I’m Not A Mutant

 (I’m a fucking human. It’s the worst.)

The problem

I want need to believe that I can fly. Not metaphorically, but that I could grow wings and fly. On my twentieth birthday a part of me was sad, because it meant that I couldn’t be a mutant from the X-Men. I grew up a little girl wanting to be Storm. I would sit in front of the TV with my white baby blanket wrapped around my shoulders. During commercial breaks I would twirl and spin.

The line between reality and fantasy/nightmare/dream/possibility/potential is thin for me. I think it has to be. I think most creative people need this thin line so that they can dream the big ideas and believe in the impossible long enough to make it happen. They have to see it and believe it.

This is why the last two years have been so painful. I screwed up. I hurt people. I made wrong decisions. I did this all because of a refusal to accept something. As I tried to fix it, something became clear: I had to accept that I had limitations. I had to embrace the worst word second only to nigger that I know, compromise. Yes, I feel this strongly about this word. It makes me angry and makes my skin crawl and makes my face squidge up.

Accepting that I was limited felt like stabbing that beautiful frizzy haired girl through the heart and burying her in a shallow grave with only her white baby blanket for comfort.

Some context

Since I was young, I have wanted to change the world. I have wanted to have an impact. And I don’t really do small or half-way. For example, we shared Mother’s Day with my mom’s friend. This nice friend has four girls. One of them wanted to make a cake, so off to my house we go. We ran out of time that day, so now I am planning on having them over again soon. Here’s the thing, I happen to have 12 ramekins (small oven safe containers perfect for mini cakes). So, what do I suggest to my husband? Of course, that we should invite over some of my other friends’ kids as well. He and I will make one so that’s 10 left, there are 4 girls, so that’s another 6 children I will be inviting over to make mini cakes.

I have been over extending myself since I was able to be in charge of my own schedule. I remember my mom waking up to a high schooler sleeping outside the door of her room. I had stayed up the night before trying to finish my art project and was so tried I couldn’t make it to my bed. Things only got worse in college, much worse.

For the longest time, I wore all of the ways I had abused my body as badges. I eat one meal (sometimes no meals) a day in college, gold star. I often slept only four hours, when I needed at least 7, blue ribbon. I once pulled a 24-hour day on only one meal. I would tell this story as though it was feat to be respected, as though by not giving myself what I needed I deserved some sort of praise.

It was easy to do this to myself because of the results. During my time at college, I did the following: double majored, started two organizations, worked multiple jobs, was in theatre shows, somehow managed to get decent grades, fell in love, volunteered, joined the cult of football, was a member of a dozen other organizations, met my now writing partner, hosted dinner parties, made Christmas cookies for my dorm room floor. I could go on, but I’ll stop. All I could see was the accomplishments and never the cost of things. It took my then boyfriend almost dumping me to wake me up. I remember he essentially said something along the lines of, “I like you, but not your lifestyle.”

Now

Having spent about ten years, trying to slow down, has meant countless hours trying to get to the root of the problem. I found it, but accepting it feels like a violent betrayal. I have been avoiding finishing this post for at least six months, possibly longer. Writing and posting it feels like giving in to evil and mean forces. Like allowing the villain to win.

Some have told me to re-language or reframe this situation for myself. Sometimes I find these tactics helpful. Sometimes a pig is still a pig even if you call it a pink snuggle-bunny.

My whole life there have been outside voices saying “You can’t” or “You’re crazy.” These voices have tried their best to prove to me how incapable I am. They come in forms of racism, sexism, statistics, back-handed compliments and silence.

I have fought these voices, doing my best to never allow them to box me in and trying not to take them as truth. It’s another reason why accepting that I can’t save the world feels like such a loss.

Why I need this

When I started looking at the side effects of believing that I could truly do anything, I started asking myself questions. One of them was, what do I get from this? Following that answer down the rabbit hole led to an ugly place.

I realized that in a lot of ways, believing I could save the world was part of a colonizer mind-set and steeped in assumptions. This idea, assumes that the world wants and needs me to save it. It also assumes that I know how to best implement the saving. As I started to identify these assumptions, I got a sick feeling. I was doing something that I had been suspicious of others for, mad at others for. I’ve called out the White Savior mentality, in subtle ways, a few times in my life. I’ve definitely complained about it in private a lot. Yet, here I was assuming that I could save Syria or Puerto Rico or North Dakota.

The thing about this mindset is it is so well-intentioned. As a little girl, I wanted to be like Storm. I wanted to help people. There is nothing wrong with this desire, but when I start to assume I know how to go about doing that without involving those to be saved it becomes something different. It becomes about me.

