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Today, of all days, I’m Feelin’ Good

52 thoughts · Politics · Rants

52 Thoughts: Seventh Thought

Photo by TJ Parker

In the last two weeks one friend suddenly lost his Mom and my honey’s Mom had some serious health issues and went into the hospital.  We are hoping the treatment helps her, that the doctors can fully figure out what’s going on, and that she can get on the road to recovery.  My honey flew out in January 31 to help her family.  That’s what you do.  You pull together.  You help.  You love.

I woke this morning with an overwhelming feeling of love.  Love for my honey and her Mom and Dad and my Mom and my friend who just lost his Mom.  Love for the rest of my family and my friends.  You are precious to me.  More than I could ever express in a blog post.

I also woke with this feeling that I needed to say something about the current climate in our country.  About how I feel about it, from a personal perspective.  Keyword, personal.

I hate divisiveness.  I’m always “preaching” togetherness and love because I mean it, I think those things, along with kindness and hope and joy are keys to life.  Both to our own personal living of it, and to our shared community, locally, nationally, and globally.  We are literally all in this together so we need to pull our heads out of our collective asses and get on with the business of working together.

I’m a patriot.  That means I can criticize what my government is doing, and should if I don’t agree.  We were founded on that principal.  Our right to disagree with our elected officials and call out any injustices we think are happening.  The fact that I don’t agree with what our current president is doing on many fronts is my personal opinion.  This opinion doesn’t make me unAmerican.  Not in the least.  In fact, it makes me an American.  We have that right here.  To disagree.  To call out.  And beyond that, we have a duty to do it.  I don’t mean we should just mindlessly repost memes about our politicians.  That kind of judgment and ridiculousness has gone on too long.  We need to be responsible about how we disagree, but disagreeing is an important part of our democracy.

I’m tired of playground tactics.  This crap about oh, they did it, they did it, so we are going to do it too.  Oh my God.  Grow up.  We all need to just grow up.  When the “other side” does something we don’t like, that we’ve found to be reprehensible, it’s not an excuse to then go and do the same or a similar thing just because, well, “they” did it.  Both sides do it, both politicians and the average joe.  C’mon people.  Grow a pair.  Pull up your big boy pants.  Quit reacting, pointing the finger, and being so childish.  You have good ideas that are your own, present them.  But don’t use as an excuse that the other side “did it” and now so will you.  If you think so little of the other side, why would you want to turn around and do something you found to be unacceptable.  It just widens the gap.  Creates further divide.  “They did it, they did it!”  Childish.  We aren’t on a playground anymore.

I care about the environment.  I’m tired of the climate change discussion.  There is climate change.  Yes, it’s occurring naturally, without man’s intervention, because it just is.  But we are also adding to it.  Making that change happen at a faster rate by putting toxins into the air.  Toxins we also put into the water and the land.  We need to take care of this planet.  Let’s stop talking about climate change and start talking about the planet itself, the environment.  We’ve gotten lost in semantics.  Holy hell, the Earth is the only one we have.   We want to treat it with respect, the respect it deserves.  You want to use it up without a thought about what that could mean for our children’s children?  Are you that arrogant and uncaring?  Get a grip.  Man is having an impact on this beautiful spinning ball and we need to try and make sure that impact is as minimal as possible.  Quit arguing about semantics.

Fake news.  My lord.  It exists.  On both sides.  So pull your head out and do your due diligence.  Quit reading your one or two sources that only support your point of view because you think only those sources are telling you the truth.  They probably aren’t.  Mainstream media is not the enemy.  Journalism has and always will help to shine the light and point our attention to things we should be paying attention to.  Sometimes we don’t like the message they send, but that’s life.  Since when do we want yes men and insular points of view to rule the land.  We don’t.  Again, grow the hell up and read.  Yes, I’ll say it again.  Read many sources, especially sources that disagree with your point of view.  Do your own research.  Be responsible.  Don’t just press send on meme after meme after meme without actually looking into the information you’re spreading.  If you just press send like a mindless automaton then you are a huge part of the problem.  YOU are encouraging the spread of misinformation.   Hell, let’s quit calling it fake news and start calling it misinformation.  That’s what it is.  Sleight of hand.  Don’t be gullible.  Don’t be an idiot.  There are good sources of information on both sides.  And mainstream media… just because they are printing things you don’t like to hear doesn’t mean what they’re printing is a lie because it doesn’t support your worldview.  Yes, I’m liberal, but I do read stuff from the right.  I want to know the point of view, I want to try and understand it, and I want to hear different points of view.  I don’t agree with what I read much of the time, but as I said somewhere earlier in this rant, not agreeing is part of the deal.

And speaking of just following along.  We should all be questioning and critical consumers of information.  Whatever the source.

I love the diversity of this country.  No one group or group’s dogma, religious or political, should have the final say about anything.  No one group should be able to determine how I live, who I sleep with, what I do with my body, etc.  You might have very strong feelings about these things, and I appreciate those.  You are entitled to have them, they are yours.  But since when did one group have the right to control me.  This country was founded on the principle that church and state should be separate.  Why?  Because there is more than one way to worship.  People pray to God differently, call God by different names.  Some don’t believe in God at all.  All of those beliefs are valid and no one of those groups should be able to legally make the other groups follow their tenants, their belief system.  Our spiritual beliefs should be kept out of government otherwise we run the very real risk of falling into a dictatorship where one group dictates to all other groups how they should live their lives, what is acceptable for them and not as to beliefs.  A suppression of beliefs is a very scary thing.

Speaking of fear… demonizing an entire group as the source of our woes is frightening. Yes, I’m talking about Muslims.  They worship differently than Christians do, people don’t understand their religion, but this difference, and a bit of mystery, doesn’t make them terrorists.  Terrorists are terrorists.  They come from all backgrounds, all religions, and are born in different countries.   The Oklahoma City bombing was carried out by a couple of white guys born in the U.S.  Both had been in the military and were upset about the FBI’s handling of the Waco, David Kuresh, situation.  My point is that we can’t look at only one group and demonize them as the source of all evil.  That’s happened in our world’s history before and it led to the execution of millions of people.  The Jews were not evil either.  Some people may read this and think I’m over simplifying things, and maybe I am a tad, but I’m an intelligent person, one who knows that just because someone is born somewhere doesn’t automatically mean they are bad.  Singling out an entire group for the actions of a few, that’s wrong, and it’s lazy.

We’ve somehow created a culture, or been led by the noses into it, that there is “the other” and “the other” is bad.  “The other” is evil.  There are things we won’t agree on ever.  That’s the way of it.  That’s how life works.  We all come from different places, have different backgrounds, grew up having our own unique experiences.  Those experiences inform how we see the world, how we think.  They should.  Our own experiences are ours.  Black, white, gay, straight, liberal, conservative, democrat, republican, disabled, abled, women, men, Mexican, Muslim, Christian, Asian, people in rural areas, city-dwellers, environmentalists, people from industry, conservationists, big business… it goes on and on.  We are different.  We come from different points of view.  It’s a beautiful bold diverse melting pot.  All points of view matter.  There is no “other”.  There’s just us.  And we need to start being responsible for ourselves.  Not following along with dogma because it’s supposed to be ours.  Because someone told us to.  We need to question.  Not just the beliefs of those spewing the dogma, what they are telling us is true, but ourselves.  We need to look inside, figure out why we are motivated the way we are.  Are we being responsible?  Are we taking responsibility?  Or are we just automatons.  Being controlled by our biases, or the biases of the people we are blindly listening to.

