Tag Archives: fear

Swastikas at The New School

13 Nov

How much do you guys know about The New School University, formerly The New School for Social Research? I know a few of my readers (oh hey, GPIA!) know this little tidbit but for the rest of you, I just want to fill you in on a little history. It’ll tie in. I swear. The New School was founded in 1919 by a bunch of progressive educators unhappy with the direction academia was going in the United States. In 1933, it was set up as a University in Exile; a graduate division that was set up as an academic haven for scholars who had been fired from jobs in fascist Italy or were fleeing from Nazi Germany. The University in Exile had later incarnations and some of the notable scholars associated with it include Hanna Arendt, Erich Fromm and Max Wertheimer among others.

So let me just, real quick again, say something which is actually probably more for me than for any of my readers because this shit has been violently banging against my head all night. The New School for Social Research, my alma mater, with the motto “To the Living Spirit,” acted as a University in Exile during one of the darkest times in this world’s history for academics fleeing certain death. For academics fired by Stalin and fleeing Hitler. And last night someone drew a series of swastikas in one of the dorms. There were four large swastikas scrawled on four separate dorm room doors. Each of the rooms housed at least one Jewish student.

Open anti-semitism in New York fucking City at a school that has acted as a safe haven for scholars fleeing totalitarian and fascist governments at home.

And so I guess I have to say this because, I don’t know, I feel confused that some people maybe are missing the point.

This election is different.

This isn’t that someone won that we didn’t like. I mean, listen, I will be the first to say I would have been massively disappointed if Jeb Bush or John Kasich won. And I would have cried if it had been Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz, but especially the latter. But this is not just about someone who isn’t “our gal” winning. This is that the forces of hatred have been awoken and they have been thrust into the middle of our cities and our towns. The hate is coming from the darkest depths of the internet and appearing on the dorm room doors of young, Jewish students at a progressive university in a progressive city. The hate is coming from our peers. It is everywhere, all around us, and it is fucking scary.

So for those people who keep telling everyone to stop protesting? I mean, sure, you are welcome to your own opinion and of course and I respect that. But I think you should read this article by Teju Cole. It was in the New York Times Magazine this past weekend and it is everything. It basically lays out, in words so beautiful I could never manage to formulate them on my own, let alone get them to flow from my brain and onto a piece of paper, how easy it is to normalize and excuse what is going on all around us. It says what so many of us have been trying to say. It says that this election is different. And so again, while I respect your beliefs that the protests are getting in the way and setting us back I have to disagree with you, and strongly. This is a democracy in action. And it has to happen this way, it has to continue. For most people it isn’t about contesting the election, it isn’t about being sore losers and not accepting a result or anything like that. It is about communicating that we simply cannot stand by and watch as our government, our country, our goddamn home is coopted by hate and fear. We simply cannot let this stand. We must refuse. Because the alternative is simply too hard to imagine. When we stop fighting, when we stop protesting, when we stop organizing and writing and talking that is the moment when we let the fear and the hatred take hold of us, that is the moment that we throw our hands up and say, “well, the people have spoken.”

No.

So I don’t know about you but I am not about to let that happen. I have spent a lifetime being active in my social circles and in my small space on the internet but more or less complacent the rest of the time. But enough is enough. If we needed this to awaken us all, then we needed it. But we sure as hell better take this as an opportunity to fight for change and for equality and for the end of hatred and abuse, otherwise we are no better than the rest of them. So, yeah, protest. Keep protesting. Protest for the next four years, no matter what form that protest takes. I am finding mine.

Swastikas at the fucking New School. This shit has got to stop.

These are scary, scary times

10 Nov

Friends. As many of you already know, today I am embarking on a journey. Today I leave, my trunk full of clothing and books, my heart heavy, and head down to New Orleans for a short but important new chapter. A time when I can reflect on who I am and who I want to be in this world. I time when I can just sit back, far away from family and many of my friends, far away from where I have called home for my entire adult life, and start building. I want to start building a me that makes active choices and decisions for where I want my life to go and becomes a more vocal person within my community, where ever that community may be. This is more important now than ever.

