dichroic: (oar asterisk)

An election-year question: Just out of curiosity, and I’m especially aiming this question to people living in the US: Would you say that you are better off than you were 8 years ago, or worse? Would you say that the US is better or worse than it was then? I’m not interested in assigning credit or blame either way, just curious as to the actual situation.

I’m curious, because the closest to a rational reason I’ve heard for supporting Trump is along the lines fo “yes, he’s awful – but the US is in terrible shape, falling apart, and if he can just fix that then we can put up with the rest of it.” I don’t thinl the ‘rest of it’ is forgiveable and I haven’t yet figured out why anyone would trust Trump to fix anything, but the weirdest thing is that it looks to me like that entire basic postulate is wrong. Far from being in a handbasket on the fast lane to Hell, it looks to me like the US is better than it was when Obama took office.

I myself am not better off for a complex set of reasons (see below), but I’m under the impression most people actually are – curious to see if others agree.

My own situation:
I’m not better off economically because 8 years ago I was an expat, pretty much protected from layoffs and with my housing, utility and fuel bills paid for. I had no debt at all, so pretty much my only non-discretionary expense was food – and saving to compensate for not putting money into Social Security in those years. But that’s a freaky and unusual (and temporary!) situation – I’d guess most people are more positively impacted by the improved economy.

I think we’ve come a very long way in a short time on civil rights. I’m not directly affected much because I’m a cis het white woman, so while it’s good for me to have e.g. three women on the Supreme Court, I was already able to marry who I wanted or use the correct restroom. I do not think the problem with violence against minorities by law enforcement has worsened, I think it’s that many more of us have realized how bad it actually is. At least we’re having the discussion, even if we’re too rarely able to make it a productive discussion. So since I’m white, that’s not a direct impact either. Nonetheless, all of those things impact me indirectly, because they make the US a better place in general and specifically for a lot of people I care about.

I have decent healthcare just at the moment, but as I plan ahead for retirement, it makes a huge difference to me if we have at least Obamacare and at best a single-payer system. If we lose what we have now, retirement will be further off just because of that one (massive) cost to plan for. So again, I’m not better off now, but many others are, and it will impact me directly someday – just not yet.

How about you?

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

First, because I want to say a thing I think is important and I don’t want to be misunderstood: Black lives matter.

Of course all lives matter, but Black lives are at an unfair and unwarranted level of risk today in the US (and some other countries); that’s why we need the #Blacklivesmatter movement and slogan.

So I am trying to strengthen, not weaken, that movement’s ability to argue when I point out that some of its activists seem to have a far rosier picture of where society is right now on other issues than reality justifies.

In recent days I’ve seen people trying to explain why Black lives matter with claims like “You wouldn’t have walked into Orlando right after the shooting saying Straight lives matter!’ ” or “You don’t go to a breast cancer fundraiser and shout ‘What about other cancers?’ or ‘Heart attack victims matter too!’ ”

Sorry to say it, but yes. Yes, some people would say those things, because I’ve heard and seen them.

I’m not saying in any way that anyone should relax the fight to value black lives. I am REALLY not saying “You don’t have it so bad, other people have problems too.” Racism in the US is a real and desperate problem – I do believe we’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got miles to go. (And backlash is a problem too, in any advancement in social justice.) What I’m saying is, bigotry is out there and it’s widespread – don’t underestimate how many facets it has. Prejudices are intertwined. That’s why the fight for justice is personal for all of us – because if you let hatred go unchallenged today, it’s coming for you tomorrow.

ETA: Thinking about this a little more, now I’m in a logical bind – because I don’t believe everybody has to fight every issue, every time. None of us have infinite energy, and we’re each liable to be most effective fighting for the cause that speaks to us. So I’m not trying to imply that every #BlackLivesMatter activist needs to put in equal time on queer rights or vice versa, just trying to say that none of us can get away with saying “that cause doesn’t matter because it doesn’t affect me”. I think it has to be more like “I choose to put my energy here where I think my efforts matter most – but I respect the people fighting this other battle; they are my comrades in arms and I will support them and speak up for them.”

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

Black people.
BLACK people.
Black PEOPLE.
BLACK PEOPLE.

