To all my readers outside the U.S.: Happy Thursday!
My fellow Americans, if you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you’re having a happy one. The point of this holiday is supposed to be to remember the things in our lives for which we are thankful. For most of my life I have been all over that idea, because I’ve had a pretty good life. Even though ever since puberty, when I first realized that I was gay, I have lived under one existential threat or another, I still could see the many good things and good people in my life. The last four years have represented a far worse series of threats to the life and well-being of everyone who isn’t part of the 1% and/or white, cis, male, straight, conservative, and well-off enough to stockpile assault weapons.
And while the recent election is ousting the wingnut-in-chief, I think it’s a little early to celebrate. Because the angry white nationalists and their allies have been feeling emboldened for the last few years, and now many of them think they’ve been cheated. So the single worst overt threat to the future of the Republic may have been technically beaten, but the war goes on.
Knowing what is hanging over us makes it so easy to get on the anxiety treadmill and just keep running in place.
Which isn’t what today is supposed to be about. For our mental health, it isn’t what we can spend all of our time on.
So, here are things I’m thankful for:
- my smart, sweet, sexy, super capable, long-suffering husband
- cocktails (it’s 2020 everywhere, drink when you want!)
- sci fi books that tell of hopeful futures
- people who help other people
- recipe blogs
- videos about haw to make cocktails
- people who make art, music, and other creative things
- the cute birds that visit my bird feeder every day
- people who take care of us when we’re sick
- my eccentric, sometimes infuriating relatives who probably find me even more bewildering than I ever do them
- not having to spend any holidays with (especially) the most infuriating relatives this year
- audio and video conferencing services that let me spend time with friends despite quarantine
- people who work retail
- people who write fanfic
- people who love
- my kind, clever, cheerful, hard-working husband (who definitely deserves to be on this list twice!)
- online friends
- people who vote
- radio and wireless technologies
- people who fill the world with joy
- kittens and puppies and tigers and otters
- teddy bears and mousies
- people who review and recommend books
- have I mentioned my handsome, good-natured, patient, shrewd, funny husband (who definitely deserves to be on this list three times!)?
- friends who will group text with me while we’re all yelling at the same football game on the TV
- virtual events
- the many almost magical computing devices that I can now wear on my wrist, carry in my pocket, and otherwise use to bring a wealth of information and possibilities that were barely imaginable when I was a kid
- all my wonderful friends—who are talented, kind, giving, and clearly the most patient people in the world, because they put up with me
Thank you, each and every one. Whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving today or not, I hope you have a wonderful day full of blessings, because you deserve it.
I need to change topics.
How about a bit of a laugh at my expense?
So, last Friday after I updated my NaNoWriMo word count I told myself I could take a break to watch the new episode of Baby Yoda and His Space Dad. Wait. What? You’re telling me that isn’t the title of the show? Are you certain?
Anyway, afterward I didn’t quite feel like writing after all, and the next thing I know I was binge watching season 2 of Umbrella Academy. And I stayed up far too late doing it, which means I slept in later than I meant Saturday, which means that I didn’t get started on finalizing the grocery list until late, and then I had to run to the store later than I meant. And it being the last Saturday before Thanksgiving, the store was quite crowded, and there were all sorts of weird things they were out of.
Three different times as I was trying to maneuver through the crowded store while maintaining social distance, I found myself feeling very judgmental of people with carts overflowing with things that looking like the ingredients of an enormous Thanksgiving feast. And the third time I had that thought, it was as I was putting a can of cranberry sauce into my nearly overflowing cart. And since I was just buying stuff for a Thanksgiving dinner with just my husband and I, maybe I shouldn’t assume other people weren’t also planning just to cook for the immediate family that already lives together, right?
I eventually got into the checkout line and my huge cart of groceries turned into about three dozen smallish plastic bags of groceries. Which took a few minutes to transfer to the car. I got home, carried the first bunch of bags up, told Michael I was there, and went to haul more up. The third or fourth trip down I got to the car just as Michael was pulling a bunch of bags out and saying, “I think that’s everything.” I did a quick check, then locked to car and followed him upstairs.
Saturday night we were hosting our monthly Writers’ Night (virtually), and I had just enough time to put all the groceries away and start dinner cooking before I needed to log into the Discord server.
We had a good meeting. Three of us had things to read and there was a lot of fun talk about Thanksgiving recipes. Then we shut down early as several of us wanted to do more NaNoWriMo writing.
An hour or so later, when I was getting out a fresh can of La Croix, I realized that I didn’t remember putting my prescription away. So I looked around the kitchen, assuming I had left the little brown paper bag with the paperwork and one bottle of pills in it somewhere in there. I couldn’t find it. I double checked in the bathroom to make sure that I hadn’t put it away and simply forget.
