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Death Is Not All That It’s Cracked Up To Be

2 Feb

Judging from the title of the article, one might guess I am going to reflect and write about what feels like the death of a nation — the death of the United States. It certainly feels as though we are witnessing the demise of a nation– I thought we were so much better than this — I thought we were a nation that was working to eradicate racism, homophobia, misogyny, and hate. While there maybe some overlap, I am actually writing, reflecting, and processing my own death.

I need to record this because I am still processing all of what happened and I am afraid the current political climate of the United States has hurt, delayed, and undermined my ability to recover. At the same time, I have never experienced such unconditional love and caring: a love that has carried me through all of this, a love that makes me cry even while writing this. I have learned and witnessed how human beings step up or sadly step back during a health crisis. Fortunately for me, the number of people who have stepped up with such enormous love is too many for me to list. The people in my family of origin who have stepped back and have been completely absent has hurt me in such a profound way, I hardly have words to share or express the hurt, so I shall focus on the love I am able to bask in instead.

Yes, I have been quite busy in the past four months. I was diagnosed with cancer in September and then had cancer surgery in November. By December, I was recovering from cancer and finally reached a space of reflection of “I’m grateful the surgery went well. I don’t want to do the chemo. I hope the cancer does not come back.” Quite unfortunately, on Wednesday, December 20 at around 5:30 in the morning, I had the first of two massive heart attacks. The night before I had enormous pain through out my right leg but thought nothing of it. Now I suspect, it was the blood clots that moved from my leg into my lungs and caused the heart attacks.

My husband Robert found me on the bathroom floor. According to the paramedics and an amazing and wonderful team of doctors at OHSU in Portland, this was the first time I was dead. I know was resuscitated at some point because I heard a man’s voice ask my husband: “Was he like that or did you throw a bucket of water on him?” I honestly remember thinking what a stupid question. Yes, as is typical protocol, my husband threw a bucket of water on me when he thought, “Hmm, Michael seems to have had a heart attack. I shall throw a bucket of water on him and see if that does the trick.”  The next thing I heard was a man’s voice saying: “Okay, he has turned blue.” Honestly, I really did think to myself, “Well, that can’t be good.”

At this point, I truly thought this is it and I’m going to die. All I could think of was that I needed for my husband Robert to know and to hear how much I loved him. I needed for my last words to be, “I love you very much, Robert.” Thankfully, he heard me. I remember maybe all of 10 seconds in the ambulance and apparently my heart stopped again. In the short ride to OHSU hospital on Pill Hill, apparently they were able to resuscitate me again. Rather sadly, as I was told by the doctors and nurses, my heart stopped yet again before reaching the hospital. The rest is what was reported to me by the amazing medical team at OHSU.

Apparently, I was dead for 30 minutes. The team and the social worker told my husband Robert that I continued to have no heartbeat and continued to be unresponsive. They intubated me at some point. They were going to try a machine that basically does CPR, which they did for 30 minutes. During this whole process, unfortunately, six of my ribs were broken and my sternum was broken. Yes, I will just say an emphatic OUCH! As a side note: we just received the bill for just the emergency room and the bill is for $72,000 — yes, almost as much as my first home cost in Atlanta. Now reader, I ask you this: Does it not seem like I need to ask for a rebate for the 30 minutes I was dead? Why should I pay for services if I was dead? Or, can they at least pro-rate the amount owed?

Being Dead: I must admit that I have always been one of those people that was quite skeptical when hearing stories from various people or reading stories about people’s experiences when they were dead and before coming back to life. Now I have my own narrative about dying and coming back to life. I know it to be true and I can only ask that you make of it what you will.  I do know that I was dead. I was processing it while it happened. My exact thoughts, if one wants to call them thoughts, were: “Well, that did not work out.” I know I left my body and I remember knowing, well I am dead. I also remember I did not seem to have a name, nor did I have a body. Strangely, I felt very safe with no anxiety, no fear, and no worry. I was quite at peace. Yes, I did see the proverbial “white light.” I would not have described it as a Heavenly light, but it was quite intense and it was all I could see. The light did seem to have a center and I remember walking towards the center of the light despite the fact that I did not have a body. Once I reached the center of the light, I knew intuitively that I had two options. I could go to the right or go to the left. At this point, I could sense Robert to the left. I did not hear him saying anything, nor could I see him but I knew his name and the sensation was so strong, I knew I needed to go to the left towards Robert. The next thing I remember was that I was in the ICU.

