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A Bad Start: On Growing Up in the South
Aug 30th, 2017 by Dr Karma

I am 14. My beloved (grand)daddy says, “You need to have white babies; our race is dying out.”

Where do I start?

Not “how do I answer that?”

How do I start to tell you this?

My (grand)daddy is recently deceased. I am mourning. Atlas dropped the world.

But he said that.

When I told my mother, she said he didn’t used to be racist. She and Mindy have told me about how when Mindy was a teenager and was working in a store that catered mostly to African-Americans, she was told they wouldn’t be upset if she dated one.

I have heard it so many times.

It’s an alibi.

And now I’m the prosecutor.

Why wouldn’t I have been allowed to?

Why did you hide your non-white boyfriends and lovers (they were roommates) from them?

Why did they have to say it if it were true?

How do I start this?

***************************************************

No one in my family would call themselves racists.

Some context: my maternal grandmother was born and raised in the South. She is an official Daughter of the Confederacy. She married my (grand)daddy, who was a Yankee in the Air Force. After he retired, they built a house on the land she inherited and settled in to a very insular, very Southern, existence.

My grandmother would lower her voice when she said the “n” word–even though she lived in the woods where no one would hear her. I presumed she got quiet because she knew what she was doing was wrong.

When I moved to California, my grandmother asked me if there were many black people where I lived. She was relieved when I said my town was mostly white and Asian. “Oh, they’re okay.”

A few years before her death, she stopped lowering her voice when she said the word.

I wanted to blame FOX News, which was convincing her that her President was not hers–that he wasn’t even American.

But that’s not where it started.

And she still would have said she wasn’t racist.

******************************************************

My son is 5. I am called into his kindergarten. He has been saying he doesn’t like the janitors because they’re black.

He spends a lot of time with his great-grandparents.

I move to California. My grandparents try to guilt me into leaving him with them. Permanently.

Then, my son is 8. We are watching a show–the teachers on it are talking to the principal about a student who has said “the N word.”

My son finally looks at me, frustrated.

“What are they talking about? Nipple?”

And I have to say it, to explain it to him. Grateful that he hadn’t heard it yet some other way.

****************************************************

Where do I start?

I am in kindergarten. It is 99% black.

I come home and tell my mother that I and a boy in my class will get married. He is my boyfriend.

She tells me he can’t be, because my grandmother wouldn’t like it.

It was unlikely that I would have married him. I can’t even remember what we had in common.

But I was transferred to another school–one that was 99% white.

(The South is still pretty segregated, y’all!)

It didn’t occur to me that my mother should have told my grandmother to mind her own business about my boyfriends.

Or that my grandmother was her excuse.

*************************************************

I am 13.

I hear my stepfather getting his Great Dane riled up to go outside.

Usually, he says, “Wanna catch a squirrel?!?” and the dog practically pees itself with excitement.

Today, he says, “Wanna catch a nigger?!?”

“What?!?”

He hadn’t known I was behind him, that I’d heard.

He tells me that it was what his parents always said. I make him swear to never say that word in front of my little brother.

Usually, I was punished–severely and physically–for talking back.

This is the only day ever that I give an order and get away with it.

Because he knows it’s wrong.

It’s years later, thinking back on this, when talking to my students about the importance of language and the words we use, that I realize my mother must have known he used that word.

After class, I remember other things he’d said. Like “Cleopatra couldn’t have been the most beautiful woman in the world. She was black.”

And how no one corrected him on Ptolemaic history or racism.

Or talked back.

***************************************************

When I was little, I had a Dukes of Hazard night shirt. It said, “My heart belongs to Bo.”

A couple of years ago, in my stand-up, I tried to make the point that racism was alive and well in America. (Until recently, I had white Californian students tell me there was no racism because they’d had multicultural days in high school, where they had an ethnic food fair.)

I asked people to remember The Dukes of Hazard. The Duke brothers are moonshiners–you know, drug dealers, with a slutty-dressing cousin, and they spend every episode running from the cops in a car with the confederate flag on it called The General Lee. It’s a comedy. White America loved it.

“Just some good old boys / Never meaning no harm / Beat all you ever saw / They been in trouble with the law / Since the day they was born.”

If there’s no racism, we can do cross-racial casting.

Imagine that show–except the boys are black. They run illegal drugs. Their cousin dresses like a ho. They run from the cops in the Malcolm X.

“Just some good old . . .”

Bang!

Cause they would have been shot in the credits.

****************************************************

My grandma used to say, “Our family didn’t have slaves. We were too poor.”

And thus she was free, she thought, from recrimination. Even though her ancestors had fought for the South.

(My grandfather bought a certificate, from Rush Limbaugh, I think, that absolved him, as a white man, for everything. It was signed by a black man.)

But my grandfather was a genealogist.

One night, he shows me what he’s found–that one of grandma’s ancestors had owned at least one slave.

“But they treated her just like family,” my grandma interjects.

