Saturday, February 28, 2009

Personal Economic Bailouts

I've had several interesting discussions lately with acquaintances who lost their jobs in the last few months. Let me preface by saying all of them had good jobs, excellent credit ratings, and worked mostly for their homes. As more than one of them said to me, having their own home was all that mattered and they expected to work and spend most of their income for one.

As do most Americans, they also had several credit cards because without one they couldn't buy an airline ticket without triggering a terrorist alert, couldn't rent a car, and couldn't afford to take a vacation once a year. They also had gas cards, department store charge cards, and various other pieces of plastic that allowed them to buy now and make payments.

Again, I feel it's necessary to say these were not irresponsible people. They paid their bills on time. They didn't overspend. They used credit to buy things just a bit beyond their ability to pay, such as cars, furniture, electronics, and they always paid them off. Many of them paid off their balances each month. And because they were responsible, the mail bought new offers every day, offers they turned down because they already had most of what they needed.

It was a nice, calm, and predictable life. Then the first one lost their job when the company went bankrupt. Then another. And finally, most of this group of people who all knew each other either from working in the same field of through online communities, found that more of them were unemployed than employed. It happened quickly, in a matter of weeks. But they thought it was temporary and the unemployment benefits would carry them through for a few weeks until they found another job.

But another job didn't come along. Then the unemployment benefits ran out. Many of them cashed in retirement accounts to survive and took heavy penalties in taxes and other deductions. And then the retirement accounts, which were often only enough to live on for six months, also ran out.

That left the credit cards. They began to use them to buy groceries, to pay utilities, to pay for doctor and dentist emergency visits. They began to use their gas cards for minor repairs, for cartons of milk for the kids from the gas station mini-grocery. And unlike in the past, they no longer could afford to pay off the balance every month. For several of them, it was the first time in their credit lives that they had to run an unpaid balance. They began to lose sleep worrying about their debts.

But they were still getting by, they were still surviving, but the mortgage was not getting paid. The first missed payment was easy to rationalize, to say they would catch up next month when they got a new job, they would make it up and it would all be a bad dream. But they didn't and soon they were two and then three months behind. The threat of foreclosure became real. Suddenly they stood to lose everything they worked so hard for, everything that meant they were responsible adults.

These were people, as many of us are, who understand that a decent credit rating means a decent way of life. At least a few of them sacrificed buying more than minimal groceries so they would be able to make that credit card payment, even as their homes were going into foreclosure, even as their credit limits were being reached, even as the job prospects grew dimmer and dimmer.

And then one day they found themselves either in a house they no longer owned, or living in an apartment they couldn't afford anymore either. Their cards were maxed out. They missed a payment and the rates skyrocketed, the late charges grew larger, and soon even the possibility of making a payment was beyond their ability to do so. Their stomachs churned, their lives suffered, their relationships began to develop stress cracks, their children stopped applying to colleges and tried to get jobs instead.

I don't know at one point the change happened, the change that took everything they believed and turned it upside down. As one of them said to me: I worked all my life to maintain my credit rating. I worked my ass off for my house. I paid my bills every month. And in a matter of months it was all gone. But, as he said with a laugh, he no longer worried about his credit rating because he no longer had one.

This is something that happened to the rest of them too, and I'm guessing a whole lot of people in this country right now. The holy god of credit suddenly became meaningless. At that point, the realization dawned on them that what little money they could scrape together was going to go to feed their families and not the credit card companies.

Many of them saw the banks and mortgage companies, the auto makers, the big corporate entities who were squeezing them for money suddenly get handouts for their business failures. But no one cared about them, no one was offering them any kind of help.

What I saw happen next may very well be a tidal wave that will sweep the country and which probably drives fear into the heart of credit card companies, banks, oil companies, and any corporation that extended credit for the purchase of their products. These people simply quit paying anything. They gave up. They walked away from their debts.

Many had no choice as I know of three people personally who tried to work out something with their creditors. One wrote several letters to her credit card companies asking them to please work with her, to let her make smaller payments for a few months without huge late fees tacked on or crazy increases in her rates. Their response was to turn her over to collection agencies. She said the most peaceful day of her life was the one when her phone was shut off for non-payment.

