New Short Story!

In addition to all the graphic work I’ve been doing lately, I’ve also done some writing. Still working on sequels for both Harper and Tesserae, as well as two more standalone novels, but I also recently banged out this:

The Man Who Drained the Sea

This project started as a bedtime story I made up for my son. He liked it so much I decided to tweak it for a more grown-up audience and get it out there. It’s contemporary fantasy/magical realism, though a bit different from my usual stuff. Check it out, and I hope you enjoy it!

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Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Not that there aren’t dozens of other things to flail about, but in the past couple of days, one of the ones I’ve seen people most agog about is Steve Bannon talking about wanting “deconstruction” of the government.

Coming, as I do, from a family steeped in the “patriot” movement, I think I might get this better than some who aren’t familiar with it first hand. Allow me to try to explain:

First off, yes, there’s a crapton of sheer bigotry and violent, toxic masculinity going on here. That’s the driving psychological force behind all of it. Above the Id level, however, this is all going according to plan. This is exactly why people voted for 45 and why they keep calling his reign “successful.”

The right wing has wanted to dismantle the federal government since the Civil War (and there’s also always been an anti-federalist faction going back much farther.) Everything they’re doing right now is designed with that goal in mind. They’re aiming to all but break up the U.S. in to 50 nation-states, with us sharing only very big things like currency, military protection, interstate transportation and border security. They want the U.S. to be more like the U.N., or at least the E.U. Most of these folks are also isolationist (at least in terms of our responsibility to help stop dictators, etc.) Aside from the desire to actually invade and take over oil-producing countries, and return Israel to its Biblical borders so the Rapture will come, this is all about total sovereignity: Much the same impulse that led to a lot of Brexit votes. Obviously, xenophobia and racism are behind much of this sentiment, but in their minds, that’s incidental. They’re looking to give each state the ability to self-rule as much as possible, because they believe centralized government can’t properly serve diverse states.

For those of us in blue states, that probably doesn’t sound so bad. I do occasionally entertain the idea of Pacifica, really. But the net effect of this is that marginalized people who are stuck in red states are absolutely screwed. We could set up our own little refugee programs–sponsoring the poor schlubs in red-state cities or whatnot–but that would still leave the children of these creeps in dire straits, and frankly, people shouldn’t have to move to a whole different state just to have their basic human rights recognized anyway.

There are legitimate debates to be had on whether centralized government is really capable of efficiently providing public services to 300 million people scattered across a very broad geographic area and cultural spectrum, but at the very least, Constitutional rights have to be protected, and if these asshats get their way, that’s going to collapse. Appealing to them on the basis of compassion and anti-racism isn’t going to work regardless, but if we really want to stop them from doing what they’re doing, we have to look at what it is they’re really aiming to do, and challenge them on that, too. Continue reading

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She Persisted

I did another graphic thing. (Zazzle link above, or you can hit my store on Café Press.) Because it’s appalling that Elizabeth Warren was denied the chance to read Coretta Scott King’s letter about Jeff Sessions. (And while four other senators were allowed to read it later, all four are men. Grrr.)

It’s heartening to me that more and more Democrat senators are getting the intestinal fortitude to stand up and make noise about this mess. Most of them are the usual suspects who did things like the post-Pulse gun-control protests, but even the mild-mannered ones are getting in on the act, now. If only Bernie would stop acting like a) Trump has any intention of actually helping workers and b) that doing so is the biggest priority over, y’know, basic human rights, we could present a pretty united front on the left. I wish we could do more to drag the wishy-washy moderate Republicans into the light (c’mon, Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham!) but it is what it is for now. They can’t risk pissing off Trump supporters or they’ll get primaried out (though they’re also going to have to tread carefully with regard to more-moderate voters, too.) Our only hope for getting him out of office is if he somehow gets convicted of something that requires jail time, so the Congressfolk who actually do dislike him don’t have to get their hands dirty. They can just tell voters that it was the will of the courts and thereby skate on having to take responsibility for opposing him.

I think we’re still kind of in shock-and-awe territory. It’s been less than three weeks, and I suspect he’s going to be there for a while, yet. Probably time to gird our loins for the long haul, horrific as that sounds.