We have to ask questions people.  Of ourselves, our politicians, our media, our family, and friends.  We live in a community of diverse minds, we need to act like it.  To honor it.

That is all.

Essays · LiFe · Love · Politics

Time to Get Out and Rake

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Photo by TJ Parker

I was sitting here at my dining room table yesterday looking out the sliding glass doors to my backyard like I’ve done countless times over the last five years.  It was a beautiful fall day in Illinois.  The sun shining, the air crisp, the leaves falling in cascades and covering the yard. I realized we’d have to rake again soon.

We took our dogs to the vet for their yearly check up, some shots, a blood test.  They are good.  They did well during the vet visit.  They got some treats from the girl at the Espresso Royale drive-thru afterward as we got our large breves with an extra shot.

After the drive-thru we came home and had a visit with our daughter and grand daughter.  Our grand daughter is not much over one and half, her second birthday is coming up in February.  She is busy and curious and is speaking sentences, which is a little freaky, but oh so cool, coming from such a young one.  Our grandsons didn’t talk this well this early, so it’s a bit of an anomaly for us, but really awesome.  She played with shells and rubber duckies and blocks and a wooden bus we have that has doors that open and wooden people inside.  She watched videos of dogs and her Mama dancing and some muppets.  She laughed.

We took a run to our local Menards to get some door tab insulation.  I actually have no idea what they’re called, but they do really help to keep that cold Midwest air out of the house.  We also stopped in to get toilet paper and a 16 count box of fruit cups in real juice with cherries in them.  We call them cherries and all of the grandkids love them.  We like to have some on hand when they come to visit.

We made a great dinner last night of our version of chicken parmesan with broccoli.  It was awesome.  We watched a movie, held hands, pet the pups, and decided to go to bed early to continue watching Good Girls Revolt on Amazon.  If you haven’t watched it, do, it’s pretty damn good.

I was incredibly sad all day, we hugged each other a lot, and in fact at one point I had a good cry, but…

Life, mine, ours, is beautiful.  It goes on.  It continues to move forward.  One beautiful moment and day after another.

And, as my honey says, no vote can take that away from us.  We have each other, our love, our life together, no matter what.   She is amazing.  My rock, my center.  I love her so much.

Today I got up, turned on the High Hopes playlist I started making, poured a cup of coffee, sat down, we talked again as we’d done yesterday about places we might start volunteering, and I looked out to the backyard where we are having another beautiful fall day.  There are tons of birds at our feeders and the wind is hitting the trees and creating a rainstorm of leaves out there.

We are really going to have to get out there and rake.

 

Essays · LiFe · Politics · Rants

After 10 Minutes on Facebook

I just spent 10 minutes on Facebook and now I have to write a blog post.

Oi!  I can’t take it.  Politics, division, divisiveness, people being crappy, showing their dark sides, thinking it’s funny.  It’s not.

I don’t care who you support.  I have my opinion, know what I’m going to do come November.  I expect you do too.  Why must we, over and over, post things on Facebook that are cruel character assassinations of candidates.  I mean on both sides.  I just saw it from both sides.

If you post, post something that includes facts, reflects your educated opinion, or supports your position in a classy way.  What’s with all the personal attacks?  Where did common decency go?  When did it become OK to publicly deride someone?  Sure, public figures sort of open themselves up for criticism.  So, criticize them intelligently.  I’m so sick of the memes showing one candidate or another with some intended to be cutesy, but isn’t, superimposed quote or other additions.  My God people.

We are better than this.  Our culture, with social media, has sunk so low that people think this crap is funny, when in fact it’s bullying behavior.  What are we teaching our kids?  That it’s OK, if you don’t like someone, to post something terrible about them, disparaging about them, out there for the world to see?  That it’s OK to make fun of other people?  That just because you don’t like someone you can publicly humiliate them?  Because every time something like all the ridiculousness I just saw is posted, that’s what you’re saying to your kids.  That it’s OK to bully, to deride, to act like a total ass, to treat others with disrespect.  And then, later, when your kid posts something about someone because they don’t like them, what are you going to say?  No no, you shouldn’t do that.  I guess that’s just a case of do as I say, not as I do.  We need to teach respect, kindness, love.  We need to be teaching you can disagree in civil way.  You can not like someone, but you don’t have to make fun of them, and in fact you shouldn’t.

If the goal is to get people to change their minds politically, you’ve missed the mark.  What you’ve accomplished is showing you can be mean, you can be nasty, you’ve shown your lesser self.  I don’t want to see that side of you.

Again, you don’t like someone, fine.  You don’t like them.  Feel the need to plaster your feelings all over Facebook… fine.  I’d rather see what you’re up to today, get a little photo of your shoe or your workspace or your beautiful smile, but if you must post something, if you just have to dip your toe in the cesspool, then be smart, be kind, be classy about it.  Simply post a status message saying… I support this person, and this is why.  Or, I don’t support this person, and this is why.  Re-post an article you think makes a good point.  Keep the slander, the meanness, the jerkdom out of it.  Would you?  Could you?  Will you?  Won’t you?

Crap, I’m slipping into Dr. Seuss… that’s how serious this has gotten.

I guess it’s just so tough to go on social media and see posts from people you love that turn your stomach.  That make them seem different than the people you thought they were.

Elevate.  Rise above.  Be the people I think you are.  Please.  I can’t take it.  I just spent 10 minutes on Facebook and I had to write this post.

10 Word Review · Film · In The News · Politics

10 Word Review – The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth

p12492641_b_v5_aaFascinating. Workings. Inside. Viewpoints. Access. Personal. Candidates. Documentary. Pace. Yes.

Politics · Words Written

“I am fundamentally an optimist.”

15687_10152719002115802_6021182418323168144_n“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”
― Nelson MandelaLong Walk to Freedom: Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Essays · Going Global · Illinois · LiFe · Politics

What Makes a Marriage

I’m married.  At least K and I feel we’re married.  We’ve already had two marriage “ceremonies”.  One on a beach in Maui, just the two of us, words spoken, rings exchanged, sand ceremony, poetry read, and lots of love.  We consider that one our real marriage ceremony.  It might not, technically, have been legal, but it was sincere, honest, and full of love.  It had everything, everything we needed and wanted anyway.  It was beautiful, and perfect.  The second, not actually a ceremony, was when I walked into the courthouse, paid the filing fee, and left with a domestic partnership certificate for the two of us.  We had to certify that we’d lived together for a certain length of time, by then we’d been together for a few years.

Now, nearly 11 years later, we’re living in Illinois, not Oregon, and in June, when the Illinois marriage law takes effect, we can, once again, get married.  We find this funny by the way.  Not funny that we’ve had to wait for marriage or hope for marriage or long for equality, but funny that this will be our third time.  We joke that maybe this time it will stick.  One can only hope.

All of this has me thinking.  What makes a marriage?

