By the Time I Get to Venus

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There are days when it seems that the entire world has turned into a Facebook-style maelstrom of attention whores, information wars, dishonest boors, and facile mores. Ok, I concede that this rhyme is a stretch. I’m more a technical writer than a poet. But that feeling dogged me as I drove down to Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, earlier last week, to restore myself by spending quality time with NASA. And lo, a week later, after five days of work (and minor junk food intake) among the scientists and engineers and civil servants that the Orange One so loves to disparage in his astonishing, clinging, and indolent ignorance, I have re-crossed the Valley of Death (with my dog in tow) and I have returned home refreshed and renewed.

Driving back home on Friday afternoon, as a nor’easter  of sorts began to envelop Northern Virginia, I entered familiar space just as a low curtain of rain descended on the Beltway. A wide span of dry pavement became lanes of rivulets in a mere second, and the 70 mph traffic slowed by a factor of two in a slightly higher quantity of seconds. Mo, a veteran traveler, glanced up at me from her four-hour slumber in the passenger seat and stretched her paws. She sensed she was not far from her dog bed at home. She had been my boon companion since the previous Sunday, inhabiting a small suite while I covered NASA science meetings during the day, injecting welcome waves of serenity into each eventide.

Venus came to my mind as emergency signals brayed from the car radio, warning of flash flooding, which quickly materialized as we sailed over a flying ramp onto 495. Those signals came from metallic birds that fly high above us each day, gleaning important data from lidar, laser, and IR sensors developed by many concerned brains that have been shaped by boring, uncool discipline and supported by, dare I say it, tax dollars. So I slowed down in preparation, along with hundreds of other drivers. Thanks to NASA and NOAA and NSF. Venus especially leapt to mind when I saw the dense clouds over my home ground, as this planet is thought to represent the nth degree of the terrestrial greenhouse effect, which could someday produce swirls of dense fog that will drive mighty cyclones over our planetary surface, heated by the sun, boiling with energy. Our summers are getting hotter and wilder. But, you know, the Earth is only 6000 years old, and we must drum up a new and satisfyingly violent Crusade to stamp out infidels, and also, clams have legs, and… oh, sorry.

I will stick to observations of this world, to the patterns of our days, which many deliberate and thoughtful people been studying for centuries.

After hundreds of years of mental effort, education, and accumulation of experience and knowledge, we are still battling innuendo, superstition, willful ignorance, and fear. Greed. Well, I guess I’m old enough to know better about greed. But the wise ones always come back to the late lament. I remember my dad quizzing me as a teenager, testing me one Sunday afternoon to see if I knew the source of his quote about modern youth: their frivolity, their disrespect for their elders, their lack of constraint, and their obnoxious sureties. He had introduced me to New Yorker magazine a few years before, which by that time we both read regularly. I responded instantly (naming either Aristotle or Hesiod, I forget) because we had both read the same article that week. He smiled a wry smile and said nothing. The point of that exchange, communicated by his pleased expression, was that old farts have been complaining about young upstarts for 2000 years. Longer. If Neanderthals had had language, you may be sure some parent had barked the same sentiment to an offspring, while arguing over some unfinished portion of dried flounder in a dim, smoky cave.

He had passed on to me, by example, a useful warning against automatic, cyclical thought, and back then he was still treading that worn-out pathway, but he was also still checking to see that I was heading in the same direction, with my eyes open, with my skepticism alive and in place. He was doing his parental duty as a learned man.

With my skepticism fully intact, I carry that same duty every day for my kids, for my grandkids, and some day perhaps, for some frightened and forgotten compatriot who will require the attention of a compassionate citizen. A citizen who refuses to be part of a festering idiot’s horrifying, self-serving agenda, a citizen who values substance over shadow and soul over flesh. Thank you, NASA, for restoring my faith in the careful path forward. It is alarmingly easy to drown in popular and lazy thought patterns, and it is difficult to struggle upward to fresh, enlivening air. But when that breath is taken, oh what oxygen can do!

