In Case You Haven’t Seen It Yet… Yes, “Wonder Woman” Is Great…

It was a sign of dire need when girls saw Linda Carter as a superhero when I was a teenage boy.  Clearly, from my perspective at 15 or so, she was a set of big boobs who wore a cool costume and fought evil. 

Turns out it was more than that… a lot more than that. Apparently girls saw her as, well, somebody… and somebody to be. As a teen nerd, I only knew of one girl who liked comics, so I didn’t think anybody was paying attention. Turns out they were. 

In a world where men could be heroes and women could be heroines, or the spouse of a superhero, there weren’t a lot of images to aspire to if a girl wanted to try out her heroic side — if she wanted to be brave, courageous, good, and able to save the world. Yes, a woman could keep a mean house, but that’s all there was. (And, btw, that’s cool if that’s who you want to be, but if something is your thing, it’s kind of limiting, to say the least).

What I was also learning at the time, when I wasn’t thinking with my genitalia, via Deering, was that I like strong women. They weren’t as needy, so I could just be a guy — without chest hair, polyester pants, and later, cocaine to impress them, By opening up their possibilities, I got to open up mine — like staying home with the kids, (fun and meaningful for me, unimaginable for my father, inconceivable for my grandfather). 

Because I liked the idea of strong women, I didn’t give girls a hard time about Wonder Woman. It’s a darn good thing I didn’t. Now, in 2017, I’d have been seen as an idiot, my girls wouldn’t have gone to see a great movie with me, and I would have missed what will become a classic, alongside of Raiders of the Lost Ark and others. Yes, it’s that good.  Wonder Woman is a great movie for the same reason that Raiders was: there is not a wasted minute in the entire film. (As a sidelight, both movies feature the heroes using whips for all kinds of new things.) The movie goes from good scene with good direction and good dialogue and great action to more of the same. Two and a half hours later, you wonder where the time went. 

Oh, and she’s a very different kind of superhero. She is brave, courageous, action-oriented warrior who hates war. Throughout the entire movie, she never throws the first punch, kicks the first kick or beats someone bloody with her shield on her own. She is courageous defense throughout. When I was a kid, men — and boys that wanted to be men — never started a fight, but were always willing to finish one. That is Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, the queen of the Amazons. She stands up to bullies, defends the weak, values all human life, but never picks a fight.  In doing so, Steve Trevor, her love interest and a hero himself, gets to take care of things the best way he knows how, without “worrying about the little lady”. He, too, stands up to bullies, defends the weak, values all human life, but never picks a fight. That makes two heroes in one movie… and allows for it in real life.

When I was a little kid, there was a show on TV featuring Diahann Carroll as “Julia” — a Black nurse and single mother. My mother was a single mother who wanted to be a nurse, so I Could picture it. The show opened up the possibility that Black families were like mine, and that Black women could be nice. I didn’t know any of them yet, but when I did, I expected them to be like Julia. Most were. 

As reviews have come in for this movie, they have pointed out that — like Julia — different people saw different things when they saw Linda Carter all those years ago. There are women who tried out that side of their personalities, once it wasn’t seen as only “manly”. Those women are the leaders of today, regardless of their occupation– preachers , teachers, senators, and — maybe one day–  Presidents. They are colleagues and friends who fight for democracy against ruthless men today. I for one, am damn glad they do. The work of saving the world, or our little corner of it at least, frequently takes more than I have.

So, Linda Carter is an actress, and a role model, and the opener of possibilities… and yes, she still looks good, but apparently there’s more to her than that, if only we look beyond age 15. Gal Godot is wise to follow in her footsteps.

Wonder Woman and I are… Resisting with Peace,
John

Sometimes words can serve me well, sometimes…

I want to weigh in on the Bill Maher  controversy. Last week, he said, in response to “working in the fields” for a Republican (Senator? I think so), Maher laughed and said, “In the fields? I’m a house n…..r!”. What I would take from that  (now that I’m calm) is that Bill doesn’t like hard work. What the rest of the world heard, of course, was “He said the N word!!!!”

