Welcome to the Heartland, for some.

What 25 Alabama legislators and governor have passed is nothing less than an abomination of human rights.

Imagine a flow-chart for how to handle your misery as a woman in Alabama: Is this fetus a product of incest or rape? We don’t care. Never mind your trauma. You’re simply a vessel. Will a serious investigation be initiated on your behalf to find out who raped you? Will there be any repercussions for the family member who forced you into sex?


Here’s the kicker: If you try to terminate the pregnancy, or leave the state to that end, you may wind up serving a lifetime prison. Yes, it’s now a felony to make decisions about your own womb.

I wonder how can men make a decision for a woman’s body when they don’t have to go through pregnancy and childbirth themselves? These lawmakers don’t even understand the complex relationship a woman, particularly an adolescent woman, has with their bodies.

Even Florida’s recent Fetal Heartbeat Bill, at a 6-week cutoff, is too restrictive – 5 weeks is when a woman would even realize she might be pregnant and when most tests would pick up on the trace hormone. That leaves her with a whopping 7 days to make the incredibly difficult decision, find a clinic, make an appointment, be counseled, and have the procedure.

All this is assuming this woman has regular menstrual cycles or keeps track of them. Two unrealistic expectations of a teenage girl. So if you can’t trust a teenage girl to keep track of her periods, how can you trust them to be a mother? The common counterargument: give the child up for adoption. Okay, I’m sure the average couple can just pull 60 – 80 grand out of their asses to pay the adoption agency.

Also worth mentioning is the dire scarcity of safe clinics in many areas. I’ve heard that Mississippi has ONE clinic left in the entire state.

I’ll venture to say this is an ill-disguised offshoot of rape culture in America, where you have men blaming the victim and not the perpetrator. Women find themselves being blamed because they were “out too late” or wore a miniskirt. But the men who commit these crimes are not not held to the insane Puritanical standards of New England colonialists. No, they’re barely held to standards for being humane. And yet, criminalizing these women is the “humane,” option, but for who –

A newt growing inside of you? I don’t mean to be insensitive, but anatomically and physiologically speaking, it’s fairly accurate. A heartbeat determines personhood? By that criteria, all the animals we grow to eat also have heartbeats, including fish. It seems to me that the only people who have any moral ground on which to stand on this issue would be vegans. Certainly not these beef-eating men from Alabama.

Their agenda is simple: appeal until the bill reaches the Supreme Court. That’s where the Justices, including Trump’s pick, frat-boy Kavanaugh await. If you can seriously look me in the eye and tell me that guy never knocked up a girl in college, then benefited from her terminating it, you’re lying to yourself. But this is the land of hypocrites, and Kavanaugh would surely use this to upset the judicial precedent of Roe v Wade. Meanwhile, women are reduced to pawns in their political game of thrones.

The Roe V. Wade decision was made almost 50 years ago. That’s exactly how much this will devolve us. Only 20 percent of Americans think Roe v. Wade should be overturned, so where does this really leave us in terms of a representative democracy?

How are these legislators serving their people? In Alabama, you’re disqualified from Medicaid if you earn a mere $312 a month for a family of 3. $312 barely covers a couple co-pays and prescriptions WITH insurance. But that’s another sad topic for another day.

Another thing: Alabama has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy. How do you think those young mothers fare, how will their babies’ lives fare?

Lindy West recently went on The Daily Show to share her thoughts:

“Anti-choice people are not trying to stop abortion, they are trying to legislate who can and can’t have abortions. Because, conservative politician – their wives and mistresses and daughters will always be able to get an abortion somewhere.”

A note about this: The same way Trump supporters seem to dump reason and facts down the drain, I’m going to go ahead and say I have enough life experience and anecdotal knowledge where I’m POSITIVE this happens all the time. The only thing in question here is how these Republicans reconcile their blatant hypocrisies.

She continues:

“All anti-choice rhetoric does is keep people trapped in poverty for generations. that’s the goal, and if it wasn’t the goal they would spend their time and money on comprehensive sex education [something Alabama does not require in the K-12 curriculum], free birth control, and free contraception.”