One of the gifts I received from coming back to life was the ability to witness human beings doing their jobs in ways that for me seemed magical, and I reflected and shared with all of the people who were amazing how magical they are. For example, the first nurse I remember in the ICU was named Anna. She was so lovely and sensitive with me. Anna and everyone I encountered in the hospital remarked how lucky I was and how absolutely amazing it was that I was actually alive. At some point, Anna was on the phone and I heard her say: “No, no, he is here. I am here with him right now. I am talking to him.” Anna shared with me that the paramedics who came to my home to try and save me had called the hospital to offer that they did the best they could do and they were sorry. When she told me this, I remember saying please thank them for me! Later, Anna shared with me they thought I was dead, as I was dead when they dropped me off at the hospital.

Another person who made such a huge difference was Dr. Kathy Wonderly — how appropriately named, as she is a true wonder. Dr. Wonderly came in and asked if she could sit on my bed with me and rubbed my legs and echoed (this seems to have been the chorus in a Greek play, as everyone human being I encountered in the hospital kept saying) how lucky I was to be alive. She then touched my hand and asked if there was anything she could do to to be helpful. I cracked a political joke and she laughed and said she would do her best. I have to underscore the power of touch here. Dr. Wonderly’s empathic ability to touch my legs and touch my hand had a profound impact on me. I am certain it helped me heal and made me feel safe.

My friends Janet and Sara were also with me every day in the hospital and would hold my hand (honestly, I think Janet was also searching me for spare change, for I have seen her search through my cupboards and steal my good china) which also helped me heal. I also have to share that my colon surgeon Dr. Herzig is nothing less than a gift to the world. He made a special visit to say hi to me and offer his well wishes and his sadness about the heart attacks. As an aside, I typically do not like surgeons. However, Dr. Herzig made me fall in love shortly after my cancer surgery. He came to check on me the day after he performed the surgery and asked if I was okay and if I needed anything. I replied that I was actually quite upset with him and said: “Dr. Herzig, I am really quite upset with you. I came in for a face lift, eye lift, and neck lift, and it is clear that you focused all of your energy on my stomach.” To which he immediately replied: “No, that’s right. We are just working our way up.” How many surgeons do you know that are that witty? I was so exceedingly lucky to experience so many people who just do their jobs everyday but they are quite remarkable and so exceedingly compassionate, at least that was my experience.

Love Fest: When I was finally discharged and was allowed to return home, it was clear that I was not allowed to be alone and would need a great deal of care. Robert had already taken so much time off for my cancer stay and heart attacks stay at the hospital, he could not take any more time off. Family of origin not only did not bother to call me, there was no way they were going to offer to come and help Robert and me. Sadly, my birth dad, whom I shall refer to as the sperm donor, for that is as generous as I can be toward him, was completely absent when he found out I had cancer. His absence continued when my baby brother let him know about the two heart attacks. Strangely, his girlfriend, who is quite lovely, called almost every day to check on me and on Robert. She also made apologies for the sperm donor’s horrific behavior. (The sperm donor had his feelings hurt two years ago when I called to wish him a happy thanks giving and my in-laws called in while I was on the phone. I explained that I had to take the call so that I could talk to my in-laws. The sperm donor went into a rage and said how dare I take their call, for they are not my blood and he is my blood. One should note that the sperm donor had no contact with me for decades. He was a very physically abusive man to me and to my mom when I was a little boy.) I explained to his girlfriend that if he could not set aside his narcissistic injury when his son was dealing with cancer and two heart attacks, I have no use for his abusive self. She just kept apologizing. I honestly feel quite bad for her, as it must be awful to see the true character or lack of character of your partner in life.

Enough bad energy, I have been able to also witness how people step up during a crisis and show up no matter what and are available with love, patience, food, books, and just sitting with me. All my friends in Portland have been amazing gifts and I am forever in their debt. All my friends that flew in from all over the country to help take care of me, I am forever in their debt. I am able to truly live and walk in gratitude.  I am also in awe of my husband Robert. I have a life partner who not only saved my life twice, but has been so supportive all while trying to deal with his own trauma around the past four months.

