Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Me and Membership

(Blah blah social justice wyt lady personal journey, blah blah.)

I wrote about the end of my library career waaay back in 2012, and I'll leave the details there, but the gist is that a seriously disturbed library volunteer waged an inexplicable, literally baseless, hate campaign against one of my employees.

A trustee told me to begin the firing process for this employee.  It was unethical, illegal, and unearned and I wouldn’t do it.   He then began a Machiavellian campaign to get rid of me.

And then another trustee — we had two who represented our area — took me to lunch. She diplomatically expressed her lack of support for Other Trustee and for Library Boss, and said she'd like to see me stay.

So, there in 1994, I'm sitting across the table, touched and grateful for the first show of support by anyone with power in this situation. But also wondering why it hadn't come soon enough.  I was worn out and I'd already burned my bridges.

What this 1994 event has to do with 2021 is this:

I resist Life Lessons as much as anybody but this was the event that made me look at how caring about my reputation was making my life impossible.   I’d gotten a total witches' brew of messages all my life, from a bunch of different sources. Summer camp said I was crappy, my 4th grade teacher thought I was great, etc. etc.

Leaving the job didn’t resolve it, in the face of years of contradictory messages.  Was I a Good Witch or a Bad Witch?


Forming a sense of self starts with input — family first, but also society and culture. All these, though, are opinions of people with their own damage, needs, agendas both good and bad, their own wisdom or ignorance or love of wielding power, or their simple stupidity.  

So the next step was realizing that life required a sorting process, to at least try to know myself.  I’m still lousy at it, yet no one but me could do it accurately at all.

And yeah, you're maybe liking this, up to this point, but here's what a lot of people won't like.

I’ve never called myself an ally.

It’s not a term anybody should award herself anyway, it’s about standards determined by others, and I think claiming or seeking it is unhealthy.  I’ve tried, awarding myself a summer camp “G” because I thought I deserved it, and realizing that it was the acceptance, not the ornament, that I really both craved and needed to let go of. 

Even if my basic values are strong for equality, democracy, voting rights, ending racism and discrimination on religion, ethnicity, gender-anything, ending economic injustice, and line up 90% with everyone else, I can’t agree to follow an agenda set by others  ; and that’s pretty much the dictionary definition of being an ally. 

Liberal is a label I get to give myself without seeking approval. There’s debate about what earns people the Liberal label too, but there’s no authority making those decisions. Being an ally, though, does mean stepping back and letting those with whom we’re allying take the lead and determine what we should support and oppose. I can’t commit to that. 

I do know that belonging doesn’t require lockstep thinking, debate is ok.  But. There are things that are considered too essential to argue with, and that pretty much get my membership rescinded.  And they baffle me.

Sweeping statements like “politically correct just means being a decent person” are a Thing that I’m supposed to believe, only I think that statement is bullshit.

If I say that some campaign that I think is absurd is political correctness run amuck, I’m told that it means “I support treating people like crap.”  No.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that and I don’t support that. 

You may think Snow White reinforces rape culture.  I think that’s absurd.  

No, some white kid wearing dreds is not doing a damn thing wrong. I’m very wary of the campaign against “cultural appropriation” at all, yeah, really, which makes me poor ally material.

No, Horton Hears a Who is not a story of White Saviorism.

Here’s an exact quote I am unapologetically not going to identify or attribute :
You might be wondering what [Game of Thrones] has to do with a radical qtpoc politics. Much of the GoT fandom probably cannot feel with and for people in the real world who face structural violence on a daily basis, the most vulnerable to everyday systems of exploitation.
Maybe some readers agree with me that that’s loony, but I guarantee that an unbroken stream of “So insightful!” and “Thank you for enlightening me!” was the response it got.

Yes, social media lets us cocoon with those who are like-minded, which explains some of the apparent unanimity that’s, in truth, not unanimous at all.  But the craving for acceptance that the sheer quantity of it represents is a real deal. 

I have trouble being polite about such lunacy but I’m ok with bypassing the GoT  type conversations altogether.  Other things, though, seem too important for that.

If you’re tempted to explain to me why I’m wrong on these issues, please know that it has been explained to me thoroughly, and you’re welcome to disagree but I’m not going to engage about it in this post.  I didn’t offer them to try to convince y’all to agree, and it’s fine if you don’t.  They serve as examples of why “ally” isn’t a good fit for me.

