Monday, May 31, 2010

Dear Indiana Meteorologists:

This is why we can't have nice things.

Take a wild guess precisely where in central Indiana we are right now.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


A lot of people I know hold the (in my opinion, rather unnecessarily extreme) position that nobody needs to own guns, and that things would be better if nobody did. These people are usually the sorts of well-meaning leftists that I agree with on damn near everything else.


Here are the facts: I don't need some middle-class, white, nominally-Christian straight man telling me that I am safe without a gun. What does he know? Does he live with a target on his back because he's a woman? Because I do. Does he live with a target on his back because he's an ethnic or religious minority? No? Because I do, at least in the latter case. Does he live with a target on his back because there are seriously people in this country arguing we should burn fags not flags? Does he live with a target on his back because he's poor and nobody cares what happens to poor people?

Then why in the world should I let him look me in the eye and tell me that I'll be okay without a knife in my pocket? Without a gun in my bedside table? He lives in a completely different universe than I do, a universe in which nothing about him screams, "If you brutalize me, nobody will care."

I don't want to hear from that guy that I don't need a gun. Let him live in a world where a glance, a word, or a gesture can be a threat, and then he can tell me when I should feel safe, and what I should need to make that happen.

After all, what could possibly be scarier to the gay-hating misogynist theocrats who want people like me to disappear than the idea of gays with guns? It's been suggested that this is the real reason why people are afraid to have gays serve openly in the military: the potential horror of a half dozen men with M16s turning around and asking, "Who you callin' a faggot?"

Newsflash to the TEA Party: Middle-class straight Christian white people aren't the ones under siege. It's us.

Gun rights for everybody means for me, even if it means I'm protecting myself against the racist paranoid conspiracy theorists in the NRA who fought hardest for those rights in the first place. Thanks, guys. Now stay off my goddamn lawn.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


This came up because someone asked me what I thought of PETA the other day.

My paternal grandfather moved to Massachusetts from Sicily. I seem to recall that he was a firefighter or something, but because he and my paternal grandmother were both married to other people, there isn't a lot of information about him to be had. My biological father reconnected with his half-siblings after his father's death, and I heard that this was kind of done in a... sort of crass manner. Knowing him, he probably walked in with a big sense of entitlement to the family he never had so everybody start loving him, damn it.

My mother's side is more complicated, and it's more interesting because we have more detail about it.

She did some geneology tracing, for which I am grateful. Means we have records of a lot of cool stuff now. Her great-grandfather (whom I remember, though he died when I was very young) was half-Kennebec (a tribe which was absorbed into the Penobscot, which was part of the Eastern Abenaki confederacy, for those of you who are curious in the whatnots and whyfores). He was a "half-breed" at a time when you DID NOT WANT to be of mixed-race. I guess he didn't like to talk about it, but I think my mother managed to make some connections anyway. I have a small sweetgrass basket and a silver and turquoise (and porcupine quill?) necklace that she was given to keep for me until I was old enough, and I do indeed still have them.

That was actually the source of my first little "a-ha" moment, the beginning of whatever racial consciousness I can claim. We were there for some kind of circle dance, and I remember being aware that it was important not to break the circle, not to leave, but I REALLY REALLY REALLY HAD TO PEE AND OMG I HAD TO PEE and I was a little girl so they laughed and said it was okay and I went back to their trailer to use the bathroom.

They had towels drying on a rack in the tub. There was a Barney towel. This blew my mind. INDIANS HAD BARNEY, TOO. It was then that it hit me. This world of beautiful jewelry and skilled crafting and dancing and reunions was actually the same world I lived in. Their kids watched the same television shows, whined in the store for their parents to buy them the same sorts of TV-inspired towels I owned (Power Rangers bath towels REPRESENT).

My mother traced her grandparents' ancestors back, and found that we've basically always been New Englanders. A ship came to our Eastern shore in the sixteen-hundreds (though I don't recall the year), and on that ship was an ancestor of my great-grandmother, and of my great-grandfather. New England is a small small world. When my great-grandparents met, did they realize that their ancestors might have known each other? Stuck on a boat for weeks or months at a time, how could they not?