After doing the deep-dive, I realized that truly the best way to proceed was to stop making this assumption. I also had to do something different with this desire. To stop taking on everyone’s story as my own. I would listen to the news and be in tears because I got caught up. I got caught up in someone else’s story. I assumed that I must be the one to fix it. I was wrong.

The assumptions served a vital purpose. If I was responsible for fixing the problems of the world, then the problems were simpler. Also, I thought I knew what to do (huge assumption). It was easier.

One part of me: “Ok, people are suffering from a water shortage in a place
I spent a few months in over a decade ago. It’s my responsibility to 
fix it.”
Another part of me: “When exactly are you going to do that?”
One part of me: “Well, I don’t know. The most extreme idea is to fly to 
Cape Town and start volunteering within the local government to help them 
figure this problem out.”
Another part of me:  rolls eyes, takes One part of me’s hand “Look you know
we don’t have time for this, so move on okay.”
One part of me: beings to sob, feels helpless, does nothing, listens to the
next news story (rinse and repeat)

It was easier because in many ways, what I was doing was feeling guilt (which I’m really good at) for things that were not my responsibility, while also doing nothing of use for the people I was getting all worked up about.

Thinking about it now, all I can do is cringe at my own arrogance. The key here is that by taking responsibility for everything I was able to quickly 1. Assign blame *me 2. Come up with a possible solution *from me 3. Let myself off the hook because I didn’t actually have time. Three easy steps to feel bad about yourself and do nothing of use.

Looking at all the assumptions and realizing that this process served no one, I tried to think of something better. What would be a better way of walking through the world?

            The better way

The answer came in a few different ways. I’ve been doing a lot of work with groups of people trying to bring community together and do work with community. Over the last few months I have had countless conversations about best practices.

The better way is a bit harder, but also pretty simple. 1. Heal yourself first 2. If there is any issue that you feel want to do something about, pause. 3. See if there is work being done by people facing the problem. 4. Ask yourself how you can SUPPORT this work 5. Take necessary steps to SUPPORT it.

That word support changed everything. Ultimately it is not about me. “Eichelle Marie, it is not about you.” I have to say this sometimes to reach past my thick skull to the gray matter.

Benefits

Shifting my insidious assumption-based practices opened me up to a world of benefits. The first being that I didn’t have to feel bad about myself for things that weren’t my responsibility. The second being that I had more brain space to focus on the work I was doing to make change in the communities I lived in. It has been really freeing. Another benefit has been doubling down on a value. I didn’t know until recently that I valued the micro so deeply. When I say micro I mean small actions.

My optimism is based in a core belief that micro feeds macro. If micro feeds macro, if small actions effect large actions/movements/changes, then every action matters. So, if all I can do is bear witness and be informed about the atrocities, disappointments and heartaches of this world, it counts.

This value takes that word support and makes it larger. It makes the word more powerful. It makes me believe I can fly.

New Problem

After shifting some values and beliefs around, I was left with some things. One of them being that I still need to believe I can fly. I still need to believe that anything is possible. If I don’t, I go down a dark spiral toward doom. So how can I accept that I have limitations and still believe I can fly like Pegasus?

I’m still working on that answer. Part of it I think lies in something both my mother and I said recently.

I was sitting on the ground in front of my white board, angry because after over a year of cutting commitments and saying no and coming up with work flows and saying no some more and getting really intentional, after all this time, I found that I was still doing too much. In tears, I turned to my husband and said, “I’ve tried so hard.”

My mom was sitting on the couch breaking some bad news to us. After years of fighting to be her best self, reading the books, eating better, giving it to God, working with her doctors (she hates hospitals), praying about it and losing weight, she felt it wasn’t enough. In tears, she turned to the sky and said “I’ve tried so hard.”

As she said the words it struck my center, like the ring of a gong.

I have deep rooted insecurities and ugly voices. I am actively working to eradicate these things. I have found they don’t offer anything of use for me. Many of the insecurities come down to worth and my feelings of lack in this area. The words my mom and I spoke, talk directly to this insecurity. If I accept that I am human and therefore have certain limitations, in some ways I am accepting that I fall short and am not enough.

Right now

I don’t think that I have an answer yet. Getting this all down has helped me put to bed my savior mentality (I hope). I’m ready to move forward and support not save. I’m ready to heal myself first before moving on to anyone else. I’m ready to lean into my belief in the micro. I’m ready to find a way to support that beautiful frizzy haired girl with the white cape. The trick is to figure out how to do this while looking at what is vs. what might be. How can dream and reality exist together? I am truly asking. I have no idea. For right now, I will continue to live with intention, follow my curiosity down rabbit holes and stare down the questions I don’t want to ask until one of us blinks.

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Proud American?