 

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Richie

I rode my bike earlier today, for 20 miles, with Richie on my mind. Not a happy morning. But I came home and went through my numerous photos, where Richie can always be found. I plan to do a better job scanning all the photos I have, however I need to post what I’ve got for now, just to feel him near me. Since I was the first kid, there are many singleton photos of me until I was 2 or so, but thereafter, we were together whenever we could be.

I am grateful to all the people who have contacted me with their memories of my brother. Please feel free to contribute more memories here or on Facebook.

 

http://www.totallyfuzzy.net/ourtube/the-bellamy-brothers/let-your-love-flow-video_26271435a.html

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Brother Mine

My little brother, Richard Joseph Yurgel, Jr., is gone from my sight. The tragic circumstances of his death bear no telling here. I can only hope that he has found the peace he had long sought. All I want at this moment are for his remains to be returned home to me, and to set down what it meant for me to be his big sister.

He was born on October 11, 1959. My parents adopted him from the New York Foundling Hospital, from which they had adopted me two years earlier. I distinctly remember holding him in my lap on the car ride home. He had “black Irish” hair that later became wildly curly, and dark-lashed green eyes that tended to change color to reflect his clothing, or the seawater that he loved. He grew into a big man, a consummate surfer, and an ice hockey player who could skate sideways and backwards with ease. He used to hold up his skinny-shanked sister at the public rinks while she shut her eyes and let him lead her. Back when he was shorter, he also used to sit on her chest and torture her with intentional halitosis attacks. His sister once nailed him with a hairbrush in the back of the head, from 20 feet away, never dreaming she would possibly connect with her target. She got a tremendously good spanking for that one. In penance for her old ways, she offers here a photo of her buck-toothed 14-year-old self alongside his 12-year-old handsome mug.

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Our lives took wildly divergent paths. Through his many trials, however, he maintained an upbeat attitude and rarely asked me for assistance, as much as he needed it. The both of us expended a tremendous amount of energy trying to move forward and away from the difficult circumstances of our childhood. Not everyone succeeds at this, as hard as they try, and nobody, and I mean nobody, survives unscathed by their troubles, particularly if they are encountered at a tender age.  That old “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” theory is a bucket of shit for most people who are struggling. I know this because I was there and I stared into that void. That void yawns forever, and anyone can fall into it if they are not protected, or careful, or both.

As we moved on in time, and in parallel, I wrestled with survivor guilt, always wondering whether I should have helped more, or if any of my help indeed might have borne the fruit I wished it to bear. And while all this internal turmoil scalded me from the inside, Richie, from the outside, almost always managed to call me on my birthday and at holiday, and in the presence of others would brag about his big sister to anyone who would listen. Thankfully he called me this past Mother’s Day. We always endeavored to say “I love you,” usually multiple times, before we finished our phone conversations, and this last time was no different.

Gone with him is his capacity to resurrect any one of our relatives, living or dead, in facial expression, tone, voice, mannerism, or weird quirk that only we could recognize and guffaw about. Gone are his native generosity and his ability to strike up a conversation with anyone. Gone are the nights we would play guitar together on the veranda that abutted his room, Jamaica Bay ebbing and flowing just feet away from our apartment, the weighty summer breeze moving about us. Gone are the opportunities to repeatedly remind him that he played The Dark Side of the Moon about 750,000 times during the summer I came home from my freshman year in college, and that consequently I can no longer listen to Pink Floyd. Gone forever are our shared memories— he is no longer here to help me fact-check my alibis. He was acquainted with the entire peninsula of Far Rockaway. He could make the Statue of Liberty laugh, and convince you that yes, the Brooklyn Bridge was for sale and it had been for weeks, you idiot, so you’d better buy it immediately, before someone else snaps it up.

Richie leaves behind him a wife, twin daughters, two sons, four granddaughters, and a grandson who was born this very day. And he leaves behind his sister, Joan, who loved him with a love that was painful and sweet, with a love that is like no other.

