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Bye Bill, Bye.

20 Apr

Yesterday afternoon at work a message from The New York Times appeared on my phone. It read:

Bill O’Reilly Out at Fox After Harassment Allegations

I threw my hands up in the air and hissed a quiet “yes!” to myself. Then I looked around the bar to see who I could share this moment of sheer glory with. The only other person behind the bar was a dude who I have not been overly impressed by. But, I thought to myself, perhaps I have been a little judgmental. If you know me it will come as no surprise that I have a tendency to be slow to forgive the poor behavior of new men that I meet. I am even slower to forgive the poor behavior of new white men. It’s my belief that they more often than not get the benefit of the doubt by default and are therefore allowed to get away with bullshit other people cannot. Not only can they get away with it, but they oftentimes benefit from it. However in this particular moment I decided, selfishly if I’m being honest, to set my pre-conceived notions aside and invite him to join in my celebration of the demise of one of cable news’ biggest pieces of shit. (And that’s saying something.)

So I walked over, still grinning from ear to ear, and told him about the news.

Bill O’Reilly got fired by Fox!

He looked at me, cocking his head slightly to the side.

Oh? For what?

I let out a slight exhale of annoyance. But I calmed myself. It’s okay, I thought, not everyone is up on the news. Not even HUGE news that is being written about almost constantly. Some people just like to live their lives and surround themselves by the things that matter to them and that’s totally cool. I surround myself by gymnastics, current affairs and institutional sexism and racism. That’s not everyone’s thang though.

Allegations of sexual harassment. Fox has settled for like $13 million with 5 different women and I imagine that is only the tip of the iceberg. Dude is a piece of shit.

He smiled.

Well, that’s good. Although I thought it would be something bad.

He thought it would be something bad. I stared at him, realizing that my suspension of previous judgements was clearly a mistake. The times he talked down to me and snapped at me for no reason. The time he scolded me for stirring rather than shaking a vodka martini by sneering

You’re stirring vodka? Shake vodka; stir gin.

And then walked away and joked with one of the male bartenders, leaving me stewing and feeling tiny in the corner. Because that’s what happens sometimes. Sometimes you end up working in a boys club. Where (white) dude after (white) dude talks down to you and scolds you meanwhile your male coworkers do the exact same things as you and they get a slap on the back. And so of course he wouldn’t think that sexual assault allegations dating back decades against the highest grossing cable news anchor in history is that bad. Of course not. Because treating women poorly is just part of life. It’s just the way things are.

Sometimes I want to look at someone like him, some doughy faced boy, and just tell him about himself. I want him to know I am smarter than him, better informed, kinder and more responsible. But that doesn’t really matter because he can go out and get hammered and not worry about getting raped on his way home and he can routinely show up to work 2 hours late, still drunk from the night before, and be up for a promotion. Meanwhile Bill O’Reilly has gotten far, really far, my mistreating women and the only thing that actually got him ousted was Fox’s bottom line. And no, not the $13 million, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to what O’Reilly brings in. It was because of the loss of advertisement dollars. It was because O’Reilly had to start doing 8 more minutes of show daily to make up for the shortening of commercial segments. And everyone can say that this is a win for the idea of corporate social responsibility, that this is capitalism at work, that large companies do in fact care but the fact of the matter is they care about where the money is. Meanwhile the true heroes are the women who are strong enough to take on one of the biggest men who works for perhaps the most misogynistic company in media today. That shit takes ovaries. Big fucking ovaries. Because you better believe that the die-hard O’Reilly fans are taking to the internet to harass, shame and threaten these women for bringing their idol crashing down. No matter that he did it to himself. And no matter that, although he won’t be returning to Fox News, he will be fine. These men are always fine. Look no further than Tucker Carlson who just took O’Reilly’s spot. He might not have racked up sexual harassment allegations but he is no stranger to treating women like garbage.

