After such a long dry spell, rain is absolutely luxurious.
Soak it up, Los Angeles!
Twice in the past month I’ve been tagged by friends on Facebook to participate in a black-and-white photograph challenge. Post 5 photos in 5 days. Pretty doable, as far as challenges go. So I’m in.
It’s been a great excuse to go spelunking through my collected photographs stored in the caverns of Google+ Photos. Just one click drains all color out of the most spectacular sunset or the most riotous bloom. The black-and-white result, at first, can seem flat and boring. But then…
In the absence of color, other aspects of the image step into the spotlight. Structure. Texture. Light. Shadow. Line. Almost the way an x-ray reveals what the eye doesn’t normally see. What’s left once you’ve removed the green from the grass? the aquamarine from the pool water? It’s an interesting second act for a photograph. Here are the dozen or so snapshots I chose for these challenges. (And a couple of wild cards at the end.) For those of you who love taking pics, this might send you running into your own albums on a hunt for buried treasure. I’ve discovered that I even prefer some photos as their b/w alter egos.
Then I started to play around with some sunsets. One I took recently at the beach in Santa Monica. One taken by my friend Jenn at Tod’s Point in Old Greenwich, Connecticut. They’re just not very interesting in black-and-white. Lots of gray. The sky’s reflection on the water is such an integral part of the beauty of these scenes. But, what if…
I began this great blogging adventure one year ago. 320 posts. More than 100,000 words. Random thoughts. Musings. Rants. Discoveries. Shiny objects. I called it The End because, well, I had to call it something… and I knew that one day, in the rear view mirror, it would seem prophetic.
That day is not today. We are not at the end of The End.
But we are at the end of the beginning of The End.
I’m taking a little break. Call it a hiatus. A sabbatical. A nap. With the dogs.
The truth is, I’ve only made three posts since the fire in mid-September that turned life-as-I-know-it upside down. And I’m fine and everyone’s fine and I’m still living on the lucky side of life’s ledger. We’re putting the jigsaw puzzle pieces back in place to match the picture on the box. Or, what we can remember of the picture – the box is long gone! Instead of being upside down, my life these days is merely sideways.
So, progress. But focus is not my strong suit in this season of lengthening shadows and shortening days… Though I do look forward to catching up with the actual following of the folks whose blogs I follow. What I didn’t know a year ago when I landed on planet WordPress: blogging’s rewards are only half in one’s own writing. The rest of the treasure is buried in the creations of others. That’s been my great discovery here. Terrific people sharing their stories: compelling, amusing, provocative, entertaining. In all the forms that words and pictures can take.
On occasion, someone you follow may have gone beyond the blogosphere. And I’m very much looking forward to reading Margaret Rose Stringer’s And Then Like My Dreams.
No rules to this. I may post again tomorrow, or not for another month. Photos may pop up here and there. Whatever else, I’ll see you soon, or before too long. – Steve
The End (so far)
Here’s an update on the continuing destruction of traditional marriage in the United States:
BACKGROUND: In June 2013, the Supreme Court declared the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) to be unconstitutional. That ruling compelled the federal government to recognize and treat equally all marriages considered to be legal in any one of the 50 states. At that point, there were half a dozen or so states that extended marriage equality to same-sex couples.
That ruling was a critically important step in civil rights in America, because while state laws govern who can be married, the vast majority of legal and financial benefits of marriage are bestowed by the federal government. In fact, there are 1,138 federal benefits that accrue to married couples that are not available to swinging singles. Benefits in areas such as Social Security, Taxation, Estates & Inheritance, Adoption, Immigration, Family & Medical Leave, Employee Benefits for Federal Workers, and much more. It’s not just about all that sanctimonious sanctity stuff.
That 2013 Supreme Court ruling did NOT strike down the anti-same-sex-marriage laws in any of the 40+ states still banning marriage equality. But the ruling was a seismic shift in the legal landscape. The writing was on the wall. The bigots had lost. But they kept up the fight… if only to keep those contributions flowing from America’s pews and Barcaloungers.
Dozens of lawsuits were filed by same-sex couples wishing to marry in every state which still banned marriage equality. These cases percolated up through the judicial system. In state courts rising to state supreme courts, and in federal courts rising up through the appellate levels. And you can almost feel sorry for the folks working so diligently to fight marriage equality. Almost. They tried soooo hard. They tried everything. They continued even to the point of looking absolutely ridiculous – and wasting millions of their taxpayers’ dollars. And now, they have not only lost… They have been annihilated. In fact, on more than a few occasions, they have been basically laughed out of court. As well they should be.