Another thing that bears mentioning because it's an important consideration. I'm not talking about young people here. I'm talking about people in their 50's and 60's, people who will draw small social security checks or have taken early retirement at 62 and a cut in benefits, just to survive. These are people who will not buy another home, another new car, or anything more lavish than what they need to survive.  And it won't matter to them if they get another job. As one couple said to me: we're done owning anything. We don't ever want to go through this again.

What this small group of people I've written about mean for this country is that  they may very well be representative of  aging boomers who are simply walking away from their debts because credit no longer matters to them. They have nothing. They will own nothing. The future holds a small social security check, health care provided by emergency rooms or medicare. As the old song goes "Freedom means you have nothing left to lose."

If this becomes an ever widening trend, then the credit card companies are doomed, the housing market won't recover for years, and the consumer-driven society of pretty things and fancy toys is over. It will be interesting to see what happens because I suspect this is the just the tip of a very large ice berg.

Visit The Crazy Old Lady Of Peace store for more items with this design.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

When the past comes bearing flowers

My odd mail tends to run in cycles. There's always the crackpot crazies who crawl from the ooze to tell me all the different ways I'm going to burn in hell. They always show up after I write about my lack of belief in their imaginary playmates, and they fail to see the humor in threatening me with a place that exists only in their tiny little minds.

Then there's the real hateful fucks, the ones who are out on a day pass from reality and decide they're going to do a search for their fave buzzwords such as Gay, Lesbian, tolerance, equality, and then send me and I assume others, hate mail filled with sick and twisted proof that in their world jesus is definitely not love.

There HAS been a decrease in the post and run talking points morons who think if they go to enough blogs they perceive as liberal, commie, and *gasp* anti everything the GOP stands for, and post their drivel then they will win some prize or other. Maybe the grand prize is a brain. Most of their reps sure could use one. And for a really good deal, I'll throw in a couple hearts because it's obvious many of them are lacking one.

Usually they don't send me emails as they prefer their "message" to be visible to all the misguided heathens who wander into my little corner of hell. It's the real crackpots who take the time to click on the proper link, expose their email to my evil eyes, and ramble on for several screens trying to come to a point that doesn't exist.

So, I'm understandably suspicious when someone writes to me and says, hey I read your blog and I just want to let you know....or words to that effect. I usually prepare myself for the kind of hate I can only imagine, the type of bigotry that I don't even want to consider as anything but insanity, and ramblings that make so little sense I often wonder if they let their dog or cat type it for them.

I usually delete the hate posts and let the political differences stand to generate some (hopefully) productive discussion. I rarely respond to emails as I don't want to encourage people who are just one beer short of official stalker status. My blog has always been for me, a sort of place to try out thoughts, share designs, ideas I'm working on. I don't feel obligated to be part of the public consciousness unless it has something different to offer me.

The letters I do respond to are the ones that are personal reactions to something that made me feel something when I wrote it. I have a lot of respect for people who can relate to the stew of my emotional life and I always try to say at least thank you for being as crazy as I am.

But today I received a letter that kind of threw me for a few hours. It was from someone who claimed to be my first love in 10th grade. I tried and tried to remember him but there was nothing there. I couldn't summon forth the face, the name, the love he claimed we shared. I began to suspect a case of mistaken identity, someone who forgets some people don't use the same name their entire lives and that neither my first or last name are ones I went by in High School.

But he knew so much about people I knew. He described a party we went to together and while I remembered the party, I couldn't remember him. He knew I only had three or four friends in High School and kept my distance from just about everyone. He even knew which High School, which is important when you consider that I was a senior before I went to any school for a full year.

But I couldn't remember him and I felt bad because obviously I played some part in his early formative years. I asked him to send me a picture and as I waited for it I fully expected it to all be an amusing mistake, that I would look at it and it wouldn't be anyone I ever knew.

Except when I opened the email and looked at the picture I remembered him. He was the nerdy little kid who shared his lunch with me in 6th grade when I had even less friends. We used to walk all the way to the far end of the playground, sit under a tree and share our lunches in silence. We did this for half a year until I was once more taken out of school because we had to move again. I never got a chance to say goodbye.