In June we will take our domestic partnership certificate in to the courthouse here in Illinois and exchange it for a marriage license.  They will back date our marriage license to the date we got our domestic partnership, which is great.  It means we will be considered legally married from that date, which was like, oh, six or seven years ago.  I can’t remember.  It wasn’t THE marriage so we honestly don’t even know the date we did it.  I’m sure it says on the certificate.  And, suddenly, miraculously, we will be, after all these years, legally married.

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The thing is, we are already married.  When we made those vows to each other on that beach in Maui, we meant them.  We didn’t need someone else to sanction it, or tell us it was OK.  We just needed to hear from each other that we loved and were loved in return.

So what’s the big deal about legal.  Well, it is a big deal.  Not so much to us, or to our friends and family who I think all consider us already married as well.  It’s a big deal because we will be protected under the law.  The taxes we pay will, finally, be used to our benefit, and we won’t be paying for other people to enjoy freedoms and benefits that to this point we weren’t allowed.  We will be the same.

The same.  That’s the thing, really.  We are the same as everyone else.  I know I’ve said this before.  We laugh, we love, we have friends and go to family functions with both sides of our families.  We work and do the dishes and go out to dinner and clean our bathrooms and mow our lawn.  We vacation, collecting heart rocks on every trip, take our dogs to the groomer, and go to the movies.  We babysit our grandchildren and buy organic food and go on bike rides.  We live.  We live and yet we’ve always felt just a little bit separate.  We’ve been made to feel separate. We’ve been told we are less than.  We aren’t.  But this is why gay groups have sprung up and gay people have banded together and held each others hands and been out and proud to be out.  We’ve had to. We’ve had to in order to feel what community feels like, since the larger community has shunned and pushed us away for so long.

And now… now we will be the same.  Still ridiculed and feared in same places, by some people, but the same legally.  We will, finally, be included, be part of the larger crowd.  We will be, honestly, the same.  Which is all we’ve ever wanted.  To continue to live normal lives and instead of being gay Tam, I’ll be Tam.  I’ll be Tam and K will be K and we will be married.  Married just like my Mom was married and my grandparents were married and K’s parents are married.

We will be married.  A piece of paper does not make a marriage, but it sure makes a marriage a legal, tangible, and a real thing in the eyes of the law.  It makes it real in the eyes of the community at large, even those who would still try to deny us.  What has, and will always be, real and true to us, will be real and true to our larger community.

Wow.

Film · LiFe · Opinion · Politics · Rants · Words Written

What Kind of Eyes Do You See With?

Eisenhower QuoteI happened to be looking at quotes this morning, which is something I occasionally do, and found this little gem.

I’ve never been a huge Eisenhower fan, and to be honest, I don’t really know too much about him.  He was a two term president, a conservative who also happened to be against McCarthy, for civil rights and inclusion, and ultimately pretty good a foreign policy.  He adhered to a policy of moderation and cooperation as a means of governance.  Yeah, you got me, I just looked him up and that last bit is a direct quote from Wikipedia.  I just read a bit about him and turns out he was an interesting guy that somehow gets overlooked when we mention presidents.  Probably because he came after Truman, and World War II, and before Kennedy, who garnered a lot of attention.

What strikes me about this quote is how relevant it is today.  We find ourselves in an era of bitter rivalry, and one might even say hatred, toward our fellows.  Our political system is a prime example of this.  Hate, fear, finger-pointing, and a general culture of unkindness seems to prevail.  Individuals, and I see this all the time on Facebook, love to post hurtful, finger-pointing comments full of ridicule and scorn.  Nowhere in that is a thought toward commonality, togetherness, kindness, or even an idea toward actually working a solution to our many problems.  It’s all about how the other guy is an oaf or an idiot or simple-minded.  Sadly, it’s the same behavior I saw so many times while I was working with at risk kids.  People who post these inflammatory things are bullies.  They wouldn’t call themselves that, no.  They would say they are passionate about their topic of choice and are attempting to push change.  They are wrong, just as people who try to bully have always been wrong.  One does not get their way by pushing, cajoling, shoving, and name-calling.  Name-calling… I’m appalled.  Adults, people I know, do this.  It’s like we’re back on the playground again.  Ridiculous.  Arrogant.  Shameful.

If you are a passionate person about, well, anything, the way forward is to promote an idea, not knock someone else down for an opinion that differs from yours.  Find what you feel are solutions and put those forward.  Create ideas or support causes you feel are worthy and promote those.  Stand up and state what you believe in, without saying that someone who believes differently is an idiot.  They aren’t, they just don’t agree with you.  And their not agreeing with you is OK too.  Differing ideas bring different looks at a problem.  We have a lot of problems, we need a lot of looks.  If you must comment on the “other side”, do so by posting actual, honest and real, events or circumstances that happened that you don’t agree with.  Then, comment on those with integrity, and an eye, again, toward solution.

I’m so tired, can you tell, of the trend toward mass posting these ridiculous saying and quotes about how liberals are this or that or tea party members are this or that.  Blanket statements that do nothing to enrich the world.  Mean quips and vicious comments about “those people”.  You know what?  I’m those people, and my mom is those people, my family is those people, and my friends are those people, on both sides.  Before you post something of that nature, think of people you know, picture their faces, and decide if you would say whatever it is you are about to post right to their face.  If you would, well then I guess you aren’t really a friend of mine because true friends of mine aren’t mean.  Friends of mine are kind.  I will, to borrow a phrase, accept no substitutes.  Everyone, and I mean nearly everyone, is entitled to a measure of respect. You choose who you are.  You can rise, be kind, elevate.  Or you can degrade, denigrate, and wallow in the muck.

As Eisenhower, whose quote started this whole little stand on the soap box, said…  “we must avoid becoming a community of dreadful hate and fear” and as the character Lindsey Brigman says in the movie The Abyss, “We all see what we want to see. Coffey looks and…  he sees hate and fear. You have to look with better eyes than that.”  I love that quote.  It’s stuck with me.  We see what we want, we create our world based on what we see and what we do.  We have to be better, for the world and for each other.  If we show a general disrespect for people we don’t even know, we disrespect ourselves, our children, our neighborhoods, our larger communities.  We have to look with better eyes than that.

Going Global · In The News · Politics

A Win For Love

Today the Supreme Court ruled DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, is unconstitutional.  Love wins.

The liberty protected by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause contains within it the prohibition against denying to any person the equal protection of the laws. […] While the Fifth Amendment itself withdraws from Government the power to degrade or demean in the way this law does, the equal protection guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment makes that Fifth Amendment right all the more specific and all the better understood and preserved.

The class to which DOMA directs its restrictions and restraints are those persons who are joined in same-sex marriages made lawful by the State. DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty. It imposes a disability on the class by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper. DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.  ~ Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority

 

LiFe · Politics

I’m Gay

Yep.  It’s true.

I have never written a serious blog post about being gay.  I mean, it’s part of who I am, but it isn’t all there is to me and I am not defined or labeled by it.  To me it’s sort of like talking about what color eyes I have.   My eyes are there, but I don’t spend hardly any time thinking about them, let alone talking about them.  But…  I am gay.  It’s not all that I am, but I am, and I have something to say about it now.  I think it’s time.

