pollychromatic

the world through rainbow eyes


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Compromise and Compassion

Never before have politics, both social and electoral, been as engaging, enraging, and divisive as they have been this year. Not in my lifetime.

It seems clear that social media and the easy click reading of the internet is to blame for it, too.

Parts of that are fantastic. Small grass movements can become massive and up-end the status quo in a way that is both terrifying and exhilarating. It’s truly engaging to know that little voices can potentially have as much impact as big voices.

It’s a tightrope walk, though. While there is much hopeful about knowing that you are not alone in feeling like the things that you particularly care about are particularly cared about by others, it is also isolating to know that those you care about have views that are harmful to you.

When people say “unfriend me if you think/will do xyz” it’s a stark contrast line in the sand of “support me and what I say that allows no compromises, compassion, or empathy.

Which is not to say that some views or actions are not so divisive themselves as to invite a lack of compromise.

I’m not going to repeat the many things that you shouldn’t compromise yourself on. All over social media and the internet those things can be found.

Much harder to find are calls to compromise, and intense compassion. A movement is not made by a line in the sand that divides sister from sister, brother from brother, child from parent, friend from friend. Those things are more likely to be in line with self-identity.

I won’t go into self-identity and the many strong things social media and the internet have done for that, either. You can find them. Everywhere.

What a movement is made up of are thoughtful and compassionate discussions. Find the common ground and work from there. If we are to bridge the gaps that are wedging between so many of us in our lives, these discussions must happen.

The divisive memes and rants are an easy device to turn to when someone uses one that is rejecting the things you hold true and dear. Snark is an easy answer when you feel pain or fear.

Dividing yourself when someone takes an action or stand that divides you from them is easy. Much harder is to hear their thoughts and ask them why. Show your pain. Attempt to understand why someone has a different point of view, and allow yourself to consider that their point of view has merit.

Don’t abandon principles, but respect people and their experiences even if they are completely foreign to you. You don’t have to agree with them, but you don’t have to reject them, and the slow growth of healthy compromise can arise from nothing else.

Compromise is our bridge forward, and we must find it. We must make bridges between us all or the gaps will engulf us all instead.


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… and Hope and Charity

I feel very overwhelmed with this US presidential election year.

Usually politics concern me, but do not worry me. I watch and comment and get involved where it seems prudent or useful.

This year feels different. I see the hate speech and violence ramping up at Trump rallies. The machine that the GOP made using the Southern Strategy has been so successful that it created a vacancy that Trump stepped into seamlessly.

His charisma when people feel ill prepared, financially, to achieve and sustain basic life needs appeals to people. His charisma when people feel entirely Future Shocked also appeals to the masses.

I seem to be mostly surrounded by people who do not see the appeal of Donald Trump. Most of us have sat helpless and hopeless watching his effect grow.

Yesterday was Super Tuesday in my state of Georgia and I watched my state’s conservative Primary voters turn out to support Trump. My own feelings of hopelessness grew. I listened to Trump talking about ‘Making America Great Again’ and heard echoes of other similar historical promises made.

I woke up with my mind ruminating on this and spoke with a friend about it. How do we fix this? How can we fix a world where cutting one’s self off from others seems the safest solution, or the only viable solution.

The answer we finally came up with was charity. The world is broken, and the only way to go about fixing it is to directly apply ourselves.

People do not feel hopeless when there is hope. They do not feel helpless when they are helped or helping. They are not prone to the charismatic and empty promises of hatred that are simply an act of cutting one’s self off from compassion and empathy when they have been directly touched by compassion and empathy.

So the question of what to do is charity but the question of what charity is and how to do it remains.

Maimonides said acts of charity are:

  1. Giving an interest-free loan to a person in need; forming a partnership with a person in need; giving a grant to a person in need; finding a job for a person in need; so long as that loan, grant, partnership, or job results in the person no longer living by relying upon others.
  2. Giving charity anonymously to an unknown recipient via a person (or public fund) which is trustworthy, wise, and can perform acts of charity with your money in a most impeccable fashion.
  3. Giving charity anonymously to a known recipient.
  4. Giving charity publicly to an unknown recipient.
  5. Giving charity before being asked.
  6. Giving charity after being asked.
  7. Giving willingly, but inadequately.
  8. Giving out of pity or sadness.