When I was in middle school 9/11 happened. I remember where I was and how I felt. Snapshots of that day are clear and play like a movie in my head. I happened to be taking a journalism class at the time. I wrote a piece for the school newspaper about the importance of patriotism. My aunt even sent me a framed copy, she was so proud.

proud american.jpg

Leading up to the fourth of July, I kept thinking about that girl and that piece. She was heartbroken by the pain she saw around her and called for everyone to take one tiny action. So much and so little has changed since then. I am still heartbroken by the pain that I see around me and still do my best to encourage tiny actions.

A main difference between that girl and I is that I don’t feel proud of my citizenship status. I feel lucky, but know that this country is not great biased on merit. As Dave Chappellle once said, “…it’s great by default…” Living near the US-Mexico border for almost a decade, my perspective about citizenship changed. I couldn’t make sense of how unfair it all was. If I had been born a few hours south my life would be drastically different.

What’s so special about this country and why should I celebrate it? How can I celebrate it? The history of this place is full of warmongering, hate, pain, theft and ugliness. We are also on the verge of repeating history in the worst way. I wonder if people will begin fleeing into Mexico to escape the violence and hatred of this country.

I feel grateful to be born in a place where I can voice these thoughts. I feel grateful to be safe (for the most part). I feel grateful for an abundance of food. For these and other reasons, I am grateful to be a citizen of the US. Grateful, but not proud.

My pride in this identity has died I think. Shame overtook what space I had for pride. I wish things were different, but my heart is heavy with shame.

I wonder what that girl would say to me. A girl who encouraged her classmates to put up flags and donate money, a girl who encouraged allegiance. I don’t know that she would like my thoughts about The Pledge of Allegiance, she wanted her classmates to make with more fervor.

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

I appreciate its possibility, but we are a fractured divisive mess. We do not stand together. We do not stand for much of anything anymore. Liberty is being covered up by rhetoric and a cult of personality. While I wish there might truly be justice for all, we don’t even have justice for the few.

Maybe we have always been this way and I am just now seeing it. Maybe I am being a bit spoiled and ungrateful. Maybe my heart just can’t take more disappointment. It refuses to accept that this is the best we can do.

The girl I used to be called for tiny actions and encouraged pride. I think she was trying to encourage unity. She wanted her classmates and the adults around her to remember the pain of others and come together around their shared identity as Americans.

My heart only has shame for the actions of this country I was born into. I can only call for those around me to consider why I might feel this way. For the many that also have hearts full of shame we can no longer stand by tiny actions. If pride is going to find its way back to us, we have to band together and take action.

Looking at the author who wrote The Pledge of Allegiance does give me some hope. He was a man who fought against the injustice he saw in the world. He fought for workers rights and choose to be open to immigrants during a time when so many let fear get the best of them. This man chose the words he wrote carefully.

Since he knew of the injustice of this place, I wonder if the pledge was aspirational. If that truly is the case, it gives me hope. Maybe we might one day become the country Francis Bellamy dreamed. Maybe we might one day truly be great based on merit rather than lack of competition. On that day I will be proud, until then I’ll get to work.

jumping

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The voices with bad news build. I can feel the tension rising outside of me and it invades my body. My shoulders rise toward my ears, my breathing shortens, my neck tightens. I swallow it all. Violently the words and sneers and lies and overwhelming truths force their way down my throat burning all the way down. They reach my heart with stabbing pains. The weight of them moves my heart from my chest to my stomach until I can take no more. I vomit until my eyes bulge from my head and then I jump.

Off of the cliff and feel free in the air. The voices can’t catch me. I jump and fall feeling my shoulders release and a smile creep onto my face. As I shoot through the water, feet first, the cold slithers up my skin. I sink into the quiet. I can hear the beat of my heart in my ears and it slows. The water holds me in place and makes me feel safe from the problems of the world. For a moment I am just me. I am only concerned about me. I am selfish and don’t feel guilt.

Then my lungs make a polite request. Before long they are asking more sternly and then they are yelling. They are screaming. They are making threats and demanding. They are bartering with me. They beg.

With little movement I give in. My arms cut through the water to embrace my sides and my face breaks the surface.

I am back to reality. I am back to the middle space between the micro and the macro. I can focus again and make choices. I am not free, but the illusion of freedom is in place again. I begin my swim to the shore and hold onto my memories from the micro. My safe space with precision focus, where all that matters is the present moment.

Watch Yourself, Don’t Squish the Butterfly

An Open Letter

Dear White Persons,

This is an open letter to three people specifically. For almost 29 years of life, I lived in blissful ignorance of how I survived these things called microaggressions. It was only when I was placed into a situation when I was unable to use my only coping skill that I realized how this survival was possible. I was lucky enough to live as a beautiful brown woman for 29 years without ever having to feel the powerless insignificance of a slight based in complicated power dynamics rooted in centuries of oppression and hatred.

