Bringing the Calm and Sharing the Peace

peace of mind for five minutes, that is

Today is a day of frustration. My body won’t do what I need it to do; my head won’t do what I need it to do.

It’s a day of frustration and unknowing and a good dose of fear.

My attention won’t do what I need it to do.  It’s like buckshot; I send it out with all the focus I can muster only to have it spread out, landing on shiny and unshiny alike.

I’m frustrated due to limitation, but that will pass. I’m frustrated due to seeing otherwise intelligent people lose all reason when it comes to pride.

Pride of what?

I’m frustrated with politicians and pundits acting like three year old children, unable to discuss straight-forwardly what they are for, instead, countering and insulting their opponents. I’m frustrated with people who mistake opponents for enemies and sound bites for reasoned argument.

I’m frustrated with the celebrated repetition of falsehood: you know, the bearing false witness thing. I’m frustrated with the fact that we have lost our ability to consider the source.

Not all sources are equal.

I’m frustrated that parroting what so-and-so said or such-and-such did has become an art form, and when the parrots are confronted with contradictory data, they view facts as an assault on their character.

I’m frustrated with people who have appropriated the term “family values”: where once it meant honesty, integrity, good citizenship, and compassion, it has been reduced to “one man + one woman.”

I’m frustrated with the blame-game, this activity of (insert word here)-shaming, with finger-pointing and the utter, utter lack of accountability.

I’m frustrated with people who won’t do what I need them to do–return a phone call, fill a prescription.

I’m frustrated with myself–and it’s so much easier to find frustration with other things. I can’t seem to get a single word down about a cat I miss more than I thought I would. A cat whose timing was so precise, our evolution so cosmically timed, that her going off into the woods, ostensibly to die, coincided perfectly with my first RA flare up.

I’m frustrated.

Two strange things happened this week, both involving a single word “peace.”

Continue reading Bringing the Calm and Sharing the Peace

Professor Tiger Lilly

tigerlilly1fence

This is Tiger Lilly.

She came into my life when she appeared on a coworker’s carport; she was so tiny that  she fit, not just in my hands, but within the length of just the finger part of my hands. Not even as big as my palm.

I always feel the push-pull when I see a tiny animal: I really, really want to take it in; I really, really can’t take any more animals. At this point, I had three geriatric cats and my super-duper dog.

This was well before Jitterbug flew the coop.

I had three cats; I didn’t want to take another one in.

But she had a bobbed tail.

A couple of years before this, one of the supervisors at work had a pair of white bob-tails.  I’m pretty sure I “squeed” (which I try, at all costs, to avoid) when I learned this. “I want one,” I told her.  “I’m keeping them,” she told me.

So that was that.

But then I learned that she gave them to a kid with cancer.

I couldn’t be mad at her for giving them to a kid with cancer!  But I was. Just a little bit. I’m not proud of it.

I made a rule: I would not get another cat unless it was a bob-tail.

There’s something about them.  I like things that defy expectations and stereotypes. Things a little bit different.

So when a coworker came to me and said, “I heard you’ll take in cats,” I said, “No, no, no.”  I was firm. I was steadfast. I was absolute.

But then I saw it: this tiny, skinny thing covered in shit. I didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl. It was tiny and helpless and dirty, and I’d like to think I was well on my way to remaining a bastion of resolve. There was another lady who loved cats; I could find it a home with her.

But then I put it on my chest, shit and all, and it started purring immediately. I ran my fingers from its tiny head down its bony spine to discover it had a tiny stump of a tail.

And whatever backbone I had, whatever decisions I had made logically were out so far out the window, they had already flown to South America for the winter. My decisions were probably drinking fruity drinks with umbrellas in them.

Whatever resolve I had mustered disintegrated like teeth on methotrexate.

And so it came home with me, and it so teen-niney, I had to check out a YouTube to see how to determine the sex.

There’s a joke here about the NSA or the cops checking my computer history, but I’m not quite capable of reaching it.

Continue reading Professor Tiger Lilly

Happy Independence Day

Independence

 

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.  (1) 

The word “traditional” is sticking in my craw lately, like a piece of stringy meat digging under the gum line, escaping traditional means of extrication, and requiring a DDS-licensed exorcist who comes armed with tiny, shiny traditional hooks, a traditional reclining chair and a traditional blinding light. Nevertheless, this pledge is our traditional pledge of allegiance, and often recited in honor of our traditional Fourth of July.