This seems like a reasonable accounting of the ways of doing charity. It even lists the ways that are imperfect, but still doing charity. Life is not perfect, and I am not perfect, so I can do this.

So I am going to dedicate myself to [at least] one act of charity a week. My friend agreed and we will hold each other accountable.

In this way I can help restore the world. No empty promises of making America great, but actual work toward humanity.

Join me?


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The Devil Went Down To Georgia

This has been a bad day. A bad couple weeks, really.

Kansas went overboard, Arizona, Tennessee, South Dakota, Mississippi and finally my own state of Georgia.

Here they’re calling it HB 1023 and SB 377, the so called “Preservation of Religious Freedom Act.”  Please click through and read them. While you’re clicking, here’s the contact list for the representatives. Here’s the state senators.

I know that state legislatures can be somewhat confusing for people. So here’s where I remind those that have forgotton that although our federal government each has legislatures with senators and representatives that go off to Washington D.C. from our individual districts and states and do work there, each state has their own legislature, and they go to the state capitols and legislate from there.

When people talk about grassroots change, this is generally where it comes from. These state legislatures are very easy to contact and talk to, and are very influenced by what we call “local politics.”

I highly urge you to call or write, and do it soon. Today if you have the time. Tomorrow if you don’t.

So there’s the practical bits out of the way.

If you don’t know why I don’t like this. Honestly, I just can’t right now. I’ve spent my morning debating over what level of fascism this represents. The scale that people have settled on seems to be either right at “jackbooted SS giving businesses the right to discriminate” and “throwing gays and other bigot-decided-upon-undersirables in ghettos.”

Lest you think that’s a step too far, remember that people thought segregation was a Christian Value because they believed black people had been marked as a punishment from God. By this proposed piece of legislation, segregation would go right back into place as a protected “religious freedom.”

So, honestly. I don’t have the energy to compel you to feel badly about this legislation. Other people already have.

Here. 

Here. 

Here.

Here.

Finally, every bit of this. 

(I’m going to continue to add links as they become available, feel free to add in comments, too)


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Everybody Is The Hero

I love The Stand. I reread it every few years. It’s not that it’s great literary fiction, it’s not. I know. It’s great storytelling.

So, I don’t know if you’ve read it or not, but follow me here for a minute.

Basically it’s apocalyptic Forces of Good vs. Forces of Bad. A couple times in the story a character from the Good Camp checks out the people in the Bad Camp and is somewhat stunned to realize that they can’t tell the two camps apart really. Some of the bad guys, sure. Murderers, abusers, users, etc. The vast majority, though, you’re just left questioning, “why would they fight for Bad?” The people in Camp Bad would regularly have the same puzzle over the people in Camp Good. “Why would they fight against us? We’re just trying to get along. Why are they doing this? They seem like people just like us…”

I think about that regularly. About people getting caught up in fighting for bad. Or even for Bad with a capital B.

Nobody, well, most nobody, thinks that’s what they’re doing. We are the heroes of our own stories, and the heroes fight for good, or Good. Whatever. That’s the story we tell ourselves. We are doing what we do because of the principle of the thing, or because of what our family needs, or because we don’t see other options, or because of our faith, or because it’s the easy choice, or because we are propelled by some gut instinct, or often, sometimes, just because. Just because.

We aren’t in Camp Bad. They are.

A story like The Stand is deeply cathartic because there is rarely a Camp Bad and a Camp Good. It tries to point that out in little ways, like when the good guys talk about the bad guys being good to them, and when the bad guys talk about the good guys being bad to them. Mostly, though, it’s a story with a nice clear division. These are the guys fighting for Camp Good, and you like them. They’re like you. If you were in this story, you’d be over here. You root for their triumphs and suffer their tragedies. You recognize them as you, idealized.

Conversely, the Bad Camp is easy to identify. They are the “Them.” They are those who do the wrong things, and choose the wrong ways, and believe in the wrong things. You cheer at their setbacks and boo when they’re ahead.