I thought that I, along with one of my closest friends, would be driving South in a different America than the one we find ourselves in today. I thought we would be driving in the spirit of celebration and safety, not feeling as though we are in a high-speed train, breaks failing, hurtling into the darkness. Clearly we, along with millions of others, were out of touch with the degree to which people are hurting all over this country, to the degree that people feel ignored and left behind, to the degree so many disdain the cities and the people that live within them. And I get it. Shit is hard. And I am sure I am going to be seeing a lot of hard shit on this ride – a different kind of poverty and destitution than I see day after day in my beloved New York City. And that is unfair. I truly believe we all deserve opportunity, that we should all feel as though we matter. But more than anything else, I feel as though we should all feel safe and at home here in our America. In our beautiful, diverse, America. And so, in keeping with my post from yesterday, albeit with slightly less swearing, I have just a few things to say.

I am having so many feelings right now. I am angry, I am shocked, I am saddened, but more than anything I am afraid. I spoke on the phone with my father last night and he who lived through America during the Vietnam War, through the assassinations of JFK, RFK, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, through the on-air killing of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby, through the resignation of Richard Nixon, the impeachment of Bill Clinton, the horrors of the Cold War and September 11th and everything that has come before, in between and after, he told me that he has never felt so unsure or afraid for and about the future of our country. These are scary, scary times. Scarier than ever before. And I remember speaking to my mother in the days and weeks following the 2001 attack on our country, myself in tears and her with a strength she always manages to find, and having her assure me that there are always these moments, always these times, that give us uncertainty but that we must have resolve and move forward and know there is more good than evil out in the world. That although things will never be the same, we will adjust and we will learn and we will get better. When I spoke with her at 10pm on election night, as we were understanding the reality of where we stood, her voice cracked. These are scary, scary times.

And in the past few days since Donald Trump’s election, things have become clear: we are living in a moment where people are angry and this outcome has, for some though certainly not for all, legitimized their feelings of closed-mindedness and has emboldened them to behave in ways that openly threaten those around them. My friend Ashlie shared this story:

Tonight we were at a bar, celebrating Leon’s fantastic film screening. A man came up to our table behind my seated friend and proceeded to, without greeting or warning or any words at all, put his arms around her, hug her, and kiss her cheek. We all assumed it was an old friend, and she squirmed around to see who it was, and it was a complete stranger! I said, “Do you know him?” and she said “no! Not at all!!!” We all started telling him in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t get to do that, just touch and kiss anyone whenever he feels like it, and he responded, “but Trump just won the Presidential Race.”
I am not kidding, lying, or being even the slightest bit hyperbolic. That is what happened, and that is how he defended his actions. So, know that.

Reading through the comments on her post revealed to me that there were many women who had the same exact experiences. Men walking up to them and touching them, grabbing them, kissing them and saying that because now that we have a President Elect Trump it is within their rights to do so. And then, of course, there was the one man, the one white man, who called all these women liars. These are scary, scary times.

And my younger sister, a graduate of Wellesley University, shared with me a story recounted by Sydney Robertson:

Today, Wellesley women, like a lot of America, were in mourning.

Edward Tomasso and Parker Rander-Riccardi, two students at Babson College, decided to drive around our beautiful campus with a Trump flag in a pick up truck. They laughed, screamed and sped around campus. Then, they parked in front of the house for students of African decent, and jeered at them, screaming Trump and Make America Great Again. When one student asked them to leave, they spit in her direction.

This is not my America, this is Trump’s America filled with hatred and bigotry. This is what he has provoked. Please help us get these faces out there, they cannot get away with this.

And this is just the tip of the ice burg. There are women afraid to leave the house in the hijab; women making appointments at Planned Parenthoods to get IUDs before our access to birth control, and our rights to choose, are further threatened; one member of the North Carolina LGBTQ community woke up to find a note on his car that read “Can’t wait until your ‘marriage’ is overturned by a real president. Gay families = burn in hell. Trump 2016.” And this is just the beginning. This is just 36-hours in. These are scary, scary times.

