Tag Archives: news

A Cozy Catch-Up: What’s Complicated?

I’ve been quiet on here for awhile, for a whole myriad of reasons, ranging from my real life getting “in the way” to reevaluating what I actually what to do with this platform, and why I want to do it. I’ve been thinking a whole lot about the blogs that I enjoy reading, and why I enjoy them so much, and the blogs that I read the most often (not necessarily the same as the ones I enjoy!) and why I keep going back to them, and what all of that means for me. I’ve had drafts saved on here of partial blog mission statements, and I’ve found myself disagreeing with my own words more often than I’d really care to admit.

 

Oh, and I lost my at-home internet access. I’m sure that has something to do with the slow-down in posts as well.

 

I’m sitting in a coffee shop today, just finished up doing some stuff for my pretty-damn-decent day job, giving myself some space to think and to write. The music playing on the (I think pandora?) radio station reminds me of being 19 years old. So let’s talk. Let’s catch up and let’s clarify some points and let’s try to understand each other, even though we will ultimately fail.

I started this blog because of two feelings. One feeling was an old one, the desire to write. I identify as a visual artist first, but I’ve always liked and loved writing, and sometimes people tell me I am good at it and that feels good. In the world that I occupy now, blogging is a fairly obvious and easy and comfortable format for me to satisfy that urge. I read a lot of blogs and it was starting to feel ridiculous that I didn’t have a public blog of my own yet (or at least, one that I really used, I’ve dabbled before). The second feeling was one that I’ve been having a whole lot in the last year. I have this feeling after conversations at work and over dinner. I have it after reading news articles and blog posts. I have it when I get off the phone with my mother. I have it when I’m trying to make time to paint. I have it when I’m trying to find a way to buy art supplies that doesn’t involve a corporation (and it is basically physically impossible). I have it when I visit other places and people ask about the city that I live in. It’s the same feeling all the time. It’s a feeling of being slightly overwhelmed and never having time to really explain the nuance of any situation. It’s a feeling of resisting the urge to simplify the world to buzzwords and memes. It’s a feeling of really having to take some time to chew on an idea before I open my big fat mouth.

“I have complicated feelings about that…”

And I kept finding myself saying that to people. To my partner, to my coworkers, to my friends, to fellow artists, to everyone. And I was saying it about all sorts of things. About cats, about feminism, about lgbtq politics, about race relations, about art, about religion. And I barely ever had time to follow up on any of those complicated feelings. And I really really wanted to.

So I started a blog. And I started writing. And then I started to notice things about my own writing that made me uncomfortable. While the issues I tend to gravitate towards, things that feel complicated, are ones that I often have both positive and negative feelings about, that rarely shows. I’m a pessimist, and so I find myself taking it for granted that, for example, y’all will understand that I really did love that genderbread thing quite a bit, and not feeling the need to talk about any of my positive feelings about it. The result is that I talk mostly about my more negative feelings. It looks a little like I am complaining. And that isn’t really my purpose. So that’s confusing, and I’m working on it. This feels almost ridiculous to say, but really, you guys, I like lots of things.
Also, I found myself shying away from writing about certain issues. And maybe some of that made sense, but I still felt weird about being able to talk until I was blue in the face about the importance of feminism, but only making what felt like small nods towards the importance of being anti-racist. Now I am a white lady, so maybe I have more personal experience needing feminism than I do needing anti-racism, so maybe that makes it easier for me to talk about one than the other. At the same time though, I think it is important for allies (of all sorts) to speak out. I’m still human. I’m still learning. I’m still trying to find the best and most respectful ways to do that.

So, rather than a mission statement, I’ve decided to share with you a list of goals for this blog space. Here we go!

1. Demonstrate a more accurate and healthy range of opinions/reactions. That means talking about stuff that I like as well as stuff that I don’t like. That means taking the time to articulate the full range of my opinions on a matter.

2. Tell stories. I love stories and story-telling, but sometimes I hide behind a wall of intellectualism and Discussing Important Issues, because it somehow feels safer.

3. Be open to feedback and input while maintaining my individual voice.

4. Be aware of, and own up to, my own position of privilage.

If you have any thoughts on any of these goals, you know what to do.

 

In the meantime, those of you who have an interest in my wedding plans might be interested to know that I am (along with some other folks) doing a little guest-blogging over at the wedding blog LoveintheD.

 

Thanks for this chat. I feel better now. Stay tuned.

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I don’t want to find violence intellectually interesting.

I used to avoid the news at almost all costs. This isn’t all that surprising considering that when I was a teenager “Columbine happened” and then “911 happened” (I find the language we use to discuss our tragedies utterly bizarre). I was a young person. I couldn’t even vote, and I felt entirely powerless. I also was a nerd, and I had this theory that humans are empathetic, but that our empathy works best in smaller communities. So, before all this technology started to connect the whole world, if you found out about something bad happening, it probably happened to someone you knew, or at least someone who knew someone you knew. I realized that if I was going to be sad for every single person who died, or even every single person who died in a tragic way, then I would have to be sad forever all the time. I didn’t want that, I was a teenager, I was sad enough already. Since I viewed the news as inherently negative (again, so surprise there) I cut it out of my life. It hurt less.

