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Enough is Enough

21 Sep

I don’t know how you all have been feeling recently, but I have not been feeling good. I have been feeling really angry, really anxious, really sad, really depleted. I have been feeling like all the sexism that I have always talked about has just been pummeling me, dragging me down, and then telling me that it isn’t what it appears, that it isn’t sexism at all.

Let me just tell you a little bit about how this last year and change has felt. Take it for what you will. Feel free to disagree with my recollection of events, but please keep your opinions about how those experiences have led to a specific way of feeling to yourself. Because the way I feel is weak, powerless, unimportant and fucking exhausted. Let me tell you why.

It has always sucked a little bit to be a woman. Sometimes it has sucked a lot. It sucks to be catcalled, to have men try and run alongside you when you are out for a few miles, to have people question your experience and opinion. It sucks to read about backlogged rape kits that could have stopped countless serial rapists but were never tested because the cost – $500 – $1500 per kit – was deemed prohibitive. Because our lives, our sanity, our safety is not worth the money. It sucks to read about sexual assault and rape and, inevitably, have some asshole dude bring up the Duke lacrosse team. I cannot tell you how many times I have been instructed to read “Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case”  or “The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of our Great Universities.” I don’t need to read those books to know that a false rape claim was made against a group of athletes and that that one false rape claim made it harder for every other victim to make her case. Every single damn time a woman makes a high profile rape allegation someone brings that damn case up. Enough already. But if you need proof, just look at Brock Turner, the swimmer from Stanford University. The woman he assaulted was found unconscious behind a dumpster while he was humping her, after he manually penetrated her, and that was barely enough to convict him; it wasn’t even nearly enough to send him to jail for any reasonable amount of time. The cards are stacked against us. I mean, I don’t know how else to put this other than by saying this: rape means that someone stuck a foreign object or a piece of their body, like their penis or their finger (depending on the laws of the specific state) inside the body of someone else. Just let that sink in, really think about it. When it comes to the criminal justice system and how it deals with rape allegations, the victims are guilty until proven innocent, not the criminals, and you just try and prove to me otherwise. I have stats on stats. I dare you.

And the thing is that it isn’t just about sexual assault it is about everything. God forbid we have a female superhero without a bunch of dudes getting their panties in a bunch about her being too sexy, not good enough at fighting, too easy to jerk off to, not super not hero enough.  Was she perfect? No. Could she have been better? Of course. But the reality is that male superheroes have been in movies for a long time and the casting still isn’t perfect, the storylines still could be better, the fight scenes still could be more convincing. But I have never, in all the times I have read reviews of superhero movies where the men are the stars read quite so many complaints that this person or that person was cast specifically to be jerked off to. That is not our problem. That is not the problem of the casting. That is not the problem of Gal Gadot. That is not the problem of her and all the women who played the Amazons in that movie who worked their butts off for months to prepare to be picked apart by you for being too this or not enough that. That is your limitation. Yours and yours alone.

And while I am on about that, don’t act like your criticism about Wonder Woman isn’t based in sexism. Ask yourself if you would make the same critique if the lead were a guy. And then think about what you are so afraid of. Because this isn’t about the movie, really. It is about challenging your own perspective, taking a step back, thinking, and then stopping yourself and saying “if I have to specifically say that I am not being  sexist then maybe I should rethink this.” What is it they say about people who say “I’m not racist but…?” Because the same thing applies here. There are, as I said, multiple legitimate criticisms to be made about this movie. The fact that Gal Gadot is too easy to jerk off to is not one of them. Honestly, most people I know – male and female – would fantasize about that woman if she was wearing a potato sack.

Let me just put this into perspective a little bit. This movie came out over the summer, the summer after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in a contest between him and arguably the most qualified presidential candidate ever. This man is racist, he is anti-semitic, he is an elitist schmuck masquearading as a man of the people, and he is an admitted sexual abuser. He grabs women without their consent. That is assault. And he was elected president. How do you think that made a lot of us feel? And how do you think it made us feel that white women, who have drank the Kool-aid of their own oppression, helped put him there? And how do you think it makes us feel now to see people, women and men, tell Hillary to “shut the fuck up.” Well I will tell you how it makes me feel, it makes me feel like shit. And seeing Wonder Woman, watching Gal Gadot kick some ass, made me feel just a teensy bit better and honestly, at this point, I will take what I can get.

Because here’s the thing: I honestly don’t care if you like Hillary or not. I don’t care if you voted for Bernie in the primaries and still think he is some sort of savior. (If you voted for Trump instead of Hillary for whatever bullshit reason, kindly fuck right off because I have exactly zero time for you now and in the future.) What I care about is that you think about this critically. Since the publication of Hillary’s book, people have been saying that maybe she should do something good for the country rather than write a book that no one cares about, that Bernie is still working to make a difference. Bernie, I will remind you, wrote a book already and is still in government. Hillary is a private citizen and therefore can do what the fuck she wants and if she wants to write a goddamn book about what it was like to be the first woman to run for president as a major party candidate then fuck yes she should do it. You’d better believe I would. Because whether or not you like her, her story matters, she matters, and her experience will help shape the campaign of the next woman to run for president, the next woman who might have seen Hillary get so close and thought to herself “you know what, I could do that.” And i the same way, Wonder Woman has made little girls, and some of us grown women, think we could grow up to be a super hero too.