Think of the social economic ramifications of this: generational poverty and all its ugly cousins. But no one seems to care when these same kids go through foster care, or when they become victims of human trafficking. No one cares when ill-equipped single mothers turn to addictions to cope or crimes to stay afloat. Even the “lucky” kids go through a public education system that is gasping for air when their dwindling funds go to charter schools. Yet again, the ones who propose and pass these bills are Republicans riding the “charter” wave with direct financial kickbacks, Betsy DeVos being the standard-bearer for everything wrong in the educational hierarchy. But remember, it’s all “about the children.”

These legislators even have the gall to liken an abortion to Stalin’s gulags, slavery, and the Holocaust. I must’ve missed that lesson in history – did all these people consciously elect genocide?

Oh right – Kanye tells us that slavery was a “choice.” And since he’s another MAGA-hat wearing megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur, we should definitely put stock in what he says.

So, to borrow from Childish Gambino, #thisisamerica.

Witless Wonders

brain meme

Toni Morrison said, “If there is a book you really want to read, but no one has written it yet, then you must be the one to write it.” Why not share it too? To this end, I want to share my notes on Neuroscience. Okay, so it’s not a book – drop the semantics, will you?

See, I’m reading Understanding the Brain by the Harvard neuroscientist John E. Dowling. And sure, maybe I do fancy myself in another life where I went to grad school for Clinical Psychology with a specialty in Neuropsychiatry. So what? It’s my blog, and I don’t give a fuck.  🙂

So here’s to flicking off things like audience, purpose, and certainly tone:

Continue reading “Witless Wonders”

Prey on me?

Source link: https://justoffthebeatenpath.wordpress.com/2015/01/12/miamis-wynwood-walls-a-museum-of-the-streets/

I’m the Interact club sponsor at my school and we engage in community service–from feeding the homeless to volunteering at the local arts festival. I’d heard that there was this human trafficking outreach event going on in Wynwood. I’ve always been passionate about this issue; I even wrote a novel where the heroine is a victim of trafficking. So I jump onboard and spread the word about this event.

Only a handful go. (Kids are much more likely to go for the cute photo ops). I also drag my semi-willing fiancee out.

After the first half-hour, I once again notice that most outreaches are done by religious missions or congregations, and I start thinking about how the word “mission” is an active agent while “congregation” sits on its big fat “gation” ass. And while this may seem to be a compliment, you’re wrong. Why must a missionary group be so excited about spreading its seed as much as a white colonialist?

And they’re chanting now.

The really creepy part is how impervious they are to normal emotions, like anger. A healthy expression of anger toward the perpetrators of rape and murder means you’re human.

Only a robot says:

“I swear, y’all, this pimp stood there and told me that you had to keep God in mind as you rape and murder. So I just said to him that God isn’t mad at him. He loves him!”

They get off on themselves – in truth, they are all megalomaniacs. They enjoy hearing the sound of their own droning voices as they praise Jesus and hold people’s gaze in an uncomfortable way. And when they’re really feelin’ themselves, they might just hold their palm up to your forehead super-hero style, and “pray over you.” This happens, naturally, via the Holy Spirit that has possessed them. They prefer the word “fill.”

They also prefer to open their eyes more than the average person. They really listen to you in that bobble-headed way. I don’t know if they really believe that they’re that nice, or they pretend to believe. No one is that nice. Except a sociopath.

A darker side of me thinks that they’re severely damaged. Ok, so I’m mean. Deal with it. Something must have happened, something to do with hitting rock bottom, that’s made them “find Jesus.” They’ve gone through Dante’s dark wood, it seems. And their Virgil has become a heavy girl in a too-short dress that falls to her knees in rapture during a pop-Christian song, nearby knocking over a pregnant women.

Yes, that really did happen. As I said, she was in utter rapture. And she wasn’t the only one.

We were stiff and wide-eyed. What was next? Ritual confessions of those nights when the Holy Spirit entered them?