For years I had no idea I was gay.  I dated guys in high school and into my first year of college.  Had a serious boyfriend during most of that time.  I didn’t know anyone who was gay, never saw anyone on TV or in the movies who was gay besides the occasional annoying totally stereotyped male, and even those guys were few and far between.  In my home when those characters showed up on TV derogatory comments were made by my step dad.  Though he didn’t have that sole role.  When kids at school happened to talk about someone who was gay, or someone they thought was gay, that person was called queer.  Most of the time the person being called queer wasn’t even gay.  The term was just used to put someone down.  I heard it a lot in the halls, never in reference to me, but I heard it a lot.  I never liked it, or it’s use, just as I’ve never liked any derogatory term said to anyone in pretty much any context.  Even still, when I heard it I didn’t think it might pertain to me.  Had no clue.  When you don’t even really know of a thing how can you know you are that.  It wasn’t even in my realm of possibility.  Then… suddenly and unexpectedly I met someone in college.  And even still, even then, I didn’t know.  I just thought I liked that particular person.  You know, I’m straight, it’s just that I happen to unexpectedly fall in love with a woman.  I even lied to my Mom when she asked me about it when I was 18.  I lied because I hadn’t even really asked myself that question.  Had no clue about myself.  That lie was the first in a long line of lies.  Lies to myself.  Lies to family and friends and pretty much everyone I loved.  I didn’t really know, or look at that part of my life seriously until I was into my 30’s. Am I or am I not.  I finally realized I was.  Had always been.  That realization made a lot of things from my life make sense, fall into place.  A sort of ah ha.  And yet, still I lied, at least for a time I did.  But let’s go back a bit… back to the younger confused me.  Those lies took their toll.

Let me tell you why a gay person lies.  We lie because we are sure no one will love us if we tell the truth.  We don’t love ourselves very much some of the time during the early years of knowing we are gay because we, frankly, don’t want to be, so the thought process goes that certainly no one else will love us either.  Especially when society, and my time was the 80’s and 90’s, was still not welcoming, open, accepting.  My step dad didn’t have the monopoly on bigotry and the atmosphere during the 80’s (when the AIDS epidemic hit) and 90’s was not kind to gay people.  So not only was I afraid people in my life wouldn’t love me, that they would reject me just for being me, but that I could also be hurt, physically.  Not by family or friends or people I knew, but by the mysterious and threatening other people.  Those people out there somewhere who, if they found out, would hurt me.  There was always a fear.  Fear of so many things.  And a total wish that I wasn’t gay.  Believe me, when people say it’s a choice, I get angry.  If the people who say that would think for a second, they should realize something important, and that is why would anyone choose to be gay.  It’s harder.  It’s sometimes unsafe.  And frankly, having to live your life looking over your shoulder some of the time, not being able to hold hands, or look too gay in public in some places, is hard.  It can wear a person down.  Having to actually think about things like those, things like safety or being found out, things like I hope no one in this particular setting realizes I’m a big ol’ gay.  (That just made me laugh, but seriously… we think about it.  We have to.)  And when I say we all go through periods where we think to ourselves we don’t want to be gay, usually early in our lives or the process of knowing we are gay, it’s that we don’t want to be different.  When you’re young, and even not so young, the last thing you want to be is different than your peers, your family, your community, your culture.  Young people, and old alike I guess, all want to fit in.  Want a place.  Knowing your gay, when faced with so much obvious hate in the media, in communities, in our own towns and neighborhoods is a thing no one wants to face.  When I realized I was gay a bit of sadness happened for me.  I didn’t want to be different.  I wanted to be like everyone else.   And I knew life would be a tad more difficult… sometimes a lot more difficult.  So at first most of us lie.  Mostly to ourselves I think, out of a weird self protection and denial, then because we are panicked that if the people we love know they will stop loving us, and we lie in certain situations, still, because if we are openly gay in some places we could die.  No joke.  That’s part of the out and out vitriol that’s out there for gay people in some places.  It’s part of the culture that has jailed and beaten and ridiculed and cast out gay people for decades.  And before someone says you can feel you are gay, but you could choose not to be by just living a “normal” straight life, here’s what that would be like just a bit.  Say you are single and someone introduces you to a person they feel is right for you.  You have no connection with them at all.  You feel they are nice enough, and that maybe you could even be friends, but you have no interest in dating them.  Or you might even detest them.  Then say that you are told that’s the person you have to be with.  You have no feelings of love for them at all, but you have to be with them in order to be accepted by your family, your friends, your community.  Take a second to imagine what it would feel like to be living that lie.  To be living a completely inauthentic life.  Trapped.  Forced into something you feel isn’t right with every part of your being.  Now magnify that feeling of being forced to be with someone you don’t care for by about 1000 times.  That doesn’t even come close to it.  Being forced to be anything other than we are is soul crushing.

When I finally decided to be free, to embrace who I was, I decided to tell people in my life.  I did not want to hide.  I wanted what everyone wants, a partner in life, to be a family with someone.  I wanted that and I didn’t want to lie to anyone anymore, I couldn’t.  They would either love me, because seriously, I was the same person, or they wouldn’t, but I had to be in my truth, as the saying goes.  There were some obstacles to my telling people when I originally wanted to, circumstances beyond my control, but I eventually just had to tell.  Had to be honest and open.  Plus, by the time I told everyone I had already met someone.  I didn’t want to have another secret relationship, changing pronouns, talking vaguely about how I went out with a friend, etc., etc., etc.  Hiding.  I didn’t want to hide.  So I started the process of telling people, of coming out.

First I told Mom, who cried not because I was gay, but because I hadn’t felt like I could tell her earlier in life.  She hugged me, asked if the person I was with was Karen (they had already met when I’d brought my “friend” to an art show we attended together), and then said she’d liked her a lot.  I then had dinner with Kev, my brother, at a Thai place.  I told him and he said, uh… yes, of course you are and I love you.  My being gay didn’t change anything for them, but my telling them changed everything for me.  And all the people I told in the next month or so changed everything as well.  I was suddenly free and gaining momentum.  It was like the sun was shining on me for the first time in my life.  I felt truly connected, grounded, real.  I felt honest and true.  I continued by telling everyone at my job (all of whom were my friends as well), and the domino effect happened.  Within a couple of months everyone in my life knew.  My Mom, right after I told her, insisted on calling many of the relatives and telling them herself.  She asked me beforehand of course, but she was adamant that she make some of the calls.  I loved this because she wanted to be the one to call so she could let them know that she was OK with it and that they should be too.  She ran interference.  Mom rocks, just sayin’.   My grandparents, my Mom’s parents, were awesome.  My grandma’s quote as relayed by my Mom, “It’s about time”.  I love that.  After the tidal wave of talks and chats and dinners a weird thing happened… everyone, with only one exception, accepted me.  They all loved me, and they didn’t care.  And even if some were a tad weirded out in the beginning, they quickly came to the realization that I was the same person, Tam.  Just because I was also now gay Tam didn’t mean I had somehow fundamentally changed who I was.  Not every gay person is lucky like I have been.  Some tell their truth and find rejection and hostility from their families.  My heart aches for them.  It’s the very thing each gay person fears when they come out and for some it’s a startling reality.

