Eating Our Own

I think the saddest thing is, as people are dying, fighting their way across the world to get themselves and their children away from unbearable situations, that we in the First World, unsure of what to do but wanting above all to avoid being implicated in the real crimes committed by our rulers, are beginning to eat our own. As happens in any revolution, and make no mistake, we are in a worldwide revolution right now, from the bloody horrors of Syria to the bloodless destruction of the lives of government workers in America, we are seeing demons wherever we look.

The truth, as many of us know, is that the demons were there all along. We long ago drank the koolaid of the cult of individuality. We are all supposedly responsible for our own situations, no matter how horribly unfair they are. We all should have known better all along, and in the rush to realize it, we are just creating more hierarchies of woe. If we point the fingers where everyone else’s are, if we share the latest atrocity and condemn it loudly enough, we will be perceived to be on the right side of history. The problem with that is, we are just shoving the new information into the same old paradigm.

I’d rather look for the angels of our better natures. Better yet, let’s start seeing people. Imperfect, fallible, but aren’t all of us? There’s no “them,” there’s only us. The only real difference between Donald Trump and our crazy uncle is that Trump has the power to do real damage. He is the raging id inside all of us that only grows stronger the longer we ignore it.

This passage in a book relating a story told to the author by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross has always stayed with me. She had this experience while visiting Auschwitz, speaking to a Holocaust survivor:

“How can you be so peaceful when your whole family was killed here?

Golda looked back at me—those peaceful eyes!—and said in the most penetrating voice I had ever heard, ‘Because the Nazis taught me this: there is a Hitler inside each of us and if we do not heal the Hitler inside of ourselves, then the violence, it will never stop.’… She told me she was working in Germany, at a hospital for German children injured during the war, the children of the Nazis who had sent her family to Majdanek. I was shocked. I asked her why. ‘How else,’ she asked, ‘can I heal the Hitler inside me but to give to them what they took from us?”… There was something in her voice that day, some invisible thing that my younger self did not consciously understand but could only feel. And it went into the depths of me and there it remains still. And sometimes when I feel the cruelty in callous and indifferent men, when I hear the velvet violence hidden in the innocuous-seeming words of a mother speaking to her child, when I see the people among us from whom the powerful have stolen the future—and the present, when I feel some rage inside me wanting to do harm because I feel so helpless that I can find no other thing to do, that teaching, in the depths of me, rises up again into awareness and I see that young woman at Majdanek and I feel her eyes looking into me and I hear Elisabeth’s voice once more and I begin to think outside the box again.”

—Stephen Harrod Buehner, Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm

This is why I won’t hate our leaders. I’ll be angry at them, I pity them deeply and I do wish them to understand their actions in all their ugliness and cruelty, but I don’t want to be them. I can’t take up many of the chants I hear at marches. I can’t join the mob with the pitchforks and torches. I am better than that.

We are better than that.

We are living in awful, beautiful, pivotal times. It falls to us to create the new paradigm from the ashes all around us. We didn’t create this mess, but we have to clean it up or there will be nothing for our children. The cult of individuality won’t serve us any more. We can’t parcel out the guilt and horror and each carry our share. It doesn’t work that way. We can’t fix our part of the world, can’t choose between condemning corporate and governmental actions or changing our diets and giving up our cars. That kind of thinking only leads to paralysis—the state we’re in now.

What we can do is the right thing, every time the choice is presented to us. We can be aware when we are not in a position to do that, and work towards changing the things that stop us. We can take ten minutes to write a letter or make a phone call and not rage that we can’t change our representative’s mind. Above all, we can vote—and then move on to he next useful thing that occurs to us. We can choose carefully at the market and the mall, bundle our errands, look for a new job if that’s what’s needed, and the list goes on. Above all, we can be gentle with ourselves and each other. This isn’t a contest, or a rush to judgment. You don’t know what that other person’s situation is, and you don’t have a right to tell them what choice to make. If a guy with a drum feels called to step in between warring groups, instead of second-guessing the situation, why don’t we do what we can to calm the whole thing down?

The dust raised by the boots of those who march to war will have to settle before we can see the path to peace.


Lady Liberty statue in a window

You can’t have that word.
You don’t own this Lady.
A gift, from across the sea,
From an ally we should remember.
A shared history.
A reminder of who we are.

Out of many, we are one.
Drops of water make an ocean.
Thorns of gorse, individually, are easily pushed aside.
A bush full of them is impenetrable.

We are a nation of immigrants.
None of our ancestors had papers, when we came.
There were no quotas, no walls.
As we grew more prosperous, we forgot who we are.

The people, resourceful and strong enough to get here
Should be welcomed.
That is the only test of citizenship that should matter.
Our ancestors built a nation.
The ones who come now,
What will they build?

We need not fear what will come.
We need to look to this Lady and remember who we are.
The words written in that book she holds
Apply to everyone, or they mean nothing.

You took the swastika.
You cannot have Thor’s Hammer.
You cannot have the Runes of my ancestors.
Othala is a place we all belong
All creeds, all colors, all genders.

