Preaching To The Choir During Practice

It’s best if we accept the reality that Trump speaks to the vacuum of compassion in his followers. All their life Trump Apologists (Trumpologists) have known on an instinctive level that they lack something most other people have, but can’t quite grasp what it is.

Trump is their Jack from Lord Of The Flies because he validates Trumpologists lack of empathy and need to destroy things and take pleasure in other’s pain – they grunt and nod as Trump eschews the Conch and the Rules of Law and Decency.

The sooner we accept this the sooner we will be able to break free from the notion these folks can be reasoned with.

They don’t WANT to be reasoned with, they don’t want a middle ground – they don’t want to live peacefully.

What they want is for you to abase yourself to their God, and mouth their beliefs and surrender your Civil Rights to their religion.

They want to control your life and be in charge of who you can marry and where you can live and when you will have babies – and even WHEN YOU WILL DIE.

To that end I offer my Brothers and ReSisters a basic template of how to respond to ANYONE ignorant enough to insist Donald J. Trump is a good President.

You won’t change a Trumplogst’s mind, but you will help other Resisters who read it to shake off the continual gaslighting from the Administration and Russia (but, I repeat myself), and the numbness from the never-ending fire-hose of terrifying and infuriating news.

Think of the following paragraphs as Colorform Facts that you can mix and match for the Trumpologists in your life. Use them all – or use just one.

Copy, paste, share, and use in good health. It will always be here when you need it. Most people don’t have the time to put together and fact check a list like this that has taken me 2 ½ years to curate.

So, Sing It Loud! Sing It Proud! Raise up your voice and speak the TRUTH my Brothers and ReSisters!

Sure, I’m preaching to the choir, but it’s so damned EASY to forget what we’ve been through – and sometimes the Choir needs practice:

 

Journalists should be jailed and or killed. Mexicans are rapists & Blacks are lazy. POWs aren’t heroes because they got caught & US soldiers with PTSD aren’t strong. A woman questioning him has to be on the rag. Syrians should be put in concentration camps, and deported. Muslims should have to register and wear ID tags and mosques should be closed.

Trump cruelly derided the grieving parents of a Gold Star soldier, while himself taking 5 deferments from Vietnam. When asked which foot had the bone spur that allowed him a medical deferment after playing 4 years on the college tennis team Trump told the reporter, “You look it up.”

During a campaign rally Trump viciously mocked Serge Kovaleski, a physically disabled New York Times reporter, who pointed out that Trump was pretending to have personally witnessed the thoroughly debunked urban legend that thousands upon thousands of Muslims were cheering in New Jersey on September 11, 2001.

Donald Trump incites violence at his rallies and believes protesters deserve to get beaten up by wistfully pining for “the old days when they’d be carried out on stretchers.” Encouraging violence, he promised to pay the legal bills of anyone assaulting a protestor in the crowd.

Before declaring his candidacy Trump faced more than 4,000 lawsuits on everything from fraud to unpaid bills, contract disputes and sexual discrimination.

Trump has been found guilty and fined twice for violating the Federal Fair Housing Act, due to his management company’s egregious policy of racial discrimination against African Americans.

He was forced to pay a $200,000 fine to the New Jersey Casino Control Commission for denying blacks casino floor jobs and forcing black employees to be removed from sight when Donald and Ivana visited.

He made fraud, racketeering and elder abuse charges vanish from his bogus Trump University by paying off tens of thousands of plaintiffs, whom he defrauded to the tune of $50 million.

He has contributed no money to charity – None. His Foundation is not only uncertified, it is being investigated by the state of New York due to good-faith donations being misused. Paperwork shows nearly half-a-million dollars in charitable funds were used to pay Trump’s personal obligations of legal bills and fines on his for-profit business, including a $120,000 penalty from the city of Palm Beach for code violations by his prized Mar-a-Lago Club. Beyond that, Trump made an illegal political gift of $25,000 to Pam Bondi – the Florida Attorney General who conveniently decided not to press charges on Trump and his Trump University. He used $40,000 to buy oil paintings of himself and even paid his son’s $8 Boy Scout fees out of the charitable fund.

He lies when it’s easier to tell the truth, claiming to be the first person to predict terrorism in the United States.  Trump continues to flog the lie that his first wife competed as a skier in the 1972 Olympics for Czechoslovakia, even though it’s easily verifiable that the Czechs didn’t even field a team that year. A marker on the third green of his Virginia golf club boasts of the 100% pulled-out-of-his-ass ‘River of Blood’ Civil War imaginary battle – and Trump unironically goes so far as to say of the historians who vehemently deny any fight took place within miles of the course, “Where they there?”

He is a thin-skinned narcissist who rage-tweets about anyone who disagrees with him, going so far at one point as to encourage people to watch a non-existent sex tape of Alicia Machado, former Miss Universe from Venezuela, when she detailed his fat shaming of her.

A raging racist, he spent several years and thousands of dollars ‘investigating’ Barack Obama’s birth certificate, encouraging Birthers, and conveniently ignoring the fact that no matter where Obama was born in this great big wide world, his mother being an American citizen MADE HIM ONE, TOO – with all the accompanying privileges, like being President. Please note that John McCain was born in Panama and Trump didn’t say ‘Boo’ when McCain ran for President because he was a white dude.

 

Beyond all of this – NEVER forget this is a man who has promised state sponsored murder and torture of children, and who thinks the Press exercises entirely too much Freedom.

This self-imagined dictator promises to violate the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 14th amendments, as well as end abortion, civil rights, voting rights, marriage equality and the EPA.

He has proudly broken every Commandment Christians purport to hold dear, except murder – and he brags of being able to shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue without it costing him a single follower.