But it was the second picture that threw me. It was his yearbook picture and then I remembered him. I remembered the strange kid who used to stare at me from across the classroom, the tall and skinny stick figure with too short pants and glasses that made his eyes seems like cockroach eyes. He never said a word to me, never once reminded me or tried to remind me that he was the same kid I shared my lunch with for those few brief months. And to be fair, he looked so different I doubt his own mother would recognize him. The kid I shared lunch with was very blond with a light dusting of freckles and piercing blue eyes. The young man at the party was dark and pale with those strange glasses.

I also remembered the party, but I know we didn't go there together. I went there with a date, a young man who was truly my first love, my first crush, only I had no idea then what was happening to me or that he was the cause.

It slowly began to sink in that what he was remembering was the story as it had played out and evolved in his own mind. I began to feel very uncomfortable and to regret answering his email.

But life works in strange and happy ways. It turns out that he got curious about his long lost love and read deep into my blog and oh wow...he was deeply, let me say DEEPLY offended by my anti-christian ways. He was a devout something or other and he felt he had to not write me any more because it would make him compromise his beliefs to do so.

I sent him a nice thank you for being honest and I wish you the best. I refrained from telling him that Cthulhu loves a sandwich.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ramblings from an aging madwoman

For many years on my birthday I'd rework a poem to add in the perspective that another year of living sometimes brings. I say "sometimes" because I've learned many times over there are those who go through their entire lives without learning anything new.

My poetry would be a waste for them. They'd look at it, say hey it has this many words, this many lines, this many pieces of punctuated mysteries, but they'd never be able to add a damn thing to it.

It is those people I want to wean completely from my life. That's my birthday resolution, to finish the pruning of the suck monsters, the me-me-me birdies that eat from my hand and take a finger along as a souvenir.

I want to keep all my fingers this year. I want to go back and rework poetry and plans and dreams. I want my dreams to support me, to join up with my fantasies and give me one hell of a ride for the money.

Of course, I've always wanted. It's what motivates me and most of the people I know. We want. It's literally the tie that binds because wants are like that kite string. It holds you to the ground and makes you believe you really are flying.

There are days when I want to run with scissors and cut every one of those strings. I want to make the smug, the selfish, the prim and proper, the perpetually indulged fall flat on their ass, get up and ask what the fuck was that? And the ones who then say cool, let's  do that again!...well, those would be people I'd be interested in keeping around and getting to know better.

But this year my wants are mostly undefined, which is something different for me. I usually know what I want as not knowing has always seemed inefficient to me. How can you manifest without knowing what you want to pop out of that hat? What kind of magician doesn't know what's in there and when and how it's coming out? Surely, I'm at least as proficient at manifesting as a trickmaster.

But yeah, I do have a short list of things I want for my birthday year and I've made the list based on events and other unexpected visitors to my life. I don't exactly have an open door to my life, but like termites, carpenter ants, roof rats, and flies, there are those who find a way in.

The first on my list is to start that poetry thing again. I've spent the last few years writing everything but poetry. Through the weird wonders of Facebook, I've friended and been friended by all these crazed writers I knew back in some misbegotten time of my life. I remember how much I liked their poetry, how much I liked my own poetry, how I enjoyed being around people who wrote and lived in short profound and meaningful phrases. I miss that now that I'm older and writing is mostly something I associate with work and not fun.

I know I'd be a much better poet now because I have more to write about. Back then I speculated about life a lot. In spite of some of the bad things that happened to me growing up, I led a fairly sheltered life. There was a lot I simply did not know about people. There was a lot I had to learn. And I'm still learning. That's the good thing. That's what always proves I'm still alive. I can learn.

So that takes care of one thing. The second is to clear out some stuff in my head and heart. I've had a couple things come into my life this year that belong to the past and need to go whimpering back there.

There's a reason I left Las Vegas and I have to remind myself of that when I get this half-assed longing for people who are actually related to me in some way and who knew my family and so understand me in a way no one else ever will.

