Help not Hashtags

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Here in Canada, it’s a day for the promotion of mental health issues centred around a large corporation. For every social media hashtag mention that includes the corporation’s name, they donate 5 cents to mental health facilities. This is a battle of sorts with social media users every year: the argument that “hey, every cent helps, doesn’t matter how it gets there” vs those that say “nope, we don’t have to promote companies and help them maintain an image as being only for the good of consumers.” Kinda makes it hard to turn around and sign petitions to get them to back down from some of their price increases for the very internet that will drive that social media. And for those of us who have pointed out the fallacy of the pink ribbon campaigns and the amount of money that companies make using the imagery, it’s particularly discouraging to see yet another version.
 
It *is* hard to talk about mental health issues. It is hard to access mental health care. Even those of us who are very aware of the issues can find it overwhelming. Even in a country with universal healthcare, it can be difficult and it can still cost money. It can cost a lot of money. But the joy and stress of social media is that one can ask a question of one’s audience without specifying that it’s for you. You can ask if anyone knows of an issue, if anyone knows of resources. You can look for a community where you can be welcomed and feel safe to discuss those issues.
 
I have talked a lot about issues I have, issues that my kids have… I’ve had a lot of admonishment from some who are convinced that this will all backfire and ruin me for life in some way (all those after-school specials about the dangers of social media!). I have also received a lot of private messages from people who say, “Thank you. I have the same issues and I can’t talk about them in public but it helps to read the conversations that happen when you mention something. It’s good to know I”m not alone.”
 
Wanna use social media for your mental health issues? Facebook is full of secret groups that discuss mental health or medical issues, or support groups for those dealing with difficult stages of life, or more… There may be people on your friends’ list or people reading your Twitter who can direct you to services in your area.
 
One of my kids spent years living with discomfort and misery because she didn’t understand what she felt was wrong with her and didn’t know how to even articulate that to her family. Through the internet, she found a blog about someone else’s realization that they are trans and my daughter identified with everything she read. From that she was able to find an online community of support and advice while she got the emotional strength to come out to her friends and family. Through social media I was able to find online groups to discuss issues, to find resources and to find a real-life support group. All without a hashtag.
 
At the very least: social media is social. For all those who love to trumpet that “the online world is not the real world!!”, social media is peopled with real live human beings. For many with social anxiety, with issues that make face-to-face interactions difficult, with fear of personal conversations, social media can be a literal life-saver. It is possible to find a community of people who discuss the things you’re interested in talking about. It is possible to find people who have been through the issues you are experiencing and can tell you of their own path.
 
You can start with something as small as simply posting a photo of a dog and asking, “Isn’t he cute?” Enjoying the smallest of human interaction, even through the interface of social media, is not wrong, is not a failure, is not a cop-out. It’s a start. It’s a digital footprint out into the world.
 
Reach out. Talk to someone. Hashtag or don’t hashtag. Put yourself first.

A woman you never understood, still not behaving as you demand

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And so… it continues.

It’s January 20, 2017. Time for Americans (and some Canadians) to do what they do best: put all their anger where it clearly belongs…on Hillary Rodham Clinton.

For the last week or so, I have watched as various commenters have done their best to work up a head of steam. News reports leaked that the Clintons would be attending the Inauguration as is traditional for former Presidents and their spouses. And so began the flood of responses urging Rodham Clinton to make a statement and refuse to go.

We have all noted the sizeable list of Democrats who have announced that they will not be at the Inauguration, some hidden under excuses, other with clearly stated reasons and an explanation of where they will be instead. This is not, in fact, an unusual thing to have happen; many a Republican announced that they were out of town during Obama’s Inauguration. But it is part of the formality, pomp and circumstance and the handing over of power to have former Presidents in the crowd to welcome in the new member of the group.

Those urging Rodham Clinton to stay away believe that they have the best of reasons: she should do so as a protest against Trump. They are, of course, prevaricating. They know full well that few will see it as such, and most will simply attribute her behaviour to being a bad loser, or worse: being a coward. And Hillary Rodham Clinton is not a coward.

