Matterhorn not withstanding, we have a 5-year old

August 28, 2019

I know, I know, it’s the biggest cliche in the world. Time accelerates when you have a kid. But seriously, didn’t we just bring this baby home from the hospital? I am now writing this while a 5-year old takes a bath with a posh bath-bomb and a tub full of mermaid dolls.

Cozy turned 5 on August 17 but has made August her prolonged “birthday month,” which means lots of “I can eat this because” and “I can watch this because.” It’s OK with me, because you remember 5 and she should remember this wonderful summer wonderfully.

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We decided to return to Disneyland for Birthday #5. Number 3 had been a blast thanks to a friend who works at Disney Studios making sure Cozy got the Birthday Girl treatment, which included an epic meeting with Minnie Mouse. Minnie was quite thrilled to shake hands with Social Media Sensation Cozy Valentina.

We had to put a bit more effort into the fifth anniversary of her dramatic entry into the world in 2014.  We kept the California plans a secret. Our flight to LA had a layover in Las Vegas, so, while having breakfast inside the grand pyramid of the Luxor, we told her that Vegas wasn’t the final stop on her birthday trip. A few hours later we landed in Burbank and caught a Lyft to Walt Disney Animation Studios and she figured out what was going on when we pulled up to Mickey Mouse’s giant wizard hat.

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I have a friend who is an animator with Disney and his amazing tour included a peak at a scene he was working on for Frozen 2. Cozy was blown away (as were we). After a night in an old school Burbank motel, it was off for two days at Disneyland (and two nights in the retro-fabulous Disneyland hotel). She was back in her realm. Cozy still loved riding Dumbo but she is starting to appreciate rollercoasters. Well, almost.

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I was at the Anaheim park when I was 5 and really wanted to ride the Matterhorn bobsled rollercoaster. My parents must have thought it would be too scary for 1969 Randy. That didn’t stop 2019 me from dragging my kid, half asleep, onto the wild ride, late on our second night in the park. Blasting through the dark, Cozy not sitting with either of us, and Yetis screaming at bobsleds as they whizzed by, was a recipe for trauma. Poor Cozy was shaking and sobbing after the ride. Later, she made me call my mother and apologize for not trusting her judgement with regard to 5-year-olds and The Matterhorn. There’s going to be Yeti-related therapy down the road.

The Disney Surprise worked well as a rite-of-passage into fivedom. Next week she starts kindergarten and I can leave it all in the capable manos of Señor Siam. My tenure as a stay-at-home dad officially comes to close. It seems to have slipped by as if a dream that now I’m just waking up from. Will I remember any of it? Thank Groot for this blog.

This person that is now our five-year-old daughter is a fully formed sentient being. Not that I would, but I could drop her off at the local Lowes Hardware (What, you’re not boycotting Home Depot?) for a few hours, and find her running the place when I returned. She’s got crazy charisma and can work a room, from front to back. Is that an innate characteristic or did she pick that up from her vaguely politically astute parents? Whatever, I can’t wait to vote for her.

The end of her birthday month has been illuminating. Mom is off exploring Oaxaca, Mexico, so Cozy and I are getting some end-of-summer bonding done. She’s got ideas about God, the value of chutes in Chutes & Ladders, and when it’s permissible to gorge on Mac & Cheese (when one parent is out of the country). I’m endlessly entertained and in awe that we had anything to do with this fascinating creature that exists in this physical plane as “our kid.” I can’t wait for the next five years to fly by. But I’m taking 10-year-old Cozy back on to the Matterhorn.

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Your loved one was just killed by an angry white man with a gun. OK?

August 4, 2019

When will it end? After Columbine. After Sandy Hook. After Las Vegas. After Parkland. After El Paso. #YOURCITYHEREstrong

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I was preparing for an interview on CNN about the slaughter in El Paso when the news broke about another shooting in Dayton, Ohio. Another white male with a gun and the weekend body count climbs. Imagine if all these victims had been killed by someone shouting “Allah Akbar!” There’d be some action taken then. But when it’s a white guy, hey it must be the fault of video games or Satan or something.

I’ve been writing about mass shootings since the 1990s. My co-authored 2000 book, Renegade Kids, Suburban Outlaws, took on the wave of school shootings that ended the twentieth century. Since then I’ve written about the topic ad nauseam, including the specter of right-wing violence that was likely behind the kill zones in both El Paso and Dayton.