Since DOMA was eviscerated, there have been something like 40 court rulings in a row in favor of marriage equality. In every corner of the country. From judges known to be liberal, moderate and conservative. Appointed by Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama. The bigots always put the same question to the courts: We think it’s icky, so why can’t we prevent gay marriage in our state? And they got the same answer every time: Denying gay Americans access to marriage is a direct (obvious, flagrant) violation of their Constitutional rights to due process and equal protection. Period. Now go home. And brush up on your constitutional law. One of my favorite of these rulings came from a federal judge in Pennsylvania, who wrote:
In some cases, a state stopped its legal campaign to prevent marriage equality once a federal court said it could not. (That was true in Pennsylvania after Judge John E. Jones III issued his ruling, excerpted above.) The governor or attorney general knew that to pursue this to the appellate court or Supreme Court would be a pointless waste of time and money. In the reddest of the red states, though, there was no backing down. Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead! When the 4th, 7th and 10th Circuits had all ruled in favor of marriage equality, five states appealed to the Supreme Court: Utah, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Indiana and Virginia.
The Supreme Court put these five cases on the list of those they would consider taking at the end of September. But when the Court released the list of cases it would definitely be taking in the new term, none of these marriage cases were on it. Hmmm. Que pasa, Supremos?
THEN TODAY, the first day of the new term, a bombshell: The Supreme Court announced it had rejected the marriage appeals from all five states. Whaaaaaa? That was initially misconstrued as a refusal to rule on these cases, but the decision not to consider the appeals is a de facto ruling, as it lets stand all of the appellate court rulings in those cases. And all of those rulings were in favor of marriage equality. And – double bonus feature! – Circuit Court of Appeals rulings, once given the force of law, apply to ALL of the states covered by that circuit. So, in addition to the five states who challenged the rulings, an additional six states are swept up in the nuptials news. It may take a few days for their unused machinery of legal equality to crank up, but you will soon be able to gay marry the gay of your dreams in Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Kansas… looks like you’re not in Kansas anymore!
So yes, a good day for equality and for America. We went from 19 to 30 states with marriage equality. More than 60% of Americans are now living in states with marriage equality. Not “gay marriage”. Just… marriage. And the bigoted anti-gay laws in the remaining 20 states (Texas, Florida, Ohio, Georgia, etc) are now hanging by a legal thread. Stay tuned for more rainbow-colored rice being thrown, coast to coast. Click here for a great series of maps showing the status of states with marriage equality, and the states with pending appeals (i.e., the next to go).
Many of us are disappointed that the Court did not take on these cases and issue a definitive ruling wiping the remaining discriminatory laws off the books, just as it did in 1967 with bans on interracial marriage. That may be yet to come. Some believe the 5th Circuit offers the (sad) possibility of issuing a pro-discrimination ruling. That would be appealed to the Supreme Court – which would have no choice but to take the case, given its action today. You cannot have a country where marriage equality is the law of the land, except in a handful of states. For excellent in-depth coverage of all the legal actions and status in the battle for marriage equality, go to FreedomToMarry.org.
And if you are mourning the loss of your treasured, traditional biblical marriage, I offer you this message from Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian. Like so many of your fellow flock, you may not really understand what kinds of marriage the bible endorses. Let Betty show you the light.
The End (so far)
A fellow blogger re-posted this comment from a DailyKOS thread. I would have shared it directly from his blog, but he’s not set up that way. So here it is with a link to the original by eodell. It’s a rant. And it’s a very good rant.
Regarding offended white people
I’m not sure who I’m addressing this to, since all of the black people here and a lot of the decent white people already know this, and the racist whites won’t get it, but what the hell.
Dear white racists and your fragile fee-fees:
Relax, I’m white, too. Look, I can do the secret handshake and nudge-nudge, wink-wink. Lemme whitesplain something to you, fellow white men: no one buys your bullshit.
That’s because your bullshit runs like this: For historically- and presently-oppressed black people to be treated decently, they must carefully avoid doing anything that could be remotely twisted into behaving like a white racist, even if you’re squinting and looking at it from five hundred meters away in a thick fog. Because that would be racist, and therefore hypocritical, and if that’s the case, they deserve to continue to be oppressed.