I wonder how she can be so sure, since a moment ago, she was convinced there was no such person.

But this narrative is important. She needs her story to lead to a South without racism that she can see, so she can be proud to be Southern, so she can be Republican. All these things have to be unrelated.

That way, it can be the race’s fault when she doesn’t like them.

*******************************************************

I am in my thirties. My grandmother and I are sitting in the car, while my mother is in the store, getting my grandmother’s prescription.

I don’t talk about politics with my family at this point. I’ve escaped, after decades of feeling like a misfit, in both my family and my society. I try to enjoy the few times I go home. To ignore the framed pictures of the current and former recent Republican presidents over the dining room table. To ignore the framed picture of a donkey with a red X drawn over it hanging by the washing machine.

Thus, I do not know and have no memory of how this came about–I remember it slapping me:

“All abortion should be illegal unless a white woman gets raped by a black man.”

I try to talk about abortion as necessary, to find common ground about how when it’s illegal, doctors aren’t even trained to take dead babies out of women, how some women who have lost their children have to live with a rotting corpse inside them–to carry it to term.

It is all I can do, because my mind is whirring. It repeats the statement all day.

“All abortion should be illegal unless a white woman gets raped by a black man.”

Is it that the child will be mixed? I know she “feels sorry” for mixed race children, since “they don’t belong anywhere.” In her world.

But no. Because almost all mixed race abortions would still be illegal.

“All abortion should be illegal unless a white woman gets raped by a black man.”

Not a Mexican? No, because she’s probably not even thinking about any other races. Many times, in the South, all ethnicities/races disappear from consciousness. It is literally black and white down there.

“All abortion should be illegal unless a white woman gets raped by a black man.”

But this isn’t about rape. Because a black woman can still be raped by a white man and have to carry it.

“All abortion should be illegal unless a white woman gets raped by a black man.”

I am in bed, not sleeping, when it hits me.

If I were raped by a white guy, she would of course be upset. But the life of that baby would take precedence.

But if I were raped by a black man, and were forced to carry it, and maybe to raise it, then someone might misunderstand–they might think, if they saw me with the child, that I’d had sex with a black guy on purpose.

How would they know I’d been raped, since survivors don’t usually wear t-shirts attesting to the fact?

(In my mind, these t-shirts are airbrushed. Cause it’s the South.)

****************************************************

President Obama is running for President.

I ask my mother to send me some instant grits.

(I do not think these things are related.)

When the grits come, they are accompanied by an airbrushed (read: homemade) shirt.

The shirt features a confederate flag.

The call:

“Well, I know you’re not going to wear it inside.”

“I’m not a racist inside the house.”

“It’s not racist; it’s heritage.”

I stop.

I try again, rogerian-style.

“I’m an American. Why would you expect me to wear the symbol of people who didn’t want to be American any more? Who told America to go fuck itself?”

“Alright.”

************************************************

Obama has just been elected.

My mother: Well, now we’re going to lose our rights as white women.

Me: Which ones?

Long pause.

Silence.

Me: Cause as a white, straight, educated American woman, I have more rights than most people have ever had. I have more rights than some of my friends have right now. Which ones can he take?

Silence.

*******************************************************

Obama is serving his term. My mother is taking care of her parents, my grandparents.

They encourage her to plant her garden. They think they’ll need it, when Obama comes for their guns. When he starts a race war.

*******************************************************

Here are some things that are true.

1. I miss my (grand)daddy so much. And even though this part of him disappoints me, I am deathly hurt by the thought that I disappointed him, as I know I have.

I have always cried–for hours–at the end of Mulan, when the father expresses pride for his daughter.

2. Now that my grandmother has died, my answer to the Pivot question about what you’d like to hear at the Pearly Gates has changed.

I’d like to hear, “Well, hi, Karma!” in my grandmother’s voice, the way she said it every time I called home.

No one has ever sounded so perfectly and consistently happy to hear my voice.

3. Typing this, now, has made me cry.

4. My family is normal in the South.

And they are polite to people’s faces.

They are not seen as extremists there at all.

They are not the people who start to whisper when you’re at the park having a picnic with a black man, the whispers getting louder, until the air starts to crackle, and you pack up early–carefully, fearful that if you move to fast, they’ll chase you.

5. My mother said that all people were equal when I was young. With some her words.

6. When people wonder where all this racism and hatred have come from, I’m surprised. Didn’t you hear them whispering? Didn’t you see them start to not lower their voices when Obama got elected?

7. When people try to tell me that the alt-right isn’t really racist, that they’re just angry because they’re poor, I shake my head. Did you live with them? Were you taught by them? Were you their neighbors? They, rich and poor, for all they years I’ve been alive, have said all the things at home that you’re just hearing on the internet now.

8. I have benefited from white privilege. When I was treated well the two times I’ve been pulled over. That I’ve only been pulled over two times. That I could walk down the hall in high school and not get asked for my pass. That I wasn’t asked for references when I tried to rent my first apartment. “You don’t need those.” Everyone else in the complex was black.

