Pardon Me, Your Ugly is Showing – Updated

Welcome. These gorgeous daffodils are obviously not the ugly.

I’m venting again. It’s my blog, and I’ll vent if I want to.

It disturbed me a little while back to see these memes circulating on social media. What made me saddest was that they were being perpetuated in part by people I had thought were of a more tolerant, humankind-embracing bent:

Where do I start with the bigotry rampant in that little block of print?

“Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all.” Lovely. First, the descendants of anyone who migrated here and took it away from the natives isn’t a true American, but let’s just skip that. Because, you know, that’s not convenient. We white Americans were the first ones here who counted. But again, why? Show me how it hurts anybody else for an American of Chinese ancestry to consider himself a Chinese American and to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Explain to me how it hurts anyone else for an Indian woman to wear a sari, or how you’re injured by that man’s turban. Oh, and by the way, all of you who love to embrace your Irish ancestry, you were not among the “real” American settlers either. Many Irish came here as slaves in the seventeenth century, and the great mass came later, fleeing the starvation of the Great Potato Famine. You were not loved. You were looked down on and considered not fully human and discriminated against just like the Chinese and the Blacks and the Japanese and the Jews and the Italians and oh, yes, the Native Americans and the Mexicans, who were here first, in case you forgot. The Irish (and I am one) only managed to assimilate better than other immigrants because of Caucasian skin. So explain to me why we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. It can’t just be the novelty of green beer. No, wait — this is America.

Moving on. I once had an interesting conversation with a woman who was born in America and  raised tri-lingual. She got the insulting gamut from complete strangers, from dirty looks to sneered “Speak English!” if she spoke with her sister in another family language in public. Strangers told her she was rude to speak in a language other people can’t understand. Really? So, the beef is that the complete strangers around her can’t understand the conversation, that is none of their business to begin with? She also told me that she learned, in her travels around the globe, that no one anywhere else feels that way. Go anywhere else in the world, sit at a cafe, and let the music of six or eight different languages flow around you. Nobody cares if they can’t understand what the strangers around them are saying in their own conversations, and they’re not paranoid that you might be talking about them. That odd marriage of arrogance and insecurity is, it would appear, distinctly American.

Yes, it is a supreme irritation, having to select a language from a menu. Having other languages available can literally be the difference between life and death for people who are still learning English and are not yet fluent. We put up with a lot, with these menus taking up five whole seconds of our valuable time, and the effort of pressing 1 for English. No, we’ll never be able to get back those five seconds or the energy we used pressing 1. Our sacrifice is above and beyond. We should be so proud of ourselves.

This great big country, encompassing approximately 3.8 million square miles, isn’t big enough for more than one language? Really? Since America is made up of millions of residents who do, in fact, speak myriad languages, I think we can safely say that yes, it is big enough. Russia is twice as big and has more than 30 languages, and that’s with Putin at the helm.

I guess it doesn’t matter how much space there is when the minds are too small.

Just post this one. I already know you’re a bigot.

“There can be no divided allegiance here.” Where’s the proof that there is any divided allegiance? This is dangerously close to the mentality that brutalized tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II, putting them in concentration camps even though they were born here and worked to buy the property that was illegally seized. The amazing “Uncle George” George Takei can tell you the story of his own imprisonment in his TED talk, Why I Love a Country that Once Betrayed Me.

And the biggest question is: Why should anyone have to deny their very DNA just to please bigots, for the right to call themselves citizens of the country where they live, work, raise their families, vote, pay taxes, and bury their loved ones?
What I really don’t understand is that this has to be explained to anyone.

And then, there was this one:

This one is a slap in the face to an increasingly large number of Americans who, through no fault of their own, are finding it more and more difficult to adequately provide for their families.
Like everyone else, I’ve heard the urban legend about the “Welfare Queen” who keeps having babies to get more welfare — like that’s going to make anyone rich. And of course she’s black, right? She’s a myth, though, I hate to tell you. Just like the Magic Unicorn Princess. Where I live, in the state of Washington, the average welfare recipient is a 31-year-old white woman, with one child, who stays on assistance for less than a year. Nationally, according to a mythbuster using material from the House Ways and Means Committee, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the World Rank Research Team, “…whites form the largest racial group on welfare; half of all welfare recipients leave in the first two years; and teenagers form less than 8 percent of all welfare mothers.” And with the purchasing power of present TANF payments equaling what they were in 1996, almost 20 years ago, even that help isn’t much. But apparently it’s enough that people needing this temporary help should feel even more humiliated than they already do at having nowhere to turn but these “taxpayer-funded handouts.”

At least be honest enough to post this one.