I’m so weary. There is a void in leadership. Trump is propped up by the gun lobby and his white nationalist base that not so silently cheers the slaughter of innocents. There must be a parallel universe America where Trump and Moscow Mitch McConnell are hung for sedition and the leadership of the NRA is put on trial for war crimes. But having to stomach another wave of these assholes’ “thoughts and prayers” circle jerk is no longer possible. These are your people, Trump. Tell them to stop and say it like you fucking mean it. WASPs demand that Muslim people disavow Islamic terrorism every single day. I want every freakin’ white man to tell these shooters to stop and I want to hear them do it constantly, 24-7-365. Wake up out of your sleep and tell these white men to stop killing us!

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Here’s where “great” America is now. I know that if I take my family to the movies, to the park, to the mall, to a house of worship, or to any school, there’s a chance a white male, angry at the world over some perceived loss of some perceived right, may kill them in front of my eyes. Because my family is brown, I know that elevates the chance they will be ripped to shreds by some human turd who hangs out on 8chan reposting articles about the “white genocide.”

This is the reality. I’m at a show and I’m keeping my eye on the exits in case the shooter comes in from the back. When my Mexican wife is teaching her students how to conjugate verbs in Spanish, I wonder if some fan of the president is going to come in, screaming, “Go back to where you came from!” and spray the class with his moronic rage, slicing her in half with “legally bought” ammunition. When I drop my daughter off at school, I wonder if some young man, inspired by the Sandy Hook shooter and his soft targets, will go for the “Fuck the World” glory and I’ll have to identify my precious child from all her friends at the morgue. Isn’t America great?

Here’s my promise. Any candidate that promises to use every tool legally available to shut down the NRA and the terrorists in the gun lobby has my full support. I don’t care if it’s Marianne “Huh?” Williamson. It’s sure not Joe Biden. I know the ice caps are melting and people are tweaked on opioids, but bullets are flying in God’s houses and the people’s streets. I’m not a fan of binaries, but it’s time to draw the line. Which side are you on? If you are not acting to defend my family from gun violence, you are in bed with the terrorists who want to destroy our basic right to safety.

I’m so tired of writing about this. I’m tired of our complacency and our stupid hashtags. I’m writing a manifesto of love, but if you aren’t onboard to stop these white men from killing families like mine, don’t expect much love from me.

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Lita was one cool cat.

July 26, 2019

Yesterday morning I got up early and thought I saw Lita, our cat, as usual, in the window giving me her daily look that says, “Where the hell is my breakfast?” I stopped for a second because our 17-year-old cat had died two days before. I once heard Patti Smith say something like, “The dead live on in the memories of those who loved them.” There was some comfort that Lita is still on our porch is some form, waiting for breakfast.

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I got Lita in the summer of 2002 when she was a tiny kitten. I responded to a Craigslist ad for a free kitten and collected her from a young Mexican couple who had their hands full with a new litter. She was born in the City of Roses, so I named her Rosalita, which just became Lita. She was a spritely demon who would tear through the house like she was possessed, putting cat claw scratches on my wood floor.

A few weeks later I had a brain hemorrhage and a stroke. After a month in the hospital, Lita was waiting for me when I got home. As I would work on my physical therapy, she would attack me like the hyper-maniac that she was. It was actually very helpful as I could tell where the feeling was returning to my right side by whether or not the gashes she put in my body hurt or not. One day she left off my right shoulder and I could definitely feel it. Thanks, kitty.

A few years later, Lita, who loved to go outside, got hit by a car and lost her tail. She disappeared for over a week and came back looking like hell, dragging her smashed tail. Amputation was the only option. She also lost control of her bowels and permanently became an outdoor cat. (I used to joke I would rent her out to anybody who had an enemy and wanted their house to smell like cat pee – No takers.) She became known as the cat with no tail and would greet everyone who passed by our house and not even pee on them.

Over her 17 years, this cat saw a lot, including outlasting a few long term relationships. (Each came with a dog which Lita was not thrilled about). When Andrea arrived into my life, Lita gave her a nod of approval and crawled into her lap as we planned our life together. When Andrea was pregnant with Cozy, Lita seemed to accept there would be another small creature in the house, and started to clean up her bad ass act. By that point she had become used to the neighborhood raccoons and opossums stealing the food and the occasional brigade of coyotes patrolling the street. (Coyotes had made off with her brother, Leon the Cat, one night, so she had reason to take them seriously.) She just laid back and became the watcher of the house.

