STUDY HALL: Write with us, beginning each Tuesday at 10 a.m.!

IMG_3546We check In each Tuesday here to give each other support and encouragement to work in those writing projects we might otherwise put off. Everyone is invited to join us by including below a brief comment about what you’re working on today. Afterward, please let us know how it went. If you can’t make it at 10 a.m., leave your comments when you can, before you start, by the Study Hall post dated today. Better late than never, better now than not at all!

Screaming Meemies

I hadn’t planned to post until after September 1, when I should be happily crossing the Atlantic Ocean on the Queen Mary 2, on my way to take my dear husband to see art museums and sites in Italy, a trip we’ve saved for many years and postponed twice as Covid raged. I also didn’t plan to go to Europe just when the edits, author photos, bios, and blurbs were due for my new poetry book coming in 2023, but that’s the date my publisher chose, and one does not, these days, argue with publishers. And my friend, Miriam Mysteriam, and her Teen didn’t plan to be homeless in Vermont with early fall coming on. The latter meant I had to squeeze a GoFundMe campaign into trip and book preparation.

Miriam and The Teen have had a rough time lately, having to bury two elders, with all the travel, family drama, and grief associated with those events. Now that their most intense grieving period is over, they were looking forward to a move back to Vermont, where Miriam lived for many years, and where The Teen will be an incoming freshman scholarship student at Champlain College. They packed up their New York digs, traveled to the Montpelier area, and stored their furnishings while they settled in with a friend who would help Miriam find a new home for them once The Teen settled into his dorm. Alas.

The best laid plans. . . .

The friend had her own major life crisis, and suddenly her home was no longer available to Miriam and The Teen. For a short while, they lived in a tent in a local camp ground, but the storage fees, campground fees, and other expenses associated with being homeless (their cat freaked out and seriously scratched Miriam, adding medical fees to the mix) mounted, and the need to find work urgently presented itself. But how do you find work if you’re primitive-camping and there’s no shower? The need to be clean and presentable and even rested (Did I mention the freaked-out cat who doesn’t like either the car or the tent?) required them to spend precious dollars on hotel rooms. Who knew that even the cheaper hotels in Vermont cost almost $200 per night? (Seriously, the closest Laquinta is $175 per night!)

I and so many other of Miriam’s friends were listening to all this and knew we had to do something. Hence, the GoFundMe. With the help of Caren Gussof Sumption and Rachael Dosen (mighty writers, all!) I managed to get a basic page up. Not that I know what I’m doing with either fundraising or crowd funding platforms.

Did I mention you can donate to Miriam’s fund, if you’re so inclined?

Donate for Miriam and The Teen

Now, I have to turn my attention back to book and trip preparation and hope that folks will be generous enough to help Miriam and The Teen out until they can get settled. What a way to start a freshman year. What a way to scramble for a living. What a way to defy Covid while trying to fulfill a long-held promise of taking my art historian/artist husband to see the art works he studied for so long. What a life.

Life is ridiculous, and sublime, and infuriating, all at once. So we should all hold hands while crossing the street, right?

Stay safe, beloved community.

Taking a Break

Weaver’s Knot will be on break from now until about September 1.

Toni Morrison says:

You need intelligence, and you need to look. You need a gaze, a wide gaze, penetrating and roving — that’s what’s useful for art.

You’re Never Too Old to Be in Kansas

There’s always something left to learn.

For instance, did you know that the Earth was on the other side of the galaxy when most of the dinosaurs roamed the earth? It takes the earth (and thus the rest of our solar system) about 250 million years to orbit the center of the Milky Way. The first dinosaurs appeared about 250 million years ago, so for most of their reign, the Earth was in a wholly different neighborhood, so to speak.

Maybe you knew this already, but I just learned it by reading the Interesting Facts newsletter that shows up in my inbox I-Know-Not-How.

I also learned something by reading about the pop singer Demi Lovato. She considers her gender to be fluid, so she uses as her pronouns they/them and she/her. I understand fluidity. However, I’m still pondering the story of another young person quoted in the article, who considered themself both transgender and non-binary. It seemed contradictory to me. What is one transitioning from if one is non-binary? Why transition at all, in that case? How does one know if one wants to transition, if one is non-binary?

The way one young person explained it to me is that he doesn’t like having an, er, scrotum, or being so hairy that he has to shave, he doesn’t really like his male body, so he wants to transition to female. He doesn’t really sexually gravitate more to one gender than another. He is trans, fluid, and non-binary. Right now, he uses “he” but also “her,” and doesn’t object to “they.”

