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Archive for October 2015

Tis the season where we once again celebrate All Hallows Eve, descended from the ancient harvest festival of Samhain; a night when the worlds of the living and the dead overlap.

Or something like that.

Because more recently it has become the night where grown adults make entire fools of themselves. It is the one time of year where women who are so inclined can dress inappropriately (Hey guys! I’m a sexy M&M!). And, unfortunately, where misguided white folks think they have a special dispensation to don some Blackface. The following missive is for them:

Dearest Friends of the Caucasian Persuasion,


But it’s “all in good fun!” Well, as we all learned in freaking kindergarten “it’s only fun if we are ALL having fun” and you mocking my family and loved ones is a disqualification. So NOPE. Try again. IMG_5311

Um, well. It’s okay at Halloween.  So can I call your mom a whore on Arbor Day? You know, it’s that one day of the year when disrespecting others is totally fine! Besides, calling your mom a whore is “all in good fun”! No?

Hmm.. Okay then. How about “people need to stop being so sensitive!” I would caution you that perhaps YOUR feelings are not the best indicator for the feelings of others. You do not get to tell other people what they should and should not find hurtful and degrading especially if your history does not include that degradation. IMG_5340

But I don’t see color! I have never judged someone’s color in my life! My Black friends will agree! Well, if you don’t see color, why did you just cover your face in it? And trust me, your One Black Friend does not know what to do with you. IMG_5312

I am doing it to honor my favorite actor/basketball player/historical figure!  Shall we honor great Jews through history by donning some horns and hook nose masks?  I’ll wait while you explain to me how mocking and degrading another human’s essence is in any way a compliment.

It’s ancient freaking history! Oh my god! These people are just perpetual victims! Get over it!  The Grio has a great and sobering history of minstrelsy and its devastating role in our American system of apartheid:

Blackface minstrelsy first became nationally popular in the late 1820s when white male performers portrayed African-American characters using burnt cork to blacken their skin. Wearing tattered clothes, the performances mocked black behavior, playing racial stereotypes for laughs. Although Jim Crow was probably born in the folklore of the enslaved in the Georgia Sea Islands, one of the most famous minstrel performers, a white man named Thomas “Daddy” Rice brought the character to the stage for the first time. Rice said that on a trip through the South he met a runaway slave, who performed a signature song and dance called jump Jim Crow. Rice’s performances, with skin blackened and drawn on distended blood red lips surrounded by white paint, were said to be just Rice’s attempt to depict the realities of black life.

Jim Crow grew to be minstrelsy’s most famous character, in the hands of Rice and other performers Jim Crow was depicted as a runaway: “the wheeling stranger” and “traveling intruder.” The gag in Jim Crow performances was that Crow would show up and disturb white passengers in otherwise peaceful first class rail cars, hotels, restaurants, and steamships. Jim Crow performances served as an object lesson about the dangers of free black people, so much so that the segregated spaces first created in northern states in the 1850s were popularly called Jim Crow cars.  Jim Crow became synonymous with white desires to keep black people out of white, middle-class spaces.

Blackface is inextricably linked to the dehumanization of our Black brothers and sisters. There is no nice way to do Blackface. There is no humorous way to do Blackface. And just as there is no okay way to do hook-nosed Jew or Ha Ha I’m a concentration camper!, there is no justifiable way to do Blackface.

IMG_5431 So why does it keep happening? I submit that it is because our culture is saturated in White Entitlement. Why can Blacks say N****r but I can’t?! Why can’t I put black color on my face if I damn well please?! Why can they have a “history month” but whites don’t? Oh dear. Where to begin. But I’ll sum it up like this: White people don’t like to be told what they can and cannot do in the culture. Like, there are more than one million words in the English language (1,025,109) and white people are being asked to refrain from using ONE, and that’s a no-go. We have 1, 025, 108 other words at our disposal but damn if we don’t feel entitled to use them all, eff you and your history.

The question we really need to be asking ourselves (rather than why can’t I wear Blackface while saying N****r, while shucking and jiving-all in good fun!) is why we so desperately need to devalue and discount what Black people are telling us about their experience in this world. Why do we so desperately need to believe that the issue is not our country’s tortured, painful history that visits the sins of the father upon the sons, but that millions of people are just oversensitive?

