Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Ok, I’ve just gotta throw this into the conversation, because it is something that was really powerful for me when I heard it:

Jesus was not advocating Doormat Christianity when he said “turn the other cheek.”

He was preaching to slaves, remember, an oppressed people who would be punished by their masters with a backhanded slap. Equals, when they hit each other, slap with the palm of their hand.
Look at your right hand. Think about backhanding someone in front of you. What cheek do you hit? The right cheek.

Imagine being hit by the back of the hand of your “master”… and then turn your face to offer  the left cheek.

It isn’t a “please sir, can I have another” statement. It isn’t even (just) a “I will not let you see me cry” statement.

It is a “treat me like a fucking equal” statement. Hit me, fine, but hit me like a fucking equal because we are equals in God’s eye.

If that isn’t exciting enough for you, here’s another story. You might be familiar with “if a man asks you to carry his bags a mile, carry it for two.”

This story has lost a lot in translation, too. Again, this isn’t Doormat Christianity. It isn’t advocating you revel in your forced servitude. Because the Romans were really good at empire, they knew they mustn’t abuse the folks they oppressed *too* much. The law was that a Roman soldier could get a local to carry his bags for a mile—but no more than that. If they demanded more than that, the soldier could get in trouble.

So, imagine you’ve just had the local soldier boy demand you carry his bags a mile towards his barracks. Fine. Carry them. Then keep carrying them right up to his sergeant and point out you’ve carried them two miles. Get the soldier in trouble with his superiors for abusing his privileges.

There are more stories like that, but those are the two best (imho).

Please remember them when you talk about pacifism. Jesus was a lot of things. But he wasn’t an advocate of being a doormat.

Full Disclosure

When I first marched with OWS in the second Saturday of the occupation, I was troubled and confused because marchers would suddenly leap out of the march and start filming. It upset me, because I believed in the otherness of the press.

I need to unpack that belief now, a little: My family admired The Press and worked within it on and off for years. (We’re writers; journalism is a respectable way to spend one’s time writing that also involves a regular paycheck.) My first byline was in 4th grade, when I wrote a snarky version of the Christmas Story and the local newspaper published it Christmas Eve. *bliss*

What I believed in was the rule that reporters held themselves above and outside events so that they could more critically and clearly show the world what was going on. If you get too close to your subject, after all, you can no longer claim you are showing the objective truth. Like smearing Vaseline on your camera lens, the bonds of affection or gift-debt cast doubt on the veracity of the story you are trying to “get” …or tell or share. (Different verbs motivate different reporters.)

When I became a journalist for realz, though, I was hamstrung by that belief. With no connections to people, and no exciting events to cover in our little town, I became a press release re-writer. It wasn’t the important job I expected it to be, but the paper had to get filled somehow and my by-line was all over it. Not ever as a cover story, but I wasn’t interested in the glory of it anyway. I wanted to share helpful information with our audience.

Later, in London, I saw that my fellow journalists did make connections with people. …Mostly through pub crawls and PR bunnies. Since I was a teetotaler and a girl, that left me out of those information loops. I continued to re-write press releases, with an occasional data-driven story, but with a vague sense that I was not ever going to “get” a really *juicy* story, because I was trying so hard to be objective.

Because I was specifically trying not to create bonds that would affect how I told the story, I never got The Story. (Though I did get a lot of swag. PR Bunnies will send you neat stuff in the mail whatever your sex.) Still, it was a commitment that I had kept for my self-respect as a journalist.

When I marched with OWS, I was a marcher. It felt wrong and strange and odd that others could slip between marcher and observer and marcher again with such ethical ease. I was suspicious.

And yet, without them recording themselves and each other and me there would have been no story to get: The women who got pepper sprayed would not have made it into the collective national story if there had not been a camera filming for every couple of marchers shouting.

The ubiquity of cameras, especially after Liberty Square became a tourist destination, became problematic (for me). Yes, people were living their lives in public—but it was uncomfortable for me, who slipped in and out, to have all these cameras shoved in my face (and all these reporters shoving themselves in my way as they took pictures of others—the privileging of journalists’ right to get their story was troubling to me, when it seemed to be more important than my right to exist and movefreely in this shared space), so I expect it was no picnic for the full-timers.