When faced with ignorance or misguided ideas or simply a situation where a foot is inserted in a mouth, I engage. I don’t know how I learned this. I don’t ever remember my parents sitting me down and saying anything about how to deal with racism. The first time I was called a nigger it was by a sweet black boy who I am now certain meant that word as a term of endearment. Baby Eichelle didn’t understand that, she only knew that word was the most hurtful thing she could be called. She was wrong.

So, I engage. When you say, “So, what are you?” as though I am another species or an alien or a vampire, I view it as an invitation. You didn’t know it but you just asked me to talk to you about white privilege, power dynamics, how you should treat people, how you will treat me, use of language, social injustice, systems of oppression, the history of racism with in America and anything else that may come up. You didn’t know it, but you are the lucky winner of a chat with an empathic, loving, thoughtful and convincing woman. You get to hear her thoughts about the world and you will leave this conversation knowing who she is. This process for me balances everything out. It allows me to move on.

At age 29, for the first time I was in a situation where I couldn’t engage. I couldn’t tell the man who refereed to Water Protectors as “bad guys” how offensive that statement was. I couldn’t explain why asking me if I had looked into my ancestry might not be a fun activity but one of anguish. I couldn’t explain why smudging is not a performance. I couldn’t explain why going out of your way to introduce me to the one black acquaintance you have is problematic in many ways. I just had to smile.

It was only today that I understand why I couldn’t just let it all go. It was today when you assumed me to be the help. When you talked about me in front of me, as though I’m not worthy of engaging. It was only in that moment that I started to understand why I was holding on to stuff from over a year ago.

The reason I engage and can then move on without a second thought, even from talking to a neo-Nazi leader is that when I engage you hear me. I get to be heard. If you continue to live your life full of willful ignorance and still think you’re right it’s fine. It doesn’t matter to me.

A microaggression seeks to impose a reality that is false to my existence. When I engage I at least get to scream into the void. I get to make known my reality.

Today when you talked around me and assumed that my presence had to be explained, you shifted the power dynamics. The only way I could be there is of course if I was the nanny. And of course, nannies shouldn’t be talked to directly. I don’t know what this was like for you. I don’t know why you felt a need to understand what was going on with this brown woman who came in with a parent.

I know that for me I felt powerless. With all of the privilege I hold. With all of the amazing people I have in my life who love me and lift me up, you could in one moment of inconsideration steal my power. It’s as though I’m a butterfly that you accidently stepped on. The pain you caused me couldn’t reach your ears.

I hear my dad’s voice now. He would say something along the lines of, “Why you givin’ that lady your power?” Then I hear the voice of my cousin. “What can you expect?”

To answer you both, this simple interaction represents a greater dynamic. Part of me agrees. Yes, I shouldn’t give this person, these people another thought. Me writing this right now is trying to do that. Another part of me simply hurts. The world exists so that it is okay for a white woman to do this to me. Yes, it was done to me. So, what do I do now?

Well to answer my cousin, I don’t know that I can accept the reality that many, many white people don’t know better. The reality that the three people I’m writing about have no idea the pain they have caused and probably never will. Two of them had the chance to listen but couldn’t.  If I accept that the current reality is all there is and move forward allowing this reality to color all future encounters I become someone I don’t want to be.  So, what do I do?

I write. I share this hurt. I hope that some will read it and think of others. I write to release the hurt and in some small way rebalance things.

When these three people did what they did, they shifted the power in their favor. They asserted a narrative that I refuse to believe: White is better and knows best. By sharing my side, I am saying, “no.” I am yelling, “NO!” I am saying, “hey, I’m a pretty butterfly flying here watch yourself.” I am saying I matter. That will have to do for now.

With love,

A beautiful brown woman

 

I Can See Godzilla

My whole life I could see the destruction caused by Godzilla. I felt pain when it maimed and killed people who looked like me. I saw the hatred it pulled out of people who didn’t look like me. I can see those faces yelling and crying. I can see the faces mourning lost loved ones in the wake of a powerful force.

It has only been within recent years that I started to see Godzilla itself. At first, I thought I was crazy. For many years a Godzilla sighting would make me feel this way. “No, no Eichelle. Don’t be crazy.” It’s the magic of this powerful being. There are too many people who benefit from not seeing it.

Now I see Godzilla. I see this giant green monster destroying the country I live in. Killing mothers and babies. Disappearing and murdering women. Taking lives on a regular basis with no recourse. People get upset for a while, but it’s too crazy to believe that a monster caused all the chaos. So, we just pretend that everything is fine. Anyone who dares admit that we as a people are sick with poison and being killed by a monster, we write them off. Just people angry for no reason. Or people trying to scapegoat their problems instead of taking responsibility for themselves.