Life isn’t generally like that, though. It may appear that way, easy decisions, or even tough decisions that you simply work hard at because doing otherwise goes against who you are.

So it’s nice to visit a story where you can see it all from the outside and know which team is which. Most of us, if we’re introspective and honest, have found ourselves on the wrong team at one point or another. Our ego sort of insists, generally, that we forgive ourselves if we rectify it and move ideologies. We make peace with our decisions and decide that it was okay. That we did the best we could with what we had, and try to do better in the future.
I’m not going to go into those who simply dig in once they find themselves on the wrong side of something. I’m also not going to go into those who choose to continue doing wrong as a chance to hate themselves.
Sure, those people exist. They aren’t the majority, though. They might be stances each of us have taken on occasion, but generally, no.

We’re all mostly just stumbling along in our Hero’s Journey, and choose to see the wrongdoings we’ve committed as Redemption Cycles that we had to go through.

I think about that.

I think about that a lot.

Especially nowadays when we have things like social media to give us all the immediacy of other’s thoughts and deeds. People we respect, trust, like, love, or just enjoy the company of; we’re seeing their Hero’s Journey up close and not always are we so impressed with the the heroism.

We argue, or we debate, or we judge, or we just say screw it and we defriend, unfollow, vote down, block. We cut ourselves off from the unpleasantness of another person’s wrongdoings in a way that we can’t do when we’re in the wrong.

Sometimes it’s the right choice. We really don’t need 600 friends. There’s nothing saying that you need to follow all your friends on their blogs and twitters and facebooks and tumblrs and subreddits and and and. Sometimes also, yeah, some people just aren’t that great, and it was worth knowing and getting them out of your life. Sometimes you just can’t handle knowing that much about other people’s thoughts. That’s not really such a bad thing. Closing a door to a room that distresses you is a valid choice.

I’ve been considering all this while I listen to people have their say about what they think about the Zimmerman case. My feelings are clear to me. They feel right. They even feel Right, if you know what I mean. Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin because he was a black man (even if he was a young example, at 17, it was easy to mistake him for a man). He felt threatened, and he did what he felt was the right thing to do. He felt threatened because as a culture we have decided that blackness, especially when male, is itself threatening. We’ve decided that it is default suspicious.

You can talk all you want about how you see it, but that’s how I see it. For me, it’s a shameful horror. Doubling the horror is seeing people I have spent time with defend Zimmerman’s suspicion, seeing them defend his actions.

It’s made me feel a little trigger happy with the defriend button, and a little heartsick over the disillusionment I feel about people I like.

So I’ve been thinking about that good vs. evil thing. Thinking about the Hero’s Journey, and how everyone feels like they’re on it. I’ve been keeping quiet and keeping to myself about it, and thinking about that decision to keep quiet and keep to myself, too.

I don’t even know.


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Equal

I am a feminist.

I am a feminist because I have no choice. I was born a cis-gendered woman, and have lived my life as a woman happily. This makes me intimately aware of what women face on a daily and even hourly basis.

I like to hope that was I born a cis-gendered man, or a transwoman, or a transman, that I would still have found a home in feminism. I can’t know that I would have. I have evidence to support that I would; the fact that I am sensitive to other forms of oppression says that I would have. How do I know that I would be sensitive if I had not struggled with misogynistic oppression, though?

Or maybe it’s being born in the third generation of women in my family who were pioneers in feminism; women who were fearless in striding forward where ever they chose rather than what their culture chosen roles would be.

Maybe it’s the result of have 5 blood related aunts and absolutely no blood related uncles that makes my heart beat in a rhythm that is feminist at heart.

Or maybe it’s simply holding my son and daughter both together in my arms as newborn infants and seeing no difference for their future that I can discern simply by the happenstance of their genitalia, yet watching the changing way people address my daughter and son as their sex becomes a known quantity. They start to call her “pretty.” They start to call him “smart.”

Perhaps that is when feminism settled deep into my bones.

So when the question is posed to me, “what is feminism,” the only answer that I can reply with is that it is the simple belief that woman are equal to men.

And that’s it. Feminism is a statement that women are equal to men, and to correct inequality where it exists.

