Props To Pflugerville

» Pflugerville: Best little town in Texas!

Says Reverend Jim:

So Plfugerville was not only the first little town (or city) in Texas to offer equal benefits to same sex couples working in their school district, now they become the first Texas municipality where the citizens themselves stood up for equal rights for everyone in town. When two courageous school board members ran for re-election this weekend against an organized opposition, this little town smack dab in the heart of Texas rose to its full stature and demonstrated what it means to offer equal treatment before the law to everyone. A majority voted not let their school board be targeted because it had offered benefits to GLBT couples and domestic partnerships. Not to take anything away from Hutto and it’s hippo, Port Isabel and its lighthouse from the 1800′s, Marfa and its lights, or Luckenbach and its music, but today Pflugerville stands tallest in the Lone Star State.

May we all rise to that example and follow in your leadership.

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Hera, Demeter, Hestia, Gaia, Dana, Anu, Ala, Mawu, Anatu, Isis, Cybele, Shakti, Kuan Yin.




Mothers are many and they are influential.

It is mother’s day, the day for mothers. A day of Hallmark cards and piss poor ads on the teevee extolling blood diamonds and spa getaways, overpriced buffets and brunches.

It’s a day that is confusing to me for so many reasons, not the least of which is that I don’t aways know what mothering means, or how to relate to being a mother myself, but I do know that mothering can come from people other than your mother, and you can give it to those not your children.

“Mother” is powerful. Breast, skin, vulva, womb, root like cord connecting us to them inextricably, even after it is cut, whether we want it to or not.

They birth us, love us, harm us, frighten us, achieve for us, fail us. Mothering is hard work no doubt about that. Being mothered is a challenge at times, a desperate need at others. Sometimes in the very same breath. Mother me please, go away do not touch me.

This day is a fraught day, a magic day, a day for those with mothers and no children, those who are mothers with no mothering for them, those with both and those with neither.

I don’t want cards or flowers. My own relationship with my mother, lost now to Alzheimer’s, is fraught, but it always was, a mother who decided early she wanted no children but got one anyway.

I don’t want a reminder one time per year of the magic inherent in the word “mother” rather I’d want the ongoing reminder that mothers are people and fallible, and most certainly not sacred or better, but that we all have that holiness in us to mother, to father, to be connected to some divine spark of passage into and out of this world.

I”m going to drink my tea, brought to me by my boys, watch Dr. Who, and do the dishes. I’m going to visit my own mother, though she won’t know me. I’m going to know how important it is that we all find ways to love each other in the ways that matter most, no matter the role, and that if someone needs me to be their mother, and I can be, I will.

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Heartcrackingly Beautiful

I’d never seen this.

It made me cry out of a recognition of truth. This is empathy, right here.

David Foster Wallace’s, This Is Water

Full transcript, here which is truly worth reading.

“Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.

They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving…. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.”

Hunger while gorging ourselves and ignoring the real sustenance around us.

Thanks to Angeliska, for linking this today.

Have a wonderful weekend filled with connection and compassion. And fun, if you can find it.


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Ouroboros And The Onion

Creative Commons Leo Reynolds

Creative Commons Leo Reynolds

I’ve performed a lot of comedy in the last 10 years. Mostly, those performances were improv based, long-form narrative story telling, but I’ve done a great deal of emcee work as well as some funny monologues. I’ve produced a women’s comedy festival for the past 6 years and have watched a lot of sketch, standup and short form improv.

I’m not a leader in the comedy community. My calling is something else (sexuality and social justice), but as someone who has supported many women in producing art, comedic or otherwise, I wind up reacting to various jokes in the internet ether when they are about sex, rape, assault, or such other things.

Humor serves so many purposes and one of those is distancing ourselves from others, from incidents, from pain. The humor can happen by punching up against the powers that be (and cause harm) or it can happen by punching down at the victims. Humor can be a defense and projection against the pain, putting it out on others, or it can be a beacon bringing people closer to something like solidarity.

