Human happiness, the happiness of writers...questions by which we, in our age, seem enthralled...do not enter these pages.
What is important, what is essential, is that works of genius be created. In that writers' unhappiness interferes with their creation, one should be concerned with the happiness of writers. The important thing is that they must express reality; they must express their genius, not themselves. They must illuminate their own souls, but they must not allow the souls to get in the way of reality. For pitted against reality, against the great tradition of immortal literature, the self is puny; it is of no interest.
Mary Gordon, in the Foreword of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own
I’m nearing the end of my hillary: i see you art practice, but it’s okay. It’s time to move on to a less structured practice.
It’s also time to get back to submission projects that have become victims of my
distraction with the election. I mean, I’m a political junkie and the campaign
process has taken over much of the passionate focus I have. Probably because
this election represents two distinct sides. One side stands for inclusion and
decency and the other divisiveness and fear. I’m strongly anti-divisiveness and fear. And, friends, it’s time to
take a stand. It’s time to choose. Love or hate. Hope or fear. Energized for
good or anxious with anger.
what about that?
daily now, the news has a segment on people’s anxiety. They’re sick and tired,
journalists say. They’re depressed. I get it. Trump and his surrogates exhaust
and stress me out too. And I’ve had to stop and ask myself why his run for
office makes me feel so blue.
the start, Trump and his surrogates have gotten away with spewing bad ideas,
irresponsible policies, conspiracy theories, and lies. But the bullying and suggestions
of violence toward Hillary Clinton and her supporters is absolutely
intolerable. And it matters. It matters to all of us. Because when certain
groups become targets—the way we’ve seen people of color, the LGBTQ community,
immigrants, or those practicing a religion other than Christianity, or
practicing no religion at all, become targets—one must ask who will be next.
I’d say, very clearly, that women have become the most recent target. All
because we’re seeking equal representation at the highest level.
here, I won’t mince words: I’m NOT sick and tired of listening to Hillary
Clinton and her surrogates call out the bigotry, racism, ageism, and misogyny
being spewed by Team Trump. In fact, I want to hear more of it. From anyone and
let me tell you a story…
this week my mother and I stumbled into an odd verbal altercation between a
young man and woman outside a local café. They seemed to be in an argument, but
they weren’t yelling, or even talking much. Facial expressions gave away their
contempt for one another. Abruptly, the interaction ended when the man turned and
disappeared down the sidewalk. The woman, however, stayed near the café,
leaning on her car, talking on her phone. I commented to my mom that she might have
called the police, and within minutes, an officer did pull up. The woman pointed him in the direction the man had
gone, and once the officer left, the woman also drove away.
the people on the outdoor patio of the café breathed a sigh of relief. The
situation had ended and we could go about enjoying the great weather, sipping
drinks, and chatting. But twenty or so minutes later, my mom and I would be on
the receiving end of the man’s harassment.
the man approached, we were both somewhat prepared. The patio had cleared out
and I had two eyes on him. My mom went on alert when I got quiet and made a
face. Somehow, I knew he was going to engage us. I just sensed it. I ran
through what he could possibly say. Would he ask for money? Food? Is that what
he’d been trying to get from the other woman?
protective of both myself and my mother, I watched him, watching me. He was
clean-cut, wore nice clothes, carried an expensive-looking backpack. He was
tall, lean, muscular. As my fight-or-flight mechanism kicked in and my adrenal
soared, I knew—again sensing it—that he wasn’t in need of money or food. Instead,
he had an agenda. His expression said so—aggressive, hostile, determined. When
he stopped short of our table, I relaxed a smidge and let him speak first.
you see what just happened with that woman? Did you see her accusing me? She
thinks I was taking photos of her daughter.”
voice betrayed his anger, and when we said we didn’t want to get involved, he
took a step toward our table, interrupting us, raising his voice. “I’m telling
you I didn’t do that. Did you see?”
deepened my own voice and told him he needed to move along. This excited him
and his hostility grew. He rambled on. I interrupted him and told him he needed
to leave us alone. We didn’t want to talk to him. His face got red, but he took
a few sidesteps away from us. Then he turned and pointed at us. “I told you my
story. I told you!” He repeated this over and over.
sent me to my cell phone. If need be, I would also dial the police. And he knew
it. His face flushed again and his expression hardened. He leaned forward,
body tense, like he wanted to pounce. “What are… What are you going…”
trailed off and somehow gained enough composure to walk away. He ended up
inside the café. We ended up leaving. We also called the café and told them the
entire story so they could be on alert.
an interesting side note is that as this was going down a middle-aged man had
exited the café. He was obviously leaving, but according to my mom, he stopped
and waited. I hadn’t noticed—I was so focused on our harasser—but I think it
was incredibly kind of this gentleman to wait in the wings, in case the kid
threatened us further or wouldn’t heed our warning to, well, fuck off. Thank
you to this kind stranger.
to the point….
it comes to the story between the woman who called the police and the angry kid, who knows what the truth is. Maybe he had
been taking photos—they could or could not have been of the woman’s daughter.