And so for me, every time I hear someone say Hillary should shut up or go away or disappear, I take it personally. Because honestly, I don’t remember seeing countless front page articles in major publications telling Mitt Romney and Al Gore and John McCain that they don’t matter. And it fucking sucks. Because, no, Hillary wasn’t perfect. No one is. But the treatment that she has endured since the beginning of her presence in the public eye, but especially in the months leading up to and following this election has been disgusting. And we should be ashamed. I know I am.

So yeah, I am tired. So in the future, don’t come at me with your opinions about Wonder Woman or Hillary Clinton or Leslie Jones or whatever other woman you for some reason think is undeserving. Unless you really think. I think before I speak because I have to. I’m a woman. I have something to prove all the time. So does Gal Gadot. And so does Hillary Clinton. Just remember that. We don’t get the benefit of the doubt, we get your bullshit.

A Letter to a Friend from Houston

7 Sep

Dear Friend,

I can’t stop thinking about you. I think of you every time I turn on the news and see people plucked from rooftops by helicopters, rescued by neighbors on boats. I think of you every time I see a highway that was passable a few very long days ago that is now indistinguishable from an ocean if it weren’t for the drowned exit signs and street lights that won’t see power for days if not weeks. I think of you every time I see people crammed into convention centers and furniture stores and churches, not knowing the status of their family and friends or their homes, schools, jobs, churches; not knowing anything about what comes next. I think of you every time I contemplate the long journey back from here. I think of you always.

Because, in a way, I know what it is. I know what it is to come home to a place you understand with every inch of your being and have it be forever changed, forever scarred. I remember when the towers fell. I remember the fear of waiting for phone calls from family and friends, of returning home and seeing my city smoldering, of arriving back in my small town and seeing the cars left abandoned at the train station by people who never came home for them. And of course you know that, too, because you were here. You were here for all of that and I am sure it left a mark on you like it did for the rest of us. That mark of knowing what once was will never be again. That knowledge that nothing will ever be the same, that you will never be the same. That something happened that has changed the world, your world and the world at large, for a very long time. Like September 11th changed everything about the way we interact with our fellow humans whether by choice or through the force of law, these storms – one after another after another like clockwork – change our collective feelings of safety and security in our environment, make the need for action even more dire. This storm will be a mainstay in our conversation about the imminent dangers of climate change, and it will be a marker of time in your conversations about your city.

And so I think of you flying over your city for the first time and having to take that in alone. And I so wish I could be there to hold your hand. And I feel in some weird way that it is a gift that I will be there to meet you at the airport, that I will be in the car with you as you see it all at ground level for the first time, so I can be whatever support I can be. If you cry, I will cry with you. If you need to laugh, I will come prepared with jokes and stories and memories like that time we hitch hiked with priests in Guatemala; that time our car broke down on the freeway; that time we were walking through Houston and a dog ran at us and you puffed yourself up and yelled NO in a voice so grounded, so powerful that he ran away with his tail between his legs and we were safe. And then we will take a deep breath, stand up straight and head out into the world and help as best we can because all we can do right now is offer ourselves to others as support and love and relief. And I hope I can be that for you.

I am here for you. I am thinking about you. And I love you.

Love always

Rebekah

Sexual Abuse Allegations Rock USA Gymnastics

21 Aug

I wrote this awhile ago and it never got published and so, given the fact that Aly Raisman just spoke publicly about this for this first time this past weekend, I thought maybe I would drop it here. Trigger warnings for sexual violence and pedophilia. 

On Tuesday, March 28th, 2017, former Olympic gymnast Jamie Dantzscher testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee about her experiences as an elite athlete. Dantzscher reported that starting when she was 12 years old and continuing through the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games six years later, she was sexually abused by the USA Gymnastics (USAG) team doctor, Larry Nassar. She spoke in front of The Committee in support of an amendment to the federal law that governs Olympic sports organizations in America. This amendment, formulated by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Cali), would overhaul the ways in which organizations that put together the United States Olympic teams deal with allegations of sexual assault and misconduct within their sport. The legislation would require anyone associated with an Olympic governing body, such as USAG, to report allegations of sexual misconduct to law enforcement and would create procedures intended to prevent coaches who have been fired due to such accusations from getting a job at another club. Although this legislation would impact all Olympic sports, it appears to be in direct response to what some have characterized as gross negligence on the part of USAG when it comes to protecting its athletes from serial sexual predators.

Women’s gymnastics poses a unique challenge when it comes to preventing misconduct. Athletes spend roughly 35 hours per week in the gym, sometimes working one-on-one with their coaches. Hands-on spotting is required to assure athlete safety, and as a result coaches are often male owing to the fact that on average men are taller and have more upper body strength than women. The sport also requires that an incredibly high level of trust exists between coach and athlete; a poorly placed foot or a missed hand could result in serious injury or death. In the best cases, this leads to an incredible bond between gymnast and mentor, where the two individuals function as a team and are able to help one another reach the goals they have set. In the worst case, this unquestioned trust and imbalanced power dynamic can result in a situation where a coach abuses the athlete or else turns a blind eye to the misconduct of others in pursuit of a shared dream. In the case of Dr. Larry Nassar, and of 2010 USAG Coach of the Year Marvin Sharp before him, the organization seems to have prioritized its own success over the safety of the athletes, many of whom are minors.

