Weekend Coffee Share: In Which I May be on the Mend

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you this has been the best week I’ve had since I can remember. My stress level is as low as it’s been since May. I’ve had a bit more free time than usual, so I’ve done more blogging in the last seven days than I did in all of January and February.

newcoffee

I don’t know how long it will last, but the words seem to be flowing for me again. I think the move into social commentary and politics helped with that, but I’m afraid it’s not done me much good in the way of audience.

If you’ve been following me since the days when this was a writing blog, and through all the ups and downs of the Sourcerer experiment, thanks for sticking with. I doubt I’ll ever get back to publishing three and four posts per week because the stuff I’m writing now is time-consuming and I don’t have that much time most weeks. But I have no plans to give up blogging. From here on out, I’m focusing on quality rather than quantity and working myself up to the point where I can start placing posts on blogs other than my own.

And I’d tell you I measured my little puppy today because she’s six months old next week. She’s almost 21 inches at the shoulder and weighs 45 lbs. So not that little any more, and she’s gotten bold. She’s still not mature enough to be outside off a leash because we have no fenced yard. But she thinks she is, and if we aren’t careful she bolts outside when we open the door.

She likes to sit to the left of my computer chair while I’m working at the desk because she’s figured out that if I’m surfing instead of typing, she can get lots of head scratches that way. And she’s learned to grin.

diesel_5mo_grin

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I’m as concerned about the overall political climate in the U.S. as I’ve ever been. I’d try not to go on and on about it, because I’ve already thrown nearly 10K words at it and I’ve got more coming. But I would share with you, briefly, the two things about it which worry me the most.

First, we have a serious contender for President who’s been permissive of violence at his rallies. Much of this violence has been motivated by a combination of racism, nationalism, and anger at the economic stagnation we’ve suffered over the last decade. If you’ve read your history even a little, you know what a volatile combination that is. I hope we can find a way to rein it in before it spills over into the streets and into the policies of the next administration.

Second, I’m pretty sure U.S. foreign policy over the last 15 years or so has precipitated a full-scale regional re-alignment in the Middle East and it’s only going to get uglier for at least the next few years. That has consequences not only for the Americas and Central Asia, but for Europe, East Asia, Africa, and Australia as well. Because we’re all so interconnected, there’s no disentangling ourselves from one another.

There are more trigger points in Asia for serious conflicts between powerful countries than I can remember seeing in my lifetime. The next President will need to be smart about his diplomatic strategy. It’s as frightening a situation as anything I’ve experienced since the days when we were doing the nuclear tango with the Soviet Union.

I think it’s probable that the next President will need to decide whether to double down on the Middle East and make a serious long-term military commitment there, or to pull out completely and realign our forces so we can continue to meet our security obligations to our European and Asian allies without a significant presence in the Middle East. Because what we’re doing there now isn’t working or even helping.

These are treacherous waters, and I don’t fully trust any of the likely candidates to navigate them without making things worse. So I’m at a loss. It’s far too late to point fingers or place blame about the foreign policy errors we’ve committed over the past few years. We need to find a way forward, but I have no answers. Only questions.

And that’s all I’d say about the politics if we were having coffee today.

I’m back to the normal schedule next week, so I won’t have as much time to write and chatter as I’ve had these last few days. My goal remains to provide one post per week other than these coffee posts, and I’ve got next week’s almost done. Eventually I’ll work out a routine and post them at a consistent day and time, but for now, I’m just trying to meet the goal itself.

Happy Saturday! Don’t forget to add your post to the Weekend Coffee Share linkup at Part Time Monster, and to share it with #weekendcoffeeshare on Facebook and Twitter.

Advertisements

Weekend Coffee Share: Of Racism, Demagogues and Hope

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you it’s been a roller coaster of a week, both on and off the social media. My day job’s been intense lately, so I’ve not been able to hit the internet until late in the evenings for the past few days. I’ve spent most of my social media time on Facebook posting and commenting about the impending U.S. elections. And about racism.

newcoffee

The two seem to be going hand-in-hand right now because one of our candidates has used a lot of racist language to whip up support. I’d planned to write a long, blistering post today about the horror show known as the Trump Presidential campaign, but Jeremy Nix already did that at HuffPo, so I’ll just link to his Open Letter to My Friends Who Support Donald Trump, give it a quick quote, and try to add something to the conversation.