Healing: While trying to heal and with extraordinary physical limitations, I knew I had to stop listening and watching the news. Trump and the GOP represent all that is the worst of humanity and the daily assaults from these sociopaths was too much. The racism, the misogyny, the homophobia it was too much for me, to the point I wondered if perhaps I should not have come back to life. One particular assault by Trump and supported by the GOP was the Religious Freedom Act: that health care workers could deny LGBT/queer people like me services based on their religious beliefs. I am so grateful I live in Oregon and that this act has not passed yet. Thus I had to do something else and try as best I could to stop exposing myself to Fascist America.

Because reading has been hard while on pain meds, what I found extraordinarily healing was I watched Netflix’ seasons one and two of The Crown at least 30 times. I love Claire Foy. I also watched Netflix’ Latinx reboot of One Day at a Time season one at least 30 times. I am in love with Justina Machado and Isabella Gomez.  I have to say that I am now watching season two of the Latinx One Day at a Time and it gives me hope! Season two, for me, is what the United States can really be. We can be a country that works to tap into shared humanity, a country that works to encourage and support all people, that we can be a country that can lead the movement for social justice — to expand civil liberties. We can resist hate; we can resist fascism.

Finally, I will conclude with a simple thank you to all of the human beings who have touched my life for the better. When I die, and I will, I want there to be people who will reflect and say I touched their lives for the better — that I helped to make the world a better place for all human beings. I now challenge all of us to work to be our best selves, to be engaged in making the world a better place and to not engage in hate, or talk of building walls, or justifying “there were some good Nazis.” We can do so much better than this. Let us work in community to make some huge changes in 2018. I implore you to vote during the midterm elections in November of 2018! I also need to share how grateful I am to my husband Robert! This song from Emile Sandé is for Robert.

With great love and affection,

Michael

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GOP Tax Plan: A Complete Social Restructuring of the United States

4 Dec

Welcome to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, 500 pages of far-right dreams smashed together in two weeks and rushed to a vote in the middle of the night. While there is an enormous amount of this plan that we should all be mortified about — specifically how it hoards wealth for the top 20% of Americans and steals money from the poor and middle class — there is far more going on here, much of which has little to do with tax “reform.”  I worry that most people are not paying attention to everything it does over time, as evidenced by the fact that most of the people who voted to rush this through have not even read the whole plan, nor have there been any substantive hearings or analysis provided. This massive document is also difficult to read because much of the marginalia is hand written scribbles, eliminating even concerned senators’ ability to read and understand the implication of the entire document before voting on it.

In addition to the sociopathic maldistribution of wealth this plan secures, the social ramifications are profound and are antithetical to what we have worked so hard to accomplish in the ways of equity in the past 100 years.  For example, this plan includes Medicare reductions that will end cancer treatment for people on Medicare. Yes, you read that correctly. This sounds like a death panel to me, and it should not come as a surprise, given that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have been working to dismantle Medicare for years now. Oh, and as an added bonus it eliminates the Individual Mandate from the Affordable Care Act, basically robbing 13 MILLION Americans of coverage.

As outlined in the Chronicle of Higher Education, this bill creates even more barriers for people who are not in the top 20% of Americans to afford a college education. For example, this bill puts additional taxes on charitable donations to colleges that allow for financial aid. Small liberal arts colleges are heavily dependent on charitable gifts to survive. The message is quite clear, the GOP does not value education, as further evidence that Betsy DeVos is the secretary of Education. People do your homework here! Obviously, the lack of access to eduction benefits the GOP, as it encourages ignorance and precludes critical thinking skills: skills that would allow people to ask questions of the government, the people that are supposed to be public servants.

Another alarming part of this bill — so alarming I needed to get my smelling salts just to be able to write this — is the reversal of The Johnson Amendment. Yes, this is part of the Religious Freedom Act (specifically Christian agenda freedom) coming from the far right wing, which now controls our government. The Johnson Amendment, created by LBJ in 1954, prohibits all non-profits, or what is called a 501 (c) (3) from making any type of political endorsement or stand to lose their tax exempt status. Trump and his henchmen are now about to reverse this in this tax plan, but ONLY for churches, allowing them to become tax-free lobbying organizations. So much for separation of church and state.

The bill slashes the corporate tax rate, eliminates the bulk of the estate tax, and changes “pass-through” business taxation in a way that benefits only the wealthiest of business owners. These changes are PERMANENT. The tweaks that MIGHT make a small change for poor and middle class taxpayers expire within the first three years. At the end of ten years, the vast majority of households making $75,000 or less will see their taxes rise, often by 20% or more.