Yes, you would not go. Yes, you would have so many valid reasons not to go. That’s why you are not Hillary Rodham Clinton and why she truly never really was just one of us… Hillary Rodham Clinton possesses a level of resolute stubborn bravery many of us will never have reason to know. When she attended Yale Law School, she was one of 27 women out of a class of 235. Given the examples of sexism and misogyny many of us experienced in more recent times, we can imagine what it was like for those women in 1974. Or what it was like when Rodham Clinton began to practice law. We know what it was like for her as First Lady of Arkansas: regarded with suspicion and distrust because her lack of concern with her looks suggested that she thought she was ‘above’ being the citizenry. When her husband lost his re-election campaign, pundits placed all the blame at the feet of the wife who maintained her maiden name, who didn’t worry about makeup or styling her hair or wearing skirts. With a few simple cosmetic changes, Bill Clinton found himself back as Governor and Rodham Clinton learned a valuable lesson: it’s not enough as a feminist to simply be tough and keep going despite opposition. In order to succeed, in order to achieve the political power one needs in order to change society, one needs to learn to play the game and to appease the ‘audience’.

Rodham Clinton’s entire life has been about working in a society and work world that does not want her in it the way she has wanted to be. Her entire life has been about standing out, never blending in: first graduating student picked to do a valedictorian speech at Wellesley College, giving a speech so eloquent, so moving that Life Magazine did a feature on her.

So many of you complaining are those who spent the entire campaign complaining, “there’s just something about her…no one trusts her.” Now, you are insisting that she stand in for you, that she be your living avatar. In a world where all the new President has ignored all your nasty tweets and Facebook comments no matter how many of your friends retweet you, you are telling her that she has to be your visible presence. She has to do what you can’t do: a visible action that will show everyone your disapproval.

Clinton is not you, she is not us. She has always been a leader, she has always been a woman who has known that she would never truly be welcomed or accepted because of her ambitions. That has not swayed her. She has not sought that welcome. She has looked for understanding: an understanding that she has wanted to lead the country in many different ways and fight for social justice and progress for women, children, minority groups. She has done it in the face of everyone’s alleged much-vaunted distrust; she has done it with sky-high approval ratings. She has done it when voted Most Admired Woman in America, year after year after year.

And she did her best to do it over the course of the last year. She smiled grimly through the onslaught of negative press. She worked hard despite those, like you, who continually parroted, “There’s just something about her…she’s not like us. She doesn’t get us like Bernie does. She’s an elite, not an ordinary person like Bernie is.”

No. Because Rodham Clinton is not an ordinary person. She is not like you and me. She is a woman who has worked through the decades of inequality and misogyny of American life, and has done her best to change it. And as a woman working through those decades, she has learned to paste on the smile, to murmur the right platitutdes, to accept that, at every turn, someone is waiting to knock her down.

She will not be childish or churlish today. She will not give in to base emotions to indulge herself. She will be professional. She will be political. By attending today’s Inauguration, Rodham Clinton is not letting anyone down: she is showing all of you what you lost.

She will be Presidential.

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C’mon:  we all knew it was gonna be a white pantsuit.

 

Suiting up for the fight

It’s been a long couple of weeks here, there…pretty much everywhere. Everywhere I look I see people who look exhausted or shellshocked or wary. They’re beaten by the US election results and unable to look ahead. They’re exhausted thinking of the fight ahead.

Some of us have taken self-imposed breaks from social media. In a world where we all use our social media platforms for different reasons to different audiences–some simply for community interaction, some for self-promotion, some for work–many of us have hit a wall. We can’t deal with any more speculation on what went wrong or what is ahead of us. We can’t deal with assignments of blame. We can’t deal with the rightwing supporters lurking amongst our own family and friends who now feel safe to come out into the light and to glory in the Bully’s win.

But we’re trying to find our way back… we’re trying to find the strength. We’re trying to gear up for the fight ahead. And in so doing, we’re seeing that others on social media are proclaiming, with a slight edge of hysteria, that it’s so important to keep the fight up at all times, from the beginning, every day for the next four years. They urge everyone to understand that they cannot stop the fight or take breaks from it at all.

And they’re probably utterly confused by my anger.