In an interview with 60 Minutes this past February, former USAG National Team member Jessica Howard summarized her experience of abuse and explained why she and the dozens of other gymnasts who have come forward since Nassar’s arrest didn’t do so previously. She said, “no one wants to step out of line because there’s a group of people that make decisions that dictate whether you’re successful or not. So you just comply with what you’re told to do.” The people who make up the governing body of USAG, the body that chooses who represents the United States in international competition, are the same people who see these young women monthly at the National Team Training Camp in Huntsville, Texas and they are the same people who hire the support and medical staff that are tasked with keeping the athletes safe and healthy. The gymnasts spend their entire childhood and early adulthood attempting to impress the members of USAG because those people hold the key to their futures; without the approval of the USAG Selection Committee the gymnasts dreams simply cannot come true. As a result, the athletes unquestioningly do as they are told because they assume, understandably and probably correctly, that obedience is required for the realization of their dreams.

As of March 23rd, 103 women have come forward and joined the federal lawsuit against Dr. Larry Nassar. Among these women are members of the USA gymnastics national team, club gymnasts in Eastern Michigan as well as student athletes at Michigan State University where Dr. Nassar had an office. Almost all of the suits list USAG, MSU and Geddert’s Twistars, a Lansing-area gymnastics club, as codefendants for ignoring red flags about Nassar’s behavior. What this growing lawsuit indicates is that over the course of at least 2 decades USAG, as well as other organizations and individuals, shirked their moral responsibility to protect the women under their guidance and instead allowed a doctor to have unfettered access to them. Perhaps these organizations operated in a shadowy area of the law, but what they did was look the other way as young women were routinely victimized and disempowered under the guise of medical attention. If the situation involving the Catholic Church is any indication of what is to come, it seems likely that this lawsuit will grow larger by the week, month and year and the uphill battle that USAG will have to fight to regain its reputation as a safe space for young athletes is only beginning.

I’m Still on About Nazis! AKA Our President.

16 Aug

I might be stupid for putting this out on the Internet but whatever, if the National Security Agency is really reading our communications then it has seen me say way worse than what I am about to share here. So here it is: every single time a New York Times alert goes off on my phone there is a small (and ever growing) part of my brain that is hoping it is alerting me to the death of Donald J. Trump.

There, I said it.

I am not saying that I want someone to kill him, necessarily. Or that I want him to die in a car crash, or a fire, or of some extremely slow-moving but massively painful terminal illness. I haven’t really thought about it in that amount of depth. I just want him, as I have said over many easily monitored modes of communication, to take a long walk off a short pier and leave us to get along with the business of actually making this country great because these last few months, and specifically these last few days? They have not been great at all. At least not for any of us who believe that racism is a scourge and that all those horrible men (and the few women) who marched this past Friday with their tiki torches were inherently violent. Because here’s the thing: you don’t need to physically assault another person to be violent. Marching through a city carrying the flags of the oppressors, the enslavers, the genocidal and chanting, among other things, “Jews will not replace us” is in itself an act of violence. A permit for that sort of abhorrent behavior simply should not exist. Not on paper, and not in the words of the President of the United States of America. Because that is what Trump did yesterday. He gave a nod to the white supremacists and said, without equivocation,

Yes, this is okay on my watch.

And they fucking celebrated. Of course they did. They can finally rip off their hoods of shame and wear their racism proudly on their sleeves. They can mow down counter protestors,* beat an unarmed black man in a parking garage, vandalize the Holocaust Memorial in Boston for the second time this summer and plan to blow up a building in Oklahoma City. They can finally show us all how fucking oppressed they really are. It feels like open season here in the United States and Trump just threw his support solidly on the side of evil. And his propaganda machine simply continues churning out articles to be sure that they can control the narrative and keep people thinking that those pedaling hate and those protesting that hate are one in the same. And this is what I have to say to them:

Open your goddamn eyes, white people. OPEN THEM.

We are the fucking norm. WE ARE THE NORM.**

Turn on the TV and who do you see?
Walk into almost any board room, who do you see?
Look at any list of millionaires and billionaires, who do you mostly see?
Look at the photographs of our 45 presidents and, barring one single person in that entire list, who do you see?
Look at our Senate and House, who do you mostly see?

I could keep on going but I think I made my point alright and if I didn’t, then whatever, I am not going to waste my time. Because here’s the thing: loss of privilege is not synonymous with oppression no matter how you slice it. What is happening in America is simply an attempt, one moving at a glacial pace it feels like, to even the playing field and afford others the same opportunities that white people luck into at birth. Because that’s what it is: luck. God didn’t smile down on you and bless you with the ability to have a boss that looks like you, a name that doesn’t get your application thrown in the garbage can or the ability to leave an interaction with a police officer alive and uninjured. You happened to be born into a system that values something as inconsequential as the color of your skin and then just hands you things. And you have the fucking nerve to harken back to a time when you were guaranteed that privilege because people that looked like you and thought like you literally owned the competition. They bought them and sold them and bred them and worked them to fucking death and we are still entirely incapable as a nation to engage with that history in a way that gives it due credit for the fucked up systems we continue to recreate and reinforce. Well, fuck you. Seriously. Fuck you.