Here’s the thing you thick-headed assholes totally fail to get: NO ONE DESERVES TO BE OPPRESSED, PERIOD. You can talk all you want about how it’s okay for black people to be mistreated if— but get this, there is no “if”. It’s not okay, ever. That’s why we call it mistreatment. Your error is to think that it’s ever justified, and your active misdeed is to constantly search for a justification. Black people, collectively, are not guilty of anything. In fact, a basic principle of civil society is that we reject the notion of collective guilt. Some individual black people, like individual white people, have done bad things, and in those cases, may deserve judicial punishments. But even those people don’t deserve mistreatment from some random white guy on the street. And black people in general don’t owe anyone anything as a prerequisite for being treated decently. No one does.
Now I know there are a bunch of you in the back of the room waving your hand and getting ready to launch the argument that it’s racist to complain about white privilege. No, it is not. Complaining about white privilege is not the same as assigning collective guilt to white people. White privilege is a pervasive feature of our society and our legal system. It’s hard to see if you’re white (and you’re not looking or actively trying not to look), but it is real, it is powerfully destructive, and if global warming had the kind of statistical support that evidence of white privilege has, Bill O’Reilly would be haranguing FOX News viewers to install solar panels.
And here’s the subtle point that you folks either can’t or won’t grasp. White privilege is especially the responsibility of white people to fix, not because we’re all racist schlubs like you are, but because white privilege itself means that we’re the ones who have the power to change it. Black people don’t have that power, again because of white privilege, and not because they aren’t sufficiently careful in the way they phrase their complaints about being mistreated. It’s our problem and our responsibility as white people to fix not because whites are collectively guilty, but because it is the responsibility of ALL PEOPLE to fight for decent treatment for ALL PEOPLE. It just happens that, because of our shithead ancestors and a helping handful of historical accident, we white people are the ones who can do something about it. When the finger on the trigger is white, it’s pointless to ask a black guy to lower the gun.
And quite frankly, given all the shit that our black fellow citizens have put up with, and all the shit they have to deal with every. fucking. day., if some of them lose their tempers and say things that aren’t carefully calibrated to kiss your privileged, hypersensitive asses, well, is that actually surprising? You lose your minds when black people just complain verbally about being kicked. Imagine how tough it would be for you to keep your cool if someone was actually doing something to you instead of just talking.
Finally, yes, I know this is pointless. You want to be offended to fluff your fragile egos, and you want black people to please shut the fuck up and stop harshing your mellow. I hate to break it to you, but as long as people are being murdered by the state, given draconian sentences for crimes that in many cases they haven’t even committed, and being held in poverty and privation and a constant state of fear, those of us who actually give a shit about our fellow citizens are going, at the very least, to make some noise about it.
In the meantime, if you can’t be bothered to do your duty as an American to protect your fellow Americans with the considerable power at your disposal, at least shut the fuck up and stop making an ass of yourself.
Your fellow privileged white guy
Last Thursday afternoon, my friend Kim had just arrived for a visit with me and the dogs. I went out to let her in from the guest parking area, and as we returned to my apartment we could smell what we thought was incense. Within minutes, I was calling 911. We grabbed the dogs and ran through a hallway filled with dense black smoke to safety. The whole episode was swift and terrifying. But we were fortunate; no one was hurt, or worse.
Several apartments were destroyed in the fire, which started in the unit adjacent to ours. The fire burned up, but the smoke filled our place, coating every square inch of everything with acrid soot. Walls, floors, furniture, clothes, rugs, art, electronics… the smoke found its way into closed closets and drawers. But again, we’re fortunate to have insurance that will cover the restoration or replacement of these things.
We stayed with friends for a few days over the weekend. Their upstairs neighbor just happened to be spending this week with family in Boston, so here we are, taking care of her chocolate lab, Luna. Our dogs Charlie, Bernardo and Tiger are rolling with it – but I know they are wondering, What the hell is going on here?!
That same thought has crossed my mind once or twice in the last few days. But we managed to find an apartment to sublet for October and half of November, just a few blocks from our smoked-out mess of a home. And hoping that will be enough time to get it all shipshape. There have been a few other mini-dramas along the way, but I am too tired to conjure them for you tonight. Perhaps another time, when I can see more of the humor in it all.
Today was kind of funny, though. I was scheduled for a colonoscopy and was tempted to cancel, but the prospect of being zonked out on high-grade anesthesia was too good to pass up. I asked them if they could wake me in November.
Some wisdom I earned this week that I can now pass along to you:
1. If you smell smoke, get out. If Kim and I had waited even one more minute, it might have been too late.
2. Things are just things. We all know this. When we are reminded, it can be an oddly comforting lesson.
3. If you are old enough to be needing a routine colonoscopy, stop worrying about it. I would rather have ten colonoscopies than one teeth cleaning. You do the ‘cleanse’ the night before by drinking a month’s supply of laxatives mixed in a gallon of fruit juice. Catch up on your favorite Netflix series and be prepared to hit the pause button. Frequently. The next morning you go into the hospital, lots of very kind people fuss over you, and the next thing you know you’re waking up and being given some cookies and apple juice. It’s over. And then you can pig out on lunch – you’ve earned it.
