Writing in Spite of it All…

Hinfallingsnow_zps0b503108I’ll be the first to admit, 2016 wasn’t a very productive year for me.

To be perfectly honest,  I lived with a growing conviction we’d see a Trump presidency, and this hamstrung and paralyzed my ability to write.

I started at least four stories last year, reached the 40 K mark, decided they were utter crap, and abandoned them. Maybe they were crap. Maybe I just lost faith in them. It was impossible to concentrate on them to work through their issues as long as I lived with this utter, horrible premonition that everything was about to go to hell.

winter is comingAnd you know what? My worst fears came true. Since I’m a writer, that’s saying something.

Not only did Trump get elected President, but within hours of his taking office, links for climate change, civil rights, and GLBTQ rights disappeared from with WhiteHouse.gov website. Republican lawmakers in five states launched bills to criminalize peaceful protests. Every Cabinet member chosen by the Trump transition team could best be summed up by choosing the biggest, most vicious fox and putting it in charge of the respective hen houses. If he proposed making Cruella DeVille the Secretary of the National Humane Society, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. The gross manipulation of the confirmation hearings, with limiting questioning, means most of them will get rammed through regardless of the fitness of the nominee for office.

The GOP wants to defund Planned Parenthood and the National Endowment for the Arts. They announced plans to eliminate twenty-five of the DOJ’s Violence Against Women grant programs, and of course, they want to kill the Affordable Care Act. Millions will lose health care coverage as a result, and reinstituting the ability of companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions will doom many to backruptcy at best and death at worst. Medicare and Social Security aren’t safe, either.

I should also like to point out that because we have a Republican Congress and Senate, we are unlikely to see an impeachment go through, despite the fact Trump has already violated the Constitution he just swore to uphold by taking office without divesting from his businesses.That doesn’t even touch on the disturbing possibility the Russians interfered with the election for the sole purpose of getting Trump in office. Or the fact that given the age of most of the members of the Supreme Court, the incoming administration will have the power to influence legislation for decades to come. Let’s not forget the last time we had a Republican House, Senate, and President, we had the Great Depression and it took World War II to end it.

Wait, I take that back. We also had a GOP-controlled House, Senate, and Presidency from 2003-2006. Also one of the worst economic downturns in American history. Believe it or not, driving the economy bus off the cliff has nothing to do with POC, ‘the gays’, Muslims, immigrants, or ‘uppity’ women and everything to do with the policies of the GOP.  Not that Trump’s supporters will see it that way.

It’s a lot to take in. Not to mention, my firm belief we have an unstable man who cannot bear criticism in any form who has been given access to the nuclear codes, or that his closest advisors could double for Hitler’s Cabinet. Or that science and education are considered dirty words and in some locations, government officials are actively prohibited from using the words “climate change.”

It’s also hard to believe, in the face of all of this, that any scribblings I might create could have value or meaning. Isn’t it the height of frivolity to continue telling stories in such an environment?

I don’t think so.

It took me a while to reach this point. I’ve read posts on the subject written–far more eloquently than anything I could say–by other people. Probably the best of them have been written by Chuck Wendig, who wrote How to Create Art and Make Cool Stuff in a Time of Trouble, as well as this morning’s words of encouragement about the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States: No One’s Coming to Save Us, So We Have To Save Each Other.

Good words.They didn’t sink in right away, though. And I will probably have to refer to them again and again as I struggle with what the future brings to our country and our planet. Until this morning, when Trump was irrevocably sworn in, I think on some level I was hoping for a last minute reprieve. The Ring is tossed into the fires of Mt. Doom. Harry Potter destroys the final Horcrux. Birnam wood comes to Dunsinane. Something. Anything.

And yet, it did not. Trump has been sworn in, and the ravaging of our lands and our rights, the savaging of the public programs, the crippling of the already struggling middle class, has begun.

The battle lines have been drawn. So mourn, but don’t stop resisting. Don’t allow anyone to normalize what the GOP and the President are doing. Be outraged, but don’t let it paralyze you. Remember to take care of yourself and those around you that are struggling: emotionally, physically, financially.