He is working in cahoots with Putin – and no matter how they try to deny it – Trump is ON TAPE begging straight into the camera for Russia to hack Clinton’s emails, which they did.
A ‘Good President’ wouldn’t sentence thousands of children to death, and let 9 million more lose their insurance coverage – as happened at the end of September, when the CHIP bill was not reauthorized.

A ‘Good President’ wouldn’t let the Pre-existing Conditions clause die, or allow Health Insurance Companies to sell worthless policies, or refuse to tell it’s citizens about ACA policies with subsidies.

A ‘Good  President’ wouldn’t let the people of PR die of cholera and thirst. A ‘Good  President’ wouldn’t golf while the people of California are being burned alive and out of house and home.

A ‘Good President’ doesn’t spend 1 in 3 days at his own properties, exhausting the Secret Service budget in weeks that was meant to last a year.

A Good Man doesn’t make fun of POWs and soldiers who died for our country, or a Mayor who is pleading for the very lives of her constituents.

Oh yeah – A Good HUMAN would never, ever, ever “Grab Them By The Pussy!!”

 

 

 

 

 

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How Have You Harassed Me? Let Me Count The Ways…

I was 9-years-old the first time I was sexually assaulted. It was a friendly neighborhood barber who felt me up on the pretense of seeing how much I weighed – he did this after leading me into in a back room whose walls were papered with hardcore porn. I shudder to think what might have happened had a customer not walked in just then and allowed me to escape, heart pounding and sure I had done something wrong.

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I was mercilessly teased about my breasts throughout my teens by schoolmates, strangers and colleagues. I was absolutely scarred from years of cruel mocking about my tiny breasts which were as much a function of my build as they were my mother starving me so I would keep getting booked on print work.

“You’re a pirates dream! A sunken chest!” “Mark likes you. Mark C. Bloom (a So Cal tire store) likes all flats!” “Carpenters love you – you’re flat as a board!” “Hey moon-tan! Didja leave your tits at home?” “You’re part of the itty-bitty-titty club!!” And on and on and on. I’ve been handed band-aids to use as a bra and had men come up and feel my back because “I’m looking to see if your titties are coming out the back! The gotta be somewhere” Yes – it’s been a real laugh riot having men tell me my bewbs aren’t quite big enough to sooth their mommy issues.

A make-up man I thought quite highly of had a daily joke of looking down my shirt, seeing how flat I was and stuffing 2 tissues in to plump things up. The cast and crew thought that was high comedy.

It wasn’t all jokes about my breasts, though. In high school there was the English teacher who took to giving me shoulder rubs and trying to look down my blouse, small as my breasts were. I wasn’t special, though, he did that for all the white girls and I’d been warned. No young woman ever put herself alone with him willingly.

There was the douche-bag History teacher who refused to give me a higher grade than the captain of the basketball team – even though I’d gotten more answers correct on my tests. “It will never happen,” Mr. Vanderveer said huffily, looking down his nose, “I will *never* give a girl a higher grade than a boy.” Even my beloved music teacher wouldn’t let me try out for drum major – because I was a girl. Since I knew how to twirl a baton I was welcome to put on a skimpy leotard and be eye candy – but, no position of power for females was offered. I stuck with my sax, instead, preferring to be a mediocre musician to an object to be ogled.

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No girls allowed in Pop Warner or Little League (unless it was a fantasy commercial) – but I could be a pom-pom girl if I wanted! No girls allowed to deliver papers or take shop classes. No girls allowed to serve the alter in Catholic mass – yeah… Scratch that. Talk about a blessing in disguise.

I was in the first group of girls allowed to play an instrument in the Los Angeles Police Department Junior Band. Previous to that the only way females could participate was if they were twirling flags and sashaying, while sporting white go-go boots. Meanwhile the guys were playing music and styling in sharp military-style uniforms. We gals sure were welcomed warmly in that here-to-fore all-male marching band and symphony orchestra paid for by the tax dollars of the citizens of Los Angeles. Wait – no we weren’t. We were hazed and resented for ‘forcing your way where you don’t belong’. Officer Horde actually laughed when I asked if he thought I might try out for Drum Major someday. I was beginning to see a pattern.

 

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As a teen in the 70s I spent summers in New York City doing print and commercial work. I nearly changed my name to ‘Mira!!’ from all the men hollering it at me from every construction site I passed, them grabbing their flaccid penises and making disgusting sucking-kissy noises at the clearly under-age girl.

 

Serious Question: Has yelling, “I want you to suck my big cock” from a passing car ever worked for any man in the history of time? Do they think screaming ‘Show us your tits’ will actually reveal to them nipples and areolas? Of course the clear corollary to that fallacy is that SO many men think telling women they aren’t fuckable is some kind of kryptonite that will kill us. It’s beyond their scope that we aren’t all waiting breathlessly to have our bodies validated by a stranger’s desire to have sex with us.

 

I grew up in an era of unwilling Title IX accommodations, and outright hostility at those women who wanted equality or free agency. Men called feminists ‘bra burners’ and despised those who would exercise their right choose to terminate a pregnancy they could not or did not want to take to term. Men winked and nodded at each other over women’s heads about our so-called intelligence and proficiency, and while we insisted, “I’m RIGHT HERE” they nodded condescendingly and said, “Sure you are, Sugar Tits. Now, isn’t that cute?”

 

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I was raped at age 16 by a person in a position of power – these are all the details I’m willing to share now, and it is still my story to tell someday. Suffice to say the highlight of the experience was after hearing the man would face no charges, I sought solace from a priest who looked me square in the eye and said, “You must search deeply and ask yourself, “What did I do to bring this upon myself?’ and then ask forgiveness from the Lord.”