There are so many ways in which we need to do better. Blackface is such a small one that it seems we ought to be able to achieve it. When you know better, you do better. It’s time for us to do better.IMG_5033


Stand Down

Posted on: October 26, 2015

Time for a political post. My inbox awaits the hate mail, because today’s topic is none other than your favorite “villain” and mine: Hillary Clinton. With a special side of Benghazi.

A few words in preamble. I will be voting for the Democratic nominee for president, whomever it may be. And you all can squawk all you want but then I’ll just tell you to take a good, long look at your GOP candidates and honestly–honestly–ask you to point to a single one of them you’d feel good about having the nuclear codes. Every single one is either insane, unreasonable or unwilling to call out the insane and unreasonable. All I needed to see was the GOP debate when a questioner asked if God had spoken to any of them before the debate and NOT ONE candidate flinched. Every single candidate answered that question like it was an actual, credible question. You don’t need to see anything more than that to know what kind of lunatics are running for the GOP nomination. So, yes. I will be voting for HRC if she is the Democratic nominee.

Which brings us to Benghazi. And to HRC’s 11-hours of testimony on Capitol Hill last week. Whatever you think about Hillary Clinton, it is unclear to me how anyone can observe the antics of Trey Gowdy’s committee and not see a partisan witch hunt. Let’s remember that SEVEN previous investigations–run by Republicans I remind you–have found plenty wrong but no criminal wrongdoing. And there is a difference, even if you personally hate Hillary Clinton.

Were our nation’s intelligence services negligent in the run-up to 9/11? There is no question. Did Condi Rice’s seeming disregard for a memo entitled, “Osama Bin Laden Determined to Strike In US” negligent?Totally. But was it criminal? No. Was she hauled before a committee and investigated into oblivion as a result? No. When the marine barracks were hit, killing 244 Americans, in Lebanon during Reagan’s term, how many Congressional panels were he and his cabinet hauled before? That’s right: ZERO.

So let’s all get over ourselves acting as if this committee really had any interest in arriving at “the truth” of what happened in Benghazi. The facts of that day have already been established by the previous seven committees, run by avowed Clinton-haters like Darrell Issa, or conducted by decorated military men like Admirals Mullen and Pickering. None of these individuals are on record as loving Hillary Clinton. And yet, according to Trey Gowdy, his committee was going to get the job done that those other losers could not.

So what was “truth” that Gowdy was vowing to find? That Clinton never took responsibility for what happened that ended the lives of four Americans? But she already had. That she was unfeeling and apathetic to the deaths of four Americans because she worked from home the night of the attack rather than staying at the office? Because this is 1986 and the only means of communicating is in person or on a landline phone? Please. Because she did not immediately know who or what caused the attack? The assessment by Admiral Mullen clearly noted that in his report. Nope. What was really happening was that Trey Gowdy was fishing for any nugget of anything with which he could taint Clinton’s campaign. Why else would he not ask her relevant questions about her Libya policy as a whole and her oversight of that, by all accounts, failed policy? Why not grill her on why the diplomats were there in the first place? These were questions that could have elicited actual, relevant, informative answers, leading to a very necessary discussion of our foreign policy failure in that country.

Instead he fell back on that old chestnut: the evil Jewish henchman pulling the strings of our national policy. Why else would a committee convened to discuss Benghazi mention the name Sidney Blumenthal SIXTY-SIX times? People attuned to “dog whistle” politics recognized it immediately. Like when politicians say “urban” to mean “black and criminal” or “culture of permissiveness” to mean “gay.” So when the Democratic candidate for President of the United States takes calls and emails from her friend–not Jimmy Johnson or Brandon Rivers or some such “American” name–but SIDNEY BLUMENTHAL–well, what does it all mean, America? What in the world could it mean for this woman to be available at all hours to hear the ponderings and meanderings and advisories of one Sidney Blumenthal but to not have emailed Chris Stevens at all? We’ll leave it to the good people of middle America to decide, but boy it sure sounds unsavory to these patriotic ears.

In addition to the veiled anti-Semitism there were the basic, bold-faced lies that proved the old adage that a lie can go half way around the world while the truth is still putting on its pants.