While I’m uneasy about the implied binariness of transitioning, most likely because I can’t put myself in their/his/her place, I absolutely understand that it is vital to some people’s sense of well-being. It is simply not my business how they choose to remake or label themselves. We are all on the quest of life, and it’s best to honor others’ pathways.

And I appreciate that younger generations are experimenting with gender constructs. I have known people—way back in the dinosaur age—who were, I am pretty sure, asexual, and it saddens me that they didn’t have a satisfactory way to talk about how they felt. Or a visible community to belong to. I can remember vividly a conversation with an older woman about her own sexuality; how she had never married or even dated except when some relative set her up, and she didn’t enjoy that in the least. She haltingly tried to explain that she had just never met anyone she cared that much about to couple with. She was self-deprecatory about her personal life, though she was a vital part of the project we both worked. Today, we would say she is “ace”—asexual, and she would find her cohort. Of course, I also remember people being in the closet and the fear they felt over losing family, jobs, friends—that much is still an issue, though becoming less so all the time, as younger generations are more accepting of others’ sexualities. How to make people happier is to accept and honor them.

I may be a little dizzy from all the experimentation, but I trust that we will come out into a clearing after a while with a greater understanding of human possibility. And when we do, I hope we are in the realm of true selves coming through. Meanwhile, pardon me if I put a foot wrong in this brave new world.

Which brings me to Kansas—talk about defying expectations! I love that the Kansas group who led the campaign to defeat the removal of abortion protections in their constitution tailored their message to the people they spoke to as they went door to door. To older people, they emphasized the interference of government in their personal healthcare decisions; to younger people, the abrogation of their rights and possible curtailment of their futures; to people out in rural Western Kansas (and, trust me, it is more rural than almost anyone else anywhere else can possibly imagine) they literally put a cowboy/cowgirl hat on their material and used the slogan “Vote Neigh!” They were superb marketers. Usually I’m skeptical about clever marketing, but, in this case, they achieved something none of us thought was possible—an end run around an extremely conservative legislature bent on forced birth in the most draconian way possible.

So they won the week, as Joy Reid would say. And possibly showed a new way to all of us. Most certainly, they gave us hope in this difficult time, with the news full of horrible stories about pregnant women.

And, that, is, maybe, the best lesson of all. There’s hope in the worst of times. There’s a way out of the most terrible dilemmas.

Now, where are my ruby slippers?

Summertime

Weaver’s Knot will return later this week when it’s not beach weather!

We’re not at the beach, but we have beaches on our mind.

Bluebells—help us reach 1000!

The Bluebell Campaign to ban assault-style weapons and require universal background checks is still alive and gaining speed, slowly but steadily. Help us reach 1000 signatures—put us over the top!

https://www.change.org/BluebellCampaigntoEndGunViolence

Yeats, War, and Crumbs

The very first thing I read this morning was a New York Times article by war correspondent Alissa Rubin and the poetry she carries with her into dangerous places. One of the poems quoted caught my eye.

O what fine thought we had because we thought
That the worst rogues and rascals had died out.
~William Butler Yeats “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen”

Reading that poem is like a forecast of our current days. Yeats’s despair had everything to do with Irish and European politics and history and almost nothing to do with the United States, but to read that poem, absent certain esoteric references, is to read what we might feel about current American circumstances—including those we share with the world, such as the horrific heat waves set off by human-caused climate change, as well as the war in Ukraine; and those that are uniquely American, such as the merging of misogyny and Puritanism that is the forced birth movement and the awful knowledge of what really happened on January 6.

Given the almost unrelenting bad news, I admit to occasional depression—yes, me, the determined optimist.

Yet I am also puzzling over another bit I read today, by David Leonhardt, also in the Times, about how the “Stop the Steal” movement predates the Trump presidency and belies a real conservative fear of being replaced, of being a “fading minority.” Add to this the current uneven economic picture, the pandemic, conspiracy theories, and yes, Trump, and the result is a rabid reactionary movement. Leonhardt points out that this isn’t the first American reactionary movement—the most consequential having been the Southern States’ resistance to the writing on the wall about slavery—and it likely won’t be the last.

In what do I see a glimmer of hope?

Well, for one, an opinion piece, also in the Times, by Margaret Renkl, about how, despite the horribly oppressive politics of the South, there are so many people fighting to make it better.

“We are fighting for our lives here, and we could use your help. Come on down, and help us throw the despots out.”

I live in South Carolina, and I can attest that there are, indeed, Southerners of progressive thought who are struggling every day and don’t plan on going anywhere. (Also, there are some planning to flee, but if some folks fought through the Jim Crow and civil rights years, like Rep. Jim Clyburn, and still haven’t left, you know this current impasse will find some still here.)