And fuck Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is a farce. He is a sorry excuse for a human being who only cares about you as long as you remain blindly faithful to him and when you lose the faith? Well, then he will use his applauded “straight talk” to eviscerate you on Twitter in much the same vein as a bully on the playground. And if you think for even a second that Donald Trump is seeing any sort of loss of privilege, that he is being oppressed in any way, think again. Because the only thing more protective than being a white man is being a filthy rich white man with absolutely no concern for the well being of any body else.

So, yeah, I wish Donald Trump would go the fuck away. If that means he dies, so be it. If it means he somehow gets stranded on an island somewhere with no access to Twitter or the presidential lectern, that’s okay too. Because as much as I have heard people mumbling that maybe it’s better that these bigots are out in the open because at least we know who they are, I have to disagree. They are using this as a way to fanaticize more people, to normalize their beliefs and to come at  us bigger next time. There is nothing good about that. There is nothing good about violently bigoted people, some of whom are armed to the gills with all manner of weaponry, feeling safe en masse in public spaces. This isn’t about free speech, because this version of free speech that keeps getting touted around values the rights of the oppressors over the rights of the oppressed. And the oppressors are doing just fine as far as rights go, in my opinion anyway.

So I say chase them back to where the fuck they came from. Identify them, humiliate them, let them cower in their basements. Kick their websites off servers and report them to social media. And then when social media does nothing about it, take social media to task. It’s enough already. These people don’t deserve access. They are disgusting. And so is the man that currently emboldens them.

So yeah, Trump can go. I don’t care where and I don’t care how, but I hope it isn’t pleasant.

*One of the recommended advanced searches when I looked for an article to link to regarding the death of Heather Heyer was for video of the attack put to music. This is America.

**As a Jewish person who sometimes passes as white and sometimes does not, I will include myself in this because I also benefit from white privilege. That being said, this is a particularly uncomfortable time to be a Jew, to say the very least.

Nazis, Am I Right?!

13 Aug

Did you guys know that after World War II Germany outlawed both Holocaust denial and the Nazi salute? It’s true. It’s almost as if Germany looked at those things and said to themselves,

Hey, maybe if we police semantics and denial of actual history we can stop the rise of dangerous ethnocentrism!

But what does Germany know about the rise of that sort of stuff, you know? It’s not like one of their former leaders stirred some percentage of the German population into a hateful frenzy that resulted in the deaths of 11 million people in concentration camps alone. Or wait, were those called Holocaust Centers? I can’t remember anymore. So much dangerous rewriting of history has happened recently that it’s almost difficult to keep track.

But really. This shit is bonkers. So as many of you know I am a Jew. Did you hear that, Nazis? A Jew. My first and middle name both come from the Old Testament, I got Bat Mitvah’d and my dad even used to work in the stock market. You know, so he could steal money from goys and advance the Jewish agenda to take over the financial system, the media and then…. THE WORLD. And you know how we can do this? Because there are just so damn many of us! I mean, go anywhere and you’re practically tripping over Jews. Here’s some information for you about how many Jews there are!

In 1939, just before World War II – which happened, by the way – the global Jewish population peaked at about 16.6 million which is twice the population of New York City. And there are lots of people in New York City. Also lots of Jews. Which is why some people call it Jew York City for laughs. Of course then the Holocaust happened (because it totally happened, there are books and photographs and everything) during which approximately 7 million Jews were killed. So let’s do some math.

16,600,000 – 7,000,000 = …? (Maybe this will be easier if I take the zeroes out.)

16.6 – 7 = 9.6 (Don’t forget to add the zeros back in now!)

That left 9,600,000 or (9.6 million of you prefer letters to numbers) Jews at the end of World War II! Still bigger than the population of modern day New York City! That’s \ a lot of Jews, friends. Plus some of us have so many babies so we should be able to rebound just in time to take over the financial system, the media and then…. THE WORLD! Hooray Jews! J-E-W-S Jews, Jews, JEWS!!!!!

Because think about it. World War II ended in 1945 and now here we are in 2017. That gave us Jews…. ugh more math… 72 whole years to regain the lost 7 million Jews plus some in order to return to our previous state of leaders of the entire world but especially all the money. According to a study published in 2015, the Jews finally reached our pre-Holocaust numbers. Phew! But wait, that study was maybe not entirely accurate! Traditionally speaking, Jewish law is actually pretty strict about who is really considered Jewish. I mean, what with all the money laundering and slum lording we can’t let any rats in our ranks, ya know what I’m saying?? Basically, your mom has to be Jewish or, if she isn’t, she has to go through a formal conversion process. Some Jews think that is too limiting a definition. Israel’s Law of Return – the legislation that allows Jews to immigrate to Israel – was amended in 1970 to include the “child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew” to enter the country and even live there. Wow, that’s really nice! But also, woah, clearly us Jews are just trying to pad our numbers so we can take over the financial system, the media and then… THE WORLD more quickly. Sneaky, right??