At first it was hard to truly see Godzilla. I didn’t want it to be true. Now I see it and I must decide what to do about it. What am I going to do about the systems of injustice, white supremacy and patriarchy that affect me? Systems I am complicit in, systems I benefit from. What am I going to do?






 

The analogy of Godzilla as a representation for systems of injustice fueled by white supremacy and patriarchy came to me on a hike with my husband. I was angry. This is not an emotion I allow myself to feel often, but I am getting better at it. Godzilla is perfect, because for those of us who see these systems a monster is what we see. There are piles and piles of data that show racism is taking lives. It’s happening right now, but to say that is as radical as to say a large green monster has invaded downtown Tokyo.

It doesn’t change however that it’s the truth. A truth I have to come to terms with. I see the monster and now I must decide what I am going to do about it.

“Have we not learned?”

 

“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.”  – Dalai Lama

“Kindness and faithfulness keep a king safe, through kindness his throne is made secure.” – King Solomon

Over the last few days, I have had some lovely conversations, but a few of them have been tainted by troubling generalized statements.

In a conversation with my husband, I recently stated that angry Atheists and Christian zealots deserved each other. That we should send them off on an island to duke it out. What I see in these two groups is a similar blindness. They are only focused on their perspective and lack empathy.

For Christians it is easy to make arguments for why this perspective is at the very least not in line with Biblical teachings. While on Earth, Jesus chose to spend his time chastising the religious leaders of the day and hanging out with those deemed undesirable or unclean by the religious leaders. I often wonder what Jesus would say to current religious leaders. How would he chastise his current followers?

For Atheist I have never truly known how to engage them around their Christian bashing. If we have a relationship I know from experience I will usually get the great chestnut response “Oh, but not you.”

I wish we as a society could understand the damage we are doing when we use generalizations. Our lack of specific language makes room for offense. If I say “All rabbits are sex fiends.” my statement includes everyone. Any rabbit within my presence could be offended, and rightly so.

No one likes to be told who they are and this is what generalizations do. They seek to name in simplistic terms a key part of who large groups of people are. Hate speech and any kind of identity bashing are full of generalizations. These statements make no room for nuance or outliers or exceptions. They state only a rule that of course applies to everyone equally.

In that same conversation with my husband he said something that stuck out to me, “Have we not learned?” Generalizations are a hallmark of them vs. us thinking. Many have stated how this kind of thinking contributed greatly to the current state of American politics and the growing polarization of Americans.

“As citizens of this great nation, it is kindness, love, and compassion for each other that will bring us together – and keep us together.”  – Melania Trump

I don’t know that we can move forward as a society if we continue to classify each other using generalized statements. It is not only important that we stop thinking in them vs. us terms but also that we shift our language. No group is monolithic.

Generalizations can be useful, but not when stated alone. The only thing I have seen these statements create on their own is offense and distrust. We need more than these statements. This post is an example of this. If I had left it at “…angry Atheists and Christian zealots deserved each other…” I don’t know that I would be doing much more than pissing off two large groups of people. I had to keep going to expand on why I felt this way, to move past the emotion of frustration.

I think that is what has to be done. On the micro level, each human being on the planet must try to move past the particular emotion driving their generalized thoughts and speech. This is where the conversation starts. “Immigrants are taking our jobs.” “Christians hate gay people.” “Native Americans are drunks.” “Millennials are all lazy.” “Gay people were molested as children.” “Californians are so smug and self-righteous. They think they know everything.” “White people are ignorant.”

“It is only after one is in trouble that one realizes how little sympathy and kindness there are in the world.” –  Nellie Bly

Each of the statements are things I have heard people say in conversation. All of them are wrong.  The last one is something I said. I’m glad my husband was there to call me out and encourage me to push past the momentary feeling. He helped me to get to what was really going on.

After 2016, I heard many people talk about the need for Americans to come together. This might be one way of doing so. Or maybe like my husband stated we haven’t learned our lesson yet. I just worry about the cost we will pay to learn it.

“We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.”  -Ellen DeGeneres

“First and foremost, we need to be the adults we want our children to be. We should watch our own gossiping and anger. We should model the kindness we want to see.” – Brene Brown

“The level of our success is limited only by our imagination and no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop

We Are All Complicit

Lately I have found myself becoming more and more unreasonable about the recycling in my home. I can feel the annoyance rising in my husband. I have banished plastic bags from our house. We just spent twenty dollars on a beeswax bread bag. I am pushing us to move toward getting a food co-op membership, in the hopes that the co-op will offer products with less packaging. I am also looking into doing composting to reduce our trash. I can see that he doesn’t get it fully.

