Posted in Current events, Personal Real Life Stuff, Politics

The Day After the Day Without a Woman: A Letter to Four Men

So yesterday was National Women’s Day, and women who could afford it stopped doing all the good stuff they do to make it the Day Without a Woman, and God bless them. Big symbolic gestures made by the people who can afford them are how most of the good in this world gets started. But of course the hills of the internet were alive with the sound of rhetoric all day long. A lot of it was from women expressing solidarity, but at least as much of it came from men. Before it all made my head hurt so much I had to walk away from the computer, I identified four different types of straight men who were sounding off. (Gay men were part of the conversation, too, of course, but their relationship with women is a completely different paradigm. Most of the day, I just felt like I owed them an apology.) Now that I’ve had some Excedrin and a good night’s sleep, I’d like to answer those four straight man-types back.

Type Number One: The Troll:  You boys are the ones who spent all day yesterday trolling your sister-in-law’s Facebook wall, looking for strange women to piss off. You had your misogyny memes all cued up and your big boy cuss words in reserve, and frankly, kumquat, we saw you coming from a mile away. You little bastards are the loudest, most infuriating, and ultimately most dangerous subset of man known to woman—hell, one of you got himself elected President. One comment from you, and we know you’re not safe, to avoid you in the real world like the plague. You’re the guy we know will hurt us given the slightest chance because you hate us and believe in your rotten little hearts that to punish us is your right. But as loud and as horrifying as you are, you’re a tiny voice shrieking in the wilderness; there just ain’t that many of you. For the purposes of the internet, you’re easy enough to ignore. And you give the angriest among us womenfolk something to snack on. So go ahead on, dumbass. You do you.

Type Number Two: The Iron John: You’re the ones who feel marginalized by the whole notion of a National Women’s Day, the ones who feel a little queasy at the idea of anything that’s not about you. You ask why can’t there be a National Men’s Day. (There is one.) Whenever any of us says men have historically done this or that bad thing, you’d rise up from the grave to holler, “Not all men!” Many of you are the same guys who spent Valentine’s Day complaining to the perfectly attractive female friend who shares your office and eats lunch with you every day that women only like men who treat them like crap and that’s why you don’t have a girlfriend. You spent most of yesterday demanding affirmation from the women who care about you that you really are a nice guy. You’re irritating as hell, but I can’t be too mad at you. I know a lot of you are one really good eHarmony date away from re-thinking this whole thing.

Type Number Three: The Motherfucking Expert: You’re the ones who spent yesterday cracking jokes and laughing at how ridiculous it all was. You’re just sure we silly womenfolk are over-reacting, again, because you know that’s what women do. From the safety of a context that extends precisely as far as the length of your dick, you think you have the whole wide world worked out, that life is for all of us as you perceive it to be for you, and if we are finding it difficult, we’re just not trying hard enough. Or worse, we’re oversensitive, making things hard on ourselves and blaming everybody else. You’re the guys who talk about how we women live on a pedestal; you joke that we shouldn’t want to be equal to men, that to be so would be a step down. In the same breath, you say we’re all for equality until some manly job needs doing, then we come crying for Daddy, and isn’t that cute? Last night as I unclogged the kitchen sink while my six-foot-two, two hundred pound, bearded Aussie Viking of a husband created something pretty on his desktop, I mused at length on how satisfying it would be to choke each and every one of you to death with your own jockstrap. But after a night’s rest and reflection, I will simply say: Fuck you.

Type Number Four: The Ally: Speaking of that Aussie Viking. You were the ones I read the most yesterday. You outnumbered every other type by at least two to one, and that’s awesome. You know having a National Women’s Day takes nothing away from you, that the rights women demand are to be shared, not stolen. You see us, respect us, collaborate with us, and recognizing your own strength and privilege, you risk your own comfort, security, and physical safety to defend us. And while some of us have been hurt too much and too deeply to dare to trust you, I think I speak for most of us when I say we see you, too. We love you. And we thank whatever higher power we believe in for you every single day.