I had that moment of happiness, and although I am still happy about it I no longer see this as a win. Sure, O’Reilly is gone (for now) but what will replace him? Will the culture change? Will Fox, and the people who watch Fox, start asking themselves the tough questions about their behavior and their privilege and their opinions that are founded in ignorance rather than fact? Or will they just turn an angry eye to the accusers and the liberal scum who support them and retreat deeper into their hole? Because the truth is that O’Reilly might have lost advertisers but he did not lose many fans. And that is a problem. And it’s a problem that runs super deep because as offensive as my co-worker’s statement was, it was an accurate reflection of a normalized viewpoint. Sexual harassment against women isn’t that bad. Misogyny isn’t that bad. Rape isn’t that bad. The patriarchy isn’t that bad. And for those of us who believe the opposite, it is like living in an alternate universe. And it makes it hard to even celebrate the demise of one of the most hated men. It is hard to relish in his downfall. Because this is all a distraction from the bigger conversation. Bill O’Reilly’s ouster does not change the culture; he is just another scape goat for it. He will find himself another microphone. We have not seen the last of him. And in ways it feels as though we are no better off today than we were yesterday.

That Time a Lady Told me to Smile

7 Apr

I had a weird moment last night at work. It was this response to an interaction with this woman where I was like

Wow, Rebekah, you’ve changed!

but then at the same time

Ew, lady, aren’t we supposed to be on the same team here?

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to recount the story and then I am going to go ahead and address these two simultaneous reactions that I had to it. Ready? Break!

Part One: The Story

It is French Quarter Fest here in New Orleans. Anyone who has been here for any sort of fest at all knows that shit is cray. There are people everywhere. There is confusion. Costumes. Glitter. Music. Tourists. More zombies* than normal. It’s a whole thing. Not a bad thing, but a thing. To add to the drama let me inform you that I work in the French Quarter which, if your powers of deductive reasoning are on point, means that I work in the exact area where the French Quarter Fest is occurring. That means that my bar is busy busy busy.

I walked in last night at 5pm to a busier-than-average Thursday night. And the thing about a busier-than-average night in my place is that we have “steps of service.” The steps of service at the spot I worked at in Brooklyn basically involved getting drinks out as quickly as possible while avoiding the limes and clipboards that miffed customers could potentially hurl at your head. No joke. At this place the steps are more involved and less potentially dangerous. I am telling you all this just so that you know that getting people food and drinks at the spot I work at now is something of a process.

Alright so now imagine this. There we are during dinner on a busier-than-average Thursday night and all of a sudden me and one of my coworkers realize

Hey, why hasn’t any of the food we ordered come out? It’s been a minute.

And by a minute we meant like 45. We then come to find out that the printer in the kitchen has stopped working and they didn’t get any of the tickets. So this might lead one to ask ones self

Self, there is a full restaurant out there and yet there are no tickets coming through the printer. Has this city declared a moratorium on food or is something amiss?

But I don’t think anyone asked themselves that. Or maybe they did, I don’t know. But either way they didn’t keep the bar in the loop and we had two ladies on a 45 minute wait for a salad and some shrimp. Anyway, I was in the midst of discussing this fiasco with my manager when I heard from the other side of the bar a very curt and impatient

Hell-loooooooo.

I looked over to see a blonde lady staring at me with what I can only describe as crazy eyes. You know the eyes.

Me: Hi.
Lady: Gesticulates wildly to the space in front of her.
Me: What can I do for you?
Lady: Well, we just got here and….. (gives me a meaningful look that invited me to read her mind but really just made her look even crazier.)
Me: Here’s a drink menu. Would you like food also?
The lady looks at her husband and they share a communal huff and make moves to get up. I shrug my shoulders and take the menu back and go back to the conversation about the broken ticket printer in the kitchen which I was in the middle of having when she sassed me in the first place.
Lady: Smile.
Me: I’m sorry, what?
Lady: Smiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiile. You would make a lot more money if you smiled. Mo-ney. Smiiii-llleee. (All the while she is using her hands to demonstrate what a smile the size of Texas might look like and staring at me as if I had somehow committed the largest offense ever.)