Never Give UpOne of the things I’ve done that seems to help me a little is order some of these rings from Amazon. I got the idea from a post by The Bloggess–it seems someone gave her one of these rings once, and now she keeps some on hand so she can give them out to people she thinks needs them. I buy them three at a time and wear one until I give it away. When I’ve given away the last one, I buy three more.

Remember that we cannot function in a state of sustained fear and anger. Share those kitten pictures. Penguins. Otters. We need more otters. Baby otters. Corgis. Hell, Baby Corgi-Otter crosses. Sharing something that makes you happy doesn’t mean you aren’t taking things seriously enough. It means you’re in this for the long haul and you have to nourish your soul. That includes celebrating the events in your life important to you.

Read. Pull out your comfort reads, whatever they may be. I find I’m re-reading a lot of the children’s horse and dog books I grew up with, as well as historical romances. There’s something very soothing in reading about an era where the worst thing that happens is that you get cut dead by society or your sister makes an imprudent match. But if zombie apocalypse is your comfort read, that’s okay too. Read, and then share your squee. Make an author’s day and tell them how much you enjoyed their story. Leave a review.

Watch your favorite movies. Remember why you love your heroes. You know who was the biggest hero is in The Winter Soldier? Sure, Steve Rogers gave a stirring speech about doing what’s right when everyone around you is doing wrong. But the real hero in my book is the little tech guy who refuses to push the button that will activate the Insight program–which would kill thousands of people all over the world deemed as a potential ‘threat.’

He was inspired by Captain America’s words. But he refused to give in to doing wrong, even when he knew the consequences for refusal would be grave.

Also, if you are a creator, then create. More than ever we need our creators, our artists, musicians, and storytellers. Because it’s the creators that taught us about Voldemort and why he needed to be defeated. It’s the creators that give us Fight Songs, our Katniss Everdeens, and our Princess Leias. It’s creators who wrote  Captain America the inspirational speech, and creators who give us hope.

Rebellions are built on hope.

If you’re like me, and you think we’re in for a very rough time ahead, there are some practical steps you can take.

We each have to resist in the manner we can best maintain, however. I can call my Congressmen. I can donate a little to some organizations, but not all. I can write letters of protest. I can pen stories of hope. Marching in huge crowds? Makes me want to run screaming for the hills. This is a sustained march we’re on–a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself accordingly. Pick the organizations it is the most important to you to support and remember someone else will have different priorities. If every penny you have is going to your own survival, it’s okay you can’t donate money. Consider volunteering or some other way of showing the President he does not have the mandate of the people behind him. If organizing and participating in a protest march is your forte, I will cheer you on.

As for my writing, I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to what kinds of stories I should be telling now. I still believe as much as ever we need stories with happy endings. Stories where two people meet, fall in love, overcome adversity and live happily together afterward. Stories that take you out of your stressful, crappy day and transport you to another world for a few hours.

More than ever we need stories where diversity and acceptance aren’t dirty words. But I also find that I have other kinds of stories within me begging to be told now. Stories about finding your inner strength and power. About standing up for what’s right. I suspect my storytelling is going to be changing over the next couple of years. I’ll keep you posted.

I think this also means I’ll be spending less time on social media in the name of self-protection and increased productivity. I’ll still be around, but less vocal, less angry. I think we have our work cut out for us in the upcoming years, and yet I will probably be making fewer posts like this one.

I have lanterns to light. Hope to share. Stories to tell.

Time to get to it.

 

 

Living with Fear

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I am far more political there than I am anywhere else. You also may have noticed that my Twitter feed looks a bit schizophrenic: I’ve alternated between frothy-mad post-election Tweets, We’re All DOOMED Tweets, and the incongruous inclusion of images of cute puppies and kittens.

Why the flip-flop? Because we are a species are not well-equipped to live with sustained fear.

Bear with me a moment. I don’t often post about politics here, but this is important. It affects us all.

sorrow-and-worry-1434786-1918x1274Most of last week was utterly terrifying to me. I watched in horror as the nation elected not only an Internet Troll, but a narcissistic, racist, fascist, homophobic, misogynistic and completely unqualified person to the highest office in the land. While half the country told me to stop whining and buck up, many others saw the parallels to Hitler (not surprising since the President-elect’s playbook came straight out of Mein Kampf). Too many people have been quick to point out that perhaps it was all an act, and he would temper his statements now that he’s won. You mean like the way he’s moderated his discourse his entire life? I think not.