But on a serious note, we did learn a lot that night that humbled us. The Super Bowl is the largest “recruiting” event in human trafficking, so extra vigilance is needed. Something like 90 percent of the men who solicit sex, have been abused themselves. And once we got over the 2-hour spiritual masturbatory sesh, it was a real thrill to offer women a rose and mention that there’re options out there. They’re doing good deeds rather than just talking about them. Mad respect.

But God-damn! Bless their Little Hearts.

Thanksgiving Mourning After

As a last minute lesson plan for my high school students, (some of my best work comes from disorganized, social warrior moods) we talked about the phenomenon of Thanksgiving mourning, as seen from a Native American perspective. This is how it went:

“We’re actually doing work today?”

“Yes, we’re going to learn about how Thanksgiving is viewed by the non-victors and fill in some historical gaps.”

Collective groan.

I’m not always a ray of sunshine in my classroom.

So we read the suppressed speech of Wamsutta (Frank B.) James.

In 1970, 350 years after the first harvest feast between the American Indians and the Plymouth pilgrims, the descendants of the latter decided it would be nice to commemorate the occasion with a state dinner along with a bowing Indian. They asked Wamsutta James to deliver a speech, but after reading it, deemed it too candid on the small subjects of genocide and cultural erasure. So, they said, “Yeah, if you could just make our ancestors look less homicidal, that’d be great.” After James refused a re-writing, they disinvited him. Luckily, you can find the speech anywhere online, like right here.

It’s interesting, and perhaps intentional, that James never amended his speech after they suppressed it. It gives the reader the opportunity to shake her heads at the irony behind these lines:

“We’re being heard; we are now being listened to.”

Wamsutta James, much like his predecessors, assumed the Whites would honor their agreement and even respect the integrity of his voice. Over 350 years later, one of the last Wampanoag was wrong again.

And so it goes.*

If you have a moment, read his speech. His is a voice worth hearing, even if you can only imagine it. If you have a few more moments, they’d be well-spent reading Jacqueline Keeler’s piece on what Thanksgiving means to her and her people. I would add: What it should mean to all of us. A day of reckoning, reflection, and to some extent, atonement.

She says,

In stories told by the Dakota people, an evil person always keeps his or her heart in a secret place separate from the body. The hero must find that secret place and destroy the heart in order to stop the evil.

I see, in the “First Thanksgiving” story, a hidden Pilgrim heart. The story of that heart is the real tale than needs to be told. What did it hold? Bigotry, hatred, greed, self-righteousness? We have seen the evil that it caused in the 350 years since. Genocide, environmental devastation, poverty, world wars, racism.

See the full piece here.

I finished the lesson by having the kids write two letters. In the first, they are a young child of the Wampanoag people. It is 1621 and they are writing to a friend from a neighboring tribe. They are excited about the upcoming feast and promises of peace. They’ve even made friends with one of the White settler’s children.

The second letter is addressed to this same friend, whom they haven’t spoken to in 50 years. Now 1671, the Wampanoag are all but wiped clean from the face of the earth as a result of smallpox, treachery, and outright violence. The tone is not recriminatory, but lamenting all that was lost.

Hopefully, this gave them pause.

Next Thanksgiving, instead of perpetuating the myth, consider telling the real story.

*The newest incarnation of this sentiment, “it be like that sometimes,” should really be credited to Vonnegut.

The (Un)disciplined Writer

“Only the disciplined are truly free. The undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites and passions.”

That’s by self-help guru Stephen Covey. Some obnoxious model/actor/self-titled entrepreneur/(probably) bartender on my IG feed posted it under an admittedly dapper pic of himself looking like a cast member in Peaky Blinders. But he also said motivation isn’t evergreen. He didn’t cite that so I’m going to assume it’s original.

Motivation is a fickle creature, like a runaway hamster who doesn’t know how good he has it on the inside. Guaranteed seed pellets, cozy wood shavings, and no one trying to eat it.

The moral of the story is, learn to love your cage.

No, but seriously. I think escaped passions are the saving grace of a disciplined mind. Without a few well-placed indiscretions, we would all be Walter White, before he became Heisenberg. Not that I’m saying your passion should lead you to cook meth in the desert. Or fumigated homes. Or anywhere, for that matter.

