aren’t white, you are secondary, subservient, less than. Even in your own country. Even if you outnumber the white colonizers. Even if you have generations of much better personal hygiene and sophisticated calendars and managed to sail to your land in tiny boats while white people were still figuring out the Sun doesn’t orbit the Earth. And Europeans propagated this message for generations. They erased entire languages, cultures, and peoples trying to force homogeneity. Not to make everyone white (which is impossible from the white perspective because having a drop of POC blood means you aren’t white no matter how white you dress, talk, act), but to make everyone want to be white.

White is basic, normal, the standard. The only proof you need of whiteness is to look white. By that I mean you have pale skin and European facial features. Whiteness has more to do with skin color than any other “race.” That’s how it is possible to “pass” as white, a social strategy most commonly used to escape being not-white. Imagine that concept? To be a POC, all you have to admit to is one non-European ancestor. To be white, you have to erase 200,000 years of human history. And I know that feels like a leap, it’s simply math. When a white slave owner raped an African slave, the children were half black and still slaves. When those children were raped by a white slave owner, their children were a quarter black. When those children were raped by a white slave owner, their children with an eighth black, and so on. You can approach whiteness but never achieve it.

And not to put too fine a point on it, the slave (Sally Hemings) who bore Thomas Jefferson’s bastards and is the reason Jefferson is a common surname in the Black community, was three-quarters European and still somehow Black by race. She was also probably Martha Jefferson’s half sister, so you know, ew.

I have a friend who I served with for most of my military career and I was shocked (SHOCKED I tell you) to discover pretty early on that he was Black. He’s as pale as I am and has blond hair and blue eyes. But his father is Black and apparently if he grows his hair out it’s an afro. But when he enlisted, his recruiter told him to write down that he was White. Because it would be easier. That was only 20 years ago.

Which brings me to Black Africans. Black Americans have the distinct (what’s the opposite of privilege?) of being descendants of dark-skinned people who were kidnapped from their native land and forced to work to death for several generations. This great sin sundered our nation according to an arbitrary designation of race and has left devastating, unendurable damage to our people. We will never heal from it because we continue to cover the wound with diseased bandages and telling ourselves that the noxious smell is just bad apples. But anyway, when we (the ruling White class) legally defined slaves as Black because it didn’t matter what nation/people they came from, we erased their heritage. When we took their names and their children and their futures and their pasts, we erased their identity until all they had was the word Black to define who they were. And they took that word and remade it into their identity based on a shared trauma. That’s pretty damn neat.

But what about Black Africans. If Black Pride is rooted in the shared trauma of slavery, does that mean Black Africans are excluded from that pride? Knee-jerk reaction was no, of course not. Why? Well, they’re still Black. Obviously. What a stupid questions! Just look at them… ah, that’s right. Race and Color are not synonymous. Hmmm.

That right there is the problem with Euro-American, white-centric education. I learned barely anything about my own nation’s filthy racial histories and nothing at all about the rest of the world. Slavery in America didn’t exist in a bubble, apparently, and racial inequity was the norm in most of the world thanks to the British Empire (and the French and Spanish and Portugese and Dutch). Colonialism plagued the whole planet, not just the Americas. POC’s suffered under brutal, racist regimes for centuries and that left lasting, irreversible trauma. Black Pride, Native Pride, Indian Pride, that all stems from shared trauma at the hands of Whites. They flourish in spite of an entire system engineered to make them fail. That’s something to be proud of.

Right now I’m reading a book called Black Skins, White Masks by Frantz Fanon, who was a French West Indies psychiatrist and political philosopher in the middle of the 20th century. It goes over my head somewhat (neither philosophy nor psychology being strong suits of mine), but it is giving me incredible insight into the generational psychological trauma of colonialism on Black people. It is disheartening to read about all his pain and anger throughout the text, relaying the same dehumanizing treatment many of the Black community are still dealing with almost 70 years later. This is looking at what it is to be Black outside of America and it is literally no different. Trust me, Blackness doesn’t exclude based on geological origins.

I’m running out of steam on this and I appreciate you for sticking with me. I know this sort of meandered all over and probably doesn’t make a bit of difference in the grand scheme of things. The people who need to understand these concepts won’t read this. To be fair, a lot of people won’t read this because I don’t have a lot of followers. But it was something I had to parse out for myself and maybe this will help others put into words exactly what is wrong about any calls for White Pride.

All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter.

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An Anecdote on Anecdotes


Anecdotal evidence is not evidence. Without further evidence, it cannot prove or disprove anything. We are constantly seeing stories from people, first-hand, third-hand, allegorical, all trying to get you to connect emotionally with a cause. And it works. It also, well, doesn’t work. Mostly it backfires because these stories are based on one person’s perspective. That perspective may be echoed by dozens, hundreds, thousands, even millions of people. But it also contradicts the first-hand/etc perspectives of their detractors. I’ll give you an example.

I’m sure you remember when the Redskins football team was receiving a ton of pressure to change their mascot to something less racist. Lots of First People protestor organizations have been trying to get professional teams to abandon mascots that are based off harmful stereotypes and racial slurs. Now, to me, a white woman, it makes total sense in the 21st century to ditch RACIAL SLURS when representing your teams. Especially when the live representative of that slur is a racial stereotype. Plus, if you change the team name, you get to sell so much new merch. Everybody has to rebuy their fave jersey or whatever. Now, I wasn’t following this story too closely because I don’t care about sports. I do distinctly remember a game where a group of First Nation Redskin fans were paraded on the field because they didn’t find the mascot offensive. Sort of a, “See? How can it be racist if THESE GUYS are fans?!?” thing.

I remember this because I felt betrayed. Which is weird for a lot of reasons (I’m white and not a sports fan, for example), but I thought here at last was a clear-cut moment in history where we can grow and move on from a dark place. And they pulled the classic But Some of my Best Fans are Natives excuse, with live examples. How could they (the Natives) betray their people like that?!? How could they betray ME?!? Because now I can’t feel good about the cause since there are people on the other side who have a right to argue against it. (Yes, I cringed writing that, I’m a narcissist and these are the types of “first thoughts” I struggle with.) What right did they have to demonstrate that First Peoples are not a monolith and can have widely varying views on things that have absolutely nothing to do with me?!? (Edited to add: boy, is this ever topical now.)

What’s my point? Ah, well, we are dealing with huge social issues this century. HUGE. POC rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, Women’s rights, and so much of it is bogged down with anecdotes. Now, it’s one thing for a person to share their experience (say a woman sharing her story of workplace harassment) and having it discounted by someone who has no right to comment (in this case, typically a man who thinks women love his sexist jokes). It’s another thing to have someone of the same stripe (in my example, another woman) contradicting the account because that isn’t something they have experienced.