Posted in Current events, Politics, Uncategorized

From Yesterday’s Congressional Record, or Holy Moley Mooley Moo

DISCLAIMER: While it is based on an unbiased report of actual events, this is not a news report; this is an editorial, spun shamelessly from my own point of view. I don’t feel the need to be “fair and balanced,” and I shouldn’t be read as such. The numbers don’t lie, but my interpretations are my own. I urge you with all my soul to read the raw data and come up with your own.

So in the interest of “real news,” I decided this morning to do a little independent research online about what US Congress did yesterday, February 1, 2017, a day when our country is in a squawking tizzy as much as it has ever been before, a day when we the people are looking to them with bated breath and wringing hands to either protect us from the crazies or protect the crazies from us, depending on our party affiliation. This stuff was not hard to find; you can go to C-Span and watch video of it and get a little abstract of everything they actually voted on, and you can go to the Congressional Record and get a transcript of everything that was said, plus all the documents that got put on the table. Online. Every day.

I’m from South Carolina, so I’m focusing on the legislators from here, but anybody from any state can see a breakdown of all the votes and see what their own people did.

So to start with the House of Representatives, the stomping ground of Jim Clyburn, Jeff Duncan, Trey Gowdy, Mick Mulvaney, Tom Rice, Mark Sanford, and Joe Wilson. They began with the “Morning hour,” where representatives got up and made speeches, some as long as an hour, some as short as one minute. There was much talky talk about the Muslim ban and President Trump’s policies in general—heartbreaking tales of stranded children and nasty remarks about Steve Bannon. Al Green from Texas got up and invoked the sacred spirit of Dr. King to bitch one more time about the Republicans holding up Merrick Garland’s appointment to the Supreme Court. Mr. Thompson from Pennsylvania talked about how sad he was that a guy named Scott Graves wasn’t going to be staff director for the House Agriculture Committee ‘cause he’s awesome and the committee’s awesome, and he was very, very sad. And Mr. Lipinski from Illinois got everybody up to speed on National Catholic Schools Week. And then they went to lunch.

After lunch, they prayed. They tried to approve the journal of the day before, but they didn’t have a quorum, which means all the people who voted later hadn’t gotten back from lunch yet. They said the Pledge of Allegiance. Then they had more short speeches for and against Trump policies (more for after lunch than there had been before—the Trumpians rise late, apparently), plus speeches about a North Carolina newspaper that’s just the bees knees and the new chancellor of the University of Tennessee.

Then they voted 231 to 191 to overturn an SEC regulation requiring drilling and mining companies to disclose payments to US and foreign governments. Let’s think about that for a second – they didn’t vote to say these companies could or could not give money to the US or foreign governments. They voted to say that WHEN these companies DO give money to the US or FOREIGN governments, THEY DON’T HAVE TO TELL ANYBODY ABOUT IT. How in East Hell could this POSSIBLY be in the best interests of the American people? (For their answer, I direct you to the convoluted debate in the Congressional Record, and if you can make sense of it, you’re a better woman than me.) And how did our brave men from South Carolina vote? Messrs. Duncan, Gowdy, Rice, Sanford and Wilson all voted for; Mr. Clyburn voted against; Mr. Mulvaney . . . . didn’t vote.

Then they voted 238 to 194 to get rid of former President Obama’s rule to protect streams and drinking water from coal mining waste. (Because apparently fish, ducks, and school children are all f*ckers who can fend for themselves.) Messrs. Duncan, Gowdy, Rice, and Wilson all voted for; Mr. Clyburn again voted against, and apparently Mr. Sanford has close friends in the fish and duck community because he crossed the aisle and voted nay, too. Mr. Mulvaney . . . . didn’t vote again.

In short, anything that places any kind of oversight or restriction on corporations making money is bad, bad, bad, no matter what evil it might prevent in practical terms for actual human beings. Business (every pun intended) as usual.

After all that boring stuff was done, they went back to savoring the sounds of their own voices for a bit, including a Moment of Silence for the victims of the Quebec terrorist attack. Then Speaker Paul Ryan (who skipped the morning session altogether) read out the new rules for the Homeland Security Committee, which included a neat little revision whereby TWO MEMBERS now constitutes a quorum on anything that the Constitution doesn’t specifically say it can’t. Two.  Two members can now vote on stuff on a committee for a shadow agency within the government which basically supersedes every other branch of our federal government, including any and all civil liberties promised by the Constitution. Two.