In the meantime, two suggestions:

-Assemble an emergency kit/go bag. If you think you may be targeted, make sure you have a way to get the heck out if you need to. Also, if you live somewhere that’s prone to natural disasters (especially a blue state), make sure you’ve prepared and planned for that. I wouldn’t at all put it past Trump to withhold FEMA and other federal disaster aid to punish misbehaving states. Make sure you have calorie- and nutrient-dense non-perishable food, plenty of water, a few changes of clothes, toiletries, a first-aid kit, a flash drive with scans of important docs and any pictures and other things you want to save, batteries, a paperback or other non-electronic way to pass time, etc. Keep one in your car and one at home.

-If you have the money, donate (and see if your employer does matching funds!) Here’s a list of places I’ve sent money to recently, if you’d like some ideas:

  • International Rescue Committee
  • ACLU
  • SPLC
  • Planned Parenthood
  • Lambda Legal
  • Anti-Defamation League
  • Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
  • RAINN
  • Native American Rights Fund
  • Council on American-Islamic Relations
  • Earth Justice
  • Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • NAACP
  • Trevor Project
  • Trans Lifeline
  • Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
  • National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
  • Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
  • American Immigration Council
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Amnesty International

Plus some Standing Rock funds and a couple of individuals who are doing good work (the person who runs Medieval PoC, for instance.)

(Also, if you’d like to push some funds my way, please buy one of my books–link to the right–or shop at one of the stores linked above!)

Lastly, if you’re someone who is on the GOP’s target list–queer, PoC, PWD, etc.–you’re probably going to get overwhelmed and burned out. Take time to take care of yourself. Don’t do their dirty work for them by neglecting your health and well-being. And if you’re someone who’s NOT on the target list, or only has one or two relatively mild disadvantages, do what you can to care for the folks around you who are in more danger right now. We can survive this, but only if we work together.

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WA v. Trump

Didn’t directly listen to it, but I followed the play-by-play of the court hearing today in WA v. Trump. Fascinating stuff, and Washington State Solicitor General Noah Purcell, who gave the state’s argument, is a damned superhero.

One of the biggest things the argument hinged on: Whether the EO was an unconstitutional direct ban on Muslims. While the text of the EO (as argued by the DOJ’s bumblefuck counsel) doesn’t specifically single them out, there’s plenty of evidence that yep, that’s exactly what this was.

One of the biggest bits of that (which wasn’t directly brought up by Purcell) is the fact that the CBP has been profiling in who they choose to detain. They’re not just stopping people from those seven countries. They’re also stopping people with Arabic names, Muslim religious dress or who were born in or just entered from Muslim-majority countries that aren’t even on the list (one ACLU lawyer reported today being detained/grilled because she’s from Pakistan.) If the people charged with enforcing the EO believe it’s a Muslim ban, then that’s what it is.

Likewise, if you scroll through the Twitter chatter about the subject, it’s also obvious that the people who support the ban also think it applies to Muslims, because they conflate them with terrorists. Which brings me to the other key issue being argued here: Whether there’s a pressing national interest in issuing the EO. And, well, there isn’t. Though there have been a few arrests of people from those countries who were up to no good, and Daesh is active in some, the vast majority of major mass-murder attacks on American soil are not being committed by people from those countries–especially refugees. On the contrary: Most cases of mass murder in this country are committed by white men with a history of domestic violence, stalking, and/or violent sexist rhetoric. Moreover, the few cases of attacks committed by others didn’t involve people from the nations covered by the EO. They were either from other countries (such as Saudi Arabia, in the case of the 9/11 attackers) or were born here and later radicalized. It should also be noted that in the case of the “lone wolf” attackers who happened to be Muslim, most of them also had histories of domestic violence. If we genuinely care about protecting the public from being victims of a surprise mass-murder attack, making sure we take DV and stalking seriously, and get guns out of the hands of people with those histories, will do considerably more than keeping a five-year-old Syrian refugee out of the country.

Of course, what scares me is that if Trump loses this case and the EO gets completely scrubbed, we’re probably looking at a Reichstag fire. Because his massive ego demands it, he’s gunning for absolute power, and a major attack would give him the excuse he needs to get that. Not that I think he or any other Republican would deliberately stage an attack (though honestly, given the other crap coming out of this administration, it’s possible I’m wrong), but I do think they’d ignore intel to let one happen. After all, 9/11 worked to give Bush unquestioning loyalty from a majority of Americans, and won him a second term. Trump would have a harder time with that, but he could still use the whole “united against enemies” boilerplate to declare himself Supreme Leader.

