Make up magic spells/ We wear them like protective shells

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Driving down the busy divided street that leads to our new house, past HyVee and to the highway, where the YMCA snuggles up against bridges and fast-moving cars. Traffic in my lane, the lane closest to the sidewalk, stops abruptly, and I change lanes in order to escape the snarl. And then I see a mama, about my age, dragging a dark blue stroller onto the sidewalk from the shoulderless street. Her older kid—Jetpack’s age, Jetpack’s proportions—stares, his expression unreadable, as his mom cradles the baby in the stroller. I can see her shaken, crouching, her face twisted with relief and horror and fear like I’ve never felt. Everyone’s okay. Traffic resumes, the baby is unharmed, everyone is okay.

But the scene has gnawed at my insides. If. If. What if.

I just can’t get that moment out of my head. I’ve seen car accidents, and put in my heartfelt wishes for the safety of everyone involved. I can remember what seems like a thousand international and horrors, waiting and hoping that the body counts were low.

This wasn’t a massive incident. This was a moment, an accident, a second when something terrible might’ve happened. If the driver hadn’t stopped. If she’d been on the phone or texting. If her brakes were bad. If the stroller had rolled further into traffic. If.

IF is a terrible place to live.

I don’t know what I’d do if something happened to Jetpack. Our brains reach the end of that road, and I think they just turn off. Nope. I don’t know what I’d do. I can’t know what I’d do.

I think that’s what that momma was thinking, that day, in front of the YMCA. Or maybe what she thought later.

Moments like those remind me why we grasp so hard at religious understanding. To blame sudden, painful changes on something—on the Fates, on Sin, on demons or deities—gives us some way to understand. Those aren’t understandings that I subscribe to, but I can see the draw.

And maybe this is even a religious thought, a prayer to toss into the aether. Wherever you are, I’m glad your baby was okay, YMCA mama, and I wish you all the best. You are in my heart.

———-

I wrote this weeks ago, and just haven’t had it in me to post it. Too depressing, I guess.

To add a kick in the gut, I’m going to go all topical. As Mark Twain said, “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress.”

Politics aside, there are a lot of people who are going to be hurting due to this political game that Congress is playing. WIC isn’t funded, some smaller food access programs are closing down, and food programs for low income seniors will not be funded. People won’t be bringing in paychecks. If you’re not a federal employee, and/or if you aren’t hurting from this charade, now might be a good time to donate, to food banks (often, they prefer money, not “the canned goods from the back of your cupboard”). And keep an eye out for ways you can help, as the shit, as they say, continues to roll downhill.

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[Lit Crit] 3 Links, 3 Books

Some small links ahead, before your proper post:

  • Y’all should check out the new www.villageq.com site. I’m thinking there’s some familiar faces out there…

Now! Book post! We have one disappointing book, and two fabulous books. I’m not sure why the photos are so grainy, besides that the camera is new and I must have some settings off…also, Vanna Jetpack wasn’t real patient with this photo shoot 🙂

Anyway.

First book:

Who's in a Family cover

I flipped through this book and bought it, both for research, and because Jetpack liked it at the bookstore. I was excited. Scanning mindlessly, it looked like a fabulously perfect book.

Who’s In A Family was published in 1995. I’m a little surprised, actually, because I would’ve pegged it at a late ‘80s publication. The back gives a good summary: “Who’s in a family? The people who love you the most! Chances are, your family is like no one else’s–and that’s just fine.”

Good start, right? It doesn’t pidgeonhole (And Tango Makes Three is a great book but I want something a little queerer, too!). It shows different families (almost like small family stories on single or double pages) and also different types of animal-family configurations.

It starts to fall apart on page three.

Who's in a Family? Whitey.

The main text reads “Families are made up of people,” and then the next page says, “and animals have families too.” So…I’m not sure why the author and artist thought this page was necessary. In a book showcasing different types of families, this one starts with a definition of family–mighty white, heterosexual, and nuclear–which takes a dump all over that.

Who's in a Family moms Who's in a Family dads

Here’s our two main lesbian/gay appearing families. On the left, the text reads, “Laura and Kyle live with their two moms, Joyce and Emily, and a poodle named Daisy. It takes all four of them to give Daisy a bath.” On the right, the text reads, “Robin’s family is made up of her dad, Clifford, her dad’s partner, Henry, and Robin’s cat, Sassy. Clifford and Henry take turns making dinner for their family.”

Now, if Henry is the fellow with the porn star moustache, I guess I can understand some reticence in claiming him as dad (I jest). But there seems to be a huge disregard for the family unit on the right, versus the family unit on the left. There’s also a page which states “Lots of children live in families with their mothers.” But nothing similarly sweeping for father-led families.

Who's in a Family lions

Similarly, there are awesome showcases of animal families (Jetpack picked his favorite to show everyone). But not one is father-led (hello? Seahorse dads are badass. Or any of these animals, really). There’s no mention of adoption (at all). And step- or blended-families are glossed over.

In conclusion: if you run across Who’s in a Family, by Robert Skutch, just keep on going. There’s better books out there.

other books

These books, though. They’re not about families, but they’re really great books, and kind of subversive in a way that makes my writer-heart happy. And here, Vanna Jetpack was bored with holding books entirely, so please excuse the lack of inside pictures 🙂

Chester’s Way, by Kevin Henkes, is about two mouse best-friends, Chester and Wilson. Yeah, it’s two boys who are super close friends. I feel like this is a rare occurrence in kids lit, and I love how great the friendship between Chester and Wilson is. A new kid–Lily–moves into town, and Chester and Wilson learn about tolerance, and friendship, and it’s sweet and adorable. It doesn’t moralize, but it’s a very positive and has a lot of meaning.

