Fracturing

I haven’t spent much time on social media lately. I don’t have the energy. See, my newsfeed is falling apart, becoming factions more and more specific to a particular mindset. No one is listening anymore. The media certainly doesn’t help. They get viewership by creating conflict of some sort. CNN recently upset an entire nation, mentioning the POTUS’s trip to his father’s homeland as a trip into a terrorism hotbed. Why did they do that? Because it’s what they think people want to hear, because it’s scary, because people are far more likely to tune in if the news is bad. Once again, I remind you, Ted Turner tried a good news program, and no one watched. Oh, everyone thought it was a good idea, but no one watched. No, instead people want to see trauma and tragedy, violence and sex, and feel better about their own lives or own decisions, on why they arm themselves to the teeth, and think everyone else (just like them, of course, can’t have the wrong people getting armed – just don’t take away MY guns*) should do the same. All teachers, all medical professionals, anyone who has to deal with the scary people in those places where they themselves don’t live, they should be strapped at all times, in the event someone who is on the news all the time as a dangerous criminal (i.e. everyone else) comes along and starts shooting. Sure, that makes perfect sense. Just shoot ’em all and let God sort ’em out. Of course, there’s always the belief that this country was founded on Christian values, and that any special laws that exist should support that, especially since they are taking over, whenever they is a group that is considered The Enemy (homosexuals, Muslims, atheists, progressive Christians, the Pope, et cetera).

Oh, the other side isn’t immune to this stupidity, make no mistake about that. It’s just right now, the groups who support this brand of inequality are in charge. It changes, of course, although I don’t recall a time in history where it was quite this extreme in the other direction. Yes, there are those who would disagree, who point to laws that level the playing field for the disenfranchised, to social support nets and the odd person who makes a lot of money on them. Many of them appear to be the ones who now believe the Pope is a tool of the Left. That equal rights doesn’t mean everyone has the right to be who they are in public, because it’s icky. That it’s okay to refuse service to someone that you don’t want in your establishment, for religious reasons.

Fear, ignorance, and hate. That’s what those things are. I’m tired of seeing it on my newsfeed. I don’t unfriend those people, though, because I want to know what the fringes – either side – are thinking. I don’t rely on Fox news any more than I do The Huffington Post; neither have the best track record for unbiased reporting. I want to see what they’re saying how they’re pandering to the fears of their viewership/readership, because I want to know what stupidity will be spewing out of the mouths of those who wish to be told what to think.

So, I’ve spent less time on Facebook than I have in the past. And it’s getting worse. Why? Because others who are tired of it are also taking a vacation from it. So that leaves those who wish to be heard, who are “right” while everyone else is wrong, although they certainly don’t mean to divide, as long as everyone agrees, we’ll get along, free speech and all, you know.

I don’t have the energy to deal with it. I have enough on my plate. I make appearances, but I don’t spend anything like a significant amount of time there anymore. People who I thought were rational (on either side) are becoming less so. There are still those who are capable of thought, who express their opinions with supported facts, rather than twisting them to their liking, but they’re leaving, too.

It’s easy to find an opinion that supports your own, easy to find someone who will be happy to use facts to show just how right they are, perhaps leaving out little tidbits that might prove otherwise. I’m sure there will be those who’ve decided I’m picking on one side more than another, and there’s some truth to that. I’m not perfect, I have my own biases. Not my stance, necessarily, but my willingness to listen to other sides, other points-of-view. Mind you, I already make an effort to do that. My opinion on certain issues has changed, too, because of it. It’s also become strengthened in other areas.

Remember when you were a kid and your parents yelled at you for something? Did it change your behavior? Why? Because you knew it was wrong, or because you were afraid of making your parents angry again? Now, remember a time when someone calmly explained to you what behavior they don’t like, and for what reasons, and you changed? Why? Because they appealed to your sense of fairness and trusted you to be able to think for yourself. Did it work every time? No, of course not. But it was a decision based on information, not fear, not ignorance, and not hate.

Listen to each other, okay? Don’t confuse waiting for your turn to talk with listening. Deciding exactly what’s wrong with the other person’s point of view is not listening; you’ve already made up your mind. Just listen. Doesn’t mean you have to change your mind.

Think before you speak or type. Maybe we can stop this fracturing before it’s too late.

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Reflections along the Ohio River

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*These overreaching gun laws that the current POTUS is supposed to have passed, that disarm everyone…where are they? Since 2008, how many people have had their arms taken away, hmm?

Loving

Saturday, June 26, 1993: My wedding day. Probably the only one I’ll ever have. If the right man comes along, maybe, but I’m not holding my breath. He was a good guy, truly, kind, a bit laid back, not one to party, not so good with money but no one’s perfect; just not the right one for me. It didn’t last, but it was legal. Before 1967, in several states, it wouldn’t have been. Nor would my parents’ marriage. Thanks to Richard and Mildred Loving, and a bunch of other people who helped, we could marry, and it would be recognized in all 50 states.

Friday, June 26, 2015, 10:00 am EDT: The Supreme Court of the United States is wrapping up their 2014-2015 term, with just a few days left. There are some high-profile cases on the docket that require a decision before the term ends, one they’ve already decided. On this Friday, when they share their decisions, they begin with Obergfell v. Hodges. Less than ten minutes in, it’s clear what the decision will be.

Pretty sure you know where I stand on this one.