I use humor to bring people up, but I can admit to enjoying a good attack on the powers that be. I enjoy dark humor, but I enjoy it most when the humor is clearly not at the expense of survivors (of whatever darkness is being joked about). I know personally that it’s easy and tempting to use humor to distance myself from things that hurt me, as a cover for anger at those things that hurt me, as a way to shield myself. Humor that is of the “ist” variety (racist, classist, sexist etc) often serves as a kind of release valve bonding one group against an “other.”

All this comes up for me because there has been a lot of business in the news of late regarding “jokes” and rape.

Molly Knefel just published an awesome Salon piece on rape jokes and double standards in humor. It’s a solid read and lists out many of the recent arguments that have happened, from Sady Doyle confronting Sam Morrill (and his response and her response), to the Onions horrific commentary on Chris Brown (racist, sexist, and unforgiveable in it’s use of Rhianna to make the “joke” work) and other attempts at humor.

Aside from issues around men, privilege, free speech and comedy, the right (or not) to say offensive things, I’ve got this theory that the more hopeless we feel about something real and close, the more that projected kind of humor occurs.

Knefel says (emphasis mine):

“What is challenging, though, is speaking out against the normalization of sexual violence, the degradation of women, and the role and responsibility that men have in either perpetuating or combating rape culture. It is challenging to confront the ways that we do and do not value affirmative consent. I believe that Morril, Oswalt and the comedians who came to Tosh and/or Morril’s defense are against rape; but Oswalt chose not to use his platform to speak about it with sincerity or gravity. As a man with a platform and a gift with words, he missed an opportunity to be an ally and to support the millions of women who experience violence daily. The suffering in Boston, as horrifying as it is, is largely abstract to a nation that has, for the most part, never experienced such a thing. On the other hand, in every room Oswalt performs comedy in, there will be a rape survivor. Statistically speaking, there will be many. There will be even more if he is performing at a university. If exceptional violence illuminates our human capacity for empathy, then structural violence shows the darkness of indifference.”

It may be that because the violence is structural and endemic, we feel a particular kind of hopelessness about it. Really, what is to be done? So the kinds of humor that come out are meant to distance and deflect but have the consequence of only increasing the structural power of that violence.

Something like Boston seems so huge and rare (and we’ve been indoctrinated to believe that it is an ultimate evil to be attacked) that we react with gravity and respect. But daily violence…well, that’s just normal. The response is that it either isn’t a big deal or that it’s such a problem we can’t do anything about it.

So might as well make a joke, right?? Hey, it’s funny cause it’s true!

Well, it is true. There are actual systems of oppression in place in the US such as sexism, racism and so forth. There are defaults which are normal and everything else is up for mockery, take downs or humor and cultural applications that keep the “other” in their place.

Good satire points that out and has the capacity to make us think, make us change.

Bad satire doesn’t.

Speaking of bad satire, The Onion just released a piece about the three young women (Amanda Berry, Georgina DeJesus, Michelle Knight who were kidnapped, raped, assaulted, and lived through unspeakable things. The piece is set up to highlight how horrible the men were that created this dungeon, the dynamics that allow for rape and assault and the structures that allowed police to ignore real calls for help.

But they use the girls as the foil for the piece. I have a real problem with that morally and ethically. It’s too soon, it uses them in a way they have no say in, and frankly I think that’s cheap and desperate.

And it totalizes men. I have a real problem with this as well. I get it, I do. I’ve been writing about men and rape a lot lately and yeah, I’m pretty wigged out about men and rape. But all men are not like this. A man helped rescue them, for god’s sake.

It’s too soon after the event. None of us have any time to really process what this means about us as a culture and society that a) these men did this b) that the neighbors were in the dark, c) police didn’t respond to real complaints. It distances us from the horror, it does not point it out in a way that makes us think more.

It strikes me as if they just wanted to get it up quick while it was relevant and get the page views.

While I could go on at length, I’ll point you in the direction of Erin Gibson, a comedian and performer who has a wonderful and insightful takedown of the Onion’s work, hoping against hope that we will “make double triple sure that satire is diligent about vilifying the wrongdoer while being careful not to exploit the victim.”