Thousands of years ago, governments were formed to oversee the day-to-day functioning of towns that later became cities, full of people who needed to eat in order to live in increasingly industrialized, post-hunter-gatherer societies. One function of those ancient governments was to ensure a food supply, stockpiling preserved meat and grain against droughts and ruined harvests, to make sure the citizens didn’t go hungry. We don’t do that anymore. But ask yourself, why on earth would modern people appoint a government, if not for the same overarching reason — to see to the well-being of the people? The powers aren’t there just because we want someone to send our citizens off to fight wars over causes we know nothing about and to not fix potholes in the roads and to implement Common Core asshattery and to plaster ugly signs everywhere at election time and to generally tell us what to do. They are put in place by us (bought and paid for elections notwithstanding, but that’s another rant), for our benefit. That means a government is supposed to take care of the people of the nation. All of them. Not just the ones whose lives meet with our personal approval.
 “They were earned and paid for” is of course the shaming statement trying to make the point that people needing food stamps or WIC didn’t earn it and haven’t paid for it – regardless of work they’ve done and taxes they’ve paid in the past, or will in the future.

“Welfare, Food Stamps, WIC…ad nauseum…” Ad nauseum. Why not just come right out and say, “I’m sick of programs that help people”? Like there won’t always be people who need help. Like you’ve never needed help, or can guarantee you’ll never need help, ever.

I saw this accompanied by “Of course people deserve to eat, but…” But what? But not if they don’t have a job right now because they got sick, or got hurt, or got laid off? But not if Mom trusted the baby’s father not to leave her in the lurch, needing help until she could get on her feet and make it alone? But not if they are too sick or injured to work and their disability isn’t enough for food and housing both, not to mention – gasp! – a movie once in a while? But only if they’re appropriately humbled and shamed because they need this help?

But… not if they’re not like you?
Seeing a “but” clause at the end of that sentence made me so very sad.
How about, “Of course people deserve to eat.” Period.
There’s a picture of some lovely spring flowers at the top of this post because I like blog posts with pictures but I didn’t want any of those ugly memes to be what people saw as the thumbnail. I want a world that is all flowers. I know it’s not realistic. But I can dream of a sunshine-y bigot-free world, just as I dream of daffodils in winter.

The Only Way to the Other Side is Through

“…It is the time of burning, hate exposed.
We shall have to live with only Kali near.
She comes in her fury, early or late disposed
To tantrums we have earned and must endure.”
In a previous #1000Speak post I wrote that I hate certain people. That seems a jarring juxtaposition with the concept of compassion.
I was talking about the period of time after I’d left a horrible husband and was just trying to make it through divorce proceedings without my children and I being eaten alive by the machinations and manipulations of a vengeful, angry man whose lawyer rated just this side of shyster. I was talking about the arrival of Kwan Yin and my life, and a beautiful, affirming experience that has stayed with me all these years. And I wrote “I fucking hate those people,” and I didn’t edit that sentence out despite the theme of the post…compassion.
But…compassion doesn’t have room to fucking hate someone…does it?
It does.
I also wrote about being determined to take the high road and to stay positive, to refuse to be drawn down to the level of petty spite and tit-for-tat shenanigans that so many divorces are composed of. It was a lofty goal, and one I kept to, and I was proud of myself for not taking one action or speaking one word I could regret.
But divorces take a long time to be finally over, even after the ink is dry on the papers, when there are property issues and especially when there are children. Long after our particular divorce was final, my ex kept it up. I won’t go into it other than to say if there was a Stupid Pet Trick he could pull, he pulled it. Anyone who has been through an acrimonious divorce knows of what I speak. Every time, I sighed and laughed it off, continuing to take the high road — until that one big one that I just couldn’t laugh off.
Really, after crap like this has been going on for years now, how can it not become a bubbling pit of noxious green in a smoking landscape? What’s surprising is that it took as long as it did. Because what I saw, finally, was that I had not escaped the abuse at all. I’d merely escaped close physical proximity. As long as there was anything binding us together, he was going to keep trying to control and manipulate and inflict injury every chance he got, and it didn’t matter to him if he hurt his own child in the process.
Boiling point reached.
One evening, I blew. I mean, blew. I ranted, I raged, I threw things (sorry, but when I let my temper go, it’s the kind that only the sound of breaking glass can assuage), and before I knew it, I was screaming, “I hate that goddamned son of a bitch!”

Finally the storm blew itself out and I collapsed onto the couch. I was hoarse, shaking, out of breath, and utterly appalled at myself. Who was that horrible woman, screaming her fury and shredding an invisible face with her hands and stomping all over invisible guts on her living room floor? This was not the person I wanted to be. That was not the emotion I wanted to be filled with. This was not the evil I wanted to be reduced to. Feeling disgusted with myself, like a failure, I crawled into bed and cried myself to sleep. Again.
But then something happened.
Public Domain.

When I woke up the next morning, the sky seemed bluer. The birds sounded sweeter. I know it sounds smarmy, but it’s true. My kids both seemed happier, for some strange reason, and so did I. I felt lighter, almost like I was walking an inch above the kitchen floor as I poured cereal and coffee. I felt freer. As I checked backpacks and kissed  my children out the door to the school bus stop, I knew we would be all right. And we were. As simplistic as it sounds, it’s true: things got better.