What did *I* do to bring this upon myself? What did *I* do to encourage a man 25 years older than me to attack me when I was vulnerable and physically incapable of fighting back or even keeping him off of me? I’m not ashamed to admit that when I became an adult THAT mind fuck paid for a few therapists vacations.

Things became more difficult when I became an adult – and not just because of the rape. Suddenly, at the age of 18 I was expected to know how to navigate being legally objectified. When you’re jail-bait you’re subjected to endless leering. But, when you achieve the age of majority – even though you’re still very much a kid – predatory male behavior kicks in to high gear.

When I turned 18 I briefly had an agent and interviewed a would-be manager – both men at least 15 years older than me – who each tried to turn a professional relationship into a casting couch. The agent had a habit of creepily calling me at 8 am because, he said, he really liked hearing the sound of my voice when I woke up in the morning. The manager, over the course of a 2 hour interview tried to kiss me.

Let’s not forget a male actor I had worked with numerous times who didn’t recognize me when I was 18 and wearing a saucy red jumpsuit and big hair. I was going in to an interview and he was leaving one when I recognized him from 20 feet away, only to have him mistake my smile of recognition as a come on. I wanted to vomit at his leer, and when he realized who I was he tried to pretend he wasn’t checking my ass out.

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There was the predatory douche in the acting class at Cal State University Northridge with whom I was doing a Chekov piece who mauled me during rehearsal at his home, insisting we needed to spoon before doing the scene, and physically wrapped his arms around me against me will, forcing me to lie next to him on the couch, where I could feel his erection. I was numb and terrified.

Mr. Mauler missed the next class, hanging me out to dry on our scene presentation, screwing me on my grade. I spoke up in class about what had happened, and another female student looked incredulous and said it had happened to her, too – being held against her will, and then he didn’t show for the scene. We were the only 2 women he’d been paired with, and twice he’d physically overpowered his scene-mates into forced intimacy and blew off the performance. He was clearly using rehearsal time as assault time. The Professor’s reaction was to give us each a passing mark for our scenes, and him 2 goose eggs he was allowed to make up by doing scenes with a male actor. He wasn’t kicked out of class because… you know… It could really hurt his reputation if this made it into his permanent file.

 

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The real corker happened just before I left California, when I was managing the box office at The Hollywood Palace, just off of Hollywood and Vine and directly across from the Capitol Records building. The Palace was a high-end night club that held 1,800 people and featured all the best current and up-and-coming acts; it also had an exclusive restaurant and on the second floor a roof-top private club that people fought tooth and nail to get into, including Althea Flynt, the wife of Hustler magazine founder Larry Flynt.

It was at The Palace that Larry Flynt’s weaselly assistant tried to coerce me and 2 other female co-workers to wear string bikinis and stiletto heels into a federal court to push wheel barrows full of pennies in to pay one of Flynt’s obscenity fines. I was offered the princely sum of $100 to leave my dignity at the door. Somehow I found the power to decline without alienating a client.

Later, when the Weasel found out I was a former child actor, nothing would do but he kept insisting I needed to do a spread-eagle signature Hustler pictorial. He thought he was complimenting me by mercilessly nagging me every time he saw me to do something I had not ever had a fleeting passing interest in. I was expected to be cordial to this tool who insisted on acting like he was my pimp, because Althea and her groupies brought in big bucks, prestige and probably coke.

There was a lot of coke at The Palace then. Hell, there was a lot of coke all over Los Angeles then. It was sucking in friends and family, and I’m grateful I held strong against trying it, much less using it. My manager at The Palace had a problem with coke and as his addiction progressed so did his inexcusable behavior.

I’d been there 2 years, and the abuse had ratcheted up slowly over the weeks and months. It began with cruelty, “Jesus, you’re an uptight little Catholic girl, aren’t you?”  and moved to unwanted dirty jokes. It wasn’t long until there were slaps on the ass and finally to him exposing himself on a regular basis. His favorite way to do it was to turn his pocket inside out and ask if I wanted to see a one-eared elephant, followed by pulling his semi-turgid penis out of his pants.

The job paid really well and was fabulously cool, it allowed me to sleep and attend class and take time off for any acting jobs I got. I learned to look away when he took his dick out, and to spend as little time alone with him as possible.

He began to frequently and fruitlessly demand sex from me “When are you gonna give it up?”  Then, he allowed the bar staff to have a semi-secret betting pool regarding which male employee would bed me first.

Knowing all this, I had to grit my teeth and be pleasant to his princess girlfriend who pretended to be oblivious to the way her boyfriend was literally swinging his dick around.

As his cocaine addiction progressed his anger became explosive, and his behavior unpredictable. The owners began to show up less frequently (their problem was alcohol, not coke) and Cocaine Manager became more erratic.

One busy Friday evening Cocaine Manager came in to the box office with a glaze in his eyes that let me know he had his load on. I had no patience for a coked-up, drunk boss, and when he made the elephant appear for the umpteenth time I opined that it was the shortest trunk I had ever seen.

His fury broke like a wave, and in a flash as he grabbed my right nipple, and squeezing as hard as he could he twisted my breast. I screamed and he let go, then I ran to the bathroom, locked the door and cried. That fucking psycho yelled through the door, “You watch your filthy fucking mouth, you hear?” before slamming the door on his way out.

At home in the wee hours I could see the angry bruise that was forming on my breast, and when the morning came I called the police about the assault. It was then I heard for first time in my life – but no-where near the last – how the police refused to get involved with a ‘He Said, She Said’ situation. I couldn’t believe my ears that yet again someone who had physically assaulted me would get away with it.

Refusing to let the matter go, I had my doctor document the bruise on my breast and nipple, and took the matter to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which was then being run by that superb sexual harasser, and current Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas. I filed my grievance and waited to for something in the mail to tell me what would happen next.