7. When I tell people these stories, they say, “how are you you?” And I don’t know. But I’m still part of them. And they’re still part of me.

*******************************************************

The statues need to come down.

My grandmother was a Daughter of the Confederacy. Technically, that means I am too, though I’m not registered. It’s not what I’m proud about–it’s not about who I am.

The statues need to come down.

When my relatives say taking them down is a liberal attempt to erase history, my eyes roll so hard my head hurts.

One of the best field trips in school was to a museum of the Civil War. I liked it because I learned a lot — like where “bite the bullet” comes from. I don’t remember the South being celebrated there–and that’s how this war should be remembered–as a rebellion to study, not to celebrate. Moving the statues to museums isn’t going to erase this history.

(Contrast this to a teacher I had in elementary school–an elderly woman–who told us lots of stories about how the South was better in Plantation days. Yes, this was the 99% white school.)

When my relatives say taking the statues down is an attack on their way of life, I can feel the blood vessels in my chest constrict.

What way of life is in danger? They’ll still be able to put way too much sugar in their tea, to fry absolutely everything, to deny science, to wear confederate clothing, to think racist thoughts and to say racist things.

It’s just that all of those actions have consequences.

When I was younger and I would see a “The South will Rise Again” bumper sticker, I would joke, “And do what?!?”

But it’s not funny at all. They white Southerners are rising again–and what they’re trying to do, by their own admission, is to push an agenda to ensure the prosperity of the white (Christian, straight) race. They want every one else gone or else so subservient that they might as well be. Race traitors like me deserved to be destroyed too, since I’m not helping their cause.

The “American” “way of life” they’re talking about losing is one of state-sanctioned white privilege. It’s the one where your whole state puts on that airbrushed confederate flag t-shirt.

It’s not about being Southern. It’s not about states’ rights. It never was.

That’s why the only “right” talked about in Confederate papers and speeches was the right to own black people.

That’s why black Southerners don’t fly the Confederate flag on their pickups.

And that’s why Nazis fly the Confederate flag in Germany, where Nazi flags are banned.

There’s a meme going around that says liberals think Southern statues “aren’t important.”

They are so important. That’s why they need to come down.

**************************************************

The KKK and the Nazis can march with assault rifles, and the cops do nothing. And the President defends them. That way of life will apparently be fine, statues or no statues.

Unless we do something.

Removing the statues is a small step, but a necessary one.

I don’t know how this started.

I just know it has to stop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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False Equivalencies
Aug 16th, 2017 by Dr Karma

Today, the world is reeling at Trump’s statement in which he compared the alt-right with anti-fascists. (He tried to coin the phrase “alt-left,” but being anti-fascist has been a mainstream position on both the sides of the political spectrum for almost a hundred years.)
Fascists now think Trump was saying the anti-fascists were worse, even–that we are somehow the terrorists.
By the way, having the KKK praise your speech while no one else is might just be a sign that you’re racist.
This morning, though, I’m thinking about false equivalencies.
Trump’s is obvious.
But the problem of Trump was partially caused by another one–remember all those people who said Clinton and Trump were equally bad?
That seemed absurd to a lot of us during the election.
Now, the absurdity is terrifyingly clear.
First there are two issues we might concede they’re close on:
Clinton was supposed to be bad because she was too cozy with bankers. Trump has, of course, appointed all those people to high positions in his administration.
Clinton was supposed to be bad because she was careless with classified information. Trump has had some problems with this as well.
As for the “she’s a liar!” charge, studies show that she’s better than most politicians. And I doubt we’d have “alternate facts” as a phrase if she’d won.
As for the “she’s a war-monger!” charge, would she be having a penis fight with Kim right now, or would she be trying to de-escalate the threat of nuclear war?
The reason many of us supported her, imperfect as she is, is because she’s on our side. Trump isn’t.
If Clinton were in:
–we wouldn’t have Pence, the guy who wants to torture gay children and who can’t trust himself around girls, as VP
–we would have a much better new justice to the Supreme Court
–most government positions currently vacant would be filled
–qualified people would be in cabinet positions
–the President wouldn’t be attacking trans people in the military
–Planned Parenthood would be better protected (along with our right to choose and with actual sex education)
–we wouldn’t have a President who continually embarrassed us around the world by being ignorant about politics or by doing inappropriate things with female leaders and first wives
–science wouldn’t be considered debatable
I could go on, but let me point out the super-obvious here.
CLINTON WOULD NOT be on the side of the white terrorists, of the KKK, of the alt-right, of the anti-semitic, of the sexists, of the Nazis.

They are not–and have never been–“equally bad.”

Let’s remember that as we think through Trump’s statements about guilt on both sides.

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“You either trust . . . your state . . . or you don’t”
May 8th, 2017 by Dr Karma

I’m a federalist.

I’m an American, so I should have the same rights in each state.

