Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Independence Day, For Those who Sit Out

It's July Fourth, the day we honor the founding of our country and celebrate the myths of America. The day we lionize our "founding fathers" as larger-than-life heroes who created democracy on this new continent. It's a time to forget that the continent was only really new to Europeans, and that the men who wrote those lovely words about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were slave-owners. That Thomas Jefferson - himself an owner of slaves - removed the part of the Declaration of Independence about the slave trade because he didn't think it would be acceptable to his fellow Southerners.

As we celebrate freedom, we should have honor those who refuse to participate in the rituals of American patriotism because they don't buy into the myths behind it.

Toni Smith, a college basketball player who refused to face the American  Flag in the 2003 season.

The thirteen-year old daughter or a famous writer who told her mother, the day after Trump's election, that she chose to not pledge allegiance to a flag representing so many things inimical to her.

And, on a bigger stage, Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand for the national anthem because of the disparate treatment of African Americans, including too many killed by police. It's a sad truth  that he gave up his career to make that statement.

I don't always stand for the anthem myself. Sometimes at a ballpark (the place I'm most likely to hear it) I'll quietly remain in my seat, filling out the names on my scorecard.

Why sit? Why look towards up to those who do?
Because ritual has meaning. You'll get no argument from me if you choose to stand and salute the flag and give honor to the ideals it is meant to stand for, even if we fall short.

You'll get even greater respect from me if you turn your head and sit out until such time as the actuality comes closer to the ideal.

You can let your silence be part of your voice.

To put in another way, earlier this year, I participated in the great American tradition of a protest march.  One of the ongoing call-and-reaponse chants was:

"Tell me what democracy looks like"
"This is what democracy looks like"

And, at one point, the word changed from democracy to America. This is what America looks like: people getting together to speak against hatred, against injustice. We were, as a group, one facet of what America looks like.

Sadly, democracy - and America - are also reflected in the election if a vulgar, willfully ignorant bully. One who was elected not in spite of his racism but because of it.

So long as that is part of what America looks like we should all give our respect to those who see the darkness in America and who will sit down until such a time as it lifts.

Listen to their silence. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Thoughts on the New York Mets, the Chicago Cubs and Donald Trump on the eve of Baseball Season

It's been - for those of us who care about the nation's standing in the world, about civil rights, or simply about civility - a dark time in the world. There is a measure of joy coming around the corner in that we're nearing the eve of baseball season, with pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training just three days from this snowy Friday. So, fear not, I'm here to tarnish the pure joy of the baseball season by dragging politics and sexism into it, as we continue to understand how we elected an unrepentant sexist to the world of baseball.

Baseball and election seasons ended with an interesting statistical footnote from our friends at the 538 blog; on October 30, down three games to one, the forecasters at 538 gave the Cubs the same odds of winning the World Series as they gave Trump of winning the presidency. We all know what happened; the Cubs stunned the world with their first World Series win in over a century before Trump stunned the world again on November ninth. This isn't the part I see as interesting. What I see most interesting reflects something I said moths earlier about the New York Mets, and the ease with which we accept blatant sexism.

At the game, with girls. This is why I'll not cheer
a domestic abuser
For those who don't remember, last summer I wrote about how I booed New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes because of accusations of domestic violence against him - accusations which arguably were the direct cause of his availability to return to the team. It's a small and subtle stand, but still not an easy one to take; in the stadium with him at the bat in a big moment there was tangible excitement in the crowd, the PA system leading the "Jose, JoseJoseJose... Jose, Jose" chant from all those years back when he was a young superstar. It's an easy moment in which to get caught up, and particularly in a big moment, in extra innings, needing a run. I booed, but I was in a minority; the crowd cared more for the orange and blue within the diamond than the actions outside of it.

This brings us to another domestic abuser, Aroldis Chapman of the Chicago Cubs, he of the 105 mile-per-hour fastball. The big, strong arm brought halfway across the country from the struggling New York Yankees after they acquired him at a bargain price because he'd fired an actual gun during a domestic dispute with his girlfriend. When he stepped onto the mound the crowd cheered. Loudly, vociferously. Apparently without reservation. Midway through the season, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs on their way to the first World Series they'd see in over a century. Those of who watched saw over forty-thousand fans at Wrigley Field cheering for a man who missed the first third of the season for firing a gun at his wife. This is a thing we've taught eachother to do: to compartmentalize. To set aside our inner sense of decency and support "our team", right or wrong.

It's fandom.
It's politics.
It's patriotism.