The Awen flows through me onto this page.
Cerridwen’s Cauldron tests our hearts and our minds,
Not our bodies, our lineages.

I place this Lady in the window,
A cheap souvenir, anyone can have one.
But her Light shines upon us all.


Inspired by the posts of Mrs. Whatsit

Don’t Quit Now! We’re Almost There!


Speaking out on the rights of transgender people is in your best interests. For the LGB community, it’s something we owe to the rest of the world, particularly those Trans folk who have always been with us. We would do everyone a disservice were we to simply retreat behind our lavender picket fences now that we have what we want, to assimilate while there are still folk on the outside looking in.

Robert Heinlein, cleverly disguised as Lazarus Long, said: “Never appeal to a man’s “better nature.” He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage.” So I’ll take a shot at that. Our cultural gender identification is a Procrustean bed. Most of us don’t recognize the fact that we have been cut to fit in it because the process began when we were in the cradle. Most of us learned to deny the desires that were inappropriate. For many of us, the rewards we got for doing so were worth a price we weren’t really aware we were paying. By the time we are grown, this is who we are.

The edges of the box are after all only apparent when one runs into them. We’ve learned to enforce those edges. Most of us have a learned need to know if the person we are interacting with is male or female. It is inherent in our language. Many languages other than English have gendered even such sexless things as tables and chairs. Even in English there is no truly neutral pronoun in general use that is not considered insulting. None of us, after all, are comfortable being addressed as “it,” nor should we be. For many Trans folk, even using a public restroom can be fraught with danger. I don’t think these issues are something any of us should be willing to live with. I think it reflects badly on the United States, and on any culture that allows such routine devaluation of people. I think it makes us all run the risk of being devalued for something, causes us to hold deep, dark secrets inside ourselves lest we be found out and ostracized for them.

Most of this stuff really doesn’t matter. There’s nothing wrong with a boy wearing nail polish. There’s nothing wrong with having no visible gender markers at all. It really doesn’t hurt any of us to politely ask a person whose gender we are not sure of what pronoun they prefer, or to call someone by the name they introduce themselves with, even if it does not appear to match their gender presentation. If we, as a culture, get used to allowing this sort of freedom to other people, we also get to claim it for ourselves. It was once very strange, even upsetting for some to see a woman wearing trousers or working in a traditionally male occupation. Now, most of us consider restricting womens’ dress or choice of occupation old-fashioned and upsetting, or if we don’t, most of us have learned to keep our mouths shut. How many of us realize that what is so obviously restricting to women is also restricting male expression as well?

We still have a long way to go in the United States. There are people trying to turn back the clock. They seize on the things that are still on the edges of those boxes we live in. A woman’s choice not to bear a child or the new fascination with what restroom someone uses. They disguise these things as issues of public safety or things even less defensible when the argument used is followed all the way back to its source. Many of us fear what we do not understand, and don’t examine how and why we feel as we do. This is the source of racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia, things I think we would all be better off without.

We all have a tendency to fear change and our fears can cause us to do very ugly things to others. We often don’t realize that what we do to others we also do to ourselves. Gender and sexuality is only one aspect of this, but it hits very close to home. We may not notice we have a race, or a certain amount of privilege, but we are all, even us non binaries, strapped into an expression of gender. We’ve come a long way in the last decade on these issues. This is a good thing for so many reasons, and our own self-interest should motivate us if nothing else does. Gender and sexual expression, I have found, are not fixed and immutable. We can and do change over time. You may not see this, and you do not have to. No one should ever be forced to change who they are, nor should they be forced to remain in a state of mind and body that they no longer feel comfortable with. I think it is time that we all learned not to be threatened by what someone else looks like, or how they choose to be in the world. It really has nothing to do with us, and learning to live and let live would actually make our lives much easier and our world a lot more pleasant to live in. If we can get all the way to acceptance, it would be even better, we might get to actual joy in our communities. People-watching would get a lot more interesting, and each of us would be a lot more entertained, and entertaining in our daily possibilities for interaction with each other. We’d be safer too, knowing that we were free to be whoever we wanted to be that day, and that tomorrow could be a completely different adventure.

I’m speaking through the lens of gender and sexuality because that is the part of the culture that I find most confining. I’m speaking to LGB folk because I see that we are the ones who are currently ready to say we’ve won and go home. Some of our organizations are already in the process of disbanding. I think that would be a huge mistake, and poor payment for our newly won acceptance and freedom. I think we need to pay it forward now, and give the rest of us a hand. Trans folk, people of color, immigrants–the list is indeed depressing and much longer than it should be. Let’s do our part to shorten it as much as we can, in our short lives, and with the two small hands each of us has. Let’s open up our communities and invite everyone in to add their own spice to the party we could all be having.

I can’t tell you where this story came from, or who told it to me, but it goes something like this: When we die, we go back into a great big pot that god stirs. We become the soup. When someone is about to be born, god dips the ladle into the pot and pours into the new person just enough soup to give them a soul. And so we are all one. Our job in life is to sweeten that soup.