It DOES NOT mean that places of worship will suddenly have to accept same-sex couples, that they will have to allow weddings in their buildings officiated by their leaders, any more than they are required to perform marriages between persons of different faiths or different races.

It DOES mean those places of worship that do accept same-sex couples, that want to officiate over such a wedding, are free to do so.  It means the state, and the states (not the same thing) must recognize those marriages as legal, in the same way as marriages between persons of different faiths, different races, different genders are recognized.

It DOES NOT mean people will be allowed to marry their children or dogs. That’s just idiotic.

It DOES mean two consenting adults, regardless of gender, will be allowed to enter into a legal contract of marriage, and partake of all the legal benefits therein.

It DOES NOT mean marriage as an institution is under attack.

It DOES mean the institution of marriage is considered important enough that two adults who’ve dedicated their lives to one another would like it to recognized.

If your relationship is threatened by same-sex marriage, then, to put it bluntly, at least one of you is gay.

The comparison between Loving v Virginia and Obergfell v Hodges is not random, nor is it inappropriate. I remind you, Mildred Loving had a statement prepared for the 40th anniversary of the Loving v Virginia decision:

When my late husband*, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn’t to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married. …

“When Richard and I came back to our home in Virginia, happily married, we had no intention of battling over the law. We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isn’t that what marriage is? …

“I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.”

Coretta Scott King, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s widow, felt pretty similarly. Her husband may have disagreed, but we’ll never know for sure. People do grow, and opinions can change.

It’s about time.

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

It is so ordered. – Justice Anthony Kennedy, SCOTUS

Alli Yola Engagement 120d

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*In case the other link is broken.

Lessons Learned

I wrote a post last night, after I got home. It had about 1,000 words, and covered a wide range of topics in easy-to-swallow chunks. And it was about as coherent as a tired toddler. Yet another reminder why it’s best for me to write in the morning, when the day has not yet begun, than in the evening, when my mind is rehashing the entire day. Even if it means I post Sunday instead of Saturday. All the frustrations and successes jumbled together in an amoebic mass, writing and slithering like a snake ball, waiting to be unraveled by sleep,* it’s difficult to make any sense of them when I intend to, much less when I allow my fingers to just ramble along. Stream-of-consciousness writing, that is, and it’s how I find out what, exactly, I really want to write. Maybe a little backward, but I do start off with a topic in mind. It also makes it tricky to title the posts.

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This Canada Goose doesn’t mind the rain. Eden Park, Cincinnati

So anyway, lesson learned, grateful I didn’t post it, because wow, it’s just not good.

I did have an idea for a topic yesterday, and it was pretty good. I daresay it would have gone viral. Fine, probably not, but I can pretend it would have. I didn’t write it down, though, and I should have. I lose ideas so quickly, sometimes. Perhaps that’s to do with the way my brain works, and is why I learned years ago that if I don’t write it down, it didn’t happen. Still, there’s a grammar rant in there, and a damp afternoon, and the importance of one famous person’s journey over a major disaster.

Saturday morning – Friday night here – there was a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Nepal, about 50 miles northwest of Kathmandu. So far, the death toll is estimated to be close to 2,000. In trying to figure out what date to put, I pulled up a world clock, and got lost in that for a bit. It’s still Saturday in Hawaii,‡ and almost tomorrow on Kiribati, which shows just how arbitrary the time zones really are, since they’re in about the same place in the Pacific. It’s peak climbing season for Everest, and earthquakes can cause avalanches, as this one did. It’ll probably get more coverage than it otherwise might, because a Google executive died in that avalanche. It’s horribly tragic, both because of the loss of life, and because it takes a connection like that before it becomes news. There’s a reason for that, of course. It’s difficult to wrap our minds around something so big. It’s easier if a single face, one recognizable or relatable to the audience, is involved. Individuals from Katrina, the Sumatran tsunami, Japan’s earthquake and Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, they make it more real than just seeing groups of people struggling to survive, dying by the score, losing their livelihood and families in one major disaster.

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An overcast sky seems to make everything greener. Eden Park, Cincinnati

If I’ve calculated the time correctly, it happened during the broadcast of an interview on ABC – Diane Sawyer was interviewing Bruce Jenner† about his gender reassignment surgery. If it had happened in Oregon, the interview would have been interrupted. As it was, unless you were online, you heard nothing. Not if you were watching the interview, anyway. At least, I don’t remember anything. That could just as easily mean I was looking away when there was a crawl across the bottom of the screen, or in the kitchen or bathroom when they mentioned it briefly just before or after a commercial break. It was a good interview, important to watch. At one point, it was mentioned that the hope was maybe it would save a life, and I don’t think that’s too much of a stretch. A person who doesn’t want to understand will not listen, and probably wasn’t even watching in the first place. A person who does, though, someone with a family member or friend going through this, may be able to help that person feel not so alone. Maybe it helped a confused and scared teen decide to talk to someone instead of ending it. Maybe it helped a person decide to stand up against his friends and prevent a beating or murder of a trans person. Without actually speaking to someone, there’s no way to really know.