On a more-pleasant note: It fascinated me that at one point, the YouTube stream of the audio from this hearing (it was a conference call) had ~110,000 listeners. The Twitter hashtag for it also went kind of haywire. That, in combination with the other evidence of zeitgeist shift is pretty awesome. People are considerably more engaged with civics now–because it’s directly affecting a lot more of them–and that’s going to present Trump with a formidable opposition. He can try to silence pro media all he wants, but people are now engaged with politics and news on a grassroots level that he has no hope of stamping out–even if he does try to kill Net Neutrality. The fact that virtually the entirety of the tech community opposes him is also evidence that this is an uphill battle for him. They’re not going to do his bidding–not when a massive chunk of the US economy is based on relatively-free internet communication and commerce. This isn’t North Korea. Americans are used to having a free exchange of ideas, and even if he manages to use the FCC to strangle CNN or newspapers or any other pro outlets (not that they’re going to stand for it, either, except the places that are already Trump-branded Pravda), he’s not going to be able to shut the entire population up. We have hackers on our side. We can get past anything if we need to. More importantly, this level of public and political engagement is popular right now. Even people who may have been lulled into complacency by eight years of a popular president facing a recalcitrant Congress (thereby having little movement on either side) are waking up again. Active engagement with actual political reality is the new reality TV, and Trump’s “show” is on the verge of cancellation.

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Generations

A thing I see often in discussions with well-meaning people with regard to privilege is an ignorance of how they benefit from centuries of the oppression of other people. A lot of people think, “well, slavery wasn’t MY idea, so why am I getting shit for something my ancestors did?”

Well, because you benefit from it, dear. That’s why.
 
One of the critical disconnects between conservatives and liberals is the individualist/collectivist thing. Conservatives tend to believe that every person is more or less an island, and who they are and how much relative power or comfort they have is a result of their own individual efforts toward being a responsible, productive member of society. They don’t look at the bigger picture and notice patterns of connectedness and how even small shifts in one area can affect everything else.
 
One of the biggest oversights of this philosophy is a misunderstanding of generational privilege: Not realizing exactly how much gets passed down from parent to child. Much of this is financial privilege–you can’t pass down what you don’t have–but there are plenty of other privileges, too, even going back to whether the people who made you had proper health care, nutrition, a relatively stress-free life and little exposure to teratogens. A fairly recent study found that even the great-grandchildren of people who survived the Holocaust bear changes in their DNA related to the intense stress and other terrible conditions their ancestors were subject to. It’s long been established that childhood poverty and stress lead to life-long physical and mental health issues, because they literally rewrite hormonal and neurological development, but the effects go back even before that.
 
Because of this, someone who is descended from people who faced terrible oppression is necessarily going to be at a disadvantage from someone who not only had a comfortable childhood themselves, but whose ancestors did, too. Hard work and luck can certainly help make up for some of these generational disadvantages, but they don’t fix everything. If you start out in life a mile behind everyone else, catching up is nearly impossible, no matter what you do. That doesn’t mean one shouldn’t try to do one’s best, but it does mean that people with those kinds of disadvantages may need a little help to be truly equal competitors with others. People who claim to believe in a meritocracy should be aware of this, instead of just happily claiming the advantages they have from having ancestors who never faced enslavement or disenfranchisement or the lack of basic necessities.
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We the People

1wtpclear21x14A couple of months back, we were visiting family for the holidays, and had occasion to take our son to an indoor playground to burn off some energy. The place in question–the one closest to the family–was in a suburb on the eastern edge of the city. While the kid was enjoying himself running around like a human tornado, something didn’t feel quite right to me. The place was clean and friendly and though it wasn’t crowded, there were plenty of other kids and their adults there. It wasn’t until we left that it hit me: There wasn’t a single person of color in the entire place.