One evening a few weeks later, as I was preparing the will call and guest list for that night’s show, the door from the club into the box office blasted open, the knob hitting the wall so hard it left a hole where it bounced off. Cocaine Manager was standing in the doorway as angry as I have ever seen anyone in my life. He rushed forward and grabbed my arms and began to shake me like a rag doll. The EEOC had called the woman in Human Resources and she immediately told Cocaine Manager about my complaint. His answer was to physically assault me.

“You went to the GOVERNMENT about me you fucking bitch?!!!” he was screaming in my face as my head was being whipped around and his hands dug into the flesh on my arms. Suddenly my breasts were on fire as he was grabbing and squeezing them viciously. “You don’t want me to touch your tits?!! How’s this?!!”

He flung me by my arm into the wall, like a crack-the-whip.  Nearly incomprehensible with rage he shrieked, “GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY CLUB YOU FUCKING CUNT!!! GET THE FUCK OUT YOU’RE FIRED!!!!!”

As I scrambled out the door with my purse and coat he kicked me in the ass as hard as he could and I hit the wall in front of me.

The police STILL refused to get involved – He Said, She Said, and all that.

In the end the EEOC dropped the case because they couldn’t see that Cocaine Manager had done a single thing wrong. According to them, my going on a date with 2 different co-workers had given my supervisor carte blanche to demand sex from me. His physical assault and retaliation didn’t enter into it because I had no standing  to make a complaint to begin with.

It was shortly after that I left for Colorado at the age of 20.

Yes – ALL of this happened by the time I was 20.

When I started this list I figured I could crank out a few pages about the ways I’ve been harassed. I have already put down 2,500 words and I’ve only covered the stories I remember (right now) from the first 20 years of my life.

It’s sobering to realize just how many stories I have. But, even more sobering to know that nearly every woman in this country has their own stories to share. Yes, Stories – plural.

I’m going to keep telling my stories, because if we don’t tell them how the hell are men ever going to know what’s REALLY happening? We need them to stand up for us – and they need to understand how god-awfully pervasive it is.

I’ll keep telling my stories. Isn’t it time to tell yours and make your voice heard?

 

 

Thoughts and Prayers and Magic Spells

Prayer doesn’t change things: Prayer changes YOU.

I mean, knock yourself out praying if that’s what spins your bow tie. But, don’t imagine for a moment that it’s going to change a damn thing about what is going on around you, be it machine-gun massacres, apocalyptic hurricanes, devastating earthquakes or even whether your transmission will make it another week until payday.

Thoughts and Prayers are just two of the ways people internalize the every-day stimulus called Life. There are as many ways people internalize Life as there are people: You can Self-Medicate, Fight, Hide, Isolate, Meditate, Cut, Resist, Despair, on and on into an infinite number of combinations of the way we process and deal with the world around us.

The point is we ALL internalize Life, and for anyone to offer up proudly that they’ve given a thought – they’re THINKING  – about something the rest of us can’t get out of our heads, is *stunningly* self-absorbed.

Thoughts and Prayers is shorthand for, “I am powerless to stop this from happening and I will wish REALLY hard that the Omnipotent Being of my choice will deign to show mercy on this untenable situation.”

Thoughts and Prayers have the same efficacy as Wishes and Magic Spells.

Thoughts and Prayers and Wishes and Magic Spells are what you offer up when there is nothing else you can do.

You earnestly have Thoughts and Prayers and Good Wishes for a friend with an illness because that’s all you can do: It’s out of your hands.

But THIS situation isn’t out of the hands of Congress. They CAN change the law, they simply refuse to because there’s too much money gushing in from the NRA.

So, when ANY Politician offers the mealy-mouthed phrase “Thoughts and Prayers” about Las Vegas or The Edge Nightclub or Sandy Hook or the inevitable NEXT GODDAM SCHOOL SHOOTING what they’re really saying is, “It’s out of my hands, there’s nothing I can do.”

They are offering wishes and magic spells instead of protecting us from madmen who mow down human beings like you take an edger to errant weeds.

“It’s out of my hands, there’s nothing I can do to protect you. But – I’m thinking about you.”

Perhaps if the folks who survived Las Vegas are REALLY lucky they’ll get a golf trophy dedicated to them.

Thoughts and Prayers were not what we offered al-Qaeda after the September 11th attacks on the Twin Towers, The Pentagon and Flight 93; and Thoughts and Prayers are NOT what we should be offering Domestic Terrorists.

Thoughts and Prayers are political speak for: “It’s out of my hands because I’m going to keep taking NRA money soaked in the life-blood of kindergartners and concert goers – but I will ask God to keep you in His thoughts.”

How DARE they pretend God has ANYTHING to do with blood money from the NRA and gun manufacturers who saw their stock go up 3.5% in the hours after Stephen Paddock forever changed group dynamics and the way we will attend concerts, sporting events, and large outdoor venues?

Thoughts and Prayers indeed.

Politicians Thinking and Praying to end murder-by-guns in this country is an infuriating waste of time, and allows them to pretend THEY don’t control the legislation that would prevent another Las Vegas massacre.

Statesmen might as well swing cats over barrels of rainwater and cast spells under a full moon as offer Thoughts and Prayers – they have the same efficacy.

Praying is a highly personal thing between you and your God and is not a replacement for doing your job – whoever you are – and hiding behind ‘God’ when you refuse to do your job is an affront to truly spiritual people who do not use their religion as a prop.

Beyond that? I have yet to see any evidence that Thoughts OR Prayer actually works any better than the aforementioned Wishes and Magic Spells.

God sat out the Holocaust and Manifest Destiny. Babies die of brain cancer and inexplicable tragedy befalls the purest souls, while people like Pharma-Douche, Martin Shkreli, are richly rewarded for bankrupting people just before killing them by making life-saving medication unaffordable.