Here’s the thing though: the study that cited a return to pre-Holocaust numbers included the people considered Jewish under the updated Law of Return which is totally cool with me. I mean, the more the merrier. But the thing is that back in 1945 after the Holocaust – which happened big league – the people now allowed to live in Israel under the 1970 version of the Law of Return probably weren’t considered Jewish under Jewish Law. I mean, maybe the Nazis didn’t care about all that. I’d have to get some confirmation on that. Luckily for us there are lots of photos of modern day Nazis with their names, phone numbers and addresses floating around the internet. Maybe I will send one of them an inquiry. They clearly know all about Jews seeing as how they hate us so much.

Rebekah, focus!

Sorry, I just find Nazis so damn distracting!

Anyway. This professor named Sergio DellaPergola – by the way he is the most well-known expert in the world when it comes to Jewish Demographics – came up with his own number. He argues that if “we add persons who state they are partly Jewish and non-Jews who have Jewish parents, an extended global aggregate population estimate of 17,236,850 is obtained.” And in case you got confused, that is actually more than the pre-Holocaust population. The only thing, though, is that DellaPergola doesn’t think that is a very good way of measuring demographics and he says as much!  He even drew a parallel to PhDs since he is a PhD and therefore is very full of himself. I mean, that’s always the case, right? Academics are arrogant and elitist? And they silence people of differing opinions, but especially those who spew hate? How dare they. As I was saying, he said the following:

“If the United States had 6.7 million holders of a doctorate, and 1 million of these hold a doctorate partly, how many Ph.D.s are there in America?”

I don’t feel like doing the math right now because my brain is tired from all the numbers but it seems like you could measure that population in two distinctly different ways and come up with very different answers, one of them larger than the other. And that’s just what happened with Jews! If you measure only those who self-identify as Jewish you end up with 14.2 million Jews worldwide. That number is way smaller. Not only is it smaller than the 17+ million Jews that some people quote, but it is also smaller than the number of Jews worldwide before the Holocaust. Not only that, but a recent study by Pew predicts that the world’s Jewish population will rise by about 15% over the next 2.5 decades as compared to 35% for the overall population. If those estimates are correct, that means the Jewish population won’t reach pre-Holocaust numbers until 2050 when the global population is vastly higher than it was in 1945. So that means that even though there will be the same number of Jews, we will make up a smaller percentage of the population relative to overall growth.

Woah. That’s heavy. And it almost makes you wonder what all the fuss is about. I mean, we should almost be flattered by the outsize power and influence that these people think we have. Or maybe it’s just fun to beat up on the little guys (with the big noses and the penchant for being shysters – that’s Yiddish, a language spoken by Jews!). Come to think of it though, threats of genocide and actual genocide are not really very flattering at all so never mind.

For those of us who work better with pictures and stuff, it was suggested that maybe I put Jews as percentage of world population into a chart to draw some useful parallels but I didn’t feel like wrestling with Excel. Also I’m a Jew and I was taught to steal things from other people and then hoard them so instead I found this nice pie chart on the Internet. As you can see, as of 2007 the world had a lot of people but not a lot of Jews. Way less than all the other religions measured here besides the Bahai faith which is an Abrahamic religion that teaches the essential worth of all religions and the unity and equality of all people. That sounds really nice, actually. I wonder why more people aren’t Baha’is (hint: because people are fucking assholes).

Screen Shot 2017-08-13 at 2.54.24 PM.png

So, yeah. In all seriousness, I don’t give a shit what measure you use or whether we are talking about Jews, members of the LGBTQ community, people of color or anybody else. People are people are people. (And Nazis are Nazis are Nazis.) What is going on in this country, and around the world, is fucking disgusting. And the fact that our current president took the Oval Office riding a wave of hate that empowered the worst among us is something we should all fear and be ashamed of. This has been brewing for a long time. Trump just has no goddamn soul and doesn’t care how he gets to call himself a winner as long as he can do it. He’s a King amongst the soulless and that’s good enough for him. But it’s not good enough for the rest of us. So I don’t know. Let’s keep resisting and keep arming ourselves with information in the face of their claims of “fake news.” We know what’s real so let’s shout it from the rooftops.

And in the meantime, go out and punch a Nazi. I hear it’s good for the soul.

New Orleans Diary: Week Eleven

13 Feb

Goal: To write a weekly blog post about the nonsense that I notice as I go about my life here in the Crescent City. I have decided to move my weekly posting to Monday since I work all weekend. So in case you were wondering, I post on Mondays now.

A New Word: This past Tuesday there were tornadic activities! And through these activities I discovered that tornadic is, in fact, a word (although one that is not identified as such by my WordPress spell checker since every time I type it out I get one of those bright red squiggly “you spelled this wrong” lines underneath it). Who knows, maybe with the environment being all fucked up there will be more tornadic actitivities and it will become the American Dialect Society Word of the Year (WotY) for the United States. Let us take a trip down memory lane and explore some past WotY’s, shall we? (Oh my god I am looking down the list and it is hard to just choose a few because they are ALL SO STUPID and also oftentimes not just words but phrases. I will try though. And I will include some phrases.)