Again, though, this is an individual, putting a face and a name to something that has been more in the news lately, turning it from “them” to a person, a human being. Is it less important than news about the earthquake and aftershocks in Nepal? Honestly, I don’t know. Personally, I think both are important.◊ Both involve human lives and the loss of them. Saying one is more important than another, that the lives in Nepal that were lost, the people that were left severely injured and homeless, are more important than a teen who has been left homeless by a family that disowned him or her, a person who is attacked because of who they are, even killed, it’s a losing game. Both deserve coverage. Because it’s closer to home, Bruce Jenner received more than the quake in Nepal. It’s why I’m not particularly interested in reading the New York Times or Washington Post. I don’t live there, I rarely have a frame of reference for anything that happens. Is there news of importance to me? Sure. Is it fair? No, of course it isn’t. People are suffering every day, dying every day, from preventable or treatable illnesses, starvation, unsanitary conditions, storms, quakes, volcanoes, floods, or exposure, and it would be very easy to find all of that online somewhere. There’s a limit to how much a person can handle, how much we can process, and how much we can understand before it all becomes noise.

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Capable of begging, anyway. Coral World, St. Thomas, USVI

On a lighter note – a friend shared a video yesterday, of a man with a pet Komodo Dragon. It was weird, and that thing was huge. It was sitting on his lap, probably keeping warm. Still, we know even reptiles are capable of affection, or at least learning how to live with humans. The video itself was fine; I made the mistake of reading the comments on the source page. One person, anxious to show how knowledgeable he (she? I can’t remember) is, talked about the ‘Komodo Dragon,’ and ‘monitor lizard,’ and mentioned ‘Australia’ and ‘Indonesia.’ Once more, people, QUOTES ARE NOT FOR EMPHASIS!!! That’s almost up there with “irregardless,” which is a self-contradictory “word” and should be forever scratched from the mouths of all people. Yes, I fully intended those quotes, and the connotation therein.

In summary – deadly earthquake in Nepal, famous person going public with gender reassignment because the media won’t leave him alone so he’d rather get his own story out before it’s perverted, no writing on a Saturday evening because it’s often incoherent, and abusing quotation marks – single or double – is punishable by death. It’s not? How about using “irregardless” in cold blood? No? Man, that sucks!

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*I won’t say “good night’s sleep,” since that is apparently as elusive as Bigfoot right now.

†Using the name and pronoun he asked to be used for the interview.

‡At the time I wrote that sentence, anyway. Now it’s Sunday in Hawaii and Monday on Kiribati

◊Checking my Twitter feed (I listen to music while writing; it’s easier), I saw that a local man was in that earthquake. I’m sure there’ll be an interview. Oh wait, there already was one with his mother. Again, putting a face on a tragedy makes it more real.

The Fifteenth

What, exactly, counts as sin? Is the color of my skin a sin? My genealogy? Used to be. Is coveting another’s things (including spouse) a sin? Surely we’ve all committed that one. Disrespecting our parents? Anyone who was with their parents from about 12 to 19 is guilty of that one.

Loving the wrong person? Well now…

There’s a song and a video, the song released as a single in 2013, and part of an album in 2014, recently featured on the Grammys and SNL.

The artist stated the song and video were a reaction to what he saw as the hypocrisy in the Catholic church he grew up with, in Ireland, as well as a comparison between love and death. The second concept might be a bit more difficult to see for some. The comments on the videos for this song have gotten into theological arguments, unsurprisingly. I’ve noticed a trend, condemning the extremists, conservatives, often religious, who are responsible for some of the more reprehensible acts in the name of religion. The solution, though, is not the one often proposed – Getting rid of religion will not get rid of the extremists, the ones who respond to dissent with anger, fear and violence; it will only give them a different name, and cause them to find a new rallying point. It’s also not all bad. A lot of good has been done in the name of religion. Is it required for a moral life? No, it isn’t. It can be a guide, but it’s not required. For me, personally, it is a way that a gauge my life, how I make my decisions, how I view the world. I believe in the Bible, as a book written by Man*, inspired by God. If it were the immutable word of God, then the translations would be accurate, the same, and we would all be able to understand them in the same way. There would be no questions, no concerns about comprehension; if these were the literal words of God, we would know. So I believe.

We don’t know; we are guessing. We have free will; we have the ability to think for ourselves, to reason, to conclude. We are capable of great kindness and great evil, humans. I don’t believe there is a devil causing these things. He’s a convenient scapegoat, though. To their credit, the people who believe the devil has made them behave badly recognize that they are behaving badly, that what they’ve done is wrong. Passing blame, however, is not helpful to anyone. Recognize that the being who pulled the trigger was not the Devil, but you, and don’t do it again. Atone, repent, go and sin no more.

Slight tangent, there; wouldn’t be my post if there weren’t.

As the ones in power, or with some degree of it, it’s easy to spot them, the conservative religious extremists. They’re the ones in the US, for instance, who say the country has lost its moral compass, who believe wholeheartedly they know what is best for everyone else, who say they want small government, but also want the things they don’t agree with legislated into oblivion, controlled by, well, the government. Basically, they just want the government to leave them alone and control everyone else. Strong feelings can lead to irrational behavior, and while it is not the sole province of religious extremists, they’re the ones getting the most press with it.

Worse is the issues that get all the focus are drawing attention from ones that really need addressing: There’s the fact that our government is bought and sold by corporations, that the minimum wage, which was intended to be a living wage, has not kept up with the cost of living, that most incomes, in fact, haven’t. The failing infrastructure that is underfunded, because it’s not “sexy,” the failing schools that they’re aching to privatize, the prisons they already have privatized, the environment we are destroying, and the ways that we can reduce that impact, all of these things are lost in issues that distract. Issues such as women’s health – which does include birth control and abortion (no, they’re not the same thing), and same-sex marriage, which impacts only those couples who wish to get married but can’t. Oklahoma passed a bill in their state House, recently, protecting clergy who didn’t want to marry same-sex couples. What this shows is a distinct lack of understanding how our government works. This was a completely unnecessary waste of time and tax dollars – clergy ALREADY cannot be forced to marry anyone they don’t want. If that were the case, churches would have to allow any denomination to marry, and they don’t.