They’re right:  it’s going to be hard keeping up this energy and fighting for four long years. But many of us are very familiar with that very dilemma. For the former, the fight is how to keep the media and public focus on the President-Elect. Their concern is to reduce his affect on the country, to prevent re-election. For me, for too many others, the fight has always been there…it’s just more visible now. Misogyny, sexism, Islamophobia, transphobia, homophobia, anti-intellectualism, right-wing bigotry:  these are not new. They have always been there, and we’ve always been fighting them.

Don’t tell me how important your fight is. The fight has always been important. The change is that now you can see what we’ve been saying all along. All those years, all the decades we’ve spent saying:  this is a problem. Racism was a problem before the recent Presidential election:  it will be a problem after the next one. All the isms, all the bigotries:  they are not new. They will not disappear no matter how vigilant you are. If a different President or a different party is elected in four years time, they will still not disappear. We will still need to be aware, to be vigilant, to fight. You are willing to see one person or his followers or his supporters as the problem:  you haven’t yet figured out that the problems are as insidious, as much a part of the culture as we have always said. We’re not paranoid, we’re not professional victims, we haven’t been imagining problems that don’t exist. The President-elect is not the problem:  he is a part of the problem, a living walking example of the problem.

Don’t ask me to join your fight:  understand that you have joined ours. We’ve been here a long time.

Why is Donald Trump doing “so well” Part 2

In the last few years, we’ve watched as GOP controlled states have rolled back abortion access, defunded Planned Parenthood, brought in punitive measures for women who try to access abortion services, threatened healthcare providers for helping women, have brought in Bathroom Laws, have tried to protect the right to persecute people based on their sexual or gender identity… We’ve watched confused as the states have fought to protect gun possession laws no matter how many people are shot on a daily basis in the US. We’ve watched as dozens of schoolchildren were shot dead by assault weapons and yet, lawmakers insisted that the right to bear arms trumped all.
 
And yet, people keep bleating, “Why is Donald Trump doing so well? It must be because Clinton is such a terrible candidate!”
 
If Clinton were to promise to outlaw abortion, to promise to deport all illegal immigrants, to promise to ban Muslim refugees, to promise to crush the rights of women and LGBTQ people and other minority identity groups, I can guarantee you she would be doing very well with Donald Trump’s voter base. When she talked about half his supporters being “a basket of deplorables” what she meant was that they are deplorable human beings because they have deplorable beliefs. They’re bigots and very loud and proud to be so.
 
It’s not a mystery that Trump has 30% support in this election. What you’re actually asking is how someone whose exterior appearance, whose life is as messy and untidy and ugly as his interior beliefs is doing “well”. You’re asking why it isn’t Pence, or Bush, or Romney or any of the other Republicans whose exterior does not visibly demonstrate how ugly they truly are inside.
 
And thus, you perpetuate the problem. The solution is not to have ugliness disguised by an attractive, neat, discreet exterior appearance and life…the solution is to loudly advocate against all of it. Bigotry is bigotry. You really seem to be asking why you have to acknowledge the bigotry in this election because it’s impossible to avoid. Yet, it’s the same bigotry that was in play in the last two elections. It’s the same bigotry that has been known to all who are women or minority identity groups.
 
Don’t ask why Trump has the support he has. Don’t find excuses for those who support him. Understand that there are Americans who are very happy with their bigotry, whatever it’s subject. And when they look at their country, when they look at the laws being passed, when they look at what some of their political leaders are saying, they see no reason to change.

Tire Fires and Clouds of Smoke

Donald Trump is a tire fire, the slow endless version; incredibly dangerous, toxic, polluting the world around him, difficult to deal with, and slowly, perpetually burning. Every day we have new details of the fire but people begin to feel after such a long time that there is no point in reporting on any of it…after years and years, in the end, no matter what new details there are: it’s just the same old thing. So people shrug and ignore it.
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Hillary Clinton is not a tire fire. She’s not any kind of fire, and yet people insist they have no idea who she really is because, they insist, she is difficult to see for all the smoke that clouds their vision of her. They nod sagely, where there’s smoke there’s fire.
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Tire fires can burn slowly and so long that visually, other than the horrific smell and the slow release of chemicals into the air, all we see is the smoke. But even the most inexperienced person can follow that plume of smoke and point and say, “The fire is there.” With Clinton, everyone explains that they haven’t found the source yet. It’s there; they know it’s there. After all:  smoke. Where does the smoke trace back to? Well, there’s too much smoke for anyone to see clearly.
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For decades, the GOP spent millions upon millions of dollars to find the cause of the smoke they smelled around Clinton. They never find the source of the fire or even that there ever was a fire, but they smell smoke…so they look again.