I think it’s easy to say that something you don’t understand is wrong.  I think it’s easy for people who don’t know anyone who is gay, or at least they don’t think they do, to judge, be angry, or even be frightened.  Especially when they might be taught that fear by their parents or their communities or their places of faith.  I think we hardly ever see the boogeyman, and that’s what makes him scary.  In my experience people change when they have more knowledge.  They change when they have a better understanding.  They change when they are around the things they think they hate and then find they maybe don’t hate them as much as they thought they did and more than that, maybe they don’t hate them at all.  We do better when we know better.  I believe this.  Karen I usually find that when people meet us, as a couple, and maybe at first are cautious or unsettled by the fact that we are gay, they soon come around.  We’re pretty likable.  On a good day we can even be a tad charming.  We make a good team.  Plus we are genuine and nice and compassionate and open.  When people are around us we may start out as gay Tam and Karen, but we always end up just being Tam and Karen.  Not a gay couple, just a couple.  And when that shift happens for people gay becomes less scary, less evil, and less threatening.  It becomes not quite such a big deal as it once might have been.

Here’s the deal… I’m living my life.  Just like everyone else.  We go to the grocery store, have barbecues with our friends and family, go to our grandsons little gym graduations, take him swimming at the Y, work during the day and watch the same televisions shows as a lot of other people at night.  We take our dogs for walks, are preparing for retirement as best we can, we go to the movies, support our local university teams at games, plan dinners, drink coffee, and make contributions to charities.  We fill the bird feeders at our house, water our neighbors plants when they go out of town, take out the garbage every Sunday night, and when we each got sick we took care of each other.  We are a family, together.  And our being a family is no threat to anyone else.  We are living our lives.  We are nice people, treat people well, and we love to laugh.

We also pay taxes, more than other couples in fact because we can’t file as married.  We pay into social security but can’t get the same benefit of getting each other’s social security in the future if we wanted to.  We pay property taxes and state tax and gas tax and on and on.  We pay everything we’re supposed to, and trust me our tax bill is big every year, and yet we are not afforded the same rights and privileges for the money we pay.  Not exactly fair.  But it’s our life, and it goes on.  It went on even when we each got really sick, separately, and had to provide all kinds of paperwork, faxed by our attorney, to the hospital so the hospital would have it on file in the event we had to make decisions for each other.  Legally married couples don’t have to do that.  They say they’re married, that’s good enough.  They don’t have to stop in the middle of all the intensity of just being with their partner in the hospital to deal with making sure they have all the proper paperwork that proves they can be there.  Trust me, in a time of crisis the last thing you want to have to do is call the attorney to get paperwork so you can talk to your spouse’s doctor and not be asked to leave the room.  I stayed with Karen for a week when she had terrible pneumonia.  She was in critical condition.  I slept and ate at the hospital and I didn’t leave her side.  I helped her in and out of bed, talked to her nurses, discussed her situation with her doctor, cared for her.   She stayed with me for that first month I was in the hospital, leaving me for only one night during that entire time, and every week I had to go back after, without a thought that she would do anything else.  She actually worked from the hospital while at the same time caring for me, talking to my doctors and nurses, and trying to sleep every night on a small air mattress on a tiny bed in my room.  The hospital staff, on each of those separate floors, knew us by name, treated us well, and were very kind.  But we had to get our paperwork in order first, not so they would be nice, luckily I think all of those people would’ve been nice to us without the paperwork, but it was what the hospital wanted for same sex couples.  And luckily we already had the paperwork done.  I can’t imagine not already having it and having to get it done during those times.  What a nightmare.  We were, like any couple who loves each other, frightened and a bit lost each of those times.  Having to get all that extra paperwork didn’t help.

It’s strange to me how, just because of who I love, I can be seen as wrong or bad or somehow really different.  Our lives are so normal and regular, and believe me, that’s what we want, and what most gay people want, to have a regular life.  In fact our lives are so regular that in our day to day it doesn’t much occur to us that we are gay.  You know, we don’t go around saying to ourselves we’re gay.  In fact Karen and I joke with each other once in awhile… we’re gay?, really?  We are of course, but the point is that we don’t define ourselves like that.  We see ourselves as any other family.  Our families and friends see us just like all the other families that make up our larger group.  I’m Karen’s sister’s and brother’s sister-in-law, her parents daughter-in-law, she is my Mom’s daughter-in-law and my siblings sister-in-law, not the gay sister-in-law.  Everyone we meet and get to know eventually sees us as just another couple they know, not a gay couple, a couple.  So it’s strange and awkward for me to think there are people out there who don’t like me for just loving who I love.  People who don’t want me to be able to marry.  Honestly, why do they care?

Here’s the thing about marriage…. which I guess was my point in talking about all of this to begin with.  If an individual is a religious person, I get that maybe according to their interpretation of the bible they may feel marriage isn’t OK for gay people.  Church rules, personal interpretations of the bible, or whatever it may be.  But if that’s the case then simply don’t let gay people get married in their churches.  What’s wrong with letting other churches decide differently?  What’s wrong with letting other pastors decide that marrying gay people in their churches is OK?  Also, if someone feels like by letting gay people marry the world would go to hell, well frankly, that isn’t your call.  If they would read the bible there’s an important tenet that says judge not lest ye be judged.  Meaning do not judge others, that’s for God, not them.  If they really feel like I’m going to hell because I’m gay, which I don’t believe by the way, then I don’t think that’s supposed to be their call either.  I think God is supposed to decide, be the ultimate decision maker.  I believe it’s also a part of the rules that you should not act as if you know God’s heart and mind.   That would be presumptuous and vain, right?   It’s a sin to think you can speak for God, make decisions that are supposed to be God’s decisions.  At least that’s what I’ve been told.  Love they neighbor and all.  Right?  How can love be wrong?  And what does my loving someone have to do with anyone else?  So why should it matter if I can marry the person I love?  Who does it hurt?  Why does that matter to anyone but me?  Me and my family that is.  I think my Mom would love to attend my wedding.  She would love to walk me down the aisle.  And if she did, why would that matter to anyone else?  What does it hurt?  I, for the life of me, don’t get it.  And before someone says wait just one second, if we allow gay marriage then it will spread throughout the land, everyone will start doing it.  C’mon, that’s ridiculous.  Straight daughters or sons are not suddenly going to marry someone of the same sex just because they can.  It’s absurd to think so.  Maybe a gay daughter or son will, but legalizing marriage for gay people will not spur on a rash of non-gay people marrying same sex persons.  That thought just makes me laugh.