There are days I’d like to just fire all the politicians and start over. Maybe rewrite the 1st amendment so that the press is required to report the actual facts, and can’t just make them up; that there is at least one incorruptible source of information about our country, our government, our cities, states, regions, rather than knowing that news organizations are not required by law to be honest, so long as they don’t commit slander or libel. Or, at least, have the first couple of lines tattooed on a few foreheads – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof… Individual states are trying to do that, and while holding up the Constitution saying their rights are being violated, conveniently ignoring the parts they don’t like.

Another video of Take Me to Church, this one performed by a Ukrainian ballet dancer, Sergei Polunin. The bulge was a bit distracting at first – and I’ve known a lot of dancers – but you can ignore it after a while.

Valentine’s scripture:

2014-05-24 Intern Wedd_0068b Corinthians 13:1-13 (NIV)

13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Heading Home Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

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*Literal man; woman probably didn’t have much to do with it. At least, not the versions we have.

It Isn’t Over Yet

Overwhelmed. That’s the word for the month, overwhelmed. There’s much in my head, as usual, but more of it that I don’t know what to do with than is common. It’s taking over. I did manage to go out with my camera last weekend, and it was my intention to post those photos on Saturday, or even Sunday, but the weekend got away from me. Three day weekend, the import wasn’t lost on me. In fact it made it more difficult to figure out what I wanted to write. For those of you not from the US, it was Martin Luther King Jr. day last Monday, a Federal holiday in honor of his birthday (January 15th). I was off since I work for a company that recognizes it. It’s a day when Federal offices are closed. For others, it’s a floating holiday, a day they can take on the day itself, or save to extend a vacation. For others still, it’s not observed at all. Recognized around the country, in some cases grudgingly so, it’s a day to remember where we’ve been, how far we’ve come, and how much farther we’ve yet to go. Unlike Memorial Day, it’s not often warm enough for a barbeque, so…

Monday, I went to the movies. I’d wanted to see Selma in theaters, but since I usually go to the movies alone, the draw isn’t all that strong. This, though, I asked my father if he would like to join. An account of the period leading up to the march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama, I thought it might be tough to watch. I didn’t realize how much. Showing a couple of the reasons for the march at the outset – voting rights for all citizens, not just the white ones, and the general violence toward blacks just for being black – provided an interesting beginning. Perhaps shocking for those of us who weren’t there, who only heard about these things in history class, or from our parents or grandparents. I’ve seen videos from demonstrations, and the videos from the brutality at the hands of police against people trying to exercise their right to assemble, so that they can exercise their right to vote, their right to the same service as the white citizens. There are inaccuracies, of course, imagined and dramatized moments, just as there are in other historical dramas; it’s not a documentary. It does, however, use real events to enhance the plot. It does use historical figures to explain the feelings of the time.

There were other controversies with the movie, particularly the Oscar snub of the director and actors, but it has been nominated for Best Picture. It was a good movie. The audience was relatively diverse; not necessarily representing the racial makeup of the area – predominantly white suburb of Cincinnati – but it did represent a fairly wide age range, from those who remember to those who heard the stories from their parents, from their grandparents, and even the tales of their great-grandparents. It was at several theaters around the area, some fairly large ones. The one we were in was popular, but not especially large. Not for around here, anyway. Throughout most of the movie, you could hear a pin drop. There were times when you couldn’t be sure anyone else was in there. Even the crying – and yes, of course there was crying – was fairly silent. The ticket taker had noted that the show had been sold out all day.

After, when the credits began in earnest, after the initial credits showing the stars, and the historical facts about them, I saw only four people move – one was a woman and her companion. She had a walker and needed a bit of help getting in and out. Another was a young man and his date. He’d gotten to the bottom of the stairs just as the woman was getting her walker set up. Silent, he held his phone to the steps so that they were better lit for her. The lights came up after the Oscar-nominated song Glory ended.* Some applauded, all rose, continuing the silent contemplation. Kindness – silent – and respect – silent – was shown to all. There was a camaraderie with the audience that I found intriguing. Elders – and somehow I got lumped into that group; that wasn’t depressing or anything – were accorded deference from the younger members. There were nods between audience members, particularly the older ones, the ones who lived through it. “Intense” doesn’t begin to cover it.

It’s better, we’ve come far, but it isn’t over yet.

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A moment of sun in the middle of January. Alms Park. I wonder, sometimes, if I’d have had such easy access fifty years ago.

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*Regarding the lyrics – there are people who are upset over the mention of Rosa Parks and Ferguson, MO in the same sentence. They’re missing the point, IMO. It’s not about Michael Brown.  It’s about the fact that this is even a conversation we’re having, still, that there is a divide between the way white and black suspects are treated. It’s about Eric Garner, about the young man and little boy here in Ohio who were killed by police, about vigilantes tackling citizens lawfully carrying a gun, about how Stand Your Ground is inconsistently applied based on the color of skin, about a man breaking into his own home because he got locked out, showing his ID to police, and still being arrested. It’s not about Michael Brown.