And so I head south. Away from a New York that no longer feels safe and into the unknown. I’m sure I will be fine but still, the nervous butterflies in my stomach are a little more active than the were just 2 days ago. Things seem less certain, more foreboding, and just, I don’t know, more treacherous. We all need to be more careful because a dragon has been awoken and that dragon has found his and her voice within mainstream media and our government, on the streets of our cities and our towns, and things will be a lot less safe for all of us. Every single one. Because if there is a Trump supporter who is reading this blog, and if that Trump supporter happens to be a white female (as so many maddeningly were) or a person of color, let me just tell you this:

Your vote will not save you. You cannot wear your vote as a badge of honor or protection as you move through your life. You might feel as though you are one of them but you are not. You are not part of their America. You are not equal. You are not free. And you are not safe. And so, though I might be angry and though I might not be ready to try to love you and embrace you in order to move forward, I hope that this horror blows over soon for all of us. Although honestly I doubt it will. We have a long uphill battle. And though on November 8th and the days immediately after you never thought you would be walking alongside us, you will be. Your pussies are just as grabable, your ethnicity and patriotism just as questionable, your skin color just as threatening.

I know that not all Trump supporters are awful or full of hate or voted for anyone else but who they believed would be the best person for the job. But the loudest ones, the ones in the corners of the internet, the ones touching women and threatening people of color, they are full of hate. Those are the bad ones. And so for those who voted not from a place of hate but from a place of fear and hurt, a fear and hurt that so many of us have been experiencing, you know what? We will be here. We will be here waiting for you because no one, no one deserves to be treated as lesser than. And we are, truly, stronger together.

So I’ll be seeing you, New York. Stay safe out there everyone. No matter where, or who, you are.

Last Night was Fucked.

9 Nov

I was going to write a post about how the work starts tomorrow. About how I will cry today, as I have been on and off since 9pm last night when I first realized this wasn’t going the way it should, but that tomorrow we lift ourselves up and we continue on our never-ending slog forward. That tomorrow we grab ourselves by the pussies and we keep on keeping on as we always have and as we always will. I was going to try and write a post with some modicum of hope buried within the words, something about love and hope and whatever. I hear you guys. And I see you guys. I see you writing that we need to combat this with love and I get that and that’s really nice and inspiring and in so many ways I want to agree with that so hard. But do you know what I think right now? Do you know what I want to say to all the people who voted for Trump?

FUCK YOU.

Seriously. Fuck you. Did I say it loud enough? Do I need to say it again? Because I will. Fuck you. I will say it over and over and over again. Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you. And in fact I wish I had a word stronger than fuck that I could hurl at your because honestly? I have no love for you. None.

Over the past few months I, along with most of my friends, have been absolutely appalled by the language that has come from our soon-to-be-President. As a Jewish woman and a sexual assault survivor, I have never felt less safe. The person that I will soon have to call my president, the leader of my country, shares anti-semitic posts and photos and talks about his long history of sexual assault against women. His ex-wife accused him of marital rape. He rages about suing the women who are bringing legitimate claims of sexual assault and misconduct against him. He calls our inner cities war zones, completely disempowering and belittling the people who have made their homes there, raised their families there, for generations. He is a hero of the ultra-right. Do yourself a favor, open up an incognito tab and go poke around some of the darkest corners of Twitter and Reddit. Read what they are saying because those people make up a good portion of who we heard from last night and who we will continue to have to fight against for the years to come. We have empowered the most disgusting version of our country and we have put them in charge of the government. And for those Trump supporters who don’t think their hero is a racist and an ableist and a homophobe and an antisemite and a misogynist? Then they simply don’t know what racism, ableism, homophobia, antisemitism and misogyny are. It means they don’t know who they themselves are, they don’t understand the rhetoric that they will tolerate, the people they will disempower, the fear that they sow.

So you know what? Today I am not going to reach out with love. And I probably won’t do it tomorrow or the next day either. As I said, I have no love for any of those people. The people who looked at their own struggles, and I believe those struggles to be real, and turned and pointed the finger at everyone else. Because we are all struggling. That struggle is far reaching and all-encompassing and we should be working to overcome that struggle together but instead, instead, we are setting ourselves back decades in social and economic policy and don’t even get me started on the environment. They are pointing the finger at women who might lose the right to choose; at Muslims who now fear for their safety more than ever; at the Black community who have had to get through every single day under the weight of deeply institutionalized racism; at Latinos who fear deportation; at the LGBTQ community who won a hard-fought battle for marriage equality and who work, day after day, to get the same respect afforded their neighbors; at Asian people who, inexplicably, get left out of conversations time and again, as if they aren’t here and haven’t been for a very, very long time; at Jewish people. Oh, the Jews. The canary in the fucking mineshaft. When anti-semitism, always bubbling under the surface, comes out unchallenged and unquestioned into mainstream conversation we pretty much know we’re fucked. Anyone who hates always, for some reason, hates the Jews. They just don’t oftentimes have the guts to come right out and say it but we’re there now. We’re here. We’re here and in a matter of weeks Donald Trump is going to be our president.