***

These days I am an adult, not a sad teenager, a truth which I am grateful for. I have a slightly more nuanced understanding of news and current events, and will concede that it is probably sometimes a good idea to be informed. I don’t try so hard to avoid the news. And now, thanks to facebook, google reader, and a million other tiny bits of technology which connect us all (and connect us to more and more information) the news is a whole lot harder to avoid. I don’t have to seek it out. It comes to me. And I still struggle with that. I struggle with knowing where to draw the line. When is it important to be informed? And when is it important to turn the damn machines off so one can focus on the things that are actually in one’s life?

I don’t have any answers. Mostly I try to take it on a case by case basis, and to be perfectly honest, most of the time I feel like I’m failing. Either I’m too detached, too reserved, and not ready to spring into action when action is needed because of it, or I’m on media overload and I desperately need to close the lap top, play with my cats, write a letter to someone I miss, do anything else in the world.

***

On Friday something horrible happened. You already know what it was. What is is. Almost every blog I read published something on it. My facebook was exploded with condolences and prayers, sadness and anger. Mostly, I have been avoiding it. And I feel weird and guilty about that. And I also feel weird and guilty about the Pakistani children who die everyday. While America grieves for the (mostly white) innocent children who were gunned down needlessly, the needless slaughter of the (mostly brown) children goes largely undiscussed and unchallenged. Why is that? Is it because it is sanctioned by our government? Is it because we are way more racist than we would ever want to believe we are? Is it because we are more afraid of this kind of killing, because it feels more personal (it feels like it could have been our children or the children of our friends)? Is it because it is geographically closer? I’m guessing the answers vary from person to person.

I’d been avoiding reading about it. I know what happened, how could I not? Then today I thought I might browse some of the blog posts. I don’t want to join the throngs of people proclaiming “everyone is reacting to this wrong except for me!” but goddamn, I have some mixed feelings about the things that I have been reading. Here are a few of them:

1. Anarchists who are pushing for more gun regulation and/or full out banning of guns. I don’t get it. I mean I get why someone might think guns should be harder to get, and I get why someone might be in anarchist, but I don’t understand how the two can coexist inside of one human.

2. I really really wish that we could talk about mental illness in a respectful way.

3. People seem to have this amazing ability to look at a tragedy, see that it is tragic, and then announce that this tragedy totally proves that their position on the issues is the only correct one. I don’t know if this particular tragedy proves anything or doesn’t prove anything, I really don’t. What I do want to say (as respectfully as possible) is that that attitude seems a little disrespectful to the dead.

4. Seriously though. Can we please talk about the government sanctioned killing of innocent children, and how that is not ok? Can we please grieve for them, if innocent children are truly so important to us?

5. We live in a world that promotes, sanctions, and rewards so many kinds of violence.

6. And then I came across this line “Well, today I got an email from a reader drawing a parallel I found fascinating.” And it occurred to me, that with all my desire to distance myself from tragedy, I don’t ever want to find violence “fascinating” or intellectually interesting at all. I want to let it just be sad.

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I Have Complicated Feelings About That: Gaza (except it turns out it’s not that complicated)

I write my blog posts in stages, usually writing about 2/3 of a piece, then stepping away from it (sometimes a topic just overwhelms me) then re-reading it, making a few cuts and additions, then picking up where I left off. So I already had a good chunk of a post about Gaza written yesterday, before I left to go to the vigil for those killed this past week.

The post included a delightful anecdote from the movie Clueless (Cher Horwitz’s confused and privileged “I thought they declared peace in the middle east?) and a lot of discussion about an old friend of mine who I don’t see much anymore -because she lives in Israel. And then I went to the vigil, and things shifted in my head. I still want to talk about those things, and why the US supports Israel and how overwhelming religious politics can be, but I also walked away from it feeling like “this is not complicated at all.”

***

A few years ago, I made friends with a fascinating and utterly brilliant Orthodox Jewish woman. We were both talkers and so we talked about everything (her faith, my faith, how they were different and how they were related, how their differences didn’t stop us from caring deeply about each other). We don’t talk too much anymore, because a couple of years back, after she married, she and her husband moved to Jerusalem.  It was this friend who first introduced me to a particular political stance that I had never even thought about or considered. One day, when I made a (probably awful) comment about how it was my understanding those most minorities, including Jewish people, leaned to the left of the American political spectrum, she informed me of one important exception. She said that some Jewish people (the subtext was “but not me” but I don’t actually know) are single issue voters, and will vote for whatever candidate looks most likely to support Israel. Period. The End.