Trump’s supporters are angry, and anger is infectious. I can tell you as a non-supporter of Trump I am just as angry. We need the kind of leader that seeks to bring us together, not tear us apart. Why do we have to fight against helping each other, against common sense, against a united Nation? The American Dream is a nightmare and we are feeding it, making it worse every day. Trump is a bully, a loud mouth, ignorant, sexist, racist, disgusting example of how horrible humans can potentially be.

Nix provides ample support in the form of Trump quotes, and later in the article says this: “If you’re not a racist, bigoted, misogynistic jerk, then voting for Trump simply because you don’t like Democrats is wrong.” I agree with that 100 percent, and I’ll add: Should Trump win the Republican nomination, it will also be wrong to vote for Trump simply because whichever Democrat you prefer lost the primary.

Moving right along. I’ve been using Facebook for the last couple of weeks to get back into the swing of writing about substantive things. I’ve been posting over there too frequently, the posts have tended to be long (for Facebook), and I’ve even written a couple of notes.fblike

I’ve also been using it to gauge the political mood and to figure out how to talk about these elections without setting people off to the point that things get ugly. For the most part, things have not gotten ugly and I’ve only had to block one person. I’ve had productive conversations with people I have strong disagreements with. I’ve learned things.

So good. Now it’s time for me to come back to the blog and write about what’s going on in the U.S. in a serious way as often as I can manage it.

I have a lot of assertively liberal Facebook friends. Many are creative types and a lot of them blog. During normal times, my Facebook feed is a confection of smartly-written articles about all manner of social issues ranging from LGBTQ equality to Feminsm to disability to mass incarceration and much more, mixed in with things about writing, publishing, and social media marketing. Much of the social commentary touches race in one way or another even when it isn’t focused exclusively on racism.

These last couple of weeks, Facebook has been a fever swamp of political chatter. Most of my friends have been talking about the Super Tuesday primaries, this week’s GOP debate, and above all, Trump. Most of what I’m seeing falls into a few easy categories.

  • Disbelief that this candidate who should have either been jeered off the stage the first time he opened his mouth or simply rejected by the powers that be as unfit to run on a major party ticket has a Presidential nomination within striking distance.
  • Stomach-churning dismay at the level of popular support we’re seeing for what has to be the most bigoted and mean-spirited nationwide political campaign in this country since the 19th Century.
  • Appeals to everyone to get out and vote, just this once, no matter how they feel about the political system or the value of voting.
  • Takedowns like the Nix article. It’s so easy to write stuff like that and to find hard factual evidence to support it, I could spend all day rounding up links for you.
  • Speculation and concern about what’s going to happen if Trump actually wins the primary. The smart money says Trump gets shredded by either Democratic candidate, but November is months away and I’ve been burned too many times by Democratic in-fighting, protest voting, and stolen swing states. So I think concern is warranted at least until we see how the Ohio and Florida primaries play out.
  • Concern about the way protesters and journalists are being handled at Trump rallies,  about the overall mood of the crowds who are supporting him, and about his flagrant disrespect for our Constitutional principles.

    Meme discovered at Eco-Style Life Beau Monde

    Meme discovered at Eco-Style Life Beau Monde

This election has crowded everything else out of my news feed, aside from things I’m set up to always see. At some point during all of this I became so disheartened by the number of people who seem to be ok supporting an overt racist for the Presidency I decided to run a short personal campaign to see how many new page likes I could generate for the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconcilation, a nonprofit organization based at the University of Mississippi.

I’ve been following the Winter Institute for a couple of years and I have them flagged so I see almost everything they post. The best description I can offer for them is that they’re an advocacy group which promotes equality and nonviolent conflict resolution. I urge you to give their page a look. If you appreciate what you see there, please like their Facebook page. I don’t make these appeals on the blog very often, but this is important.

Ten minutes after I posted a status update on my timeline asking people to support the Winter Institute, Facebook fed me a post from a friend who I met through 1000 Speak. The post was about a white supremacist group tossing plastic bags filled with hateful propaganda onto peoples’ porches.This is a well-developed tactic hate groups have been using for years.

1000speakLizziLast year it happened in the very county where I live. The friend who shared the post has in the past found similar stuff left under the windshield wiper of her car in a public parking lot. Sometimes included with the propaganda: a physical object which is intended to insult people of color but often reads like non-sequitur. In the case of the post I read on Facebook, the bags included rice. The bags distributed in my neck of the woods included two breath mints.