They then left. But not after telling me that they live in the city and would never be back to this restaurant ever again if their life depended on it. I shed a silent tear. And then I went back to doing my job. Meanwhile, all the people around this couple were shocked and could not understand what had just happened. I told them I also couldn’t understand it. They said they thought I was nice. I agreed. One guy said he thought they came in with a bad attitude. I said he was probably right. We all laughed and laughed. And then we carried on with our evenings, largely unaffected by the bad attitude cloud that had momentarily descended on the bar.

Part Two: I’ve Changed!

Have you ever had some big experience and then afterwards noticed a large change in yourself? This is totally stupid but when I came back from my year abroad I noticed that, as a result of the countless hours spent in various modes of transportation, sometimes for hours and hours longer than expected, I was completely unfazed by being stuck in traffic or being on long car rides. This is still the case all these years later. I used to get a little impatient but now I’m like

Eh. Whatever. I’m sitting here.

In the grand scheme of things that isn’t such a big thing but it certainly does make the amount of traveling I do significantly easier. AND I think it makes me a better car partner. So anyway, in the past if I had an experience like the one with the lady, I would have gone down this whole rabbit hole of emotion. I would have analyzed every single second of our interaction and tried to figure out what exactly I had done to cause her to behave like such an asshole. But sometimes, people are just assholes. Or, they behave like assholes in a specific moment for no real reason. And sometimes there is nothing you do to cause it and nothing you can do to prevent it and so your only solution is to shrug your shoulders and be like

Alright cool what’s next.

And that’s just what I did. I sort of figured if they wanted to be Bad Attitude Bears all around town that was on them and I certainly didn’t need to let it effect the rest of my night or the service I provided to other people. So, fuck ’em. I hope they went home and stewed in their own unhappiness rather than raining it down upon the rest of us people just out trying to have a good time or make a buck.

Part Three: Teammates? No?

I should have learned this already following the presidential election but a lot of white women suck. And beyond that, all us women are not on the same team. Okay, fine. But here’s the thing. Men tell me to smile a lot. A LOT. I’ll be walking down the street and hear some dude be all

C’mon, honey, it’s not that bad. Smile.

Or

You’d look a lot better if you’d smile.

I find that super offensive. It very well might be that bad. And maybe I don’t feel like smiling. But either way shut the fuck up my face is not your concern. Basically every woman I have ever spoken to about it also finds it offensive. The thing about it is I know a lot of women and none of them, not a single one, goes about life with a smile plastered on her face at all times. And I get it, work is different, especially when you work in service. You have to smile more. It makes people feel welcome and people who feel welcome have a better time and tip better. Yadda yadda yadda. The funny thing about it is that I smile at work a lot. I smile so much that some of the dudes in the kitchen call me sunshine. I smile so much that when the barback heard that some lady told me to smile he looked at me and said,

You? Jesus. I think you should smile less.

And so, yeah, I know we all don’t see life the same way but, come on lady! Get a clue! It’s like, I expect men to be condescending assholes and tell me how to live my life down to my every facial expression. I don’t like it but I expect it. I do not, however, expect it to come from a woman who has most likely had a similar experience and felt disempowered or spoken down to or whatever. It’s like, way to drink the koolaid, bitch. Way to just swallow, full stop, normalized sexism and misogyny and throw it in the face of someone 15 years younger than you because you didn’t get a menu and a glowing smile the very second your ass hit the barstool. And I’m sorry that I wasn’t willing to ignore your impatience and rudeness and discern exactly what you needed at that exact moment. I’m pretty good at my job but I am not a magician.

***

And with that, I must away. another 3 days of French Quarter Fest await and I have to do my facial exercises, you know, so I can smile more.

* Zombies, New Orleans style (n): zom-bie
(1) a. a will-less and speechless human (as in West Indian voodoo belief and in fictional stories) held to have drank too much on Bourbon Street and been supernaturally reanimated
b. the supernatural power of the Hurricane or Hand Grenade that according to voodoo belief may enter into and reanimate a dead body

Women Are Human Beings, A Brief Investigation

23 Feb

Men, am I right?