Many deductions are eliminated or severely curtailed including bike-to-work incentives, moving expenses, most mortgage and home sale deductions, tax preparation deductions, and disaster relief deductions. State and local tax deductions are greatly reduced, penalizing blue states that fund federal programs for red states.

The bill will increase the deficit by at LEAST $1 TRILLION. So much for the party of fiscal responsibility. Deficit hawks like Sen. Flake and Sen McCain (the Arizona Stooges) believe that wealth will trickle down as businesses have more revenue, even though EVERY major corporation interviewed has indicated that the vast majority of this revenue will be used to pay bonuses and reward stockholders, giving no benefit to the average American. Sen. Murkowski sold out her constituents in exchange for getting drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Yeah, that’s a tax issue… Sen. Collins accepted a fig leaf promise for a vote someday on an ACA bill that won’t come close to solving the problems caused by the loss of the individual mandate. Sens. Johnson and Daines pretended that minor changes to the pass-through rules would help small business owners. Overall, over 20% of Republican Senators had major objections to the bill but voted for it with vague changes and vaguer promises.

The most nefarious impact is yet to come. As that big deficit hole comes into reality, Republicans will certainly use it to insist on austerity measures. This is a feature, not a bug. As the deficit grows, they will insist that Social Security, medicaid, and medicare be slashed to balance the budget.

Our only hope for derailing this monstrosity is putting pressure on the conference process that will reconcile the House bill (awful in many different ways) with the Senate abomination. Getting the House to accept all the little tweaks and odditities may be difficult, and losing them may make the final bill impossible to pass again in the Senate.

TAKE ACTION: Contact your Representative and Senators and demand that they stop this horrible bill. It’s not tax “reform”, it won’t serve the middle class, it crushes the poor, and it includes elements that will reshape the social network and basic protections that we rely on today into something mean, nasty, and unrecognizable.

Walking in Gratitude: Thanksgiving 2017

23 Nov

While I am trying to walk in gratitude and be thankful right now, I must confess that it is a struggle. I am exceedingly grateful that I had successful cancer surgery and for all of the many people in my life who have been so loving and so supportive of me! And, I am struggling that now they want me to do six months of chemo. My struggle regarding chemo pales in comparison with how I am struggling to survive living in the United States with a bizarre monster for a president, and today I am committed to being in a place of love and gratitude.

Trump’s support of Roy Moore is nothing less than monstrous. Alas, for today, I offer an invitation to all people: invite some joy and some gratitude. For those of us who are truly fatigued by the Trump administration  and his putting party before country, can we know that we are not going to change the hearts or minds of his base supporters. What we can do is show up in bigger numbers to the polls.

But for today, can we tap into shared humanity and be grateful? I am going to try and hold the messiness and the tension of the horrific ways in which we have treated and still treat native peoples, while also walking in extraordinary gratitude for the amazing and lovely people in my life — people who provide light and love and sustenance for my soul, for my heart is full.

I will hold the tension of our history and invite joy at the same time. I am reflecting on how we collectively, as Americans, conveniently choose to forget the genocide of the native peoples living in North America – the use of bio-warfare?  Yes, multi-generations of white folk have benefitted from the slaughtering of indigenous populations in North America and stealing land. It is ironic that the early survival of the Plymouth colony depended so heavily on the agricultural and fishing advice of the Wampanoag. To all the GOP governors who say “no” to Syrian refugees, I remind you that you wouldn’t have states to defend in bellicose, racist, and — yes — unconstitutional rants if a certain set of religious refugees had been treated similarly 500 years ago.

The whole idea of a “first Thanksgiving” is historically murky at best, with both religious and civil harvest festivals easily traceable to the Spanish in St. Augustine and British colonies in Jamestown and Plymouth. The native populations also had histories of harvest festivals, thus rendering a colonizer’s claim of “first” another in a series of misappropriations. Regular Thanksgiving celebrations as fixed civil events became common much later, dating to the 1660s.

As with so much of early colonial American history, most of what we “remember” is filtered through centuries of creative reconstruction: bucolic paintings, myths of noble savages and honest oppressed British outcasts, grade school songs and pageants. It is understandable that we prefer not to dwell on our collective responsibility for the decimation of whole populations, but it is an important part of our nation’s history. The colonizers’ relationship with the native populations was complex (and occassionally grateful) but seldom benefitted the natives and almost certainly did not involve everybody sharing a lovely meal around a table in peace.