Coming Soon – Jaws 19

Jaws 19: This time it's really, REALLY personal.
Jaws 19: This time it’s really, REALLY personal.

It’s 2015; I had to make at least one Back to the Future reference. I just opted for something other than the hoverboards and flying cars. I’m good with cars staying on the ground. Some people have enough trouble controlling them when they have only two axes to worry about; throw in up and down and people will die. In a flying car if you have a fender bender, you still have to land. That’s assuming your car still runs.

Now that that’s out of the way…

It’s a new year, the middle of the decade. Are we were we hoped we’d be? I don’t think so. I think the media needs to take some responsibility for that. I still contend that a 24-hour news cycle has caused more problems than it’s solved. Gotta get viewers, and people don’t watch good news channels. That’s already been proven. So, find news and spin it so  your majority viewership will tune in. That’s not healthy. It’s even worse when you have a network that insists absolutely everyone else is against them, that their viewers can only get their news from a single source. That’s called a cult. There are some very prominent examples which I’m sure people can dredge up fairly easily, and other less-obvious, less-mainstream examples. One resource is not valid, regardless of whether it agrees with your line of thought. Picking another news outlet is great, but not if it uses the same source. I don’t mean the source like public record or a document proven as immutable fact, something along those lines, but the bits and pieces that aren’t known, and the bias with which the story is told. Some of those news sources are less reliable than the office gossip.*

There’s one that’s caught my attention…caught the attention of the world, really – Leelah Alcorn’s suicide.

Let me start by saying that the comments here are monitored. Discussion is fine, intolerance is not. You don’t have to agree, just be civil. Comments that are deemed hateful will be deleted. This isn’t a government page, your right to freedom of speech isn’t being violated.

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Just to be perfectly clear

Leelah’s parents are hurting and confused, as is the truck driver who struck her. I do not condemn her parents, but I do condemn those who would seek to hurt them verbally, mentally, emotionally, physically. They’ve lost a child. Is it their fault? Partly, yes, and I think they know that. Attacking them will only push them farther into their closed world; give them time to grieve, and maybe they will be able to open up. If they’d been willing to listen instead of condemn, this story might have had a different ending. That still doesn’t make them evil. Leave them alone. If they start actively campaigning against trans rights, THEN it’s open season; for now, let them grieve, let them care for the other children in the home, let them deal with what happened in peace. Please.

On December 28, 2014, there was a blurb† about Josh Alcorn getting killed by a semi on I-71, just north of Cincinnati. There wasn’t much information, no immediate connection to anything else, not even a confirmation of suicide, just a teenager struck by a truck on an interstate. It was tragic. There was also a suicide note posted on tumblr by Leelah Alcorn, a transgender girl, who felt she had no other options. A connection was made. I didn’t hear the story on the 28th; I didn’t watch the news that day.

I did hear it on the morning of the 30th, though. I only know that because I sent out a tweet commending the newscasters for their choice of pronoun (they referred to the descedent as “Leelah” and “she”). They were defending their choice to cover this story, noting that suicides are generally not covered simply because the families are already going through enough. They provide further explanation for their decision on the 31st.

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Convention center spells Cincinnati in red

Our convention center has the name of the city spelled out in lights on the west-facing wall. Makes for a lovely skyline view that doesn’t require much of a caption. Generally the lights are white, but they do change it up for various reasons. On December 30th, they changed it to rainbow colors for Leelah Alcorn. They weren’t in order, but that is why they did it. That was completely unexpected. For me, anyway. It’s not the same city I left in 2001; even though a lot of the same problems are there, the responses have begun to change. Today, there are vigils in town, as well as around the country; around the world. Will it be enough to change attitudes? Maybe. Meanwhile, people are showing that hate and intolerance is not exclusive to the extreme conservatives; that behavior is not acceptable, any more than killing a cop because a different cop murdered someone. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth only leaves everyone blind and toothless.

Not all local stations have been quite so accepting, although it’s amazing what a little editing can do for your perceived position. I doubt it will be much of a surprise which station – which network affiliate – had the most difficult time accepting Leelah rather than Josh. One of their anchors has already expressed her opinion about others in the LGBT community, forgetting that what she’s reporting is supposed to be news, not an opinion piece. Do I think all of the staff at WCPO agree? No, I don’t; that’s preposterous. They are keeping it professional, though, and that’s the part that matters to me.

To sum up –
Let Leelah’s family grieve in peace.
Remember intolerance can strike anyone, regardless of their politics
Be patient with one another; be kind
Don’t confuse “kind” with “doormat,” those are not the same thing.
Flying cars would be a HUGE mistake.

Happy new year.

_________________________

*BTW, most of my gossip came from the males in the office. Just saying…

†Why are my links all from the same website? Because that is where I first heard the story, and because they treated it with compassion and respect. Because they continue to report on Leelah and offer information for others who may be going through the same thing. Because they’re about the community and not necessarily about some sound bite that goes viral.