I don’t know why social politics have become such a part of the national landscape in the good ol’ U.S. of A.  Separation of church and state anyone?  Not legislating things that should be personal.  We’re supposed to be a world leader, forward thinking, on the right side of what is just and civil and, well… right.  What happened to that?  It would be so refreshing to look at the candidates in any  race and not have to wade through who is for or against me.  Because, believe me, that’s what I’m doing right now.  I’m looking at the candidates and saying to myself, they are either for me or against me.  I see people I know supporting the candidate who is totally against letting me get married and I think to myself why?  It makes me sad.  I’m sorry, but it does.  I know there are differences in belief about economics and education and how this country should be run, I get that and respect differing opinions, but to me this is personal.  Very.  Because trust me, on this side of things it looks exactly like the same old things… anger, hate, and fear.  It looks like exclusion.  It feels like discrimination.  It feels like I’m being treated as “them”.  You know “them”.  They have worn different faces throughout history, but they have been very much the same.  Regular people that for some reason have been considered less than, not equal, not worthy of laws to protect them, of laws that include them.  So yes, for me it’s personal.  I can’t legally marry the woman I love, which hurts no one by the way, because someone somewhere thinks I’m not worthy of that.  It disgusts me, as all discrimination has and does disgust me.  Because you know what, I am the same as everyone else, and no one should have the right to dictate who I love and who I can marry.  My mind boggles at the sheer amount of money spent on stopping me from being able to marry.  It’s unbelievable really.  All the money that could be spent on other things… education, the environment, revamping some of our systems that are actually broken.  I’m not broken, don’t try to fix me, or put the fix on me.  Stop trying to legislate my life.  I want to ask the people who keep putting forward these bills who they think they are?  How arrogant to think you know what’s best for everyone else.  How completely egotistic and pompous.  Why not spend those millions and millions of dollars on something really important huh?  We aren’t going away.  You can’t wish it or legislate it or control it.  As the saying goes, you can’t hold back the tide.  Though some are still trying to.  Let’s get out of the business of social politics as talking points and parts of agendas and let’s get back to working on the real problems.  I, in my little life, am not one of them.

Ideally I want to live in a world of acceptance and love.  I want for all the hate and fear and hard feelings to fall away, on both sides.  I want to not have to worry about holding Karen’s hand when we walk down the street in some places.  I want for us to pay the same taxes as everyone else.  I want to not be the subject of so much discussion.  I want to legally marry the woman I love, family and friends present, and I want for my wedding to be a regular everyday thing.  Not a gay wedding, just a wedding.  Because in the end, I am gay, but really I’m just the same old Tam.

LiFe · Politics

Where All Men and Women Are Not Created Equally

We pay taxes.  A lot of taxes actually.  More than our share.  Why?  Because we are not recognized as a couple and therefore must file separately.  The system is set up, for us anyway, so that we actually have to file a dummy federal income tax return with our state tax return, in both states where we own property.  We consider ourselves married.  Have been together for over 9 years now.  Work and continue to support the economy.  Give to charity. Own property.  We try to buy local, support the farms in our area, and we are good citizens.  We follow the rules, never hurt anyone, haven’t been arrested.  We love our families, our friends, and each other.  Apparently, that’s all not enough.  And apparently we are legally obligated to pay an extra $2000 in taxes without getting all the benefits and rights afforded to couples who don’t happen to be the same sex.  Apparently of the people, by the people, and for the people doesn’t include us as “the people”.  This angers me.

I haven’t spoken out much on this topic until now because honestly we just go about our lives.  Our lives are full and lovely, which takes most of our attention.  But when something like what just happened in North Carolina happens, we talk about it.  We are outraged.  And frankly, a tad stunned.   We know there are haters out there.  And they can say that they are just concerned for the sanctity of marriage, but common, they hate.  How else can you justify completely obliterating someone else’s civil rights?  You don’t do something like that out of love and concern, you do it out of fear and hate.

There have been oh so many conversations, statements to the press, position clarifying notices, etc. and I’m sick of all of it.  What this comes down to is the basic undermining of a whole segment of the populations civil rights.  And don’t be mistaken, this is a civil rights issue.  If it weren’t we wouldn’t be paying more taxes than we should.  If it was only about the sanctity of marriage there would be, at least, federal civil unions that would include us, take us into consideration, honor our love of this country.  But there isn’t… and here we are.  North Carolina doesn’t only ban same sex marriage, they get rid of civil unions as well.  Sanctity of marriage?  Yeah right.

I could go on and on about how we are the same as everyone else… but I won’t.  No one listens to that.  To the people who would, and do, slam the door in our face there’s not a lot of listening happening anyway.  I don’t understand this, but there it is.  I was raised to treat people as you would be treated.  I was raised to be considerate and kind and generous and tolerant and caring.  I was raised to believe that until you walk in someone’s shoes you should never judge them.  I was raised to give people the benefit of the doubt and to try and understand all sides before going off half cocked.  I was raised to do unto others and judge not lest ye be judged.  The funny thing is I was raised by an atheist and an agnostic.  I was raised without religion in my life, except during those incredibly judgmental visits to an evangelical grandmother who, as I got older and really saw her, treated my wonderful little brother like a piece of trash.  I have no idea why.  She played favorites.  I was a favorite, he was not.  When this realization hit home, when I finally saw her and her behavior I stayed with her less and less.  Until I didn’t stay with her anymore at all.  I also stayed with her less and less because she would tell fire and brimstone stories trying to scare me into believing.  She referred to my mother as that “heathen” woman.  I now realize she was bitter and angry and felt as though life took her in a direction or directions she didn’t really want to go.  It does not justify her behavior.  It was appalling.

This is not to say that I don’t like religion.  It has not always been kind to the ones I love, and those wielding it have not always been kind to me either.  But I’m interested in it.  Sort of fascinated by it really.  I respect people of faith who are honest, humble, devout, and spiritual.  I know some fantastic people who are very religious, but who also love me, accept me, support me.  They know they should not speak for God.  They know they shouldn’t judge.  If you are Christian judgement is God’s job.  Not yours.  They know this.  I respect them and their faith.  It’s as big a part of them as being creative is a part of me.  They live it, walk it, talk it, see the world through it, and because they do they have grace.  Grace, by the way, I have not just seen in people who are christian, but that’s a story for another time.  Those people of religion I respect.  I even envy their conviction sometimes.  My fascination with religion lead me to take a few religion classes in college.  What I learned?  All religions hold the “do unto others” golden rule as a basic principle.  Do unto others…. I guess that to some people of religious faith the do unto others only counts if you are exactly like them, believe exactly like them, and love exactly like they want you to.

Marriage.  An institution.  If it were only performed in churches, maybe I would get it.  But nowadays, in these times, marriages are performed by judges and captains of ships as well.  They are legal and binding.  They afford those who are able to marry with certain rights given to them just because they got married.  We had to pay an attorney $1600 to get some of those same rights, and even still we don’t get all of them.  I don’t understand.  If your church pastor doesn’t want to perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples, OK, I have no problem with that.  But don’t tell some other pastor of some other church who would be more than willing to marry us that he or she can’t.  Keep your beliefs, your faith, your upholding of what your interpretation of the bible is, but keep that for yourself.  Keep it for your family.  Don’t try decide for me who I can marry, how I should live, or what has meaning for me.  I’ve never understood how one group of people could look at another group of people and have the arrogance to believe they know what’s best for them.  And yes, I know there have been wars, and freedoms purchased with beliefs like that, but I’m not hurting anyone.  It’s like declaring war on a group of pacifists.  We don’t want to fight, or tell you how to live, or what you can or can’t do.  Why should you have the right to tell us?

I’m rambling, but these are the things I think when states, North Carolina in this case, gets involved in my life.  And again I’ll say… it’s a civil rights issue people.  The Constitution of the United States of AmericaArticle IV: Section 2: Clause 1 reads, “The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.”  Amendment XIV  Section 1 states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” And I’m expected to adhere to Amendment XVI that reads, “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” without being afforded the rights paying those taxes affords most of it’s citizens.  Is this fair or equal?  Not on your life.

The definition… “Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals‘ freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one’s ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.”  Where are mine?  Where are the rights of so many of my friends who are good citizens as well, but who don’t have the civil rights of our neighbors, friends, co-workers, our families.  We are discriminated against.  And we are being repressed.