Let us not forget this was no mere land grab but a decimation of Holocaust proportions. Our mistreatment of the indigenous peoples in North America went on well into the 20th Century with the Termination Act, Allotment, and the creation of Boarding Schools where white people thought their job was to “kill the Indian to save the man.”

The root idea of Thanksgiving — shared by the Europeans and the indigenous peoples — as a celebration is a good one. Be thankful for what you have; celebrate the cherished loved ones in your life; take time to remember what is good and bountiful with no expectations of gain other than shared love and thanks. Let us move forward as a nation, correctly learning, remembering, and growing from our history. Let us work hard to return to this spirit of Thanksgiving. It need not be buried in any trivia: upcoming shopping orgies (conspicuous consumption), 437 sporting events, overindulgence for its own sake, or cute “historical” imagery that overlooks a complex history.

We all have people and events in our lives worthy of celebration; that is what we should use today to be truly thankful for. I hope everyone reading this blog will be able to spend time with cherished loved ones, be it families of origin or families and communities we create. I leave you with this a song by Emeli Sandé, Highs and Lows, for I am so grateful for all the people in my life that love and support me through the good and the difficult times.

Cancer During the Trump Era

9 Oct

I was just recently diagnosed with cancer, specifically colon cancer. I am still processing what this means and how it will impact me and my family. A good bit of me says “fuck cancer,” but a large part of me is just simply terrified. As my friends and family are gathering around me to support me, they insist that”I have the strength to beat cancer,” which keeps being echoed. I’m not sure I believe this–and I have serious doubts I can beat cancer during 45’s administration. I need to let everyone know that that the artwork shown at the end of the article was done by some former students, now friends/colleagues of mine–thank you Erin and Nick. I love you both!

In the context of living in the US during 45’s reign of terror, being diagnosed with cancer is making me wonder if perhaps this is my time to go. Being barraged everyday with another assault on human rights by a narcissistic autocrat is quite wearing on one’s emotional (and obviously physical) health. The intense racism, homophobia, misogyny, and classism have been more than just revolting: they speak to the very worst in humans. I must confess, this is not the world I want to live in and the fatigue of 45 is real. I also constantly worry I do not know how to adequately take care of those whom I love and love me. I know people that love me are scared and I struggle with how to care for all of these wonderful amazing people.

While hurricane Maria wreaks havoc on Puerto Rico (an American Territory), 45 has the chutzpah to blame the country and even worse, to blame the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz. (How dare you be a strong and smart woman!) On a side note, one should mention that Trump helped to contribute to the debt of Puerto Rico when he abandoned his golf course there and left the people of Puerto Rico with the 33 million dollar debt he created. To further push his racist agenda, 45 thinks he is on a television show again and wants NFL owners to fire the black athletes who kneel in protest of the racism people of color experience daily in the United States. 45’s exact words: “Fire the Son of a Bitch”–my how presidential. It is very difficult for me not to hear this as: Hey, all you white owners, you need to tell all of these black people how lucky they have it to work on the field.

More discouraging news which does not encourage one to fight any type of cancer: Gollum, I mean AG Jeff Session just found a way to allow employers not to cover the cost of birth control for women, but will continue to cover the cost of medication for men to have an erection. This all falls in alignment with what misogynist and homophobe Mike Pence has been promising around Religious Freedom, a.k.a the justification to hate and deny people their civil rights. In an effort to spread more hate and venom, on October 6, Sessions issued a 25 page memo that outlines how all business can now legally discriminate against people in the LGBTQ community under “religious freedom,” meaning Christianity. Who would Jesus Hate? This memo supported by 45 is one of the most significant bills of hate. Of course, the insane Spin Doctor 45 responded to this proposed bill with: “his administration will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore.” Wow! I have no words on how to address this twisting of power and the ability to sustain a white supremacist, homophobic, misogynistic power structure. If you are not actively resisting this mishigas, you are NOT an ally to targeted communities. Here is where I will agree with Rex Tillerson: “Trump is a fucking moron.” I have to also agree with GOP Bob Corker referring to the  “Whitehouse as an adult day care center.” Wow! I just agreed with two Republicans.

Yes, as you can see, there is not a great deal of motivation to fight cancer given the overwhelming amount of power that normalizes HATE, normalizes homophobia, normalizes racism, normalizes misogyny, and vilifies any type of journalism that tries to hold 45 and his white robed cabinet accountable. It’s so hard to believe that all of this has happened in just one week, the week since I received my diagnosis.