When my fellow marchers or even tourists held cameras, I felt like part of a silly spectacle. Worst case, I’d be the butt of an Internet joke. It felt mostly safe, because they usually smiled and I felt like they were One of Us. The illusion of safety was removed when the camera was held by an unsmiling cop; then, it became an obvious and clear threat. Cameras are like guns in that way: they may be neutral tools; but it really does matter who is holding them. You have to trust the person pointing at you, or you can lose your life. At least the cops are clear on who they stand with.

As Occupiers move through the grey waters of alternative journalism and alternative modes of creating and judging and living, it can feel like a betrayal when someone makes a different decision than you would on the sliding scale of law and justice and need and comfort.

It is hard and it is painful, especially after the big betrayals of “get a degree and it’ll be ok” “get a mortgage and it’ll be ok” “get lighter skin and it’ll be ok”… so many stories they told us, and the stories were lies. It hurts so much.

One more betrayal can feel like the last straw.

I’m still not sure I understand all the implications of transparency, and what it means to other people. I don’t know if privileging people who are recording events over people who are making events is healthy—and whether that dichotomy between observed and observer even makes sense in these post-modern times.

We are all out there making history in our own ways, right?

But what seems clear to me is that the first thing a reporter should be clear about to their potential audience is themselves: Who are they? What motivates them? Where do they get their funding? When are they not able to tell the whole story? Why are they out here, anyway?

I’m still not a wonderful journalist, but I am what I am: good cook, Protest Mom, human mic.
I am motivated by the dream of a future where my children (and yours) can have a better life even if it isn’t an easier life.
I am funded by my husband, who really does support me in so many ways, and I can’t tell you the rest of the story both to protect his privacy and his job.
I am here because this is where I need to be. For my family, for our non-terrifying collective future, and for my self-respect.

…And for the food. Try the grey stuff, it’s delicious.

Friday, January 27, 2012


So this vacation to Florida has been a little traumatic. I broke my Wal-Mart cherry the first day we were here—yes, I managed to live a full and reasonably-priced life to the ripe old age of almost-36 without ever buying anything from Wal-Mart before—and then I spent a day in the Magic Kingdom.


It’s not just that I occupied Wall Street (er, in an occasional but passionate way) before (and after) it was cool. I’ve always been suspicious of Wal-Mart, as I grew up on K-Mart clothes and I’m conservative in my cheap polyester tastes. And I’ve always been a little uncomfortable around Mickey and his silent dog. 

Mickey’s not Doggist, why his best friend’s a dog! …but he also keeps one as a pet.


But here I am, trying to raise my consciousness and be a citizen, not just a consumer… and then I willingly stepped into the heart of the consumer-centric Beast. It’s worse, I actually paid good money to meet The Mouse.

I was really not looking forward to full immersion.

Me to my sister: “It was not as bad as I’d hoped, nor as wonderful as I feared”

The Wal-Mart we visited was clean and was just a supermarket with extra wide aisles and a very small produce section. (Organic? What’s that? Look, lady, you get to have your choice between two kinds of cucumber. Be grateful and move on.) I bought my swimsuit and my salad fixings and I did not feel the pain of the soul getting sucked out of my eyeballs. Nor did the tired people around me look any different than the tired people at home. (Well, maybe on average they were ten or 15 years older, and definitely whiter…. But maybe that says more about Florida than Wal-Mart.)

It was just a place, a space that I walked through. It kind of removed the naughty edge that Wal-Mart had in my head.

It occurred to me that it isn’t special, and does not wield unnatural power over me, unless I make it so.

Then we went to Disney.

They did not make me wear ears or force me to smile to gain entry. The guy who searched our purses before we were allowed inside the Magic Kingdom called the old lady in front of me and the little girl behind me, both, “Princess” but seemed to have an excellent self-preservation instinct and just sort of silently grimaced at me.

When the boys and I accidentally got into a line that was a forced photo op with Disney Characters, I whispered “I’m sorry” into Minnie Mouse’s plastic ear. But, you know, she was in Character and so couldn’t say anything back.