Thus, I had a knee-jerk negative reaction to Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole’s discussion of the Republican health care plan on Morning Edition last Thursday. He did the typical Republican move–demonizing the federal government while making moves to allow the states to deny care to their citizens:

“But at the end of the day, you know, you either trust your governor and your state legislature or you don’t. In my case, I do. And it’s far easier, if they make an error, for people to frankly correct them and — or fire them if they need to, than it is to deal with a sort of faceless, federal bureaucracy that’s in many cases thousands of miles away.”

Having grown up in the South, I don’t trust state or local government more than I trust the federal government. Why was I taught that evolution was wrong in a public school? Because of local decisions. Why was my history teacher forced to pretend that the world was created 6000 years ago? Because of local decisions. Why was my doctor not allowed to talk to me about all my options for care when I was pregnant? Because of local decisions. Why was my aunt not able to get healthcare in the South even though she’s disabled? Because of local decisions.

Of course, I can point to a lot of federal decisions that have been awful too, but there are two important points to consider. First, and this is our fault, voters don’t usually pay attention to or vote in local elections. Second, the federal government–with its constitution–tends to move toward equality–and that’s where my values lie. The constitution says I shouldn’t have been taught Christian b.s. in a public school and recognizes my right to disagree. The federal government’s position is that my queer friends have the same rights that I do, that my Jewish neighbor has the same rights as her Christian ones, that my students of color deserve the same opportunity as their white counterparts, that my disabled staff have equal access to a job, etc. etc. etc.

But the Republican move is always to “let the states decide.” To decide whether your disabled child can go to public school. To decide if you can have access to healthcare. To decide if you can be married to your partner.

We’re American. The “state” I live in shouldn’t decide whether I’m equal to my neighbors. I am.

The end of Cole’s interview really brought the point home for me about trusting the states: “Look, I live in a state where we’re down to a single provider who’s losing money. We have a 69 percent rate increase coming for people that don’t have — aren’t subsidized in the pool. And finally, because we’re not a Medicaid expansion state, you know, we’ve got hospitals taking care of classes of patients that in other places they get compensated for — not here.”

We’re not having those problems in California–because California didn’t fight Obamacare. In other words, it shared the federal government’s move toward equality.

It’s that last line that gets me–he doesn’t live in a Medicaid expansion state, so he’s upset because uninsured patients are costing his state a lot of money.

In other words, his state chose to leave a significant portion of its population uninsured. Each state’s budget office can confirm it would make fiscal sense to expand Medicaid. But states like his didn’t. It left its people in danger. It left itself in a bad financial state. Why?

Because it was “Obamacare.”

No, Mr. Cole, I don’t trust the states to always do the right thing for their people, especially states like yours.

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Yes, Milo, Free Speech Matters
Feb 23rd, 2017 by Dr Karma

Last Friday, on Real Time, Milo Yiannopoulos held himself up as a great defender of free speech, while minimizing the effects speech has.

He admitted that he got off on people’s reactions to his trolling and abusive comments, trying to get all three panelists at the end (on Overtime) to tell him to go fuck himself (Larry Wilmore got it started after Milo responded to an attempt at honest debate by saying “you [Maher] always invite such awful people on your show; they’re so stupid”).

Milo said he “hurt[s] people for a reason” and that he’s “a virtuous troll,” in between insulting female comedians and actors (Lena Dunham, Leslie Jones, etc.). He never said what the “reason” or “virtue” might be in such attacks, but he attempted to claim at one point that he actually builds bridges with his “jokes.”

Perhaps the strangest thing he said, however, was “Mean words on the internet don’t hurt anyone.” Milo then said that what he does isn’t harmful in any way, compared it to physical instances of abuse. Maher mentioned that some believe speech provokes action. Milo’s response was that those of us who believe so “would be idiots.”

There’s a reason why one form of speech that’s not protected is speech that incites violence. There’s a reason why we have laws against slander (and some against certain forms of lying).

But setting that aside, the claim that “mean words on the internet don’t hurt anyone” is insane. Luckily, I’m not famous, so I don’t get trolled very often; however, I’ve been hurt by things people have said on the internet.

And I know lots of other people have been too.

The first lady said she wants to work against teen cyberbullying–because mean words hurt.

Young people sometimes commit suicide–because mean words hurt.

I know women who are scared by rape and death threats–because mean words hurt.

Lindy West had a man pose on Twitter as her dead father to verbally abuse her. Guess what? Those mean words hurt.

I was planning to write about this before Yiannopoulos’s words finally got him in trouble with conservatives this week. There are so many more layers now, so much irony. It’s so fitting that the knee-jerk reaction to “please think of the children” is biting him in the ass after he used it against trans people.

It’s ironic that all the conservatives who said Milo should be allowed to talk have pulled him from their editorial boards and conventions.

It’s sad that they weren’t bothered by any of his racist, sexist, transphobic, white supremacist bullshit.