To the first example, the challenge is pretty clear. Convince that person/s that THIS IS A PROBLEM when it is an issue that they will never be affected by and they most often have absolutely no reference for empathy. Take PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), for instance. There are women who have been fighting for years to convince actual doctors that they have a serious medical condition. They are told REPEATEDLY that they are imagining severe symptoms or just exaggerating what is simply a bad period. If you know nothing about PCOS, I invite you to google away because it is f*cking awful and has a wide range of debilitating side effects. But since the majority of medicine is focused on keeping white men healthy, there is a huge research gap in women/POC health. In order for concerns to be legitimized, a lot of people have to make noise about it. Continuously. Until people in the upper eschelons of medical research decide it is worth looking into. It’s pretty horrific that this is a problem in a modern, first world country, but it has a lot to do with the fact that a majority of doctors for a long time were men and had no first hand experience with POC or women’s health in practical applications. Medical texts were written by men. Medical students were taught by men. Medical care is so biased towards white males that it is NEWS that women have completely different symptoms for heart attacks. It wasn’t that long ago that the cure for anxiety in women was a hysterectomy. And we are just now beginning to dismantle the damage done by men taking over obstetrics from midwives (because a male doctor is way more qualified to handle reproductive health than a profession built on generations of female experience).

So you make noise by sharing your experience and then comes the research and statistics and whatever else to prove that you were right! And now you have to take that scientific evidence and cram it under the nose of Every. Single. Doctor and medical professional you can. And you share your story on social media, through blogs and Facebook posts and Twitter and whatever else. And AMAZINGLY, you find a huge community of people who say YES THAT IS MY EXPERIENCE, TOO. Even better, you receive empathy from people who are in that first category, ignorant of the issue because they haven’t been directly affected by it. You’re story somehow resonated with them! Faith in humanity restored, right?

Well, no. Because along with all those positive responses from people who are so grateful to have a word to define what they’ve been going through, to have their struggle verified by your experience, there is always someone who says otherwise. You’re faking it, you’re being paid, you just want free stuff, you’re just playing the victim, nobody actually suffers like you do because I don’t. And I know because I’m a woman, too (substitute whatever social group applies here). You are gutted. This is not only a huge blow to your cause, but it makes you question your own experience. All these people just like me are calling me a liar and a fake. What if I am?

Good news! I’ll say it again. Anecdotal evidence is not evidence. That means that their experience, however genuine, does not invalidate yours. And vice versa. There are 7+ billion people on this planet and whenever we speak in generalities we will fail to encapsulate the perspectives of every single individual. There are entirely too many different variables to take into account. So, when people say that they know exactly how you feel/what you’ve been through, you can take that as validation. When people say that “I’m a woman and my period isn’t that bad get over yourself,” that doesn’t invalidate YOU and your struggle.

Now you may be wondering about the flip side of this. Say you are a doctor who doesn’t believe PCOS is a serious issue. But you see all these personal accounts from people saying that it is a serious issue and you’re conflicted. Then you see some op ed by someone who agrees with you and IT’S A WOMAN so you are now validated, right? Well, no. You forgot about the research findings, where scientists and doctors did serious study and found solid medical evidence that proves PCOS is a legitimate health condition, one that should be treated with compassion and more research to discover the cause and the cure.

Science is the deciding factor here, in this case and many, many others.

The world is currently on fire. Still. There are protests all over the world right now aimed at bringing justice and reform everywhere. Millions of people are making noise right now, this very moment because one person was killed in cold blood, on video, in broad daylight. And still we are arguing amongst ourselves about the existence of systemic racism and white privilege. Despite overwhelming scientific/historical evidence to the contrary.

I am not going to apologize for my privilege. I didn’t do anything to come by it. That’s like apologizing for having blond hair. I acknowledge that while my life isn’t perfect, I benefit from a racist system that considers whiteness the default and POC the “other.” And that isn’t based on my experience. You can’t base experience on the absence of evidence. I’ve never feared for my life during a traffic stop or been pulled over because I match the description of a criminal. I’ve never dealt with people deciding that I was accepted to a school to meet a minority quota or been “jokingly” called a diversity hire. I’ve never been murdered in the street and had people say I deserved it because I was on drugs a few days ago or had a history of arrests. I’ve never been told I need to abandon the way I speak and dress in order to be accepted as a human being. I have never experienced racism. I am not overtly racist. I can still benefit from a racist system.

I didn’t come to acknowledge my privilege just because I’m a bleeding-heart liberal who wants to be congratulated for my wokeness and guilt. I became aware first through the anecdotes of BIPOC, yes, but then through the scientific research done on the subject, which goes all the way back to the early 20th century. Black people average twice the unemployment rates of whites. Blacks are killed at twice the rate (by population) by cops as white. These aren’t opinions. They’re researched facts. Black schools have significantly lower funding. Black on Black crime is not significantly greater than White on White crime. Blacks are statistically more likely to end up in prison, get pulled over and ticketed for minor traffic violations, less likely to be approved for a loan, and on and on. The statistics are staggering. And this isn’t to say that these are black problems, like they’re all criminals or welfare queens or any other stupid stereotype. No, if you take two college graduates with exactly the same degree and grades, the one with the less black name will get more job offers. Banks have been found to be statistically more willing to loan to lower class white families than middle class black families.

Most of the primary ways that BIPOC are handicapped in our society can be traced directly to Jim Crow and slavery. It will take generations to undo the damage. Again, not an opinion based on my experience. Facts.

Today, my conservative friends are sharing videos of prominent black conservatives speaking out against the martyring of George Floyd and the false narrative of white privilege, saying that he was no saint and white privilege is just a new way of saying I’m better than black people. White privilege just encourages victimhood by telling black people they’re still shackled. George Floyd was high on drugs and once held a gun on a pregnant woman. And those conservative black folks are accused of being traitors to their own race (lots of references to house slaves). I can’t speak to that because, once again, I’m white. My opinion doesn’t matter in that sense.

What they and others say is typically based on their own experiences, i.e. I’m a black man and have never had trouble getting a loan/been followed in a store/dressed like a “thug.” Which people will take as confirmation that stories from black people about the racism they experience every day, even when they have video evidence, are a false narrative. They will use the anecdotes from one black person to invalidate the experience of another and feel righteously justified in doing so. It can’t be real because THIS PERSON WHO FITS THE DEMOGRAPHIC SAYS SO. Additionally, white people will deny the existence of white privilege in the same way, i.e. I’m white and I’ve had xyz happen so where’s my privilege?