I search around the kitchen, dining room, living room and so forth for a number of minutes. I check in the fridge because it would be totally in character for me to pull the prescription and a bottle of milk out of a grocery bag at the same time and put them both in the fridge.
I’m starting to panic. This particular medicine only has a $5 co-pay, but the non-insurance prices is about $1200 for a month’s supply. Not something you want to lose. So reluctantly I go tell my husband that I’ve lost the prescription, and he comes out of the computer room and spends a while looking.
Now I am very certain that I saw the pharmacy bag inside one of the plastic bags we carried in from the car, but Michael decides to go check the car. He didn’t find anything. We’re both still looking underneath things and so forth. I gather three older pharmacy bags that I should have recycled weeks ago, carefully shake them before wading them up, and comment that I shouldn’t leave those laying around.
Michael then asks, “Oh? Is it a brown paper bag we’re looking for? I thought it was white…”
This prompts me to go outside to check the car. While I’m peering in the back compartment, feeling around among the reusable grocery bags that we can’t use anymore because of the pandemic, I think that it would be better if I had a flashlight. But I didn’t, so I looked in the dimly lit car for another couple of minutes before going back upstairs.
We’ve looked pretty much every possible place. I woke up my computer and started researching if there is a way to pay the medication cheaper [That answer by the way is, technically yes. With a coupon I found a place I could get a month’s supply for merely $580… which is still prohibitive].
Michael says that he’s going to check the car again. I open my mouth to suggest a flashlight, but he already has one in his hand.
A few minutes later he comes up and cheerfully announces he found it. In face, he found an entire small plastic bag which contains the pharmacy bag plus three other items: two cans of a cold brew coffee latte I like, and a jar of Tillen Farms Fire and Spice Marschino-style Cherries.
He explains even with the flashlight he almost didn’t see it. The bag and fallen behind suff and one of the plastic handles was sticking up with he could see it.
Now, the laugh. Several hours earlier (in the middle of the Writers’ Night call) I had been suddenly struck with the realization that I didn’t remember putting away the Fire and Spice Cherries (a vital ingredient for my official Thanksgiving Cocktail: the Spicy Manhattan), and I had even spend a couple minutes looking at the places where it ought to be.
And even before than, just as I was turning on the oven and firing up Discord, I had been annoyed that I couldn’t find the can of cold brew Double Espresso I had bought because I didn’t feel as if I’d had enough caffeine.
But I didn’t remember either of those missing things once I noticed the prescription wasn’t where I expected it. If I had, I might of realized that we were looking for more than just the one pharmacy bag and its contents from the grocery run.
I had apologized to Michael several times for being the absent-minding misplacer yet again. He countered by saying it was his fault. “I was the one who said Ive got the last of the groceries, after all.”
To circle back to the opening topic:
And I’m going to give the last word to Rachel Maddow…
Maddow: We Feared Susan’s Covid Would Kill Her. Your Risks Could Hurt Those You Love Most:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
Which we were on Monday when I went to Costco. I arrived close to opening, I was masked up, had a list, and was hopeful to get through the trip quickly. By the time I got to the front of the line, the guy managing the line said: “I feel like a bouncer at a rock concert!” The woman in front of me said something along the lines of “You’re the guy to know!” and then something else I couldn’t quite make out from 6 feet away and over the sounds of the rain. The guy managing the line then said, “Everyone’s being cool about it, even those that were caught by surprise.”
I got in. The store didn’t seem deserted, but it wasn’t super crowded, either. Most people were being good about trying to observe social distancing. I found the items on my list, got in line, and felt the need to tweet about the fact that I was in line with the only things in my cart being items on our list. The cashier who checked me out opined that the lines outside would vanish completely as soon as word got out that they were out of toilet paper and paper towels.
When I got out of the store it was raining a lot harder than it had been while I was waiting to get in. I particularly noticed that the cardboard boxes my purchases were in were beginning to get noticeably wet in that short time. I quickly loaded the back of the car and closed the tailgate.
As I had been transferring my stuff, another Subaru of similar vintage as ours pulled into the empty spot next to me. I was just turning the cart to roll it to one of the cart return racks when the guy from the other car said, “I’ll take your cart!” He was fumbling to get his mask on.
I replied. “If you want, though it might be awkward in the line.”
He looked at me like I’d grown two extra heads. I shrugged and stepped back to let him take the cart, and he rolled off, grumbling.