Time Marches On

Implacable, inexorable, ineffable, improbable
Immovable and unstoppable
Impatient, impertinent
Impossible
Itinerant, intolerant
Intangible and incorporeal
Ever forward
Ever onward
Everlasting and finite
It proceeds.*

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Super moon, July 13 2015. It was a bit overcast

I’ve been particularly pensive the past couple of days, thinking about a lot of things, the assorted accumulations of stress and strain and illness. I don’t think there’s anything about which to be alarmed; it’s just where my head is right now. I analyze, I agonize; that’s how I’m wired. What I haven’t been doing is staying in my head while staying in my house. Saturday was the super moon, a day when the moon would be very close to the earth. I’d planned to go out with my camera and my tripod and practice with long exposures. When I looked up in the sky, though, I saw mostly clouds. Still, I had made plans, and more importantly, made plans with another person. If not for her, I would have stayed home, and I might have regretted it. I missed a mini family reunion that afternoon, though. I didn’t make a reminder that stuck with me. Kinda upset about that.

Monday evening, against my better judgement, I drove across town to spend the evening in a dive bar with a bunch of people, former students from my high school†. It was effectively another mini reunion, although with significantly fewer people, and fewer classes represented – almost all of the people at the bar were alumni from the year after mine. I knew them; even hung out with some of them in school. Others I’ve only really gotten to know since we found one another on Facebook. I’d planned to be there until maybe 8:30, 9:00 at the latest – I got home at about a quarter to 11:00…I was a little tired the next morning. Worth it.

Yesterday afternoon, I had an appointment with my nephrologist, first one in four months. I left work early to get there; first time I made it before my scheduled appointment. Stable, no changes to be concerned about. After my appointment, I came home and grabbed my laundry basket and detergent, and headed for the laundromat, where I did several loads of laundry…

Yeah, that didn’t happen. I came home, sat down and had something to eat, then stayed home, laundry marinating yet another day. Figured I’d do it tonight, when I was less tired. How do you suppose that went?

When I left work, I debated between doing laundry and not doing laundry. I picked up my prescriptions, which had been ready for a few days, now, and headed home – by way of a Mexican restaurant. There was a margarita.

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You can’t see it, but it’s there, honest. Above the wire.

Of course that has nothing to do with the topic. Well, not directly, anyway. What really spurred this on, what inspired the poem, was when I was parking at home. I had the sunroof open because it was a gorgeous fall day in July; something caught my eye as I reached up to close it – the house next door has a very large fir tree in the front yard, taller than the telephone poles. When I looked up, there was a little glint, a glitter, a silvery hint of, well, tinsel. I’ve lived beside that house for three years, now, and I’ve had the same car all that time. I don’t know how many times I’d reached up through the open roof to pull the cover over it, looking up above my head, seeing the tree, watching for opportunistic birds (been lucky so far). Not once did I notice the tinsel.

I stood out there for a few minutes trying to see where the tinsel ended. I didn’t see any below the power/phone lines, although I spotted more near the crown. It’s been there for a while. Likely the people who put it in there are long gone.

Several thoughts went through my mind when I realized what I was seeing. The man who owned that house when I came back had passed away shortly before I moved in. I never got to meet him. I don’t know how long he lived there, but maybe long enough to decorate a small fir in his front yard for the kids to enjoy. Maybe that was his tinsel, or the tinsel of one of the children, stretching up as far as they could go, putting it on the highest branch. My own time of wonder had passed, which I find to be tragic. I’m working on that. The camera helps – the world looks different when you are searching for just the right shot.

Other than that, I had this thought: I have to remind myself not to dwell on the past. Remember it, learn from it, fondly recall it, absolutely, but don’t live there.

_________________________

*There was a time when I wrote almost exclusively poetry. It rarely rhymed, but rhythm mattered.

†High School isn’t really accurate – the school went from 4th grade (~9 years old) to 12th grade (~18 years old); I only got to go for four years, but I already covered that.

Forty Years

I sing the Body Electric;
I celebrate the me yet to come!
I toast to my own reunion;
When I become one with the SUN!”

In 1973, a group of artists and educators got together and created something incredible – a public school for the arts and academic excellence. It started small, just a few high school kids from around town. As the budget and fame* grew, so did the student body.

Created by the late Erv Raible (look him up), this logo covers, quite clearly, nearly every discipline taught. Writing was tricky to add.
Created by the late Erv Raible (look him up), this logo covers nearly every discipline taught.
Writing was tricky to add.

When my brother went, the school was for kids from 4th through 12th grade. He got to go in 4th grade. I was, instead, expected to follow the academic route. I went from 6th grade to a college prep high school, full of students who passed an entrance exam that apparently only about 20% of the population could pass. I never understood that; seemed easy to me at the time. I’ve learned a bit of discretion and diplomacy since then. What’s easy to me may be near impossible for someone else, and vice versa.

I hated it.

Initially I hated it because change is frightening, and this was a big one. My elementary school had an old building and a new building; the new building was where the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders had most of their classes. It was air-conditioned and carpeted. The classrooms didn’t have doors, but the dividers tended to keep the sound in the room itself. The ceiling was a friendly ten feet at most, and there was a lot of exposed wood, and a common area with all sorts of raised areas to sit or stand on. It looked like those schools I saw on TV, the ones that were in the suburbs where no one had to worry about more than making sure they had the most fashionable clothes before anyone else did. Classes were around 20 kids, except for gym, and maybe art and music.

It wasn’t always a safe place – in fact, it wasn’t quite often – but it was smaller and it was familiar. This new school, though, was another story entirely. Students from all over the city were here. Students who were experienced at being the best of the best in their old schools, the big fish, the popular kids who also happened to be good students, the studious jocks and musicians, the kids who were quite often told just how proud everyone was of them. I was going to have to learn a few things if I wanted to survive there. The average class size seemed to be about 35, although some had more.