There are people who are delighted to hear people say it. There are people (most, I think) that think it’s horrible to say it. I am in the latter category, and have never in my life used that word because of the racism and hatred behind it.

There are three interesting challenges regarding this issue in my experience, and I want to speak about them, and open the floor for discussion. 

Some ground rules first: 

I am White. People who are on the receiving end of this word are not. On some levels, that means I have nothing to say about it’s effect it has on Black people. If you are not on the receiving end of the word, I would ask that you keep that in mind. Further, I am reluctant to step into a discussion, but firmly believe that people who know me can make up their own minds and need to discuss it openly, but without hostility. Both as a White man and as a lover of Black culture,  I offer my experiences as MY experiences, it is my hope that anyone who wants to discuss it will speak only for themselves, and based in their experiences. 

I may edit your comments if I find them offensive, but will leave your argument as best I can. 

Ok. With that said, here’s my issues and experience:

1) In the 1980’s, there was a trend in America, where people of a variety of identifications, “reclaimed” the epithet as a “source of pride”. In this category, gay people used the “F” word, lesbians used the “D” word, feminists “reclaimed” the “B” word, and Black folks did the same with the “N” word. I was saddened by this in every account. I thought it was “internalized” homophobia, misogyny, and racism, but it wasn’t up to me to criticize the people who did/and were in the group. I was told that plenty, by members of the groups I have talked about. I already had in my mind that it was rude, so that wasn’t an issue for me. Still I should acknowledge my sexism here, but it’s only when I’m in a lousy mood or raging that I use the word.

2) That said, in order to be honest, I know that the “letter words” above can be seen by some people, myself included, as meaning a “bad” member of their group.  I have said, “She’s being a “B” though never the “C” word, though I love women as a whole. I have used the “D” word with lesbian friends in talking about certain lesbians — the more “masculine” ones and have never meant it a bad thing, just a descriptor. There are many White people, men and women, who will say, “Bill’s Black, but he’s not a “n”…. or “Mary’s a feminist, but she’s not a “B” about it”. In short, some people see it as rude, but intentionally so, as a way of differentiating one type of person vs another of a certain class. I’ve never heard that discussed as a real thing in discussions, but I raise it here. 

3) Regarding Black culture, I have heard two differing things about the “N” word. First, Richard Pryor, in one of his filmed concerts, talks about going to Africa and never hearing the word. How amazing it was to him, how calming it was to be in such a culture. He came back from that trip, vowing to never say the word again. Second, and this is the most uncomfortable one for me, two of my very best friends, both “of color” have said, “John, you (are) my n….a”. I worked very hard to be trustworthy, kind, and a member of community, so I understood that they meant it as a term of endearment, but I told both friends “I’ll take that as a compliment, but I’ll never use it myself”. I was uncomfortable with it, but was also secretly thrilled that the person felt they could say that to me with such intent. 

I don’t know what to do with any of this, except to say it’s there. I guess my questions are this: 1) in the “politically correct” world, what are the rules regarding liking or loving a culture not my own? Is it “allowed”? 

2) If you are accepted by a certain culture, and do like the culture, is it ok to use the “letter word” for that group?

3) How do we build bridges without stepping on each other’s feelings. What is the proper way to engage in such a situation?  

I look forward to your comments.

Resisting with Peace, 
John 
(Btw, the title comes from Harry Chapin– “sometimes words can serve me well, sometimes words can go to hell, for all that they do”.

On the Arts, the President, and Being Liberal

I know this piece is going to make some people mad, but I am sick to death of apologizing for being a liberal.

I am sick of being on the defensive. I want to be offense for awhile — not “offensive”, but on offense. There’s a difference. Bear with me…

Yesterday, Kathy Griffin posted “art” online — disturbing images, including one of her holding up a bloody head of Donald Trump.  What has come of it? Nothing. He’s not dead. It’s an image, a picture. It’s not real. But she — after talking to Al Franken, a liberal democrat — has apologized for offending the Trumps and other people’s sensibilities. 