Last time hopefully pays for all. ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE IS NOT EVIDENCE. Voter suppression isn’t a problem because people are telling you how long they waited in line to vote. It’s a problem because states are systematically finding ways to legally limit voting to certain demographics, for which we have plenty of evidence from competent researchers who investigate civil rights violations for a living. Trans rights isn’t an issue because of all the heart-wrenching tales of kids rejected by their families, it’s because they are literally being murdered for existing. BLM didn’t start protesting because Michael Brown was a saint but because he was not the first black person to be killed without just cause by someone who suffered no consequences and they wanted him to be the last. And he wasn’t, unfortunately. It’s not that the lives are taken, which is bad enough, but that the barest excuse is sufficient to exonerate the perpetrator.

Unfortunately, numbers can be made to lie and even when accurate, they are hard to connect emotionally to. That is where anecdotes are vital. They provide a path to empathy, without which the cause is lost.

The important thing to learn is we need to do research and we need to listen. LISTEN TO THEIR STORIES. And before you discount the experience of another person, figure out if you are the exception to the rule or under the jurisdiction of an entirely different set of rules.

And you know what? I’m sick of hearing white people weighing in on the experiences of BIPOC, myself included. I am sick of explaining something I can’t fully understand because it is not my experience. I’m sick of trying to get it across to my white friends that IT IS NOT ABOUT US. This story, this time, this is about people who don’t get the space to speak and we are yelling over them to make it about us. Our feelings. Our experiences. Our opinions. And that’s just it. It isn’t our feelings or experiences or opinions that matter. So maybe just stop b*tching about how all this hurts/insults/bothers you. LISTEN. TO. THEM.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/transformation/my-white-friend-asked-me-to-explain-white-privilege-so-i-decide/ (From 2017, guys)

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I Want to See Your Manager


Fair warning, gentle readers. There will be language.

I crochet when I get stressed. Or anxious. Or angry. Or bored. I crochet a lot because I enjoy it and it keeps my hands busy. I can’t scroll through social media for hours. I can’t get sucked into some game on my phone. It is my Zen hobby, one I rely on to detox and rejuvenate myself. It has the benefit of being time consuming as well as productive. I may not have gotten the laundry folded by I did finish that purse I’ve been working on, so there. Since March, I have made a cardigan, 3 tops, a shawl, a purse, a that needs a lining, child’s shirt and several dozen button bands that still need buttons. You could say I’ve been unusually stressed.

I used to be able to write out my feelings. I have a 2 whole blog categories for those (Rants and Ramblings). I could sit down with a vague idea of the philosophical quandary I needed to parse and by the end I would more or less have figured out how I felt about it. And that worked for a long time. I got out of the habit when I finished school. I didn’t have much to discuss besides life in retail, and who even cares besides the people you work with? But every few weeks or months something would make me come out of my yarn cave to see what was pissing me off and how I could reconcile my thoughts and feelings. I hate feeling conflicted about subjects. Nothing is black and white and so I try to find that area in the middle where all my friends and family have some part but not all of the truth. Then I put the truths together into a whole and say LOOK! I FIGURED IT OUT. YOU’RE ALL WRONG BUT YOU’RE ALSO A LITTLE RIGHT AND IF YOU ACKNOWLEDGE THAT MAYBE YOU WON’T KEEP SNIPING AT EACH OTHER ON FACEBOOK. But lately, I’ve just been too fucking angry and my writing just made me feel worse. Tonight, I am so unbelievably incensed that my arms are tingling with adrenaline, so let’s do this, eh?

I don’t believe that people are evil. Misguided, miseducated, brainwashed, biased, egotistical, selfish, narcissistic, immature, deliberately obtuse, thoughtless, vain, greedy, prideful, slothful, on and on and on and on. Even white supremacists and Nazis and fascists and politicians. Not evil. Still people, still capable of complex emotions, still made in the image of God. Still assholes, but not evil. I hold to that even with the world burning. People commit evil. It is rare that they become it.

So anyway, the world is burning and I am crocheting a lot. I am also doing a lot of writing on Facebook because I told myself I would engage with people when their views radically clash with my own, in peaceful, non-aggressive ways. Because my heart can’t take losing people because I wasn’t in on the meme that has all my conservative friends chortling and my liberal friends blowing a fuse (and vice versa). That was my last blog, where I tried to find that place where memes can be hilarious and abominations at the same time and it all came down to whether you’re in on the joke or not. Now, if I don’t get it (it offends me to the point where I wonder how I could be your friend), I ask for clarification. Because sometimes when people have to explain why something is funny, they start realizing how it could really not be.

What’s convenient is that a lot of people have done the rebuttal work for me. Non-violent MLK quote or meme that shakes it’s finger at people for getting violent at protests? “And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.” (“The Other America” Mar 14, 1966) I have a much longer quote from that speech on a picture of MLK looking thoroughly tired of your nonsense.

There it is!

My brother did a marvelous blog about MLK and how his non-violent movement made progress during the Civil Rights Movement because all the other movements were violent. (https://puppettron.wordpress.com/2020/05/31/we-have-a-leadership-problem/?fbclid=IwAR2hkDHyiPLqaxgnSI_MEkyKHh632sqfk-Dh6ckzLrXWd4_EUCatshhOrTo)

His pacifism was only possible because of the riots of the unheard. He still faced loads of contemporary criticism in his time because he wasn’t protesting correctly, btw. His peaceful protests were still met with dogs and hoses and lynchings. His people had to be trained to resist provocation from people wanting to escalate into violence. I’m not talking name-calling either. Remember what they did to people for sitting at a diner counter and marvel that no one fought back. Oh, and the FBI harassed him and his people. And then someone still shot him in the head. Does that mean pacifism is the right way to go? Well, here’s the thing. MLK and his people got the vote for black people, largely due to the fact that behind his movement was an army of armed, angry black people. And since then, politicians, lobbyists, and white supremacists have been actively, systematically disenfranchising black people. Have you heard of Poll Taxes? Or literacy tests? Or any of the hundreds of other ways white people kept blacks (and brown and yellow and red) from voting? Well now we have Voter Fraud laws. You have to get a valid government ID to vote, but you need a birth certificate (something a lot of older black Americans never had). Oh and you need a DMV to get it from, but we closed all the offices within 50 miles of your home. And there’s no public transportation, we don’t have the money for those, don’t you have a car? Make sure you vote when you do get your ID. At one of the 2 voting sites we set up for a few thousand people, with very limited working machines. Make sure you take the day off work to get here because we can’t be here all night. Did you see how even in a pandemic people were willing to wait 7 hrs to vote because it was that important?

And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Civil Rights Movement didn’t end in 1964 when racism was magically abolished forever. It was followed by the Vietnam War where black Americans were shunted off to die in jungles. And the introduction of crack into black neighborhoods so there could be a War on Drugs that created the largest prison population in the world made up of a lot of non-whites who suddenly can’t vote any more even if they serve their time and are released on good behavior. MLK’s movement didn’t work. It was a start. 2 steps forward. 1 step back. For nearly 60 years.