The building itself was glorious, with important-looking marble statues in a dark hallway, almost like a display in a museum. At the end of that hall was a much larger, much longer hallway, far brighter and busier than the entrance. There didn’t seem to be any space to move. I was already one of the smaller kids in my school, but I was finally taller than all the 1st-graders; here I was small yet again.

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This historic building was the home for SCPA for the longest in its 40-year history.

I sensed my own insignificance surrounded by all those giants, all those kids who were old enough to drive, boys who had to shave, girls who wore makeup and hairspray (it was the 80s – there was a lot of hairspray), books thicker than my arm, and those marble statues, probably intended to remind people of Greek or Roman universities, where great learning among the privileged took place.

My grades were abysmal. I’d never had to study before, so I had no idea how to do it. My mother couldn’t help because she had the same issue, which is why she didn’t finish college the first time. I was dealing with some other issues that wouldn’t come to light until well into my 20s. It helped when I went back for an MS in Accounting, but it was a bit late to help me when I was drowning in 7th grade.

Finally – FINALLY – I got my mother to listen to me. She could see I was miserable, and that things were getting worse, not better. I hated school, now. I didn’t hate school when I was younger. I got to audition for this other school, this place that looked like Fame, looked like fun, looked like something I would enjoy.

I still had to get in on my own merits.

I can remember my audition like it was yesterday. More the feeling than anything. I have no idea what I sang. I did a monologue from “Raisin in the Sun,”  as a cold reading, ^and I wrote a rather descriptive story about a disgusting bathtub. That was fun. They told us when we could expect to hear. One evening, the phone rang. There was no call ID then, so you never really knew who was going to be on the other end until you picked it up. I was nervous. I don’t remember who answered, but I do remember holding the handset to my own ear, a voice telling me the best news I had ever heard – I had been accepted! I may have screamed. I know I cried. A big ol’ ugly cry, with weird noises and snot. My mother laughed. Not a cruel, taunting laugh, but the laugh of a person who got to witness a loved one be elated. Even with all her faults, she did want us to be happy.

My very first day I experienced something I never had before – excitement about a new beginning. Oh I was still nervous, still anxious about this gigantic change, but unlike the previous events, this one made me smile the whole time. I didn’t even get in the door before I was greeted by another student.

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There were 40,000 cameras – this was the only one where we’re all looking at one of them. Okay, not the same one, but still…

There is a new building for the students now, a beautiful technological marvel. They moved in the 2010-2011 school year, if memory serves. The one that I called home for 4 years was old and in desperate need of repair, something the school system could not afford. Fortunately, the building has been sold and will have new owners, owners who are interested in preserving the history even as they turn it into apartments or condos.

There were students who went on to do things in theater, art, music, writing. There are students who’ve been nominated for and even won Tonys, Emmys, Grammys, and yes, Oscars. And there are students who used the lessons learned here to succeed in professions not at all related to the arts. It wasn’t about working to be a professional artist; it was about being a professional person, about what it takes to be the best you can be, to take chances you might otherwise never take. Was it all sunshine and lollipops? No, of course not. There were some darker moments. Overall, though, it was phenomenal. Some alumni have said the school saved their lives. In at least some of those cases, I know that to be true. Not directly, like with CPR or something, but indirectly, giving those students a reason to care, a reason to try, a reason to excel. If I really think about it, I think I was one of those students.

Mr. Dickinson, Mr. Raible, Mr. Louiso, Mr. Stull, thank you. Ms. Hennigan, Mrs. Yonka, Mr. McCraken, and all the teachers and founders and supporters who weren’t able to come, you – all of you – have *no* idea how much you’ve done for me.

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Yes, you, Mr. Louiso

If you’re curious, a few of the local news stations came out to see what we were up to. There wasn’t just a reunion in the parking lot, but a photograph and a little dance. At least two of them are on autoplay, so check your sound.

WLWT Channel 5
WCPO Channel 9
WKRC Channel 12
WXIX Channel 19 did a story the day before.

_________________________

*Sorry; couldn’t help myself.

^For the uninitiated, a cold reading just refers to performing something you may have had a whopping five minutes to review.

Lots Going On

I have a lot of things running through my mind, doing horrible things to my belly and head, ruining my sleep and concentration, which in turn just makes everything worse. Yay. So, not gonna focus on that. Does nothing but make me more stressed and nervous and frustrated.

I had a plan I was working on, trying to get back into the swing of things. I was going to talk about such exciting things like how the hole where my tooth used to be is healing (it’s a little surreal), or how I had to replace two tires today, and wound up replacing two that really needed to be replaced, and having a third repaired. Maybe even dig a little into the stress thing, although not too deeply. Some of that stuff is none of your business, after all. When I got home, after 7:30, and I sat down at my computer, logging on to Facebook after paying a bill that was due today, I saw a trending article – Dr Maya Angelou was gone.

There will be a lot of articles and posts about this today, but that’s because it really is news. A voice for the voiceless, for freedom, for equality, for common sense, a voice of strength, of kindness, of grace, has been forever silenced. Dr. Maya Angelou, US Poet Laureate, first since Robert Frost for John F Kennedy, first black woman, Phenomenal Woman indeed, has left this world. Her strength, her intelligence, her grace, her courage, her words, these things will live on.

