The Importance of Watching “13th”

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Watch the trailer here.

It’s been several months since my last post. I haven’t been able to find the right words to follow up. It wasn’t enough to just complain about the horrible conditions of racial injustice in this country. I needed to find a constructive way to add to the conversation. Many reached out to me to echo my sentiments of frustration and despair, feelings of incompetence at our inabilities to effect real change.

In the recent election, Black Lives Matter brought the conversation of racial justice to the fore. On the Democratic side, in the primaries, both frontrunners adopted racial justice platforms, both of them adapted their language (to some extent), and the presumption was made (by myself and millions of others) that while both old white candidates fell short, at the very least, assuming a Democratic win, we’d have something to build on in terms of prioritizing issues of systemic racism that impinge on the black community via mass incarceration, police brutality, environmental, economic and countless social injustices.

And then came the wrecking ball.

Since the election, the relentless assault on every avenue of justice and protection has obviously roused the nation. It’s shameful that it’s come to this. That for all these years, we’ve allowed so many injustices. We’ve expected time to rectify history instead of facing it and making amends. This has led to now. The conversation has devolved to the starkest of divisions—we recently had to debate whether Jeff Sessions, who was rejected as a federal judge for being too racist in 1986, should be appointed to basically oversee civil rights issues. And as a further step back, he was approved. I do blame this on a form of complacency. The sickeningly cruel history of this country (from its inception) has never been sufficiently addressed. This has allowed a huge segment to carry on as if nothing happened, as if the wounds of slavery and oppression live in history books rather than in the souls of generations and throughout all facets of our society’s systems. It’s offensively naive to propose that such recent barbarism and exploitation would simply evaporate and render a level playing field.

It’s become clear to me that without racial justice in America, we have no justice of any kind.

Prior to November 9th, I watched 13th on Netflix. It struck me as urgently essential viewing…clearly illustrating, connecting the dots of how the past treatment of black people in America relates to the present and how the exploitation of marginalized people has been politically and financially profitable.

Now that we have Trump and the lines of division have become so pronounced, I feel it’s beyond instructive to watch 13th, it’s imperative, and as imperative for liberals as it is for conservatives. There’s been a rash of liberals contemplating how to appeal to the “white working class,” angling to direct attention away from identity politics. While I lament that politicians who profit off of division and oppression exploit identity to gain power and influence, there’s an adjustment we need to make. A shift to nuanced, sincere, thoughtful, solution based, policy-backed, identity politics. Part of the problem with politics is when politicians shallowly exploit issues, it’s the people who pay. We can’t allow that to happen. We must demand more depth from our politicians and from each other.

Given the law and order rhetoric of the current administration, it’s clear that the public urgently needs to be educated with regard to how those words translate to policies that target and destroy lives for profit.

I’ve urged everyone I know, across the political spectrum to watch 13th. I’ve even begged on occasion. It’s a film that answers clearly, why “black lives matter” (as opposed to “all lives matter”). It acknowledges hypocrisy and exploitation across party lines. It illuminates how profit and ruthless capitalism have fueled systemic racism and the evolution of slavery into its modern day form.

Watching 13th is a uniquely personal, subjective experience and this post isn’t intended to be an objective critique or review. I cried from beginning to end. I’ve had an intrinsic sensitivity to injustice since I was a child. I’d long ago come to the (rather obvious to me) conclusion that the ramifications of historical injustices permeate society and change form rather than disappear.  Some of the information in 13th wasn’t new to me, but pieced together, the film packed a dizzying visceral punch. I am not an expert on racial or criminal justice issues, not by any stretch. I defer to 13th to give voice to those who are educated, empowered, and entitled to speak with authority on matters of racial and criminal justice.

I’m grateful this film and its brilliant director, Ava DuVernay are garnering so much attention, including multiple awards and Oscar nominations. It’s a work of purposeful art that serves to facilitate a conversation that must happen, now more than ever.

I don’t know wtf to do about the murder of black people in America

I’m white so I generally take a very respectful, reserved approach when speaking of my own pain and grief in watching black men and women needlessly perish at the hands of cops. Murder is what it’s called. Government sanctioned murder. But the truth is, I cry every time. I’m haunted every time. I think of Sandra Bland every single day.

I’m a pacifist, averse to images of violence. I watched the video of Alton Sterling’s murder, not because I’m sadistic, but because we deserve to suffer through watching the horrific truth of what’s being perpetrated on black people. You don’t get to look away. We don’t get to look away.