I have seen graphs showing that cops kill more white people than black people every year. Not per capita, obviously. That’s how you skew statistics to prove your point. You change the chart to show the deaths per million and the graph looks way different. But anyway, cops kill a lot more than just black people so why all this complaining?!? Weeeell, are you sure you don’t want to talk about police brutality after giving me proof that cops straight up murder people all the damn time? Justifiable or not, those numbers just scream lack of accountability to me. Of course if we want to talk about murder numbers, can anyone explain to me how we still let cis white males in their 20s walk around all namby pamby when nearly every instance of domestic terror in this country was perpetrated by a cis white male in their 20s? Like, I don’t mean to be racist or anything, but it’s pretty obvious that those people are dangerous and we need them out of this country. (I’m being facetious, just so we’re clear. I know there’s no sarcasm font to make it obvious.)

Exhibit A, Deaths by Race Only (White, Black, Hispanic, Other, Unknown)
Exhibit B: Deaths per capita

I’ve heard (vaguely, not by anyone I know but in comment threads) the age old counter “what about black on black crime.” Guys. When black people kill each other, it isn’t because the other guy is black. It’s because of proximity. It is tragic. It is not a counter argument to systemic racism and police brutality against minority communities.

I have heard that rioting and looting negate your message. I’ve already discussed rioting. And if you need reminding about the type of people who resort to property damage when they aren’t being heard, ask yourself who it was who flipped tables and beat money changers with whips because they desecrated the Temple. (Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:15-19, Luke 19:45-48, John 2:13-16)

Give you a hint: It wasn’t Judas

So. Looting. Arson. Whether it comes from opportunists or accelerationists (white supremacist/anarchist groups trying to start a race war), it’s ugly. People are greedy and selfish. Should these people be shot on sight? Um, no. A majority of these people treating the protests like it’s Black Friday are petty thieves. You know, felonies, misdemeanors? We don’t execute people for petty theft. I get it, it’s scary to think that societal rules have crumbled so much that you realize the only thing protecting your stuff is the general agreement from the rest of society that it isn’t nice to steal things. I don’t break into houses and steal stuff. Not because I’m scared of the repercussions (jail time, criminal record, etc) and certainly not because I’m afraid you’re packing heat. It’s common courtesy, that set of unwritten rules that separate us from the animals. It’s a thin veneer and it varies significantly from one person/culture/religion/country to the next, but it’s there. When society fails to maintain basic courtesy (don’t take things that aren’t yours), suddenly we all feel pretty vulnerable. Some people respond to that with braggadocio. That’s fine, I understand. If you act on that impulse, if you kill someone to protect your stuff, that just makes you a looter, too. When we value stuff above people, we lose our humanity. You decide that the public execution of a man is the perfect excuse for you to get that flat screen you always wanted, you are trash. You decide you’re going to kill a 22yo kid because he looks to be the right color to be a looter and you need to protect your closed bar? You. Are. Trash. You decide that looters and protestors are the same people and it’s all an excuse to steal your stuff, you need to get out of your house and actually talk to these people.

Two words I’ve seen bandied about a lot since March: Virtue Signaling. From the dictionary, “the action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one’s good character or the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue.” We all hate those people who go on and on about the charities they donate to or all the volunteering they do or all the orphans they’re sponsoring, right? Oh and all those people wearing masks during a pandemic. Who are they kidding? I only wear mine because I’ve had a cold on and off since January and it’s finally socially acceptable to wear one in public so I’m not spreading my nasty germs everywhere I breathe (also, it’s kind of the law here now). But all those other people are just sheep. Imagine taking the barest minimum precaution to slow the spread of a highly virulent and potentially deadly disease just because some internationally respected experts told them to? Ridiculous right? I mean, as long as you stay 6 feet away from everyone, and every surface someone else might touch, and not touch anything especially yourself, it’s perfectly safe! Oh, gads did I slip into sarcasm again? And hyperbole to boot. Shame. There are definitely people who do the right thing for the look of it. Say, holding up a Bible in front of a church so people can take pictures or creating huge charities (which may or may not have been funneled into your campaign funds). And on a large scale, that can be insulting and dangerous and illegal. Now, on a small scale, deriding people for doing the right thing when it has absolutely no impact on you is a dick move. And it’s unjust. It’s a callous way to dismiss the genuine decency of people because of your pessimism. People have gotten sick of how supportive we are of George Floyd and his family. Companies, businesses and individuals that have posted their support of the black community are immediately dismissed because they’re just jumping on the band wagon. And they probably are. But you don’t actually know that, do you. It just makes you feel superior to assume that everyone is as weak-spirited and hypocritical as you. We aren’t showing off how “woke” we are. We are genuinely horrified by a video that was taken by a 17yo while people begged for the guy’s life. Fuck you and your “woke metric,” you callous, self-aggrandizing shart smoothie.

I’m sorry, that was harsh. But I scroll through so many flowery Biblical quotes and “share if you love Jesus” and inspirational mantras and “I bet you won’t post this” – all day every day. I don’t accuse anyone of virtue signaling because as shallow as some of it is, I know it’s also genuine for them. If your first instinct is to call bull shit when someone agonizes over the words to encapsulate how it feels to see yet another man murdered for no reason at all, you need to ask yourself where that instinct comes from.

Deep. Breath.

And last, but not least, All Lives Matter. I am not going to explain how asinine it is as a default response. (That’s the best you can do, white folk? Really?) I am going to explain why the phrase Black Lives Matter makes you give that knee-jerk reaction. (We have tried and tried and tried to point out that nowhere does it say “only,” to no avail.)

Being offended comes from feeling attacked. Karens all over the world know what I mean. A negative stereotype is flouted about and suddenly women named Karen are in the spotlight. Most laugh it off because it’s pretty obvious that the name is just a handy moniker for entitled middle class, middle-aged women who want to see your manager. But some people got super upset and they weren’t even named Karen! It’s almost as if they saw some part of the stereotype that applied to them personally. And it turns out that not everyone appreciates how you scolded that cashier into tears because she wouldn’t accept your coupons. No one thinks you’re a hero for calling the cops on black family having a BBQ. And so we’re clear, this is not a slur for women who won’t be silenced. It’s a designation for grown ass adults who use their privilege to bully people who can’t fight back.