Usually when we(1) say that phrase we’re stressing the first word – the thing that the people it describes have in common, that brings them together. And they did come together last night, along with allies of other ethnicities, in cities across the US to march for peace and for an end to unjust shootings: in New York, in Minnesota, in DC, in Portland, in Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Georgia and other states … and in Texas, where 12 police officers were shot.

And that’s where that second word comes in: because black people are PEOPLE. And like any other group of humans, the vast majority of them are good and decent people who want nothing more than to be left alone, to live their lives in peace, safety and as much lovingkindness as they can muster around them. As much lovingkindness as we can muster around us … because I stubbornly believe that most people, most of us of any shade of skin, are good and decent people. But like any other large group of people, among black people there are a few that are just bad, that have chosen to do evil.

What it means to have equality – equality under the law as well as in our hearts and minds – is to just those people, not by the color of their skins but by the content of their characters, as shown in their actions. Go ahead and judge the sniper in Dallas who shot those police officers. Judge and mete out punishment to anyone who may have acted to support him and who survived last night. Judge them, because their own actions have rendered them liable to that judgement. But don’t judge the peaceful marchers they used as cover; don’t assume that people who just want to be sure their sons will survive random traffic stops will support the killings of other mothers’ sons just because they happen to have similar pigmentation to the perpetrators of evil. The shootings in Dallas were an evil done by one or more individuals who should not be judged as a representative of their race.

Also, until they release names and photos, don’t assume the sniper’s victims were white. Nearly half of Dallas police officers are minority (as of 2011, the latest numbers I could find that showed members of the force and not just applicants – their applicant pool is even more diverse. Sure, he said he “wanted to kill white people” – but just as his general actions will probably turn out to hurt other people of color most in the long run, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t so fussy about his actual immediate victims.

(1) Note: When I say “we” here I mean all Americans of any shade of skin. And I am not predominantly addressing this screed to Black Americans, because most of them already know this shit, viscerally and through experience.

(2) Some days I really do wish I had a pulpit. Stepping down now.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)
  • Holy fucking shit. The US House Minority Leader James Clyburn has just said that he’s divided Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letters from Birmingham Jail” into 46 parts, and they’re going to read it out loud in the course of the sit-in tonight.

    These are people intensely aware of their history and of the history they’re making. Just wow.

  • Twitter must be a very happy company right now (apparently they bought Periscope last year). You can’t buy publicity like having Congress members publicly praising you on live video feed!
  • OK, I’ve figured out how to get my Mac to sync to my Bluetooth headphones (I usually just use them with my phone or iPad). Because I need to erg, and it wasn’t going to happen while I was glued to the C-Span feed.
  • Granted I’m always open to excuses to procrastinate on erging, but “glued to the C-Span feed” is definitely a phrase I’ve never typed before!!!
  • Before I got home and could watch this, I was proud to find this photo of my Rep (Suzanne Bonamici) at the sit-in and to hear that both my Senators were there.</>
  • How cool is it that Senators are sending snacks??
  • OK, off to go erg – with headphones on and this screen sitting on the floor by my flywheel. I may add more comments to this post later.
  • Looks like this might just be a way for Ryan to get back control 🙁 I suspect the show’s over – but wow, while it lasted it was something
  • No, wait, they’re back! I have no idea what’s going on. OK, now the pirate feed is down, C-Span is back up, half the Congress is trying to conduct business as usual while the rest chant NO BILL, NO BREAK!

  • Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

    dichroic: (oar asterisk)

    What I said on Facebook, about the guy who made 49 crosses and brought them to Orlando, to represent the people killed the last week:

    “If someone put up a cross for me when I died, I’d come back and haunt them!”
    I also noted that I do think the people wearing giant angel wings to shield mourners from picketers at the funerals are a more appropriate use of religious symbols – after all, you know in each case if they’re having the service at a place whose traditions include angels, like a church, synagogue or mosque.

