Saturday, June 27, 2015

Permanent Display

Stop it.

Stop calling me beautiful.

Stop saying I’m pretty.

In the middle of a conversation,

When I thought we were talking,

When I hoped you were listening.

Now I know,

You are not listening.

This in not a conversation.

I am talking,

But I might as well be squawking, chirping, growling, barking,

Like the other animals in the zoo.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Life After Life in my life

Life after life So I finished the book.  The book I didn’t like.  I can’t say I liked it by the end.  I also can’t say I hated it as much by the end as I did in the middle.  And somewhat begrudgingly, I have to admit it is sticking with me in a thought-provoking life-contemplating sort of way that isn’t wholly disagreeable.

I’ve sometimes wondered how my life would be if I’d done x instead of y.  Most often, if I’d kept the extension I received in the Peace Corps and moved to Livingstone instead of Nashville.  But I’m far more of a fate-ist than Ursula or Kate Atkinson. I  believe things happen for a reason, even if I don’t understand the reason at the time.  And, I believe the big things will work themselves out the way they’re intended to be despite my smaller (or even bigger) choices.

God has a path for me.  Sometimes I see it clearly.  Sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes I’m not even sure where the next step goes and I stumble around for awhile.  But in the rearview mirror, when I look down that path, even the stumbling makes sense.  Sometimes I need to be further down the path than other times.

So Ursula’s many lives in some ways have me thinking again of what ifs.  But rather than having regrets or dwelling on the past with anything less than appreciation, Ursula’s effect is to make me feel calmer about the future.  As I tell people who ask I’m not scared about doing this thing or that or some circumstance they think is crazy, “God’s got me.”

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Fancy Flight

avianca logo Ben Stiller and one of the Wilson brothers are talking to Egyptians.  Jennifer Garner is annoyed with what looks to be an anorexic Matthew McConaughey.  And next to me, Robert DeNiro is taking a walk in a park.  I’m listening to Beethoven – and while his 9th Symphony is pleasant, I’m reminded of one of the reasons I prefer flying Southwest – simplicity.  Some might call it no frills.  I think of it more as freedom.  Freedom from the entertainment of others.  Intrusion-less into the calm reflective or comradery time that is my time in the air.

On Southwest, I sit in the front row – nearly every time, certainly every time I can – and all the rest of the plane does not exist.  There is no seat back in front of me to crunch my knees.  There is no tray table that doesn’t go flat on my lap.  There is no meal that I can’t eat while everyone else scarfs down food.  We all have the same little baggie of snack something.

I read, write, knit or make friends with the person next to me.  They’re always exceedingly nice.  Mark, the 7’ tall Warriors fan from Australia.  Hamed, the Algerian Berkeleyite with a fabulous seasonal home in North Africa.  The very pleasant gentleman who calmly tolerated the walking stereotype valley girl and her purse doggie.  But Southwest doesn’t fly internationally, so here I am, 10 rows back in seat 14D.  The seats are spacious.  There’s no seat back in my knees, but the tray table doesn’t fit over my legs. 

I have grand plans of reading, but the shiny sparkles of tv screens pull my eyes, darting in every direction.  A man wearing a plastic sheet as a boa, what looks like Julianne Moore dying of AIDS or consumption.  A cave man smooshing the face of the Australian chick from the acapella movie Munchkinhead loves (the one where the sequel has the Packers), and a bunch of old men in a park with that guy who sings “Party Rock Anthem” (what?).  So my book sits on my lap and I blame these fancy flights, these bored passengers taking advantage of the free entertainment, for my lack of interest in Susan Sell.

Truth is, her eye-poking style of writing makes me rather crabby and I’m already having difficulty being nice to the world.  I should have packed some Ruth Okediji instead, or Pride and Prejudice.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Why “Don’t Resist” Advice is Not the Solution

Sitting on an airplane, the man in front of me was watching 12 Years a Slave.  I glanced up.  Two men were just hung.  A third was passing and was kicked by a white man to move along.  The hung – as being hung - looked at him, at the man passing, with what in their eyes?  Not pleading.  I don’t know.  He looked back knowing it was their last look, and they were hung.  Bodies twitching violently in the air, high above the crunchy brown leaves and the stained hats of the stained white men.

