I disagree with my mother and sister about almost everything. Including my name. So for the sake of our sanity I felt it was best to live apart from them. Several states away, in fact. Better than to have awkward meals and long silences. This has worked well as mom is 93, my sister is 72 and I am a youthful 66. We have avoided appearing in the newspaper in a article about how we died under mysterious circumstances.
Many of my best memories involving my family include jazz. I am listening to Horace Silver on Spotify as I am typing this. My older sister is a big fan of Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown and Art Blakey. I can recall her playing Clifford Brown in her bedroom and being fascinated by this. I guess what I most like about jazz is the staying power of the music. I can listen to songs from 50 years ago and they sound as fresh as when they were originally recorded.
My advice is find one thing you can agree with and stick to it when you come home for the holiday. For me, what works is jazz.
It was hard to believe. I had seen so many predictions of the demise of the democratic party by the right and the so-called Berniecrats followers of Bernie Sanders. I came home after work and turned on the computer last night to pay close attention to the midterm elections. I had tried in vain arguing with people about the Donna Brazile book. These people were convinced that the book told them the primary election was fixed by Clinton supporters. Even when well meaning people on facebook posted stories about how the facts clearly pointed to Clinton winning more votes than Sanders they were determined to chew on that bone until there was not a single shred of meat.
At the same time the midterm elections were approaching. There was New Jersey were the hateful bully Chris Christie was term limited out of office. His Lieutenant Governor was running to replace the most disliked governor in the state’s history. But the big enchilada was in Virginia which has been electing democratic governors and residential candidates. I don’t know a lot about Virginia but I had heard about the democratic governors including Douglas Wilder and the outgoing Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe is a tough talking SOB who will not put up with any bullshit from republicans. Faced with a hostile legislature gerrymandered into safe republican seats, he voted more bills than they could pass. And he did one very good thing for democracy. He restored voting rights for more than 100,000 people who had been convicted of felonies. Many states throughout the south automatically take away voting for life which falls most heavily on African-Americans. On Tuesday the twitter was filled with stories of people who were voting for the first time thanks to him. It was a wonderful night from start to finish learning about the new people who were swept into office in a big blue wave. Transgendered people, black men and women, and a Sikh politician were part of the diverse group who were elected.
It was the beginning of the comeback. If democratic voters want it to be. We can take this as a sign of better days ahead and become even more motivated. The republican legislatures and governors have signed into law evil legislation aimed at curbing our voting rights, restricting our reproductive freedom, putting their hateful religion into our lives and much more. It is time to resist. It is time to begin driving #45 and his evil profiteers from office. It is time for fair legislative districts, it is time for more people to regain their voting rights. It is time to end the rhetoric of defeatism. There were 8 years we were in power and we can regain power if we work together.
On the pursuit of happiness
I have been reflecting lately on two very different periods of my life. I had a long stretch in which I felt dissatisfied with a lot of what was happening. I was working in toxic environments, I was in bad relationships, and I felt unsafe in my neighborhood. Notice that I am using the word happiness as a measure of my life and whether or not I was feeling it. This is very deliberate as I want to avoid the impression that I was depressed during this period. I was not achieving my goals and I saw that it would be a long time before I would make any progress.
I tied a lot of things to get out of this rut including watching inspiring movies like the Will Smith movie I am referencing in the title. Self help books like the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People gave me some pointers. I underwent counseling and seriously considered the advice I was being given. In addition I talked with my older sister and changed relationships and careers. It was not the sort of thing I could do overnight. I almost forgot one tool from the mental health field which was the Wellness Recovery Action Plan. I wrote and revised my plan several times before bidding it farewell a couple of years ago.
On the Hidden Brain podcast a few months ago there was a story about how people ruminate or continue to think about their past decisions. I also go through this process of thinking about what I have done and wondering what I might have done differently. And I also learned that as time passes, you have to let go of what might have been and move ahead with what has happened.
The surprising result of this effort is that I feel happier than ever. I can think back to things that happened and how they improved my life. And I improved the lives of people I met along the way. That is the person I have become and I hope there will be greater happiness in the future.