When I was a student in college, we had a number of speakers on campus, people that made a difference in our world, not just theirs – Angela Davis, Elie Wiesel, Maya Angelou. There were more, of course, but these are the ones that really stuck with me. Through horror, they gained strength. Dr. Angelou had a cold when she was there; she didn’t feel that well. Someone left early, so she ended early herself. That student who had to leave was horrified to think she was ending the show on her account. Well, who wouldn’t? She did actually have somewhere else to be, couldn’t really stay for the whole thing, but we ended early. I think a half hour. It was harsh. Still, ignoring that part, it was an incredible evening.

Her final tweet:

Take a moment, spend some time with her. You won’t regret it.

Okay, Look…

I was going to wrap up my highly-sensitive person bit tonight. Well, I was going to on Saturday, but I spent the evening at a bar on the water instead. Thought about writing on Sunday instead, because I’ve done that before, but then I didn’t. Honestly don’t remember why. Might have been tired. Anyway, that was the plan. I even have a draft post written up, nearly finished. Now that I think about it, it was because I was tired. I was rambling more incoherently than usual, and I wasn’t in any condition to go through and make sense of it. So I thought I’d leave it for today.

Then something hit the news.

Donald Sterling, owner of the LA Clippers, was recorded in a candid moment saying something he wouldn’t necessarily want made public. He had no reason to assume he was being recorded, so it is a bit unfair. Still, the recording was released, and we heard his words.

A small segment of the conversation released by TMZ:

DS: You can’t be flexible. You can’t.
GF: I am flexible. I understand that that’s the way you were raised, and that’s your culture. And I’m respectful and…
DS: Well why do you have to disrespect them? Those are…
GF: Who am I disrespecting?
DS: The world before you
GF: Why am I disrespecting them?
DS: By walking, and you’re perceived as either a Latina or a white girl. Why can’t you be walking publicly with black people? Why? Is there a benefit to you?
GF: Is it a benefit to me? Does it matter if they’re white or blue or yellow?
DS: I guess that you don’t know that. Maybe you’re stupid. Maybe you don’t know what people think of you. It DOES matter, yeah! It matters!

We heard the thoughts and beliefs of a man who is afraid, who sees his world crumbling, who understands a world where he is automatically on top by virtue of his race, and of his wealth, for whom the rules don’t quite apply. He has the mentality of an owner, perhaps even can be loosely compared to a slave owner. I say ‘loosely’ because the people in his employ are 1) getting paid and 2) free to leave. There might be a financial penalty, but they are free to leave. In his mind, though, based on this recording, and another of the next fifteen minutes or so, this is a man who believes he owns these people to an extent – his team, his girlfriend, probably his wife. Things go his way because that’s how his world works.

At the end of last year, we had a similar ‘scandal,’ comments by a reality star, Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame. Got him in a bit of trouble with his employer, A&E. He had all sorts of things to say about homosexuals and black, all of it ignorant, some of it hateful. He was suspended for a little while, then reinstated. The reasons for the actions are known only to his employer; we can only speculate. I take a cynical view – follow the money.

Both of these men have become the cause celeb for those who are convince the right to freedom of speech is being challenged, since Donald Sterling has been banned from basketball, and faces censure from the other owners, and Phil Robertson was suspended for his comments. What those who argue for their rights fail to recognize is what, exactly, the freedom of speech we hold so dear really means.

In short, it means that as long as your comments cannot be construed as intentionally harmful (such as yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, with intent to cause a riot, or a challenge to the life of the president – any living president), the government will not, CAN not, break down your door and incarcerate you for it. What it doesn’t mean is that you are free from censure from your employer if you should do something that besmirches their image, or violates the terms of employment. A person cannot be fired because of their religion or color of their skin or gender, and in a few places, because of their sexual orientation or gender identification, provided none of those things cause harm to others in the workplace. That’s the key, right there. A practicing Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or atheist does not hurt me in any way. A couple of the same gender in a committed relationship has no effect whatsoever on any relationship I’ve had or will have, has caused no damage in my life.

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Genius of Water Something nice to look at.

Even when the KKK won their case to erect a cross on Fountain Square every Christmastime, it did not take away any of my rights as a citizen of the world. The cross did not carry any racial epithets, it wasn’t a charred representation of hatred, it was not a blatant attempt at inciting a riot; it was two planks of wood erected in a familiar form. The source was disturbing, yes; they filled out the proper paperwork and met the needed requirements to be permitted their display on a public space. Had that cross included a KKK member in their whites standing beside it, or represented in some way, then that would be an intent to intimidate, and is something that cannot be permitted. That goes for any group. Not allowing them to place what was, without the history, without the source, an innocuous religious display presented by a private group, when they were within the rules set by the laws of the city, that would have been a violation of their freedom of speech. The rules were eventually changed; so that no one could put up a display like that again, if I understand correctly.

Donald Sterling being banned from basketball is not a violation of his freedom of speech. If he is forced somehow to sell his team, that also will not be a violation of his freedom of speech. Neither action is being carried out by any local, state, or federal government. Phil Robertson being suspended by A&E is not a violation of his freedom of speech, because A&E is not an arm of the US government, or the state of California, et cetera. Do I think their punishments are appropriate? Well that’s not up to me. My reputation hasn’t been damaged by an employee or member, I don’t need to do damage control. My only concern is whether their right to freedom of speech was violated as a result of their words.

It hasn’t.