And yet! And yet I am going to fight in ways that people better be scared of me! I am 50 years old and I don’t believe I have said “Fuck You” to enough people. I have not shown enough active resistance to tyranny. Now is my time. I shall call this cancer “45,” and I shall fight it until I kick its ass and defeat it. My ability to defeat this cancer will signify that communities all over the country can use our power to love each other and embolden targeted communities–we can tap into our shared humanity and refuse to live in fear. “I ain’t dead yet.” Stay tuned!

Trump Pardons Martin Shkreli: Shkreli to Head Department of Health and Human Services

18 Sep

I have conflicted feelings regarding the seemingly united sense of schadenfreude that Shkreli is doing jail time for his sociopathic behavior. In the wake of the Presidential pardon of the law-breaking racist Joe Arpaio, it does not seem like that big of a leap for 45 to pardon Shkreli and then appoint him as the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, given the composition of the rest of the appointments — Betsy DeVos, Rick Perry, Ben Carson, Scott Pruitt, Jeff Session and the rest of the Basket of Deplorables. The common denominator for all of his appointments is racism, homophobia, and misogyny.

Action we can take now is to keep trying to contact your senators and representatives and start looking at the 2018 midterm elections.

A Nation In Jeopardy

25 Aug

My husband and I just returned from Iceland — what a sad return. While away from the United States, we tried to be unplugged regarding the ever hastening downward spiral of the American government under Trump. Sadly, we could not escape, as the whole world is watching this “reality show” — this buffoonery. What is profoundly sad is that it is not a reality show. Our journey to another country, visiting with some really lovely people from around the world, only confirmed what I already knew. We are now being led by a fascist government that denies climate change and dismantles every agency created to aid people living in this country — which is further normalizing homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, anti-Semitism, and racism. We are a nation in jeopardy and the whole world is watching our decline.

The first week away we learned that Trump was threatening North Korea. His threats were so scary that the quite undignified Rex Tillerson had to make public statements to assure people not to panic, which was met by Trump declaring his threats “did not go far enough.” A few days later Trump’s defense of Nazis on August 12 and the refusal of nefarious sycophant Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to censure the President provide a very clear indication that the government of the United States certainly holds a Nazi/White Supremacist world view. I feel the need to note here that the United Nations officially condemned Trump’s response to the white terrorism in Charlottesville.

Trump’s white supremacist defense did not go unnoticed by the global community we were traveling with in Iceland. One of our tour guides, a native Icelander, talked with us over lunch. He casually said: “It seems like your country has some real problems with racism and gay people.” All we could say was, “Yes, yes we do.” I know my face was one of despair and I was grateful that Hilmar felt comfortable talking about politics with us. This government has turned all rational U.S. citizens into ambassadors for the best of our country.

One of the families we were traveling with, and became friends with, was a family from Washington, DC, who came to the U.S. from southeast Asia. Their son attends Virginia Tech. They told us stories of how their son has been repeatedly harassed by police because of the color of his skin. Those personal stories painfully echoed the news from Charlottesville.

It has been particularly alarming to see the Nazi swastikas appearing all over the nation. Trump has blamed the media — his “fake news” — for dividing the nation. I fear I have lost all respect for anyone who believes this horrific lie. Sadly, regardless of how many lies Trump delivers, his base of support will not be swayed. Even more disturbing is that the beliefs held by Nazis are being subscribed to by an increasing population in the United States: it is about to reach double digits.

As if to bring all of this home to us, upon returning to the United States we were met with great hostility and homophobia as we tried to go through Customs. There are signs that let people know you are to go through Customs as a family. My husband and I approached the agent as a family. US Customs Agent Lee looked at us with a look on his face as though he just smelled something painfully acrid. (I imagine he caught a whiff of his own noxious odor.) After a few minutes of silence and us just standing there, Customs Agent Lee (yes, I am using his real last name) pointed a finger at us and said: “So the two of you men live together?” At this point, I had to try very hard not to lose my temper and call this homophobic piece of hell out.

I was painfully aware that he had great power and could refuse our re-entry into the United States, so I kept silent and just affirmed that yes, my husband and I live together. All I could think about was: “Well, we are certainly living in Trump’s America.  Surely, we must be better than this?” My husband and I are U.S. citizens, returning from a vacation. Imagine how people like Agent Lee abuse their power to oppress and reject immigrants, refugees, and other targeted communities!