Then things get fuzzier, and there may have been a union between a French royal and his favorite whore in there somewhere, but who knows. Makes a funny story, but I don't think there's good evidence to be had on that one either way.

As a nod to my Italian heritage, I took four semesters of Italian in college. It was the language that my grandfather's family spoke, and I wanted to know some of the rhythm of the words that would have seemed so familiar and automatic to them. I wanted to know how my grandfather's parents told each other that they loved each other. I wanted to know what they called their son when he was a boy.

My Native American heritage requires something a little more complicated. It requires that I at least learn SOMETHING from what European colonists did to Native American nations living in North America, doesn't it?

My lesson is this: Oppression matters because it's always closer to you than you think. You think you're a white New Englander whose ancestors didn't even own slaves like those bastard savage southerners? You think being from New England, where we fought in the Revolution and refused to own slaves, means that oppression is something that other people did to other people? It's closer than you think.

When movies like Dances with Wolves and AVATAR tell us that everything would have been different if Native Americans had just had a white guy to lead them in every battle and every negotiation, their lives wouldn't have been taken over and run by white people, I boggle and think, "How the hell dare you?" Because you're not talking about people who don't exist anymore, whose fates are mere hypotheticals. You're arguing about people who are still struggling to own themselves and their own lives, who are still fending off white people who want to come in and gobble them up until there's nothing left but whitewhitewhite. You're not telling people who are totally unlike me that they don't think right, and need somebody who can think a little "whiter" before they can succeed; you're telling people like me that they don't think right.

When a bunch of rich white celebrities from PETA come in to tell Native sealhunters that their culture marks them as animal-abusing savages, and that if they want to be good people they should chuck their culture and use the land like white people do (and yes, there are people who miss the monstrous irony in white people telling Natives how to live sustainably), I can't say, "those sealhunters aren't like me." Because they are. They may not be related to me, we may never meet, and they'd probably not see me as kin if we did. But damn it, those are my people you're shitting on, PETA, and you knock it the hell off.

When museums talk about Native Americans like they stepped out of history in the eighteen-hundreds and into museum dioramas where they would be enshrined next to mammoths and mastodons for the rest of time, part of me shouts, "Damn you, we're not extinct, I'M STANDING RIGHT HERE." Why is some little millionth-of-a-percent white girl the only one in the place who gets angry? Isn't there somebody more qualified who notices?

I'm not "Native enough" to claim membership in a tribe, and I wouldn't try. But just being connected to the people in Maine who are related to the people who are related to the people who are related to the people that my great-grandfather was so ashamed of has impacted who I am, and taught me a great deal. Those people are mine, y'know? And there's only so much I can do for them without taking their lives away from them and being part of the problem.

There are efforts right now to preserve the languages spoken by the people my great-grandfather was related to. I'm so glad they're doing that, and I hope that when I finally get back to New England, they'll still be offering lessons. Maybe it's not my tribe, not really. Maybe it's not my language, not really. But if I can help keep their language from dying by being one more person interested in learning it and passing it on... maybe I can be some use to them, after all. I owe them that much for all that they taught me.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Nuh uh YOU'RE a bigot!

Evidently complaining about racism, homophobia, and misogyny is just as bad as complaining about black people, gays, and women. Solution: refuse to have a problem with anything ever. Safe! (Bonus points for silencing minorities who don't realize yet that anger makes them bad people. TOP SCORE.)

I am really tired of being called angry and hateful because I have the gall to dislike the people who feed a system that shits on me (and several other sorts of people who may or may not be a lot like me) every day. I am particularly bothered by all the "bullying" language being thrown around. Here's what I feel is happening (and this is just my perception, but since it's coloring my reactions, I feel obligated to explain it).