But by the weekend, I had to calm down. I stopped crying. I went to work. I made unenthusiastic plans for Christmas. Kitten pix crept into my Twitter feed, along with Obama and Biden memes. I wrote a post of encouragement, believing now, more than ever, we need our storytellers. I got offline. I went horseback riding. I ate far more pie, ice cream, and brownies than is probably wise.

When I did go back online, I found fresh, disturbing news. The proposed end of Net Neutrality, a free press, national parks, and Medicare. Plans to make the US a Christian theocracy (which flies in the face of the entire reason this country was founded). People proudly flying Nazi flags. Calls for violence and acts of hatred against women, POC, immigrants, Muslims, and members of the GLBTQ community. The erosion of civil rights. The tight ties our President-elect has with Putin, and evidence Russian hackers interfered with voting. ISIS and the KKK celebrating the election of Trump as President. Trump has thanked Alex Jones for his support–this is the man who reported that the Sandy Hook shootings were faked by President Obama to drum up gun control support. He is promoting his businesses from the .gov website. He is appointing family members to his transition team, and his conflicts of interest are legion and yet no one seems to be able to stop him. And that was just over the weekend.

I recognize I am a privileged person. I’m white, educated, have a good job, and own my own home. Any person who can say, “I went horseback riding this weekend” really shouldn’t have much cause for fear, should they? Well, I do.

Because I am a woman, and the President-elect believes money and power is grounds for sexual assault with impunity.

Because I have family members that are POC.

Because I spent the last eight years climbing out of the economic black hole the Bush administration threw us in, and I know what Trump’s policies will do to the world economy.

Because I fear Trump’s supporters. Those that are not armed and openly targeting the aforementioned list of people in danger, turned a blind eye to Trump’s own statements. And the parallels to Hitler’s rise to power are too many and too frightening to be ignored.

Because I am middle-aged, and already am struggling to pay off medical bills.

Because I don’t know if I’m brave enough to openly fight back.

Because he will now control Congress, the Supreme Court, the NSA, the FBI, the CIA, and the military. Small wonder I believe a military dictatorship is not far off. Laws will be written that will support his power base for decades to come.

Because climate change is real, and we’re already so close to the tipping point that releasing the safeties on regulations terrifies me. It should terrify you too. Along with the EPA, he wants to do away with the FDA. For decades we’ve taken for granted that we can buy a bottle of ketchup and be reasonably sure it won’t kill us. That will not necessarily be the case in the future.

Because this isn’t a debate between left and right but between right and wrong.

Okay. So what do we do about it? Because unchecked, fear cripples and immobilizes.

Deep breath.

First, constant stewing and fretting isn’t constructive in the long run. I can keep sharing angry Tweets (it will probably be hard for me to stop) but face it, his followers aren’t listening. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the electoral college and voting recounts. If by some miracle, the election results are overturned, there WILL be violence on a large scale. If you think the protests against Trump are unprecedented, wait until you see what his supporters will do if the results are overturned.

Chuck Wendig, who writes a kick-ass blog about being a kick-ass writer, penned this excellent post recently: Mourn, Then Get Mad, Then Get Busy. Like him, I find I need to do something to combat fear, otherwise it festers, overwhelms, and cripples.

So here’s are the practical things I’m doing:

  1. Paying off debts. I’ve been doing this all along, but now I have to step it up. That might mean cancelling plans made for mental health, and plans made to promote my work. It will mean I have to pick and choose which organizations I need to financially support, but I must knock these bills down as soon as possible before the economy crashes again.
  2. I will support those organizations I feel most important to protect. Your list might be different from mine, but we should all make a list and contribute. If money is too tight, then volunteer.
  3. I purchased a personal alarm and pepper spray for myself and the boyfriend’s daughters. I will be taking a refresher course in self-defense. Call me crazy, but these are proactive steps I’m taking to help mitigate my fears.
  4. Planting a garden in the spring. I have a couple of acres. It’s high time I made better use of them. Time I weaned myself away from a dependence on processed food as well.
  5. I will keep telling stories. I believe our books, our libraries, our access to the great minds of the past and to stories with hopeful outcomes is one of our best, most powerful weapons
  6. I vote in every election, but now more than ever, it is important to encourage everyone you know to vote. Not just in the ‘big’ elections, but in all of them. We must take back Congress. These people are the ones that make the laws in this land. Don’t want to lose your rights? Vote to protect them.
  7. Allow yourself to laugh. Just because you are posting kitten pics, it doesn’t mean you aren’t still outraged. It just means you’re taking a mental health break. There’s a reason why we love the comic relief moments in action movies.
  8. Stand up for what’s right. Don’t allow bullying to go unchecked. Call the police if it’s warranted. Take video. Upload it to Facebook. Spread news of people stopping acts of malice and hate. Not all of us are physically capable of intervening in certain situations, but that doesn’t mean we walk away from it, either.
  9. Support your local library. NPR. The New York Times. We can’t let everything be run by Rupert Murdoch.
  10. Vote with your wallet. Don’t support organizations that promote hate, discrimination, and so forth. Support those companies that have taken a stand against the same.

One of the reasons I loathe post-apocalyptic novels and programs is that I recognize I would be one of the first casualties of such a societal collapse. Why? Because I don’t believe in arming myself with guns, and I do believe in peace, goodness, and mercy. A friend commented on Facebook this morning that ‘mercy will get you killed.’ I understand the sentiment, believe me I do. But one of the things we must consider in the coming years is what kind of person we want to be.

I keep hearing people say we will survive this. I’m not so sure. I don’t even recognize my country at the moment. But I refuse to spend the rest of my life in fear.

Here. Have a cute kitten pic.

atg-sun-copy

Why “Frozen” Embodies Everything the GOP Fears Most

Frozen_GOT Mashup

Frozen_GOT Mashup

Okay, so this isn’t the first time I’ve written about the movie Frozen. The first time was with delight, to share how much this movie resonated with me and how much I identified with Elsa, always hiding who she really was for the good of her people, to please her parents, for intentions well-meant but ultimately wrong for her. The second time I posted about it was in response to some of the ludicrous reactions that followed: that by breaking with the standard Disney traditions of the ‘princess’ being rescued by the Prince in the end, Frozen was somehow dangerous and should be prohibited viewing for young, formative minds.

Today’s post takes that theme a bit farther into darker territory. To be honest, I am reeling from the recent SCOTUS decision handed down in favor of Hobby Lobby ruling that they are exempt from having to provide health insurance for their employees that does not agree with their religious beliefs. In one single action, SCOTUS has determined that corporations are things that can hold beliefs, that the religious beliefs of one set of people trump the access to basic health care for another set of people, that employers have a say-so in their employees health care, and that women are second-class citizens. Ruth Ginsberg was right when she stated in her scathing rebuttal of the decision that this was opening a minefield. Already corporations are filing lawsuits to not cover other kinds of birth control under the same reasoning. One of the things I find most damning in the SCOTUS decision is the mandate that this ruling pertains to certain kinds of birth control only: that it in no way should be taken to mean that other forms of health care, which might also be forbidden or offensive to certain religions, will be subject to the same exemptions based on religious beliefs.

Oh. I see. It’s not people needing blood transfusions or having allergic reactions to shellfish that you are discriminating against. Just women who want to have some control over family planning. I had a woman respond to one of my tweets on the subject by saying “I don’t want my tax dollars going to support some other woman’s immorality.” That’s what it really boils down to. Sex is for procreation only, and if any woman indulges in it for any other purpose, well, then she is a dirty skank. Note that the prohibition doesn’t apply to men. After all, boys will be boys, right?  Let’s completely ignore the fact that many, many women take birth control for medical reasons (I was one such person, who could not function with erratic periods that hit without warning, resulting in overwhelming nausea and blackouts. Without birth control, I was simply not functional for several weeks out of every month) Let’s eliminate the case of the woman who gets pregnant as a result of rape as being “God’s will”.  So let me get this straight. It’s not God’s will that some man can’t get it up? What purpose is there for Viagra besides sex?