He helped her apologize! He brought her back from the edge of the community and explained once again that we’re not that kind of people. She humbly acquiesced. I’m not sure she should have. Truth be told, I would like Donald Trump to be dead as well. I don’t want to kill him — understand that — but if he got hit by a bus tomorrow, I wouldn’t be unhappy about it. I am angry with Mr. Trump and his policies. Neither would many of my friends. If you’re upset by my saying this, too bad! People feel things all the time. Get used to it! The point is that my writing this, just like her photographs don’t do anything in the real world. Trump does, and he never apologizes for it.

The knife-wielding man in Portland never apologized. He remains defiant. Breitbart news never apologizes. Sean Hannity refuses to stop talking about some made up conspiracy theory. He never apologizes.

How many years did Trump make Obama’s life a living hell with his lies? But liberals are supposed to apologize for a picture that bothered him for a day?!?!  No. Enough

When liberals “go off”, they are usually saying something that many of us feel. Remember when the Dixie Chicks said they weren’t proud of President Bush. He was taking us to war, and we still don’t know why. Did they kill anyone? Did they threaten our values? No. They expressed them, as is their right. They lost careers. They witnessed album burnings, and being burned in effigy and death threats. I think they sort of apologized, but in any case, they sacrificed for what they thought was right. So did the men and women who died in Iraq. Who didn’t? George W. Bush!

Before that, it was Bill Maher who made an inappropriate comment about how “gutsy” suicide bombers were. I totally disagreed with the statement. He lost his job for years. He sacrificed himself for the right to be wrong. Years later, we have a President who sacrifices others while invoking his right to be wrong. 

That was almost twenty years ago. That’s a long time between offensive statements. I think our side is well behind conservatives as far as disrespectful statements. When conservatives are offensive, people die. That doesn’t go away with an apology.

I am sick of being told we’re not patriotic enough because we don’t always wear a flag on our lapels. I’m sick of being told all kinds of things about people who aren’t doing anything but hanging around while Black. I’m sick of seeing people being removed from the country because they are Brown. I’m sick of seeing a man I’m supposed to respect shove a diplomat. I’m sick of state representatives threatening to shoot someone, or elected officials physically attacking the press. Actual physical violence is not the same thing as a depiction of violence. It’s worse! Clarence Thomas’ (his words) “virtual lynching” is not the same thing as actually dying by being hanged. How do I know? He’s still got a job. They don’t even have life. Thomas knew that, and he played it, all the while denying that race had any effect on his life.  As one who knows abuse, I can tell you a suggestive remark is not rape. It is horrible, and it triggers some people, but it’s not rape. Rape is rape. Comparing the two demeans the experience of those  who actually have been. It’s the same with any political  hyperbole. Am I angry at that? Yes, I am. And I’m saddened by my clients’ having to be shamed for saying something happened to them when they are not the problem.

What set me off today was a picture in the Huffington Post of a man with the same color bloody face as Trump’s in the Griffin picture. The man was attacked in Afghanistan. Trump is sending troops and ramping up the war in Afghanistan. Is no one offended for that man? Who expresses anger for him? Subconsciously, Kathy Griffin does, but she’s in trouble. Who else does? Apparently me. That’s why I don’t care if I’m in trouble for writing this.

Lastly, I am not saying that I like Kathy Griffin’s piece. I understood it, but like it? Not really.I’m saying that I believe in her right to it. Art gives expression to feelings so that we don’t have to act on them.

For my Christian brothers and sisters, as my church ends its worship, we say “return to no one evil for evil”. I suppose I am guilty of doing just that. And when I calm down, I’ll try to do that. But, damn, it’s hard sometimes.

Resisting in peace,
John

Reminders of Reality

I saw a clip of “Morning Joe” where the host, Joe Scarborough, is screaming about lying that politicians are doing regarding the proposed budget. Among other things, panelists after this say that President Trump has lied “440 times” during his time in office. The press has repeatedly pointed out that the administration lied, and used photographs or leaked documents to prove their facts. This results in Sean Spicer getting angrier and angrier with his answers.

To make this less partisan, let me remind my readers that Donald Trump was elected because people were angry and felt lied to. They became insane and stopped listening to anything they read about the economy or their lives. “Fake News” didn’t seem any crazier to them than the reality of their lives. According to the “real news” their lives were getting better. Their reality begged to differ.  