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Coming home from work or a long trip out of the country, Lita was always there to welcome us home. As Cozy got bigger, she loved to carry Lita around the front yard (and never got peed on). Our letter carrier, Anthony, would regularly take time to pick her up and pet her. Every winter I’d build a winter chalet for her to take refuge in and every spring I’d marvel that she made it through another series of snowstorms. That darn cat!

Seventeen is old for a cat. I knew what was coming. Last week she started disappearing and when she showed up she was all skin and bones. We brought her inside to make her comfortable and tried to get her to drink some water with an eye-dropper. She found her way to the bathroom floor where she liked to sleep when she was a kitten. Around midnight on Tuesday, as Andrea and I petted her, Lita gasped her last gasp and the ghost left her body to go look for her tail.

Of course, the larger question became, how would Lita’s death impact Cozy? Cozy is cat crazy and loved Lita in a way that was endlessly endearing. So we sat her down and didn’t sugar coat it. Lita didn’t go away, or go live on a farm, or go off to join the cast of CATS. She died. Cozy paused, and in her pre-school thinking responded with the perfect question. “So are we going to get a new cat now?” Then a little tear came out of her eye and she wanted to know why. “Lita was really old, Cozy. She was at the end of her life.” We read Elisha Cooper’s book, Big Cat, Little Cat, together and she seemed to understand.

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We busied ourselves with funeral plans. Cozy really wanted a “ceremony” to say goodbye to our dear pet. We went to the flower shop and she picked purple roses. At the garden store, she picked out a rock with “Forever” engraved in it. She even selected the spot to bury her, next to her favorite spot on the porch, where Lita would recline in the afternoon sun. Through it, she wanted to see Lita’s body, which was wrapped in one of Cozy’s baby blankets and laid inside a Doc Marten boot box. “I thought she would just be bones,” she said as she petted Lita just one more time.

Lita is now under the ground, buried with pictures her family, drawings by Cozy, and a little bit of cat food, just in case. The lesson is that nothing is forever. Appreciate those you love while they are here, even if they have leaky bladders. Cozy will tell you how much she misses Lita. We all do. But she will also tell you about the little cat that is coming to help the memory of the big cat live on. Thanks, Lita. Wherever you are, I hope you got back your tail and control of your bowels.

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How Do You Solve a Racist Problem like Donald?

July 17, 2019

After this week, if you don’t think Donald Trump is a racist, you might be a white nationalist. I’ve been interviewing avowed white supremacists for over 30 years and when I do there is two things they ALWAYS say:

  1. I’m not a racist. (I just love my people.)
  2. If you don’t like the way things are you can go back to where you came from.

Only the most sub-moronic of rednecks and Trump apologists do not recognize Trump’s latest hissy fit about Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashid Tlaib is rooted in tried and true racist tropes. Ask any person of color (including Mitch McConnell’s wife) what they hear when a white person tells them to “go back where they came from.” Trump is a racist. Every free-thinking person knows it.

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I started writing about Trump’s use of racist tactics in 2015 and it’s only gotten worse. I know plenty of former proudly white supremacist organizers who had a reckoning of conscience and are now the most bad-ass anti-racist activists.  At 73, I won’t expect any moment of redemption from the current occupant of the White House. Don’t expect Donald Trump to sign up to be rescued by the good people at Life After Hate. He’s going to carry this diseased bone to his grave like the old dog that he is. It’s not worth trotting out the evidence to convince the unconvinced. Those people are idiots and/or racists themselves.

So we have a virulently racist president who will probably have the bully pulpit until he is sworn out of office on January 20, 2021. (I’m still hoping he’ll just quit like a bloated Nixon.) What do we do about it? How do we adapt to the fact that the office of the President of the United States of America is caked in hundred year old pig shit?

FIRST – There are real victims of Trump’s racism. There are traumatized children at the border because they have been ripped from their parents seeking to protect them from the violence of their home countries. There are families traumatized through prolonged separation because of his “Muslim ban.” There are increasing numbers of Americans traumatized by hate crimes, as the racists who worship Trump scream, “Go back to where you came from!” as they harass and beat and shoot them. The most important thing is to protect, defend, and heal these people until the source of Trumpism is confined to the trash heap of history.