The thing about men, as an overarching group, is that they basically suck. Especially white men. Because white people as a group also basically suck. My math is as follows, feel free to follow along and check. Keep in mind, however, that math was never exactly my forte. Honestly I am not entirely sure that what follows even qualifies as math but I’m going with it.

 

       If Men = Bad
       And White People = Bad
       Then Men + White People = Bad x 2

And then actually I can continue on this path of logic a little bit further and say that people on The Internet are pretty awful. But especially men. And most especially the white ones. And so it follows:

       If Men = Bad
       And White People = Bad
       And Also Internet = Bad
       Then Men + White People + Internet = Bad x 3

QED, right? I think so, too.

***

Yesterday I made the mistake of interacting with a man who I don’t know on The Internet. This always ends in tears. Or, in this particular case, me shaking with anger and having to pour myself a wee nip of wine to calm myself before heading off to work. (I work in a bar so this is entirely acceptable.) The gist of what happened is as follows:

  1. Dude comments on a link posted by a friend concerning the controversial Oklahoma Bill that would require women to receive permission from the man responsible for the sperm that helped create a fetus before being allowed to obtain an abortion. Dude claimed although the language was “objectionable” that what the legislator, Justin Humphrey, said is not entirely absurd. (Dude was nice enough to state that there should obviously be certain times when this rule doesn’t apply such as rape and domestic abuse.)
  2. I responded that the statement is in fact entirely absurd and then explained why, starting with assumptions I believe are made on behalf of the anti-choice camp and continuing on to highlight, quite rationally I might add, all of the financial and lifestyle changes that women alone have to endure in order to grow and then deliver a child oh and also our seriously fucked up national, and international, history when it comes to dealing with rape and domestic abuse.
  3. Dude said I needed to make a rational argument.
  4. My friend chimed in to tell Dude he ought to read Casey vs Planned Parenthood, the Supreme Court decision that actually deemed laws such as these unconstitutional.
  5. I said that I had, in fact, made a rational argument.
  6. Dude responded that I had “ranted incoherently” and then decided to give me “pro tips” on how to behave in the future.

I bowed out at this time but not before a bunch of other people weighed in. The interaction went on and on and on. And on. At some point my friend Nick said the following:

No, you received a comprehensive breakdown of reasons why “because it’s my body” is a perfectly legitimate position. You didn’t want to confront it, called the woman voicing them incoherent and then tried to shift into a pointless rhetorical argument that you’ll just pursue until people get tired of it and move on with their lives.

Then you’ll feel comfortably superior… for some reason that only you yourself will ever truly understand.

As correct as that statement in fact was, it is really only the tip of the iceberg. So before I really get into it, let me just address a few things so that we can set them aside and move on. Myself and many other women, and certainly all the women I know, are incredibly sick of seeing old white men, and young white men for that matter, attempt to regulate our bodies through archaic, paternalistic legislation. We are also tired of having men tell us this legislation is actually not that bad and then, in an archaic and paternalistic manner, tell us exactly why. So let me say this here and now:

Abortion is necessary. Equal access to safe abortion services is needed. It is a right that all women should have, regardless of race, religion, income level, geographic location or circumstance surrounding the pregnancy. Women are not hosts, women are human beings. The argument that pregnancy means that we should somehow lose autonomy over our own bodies, our own lives, is not only absurd it is dehumanizing, disempowering and dangerous. And it is especially dangerous for low income women of color because wealthy, white women will always, I repeat always, be able to gain access to a safe, private abortion regardless of what the law says.

Women are tired of having to explain to men, over and over and over again, why exactly it is that we should have autonomy over our own bodies and why our feelings about a pregnancy necessarily matter more than theirs. The fact that this conversation continues tells me that the overarching norm concerning this issue is that women’s bodies should not be self-governed but that instead our bodies exist in the public sphere. This is simply not so. The fact that this conversation continues also tells me that women are not heard. Full stop. And that, friends, is the point of this post.