He seemed to be a tourist and there was a park full of interesting sights and kids across the street. But here’s
the bottom line, men can NOT address women in this manner. EVER. There’s just
some basic biological differences that make aggressive behavior like this more
intimidating and scary for women. No matter who we are, where we come from, or
what we look like.
what I mean…
junior high, there was a tough girl who became the target of bullying on our
bus ride home each day. I’ll call her Everygirl.
was African-American and lived on the so-called wrong side of the tracks. She
was new to our bus route and school and
wore a serious expression from day one. Everygirl was also tall, with a sturdy
frame. She looked strong. She looked like she wouldn’t take any shit. This must
have presented as a challenge for some of the smart-ass Eddie Haskell types on
our bus because they began to tease her. I didn’t sit near them, so I don’t know
what they said, but they did get Everygirl to react. She’d toss insults back,
mouth off, and on occasion, puff up on them.
Good for her,I thought. After all, these boys had teased me a time or two.
Making fun of my crooked teeth, then my braces. According to them, I was on the
Itty Bitty Titty Committee. While So-and-So was the Rocky Mountains, I was the
Great Plains. Also, it was weird and gay of me to like The Cure when Van Halen was the band to
worship. I’d landed a few good comebacks in my time, but mostly I’d laugh it off or
ignore it. Because I could handle it. I got better grades than those boys and I
had okay self-esteem. But just okay. And some days, the things they said hurt.
So, I made a decision.
Every day it’s possible, I told myself. I’ll smile at Everygirl if she makes eye
knew it wouldn’t be often—Everygirl mostly kept her head down while getting on
and off the bus. And my opportunities would only come on the bus. She was a
year ahead of me in school and I rarely saw her in the halls. Still, I wanted
Everygirl to know I felt her pain, recognized her power, and understood her
that may sound noble and mature of me, but truthfully I was scared shitless to
do it and really didn’t know, if, when the opportunity came, I’d be able to go
through with it. The thing was, I’d noticed that Everygirl had developed a
dislike for some of the older, white girls on the bus, even exchanging harsh
words with a few. Also, she’d once given my friend and me a (very) dirty look
for sitting in a seat we didn’t know she’d claimed. It occurred to me that
Everygirl might see my smile as sarcasm and put me in the same category as the
others she disliked. Or the older girls might see me smiling at her and give me
a hard time.
the end, I didn’t get to smile or even grin at Everygirl more than a few times.
Because in the end, she stopped coming to school.
happened over a matter of weeks. First, the situation with the boys escalated
when a boy pushed her and she threatened to hit him with her umbrella. The bus
driver stepped in and some kids vouched for her and others for the boy. From
then on, the teasing almost always had a physical element and a couple of boys,
who picked on girls exclusively, had mastered subtle aggression. Flicking a bit
of paper at her, touching her shoulder or her hair. Everygirl tried to ignore
them, but sometimes, maybe on a bad day at school, she’d threaten to kick their
asses. The bus driver reported all this to the school and our Vice Principal
got on our bus one day and told us all to cool it. We had several calm days on
the bus, but the bullying started again in drips and drabs. Soon, Everygirl chose a seat near the bus driver. Her serious expression turned to a look of
defeat. And sadness. And then she was… Gone.
it the bullying? Or did her family situation make it hard to do well and/or
stay in school? I didn’t know. But I did know that even if her family situation
made it hard to attend school, the bullying on the bus only made it harder. And
on occasion, from the bus window, I’d see her in front of her house. Once, taking
out the garbage. That day the boys saw her too and yelled from the window. That’s when I wondered…
hadn’t the physical bullying been a bigger deal to the bus driver and VP, both
men? If it’d been me—a smallish, middle-class, white girl—would they have
stepped in from the beginning, the Umbrella Moment, and told those boys that
aggressive behavior toward anyone, especially girls, was unacceptable? What I
was asking myself was…
it the kind of girl Everygirl was
that made the adults think they didn’t need to do more to make the situation
it the kind of girl Everygirl was
that made those boys think their disgusting behavior wouldn’t harm her, and
ultimately, was okay?
here’s the thing. Because our physicality is so closely tied to our mentality,
if any victim—consciously or
subconsciously—believes they’re less physically powerful than their aggressor,
they’re more likely to back down from a non-physical but heated interaction.