Perfectly intelligent left-wing people post about Clinton and say, “Where there’s smoke there must be fire…” They don’t know what the fire is either. “There’s just something about her,” they muse. “I just know that she’s corrupt,” they justify to all.

A tire fire is a real actual known thing. The details of all the things that are questionable, dubious, spurious, actionable, distasteful about Donald Trump are all actual real facts. They are things that are known, that can be proved. Over and over again, those facts are ignored in favour of questionable, dubious, spurious, actionable, distasteful debate about imagined, posited, speculated opinions about Hillary Clinton.

This US election pits a failed incompetent businessman/reality show star against a qualified competent career politician. And every single day people who loathe and fear the former try desperately to suggest that the latter has a deep dark secret hiding somewhere that will disqualify her. Because they would rather live with a tire fire than that hint of smoke.

 

There’s a very simple truth here. You do smell smoke:  it surrounds you. As you point out, where there’s smoke there is fire:  the fire of the slow burn of sexism so deep-seated, so ingrained that you don’t see it. Or you pretend you don’t see it. Or you’re not willing to acknowledge it because you know that sexism is wrong. You are a person who has supported equal rights all their life. But the truth is you are standing in the middle of that smoke and that is why you cannot clearly see Clinton.

 

And that is why Clinton is so confused by the hatred and distrust of her. She sees clearly because there is no smoke in her eyes. Wave your hands…wave the smoke away. And take another look. Stop insisting that your opinion of imagined possibilities is as valid as actual facts.

Necessary medicines and unnecessary trolls

Imagine you have a job where you must have use of a car. Imagine that gas prices suddenly increase to five times the cost. Imagine joining in online conversations complaining about this and wondering aloud if the government can do something to regulate the industry, if anything can be done about it.
Now imagine that those conversations fill with people pointing out that a bicycle is a perfectly valid form of low-cost transport. And that once they have made that statement they will hear no counter. They will not listen to your explanations of how you need substantial space to transport goods, or that you need to travel hundreds of kilometres in a day. No matter what you say they will sneer, “bicycles.”
And that is the conversation about Epi-pens with all the people blithely announcing how cheap syringes and adrenaline are. Ta dah! They have solved the problem. Anyone still complaining about the cost of Epi-pens just wants to whine and complain.
And that is how we know those people don’t actually have need of an Epi-pen or its like…that is how we know that they probably don’t have anyone in their immediate circle who has need of one. Or that they don’t use insulin so they’re unaware of the other story about unexpected increases in the price of medicine. Or that they have no need of any other medicines with incredibly high prices compared to other countries.

This chart reveals the inhumanity of US drug prices compared to other countriesWhen Martin Shrkeli raised the price of his company’s unique AIDS medicine by 5000% the protest was immediate and loud. Although the patient base for the medicine was small (intended for ttreating oxoplasmosis in patients with cancer or HIV ) people understood that there was no other suitable substitute. And the medicine had gone off patent protection which is when you generally have generic versions at much cheaper prices. All in all, people were able to easily see that this was a terrible difficult thing for patients to deal with.

Yet, oddly, now we see a similar situation with Epi-pens and there is a very strong counterreaction already in place. Epi-pens are an efficient substitutes for syringes and adrenalin, which are much lower cost. But there is a reason why Epi-pens were developed and why they (and a few alternate versions) have become so ubiquitous:  they are designed to be used by non-medical personnel, and by people with no training whatsoever. Although people can obviously be trained to use syringes (insulin users, for example), that has been in cases where a person will be using the syringe on a regular basis. Most people with an an extreme anaphylactic allergy reaction can go their entire lives without ever needing the adrenaline. The Epi-pen is an preventative for an extreme emergency. Many other patients may only need to use adrenaline once or twice in their lives. Any training that a person received can be quickly forgot over the years, particularly in the stress of an emergency life-threatening situation. Rather than risk a patient unable to administer their own, or that there is no one around able to deal with it quickly and efficiently, Epi-pens were designed to be opened and jabbed into a thigh with next to no thought or need to read labels, checking of amounts, checking that there is no air in the syringe, thought for where to jab, etc.
It is a not uncommon reaction on the internet for some to offer their advice on a solution to whatever discussion is in place. However, it is not helpful when it is by someone who does not understand the issue. And their insistence that they have found the solution so the conversation is over is not at all useful. If you do not wish to join the conversation about the problem of the incredible increase in the cost of US drugs (and some in Canada, if not to the same level), then walk away…  We promise not to treat you with the same contempt when you are someday personally affected by this problem and suddenly understand its importance.