 ***

I am here to tell you right now that what exists inside of my skull is not a lady brain. It is a brain. A fully formed, fully functioning human brain capable of reasoning, of critical thinking, of debating, of retaining, analyzing and dispensing of all manner of complicated information. But what I hear, and what other women hear, is that what we have to say is simply not as valid as what men have to say. And that our space to say those things does not belong to us. We have to fight for that space every single time. And when we  occupy that space, we have to be as direct, as accurate, and as quick as possible in using it because any misstep becomes the meat of what we said. And even if there is no misstep, if we simply state a dissenting opinion, we are dismissed as ranting, as incoherent, as harpies, as cunts.

This has been happening to every single one of us since the day we were born, whether we realize it or not. And it happens much more to women of color than to white women because white women do it to women of color. The thing, though, is that it does not only happen at the hands of legislators in Oklahoma or anywhere else, or at the hands of random men on The Internet, but also at the hands of our friends and family. I have said this before and I will say it again: misogyny is insidious. And because it is insidious, it is internalized not only by men but by women as well. I left that interaction yesterday feeling as though my sanity had been taken from me. Feeling as though, for lack of a less “in” term, I had been gaslit. I made the argument to this person that just because he refused to engage with my analysis does not mean that my analysis ceased to exist. But the fact of the matter is that again and again men define the terms. This person was only willing to have an argument on the terms that he delineated, that fit snuggly within a set of rules that he had written and that could potentially change at any time. Any deviation from the desired debate or conversation was deemed irrational, incoherent and rambling. That is the reality in which myself and all women live.

Plain and simple: we do not control the conversation even when we’re the subject of it.

This ill-advised interaction I had with this Internet presence is actually symptomatic of a much larger issue, larger even than women’s right to control their own bodies. It is symptomatic of a world in which a woman’s voice matter significantly less than a man’s. It is symptomatic of a world in which men have the power, through sheer force of will and institutional misogyny, to dictate the terms of conversation and to require women to either fit within those confines or feel like a hormonal, crazy, rambling bitch. It is a world in which we second guess our own thoughts, interpretations and experiences. It is a world in which I say about men on the regular:

He doesn’t like women. Yeah, he likes to fuck women. But he doesn’t like women.

That is where I live. That is where we all live. So seriously Internet Guy, I am going to do to you what you did to me. I am going to silence you. You ready?

Here’s the deal. You are, quite simply, wrong. Making an argument other than that women should 100% be in control of their own biological processes is illogical. Whatever way that you choose to defend your ill-conceived position, is incoherent, irrelevant and a waste of your time and mine. You do not know how to argue. And you do not get to determine the terms of this discussion. In conclusion, the reason that you, and men like you, work so hard to keep women down is that when it comes down to it we are, in fact, superior specimens. We can make life. And we also have the right to choose not to make life. Get with it. Your opinion on this issue does not matter.

***

Post Note: If any of you are doubting this analysis, if any of you think that the way our world works is not in large part dictated through a lens of misogyny, then explain to me how Donald J. Trump is our President. And if you tell me that it’s because the DNC screwed Bernie Sanders over, think a little more.

 

 

 

An Open Letter to the Women in My Life

31 Jan

Dear Women in my Life,

Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You are my sanity and my strength. You are why I get up in the morning. No, you are how I get up in the morning. You are my sounding board and my support; you are my protection and my reinforcement; you are in my corner pretty much always and when you aren’t, and for good reason at times, you explain why in the most compassionate ways to make me understand my mistake, but to still ensure I never feel abandoned. With all of you, I am never alone.

