Wednesday, October 19, 2011


It always surprises me when people don't understand why they shouldn't use the expression "illegals." It reminds me of arguments I used to have with my grandmother when she'd talk about "that colored fella." I start off gobsmacked and then recognize that I'm only being asked to explain the offense because the other party is defensive and looking to project their guilt the other way (which is pretty much the ne plus ultra when it comes to right-wing propaganda).

That said, I'm happy to explain. It's why I blog!

The phrase "illegals" is designed to evoke a certain people. It is not meant to describe anyone walking around in a state of illegal activity. We didn't refer to Jack Abramoff or Ken Lay as "illegals," despite the deep, damaging quagmire of illegality they subjected the whole fucking country to. Nor do we refer to people who fail to pay taxes as "illegals," (mostly, we call them 'Republican Donors'). Shoot, I bet when you heard Rick Perry and Mitt Romney trying to out "illegal" each other, no one even pictured that cute Australian guy you used to know with the expired student visa.

No, the phrase "illegals" is meant to evoke a very particular kind of person. I'm actually surprised that Herman Cain didn't bust out a phrase like "Senor Illegal," since his since of humor is just that sophisticated.

The phrase "illegal" is artful and does exactly what it's meant to do: strip the humanity away from the person it's ascribed to so that we* can feel OK about sending them back to Mexico, away from their homes. This way, we can ignore the fact that deportation rips husbands away from their wives, and mothers away from their children. It's not a real person who's lived here for twenty years, it's not a part of a community. It's not some American teenager's Mom. It's an "illegal," not an actual person that we are sending back to a kind of poverty that we don't understand in this country (yet...).

And, while we're at it with these goddamn illegals (who are also called "parasites" because the most important thing is that this is not a person), let's talk about those anchor babies who've lived here for 17 and a half of their 18 years. You know, there was a plan to let them join the military for a couple of years in exchange for legal status. Well, fuck those guys! No matter how much service you give to our country, you're still an illegal parasite. Go back to that place I'll call your home even though you've never fucking lived there.

And, as a special added bonus, we can hurl about the invective "illegals" as an easy peasy way for the rest of us to feel smug about our own legal status. After all, our ancestors followed the proper channels to get here! It doesn't matter that what constituted a "proper channel" back in the old days was to jump on a boat and get herded through Ellis Island, after which you could look forward to spending a great deal of time getting shit on by the nativist, xenophobic assholes who'd been here longer. Nativist, xenophobic bullshit is our birthright, motherfucker! My grandfather didn't stare down a "No Irish Need Apply" sign just so some illegal Mexican could wash dishes at the Denny's.

I got ranty. Sorry. This phrase "illegals" makes me very angry. But let me try to appeal to the better angels of the nativist, xenophobic right-wingers out there: you know who you sound like when you get all snobby and paranoid about the extant culture of the country? You sound like the fucking French is who you sound like. Enjoy your freedom fries.

*I say "we" here purposefully. As a supporter of the president, I count too on the wrong side of this rant. Obama's record on deportation is shameful. And cruel. And stupid. He broke up all those families and sent all those people away from their homes so he could look tough on immigration to a bunch of nitwits who don't even believe he's a real American. I hope he gets better on this in his second term.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Teach Your Children (all of them.. both genders) Well

I was watching TV as I put together some packets for my Girl Scout meeting tomorrow (I still find it so surprising that I run a Girl Scout troop) when the innocuous sit com I was watching faded into the execrable Two and a Half Men. As has been stated on many occasions, I am an optimistic woman by nature, but the fact that that show is so overwhelmingly popular makes me almost as nervous for the future of humanity as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch does. That's not true... nothing scares me as much as that garbage patch and that's the truth, so let's focus on somewhat less terrifying piles of garbage.

The cold open joke was one about how men have the money and women reciprocate for money with sex because hahahahaha. I turned the TV off.

As a girl and as young woman, I totally accepted as gospel that boys want sex more so girls are responsible for saying no to the boys who are too overwhelmed by lust to be trusted to have good judgement. Girls are taught that... not necessarily by their parents, but by American culture at large. It's endemic. Or it was.

Fortunately, feminism has made great strides and there are lots of good feminists out there (male and female) raising good feminist kids.