Here is how Trump’s use of bigotry to score political points connects to white supremacist groups distributing propaganda. And why I am concerned about the Trump phenomenon whether he wins the Republican nomination or not. Leaving aside for the moment that he’s playing footsie with white nationalists who are known to support the Ku Klux Klan, this level of hate from a serious Presidential candidate has perilous consequences for our political culture, for our way of life, and for the way the rest of the world views the U.S. if we allow it to persist.

Racism is about attitudes, emotion, and education. Hate speech laws and legal protections for vulnerable groups are necessary and appropriate, but the laws have to be strictly written to avoid doing more harm than good. So racist people can always skate right up to the line because they have the same freedom of expression as the rest of us.

It is impossible to legislate racism out of existence. The only way to get at the root of racism is to make it so socially unacceptable that people teach their children not to be racist as a matter of course, to teach tolerance in schools, and to reform institutions (like the U.S. penal system) which perpetuate structural racism. We’re not as far along with that in this country as I’d like, but we’ve made some progress in the last 100 years.

Most of us want more and better progress. Those of us who understand that we are all bitten in one way or another by racism every day of our lives from the moment we open our eyes in this world whether we realize it or not are positively screaming for more and better progress.

mlk_justiceWhen Presidential candidates say racist things to whip up political support, that sends a message to their followers that it’s ok say and do racist things in public. Which makes people who actually have racist attitudes a little more comfortable with spreading bigotry and hate. It also emboldens the hardcore fringe who do things like toss propaganda onto peoples’ lawns. Whether he intends his words to have this effect or not, Donald Trump is giving political cover to racial supremacists. That’s unacceptable.

We fought a civil war over slavery. Even after the abolitionists won and the slaves were freed, we took another 100 years to agree that racial segregation should be illegal. When our government finally found the political will to criminalize segregation, the National Guard had to be called out to enforce the law in several states because both the state governments and the white populations were too intransigent to do the right thing.

Lynchings were once commonplace in this country. In the 1960s race relations were so bad we had black nationalist groups arming themselves and white people murdering civil rights workers. If Martin Luther King, Jr. and his allies hadn’t convinced so many people to assert their rights nonviolently, or if the federal government hadn’t acquiesced and enforced the law, we might have had chaos and bloodshed of cataclysmic proportions before it was done. I am not overstating this.

It is easy to look at the U.S. in 2016 and be discouraged by the state of race relations. I fall into that myself sometimes. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that we are light years ahead of where we were even 30 years ago. And let’s not forget that much of the progress we’re  benefiting from right now was paid for with the lives and blood of our citizens.

We can’t allow our country to slide back to the point where public hatred of people because of their race, sex, sexual orientation, disability, or any other category that ought to be protected is an acceptable thing to do in a political campaign. We’ve proven ourselves willing to fight and die, to offer ourselves up to be arrested and abused, over these principles time and again practically from the moment we won our independence.

We can’t allow Trump’s demagoguery nor his style of politics to go unchallenged. We don’t want his ideas to gain a larger foothold in the public consciousness than they already have, lest they persist and shape our public discourse. Trump is not just dogwhistling to play on white anger the way Republicans have been doing for the last 40 years. He’s openly scapegoating minorities, and he’s advocating racist public policies.

Trump is using a different sort of racism than we’re accustomed to seeing from our Presidential candidates. He’s escalating the hate. Senators and talk show hosts have been forced to resign from their jobs for saying things that weren’t as bad as some of Trump’s statements.

Even if you think he doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning the Presidency, you should be concerned about him. Even if your state or district is not in play, you should take the time to vote for a candidate who’s running against Trump just to lower his popular vote percentage.

When I was writing about the white supremacy on Facebook the other night, I said “just because a thing is legal doesn’t make it right.” That’s where I am with Trump. He has the right to run for President and the right to say what he wants as long as he doesn’t incite a riot or defame anyone. But that doesn’t mean one of our two major political parties has to give him the big stage.

If I were a Republican, I’d be so angry with my party establishment for allowing this situation to develop, I’d consider severing ties. But I’m not a Republican, so all I can do is speak my mind, watch, and wait.

justice_quickmeme_by_geneo

I’m upset and concerned about all this, but I’m not demoralized. A Trump Presidency — or even a nomination — is far from a foregone conclusion. I believe most Americans are smart enough to see Trump for what he is and are assertive enough to repudiate him.