I got in the car and before I had taken my masks off my glasses completely fogged over. I started the car and turn up the defrosters. After a minute or two or so I realized that the windshield seemed clear but my glasses were still completely fogged. So I held my glasses in front of one of the defroster vents and waited for everything to clear up so I could drive.
I was just putting the glasses back on when the guy reappeared in the spot between our two cars, empty handed. As he climbed into his car his gaze met mine, and his unhappy expression got more angry (he’d already taken off his mask). He exclaimed, “They’re out of toilet paper!” As if it was my fault, and slammed his door.
I decided to wait another minute, and as I expected he started his vehicle right away and backed out fast.
I drove home at my usual pace. While unloading the goods, I had a little issue with the case of diced tomatoes almost falling apart in my arms as I dashed inside. It was raining really hard. Amongst the bounty I brought home was a 10-pound turkey for Thanksgiving (small enough for just the two of us) and a 10-pound bag of sweet potatoes (there will be several dishes those go into, not just for the holiday). The pantry is also once again well stocked with canned vegetables and related things.
Even though my husband has to go to work each day, I try to limit my trips out of the house. So a trip where I get us enough food to last a couple weeks again if we have to is all right.
On the other hand, I just got a notice from the pharmacy of a refill being ready, and that means over the next week or so most of the rest of my prescriptions will come up. I try to just make one trip for all of them, but sometimes (as happened a couple months ago), when I do that I get a call from the pharmacy saying that they’re going put it back one the shelf if I don’t come get it that day–or assure them that I am coming in soon.
Completely unrelated, I need to finish putting away the Halloween decorations. Should have happened earlier, but, well, time has become a fog.
For a lot of weird reasons related to various social commitment we had (all of which were fulfilled through online meetings, so we are still isolating and practicing social distancing), he wound up accompanying me on this last weekend’s main grocery run. And a couple of funny thing happened.
At one point we turned the cart up an aisle, and I pointed down at the second from the bottom shelf and said, “We are either completely out of or nearly out of those, so pick a couple out.”
His reply was a confused. “Are you sure? I mean, if you mean the variety packs, maybe…”
I explained why I was certain we were nearly out, having had to throw at least one of the cardboard wrappers in the recycle earlier in the week. And he asked, “Cardboard???”
I turned around to look at him, and instead of looking at the nearly-at-the-bottom shelf I had pointed at more than once, now, he was looking at the very tippy-top shelf…
I had pointed at collections of snack-packs that we both liked. I like them because they were a balance of protein, fat, and minimal carbohydrates and were perfect for those times between my meals when my blood sugar dips lower than it ought. And he likes them because they were mostly shelf-stable and would tide him over between meals at work when needed. He was looking at the packs of cheese sticks. And he was right, we were nowhere near being out of the cheese sticks.
But they were not the thing I pointed at, and he admitted that he couldn’t remember if he had actually looked at my hand to see what I was pointing at. We decided the confusion was that since he is so much taller than me, he is always looking at things at his own eye-level first, and he just thought when I said “those” I was referring to what he was already looking at.
At another point in the trip we turned up the spice aisle. I pointed down at a low shelf where, among other things, various containers of pepper were arrayed. There were tins of ground black pepper, jars of whole peppercorns in black, green, or multi-colored, similar pepper variety jars with grinders build into the lids, and so forth.
Michael asked why I was stopping. I said, “The big pepper grinder keeps falling off the back of the spice shelf, and it’s hard for me to retrieve it, so I thought we should get a small one to keep next to the stove.”
And he looked at me with a very perplexed expression and said extremely slowly, “Okay…”
I continued, “Just pick out one of the small pepper grinders and we’ll be fine.”
I sighed and rolled my eyes. “If you don’t want to limit it to one, pick out one of the other pepper grinders, too, they’re all on sale. Maybe a black and a green? Or a black and a variety?”
He was now looking at me with an extremely concerned expression, as if he thought I was having a stroke. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, honey.” And his tone of voice implied he thought something worse than a stroke was happening.
I was really irritated by this point, and opened my mouth to explain again from the beginning. Except at that moment some far off slice of my brain interrupted, and did the equivalent of playing back to me the recording of the conversation. The beginning of which was actually, “The big coffee grinder keeps falling off the back of the spice shelf…”
Every single time that I had meant to say “pepper grinder” what had actually come out of my mouth was “coffee grinder.” And, of course, since we were standing in front of the spices, there was no coffee anywhere in sight, never mind that while American grocery stores may sell both ground and whole bean coffee, they don’t usually sell the grinders.
I laughed and said, “Pepper grinder. I meant to say that it’s the pepper grinder I keep losing behind the shelf, and I don’t usually feel like moving the chest freezer so I can get back there.”