  1. Mitt Romney said it took President Barack Obama “14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.”  Obama described it in those terms the day after the attack.
  2. There was a chance to save the diplomats that the White House did not utilize, leaving them to die.  Rep. Jason Chaffetz, famous from the recent Planned Parenthood hearings, said:

“The administration including Secretary Panetta were very crystal clear, there were no military assets, but I got to tell you, we had proximity, we had capability, we had four individuals in Libya armed, ready to go, dressed about to get into the car to go in the airport to go help their fellow countrymen who were dying and being killed and under attack in Benghazi and they were told to stand down.”

This doesn’t match the timeline of what happened in Benghazi. The four people in Benghazi were already dead when the decision was made to keep the special forces team in Tripoli. The mortar attack was already over. Others have said that the White House was watching live video of the attack and did nothing. Many, many fact checkers, including Politifact, have debunked this claim entirely.

3. Chris Stevens’ body was sexually abused and run through the streets. FALSE. Every investigation and independent press accounts reflect that Stevens died from smoke inhalation and Libyans brought him to a hospital where efforts to revive him failed.

4. Hillary Clinton sent classified emails through her personal server, which somehow relates to Benghazi, I suppose. In these emails, which are heavily redacted in the copies provided by Trey Gowdy, Clinton apparently outs a CIA operative. When Elijah Cummings, also a member of the committee, contacted the CIA to request that the emails be declassified entirely, the CIA replied that the emails were not classified to begin with; that nothing in them is or was classified, including the operative’s name. But wait! How did all those big black boxes and hidden text markings get on those copies?! Making it look like Clinton was acting recklessly with her emails? None other than Trey Gowdy himself went through them and did the redacting. Every single redaction was a result of Trey Gowdy’s staff. Not the CIA. But the visual damage is done, right? Look at all these blacked out words on these emails sent by Hillary Clinton! She’s negligent! She’s untrustworthy!

5. Hillary Clinton knew more security was needed and she refused. Rand Paul said, “I think it’s pretty important that she accept blame for not providing security. She was asked repeatedly to provide security in Benghazi on several occasions including direct cables, and she says she never read the cables on security. I find that inexcusable and a dereliction of duty.”  The State Department was indeed asked repeatedly for additional U.S. security staff in Libya, but there is no evidence that Clinton was made aware of those requests. There is no such thing as a “direct cable” that automatically goes to the secretary of state. All are addressed to her but staff below her would have selected which ones reached her. There is zero evidence that Hillary Clinton received cables requesting assistance and that she then ignored them. This does not absolve her of bottom-line accountability for the lapse but it does debunk any accusations that she saw the cables and ignored them.

And that’s what I think I’m getting at here. The belief–all evidence to the contrary–that Hillary Clinton apathetically allowed four Americans to die, perhaps even watched it happen on video. Then went home and drank tea and kibbitzed with her sneaky Jewish friend Sidney. Think about what that scenario asks of you as a human being, even one who despises Hillary Clinton. You have to believe that she willfully, wantonly,and perhaps gleefully allowed four human beings to die for whatever random reasons that are not discernible in 66,000 emails and transcripts and through millions of dollars worth of investigations. That she–and hundreds of employees at the Department of State—and a decorated admiral–and every single person involved in the events of that night here in the US and the subsequent investigations–are engaging in a vast conspiracy to cover up the reason for the deaths of 4 people, which is…..?

There is no question that the embassy in Libya needed and should have received more and better security. There is no question that the State Department Security staff failed, and by extension, so did their boss.  That fact, that truth, has been established time and time again since these investigations began. So what “truth” is it that the Republicans want to reveal? The same party that allowed the President, Vice President and Secretary of State during 9/11 to testify privately and for a maximum of ONE HOUR over the deaths of 4,000 people after having received a memo entitled “Bin Laden Determined To Strike In US” one month previous–needed 11 hours to talk to Clinton about her Jew friend and her habit of working from home. The same committee that instituted Wine Wednesdays, drinking on the taxpayer dime out of glasses engraved with the words “glacial pace” to make light of the charge that they were taking too long to reach a disposition. The same committee that could not hide their contempt for Mrs. Clinton, even going so far as to ask her in all seriousness if she “spent the entire night alone” in her home.