From what I could tell, these rules were accepted with no fuss at all.

Meanwhile, over at the Senate, home of Senator Lindsay Graham, who likes margaritas, and Senator Tim Scott, whose black life matters whether the Capitol security guards like it or not, it was all about cabinet confirmations. There was much talk about Betsy DeVos, but the only vote was the one that confirmed former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. And both of our men on the ground voted yes. Now I get that they’re both Republicans. But where’s all that pushback we’ve been hearing about from both of them against the President’s policies? I was as pleased as anybody to see Mr. Graham burn Trump on Twitter, good for him. But if he’s still going to vote to confirm a Secretary of State who will obviously place the interests of Big Oil at the tippy tippy top of his priority list in all foreign policy for the next four years, his Tweets mean precisely squat. And I am genuinely outraged that Senator Scott has had problems in the past getting access to the Senate floor. But now that he’s in there, I’d love to see him do something besides follow white privilege down the primrose path to America’s global ruin.

And where are the Democrats? Home, washing their tights?

We have to pay attention. Congress would love to blame every ill on Il Douche while they keep silent vigil over their own comfy nest. They want to slag him out in the world then silently turn away and let him do what he wants in the rooms where it counts so they don’t lose campaign funds and support for their own pet projects. We can’t let them play this game any more. We have to let them know we’re watching. We have the tools to thwart them as close as our own Facebook wall; it’s time we learned to use them. Don’t just accept my take on this one day; start checking for yourself. Because if we let things go on as they are, we’re screwed. And in our information age, ignorance is no excuse.

Posted in Books, Current events, Lucy Blue Short Story, Other People's Awesome, Personal Real Life Stuff, Politics, Pop Culture, Publishing, Short Story

We Are Not This: Carolina Writers for Equality – Press Release

small-we-are-not-thisI’m lucky enough to have a story in this–“The Dark Lady” about a transgender actress in the days of Shakespeare. But even if I didn’t, I’d promote the living juice out of it. Much, much great stuff to read, all profits benefiting a magnificent cause. It’s available as an ebook right now from Amazon here, and print copies are on the way. Get a copy, boost the signal, spread the word. HB2 and the hate it represents are NOT North Carolina. 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CHARLOTTE SMALL PRESS RELEASES CHARITY ANTHOLOGY PROTESTING HB2

For Details, contact John G. Hartness
john@falstaffbooks.com

10/25/16

In an “October Surprise” for Governor Pat McCrory and members of the NC General Assembly, Charlotte-based micro-press Falstaff Books today released We Are Not This – Carolina Writers for Equality. The anthology, a collection of 31 short stories, poems, and essays by North Carolina writers or writers who feel a strong tie to the Carolinas, was created as a response to HB2, the divisive “bathroom bill” passed by the NC General Assembly earlier this year.

We Are Not This includes stories from NY Times bestselling author A. J. Hartley, noted singer-songwriter David Childers, Bram Stoker Award nominee Jake Bible, Charlotte Observer columnist and longtime educator Kay McSpadden, Hugo-award nominated editor Edmund Schubert, and a host of other writers. The anthology is currently available as an ebook, and will be available in print within the month.

In his introduction, publisher John G. Hartness writes “We understand that people are people, and all people deserve to be protected from discrimination. We understand that insuring equal rights for one group does not take away rights from another group. We understand that laws restricting freedom and taking away someone’s chance for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the opposite of the values that this country was founded upon. We understand that we are stronger together, and that love is love.”

Proceeds from the sale of the anthology will be divided among NC-centric LGBTQ charities, non-profits, and lobbying organizations. The first group of organizations to receive funding will be Time Out Youth, Queen City Theatre Company, and EqualityNC.

Posted in Current events, Personal Real Life Stuff, Politics

For What It’s Worth

For the past two days, I’ve been trying to think of something to say that isn’t being said better already by somebody else, and what occurs to me is this. Right now and for the next two months, every political party in the US is going to be falling over itself to convince people of color to help them win the election. The so-called “black vote” is one of the holiest of holy grails in the American electoral process. But why should black Americans who aren’t already invested go out of their way to prop up and participate in a system that offers them no protection and has in fact defined them generally and institutionally as a threat?