I was tempted to respond to my twitter troll by saying that I didn’t want my tax dollars going to support her church, but really, that’s not true. I haven’t minded the fact that my tax dollars goes to support schools when I have no children, and fire departments when I’ve never had a fire–simply because I believe in the idea of communities and having support available to all when they do need it.  However, if churches are going to become such huge political entities, I think we need to re-think their tax-exempt status.

GOP PLan for WomenI’ve read several excellent and damning articles on the subject over the last few days. Best selling author Kate Aaron has written an insightful essay into why we all should be worried about what this Supreme Court ruling means. She says what I’ve been saying about the implications of this ruling with far more eloquence than I have; you should read her post. I also read an excellent article posted by Salon this morning, which states what I’ve been saying all along: the only thing the GOP finds more frightening than the mythical “Gay Agenda” is the Independent Woman.

And that’s the heart of the antagonism toward Frozen by certain parties. If you haven’t watched the “Let it Go” scene (and where have you been, hiding under a rock?) then I invite you to watch it now. Go on. I’ll wait.

Did you see it? The most frightening thing to ever appear in a movie! *gasp* The heroine who discovers the power within herself to be herself–without a man standing at her side. Notice, too, how Elsa’s transformation into her true self was decidedly sexy and seductive–and yet with no other motive than because it pleased her to look that way. In another stunning twist on the old tropes, it isn’t Kristoff who saves the day when Anna is turning to ice (though it would have been a nice ending–Kristoff’s a good guy and he *isn’t* a prince, so Disney could have stopped there and it would have been trope-breaking enough). No, Anna’s last act before turning into a solid block of ice is to rush to her sister’s defense. To throw herself between her sister and the sword about to fall. Her sister.

You would have thought that this act of sisterly love would have embodied the core of the GOP’s professed ‘family values’. What could be more pure than the love two sisters have for each other? What could be nobler than the self-sacrificing act Anna made (which incidentally ended up saving her own life)? Nothing.

So how did Frozen come to represent the mythical Gay Agenda? Why were people jumping up and down and screaming that it promoted lesbianism, among other things? The answer is quite simple–and yet very ugly at the same time. As of the most recent US Census, women outnumber men in this country. Women represent 41.6% of the workforce (for which they average salaries over $10 K less annually than men). Single, independent women tend to vote democratic. There. I said it. It all boils down to politics. So why target Frozen as the work of the Gay Agenda? Because it’s safe to do so. Because the far right can still ramp up its political base with the words ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’. They are doing a good job of ramping up their base with the word ‘slut’ as well. And every single term is considered a permissible form of name-calling in today’s media.

But there was no slutty behavior in Frozen. And to scream, “But look at her! She’s promoting being a Strong, Independent Woman!” would sort of point out the GOP’s real agenda: to keep women financially dependent on men. It’s a harder sell to say, “Don’t let your little girl watch Frozen, as she might grow up to be able to think for herself!” than it is to say, “LESBIAN ALERT!!”

The fact that all of these words are used to denigrate and subjugate one group of people to the belief system of another is wrong. It needs to stop before we see the gradual erosion of civil rights across the board. You think I’m being overly pessimistic, don’t you? Perhaps. But I keep seeing posts about fathers making their daughters sign ‘purity pledges’ (and taking creepy photos with them like they were Prom dates or something–what’s up with that?) and men advocating keeping your daughters at home, preventing them from being sullied with education, and the like. So, yeah. I believe if we don’t wake up, we’ll be fighting to keep our very right to *vote* in another thirty or so years.

Talk to your boss

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe all of this has finally woken the sleeping dragon at last. You know the one I mean. The middle-aged woman who has been too tired to get involved in politics because she’s been too busy taking care of her elderly parents, and her own family, and working a full time job for less money than her male co-workers. She’s been up to her neck in house payments, and dealing with chronic illness, and surviving on too little sleep and anti-depressants, and burning the candle at both ends only to scrape up the wax and slap it back on the wick again because if she gives up and flops down on the couch, there is no-one else to get everything done. And this woman is *angry*. Most of the women I know are furious right now. And you know what? The GBLTQ community has our back because we have THEIR back. Since I’ve never met a homophobe who wasn’t also misogynistic and racist, it only makes sense that we support each other. And we’ll remember this come election time.

Dear GOP: Winter is coming.