We’ve shortened “Independence Day” to “the Fourth,” as if it were just another day on the calendar, albeit one that creates a long weekend of fireworks, cooking out, and camaraderie, and we seem to have forgotten that this, “the Fourth,” is the day that the United States adopted the Declaration of Independence, standing apart from Great Britain and declaring itself no longer British property.

The thirteen colonies were young and brash, and so full of hope, and they created a nation that stood up and stood apart and stood firm.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.  (2)

Because of these self-evident truths, we formed our own government in order to have a government we could consent to.

A government instituted with the consent of the governed.

For better or worse, whatever our political affiliation may be, We The People have consented to our government.

Continue reading Happy Independence Day

Loving Language

NYT.language

(Image Source: http://www.posttypography.com/illustration/language-changed-by-the-internet/ with original credit due the New York Times)

I love this picture, the fingerprints erasing and expanding, reshaping and redefining, demonstrating that the very act of engaging with language changes the very shape of language.

I love language.

I love the bumps and curves of it as it scrolls across the page, the letters forming symbols like stones, piling one upon another, creating a castle, brick by beautiful brick, that is so much larger than the sum of its parts.  Whether it’s great writing or great oratory (a product, I may add, of great writing), language, in all its various symbols, is something to be celebrated, encouraged, and discussed.

I love language.

I love its ambiguity and its specificity, as vast a distance as between Pluto and the Sun, the reach between the two containing worlds, moons, and stars of nuance. I love that some words are more solid than others, more fixed in the sky–to the naked eye–at any rate–while some are more fluid, freezing or flowing based on outside forces, like societal pressure, or internal forces, like impassioned beliefs. I love that the same words, the same symbols, can depict the rise and fall of resounding success and bewildering defeat. I love that common words, with simpler meaning in one language, can hold depths of nuance in another, containing, within a tiny sphere, both sameness and difference. I love that the gap between specificity and ambiguity creates a space for interpretation, for debate, for the free exchange of ideas–all of which are formed by words.

One of my favorite sayings is one attributed to Mark Twain. “The difference between the right word and the almost- right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

I love language. I love its cadence, its alliteration, its dual meaning.  And I really, really love puns. Especially when they’re groaners.

I love language.

As I sift through the Supreme Court’s decision on Obergefell v. Hodges, (the decision which can be read here) I find myself wondering: why haven’t I done this before?  Why have I not read legal decisions before, especially those handed down by the highest court in the United States of America? It’s fascinating stuff, filled with all the beauty of language I so love. I haven’t finished all of the dissents yet.  My habit of taking notes, googling definitions, and reading peripheral information (i.e., cited cases)–a holdover from my undergrad years–is making it a bit slow. I probably should have read the judgment in its entirety first: I’ve heard I’m in for a joy-ride of gobbly-gook in Justice Scalia’s dissent. I especially love gobbly-gook. From Whedonesque language (i.e., the “Buffy Years,” which were preceded by the “Firefly months”) e.g., the manipulation of nouns into adjectives and adverbs, verbs into nouns, etc. to the sheer linguistic acrobatics of Tom Robbins, I love gobbly-gook.

Continue reading Loving Language

Conversations and Moving Forward

I’m lazy.

Maybe not so much lazy as “having different priorities.”

Or maybe I’m just lazy.

I don’t wash my car unless I’m really, really bored.  Which is very rarely because there’s always something that will drag my attention away and keep me from washing my car.

I was attending a junior college in 1992-1993 when my off white and entirely unwashed car was vandalized. Two young boys drew, on my filthy car, the rebel flag and the words “I hate niggers.”

As a white girl growing up in the South, my relationship to the South, and Mississippi in particular, is complicated.  There are things that I love about the South: the sense of family and connectedness, fireflies in the summer.

But there are things I loathe about the South as well, and all of those things stem from stupid, stupid ignorance.

I am fortunate: as a white girl, I was simply pranked. I wasn’t the target of the hate. My car was just used as a means to spread it.