But here’s the other thing…
bigotry, misogyny—these ugly attitudes have a unique affect on girls and women.
Because when girls or women become the target of racist, bigoted, or
misogynistic slurs or behavior our actual physical worth comes into question. We may look, sound, or act tough, but
deep inside we aren’t just questioning if we can win the fight, we’re
questioning whether we deserve to win
say that’s what happened to Everygirl. And I think that’s what happened to my
mom and me. The proof? The harassers stayed right where they were while
Everygirl and my mom and I fled the scene.
I’ll say it again. The time has come. The time has come to stop being blue and start voting blue. All the way down the
ticket, please. At the very least, go blue at the Presidential level. Go blue
and make Hillary Clinton the 45th President of the United States. Consider
it a do-over for all the fights we walked away from, for all the fights we
should’ve stayed for, for all the fights we deserved to win.
Four Days until Election Day & I'm still obsessed with the The Forty-Five Pin Project What Is It: A campaign button collection that includes 29 large pins & 16 sets of smaller pins (not shown) Who Made Them: Artists & Graphic Designers supporting HRC for President Why Did I Buy This: It's clever, makes me smile, and backs both my candidate AND artists... in other words, gongoozler art love at first sight (click on the link above to view the full collection & each artist)
It was rad. So rad, we often talk about how rad it all was.
So you know, we edit, but never censor. Not language or ideas or emotion.
In this edition: Elections, Inclusion, and Trumpkinhead
Zan: It’s fall!
Yesterday was Halloween! And we’re exactly one week away from Election Day.
Zan: And I was
thinking… Remember the 1988 horror flick, Pumpkinhead? Wouldn’t it be great to
modernize it and retitle as Trumpkinhead
- A Giant Orange-faced Puppet?
Max: Oh, that’s
Zan: It’d be
funny, but not. Like our current election. Do you remember any elections from
Max: Of course!
My mom made me help her campaign for Mondale/Ferraro.
Zan: Are you
serious? That’s amazing.
Max: Imagine how
wonderful things would be if they had won.
Zan: For one
thing, the topic of equality would’ve advanced more quickly.
Zan: So, what
kind of campaigning did you do?
Max: Mostly door-to-door.
I was twelve and handed out information on who to call if the person needed a
ride to vote.
efforts. That's so…now. Did you consider yourself a feminist, a liberal?
Max: No. I knew
what those things were, but… I don’t know. My mom was negatively impacted by
her feminism when she stood up with women who were victims of work-place
discrimination. They won, but that story followed her from job to job. Well, it
followed her from job interview to job interview. For years she couldn’t find
work, which was hard on us. Really hard. Anyway, I was sent out, alone, to
canvas the neighborhood and ask for votes. I didn’t think about being liberal
or feminist—though I was both. I feel like my mom only included me to impress
the other people campaigning. And most of our neighbors were African-American
and they were voting for Reagan—kind of surprising, thinking back on that—so I
Zan: Holy shit
for her! And double holy shit for you!
Max: Now, of
course, I know why I’m liberal.
Max: My son. There’s
a lot of bullshit out there to influence him to join the “us versus them”
movement. Like any teen, he’s on the Internet a lot and I worry he’ll stumble
upon Trump trolls that preach prejudice or tell him he doesn’t have a place in
this world anymore. You and I both know what that feels like—being different and
feeling like there isn’t a place for us. In the end, I’m lucky. My kid will ask
questions and I can talk him, knowing he’ll retain what I say. I just have to
hope he uses my advice when the time comes. Why are you liberal?
Zan: That exact
thing you just mentioned—inclusion. It’s innate in me to be inclusive, search
for solutions, and support ideas that make things better for everyone, not just
the few. In my experience, having those goals can be messy and create
opposition, because to include everyone takes a large mechanism. As I grew up
and learned about politics, I saw one party—Republicans—calling the large mechanism “big
government”. For as long as I remember, my gut instinct has been to say, “Big
government? I love big government.
It’s for everyone.” I won’t drag the conversation down with how so-called big
government can and should work. Instead, I’ll just add that my first memory of an
election is Carter/Reagan ‘80. Our class held a mock-election and I
was deeply conflicted. My family supported Reagan. Some interesting, smart, and
admirable kids in my class supported Carter. In the end, I cast my ballot for Reagan, but as we watched Election Day coverage at school, I
secretly rooted for Carter. He lost and I felt sad. I couldn’t name my
Max: Can you name it now?