You can't explain to someone who wasn't there what it was like. Sometimes I'll show them a scar or two, or I'll get vehement about domestic violence and war and what it does to people who started out life somewhat sane, and they'll understand a little of it. But they'll never understand like the ones who had to bandage me up, who hid me in their houses, who helped me get through the worst of the bad stuff. I want all that to go to the little safe in the soul that says "do not open until xmas...or ever again."

Thirdly, I want a better world and that means better people. We've gone through an incredibly selfish phase of human existence. There are people who've known nothing but self-indulgence, who have no examples of what it means to step outside your own skin. The last couple decades have created an entire set of deficient human beings who have lived in the most opulent and fakely prosperous of times. They truly do not know what it means to suffer, to not have, to scrimp on desires and deny wants. No, I do not weep for the Trustafarians. I say to them welcome to the grown-up world and may you survive it without too much whining.

For the fourth thing, I want to get rid of everything I own and live out of an eco-friendly rv or motorhome or 5th wheel that has things like solar panels and can disappear into the desert or forest or beach for weeks. I've started the research and the first thing I made sure I can have is high speed internet access because that's how I make my living. Everything else gets in line behind that. But that seems like the easy part. There's always free wi-fi somewhere, but I want to be able to disappear and still work so those are the kinds of details I'll be working out in the next year. Jeff is easy. He retired early and gets a small social security check. The cat doesn't really care as long as she's with us. She's well traveled as would be any creature that makes its life with us.

The fifth thing is the most important. I want only people in my life who can give as easily as they receive. I'm really good at giving but I suck at receiving. Far too many people I know excel at taking. I'm tired of "special" people. It's time they grew up and realized that category has long ago quit being something special and is now quite ordinary and pathetic.

I've been incredibily fortunate in love and in friendship, but in both of those it took a lot of finding out what I didn't want before it became clear what I did want. I pruned a lot of people from my life in the last two years. It was a deliberate process and I chose carefully and with full awareness. I feel that most of the selfish users either moved on or got some encouragement from me to do so. I'm sure some of them are bewildered and just can't figure out why I don't want to be around them anymore. To them I say it's a lot like broccoli. There are times in your life when it tastes good and you need it to grow strong and there are other times when it makes you gag and puke up your life in small doses to keep them from being hungry. A lot of people I used to know are feeding themselves these days and all I can say to that is it's about damn time.

But that does leave the little flecks of gold at the bottom of the pan. Since I've started being careful in my selection process, I've noticed the occasional hunger to go back to "family" has decreased. In many ways I wanted to run back to them the same way I ran to them when I was in High School and they cleaned up my bruises, wiped away the blood, and told me it wasn't my fault and the pain would eventually go away.

Getting older means being able to do that for yourself and that's what this new year will bring for me--a life built on healing the pain of trusting the wrong people, mistakingly befriending the users and abusers, and stupidly loving the selfish assholes.

Not that I'd trade any of those lessons for something else. Hell no. I am who I am because of the bad things done to me, not the good things. Once I figured that out, the rest was easy.

Shirt can be purchased from The Crazy Old Lady of Peace store.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Saving America With Marijuana

My vote for opportunistic moron of the year goes to Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott for his 1950's style attempted persecution of bong-toking hippies because they partied with Michael Phelps. read more  Obviously he's given up on these real  criminals because it's just so much easier to go after marijuana users. What's next? Dragging cancer patients out on the streets and tazing them for medicinal use?

The latest word is that he's been "encouraged" to back off. read here While that is good news and in these tough economic times, it's probably a relief to the citizens of his county that their hard-earned tax dollars that pay this ego-maniac's salary will now go to more adult endeavors such as catching some murderers or other real criminals, it does bring up the issue of the stupidity involved in treating Marijuana as a hard drug equal to Heroin and Cocaine.

A more realistic drug policy that removes the political aspect of it from the hands of idiots like Sheriff Lott, has the prospect of solving several important problems, starting with the economy.