    What I said on Facebook to respond to all the people who chided me because *clearly* the guy who made he crosses had nothing but loving intentions:

    “I understand that his intentions were good, and I’m certain that at least some (maybe most) of the victims would have appreciated the crosses. (I suspect all of them would have appreciated tolerance and outreach to the LGBT community while they were alive even more, but for all I know this guy already does that. Or maybe this was the event that first woke him to activism and he’ll be doing more in the future. ) I’m certainly not classing him as a hater. With all that said, though … You know how when you keep getting hot in one spot it gets sore, so that even a light tap or a friendly punch will hurt? For me and a lot of people in minority religions that kind of indifferent “hit”, where people just assume you’re Christian, happens day after day after day and creates a very sore spot. The Orlando episode so strongly highlights the need for us all to be not only sensitive to but even appreciative of each other’s differences, that the friendly “tap” of those crosses hits even harder than it might otherwise. So I’m not exactly condemning his actions, but I am saying ‘ouch!’ ”

    What I won’t say on Facebook but is the nonetheless:

    No, I don’t hate Christians. But do you know why I don’t? It’s because I work damn hard at not hating them, when so many seem to be going out of their way to make themselves either hateable (like the people who decry trans men and women in public bathrooms one week and are saying “we are Orlando” the next) or at least intensely annoying (like those in this case who think it’s just fine and dandy to assume everyone is Christian, or that those who aren’t naturally would be fine with having the label of a religion that’s not theirs being put on them when they can no longer speak for themselves – right after being killed for just being themselves, in another way. One of the ways I do this is to remind myself of the number of Christians I know who are not like that, who try to live by what Jesus did and said instead of using his name as an excuse for doing whatever the hell they want to do and hating anyone who does differently. We have a word, heteronormative, for those who try to describe the world as a place where it’s acceptable and respectful to assume everyone you might meet is straight. And the people who use that word are generally using it to make the point that it is NOT OK to make that assumption. For all I know, everyone killed at Pulse might well have identified as Christian – after all, it was Latin night and a high percentage of Latin@s do come from a Christian background(1). But not everyone sticks with the religion they’re born to, not everyone there was necessarily Latin@,, and most important, “a high percentage” is not synonymous with “all”. A lot of people are talking about tolerance and appreciation of diversity this week. It sure would be nice to see some of that in action.

    (1) by “Christian background” I mean both Catholics and Protestants. I will not even get into the argument with people like the guy last week who told me the Pope is not a “real” Christian.

    Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

    dichroic: (oar asterisk)

    It’s a bit depressing to watch the reaction to this morning’s Orlando shootings. The right blames Obama. The left blames Trump. People screaming to ban refugees, ban guns, their solution will fix everything. It’s as if the most important thing in the wake of tragedy is to see who can seize it first to drive their own ends. I do believe in careful screening of refugees – which we already do. I do believe in sensible gun control – which we could do a lot better at. I just don’t believe that either – or any simple solution – is a complete fix to a complex problem.

    Meanwhile, still others are saying truly that offering hopes and prayers is just not enough anymore, and never really was, and they’re right.

    So what can you do to make a real difference? I do have an answer. This might not fix everything broken in the US, but it will at least help: civil discourse.

    You do it all the time at work anyway, right? Instead of arguing with your coworkers over every area in which you disagree, you focus on your common goals (work goals, in that case) and manage to work together on the things you agree on. Now try doing it with strangers, too. Do it with your political opponents. You do have a surprising number of goals in common, I promise.

    If you’re having a hard time thinking of examples, you’re not trying hard enough – and you’ve probably been part of the problem, at least so far. That doesn’t mean you need to continue that way. I can provide examples, and will in the comments if needed, but I’d almost certainly miss something important, which is why it matters for lots of people to be thinking about this stuff. Remember, you almost certainly do this in some arenas of your life. Just spread the net a little.

    Would this have saved the 50 people who died today in Orlando? I don’t know. Maybe not, maybe he was too far gone in hate. But if we quit sowing gardens with hate, mulching them with divisiveness and watering them with demogoguery, maybe we can grow a lot less of the fruit of evil.

    (Also posted to Facebook.)

    Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

    dichroic: (oar asterisk)

    When Ted and I got married, we chose patterns: china, crystal, and silver. (Respectively, Royal Doulton Princeton, Waterford Lismore, and Towle Old Master, if anyone is counting.) We got some for wedding gifts and have added some more, either by buying it ourselves or from occasional gifts from family since then. It is kind of handy for people to have a fallback gift that’s always welcome. But those things are expensive, so typically we’d get one glass (or plate or whatever) at a time. Also, even though we tried to choose classic patterns that would always be around, our china pattern is no longer made. For those reasons, most of our and others’ purchases have come from Replacements, Ltd. They carry an enormous number of patterns of china, crystal, silver and collectibles, in both active and discontinued patterns. Their prices seem reasonable (or at least in line with everyone else’s, for those products that are still sold by other companies) and their service is good. We’ve never had a piece arrive in other than perfect condition.

    Anyway, I get email from them all the time, but it’s normally just the usual advertising stuff. But today they sent me something different – the thing I hadn’t realized, you see, is that they’re based in North Carolina.

    Here’s an excerpt from today’s email:

    The reaction to North Carolina’s passage of HB2 last Wednesday has been swift and strongly in opposition. Calls for boycotts of our state have been answered by individuals and businesses who will not attend the $5.38 billion, 600,000 visitor High Point furniture market this April and, more generally, by the State of New York, the City of Seattle, and others. Amidst this deep concern, which I share, I want to make one thing clear: Replacements, Ltd. affirms the dignity and beauty of each and every person. You will always be warmly welcomed at Replacements, Ltd.

    … At Replacements, Ltd., we are very fortunate to employ a number of extraordinarily talented people who are transgender. These people are like family to me. And having known and worked with many transgender friends over the years, I see in each a reflection of myself. The thought of being afraid to share space with any one of those good people is hard for me to understand, based on my personal experiences. If you had the opportunity to meet any one of them, I bet you’d feel the same way.

    (And here’s a link to the entire message.) I have been pleased to see the number of companies stating that they would refuse to do business in the state of North Carolina while HB2, the law condoning discrimination, is on the books. But maybe there should be a flip side to that boycott: supporting the businesses that are already in North Carolina, and that are trying to protect their people. (All of their people.) This is a company I can honestly recommend, after years as a satisfied customer, and that I have recommended to others before just for their products and service. This letter has convinced me that maybe I need to support them with this wider recommendation as well.

    Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

    dichroic: (oar asterisk)

    On a quick political note: the reason I do not believe Bernie Sanders can win the Democratic nomination, no matter how many more states he wins, is that the vote is quite literally rigged. At the moment, Clinton has won 745 delegates to Sanders’ 540 – so she has a lead, but not an insurmountable one. However, if you add in the superdelegates pledged to her, her lead widens to 1221 to 541. 2382 delegates are needed to win, of a total of 4763, so I suppose he still could beat her, but it’s a steep uphill climb. I do not know if any of the pledged superdelegates could change their minds – I don’t know either whether that’s allowed to happen, or how often it does. This isn’t meant as an indictment of either candidate; I’d be fine with either as President. (Not looking forward to hearing the vitriol conservatives will spew if Hillary Clinton wins, but that’s not her fault.) But I do not like this two party system.

    Onto more important topics, because politicians

    After reading A Quartet in Autumn, I have concluded that Barbara Pym is not for me. I’ve always been under the impressions that she wouldn’t be, but D.E. Stevenson and Angela Thirkell, whom I like a lot, are always being compared to her (with the clear implication that Pym is the standard to whom others are compared). But it turns out that what I like in Stevenson and Thirkell (henceforth DES and AT to save typing) is precisely what I don’t like in Pym. They all write quiet, observant, very English (or Scottish) sorts of books, but DES and AT are quiet, wholesome and hopeful. They can see the world is changing, but the changes aren’t all bad by a long shot, and at least some of the characters in each book really like and understand each other. (There aren’t many books with an older couple as happily suited as Jock and Mamie in DES’s Music in the Hills and Shoulder the Sky – all the young people hope to be like them. Though when I say “older” – Jock is a year older than I am and Mamie nearly a decade younger. But anyway.) In DES’s stories, people either have roots, or set them down during the story. In AT’s, people either have roots or don’t much seem to need them because they’re moving and growing too fast to want any just yet. In contrast, Pym’s is the quiet of hopeless decay – everything is changing too fast, everyone has such shallow roots they’re likely to fall over at any time, no one understands each other well enough to be a true support – or would want to.