Zan: Yeah. Easily. Ronald Reagan invoked fear as a campaign tool. At least for me, a third grader, the way he talked about nuclear war read as fear-mongering. And I knew fear. In my house it took on another form...fear of others. Which is really the same fear as Reagan's we-must-stop-foreign-nations-or-we'll-have-war fear. I knew behind the nations were people and Reagan was suggesting that those people were the enemy. That seemed ugly to me, and what I saw at home...family members making racist or sexist slurs...looked ugly. And I didn’t want to be ugly. I
didn’t want to be fear-full. And that notion of us-against-them had me looking around at my classmates. There were girls as smart and capable as boys. Boys as sensitive and gentle as girls. Kids
with different skin tones and socio-economic status, kids with disabilities. Different was everywhere. And these kids weren’t my enemies. They were my friends. We were in it together. It seemed so simple. It is so simple. Which is why Trump for
President really does sound like a scary movie?
Max: Trumpkinhead – A Giant Orange-faced Puppet
is a better title. So what’s this horror flick about?
Zan: I’m not sure.
You love this genre, so you can help. Do you remember Pumpkinhead?
Max: It’s been a
long time. Let me look it up. Okay. I’m googling it. Okay. Oh yeah. Pumpkinhead
is conjured as revenge. So, just like Donald Trump. And that’s a good place to
start. Meaning, who unleashes Trumpkinhead? Someone who wants revenge on
America, right? Or someone who wants revenge on some modern idea? Someone like a
As in anti-feminist? Did you make that up?
Max: Sadly, no.
It’s a real thing. An ignorant thing.
Zan: That is
sad. But I like the feminist angle. It suits us. What if we brand our
Trumpkinhead conjurer something more obvious though? Like, we can call him an inthekitchenist.
Max: Sexist and
humorous. I like it.
Zan: And Trumpkinhead’s
conjurer is hurt, angry. His pain is real, but his head is clouded. Like a
pumpkin—full of pulpy cobwebs and seeds. Of ideas. But nothing
useful. It’s too damp and dark in there and he’s too angry to sort through his
thoughts and take responsible action. So, like Pumpkinhead’s plot, the one who summons Trumpkinhead is confused and action
comes in the form of gruesome revenge.
Max: What’s he
Zan: He’s an
inthekitchenist, so when his dinner is burned because his wife isn’t
paying attention, he flips out. She’s doing something important, but he doesn't get it. Let's see, what important thing can she be doing?
Max: Scratch the
wife cooking. The inthekitchenist is cooking his own dinner. Because his wife has left him. She wanted to go
back to school and he said no.
Zan: He said,
“Over my dead body.”
Max: Right. And
his kids are grown and don’t come to visit anymore. He’s alone. In the kitchen.
Mumbling things like, “It’s this feminazi bullshit. This woman card crap. ‘But
I need more education, so I can get ahead,’ she says. More education my ass. And where does she need to get ahead to? She doesn’t need to get ahead to take care of her family. To take care of me.”
That’s the crux of the male Trump supporter too. He feels left out, left
behind, and not just by his wife or kids, millennials, but by any one who looks or thinks differently than him. They're all moving up in the world and he thinks nobody cares for him anymore.
Max: But we do
care for him. A lot. We care a lot for everyone.
Zan: Right. But
as I said, his hurt manifests as seething anger and confuses him. So, instead of looking inward and trying to grow as a person or join the movement forward, the movement of inclusion, he lashes
out. Everyone becomes the enemy. And now he's burned his goddamn dinner.
Max: And as the
kitchen fills with smoke, he coughs and curses. Behind him a pumpkin his wife carved
before she left sits on the counter and election coverage is on the television.
Zan: And the
inthekitchenist fans the smoke, but it doesn’t stop the smoke detector from
sounding. Inthekitchenist becomes enraged. He’s throwing things and ranting and
raving. So much so that he doesn’t notice the blue glow of the television shift from the
screen to the face of the pumpkin, where it becomes an orange glow.
suddenly the alarm silences and the pumpkin speaks.
Max: And then
Zan: Well, we’ve
seen this movie. We know how it ends.
Max: True. But
the vote could save us.
Zan: Yes. The
Max: Yes. If we get the vote, I think
we’re going to be okay. Zan: We are going
to be okay, aren’t we, Max?
Max: As long as
Trumpkinhead is the last of his kind. As long as some genius doesn’t decide to
make versions two through four, like with the movie Pumpkinhead.
Zan: Right. But
even if there are more of him, people will know better than to buy a ticket,
Max: Yes, now people know better than to pay attention to a pumpkin-headed puppet.