This is why “don’t resist” is not an acceptable answer to the pervasive police brutality against black men in this country.  For over 200 years, we have told black men they have no dignity.  We have emasculated them with commandments that they obey our orders and our force or die.  To tell them the solution to not dying is to just obey is not ok.

“Obey, and fight it later in court,” and this, somehow, is supposed to be “justice.”  Without even getting into the skewedness of that system, even if they “win” by not having charges filed or by getting a case dismissed on a 4th amendment violation, their dignity has still been taken.  There is no justice for that; there’s no getting that back.  The closest they can get is a civil judgment or settlement against an officer or a department by their family after they’re dead – or maybe, in extremely rare cases (Walter Scott), a Colors of the Wind quote murder charge against the officer.

The solution is not “don’t resist.”  The solution is showing respect and acknowledging dignity.  It is officers treating human beings as fellow men – not “others,” not “criminals,” not “thugs,” not “pests,” or “suspects” or “perpetrators.”

A lady who had testified during the Congressional Briefing on The Justice Package said on the news, “it’s the system, not the officers.”  Well you know what? The officers are the system.  And until they can treat other humans – black humans, black male humans – with respect, the system will not change.

“Do not resist” is not the answer.  It only addresses the symptom of “death in police custody.”  It does not address the problem, the raping of black men’s dignity, the continued degradation and emasculation of the American black male. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

When eh’s turn to grrrrr’s

***Spoiler alert*** I’m going to winge on about the plot. If you have any interest in reading the book, don’t read this post.

So I’m still reading Life After Life.  Surprisingly pretty far into it; it is a fast read.  I’m still not feeling it.  In fact, this week, the book went from tiresome to loathsome.

Ursula is finally the main character, but her character is constantly something different.  I suppose this could be part of the point of the book – different choices lead to different character development – but it comes off more as different character leads to different choices.  Sometimes the difference isn’t even her choice; it’s some other character’s.  That all leaves a very eh feeling in my throat.

The downgrade of my opinion of the book happened rather quickly.  I was sitting on the cramped bus as we slowly and not-at-all smoothly jutted and lurched down the road to the Metro station.  Ursula was going up the back stairs of her house for a handkerchief when her brother’s friend comes down the stairs, pins her to the wall and rapes her.  Excuse me?  Besides the logistics of this – in 1920’s clothes, standing, on the stairs – what the?!?  You don’t just plop that down on someone in the middle of their morning.  It took me a couple hours, a few walks around the hallway, Twitter friends, and a concerted effort to throw myself into my work to function.  Bedtime, hours – and now years in the novel – removed from the event, brought nightmares.

The plot line gets more ridiculous from there.  Rather than allowing Ursula to find strength in this experience or recover, or anything, anything at all encouraging, she winds up being beaten to death by an abusive husband.  One can never triumph over their ills, huh? 
It only gets more infuriating.

The whole “thing” about this book is that Ursula dies and comes back and makes a different decision that allows her life to go better.  So, after her husband kills her, she comes back and starts again.  I’m hoping the author gives her a shot to overcome this ordeal – come on author, you can do it.  But no, in order to not wind up murdered by her husband, she has to not be raped.  To achieve this, she punches her brother’s friend in the face when he tries to kiss her, months before the encounter on the stairs.  Last time, she didn’t stop him from kissing her.  This made me even angrier than the surprise logistically implausible stair scene.  It makes what happens on the stairs her fault.

She’s died again since then.  Several times.  There have been some other versions of the story, but in none of them – so far – does the stair scene happen again; she always fends him off at the kissing scene.  Now, she’s hanging out in Bavaria with Eva and Adolf in the 1930s.  Um…. ok….
Yet, still reading.  (But seriously eyeing up that new copy of International Intellectual Property on my shelf.)