I truly believe we’re better than this, ya’ll. So I have hope.

Weekend Coffee Share: Three Forms of Madness

Image

If we were having coffee, I’d be going “god bless! It’s been more than two weeks since I published a post, and three since I’ve joined the #WeekendCoffeeShare.

weekendcoffeeshare

I’ve been thinking I have a time management problem for awhile now, and I probably do. But I understand time management and I do my best to manage the time I have productively. At this point, I’m viewing the time problem in the same way I view the financial problem.

I DON’T have a “money management” problem. I manage my money just fine. The problem is I have a prioritized list of expenses every month and a set income. It’s a simple operation.

  1. Rent and power always get paid first.
  2. Things like shoes, groceries, and medical have to come next.
  3. The rest gets paid out of whatever is left, and when I run out of money, well, I am out of money and have to let things ride.
  4. So, weird things happen to the lower-priorities. The trash bill tends to get paid three months at a time at the last minute. The cell phone and cable bills get paid just enough to keep from being turned off. Credit accounts are serviced as early as possible, and just enough to keep the accounts active. I’m doing some fairly subtle and creative things with a few revolving credit accounts just now.

This is no way to live, financially. And I think something similar is going on with my time at this point. I have a prioritized list of things I need to spend time on, and once I’m out of time, I’m just out of time until I get a weekend or a holiday or a legitimate day off to be free (those are few and far between.)

The problem is not that I am unaware of how time management works. The problem is that I have precious little time to manage.

So, here are some things I’ve been doing with my time lately, and some things I plan to do with it in the next little while.

Chess Madness

The grandson, who I talk about on the Internet from time to time, has developed an interest in Chess. He is also good at math and interested in any competition which can be constructed as a war game (I blame Southern Culture as the proximate cause for his love of battle, and finger Western Imperialism as the root cause of his fascination.)

Getty stock image.

Getty stock image.

We have a neighbor kid who is a few grades further along in school, loves to hang out at our house, and wants to get good enough to beat his older brother in chess. The neighbor kid has expressed a willingness to be mindful of the fact that he’s dealing with a 7-year-old and understands that being a good sport is a condition of me teaching him how chess works.

So we have three chess players of varying levels of skill willing to be kind and learn from one another. The two with the least experience are naturally good at the sorts of thinking that make for lifelong chess players, so of course I am going to give them as much time as I can afford.

What this means, as far as the time budget goes, is that sometimes I have to stop what I am doing, even if I’d rather be writing, and give the grandson 20 minutes for a chess game. Or stop for an hour and give the two boys three chess games to think about and learn from.

Because the chess gives us a reason to interact that builds useful skills and does not require an electronic device. And it gives us something in common to talk about. All kinds of reasons this is the #1 thing at the moment.

Doggie Madness

The doggies are second because they are living creatures who depend on me to feed them. I have a 3.5-month-old puppy I brought into my house willingly, and an older one who just sort of wandered up and stuck around because we fed him.

These are large breed dogs. the smaller one is not four months old, and she’s big enough to snag a pork chop off the kitchen counter if we turn our backs long enough.

we_iz_innocent

They are not bad doggies, but they are not especially well-trained, either. They’re requiring a lot of attention, which means a lot of time. Because I am not going to have two half-grown dogs that weigh better than 80 lbs counter-surfing in my kitchen. I am also not going to beat them to make them behave.

So you can see why this is consuming a lot of resources, and hopefully why it is important to me.

Feminist Madness

I started a Feminist Friday Project along with my sister Diana and our friend Gretchen a couple of years ago now. Somehow, against all odds and with the help of many other bloggers, we’ve managed to keep it viable up to this very day. Here’s the official archive of posts so far.Feminism_free

Most of the bloggers who have contributed so far are still in, and we’re working up to a major announcement.

In fact, once I am done with this post, the next thing I am doing is working on the feminist project.

My list is way longer. I’ve caught up on my tv in the last few weeks, and also read a comics series which demands to be written about.

This is enough for today, but if you want clues as to where I am going, read Saga, then watch Orange is the New Black and Jessica Jones.

saga Cover

I’ve got things to say about all of that stuff. I will likely say it on multiple blogs and from a feminist perspective.

If you’ve not yet added your #WeekendCoffeeShare post to the linkup and shared it on Twitter at this late hour, you should do that stat.

Off to work for me now 😉