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Archive for April 2011

So I hit the “info” button on my remote while Bambina and BabySister are watching an old episode of Diego (Dora’s cousin, for those of you without children and any knowledge of animated children’s educational programming). Parents will love what it read: “A young adventurer overcomes a series of challenging obstacles while returning animals to their homes in the wild.” Um, yeah. I suppose that’s what the show would be about IF IT WEREN’T JUST A KIDS’ CARTOON. I could not stop laughing! I mean, yes, it’s educational. The kids learn the word for “hop” in Spanish and perhaps do a counting game while outwitting The Bobo Brothers, those kooky monkeys that are always complicating our young adventurer’s life, but I don’t know that I would characterize fictional Diego’s work as, say, “herculean efforts to return animals to their appropriate ecosystems.”

I guess it’s all how you spin it.

Back in college our president introduced austerity measures under the name “growth by substitution.”. Well, clearly that meant “no more raises for faculty and staff–and say goodbye to the campus coffee shop.”. But what did we know? We were growing! By substituting! Sounds like a great plan! We’re on board!

And just the other day I hoodwinked some unsuspecting young folk (a lovely young couple) into totally having kids because “there’s nothing like it in the world.” It’s true, of course. But what I didn’t add as the corollary was, “because you have not lived until you’ve been vomited and diarrhea’d upon by a child who is the reason you’ve had four hours of sleep in three days.” No indeed, there’s nothing like it in the world.

Speaking of large quantities of shit, we now come to Donald Trump. A man who has participated in perhaps the most racially-coded public spectacle I’ve had the displeasure to witness–and who is outraged–OUTRAGED!!–that people are calling him racist. Especially, as he said in an interview, he’s “always had a great relationship with The Blacks.” Well, he apparently doesn’t play well with the half-Blacks and the sorta-Browns, because he needs to see their papers in order to consider them legitimate American citizens eligible to hold office. Can someone please tell Mr. Trump that not knowing you are an asshole is not proof that you are not, in fact, an asshole. Same with being racist. Just because you do not think your comments are racist does not magically make them not racist. Trump is stirring up racism, pure and simple. You can call it “commonsense” or “protecting democracy” or whatever you want to, but no other president in history has ever had to produce TWO forms of a birth certificate, only to then be called out for not producing his college transcripts. I mean, how complicit in this racism are we that we are allowing this to happen? It is unforgivable, and it is un-American. You can detest every one of his policies. You can work to defeat his proposals and his candidacy. But you cannot, as a patriotic American worthy of the name, attempt to delegitimize him and his right to The Office, on the basis of what you perceive as his “otherness” from what makes you comfortable. It’s wrong it’s wrong it’s wrong, however you–and Trump–want to spin it.

Knees Up

Posted on: April 26, 2011

Top of the morning to you, darlings. I’m lounging on my couch, cooler at my feet, typing on my new Babydaddy-purchased IPad. Pretty cool. The lounging is not for fun, and the cooler is not for beer, unfortunately. I had knee surgery yesterday in an attempt to arrest the prednisone-fueled destruction of my bones. You see, our friend prednisone, while fabulous at taming the GVHD of a stem cell transplant, is also fabulous at qthinning your hair, making you gain weight, giving you insomnia—and destroying your bones and joints. With friends like that…

In any case, as is my family’s dubious honor, I have scared away yet another physician with the complicated nature of my issues. The plan was to do “core decompression” of my knee. Essentially, poking holes in the necrotic areas to stimulate blood supply and hopefully new bone growth. However, when he got in there and took a look around, he immediately yelled “abort!” and got outta Dodge. Things were apparently so bad that if he had drilled a hole, the entire knee would have collapsed. Supah!

So I’m taking a day or so to recover, eating oxycodone (which, if you haven’t tried it, you must dearie), and icing my knee with this giant cooler contraption that hooks up to a very thin ice pack. You fill it with ice, plug it in, and voila–no muss icing for hours. Beats that mooshy bag of corn

In other news, the kids are back at school! Thank you, Jesus! I am not kidding when I say that, by Wednesday of last week, I was straight-up homicidal with both of them at home. (Settle down, DSS, I AM just kidding. Kind of.) Oh my lord, I often joke that my kids were sent here to kill me, but last week I believed it. How can anyone possibly bicker over play-doh? You both have the exact same color in the exact same quantity! What could you POSSIBLY have to fight about? Well, let me fill you in:

She has more than me!
She’s touching me!
She’s in my space!
She took some of mine!
She keeps touching me!
She won’t give me the rolling pin!
She won’t give me the [insert stupid effing play doh tool here]!

And so it went, seemingly with every toy or game or activity we tried. Until I went psycho and started packing stuff up. Oh yeah.

New Rule: if it causes a fight, it becomes mine.