Yiannopoulos, for maybe the first time, apologized (partially).

“I’m partly to blame. My own experiences as a victim led me to believe I could say anything I wanted to on this subject, no matter how outrageous. But I understand that my usual blend of British sarcasm, provocation and gallows humor might have come across as flippancy, a lack of care for other victims or, worse, ‘advocacy.’ I deeply regret that. People deal with things from their past in different ways.”

He seems obtuse and stubborn, so I don’t know if he’ll get the lesson:

Words matter. Words can hurt.

That’s why free speech is important–because, as Margaret Atwood once said, “a word after a word after a word is power.”

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Want to Actually Lower the Abortion Rate? Shred Your Script
Jan 28th, 2017 by Dr Karma

I had a nightmare last night.

I was back at my estranged ex-stepfather’s house on Bayou Tejar, which was flooding. A young woman (a student, maybe) asked me to read and comment on her script–it was a trick–it was actually a thinly veiled attempt to convince me to be pro-life. All the while, the bayou water rose–it was all the way up to the second floor, where we were, but the young woman didn’t notice.

Luckily, my PhD in lit trained me well for moments like this: the symbolism isn’t hard to decode. Most pro-life people don’t pay attention to the problems that threaten life–even unborn life. They’re too busy sticking to their script.

(The stepfather’s house thing is separate symbolism–most of my bad dreams are set there. However, I was living in that house when my town became a centerpiece in the abortion debate–when a pro-life terrorist shot an abortion provider in the back, when my friend’s father got death threats for publicly saying one can’t murder in the name of life, when my mother refused to let me wear a pro-choice shirt because she was afraid I would be attacked.)

Yesterday, the VP spoke at a pro-life rally. The pro-lifers will be marching against Planned Parenthood on 2/11. (I organized and will be performing at a benefit for Planned Parenthood that night.)

All this bullshit always reminds me of a conversation I had in 2000. I was in car full of medical students on the way to a water park (in Florida). One guy was new–an extern. Someone asked whom he was voting for.

Extern: I don’t know yet. My parents’ church gives us a list of people to vote for, based on who’s pro-life. I just use that list.

There was silence. Everyone else in the car was pro-choice.

I thought: they have to work with him. I don’t.

I asked him what he hoped to accomplish by voting that way.

Extern: We want to ban abortion, obviously.

Me: You’ve taken a medical history class by now. What happens, historically, when abortion is banned, to the abortion rate?

Extern [sheepishly]: It goes up.

Me: Everyone else here is pro-choice. Would it surprise you to know everyone here wants the abortion rate to go down?

Extern: Yes!

Remaining calm, I explained that we all wished it never had to happen. But that we all knew it always would–at some rate–but that we wanted it to be very rare. And that we were doing a lot to make sure the rate went down–by advocating for comprehensive sex education, by advocating for access to birth control, by advocating for girls’ access to education.

All those things actually lower the abortion rate.

What that young extern wanted to do–what yesterday’s protesters want to do–drives the numbers up. And increases STD rates. And increases maternal mortality rates. Look at what’s happened in Texas recently, after they shut down so many women’s health providers.

The extern didn’t know about me, didn’t know I’d had my son at 17. So I told him.

And then I explained one way to look at my choice to him.

Since I chose to have my son, I altered my whole future.

The extern’s “side” of the debate had nothing to offer me. His side wouldn’t advocate for child care so I could work or go to school. His side wouldn’t advocate for me to have health care or enough to eat (although if one cares about children, one should realize that their parents being alive is kind of important). His side would, in fact, forever judge me for getting pregnant in the first place. For having a child that young.

And if I ever asked for anything, even basic dignity, I would be told that I shouldn’t have had sex (by a bunch of people who’ve also had sex at that age), and thus that I was undeserving.

“You know, I could have had an abortion. And I might have had to walk past some of you screaming at me, but when it was done, I could have avoided your scorn for the rest of my life. Have you given any thought to actually making the choice to carry an unplanned child the more desirable one?”

“We’re on the same side,” I said. “I just don’t think your strategy will work. It will just make things worse.”

The extern agreed.

(I didn’t realize then that I was using Rogerian argument strategy, but I now use this conversation as an example when I teach it.)

It’s many years later. I know more.

I know more about what happens when people push abstinence, when they try to block birth control, when they attack Planned Parenthood, when they push gag rules.

Pro-lifers, it’s not that we pro-choicers are pro-abortion.

We’re not.

But your script (“Ban abortion” “Defund Planned Parenthood”) WILL RESULT IN MORE.

 

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The Continuing Adventures of Karma’s OnLine Dating: Entry 50
Jan 26th, 2017 by Dr Karma

This entire conversation was awful, but see if you can spot the line that most made me go, “eww . . . what?! . . . eww!”

Him: Did you cry when Trump won?

Me: Yes. Many times. What about you?

Him: It didn’t really matter to me which pig got voted into the farm house.

[I decide not to answer. Two days later.]