1991: “mother of all” (as in Saddam Hussein’s “mother of all battles”)
1992: “not!” (meaning just kidding) <—- this is not a joke
2006: “plutoed” (demoted or devalued, as in what happened to the former planet Pluto) Although I think Pluto might be a planet again? Or maybe it was a planet again and then it got redemoted to dwarf planet. It’s really hard to keep track.
2013: because introducing a noun, adjective, or other part of speech (e.g., “because reasons,” “because awesome”) <—- This is really dumb.
2016: dumpster fire (an exceedingly disastrous or chaotic situation)

Apparently in 2012 the WotY was almost YOLO which would have made me spit my coffee angrily all over the kitchen because never has a stupider thing existed. YOLO. So dumb. Drake and I are in a serious fight about that one.

Since I am down this particular rabbit hole, did you folks know that in 2009 PETA attempted to rebrand fish as sea kittens? I didn’t. Clearly that effort failed. But! I can add it to my list of reasons as to why PETA sucks. Also, the American Dialect Society decided that the 2015 “most outrageous” word was “fuckboy” or, alternatively, “fuckboi.” I would like to respectfully disagree with this categorization, especially as seeing it is in the company of other words/phrases such as 2010’s “gate-rape” which is a pejorative term referring to the invasive airport pat-down procedure and 2014’s “second amendment” as a verb. I’m sorry but anyone who uses the word “rape” pejoratively needs to have a conversation with me and also I wish people would stop verbing things all the time (see what I did there?). Alternatively, I find the term fuckboy(i) to be incredibly useful and I would ordinarily trade it with the actual WotY for 2015 except that the word for that year is, amazingly, a good one:

2015: Singular they (as a gender-neutral pronoun, especially for non-binary gender identities)

Good on ya, American Dialect Society.

Just one more thing though before I move on. I decided to double-check my spelling of tornadic just to make sure that the red squiggly lines were in fact due to WordPress not recognizing the word and not me being unable to spell it. While I was doing my research I discovered the Urban Dictionary definition of tornadic. It is as follows:

when your titties start bouncing so hard in a tornado circular motion you are jet propelled off of the ground, often landing in unfamiliar areas.

You’re welcome.

Speaking of the Weather: There were actually tornadoes here (thanks to all those who checked in!). It was weird. Here’s the thing: in the northeast we don’t really have weather events, by and large, which is one of the big appeals of living there if you ask me. There is an occasional super storm or frankenstorm or snow-pocalypse or arctic freeze (is that what they called it or is that some sort of delicious frozen beverage from DQ?) but for the most part we never get the real deals. Not many hurricanes, very infrequent tornados, the blizzards can be intense but not like how they are in the midwest, no creeping lakes of ice that appear at your back door. So getting alerts on my phone that said

Tornado warning in effect. Do not go outside. Take cover.

was alarming to say the least. And you better believe I took cover. I do not fuck around with weather events, especially ones I know fuck all about. Luckily for me and my friends we were all safe in the end but it was really scary. A lot of people in the area lost their homes and businesses, had properties that experienced severe damage or sustained injuries. It’s really fucking awful and my heart goes out to all of the people impacted. Orleans and Livingston Parish were both seriously effected by the storm which was categorized as an EF-3 tornado. For those of us not all that familiar with tornadoes (such as myself), let me fill you in on some information that I gathered.

  1. The EF scale is short for the Enhanced Fujita Scale and it is used to rate the intensity of a tornado based off the damage they cause. As an EF-3, this was the strongest tornado recorded since record keeping began in 1950.
  2. The winds from an EF3 tornado reach between 136 and 165 miles per hour. Wow, that’s fast. The strongest tornado, rated as an EF-5, have 3 second wind gusts reaching over 200 miles per hour. Jesus fucking Christ. Stay away from us please EF-5 tornadoes!
  3. Even though tornadoes happen in different countries around the world, they are most devastating here in the United States and specifically in Tornado Alley which includes Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi and, you guessed, good old Louisiana. This area is impacted due to the effects on the atmosphere of the Rocky Mountains to the west and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. Basically, and I don’t actually understand this fully so I am going to quote from this tornado guy from the University of Oklahoma, “a strong westerly jet stream across the Alley creates instability and a trough of low pressure that draws in warm, moist air from the Gulf. Conditions for the supercells [large, powerful thunderstorms] that spawn tornadoes require strong vertical wind shear [changes in wind speed and direction with height] and lots of instability — as happens in Tornado Alley.

I did some more research and it all basically led me to the following conclusion: tornadoes are scary as fuck. And they usually don’t come until the spring! But we got one this past Tuesday, February 7th which is decidedly not the spring time and supports the fact that global warming is actually a thing and the weather is going all bonkers now. Did you hear that SCROTUS? Scott Pruitt? Are you assholes listening? Watching the weather channel? Visiting Tornado Alley? Anything at all?!