I was a Boy Scout and we were taught to take care of the least among us. “We’re only as strong as our weakest link,” we’d say. We learned that from the American armed forces. I grew up thinking that was an American value. When I watch Trump throw red meat to his rabid base, I wonder if we’re still America or if we’ve become ancient Rome. This is not America. We have to defend those who are the targets of his fear mongering. We have to be willing to stand on the tracks of the Trump train and say, “No more!”

SECOND – Obviously, Trump is not a unifier. He has made America 1861 again. We have never been more divided. We need to resist the divide & conquer tactics. The new rebel finds common ground.

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His moronic refrain is that if you have a problem with America, “you can just leave.” Does he really think that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez does not love this country? Or is that just what he thinks his cult of supporters want him to think? In the 1960s, right-wingers would chant, “America! Love it or leave it!” to civil rights marchers and anti-war protestors. The more rational reply was, “America! Love it and fix what’s broken!” I had a lot of fun ten years ago telling Tea Partiers, who where always complaining about President Obama, “America! Love it or leave it!” The irony sailed right over their thick skulls. It didn’t accomplish anything but it was fun.

I’ll admit the divisiveness can be fun. I can go all in for a good Facebook fight. But that only serves Trump and his Russian troll overlords. They want chaos. Remember when Jeb Bush called Trump the “chaos candidate”? Shocker: Jeb Bush was right. The antidote is political civility and unity. It was encouraging to see several Republicans sign on to the congressional condemnation of Trump’s most recent racist tirade. There may still be a shadow of a spine in the GOP. We need more of that. And just not unity in clapping back at the Dear Leader.

There is good research about political civility. It can happen. I know it seems impossible right now but we need to build bridges not walls. There’s a great Special AKA song from 1984 that goes, “If you’ve got a racist friend, now is the time for that friendship to end.” It’s wrong. As much as I want to unfriend people who blather about Trump not being racist (please stop), I want to keep them on board. Keep them engaged. Find ways in. Free them from their bigotry. Bring them to the light side of the Force.

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THIRD – We need to remove Donald Trump by whatever constitutional means possible, including the ballot box. The damage this madman is causing our great nation will take generations to repair. 2020 can’t be about third parties and “voting your conscience.” Ross Perot is dead. There is too much at stake. Whoever the Democratic nominee is, you’re gonna have complaints. “He’s too old!” “She prosecuted too many people of color!” “I can’t pronounce his name!” Shut the fuck up. Get out your debit card and make a contribution. Put a bumper sticker on your Uber. Hold your nose and vote. There are kids in cages. If I meet a single “anarchist” in 2020 who tells me they are not voting because elections are bullshit, I will personally hand them over to their Russian troll puppetmasters. We need everyone, including frustrated Republicans and youth in Che Guevara t-shirts (Made in China, no doubt). We need the sophistics and the folks who never pay attention to politics. We need a massive rebuke of this very anti-American American president.

It’s not worth it to debate Trump’s racism. Too many credible people (Thank you, Don Lemon) have already done it. The question now is who are we as a nation? Are we going to tolerate a tinpot dictator who wants to make America Jim Crow again, or are we going to stand for the great promise of our country holds for all people in the world? You must choose.

Female Role Models For My Daughter (and all those boys)

July 6, 2019

There’s a classic riddle I offer my sociology students when I want them to think about gender.

A man is spending a day with his young son who he is meeting for the first time. They do the usual father-son things like going to a ball game and having ice cream in an ice cream shop. At the end of the day, there is a horrible car accident and the father is killed.The boy is critically injured and taken to the Emergency Room. The attending doctor sees a child in need of critical aid brought into the ER and gasps, saying, “I can’t operate on this child. He’s my son!” 

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The first time I heard this riddle my mind did all kinds of backflips. Maybe the doctor was the step-father or maybe there were, somehow, two fathers in this universe. Then someone said, “The doctor is his mother” and I felt like a complete idiot. It’s a valuable lesson in how our brain is trained for normative maleness. Oddly, if I had grown up in the USSR, the answer to the riddle would have been obvious as the majority of medical doctors in the old Soviet Union were women. We’re not at gender equity yet, but I have great hope for my daughter’s generation. (Our daughter has a female doctor, by the way.)

The vestiges of patriarchy still pervade my 4-year-old’s preschool life. A male classmate told her that “girls can’t be bosses,” even though the owner of the school is a woman. I hope she called bullshit on the boy but I know she gets a lot of reinforcement of the “men are in charge” narrative even if at home dad is folding laundry while mom clocks in the hours at work.