Him: Feel like wine and a movie tonight?

Me: No, thanks.
I have to confess: I’m very sensitive about the election. I know too many people who are a lot more vulnerable right now. Thus, the pig reference just didn’t sit well with me.
I hope you find someone more carefree and that you have a great evening!

Him: You don’t see Animal Farm going on before your eyes?

Me: I think a lot of absurd things happen in politics, but I don’t at all think Clinton as President vs. Trump as President is any kind of equal threat to me, to the environment, to my students, etc.

Him: Keep thinking that. But in the meantime, there’s this warm man over here who would like to pur his arms around you if you change your mind.

Me: I’m not going to change my mind. I cried with the trans student I mentor after the election. I’m working with my department to take action to protect our muslim students and our dreamers. I’m fighting for my students to have access to birth control and abortions. I’m fighting for free speech and scientific literacy. A few years ago, I moved my disabled aunt to California so she could get access to care because she was literally dying in a Republican state that rejected the part of Obamacare that would cover her. I could go on, but I’ve got way too many papers to grade today.

Look, I’m sure you’re a decent person, but you’re not the person for me. And I’m not at all desperate, so I don’t have to settle for just a warm body. 🙂
I hope you find someone beautifully suited to you and wish you all the best.

Him: Ok, good luck to you too

[Eight days later]

Him: Surprised you haven’t left the country yet

Me: It’s not going to get fixed that way.

Him: Ok, so you’re going to fix it?

Me: Are you meaning to be hostile right now? Since I don’t know you, I’m not sure how to read this conversation.

Him: Nope…remember, I’m an INTJ [he’d mentioned that in his profile, and was counting on me to have assigned meaning to it]

[I decide not to answer. Several hours go by. This next one gets sent in the middle of the night:]

Him: I want you to connect and bond with me.

Me: I’m not interested in that.

Him: That’s really unfortunatw

 

Okay, reader. You saw the whole thing. Which part icked you out most?

 

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Job Letter: Alabama Bathroom Monitor
Jan 8th, 2017 by Dr Karma

Dear Alabama Representatives,

I was so excited when I saw that you’re putting forth a bill requiring bathroom attendants in bathrooms open to transgender people and that other states are putting forth similar legislation!

I’m sure you designed this bill to protect god-fearing citizens while avoiding the unpleasantness (lost tourist dollars, an ousted governor) the bathroom bill in North Carolina caused. After all, this lets anyone pee, so we certainly can’t be accused of prejudice!

Something has to be done! I mean, we’ve not had any legislation about who can use what bathroom since the bathrooms were invented (by a good Christian, surely) until recently. Do you remember what it was like? I mean, I never had a problem in a bathroom, but I shudder now to think that the person in the stall next to me, who was passing toilet paper under the divider when I discovered I didn’t have any, could have had any type of genitalia at birth! If I’d thought about it then, I’m sure I would have wiped with my underwear and then left my stall commando, like the lady of good breeding that I am, rather than risk talking to a person of the opposite sex!

However, I’m sure you’re aware that this bill doesn’t go far enough. Bathrooms designed for single sexes won’t be attended at all! How are we going to know if people are going out of their way to find a bathroom with an attendant instead of just using the single sex bathrooms in their town?

Say we call up a citizen for jury duty. At this time, transgender people can still serve on juries and vote, and we would hate to discriminate as long as these people are still legally citizens (you’re going to fix this soon, I presume). Our courthouse will likely have single sex bathrooms–we value law and order. Perhaps there’s a trans person serving–a guy, let’s say. He would have to hold it all day. He, of course, couldn’t use the women’s room in the courthouse, but we don’t really want a guy who looks like a woman in the men’s room.

That’s distracting and dangerous.

There have already been cases of actual women being attacked in women’s bathrooms because they didn’t look feminine enough. I mean, that’s partly their own fault, of course. Why did God invent makeup if not to help us out?

I’m sure once you think about it, you’ll agree that every bathroom needs a monitor!

Please consider this letter my application.

I will be able to bring many desirable qualities to this job.

First, I understand that to do a good job, I cannot judge on superficial traits. Have you seen trans porn? I’m been watching it a lot lately to understand these sick and twisted individuals. There are LOTS of men who pass as women, until they take off their panties.

Each body going into a bathroom will have to be checked–thoroughly!

I’ll be good at this for several reasons.

A. I do not get tired of looking at genitalia, as evidenced by my capacity to watch trans porn for hours and hours at a time.

B. I know that some men “tuck” their penises, so I might need to handle people’s genitalia to make sure it’s in the correct position. I’m willing to make this sacrifice.

C. From my extensive porn viewing, I also know that some men have micropenises (I’m sure you’ve seen a few around the capital!) and that some women have giant clits. Even with handling, it might not be possible to tell the difference. I’m willing to make an educated guess, though it might require a bit more than handling. If I think I’m doing a check of a clit, but semen comes out, I’ll know it’s a man and let him pass into the correct bathroom, confident that he’ll be unmolested by perverts once inside his stall.