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The Revolution is Being Televised

Narcissus, the dreamy pool-gazer who loved no one, might flinch at the term that has sprung up in his name. Today, narcissists are known as the thin-skinned complainers, the ones who want it all and don’t care who they bulldoze to get it. They ignore everything but the desire of the moment, retool ugly actions into some socially acceptable format, and seek and find popular, specious repudiation of their obvious, real and documented flaws, because they just want what they want. They manipulate useful listeners and make up stuff as they go along. Frequently, and largely to avoid unpleasant outcomes for themselves, the general population takes sides with a powerful narcissist’s loud, annoying, attention-getting tactics, or more frequently, their shaming, silencing, derisive tactics, because sheeple fear popular opinion or any worrisome shift in their personal status quo, and also because many prefer to enjoy their own similarly noxious habits, unmolested by censure. Intermittent buoys of ringing dissent in a sea of lazy, insistent, and temporarily popular cliques are but a minor hindrance to rising tides of hate. Sooner or later, the rogue waves gather in their unchecked resonance and grow to be 50 feet tall. Narcissists are eternally greedy for acceptance and coronation (Uk, the ur-hominid stomping around on the North American ice sheets, shamans in the prehistoric age, William the Conqueror, a large number of Popes, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao, any number of monarchs from A to Z, some select and modern elementary school teachers), and they steal their power from chaos, from those who feel powerless, and from those who are too busy staring at their cell phones to worry about civilization.

One exemplary face in the recent blossoming of delicate flowers is the one that belongs to Stephen K. Bannon. And what a face it is. A bloated, disheveled, boozehound of a face, which by many accounts is the perfect reflection of its inner workings. The angry, entitled man whose rage is inflamed and fanned by LOTS of alcohol, who brings about silence by several means, often monetary, physical, or threatening. Here’s a guy known for tussling with his ex-wife and buying her silence, and for storming around his offices, loudly distributing the bruised fruits of his intellect and proclaiming the desire to ram things down the throats of females who displease him. He’s also known to be not fond of Jews, but he’s been keeping that under the radar, you know, like they ordinarily do in polite society. He is a special kind of modern rot. He shines with the glistering, morbid pallor that is the mark of an overtaxed liver, and the fine sweat that distinguishes the habitual sot’s low blood sugar. You can see those guys in murky corner bars every day, staggering in for a pre-lunch bump, complaining about their wives and their losing streak at the racetrack. Or in upscale districts in DC, where the richly suited quaff from the top shelf, and where their DUIs get pushed under the rug with a few well-placed simoleons.

I don’t know with any certainty if Mr. Bannon is a juicer. He does act like one, however, particularly in terms of that implacable anger. Tweets emerging from alt-White House staffers indicate that a sobriety check might be wise. You would think that for all his fancy degrees, he might have learned to demonstrate more restraint. He might ensure that his pet “news” organization, Breitbart, put forth more sophisticated arguments (let’s choose just one) than “birth control makes women crazy.” Nah, birth control helps to make women free. That’s what these basement wankers hate. They hate freedom for any group but their own. Perhaps he could distinguish logic from smash if he were a bit more… measured.

Be assured that Bannon foresees a long era of getting whatever it is that he wants. He can be quoted, verbatim, on that account. He is said to be a walking bibliography, but what books is he reading? The Book of the Dead? And let’s not even talk about He Who Shall Not be Named. Recently, the esteemed Mr. Bannon, who has flaunted his Harvard “degree” while decrying the same, labeled the media as “losers.” He is a media executive who calls his own breed by an (evidently?) deserved name, in a similar manner to that of his President, who one minute serves up the elites on a platter, and the next claims all manner of pride that rubs off by acquaintance with the Wharton School of Business. Clearly, these two schmoes can’t figure out when to damn the elites and when to boast about being one of their number. And after stacking the Cabinet with billionaires, they are still proclaiming, with a straight face, that they will save America from ruin and from Muslims. The Guided Cheeto excluded from his recent “Muslim ban” all the “Muslim” countries in which he does business. Including Saudi Arabia, home of Osama bin Laden. Is everyone asleep?

There is a (dimly lit?) bright side to how the crack in the world has widened. The fact that Mr. Bannon’s “alt-right” is indeed a thing shows us something. For the last decade or so, the alt-right has had to re-tool its dirty, pustular face thanks to a real change in society; it had to re-name itself, adopt a new euphemism, to perpetuate its existence. The more change has manifested itself, the more the insecure beings, knocked from their historically comfortable and protected perches, have increased the howling and stomping. There is no doubt, though, that they’re back in force, for a time anyway. Even in my cushy corner of the world, they’re hooting with glee, ready to exact their creepy, bitter vengeance. The most frightening thing is that these Manichean creatures desire destruction, pure and simple. They enjoy inflicting pain.