We only had to go through the loss of about four things (and the corresponding wailing, crying, begging, being sent to respective rooms, and slamming of doors) before they figured out I was seriously going to own their little asses if I heard one more unhappy, unsisterly peep from the Jones children. Which may explain why the next day was so pleasant. They learned their lesson, and I learned mine: Next vacation, go psycho mama MUCH earlier in the week.

Felices Pascuas, darlings, to those of you who celebrate.

Here at Chez Jones we have been enjoying the Jewish Atkins Diet for Passover (no leaven = no bread, pasta, cereal, everything carb that I like).  In many ways Passover is my favorite holiday because it really speaks to our time as slaves in The Land of Egypt, and therefore we should treat all strangers with respect; that we should work to make people in bondage free in modern times.  I completely love that message, especially for my girls.  It teaches humility and gratitude and social action in one big package.  Big Fan.  On the other hand, I detest Passover (not because I can’t eat Doritos, although that’s a tertiary reason).  I struggle with the holiday because it is such a horrible story to tell my kids.  I mean, how do you sugarcoat “Pharaoh ordered the death of all Israelite males” (which precipitated Moses in the bullrushes) and worse: “God killed all firstborn Egyptians” because he was pissed that Pharaoh was such a recidivist lying motherfucker.  I mean, where do I go with this for the Under 7 set?  Bambina and I started reading the story of Exodus and she proceeded to have nightmares!  She was completely freaked out that God would just send millions of frogs or lice or disease to kill your cattle should you need to get served.  She was equally terrified of Pharaoh who apparently owned humans and killed their firstborn children just in case they got too numerous.  I struggle with this every year, but none more so than this simply because Bambina can now read.  She knows we’re skipping stuff.  She can read, “kill” and “plague” and “children.”  And she’s not stupid to boot.  She is filling in all the details of the story that we have previously left out, and quite frankly is finding it straight-up horrifying.  Which it is.  Whenever I read the Bible I always find myself chuckling that religious people are always the first to freak out about “satanic” heavy metal music or someone saying a bad word on TV.  Hello? Have you READ this book?  Murder, mayhem, deception, rape, pillaging, family dysfunction and a whole lot of additional general nasty, nasty stuff.  None of which is at all appropriate for children.

So how did I handle it this year?  Well, I’ll let the BabyDaddy’s explanation to some friends sum it up:  “The highlight of our Seder this year was my wife telling our daughters that the story of Exodus, which we are commanded by God to read in order to have observed Passover, is ‘not real.’  Furthermore, that ‘God is not really real, either.'”

So my kid version of the Haggadah needs some work, you say?  I think not.

Here’s all I was trying to say to Bambina (and to BabySister but she couldn’t care less; she just wanted to throw the marshmallows when we said, “hail” during the listing of the plagues [which we did–for points. Dada won for his fastball]):  I was just trying to first, answer Bambina’s very concerned question about whether God really does “kill babies” of people who make him angry.  Were I of a different religion I might have answered, “You’re darn tootin’, young lady! So just remember that next time you sneak a listen to that rock and roll music!!”  But I’m not. So OF COURSE I said that was entirely not the case.  And secondly I was trying to simply say (as we do for stories or movies that might end up being a little bit intense for her), “This is just a story; this cannot happen in real life.”

So why did I say these things on this important holiday? Because, honestly folks, I don’t actually believe that any of that story happened.     [Ducks to avoid rotten tomatoes and pointy shards of matzo]

Honestly, truly, I really just don’t believe that anything in the Torah (and the larger Bible as a whole) actually happened literally.  In this case, I’m seriously doubting a bunch of Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years.  Not possible.  The seniors would have mutinied and set up a gated community on the spot and declared the entire wandering business to be fakakta.  The hippies would have created a kibbutz to grow flowering yarrow and other edible, sustainable  greens to sell with their handwoven clothes.  And, as the old joke goes, there would have been two synagogues built: one you attend, and the other you wouldn’t set foot in on a bet.  For my money, this Wandering did not occur.  Likewise, I cannot conceive that somehow Moses was able to time all these unfortunate agricultural situations known as plagues to coincide with his serial exhortations to Let My People Go.  It just defies explanation.

I can hear some of you saying, “What about faith? Why does it have to make sense to be true?”  I answer that with, ‘Why does it have to be true to make sense?”  Why does the story of the Exodus from Egypt have to be literally true for me to find it meaningful?  Why does the Torah and the larger Bible have to be considered literally true in order to be considered worthy of reading?  You yourself, I’m sure, have read stories–fictional stories, poems, sonnets–that nonetheless moved you, to tears, to joy, to action.  Were those feelings any less meaningful and real simply because the story was not literally true? So why do we ge all jacked up about our religious texts? Why do we get incensed when someone suggests that MAYBE someone was not turned to a pillar of salt or that a prostitute did not literally, actually wash Jesus’ feet?  Does the story offer anything less simply because it may not have happened?  I say No.  Which was what I was trying to convey to the girls at the Seder. That this story, these details, are not the point.  God didn’t kill any babies simply because I have no interest in associating with a God who does.  Who knows if locusts were visited upon the Egyptians by some supernatural/God-like means?  And the real point?  Who cares?