Martin Luther King Jr had a dream…

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(from Jesse Zimmerman’s Facebook page)

I say this again and again and again…. whenever the majority identity group (ie, whites, sometimes white men) feel the need to silence a minority identity group they find one member of that group who has expressed ideas that the majority group feel best represents their own views. They then trumpet this anywhere and everywhere: we found ONE person who has spoken and now no one else gets to speak. I have written endlessly about the idea that white people, particularly white men, have no one person who speaks for them. When a white man shoots police officers, no one runs to other white men asking if they will denounce that person and their views as another white person. White men are individuals; black men – black people – are but a single entity and they stand and fall as one dependent upon the word of white people.

 
When I have posted about feminism, MRAs have come back with quotes from Camilla Paglia or Christina Hoff Sommers; both self-declared “dissident feminists”. Both of whom have written long essays and articles and books which can be easily summed up as, “I’m not like the other feminists: I actually like you men, so listen to ME.” And those men eagerly posting those quotes are convinced that I have been silenced because they found a woman who disagrees with my words. Apparently two women cannot have opposing views about feminism: we cancel each other out.
 
As I often note, the women of the world don’t actually get together and have a secret vote for Queen of All The Women, the one woman who gets to speak for all of us. (There must be something to the idea that men interpret women in a group as speaking 3x as much as they actually do, and that their numbers are 2-3x as great as they actually are.)
 
And so it is with any minority group… with queer and trans rights, off the majority goes on a hunt for a Log Cabin Republican. So now that there is an active and public debate about “Black Lives Matter” white people have hunted around for the perfect rebuttal, convinced they have found the ONE voice that black people will not be able to ignore: Martin Luther King Jr.

Ijeomo Olumo has written about the co-opting of Dr. King’s words to prove the point of those trumpeting AllLivesMatter. She writes of this so much better than I. I will simply say this:  do consider that you, a white person, are telling black people that they are not entitled to stand behind a slogan and a movement that is for them, by them, and which explicitly names them in it’s title. You are justifying that by telling them that you, a white person, have found the words of another black person and that those words mean they have to do what you, a white person, tells them to do.

All Lives Matter is a useless pointless trite slogan. Yes, I understand that your point is that you are trying to say “All lives should matter, not just the white lives! Black lives matter too!” But if you are a genuinely good person who believes that…then there is no reason to tell people of colour that they are not entitled to use the slogan THEY chose to represent the movement THEY had to start to raise awareness of how little their lives have been valued. No matter what argument you make there is no getting past the doubt you instill by your very insistence on that slogan:  that you are uncomfortable declaring Black Lives Matter. That you are insisting on some level of qualifier so you, a white person, are not left out of the equation.

I can say it no more simply than that. Much as anti-feminists try to modify the language and tell feminists that maybe, just maybe they would consider possibly thinking about equality for women but only if women come up with another name that isn’t quite so…about women, white people do not get to say, “Come up with another name and then we’ll support you having rights equal to ours.”

By insisting on a name change, by insisting on imposing a slogan of your choice upon them you are not-so-subtly trying to say that you are the one with the power:  the only power or equality they get will be by your choice. You want an acknowledgement of your superiority. The line I read too many times is some version of “blacks are trying to be superior to us!” (much as I am continually told that feminism is about women trying to be superior to men). It has been much said “When you are used to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” And that is what you keep saying any and every time you say “All Lives Matter.”

It ain’t the name that is the problem. The name is pointing at the problem:  and the problem is that semantics matter more to you than the desperate fear and unhappiness felt by too many POCs and indigenous people in America.  And the real problem is that you have intrinsically accepted that any shift in power is solely yours to bestow, as a white person:  so first you start with their slogan.