“Maybe you agree with this Onion piece, as is.

If that’s the case, let me ask you this. Would you print it out and hand it to Michelle Knight? Would you walk into her hospital room and would you tell her that thanks to her, The Onion has been able to make a trenchant social comment on the evil nature of her kidnapping and rape? Would you sit in the room with her and read this to her…

“Oh, sure, once in awhile they’ll get you pregnant and then lock you in a darkened room for 10 or so years while they viciously beat you until you lose the baby and almost die, but hey, we all have our own little quirks, right?”

And would you look her in the face and say “And they used your real name and face, cause, yu know, satire.”

This really happened to those girls. Something horrible and so horrible that perhaps our only honest response is to distance ourselves from it and turn it into something like Saw or Hostel but funny, right? Which is ironic because we as a culture seem to love those movies.

All this “humor” distances us from the horror, rape or assault or kidnapping. This seems to be how we react to the latest horror through the lens of the internet, because facing it is too overwhelming.

Yet even still, we are hungry for real answers, real ways to make change, to connect. But the way we are reacting to structural oppressions and violence, to the disconnection of neighbors, to the very media representation of ourselves with it’s 24/7 drama and reality TV-ness of real horrors…with a “hey do the Anderson Cooper newscast, make the memes mocking participants, do some standup, get it trending on Twitter, issue an Onion piece on the topic and wait for the next one” it doesn’t help. It makes it worse and worse each time.

It’s like we are a snake desperately consuming it’s own tail and wondering why it’s starving.

And I don’t think that’s funny at all.


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Open Thread Thursday

Have awesomeness to spread? Do it here and inspire us! Need support on a problem, I bet you can get some in the comments. Links that need linking, issues that need activating, arguments that need arguing, or shameless self promotion? Please share it and we’ll boost the signal!

***as always, my comment policies basically boil down to be kind or I’ll intervene. In some way.


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Signal Boost: Thank You Charles Ramsey #respect

Charles Ramsey did something extraordinary.

He intervened and saved three young women who had been held in a hellish environment for years. He’s a hero flat out, but the treatment of him in media and social media spaces has been truly questionable.

He’s not a joke.

This FB page is designed to bring attention to the mockery that’s been passed around online and offer real respect to someone who did what police couldn’t seem to do.

Thank You Charles Ramsey #respect.

Here’s a great link to a Slate piece by Aisha Harris on how quickly Mr. Ramsey became a funny internet meme.

There are many there who would say that those memes are just people joshing with Mr. Ramsey, just pointing out his affectations in a good natured way. I don’t think that’s true. Harris’ article points out numerous memes and autotuned versions of statements people of color have made, created to highlight their difference and cast them in a jester role, a fool.

This is not ok and indeed is part of racism. It’s that “default” thing where a particular class and color merge together to be normal and acceptable. It’s usually “best” if you get both the upper middle classness and the whiteness, but one will lift you up out of role of clown, not having either will get you on YouTube immediately in a case like this, and mocked widely.

What’s horrible about it is that this man did something that we keep saying we want people to do! Intervene! Not by stand! Will being an internet fixture help or hinder others from taking action? What he did was serious business, not a joke. He saved four lives, the three women and one child, and universe only knows what else would have happened to them if he hadn’t of acted.

As noted in the CSM piece:

Does Ramsey feel like a hero?

“No. No, no, no. Bro, I’m a Christian and an American, I’m just like you,” he told Anderson Cooper. “We bleed the same blood. Put our pants on the same way… It’s just that you got to put that being a coward, ‘I don’t want to get into anybody’s business,’ you got to put that away for a minute.

And yet the memes abound and they are based in racism and classism, you will not convince me otherwise.

Harris sums up her piece on Slate perfectly:

Describing the rescue of Amanda Berry and her fellow captives, he says, “I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms. Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway!”

The candid statement seems to catch the reporter off guard; he ends the interview shortly afterward. And it’s notable that among the many memorable things Ramsey said on camera, this one has gotten less meme-attention than most. Those who are simply having fun with the footage of Ramsey might pause for a second to actually listen to the man. He clearly knows a thing or two about the way racism prevents us from seeing each other as people.