I just told a story to my sister from a long time ago which I have clung to as an example of being mistreated and patronized. But listening to her reaction I realize I may misjudged the person who I thought was misusing me. I have learned over the years that my memories are often faulty and I erased certain things that did not fit my perspective. For example I tell people that we moved from an all black neighborhood to an all white one just 8 blocks away. In reality our next door neighbors were a white couple including a man who drove a truck for the bakery around the corner. My sister, who is six years older than me, remembers that I broke a window in our neighbor’s house and mom made me go over and apologize. Mom paid for the window and after that we had a wonderful relationship.
However things did not go as smoothly with me. Perhaps it was due my personality as I was introverted and I would sometimes lash out at people. One of my hobbies was playing baseball and listening to the games on the radio. The top player at that time was Willie Mays. Well, as luck would have it, our neighbor would ask me about Willie Mays whenever he saw me. One day I told him that there was more to me than Willie Mays. I don’t recall that the man said another word to me. Looking at it from the man’s perspective, Chris that that was how men related to other people. Especially boys. I could have told him a little bit more about me that he could use to talk about. Instead I shut off communication.
This brief story suggests that there might be a value in looking at a situation from the standpoint of the other person and wonder what they are thinking of me as we interact. Am I communicating what I hope to be saying or are they hearing something very different from me? What do you think?
I have been reflecting this weekend on some things that have bothered me about the stories I recalled from childhood that my family and I used to tell about people who we suspected were gay, lesbian or bi-sexual. We had no understanding of what we were talking about but it seemed there were more of these people. My sister said they were “funny.” We would look at certain entertainers, like the Hines brothers and she would remark that one of them was almost certainly one of them. I don’t know whether we ever discussed James Baldwin in the same way. It was not that we hated these people, we simply did not understand them.
Our mother was very uncomfortable discussing sex and sexuality. It was clear in school that my classmates knew a lot more than I did and they said things I did not understand. Where I learned about sexuality was through politics. There was a group called the Mattechine Society that had a radio broadcast and gays and lesbians. And when I became part of the antiwar movement there were people talking about the need to fight all kinds of oppression. I grew up in Buffalo, New York, where Workers World Party was formed. One of the leaders was Leslie Feinberg who was the first trans person I had ever met.
I opened my eyes to the reality that there were more identities than I knew when I first became an adult. I grew up in the era of the Stonewall Rebellion in New York. One of my cousins was the first gay person in my family. As I looked around I discovered I had more gay and lesbian friends, including a woman who was part of the poetry group I belonged to. My best friend in my 20s was a bi-sexual woman who helped me struggle through underemployment.
A lot of has changed in these many years. On a Facebook post this morning I talked about the Supreme Court ruling that took us from an era of passing laws and constitutional amendments to discriminate to recognizing that all citizens were entitled to equal protection under the laws. When I attended the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly this summer I was asked what pronouns I used and I was stunned. I almost went back to the old All in the Family theme song talking about “when girls were girls, and men were men.” Fortunately those days only exist on television reruns. Another new thing that I did not understand or accept was the use of the term cisgender for men like me.
Yet in spite of the changes that have taken place there are still people clinging to their old prejudices. I saw something on Facebook about the so-called “gay agenda” which was a term invented by right wing bigots years ago as part of their campaign to deny equal rights. It is time to speak truth to ignorance. So, yes, my pronouns are the ones listed as the title for this blog entry. You can say of me that he said we need to accept and recognize our brothers and sisters.
I look forward to each issue of Freethought Today, published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. I can be assured that the newspaper will include stories of how FFRF was able to intervene on behalf of people who found religion being shoved down the throats of taxpayers by public officials. Schools, police, city council members and beyond often abuse their authority by bringing their religious views into the workplace. They allow other zealots to make presentations at public schools or hand out bibles, conduct programs intended for a secular purpose such as birth control using religious propaganda or post things such as the ten commandments on public property. Using complaints from taxpayers lawyers from the FFRF are able to intervene and force these individuals to cease and desist. Of course, this is an uphill battle. I am certain that as I write, some politician filled will campaign cash will be spreading some bullshit about America being a christian country. We can stand up for our rights otherwise the real defenders of the US constitution will be trampled.
Sister said keep readin, he will bring you the truth. The UK and Russia are some of my biggest fans.