I understand I’m disqualified to be an ally, not because of a particular opinion, but because I can’t agree with having standards set for me, not when they’re about about right and wrong.

This is the point at which I’m expected to add a line about how, of course, I’m asserting my right to agency and to choose my battles, while vulnerable people live their lives with this agency too often denied them.

It’s true, but my neglecting to type it doesn’t mean I really forgot my privilege, and typing it makes no difference in changing a thing on earth for these vulnerable people.

Typing it serves exactly one purpose : to flash my Hall Pass to maintain my membership in acceptable standing.  Seriously.   

There are a lot of us, people of privilege who heavily support justice and equality while enjoying safe and quiet housing, free exercise of their rights, well-stocked pantries, generally a nice personal comfort level.   

If we place the required acknowledgment where it’s called-for, we don’t get called out for trying to have both privilege and acceptance as an ally.  No one expects me to relinquish my safety and comfort, only to show awareness of it.   My objection to trying for ally status is that it’s based on the properly placed disclaimers, not on the values I live.

It’s not based on having awareness, it’s based on demonstrating awareness.  

To whom?  Who stamps my hall pass, but more importantly, what does that do for any of the victims of violence and injustice?

Liberals berating — if done gently, it’s “reminding” — other liberals has not, in several years of social media politics, made the real problems of, and deadly dangers to, BIPOC and LGBTQ people get even slightly better.  Things are getting worse.  Violence and injustice come down on the vulnerable harder than ever, while Liberalism is being identified with rigid and sometimes irrational political correctness, hurting our winning elections or changing anything.

Did it matter if supporters were posting solid black squares as their Insta profile pictures for BLM, and one celeb had a thin white border around all her pix including that one?

The absurdity there is not that hers was the right way to do it.  That’s another one I’m not going to address, because it’s separate debate from the debate we need to have, which is:  even if it was the wrong way, did it do one single thing to weaken the fight for racial justice?  I think it did nothing of that sort.  It’s pure trivia.

It’s a wasteful fight against at best, soft targets, at worst, unimportant ones.  We need to feel we’ve made some small difference somewhere.  People are being slaughtered.  We’re horribly helpless against atrocity, but we can go after Scrambled Eggs Super.  We’ll debate whether a Black celebrity cast to portray a real life historic Black person is dark enough. We’ll berate a social justice activist for not including the disclaimer line.  

No, supporting what I believe is right, is not “centering myself,” it’s centering a position that I sincerely believe supports justice on an issue.

Yes, I’m “staying in my lane.”

Trying, however imperfectly, to uphold justice IS my lane.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Graymatter 2001-2016. And leaving.

We're coming up on four months since we lost Graymatter, and I've been avoiding writing about it.

I try not to batter myself over honest mistakes, but all I can seem to write is that we had a gutwrenching, difficult year, the best I could do sucked, I feel like crap.  Then, that invites people to tell me how great I am and how it's not my fault.  It's like trolling for comfort.  Don't do it.  Just read on.

We moved in November 2014, to what we thought was the perfect house, our positive step into a happy new situation after a very bad couple years.

We were sure it would be paradise for cats.  Nooks and crannies, walled garden.

Instead, we found that the previous owner had made it a feral cat colony, fed them, let them shelter in the crawlspace, and definitely let them inside.

Graymatter was driven insane by the proximity to the ground, by the constant prowling of other cats around doors and under floors, their smells.  She spray-marked all these places, constantly.

Add to that her constant campaign to drive her brother Downy from the house, a project that escalated after he was seriously ill in 2012 but dared to get well instead of dying as she wished him to.  I joked for a decade about her dislike of him, but as it grew into some cat version of hate it went beyond my ability to joke.

In the new house we had to tear out the laundry floor to the studs, treat the studs with odor-combatting chemicals, and replace it with tile.  We had to close her out of one room, then another, then we simply divided the house.

She lived on one side.  Downy and Scooter on the other.  Gray felt lonely and left out.  She was alone all night, no more shoving my pillow aside to give her a place to sleep next to my head.

To give her time with her humans meant to leave the orange boys alone.  Downy would sit in the kitchen watching us through the glass door that kept us all apart.

Graymatter got sick and then sicker.  I was warned, God forgive me, that the tranquilizers I gave her could do that.  I said I was OK with her having a shorter life, if it gave her a happier life.