    At least reading Pym was just sad. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the time I read one or two of E.F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books because she gets compared to Gaskell’s Cranton and to Jane Austen. Mapp and Lucia left a nasty taste in my mouth – a thing no one does in Cranton and that the nicer characters are generally trying to escape in Austen.

    I’ve also juse been reading R.L. Naquin’s Unfinished Muse and Unamused Muse, a completely different kind of thing. They are light fantasy; they’ve got a similar basic idea to Riordan’s Percy Jackson books (that is, centered on modern children of the Greek gods) but handled in a completely different way. The heroine, who’s never kept a job long, ends up working at My. Olympus Employment Agency and hijinks ensue. They are fluff, but fun fluff, and they have a gratifying way of avoiding the gender sterotyping that fantasy aimed at women too often falls into. (I was scarred years ago by one book whose heroine fell into a fantasy world, became a goddess, and kept whining about how she needed some “girlfriends”.) This one has friends of both sexes, and she’s trying to get her own head straight before falling into a romance. I also appreciate that, while she is straight, it’s made clear that that isn’t a just of course only possible way to be. When a woman hits on her, she notices, doesn’t freak out, and just says “sorry, no thank you” politely. (Not a spoiler: that’s just a tiny occurrence, not a plot point.)

    Tomorrow is my birthday and then we are off for a 3-day weekend. Yay!!

    Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

    dichroic: (oar asterisk)

    I’m beginning to feel like I need to put a disclaimer on my Facebook page and anywhere else I have a presence online:

    “Anything I say here, I mean. I will never pretend to an opinion I don’t hold for the purpose of trolling. However, the converse is not true; just because I don’t talk about it, don’t assume I don’t care. I may just not care to discuss it here.”

    I could choose to add more details:

    “Just because I don’t talk about the latest atrocity or change my profile pic to the colors of the issue of the day, don’t assume I’m not as gutted as everyone else. I might just care too much to make easy conversation about it.

    If I do talk about one big story, don’t assume it means I don’t care about all the other ones. I contain multitudes; I can believe six impossible ideas before breakfast, especially when it turns out they’re neither impossible nor contradictory. I can be against cop killing AND against killing cops. I can want to offer refuge to refugees and also to homeless veterans.

    Don’t tell me a one-sentence solution is going to end a complex problem decades or centuries in the making. Please don’t tell me “that’s just what the bad guys want” unless you’ve done actual research. You might be right, you might be wrong, but I’m kind of tired of hearing that statement used to justify whatever you want to do – even if I agree with you.

    Oh, and please assume I think your child is adorable and your inspiring story is inspiring whether or not I post “amen”. Amen is just a thing I don’t say much, other than during responsive prayers at my extremely rare visits to shul.

    Speaking of which, not only do I not believe that I will be blessed / make a lot of money / see my life change if I respond to your post with an Amen or a declaration of my faith in God, I’m pretty sure that God isn’t deciding who to help on the basis of your Facebook posts. I think you may have confused the Most High with Mark Zuckerburg (who is only a CEO, and anyway, I doubt he’s helping you on the basis of your Facebook posts either).

    If you really want to know what I think about almost anything, you could just ask. I’m much happier to engage in respectful conversation on almost any topic than I am to post borrowed aphorisms and pretend they sum up the whole of my complex soul. Or anyone else’s.”

    Maybe I will post it, and see what happens.

    (ETA: or given that I’ve just added two more short paragraphs, maybe I’ll just hang on to this and tweak it until it’s perfect, which might never happen.)

    Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

    dichroic: (oar asterisk)

    I hate reading about the debate to fund Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood should not be federally funded – because it shouldn’t be needed. As one of the richest countries in the world, all of our citizens should have access to decent basic healthcare. And the category of “citizen” does not default to “male citizen”. Half or more of us are female and for us decent basic healthcare includes contraction and screening for the cancers that are most likely to kill us. We shouldn’t need a nonprofit that’s funded partly by charitable donations to get those things. We shouldn’t need the U.S. wing of Planned Parenthood.

    Unfortunately, as things stand, we still do.

    Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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