Both my daughter and my son deserve such a future.


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We Have Income Redistribution, And It Isn’t Like You Think It Is, Most Likely.

This is a quick and dirty cut and paste from something I wrote up on my Facebook. 
I haven’t linked my citations or anything, but it’s all pretty readily available stuff. So, if you can’t find these numbers, or disagree, feel free to question, and I’ll see if I can go dig the citations back up.

A pretty regular trope I hear is the Welfare Fraudster.
They take in government handouts while dining on steak, wearing $200 sneakers and having under the counter jobs and income that they dodge taxes on.

Most estimates put such government assistance fraud at about 2% of the total received.

Meanwhile US companies are reported to have greater than USD1.7 Trillion in offshore profits. That’s under the counter income, essentially, that is not taxed. These holdings are being kept there by companies who insist that the money will not be repatriated and therefore need not be taxed.
We have a worldwide tax system which means that our corporate rate is 35% for US based companies on money earned around the world. BUT, there are foreign tax credits earned and taxes are deferred until profits are brought home (repatriated). So, a corporation earns money in a low tax country, pays the taxes there, and reinvests there. They earn the credit for paying the taxes, and no taxes are due because the money was reinvested rather than returning.
There’s tricks played with the money, though, naturally. Michigan Senator Carl Levin reports that a subset of 27 companies had 46% of their offshore assets invested in US banks.
Basically, it’s money laundering. Taking money to cheaper countries, putting that stamp on it and using those holdings to do international investments with “foreign” money back in the US.
It’s tricky, but Congress has no interest in changing it. Even without that, though, it’s incentivizing reinvestment overseas. No wonder we’re hemorrhaging money in the US.

These are some of the “loopholes” you’ve been hearing about during the sequester talks.

There’s more, too, with big banks earning a lower borrowing rate to help keep them from failing. This rate has been put at 0.8% by Kenichi Ueda of the International Monetary Fund and Beatrice Weder di Mauro of the University of Mainz. If their figures are correct that puts the 10 largest banks at an essential subsidy of USD83 Billion, or about 3 cents of every dollar in taxes brought in. The top 5 banks account for about USD64 Billion of that. Which is actually sort of horrible, as that’s nearly equal to their stated profits. Which means they’re just breaking even with that subsidy.

In other words, much of the profits they’re reporting to the stockholders are subsidies that you, the taxpayer, and all the rest of us are paying (meanwhile, corporations are dodging these by sending them overseas).

These tax loopholes were lobbied for by the same companies enjoying them. At the same time they’re lobbying for a decrease in the corporate tax rate that they claim would bring income back, but has not ever been shown to.

It’s a straight redistribution of wealth.

Meanwhile, instead of closing these loopholes, we’re cutting WIC, Medicare, free lunch programs that are often the only hot, full meals that our already high number of food insecure children are eating each week, housing subsidies that were keeping people from being homeless, and many other individual assistance programs.

And really, is it any question as to why? These massive conglomerates own the actual media that is slanting the stories you hear. They pay for the elections of politicians who then legislate bills that the company’s lobbies actually wrote. Hell, the legislators themselves are often shareholders and owners of many of these companies. Going all the way up to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Meanwhile children who are starving, people who are dying from lack of medical care, and the homeless do not have lobbies.

I don’t even care, be mad at individual assistance programs, but, for fuck’s sake? Be angry about the straight redistribution of the US economy into the hands of the very few who are making the laws that make it possible.

That’s the *actual* Socialism that you all claim to rail against.


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Brave New World

On November 4th 2008 I was just a bit over 2 weeks into recovery from the emergency c-section that had brought P and Pie slip-sliding into this world.
I was determined to vote, and left my wee babies for either the first time or one of the first times with my husband. I showered and dressed, excited to not be wearing house clothes that were mostly determined by their function and ease of use. I put on socks and shoes, brushed my hair, kissed my family and walked to the driveway to get in my little car.

I drove to the local polling precinct (a local Baptist church, as are most of the polling places surrounding me), prepared to stand in line for hours.