Every time jokes are made mocking this man, we fail to see who he truly is, a hero. Every time, we refuse to look in the mirror and see what motivates those jokes. It’s race. We own him much more than this treatment and the system is real. We ignore that at our own risk.


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What if ADHD wasn’t considered a disability but simply a different way of operating in the world?

That’s the theory that Stephen Tonti posits in this student Ted Talk which I found truly fascinating.

As a woman who probably has ADD, and a mother of a son who definitely has it, I recognized myself in his words and felt relief.

Focus is a strange thing. Attention is easily paid to things that pull me in, but trouble is so many things distract me. Boring things (like folding laundry) make me feel like my mind will explode because It. Takes. So. Much. Time, even though I can lose hours in rehearsals or in editing work or planning a piece of writing.

Honestly, sometimes the words I need to write come into my brain so quickly that I can barely get them out, and they often come at the most inopportune times. Like when I’m driving. I can’t count the number of times I’ve pulled over to scribble notes down, hearing whole paragraphs in my brain at one time. If I don’t capture them, or replay those words several times in a row, well…they often float away.

ADD can make that initial burst of creativity feel SO good, but then comes the work of finishing a project, or keeping going when I get stuck. I should write, then wait, then edit.

I don’t usually do that.

For me, ADD means my mind fires off improvisationally and free associates with often amazing results, at least creatively. Going to the store without a firm list and meal plans, not so much. Well, I might see a vegetable and then get ideas for the most amazing meal but mess the rest of the week up. I often get my best ideas right up against the edge of time, which works onstage, but not really in real life.

I’ve mostly figured out how to manage myself. I made good grades, in part because I was able to learn experientially and memorize information. I have been lucky enough to have jobs that require multi-tasking and offer new scenarios quite a bit of the time. I will admit my laundry isn’t always folded well (when I do it) and my cabinets aren’t organized, but I know where things are.

I worry about my son, though. Schools are not as forgiving of children with ADHD. Testing is more intense and boys especially are under more pressure to sit still. His mind is all over the place, lost in clouds and stories and ideas, barely remembering where he is at times.

I can see his strengths and am trying to play to them. Medicine so far has caused depression in me, so we’ve X’d that off the list. He’s already got that tendency (and I suppose he got that from me as well, as depression has been a constant companion since childhood, but that is another post) so why risk it more?

I don’t want to use ADD or ADHD to excuse bad behavior (like being late or not paying bills or forgetting to go to work) but I’d love to see there be more ways for learners to learn. For schools to recognize the ones who need to touch things, climb trees, ask WHY before doing things not because they are being rebellious, but because knowing why helps them operate.

Kids are so delicate. They learn that they aren’t “normal” and they feel shame about it. Shame makes them hide. They cope, instead of getting help. They try to fake out like everything is going well because they don’t want to disappoint and engender even more bad feelings. But they feel such frustration in not being like others and the cycle can get pretty bad.

What if we allowed for all the others to be together and collaborate with wide ranging skills? Everyone should strengthen their weak spots, but imagine if the ADD kids could use their skills in class in a way that worked for them. What if schools really got to teach, I suppose is the question.

I know schools like that exist. In fact Stephen Tonti spoke of being able to be in a school with teachers who recognized him for his potential and helped him along the way. Often those are private schools though, and those take money. Public schools are underfunded, understaffed and under-respected. Teachers don’t have resources, time, or options to treat students as individuals. Testing demands they all work as a unit.

I worry about my son, and I’m glad he has me and his father in his life to advocate for him. I worry just as much about all the other kids who don’t get support.

The video is inspiring and I hope to see my own child make on just like it one day. He may need someone to help him remember to comb his hair, but even so, messy hair isn’t the end of the world.

As for me, I also need more focus, more balance, and more commitment to finishing things, staying connected to the slog and hard times. But I certainly intend on playing to my strengths.

We all should.

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