This brings me to my dissipated passion. Writing used to make me so happy, because I had an itch that I scratched often. Now, there’s zero motivation. Or rather, there’s no motivation to see my thought process through to a finished product. In the past 4 years that would have meant a blog post. In the more recent 2 years it would mean a script. I used to read something/see something and then write something. Now I think of a couple good bylines but never carve out the time to really dive in.

Adam Grant shared a tweet the other day that was real AF:

The best antidote to writer’s block is to stop pursuing perfection and start writing whatever comes to mind. No one complains about having teacher’s block, accountant’s block, or plumber’s block. They just get to work.

With me it’s very much an nihilistic, adolescent “Why does it matter?” and “This sucks” attitude.

Maybe it does. But it doesn’t have to be perfect. Shit–it doesn’t even have to be good. Armed with these new parameters, maybe I can dole something out worth reading.

Or not. Who cares? I’m getting to work.

Breaking the [Progestin] Cycle

birth control pic
Link address: ddba01b6-3f57-49cf-90e7-1d9b34588ae3.png

An image of a woman, cradling herself, locked inside a mini-pill container. She has used up about half the cycle–she’s chained to it now.

Beside this, a Sisyphean image of a woman and an IUD.  Only instead of rolling it up a hill, she must bear its weight. The Greek torture imagery might be a tad dramatic (they were the masters, after all), but the choice is telling. Sisyphus was assigned this punishment because of his craftiness and duplicity in cheating Death. Some might say this is women’s punishment for cheating Pregnancy.

But who wants a bunch of unplanned, unattended children running around?

Oh, right: Pro-Lifers.

Politics aside, this post is a shining example of TMI, my most personal post ever. You have been warned.

Today is my 6th day off the Yaz (generic) pill and I feel more at peace. It’s hard to describe. I don’t feel the depressed restlessness or anxiety switch-off that had become my standard the last few months. I’m sure getting off the pill won’t be some kind of panacea, like a shield against any mood changes, but this is more than just a placebo effect. I really feel different.

It’s my vacation and I’m enjoying the little things, like cozying up with my dogs on the couch and watching the World Cup. A summer shower starts outside and for some reason it adds to my happiness—just being close to the green, wet outside instead of stuck in a classroom all day. It’s as if I’m finding more reasons to be happy rather than not.

I can even watch the drama of the losing team, crying on the field, without it overwhelming me. I can think about their last four years of training, sacrifice and anticipation and instead of succumbing to “they lost it all,” I think, “they got this far; they got to run amongst champions.” Look at me; positive and shit.

In the last few days since I took the plunge after two years of faithfully taking the pill, I’ve scoured the internet for the long-term side effects of being on hormonal birth control. Call it Confirmation Bias if you will, but if I simply relied on my robotic gynecologist, I would just abide by the false comfort of “It won’t hurt you.” But I’m not a statistic and I beg to differ.

After being puzzled over mood changes for some time, I asked female friends. Many had the same reactions as me. This had been going on for some time, and I had written it off to the generalized “life changes” and the self-fashioned “chronic adult jadedness”. But in the last few months, it was as though my body really started rejecting these imposed hormones. Around mid-day, I started getting moderate nausea, headaches, and fatigue, apropos of nothing. Once again I was reinforced in the idea that you have to be your own health advocate. I called my doctor and said “no mas.” He agreed to my experiment and said to be careful of surprise pregnancy for this month. Keeping my fingers crossed and condoms handy.

You can always find women writers who help you break the cycle (in this case literally). In her article for Healthline, Amanda Gray describes the socio-historical phenomenon of women’s ailments as being dismissed with a paternal wave of the hand or pat on the head. Demeaning and reductive explanations include the 3 H’s: hysteria, hypochondria, and my favorite, just being hormonal. The last one of course is counterintuitive but no one said these people were rational.

She goes into her interactions with medical professionals and men that tell her it must be in her head, only to spend years struggling with inexplicable symptoms from her otherwise healthy body. She doesn’t rest with herself, but invokes a number of peer-reviewed studies that corroborate her experience. Finally, she had her IUD removed and found a caring doctor who validated her struggle.