A lot of people have a "zero tolerance" view of disliking other people the way that my junior high had a "zero tolerance" policy toward fighting. I ran afoul of this policy, and I think that the way it played out says a lot about how I approach these situations.

I was being bullied by a girl who not only followed me around the halls, but cornered me for what was clearly going to be a fight. It didn't come to that, but the administrators told both of us that fighting is wrong, wanted both of us to apologize, and we both got a suspension for in-school violence.

Seeing the connection? For those who aren't catching it, I'll beat the dead horse. Sometimes it isn't right to paint all parties to a conflict as though they are all equally wrong and all equally bad and all equally to blame for the situation. There are situations where this is the case, but they are far more rare than a lot of people would like to think.

The people who treat hatred of homophobia as though it were as bad as hating gay people, the people who treat revulsion toward racism as though it were as bad as revulsion toward other races, and the people who treat bitterness at misogyny as though it were as bad as bitterness toward women? They are doing to marginalized people what my school administrators did to me when I was a kid, and I don't stand for it now.

Just because there's a conflict doesn't mean everybody involved is a bad person, and just because someone finally hits back doesn't mean they're just as much of a bully as the person who's been brutalizing them all along. Conflating these two things is not only logically screwy, but it only serves to shame and silence people who are trying to finally stand up for themselves.

So yeah, I'll say it. I mistrust conservatives, mainly social conservatives. I mistrust social conservatives because people who identify that way have tried in many identifiable and clear ways to make my life less fulfilling than theirs, because I belong to several classes of people who have faced identical objections over and over to our desires to live as equal citizens in this country (whether it's my voting rights as a woman, my right to be free from religious coercion as an atheist, or my right to equal contractual rights when it comes to civil marriages).

My dislike is different from that of homophobes, religious zealots, or sexists, or racists, because I am not trying to deny them any rights except for their perceived right to hurt me. That means the roots of our dislike, as well as our intended aims, are not just a totally different animal, they're a whole world apart.

Every time somebody equates the two, calling both me and the people who hurt me "bullies," I kind of want to bite them in the face.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

And a day later...

I just posted an entry on Friday about the fact that I lost my job at CAC. Well, on Saturday at noon I had a meeting with someone I used to work with. He's been keeping in touch with me off and on since October, trying to get me to come work for him.

At the meeting yesterday, I was really impressed. I think this is going to be a great chance to do more than be someone's mouthpiece going out and saying what I'm supposed to say to the people I'm supposed to get money from. I think that Matt, the guy who'll be canvass director and with whom I canvassed for a while at CAC, has a lot of experience with canvassing and running canvass offices. I think that he's going to do a better job bringing out the best in me, because he wants me to do things that I'll be good at.

He asked me what kind of role I see myself having, what I want to do. I mentioned that I tend to keep an eye on the tone and climate of places, and I think I'll enjoy being at an office as it's just starting because wherever I go, after about a year, I find some long-buried conflict drama nonsense and step on the landmine. That kind of repressed drama makes me crazy, so I detonate it so that it won't be lurking under there anymore. I'll be really glad to finally be in a position to make sure those things never occur in the first place, and he seemed really pleased that I was thinking about it. He said he wanted the same thing, to have what he called "dignified, professional canvassers."

He wants me to be his "training guru," focusing on training new canvassers. I told him that once I have an idea of the kind of tone he wants to set and what kind of climate he wants to create, I would love to help pass that on and keep it going, but that I want to make sure I have a sense for it first. I've only ever known CAC's canvassing office, so I want to make sure that I'm not bringing in habits that won't help.

So he's going to train me to train. We'll be canvassing for Grassroots Campaigns, Inc., and this summer's client is the ASPCA. After that might be Save the Children, or the DNC doing get-out-the-vote work for democratic candidates.

Matt wants to train us to be canvassing directors. He wants to train directors for other campaigns, so that we can go provide leadership to the progressive costs that need us.