I saw a man murdered. I immediately recalled the words of Jesse Williams “… we know that police somehow manage to de-escalate, disarm and not kill white people every day.” It’s undeniable.

I cried this morning. I tweeted my outrage (as if that does a damn thing). I accompanied my son to a national basketball championship where there were hundreds of young black boys with their doting families. Our own teammates among them. And I struggled to hold back tears. And I wanted to talk about Alton Sterling but that would be a sort of emotional terrorism. We were there to celebrate these dedicated young people and their bright futures. And I kept thinking, it could be him next, or him, or him over there. And I’m white and I know that, as much as I worry about my sons, I have the privilege of assuming unless my kid goes way the fuck out of his way to literally force a cop to shoot him, I do NOT need to worry about him being murdered by the police. And, I realize that growing up with his privilege and the safety and security of feeling at ease in his skin, gives him great advantages in every facet of his personal well being. I’m a mother. I worry enough. But I can only imagine parenting, living with this level of fear, alienation, and oppression.

I’m a mother.

I love these kids. Every one of them. I’m not ok with this. I’m not ok with our children growing up in these conditions. I’m not ok with people of color getting fucked economically, educationally, socially, environmentally and then, on top of it, disproportionately incarcerated and murdered.

I’m a white woman. I’m privileged. I know that, but my heart is breaking and it’s not enough to post on Twitter or write a blog post or walk around a coliseum crying with no one even knowing why.

I must do something. We must do something. I honestly don’t know what the fuck to do.

What Loss Can Do

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Loss can crack you open

Until you almost break

Or until you break

And either stay broken

Or put the pieces back together

Ignore the cracks?

Embrace the cracks?

Seal the cracks with love and gratitude?

The cracks remain

Loss can make you feel

Too much

Too often

Too fully

Or just enough?

Loss can remind you

That you cared that much

That you could again

That some things do matter

And some things don’t

Loss can make you choose

To live with it

To accept the deal

To risk its barbs

Again

And

Again

Loss can make you

Realize

It’s worth it.

 

On parenting and the speed of time…

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I was just speaking with someone who has a six year old.

It brought back memories of those days—long and full of Legos and questions and battles over getting in the bath followed by battles over getting out of the bath. Nights were filled with cuddles and kisses and remembrances of the day, as if the day had been a fairytale set in a long ago time with vibrant characters and morals easily extracted. Having witnessed that innocence so intimately brings me to tears, even now, especially now.

Six years old. That was my younger son’s age when my ex and I split, when we attempted to penetrate his naive determination that things are like this or like that, with an alternate reality, that things are really about to be a whole other way. An inconceivable way.

It’s impossible for me to know if time would have sped up otherwise, but our world spun off its axis and sparked a sort of chaos and warped speed that never slowed. It’s felt like skipping and tripping and sprinting and juggling ever since. Even in my quietest moments I don’t feel I have caught up to the present. It’s better. I’m closer to being in my skin again, like the younger me but with more humility and willingness to cede control.

My kids now tower over me (both more than 6 feet tall) with deep voices and man gestures. I find myself daily saying out loud, “who are you and where did you come from?”

And I think maybe that’s just how parenting goes, no matter how present you are, no matter how conscious of the adage that “time flies so fast,” there is no way to avoid the inevitable moment where you wonder where the time went and how these adult looking people are lumbering through your house, with insatiable appetites and distinct, passionately espoused interests and world views.

I’ll never know how things would have evolved if my marriage hadn’t ended. Life knocks us all on our asses in multiple ways. Perhaps there’s just a limit for how long one can remain in what feels like an intact, manageable existence, to the extent that time doesn’t seem to be running ahead of us.

You tell me? Do you relate? Is this part and parcel to raising kids in general? Specific to divorcees? I can only assume any trauma or upheaval can have such an effect. I’m interested to know how other parents have experienced the passage of time…

Life Lesson: “You can’t just play defense!”

Silhouette of a Teen Boy shooting a BasketballLast week my dad came to watch my 12 year old son’s basketball game. The opposing team was really aggressive but our team was maintaining a fat lead (around 15 points). I turned to my dad and said, “They just have to keep them from shooting right? Just hold them off to win this thing.” My dad’s gaze shifted from the court straight to me and with exasperation, he exclaimed, “What? No, that’s not how you win. You can’t just play defense!”