I hope you’re happy. And fuck you if you are.

So to all my friends who are with me today, who are let down and crying and trying to see the silver lining, maybe there isn’t one. We lost the presidency, the house, the senate and I bet all of a sudden that Supreme Court seat is going to get filled. I bet all of a sudden government is going to start getting shit done. These next few years, especially the first two, are going to be horrible. And I am terrified. But we will persevere. We will get through. The same as we always do. And to my friends living in Trumpland, please stay safe. There are a lot of us who love you, who walk alongside you and who will, if given the chance, protect you. Because there are a lot scarier things to be right now than a Jewish woman.

Oh, and while I’m at it, just real quick, can I stay an extra special, extra loud, extra bombastic FUCK YOU to all the white women, educated and not, who voted for Trump. Great fucking job. I’ll be thinking about you, and I’ll be cursing you, when I, along with many of my friends, get an IUD before we lose our healthcare and potentially our right to choose. You have no idea what you have done but you will, soon enough. We all will.

Okay I am going to stop for the moment but this is not it from me. I am going to be writing a lot more in the coming years. But I will never forget this feeling, this day, and I will never be more disappointed in my home, this country that today I barely recognize, the United States of America.

Dear Blood Manor

5 Nov

To Whom it May Concern:

My name is Rebekah and last Thursday after work my friend Jessy and I visited your establishment. For Jessy, who loves all things scary and apparently was not afraid of a movie called The Babadook (which, admittedly, I have never heard of and will never be seeing) this was an outing to be excited about. But for me? Totally different story. I agreed to go because I am always down for an adventure but immediately after agreeing I thought to myself,

Self, that was maybe the stupidest decision you ever made.

You see, I startle quite easily. If there is a thunder storm I jump at every single clap. You could say to me,

Rebekah, I am going to hide out around the corner of this hallway and then when you come down the hall and get to that outlet over there I am going to jump out and scream BOO!

And I will walk down the hallway, completely aware of your plan, and still have a near heart attack. It’s awful. I haven’t watched a scary movie since the 7th grade when a few of my girlfriends and I watched Psycho in the basement of my friend’s house. I didn’t sleep through the night for weeks afterwards and I still have flashbacks of that scene where Norman Bates watched the car sink in the lake whenever I see a bag of Raisinets. There was this one time, over a Labor Day weekend, when my roommates and my then-boyfriend were all out of town and I was home by myself and decided to have a Law and Order: SVU marathon in my bedroom. That night I had a dream that I was the victim in the show and that when I went on the witness stand I realized that the judge in the case was actually my attacker and I had to sit there and continue to testify while he stared at me and then all of a sudden <flash forward> and I was running through some dark, damp house and he was chasing after me with a hammer. Only he wasn’t running. He was walking, calmly, and I knew that he would eventually catch me because I was headed for the roof even though I am fully aware that people in these shows always head for the roof and that is their demise because once you get to the top of whatever building there is nowhere else to go but down or dead. Anyway, I woke up at that point and nearly gave myself a stroke from fear when I thought that a sweatshirt hanging over an open closet door was actually a homicidal maniac watching me sleep, waiting for the perfect moment to bash my head in. As you can imagine I am not well suited for haunted houses.

The days leading up to our visit were a blur of anxiety for me. I am not someone who likes to flake and I had given my word so I knew that barring a freak fire that I would have no role in igniting (….) I would be walking through that haunted house. And then, the day came. All day long I hoped my friend Jessy would forget (there was no way) or just become tired and decide she didn’t want to go (she is the energizer bunny!). I thought maybe she would smell the fear radiating off my body and think, well, maybe this isn’t the best idea. But no. There was no escape. So we got on the train and made our way to your house of ghouls, stopping for some liquid bravery en route.