I was dumbfounded. I said something like “but… you live here, you’re not just Jews, you’re also Americans, you have to live with the laws here.” Fortunately, I had already read Maus. What I mean by that is that I had a framework to understand how horrible anti-semitism could be, and how deeply people might fear it. My friend very patiently explained to me that while that was true, the Western World had gone through various periods of being Against The Jews so often, and the holocaust was so recent in people’s memories, that even if you wanted to live your whole life in the US you might still find it advantageous to have somewhere else to go. And what better place than the holy land? And what better place than a country controlled by Jews? So the thought process would be (and again, these are not my thoughts, I’m paraphrasing a friend here) “if everything else goes to shit, we’ll still have Israel.”

It was probably one of our least interesting conversations at the time, but I’ve lately been thinking about it, and her, a lot. I don’t have the courage to write her and ask her what she thinks about everything that happened this week, because I’m afraid that I won’t like the answer. And then I feel terrible about that fear, like I’m not giving my friend, who is a good person, enough credit.

***

The United States government does not back Israel because of Jewish Zionists, they are not a major enough part of the electorate for them to feel the need to do so. Leading up to the 2008 presidential election, it looked like McCain was more pro-Israel than Obama, and that may have even been (though I don’t recall) what inspired our conversation about the political leanings of American Jews. But McCain wasn’t trying to attract Jewish votes with his stance on Israel. No, he was trying to attract Christian votes, and a particular kind of Christian vote at that.

What we do have a lot of in this country are Protestants, and a good chunk of those fall under the umbrella of Fundamentalist, Evangelical, or sometimes both. Now I haven’t read the book of Revelations since I was twelve (that. goodness.) but apparently many of these Christians believe that certain parts of the holy lands need to be in Jewish hands in order for the apocalypse  to happen – in order for Christ to rise again.

I for one find this line of thought to be a bit weird. I don’t believe in prophesies like the ones in the New Testament, but I could image how, if you did, you would believe that X would necessarily happen before Y. What I have a hard time wrapping my head around is the idea that since X will happen before Y, we should try to help X along so that therefore Y can happen. Why worry about it, if it’s a prophesy, it’ll just happen when it’s supposed to, you know? And certainly plenty of Christians are more than happy to wait for it to happen whenever it happens, but there are also plenty who think in the way I just described. And there is evidence that, yes, that is why the US tends to back Israel.

I try to play really, really, nice when it comes to religion. Everyone can believe whatever they want to or feel compelled to believe, doesn’t bother me. Do you believe marriage should be between one man and one woman and the man should be the head of the household? Great! That is the kind of marriage you should have (and you should look for a like-minded spouse!). Do you believe that abortion is a sin? Cool, definitely don’t have one then, and by all means feel free to encourage others not to as well (but please be nice, ok? Helping a lady with medical expenses goes a whole lot further than calling her a murderer). If you believe that wearing two kinds of fabric at once is wrong, then I want to help you avoid cotton-poly blends. But this stuff gets tricky when your beliefs start to affect other people.

For instances, if you had two groups of people who believed that they had a God Given Right to occupy a certain piece of land, and that since it was ordained by God that it should be so, almost anything they did to maintain control of that land was a-ok? Well, that shit would get messy really fast. And just suppose, just suppose that because of the beliefs of a third religious group, a much larger and wealthier country consistently backed one side over the other. Sounds like a recipe for some pretty major unfairness, doesn’t it?

***

In trying to write this, I looked at some mainstream news sources that I usually try to avoid (because they make me angry). The information is clear. Israel has been periodically bombing Gaza for quite a while, and intensified those attacks on Wednesday, in an effort to kill Hamas leaders. On Thursday, Hamas retaliated and fired rockets at Tel Aviv. As of Friday night 29 Palestinians were dead, including 11 children. Three Israelis were dead. And the message from the West? Western countries say that the majority of the blame lies with Hamas, and Hamas should stop firing rockets immediately.

***

I understand why my old friend would want to live in Jerusalem, where she lives today. I think that she has a right to live where she feels compelled to live, and I support her beliefs even though they are different than mine.

Last night, I went to this vigil with a couple of friends. There were speakers. A man who’s name I did not catch talked about his time in Israeli prison for the crime of giving food to Palestinians. Many of the participants were of Arabic decent, and many of them had relatives over there that they were worried about. It was very emotional. A woman from Jewish Voices for Peace spoke, and I was very happy to see that.

After all of the speakers were done and the candles were (somewhat awkwardly) lit, my friends and I stood in the cold chatting with a young woman in a hijab. We shared our opinions about American militarism with each other, and then she said:

“We all just want to live. The Jews want to live, the Palestinians want to live, everyone wants to live. We’ve been killing each other for so long, we tried it, and it doesn’t work. So it’s time to do something else. It’s solution time.”

So, thank you, new friend, for showing me that this is not complicated at all.

***

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