What should you do when you must survive an administration that might control with unsavory malignancy the many aspects of your life, when frequently you will be discouraged to speak up because you may be shunned, ignored, doubted, or actively persecuted? Or to be termed “butt hurt,” the new and puzzling portmanteau word favored by the new bullies? This may or may not apply to you specifically over the next four years, depending on what part of the red/blue line you register. I am hoping that our new President will rise to the occasion, because I do see rare signs that he may be capable of this, in those quiet moments when he’s not busy hiring another KKK sympathizer or screaming at news media heads about photographs taken at unfavorable angles. The presidency of the primary global superpower is a most frightening and august position. I hope that this thought is getting through all that hair. I am a passenger on this Ship of State, and I have no desire to watch it sink.

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When I was in junior high, I endured many daily but usually minor physical assaults, which were really attempts to put me in my place in the hierarchy of budding mankind. I put up with the hassle for a long time, while I concentrated on my schoolwork. One afternoon, though, when we were passing to sixth period class, I found myself exceptionally weary and worried about cramming three years’ worth of algebra into two. My arms were filled with binders and textbooks as I marched up the crowded stairwell to my next class. My rear flank was undefended. A boy behind me on the stairs felt he had the right to stick his hand up my skirt. Yes, I do know how that feels. It feels much worse knowing that The Cheeto smirks smugly when he brags about barging in on half-dressed young women in beauty pageants.

I vividly remember that day: how the sickness rose from my gut. I can still feel that energy flooding me from my toes to my eyebrows: hot, murderous, and unstoppable. I remember switching my books to my left arm. I remember twisting my torso, locating the jerk’s face, and executing a roundhouse right that I had practiced many times in my daydreams. I remember the feeling of intense satisfaction when my knuckles cracked on his cheekbone. I remember the sniveling bully backing off very quickly. He learned that day that he couldn’t just do as he pleased.

That’s how you deal with this nefarious stuff. Sometimes it is necessary to fight fire with fire. Call it out, shout it out, punch it out. Don’t be polite. Put it out in the sunshine where everyone is forced to acknowledge it.

Because this is how it starts. This is exactly how malicious, powerful people force themselves or their agenda on an unwilling recipient, whether the item being forced is a hand up a skirt or another war in the Middle East. In this atmosphere, if you object to being ripped off, sexually abused, physically threatened thanks to your coloration, mocked for your beliefs, the predatory will ignore, deny, lie, cheat, break out their lawyers, and blame it all on you. Suck it up buttercup. It’s the new era of the bully. The bullies now feel they have permission from the Bully-in-Chief to prey openly, unabashedly.

Large historical problems, in humanistic terms, are small problems writ large. Sages make pithy quotes about great minds discussing ideas, but these ideas are stickily, imperfectly human, arising from no other source but from our mushy, error-prone brain matter. We will have to deal with the overt effects of unexamined primate emotions for the next little while: greed, insecurity, and a dangerous desire for sheer power. Our nation is being led by a corrupt and secretive serial bankrupter, a man who does not honor his contracts, a sexual predator who is protected by money and other wealthy predators, a bloviator who wouldn’t know a dictionary from a banana, a showman who surrounds himself with celebrities and military shills, a nut-case intent on the mere appearance of adulation. He has no ideas of his own, which is why Bannon et al. chose him as their conveniently empty vessel.

What worries me most is that Steve Bannon is so pickled that he actually believes the quasi-mystical, pseudo-spiritual, cyclical history crap he has been spouting to the Vatican and to the ditto heads. The guy has made all the money he’ll ever need. Evidently he’s not much on women; he’s known to routinely use a loathsome word to describe them, as does DJT.  He likes to affect the wardrobe of a rumpled, high-minded ascetic, so clothes-shopping is out as a diversion. What’s left? Maybe it’s a bottle of obscenely expensive single-malt, and a front-row seat to the destruction for which he so gleefully calls.