Best week ever? Hardly. But the thing I was dreading wasn’t so bad after all. And the dreadful thing could have been far worse.
The End (so far)
Link to featured image at top of post, from NPR
“…every saint and sinner in the history of our species… lived there…
on the mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam…” – Carl Sagan
From The Sagan Series
The End (so far)
How do we survive the loss of a loved one? of a child? of a partner? “Time heals” – and that’s true, to a certain extent. But the passage of time alone cannot mend a shattered soul. It takes a collaborative effort of the head and the heart to escape the crushing gravity of deep grief.
Last year, my friend Lisë endured unbearable loss. The sudden death of her 18-year-old son Eitan… and three months later, the sudden death of her partner Larry. No warning. No mercy. But over these past 18 months, I have witnessed the extraordinary journey my friend has undertaken… to somehow rescue herself from her darkest days. I share this blog entry from Lisë marking 79 weeks since the death of her son. It is such a poignant and uplifting moment that she shares. If you have suffered such an unthinkable loss, or if you know someone who has, I hope this post will offer some hope for the future.
So this happened.
Connoisseurs Marketplace, Menlo Park, California, 7.20.14
He is grown but young.
The attack from within knocked him flat backward,
tight curls torn open staining black asphalt crimson,
in front of a statue of jeans with a pig snout jutting from the fly,
and a coffee shop.
Aunt’s hands, grandmother’s, cousins, holding, supporting, cradling that head,
eyes rolled back white frozen
cold unseeing but alive, the barest hint of terror.
I recognize this stare,
suspended immobility after the shakes,
And I stop, and freeze, and stare, seeing, and wring my hands,
an action I thought only appeared in writing, but there they are, the left, the right, holding each other, washing with fingers and skin, pressing against my heart.
A crumpled cream colored towel appears in the relatives’ hands,
supplied by someone,
to prop, protect, that head so it will rest on softness instead…
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Blogging, in its highest form, is a conversation. Last week, I wrote a post expressing my own sadness and anger that I live in country which talks about freedom and equality… but too often does not walk that walk. A woman named Lisa clicked the ‘like’ button on my post. That led me to her blog, where I discovered this post that she had chosen to reblog.
We do not have to be white to understand the injustices suffered by people of color. We do not have to be female to understand the injustices suffered by women and girls. We do not have to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender to understand the injustices suffered by members of the queer community. We already possess the only attribute needed to understand each other’s challenges: we are all human. Once you and I understand the injustices we all face, the only thing left for us to do is to act humanely toward each other. It is no coincidence that all of the world’s faith traditions and moral codes share one most basic tenet: Treat others as you want to be treated. What could be simpler? Easier? Less controversial?
I share this post with you because it speaks to the importance of looking beyond ourselves. I am not a woman, but I am a feminist. What about you?
The year is 2014. You are a white Western woman. You wake up in the morning in a comfortably sized house or flat. You have a full or part-time job that enables you to pay your rent or mortgage. You have been to school and maybe even college or university as well. You can read and write and count. You own a car or have a driver’s licence. You have enough money in your own bank account to feed and clothe yourself. You have access to the Internet. You can vote. You have a boyfriend or girlfriend of your choosing, who you can also marry if you want to, and raise a family with. You walk down the street wearing whatever you feel like wearing. You can go to bars and clubs and sleep with whomever you want.
Your world is full of freedom and possibility.
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A man at a protest holds a sign expressing his solidarity – and commonality – with Mike Brown.
“I AM MIKE BROWN”
Mike Brown is dead.
Mike Brown was shot to death.
Mike Brown was 18 years old. Black. Unarmed.
Mike Brown was gunned down in the middle of the street, in the middle of the day.
By a cop.
In Ferguson, Missouri.
In the United States of America.
Ferguson, Missouri is a suburb of St Louis. Its population is 70% black.
Its mayor is white. School board is white. City council is white (except for one black member). And the Ferguson Police Department is 94% white, with only 3 black police officers.
Mike Brown was shot six times by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. Four times in the arm, twice in the head.
His crime was jaywalking.
Later it was suggested by the Ferguson Police Dept that he may have stolen a handful of cigars from a convenience store.
Because, unlike jaywalking, that is a crime punishable by death in a hail of bullets from a cop’s gun in the middle of a residential neighborhood?