These are not serious people. This is not a serious committee. This is an echo of McCarthyism. One that all of us–Democrat, Republican and Independent-should reject.

Even if you hate Hillary Clinton.

I still have it in a drawer upstairs. The 20 page consent form for my stem cell transplant.  Page after page of the doctors, the drugs, the protocols, the prognosis. All easily summarized in 9 words: “The life-saving treatment proposed herein might kill you.” You hold the pen, biting the cap nervously, entertaining for a moment the notion that you are actually pondering the minutiae of the document. Then you remember that if you don’t sign the document, the disease that is at this moment decimating your bone marrow most definitely WILL kill you, and in short order. There are no odds to be weighed. No pros or cons to be tabulated. You simply must sign or die.

Dying when you have a three year old who already lost her first mother is not an option. Dying when you are 34 years old and have yet to see Las Vegas is not an option. Dying when you are just not ready to stop living is not an option. You sign or die.

So you sign. The kinetic energy in moving the pen across the paper somehow makes you once again entertain the notion that you have options.  You imagine all the books you will read and write during your hospitalization. All the letters you will write to friends. All the profound discoveries you shall make in this healing endeavor. What you can’t know in the relative comfort of the office, holding the pen, hearing the satisfying swish-swish of the consent paper as you pretend to read it, is that you will spend the majority of your next 100 days decreeing a 20 foot walk without collapsing from exhaustion to be a total outright victory. You will write no books. You will read no books. You will simply be glad for every day that you have the energy to open your eyes.

But you don’t know that yet. Right now all you know is what you hope. All you know is what you fear. All you know is the only thing you now control is how much of each you abide. Some days hope will be all you have as you look at photos of your toddler and imagine how her little voice will sound when she is 4, when she is 5, when she is 6, and what music it will be to hear it. Other days the fear will be your guide, forcing you out of bed, past the nurse’s station, to walk those 20 recommended steps. 20 steps to prove to yourself and to your dead father that even if you are ordained to go you will not go quietly.  20 steps to ensure that if you are ordained to go your daughter will know you died on your feet and not on your knees. 20 steps to convince yourself that maybe tomorrow you can do 21.

But you don’t know that yet. You don’t know that you will survive. You don’t know that you will survive 100 days in isolation.  You don’t know that you will survive 365 days indoors.  You don’t know that you will survive the dreaded acute Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD), a complication clearly outlined on Pages 10-12 of your consent form.  You don’t know that you will live with chronic GVHD (consent form, pp. 12-14) for the rest of your life. You don’t know that the constant immunosuppression required to stop the GVHD from killing you will often come close to killing you. You don’t know that you will often wonder if you didn’t just trade one terrible disease for another.

But you don’t know that yet.  You don’t know that it will take years for your emotions to catch up with your bone marrow. Your body will be healed but your psyche will not. You will intimately understand the mysteries of the amygdala, the powerful pull of subconscious hypervigilance. Your bone marrow will function normally; your innate sense of safety never will again. You will tell yourself that you will never wear sweatpants or bandannas again because you wore them for a year filled with terror. You will tell yourself that you will never wear button-down shirts again because they remind you of the miserable central line that protruded from your chest like an alien. You will tell yourself that you will never have short hair again because cutting it as it falls out in clumps feels like insult added to injury. You will tell yourself that you will never carry a change purse again because as the chemotherapy infusions slither through the IV on their journey to destroy your damaged bone marrow, all you can taste is the nauseating smell of wet pennies.

But you don’t know that yet. All you know is what Emily Dickinson knew; that hope is the thing with feathers.  That the little bird that will carry you through the gale and over the strangest sea today will do so again in the future. It will remind you that just as you spread your wings and leapt into the vast unknown of physical survival, you will someday be required to leap again for your emotional survival. You will need to believe that sweatpants and button down shirts and short haircuts and handfuls of pennies cannot hurt you.  That they do not have the power to summon disease, to injure bone marrow, or take you from your children. They don’t have that, or any, power. The power is, and always has been, yours.

But you don’t know that yet.