Fast forward to my son’s fourth birthday party yesterday, this time at a local “fun center” place: mini amusement park, ticket-spewing games, etc. The place was packed, and if I had to guess, it was maybe 1/3 white, tops. (That’s probably accurate–the nearby elementary school we’re zoned for is 25% white.) There were people in several different styles of religious headgear: dastar, pakra, yarmulke, about four kinds of hijab. Also plenty of Latinxs and folks from various regions of Asia and the Pacific (we have a large Filipino community here, for instance.) We happen to live in one of the most diverse areas of the state, so there’s that, but even farther up the road in a Republican-held Congressional district, it’s still pretty PoC-heavy. My son is one of about five white kids in his pre-school class.

Part of the reason for this is our local tech industry has a bunch of H1B employees, but we also have immigrants from plenty of other places, including quite a few Somali refugees. Though the state as a whole is still pretty white compared to parts farther south, this particular region of it is quite diverse. We actually have the most diverse zip code in the country just up the road from where I live. Not necessarily the one with the fewest white residents, but the one with the largest variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Having lived around here for 20+ years, this is all perfectly normal to me. If my 10-year-old self were to be dropped into this environment, the kid might find it a bit of a shock, but these days, eh. I ended up here because my city of origin wasn’t exactly friendly to my being queer and non-compliant with gender-role standards. Having diversity of other sorts around is also a good thing, and one I’m going to fight for.

I say this not to pat myself on the back for being “tolerant” or anything. Not trying to impress people with how awesome I am for not getting the creeps by standing next to a woman in a Somali-style abaya in the grocery store. Just trying to point out that the country is ALREADY diverse. The Midwest, both upper and lower, is certainly pretty white, and the farther you get from a metro area, the less likely you are to see a lot of darker skin, but in terms of the country as a whole, this is who we are, and have been for a very long time. Obviously, unless one’s ancestry can be traced back to the land’s indigenous people, all of us are immigrants, but even the non-white ones being targeted right now certainly aren’t a tiny minority of the population.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the country is simply far too diverse–and supportive of it–to round up all of us who oppose ridiculous measures like immigration bans. If one were to assume that the election results applied to the country as a whole (and they certainly don’t), that’s still only 46% who support Trump. Take away the misguided queer and PoC folks who voted for him, since many probably now realize sucking up to bigots and being one of the “good” ones won’t protect them from being targeted, and the number shrinks even more–down to about 40%. Is it really possible to deport, jail, kill or otherwise get rid of 60% of the country? Hell, no. They might be able to do this on a state-by-state basis, but as we’re already seeing, diverse states like mine (thanks, Gov. Inslee!) are fighting back without hesitation. Try to “purify” Kansas and you might manage it. Try to do that with California, and you’re going to face a wall bigger than the boondoggle you’re trying to build at the border.

People of color, non-Christians, queer and trans folk, people with disabilities and others have just as much right to be here as the dipshits who claim to be biologically superior to the rest of us. We ARE the people of the United States, and we’re not going to go quietly–we’re not going to go at all.

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100 Million Strong

I was all set this morning to do some fun number crunching on electoral-vote issues, but as I dug into it, I actually got considerably more horrified. However, there’s another set of numbers that also gave me some hope. More on those in a moment. For now, the frustrating bit of the numbers game:

As I posted about a couple of months ago, one of the reasons our EV system is messed up is that it doesn’t catch the rapid population shifts that happen now that migration is so easy in the modern world. The system, based on decennial Census tallies, was devised 200+ years ago when people didn’t move all that much or that far. It can’t keep up with things like California gaining three million people in five years, or the Upper Midwest states stagnating in population growth as their industries die out.

Much has been made of the drop in the percentage of the white population, particularly in the South and Southwest. Based on polls, we flirted with the possibility of flipping Georgia, Arizona and even Texas, and felt certain we’d pick up Florida this year, too. Texas was actually considerably closer than it has been in a long time: Hillary picked up the same percentage of the vote that Obama did in 2008, and Trump dropped a couple of points compared to previous GOP candidates. A very slight shift in voting habits or population could well switch things next time, which would, given the huge number of EVs in Texas, hand us a win even without the Upper Midwest and Rust Belt. And this isn’t entirely unrealistic: After all, the 2004 map, while giving the Upper Midwest and PA to Kerry, didn’t give him Nevada, Colorado or New Mexico, and those are considered solidly blue states now, thanks to their high Latinx populations. (This of course assumes no major voter-suppression efforts that would eat into those totals.)

We ran into an unforeseen disadvantage this year, however: Continue reading

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