" could be lucrative for governments, especially when combined with the savings from ending prohibition. As the U.S. marijuana market is illegal, there are no sales figures. Estimates of its size range from $10.5 billion a year to $113 billion. But three studies done by economists and policy analysts say ganja taxes could bring in anywhere from $2.4 billion to $31.1 billion in revenue, depending on how big the sales really are. About one-third of that would go to the states."
read more

When you add all that potential revenue to the money saved from going after, prosecuting, and jailing marijuana users, that's a big chunk of the stimulus funds right there that don't have to be borrowed from China.

After the uproar over a gold medal swimmer getting photographed smoking a bong, one truth remains "Marijuana, it makes you swim really fast." Nice medal hanging off a pot leaf. Wear it to the pool. Buy button by clicking on it or visiting Ursine Logic.

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You Must Be Kind

I was talking to a friend tonight about the kinds of things old friends sit around and discuss over a bottle or two of wine, such as friendship, how it grows, how it's formed, and what holds it together. He asked me what I instinctively look for in a friendship, what separates it from mere acquaintanceship for me. He knows me well enough to know I can count my deep connections on one hand and the rest range in superficial to moving up the food chain of my heart.

I sang him one answer from Uncle John's Band, which he joined in and sang with me: "what I want to know is are you kind?"

Our connection has always been a literary feasting of souls and we share a love of many of the same books that range from classics that we struggled through in college and then learned to love as grown-ups, all the way to current well put together bits and pieces we find on the web and send to each other.

We "met" at an online book club over ten years ago that discussed one book a month for an entire month. After a time you begin to see patterns of discussion emerging and ours always crossed paths. I reminded him of the quote that he posted when we were reading  Kurt Vonnegut's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater "There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind."

And truly, kindness is the base of any friendship for me because it allows a person to step outside of themselves, out of their own needs and selfishness and focus on someone else. It allows them to give, to heal, to nurture, to support, to hear and listen and love. Without kindness all those wonderful things are just empty words.

Kindness prevents the kind of malicious and mean gossip that is so prevalent among many small communities and eats away at it from within. Kindness nourishes tolerance so others are accepted for who they are rather than what they can do for you. Kindness allows a generosity of spirit that allows a person to give of themself as naturally as they give to themselves. Kindness prevents war and violence because it won't allow you to inflict cruelty, pain and suffering on another living creature. Kindness simply makes a human being whole, because without it, we are nothing more than a sort of societal leech that always takes and never gives back.

So, yes, the base of the friendship pyramid for me is kindness as I don't ever see myself being satisfied with a friendship that is less than that. It would be meaningless for me, empty, unsatisfying. It would not be worthy of the title of friendship.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Stretching the Stimulus

Here's an idea to make the stimulus dollars go farther. Only districts whose Senators/Representatives voted for it should get any of the money when it's time to distribute it for jobs and other projects. Those who voted against it get nothing for their districts and if the voters they represent approve, they will keep their jobs in the next election. If not, then it's the price they pay for playing politics with people's survival.

Those who voted for it get to split the extra funds that will be freed up, and they can decide how best to spend them in their own districts. This would allow them to fund programs that often get overlooked in statewide budget decisions, but are vital for an individual district.

An example would be a road that needs repairing within a town instead of on the interstate, or pot holes that need fixing, or a temporary decrease in local property taxes, or funding local food banks, homeless shelters, and other underfunded services for the very poor and indigent.

This would create good will for the wise politician who cares about and stays on top of issues in their local district, help with his or her future election chances, and it would be a fair way to stretch limited dollars and make politicians accountable for their votes, especially if the voters are also informed how their representatives voted for or against their interests.

Sengalese poet Baba Dioum's quote: "In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we have been taught."  Canvas tote bag can be purchased at the Earth Steward shop.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Nature, Atheism, and Me

Here's an excerpt from an email I received from a woman named Amy today:

..."I'm curious how you reconcile your unbelief in God with your spiritual connection with nature."

Dear Amy:

Basically, it's quite simple. I believe the greatest harm we can do is to objectify someone or something. This strips the life from it, the individuation from it, the very spirit that makes it so powerful and unique. This is what religion and belief in God does to people and nature. It takes a living organism like a tree and defines it as a thing separate from us, as an object created by an invisible force outside of ourselves. That makes it easier to cut down because it becomes "lumber" rather than  "part of ourselves," just as it becomes easier to perpetuate hatred and harm on human beings we perceive as being "not us."