On a recent trip to Target, I explained to him that where others might see shiny new fun things, I see something different. I see products made off the exploitative labor of people who live very far from me. I see systems that make things built to breakdown so that they must be replaced. I see single-use products that lead to pounds and pounds of waste in land-fills.

When I see our trash and recycle piles, all I see is my part in destructive, dangerous systems. More and more I see my part in systems of oppression and greed.

I am getting obsessed about my recycle and trash I think because these are systems I can potentially remove myself from. If I can get us down to 0% trash, I wouldn’t be contributing anymore.

My obsession is mostly driven by the systems I don’t see a way out of. I don’t know how to remove myself from the system of racial injustice and white supremacy. I don’t know how to remove myself from patriarchy. I don’t know how to remove myself from the systems, my privilege blinds me from seeing I am a beneficiary of. Within these systems it is hard to see a way out. More and more I see the ways I am complicit within them. I see the ways that I benefit from their existence.

It feels like every day I am getting paid in blood money. I don’t know what to do with it so I put it in the bank. It’s guilt filled money that feels more like debt than profit. A debt that keeps growing. It grows so high that I can’t see a way out. It has been accumulating since I was born.

Even if I worked every day to acknowledge my privilege and de-colonize my everything, it wouldn’t change that I still receive those privileges or that the poison of colonization runs deep. The only true way I see out is for radical community change. The system has to be dismantled in order for the payments in privilege to stop.

We are all complicit. The question is what are we going to do about it?

Seeing the Gears

A meandering review

            I have loved film and television since I was a small, round faced child. It’s where I learn and escape. It’s how I avoid the monsters I don’t want to face. In my most recent bout of avoidance, I started watching 13 Reasons Why. This is probably not the best thing to watch when you’re already feeling sad and weary. It is however a choice I’m glad I made.

For some time, I have felt my hope and optimism fading. I realize now it’s because I haven’t been feeding them. It is easy for me to allow the pain of others to feel like my pain. With our global community, it is easier now than ever to become immobilized by the pain we are all feeling. It is not necessarily that the pain is more or less than before, just that I can see it. I can see the mourning, the dying, the fighting, and the violence. Easily and without thinking I can consume all of that pain. Sadly, my heart and body can’t grow to swallow it all. I would do that if I could. I would swallow all the pain if it would make things better.

This is why watching 13 Reasons Why, was a good choice. For me it made things better. While I feel uneasy about the treatment of suicide as a mystery, I also understand that for many that is how it presents itself. A great mystery or unknown, maybe even a monster. If we don’t look at the monster, if we don’t talk about the monster, maybe it will leave us alone. The story of the show weaves an enticing, heartfelt mystery. It tells its story with care; and reveals itself to you in digestible chunks. It gives you allies for your arguments and still makes clear the points it is trying to make. Most importantly it unapologetically tells its truth.

Normally when I finish a show or film, I’m quick to rate it. I go to IMDB and dig into the production information. Who are the actors? Creator? Writer? Is it based on something? Depending on what I’ve watched, this process can be a few minutes or sometimes hours. As a creator myself, I want to know. If I enjoyed show or film, I want to know that the actors went on to keep creating. I want to know if there is more of their work I might see. I want to know the intentions of the creators. Are my assumptions about their work correct? After finishing 13 Reasons Why, I want to know none of this. While I do hope those who worked on this film go on to have long and happy careers; I don’t feel a need to check things out. I don’t want to give it a rating.

This is new for me. I am grateful, as I always am, to the creators of the show. Weather I like it or not is irrelevant. If someone created something that I was able to view, I try to be grateful for this gift. This current feeling, after finishing 13 Reasons Why, seems different though.

For some time, I have been chewing on a conundrum. I love creating and I love consuming the creations of others. By consuming the creations of others, I learn more about the act of creating. I also risk losing the magic. When someone takes nothing and constructs something to put in its place, this is no less than magic. Not all magicians are created equal. Some have better tricks. The best magicians however are ones who invite you to face the truth. They don’t try to trick you. They merely invite you to join them on a journey. There are of course things happening that you can’t see, but you don’t notice. You truly don’t care. The problem with learning more about the act of creating is that I start to see the things happening. It’s as though I get a pair of x-ray glasses. I can see the wires and the gears. I can see them turning. It ruins it. Or so I thought.

While watching 13 Reasons Why, I could see and feel what the creators were doing. Using a mystery to explore a fairly taboo topic. Enticing me to continue down the rabbit hole, but I didn’t care. It didn’t matter that I could see the gears, because they weren’t trying to trick me. They made it clear what I could expect. They managed me and pushed me. We were dancing.