There were typos on the Walt Disney quotes that were framed around the construction of the next new themed area. The ubiquitous staff were, indeed, ubiquitous—except the one time I needed one and they were hiding inside and out of sight.

So I was kind of relieved. It wasn’t a shining beacon of perfect consumption nor did I feel a constant and unmitigated wonder (that I kind of believe should really only happen in situations with much less plastic coating).

It was just another place that I occupied-- like Wal-Mart, it didn't magically (or demonically) occupy me.

And mostly, it wasn’t horrible. There were little girls in pink princess costumes and there was always a gift shop in line of sight. But there were also restrooms everywhere and Little Son got to interact with the place as much and nearly as meaningfully as Protest Kid, and I got lots of chances to sit and rest my ankle.

…and then just as we went to meet the rest of the family in the Disney version of the Revolutionary War (I am rather sorry I didn’t get to take a picture; the sun set too early. But someone has *got* to get a pic of a tiny tent set up in Disney’s Liberty Square. PLEEEEEASE!)…we passed the “It’s a small world ride” and I got my piece of deeply problematic handed to me on a plastic gold platter. England, Ireland, and Scotland each got their own discreet sections, but most of Africa (barring Egypt) was symbolized by some dancing giraffes. Also, the small worlders that danced and waved were the same doll-base throughout the ride except one part of the Central/South American area, where they turned into bobble head dolls with googly eyes. (!...?...!) And then (AND THEN) (*spoilers*) in the grand finale all the peoples returned in their national dress, but the costumes and accessories were now all white. Really.

“Look, Mommy! It’s snowing!” cooed Little Son.

Why yes, the color, the difference, the history of oppression and occupation was neatly whited out, Little Son. You're absolutely right.


My sister to me: “So, disappointing in a satisfying way?”

Um…. Yeah.

Tomorrow, we go to Animal Kingdom. I hope to have a smaller chip on my shoulder (you’d think all the twitching would have knocked it off by now), and will try to find opportunities to occupy the space in a meaningful and amusing way so that the mouse no longer occupies me.

Failing that, I’ll settle for seeing a real giraffe.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thank you!

305 page views! Thank you, all!

Hope you enjoy(ed) the story. While I've removed Suncatcher from public view for now, I may make it available again later. (Hopefully it will either be better by then, or at least have spiffy cover art...)

Back to all Occupy, all the time soon.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

So... slightly tipsy....

Which means I'm going to leave the offer of the free book up until dear sober husband is awake and can gently remove it from the internet.

In the meantime, I thought it might be relevant to folks to read something I wrote about why I wrote it in the first place.

(Please Note: I am borrowing this particular concept and phrase from John Scalzi and his website:  http://whatever.scalzi.com/category/big-idea/)