These past few months have been tough, for all of us. Every single time I open my eyes it feels like a brand new affront, a brand new injustice, another way our government is being taken from us, used against us; its intentions hidden under layers of lies, or alternate facts, or fake news, or whatever the fuck they are calling it today. And for a moment I feel like it is too much, like it is me against everything, like I am living in this world where up is down and injustice is being legislated and a plagiarist is running the Department of Education. (Because, actually, that is the world we are living in excuse me while I scream.) But then I remember the women I am lucky enough to call friends and family and I breath a sigh of relief knowing that you are all there, that we are all going through this, and that we will somehow get through it with the love and support of one another.

So let me say this again: thank you. Thank you for your support, for your ears, for your understanding, for your analysis, for your dismay and anger and sadness and disbelief about all that is happening around us. I feel that too. And I hope that I have been able to provide even a small percentage of all that you have provided me. Because here’s the deal, ladies, we have a long haul. And women do a lot of emotional labor.

A lot of emotional labor.

A fucking lot.

And that emotional labor is unpaid and, more often than not, expected but underappreciated. And so let me say that I appreciate that emotional labor, that work, that we are all doing for one another. I notice it and I would not be able to live without it. But let us all remember that in the midst of all of this work, and all of this struggle, and all of this pain and disbelief and heartache, to take care of ourselves. Let us not forget to ask for the support of those around us. There is nothing shameful in it. Believe me there is more than enough emotional work to go around. And it is okay, too, to take a step back and say

Hey, this is all too much, I need a minute.

Take that minute. You deserve it. We all deserve it and more than that, we all require it. I had a conversation with a few of my core women today about the importance of self care and the importance of remembering that we cannot put in the work, we cannot be the best us in these horrible times, if we don’t take care of ourselves, and of one another. If we don’t ask for an ear or extra support and love on an especially tough day. If we don’t say,

Hey, friends, I need you to just check in on me today. Today the hurt is too much.

Because sometimes it just is. Our strength comes from our ability to admit when it is all just too much to handle alone. That’s when the rest of us can come in and be reinforcements, that’s when the rest of us can give you what you need – be that an ear or a drink or a joke or the biggest most heartfelt hug we can muster or some shared tears.

So again, thank you. For everything you have done and for everything you will do going forward. Because as I said before, there is a lot to be done, a lot to be endured, and we will need one another more than ever. And let me also say this: I am here for you as best as I know how. And every day I try to be a little more here, a little more supportive. I am trying to be the friend you all have been to me. I am trying to recreate for you the support that you provide that I could not live without. And I am trying to remember to say thank you, and to say it louder and more often.

And so thank you from the bottom of my heart and the depths of my soul and the recesses of my brain. Thank you. I survived these past few weeks because of you and I will continue to learn and to fight and to be part of this amazing team of women for the next 4 years (chaos butterfly help us) and then beyond.

I love you. For all you are and all you do.

Forever grateful
And with open arms ready to give a giant hug,
Or a tissue to dry a tear,
Or some pointed words directed at the asshole that made you feel shitty,
Your friend,
Your Support,
Your Cheerleader,

Rebekah

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?

An Open Letter to the Girl Scouts of America

17 Jan

To whom it may concern,

When I was a young girl growing up in suburban New Jersey, I was a Girl Scout. My mother was the Troop leader. Although I did not participate past elementary school, the camaraderie I felt with the other girls in my troop had a lasting influence on me. When it comes to being female in this world, I have always been a believer in the importance of surrounding myself with other smart, caring, strong, empathetic women. It is, honestly, how I have managed to live what I consider a successful life. So you can imagine my dismay when I was informed that the Girl Scouts of America, a group I have always respected and felt played an important role in the healthy mental and emotional development of thousands of women, announced it would be participating in the inaugural ceremony of Donald J. Tr*mp.

Donald Tr*mp simply does not respect women. He has demonstrated this time and again through his vile language, his proud admittance of sexual assault and his objectification of anyone with a pair of breasts and a vagina. To think that you, an organization that has always celebrated the strength and abilities of young girls, would parade them in front of a man so heinous is unfathomable to me. There have been a lot of statements and actions taken by organizations that have made me question their moral standings and ethical foundations but this? This takes the cake. How dare you dehumanize our girls like this? I thought you were better.