Anyway, Black Lives Matters does something that no other movement has managed to do, as far as I know. It. Erases. White People. Erases, excludes, takes them out of the equation entirely. That’s why All Lives is the natural response. When you are used to being the default race, it is anathema to be left out of narrative. (You’re not, btw, it’s more like being reminded that you aren’t the only narrator.) So CONGRATULATIONS, THAT’S HOW BLACK PEOPLE FEEL. Left out. Excluded. Expendable. That is an awful feeling. It’s dehumanizing for someone to disregard you as a thinking, feeling creature. Dehumanizing. Like having someone kneel on your neck until you die and not even having the common courtesy to look like they aren’t bored by the whole thing. Like having your murder highly publicized and then openly mocked less than a week later.

Cunts.

Bottom line, THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU. Don’t come at me with All Lives Matter because that is obviously not true. Looters’ lives don’t matter. Protestors’ lives don’t matter. Muslim lives don’t matter. Refugee lives don’t matter. And human lives don’t matter if they get in the way of the economy. Homeless lives. Disabled lives. Sex worker lives. Women’s lives. Veterans’ lives. Trans lives. LGBTQIA+ lives. And yes, Black, Brown, Red, Yellow, ALL OF THEM are being murdered every day so White Lives Can Matter Most. If you can sit and watch 8:46 min of a man getting murdered for a not-actually-counterfeit $20 and still claim All Lives Matter, I have nothing else to say to you. Except I am a PISSED OFF WHITE WOMAN AND I DEMAND TO SEE YOUR MANAGER. Also, get fucked.

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I’m disappointed


“We’re Americans and we should do better.”

solomonsadvisor

They’re opening up stores and services. Yay! Yay?

People are going back to work! Woohoo! Um…

Who is more likely to be able to work from home and be safe? People that work on computers, people that spend time in meetings (zoom or in-person), people that can submit their work electronically, people that spend their time on the phone, No Problem!

However, there are people whose presence is absolutely required. You can’t electronically submit a hamburger. You can’t email a cow or a pig. You can’t stock shelves from home. You can’t manufacture cars from home. We have managed to get around some of the problems but people are out of work and now they have to choose between starving and exposing themselves to a deadly virus. We don’t quit pointing fingers because that’s what we do best. We blame and blame and insult and attack any people that had…

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Memes


I don’t have to explain what memes are, right?

A photo or series of photos or GIFs with text, usually simple text that makes you laugh? You see, you read, you chuckle, you share. And then you fight for a few hours with someone who insists on misinterpreting what the meme meant. Isn’t that so utterly jarring, though? Okay, yes, sometimes you know that you’re going to piss off someone and that’s kind of fun. Aw, this will get Jerry going, I love it when he breaks out the tin hat over stupid memes. All in the name of harmless fun, haha, it was just a joke, RELAX JERRY, JESUS. Have you ever blocked someone because of a meme? Not something that person said or did, but because they shared a graphic that made you completely doubt how you could ever have been friends with that person? I have, more so in the last 4 years than at any other time in my life. Worse yet, they have caused serious mental/emotional distress for some of my friends.

For instance…no nevermind. This isn’t about my friends’ experiences or about pointing the finger and saying HOW CAN YOU BE SO DAMN CALLOUS/GULLIBLE/JUVENILE while I click share on the same kind of bs.

I recently shared a meme and the first response was from a friend, one whom I consider intelligent and kind and a bit of a badass. It was not rude or anything, but she completely missed the point of the meme. Now normally, I go into literary interpretation mode when someone has issue with something I share. I try to explain what was meant and how it isn’t whatever you think it was because I cannot fathom how you got a completely different message from such a short bit of media. That is the nature and danger of memes. They are brief and therefore must appeal quickly and viscerally with the viewer in order to garner the emotional response desired. They are inside jokes where the inside is millions of people who “get it” without explanation

They will often be polarizing. Why? Think about the ones that you like the most. They make you laugh and go SO TRUE and share without thinking. They always confirm your bias. They stress hyperbole, false equivalency, and all those other standards of bad arguments. They are not meant to be honest or factual. They are meant to be shared. Now think about the ones you hate. They seem callous or thoughtless or hugely inaccurate. How could someone you know and actually like think anything like that? How could they share it and laugh? How could anyone believe this?!? What a snowflake/libtard/derogatory phrase of the moment! Well, turns out you just aren’t in on the joke.

Okay, yes, sometimes they stress the ridiculous

Now normally if you find yourself in the uncomfortable position of needing an inside joke explained, it’s along the lines of “oh this happened and then he said this and oh my gawd you remember those shorts he used to wear what a loser, anyway, you had to be there.” In the case of memes, you have to have the right bias to not only get the joke but find it funny. If you don’t watch the right news or follow the right tweets or tik the right tok (I’m using that phrase correctly, right?), you won’t see what’s so funny. In fact, most of the time you will be furious, offended, and on fire to correct that highly inaccurate discourse. You will feel attacked and you will respond in kind, usually with false equivalencies and hyperbole of your own to demonstrate just how stupid that meme is.

The struggle is real

There is a lot of information out there. Lots of news, lots of opinion pieces, lots of memes, lots of conspiracy theories. All of it is packaged to confirm a bias. All of it is framed in such a way that you will respond in two ways: laugh and share or get pissed and share. Notice the similarity.

I am losing my patience with this kind of packaging. Trump didn’t tell people to injest bleach. He has said all kinds of awful, untruthful, dangerous things, but no on bleach injections. I saw what he said. It was painful to watch but I was more upset by him spit-balling on television like a freaking amateur. Don’t think out loud on national television when people are relying on you for information, even if you’re being “sarcastic.” The coverage of it pissed me off even more, but I digress.

Take, for instance, the protests going on all over the country. Memes have packaged them so easily for me to dismiss legitimate concerns of millions of Americans. People are really complaining about being stuck home when x, y, and z was so much worse? How selfish! Complaining because they want a haircut/lawn seed/beach time when tens of thousands are dead after only 2 months of this plague? I can’t imagine being so privileged that my roots are more important than the health and safety of another person. Deplorable!

And I don’t believe that bs. I know some people are selfish and thoughtless. I know some people watch too much YouTube. But they can’t all be Karens jonesing for a mani/pedi. And just look at all the GOOD that has come out of the woodwork. Churches and schools and charities and just millions of people going above and beyond to help their neighbors. Have you watched Some Good News with John Krazinski? You will bawl.

We are ALL OF US scared right now. We are looking at the rising unemployment and the rising infection rates and doing a lot of math. It’s the worst kind of math. How many more people will die from the economy crashing? Who do we risk to prevent the crash? Unemployment benefits don’t last forever, if you can get them. Always, always it is the poorest, the most vulnerable of us that suffer when crisis hits. Look at how hard the black community has been hit by the virus, on top of everything else. If they aren’t killed by plague, they are killed by vigilantes for looking scary while people with actual automatic weapons parade about with impunity even when actively threatening other citizens.