Regardless of the details of any specific incident (and the undeniable humanity, bravery, and intelligence of most police officers as individual men and women) we can no longer pretend we don’t know one single, horrifying fact: that it has become an accepted truism within the official institutions of this country that black men are inherently dangerous. That the mere presence of a black man even with his hands up is a threat so immediate and so dire it justifies the use of deadly force. That isn’t just racism, folks. That’s genocide. As a people, we have to acknowledge it, and we have to fix it.

And yes, that starts with all of us individual white folks reaching out in empathy and friendship, but the warm fuzzy feelings aren’t enough, not any more. We have to share in the outrage and demand change. We have to risk our own comfort to join the fight for justice. We have to stop waiting for Dr. King to rise from the grave and take selfies with us so we can prove how liberal we are and instead become one nation united in grief and rage and the hope for something better. We have to stand beside our brothers and sisters of color and echo their voices as they shout, “No more!”

Posted in Current events, Politics

Why #BlackLivesMatter Matters – one more white chick perspective

A brief message for all my fellow white folks who have a problem with #BlackLivesMatter. I get it; white guilt is exhausting, and life is hard for everybody. But right now, at this moment, we Americans live in a country where a serious contender for the highest office in the country believes that Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 US 393 (1857) is “still the law of the land.” For anyone who’s forgotten their high school civics, that means in Huckabee’s mind, our federal government operates on the assumption that African-Americans can’t really be Americans at all because they aren’t really human beings. He’s running for President of a United States where the only real citizens are white. (Dred Scott doesn’t address races that were never slaves, but considering the Republican stance on immigration, I don’t think that’s much of a stretch.)

You know what scares me the most about this? Huckabee knows exactly how black Americans will react to this (just like he knows exactly how LGBT Americans will react to his support of that idiot in Kentucky). But he’s betting his considerable campaign coffers that enough non-black (and non-LGBT) Americans will agree with him to get him elected anyway. Still think racism is an outdated, overworked issue that we need to let go?

Even if you think guys like Huckabee and Trump are clowns with no power (bless your heart), how about this? Here’s an entirely non-political example perpetrated not by an idiot whisperer but by a non-emotional, market-driven entity that serves a community that is as likely to be open-minded in its outlook as any in the country. Yesterday I was searching for cover art for a new romance which features an African-American heroine. I typed “beautiful young black woman portrait” into the search box of a popular stock art site that has no political agenda whatsoever. And for every portrait of an actual woman of color that came back in the results, I got at least five photos of white women wearing black clothes. (And lest you think I think of myself as above the argument, yeah, I just realized I found it necessary to narrow my search with the word “black” instead of just typing “beautiful young woman portrait” – this ain’t my first rodeo; I know what I have to type to find what I want; the problem I’m pointing out has had an effect on me and my outlook, too, and that also stinks.) And yes, I know the search engine picked up “black” as a keyword, not a racial concept; that’s why I got all those white girls in little black dresses. But five to one? If the photos available were in any way reflective of reality, even a search for all beautiful young women shouldn’t have come back five to one white to black. Obviously this site and its search engine isn’t consciously racist; it merely reflects the market as we, the artistic community using stock photos, define it. In other words, it’s not them; it’s us.

So yes, ALL lives matter. I don’t think anybody participating in the #BlackLivesMatter movement means to dispute that any more than the people who got upset about Cecil the Lion meant they want all dogs to die. The point is not that ONLY black lives matter or that black lives matter MOST. It’s that black lives matter ALSO. And if you think this is a message that this whole country doesn’t need, you’re not paying attention.

White people of good will can’t stop fighting racism just because we’re sick of worrying about it. If we do, we’re not people of good will at all. Because millions of our fellow Americans—our fellow humans—don’t have that luxury of choice. Racism for them is an evil they can neither escape nor control that affects every aspect of every minute of their lives. It is an evil that is destroying our nation, and its greatest power is our desire to pretend it isn’t there. If we feel like we can’t help, the least we can do is hush and get out of the way.