Sincerely
Rebekah Frank

We Spoke in Hushed Voices

20 Dec

Yesterday was the day of the electoral college vote. Yesterday was also the day I decided to go to the National World War II Memorial here in New Orleans. This was premeditated.

***

I have been somewhat quiet these past few weeks on issues outside of my observations of life here in New Orleans. I’ve been mulling over a number of different things, unable to really put into words what was happening around me, around all of us, and how it has been making me feel. I cannot speak for anyone other than myself – did you hear that, Libby Chamberlain? – and so I will use this space, my space, to share with you, if you care to listen, about what’s been happening in this confused brain of mine.

I have felt silenced.

I am not entirely sure why this is. Is it because Tr*mp was elected? Is it because of all of the hate that he unleashed in this country over the past 18 months, give or take? Is it because I left my comfortable, knowable home in Brooklyn and moved South? Is it because I realized, once again, the seemingly unending depths of misogyny that exist in this world? Is it because I am Jewish and, for the first time ever, I feel markedly unsafe in my own skin?

It is, in a lot of ways, that last one. Although the other ones are notable as well. I have lived a privileged life, all things considered, and so I do want to underscore all of this by stating that I do know it could be worse. I am 33 years old. I have been Jewish for every single one of those 33 years. And now is the first time I feel unsafe sitting in my own reality. This has not been true for a lot of people. And so before I continue, I just want to express my knowledge about my own privilege and express my sadness about the world that so many people have occupied their entire lives, and my respect for them for getting up day after day and moving forward, and keeping on, and for writing and speaking and sharing and singing and for simply living. Being afraid sucks. And so with that, here goes.

***

Yesterday I decided to go to the National World War II Museum because I recalled an article I read in The Washington Post following Richard Spencer’s Nazi-inspired speech in DC. In it was a statement put out by the Holocaust Museum following the conference which read, in part,

The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words.

Just to give you an idea of what exactly is meant by that, here’s an excerpt from the Museum’s piece on the Nazi rise to power.

Hitler was a powerful and spellbinding orator who, by tapping into the anger and helplessness felt by a large number of voters, attracted a wide following of Germans desperate for change. Nazi electoral propaganda promised to pull Germany out of the Depression. The Nazis pledged to restore German cultural values, reverse the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles, turn back the perceived threat of a Communist uprising, put the German people back to work, and restore Germany to its “rightful position” as a world power. Hitler and other Nazi propagandists were highly successful in directing the population’s anger and fear against the Jews; against the Marxists (Communists and Social Democrats); and against those the Nazis held responsible for signing both the armistice of November 1918 and the Versailles treaty, and for establishing the parliamentary republic.

Sound familiar? Because it should.

Words and propaganda were what brought the Nazi party into power in the 1930s; they were what created an environment in which an entire infrastructure could be built with the express purpose of shuttling people to work and, ultimately, their deaths; they were what emboldened a population to exterminate 11 million people. The words and propaganda of Hitler and his Nazi Party were what led Raphael Lemkin to coin the term used to describe what had been done to the Jews and other groups during World War II. He called it genocide.

The article from The Museum came out around the same time Jessy and I were in Chattanooga, Tennessee, about 3/4 the way through our drive to New Orleans. We had spent a lot of time sitting in the car, in our Airbnbs and hotel rooms, walking through national parks all the while talking about the election, what it meant, how we felt, what world we were living in. It had all been sort of academic. Analyses of things we had read and heard, fears we had about how empowered some people suddenly felt to disempower others, how groups that had existed only in the deepest recesses of the Internet were suddenly mainstays of the news. But then, our first night in Chattanooga as we sat at the bar eating dinner and having a much needed glass of wine, it all became suddenly more real. I looked up at the screen and on CNN during primetime I saw the Nazi salute. And then I saw it again and again and again as it was played and replayed. And I watched as the hosts talked it down, rationalized it, normalized it, tried to make it less that what it is: an expression of unbridled hatred and antisemitism and an embracing of all that the Nazis stood for and did in the 1930s and 1940s. And it made me wonder. Have we forgotten our own past? Do we owe nothing to the 11+ million people lost?