“Oh! That makes sense!”
After we got home, while I was putting other groceries away, my husband pulled out the chest freezer and the shelf unit and retrieved the big pepper grinder… and then he went through the rest of the shelf unit and he found not one, not two, but three medium-sized bottles of whole peppercorns meant to refill the grinder. And each of them had been opened at some point and had some of their peppercorns removed. He was able to finish emptying all three and completely fill the big grinder, getting rid of three some bottles and making the shelf somewhat less crowded. So I might possibly be slightly less likely to knock something off the back of the shelf moving forward.
Keep your fingers crossed!
This is not a topic to be neutral on…
If you get to the polling place to vote and they say your name isn’t on the list, calmly say, “I demand my legal right to cast a provisional ballot.”
If you have already voted, check that your ballot has been received.
Remind others to vote. You can volunteer to drive someone to a polling place, but remember, you can’t talk about who you’re voting for, or try to talk others into voting for your favorite candidates at the polling place.
If every vote didn’t matter, the Republicans wouldn’t be trying so hard to stop us from voting.
“History isn’t something you look back at and say it was inevitable, it happens because people make decisions that are sometimes very impulsive and of the moment, but those moments are cumulative realities.”
—Marsha P. Johnson, trans and gay rights activist who may have thrown the first brick at Stonewall.
We don’t know which way things will break tomorrow. Oh, we know some things. The pussy-grabber will declare himself a winner and claim that any news to the contrary is because of voter fraud. We also know that we’ll have an unprecedented voter turn-out (because early voting has already matched or exceeding all voting from four years ago in many places).
Four years ago, I was not prepared for Hillary to be one of those candidates who won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College. I knew that Trump would be a disaster. I knew things would be horrible. I cried.
It wasn’t despair. Oh, yes—I was extremely sad and more than a bit afraid, that’s true. But mostly I was disappointed and angry. I was angry that people who claimed to love me were crowing in celebration after he won. That some were repeating the most racist and homophobic wishes of his base. I was angry at the enablers of evil who still, four years later, argue that voting for a third party candidate doesn’t make them responsible for every bad thing—including every single U.S. COVID death—that has happened since that evil, incompetent man was inaugurated.
Four years later I’m still disappointed and angry at a lot of my fellow citizens. Angry at the people who told me I was overreacting four years ago. Disappointed that even though worse things than I was predicting back then have happened again and again, many of them still scold me for encouraging people to vote Blue No Matter Who. Angry at the cynical people who have capitalized on the moronavirus and his destructive, evil, nihilist administration. Angry at the media for acting as if this is all just a game between equally valid viewpoints.
I’ve had a small number of people tell me to stop being angry. Calm down, they say. Reason can win out, if you just give it a chance, they say.
And they are wrong. I’ve known that they are wrong since I was in elementary school. Because one of the masterpieces of science fiction/fantasy taught me this profound truth:
“Stay angry, Little Meg,” Mrs. Whatsit whispered. “You will need all your anger now.”
—From A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
Evil is not conquered by politely asking it to discuss things reasonably. Evil is conquered by people unwilling to back down, be cowed, or be silenced.
I first read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time in the fall of 1969, when I was nine years old. I know because I remember the enthusiastic conversation I had with my first third-grade teacher. It just so happens that about four months before that, the Stonewall Riots had taken place in New York City. I didn’t learn about Stonewall until many, many years later. But one of the queer people who rose up that night to fight back against the police brutality that gay, lesbian, and trans people had endured for decades was Marsha P. Johnson. Ever since I learned about her, Marsha has been one of my heroes. And though I suspect she never read A Wrinkle In Time, I think she would agree with Mrs. Whatsit.
“We want to see all gay people have a chance at equal rights , as straight people in America. We believe in picking up a gun, and starting a revolutionary if necessary.”
—Marsha P. Johnson
Whatever happens tomorrow—even if Biden wins, and the Dems increase their majority in the House, and the Dems flip the Senate, and if we take majorities and gubernatorual races in states that have previously been red—it isn’t the end of the fight. It’s just the beginning.
I’m staying angry. I’m ready to do what it takes to carry the fight forward and win it.
Are you with me?
In the aforementioned Weekend Update I compared some of my conversations with trump supporters as feeling as if I am banging my head against a brick will. I did not specify that most of the trump supporters in questions are family members or people I have otherwise known since I was in high school. They are people that I love. Many are people who I once admired. Which is why, no matter how many times my attempts to talk to them haven’t gotten anywhere, I can’t seem to make myself completely abandon hope of reaching them.