I'll have to live with that, which would be a little easier if it had helped more, but it did help a little.  I guess it did.  It made her a little calmer.  Then it destroyed her liver.

Through her last 6 weeks, we tried to bring her back.  The liver can regenerate.  We coaxed water and food into her.  She resumed being engaged with life, exploring, demanding a treat-toss game.  But her liver was distended and her body, despite her eating fairly well, all bone.
On her last afternoon. The others knew she was very ill and did not bother her as she walked the garden, resting often.

Larry found every egress from the back garden through which she could escape or be injured, covered them all with chicken wire, and she got two afternoons outside.  I followed her.  She roamed and roamed, smelled everything, explored everything.  The second day, she did less, but flopped to rest often and then hiked herself back up and kept going.  That night, at 2:30 AM, she died.

All through watching Graymatter succumb to heart failure, I could comfort myself with life being better for Downy now.  The whole house open, his flopping places accessible again, evenings with us humans.

And he vanished.

He and Scooter went out to the back yard, as always, at about 5 AM, and Downy was not seen again for two weeks.  13 horrible days of my imagining coyotes, snakes, kidnapers for animal-fight rings.

I barely mourned my little girl, worrying if her brother was scared, hurting, being abused.  His return seemed so miraculous, and the relief of not having to deal with her foul behavior so immense, I can't pretend to have given her the grieving she deserves.  This is where I stop trolling for comfort, and reveal that I'm a piece of crap.  It's over.  I didn't help her, maybe I couldn't, maybe sitting with her that awful last night was all I could do, maybe not, past, done and over with.  I don't want to think about it any more.

But I do.  I miss the dear, funny good times.  They hit me at odd moments, but I never forget how many years in the past they were, as things deteriorated.

"Lost pet" flyers WORK, folks.
Use them!
Use EVERY RESOURCE, mass mailings, social media, everything, but do put up flyers!!

We're done with the house.  It goes on the market when we can get it ready.  We have my parents' house and we're back to our old neighborhood, some renovations done, others scheduled.  It seems like a better thing.  But I've lost faith in trying to do anything right.  We tried it with buying that house.  That Right Thing was Wronger than I ever dreamed.

Back on the marsh, things are good.  There will be no more outdoor roaming for either cat.  Both Orange Guys spend almost all day on the screened porch, and seem to find it acceptable.

Downy especially.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Graymatter, 2001-2016

Those who have followed our cat life over the past decade should know that we've lost Graymatter.

May 12th.  And this is it for now.  It was all tied up in other things that were going on and I will be back to tell about it, but I can't yet.  The rest of us are ok but it was a very hard month.  Farewell to my dear troubled girl.

Saturday, April 30, 2016


Since nobody reads blogs anymore, especially when they're kept up as seldom as this one has been, I guess I can just thought-stream about strange things.

It dawned on me the other day how much raw feeling humanity has had for rain; joy, fear, despair.  Just how much sheer time humanity has spent thinking about rain.

Early human communities worshipped the sun, knowing it was life-giving, but I think we worried about it less than we did about rain.  Food depended on both, but the sun was more predictable.  Rain, rain, too much, too little, too early, too late.  One crop flourishes, one withers, under the same timing and amount of rainfall.

Floods.   Parched earth.   Floods followed by parching.  Praying and begging for less rain.  Praying and begging for more.  Finding yourself watching a deluge with cold fear, and then a few months later, day after day of dryness, wishing and hoping for rain.  Give us life, don't take life away from us.  What can we do to bring the rain?  To stop the rain?  Prayers and cloud-seeding and human sacrifice to a god who seems angry enough to withhold rain.

It's used as a metaphor for scary, for stressful, for Bad days.  Rainy days, versus sunny days.

         Don't sorrow for sunshine, learn to dance in the rain!

Sunshine seems benevolent, its dangers known but controllable.  Its apparent less danger is only a seeming, but it seems more passive.  It's just There, whether clouds mask it or not.  Droughts are not thought of as its presence, they are the absence of the clouds and the rain.  The sun gets less blame.   Or God gets less blame for too much sun, than he gets for too little rain.  

Rain gives life, but it's capricious, scary, its ability to kill as obvious, and as unpredictable, as its healing and life-giving powers.