"The Big Idea" behind Suncatcher: Seven Days in the Sky 

I wrote this story because someone else didn’t.
I read an interview with an author who claimed her story was a feminist steampunk adventure. The idea was thrilling to me, and I bought it without any further research. Friends, let me tell you, I was sorely disappointed. It was not the novel I was looking for, but I could not move along.
Frankly, I am not good at letting go, and I admit it. But there was more to my disappointment than bad mental habits or regret at the money I had “wasted” on a self-published work of badly copy-edited second wave feminism. I hadn’t realized just how much I wanted to read a feminist steampunk adventure alive to the nuances of race and class within Victoriana until it wasn’t there. Woe was me! Alas and alack!
I complained so bitterly to my friends about it—the friends who are on my Facebook page, anyway—that one of them suggested I write a feminist steampunk adventure, then.
Well, the night before I had just pounded out my entry in the Scalzi-Wheaton Scary Scary Painting contest—the first time I had written much more than Facebook posts since my first manuscript got rejected by the post office. (No, really. It came back after its last publisher rejection looking like a forklift had used it for target practice. The blood red “Always use a zip code!” stamp across the body of text just added to the horror effect. I cried. I hate horror movies.)
Anyway, that particular evening I was feeling feisty. Those long disused writer muscles (did I mention I have two very young, exciting children?) were begging for another go… so I wrote a scene. Feminist, eh? Well, two smart, funny women. Talking… to each other, about something besides a guy. Steampunk… well, what’s more steampunk than airships?
Two women talking on an airship. A friend who is a really beautiful writer about normal things once mentioned that you should start a story with a need. One woman... needed... the other. Because… pirates! Airship pirates are steampunk, right?
So in about two hours I tapped out a thousand word scene: two capable women (sisters, it turned out, because sisters need each other) on an airship talking about the economic impracticality of sky pirates, their approximate distance to the relative safety of the walled city of Miami, and a colorful imperative involving a cucumber.
Feeling tired but triumphant, I posted it to my Facebook page. Almost immediately, I had a dozen comments that boiled down to “That was great! But then what happened?”
I had no idea. But I wanted to find out, too. (Because really, there was no simple explanation for why three pirate ships would want to attack a solar collecting airship. It’s not like they had a footlocker full of gold doubloons on board. Gold is too heavy to store in the sky…the fools!)
Now, to give you an idea of my personal headspace, this was around day 47 of the Gulf Oil Spill, a year after the Swine Flu epidemic (we live in Queens, one neighborhood away from a school that got closed) and my family had narrowly missed being victims of the housing bubble—but only because I had spent two and a half years reading doomer blogs and scaring myself witless. I am a firm believer in facing one’s fears, but how do you face a fear of the terrible, unknowable future when you are held hostage to it by two small, sweet little boys who will have to live in it?
You make art, of course!
If these two sisters were going to have any more scenes, they needed to live in a world. Because I am terrible at alternate history—I have trouble unknowing what I know—I needed a future. And personally, to combat my own sleepless nights, I needed a future to believe in that had the chance for better, even if it wasn't easier. So I made one.
I imagined that the things I feared most had happened in and to America, and then let my characters—an almost middle aged Pakistani-American professor and her loved ones—free in it.
While they use goggles (to tap into the aethernet, a virtual  reality) and ride in airships (solar powered), a lot of the Victorian/steampunk element in this story is window dressing. And yet, when you get past the rich velvet and shining brass, what I find most appealing in steampunk is the sense of DIY hope.
I tried to write a feminist steampunk adventure, but I ended up writing… well, a story about Admiral Parentheses (Pari) and Dr Radicand Jones in a future that is post peak oil, post plague and post environmental catastrophe. But it is not, ultimately, a future post hope.
(Also: it has ninjas, ancient Sufi poetry, paramilitary pentecostalists, and a clever monkey named Joshua in it. But I had you at ninjas, right?)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fight SOPA, Read a book

SOPA, PIPA, and any future attempts by corporations to limit free speech (grr) are being presented as a brave and heroic effort to protect creative people and their intellectual property from the greedy, unwashed masses.

Setting aside my knee-jerk cynicism  (briefly), they’re talking about me.

I’ve written a novel. (It needs some work.) But someday, I want to be a Real Author who can pay her rent with royalty checks.

But you know what? While that’s my dream, a country that limits free speech, the right to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances-- that right there is my nightmare.

I admire reddit and Wikipedia and all the 7,000 plus websites that are blacking out on January 18th to protest SOPA. However, I don’t have a large enough following to make a significant point by doing that.

I don’t have a following; I do have intellectual property.

(Boring explanation of the Big Sacrifice I am making commences: The way traditional publishing works, an author gets paid by selling the rights to their book. For a first time genre author with no following like me, the advance paid on this first right might be as much as $2,000.)

To protest SOPA and PIPA and the future attempts on free speech and cultural exchange I cynically expect, I’m going to use up my super precious shiny first publishing rights: I’m going to make my novel, Suncatcher, available for free on this website right here for 24 hours starting right now (I’d wait until midnight, but I’ve got little kids and they don’t let me stay up late anymore. /whine)

And, to lessen the pain of that sacrifice a little bit, it would be kind of you to pass this link on to others who might enjoy reading a book about a solar-powered airship community that runs on consensus and saves the world. (I swear I wrote it before Occupy Wall Street was a glimmer in AdBusters’ eye.)