There is a word that is used often when talking about the Nazi era. It is Gleichshaltung and is translated from the German as “coordination” but more often refers to the act, politically speaking, of getting in line.The political theorist Hanna Arendt, who escaped Germany in 1933 explained it well in one of her last interviews. She said,

The problem, the personal problem, was not what our enemies did, but what our friends did. Friends ‘coordinated’ or got in line.

Shawn Hamilton expannded on this idea in his article published by The Huffington Post.

People rejected the uglier aspects of Nazism but gave ground in ways that ultimately made it successful. They conceded premises to faulty arguments. They rejected the “facts” of propaganda, but not the impressions of it. The new paradigm of authoritarianism was so disorienting that they simply could not see it for what it was, let alone confront it.

This is what scares me. Every time an act of hatred or violence is talked down, is normalized or excused, those acts, and the people that carried them out, are empowered. The problem is that when we make concessions for the small things, we are accepting the larger message. Remember: before there were the camps, there were the words. The words prepared people to accept that which would previously have seemed unimaginable. In his book, Germany: Jekyll and Hyde, Sebastian Haffner said,

Outside of Germany people often wonder at the palpable fraudulence of Nazi propaganda, the stupid incredible exaggerations, the ludicrous reticences concerning what is generally known. Who can be convinced by it? They ask. The answer is that it is not meant to convince but to impress.

It is not meant to convince, but to impress.

From where we sit in our discussions of history and in the comfort of our homes, Nazi propaganda seems utterly insane. How could this have come to pass? How could people have swallowed their morals, their ethics, their humanity and gotten behind such a hateful, murderous regime? A solution to all their problems. We are living it right now. We are seeing it again. Otherwise decent people willing to accept this lie of why we are where we are, and who specifically made it come to pass. And to then hold those people accountable for something which was not their doing. As Hamilton points out, it is not illegal immigration that is to blame for the downfall of the white working class, it is mechanization, globalization, the disempowerment of unions. Blaming immigrants is demagoguery, not reality. And deporting immigrants will not bring those jobs back. Those jobs are gone. But continuing to propagate this argument, continuing to excuse those who stand by it through silence or the ballot box, can only prepare us for words to become action.

***

Yesterday I went to the National World War II Museum because the Holocaust Museum is in Washington, DC and I am here in New Orleans. I went there because I wanted to be in a place where I was free to remember, to grow teary and tired, to educate myself. I know there was more to World War II than The Holocaust. But I needed to be in a place that actively recognized that The Holocaust happened, that was just steeped in an acknowledgment of what humans are capable of doing, of what we can grow accustomed to, of what we normalize. And I wanted to be angry. I wanted to be angry about all the lives lost and angry that, all these years later, all these lessons later, all these deaths later that we could still, as humans, Gleichshaltung. That we could, again, fall in line behind the propaganda. But instead of feeling angry, I felt physically ill when I saw a few swastikas on the side of the airplane of a Tuskegee Airman who had, as the tour guide explained to us, had “a few German kills.” Those swastikas almost made me vomit because all of a sudden they don’t feel like a relic of the past anymore, they are a part of our present.

Tearful I turned to a woman in the group who stood next to me. A woman who had family who had fought in all the wars starting with World War I. A woman who had traveled down from New Jersey with her family to enjoy New Orleans, to visit this museum and to remember. And, in hushed tones, we talked. We talked about Tr*mp and the election; about racism and sexism and antisemitism; we talked about our fears for the future of this country; we talked about all the lies, the propaganda and how people were just eating them up. It was good to have an ear, to have a conversation with someone who was feeling some of the things I was feeling. But still, we spoke quietly. And today I am forced to ask myself why.