This was a pretty unnecessary mental preparation. There wasn’t much of a line, but the poll workers took one look at me and pulled me to the front of what meager line there was.

This is pretty embarrassing if you think about it. I had showered, for cripes sake. Clean clothes were on my body. I was not wearing yoga pants, and my shirt had not been marketed in any way as a nursing accessible shirt. I felt the very best I had felt post-natal. Yet, I  still looked so much like death warmed over that they carefully walked me to the registry, and to the voting stall. They gingerly held my hand as though I might fall down or start spitting pea soup at any minute.

Nevertheless, I found the strength to do my bit and even enjoyed a tiny afternoon out afterward.

The rest of the day is lost to memory for me. What I do remember, though, is watching the returns that night. Myself and my husband watched as the votes were counted and history was made. Our babies slept peacefully through the process.

When the election was called and it became apparent that our 44th President would be Barack Obama my heart swelled. I did not have any incredible great hopes or expectations tied to that feeling. I voted for him because I thought his was the best and most credible plan. I considered his personal history and life record and thought that they embodied something worthwhile for the Oval Office.

That wasn’t what the heart swelling was about, though. It was about the fact that we had managed to elect a black guy. Not just any black guy, though, a black guy with a name like Barack Hussein Obama. During a time when a name like that should have basically been the end of any political career.

I didn’t think that racism was over or that xenophobia was now a thing of the past rather than a force that was alive, well and still kicking the shit out of a lot of people.

What I did think was that the odds had just gotten pushed into a slightly better arrangement. That was worth a bit of heart swelling. So swell my heart did. I held my children and my heart swelled and I kissed their heads and whispered into their ears that they were alive and here when something amazing happened.

This time around, my heart was slower to swell. I wanted the outcome that happened, sure, but what happened had already happened.

Halfway into the night, though, I had a realization.

The newborn infants that I had whispered into the ears of four years previously were gone. In their place were two rambunctious four year olds. In four years when this happened again, those preschoolers that I knew would be gone. In their place would be two eight year olds. Instead of sleeping while this happened they would likely be awake and present for most of it.

Not only that, but, and this is where my heart started to swell, the only President they had ever known would be about to be replaced. For the first eight years of their life the head of their country will have been President Barack Obama.
They will not be children of Johnson, Nixon and Ford as myself and my husband are. They are not the children of Carter, or Reagan, or Bush one or two. They are not the children of Clinton.

I don’t really entirely know what that means or will mean to them. It does feel more hopeful in this age when we are looking forward, though. The landscape and possibilities of humankind are changing at a drastic rate right now, at speeds that I can’t even quantify.

The invention of the silicon chip followed by the invention of the Internet has laid a new field down. Science and research are taking jumps that seemed to be previously mired in treacle. The political implications have already been earth shattering and somewhat unpredictable all around the world. We’re still trying to get our feet out from under us as to what the social landscape is in this new world.

To our children, though, this isn’t a new world. It’s just the world. There has always been internet. Phones were always flat things that one carried in their pocket. We’ve always had a map of the human genome. It’s always been possible to video chat with someone across the world. Barack Obama has always been President.

Will they someday look at the family’s new 3d printer the way my brother, sister and I looked at our family’s new microwave? Will it also be incorporated into their lives the way the microwave was incorporated into our lives? Will they print out models for school assignments? Will we use our phones to take a quick scan of their bodies instead of going to the doctor?

I do know, already, that their friends will be here, there and everywhere the way my friends are. Not because my friends migrated, but because the Internet makes it possible for me to befriend someone from New Zealand even though I never left the US.

Now, all that has little to do with our 44th President. His re-election made me consider that, though. The current hand wringing and grief over losing the election, typified by Bill O’Reilly saying on air that “the white establishment is now the minority” and “it’s not a traditional America anymore,” points out how tied to the past we were. The election went to the youth, to the minorities, and to the women who could no longer stand by while they lost all that their mothers and grandmothers had fought for.

That’s a really good thing. You can’t step forward when you’re satisfied with where you are standing. The white male establishment was, as a whole (though not necessarily in parts), satisfied with where they were standing in the US.

My children strive forward into a future that I do not know.

I sort of think that’s a good thing.