It also has Quakers, ninjas, global plague, climate change and a happy ending. And the heroine is Muslim. Because I was really thinking about how to market it to the big six publishers when I wrote it. /dry sarcasm

Anyway, please forward this link even if that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea.

I figure, if I’m losing $2,000, I’d at least like to gain 200 readers. :*)

Tl;dr: Fight SOPA! Free speech. (Have added the link back, after removing it.)
Love and catching the sun,

Monday, January 16, 2012

Snarky response to nay-sayers on OWS facebook page

So... Is there anyone commenting here who actually *likes* OWS? Who is organizing local Occupy groups to do it better/more? Because otherwise I'm going to assume you're a bunch of folks sitting in a basement getting paid by the Koch brothers to bitch in public while the rest of us do what we can for our country. 

You didn't like it when we sat in tents in the rain (What's that going to change? you jeered), you didn't like it when Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson visited (Now OWS has jumped the shark! you crowed) or Pete Seeger (Now OWS has *really* humped the shark! you said sadly, shaking your head more in sorrow than in anger)

You know what? I have no idea if throwing glitter around will help. But it's different, and what we've been doing the last twenty years (bake sales for education, writing polite letters to our congressional representatives) IS NOT WORKING!

So. Are you working for a Koch brother? Or are you working to come up with something Different that will actually work? New ideas welcome. Old whines (you're not doing it riiight. you're wasting your tiiime) will not. 

Whose time? OUR TIME!

Friday, January 13, 2012


So, I mentioned in my last post about Jo, the nice lady who chatted with me about Nigeria and who is raising funds for Haitian girls’ education. When she did the traditional, “But what is Occupy Wall Street *about*?” dance (lean in, cock head, lean out… do the hokey pokey…), I said something about economic inequality, possibly even corruption. (Since those are the issues galvanizing the Nigerian protests, it seemed an appropriate response to all sorts of questions that day.)

“Yes, but without the rich we wouldn’t have museums,” she said, and I didn’t know how to answer her succinctly so I shrugged and smiled. I didn’t want to get into a deep conversation on Marx—I don’t know the lingo of labor and exploitation, the careful theories that are beautiful, deilcate constructions in and of themselves. Besides, I worry that I am too top-heavy and awkward and would fall out of them if I tried.

And, honestly, it’s something I’ve thought about, too. I love Art Deco and beautiful artifacts from the past. And usually, the things that are most beautiful and best taken care of are the things left behind by the rich. Problem.

We have Carnegie Hall because Andrew Carnegie had more money than social capital. We have the Chrysler Building because a corporation accrued vast sums of wealth. We have a Tiffany dragonfly hair clip at the Met because someone was rich enough to buy it and bored/savvy enough to donate it to the museum. (Museums are not just funded by the rich, they are filled by the rich: the Met’s furniture section, it has always struck me, is the well-tended attic of the ridiculously wealthy.)

I love the Chrysler Building and Tiffany glass and dark wood furniture and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, with its long list of generous individual and corporate donors on the wall. I do.

But you know what?

For a world closer to just, for a country with less exploitation and a city full of people with more equal opportunities and enough for everybody—enough clean water, air, and food; enough time to dance and snuggle and talk to our neighbors and pursue happiness—I would give up museums.

I would give up the pretty relics of the rich, if it meant we no longer had the hurting, hungry poor.

And you know what else?

We might just find that without one person having access to enough money to build his own hall, one corporation to scrape the sky in steel and glass, that many people together would build wonders; and if we were too ornery to do even that: Our porches the new theaters, our attics the museums, our minds the wonders of the world.

Artists would still band together because we hunger for community and for glory among our peers and our names and works to triumph over death—we would still create beautiful, lasting work—but this time, maybe, our grandchildren could inherit relics of the equal.

I know people suck; and I know that we all do not suck equally. I do not believe that the rich deprived of their money would suck more than a poor person who won the lottery. The rich do not deserve their money... any more than the poor deserve poverty.

We all struggle. But in that equality (of struggle and hunger and blood and fear) is a kind of grace—we are all human, and we as a band of hairless apes with our eyes on the stars do best when we are taught to share and take care of each other’s needs.