Before I knew it we were waiting on line to enter. As if the screams coming from inside the building weren’t enough to ratchet up the anxiety level, there were some scary people milling about outside, working the line. There was the woman dressed up sort of like a demented Big Bird, the guy on stilts in something that looked like a zombie costume with a tiny little zombie head on its shoulder and gross-looking gauze dangling all over the place, and a lady in a bustier with dollar bills attached to her body, walking around with a stapler trying to entice us to staple dollars to her skin with real staples. I think maybe that requires repeating. She wanted us to use a real staple gun with actual, real metal staples to puncture her skin. There was blood. It was horrible. I hope she got a tetanus shot. There were two guys ahead of us in line who were amused by my fear and I think maybe thought I was flirting with them a little? I don’t know. It was weird. I mean, they couldn’t know this but I would never flirt with someone in line for a haunted house. How could I think about anything other than maintaining a certain level of calmness in the face of sure doom? I mean, I am a multitasker by trade but that is too much. Even for me.

And then, we got into the House. Everything was dark. And loud. There were laser lights. There was this weird robotic thing that was remote-controlled that would lean into you and blow gross, scary air on you as you walked by. Everyone knew I was afraid. Maybe it was the sweat. Maybe it was the eyes darting frantically to and fro. Or perhaps it was the fact that I was holding onto Jessy’s backpack for dear life, audibly weighing the option of walking through the entire house with my eyes closed like I did at those catacombs in Lima. As we began our adventure, they all came straight for me. The rooms were all decorated with gruesome scenes of torture chambers, demented clowns, circuses gone wrong. And then there were people, always people, impeding your progress with their bodies, getting onto your personal space, breathing on you, whispering not-so-sweet somethings into your ears. We darted around them. I felt like we were in a post apocalyptic version of Frogger. One of the dudes leaned into me and said

I am going to follow you home. I will find out where you live. I will rip you apart.

And this is where it all went from fun to maybe not-so-fun. Just so you know, owner of Blood Manor, this is something that we out in the world call triggering. As someone who has had a weird-o do regular drive-bys of my house when I was in high school, who was followed home here in Brooklyn and who was stalked to a hotel in a mountain town in Guatemala, the fear causing me to lose all access to the Spanish-speaking part of my brain, this was not received as emptily as it had been intended. My stomach dropped. My brain swirled. And then we encountered the angry gorilla man. We entered his lair and he herded us into the corner of the room. We looked around – every single door had an exit sign on it. Which way do we go?! How do we get out?! There were people walking towards us from every direction, looking lost. I couldn’t tell whether they were visitors like us or zombies, walking undeterred towards their next victims. I looked around and said, in a semi-panic,

Where do we go? Which way do we go?!

At that moment I sort of felt like maybe we would be in the house forever. And I didn’t know whether or not we could trust the demented gorilla man. Would he send us in the right direction? Would he tell us to go through a door only to lead us back into the room with the clowns, or worse, the one that looked like a root canal gone wrong?! But he didn’t do either of those things. He hissed

You’re fucking the whole thing up!

And called security. We almost got kicked out of the haunted house. Seriously. Jessy and I almost got ejected by a huge dude in black pants and a black, Blood Manor polo for being afraid of a dude in a weird gorilla suit. I felt like I had left Blood Manor and walked straight into Crazy Town. I looked at the security guard in utter disbelief and simply said,

We’re lost. All the doors have exits on them. And it’s dark. How are we supposed to know where to go?

He pointed at one of the three “exits” which led us into a room we had been through before. We walked around, the shine taken off, the fear evaporated. I looked around the room and rather than seeing gruesome scenes I saw poorly designed sets for underfunded plays. And instead of jumping from monsters and the orchestrators of torture chambers, I saw actors in face paint and gauze, simply trying to pay their rent. They got in our faces, we stared back at them dead-pan. There was no more fear, no more fun. We just wanted out. The gorilla man was a total buzz kill.