And all I want to know is WHY? Not why do people consistently prove themselves to be trash while simultaneously showing how amazing the human race can be. WHY IS IT A CHOICE BETWEEN DYING FROM STARVATION AND DYING FROM PLAGUE? Yes, that is an over-simplification of a highly complex issue. Kind of like a meme, amiright?

That, my dudes, is the fight and it’s a total fabrication. The one side says keeping us closed is useless because Covid-19 isn’t that bad/the numbers are overblown/deep state conspiracy/economy crash will be worse you monster. The other side says opening is stupid because Covid-19 is that bad/the numbers are underblown/deep state conspiracy/you can’t sacrifice lives for the economy you monster.

Congrats, you’re probably all right! That’s not the actual issue here. The issue is people monetizing a disaster. The issue is people politicizing the potential deaths of millions of Americans. The issue is that people die either way but it isn’t someone you know so

Anyway, memes. I swear this was just going to be about how fascinating I find memes. Here’s the message I want you to take home. Take TEN EFFING SECONDS TO THINK BEFORE YOU SHARE. And then, take ten seconds before you start a fight/leave a comment. Your dissertations on the inaccuracy of whatever will do absolutely nothing to change anyone’s mind. You will argue at cross-purposes until one of you quits. If your first thought is “Well actually” just scroll on by, hon.

My friend who misinterpreted that meme, I didn’t get into a fight with her. She basically called me on the biased nature of the post and I acknowledged it. Like a freaking adult. And believe it or not, she didn’t misinterpret it. Her bias just raised a flag that I would have picked up on if it hadn’t suited my personal feelings so much. People will be glib with things you find frightening, horrifying, and deadly serious. People will make broad brush statements that will feel like personal attacks. Don’t name call. Don’t mansplain. Don’t diatribe. If you have to say something, maybe don’t until you’ve thought about it for a while. Even better, ASK FOR CLARIFICATION. I’m sorry, I don’t understand the reference? That will start a conversation hopefully, as long as you are genuine in your curiosity.

Exceptions: Total falsehoods, dangerous medical advice, racist/sexist/phobic rhetoric

Total Falsehoods: leave a link to a fact checking site, but make sure it’s a legit source. If you can’t cite a legit source, move on by.

Dangerous Medical Advice: leave a link to a credible medical source. And hey, if you share some video or story of someone hacking a miracle cure or something just for the “look at how dumb this person is,” make damn sure you add context. Facepalm emoji will keep people from thinking you really believe silver nail polish is the perfect sealant on a cloth mask against those pesky germs.

Racist/Sexist/Phobic Rhetoric: the only way we can correct cultural bias is to call people on it. If that’s too confrontational for you or you’re not sure why something is making you uncomfortable, report it.

Finally, for the love of all that is good and holy on this doomed planet, don’t read the comments.

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Writing Super Heroes


I finally realized why I am drawn to writing about super heroes. Regardless of the source of powers (magic, science, radioactive sea sponges), they all have something I will never have. Power. And not, like, super strength or flight or whatever. They all have the power to make significant changes in their lives. They are in total control over their destinies because I am in total control of their destinies.

Do not interrupt me with platitudes right now. I’m not in the mood.

If there is one thing this pandemic should teach everyone is that YOU ARE NOT THE MASTER OF YOUR OWN FATE. You, in fact, have so little power over your own fate that a microscopic organism has derailed your entire life without ever touching you.

And isn’t that frustrating? To have your plans, your goals, your needs supplanted by something you maybe half think isn’t real? Half the internet right now is frantically trying to remind people that this is a PANDEMIC. It is SERIOUS. It is going to impact your life more than just canceling sports and going a bit more time without a haircut. People are sick, people are dying. This isn’t a hoax. This isn’t just some con to give the government more power over when you get to golf.

And think about everything going on that you have absolutely now power to change right now. Huge chain businesses snatching up billions in relief loans that were supposed to go to small businesses. Billionaires managing to rake in billions more while 30 million people file for unemployment and meat processing plants become plague ships. Tensions amping up between the US and China when global cooperation is a necessity. No yeast in grocery stores (I am not prepared to make a starter). Farmers dumping food they can’t distribute while millions are relying on food banks to eat. Politicians doing what they do and making this about whose fault it is. And those are the just big things.

I’m supposed to be moving this summer. My hubby is retiring and I’m all registered to start my Master’s in Creative Writing in the fall. Except, well, all his medical appts were canceled so we have to push back his retirement or risk not getting his disability percentage approved in time for those payments to kick in with his retirement pay. And yes, it’s definitely a buyer’s market for homes so we might get a sweet deal on our next place. But we still have to sell our place and there’s a limit to the diy projects we can accomplish before we need a pro to get everything up to snuff. And with the possibility of a bigger drop in pay than we were budgeting for, now we don’t have cash to spend on fixing up the house anyway. And we have it good compared to a lot of homes right now.

So I should just bite the bullet and go back to work. I’ll get an extra $2/hr in “hazard pay” bringing me up to a whopping $11.20/hr. I’ll risk bringing home a plague to my toddler and husband, but I don’t that anyway every time I go to the grocery store. Just have to multiply my risk by number of people I encounter over a 4 hour shift as well as the people my co-workers encounter since there’s no keeping 6 ft between people you work with.

Super heroes don’t have these problems. Villain shows up in their lives and they just punch him til he gives up. There’s no punching a virus. You can’t punch economic insecurity or corrupt systems or shady backroom deals. This pandemic is showing us EVERYTHING that is wrong with our system of life and we all just want to go back to the way it was. We’ll bloviate about how previous generations had it worse because they had diseases and didn’t fight them with masks and gloves and they SURVIVED (well, most of them did). They sacrificed for the war effort so we should just get back to work because I deserve a haircut and a mani/pedi. And they didn’t constantly criticize the president (yes, of course they did).

We wouldn’t have an economic crisis if we didn’t conflate money with worth. I hate that I grew up watching Star Trek. Yeah, some of it is very problematic and the lens flairs in the new movies is a bit excessive, but you never see the junior enlisted queuing up at the payday loan store on the Enterprise so they can pay their bills. Rank has its privileges, that’s for sure, but it tends to lean more toward things that actually matter. Picard doesn’t get better food from the replicators or better quality uniform and he doesn’t command his ship from the safety of his mansion on Earth. He gets more space to live on a ship where space is at a premium. That’s it.

Yes, I watched the Picard series finally. Interesting to me is when he decides to leave on his mission, his friends stay to take care of the harvest on his vineyard. Not because they will face financial ruin if they don’t. You just have to harvest grapes at a certain time. They wouldn’t starve or get kicked off the land or have to rely on welfare to stay afloat. The grapes would die and they would lose the crop. It would disrupt the planting of the next crop.