The show solved my conundrum for me. They provided an answer, I had received, but didn’t believe. They also gave me hope. The world has darkness and pain. It can most certainly feel like a place without hope. Seeing the gears of this show. Thinking of the writers, directors, craft services people, grips, producers and every other hand required to see it through to its completion gave me hope. It reminded me that every day in direct rebellion to all the sadness people are creating and doing their best to share their truth. Is there any better gift than that?

This show is most certainly not for everyone. I don’t even know that I am making a recommendation here. I think what I’m saying is thank you. Thank you to all the hands that ensured I would be able to see this show. It gave a gift to me that I needed and for that I am grateful.

She was so upset.

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

                 Martin Niemöller

Protestant Pastor and survivor of Nazi concentration camps in WWII

 

My wonderful writing partner reached out to me early this week. She heard the story of a man who was being deported. She was extremely upset by the story. I did my best to console her and remind her that the democracy of our country isn’t promised. Democracy is something we have to work at. Over the last year and half, she has reached out to me a few times. She sees a troubling world that seems to be narrowing its sights on her. As a Latina woman, what ifs cloud her mind when stories like the mans’ come her way. She understands the reality of the quote listed above and is working hard to never be complicit in systems of hate and oppression. Our conversation sent me on a mission for more information.

Someone I care about deeply was feeling scared and worried and hopeless. I wanted to understand better what was so upsetting. I am not a Latina and wanted to try to better understand why this strangers’ story so effected my close friend.

I did a long deep dive into many articles and went down a few rabbits holes. One of my efforts to be a better citizen has been to be more diligent about questioning where information comes from. So I try not to take things at face value and ask a few questions before I read something. Who is this author? What authority do they have to be sharing information with me? To help you as you may ask these questions, I have included links to all the articles I read below. To be fully transparent, I did not read the full Disappeared reports. The information was becoming painful.

After reading and searching through a random assortment of articles, videos and reports all I could see was gray. Immigration it seems, like many issues, is nuanced and complicated.

I think our issues as a country with immigration and migration speak to the heart of our current identity crisis. We want to be a country of immigrants and prosperity, but it would be better if all of those immigrants looked and acted just like us.

As I was reading the various accounts of people trying both legally and illegally to enter this country I kept thinking about a play I saw. It’s called “The Art of Bad Men” by Vincent Delaney. The play focuses on a time when German POW’s lived in the mid-west and helped local farmers. After the play, I was lucky enough to go to a Salon talk-back style event. One of the historians at the event talked about the motivations for treating the POW’s so well. He shared that this practice of taking care of the POW’s was done because that is who we wanted to be as a country.

His words kept ringing in my ears as I was reading today. We wanted to be a country who took care of people. Who shared our democracy freely. Who hoped that by doing this, these POW’s might be changed somehow. This was happening at the same time that we as a country were interning Japanese-American citizens.

Who are we going to be as a country? I wonder and after spending an afternoon on my day off diving into one of the hot button issues facing us, I truly don’t know. I don’t know that we can continue to spout the myths of Ellis Island while building an ineffectual wall with one of our friendly trade partners. I don’t know that we can continue to be a place where we treat POW’s better than we do citizens. I also don’t know that we can continue to live comfortably. I don’t know that we can continue to focus only on our localized problems, ignoring our national community.

“An injury to one is an injury to all”

I love this chant. As an extremely empathetic person it encapsulates how I see the world. Why I don’t understand how people can dismiss human life so easily. Why I spent my day off researching to try to better understand the pain of someone I love.

I don’t know that I will ever fully understand the fear of deportation. Or comprehend the everyday stress that comes from worrying about being rounded up and detained. I do think I understand just a little why my friend was so upset. I think she wants to believe in a country that cares for her, even when all the evidence doesn’t support this. When a story like the story of Jorge Garcia comes her way it’s a reminder. As much as she may want it, we are not fixed. We are broken. It is really only our brokenness that we can agree on, but maybe that’s a start.

 

https://www.salon.com/2018/01/16/man-who-lived-in-america-for-30-years-was-just-deported-from-the-country/

http://abcnews.go.com/US/nightmare-family-bids-goodbye-undocumented-father-deported-mexico/story?id=52367022

https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007392

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/8/31/16226934/daca-trump-dreamers-immigration

https://www.vox.com/2015/8/19/9177419/border-fence-work

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/news/2017/11/09/442502/thousands-daca-recipients-already-losing-protection-deportation/

http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/08/18/donald-trump-immigration-border/

http://www.newsweek.com/trump-administration-has-made-illegal-attempts-deport-daca-recipients-724842

https://medium.com/aclu/i-lost-my-daca-status-because-i-was-arrested-though-never-charged-with-a-crime-45561fd4a7fb