So here's what you tell your kids (full disclosure: I read this on Jezebel and it struck me like a bolt out of the blue how simple it is... but I couldn't find the link because I didn't look very hard): no one should feel coerced into sex. Period. That's it in a nutshell. No one should have sex because they feel like they ought to. No one should feel like sex is something they're doing for someone else. No, please, baby, please, Imgonnadieifyoudon't. No, justforasecondbabyplease. No, ifyoulovedmeyouwould. All of that is coercive and it is rapey as hell.

To be very serious here, protecting your children against the rape culture (it's a real fucking thing, get over your defensiveness about it) does not mean teaching your daughters how to avoid rape; it does not mean lecturing your daughters about how they need to be careful about how they dress and where they go. It means educating your children (both genders) about the toxicity of coercion, in all its forms. It's about putting the responsibility for rape onto rapists - not victims of rape.

And, as a special bonus, you can tell your nephews or little brothers (honestly, this is not something anyone really wants to hear from Mom or Dad) that the great grand secret of the no-coercion rule is that they will not only get laid more, they will have much better (and more) sex. Because that old cliche about sex and pizza? Not true: there is bad sex and there is bad pizza.

So, remember this: our goal for our children's sexual education should not be to teach boys to respect and girls to protect female virtue; it should be to teach all our kids to respect the autonomy of their partners and their right to make their own decisions.

Sex isn't something girls give to boys, it's something girls and boys (and boys and boys and girls and girls) do with each other.

That is all.

Friday, October 14, 2011

My Hero!

Good googly moogly, you guys! Have I really not blogged for THIS long? I blame Laney - she's been going to bed later these days and by the time she finally hits the hay, I'm usually about done for. Plus Dr. Who is streaming on Netflix, and I just got to the David Tennant seasons. I love him.

But I've started many blogposts in my head during my long days, and through the various hazes of my various fatigues. But I wanted to write tonight to talk about my heroes.

It's long been my Middlemarch inspired philosophy that it's the small the simple expressions of humanity that make for real heroes. Like my neighbor, Jonathan, who came into my house in order to dispose of a tiny, almost dead baby mouse. Because not only did he dispose of the wee thing for me, he also went well out of his way to make me not feel stupid for being afraid of dealing with it myself. And then he had the kindness to express some regret for the death of this tiny thing. Little things like that count for a lot, I think. I am lucky to have such nice neighbors. And I will always believe that people who will just be kind when they don't have to are the real heroes of this world.

But sometimes the big gestures count too. And I cannot help but be overwhelmed by those people who've camped out overnight for a month and led marches and made their voices heard and who are, I really think, forcing us away from what I'd thought was a depressingly inexorable drift to the meannest right-wing ethos of America, to an eventual complete capitulation to the fucking plutocrats. These people have stood up, sacrificed convenience and ease, to say, "This isn't fair, this isn't the American dream, and I think the American Dream is something worth fighting for."

Because, you know, it seemed like for about ten years now, we lefties had sat back, wryly commenting on how incredibly fucked up the country had gotten. And, I enjoy a little wry commentary. But it doesn't really do anything except remind you that you're smarter than the poor saps who were willingly embracing it.

So, Christ on a cracker, I am fucking THRILLED to see the left move away from sarcasm and wryness and on into almost embarrassing earnestness. When I saw an amazing, idealistic, passionate crowd unabashedly singing along to This Land Is Our Land (god, I love that song) with Tom Morello, I got a little weepy and thought, well, the sarcastic, ineffective, smug worm has finally turned.

So, here's my cry to the heavens: the American Dream isn't that anyone can be president, anyone can be a millionaire. That's a stupid misinterpretation. The American Dream is that anyone can make it here. You don't have to be born into wealth to have a nice life. We are all supposed to be able to do better than just get by. The American Dream is that you can work, have a home, and go to a doctor when you're sick. The American Dream is that you can raise a family, which means getting to spend some time with that family too. The middle-class IS the American Dream. And those hippies in Zucccotti Park, that's what they're fighting for.

And I, goddammit, I salute them. Their earnestness is worth more than all the sarcastic commentary in the world.

(but let's keep the sarcastic commentary coming to... I mean, I like that too).