I guess what it all comes down to, as I know people on the other side of this issue have quotes of their own, interpretations of their own, and their own beliefs about what is and isn’t a right, is that  I’m tired of it.  I live in a country where all men and women aren’t created equally.  I thought we’d be better than this.  We can be.   We can be our best selves if we step out of fear and anger.  It’s possible.  Some day, for most of us, it is possible.  Someday we will live equally.  Someday we will.  I have hope for that.  I am hopeful.  Disappointed, again, but hopeful.  Even if some people of faith and conservative family values may never accept my relationship, it is just that… my relationship.  It infringes on no one.  I just wish, and am, again, hopeful for the day when my rights aren’t infringed on.  I’m hopeful a day will come when all men and women are created equally.  I’m hopeful for a time when people don’t fear my love for my woman and I don’t have to fear being treated differently or hurtfully because of my love for my woman.  I believe that day is coming.  It has to.

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Testing The Twitter Link

This is sort of a non-post post.  Which suddenly just made me think of post toasties.  Wasn’t that a cereal once?  Or possibly still?  But, I digress.  Here’s the deal.  Most of you who know me know I’m a bonafide geek.  Very nerdy, in a cool flip flops and t-shirts tokenhippygirl kinda way.  I love all things gadget.  All things geeky electronic.  All things techie.  This probably stems from my early exposure to the original Star Trek series, among other sci-fi/fantasy greats like Land of the Giants, Godzilla movies, and the Six Million Dollar Man/Bionic Woman series on TV.  So when this whole social networking thing started I was in.  First… I blog.  Then… I Facebook.  Then… I Tweet.  Now… I integrate these things into one tokenhippygirl network that will some day <insert evil laugh here> take over the world.  Uh… was that my outside voice?  I think it might have been.  Now, though I don’t know if I’ve done it correctly, when I blog a snippet of that blog will appear on my Twitter feed with a link back to my blog.  Circular dude.  Very circular.  I love this.  I also am totally in love with Twitter right now.  At first I was like… OK, how is this cool.  But seriously… it’s cool, to this geeky girl anyway, because I can pick people to “follow” and when I do they start to appear in my stream.  How is this cool you ask?  Well let me tell you… it’s cool because I have decided to follow things/people like The New York Times, Rachel Maddow, Neil Gaiman, Time Magazine, Ann Curry, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Mraz, etc.  It’s cool because when one of them posts something, I see it.  Which means that I’m getting great live streaming news action snippets all in one place.  I can scroll through and if any one particular thing looks interesting, and there’s a link attached to it that will whisk me away to the main story page, I can then get whisked away to the main story page and read the meat of what’s there.  Great for a person who likes to get her info from many different sources.  Great for a girl who’s interested in many different things.  I’m following news agencies, family, writers, actors, friends, sports people, magazines, etc.  And now I don’t have to “run around” to various different sites.  I just go there, and I get what Anderson Cooper has to say, or Air America Media.  It’s awesome.  L-O-V-E it.  Not what I thought I’d ever use it for, and totally what I’m ending up using it for.  It’s a real tweet for anyone like me, get it… tweet… bah ha ha ha!!… OK, I’m better now… Anyway… it’s a treat for any geeky jeans and shorts wearin’ corny curious soul of a person like me.  Check it out.  What can I say… it’s cool.

Opinion · Oregon · Philosophy · Politics · Rants

Stand For Children Video

Mom… I agree with you. No matter what our politics, kids need to have a higher profile where our government spending is concerned. I see the aftermath when the cuts happen. What do we want… educated children, or a much higher drop out rate. People may say there’s no correlation, but trust me, there is.

Family & Friends · Going Global · In The News · Opinion · Politics

The Family Think Tank

My feeling of hope, good, and that something magical just happened have not diminished in the days since the inauguration.  In that vein I’d like to post here a couple of e-mails I, and the rest of my family, received from one of my uncles, and then a response written back to him by one of my aunts.  They are posted down below the next paragraph.  Take a gander now if you like.  I love you guys.

NOTE:  I’d like to say something briefly to all those I know and love who might be a bit less than enthusiastic about this current political turn of events… and you know I’m a positive girl, so bear with me.  I tend to see the good in things, the upside, the sunshine.  I’m also quite the liberal, as you all know.  And I have some people in my life who are, shall we say, in almost direct opposition to my political beliefs.  And you know what… that’s OK.  And in fact, it’s a good thing (yeah, there I go seeing the positive again).  This place we live, love, and cherish, was built on the ability of it’s citizens to have an opinion.  It was fought for and founded so all voices could be heard.  It’s our basic freedom.  Equality of voice.  So I embrace your opinion, even though I usually disagree with it, and I say… that’s alright.  It’s OK for us to disagree.  You know I love you.  I know you love me.  We respect each others opinion enough not to try and change it.  We know we can’t.  We don’t talk politics much, and that’s OK too.  I’m tired, and I think many of us are, of the us and them mentality here in this country.  I’ve occasionally bought into that myself, and I’m trying to be done with it.  None of us can know what the next 100 days, or 1000 days, will bring.  We can’t know it.  We can all only move forward in the ways we can.  Do the best we can to forge a better place for ourselves and our world, in our own individual way.  I know, despite our differences, that we all hope for the same things, really.  We hope things get better.  We hope we keep our jobs, our homes, our incomes, our security, a way of life each of us has made for ourselves.  We all hope, as we do every day, and every year, that the people we love will be safe and healthy, that our children and their children (two or four legged) grow and live and are happy.  We hope to be happy.  It is our commonality.  It is the place where we all meet in the middle.  So, we don’t have to agree on how we all think we, as a country, can best get there.  But we can agree that we want to get there.  To security.  To personal peace.  To a healthier world, whatever each of us thinks that means.  To happiness.  I love my family and my friends, as a whole.  Every part of you, every one of you, to the last.    That’s all.  It’s simple.  I am filled with hope right now, and that hope is for all of us.

And now… on with the thoughts of my most eloquent uncle and aunt… they’re worth a read.

On Tue, Jan 20, 2009 at 5:57 PM  I am compelled to write about the events of this day……..Barak Obama today is the President of the United States of America………To me and many many millions of Americans and to hundreds of millions people around the world there is a renewed sense of hope and optimism. A sense of fairness and humanity that has been woefully absent for so many years in our leadership has now finally returned. As in the heady times of John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington I feel as do so many millions of others that anything is possible; that at long last a feeling of brotherhood, direction and true sense of caring is once again the truth of the day. I am not disillusioned by the naysayers, the doubters, the “glass is half fullers”, the “negatoids”; those who do not want a Black man, a man of hope and positiveness to succeed. I know that there would be some if not even many who would say that those who think like me are Pollyannas. And I am under no illusion that one president can really have the power to effect much in the way of positive change. But perception can be such a powerful thing……. This is not about black, brown, red, yellow or white….It is about a Man who has such faith and hope in the American experience, the American sense of hope, justice and goodness. These American ideals have been allowed to spoil, flounder, and fall fallow over these past years. Our new President has and will revive these powerful positive attributes of which our national psyche is so capable of and I believe allow us to march into the future with a sense of purpose like never before. Shame on those of you who are not willing to give this new Chief Executive a chance. He is our new leader and we must give him our support. What a boon to our country in the eyes of the rest of the world if we all could do that, and what a blow to our detractors and those who would try to destroy us. Obama’s ascendancy to the pinnacle of American power is the absolute best proof to the rest of the world that America is still the cradle of opportunity. A citizen of our country can realistically aspire to anything. Today is the first day of the rest of our lives, and what a great day indeed!!!!!……..Richard