I was fortunate: a friend who happened to be black saw me as I pulled up into the parking lot and pointed out my new car decorations. He then help me erase them.

I’d like to think it never even crossed his mind that I may have put it there. I was certainly mortified, but I can’t remember the words we exchanged.

I live in a deeply conservative state that believes in free speech as long as you agree with the status quo.

Mississippi’s Republican Speaker of the House, Philip Gunn said,

We must always remember our past, but that does not mean we must let it define us. As a Christian, I believe our state’s flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed. We need to begin having conversations about changing Mississippi’s flag.”

I think it takes courage to speak out for what you feel is right when it is not popular.

Conversations. That’s his official recommendation.

And the backlash isn’t even worth quoting, but you can certainly, if you’re so inclined, see it here.

Many people were unable to look beyond the word “offense” (e.g., “I’m offended that you’re offended!”) to see what he was actually saying.

I know from personal experience that by being chained to the past limits how far you can move forward.

“Love it or leave it!” so many people say. “If you don’t like the flag, move to a state that has a flag you like.”

I disagree with the “Love it or Leave it” mentality.

I love this state. I love Mississippi. Sure, I’d barter away its humidity (and a few other things) for a year long-crawfish season (and a few other things), but I love this state.

I was born here.  I want to travel, see the world, and die here.

But Mississippi has so much opportunity to better herself–so many areas that can be–must be–improved.

So I choose to love it and live it and see what I can do to better it.

I grew up with “Heritage not Hate,”and, thirty years ago, I would have stood for the Confederate flag. It wasn’t until I started reading about the Civil War that I realized that what I had been taught wasn’t necessarily true–it certainly wasn’t the whole truth, at any rate.

It IS history. Yes. It IS heritage, yes.

But just a little bit of delving shows that Mississippi’s primary reason for seceding from the United States was–not states’ rights as I had been taught, but slavery.  Mississippi’s Declaration of Secession outright state it here.

A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union

In the momentous step, which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

I love Mississippi. I love the people here. Some of the people I love are staunch supporters of keeping the flag.

Neither my love for them nor their love for the flag changes the fact that the single reason for secession was because the South feared abolition.

I want to wring their necks and force them to read the entire Declaration of Secession.

Neither my love for them nor their love for the flag changes the fact that the flag–the symbol for “Southern pride” and “heritage not hate” was in fact appropriated by hate groups, most namely the Ku Klux Klan.  That flag was paraded while black people were lynched, burned, and otherwise terrorized.  It has been appropriated, much like the swastika, and, as a symbol, if it ever had a single meaning (which I doubt), it certainly doesn’t have just a single meaning now.

Neither my love for them nor their love for the flag changes the fact that, right or wrong, the South committed treason against the United States of America.  The South tore the Union apart when it left, and there is no way to absolve the South of that fact.  Treason. Mississippi committed treason, and it was in order to preserve the institution of slavery.

There is no getting around that fact. None.

I am somewhat amused that retailers are suddenly pulling the Confederate flag in an effort to be seen as “right.”  Everything is about profit.  And Walmart, of all the companies, with all its poor business practices, stands up and says “We won’t sell it anymore” is just short of irony.

I think the flag should be sold. I think it should be flown.  Anywhere people want to fly it–as long as it’s not on government property.  I do believe in freedom of expression, especially if that expression is something I whole-heartedly disagree with.  But it simply should not be flown on government property.

If for no other reason than it’s a flag representative of treason, it should not be flown anywhere that the government exists: state governments are subject to the umbrella of the federal government, the United States of America. To fly a flag that is representative of treason on property that is subject, by extension, to the federal government is, well, a bit inappropriate.

Neither my love for them nor their love for the flag changes the fact that Mississippi ranks dead or almost dead last in everything that matters.  We must move forward. We must have different priorities. What we’ve been doing hasn’t been working.

And for that we need conversations.

Conversations that are about something other than a flag.  Change it and move on.

Being chained to the past limits how far you can move forward.

It’s time to move forward.

(Sources:

Philip Gunn’s quotation from his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PhilipGunn?fref=nf

Mississippi’s Declaration of Secession: http://www.civil-war.net/pages/mississippi_declaration.asp )

The Naming of a Thing

bob

(Image from photobucket)

“In death, a member of Project Mayhem has a name. His name is Robert Paulson.”

(Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk)

I love this scene from Fight Club: despite the absurdity of herd mentality, it demonstrates the power of naming.  In the film’s case, it is making something real. Bob had a name while in the support group, but then didn’t have a name while working for Project Mayhem–a name being something that identifies someone from someone else. He was an indiscrete part of a whole, a non-entity in his own right.

Despite the soldiers’ misunderstanding of the Narrator’s point (I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise), naming made Robert Paulson a man.

When we hear stories of tragedies, the name of the perpetrator is blasted all over the news. Whether it’s a named hurricane or a shooter, pictures are broadcast, over and over and over, and a name is attached to the picture for all the world to see.

It creates a focus on the perpetrator, creates a celebrity out of a disaster or a terrorist.  And the media feeds off each other, adding to the cacophony of misplaced attention. The new-found celebrity, even while condemned, is constantly celebrated just by the constant naming.

Before 2005, Katrina was nothing more than a girl’s name.  After August 2005, it became a demarcation: those of us affected by it measured time, not in years, but by pre-Katrina and post-Katrina.

“When did I start this job? It was before Katrina.”

“Well, they rebuilt the house after Katrina.”

Every hurricane season, we hold our collective breaths: is this storm going to be another Katrina?

I find myself avoiding people named Katrina. I don’t mean to do it. It just happens.

It’s like a stab in the heart when I hear that name–a stab that has been reduced over the years from a shashka-gale weapon to a pin prick, but it’s still there. As time has passed, it has been less “Katrina” and more “the storm.”

It’s a reflection of the pin-prick and not the sword, the softening of the blow.

Katrina.

There is power in a name. There is power granted by the naming of a thing.

With the massacre of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church this week, the name of the shooter has been all over the news. Every news story in my Facebook feed about it leads with a picture of a white male with dead eyes.

I refuse to add to that.

Instead, I want to name the victims:

  • Cynthia Hurd
  • Susie Jackson
  • Ethel Lance
  • Reverend Depayne Middleton-Doctor
  • Reverend Clementa Pinckney
  • Tywanza Sanders
  • Reverend Daniel Simmons, Sr.
  • Reverend Sharonda Singleton
  • Myra Thompson

Despite the God-awful pop ups and epileptic-fit triggering ads (trigger warning, proceed at your own risk, but I’d suggest avoiding if you’re on steroids–o! rage rage at the idiotic ads) here’s a great article that gives a little bit of background on all nine.

I am still too shaken up by it, too confused and disorderly in my mind to coherently speak of it.

Luckily, Jon Stewart did it for me. 

Because I can’t

So I name them.

And I hope you will, too.

I Got It

You know what Honey Badgers Don't Give?

You know what honey badgers don’t give?

It’ s a bit frightening to see a three year old with the attitude, spunk, foot stomping, and mad manipulation skills that took me nearly 19 years or so to master.

I fear for her parents.

She and her brother are like the sun and moon–I’m just not sure which is which.  She–the younger by 2 years–is blonde and fluffy; he’s dark and slender.  Their physical attributes are the least of their dissimilarities.

While the boy craves approval, and, thus, rarely actively misbehaves, the girl is a three-year-old honey badger with curls.  Approval isn’t something she strives for, instead, it is something she bestows upon those around her if the mood so hits her.

Despite these differences, despite their sibling squabbles, it is so evident that they love each other, very, very much.  If one falls down, the other is right there, even in the middle of having a hissy-fit, to pat the other on the back and say, “It’s all right, Bubba,” or “It’s all right, Boo.”

They hug. They dance. They fight.

They are amazing.

Two of the girl’s favorite phrases are “No” and “I got it.”

“I want” ranks pretty high up on the list, too.

We’ll ask her to get her shoes; we’ll say to someone else, “I’m going to get a glass of tea.”

If it involves getting something, she’s all about it, assuming her mood is amenable. “I got it.”

When she doesn’t want to share, the answer, if not the tone is the same. “I got it.”

When she’s really pissy, she has a mantra: “I got it, I got it, I got it.”

Continue reading I Got It

Eclectica

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