White Dudes Gonna White Dude: (I cannot take credit for that statement. It came from my friend Beth but I pretty much use it all the time now.) As it turns out, stupid, young white dudes are the same everywhere. When I was in Brooklyn I worked with this kid who drove me bananas because (a) he sucked at his job but still thought he should make all the money and be promoted; (b) he was insanely lazy and spent more time on the phone, smoking and bullshitting with people than actually doing what needed to be done; and (c) he would not take instruction from women, under any circumstances, ever. One time I yelled at him for disappearing for over and hour and he asked me if I was on my period. Because, you know, that’s relevant, his business and not sexist at all. I was so pleased when I stopped working there and never had to deal with his stupid face ever again. Until now. Because I have a new coworker who is basically exactly the same. Lazy, know-it-all, loves to benefit from a tip pool because he can make half the money and do less than half the work, and he will not take instruction from women, under any circumstances, ever. So, in conclusion, this particular brand of white dudes are the same in Brooklyn and New Orleans. Raise your hand if you’re surprised. What, no hands? Shocking.

Actually Not Done with the Tornado: While I was watching the weather channel, one of the things that the meteorologists kept talking about was how the weather was going to effect those living in FEMA trailers. Where they have been living since Hurricane Katrina. Which happened in the year 2005. This summer will be 12 years since the storm and some people are still living in FEMA trailers. This is something I already was aware of but the thing that is shocking to me here is that it was just mentioned so nonchalantly on The Weather Channel. That particular population is obviously a serious concern when it comes to such powerful storms because there is nothing really keeping those trailers on the ground except their sheer weight. And as I learned through my research, when a serious storm touches down nothing above ground is safe.

Nothing above ground is safe.

I don’t really have the space in this post to go through how incredibly fucked up it is that in this country we have people living for over a decade in disaster-relief housing. You would think that there would be room in the national budge to help these Americans, these people, who have been treated as subhuman for the past going on 12 years, after they were entirely overlooked in the time leading up to, during and directly after Katrina hit. It’s really sickening. But yeah, sure, keep the Muslims out. Build a goddamn wall. Make abortion illegal. Make America White Again.

Oh, and also, FEMA is pledging aid following the most recent tornadoes. That is until SCROTUS further defunds it. Kaaaaaay.

Conclusion: This was an intense one. I learned a lot about words of the year and tornadoes and I got mad about white dudes and the fact that our country doesn’t give a fuck that people have been living in FEMA trailers for over a decade. Maybe next week I will return to plastic bags and nutria rats. Either way let me say this: there are a lot of ways in which this world impresses and amazes me, and a lot of ways in which this world, the one we all inhabit day in and day out, makes me absolutely sick. That the earth is capable of creating such intense weather events seemingly out of nothing is scary but incredible. And that we are able to forget the suffering of others and decide, through either our action or inaction, which people are valuable and which are not, is really disheartening. But here we are, folks. Living in this world for better or for worse.

How I’m Dealing

26 Jan

This has been a really rough few days, friends. Hellish, I would venture to say. And I am going to be completely and totally honest with you, as I normally am, and tell you how I have been handling it. Not well. Not well at all. Here’s a recap:

Thursday: Trained at a new job from 9am to 4:30pm. I tried to gage where all my coworkers stood on the issues by asking them some questions that I will not divulge here because I am actually afraid that some agents for the government might arrive at my door and whisk me away under the cover of night. That’s where we live now, folks. After work I headed off to a bar that my friend works at and had a few very necessary drinks in preparation for the end of the free world.

Friday: Trained again at the job. This time for 12 glorious hours. The benefit was that this allowed me to entirely miss all the fracas surrounding the inauguration of Tr*mp or, as my friend Ben suggested we call him, SCROTUS. My friends Emily and James came into town so that was great, but there was still just a very heavy gloom that hung over everything. When I got home that night I turned on The Internet, read a few things and cried myself to sleep.

Saturday: Women’s March day. I went to the march with Emily, James and Emma. I wore my “unpresidented” shirt (thanks Beth!) and we all carried signs. I would like to acknowledge here that there were some problems with the marches in general (underrepresentation of POC being high on that list and something I will get into in another post because it is way too important to be just a talking point in an overview) but overall it was nice for me to be in the company of friends and surrounded by a bunch of badass women and men who disagreed with the inauguration of SCROTUS and were just as apprehensive of what the future would likely hold. This was especially important for me seeing as how I just moved to a new city and lack the sort of support system I had in New York. Also, the South is different.

Sunday: Had to be at work to train at 8am.  At a restaurant. I know, I know. But the people must have brunch, after all. It was a really hard day. I hadn’t slept enough, but I had certainly read a lot about what all has been going on. I had the time to have conversations with a lot of good friends who feel similarly to me and it was all just crashing down. The reality of it all. Like a giant, horrible wave teeming with dead sea creatures who could no longer survive in the increasing temperature of the oceans. The shift was awful. Not because of my coworkers or the managers, who are all lovely, but because everyone is politically charged these days, and down here a lot of people voted for Tr*mp. It isn’t like in New York where those people are few and far between. They are everywhere here. Especially when you work in a restaurant that is in a highly touristed area and has a lot of domestic tourists from cities and towns that are significantly less progressive than New Orleans. There were some things said. Like the young white women who insisted that women (read: them and the white women they know) already have equal rights and what the fuck were all those idiots marching for. (I summarized.) I had to keep my mouth shut. It felt like my soul was just melting. Luckily Emily and James were still in town so I was able to run to them after work and decompress. I also called my dad and started crying on Canal Street amongst all the normal New Orleans revelers. No big deal.