I have heard all my life that the worst, most inhumane things in the world are all ‘God’s Plan’. Well, then, if God already has a plan what good is there in praying for things to change?

Remember – Prayer doesn’t change things: Prayer changes YOU

Oh – and while we’re at it? God doesn’t have a $20 riding on game, so don’t thank him for the touchdown. God didn’t send a boat to rescue you because he hates the person who drowned. If God exists, trust me on this, neither She/He/It or Jesus gives a tinker’s damn if you won a fucking music award. Stop abusing your deity with self-serving trivialization revolving around your oversized ego.

Here’s the thing: Many of my dear friends and a goodly number of kind strangers believe their prayers will change the course of my illness. I so, SO appreciate that another person on this cold planet cares enough about me to appeal to their God, and plead my case for lenience and a bit longer stay here. I love that I am so loved, and cannot imagine a greater treasure from my friends and well-wishers.

Were it possible that God(s) might listen, I respectfully and humbly ask people to direct those supernatural powers to something bigger than me. I mean, if the power of Thoughts and Prayers can actually change things, how much of a GIANT asshole would I have to be to ask any God to put me before the truly suffering in the world?

I mean – I appreciate the Thoughts and Prayers… But, I am going to die whether or not I’m cured. I would rather my life be shorter if suffering in the world would be lesser.

Don’t pray for me – ask your God to make Congress enact legislation to end our home-grown Gun Fetish that leads to the massacre of innocents and a staggering suicide rate.

Imagine a jumbo jet being blown up by terrorists every week, until the end of time – that’s our Murder rate. Now – imagine a stadium full of people the same size as the Las Vegas concert – 22,000 – and once a year all those people put a gun to their head and pulled the trigger. Wouldn’t you do ANYTHING to stop that concert? Wouldn’t we be working around the clock to crush the terrorists behind the plane attacks? What is the difference between it happening in a steady trickle or an angry gush? The people are STILL dead.

The God’s Honest truth here is that it’s not Thoughts and Prayers that will end this crisis, it will be us demanding action and forcing change. We’re not willing to put in the work to rid our society of this sickness, and we have some nerve demanding God do what we are perfectly capable of doing ourselves.

Pray all you want – but never confuse praying with actually doing something.

Oh – and Second Amendment Fetishists? I have two words for you Sons of Bitches:

Well Regulated

I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God – it changes me. C.S. Lewis

Use It Or Lose It

***The following is a restored version of the original piece I wrote on this. The updated version is chronologically next, titled ‘Losing the First Amendment to Putin’s Trolls’*****

When did the First Amendment become a wedge issue and what’s the point of having it if you can’t exercise your rights freely?

The narrative has been successfully changed from NFL athletes taking a knee to protest racism to them hating America, the Flag and First Responders.

I am FLABBERGASTED – fucking flabbergasted – at people buying into the meme of football players making too much money to protest. This is a Fox News ‘politics of envy’ gambit. Where was their outrage at the overcompensated game show host who became president? Beyond that, WHY is it a problem for well compensated people – athletes or otherwise – to speak up for the oppressed?

The fact is: People who have succeeded have a moral responsibility to help those who are oppressed, and not pull the ladder up before they get their turn. It’s the same reason I donate to the food bank: Because I needed it once and I’m in the position to help, and feel morally obliged to put my hand out to lift up those I left behind.

What kind of horrible people would successful athletes be if their attitude was ‘Fuck you – I got mine, you get yours’? That’s EXACTLY why I hate the current iteration of the GOP, with their bootstraps and prosperity gospel.

This issue has Russian bots all over it. It reeks of the bullshit from the election. Did you think Trolltopia in Macedonia – the city of 10,000 hackers, trolls and spammers who do Putin’s bidding – was going to go away when Trump was putsched in?

America is literally fighting over our First Amendment rights! How can this be?

How can it be that so many people have been manipulated into saying folks have no right to have a political opinion because of the amount of money they have? How long until we don’t have ENOUGH money to have an opinion?

The other false narrative I’ve seen pushed is that the flag is more important than the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, itself. I’m sorry – What?

Soldiers don’t swear to defend the flag, FFS.

Oath of Military

This issue isn’t about the Flag – It’s about our inalienable First Amendment rights as Americans and our Constitution. The Flag is nothing more than a physical representation of the rules and instructions on how to operate the Republic, and that which we hold most dear.

In the 1943 U.S. Supreme Court decision of West Virginia V Barnette, Justice Robert Jackson wrote: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.”

The only thing we can do is speak up, speak out and protest. We’d all better start using our First Amendment rights before it’s just a ghost of the past that we daren’t even whisper about.

The First Amendment: You’d better use it before you lose it

 

 

You Could Die Laughing

I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters” – Donald Trump, January 23, 2016

I will probably vomit on the next Trumpologist who feigns surprise and pretends to condemn the terrorism and murder committed by Nazis in Charlottesville this weekend.

Who KNEW that the guy who bragged about getting away with murder might collect Fascist admirers?

Who could imagine that the guy who retweeted Nazi slogans and images of himself  would attract Nazis?

 

pepe-the-trump

 

It was all one big laugh riot when Trump said Mexicans are rapists, Blacks are lazy and Journalists should be imprisoned or murdered!

Wasn’t it a hoot when he said POWs aren’t heroes because they got caught, and how US soldiers with PTSD aren’t strong? Hey remember that lighthearted day he attacked the grieving Gold Star Parents of a dead US soldier because they’re Muslim?