The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf, is a story about a bull who doesn’t like fighting, but instead wants to hang out and smell the flowers. Seriously. Everyone wants him to fight and be hyper-masculine like the other bulls, but he wants to be peaceful. His mom worries that he’s unhappy, and when she discovers that he’s not, she just lets him do his thing. It’s a great book, the illustrations are absolutely beautiful, and it has another fabulous message. Plus, it was banned in fascist Spain and burned in Nazi Germany. Who can argue with that kind of a resume?

A Political Soapbox in Three Parts (Blame SCOTUS)

I'm not actually confident Batman would help with these problems.

I’m not actually confident Batman would help with these problems.

I’m just going to start this out by coming out of the closet an eensy bit: I’m legally married. Yes, the Mr and I have been together and hitched since we were 19 and 20, an astounding nine years ago this August—long before babies, before transition, before we were anything besides those weird awkward kids that got married too soon.

I put that out there right away because there’s an aspect of being queer, of having a family especially, that I’ve never had to worry about. When the Mr broke his ankle in 2008 and required surgery and an overnight stay, I slept in his hospital room, and no one blinked once. As the Mr and I have traded employment and unemployment, there’s never been a question of being unable to insure each other. Our taxes are easy, and Jetpack’s birth certificate has both of us listed—we never even blinked at what to put, or whether it was legal.

Privilege, y’all. It’s the thing that often keeps me from bringing up this topic, as a white/married/masculine-identified individual. But now I need to talk about it. So here it is, in three parts.

One: I am super happy for everyone to whom the DOMA/Proposition 8 rulings will be a blessing. I am happy for same sex couples attempting to secure citizenship. I am happy for the queer families of color who might find their lives made better because of it. I am happy for this guy and his complicated feelings. I am even happy for the filthy rich white folks who will have a little bit easier time because of it, because somewhere in my (vaguely socialist, vaguely anarchist, and vaguely misanthropic) heart, I think that their happiness matters too.

Two: I am also Really Not Happy about the culture that surrounds the rulings. Why, you ask? I’ll start out with my feelings about the Human Rights Campaign, because I shudder when I see those little red equal signs all over facebook. See, the thing is that the HRC has a history of being anti-trans and anti-immigrant. For the rest of my reason for being Really Not Happy, I’ll point you to a friend’s incredibly well written blog post, Why I Oppose Marriage Equality

I will never deny that marriage can provide concrete, material benefits to some poor, working class, and lower-middle class people, and I’m not passing judgment on individual choices about whether to take advantage of those benefits when your life would kind of suck otherwise. I am generally in favor of people having shit they need, and of short-term solutions for short-term problems.

The problem is that the marriage equality movement, which is the real subject here, is not about individuals and it is not interested in other solutions. The marriage equality movement, like the institution of marriage itself, is a major distraction from the fact that our government refuses to sustain social services and public benefits in the first place — a process the marriage equality movement is now mimicking by stealing all the money.

I could just excerpt the whole thing, but I’d rather you stop reading this and go read it. Go. I’ll be waiting with point number three.

Three: I was out to breakfast with a friend when the DOMA/Prop8 rulings trickled in. We had both stayed up way too late the night before, and were issuing a mutual play-by-play of the Texas legislature’s live feed—fawning over Senators Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, mostly. And we talked about our good-faith struggle to find joy in the SCOTUS rulings.

But it was really hard, folks. Because the day before SCOTUS gutted the Voting Rights Act. And because it felt…it felt a lot like we’d just traded the rights of a bunch of people to vote for the rights of a few people to marry. Because Tuesday, and Wednesday, I saw a lot of people talking about DOMA/Prop8 who were not talking at ALL about the rights being taken away from people—and y’all, I’m disappointed in you.

Despite the length of all that marriage talk up there, that’s the point of this post: not that marriage is awesome or bad, not that I’m excited to see where lgbtqia rights are going, but that we have SO MUCH MORE WORK TO DO. Because here in Wisconsin we have gotten a taste of voter suppression, and it tastes NASTY. So don’t stop kicking because you have tax breaks. Don’t stop pushing against a system which is pushing against everyone. Do everything you can to ensure that we all have a voice in this country, now that yours is a little stronger.

I’m going to end with someone else’s words here, because they’re better than mine: Black Girl Dangerous’ Calling In A Queer Debt: On DOMA, the VRA and The Perfect Opportunity

This is a call to all the people who assured me and so many other people of color and queer people of color that even though they are happy about the repeal of DOMA, they are still very upset about the blow to the VRA. This is a call to all the race and/or class privileged folks who insist that it doesn’t have to be an either/or, that they can rejoice in the new rights of LGBT people while at the same time raging over the further disenfranchisement of folks of color and poor folks, many of whom are LGBT. This is a call to all y’all.

This is a call for those of you who have said that gay is the new black. That gays not being able to get legally married was like black folks having to sit at the back of the bus. That the Marriage Rights Movement was the same as the Civil Rights Movement and why didn’t black people see that?

This is a call to all of you who told undocumented queers and trans* activists not to talk about immigration status or wave trans pride flags because it wouldn’t look good for your mainstream movement. This is a call to all of you who told all of us to wait. And wait.  Until you got yours.

Well, now you have it. […] Will you speak up for us, while the cameras roll? Will you speak up for all the people in this country whose rights are being taken away while yours are being increased? Or will you be silent?

It is not enough to acknowledge your privilege. Acknowledging it will never make it better, will never, ever change anything. At some point, you must act against it. This is that point.

So,come on. Whatchu waiting for?