D. Speaking of micropenises, I’m very good at keeping a straight-face. This will perhaps be my most valuable bathroom monitoring skill.

E. I’m also happy to keep a picture book of venereal diseases with me when I work, so that if I see something strange, the bathroom goer and I can match up the symptoms. (A lot of people are really concerned by your blessed work to defund Planned Parenthood and to separate people from their access to health care–regular checkups by bathroom monitors every time someone needs to go to Walmart will surely make people more comfortable about losing access to those egghead doctors.)

Of course, my physical examination still won’t be enough, which is why I’ll need to check everyone’s birth certificate when they come in–the original copy.

And I won’t consider those “Certificates of Live Birth”s! I remember when Obama tried to pull one over on us by showing us one of those!

My parents say I was born in Arizona. After learning of Obama’s deception, I checked–my own form has “Certificate of Live Birth” on the top. My parents won’t admit that they’re hiding something, so I’ve stopped speaking to them.

Don’t worry, though–I’m a red-blooded American, which is why I know transgender bathroom problems are the most important issues America faces–and I know you lawmakers agree, since you spend almost as much time thinking about other people’s genitalia as I do!

I’m going to get naturalized, though, just in case I was actually born somewhere else, if I can get my immigration attorney to return my calls–he keeps calling me crazy.

He’s probably worried that if I were born in another country, and then got lied to by my parents my whole life, that I won’t be able to fully embrace America.

In all honesty, I sometimes worry about that when I’m taking a porn break. I tell you what, though, I really hope I wasn’t born in Finland. They’re communist, of course, with their healthcare and whatnot. They probably think they’re better than us just because their kids always test the best. Well, as Donald Trump says, “I love the uneducated!” I learned once too that those wily Finns only have one pronoun.

Can you imagine? My daughter, if she were a Finn, could come home from school and say, “My teacher tried to teach us science again. Hän needs to read the Bible more!” How could I possibly be expected to understand this statement without knowing what kind of genitalia the teacher has?!

Speaking of genitalia again, did you know that 1 out of 1000 people is born with both kinds? The internet says they’re intersex–and that it’s actually a chromosome issue, instead of a choice.

I sometimes don’t know what to think about that. God doesn’t make mistakes, after all. Maybe those mothers took birth control or thought about taking birth control, and God punished them?

We’re going to have to figure out what to do with them. They probably have to pee sometimes too. This may require a whole new bill.

Also, while you’re thinking about bills, I would like you to consider another oversight in this one–as I mentioned before, we lived for ages without laws about who could be in what bathroom, but that means gay people have been in them with us this whole time!

If a girl pretending to be a guy can’t be allowed in the men’s room, why do gay men get to go in there? They might try to look at other men’s genitals, even though they aren’t self-trained bathroom monitors!!!

By now, you’ll have to admit it will take a very skilled worker to fill this position.

I am that worker, someone who understands that good Americans’ privacy in the bathroom is of the utmost importance! That’s why I am going to start checking genitalia right away. I trust you’ll be impressed by my initiative in this matter and will be contacting about my compensated employment soon!

The sooner the better–I really need to be able to write off my porn subscriptions as business expenses.

 

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2016 Wrap Up
Dec 31st, 2016 by Dr Karma

We all know the ways in which 2016 has sucked.

I’ve cried a lot more this year, over the deaths of heroes, over the death of reasonable elections, over the fear of how much worse it might get.

But there were good things in 2016.

Melissa Bender and I had a book come out.

I spoke at conferences in Spain, Sweden, London, San Diego, Portland, and Chicago (twice).

I saw Love and Information, The Deep Blue Sea, The Suicide, Aubergine, Keith Lowell Jensen, Emo Philips, Blackberry Winter, Macbeth, Igudesman & Joo, Mr. Burns, Women of Will, the Cashore Marionettes, Disgraced, To Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday, Frankenstein, Latin History for Morons with John Leguizamo, The Totalitarians, the opening of the Shrem Museum, and The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips.

I did guest lectures and interviews and stage talk backs. I taught courses that I love, films that I love, plays that I love, creative nonfiction that I love.

I taught 15 courses, got my first grad student through her PhD, mentored and performed with my stand-up students, got another Atwood journal out, started prepping for next year’s Oxford course, ran a program, and got chosen to run another.

I made old family favorites and tried new recipes, including my first shepherd’s pie, my first souffle, and my first carnitas. I made tons of soups and stews and proved the worth of my crock pot time and again.