(As time goes on, I am aware that there’s more to it. There are people who just hate and will hate others their whole lives. There’s not much we can do about them. People that started off believing in American democracy, however, used to be sane and can be again).

I have seen all of these things in my office. This kind of anger comes from feeling crazy, not being believed, being told what you’re supposed to see and feel, all the while you know what you’re seeing and feeling. Often times it is related to trauma and/or fear of trauma. It looks “crazy” and, in fact, may be altered consciousness. But, with time and trust, feelings of safety can return – and with it, sanity.

So let’s start with some basics:

We can all agree that:

The direction of the sky is “up”. The direction of the ground is “down”. (Seriously, we have to start with basics, and work our way up).

We breathe “air”. The sea is full of “water”. Neither the air nor the water is partisan. There is no Republican water. There is no Democratic water. There is just water. There is no Democratic air. There is no Republican air. There is just air. So far, so good? Good.

Now, water at the oceans is going up and has been for the past few years. Why? It doesn’t matter right now, because some people think it’s a partisan issue. What does matter is that the oceans are rising and we need to do something about it. Any ideas on how to do that are open to whoever wants to do it. Who wants to save America? Who wants to be heroic?

Moving on, people get hungry. All people get hungry. To stay alive, people need to put nutrition into their bodies. Usually, the nutrition is called “food” or comes from food. Some food is better for us than others. Every human without enough food and/or nutrition needs food and/or nutrition if they are to stay alive. This didn’t used to be a partisan issue, but apparently it’s close to being one for at least one legislator, so let’s stop there. We can all agree in this one, yes? Again, as stupid as this seems, this is how far into reality partisanship goes now.

Now, a little on experience: Everyone knows their own experience – not what some else says we think or feel or see. That is all they know. If you have seen something or experienced something, you know it. This includes knowing what you need in a given situation. You are the only one who knows what you need. Other people can say what they want, but you and only you know what you experience. Seeing a story or hearing someone else’s story does not count. You only know what you have seen with your own eyes or heard with your own ears, touched what you’ve touched, and so on.

There are not Republican experiences or Democrat experiences. Democrats don’t know you better than anyone else. Republicans don’t know you better than anyone else. This is reality. It is not FOX news’ reality. It is not MSNBC’s reality. It is your reality. Anything else could be “fake news” or could be “real news”. There is no way to tell without looking more.

Putting those things together, all human beings, if they’re going to stay alive need to eat. They alone know what their needs are. If someone says they are hungry, they should be believed, because they probably are. If someone says they need clothes, they probably do. If someone says they need shelter, they probably do. If someone says they hurt, they probably do.

If you and I can agree on this much, we’re getting somewhere incredible. The possibilities are endless.

All people get hungry if they don’t eat. All people get thirsty if they don’t drink liquids. All people die if they don’t have shelter or appropriate clothes for the world around them. This applies to White people, Black People, “Yellow” and “Red” people, and any variation of those colors. It applies to male humans and female humans.

In addition to basic human needs, people can experience almost anything. They can be poor, rich, or somewhere in between. They can die if they get injured or become ill. They can experience water, or move on land, be in earthquakes, overheat in the sun, live in a horrible house or a good one. They can be abused or treated well – by anyone. There are philosophers and people of all kind who will tell you otherwise. They are wrong. (See above).

Now, on to politics and democracy: If we can agree on all of the above, then we have the basics for a democracy – people have opinions and can know what those are. People have needs and can know what they are. The more people can share their opinions and experience, the better the representation.

See, it is possible to have a United States! If you believe the above, you are not crazy. If anyone tries to tell you something not here, they have to prove it. If someone wants to tell you that any of the above is untrue, there’s a problem and the problem is them.

Now, politicians: There are some things you should know that many of us believe:

1) You should tell us the truth.

2) You should listen to us.

3) “Fairness” means that the rules apply to everyone. If you have and use rules that don’t apply to us, we will think that’s unfair. We don’t care if it’s legal or a tradition, felony or misdemeanor, since we are all humans and we all have needs (and we agree on that!) It is unfair if you have certain benefits that are unavailable to us.