I have a boss who appreciates me, and who thinks I can do more than I've been doing. I have a boss who is competent and experienced enough to take input (since it's not a threat to him, and he trusts that we may also know what we're doing). And y'know what? I have opportunities for promotion that frankly... I didn't see happening at CAC.

It was time to leave CAC. While I am grateful to the office for being precisely what I needed precisely when I needed it, and while I'm grateful to CAC for doing badly-needed work in this state (seriously, even though I don't work there anymore, please be nice to CAC canvassers, because they're hugely important to everyone), my time there is well-ended. I have to move on and do other things now.

Love, peace, and doughnuts to all. I'll let you know how things pan out with this new gig when I know more, but I'm really optimistic about it.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Just another field canvasser.

Well, that's that.

Went out on review at CAC. What this means is that I had to make my weekly quota three weeks in a row, or else... y'know. that's that. For all that our job description covers motivating each other and the contacts at the door and generating letters and phone calls and all sorts of important things, because the fundraising is the only thing we can quantify... really, the fundraising is the only goal that can make or break you as a canvasser. It's hard to escape the impression that it's the only thing which matters, but we always try.

Hard to see it just now. But you know. That's now. For the past two days, all anybody has been looking at are the numbers, if only in the desperate hope that the numbers would be good enough to give them an excuse to retain me. Canvassers have many jobs, many responsibilities, and they all matter to the organization, to our campaigns, and to the people of Indiana. Really, though, the only one of those that affects us personally is our fundraising. So it's hard to see those other things, sometimes. Like now. But y'know. That's now.

Honestly, I think other people will mind more than I mind, at least right this second. I'm not used to thinking of myself as the popular girl, but I guess at CAC I was. I just tried to make people laugh. Old survival strategy: make them laugh and they won't hate you for being smart or pretty or... or whatever it is you are. So I tried to make them laugh. I guess it worked.

It'll hit the new people hardest. They haven't seen people come and go like I have, and like the people have who've been there even longer than any of the field canvassers. The newer people will miss me. I give everybody else a week, maybe.

The office is the same, no matter who's in it. I didn't change it when I came, and it won't become something else because I'm not there. That's how it is when you have a lot of people moving in and out. Nobody gets a foothold, makes a change, fills a space that will leave a gap when they're gone.

I feel bad for my canvass director who had to do it, though we both knew I'm just sick to death of doing what I've been doing. I needed a change, and whether that was finding a way to get promoted or shifted elsewhere or simply leaving... it was going to happen, or I was going to make it happen. So I'm not jarred or shocked or anything.

But then, maybe it just hasn't hit me yet. Up until yesterday, there was actually a damn good chance I'd still be going back on Monday. But that was up until yesterday. I went to staff night for the first time in months yesterday, and I think it was largely to say goodbye (even if they won't realize this until sometime next week). I came, I sang, I rocked out, I reminded them that we're awesome together, and now I'm out.

The people who notice I'm gone will feel it at first, but it's like every time a move happens, or people graduate, or switch jobs. It hurts at first, because you're pre-emptively missing that person or that group of friends. When the time comes for the actual "missing them" bit, it never quite lives up to expectations.

When you graduate, you promise your friends you'll stay in touch. I made those promises too, because to do otherwise was to hurt the feelings of the people who just didn't understand yet that the parting ritual is hollow. We don't really mean we'll stay in touch. We don't really mean we'll always be friends. What we mean is that we're friends now, and we're sorry that that is ending (if not forever, then at least for now).

It's like every time I moved as a kid. I'm the one who's leaving, I'm the one who's losing, and yet I'm the one who has to comfort everybody else. I'm the one who has to repeat over and over again how all right I'm going to be and yes of course let's stay in touch and definitely we'll hang out. I say it, because if I don't go through the parting ritual they'll think I never liked them and never valued them. They say it because if they're afraid if they don't go through the ritualistic assurances, I'll think that our friendship never mattered.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one who sees it, or if we're both just going through the motions so that each of us knows that the other--at the end--at least cared enough to lie.