I guess it all boils down to I Occupy Because… I want to help; and because I need help. 


Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Thanks to twitter, I found out there was going to be a protest outside the Nigerian Consulate starting Tuesday at noon.

(In case you're not familiar with what's going on there-- I sure wasn't, a week ago-- the government voted to cut the fuel subsidy starting January 1st. That meant that overnight, fuel prices went up 119%. Imagine if fuel prices doubled overnight here. The cost to fill your car, heat and light your home doubled instantly.) This, not surprisingly, caused "mass unrest"... and people started sleeping outside to protest.

If Nigerian people are Occupying, then so am I.

So yesterday morning I made a big batch of chocolate chip banana bread and took markers, twine, and tiny tents to 2nd Ave and 44th Street.

I got there late (the bread took longer to cool than I thought it would), but when I did arrive there were more than 30 ex-pats singing and holding up big homemade signs. A lot of the conversation around me was in... um... Nigerian? (being an ignorant American is sometimes awkward) so I tried to participate in one of the chants but mainly I stood in support. (Though being ProtestMom did come in handy, as I lent both my pens and my notebook to people exchanging contact details, and both markers to people who wanted to make signs.)

It's always interesting at a rally to see who focuses inward and who focuses outward. Since I was more supporter than protestor, I focused outward. Having a short white girl smiling at the passersby might have helped-- I like to think so.

Most people walked past without much comment, but I did talk with Jo, a retiree who has a group of Haitian girls she's trying to get an education for. The amount of money she needs is too little for Clinton's charity or any of the other big ones. She was aware that the Nigerian government was corrupt and hoped that the protesting did some good.

I also spoke briefly with a photographer with blond braids who seemed to be much more knowledgeable about the political situation in Nigeria than me and had a passionate conversation with several of the older men. She got her picture taken with them and they all laughed together. Maybe I can be like her when I grow up. (Turns out, according to her business card, she's actually Professor Susanna J Dodjson BSc (Hons) PHD and she has a website, so she's even more knowledgeable than I assumed.)

Someone gave me a sign to hold, "Fix Our Refineries" and later a gentleman explained to me that if the nationally owned and run refineries were running at full capacity, they wouldn't need to cut the subsidy. To a camera, the same man (he wore a bright purple fuzzy scarf and a smart suit with bow tie, easy to pick out in the crowd) said that there had not been 24 hours when the whole country had electricity. Suddenly the posts about people's generators running (or not) made more sense. When you're personally dependent on fuel for your generators, petrol prices are not just about getting somewhere, they're about lighting and cooling and heating and all the trappings of modernity the modern person needs.

I handed around the banana bread, but I think folks had already eaten and mostly said "Thank you" without taking any. I had to leave around 1:30 to pick up ProtestKid from school, and by then the crowd had doubled and was blocking the entire sidewalk. At least one member of the press was taking pictures, and there were a handful of amateur photographers and cameras documenting the scene.

Later, an OWS eyewitness said the crowd got to be a hundred strong. While I was there two trucks honked in support, one using their air horn and grinning.

The other OWSer stayed long after I did, and he hoped that we could re-use the signs today during the OWS solidarity march (4 pm) and rally (5 pm). I hope someone else brings the markers; the kids need me to be more Mom than Protest today.

On the train back I bumped into someone, and they admired my OWS button and then he said he had an evironmental radio show and that the OWS Sustainability working group were going to be his guests on a future show.

...And of course it's all linked, because he just did a show on solar power, and we wouldn't need fuel subsidies or fracking or all sorts of deeply disturbing power sources if we could harness the sun before we destroy the earth...

Anyway, yea solidarity and yea making connections and finding other people on the same journey.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

How I spent my weekend

Friday I picked up ProtestKid from school and we brought tiny tents and pumpkin bread to the protestors outside Bloomberg’s Mansion. The street was blocked off, so we huddled on the corner and mic checked about Stop and Frisk policies and ProtestKid took some pretty good pictures with his DSi. I think some direct action people were intrigued by the possibilities: Is it a toy, or a tool to beat the oppressor?

