Farewell, Obama – but please don’t go too far

This is going to be a little different than my typical posts – or at least the more analytical bent I try to utilize in my work. This is more emotional. This is tough. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that some kind of strong denial has taken over me for the last couple months. I still can’t believe this is truly the situation we are facing. But here we are. This is not going to be the most eloquent – or anything close to it – but I needed to say something. I needed to write something, no matter how crappy. Hopefully I can write something more fitting of the subject later.

I’ve wanted to be able to delve more into the incoming administration – and started to – but it just got too hard. Day after day of hearing that those appointed to various cabinet positions have spent their careers either working against what those agencies do or have no knowledge of what they do (I’m looking at you Ben Carson) seems like a sick joke.

Back in 2007, I was in law school (worst mistake ever) and supported Obama. I never liked the Clintons, though my appreciation for Hillary grew over the last few months. Now I’m realizing what it is like to have a president you can truly be proud to call mine. I didn’t always agree with him, but Mr. Obama always represented our country with grace and dignity. I also would guess a lot of the things I disagree with him on were more complicated than I would know, after all, he is privy to far more information than we are and I appreciate and trust his intelligence.

The incoming shitstorm terrifies me. It’s not just the narcissistic, hateful buffoon who will soon hold the title of POTUS, but it is Mike Pence waiting in the wings. It won’t be long until Trump is shown the door or makes his own exit. I find it hard to believe he will last long.

I’m not here to talk about that, however, not tonight. Obama inspired me and gave me confidence in our future. That confidence is shaken now – far more than I expected. We saw eight years of steady progress, particularly for those of us in the LGBT community. We cannot thank him enough for his courage and support.

In his final speech tonight, there have been many points that remind me of how proud I have been to see this man lead us, but perhaps the greatest was his tribute to his wife and daughters that hit me the hardest. The Obamas have served us with grace, dignity and integrity and perhaps we took it for granted. All I can hope is that his voice continues to lead those of us who realize we need to pick up the torch and fight the good fight.

It’s going to be a hell of a fight, but we can’t ignore it. I’ll do my best to do my part and I hope everyone around me will hold me to that.

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A Cabinet of Deplorables (Part One)

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After November 8th, many people began speaking out about their fears surrounding Trump’s election. These were also met with people crying out, “He’s the president-elect, you have to give him a chance!” You definitely are still hearing this, but I think it is beginning to taper off some, after all – I don’t think we start giving him a chance once he is sworn in. This transition time is crucial and to anyone watching, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned. I’m not going to hit on all of this today (though part of me really wants to), but I’m going to go through the people he has thus far nominated to be in his cabinet. I think that should tell us quite a bit about where we are headed with that man at the helm of our country. I also think it is important to acknowledge the major power that Mike Pence has in this upcoming administration, which I believe is illustrated by many of these picks.

So, let’s take a good hard look at the men and women who will purportedly be running this country in a matter of months. I’d suggest you grab yourself a healthy glass of whiskey. In fact, I’ll be right back, I think I may do just that…

…alright, so let’s dig in, shall we?

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A New Kind of Monkey House

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When I started this site a while ago, I wasn’t really sure what direction I was going to go in with it. I’ve regularly written about sports since high school, but had long tired of it. I originally thought it might be a good place to start sharing some of my fiction, but it quickly became a space for me to semi-rant about the state of the world. That’s not going to change, rather, I am embracing that focus. Especially, considering where things are now.

On more than one occasion during this past election, I wondered aloud, “Are we sure we aren’t actually just in a Kurt Vonnegut novel?” It was a joke at first, but ever since November 8, 2016, it is either less funny or – true. The latter may be the better option. Given I got the title for this site from Vonnegut’s short story collection and have used his quote “How embarrassing to be human” as my tagline, there is no question in my mind that this is how this site is meant to be used.

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Why We Won’t Be Quiet

When you’ve watched a candidate for president base his platform on singling out specific groups of people who have historically been oppressed and, in doing so, mobilizes groups of people who now feel like they are allowed to target those marginalized groups openly again, it is scary enough. When you are one of the people who has spent your life aware that you are viewed as less than, aware that you aren’t respected by some, simply because of who you are, you are allowed to be terrified. When you spend your life on constant alert, wondering whether each person you meet is safe for you to be around, when you have friends who have been beaten just because they dare to exist, when you spend every week reading about the kids who kill themselves because their churches and their families don’t accept them and tell them they are wrong and that they are worthless, you understand that the fear that people are expressing isn’t about politics anymore. It is about our day to day lives. And it is legitimate. We aren’t playing the victim, you just got used to treating us like that.