The point of this story is that Pharaoh did not keep his word and he paid a price.

The point of this story is that Moses had a stutter and thought himself unworthy to be God’s spokesperson (enter Aaron), but that God saw something in Moses, that Moses had much to offer and should not have sold himself short.

The point of this story is that people who used to be enslaved in the annals of history should never allow the enslavement of another people, and should work till their fingers bleed to end it.

The point of this story is that someone can take your freedom and liberty but they cannot take your will to be free or your pride or your peoplehood unless you relinquish it.

And, from a human relations and political perspective, the point of this story is that you can lead people from bondage to freedom and they will still turn into effing ingrates even after you have manna magically drop from the heavens to feed their complaining asses.

Every single one of these (non-exhaustive) points is meaningful and valuable and worthy of teaching and passing on to my children.  The story from which they came can be as inauthentic as my kleenex-filled training bra circa 1985.  It’s irrelevant.  These points still matter. Still resonate. Still inspire.  Still bring me to the Seder table every year, full of hope for the future, however much in the wilderness we seem to be.

Oh, I’m gonna get letters.

Today the Westboro Baptist “Church” held an anti-semitic protest on the property line of our local JCC, which is where Baby Sister goes to preschool.  As expected, a grand total of four of them showed up (since I believe the “church” is really this one dude and his 7 sister wives).  In the runup to this demonstration, many emails were received from the local Jew Crew about how we should not engage the protesters, instead opting to “maintain the dignity and integrity of our community.”  We even got a thank you email today, expressing gratitude for conducting ourselves with that apparent holy goal of “dignity.”

What. The. Eff.

Listen, if you tell me to ignore them because they are ignorant sadists who thrive on the free press they get for behaving cruelly and hatefully?  I’m on board.  But tell me to ignore them so I can be “dignified”?  You all need to kiss my undignified Jewish ass.

There is indeed a call and a need for Ruby Bridges (whom the Bambina met and got her book signed and is a tremendously impressive woman, not to mention was an amazing young girl).  Ruby Bridges was dignified and displayed integrity in the face of vile hatred, and my daughter is richer for learning her story.  This country is richer and better for the bravery of the young Ruby Bridges.  But, in today’s world, if you’re going to go that route, you’d best back it up (and front it up) with some serious talking to the children, and here’s why:

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

You can call it “maintaining dignity” or whatever you want to, but what you’re really doing is letting haters be hateful near your kids, in your community, where you live.  So get as dignified as you want, but be honest about it.  Are we all part of a strategy to deny these bastards some media attention?  Or are we somehow saying that the way to be better people than they are is by refraining from giving them a little of their own demonstration?  And that therefore, we will be better fighting the hate?  Honestly, you may believe that.  But again I say that this approach requires serious discussions with any kids watching and internalizing the scene.  Please believe that I will not be teaching my girls to turn a cheek when they are being maligned.  I will not teach them that they should passively allow themselves to be insulted by racist haters.  Because at what point does dignity end and passive assent begin?  At what point is my desire to be nobler than the haters actually empowering the haters?  If I won’t fight back for my kids, what the hell will I fight for? At what point does “ignoring” the haters contribute to that proverbial warming of the bathtub water, where it gets hot so gradually that you don’t notice until you’re boiling to death?

Much of the direction we received regarding protecting the kids from it revolved around “words can’t hurt us” and “we don’t use hateful language like that.”   For the little little ones, sure, I’ll say that so they can stay little little for a while longer.  For five and up?  Show me a kindergartner who doesn’t already know that “words can’t hurt us” is a rampaging monster of a lie.  Show me a kindergartner who won’t wonder why someone isn’t making the nasty hateful-language people be quiet, especially because they are saying nasty hateful things about HIM?  Show me a kid who sees that you quietly allow people to disrespect and mistreat you without a peep of feedback from your parents, and I’ll show you a very confused child.

Will I teach Bambina to take a gun to a knife fight? No. Will I teach her to bring big rocks to an anti-Semitic rally outside a preschool (even though one of the dads and I had that same idea simultaneously)? No.  But I will teach her that we have to beat the haters.  Sometimes that means ignoring them so that everyone else will ignore them.  Sometimes that means taking off the gloves and taking some haters to school.

I hesitate to quote him, since Malcolm X is a rather fraught topic for Juifs like myself, but he nailed it thusly:  “Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.”  I can do that.  With dignity.