You can find Gray’s awesome article here, which includes a short film by Sindha Agha that describes her own share of unimaginative pill-dispensers (read: doctors) that quickly becomes a hellscape of debilitating symptoms until the only option left to her is a hysterectomy. The ending serves as a wonderful call-out to men who cannot possibly take a male version of birth control because–you guessed it–too many side effects. Cue the “ugh” emoji.

Link address: 7098-For_Some_Women_The_Side_Effects_of_Hormonal_Birth_Control_Are_Unbearable-1296×728-Header.jpg

My Chain-Smoking Neighbor

I think my neighbor is a descendant of an expatriated SS guard from the Third Reich. He might even still have an uncle in an “Argentinian Deutsche colony.”

Maybe his name is Fred (originally Freidrich). Maybe he was a writer, until all the self-awareness and promotion got in the way.

Or maybe he was an insurance claims adjuster. Until Miami slowly became the fraud hub of America and they banned smoking in offices.

But now, he’s just a morose, diabetic, chain-smoking hermit who gets a disability check and lives with his gay partner. His partner is a stout little Guatemalan with a mustache and all the personality of Agador Spartacus, the man-servant from The Birdcage. Except he’s past his prime for show business and now settles for claiming the washing machines before everyone else on week-ends. I refer to him as “Partner,” because Fred’s Hitler Youth days have led him into a self-loathing that can only be seen to be believed. Thus, to be husbanded to a gay brown man represents the apotheosis of disgrace in Fred’s indoctrinated mind.

He hates his life absolutely, but somehow finds it within himself to say “Hello,” and “How are you?” to me.

I wave back, secretly wishing I could shrink-wrap myself and enter into his lair for further research.

Mother! @#$%^&* good movie.

Spoilers ahead!

24 hours later and I’m still reeling. Still feeling eviscerated. I’m sure Aronofsky would be proud. This is not a film for the faint of stomach.

In fact, as we contemplated what to watch yesterday, we considered IT. Lots had been recommending it, but it seemed too terrifying to forgo sleep over. Of course, while an Aronofsky film also promises a lingering horror, it is coupled with hours of good conversational fodder. In this case:

The thankless role of motherhood.

The ego of God.

The spilling of innocent blood.

The violence of a blind faith, of fanatic adoration.

We left the cool dark room searching for light and air, we sat down on a bench with glazed looks on our faces. Soon others with the same expression joined us.

“Well, I thought the acting was superb, but I’d like to know what it was all about,” one elderly woman said.

I blinked.

“It’s a sort of amended metaphor for the holy trinity–the Father, the Son, and instead of the Holy Spirit, the Mother.”

The woman’s granddaughter nodded, it dawning on her.

“A number of symbols pop up,” I continued. “The almost immaculate conception?” (Or at least the uncanny intuition that she was with child–a trope often seen and easily written off as some motherly clairvoyance but in deed supernatural).

“His back wound,” David piped up.

“Ed Harris’s?” I ask.

He grins smugly.

“Adam’s rib.”

“Yes!” I light up. “That’s when Michelle Pfieffer, Eve, comes in. Ugh. That bitch.”

And then, of course, the one that really drove the nail in for me: “The sinners eat the body of Christ–God sacrifices his only son.”

Collective cringe. We know exactly what scene I was referring to. The apex of the grotesque. The ultimate desecration of something everyone–irrespective of creed–holds sacred. Mother pushing through the hordes, in her face the desperation that only someone who is gripping their very last thread can feel. The horrible snap. And then you know that Aronofsky dares do all that a director can do. It’s the screenwriting logic: If X is true, what else is true? How far down can you lead your audience? How much more can they take?

At this point in the movie, David turns to me.

“Do you wanna go?”

I had both my hands clasped around my mouth, not theatrically but primordially. Another primordial gesture: the sick desire to “see it through,” in spite of the revolt in my viscera.