 

4) You have authority only because we, as a whole, voted for you. You work for us. If you don’t act fairly, you can lose that authority. In fact, you should lose that authority if your unfairness gets to be too much, if you don’t tell us the truth, or you stop listening to us. If you want to test to see how much is “too much”, know that anything might be “that much” to somebody.

 

There. You’ve been warned. We can all agree on many things, including what you should do. Good luck with work.

Resisting with Peace,

John

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gallagher, The Congress, and Health Care: What Don’t They Get?

Years ago, I saw Gallagher , the watermelon smashing comedian, and — in the talking part of his routine — he said something brilliant that I never forgot. He was talking about bounced-check fees and he said. “I don’t get it. Why do they ask you for something they know you don’t have?!” 

Though I had never thought of it before, he was right. Clearly, if you overdraft your account, you have no money, which makes it difficult to pay the fee for “bouncing” the check. And so it goes…

Fast forward to 2017, and I’m watching MSNBC interview a member of the “Freedom Caucus” and this man says they have enough votes to repeal and replace Obamacare. The interviewer is trying to explain that their plan won’t actually save people who need long-term care, but the man goes on to say, “We have a mandate from the American people to do this. We promised and we’ll make good on our promise”. The woman interviewer tries to explain “but there’s people under there”, but the man continues to talk about politics, including “rewarding good behavior with lower rates” and employment allowing good coverage. 

Bring in the watermelons and the sledgehammers. People are sick. It happens. People make mistakes. It happens. People have accidents. It happens. If any of those things happens to you, how do they expect you to get health — the thing they already know you don’t have? Not health insurance or healthcare, health. If you’re in a car crash, and you have to be employed to get insurance, but you can’t get to work because you were in a car crash, how does that work. Or, if you get the Zika virus, or Lyme’s disease, is it really your bad behavior — your irresponsibility– that caused the virus? Doesn’t the mosquito or tick have something to do with it? Shouldn’t they cover the illness? Seem silly? Well, so is blaming the victim of an illness — especially a long-term one! And what about skilled nursing care for seniors? Is it their fault that they got old?  Why does blame even enter into the discussion? 

What about the severely mentally ill? If they see wall as melting, do you really think they hold be running your drill press? Selling you a car? Watching your kids? Running for political office? Apparently they can buy a gun, and a silencer now, so maybe so, in “Freedom Caucus land”. I’m not saying we’re not responsible for our own health, but these are the same people who complain that obesity law and taxes on big bottles of soda are against the free-market! Whether or not we make good choices with our health, accidents happen, genetics happen, even stupidity happens on occasion. Long-term illness is a thing that happens. Until we accept that, and stop bowing to the free-market idol as though it’s more important than people, we’re never going to make this work. 

If the Republicans– or any elected official– cuts these things off, well, I guess they have a mandate. They’ll also have blood on their hands. Then we’ll have a mandate to vote them out, and a lot of funerals to do. I don’t want to hear about “compassionate conservatives” again.

Resisting with Peace,

John

What The Democrats Don’t Get

If anyone has a doubt, by now it should be obvious that I loved having President Obama in the White House. He carried himself with dignity and grace. He was deliberative and thoughtful, as well as generally kind and moral. Whether you agree with that opinion of him or not is not the point. It is my opinion. It doesn’t have to be yours.

That said, if go back to the election, to the period before Trump, we can see in Obama today one of the problems that the Democratic Party had then, and continues to have. The Presidency used to be an end in itself. For the last twenty or thirty years, it’s been seen as a stepping stone to a loftier goal… getting rich. Today, Obama will make more money for one speech than he made for a year of his Presidency! More to the point, though, he made 26,000 times per hour more than your average person — if your average person were making $15.00 per hour (and, of course, they’re not). 