I read books, saw movies, and binge-watched tv.
I recommend The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, Fool by Christopher Moore, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Crown, Stranger Things, Westworld, Deadpool, Shaun the Sheep, Arrival, Rogue One, Lady Dynamite, American Housewife by Helen Ellis, Galavant, Crow Lake by Mary Lawson, W1A, anything by John Scalzi, People of Earth, new comedy by Margaret Cho, Jim Gaffigan, Ali Wong, Dana Carvey, Louis CK, David Cross, Patton Oswalt (all on Netflix), World of Tomorrow (Netflix), The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Transparent, One Mississippi, and Hag-seed by Margaret Atwood–my favorite book in years.
I have survived another year.
I’m repeating to myself the lessons in World of Tomorrow: “Do not lose time on daily trivialities. Do not dwell on petty detail. For all of these things melt away and drift apart within the obscure traffic of time. Live well and live broadly. You are alive and living now. Now is the envy of all of the dead.”
And, like its protagonist, I am proud of myself for no longer falling in love with rocks.
Happy New Year!
2016, fucking fuck you:
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Voter Hypocrisy
Dec 17th, 2016 by Dr Karma

I can’t get over why reporters can’t get over voter hypocrisy.

There have been several moves Trump has made that could already be called executive over-reach or “pay to play.” Reporters interview voters/supporters and say, “But didn’t you say this was wrong? Why is it okay when Trump does it?”

The answer: “Well, what he’s doing is going to fix all these things.”

There is no admission of what the truth is: it’s okay when Trump does it. It’s not okay when Obama/Hillary does it.

That’s all.

We’ve all seen the videos of voters being read Hitler’s quotes and being told Trump said them. They love the ideas!

We’ve all seen the videos of voters being read Obama’s policies and being told they’re Trump’s. They love the ideas!

We are all guilty of this, to some degree.

For example, Republicans say they believe in small government decisions, favoring the state over the country, the city over the state, except of course when the small government passes pro-marijuana, anti-discrimination, or gun control legislation.

Generally, I’m a federalist, rather than a states’ rights person. I don’t think my rights should be different in different states or that I shouldn’t be able to ship wine to myself from one American place to another or that a lawsuit against someone basically falls away if they move across a state line.

But I love it when California tells the rest of you to go f yourselves sometimes (although of course I want the whole country to get more progressive, so we don’t have to be different) and, during difficult Presidencies, I tell foreigners that I’m from California when they ask. It automatically makes them like me more.

My hypocrisy is absolutely glaring in another way right now.

I believe in empathy, in Rogerian arguments, etc. And yet I cannot yet empathize with Trump voters. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to do so with those who are attacking people, who are threatening the Islamic center in my town, who are making me and my friends and my students angry and afraid.

Americans (and humans) have problems upholding their principles; no wonder we elect people without any.

 

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Paraphrase: The Taiwan Call [Updated]
Dec 3rd, 2016 by Dr Karma

Trump: “China is laughing” at us.

Trump: “I have the best brain.”*

Trump: “I think I know more about foreign policy than anybody running.”

[Taiwan calls. Trump the takes call.]

China: Um . . . you’re not supposed to do that.

Diplomats and all the rest of us who follow politics**: Um . . . doesn’t that threaten 40 years of policy?

Trump: It’s Taiwan’s fault! They called!

China: We’re not actually that upset about it. We know you have no idea what you’re doing, Mr. President-Elect. [not subtle tittering]

Thus, the prophecy is fulfilled.

Conservatives tell Democrats to stop freaking out. They say we can only be upset if we’re upset at Obama’s and Hillary’s foreign policy decisions.

Democrats stop rolling their eyes long enough to point out that this wasn’t a decision so much as a gaffe & a logical consequence to someone getting a job he’s not prepared for.

Trump’s team: Umm, no. We totally planned that. This was well thought out. You know, even though Trump said it was Taiwan’s fault–it was in the plan all along.

151107004521-china-taiwan-relations-rivers-jiang-pkg-00000127-large-169*I wanted to paraphrase these lines too–but there really wasn’t a way to dumb them down any further.

**This statement doesn’t take a side in the dispute–it just acknowledges there is one.

 

A few weeks ago, I published this on Facebook, but it’s another useful paraphrase:

Republican story: Obamacare is awful in every way. We’re gonna get rid of it and give you something better.
The story I’ve lived through: Republicans do nothing to help people get care for years and years. Millions and millions uninsured, sometimes because of pre-existing conditions.
Republican think tank comes up with a plan to cover everyone.
It gets implemented in Mass.
Republicans don’t want it to spread.
Obama basically uses that plan when he has to compromise & not give us a single payer option.
It gets called Obamacare.
It gets called evil.
Republican states sue so they don’t have to cover their poor people, even though the plan will SAVE them money.
They bitch, while my family and friends finally get healthcare.
Their new leader says it’s the worse thing that’s ever happened to America.
Their new leader gets elected.
He googles Obamacare, admits that most of it is awesome.
He and Ryan are going to “keep” a lot of it, but do some interesting things that will likely make premiums go way up.
They pretend to save us.
(Remember when they didn’t didn’t care about this problem at all? It took Obamacare to get them to DO ANYTHING.)

 

I also recommend my recent post/manifesto, if you haven’t read it yet.

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