Some men really do want to watch the world burn. Let’s not give them any more matches.

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Returning (Relatively) Wordless from the Deep

Beginning with a word from our sponsors:

Find out why closing the women’s wealth gap matters by reading & sharing this report: http://wawf.org/2lsCEWH #our100days

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Not too long ago, I got an email from “Stella,” someone with whom I’d spent a lovely interlude. Unlike most of our past visits, which took place among lots of people interacting constantly, frequently aided by quite specific direction, this visit was experienced in a quieter setting with far fewer people, and with approximately zero calls for mandatory participation. Crowds, obligatory team-building exercises, hyper-competitive board games, enforced activities: these are situations in which I absolutely do not thrive. Instead, we cooked, hiked, read books, watched movies, and morphed into individual piles of relaxed ooze. It was an unabashedly great time, we all concurred.

In her email, Stella said she felt compelled to tell me “bluntly” that I had finally become a pleasure to be around, now that I had become so relaxed and easygoing. Implying of course that I had been nothing of the sort until now. I’d had no idea that Stella held such an opinion of me; I’d always been comfortable with her, had always opened our home to her, had always extended my hand. It is true that I often sought quietude in the midst of the often crowded proceedings. Quietude is as necessary to me as the rollicking circus is to others. I enjoy other more boisterous beings, and have no problem with them being themselves, but it seems that they frequently find it problematic to let me be me.

On my own, I am as happy as a puppy in a ball pit. Over the decades I have often noticed that those whose energies tended toward extroversion and dominance tended to confront me with their druthers. Why didn’t I do this that or the other thing? They clearly felt it would be ever so much better if I changed my ways to suit them. Simultaneously, I noticed that my children, and my friends and my co-workers accepted me quite well. This was valuable counter-evidence, which helped me to keep my sanity. The lesson I gleaned from all these busy decades is that there’s little I can do when people decide to think the worst.

When confronted with quietude, many hear instead the roar in their own skulls, a breeding ground for insecurities, boomeranging thoughts, and the thousand ills of civilization. The quiet mirror reflects back a multitude of different colors, and sometimes it’s the blackness of thought that prevails. She’s stuck up. She’s angry at me. She thinks she’s better than I am. While I know I can’t control all these jumping conclusions, I still find it shocking when a misfire comes to my attention.

Introversion is getting much more press these days. Quiet Revolution, a book by Susan Cain, lays out the template clearly. I’ve read with interest the many outpourings of my fellow introverts (written output, mais oui), and I resonate with their findings. Basic message: Preferring quiet and avoiding crowds doesn’t make a person abnormal. It’s a simple state of being. Introversion is not an affront to other individuals. It’s a trait as simple as a good singing voice or sharp eyesight. I, like many introverts, am nourished by one-on-one interactions, real conversations, walks in the woods (without bears). While I am largely now out of research mode, I have gotten back to reading widely. I eschew television news entirely because it makes me ill. I write, these days mostly for private practice, in order to make sense of what I read and think, and to reconfigure my education and experience into something I can publish, maybe. I’m enjoying the heck out of spoiling my dog. In this stage of my life, there are no more fussy spectators in the stands, glaring their disapproval. My quiet happiness neither borrows nor detracts from anyone or anything. I’m trying to be of good use, and I think I succeed at that, at least some of the time.

The thoughts another person harbors about you are sometimes as applicable to you as Enceladus is to pancakes. Opinions are wavy and particulate phantasms that at some particular moment are reflecting, and refracting, through the prism (prison?) of another viewpoint. Who knows where these thoughts go? And where they come from?

We are undergoing a crisis in which many ugly thoughts, wherever they come from, are blasting from the rooftops from the many suffering souls who are sick of “political correctness.” Their bladders, it appears, had been achingly compressed all these years, from holding in all that name-calling, the wanting to “call a spade a spade.” Funny, I think I know exactly what they want to call a spade. It’s a well-known and vile two-syllable word. Most of the time I sit on the sidelines, but of late it has been impossible to keep mum.