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The day after we got back from Mexico, a tornado blew down our street in Portland. It was only an EF 0, but we were in the car right next to it and saw it take down the biggest tree in the neighborhood. Quickly, police and fire departments were on the scene, as the rain poured and power lines flailed about in the wind. As I gave interviews to local news crews, I saw Cozy talking to a female police officer about the twister. I realized that, thanks to my dragging her to endless meetings with law enforcement, she’s met enough female cops and FBI agents to know that women are in important positions of power all around her.

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Earlier this summer we took her to her first Portland Thorns game so she could see thousands of people cheering for our amazing female athletes. For her, it was just a normal sporting event, nothing remarkable that all the players on the pitch were women. What was even cooler was that she got to see tons of boys and men (including her dad) cheering for the mighty Thorns, at a record crowd in Providence Park, as they took down the Chicago Red Stars.

That’s been one of the most thrilling parts of watching the women’s World Cup matches this summer. Sure it’s great to see girls getting to see women play hard and fast soccer to a global audience (even if they are paid significantly less than male FIFA players), imagining that they could do it too. That there is space in a male-dominated world for female athletes and careers in their sport. But it’s also important that so many boys are showing up to root for women. It’s the beautiful game. We might have a misogynist in the White House, but the walls are coming down in football stadiums all around the world as men cheer on their sisters.

Gender socialization is real. It happens when we are conscious of it. (We live in a Barbie-free Zone.) But also when we don’t see it. I hope Cozy has taken note of all the women running for president, the women who she meets who work in local and national government, the female firefighters who responded to the tornado on our street, the female sportscasters on TV, and all the moms of friends who are working and bringing home the vegan bacon. But I also hope all her little male friends take note of the exact same thing.

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I was of two-minds about the 2011 Beyoncé song, “Run the World” The refrain, of course, was “Girls!” It was an empowering anthem but masked the fact that men (and their anti-woman/anti-Mother Earth agenda) still pretty much run the show, from Afghanistan to Alabama. Girls need to be armed with this truth, patriarchy is real and will not die easily. A few World Cup matches isn’t going to change that. But I think the girls (and boys) of Gen Z, might be able to see what that world will look like. It will look like a million people cheering as a talented female puts the ball into the back of the net.

 

Just Open the Damn Border

June 18, 2019

Mexicans have built an amazing country filled with culture and enterprise and awesome drinks. It’s no wonder so many Americans are moving here and so many locals have zero interest in heading north. This is wonderful place.

I’m back in Mexico for our annual family trip to Morelia and a bit of guest lecturing on Isla Mujeres. Every time I come to Mexico, I’m so knocked out by the beauty and hospitality of the country that I wonder what all those Trump racists are going on about. And then I remember, racism.

If Donald Trump had ever taken a break from his rich boy bubble and traveled south of the border for an extended period (not camping out at a luxury hotel in Cancun), he might not have branded Mexicans “murderers and rapists.” If he had actually gotten to know the people of this amazing country, instead of surrounding himself with the sycophants that kiss his orange ass, America might have a completely different view on immigration. Instead of inciting crowds of morons to chant “Build the wall!” he might be encouraging Americans to “let them in!”

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We started our trip here in Guadalajara. We’re in Morelia now, soon to head to Mexico City, before hopping a ferry to the isla. Each step of our experience here is always filled with encounters with the most generous and lively people. They might not have much, but they are happy to share what they have with a visitor. On Sunday, we attended a baptism of baby daughter of a sister of a wife of a cousin. We were welcomed warmly and then invited to the fiesta afterwards and showered with tequila and chicken mole and made to feel like we had been members of the family for generations. Cozy played with the niños for hours, including having a go at the piñata, as if they were all her school mates. The grandfather of the baby told me how honored he was to have my family attend. It was the exact opposite of what you hear about Latin America on Fox News.

It was then when I realized what a mistake it is to try and keep these folks out of the United States. We should be inviting them in by the droves. America needs more kindness, more parties, more commitment to children, more family. America needs more Mexicans! We have plenty of room! And bring your crazy tequila drinks!

Unfortunately, the hate mongers have driven an idiotic narrative about criminals, cultures of corruption, MS-13, and welfare cheats. I seriously doubt any of these folks have ever even been to Mexico, other than possibly a stop in Puerta Vallarta on some luxury cruise. Spend two weeks here and then tell me we don’t want a taco truck on every corner.