Our official enemies never look, talk or act like us. They can't because then it would be harder to make enemies of our fellow human beings. And they always have different religious beliefs because that's a handy way to create the "us" and "them" so even the most uneducated, ignorant moron can understand these ain't godly folks and so we can abuse, torture and kill them in our God's name with no repercussions.

We do this on all levels of existence: my wife, my husband, my dog, my cat, my house. We do not see this as placing limits on what those living organisms can be, but merely as assigning personal ownership or belongingness to them. By objectifying someone or something, we make a place for them and keep them there.

I see such behavior as a destructive force. I see it as stunting the growth of things we perceive as existing outside ourselves. I see deifying a person or thing as the first step towards destroying it.

There is a big difference between saying "my spouse" and saying "part of me."  It is the same with trees in the forest. If I see them as something God made, then they cease to exist as living, breathing organisms that are an integral part of the whole. But if I see them as part of me, then they are me as my arm is me and as my heart is me.

We both still exist in the same moment in time, but our existence is not separate nor created by an external force.  If a tree in the forest is equal to my arm, then it requires thought, awareness, and an ability to understand my actions have consequences before I go blithely removing either a tree or my arm.

There are those who will and have argued with me that God made both the trees and me, without thinking for a moment that we might have vastly different opinions on how me and tree came to be. This is the blindness of religion. It operates by reducing things down to small pieces that can then be controlled, manipulated, and defined to suit personal biases and bigotry. That I might believe differently is automatically perceived as wrong and needing to be changed. That is ego gone wild and is never a good thing.

Our planet is being destroyed by this kind of limited eo thinking. By assigning God credit for the oceans, then we give them an artificial vastness that allows our corporate garbage creators to pollute and destroy them because, well, they are just so vast and can't possibly have a limit if God created them. We apply this same wrong thinking to the air, the soil, and every single resource on the earth.

But if we don't believe God created the oceans or the trees or the air, and instead believe they grew out of a natural scientific process that unlike religion, retains the same truth generation after generation, then they become a finite body of water, a forest that will not renew itself for decades beyond our lives, and air that will choke instead of giving us life, if we do not protect them and start treating them as an integral part of ourselves.

We must step outside the artificial excuse of God-created and realize that our planet must be protected by us, by real human beings who have the power to do or not do this,  or these essential resources will no longer be a source of life, nourishment, and spiritual replenishment.

That is why the increase in destruction of our natural resources has risen equally with the rise of claiming that God made everything and everyone believes in God. I'm willing to bet the corporate thugs that donated to the Republican party pushed religion as a political platform to help them take what they wanted without oversight.

Throughout time criminals and the most corrupt of politicians have used God as a partner in their crimes.  I suspect many of the most ardent of God-pushers don't believe half the crap they shovel towards the masses because if they did, then surely they wouldn't destroy the planet with God watching their every move.

So yes, I can reconcile my Atheism with the spiritual sense of self and belongingness I feel when I'm out in Nature because I never separated myself from the natural world with something as artificial as religion. I accept personal responsbility for anything I do to Nature. I do not blame an outside force like God for a tree I cut down, a stream I damn, or a species I wipe out because I like how it tastes on my dinner plate. I am as it is and we all are. Once we as human beings understand that, then maybe we can stop killing each other and live in harmony for a change. After all, when is the last time you heard about a tree taking out another tree because of their religious differences? It takes human beings to come up with something so ridiculous and disconnected from each other.

Tired of that silly Jesus fish? Are you a freethinker too smart to believe dinosaurs were on the ark? Amuse yourself and other with two dinosaurs munching down on ribs of Jesus fish over a campfire. Magnet may be purchased at The Godless Heathen, a shop for Atheists, Freethinkers, Agnostics, and Unbelievers.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

President Obama's Speech

After eight year's of cringing every time the poster child for faith-based education--as in throw the little bastard to the hyenas and see what comes out the other end--blathered his idiocy,  President Obama's press conference was an awesome reminder that things are different these days. Listening to him fend off the purveyors of dying dinosaur talking points disguised as journalism was a delight I've never really witnessed with such a personal interest. It was like watching the smart sheriff ride into town and start kicking stupid people's ass.