I have encountered a troll or three on FB. They tend to bomb me with two-word sentences sniffing that my reasoning is suspect, or with involved diatribes about how it’s STILL all Obama’s fault. There are the one-post snarks that are only meant to deliver insult; my fave is the US pipeline map that demonstrates to me that pipelines carry gas to my home, should I have forgotten this fact. More recently a thread of mine got hijacked by an angry person who thinks I should give DeVos a chance, and who accused me of “cherry-picking” while reminding me that DeVos was not hired to be my “friend.”

The pipeline biz: well dang, I have seen those pipelines with my own peepers, haven’t I? The real issues underlying DAPL are the twin pillars of endlessly screwing over vulnerable populations, and the repeatedly demonstrated inability of large, very profitable corporations to act responsibly if they are not forced to do so. Kerr-McGee. Union Carbide and Bhopal. Phillip-Morris. Monsanto. Bayer. How bout Exxon Mobil and their behavior in Aceh? So let’s dig an oil pipeline under a river. This seems an ideal solution to protecting the environment. Because you know, oil and water don’t mix. And the DeVos thing – oh sweet jesus do not get me started.

The issue is fairness, something that quickly disappears when people want to make big wads of money.

I’m a semi-retired nerd. I’m a bleeding heart, no doubt. When others complain: why should I pay for the poor? I respond, why should I pay for heinously overpriced fighter jets that don’t perform as contracted and which cost tens of millions of dollars per flight, and which earn their underperforming company CEOs a king’s ransom every year? Why should I pay my taxes to support corporate welfare while Apple gets away with its “double Irish” tax haven? It’s all in the same bag we pay into.

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Don’t like those pesky regulations? Don’t like the EPA? I saw someone on FB boast that they tested their own water, implying that American softies shouldn’t depend on their government for water safety. Okay. You can easily test for nitrates, surrogates for bacterial presence. Can you test for downstream metabolites of estrogen? Erythromycin? Chemotherapeutic agents? Bisphenol A, an ubiquitously present endocrine disruptor associated with a recent increase in genital malformations in newborns? If not, take a year of biochem, because you will have to learn fast. Anything that billions of humans ingest everyday will end up in the water, everywhere, and it’s even in the water that Nestle makes you pay for. You will, however, be able to easily see coal dust when it is dumped into a stream. It creates a thick black sludge and it smells like those ring-based aromatic compounds that are well-known carcinogens. Because that’s what it contains. You won’t need pH strips to figure that out.

The real irony is that the nerds and “coastal elites” who are currently being bashed apace will still be around when the next Love Canal comes into being, when the next cancer cluster arises, when the next polio outbreak occurs thanks to anti-vaxxer hysteria, when US academic performance falls to the nadir of global rankings, when the next problem caused by a lack of quotidian and boring attention to detail finally causes a catastrophe. That’s when today’s intellectual-bashers will be asking, crying, shouting for help. And you know what? Those quiet, introverted nerds will still be there, having been working away, shoring up the levee while the tide rises. And they will help.

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Stories Matter #our100days

When I feel threatened, I get physical. I walk a few miles, bike a few tens of miles, clean floors, scrub the grout between tiles. If I’m really anxious, I listen to music while moving, at levels that guarantee accelerated hearing loss. My soundtracks include thrash metal, Arcangelo Corelli, and George Harrison. (Someone once took pains to tell me, not once but several times running in one visit, that I am very “eclectic.” It’s true. I guess it was bugging him.)

Pat Metheny is a musician who is extremely all over the place. Smooth jazz, jazz fusion, and other derided musical phrases have described him. I won’t go into that. Lately I’ve been unable to recommend a restaurant or mock an Orange Despot without seven or eight people jumping on me with contrarian insults. There is one album, though, that moves me thoroughly, particularly as it uses sampling from a Cambodian women’s choir. One track includes a sample of Buong Suong, a paying-of-respects ritual. It is the polar opposite of a call to destruction. The voices are rich and distinctive, and they so assuredly sound like my own. I’ve been known to put it on Repeat on long stretches of asphalt. Buong Suong frequently stings my eyes with tears because it lets the beauty of ethereal, female, hopeful entreaty overcome anger, grief, and disappointment. I played it a few times today. It roared in my headphones while I vacuumed every square inch of the house.