Gosh – didn’t we all know it was just funnin’ when he said a woman questioning him has to be on the rag? Such a gigglefest to see a thin-skinned narcissist rage-tweet to his followers to watch a non-existent sex tape of the Venezuelan Miss Universe who had the temerity to complain about his fat-shaming. Calling women disgusting, fat pigs is just in jest!

 

Trump Inauguration

 

Oh, my, but how I laughed and laughed and laughed when Trump mocked a disabled reporter!! Although I *was* confused by the folks who lied to themselves and me in self-righteous fury at the pictorial proof.

I’m sure we all looked at his proposal of putting Syrians in concentration camps and deporting them as the jackanapes it was intended to be. And really, who *wouldn’t* chuckle deeply at the notion of Muslims being forced to register with the government and wear ID tags in public, while their mosques are closed by government decree? Trump continuing to lie about seeing ‘thousands and thousands of Muslims cheering in New Jersey on 9-11’ – despite an utter lack of evidence and the (Republican) NJ Governor & the head of the 9-11 Commission saying it’s an absolute fabrication – is really just an elaborate prank, doncha know?

 

Trump Protester Beaten

By gum – who thought Trump was serious when he encouraged crowds to beat up protestors? You’re reading FAR too much into it if you heard Trump say he’d pay the legal bills for those committing assault in his name.

‘Maybe he should have been roughed up‘. Donald Trump, Nov 22, 2016, on a protester

‘Knock the crap out of protesters, I’ll pay your legal fees’ Donald Trump, Feb 1, 2016

‘Go ahead and punch someone in the face and I’ll pay your legal bills.’ Donald Trump, March 13, 2016

Certainly NO-ONE could infer a message from those ratcheted-up statements, and to try to read into it the encouragement of violence and lawlessness, or look at his statements over the last 2 years and see an appeal to Nazis and Fascist is just horrible identity politics, and you should feel ashamed of yourself!

Who could have foreseen that encouraging THIS in March 11 of 2016:

 

Trump Nazis March 2016

 

Would lead to THIS in Charlottesville, August 11, 2017?

 

Nazi March in VA Aug 2017 5

 

Trump suporters can spare me their fake hand-wringing and denouncing this weekend’s terrorism as something coming out of the blue!

Trumpologists’ mealy mouthed denials of seeing Nazis in their midst are no better than Captain Renault from Casablanca standing in Rick’s Cafe collecting his winnings, while being shocked – SHOCKED I TELL YOU! – to find gambling in this establishment!

Fuck your False Equivalence, and Whataboutism with a side of ‘He was just joking’!!

 

Whataboutism

 

Is it REALLY that fucking hard to denounce the terrorism that killed peaceful protestor Heather Heyer?!!

If you don’t denounce the whole Nazi business – including Trump – you have Heather’s blood on your hands.

If you’ve ever wondered what you would’ve done during slavery, the Holocaust, or the Civil Rights movement…you’re doing it now.

Remember to Keep Laughing at the truth, Trumpologists, and Grab Them By The Pussy!!

Nazi March VA Day 2 Car 2

Infectious Fascism and Someone Else’s Beer

Our local liquor store had been in business since the early 1980s, when the shopping center was built. The original owner passed it along to his 3 sons when he died, many years ago. There was nothing special or fancy about the shop, which had long, wide shelves stocked full of not-too-high-priced wines and liquor that tended to come in the Handle Size. They did a brisk trade in beer, $1 shooters sold out of an empty fish tank on the counter, and “Oh, jeeze! We’re all out of vodka/wine and I’m almost home!” purchases.

It had a coveted corner location on a major intersection with high visibility, and was next to a busy grocery store. The long floor-to-ceiling windows faced due west, which meant high cooling bills as the high altitude sunshine blasted in year round, roasting  the products on the front shelf and raising the temperature unbearably during the summer. A few years ago the Brothers balked at the raising utility prices from keeping the store cold enough to properly store their inventory, and slowly adjusted the thermostat upwards. The heat coupled with storing the wine upright – as one would store a fine vintage Yoo-Hoo – served to spoil their wares.

As if wine bottles that were warm to the touch weren’t enough, over the years the shop developed a nose-curling funk stank from their dogged insistence upon carpet, which served as a 1-way booze sponge when a bottle or case was inevitably broken, and because one of the brothers smoked indoors while doing the books afterhours.  Mmmm… the cheeky bouquet of nicotine braised in sour carpet wine!

We began shopping elsewhere, save for the times we emerged from the adjacent King Soopers, arms full of groceries (yes, we brought our own bags), and too tired or lazy to drive 6 miles round trip for a bottle of wine to go with dinner. Don’t judge me! The cork that crumbles like The Mummy is punishment enough.

Just before Valentine’s Day we found ourselves lacking the fortitude of an additional errand, the grueling 15 minute drive more than either of us could possibly handle, and so found ourselves choosing from wine bottles with dust on them.  I noticed a marked lack of champagne and other bubbly beverages appropriate for a manufactured holiday. “This is weird,” I told my husband, “Why aren’t there cases of cheap champagne stacked 5 high and 2 deep in here? In fact, there’s almost no champagne at all,” I gestured to the picked over front shelf, which was normally full of the boxed wine and cheap champagne that the Brothers counted on their clientele not being able to suss out were treated to daily solar pasteurization. It was a minor curiosity, one I chalked up to a screw up in ordering and went on with my evening.

A few weeks later, before St. Patrick’s Day, it was obvious something was up. The store was still very busy, but their stock had visibly dwindled – the shelves were no longer full, with empty spaces behind the wine and spirits.

“What’s going on?” I asked the young woman who worked there. “Not much,” she replied absentmindedly. “No – I mean ‘What’s going on here?’” She stopped and looked at me in confusion. She really had no idea what I was talking about. I gestured with my arm, “The shelves aren’t fully stocked…” She had a blank look on her face. “Are you guys remodeling? Selling?” Again, the clerk had a blank look, “No…” I left it at that, but told my husband changes were coming.