I’m feeling ranty today. Well, extra-ranty, I suppose. Here’s why. I have now been invited to view and support three separate gofundme-type pages for adoptions, and my answer to those and to all like them is a giant, fat, unequivocal NO. (Be sure you’re sitting down before I tell you that one of them has a goal of $36,000).

I have been trying to think of how to say this nicely but I cannot be bothered. Here is the bottom line:

You should not fund your adoption by seeking donations.

You should not publish your waiting child’s name and/or photo to encourage donations.

You should not provide the general public with private details of your child’s life in order to encourage donations.

Above all, you should not tell me that God Has Called Us to adopt to encourage donations. If God has called you, why has He not also sent you some cash?

If you cannot afford to adopt a child, you should not adopt a child.

Are these the rantings of a nasty, mean snobby adoptive parent? Well, for perspective, let’s flip this discussion to childbirth. What if you had friends with two kids who said that God has called them to have more children. Only, they can’t afford to have more children. They don’t have insurance and so will need your financial assistance to pay for the prenatal care and childbirth.  Maybe they are lovely people who would be great parents to many, many babies. But wouldn’t such a request give you pause on behalf of the potential child-to-be? “We have no money to do this, but we are determined to get pregnant regardless. Won’t you please donate? Also, because God says we should.” You would likely–rightfully–have a moment of pause at the wisdom of such a choice.

So why do we not feel that collective sense of caution when it comes to fundraising for adoptions? Why is it considered elitist assholery to express the same trepidation at supporting such a venture for a family created through adoption?

One argument in favor of fundraising is that adoptions have no insurance to help, whereas couples with health insurance will have pregnancy and childbirth covered. Fair enough. But not all adoptions need be international with all of the visa and paperwork and travel expenses they entail.

Another argument in favor of fundraising is that it raises awareness of adoption in the community.  I submit that there are other, better ways to achieve this goal that don’t involve people writing you a check.

Another argument in favor of fundraising is that it offers caring friends and family a concrete way to assist you in building your family. To counter this belief I would simply ask that you consider the dynamic you are creating by having people close to your future child feel like they “chipped in” to bring that child home. I ask that you identify the relative or friend’s kid who will waste no time in mentioning to your adolescent child how her family totally helped make his life here in the US possible with their generous donation to his fund.

In short, I am asking you to think and act like a parent.  A person who seeks to protect your child from shame or harm. Who advocates for your child. Who ensures your child’s privacy and dignity. Who recognizes your child’s basic fundamental right to own his or her life story. Above all, a person who takes the long view of your child’s life. Who thinks ahead and sees the peaks and valleys that await your child. Who does not act in a manner that would compromise your child’s well-being even 5 or 10 or 15 years from now.

So is adoption only for the upper middle class people with disposable income? Of course not. Like all couples planning to create a family, it is entirely okay, and advisable, to start saving. To start that nest egg. To take extra shifts at work. To make and sell crafts. To offer services that will provide extra cash for your adoption plans. To cut back on cable and restaurants and trips so you can sock that money away in your Family Fund without telling the world who and what it’s for.

The proliferation of adoption fundraising sites illustrates the essential bias in favor of adoptive parents in the adoption process. The bias that implies that adoptive parents are owed a baby. From public pleas for funds to build a family, to outrage at countries’ restrictions on who can or cannot adopt, to anger at birth mothers who “change their minds.” These all spring from a deep-seated belief that adoptive parents are owed a child. That people without financial resources are entitled to a child simply because they believe God has told them so, or because they so fervently desire to have a family. That countries like China or Haiti are in the business of providing children to waiting families rather than providing families for waiting children. That a birth mother does not have the right to decide to parent her child at any time during an adoptive process. That the needs of the adoptive parents should be paramount over those of the child. the birth family or the birth culture.

A compassionate and ethical adoption system recognizes all members of the “adoption triad:” the birth family, the child and the adoptive family. It privileges the woman who is bringing the child into the world. It respects her rights. It protects the safety and well-being of the child by any means necessary. It absolutely offers a place of respect for the adoptive parents, but it should never center its concerns on them alone.

So of course there is nothing at all wrong with earning and saving funds for your adoption.

But there IS everything wrong with fundraising.

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