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Picture me at 14, stringbean arms and legs, wavy hair down to my waist, taking in the summer breeze. I’m walking to the beach. It is an immensely fine day. I am shaded by venerable oak trees whose roots rupture the sidewalk here and there. An old station wagon pulls up, and the paunchy guy in the driver’s seat rolls down the window and asks me for directions. I smile trustingly, like the helpful Catholic girl that I have been raised to be. I gesture and point, but he says, I can’t hear you. I step closer to the car to speak up, and he leers up at me with satisfaction, one hand gripping the steering wheel, the other waving his erect penis, which has been unsprung from his open zipper. Or picture me in a public library in safe and suburban Fairfax County, in search of a biology book, while some pestilence shadows me in the stacks, one hand stuck down his pants, vigorously masturbating. Or at Stanford University, where I am pressured to not report a graduate student who has accosted me in our own apartment, because we couldn’t stain his reputation, because “nothing really happened.” It surprises me not one whit, years later, that Stanford’s special breed of undergraduate shite, Brock Turner, was spared serious time for penetrating an unconscious girl with a foreign object. What was his GPA, I wonder? Is a sex offender of more value to society when he attends an elite university? How about other crimes? If I start knocking over banks while getting my MBA at Georgetown, does that mean I get only three months in a country-club hoosegow?

This is America. The more money and privilege you have, the easier it is for you to rationalize your bestiality, cover up your behavior, and walk away from your crime. Our new President, who sexualizes his own daughter and smirks knowingly when presented with evidence of his lechery, reminds us that certain people can do anything they please. When I see his face, I become sick with rage.

I proudly marched on 21 January and I am lending my voice to this cause, for many reasons. For one in particular: that I might save a girl, maybe even a future granddaughter, from just a sample of my troubling experiences, experiences that for many years made me want to hide. Today they make me want to shriek and burn down buildings. I’ve been bullied for so long that my emotions call for redress; I definitively and viscerally understand the urge to riot. Instead, I listen to Buong Suong. And I’m knitting one of those pink hats.

This is MY COUNTRY. In MY COUNTRY, little girls and women are supposed to walk in safety, free from lechers and creeps, and especially free from criminals who pay lawyers the handsome sums that ensure they can get away with murder.

In MY COUNTRY, I will vehemently oppose, and work tirelessly to end, the reign of the proto-fascist, genital-grabbing, perverted-pig-and-proud-of-it, Donald J. Trump.

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Moderately Safe for Work

I don’t do well with the tweeting thing, mostly because I’m a writer and I get hemmed in easily by character restrictions, and partly because tweeting of late has been a medium of highly-placed, depressing inanity. But I have committed to #our100days, so here’s a plug for Ayuda, an immigration help center for the DC/Virginia/Maryland area (http://ayuda.com/wp/). Any tweeters out there, please share.

I woke up on January 1st with a big, burgundy shiner. Out of nowhere. Being a writer, I instantly thought: Metaphor! 2017 punched me in the eye last night! Well, the shiner was an omen, not a metaphor. I marched on January 21st. I am signing petitions left and right. I am volunteering as an activist for the upcoming Science March. I am actively thinking up some clever retorts for the blowback I am seeing (many are expressing hatred for all those women and their offensive vagina hats! Heavens, those sensitive beings! You’d think after centuries of wagging their privates and telling us to smile, they’d be happy to see what they’ve been after all this time!)

Anyhow, I am bloody exhausted. And it’s only January 26th.

Ode to the New (Dis)Order

Beware these men who would watch the world burn

The lecher, the liar, the rich greedy worm

The stumper, the master, the profligate beast

The grasper, the trumper, the wolf at the feast

The bloated, the hateful, the smirking elite

The goose-stepping goon squad, the sheltered effete

Beware their crass slogans and hide all your daughters

Protect your young sons from their newly planned slaughters

They laugh at your helplessness, scoff at your pain

While dreaming up schemes to ensure their own gain

You can cringe while they strangle the dreams of the many

While rifling your pockets for every last penny

Or better yet, rise, shake awake from your dream

And vote out those f@¢&εrs in 2018

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