Ask a younger crowd and they just think the house was an extension of either Javier Bardem or Jennifer Lawrence’s character. At most, they’ll concede to a feminist commentary; the Mother-Woman always caregiving, sacrificing, maintaining but never creating, reacting rather than acting. His actions drove the plot forward, while her reactions plunged into our emotional core. It soon becomes all the more telling that these characters went about namelessly; it is a fantasy to name that which fashions you. It is a feeble, pathetic attempt to affix meaning to the unknowable.


Chasing Larry

I was always a hopeless romantic. In 1st grade, I used to run after Larry, willing him to like me. Apart from being lanky like me, our names also shared the first two letters. All signs pointed to marriage.

So every recess I’d lurch after him, calling out his name, and he would simultaneously ignore me and run away. I’d sprint till my lungs gave out, then just stand there, not understanding why he avoided fate.

Those days I used to watch Tiny Toons, a kind of spin-off for Looney Toons. These were the younger relatives of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, who, unlike their older kin, did not become target practice. One of the characters was Elmira, a pernicious little redhead that looked about 65 and had an affinity for “kitties.” All felines, large or small, became furry depositories for the love and attention she clearly lacked from her parents. No surprise there. The girl had a skull for a head bow. The song she’d sing as she turned their insides into a slushy? “I love cats, I love kitties, squeeze them into itty-bitties!”


Anyway, that was me with Larry. To tell the truth, I don’t know what I would’ve done had I actually caught him.

How great would it be if I somehow tracked Larry down? Went to my old elementary school and convinced some disgruntled receptionist who still wears White Diamonds to hand over the records? Just as an exercise in shits and giggles? Of course, Larry would think I’m crazy, and the more I wave it off saying it’s just for fun, the more I’d convince myself I am crazy.

So no, I won’t track Larry down. With a name like that, he’s probably an alcoholic tax attorney. Shudder.

This would be the didactic part of the story, where I tell you we really don’t know what we want or we’re essentially malcontent in this endless rabbit chase. But it’s not that kind of story.

The Paradox of a Poor Conservative 

Look, I recognize my own ideological chains. I’ve drunk the Koolade because it goes down easy on my gullet. 

Our political affiliations are much like our adherence to faith systems–takes a bomb to shake the foundation and worse to bring it toppling down. Anything that flies in the face of it is met with hostile, often irrational counterstrikes. Why? Because cognitive dissonance is a motherfucker. 

So when a good friend sends me a video of Ben Shapiro, all I can hear is the nasaly twerp who says things like, “evolutionarily, men are more inclined toward polygamy.” And when she tells me he’s a Harvard educated lawyer who wrote for Breitbart, all I hear is “entitled douche monkey” and “white-nationalist-sorry-excuse-for-journalism-rag.” Can’t help it. 🤷🏼‍♀️ 

Am I bringing all my liberal baggage to bear? Sure. As much as Cubans in Miami bring the Bay of Pigs and their deep-rooted racism to bear on the ballot. 

Family Member Who Must Not Be Named is adamant that the “welfare state” is real and Queens of said State push Beamers, get their hair and nails done every week, and generally “live better than him.”

I ask him where he collects this empirical data. 

“You can see it.”

I ask if he has ever lived in Section 8 housing. 


I ask if he knew that just 10% of those deemed under the poverty line that receive government benefits have been found to commit fraud, and that the majority of aid recipients are single mothers. 

“Who told them to have all those babies?” 

I ask him what’s the worst thing Obama has done during his presidency. 

Here he struggles a bit. It’s either the ACA or budgetary deficit. He goes for the deficit. 

So I ask if he knows that our illustrious leader has lowered the tax rate for the top 1% down to 15% (from 35%). This action alone will add billions to the deficit in lost tax revenue. 

“That will trickle down to help the lower classes.” 

Ah, Reagonomics to the rescue again. Because that worked out so well when the housing market crashed in 08. 

I ask him if it bothers him at all that these billionaires are paying about half the percentage that he gets taken out of his paycheck. 

“15% of their pay is so much, so it’s fair.” 

When a hard-working poor man justifies a rich man’s privilege, whether it’s earned or not, I can see it’s a lost cause. It doesn’t matter what I say; he still feels entitled to less.  You gotta hand it to the GOP; the self-effacing rhetoric is sly AF.