I wondered if they were going to finally move the stock out of the beating summer sun in the front window… Maybe they were going to set up a Growler station, or a tasting counter – moving forward  with the upwardly mobile neighborhood and appealing to the higher income residents who were replacing the middle income folks that had been a staple of the area when it was built 35 years ago. I had mentally moved the first row of shelves, replaced the nasty carpet with some easy-to-clean wood flooring that would brighten the space up, and show off the better selection of wine they would carry. I couldn’t wait.

At the end of March the only vodka left was bubblegum or peach flavored, the Bourbon shelves were flat-out empty, and most of the decent wine was gone. The Smoking Brother told me they were having distribution problems, but they would be getting a shipment in the following week. What he was telling me didn’t feel right – but I had been doing business with him for 16 years and gave him the benefit of the doubt by allowing him to assure me I wasn’t seeing what I was looking at.

We were gone most of April and upon returning we immediately noticed the barren shelves. Most telling is there was not a whiff of the upcoming drinking holiday Cinco De Mayo: No cut-outs of busty Latinas shucking gag inducing Lime-a-Rita beer, no garish plastic Papel Picado banners stamped with ‘Corona’, or posters of a Sombrero-sporting mustachioed stereotype peddling rot-gut tequila. You know – The Free Crap distributors beg store owners to take and give a price break for the best placement. But, there was still lots of beer – a good deal of it craft beer from start-up breweries & local brew pubs.

Several customers walked in and stopped dead, looking around at the long, mostly-empty shelves. They would do a 180 or full 360 to take it in; most left empty handed. It was clear the store was closing, but no sign indicated a last day or what was going on. I asked the only employee (someone I’d never seen before) what was going on and was answered with ‘Dunno’.

I suddenly realized: They must have sold the liquor license to King Soopers, the grocery store in the same complex. A recent change in the law allowed grocery stores to sell liquor, but only if they buy an existing license. I was happy for them in the distant way you can be when you hear good news from a stranger you’ve known for 15 years: It doesn’t change your life, but it gives you a pleasant feeling.

A few weeks later they were still open – somehow defying retail gravity. Richard walked the empty aisles with a curious expression on his face as he passed islands of bottles neatly arranged – 6 Rieslings here, 4 Moscatos half an aisle later, a lone bottle of gin in the next aisle. What stock was left would have neatly fit in 12 or 15 feet of shelf space, but instead was spread around the empty shop with the fastidious denial of a screamingly bad comb-over.

“When’s the last day?” I asked Morose Brother who spent a decade and a half demanding I show my ID every time I used a credit card. “Before the end of the month,” he answered with his usual dourness. Looking into my eyes he said “We sold the business,” and then spit into his dip cup.  “I… did you sell the license or the business?” “We sold the business and we’ll be closing sometime before the end of the month,” he repeated with a finality that forbade further discussion.

“How could they be selling the business?” I asked Richard when we were in the car, “When there’s no business to sell? I mean… there’s no inventory – and they lease the space. The only thing of value in that store is the license on the wall.” I chalked it up to him being contractually prohibited from discussing the details of the sale.

The very next day the City seized the store for failure to pay Sales & Use Taxes.

A quick call to City Hall revealed that they hadn’t paid a dime of the taxes they’d been collecting since January, and they’d been sending in partial payments for months before that.

It suddenly became clear that the inventory sell down was really them stiffing their suppliers – everyone from Coors to small craft brew companies struggling to make ends meet – and pocketing the money.

They stole not only from their liquor distributors and the city, but from their customers as well, by not submitting tax revenue that keeps schools open, roads paved and a live voice when you dial 911.

In retrospect it was quite obvious what was happening, but I didn’t want to accept the grand theft in front of me, so I provided pretty stories about Growler Stations and wood floors that morphed into them cashing out big by selling the license for a keen profit. None of it made sense to the scene in front of my eyes, but I held on to the fable rather than accept the felony.

I had been performing Olympic-quality mental gymnastics trying to explain away the obvious because the obvious made me uncomfortable.

It was a personal microcosm of what’s happening around the country: How we’re all staring in disbelief at the emerging Fascism around us, willing it to be something else.

We’ve watched fanaticism morph into a Fascist Cult of Personality, yet refuse to name it as such because then we have a REAL problem on our hands.

We’ve heard friends, family and colleagues embrace a man whose beastly policies call for banning Muslims, gutting the EPA, drilling for oil in National Parks and Monuments, building a useless Wall, disenfranchising women, and simultaneously cancelling the insurance policies of 23 million Americans while making it unaffordable for tens of millions more.

These aren’t policy differences on things like how to best fund infrastructure improvements or whether schools should focus more on science and less on the arts. This is the fundamental rejection of the invisible frame of our Social Contract by an alarming number of Americans.

They *like* the idea that ICE officers ate lunch in a café before arresting the kitchen staff.

They’re THRILLED journalists are finally getting the beat down that’s coming to them.

They’re relieved they can stop acting tolerant and want LGBTQ folks to climb back in the closet and for anyone darker than a flat white to know their place.

These people who benefit so much from the Public Commons of Society honestly don’t care if you lose your job, house or insurance – they don’t give a tinker’s damn for anyone who loses their disability, Medicare, Social Security or any other safety net program.

“I DON’T OWE YOU ANYTHING” they shriek like a misunderstood teen, unironically running the Social Contract through Mom & Dad’s shredder after they’ve slammed the office door.