But both of them, the sun and the rain, give both.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

A delightfully mundane Christmas Eve

There's been a huge amount of work to do, back at the house we moved out of, where I've finally had time to sort through 12 years of stored stuff left in the basement, including the stock from our 2005 real walk-in store.  And a lot to do at my parents' house that's now ours and getting some serious repairs and renovation. So for a couple months, I have hardly had time or energy for mundane tasks at home, except on odd days.  The Spouse has microwaved an awful lot of Mac'n'Cheese.

This December 24th, I am home, unstressed (because tomorrow's dinner was ordered ready for the oven, and you BET that's wonderful), and puttering around.  I've laundered grubby potholders.   I've seasoned some old cast iron pans.

I know they still don't look great but that was some serious steel-wool scrubbing - and I'm OK with the rough look!

One daughter is here from Up North, and we all braved the shopper crush at Kmart and I got a new vacuum cleaner bags and a nice sweater for 10.99(!). Came home and unclogged the vacuum cleaner of its impacted cat hair.  I cleaned the mat under the dish drainer.

The only Christmas-y thing I've done today was to put my grandmother's near-hundred-year-old star on top of the tree.

But earlier in the week, I did clean and paint an old metal Santa sleigh left behind in the garden shed by the house's previous owner.  Wrapped some small gift boxes for it to hold.  Crocheted little mufflers for the reindeer we got a couple weeks ago at our local nursery/garden center.  See how Martha Stewartish I can be?  OK, notsomuch.  The mufflers are just 2 quick crochet rows with a border, 30 minutes or so.  If I were Stewartizing, I wouldn't get Christmas dinner delivered!

So!  This is just my annual Merry Christmas, joyous holiday post.  Be well, have peace, and may this turn of the year bring good things to any and all who are reading this!

Friday, August 07, 2015

Linear time

Having to live in linear time -- always unable to change the past -- is both the Classic Human Dilemma, and lousy.

I know it's exactly what I need to do.

I know that if I didn't have to live with consequences, I'd never gain any wisdom.

I know it's no harder for me than it is for anybody else. Still, it would be nice for life to come with just a couple of do-over tickets.

Or one.  I'd take one.

But it might not matter even if I could.

Anybody who's ever seen It's a Wonderful Life has encountered the concept of alternate time lines, but what got my brain working on it was this book, which I bought when I was about 17, at the Intimate Bookshop in Charlotte, NC. Southpark Mall, specifically.  It was a slightly life-changing experience.

Or, one of the stories in it was. The title is "Random Quest," by John Wyndham.  It's about alternate universes. Specifically, it's about a man who temporarily trades places with the version of himself who is living out a somewhat different life in a different time-line.

This is going to get confusing, because the story contains these two "Colin Traffords" so I will call ours "Traff One".  He's the only one we meet and know, the one who tells the story.  He lives here in our very own universe, which I'll call Universe One. He works in a physics lab and gets knocked out when the test of a big new reactor goes rather badly.

He wakes up ... somewhere else. In a world both familiar and not. Some places and people are the same.  Others are different.

There's also a Colin Trafford in this alternate Universe. Traff Two, Universe Two.  He was hit by a Universe Two bus at the same moment that Traff One, here in our world, was knocked out during the reactor test.

They have swapped consciousnesses.  Traff One's consciousness -- his memories, his knowledge, his self -- is now occupying Traff Two, whose own "consciousness" now, presumably, occupies Traff One's comatose body back here in our familiar world.

So here's Traff One's "awareness," "consciousness," whatever you want to call it, in Traff Two's universe.  He finds it quite navigable but...odd.  Technology is different, less advanced.  This is the 1950's but he finds radio, but no TV.  AM but no FM.   Cars look funny.  Fashions look funny.

The big thing is that, there in Universe Two, World War II never happened.

So. Because there was no WWII in Universe Two, Traff-Two didn't go to war and therefore did not follow his war work into the field of physics. He became a novelist instead.

He also became a nasty, unpleasant sort of chap.

He also found this really great woman and married her. But he's slowly destroying the marriage.

You can guess where that's going.

Back here in Universe One, Traff-One's comatose head regains consciousness after 3 weeks. That means Traff One is zapped back here into his own world and his own time-line.

But Traff One is NOT happy to be back.  Not without Her.   Perfect Woman, whom he's now obsessed with finding.  After all, Trafford had managed to determine that both time-lines were alike until he was about 8 years old, so Miss Perfect likely exists here, but had a different life from that point, just as both Colin Traffords did.  He sets out in search of her.  Thus the "Quest" of the title.