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There’s two important facts these immigration hawks ignore. The first is that  America had an “open border” policy its first 148 years and the country was fine. The Immigration Act of 1924 (modeled on the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882) was heavily pushed by the Ku Klux Klan and effectively choked off immigration from non-Northern European countries.  It was the law that told a ship full of 937 Jewish refugees escaping Hitler in 1939 to turn around. Campaigning for the law, a Klan leader declared at their 1924 convention, “I would build a wall of steel, a wall as high as Heaven, against the admission of a single one of those Southern Europeans who never thought the thoughts or spoke the language of a democracy in their lives.” Sound familiar?

Before that law, people would just show up and America was happy to have them. We knew this country was being built and we needed hard working people from wherever who were ready to invest some sweat equity. There was no “right way” of immigrating before 1924. People just decided to join our team and get to work. But even after 1924, the southern border was completely porous with people going back and forth at will, no check points, no border patrol. Before 9/11, the same was true with our northern border. You didn’t need a passport to go to Canada and they didn’t need one to come here. This nation was built on open borders and we were great!

The second thing these Trump ass-lickers ignore is that, despite our Russian puppet president’s declaration about “criminals flooding across the border,” clear research shows that immigrants (especially undocumented immigrants) have LOWER crime rates than the general public. They come here and work their asses off, paying billions in taxes, and often not able to access the services that citizens can. If someone comes here and commits a crime, bust them, but also bust the CEOs that are robbing your 401K while you sit there watching Tucker Carlson.

The reality is that many Mexicans, especially from the state of Michoacán where we are now, headed northward after George Bush negotiated and Bill Clinton signed NAFTA in 1994. The trade agreement forced many Mexican farmers to buy overpriced seeds from Monsanto, putting most out of business. Nobody was hiring in Guatemala, so they made their way to Estados Unidos. Many of their children are now my students and kicking ass.

Research also shows that they have greater mobility in America. They may come here with just the clothes on their back, but their dedication to the American Dream allows their children to go to college and start businesses of their own. My wife walked across the Arizona border as an “illegal” and is now teaching at a university, working towards her doctorate. I would bet my house that the average DACA kid has added more to America than the average troglodyte in a “Make America Great Again” hat.

Ever wonder where that stereotype of the “lazy Mexican” comes from? It’s called projection. Mexicans and other Latin Americans are working countless shifts or in horribly unsafe conditions, while white people sit around whining about “illegals.” We’re the lazy ones. Their work ethic shames everybody else and instead of thinking, “Man, I’d really benefit from having those people on my team,” xenophobes have to make up some classic racist shit about “invasions.”

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Trump’s stupid claim that you can’t have a country without secure borders ignores reality. For most of America’s history we didn’t have “secure borders.” Tear down the walls, open the doors, and beg these wonderful people to come in. Let’s start the fiesta. Make America great again.

This War on Women and a Strategy to Defend Choice

May 19, 2019

In Texas last month, male lawmakers introduced a bill that would give women the death penalty for having abortions, even if they were the victims of rape or incest. The news coming out of Ohio, Georgia, Alabama, Missouri and other “red” states is even more frightening as laws restricting a women’s control of her body have actually passed. What the hell is happening? Is America becoming Gilead? Are these states controlled by the Taliban? Is Donald Trump’s wet dream of turning the country into a misogynistic dictatorship coming true right before our eyes?

The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision didn’t settle the debate about abortion access. Supreme Courts can over-rule previous “established law.” Liberals have been hoping for a president who would appoint judges that would overturn the 2010 Citizens United decision that gave personhood to corporations. The 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision that made racial segregation constitutional was reversed by the the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that ruled racial segregation unconstitutional. So don’t think the high court sets anything in stone. And now that Trump has placed two conservative white men on the court (Please don’t die, Judge Ginsburg!), expect more backwards motion.

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The abortion debate runs deep. I totally understand the pro-life position. The first day we heard my unborn daughter’s heartbeat changed my life. But their position has two major flaws. The first is that outlawing abortion will not end abortion. It will push it back into alleys (and on to the internet) where women will die from not having doctors and trained professionals carry out the procedure. (You can buy RU-486 on line, by the way.) The second is that these “pro-life” advocates could not care less about these “babies” once they are born. Alabama, for example, comes in 46th in health care for children and 50th for education. While the Cotton State was ruling that rape victims must carry their rapist’s child, they were executing a guy who committed his crime when he was a teenager. Pro-life!