Many of you are lucky and will never need to know what it is like to experience those things on a daily basis – and I’m glad you don’t have to. It sucks – and I recognize that I still have it easier than many. Those fears are constant and they are exhausting, but we adapt to that existence because we have to. We’ve tried to be polite, we even avoid these unpleasant topics by hoping that you’ll be encouraged to learn simply by getting to know us as fellow human beings. It didn’t work. We still are targets and you just sit by quietly because we don’t talk about such things. Christ didn’t do that. He was in the dirt, he was in with all the rejects, he told us to love everyone and to be there for the vulnerable and the needy, regardless of who they were. Where is the Christianity when instead, as we cry out in fear and pain, you keep telling us to be quiet? Where is the humanity there? So, yeah, we are angry because I am tired of having to look over my back all the time or worry about bringing up something uncomfortable. I’m tired of having to defend my humanity because no one else will. I’m tired of reading about dead kids who only felt hate from the world. I love you all and hope eventually we can all get along, but so long as you want to stick your head in the sand and tell us to be quiet, I don’t have the energy for that. I’ve got a lot of other work to do.

When you’ve written a Facebook rant, but you aren’t sure whether to post it…

So, a wonderful friend of mine posted this meme listing off what makes someone a dictator with Donald Trump’s face on it. She then mentioned to me that it sucked to find out who supported “T-Demon,” as she has accurately dubbed him, via a comment on her post. The comment itself was exactly what you would expect, rife with grammatical and spelling errors, unsubstantiated claims (or they came from Trump…so unsubstantiated claims), and misinformation. It started by saying, sure Trump might be a narcissist, but he’s no more of one than Obama. Apparently, he doesn’t see any of Trump’s actions as cruel and Hillary is selfish and the Clinton foundation only gives 10% to charity…then we bashed immigrants and Muslims for a while….you get the picture. I was encouraged by my friend to post a response. I’ve written it…maybe later I’ll post it on the page itself, but for now, feel free to read my rant – complete with sources, unlike the comment I was responding to. It’s not as short as I meant it to be.

From the Mayo Clinic: “Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultraconfidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.” This is Trump to a T, inflated sense of importance, need for admiration, lack of empathy, oh and particularly the part about fragile self-esteem. Obama is pretty damn good at taking, responding to and laughing off (when necessary) criticism that comes his way and he has certainly had to face plenty of it – particularly given the amazing amount of racism alive and well in this country. As far as I know, Obama doesn’t have to put his name in massive letters all over everything he does, but we know how much Trump likes to see his name all over everything. He is a business man who made himself a celebrity and has been in the spotlight for decades, yet he acts like a spoiled six year old anytime anyone says anything remotely “mean” about him. Yeah, real leader material there. We have seen Obama show empathy many times and he has a great grasp of it and its importance, but Trump doesn’t want to hear anything if it isn’t about him or his money. You gave a couple examples of good things you presumably know he did, and he may have actually done those things (probably for the press) or maybe he just says he did. You also claim to not see anything he has done as cruel – which may say more about you than him, I don’t know. I do know he used all sorts of wonderful ways to get an elderly widow removed from her house of 30 years so he could turn it into a limousine parking lot. Or maybe you missed when he mocked a disabled reporter, a move that wasn’t only cruel towards that man, but anyone who struggles with a disability. That’s the sign of a great leader there – oh wait, no, I was thinking of spoiled, immature bully. Yeah, what a man of the people he is! If you love money more than people – he’s your guy, but he will still probably screw you over, as shown by the myriad of people he has already done that to. These are the hardworking Americans that our politicians love to hold up as the reason America was so “great” before, yet Trump loves to not pay them for their hard work-  because he can – because he doesn’t care about anyone other than Trump and his money, which allows him to break all the rules. Perhaps he thinks he’s just going to refuse to pay down the deficit and that’s how he will get rid of it – no, that’s not going to work or happen in the real world. But he has given all that money to charity right? Or at least you are implying he is far more charitable than the Clintons (who quite frankly I also think are pretty horrid). Turns out that he hasn’t given nearly the money he has claimed. In fact, I think in the end the money they thought they found he had donated was actually a different Donald Trump. The Clinton Foundation may have some questionable credibility, but from what I can tell it is no Trump University or any of the other potential fraudulent businesses Trump claims benefit charity and add to the unending number of lawsuits he is involved in. No wonder he’s too afraid to release his tax returns – as candidates always do. I’m tempted not even to get into all the immigration stuff – as you are just using the typical fear based BS that gets pulled out all the time by people who don’t do their own research. Here are some actual facts about immigrants though:

  1. In 2013, they added about $31.4 billion to the GDP and they typically end up paying $120,000 more in taxes than the amount of welfare/benefits they consume.
  2. Even unauthorized immigrants contribute over $11 billion in state and local taxes.
  3. Immigrants were founders of 18% of Fortune 500 companies.
  4. Contrary to popular (mis)belief unauthorized immigrants and immigrants on temporary visas are not eligible for most public benefits and even those that are eligible use it at a lower rate than eligible citizens born here. Low-income immigrants come here for better opportunities – they are some of the hardest working people you will meet because they truly appreciate the chance – I’ve seen this in action many times. I’d posit that they are often more motivated than their US born counterparts.
  5. But that doesn’t matter because the vast majority of them are criminals after all, right? Between 1990 and 2013 the estimate of illegal immigrants tripled from 3.5 to 11.2 million – so clearly the crime rate went up…except that the FBI data shows violent crime went down 48% – with robbery, rape, and murder all declining as well. Oh, property crimes also went down an impressive 41%.
  6. The idea that Trump can build this wall between the US and Mexico is hilarious – except people think he can do it. It won’t happen and it would be a massive waste of money (no, he can’t get Mexico to pay for it – international politics isn’t the same as board room politics). Also, the idea that he can ban immigrants who are specifically Muslim is constitutionally questionable at best, but if it happened you would have the perfect example of America once again going back on what is supposed to be good about this country. The fact that the vast majority of us come from immigrant backgrounds (however our families made it here, good or bad) is supposed to be one of our strengths.
  7. The idea of how easy it is to get into this country is also ridiculous – seriously, look at this flowchart. Having studied immigration law in law school and having friends who specifically practice that – there is nothing remotely easy about it. You don’t just send in an application and a few weeks later are cleared to move.
    8. ISIS is a problem in a multitude of ways and while they may rarely slip through the various immigration screening processes, we should be more concerned about the way ISIS recruits people who were born and raised here. That seems to be one of their strong points and quite frankly, the rhetoric coming from Trump is likely only helping their cause.

Trump is a bully and a crybaby – it’s embarrassing to see him represent our country as an “entertainer” (if you can call his reality crap entertainment) never mind as any type of elected official. I wouldn’t want to see him voted as the town dog catcher, never mind President. Would he be a dictator? Who knows, personally, I think when he realizes that Congress and the rest of government don’t have to do exactly as he says, unlike all his business partners, lawyers, etc – who show time and again that they will just do whatever he wants to stay on the Trump gravy train – he’s either going to find a way to quit, but assuming his massive ego won’t let him – maybe the dictator thing isn’t so far fetched.

Where I No Longer Can Avoid the Election

 

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Just about every day, I struggle to not post numerous rants regarding the current Presidential election. Sometimes I am able to refrain because I know what I want to say is being said by many others, other times – and much more frequently – I find myself so overwhelmed by all the things I want to say that I end up not writing anything. Which I think may be one of the most frustrating feelings in the world. Hopefully, this will be somewhat coherent, but I apologize in advance if it deteriorates into an exasperated rant. I want to dive much more in-depth with a lot of these topics, so this may end up being an introduction to another series of posts – if writing them doesn’t make me lose my mind first!

I’m sure I’ll rehash plenty of things that others are saying, and thank goodness for those other voices. Sometimes things seem so absurdly out of control that I feel like all I’m doing is screaming into some void that sucks up all logic and reason. I’ve wasted too much time and energy in my life trying to have conversations with people who just aren’t going to listen or try to engage in a productive discussion. A couple of years ago I decided to stop wasting my time like that, more so because of the physical toll I could feel it taking on my body. I thought this would be a good way to negate some of the frustration, but instead I think it just built it up more. Regardless, I continually find myself trying to figure out why it is different people think the way they do. I can’t say I’m not judgmental, I’m human and we all have those tendencies, but I’ve long been intrigued as to why people do the things they do – I think it is my inner writer. My training as a lawyer helps with this as well, but I don’t like to talk about such unpleasant things…or something.

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The “Biblical” Definition of Marriage: Genesis (Part Four)

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I must admit, I wasn’t prepared for just how much I ended up writing about Abraham and Sarah, and we aren’t quite done with Abraham, though the focus of Genesis has shifted to Isaac. Sarah has died and Abraham is quite old, so he sends out a servant to go back to his country to find a wife for Isaac. He is adamant that Isaac is not to either marry a Canaanite woman, even though this is the only home Isaac has ever known, or go back to Abraham’s homeland. The servant does as he is told and sets up outside the town well and asks God to basically send him a specific sign so that he will know which woman to approach on Abraham and Isaac’s behalf. Enter Rebekah, the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother, Nahor, who we are assured is both beautiful and a virgin.