Eyewitnesses have reported that Mike Brown had his hands in the air in the universal sign of surrender. And then he was murdered.
“Hands Up. Don’t Shoot.” has become a rallying cry for the protesters in Ferguson, all over the country and around the world.
Darren Wilson and the Ferguson Police Dept left Mike Brown’s body lying in the street, uncovered, for four hours. The body of a dog that had been run over by a car would have been treated with more respect than this. How can this be?
Ten days after killing unarmed 18-year-old Mike Brown, and Darren Wilson still has not been arrested. He has not been detained. He has not been questioned. He has not been charged with a crime. The people of Ferguson are incensed. They are marching in their streets. They are venting their anger. They are exercising their Constitutional rights to assemble and petition their government. They are demanding the same justice that anyone has a right to expect in this country. But they are not getting any measure of justice. They have been met with an absurdly overblown paramilitary response including armored vehicles, automatic weapons trained on them, and tear gas canisters fired at them.
The US military’s rules of engagement in Iraq did not allow soldiers to point their weapons at civilians.
Automatic weapons are leveled at American civilians in Ferguson, Missouri.
The United States is a signatory to treaties that ban the use of tear gas in warfare.
Tear gas is being used against American civilians in Ferguson, Missouri.
Substitute your own racial or ethnic group in place of [a black man] in the following sentence:
In the United States of America, a black man is shot to death by a cop every 28 hours.
What would you do?
I am Mike Brown.
But I am not Mike Brown.
I am a 52-year-old white man who has never experienced one moment of fear that I would be shot to death by a cop. I have lived in New York City, Boston, Washington DC, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles. I have visited Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, St Louis, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Denver, Baltimore… and many other cities, towns, suburbs and rural areas in this country. I have walked through downtown areas in the middle of the night. I have marched in the streets in protests.
But I have never – not for one minute of my life – known the fear of being targeted by a cop. I have never worried about being shot to death for jaywalking as 18-year-old Mike Brown was. I have never worried about being put in a choke hold by a group of NYC police for the crime of selling cigarettes on a street corner. While other cops stood by. While paramedics did not come to my aid. As 43-year-old Eric Garner was. I have never worried about being shot to death in a Walmart for picking up a BB gun from a BB gun display, as 22-year-old John Crawford was in Beavercreek, Ohio. I have never worried about being shot in the back while I was lying on the ground during an “investigative stop” as 25-year-old Ezell Ford was in Los Angeles. I have never worried about being shot to death by a vigilante as I walked home to my grandmother’s house as 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was. I have never worried about being shot to death at a gas station for playing loud music as 17-year-old Jordan Davis was.
So no, I am not Mike Brown. I am not Eric Garner or John Crawford. I am not Ezell Ford or Trayvon Martin or Jordan Davis.
I am not a black man in America.
But I am an American. As were all of these men. Why can I walk through my neighborhood, in my city, in my country without fear of being shot to death by the police? Why can’t black men do the same? Why can’t black women in America say goodbye to their husbands, their sons, their grandsons – without wondering if they’ll ever see them again?
Why are black men (and all people of color) treated so outrageously unfairly by our law enforcement and justice systems?
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. Individuals of color have a disproportionate number of encounters with law enforcement, indicating that racial profiling continues to be a problem. A report by the Department of Justice found that blacks and Hispanics were approximately three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white motorists. African Americans were twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police. – read more at AmericanProgress.org
And what are we – you and I – going to do about it?
Join a protest. Raise your voice. And vote.
Because the citizens of Ferguson, Missouri have a voter turnout of about 12%. That is how a 70% black town gets an almost 100% white leadership. In other words, that is how people get a government that does not represent their best interests. It may not be the government they deserve, but it is the government they gave themselves.
The government of the United States of America does not currently represent the best interests of the people of this country. There is an election in ten weeks. Every member of Congress is up for re-election. Many state and local elected officials, too. So vote. Whatever your race, your creed, your color, your orientation, your issue. Vote. It is your only power. And if you don’t use it, you will find yourself powerless. Like the people of Ferguson. And then it might be too late. As it is for Mike Brown.
Voting cannot end racism in this country. But voting can remove racists from elected positions in government at every level. And no, I make no distinction between racists and those who implement racist policies. Because there is no distinction to be made there.
If you are not registered to vote, or if you’re not sure,
click here >>> REGISTER TO VOTE NOW. AND THEN VOTE.
And if you have two minutes, watch this powerful statement from Jesse Williams on CNN.
“I am Mike Brown” photo credit: Monica Almeida/New York Times