Sadly, the hits keep coming. Trump’s latest Klan rally in Phoenix included more threats to muzzle the free press. He defended career racist and convicted racial profiler Joe Arpaio, hinting that he would pardon him. He demands that Congress fund his racist boondoggle of a wall, threatening to shut down the whole government if he doesn’t get his way. And still Congressional leaders support him. Paul Ryan refuses to censure Trump’s nasty words in the name of “unity” — this from a man who promised four years of pointless investigations if he had to serve under President Hillary Clinton. For all that the press love to talk about the war between Trump and McConnell, Sen. Turtle continues to make mealy-mouthed assurances about a “shared agenda.” How nice that he wants to share an agenda of hate.

This strife resonates with me every day. I am the Executive Director of EqualityWorks, NW, an agency that works towards global equity for targeted communities. Never have I seen the need for the work I do to be so vital and intense. As the director, I want to invite people struggling to take action and resist this administration and to reflect on how power works, specifically white,male, heteronormative, “Christian”, patriarchal power. Take action and create space for the voices of targeted communities.

I also want to emphatically disavow the hate and venom being spewed by Trump, Pence, Ryan, McConnell, Sessions, and all of those refusing to put this administration in check. I invite us all to resist and to also try to tap into our shared humanity, albeit our shared humanity does not appear very humane at present.

45 Fatigue: The Struggle Is Real

30 Jul

Somehow I thought for sure this alone would have prevented 45 from moving forward, that his mocking a person with a disability would have been enough. Then I thought his bragging about “grabbing a woman by the pussy” would have been enough to stop him. Sadly, this is who we are stuck with currently and who is destroying Democracy on a daily basis. I do wonder how on earth are people able to live with themselves for voting for such a monster.

As I mentioned in my last article, I believe most of the nation is currently experiencing some serious 45 Fatigue — most of us in the nation are currently on edge, pugnacious, unsettled, anxious, depressed, angry, or any combination of the above. And it is not just those of us who identify as progressives who are feeling the pain. I am experiencing people all over the political spectrum who are struggling — as Ru Paul’s Kennedy Davenport said: “The struggle is real.”

I have some friends/family in Georgia who have been lifelong Republicans who are feeling the pain and disappointment. I suspect many Republicans are in mourning, for they are now realizing the party they believed in has been obliterated by 45, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell.

One can’t even keep up with the daily barrage of bizarre goings on and the continued human rights violations that we are kept abreast of via Twitter, because that is now the way the President of the United States communicates with us. First, 45 and his administration came for our Muslim friends and family, then they came for the Latino community, then 45 came after the journalists, and scientists, then he came after the poor and tried to strip away health care for millions, then he came after all of us in the LGBT community. I hardly know how to cope. What’s more, I have daily reminders that my family members who supported and still support 45 are responsible for this destruction.

Apparently, there is and will always be approximately 25% of the population that will always support 45 regardles. This population is implacable and also sadly misinformed and guided by fear, racism, misogyny, and homophobia.  Sadly, 45 and his followers have only proven they are, in fact, deplorable. Of course, this hurts my heart more than I can express. It hurts my heart that the behavior we witness daily could be acceptable to anyone. 45’s appointment of Scaramucci is nothing less than appalling and only helps to normalize a vulgar society. I’m sure Scaramucci is only too happy to be 45’s work wife, or is he the Mini-Me for 45?

As I said, I can’t even recount all of what has happened in just the past week. Do I start with his inappropriate behavior with his speech to the Boy Scouts, whom he apparently thought were his Trumpenjugend? Do I address the transphobia? Do I focus on his encouraging police to increase brutality? How about bullying his loyal attack dog, Jeff Sessions or firing Reince Priebus? Blindsiding military commanders in hateful tweets that led them to believe we might be headed for war? I am having difficulty coping, as I know the rest of the 75% of the nation is right now. It is clear Scaramucci is an echo chamber for 45 and is helping to normalize vulgarity, as though this were some how Presidential? Yes, national television and radio are broadcasting Scaramucci’s speeches: “What I want to do is fucking kill all of the leakers…I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock.”  This from the new Director of Communications, sanctioned by 45. Wow! I have no words.

What is helping me endure this nightmare is watching television shows like: The Good Fight, Daytime Divas, Ru Paul’s Dragrace, and Samantha Bee. What are you doing to cope? How can we support each other? How can we be loving of ourselves, and of each other? I am going to work hard to invite joy into my life. I hope all of you find ways of creating and sustaining joy. Peace, Michael.

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