Immediately I personalized this comment. With a chuckle, I affirmed, “yeah dad, I get it, you’re right.” His focus was back on the game when I muttered, “hmm, this could explain a lot. I’ve been playing defense. It might be time for me to play offense.” I hadn’t even intended for him to hear that part but he swung his head, looked me dead in the eyes and said, “yeah, it is time for you to play offense. Get moving.”

The game turned into a nail biter with both teams playing hard and giving 100%. My son’s team won by only a few points. No doubt, if they had let up at all, it would have been a loss.

Ever since, I just haven’t been able to get my dad’s message out of my head. Only a month ago I wrote about feeling like a fighter on the ropes needing to stay in the ring. I’m tough. I’m ready. On alert. I’m playing defense. All the time. No wonder I’m exhausted. No wonder it’s hard to muster, not just energy, but enthusiasm.

We all take hits in life and get thrown off our game. It’s so interesting to me to suddenly become aware that ever since my husband left my approach to life has been one of warding off trauma and difficulties—protecting myself, protecting my kids and doing a great job of it for sure. But not fully directing my own life, not really living 100%.

Dad’s wisdom was so simple and so universal. Now, I’m contemplating how I can translate my awareness into action. I know for one thing, I’m going to have to start taking more risks.

This was my son’s first season playing basketball and he had the guts to take shots when he wasn’t sure he could make it. It looked like fun and it worked. His whole team took and missed a lot of shots but ended the season undefeated. I’m going take a nod from those champs and start doing the same.

 

People Who Stay Married … Stay Married

On it’s face that makes no sense, but let me explain.

Recently, I met a happily married friend for lunch. We were sitting at a communal table in a café when we struck up a conversation with a friendly woman. At some point the conversation turned to marriage and she revealed that she was in the midst of divorce. We exchanged war stories and regrets and eventually, I blurted out, “Look, people who stay married … stay married.” She guffawed, indicating that she knew what I meant.

Most people don’t know what I mean. Continue reading

Braving Christmas Alone…

For the first time in my life, I am fine with being single. I’ve enjoyed the lack of drama and the ability to spend my free time as I wish, shave when I feel like it (and not when I don’t) and just run my own show.

But, tonight, I caved. I cried. And I realized that, while I don’t miss my ex anymore, I do miss having my family together for the holidays. Continue reading

Mediation Interruptus

Since my ex and I met with the new mediator, a lot has happened. Well, a lot having to do with everything but getting divorced.

It seems there is not enough money nor time for us to do this.

With the arrival of some major unexpected expenses and the always relentless hustle and bustle of work and life, our foray into mediation has been suspended for now. So, I remain living in limbo. Not married, not divorced.

In the meantime, I’m still sifting through our things, organizing and preparing.

The ex and I are getting along. The kids are relatively okay and have acclimated to this odd new structure (or lack thereof). And I grapple with how the hell I will manage to get the divorce I never wanted.

Redefining Fatherhood

I had a birth father and I have a step-father. Both of them loved me. Both of them imparted wisdom. Both of them caused me some of grief. Continue reading

5 Reasons to Come Down Off That Ledge!

Five Things To Remember When You Are Feeling your Worst

5. You have felt happiness before and you WILL surely feel it again.

4. Life is short, with a max of around 100 years to put in total, you may as well take a shot at seeing if something better comes along. In the end you’ll die anyway but in the meantime, even one or two amazing moments will be well worth sticking around for.

3. The best, most inspiring, authentic, effective people have been right where you are at least once. You are in stellar company.

2. Someone loves you. Someone has loved you. Someone will love you. Imagine, actually, know in your heart that someone loves you. Try to hone in on what that thought elicits for you. Feel it. Bottle it…save it for whenever you need it.

1. You deserve life. You would not exist if you didn’t. I’m not commenting on how good a person you are or are not (at least with me, when I’m feeling like shit about myself there’s no talking me out of it). But, even if you are the worthless piece of crap you’re telling yourself you are (you’re not by the way, but if you insist)…the proof is in the pudding. You are here, therefore you are meant to be here. I can’t fathom that you would be here, even as you struggle, if there wasn’t some mission, minor or major, for you to fulfill.

My advice here is heartfelt and lighthearted and it is truly what worked for me in my scariest moments. That said, I am not an expert nor a psychologist. If you are in any danger of harming yourself, please seek help immediately from a loved one and/or a professional.

You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255