Right off the bat, there are a few things here that I find concerning. Abraham’s apparent strong feelings against intermarriage, for example, I’m sure was a big part of why places like Bob Jones University felt theologically justified in banning interracial dating until 2000. The reasoning for Abraham’s requests never seems particularly clear, though he explains it by saying that God told him that Isaac would have the land of Canaan. This seems counterintuitive to me. On the one hand, Abraham wants Isaac to have a wife that comes from their homeland, yet he won’t allow Isaac to go back there. On top of the nationality (for lack of a better word) requirement, we are looking at an arranged marriage that comes about because of the preordained sign supposedly picked by the servant.

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The “Biblical” Definition of Marriage: Genesis (Part Three)

I remember when I thought I might cover Genesis in one – or maybe two – posts. Clearly, I was confused, as Genesis has a lot to say (or not say, as I will argue) about marriage. So far, I have discussed Adam and Eve and the creation stories, and followed with a look at Noah and the Great Flood. Today, I will move on to Abram and Sarai (eventually known as Abraham and Sarah), one of the most important Biblical couples, especially as their story ties together the three major Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The story of Abraham and Sarah is important not just because of their role in three of the world’s major religions, but also for giving us a look into what marital (and other romantic/carnal/sexual) relationships looked like at the time. In fact, this story has quite a lotto it, so I am hoping I’ll be able to hit on all of it in just one post. To help, I will be focusing again on those aspects of Abraham and Sarah’s stories that are pertinent to our search for a definition of “biblical” marriage.

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In Genesis 12, we first meet Abram (outside of the genealogical section of Genesis 11), who is 75 years old and being told by God that he must leave his “father’s house” and go to some unspecified land. God then promises, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” Abram, Sarai, Lot (Abram’s nephew), and “the people they had acquired in Haran” set out for Canaan. There is a reason I noted the language about the others traveling with this group. We know that slavery and other similar constructs was very much a part of the culture, but it is worth pointing out how this plays out in the dynamic between men and women. Women are very much property at this point in time, and the way Abram’s relationships play out reinforces that theme. God also follows this up with the promise that the childless Abram will have offspring that will inherit the land of Canaan.

Update

I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from writing here over the last few months, due to a plethora of reasons. Mostly, I blame my work schedule and the dark and dismal days of late-fall/early-winter in the frigid wasteland where I currently reside. It can be really hard to get myself to write after work when it’s already pitch black outside at 4:30pm and all I want to do is cook up some tasty food, snuggle with my special lady and have a Harry Potter marathon.

My plans to write further took a hit last month when I had to rush down south to say goodbye to my grandfather. He lived a long life and gave us so much to be proud of, but it was a very intense few days. He fought hard until the end and reminded us why we are such a stubborn bunch – for good or ill. Someday soon I hope to write more on that experience – but for now it’s just way too painful, though it was not without its positive aspects. All of that suffices to say, the Monkey House has been a little quiet these days, but soon (hopefully tonight?) I should resume posting more regularly. Thanks for reading.

Now playing the role of Petulant, Spoiled Children: Adults!

When did it become not just acceptable, but perhaps even encouraged that adults act like petulant, spoiled children? No, really. If anyone can give me an answer to this question that would be great, because with each passing day I am continually floored by the way grown human beings (it seems wrong to call them adults, as that connotes some sort of maturity) act in public, and  rarely is there any response that would act to deter this behavior.

This is hardly a new thought, but as the 2016 Presidential election continues I am struck by how no one seems to blink twice at the way many of the candidates actions mimic those of a spoiled child. In a lot of ways, I equate this with the fact that we are such a young country that has garnered far too much power and wealth too quickly. It is a theme I’ll probably be exploring quite a bit when I start to roll out my new fiction project.

Donald Trump, and his inexplicable success in the race thusfar (though apparently Ben Carson has surged ahead – a prospect I find even more terrifying), is the perfect example of how the political discourse in this country right now might be better served if we just handed it over to fifth graders. Why fifth graders, you ask? Because according to this analysis from the Boston Globe, Trump speaks at a fourth grade level – at least when it comes to his campaigning. My guess is in real life it’s probably closer to a third grade level with some swears thrown in. But I digress – the point of this post isn’t to continue to rail on Trump and Carson – so long as they continue to be successful, I’ll need to keep some material in reserve.

The incident that prompted this post actually has to do with the Omaha Public School system – and this story makes Trump and all the other clowns look downright hospitable. A couple weeks ago, the Omaha Public School system hosted a meeting to inform the public and discuss the new sex education curriculum, which hadn’t been updated in thirty years. As one writer put it, the last time Omaha changed their sex ed curriculum no sitting President had publicly used the term “AIDS.” By and large, it appeared that most parents supported the measure (97%) and only a quarter of them were concerned by a segment of the new curriculum. Not surprisingly it (we are talking about Nebraska, after all), the part that a few people objected to was the section on gender identity, sexual orientation and similar topics.

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