If there are two parties, and the Republicans have firmly established themseleves as the Party of the Rich, and Democrats do the same thing, who speaks for the non-rich? Who understands 99% of the population? Who speaks for the very, very poor? Who speaks for the ill, the hungry, the less educated? No one. Who speaks for the vaunted Middle Class? No one. It’s easy to picture the government as “elites” if they are! It’s easy to paint them as “out of touch” with real life if they make more in a day than a small city! What part of that makes people feel like the government understands them and wants their opinion? Not much. 

There are at least two other problems here:

1)  How can we say to people that civil service — leadership for the sake of others — is valuable if it’s not the pinnacle of a career? How can we say that service is more important than wealth if our highest civil servants still chase money. Is their pension and benefits not enough to live on? Why not? 

2) If “majority rules” is the principle of how democracy works, and your Party isn’t attached to 99% of them, how will you ever become the majority Party? That’s a lot of people to ignore. They are just there for the taking because nobody else wants them. Any Bozo who can pretend they care about them can become President! See how that works? Can you imagine a way in which that might not work for the Party?

Democrats have to understand the “non-rich” 99% in order to align with them. It helps if they are the non-rich. It helps if you care, simply because caring is the right thing for a leader to do. Until you we can find someone who leads this way, democracy will fail, and the Democratic Party long before that. Maybe we have somebody like that? Bernie? Elizabeth Warren? Even if not, that’s the direction we need to head if we want to have a functioning democracy — and a healthy Party.

Resisting with peace,
John

A Word To The Parties

I know I’m not the only one who’s noticed… People in Congress — both houses, both parties — aren’t doing anything. Neither is the President, but he’s in a party, as well. Well, ok. You are doing something. Maybe some of you are saving us from ourselves, and that’s good. But enough navel gazing already! Do something!

People need jobs more than you need money. People need healthcare more than you need insurance stock. People need mental health more than you need to express craziness. People need to eat more than you need to complain about it. People need to deal with weird weather and coastal flooding more than you need to deny it. People need peace more than you need war. 

All of our elected officials in Washington need to give up their jobs if they’re not going to do them. Let somebody in who wants to serve the people, wants to represent their people in the highest halls of power. In short, lead! Care! Care about actual people, not the philosophy of people. 

In the world of therapy, if our leaders were parents responsible for children, DCF would have removed them due to some combination of abuse and neglect. As it is, we get to watch Mommy and Daddy fight because, well, they like to fight. They like to fight over what we need and what’s best for us because they think they know.  Reps and Dems want us to believe that they know what’s best, but they never ask. They want us to prove that we should get the things we need. They say we’re lazy or drugged out or uneducated so they’ll need proof that we are trustworthy. They don’t ever produce anything, and they complain about our productivity. They fight and accuse us of being angry. They write laws that allow them to make more money and they complain about the crime rate.

Do your job, officials! Investigate what needs to be investigated. Write laws that make it more likely we’ll live full lives with dignity rather than withhold and degrade us. You are in charge! Not corporations, you! And you work for us, so a little attention would be nice. You don’t have to give us everything we want, but getting our needs met would be nice. 

And fighting? Enough already! In my office, addicts who don’t want to change do what you’re doing right now — fight. You speak at each other, not with each other. You shuck and jive about what reality is for goodness sake! You distract yourselves with nonsense, because few, if any of you, understand  “servant leadership” or compassion or mercy or love. An old therapist I know used to say, “A relationship can either be about love or it can be about power. It can’t be both.” You don’t love each other, and you don’t love us, so it’s about power for you… cut it out! 

I never want to hear a member of the administration ever complain about someone else if they’re not going to take responsibility for their own actions or try to do better than the person they are complaining about.

If you worked in our companies, instead of owning them, you’d know:

a) you can’t skip work to go golfing. You’ll lose your job.

b) you lose your job if you don’t produce something.

c) if you’re aggressive towards others — if you’re a bully, or a harasser, there’s going to be a process, and if you don’t change, you’ll lose your job.

d) as we’re told all the time, there are plenty of people willing to do your job if you don’t want it.

So now, do your job, care about someone other than yourselves, be loving to each other and to us, or, as they used to say on TV, “You’re fired!”. And don’t think we won’t do it, either. Enough is enough.

Resisting angrily, but with Peace,
John