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/369096-trump-homeland-security-chief-deporting-dreamers-wont-be-priority-if

http://www.newsweek.com/trump-administration-has-made-illegal-attempts-deport-daca-recipients-724842

https://www.facebook.com/NowThisPolitics/videos/1877266742304807/?hc_ref=ARR7HdUJriRLrA7n6iRRUXdowQ0WfLdvkXOrcmmywyHDL2FEGhmYB2zorHjC4It4m3E

http://www.tucsonnewsnow.com/story/37284543/no-more-deaths-to-release-findings-of-investigation

http://forms.nomoredeaths.org/demand-border-patrol-stop-destroying-humanitarian-aid/

http://www.thedisappearedreport.org/reports.html

https://www.aclu.org/other/aclu-factsheet-customs-and-border-protections-100-mile-zone?redirect=aclu-factsheet-customs-and-border-protections-100-mile-zone

GM’s and the Modern Day Campfire Story

Last night, I sat around a table with friends and we took an adventure. I played my first ever horror role playing game and loved it. I don’t like horror. I respect its contributions to film, writing and culture in general. I also have a hard time leaving the monsters at the movie theatre. So this is a genre of content I tend to stay away from.

My husband is a GM or Game Master. This is a magical person who creates a world for others to have adventures in. Over the last year and a half he has done a deep dive into table top role playing games. RPG ‘s or role playing games are fun interactive experiences. The most well-known RPG is Dungeons and Dragons or D & D.

Over the last year or so, I have seen my husband move past D & D to discover all kinds of different RPG systems. I have also seen the glimmer in his eye fade as people respond to his excitement with confusion and judgments. Last night I got to see him beaming.

He wore a red shirt, with a white tie and black vest. To top it all off he wore a black bowler hat. He was in his element. Crafting every turn, creating suspense and fear and guiding us through an hour and a half interactive adventure. It was magical to watch. Three friends and I sat around my round black table. All light save a few candles and battery powered tea lights was turned off or blocked out. Under the table my husband taped a string of lights providing a soft glow coming from underneath us all. In the center of the table, a Jenga tower. The crackle of a virtual campfire care of Youtube provided a sense of atmosphere and additional ominous music was provided from the laptop screen in front of my husband who sat near but not at the table.

For the next hour and a half, we went on a journey together. Each player contributed some part of the story and my husband guided us. Before we sat at the table, he spent hours creating a sandbox for us to move in. Thinking through possible events and monsters and deciding how our adventure would draw to a close.

As I sat watching my husband, it occurred to me that a GM is nothing short of a storyteller who has very old roots. Yes, games like D & D or the game we played, Dread, are newer, but the roots of what happened at that table are very old. As the virtual campfire crackled, I thought of my ancient ancestors telling the history of our people centuries ago.

Over time the voices of storytellers have shifted to different mediums. Technology created new opportunities for the campfire story experience. From the radio to the early days of television, we as a society have enjoyed the tradition of sitting together and taking in a story. Although the technologies have changed and continued to provide more individual experiences we still seek out the same feelings of communal fear, sadness or laughter. People live tweet events to be connected globally as they sit in their home alone. We choose to use the internet as a place of connection. I’m doing that right now. I’m sending my words in a virtual bottle so that they might reach your shore. RPG’s are another extension of the campfire story.

A GM creates an experience and like all great storytellers allows their audience to contribute to or simply change the story. The campfire has been replaced with a table and some additions such as dice or a Jenga tower have been added, but the magic of what happens is the same.

A good GM, creates a unique experience one part board game, one part live performance. This experience cannot be recreated, but it can be appreciated and so can the GM’s of the world. I am so proud of my husband. He creates magic and taps into the very old oral tradition of telling and creating story.

If anything I’ve said has sparked your curiosity, I challenge you to seek out RPG’s and gaming communities wherever you live. The game we played was Dread, but there are many more systems. Below I have included a few links to get you started on your next adventure.

To all the GM’s out there, thank you for continuing the oral tradition and creating story. Story is something I have committed my life to. I am so grateful for others who also make similar commitments and continue to deepen the well of story.

 

 

PS: Yes, the RPG world is very white and very male, but this is changing and the community as a whole is super welcoming.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKejuEmQjMQ – A good video about where to start

https://dreadthegame.wordpress.com/about-dread-the-game/ – The game we played

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0loSZFsyoQ – A play through of Dread – TableTop is a great channel to see fun play-throughs of both RPG’s and board games

https://roll20.net/ – A place to virtually play RPG’s if you don’t have a community where you live

If you are now inspired to become and GM (YAY!!) links for you below

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjmkolUrrB4 – A wonderful female GM sharing her tips about being a wonderful GM

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLuGFF6RJgaMrlxVxEB7XsBerrIFgnqZIa –A good playlist with everything you need to know about being a GM

http://www.drivethrurpg.com/top_100.php – A place where you can purchase different systems