So what do we do?

All the screaming in the world is not going to convince the “pro-life” (Really the pro-forced birth, pro-illegal abortion) crowd to let women have control over their bodies. They’re convinced that that clump of cells is a “person” who needs to be protected. They are dug in and we are dug in. How do we appeal to enough people in the middle to make sure this frighting trend doesn’t end up as a real-life Handmaid’s Tale?

WASHINGTON LIFE RALLY

The good news is that the vast percentage of Americans (79%) are pro-choice. According to a May 2018 Gallup poll, 50% of Americans believe abortion should be legal under certain circumstances and another 29% believe it should be legal under any circumstance. Only 18% of Americans surveyed think abortion should be illegal. I’m going to guess that recent news coming out of places like Alabama is going to push the May 2019 numbers even more towards the pro-choice column.

We have a road map here. It’s the incredible shift in attitudes towards homosexuality and gay marriage. Over the last twenty years, American attitudes have flipped on gay marriage. It’s been one of the biggest and fastest attitude shifts in American history. How did that happen? How did we go from Ellen DeGeneres’ sitcom being cancelled because of outrage over a gay character on prime-time TV to marriage equality in all 50 states? Because people came out. There was a time when middle-America thought gay people were only in San Francisco, dancing in ass-less chaps in the streets of the Castro district. Now, LGBT folks are their family members, friends, co-workers, and (gasp) even their kids’ teachers. The movement to come out (even in Alabama) has certainly had casualties, including violent hate crimes, but the end result is that it’s a lot harder to scream about “homos burning in hell” when the family member you love comes out and asks, “Are you going to be with me or against me?”

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What’s been happening this week on social media feels a lot like the start of the #metoo movement in 2017, when women began telling their stories of harassment and rape. The genie of truth was out of the bottle. In the last few days, so many of my female friends have come forward with their stories of terminating pregnancies, including in red states. For some, it was a gut wrenching-decision. For others, it was a medical procedure that was just a step in retaining control over their lives. Some had been victims of rape. Others were not ready to add a child (or another child) to their lives. All were allowed to make the decision for themselves. Their right to dictate what went on in their bodies was not challenged, because, as Leslie Jones said on SNL, “You can’t control women because — I don’t know if y’all heard — but women are the same as humans.”

Men need to step up and join their sisters (figurative and literal) on the front lines. As a man without a uterus, I’ve learned to take a back seat on the abortion decision itself. To be 100% honest, I have had the front seat in this discussion on a personal level. Since it’s not my body, my only job has been to be supportive and respectful. Fragile men pass these laws but they can also be dicks when they should just shut up and make some tea. So, as a man I can’t say, “Women, you need to do this…” But as a sociologist, my hunch is that the more women and girls come forward with their stories about exercising their right to make choices, some hard, about their bodies, the more people in the middle will not see pro-choice women as “baby killers” or any of the other pejoratives that are hurled at females who are often just trying to get through a rough patch. The bottom line is that men have to both defer to women but also ramp up their initiative and effort to defend those women. If women and girls are going to tell their truths, we dudes have to make our brothers listen.

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Thirty years ago I volunteered as an escort for an abortion clinic in Atlanta. This was a time when a so-called “Christian” group called Operation Rescue was harassing women who were entering women’s clinics, some just for simple pap smears and OB-GYN appointments. I would walk the women in as these maniacs would scream the worst things imaginable at them. I would try to provide a distraction by talking about the weather or the latest episode of Cheers. It was clear that these “pro-life” harassers were more traumatizing to the women than the actual task at hand. 

I think that’s what’s going on now. Men are losing their long grip on patriarchy. From Title IX to #metoo, their assumed authority is eroding. They will recruit a few willing women who need a “strong man” to shape their shifting world, and flock to a pussy-grabber president who will take them back to the “again” America, before Brown v. the Board of Education, before the modern feminist movement, and before Roe v. Wade. Their best weapon is to traumatize girls and women again. To weaken them with threats of returning to the back-alley past. To bring back Father Knows Best. To reach into the femaleness of females to terrorize their humanity. To proclaim them less than human.

But it’s different this time. Women and girls are different. And so are many of the men and boys who now stand with them. The old men have lost their control over us. We won’t go back.

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