And then I knew that I hadn’t lowered myself at all. What I had done was to release something that had been inside me, eating at me this whole time. Anger and hurt are like an infection under the skin. No, not like – that’s what they are. Pretending it’s not there accomplishes nothing; it only makes you sicker without you even knowing it, until all of a sudden it brings you down. If you don’t acknowledge its presence and lance it and get the poison out, the infection will spread. You will not be free of it until you admit that it’s there and get rid of it. The earth stops shaking and rumbling when the volcano blows. No sacrificial virgin required.
I had no need to feel guilty, either. I’d been afraid that my negative feelings would do damage if I let them out, but I had it backward. They do damage when you don’t let them out. (Reminds me of a doctor I used to see, who told me my ulcers would ease up if I’d just learn to be a bitch.) My anger hadn’t hurt my ex at all. But it had set me free to do the work I needed to do, to clear the landscape and build anew.
Kwan Yin’s gift to me was many things. It was a nod from the Universe, that I was handling things and myself correctly. It was falling and skinning my knee and being drawn onto the comfort of a lap, with no minimizing, just “there there” and all the hugs and reassurance I needed. It was a call to serve, to have compassion for those in my life and for those I don’t know at all and will probably never meet again. And perhaps most of all, it was a reminder that I deserve to be taken care of too, and that means shining a light into dark corners and getting the bad things out. Doing what we need to do for us: self-compassion.
I sat down to write this #1000Speak post on building from bullying based on my own recent experience with workplace bullying and the Demon Boss from the Seventh Level of Hell, and that is when I realized that I haven’t built anything from it. Not really. I’d sought counseling when I was in the middle of it, and I’d identified it, and I’ve escaped it. I’ve made enough progress that I am no longer a stew of anxiety, worry and fear thrumming through my veins like electricity and tears always ready to brim and sleeping one or two hours a night, if that. But I haven’t gone much beyond that. I’ve found refuge in school and a job where my talents are utilized and appreciated, but I haven’t built. In spite of getting out alive and moving on, I still feel helpless, I still feel worthless, I still feel sad. I am still afraid.

The poison is still there.

Photo: niecyisms

This is the part that really sucks: Even though I didn’t do this to myself, and I am where I am because someone else behaved in a cruel way toward me, it’s still me who has to do the work to get out of it. And there is work to do. Bullying and abuse hurt. They harm. They cause injury and lasting pain that most of us aren’t capable of just bouncing back from. A band-aid doesn’t cut it. And even though it isn’t fair, we, the injured ones, are the only ones who can do the work to make ourselves right again. They do the damage, but we pay the price if we want to get back straight.

It’s not fair. Who ever said life was fair? It has to be done. Cruel people knock us down, but it’s not until we allow them to keep us down that they win.

“…Kali, be with us.
Violence, destruction, receive our homage.
Help us to bring darkness into the light,
To lift out the pain, the anger,
Where it can be seen for what it is–
The balance-wheel for our vulnerable, aching love.”
      ~ May Sarton, Invocation to Kali, from the collection Grain of Mustard Seed (Norton: New York)       1971

My beloved Kwan Yin is always there for me, always, but now it’s time for Kali, time to tear down some noxious walls and dig up some poisonous weeds. Then I can build.

2015 Reading Challenge

So, yeah. I have Spanish homework, and a research paper to be writing, three assignments for The History Class That Ate My Life and the truckload of reading that goes with that, and of course finals to study for. But…it’s a blog challenge about books! Must blog about books! Must blog…must…aaaaahhhh…

OK, here’s my list for the 2015 reading challenge.

A book I’ve been meaning to read:

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. I loved the movie. I hope it didn’t ruin me for the book.

A book published this year:

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. Plus, I just entered to win a signed first edition. Letmewinletmewinletmewinletmewin!

A book in a genre I don’t typically read:

I’m generally not a huge science fiction fan, and I’m not sure why that is since I’ve read some stellar science fiction books. I should have read I, Robot by now.

A book from my childhood:

El Jardin Secreto, aka The Secret Garden.  Reading an old favorite in a new language should be a treat.

A book my mom loves:

I’ve already read several of Mom’s favorites but I’ve never tried a J.D. Robb, so I’ll start at the beginning with Naked in Death.

A book that was originally written in a different language:

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

A book “everyone” has read but me:

The Great Gatsby. I don’t even know why. I just like the title.

A book I chose because of the cover:

The last book I picked because of the cover was The Sisters Brothers, and it was a good pick. This time I’ll go with The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero. I’m overdue for a bit of Goth.

A book by a favorite author:

How did I miss that one of my favorite writers has a new book out? The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler.

A book recommended by someone with great taste:

East of Eden. Kathleen loves Steinbeck. I’ve read other Steinbeck books, but not this one. It is time.

A book I should have read in high school:

My high school didn’t have us read much literature, really. I’m picking The Three Musketeers. Because, musketeers. “Come, D’Artagnan! We’re saving the king!”

A book that’s currently on the bestseller list:

The Girl on the Train. I’ve been on the library’s waiting list for about 2 months. I’ve made it up to 326th in line! It’s like being camped out for Warped Tour tickets. I hope I don’t have to bump this one back to 2016.