He took the "are you still beating your dog" type questions and turned them into quick lessons dumbed down so anyone who cared to listen would understand, all the while twisting the knife of his intellect into the spineless backs of his obstructionist colleagues. He did this with the stimulus package where he carefully explained what it would do and not do, and then he mocked those who complained that it was a spending bill when the very word "stimulus" meant spend.

He did this with careful explanations of how there was a difference between earmarks and funding for essential programs, at the same time as he portrayed the obstructionists as failing to understand how building roads and green buildings was putting people to work--an idea so simple and clear only an ideological moron could fail to grasp it.

He did this with everything, with every question. He answered them honestly. He poked at himself for not playing the game of Washington ego well enough when dealing with petulant Republican demands. He showed how the process of being President works as if he were a reality show we were tuned in to watch.

And he made it real by describing the moment he realized he was President when he had to sign a family death notification for a war casualty, and how each signature was a reminder of his responsibilities, the consquences of decisions he made and will make.

It was an awesome look at a man speaking to us as human beings, as equal citizens, as co-owners of an amazing country in need of a lot of work and TLC. Listening to our President made me feel that maybe we can fix things, maybe things will get better, maybe things aren't so totally and completely bad after all. Maybe we really are one people, one vision, one dream, one truth, one heart. Maybe we can finally make the world we've always wanted in our hearts.

Reject Hate by celebrating the uniqueness
of humanity. Rainbow paper doll cutouts link colors, faces, flowers,
hearts and the words: "Celebrate Diversity. Poster and design on many other items available by clicking on poster or visting Ursine Logic Stores.

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Dear Ms. Selfish Asshat

I received an email this morning that left me shaking my head at the total and utter selfishness of some human beings. I'd post it, along with the name, but I'm one of those dinosaurs who believes an email sent between people is a private conversation. But that doesn't prevent me from responding publicly. Names changed to protect the clueless:

Dear Ms. Selfish Asshat:

I read the tragic tale of your lost trust fund and how after three whole years of your life depending on it showing up in your bank account, you now find yourself in the job market with no skills, no ambition, no desire or ability to work and you want President Obama to help you instead of, as you so eloquently put it: "...all those welfare queens who sit on their fat asses all day."

Ms. A, you stated in your email that you are 38 years old. Who supported your privileged little ass for the three years before the free money kicked in? Did it ever occur to you to use the education your grandparents endowed for something besides a four year long fashion parade?

No, I can't relate to you not being able to buy any new clothes to go job hunting. I spend most of my time figuring out if the money I have left after paying bills will feed us for three days or four. Some months I actually have to decide if I want to eat food or late fees. And besides, I'm sure your closet is overflowing with suitable job hunting clothes because you did mention that being nicely dressed is vital to your self esteem.

Well, my selfish little friend, being able to pay my bills is vital to MY self-esteem. There are people every day losing their jobs, their houses, their retirement funds and you're whining because you can't afford an expensive new outfit? What the fuck is wrong with you?

But there is a bright spot in your utter and clueless selfishness, and that's knowing that there's lots of people like you who will be finding out exactly what I'm talking about. Right now you're still living on what your parents give you out of their rapidly draining savings account because as you said, there's nothing left of their investments except savings. You whine because you have to cut back on what you want. Wait until their savings is gone, and then you'll learn, as many of your privileged, selfish little peers will learn, that cutting back is nothing like you thought it would be.

I hope that moment of awakening will make you more compassionate, more tolerant, more able to take charge of your own life and grow some responsibility for your lazy, incompetent ass. If what is about to happen to you will also happen to a lot of other people who are in your position right now, then maybe we will grow up to be a better nation, maybe you'll understand how you and others like you represent the dying, failed and cruel policies of the mean and incompetent Bush presidency.

If not, then you'll just go hungry and your soul will be as empty as your heart is now.