We have plenty of food and people are starving. There are plenty of empty homes and people live on the streets. We have life-saving medicines that are sold for a massive profit because if you’ll die without it, you’ll pay anything to get it. There are people working every day to keep this sham running because they don’t have a choice. They need their job. And when this is all over, we’ll go back to making snide comments about burger flippers demanding a living wage.

See, this is why I didn’t want to blog about this. I’ve deleted this post twice today because I started on a rant. I don’t want to rant. I want to write about super heroes. But all I can write about is the world ending and a big part of me thinking GOOD. Maybe if it all crashes and burns we’ll be forced to give up the old comfortable sins. Yeah, millions of people will die, but those will probably just be old people “who were going to die anyway, that’s what they do.” Stop wearing masks because it’s just “virtue signaling.” Don’t let anyone tell you when you can get a haircut or buy grass seed. You know better than the experts, of course. We should just all go out and tongue-kiss infected people. It’ll be like chicken pox parties, but with the added spice of having absolutely no idea what the long-term effects of this illness are since it is a completely new (“novel”) virus. Will I die alone on a respirator, possibly insane from sensory deprivation? Will I never regain my sense of smell? Will I spread it to someone who ends up having a permanent neurological disorder? There’s literally NO WAY TO KNOW! I mean, I could develop a minor cough and then die of a stroke! Isn’t that worth $11.20/hr?

Hoping you are all safe and well. And I hope that you’re right. I hope this is over-blown. I hope we overreacted and in a few years we’ll be laughing about the big plague scare of 2020. I hope I am wrong.

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We’re in this together?


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Grief


Grief is amazing. It is the most universal feeling in the human experience, more than love even. There are plenty of people out there who never experience love. But grief touches us all.

It doesn’t have to involve death, either. We grieve over lost friendships and missing rings, over closed restaurants and totaled cars. My kid grieves every time I leave him with the sitter, though he gets over it pretty quickly.

Sometimes it is acute. Sometimes it is all encompassing. Sometimes it is just a weight sitting in your chest like a poisonous thorn in your heart. It makes your breaths shallow, your smiles falter, your mind slip. It makes laughter brittle. Grief is a frenetic energy that tingles in your fingers because you need to do something, keep moving, keep distracted or else be sucked down into malaise and swirling, deepening sadness.

It can make us selfish, callous, angry, spiteful, and jealous. It can make us uncomfortable, glib, and shallow. It makes us change the subject, avoid eye contact, struggle for the words that don’t sound trite and meaningless. My grief is genuine. Their grief is inconvenient.

And yet, with grief can also come empathy, deep and fulsome and painful. It is cathartic and destructive. Sweet and bitter.

It hits everyone differently. There is no comparing one grief to another because it will never strike the same way twice.

I don’t remember when my Mom’s mom died because I was very young. I remember seeing Mom crying and someone said it was because she missed her Mom. I didn’t cry, though.

The next grandparent we lost was my Dad’s dad, who was sick in the summer and gone by Halloween when I was 19. That was rough. He was much loved. When Grandma died right before Christmas, I was angry at her because she hadn’t given us time to heal.

Mom’s Dad died in 2008, and thanks to dementia it was a relief. I hate writing that down, but it’s true. He wasn’t Grandpa at that point. His memorial was a while later and I said I couldn’t go because I couldn’t get leave when actually I couldn’t face Mom’s grief, so I didn’t even try. I’m sorry about that every day. I was a coward.

I have mourned for cats, like when Lucky was put down because he had feline leukemia and when Buddy found Mahler just dead, dead, dead for no reason at only 5 years old.

I mourned Carrie Fischer, crying effusively when her CGI face surprised me at the end of Rogue One. Isn’t it amazing that we can feel loss for someone we have never met? That whole year we lost cultural icons, one after another, each another blow to our hearts. We came together to share how those complete strangers had influenced our lives, how their arts had saved us or inspired us. And of course others derided our grief as stupid because actors and musicians and artists aren’t heroes. We didn’t know them. They didn’t do anything special. I bet this police officer/soldier/fire fighter won’t get as many shares as some meaningless celebrity. But that isn’t how grief works. There isn’t a hierarchy to how loss effects you, a chart that dictates how much you suffer based on importance. I’ve wept for slaughtered school children and club goers and church members, for the miscarriages of my friends, and secondary mothers of my childhood. I’ve wept for fictional people just as much as for real loss, sometimes because of real loss. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince destroyed me because the loss of my grandparents was still very new. Granny Weatherwax just amplified my feeling of loss for Terry Pratchett, her creator. You cannot argue people out of grief and you can’t compare losses like comparing prices at the grocery store. So. Don’t. Do. It.

Mom’s brother died in 2016, the first of 3 uncles we lost in a matter of weeks (hubby lost one of his uncles and a great uncle). It was only 5 weeks after he was diagnosed with cancer of the everything. So we were prepared, but only just. And when I told people they’d get all concerned or horrified. And I’d help them feel more comfortable. We weren’t very close. I’m fine. It’s really Mom who needs your concern. This was nominally true. I was fairly gutted, but more so when I thought of what she was going through. How would it feel to lose a brother? And then all my past griefs would slide in and knock around as they do. Grief is accumulative like that. It never goes away, just waits until you need it again.

I don’t know if I was grieving my uncle or the loss of a relationship we never got to have. We were so estranged from that branch of the family (not for any reason, just no real interest in keeping up relations) that we found out about his actual death from the announcement posted on the website of the college he worked for. It was just heartbreaking. And when his wife died about a year later, we weren’t invited to the memorial. Which didn’t seem strange to me at all. Just, sad.

A little while after his death I was having lunch with a friend and she told me, fighting back tears, about the loss of her dog, who had been old and sick and beloved. And when she finished she remembered that I’d just lost a human being. But it’s ok. I’m fine. We weren’t that close. And I know the pain of losing a pet. Grief isn’t a competition. The pain of someone else doesn’t diminish your own by comparison. Just the opposite sometimes.

It is fascinating how selfish I can be when I am in pain. I want everyone else to suffer with us. I want everyone to know and commiserate and to understand that I have it the worst and can’t they understand how much pain I’m in?!? But when people do show sympathy, commiserate, understand, love and hug and pray for/with us, I want them to stop. It makes me feel it more acutely because I can see in their faces the grief that they live with every day. I want everyone to know without telling them. I want to be treated gently and I was to be treated normally. I want attention and I want to be ignored. I want to be alone and I hate to be alone. I want to be held but I’m afraid of what will happen when it happens. What if I lose control? What if I never get it back?