The toughest thing about watching acquaintances and those we love support such heartlessness is when we finally realize they understand fully what they’re doing. It’s much easier to deal with people when we convince ourselves they are ignorantly supporting evil policies, and that if it was properly explained they would be enlightened. Otherwise, we have to accept that an uncomfortably large chunk of America is okay with a semi-literate bully dragging us backwards 6 months for every day he is in office.

Accepting that this is actually happening is a real hurdle. None of wants to stare into *that* abyss and it’s ever so much easier not to court discord and just let sleeping dogs lie.

Please don’t be like me, though, when I watched the local liquor store go under and cheat its vendors, and I chose not to see it because I couldn’t accept the Brothers could do that. Don’t imagine people are constrained by your sense of decency, however well or little you know them.

Once we see the hard truth of Trumpers actions, we have to either accept this Fascist Cult of Personality or fight it. There is no middle ground. When you stop selling yourself on proverbial Growler Stations and wood floors to brighten the place up, you can’t unsee the unsavory and uncomfortable truth that 45’s followers heartily approve of a stratified society that plays out like Lord of the Flies – only, in this story line there are no adults to step in to save the day when things are at their bleakest. There is no higher authority to appeal to, because our current POTUS thinks laws are impractical to follow (his words, not mine).

Make no mistake that we are in dangerous territory with 45’s spreading Fascism, and we ignore it at our own peril.

During the election 45 promised the state sponsored murder of children, he promised to crack down on Freedom of the Press, and he promised to violate the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 14th amendments, as well as end abortion, civil rights, voting rights, marriage equality and the EPA.

When you look at it this way 45 had a spectacularly successful first 100 days, now didn’t he?

Trumpers voted for him *precisely* because he promised to abuse other people and break things. They are the groupies that enable a bully to prevail, and who become emboldened by their support of him.

Trumpers like the chaos, the angst and the destruction they were promised when they voted.

It’s hard to see friends and family infected by Fascism. Worse – when they demand our tolerance while spreading this virulent disease of hate.

But, it is no longer possible to separate the Message from Man or the Masses – they own who they support and his policies, and anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you someone else’s beer.

Dying For Health Insurance

Health Care

There’s nothing like being really sick to remind you of how great it is to have health insurance. The last month has really driven that home for me. Believe me when I say I am glad we are insured. I’m glad I was able to get the help I needed.

Yet, there are people who, even now, would prefer for Americans to go without insurance rather than have any government involvement. What they want is a free market free-for-all.

The world didn’t end when the ACA went into effect. Tens of thousands of people didn’t lose their health insurance, as predicted. The specter of death panels never materialized and, in general, things were better for those who were able to get insurance for the first time.

Then, there are people like me who have preexisting conditions who were precluded from shopping for health plans, and paid exorbitant premiums (try $1,400 per month) for bare bones coverage with outrageous deductables. With the ACA passing we were able to decide what plan worked best for us, and weren’t forced into plans that didn’t offer the coverage we needed.

Americans don’t have the kind of coverage found elsewhere in the world. I remember talking with a roomful of English people about the insurance industry in the United States. They honestly didn’t believe my husband and me when we explained policies, plans, and the ability of an insurance company to raise rates with impunity, and cancel your coverage if you had the audacity to actually use it. They were incredulous when we explained how people went bankrupt from medical bills, but were unable to discharge that debt when they filed. They thought that perhaps we had our facts wrong, and we were met with many skeptical, “Are you sure that’s the way it is?” They thought it was barbaric. (Their words, not mine)

The fact is our health insurance before the ACA was barbaric. The notion that a sick person could be denied benefits and treatment, and then kicked off of their plan for getting ill is brutal and merciless. We as a society deserved better than that, and we got at least a measure more of humanity than existed.

Is it the best system? No. Would I rather see single payer? Of course. But, we do ourselves a disservice when we refuse to accept anything less than perfection, and as a result pass up progress when we don’t get everything we want.

How defeatist to not bother making the world a better place when we know that utopia is not reachable. What kind of spoiled children refuse to play when they find out they can’t be assured an absolute victory?

Rest assured that Republicans, with no plan of their own, would happily kill the act which has provided relief for the uninsured and the previously uninsurable. In the last few years Republicans have tried 56 times to completely repeal or undermine the law. They keep touting the phrase ‘repeal and replace’, but their slogan is as empty as their hearts. They have no plan, but simply want to kick millions off the rolls, with no remedy.

Now the ACA faces a new challenge: The Supreme Court has heard arguments on whether the federal government can provided subsidies for consumers to purchase healthcare coverage in states that did not set up their own health insurance exchanges. The case of King vs. Burwell could very well be what brings down Obamacare.

I am one of those people who will find themselves without insurance should this happen. I will be kicked off, left out in the cold and have nowhere to turn should insurance companies return to their former practices. I have preexisting conditions that no insurance company will want to take the chance on.

The Supreme Court has already voted on this issue, but we will have to wait until June for the decision to be announced. We could find out in 3 months that things will go forward as they are. Or – what worries me so much – we could find out that Obamacare has been overturned.

Then what? Well, to tell the truth I have no idea what I’ll do. I really don’t. I’d like to ask the people who want this program to go away to tell me – in detail – how I am supposed to get the health insurance I desperately need? The sad truth is that most subscribe to the ‘Screw you – I got mine, you get yours’ school of philosophy. They actually feel no compassion for their fellow humans, and don’t really care if someone can’t afford insurance, or is denied it completely because they would use it.

I’m sad that so many in my country doesn’t see health care as being part of “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. It’s depressing that virtually every other industrialized nation has better health insurance than we provide our citizens. Having a heart attack shouldn’t bankrupt you, nor should it be an excuse for a heartless corporation to maximize their profits.

So often we are told by politicians that the United States is an exceptional place. It’d sure be nice if we acted like it now and again.

All I can do is cross my fingers and wait until June.