He also got a brief guitar lesson from a random guy who for all I know is a rock star and talked about Mario Kart with Lauren, who was the first person to get arrested at Grand Central for mic checking.
She was awesome. (I wonder if she babysits?)

The sun set, and ProtestKid was starting to flail, so we took a few more pictures and headed home. The event was small but sincere. I hope the next action is better advertised and better lit. The cops were fairly friendly. ProtestKid enjoyed taking pictures of the cops who were ok with it, but pouted dramatically when one of them didn’t. He got over it, and she seemed relieved that I did not let him press the point.

Saturday, I got followed by several more Occupy-types on Twitter (hello, new readers who are real people and not bots from Venezuela!) which was exciting, but mainly did family stuff.

Sunday, we had Occupy Pancakes with M and E and A, talking about what solidarity means when some people demand that solidarity for a larger cause, and say that cause is more important than the little betrayals of silence and dismissal and disrespect.

Then M, E, A, ProtestKid and I went to the third meeting of our local Occupy Group, and there was a lot of noise and a lot of disrespect. That was hard. I think we’ll work through it, but as the group gets larger (and we are, from 24 people at the first meeting, 27 at the last, and 33 today—not counting A and ProtestKid) I worry that the people who appreciate consensus and listening with respect will get diluted and the angry and disaffected will win.

(And that makes me feel angry and disaffected. I wasn’t as awesome today as I wanted to be. I really *want* to be awesome and a good listener. But I get upset and then I get loud and then I sit on my hands and think dark thoughts.)

 I am consoled that tomorrow I get to try again.

Good luck to you, too.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


So, I think he did amazing stuff and it’s right to admire his accomplishments and borrow what will work for our future.


“Those considering the future of the Occupy movement should look for inspiration to Gandhi” is the subheading from this Guardian op-ed, and I am really uncomfortable with that broad statement.

Gandhi was a product of his time; he was also really hard on himself. Takes one to know one, you might say, and I feel nothing but compassion for that hardness. But. He was very comfortable telling others what they might or might not do, and I am much less comfortable with that.

A close relative was ill, and he refused to let her have an egg because it would be at the expense of another life. While I have a sense of vague respect for all life, I don’t see why a chicken is more valuable than rice or sweet potatoes. And if it is, then I think it’s not unreasonable to say that a human’s life is more valuable than a chicken’s. Now, I’m not Gandhi. But, I’m not comfortable with OWS as a movement making life and death decisions about what participants can and can’t eat.
(That story only ends happily because a young (male) doctor was able to convince Gandhi that an unfertilized egg didn’t kill anything, and so the female relative lived. Yea!)

More troubling to me, however, is a more complicated story from his later years. It helps if you have some background in Hinduism, and my understanding isn’t perfect, but here’s what I remember… Ascetics and yogis and holy men and women will take on difficult physical tasks to increase their spiritual power and inner strength and fortitude.

Gandhi (and I don’t know if there was further context around this episode. I admit I haven’t made a study of his life) chose an exercise in chastity: he slept in public, his raised bed and mosquito netting set up in the middle of his headquarters. This, while quirky, didn’t and doesn’t concern me. But. He did not sleep alone—he slept with a young, female, beautiful relative.

I have a kneejerk reaction to anything that even rhymes with incest, so on the face of it, that episode might not bother others and I’m mostly ok with that.

But . He used her for his own perceived gain. He had no trouble using a young female relative to strengthen/prove his personal purity.

History does not record how she felt about being his sexual-spiritual barbells, nor how she felt being paraded in front of his followers as someone that Gandhi might feel attraction for and therefore sleeping while not touching her was a big ascetic whoop de doo sacrifice. If it was hard for Gandhi, how much harder must it be for anyone else…

How would you feel if an elderly relative whom the world admired made a pass at you? Who would Jesus flirt with?

When OWS writes its history (because I don’t trust anyone outside to get it right ;) ), I hope that we have specifically NOT exploited the young and the vulnerable and the less-powerful. I hope the only sacrifices we make are our own.

(Also, I hope we don’t end up assassinated.)

But that’s just me.