January this year we lost Buddy’s Uncle Mike, who had been in decline for a while. I didn’t know him very well, but they were only up in Baltimore so we drove up for the memorial. Buddy Boy took some of his first steps that weekend and he got to meet a lot of his family for the first time. I missed most of his memorial service because I was in the basement of the church watching Buddy Boy zoom around in his dress suit. I’m glad. It was hard seeing the naked grief of his daughters.

And yesterday we lost Dad’s big brother, Uncle Dave. He’d been fighting leukemia for the last year or so and had a bad reaction to one of his treatments. He went into the hospital Wednesday and then he died. His daughter posted on Facebook all about it and asked for people to share their memories. I can’t think of any. I know I liked Dave. I always think of him as a warm, funny guy, kind of like a walking hug. He wasn’t one of the intimidating adults at the family reunions. He was the only person in my immediate family who served in the military, though he was in the Air Force and Navy while I (and my youngest brother) joined the Army. He wasn’t really active on social media, which is how I keep up with the family I have scattered around the country. A few comments on posts I made about Buddy Boy, a political meme here and there. It was his wife who called me while Buddy was in SKorea and who did most of the communications. And still, I’ve spent the day frantically trying to keep my hands busy so I don’t start crying. I almost lost it while driving because I realized he never met my son. I know he’d seen him on Facebook and can now look down on him from Heaven. But I don’t get to see his face when he meets my boy. And a million other things keep churning around, drawing up the pain just when I think I’ve settled it. Is Dad okay? How are my cousins and his widow? His grandkids? He only outlived his own father by 15 years. He was only in his 70s. I know he lived a full, rich, blessed life (especially if the yearly Christmas letters are to be believed). But my loss has piled on with the rest, reminding me of grandparents and uncles and heroes and strangers and my fur babies.

And that is just grief.

Please send positive thoughts and prayers to Dave’s family. He is greatly missed.

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Notes for Translating Knitting to Crochet


I was recently asked to come up with a crochet version of a knitted shawl. And thus began two weirdly stressful weeks.

Some back story: I crochet a lot. Four years ago when my hubby got stationed in South Korea, I found myself with a brand new degree in English and no job. I went from the rigors of higher education to the sheer, unadulterated boredom of unemployment. It was nice at first to rest and recoup from academic stress. But after a while I was sleeping through most of the day, draining my phone battery playing sudoku non-stop, and growing depressed from lack of enterprise and sunlight. I had a How-To-Crochet kit and vague muscle memories left from my mom teaching me the craft when I was young, and that was that. I became an avid hooker. (Crochet is French for “hook,” and it’s easier saying that than “crocheter” all the time. Plus, it shocks the ladies in my knitting groups. Or makes them snigger, depending on the group.)

Anyway, I went total immersion and in no time progresses from novice to making shirts and designing cases for my hooks. That summer, I interviewed for a job at a craft store wearing a crocheted shirt. Now I run the classes at that store and I have students clamoring for my time. It’s not glamorous, but I do enjoy getting people, ahem, hooked. I offer my teaching services at one of the local yarn shops, too. I come up with projects and make samples that they display in the store and they pay me in yarn. It’s a neat system.

Recently, several shops in the area hosted a big Event that involved doorbusters, raffles, and all sorts of neat prizes. For knitters. One shop raffled a very nice set of interchangeable knitting needles. A few gave out free knitting patterns with your purchase. The kick off party at my local store gave participants a pack of stitch markers that only work for knitters. And this isn’t the first time I’ve run across this kind of prejudice. Previous events have had similar prizes all geared toward their primary consumer base. So when they asked for suggestions for the next event, I mentioned that not everybody knits.

I get it, honestly. Most of the customers, owners and employees are exclusive knitters, with a few who dabble in both and a handful who prefer hooks to needles. And nine times out of ten, I’m the lone hooker in the knitting circle. Part of that is certainly the illusion of exclusivity to knitting groups and yarn shops in general. “Knit Night” is the short hand for most groups because alliteration is alluring. However, I stress with my students that most groups are open and accepting of all fiber artists. Yeah, it’s a little weird the first few times but that’s true of any new social encounter. Pretty soon, you’ll be teasing the knitters about how long it takes them to make a hat and how many needles they have to carry around.

Sorry, got a little off topic.

My local shop recently teamed up with a few others for a friendly competitive Knit Along. The shop with the most completed shawls from their patrons gets a donation from the losing shops to a charity of their choice. My shop provided a pattern created specifically for the event. And half a week before it started, they asked me to come up with a crochet version. Because inclusion is a thing with these people.

I said sure, no problem. I am, as they say, the dumb.

I learned a lot in the process and I think I came up with a good mock-pattern. But boy was it a pain in the ass. I mean, I could not seem to write it correctly to save my life.

The first version was the wrong shape. It’s supposed to be a triangle/crescent shape. Mine was more reminiscent of a thong. I kept sending updates to the store and the pattern testers (who were kind and patient and holy crap I have no idea how they put up with me) and almost immediately they would point out embarrassing typos. Wrong stitch counts, wrong row numbers, weird wording on instructions, it was just awful.

After working on my sample for a week I knew I had to go back to the drawing board. Which involved so. Much. Math. Just, all the Math. And trial and error, which takes sooooo much time. In the end, my “final” draft, typed frantically while my son played nursing gymnastics on my lap, still had typos and I ended up sending one more corrected version anyway.

All this happened over two weeks that saw my son having a low grade fever over Labor Day weekend, spending the rest of the week teething, and then me getting a touch of mastitis, and having to work extra shifts at work.

The shawl is done now (except for blocking) and it looks fabulous if I’m being honest. And I’m tempted to say Never Again because holy cow that was exhausting. Unfortunately, I kind of liked the challenge and will absolutely do it again because I am a show off and I want hookers to be included in shenanigans.

For the next time, I have some tips.

1. Study a finished sample and determine which stitches will best mimic the knitted version

2. Study the knitted pattern for stitch increases/decreases, stitch groupings, color changes, etc.

3. Check the gauge. Using the hook with the same millimeter sizing, create a gauge swatch and compare it to the expected knitted gauge. Adjust stitch/row counts to accomodate any variance between the knitted and crocheted gauges.

4. Take a lot of notes. Like, TONS.

That’s all all I have for now. Both patterns are available for purchase on Ravelry (links below).

https://ravel.me/moonlit-waters-knitted-version

https://ravel.me/moonlit-waters-crochet-version

(Sorry about the crappy photos, but it’s late and I’m turning it into the shop tomorrow.)

Do you have any advice for translating betwixt fiber arts? I would love to hear stories of your most stressful project. Did I ever tell you about the time I decided to crochet a giraffe-pattern hooded scarf for my niece without a pattern? It was a DOOZY.

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