As a teenager, I of course sighed over this "meant to be" love story.

I also was even more impressed by the fact that the exact date of my birth was mentioned. This is when Traff One first wakes up in Time-line Two, and wanders around trying to figure out what has happened.  He picks up a magazine dated January 22, 1954.

This made "Random Quest" the most important short story ever written, in my mind.

Predictably it's been made into movies (Here's part one of a modern BBC version on youtube, in several parts), but they're basically love stories.  They barely explore the uncomfortable questions of what's meant to be, or which history is the Groundhog Day type "right" one we keep stupidly failing at.  Or whether there is a "right" one at all.

The original story gives Traff One, and us, only tantalizing glimpses of these fascinating ideas, entirely aside from the One Perfect Soul Mate thing.   It took me a few years and a few read-throughs, but eventually I saw that the point of the story, made quietly, is that nothing was meant to be.

Or rather, that everything was meant to be, and is out there, being. In one alternate universe or another. Every possibility occurs. Ninth Grade physical science didn't really prep me to talk about theoretical physics, but apparently it gets into ....

Let me just type a "Random Quest" quote in here. Colin Trafford (Traff One) explains:
One was brought up against Einstein and relativity, which, as you know, denies the possibility of determining motion absolutely and consequently leads into the idea of the four-dimensional space-time continuum. ... In other words, although the infinite point which we call a moment in 1954 must occur throughout the continuum, it exists only in relation to each observer, and appears to have similar existence in relation to certain close groups of observers.
Big help, wasn't it?  Yes, that's sarcasm.  Other sci fi pieces speak of alternate universes "splitting off" but that's apparently sort of an inaccurate metaphor.  The theory seems more to say that every possibility is happening and perception of which one is "reality" is matter of where you are standing.

Trafford One can't find the moment of diversion at all.  He can only narrow the date of the split down to a guess that it was when he was around 6-8 years old.  His own life back in Time-line 1, and his alter-ego's in Time-line 2, were the same till about then.

Yet one world is not better than the other.  The story definitely does not advocate the idea that one worked out "the way it's supposed to" and the other didn't. Some people are better off in Time-line 2, while others, including himself, are much more productive and emotionally healthy in Time-line 1.  Wyndham has a lot of fun giving us inexplicable examples of differences that Traff can't track down in his mere three weeks there, so we can't either.

His titular "Quest" to find Miss Perfect allows some wiggle-room for the idea that something can be "wrong" and that the space-time continuum might, once in a long while, hiccup and make a correction.

But the idea that it's a correction is only an interpretation.  It could be just a space-time goof. Wyndham drops some cool little hints about "good" and "bad" events.

So, the death and destruction of World War II didn't happen there in the Alt-Universe? "Good."

Well, maybe. Colin glimpses a newspaper story in which Germany is conducting nuclear research -- testing atomic fission at the time of the story, in 1954. You have to wonder if the world of Universe Two is one in which the war was merely delayed.  Delayed until nukes were in the hands of Germany, and that in Time-line Two, the Axis might about be to unleash a war and win it this time.

Our world just marked the anniversary of the atomic bomb that ended the Pacific war in 1945.

A few years ago we acquired this copy of a map strategizing the Allied Invasion of Japan; the plan they'd have needed to follow if the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs had not been dropped:

Lines show the Allies pushing forward across Asia, slowly pushing enemy lines to their hoped-for 1946 mark.

My dad was 17 when he entered the Navy in 1945.  He once told my mother that if the bombing of Japan hadn't occurred, he would probably have been killed somewhere along those fronts so neatly mapped with nice little dotted lines as "1946." Or 1947.  Or...  Pushing across the landscape, as 10s of thousands more died.

So I might owe my existence to the bomb.

"Random Quest" got me thinking at an early age, when my brain wasn't yet petrified, about how the way things happen can't always be identified (with our limited knowledge)  as good or bad. As one of those who's into God stuff, I actually manage to reconcile the two, since I believe that taking the inefficient route to where my Higher Power wants me only makes it harder for me but doesn't stop me from getting there. Likewise, I think Humankind gets off-track but back on.

If the theory works the way it seems to in sci fi stories, then in some alternate time-line, I'm a glaciologist. In another, the bomb never dropped and I was never born.

And in another one, I'm a lawyer. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

But read the original "Random Quest," and let it dance with your mind.