And since I used the word “confessions” in the title of this post, I must also admit that I know there was a time when I was the brick wall that others were banging their heads against. Since I was able to change my perspective, I keep hoping they can, too.
One of the reasons, I believe, that everyone from the pundits to mainstream journalists to ordinary non-rightwing citizens are always flabbergasted because they don’t understand the culture of what I often call christianists: people who claim to be Christian (many evangelical, but not all) who instead of embracing the peace and tolerance messages, use them as a negative weapon against groups who adhere to different political and/or moral beliefs.
The person who doesn’t understand the christianist viewpoint might advance an argument that our current policies regarding health care and employment forces thousands of people into homelessness each year, leading to unnecessary illness, suffering, and death. They would expect that argument to have some sway with the christianists, but it doesn’t. Why? Because among other things christianists believe that suffering in this lifetime is nothing compared to the fate of one’s eternal soul. If a person suffers in this world, it’s either because they are being punished by god, or because they are being tested. If a good and faithful person dies, no matter what the circumstances, they will get a reward in heaven. The other people, well, it’s their own fault for not getting right with god while they had their chance.
And such thinking seems completely irrational to people outside that subculture. Rational people when presented with an opportunity to reduce suffering and avoidable deaths would try to do something about it, right? This leads some observers to refer to this branch of christianity as a Death Cult. A better description, I think, would be an After Death Cult. Because an eternity of rewards in heaven is the goal, while toil, tribulation, torment, and death are all small prices to pay in comparison.
That isn’t the only difficulty in reasoning with them. That other bit is implied in that part about how troubles in life are punishments from god. Once you accept that notion, it’s small logical hop to rationalizing that if you are the one causing trauma, you’re just doing god’s will. Which is how you justify calling yourself a servant of the Prince of Peace while you are stockpiling assault rifles and fantasizing about the day you get to kill all the unbelievers you want. And that how you get books/movies such as the Left Behind series (which is essentially snuff porn) being bestsellers to the evangelical and related groups.
I mentioned my own experience being on the other side of this mental divide. There was a period in my pre-teens/early teens where I became obsessed with the Biblical book of Revelations and its description of how the world would end. I found books and articles on it. I re-read Revelations itself making extensive notes and charts—connecting news stories and such that I found to specific parts. If the Left Behind books had existed at the time, I would have been all over them. One day, my paternal grandfather stopped me while I was in the middle of explaining some parallel I saw between some news article and some item in Revelations. Grandpa said, “That book isn’t in the Bible to give us a mystery to solve. Jesus himself told us that no one would know it was happening before it does. I believe it’s in there to motivate us to love our neighbors, even when we don’t like them.”
I don’t remember exactly what I said in reply. I didn’t think he was completely wrong, but I thought there was some value to studying the end times.
He turned my Bible back to the gospels, specifically the sermon on the mount. “We are suppose to live our lives so that we are so full of kindness and love, that other people will want to be like us. Armageddon isn’t going to be a victory parade. All wars are tragedies.”
And that got through to me.Which brings me to another example of the cognitive dissonance between the words attributed to Jesus in the Bible, and the ways that christianists don’t follow or even sometimes understand it. When Neil Gaiman adapted the book Good Omens, originally written by he and Terry Pratchett, into a miniseries, Neil added a lot of scenes showing the relationship between the demon Crowley and the angel Aziraphale over the millennia. The book had made a few allusions to these encounters, and Neil realized that in a visual medium, he needed to show them. One of the scenes in that section was Aziraphale and Crowley witnessing the Crucifixion. I follow Gaiman on several social media platforms, so I saw the incredibly large number of Christians (including a lot of pastors), who absolutely loved the adaptation. And the many expressions of gratitude he got from making the Crucifixion scene so respectful.
It got a completely different reaction from the christianists I know. They considered it, especially that scene, blasphemy. Why? Because of those three lines of dialogue in that meme: “What was it he said that got them so upset?” “’Be kind to each other.’” “Oh, yeah. That’ll do it.” Boiling it down to that absolutely incensed some people!
Which is really peculiar since these are the same people who say that every single word of the Bible is literally true. Because that part I mentioned above, the Sermon on the Mount. It’s the centerpiece of Jesus’ teachings in the Bible. It is the longest single bit of his teachings we get. It takes all the ideas he had told before and extends them. And what does he preach that day? That people should be kind to each other, even to those who don’t deserve it. Nay! Even more to those that don’t deserve it than to those that do. That’s all of his teachings in a nutshell.
It’s not blasphemy at all, it’s a distillation of the rest of the story.
And the fact that they don’t understand that is really all you need to know about why they twist the teachings of love and peace and tolerance into cudgels to rationalize cruelty and injustice in society.