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The Dead, Dying, and Just Hanging On

When my mother turned up in a hospital near my cousin Mara's home, she went to visit her and brought a digital recorder with her because she felt it was important to capture some of the memories that were stored inside her. I haven't seen nor spoken to her since 1979. Most of the time she doesn't want to be found, but this time she had injured herself on a greyhound bus going who the hell knows where and ended up in the hospital.

Mara brought the recording with her when she came to visit. My mother is a stranger to me, someone I vaguely knew once upon a time. I rarely think about her, and  the times I do, it's in a strange sort of historical context because of the life she lived, the events she survived. For most of the disc she spoke in her heavily accented English that's a blend of so many teachers and cultures it's sometimes hard to understand her. But I grew up with it and it was like a jarring music, a bad recording that was scratchy and skipped in places, but I had no trouble understanding it.

I realized as I listened that while she had absolute clarity and recollection of events that took place during the war, she probably couldn't remember what she had for breakfast that morning. She's in her 80's and has numerous health problems, yet every few months she convinces the staff at whatever nursing home my sister puts her in, to turn over the social security check to her instead of keeping it to pay her expenses.

We never know what she tells them to make the staff set aside all common sense and give in to her, but give in they do and she's off again on some bus to some place until the reality of her body's age and weakness once again brings her to the attention of some authority and they call my sister to come and deal with her once more.

So today while I was trying to clean behind a bookshelf I found the disc that had fallen behind it after we listened to it several months ago. I was also listening to the news and heard a story about some old Nazi that had cheated justice by hiding out in Egypt and had died without ever having to account for what he did.

In the hour long conversation my cousin had with her, there's the familiar family story of how she escaped from the camp after the Nazis rounded up all the women in town because they lied and told them the men were gone instead of hidden in attics, closets, mountain villages. She talked about how little she knew about what was happening to her and how they were all so hungry they were glad at first to be arrested because it meant they would get to eat, that the Germans would have to feed them.

She skipped over the part about what caused reality to set in and instead talked about how she escaped, about the young man who had adored her as a teenager and she had dismissed as silly love, and how the Germans had forced him and other men from a neighboring village to be the camp guards. He walked her out of there arm and arm with the Germans all making complimentary remarks about the pretty girlfriend he had. He left her at the boarded up shop of a relative and told her she had to hide behind a row of cabinets and not come out at all for at least thirty days.

No one knew she was there, no one knows how she managed to survive. We always thought her "boyfriend" brought her food and water but on the recording she says that after he left her there she never saw him again, and no matter who she asked after the war, no one knew anything. She said all this in English without messing up any of the words, without even acting as if she were speaking in a language that she learned last after she learned all the other ones.

Until my cousin asked her if she was scared. There was a pause, a very long pause, and then she described the fear that ate at her every second, how the days dragged on, how every sound brought new terror, new certainty that she was about to be discovered and shot on sight. And as I listened, it took me a few minutes to realize she had quit speaking English, as if the memory was so awful that somewhere inside her she reverted back to that time and spoke in the language that was most familiar to her then.

And as I listened to the story of that Nazi's cheating of death today, I thought of the fear she had, the fear that so many had, the number of people who died for reasons that never made sense to me and I hope they never do. I never want to understand how one human can so demonize and dehumanize another that killing them becomes easy, as simple as swatting a fly.

I thought of how close we came in this country to letting the door to that path swing open enough to swallow our humanity once again. The people this time weren't Jews or Gypsies or Homosexuals or Communists. This time they were Arab, Muslim, and sometimes they were guilty of nothing but not being white church going Republicans. Our country did this to people again, just as it did to the Japanese during the second World War. Once again a whole new generation of children will grow up like me listening to horrible stories of what human beings can do to each other to further an ideology, an agenda, a sick and twisted vision.

It depressed me for several hours until I talked myself into believing once more that the paradigm has again shifted and hate is offensive to many of us now, it doesn't work as well as it did a few years ago, it doesn't make us look away and pretend we have nothing to do with the evil done in our names.

And like many times when I try and convince myself we are better than our actions reveal us to be, I found myself briefly hoping that this time that believe will last a few more days longer until finally it joins together and becomes a consistent truth.

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