We emerged from the house pissed off, trying to figure out what we had done to be nearly ejected. Did we make it through the house too quickly, fucking up the flow? Did we make a wrong turn? Or did we just encounter a ghoul at the end of a long, arduous night, his patience on zero after dealing with scores of assholes, who took his anger out on the wrong people? Lord knows as bartenders we have been on the other side of that equation more than once.

It was a weird ending to what was a fun, albeit anxiety inducing, night. It made me think a lot about perception, about what we bring to the table when we enter an interaction, about what it must have been like for the people acting in the house. My ears were ringing from the loud noises for the rest of the night and into the next day and my eyes took a bit to adjust to normal lighting after spending the better part of 1/2 hour being visually assaulted by flashing bulbs and lasers. I can’t imagine it is a comfortable work environment. Or maybe the guy was just an asshole, not well-suited for his role as an undead gorilla. Either way I sort of feel like you ripped us off, Blood Manor. We will not be back next year. Maybe you should look to hire a new gorilla. Oh, and lose the triggering threats.

Rebekah

To Boston from a Runner

16 Apr

I am a runner.

It has taken me a really long time to say that.  I always thought that runners were the people faster than me, who ran more than me.  I thought they were people who made a living off of it or who at least won an award here and there.  But yesterday, after coming back from a run, I spent two hours in my sweaty clothes, glued to a livestream on my computer and reaching out to everyone I know who lives in Boston or has family there.  I fielded text messages from people asking if I knew, hoping I wasn’t in the race.  This is not to say that I have more of a right to be devastated about what happened at the finish line of one of the most celebrated marathons in the world.  It is just to say that for a second I thought, god, what if I was there.

My first thought when looking at the video was about the time on the finishing clock.  It read 4:09 when the first bomb went off.  Anyone who has run a marathon knows that around the 4 hour mark, plus and minus about 15-20 minutes, is when most people finish.  It is when the road is especially crowded; when runners are especially focused and fading; when spectators are especially excited, scanning the thousands of finishers for their friends and loved ones.  It was, in that way, a perfect attack.  It hit when emotions were at their peak, when the potential for casualties was highest.

So now I am reminded once again that we live in what some call a “post-9/11 world” and the marathon is the latest casualty.  Security will be tighter, I would imagine.  Will they monitor our bags more closely?  Will we have to take off our shoes when we enter the corrals lest we smuggle in an explosive?  Will spectators have to go through metal detectors?  The magic, I am afraid, will be gone.

Marathon Day in New York City is like a holiday for me.  I wake up early, I rush to my corner, I jump up and down to keep warm while I wait to be amazed by the elite runners and the tens of thousands that come after them.  I stand there for hours and I cheer until my hands hurt from clapping and my voice hurts from screaming.  It’s a day when people achieve a seemingly impossible distance.  When camaraderie is built between people who have never before met and who will likely never meet again.  It is a day when everyone gets to prove to themselves that all the work they did — those early mornings, those painful miles, those track workouts and hill repeats — was all worth it.  Now the beauty of it, the innocence of it, the simplicity of it, will forever be tainted.

We now live in a world where it seems unreasonable to not have escape roots for possible bombings at all major events.  To not have armed guards at entrances to schools and stadiums.  Maybe some of you think the way we act internationally made this inevitable.  Maybe you think our grief over Boston, over all the people maimed, scarred and killed, is hypocritical because we don’t pay that much attention to the scores of innocent people killed by the United States every year.  And you know what, you are partially right.  Our country is in the wrong a lot.  But the thing is, it is unreasonable to expect people not to be devastated and scared by this.  The point is, I think, that all lives are of equal value.  That does not mean we should feel less compassion for people killed for no reason in Boston because our government regularly and needlessly kills people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria.  It means we should feel more compassion for those killed abroad because we know what senseless violence feels like now.  Again.  We know what it is to be confused and petrified and angry.

So, I am a runner.  And I will run again tomorrow.  And I will be out there cheering the marathoners on come November here in New York and I will qualify, and run, the Boston Marathon.  Because that’s what runners do, we keep right on running.  And that’s what people do, we keep going on.

So all my love to Boston.  To the runners, the spectators, the families, friends, loved ones of all those impacted.  You are in my thoughts.  You will be on my mind through all the many miles I will run this spring.  And hopefully I will be there cheering or running sometime soon.