Dear Richard, Thank you for taking the time to put yourself out there and express your feelings on this momentous occasion. I wanted to reply right away last night when I read your remarks, but thought I would take a few hours and let my thoughts settle in and settle out. I listened to the inaugural remarks of our new president four times yesterday. I couldn’t get enough. You are right. It has been a long dry spell where hope and inspiration lay inert and dormant in our national psyche. Listening to Barack Obama’s words felt like cool spring water on the parched lips of our collective thirst. I think that is what struck me about the address and the historic nature of the event in full. I have never in my lifetime witnessed the magnitude of inspiration that this man invokes. It was like John Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” speech on steroids. Men, women, and children of every hue, thinking collectively as Americans that we can do whatever we set our minds to. Finally, I am proud to be an American again. I don’t feel we have to apologize to other countries for the ineptitude and disregard for other cultures that we saw cultivated in the previous administration. We can raise our heads and say….yeah man, Obama is OUR president!! We know the tasks set before us will not be easy. Our economic issues and the conflicts around the globe……Obama made manifestly clear that there is much work to do. But it is a matter of will…..our will. All we need is a leader who can take us there with resolve and regard. With Barack Obama as our new president we are going to surprise ourselves in what we can accomplish. But you know, I don’t think we will surprise our new president. He has high expectations for us. Susie

Going Global · In The News · Music · Poetry · Politics

Will.I.AM Sums It Up

Going Global · In The News · Opinion · Poetry · Politics

It’s a New Dawn, It’s a New Day

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me… and I’m feelin’ good, to once again quote Nina.

I woke up this morning changed, the world around me changed as well.  It’s almost as if my eyes see more clearly, my heart beats more deeply, my mind is more open.  And what’s great about this feeling is that I know I’m not alone in it.  I look into peoples eyes and they look back at me, hopeful.  They look back with joy, with possibility.  There is the feeling that a collective sigh has risen from this place and spread across the world… a sigh that says… finally, at last.  We can breathe.  We can reach out and know we might find a hand or hands reaching back.  We are no longer afraid.   We have said yes, instead of no.  We can, at last, hold our heads high and be proud.  Love has replaced suspicion and doubt.  Peace has replaced unease and anxiety.  All because one beautiful, inspiring, electrifying, genuine, good man has stepped forward, taken the lead, and reached out his hand in expectation to us.  He’s said… I’m ready, come along with me… we will change ourselves, we will change our country, we will change the world.

I’ve included below the text of the inaugural address in it’s entirety.  It’s beautiful.  Words from a poet who believes what he says… who means what he says.  This is a wonderful day.  It’s the first day of a new beginning for us all.  A new beginning for the world.

My fellow citizens:  I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. Those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers … our found fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world … that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it).”

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

Politics · Words Written

Kennedy Quotes

Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills — against misery, against ignorance, or injustice and violence. Yet many of the world’s great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man. A young monk began the Protestant reformation, a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth, and a young woman reclaimed the territory of France. It was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World, and 32 year old Thomas Jefferson who proclaimed that all men are created equal. ‘Give me a place to stand,’ said Archimedes, ‘and I will move the world.’ These men moved the world, and so can we all. -Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968)

All great questions must be raised by great voices, and the greatest voice is the voice of the people – speaking out – in prose, or painting or poetry or music; speaking out – in homes and halls, streets and farms, courts and cafes – let that voice speak and the stillness you hear will be the gratitude of mankind. – Robert F. Kennedy Source: Address, New York City, January 22, 1963

Film · Opinion · Politics

Bobby

bobby.jpg

We just watched Emilio Estevez’s movie, Bobby, last night and I have to say, I liked it immensely. I’m not exactly sure why, though the cast was phenomenal and the acting superb. I guess maybe it’s that this is an event in our history I was too young to really remember or experience, but now, after watching the movie, I realize how much the messages of the film pertain to what’s happening today. And the film made me wonder, what would life have been like if he and Martin Luther King, Jr. hadn’t been assassinated that year.

Emilio Estevez has made a film that somehow manages to capture the feeling of the time. With the many subplots we were able to get a feel for the anger, the desparation, the courage, the hope, and how much we, as a country, were unsettled around the war, civil rights, drugs, and our future. It’s a powerful film with some excellent performances and very good writing. If you’re into political drama, or just the drama of being human, I’d recommend it. You won’t be disappointed.

Poetry · Politics

Hip Hip Hooray

Who could’ve imagined… not only the House, but the Senate. Call me giddy. I am hopeful once more. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens now, don’t ya think?

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
~ e.e. cummings

Politics

Mark Your Ballot

Man… I just voted. What a mental work out that is. You sit there, ballot and pen in hand, flipping through the pages and pages of pros and cons in the voter’s pamphlet, trying to figure out what the heck these measures and the candidates are all about. It’s maddening really.

Though, I always feel good about voting. After all, voting gives me license to complain about the outcome, since I’ve participated in the system. I figure, if nothing else, I have that. It’s part of what still makes this country a great place to live, our constitutional right to complain. Though the pessimist in me says in today’s climate it seems disagreement, no matter with who or what, is looked on with contempt and suspicion. And to that I say… come on. Please. We’re supposed to disagree with each other. It makes the system better. When there are questions, answers are expected. It’s what keeps things from spinning out of control in any singular direction. But hey, those are just my thoughts.

So, I’ve voted. I’ve marked my ballot, made my choices, for good or bad (depending on who’s reading and with what eyes), and the deed is done. I only wish I wasn’t voting just so I have the right to complain. I wish I was voting FOR something. FOR someone. I want to feel excited about politics again. Like I did, way back, when I turned 18 and filled out my first registration card. I want to feel like I could make a difference, that the system makes sense, and that it works well. I want to feel, that at the end of the day, my selections work for me, and for those I love. I want it to be pure, and I know that makes me naive. But I do… I want it to be about a coming together, not a pulling apart… moving forward, not standing still.

Politics

Barack Obama

I was watching Charlie Rose last night and he just happened to have Barack Obama as the guest. I’d heard a lot about the guy, as many have I’m sure, but I’d never seen him speak. All I can say is, the man is impressive. I don’t know enough about him yet, but am now going to do a bit of research. If his record is as stellar as he was on the show, Mr. Obama will have my vote for President. If, that is, he chooses to run.

Charlie asked him a few times, from different angles, about his intentions to run in 2008. He gracefully declined to comment other than to say that his focus right now was to get some Democrats elected in three weeks, and after that he will have to collect himself and make some decisions about how he feels he can be useful to the American people. I only hope, after given a time of introspection, he does indeed decide to run. I was impressed by him, and that hasn’t happened in a very long time. I’ve been one of those verging on apathetic people who’s been tired of voting against someone and has wanted to feel excited about voting FOR someone. He could be that someone, and that, finally, does have me at least a little jazzed again about politics in this country.