Monday: I woke up crying and basically didn’t stop all day. I tried to quit my job because I felt like everything was horrible and I wanted to just hide in my house forever. My managers would’t let me quit, though. Apparently I’m okay at my job. Who knew. But in the process of trying to quit I entirely lost my shit in front of not one but TWO managers at work and, if my estimates are correct, about a third of my coworkers and now I feel sort of like a crazy person. Lots of tears, lots of eyeliner running down my face. Great first impression, Rebekah. Luckily my friend Carie is awesome and I called her and we spent the day doing fun things interspersed with me crying. By the end of the day it dawned on me: there was a good chance that, for the next four years, whenever I wasn’t otherwise occupied (or even sometimes even when I was) I would likely be crying. That seemed to me rather unsustainable.

Tuesday: Woke up still feeling like everything was totally fucked. Kept reading The Internet and panicking (but at least I wasn’t crying?). Carie and I ran some errands which helped to take my mind of our impending collective doom. I was supposed to go to running group but didn’t because I am pretty sure I had cried out the entire salt content of my body and was exhausted. I went to bed early.

So, I mean, needless to say if you are wondering how I have been handling all this the answer is, as I said before, not well. I have sat down to write about 5 different blogs in the past few days and nothing comes out how I want it to. I think that is partially because I am so overwhelmed with the onslaught of information and, honestly, an intense feeling of loss. It is like I am in mourning. And, you know what, I am. I am in mourning for the world I thought that I lived in now that I live in one that operates under a completely different set of rules, if we can even call them that. Here’s what I realized (with a lot of help from friends) and how I am going to operate going forward.

I cannot longer assume that I live in the same reality that I always have. Our government operates largely through precedent and the moral foundation of those who work within it. Regardless of whether we agree with the politics and whether we feel the person him or herself is of good moral character, there was a general area in which people operated, and that area was largely predictable and normalized. We might not agree with it, we might find the actions themselves morally bankrupt, but there was still, for lack of a better phrase, a general code of conduct within which people operated.

That is no longer the case. The code is gone.

We have been shown, throughout the campaign itself and now during these first few terrifying days, that Donald J. Tr*mp does not abide by any code outside of whatever one is guiding him in that particular moment. And for those of us, myself included, who believed that there was something codified in law that required a certain level of behavior, there is not. So all those times we scream

But how can he do this? Can he really do this?

The answer, it seems, is that he can. The rules of the game have changed. He can remove information from government websites regarding climate change and LGBTQ issues as if they no longer even exist. He can demand that the National Park Services stop tweeting from their official handles, but he cannot stop them from making a new one that is not associated with the government, and he cannot stop the 1.8 million followers and counting from supporting that action. He can appoint cabinet members with little to no relevant experience and they can somehow get questioned and confirmed regardless of the fact that many of them have not yet passed ethics screenings. He can become President of the United States of America without releasing his tax documents and he can repeatedly say that the only people who care about that information are reporters, which is patently untrue. I am not a reporter and I would like access to those documents. He can shut down the media and send us all into a tizzy with these fucking “alternative facts” which makes us doubt every single bit of information that we read. If this administration is known for one thing, it will be known for the number of synonyms for the word “lie” it uses on a regular basis to justify the man that they, and Russia, and James Comey, and all those fucking white people, empowered.

Our President, is a man who has never heard the word “no.” People have said it to him I’m certain, but he has never heard it. “No” is simply not a word that applies to Donald J. Tr*mp. And when you have a man for whom the word “no” doesn’t apply, you have a man who can not compromise, you have a man with a huge temper, you have a man with the social mentality and awareness of a 5-year-old. That is who we are living under. We are living under a 6’3″, 240-pound toddler who pouts and stamps his feet at the mere smell of any sort of negative feelings cast in his direction. And yet he is quite possibly the biggest bully to ever darken the doors of the Oval Office.

So no, this is not normal. But it is even less normal than we previously thought. There are no rules, there are no precedents, there are, it seems, no laws that can touch Donald Tr*mp. And so then the question becomes:

What do we do now?

We cannot use the normal routes, we cannot take the same actions, we cannot think this will change or our displeasure can be registered in the same ways they have always been because this is not the same reality. This country will never be the same. We will never be the same. It’s as if we have been living in a world with a ground that is made of rubber, only before we thought that it was made of steel. And he is pushing that ground, stretching it, and we are all off balance and we have to walk differently. Because you cannot walk the same way on something that moves and changes and thins out as you can on something strong and flat and secure. So again I ask,

What do we do now?

And honestly, I don’t really know. I wish I fucking knew. But for me just wrapping my head around the fact that everything is different, and that I mean that word everything to be all encompassing, is helpful. Because it means I have to open my mind and stretch it and challenge it to respond to all the changes that are coming at me, at all of us. Because we, friends, have brought knives to an unregulated gun fight. So we have to be smarter and quicker and we have to use our bodies to keep coming at them again and again and again. And honestly, as much as I loved to hear Michelle Obama say “when they go low we go high,” there is no low or high anymore. There are those with morals and those without morals and those are two completely unrelatable realities. There are those who care about the future of the world and those who care only about the immediate future of themselves.

So, what do we do? Seriously, what do we do?