Some of the same people who would cheer for Reyes or Chapman, for Rothlesberger, for Kobe Bryant, for so many other professional athletes who've mistreated women over the years, these are the people coming to the ballot box. Those who identify with "team elephant" saw the elephant next to Trump and went with the team, even if the man behind the symbol was imperfect.

This might not be overt sexism, but it's hard to read it as anything other than sexist. To support Trump, to cheer for Chapman or Reyes, to ignore those who have in words and deed caused harm to women is, of not hostility, indifference. Indifference may not be the same as active hostility, but it certainly does not represent support for the safety and decent treatment of women.

I've already chosen to no longer cheer for Reyes and his ilk, to speak against him. I'm hoping some of my fellow fans will join me, and my fellow Americans will learn to stop burying our decency beneath our fandom.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Actions to Take Regarding the Changeling Hunt

Following are some actions you can take in response to the Fey hunt laws, even if no fairy blood flows in your veins. While actual fey and changelings will, of course, have their own ways to fight back, they are few and we are many.  Already we see walls of iron built in the the wild places, with more planned.

  1. Plant a hedgerow. They're pretty, if nothing else. And the thin places between this world and the fey realm often look like hedgerows, so you might confuse a hunter. Besides, if you're lucky enough you might actually create a new door.
  2. Learn an instrument. Changelings are recognized for musical talent, so the more music there is in the world, the less they'll stand out. Something portable like pipes or even a harmonica is best, but anything will do. Try making yourself a home-made banjo.
  3. Let your children be wild.  Let them play loudly, let them play in public. Changelings have a reputation - earned or not - for wild behavior.  Forcing your children to be quiet isolates actual and perceived changelings. If everyone is a little wild, the truly wild will be able to hide in plain sight.
  4. Let your spaces be wild.  Aside from the aforementioned hedgerows, fey folk like wild places, untamed places. Let a corner of your lawn grow wild. Let all of it grow wild. Let moss grow, let dandelions grow. Tear dandelion leaves up with your hands, mix them into salads, brew them into wine.
  5.  Listen. This is most important. You'll hear their voices, and hear their music. You'll hear them tell you which places to set free, when to dance and when to laugh. Remember, the world is not yours alone, nor the fight.

Copy and repost this. Join the resistance. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Flash Fiction - Remembrance

I've been quiet here; the lack of a commute has made my life better overall, but really cut into my writing time. I don't need to tell you, my friends, that these are dark times in America.  I will, for today, eschew political writing for a scrap of flash fiction. 



by Leonard C Suskin

"The Rosemary is dying"

You see the little pot in your mother's hands. The spiky leaves are starting to yellow. Not all of them, but enough. This is not a strong rosemary plant.

She sets it down on the kitchen table. Her fingers walk through the branches like pages of a book, pulling each one aside to touch it, feel it, examine it. You marvel, not for the first time, at how hands as hold as hers can be this nimble, this lively. She sighs.

"I wanted to make a wreath, for the Johnsons to hang over their baby's crib. The goddess knows we can all use some protection these days."

She finds a healthy sprig, pulls it free as she continues to speak. "Do you think we should put it on the window sill? It'll get more light, might do a bit better."

Your eyes widen. The window is clearly visible from the neighbor's house. And the other neighbor. And the ones behind you. That's the hazard of living in suburbia. Everyone sees everyone. "You know.. The black laws.. What if someone sees?"

She finds a healthy branch and carefully breaks it free, her nails cutting into it a few inches up from the stem. Just as she taught you. "You know, this isn't the first time.  I remember a story my grandmother told me about a village in the old country where rosemary - and more - were outlawed. Especially rosemary."

She bundles the few healthy sprigs with string and hangs them to dry as she talks. "There was, in this village, a wisewoman, who'd treat her neighbors ills, who'd help them find love, who'd make sure their babes were born healthy and not stolen away by the fey-folk after."

You listen as she strings up the rosemary to dry - in a corner of the kitchen, far enough from the window that the neighbors wouldn't see. "The king sometimes sent riders to make sure that his edicts are being obeyed, but the people of this village were clever and proud of their wisewoman. She'd been good to them. So, they were clever. They each chose to plant rosemary in their gardens, and foxglove and lavendar and whatever else she grew. They planned to tell the kingsman that they wanted them for cooking, or for decoration, or some other silliness. The idea was, of course, that even if the kingsman didn't believe them, he couldn't raze the entire village and put them all to the torch. The wisewoman was, not for the first time, proud. And glad she'd picked this place to live."

She trails off.

"So? What happened? Did the kings man give up?"

"Do Kings Men ever give up? Lovely rosemary grew wild in the wreckage for years after. Probably still does. And those who survived remember." She set the plant at the windowsill, in the sunlight.