Sometimes the best way out is through. And this reminds me that the future is almost certainly a merging of human populations to the point where there is no true majority and no true minority, but people in somewhat varying hues and borders that mean less and less.

Also, no matter who or where, there are some truisms in life, such as:

Almost everybody loves dogs and cookies.

We will last, my friends, because we have to. Giving up means consigning our children to hell. And then who would look after the dogs or eat the cookies?

All the articles I’ve cited are listed as links below. And, as always, please like, share on social media, and comment below. I see you and you know I love you!

Sugar loves you, too!

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/19/world/middleeast/war-poetry-journalism.html?smid=url-share

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/19/briefing/stop-the-steal-anti-democracy.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/18/opinion/american-south-democrats.html?unlocked_article_code=AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACEIPuomT1JKd6J17Vw1cRCfTTMQmqxCdw_PIxftm3iWka3DKDm8SiOMNAo6B_EGKbK9ufdo41jLeX9hcLL9qSPF3yeRFNlB2DQm0p5_O0LI0HxIIk6PhFGUnw8CKGrki7T7hamT-I-kuyeLn4knDOTPpWrjY2HImOF4xo8F6dgn5iXIJxfqWE7UjycA-ial6fu1yQjwLZCiKuvH6WV4paJjdMEaqukRhUPpZWDrTgdeZ97oLFQ1TAlnGR3h1in0uvJIeYJhEefaicGNzPZb2kr4TCWd3LYa2B5xXR4LclL5isr-lugXoC1L2EuEf1j7vc3KaAgaN

My Encounter with a Living Legend

At DePaul University, years ago, I listened to students organizing against the Gulf War. It was standing room only, which was fine with me. The students were leading and I, by then an administrator at the University of Illinois at Chicago, wanted mostly to audit the meeting so that I could support them and eventually attend the demonstration they were discussing. Another middle-aged woman rushed in from the cold in knit hat and heavy coat and leaned against the wall beside me.

We chatted about the news, the War, and a few other mundane subjects. I marveled at her ability to carry on our conversation while also monitoring what was happening in the meeting.

I introduced myself to her while she kept staring straight ahead. I asked her name. Diane Nash. “You’ve got a terrific namesake.” She turned to me those famous blue eyes and laughed at my joy in recognizing her.

At one point, the students began to debate a suggestion that they support those who wanted to actively confront the police. Diane and I both leapt into the conversation with almost the same words, “No, no, that won’t achieve the end you want.” We looked at each other and laughed.

“We sound like mothers,” I muttered. Then we went on to talk about our children.

For those who don’t know, Diane Nash led the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins, was a Freedom Rider coordinator, cofounded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee which led to the successful voting rights campaign and the Voting Rights act, and made many more contributions. Maybe the most impressive thing she did was go to jail in Mississippi when she was more than four months pregnant, refusing bail because she and others believed that to pay the bail would be to agree to their arrest and imprisonment for exercising what should have been their basic rights. She said she did it so that all children could be free. She did so much more.

I cherish that conversation, and, especially, the moment she turned on me those famous blue eyes. I knew she had taken some guff about being mixed blood, like me. She was once a beauty queen, and she was still lovely when I met her many years later. She was a woman acknowledged in the Movement to be of considerable substance, whose counsel was sought about some of the most important events in our nation’s history.

She became a legend, and yet here she was, leaping into current events to lend a hand.

May she be forever blessed.

Diane Nash in her youth.

Will We EVER Change?

So many of us are downhearted today. Yesterday was not the Fourth of July of our midsummer dreams, nor even the one of our childhoods—for most of us, who remember prior to 2004. That’s when the federal ban on assault weapons was allowed to expire by Congress.

Image from NPR Chicago.

Mass killings with semiautomatic rifles with large magazines entered the public consciousness with the Stockton, California incident in 1989 (35 shot, five children killed) and the Luby’s Cafeteria shooting in Killen, Texas (27 wounded, 23 dead) in 1991. These and other incidents led to the 1994 Federal assault weapons banned, referred to above.

Since the end of the ban, the number of mass killings has increased, most researchers agree, although whether or not the ban resulted in a lower rate of homicides by guns seems to depend on whether you include all homicides committed with any type of gun. It may be true that most guns used in homicides would not be included in the ban, though this probably is not the key question in the fear and disgust most of us feel today.

Why are we so afraid?

A maniac with a handgun can confront a crowd at a grocery store, a school, or a holiday parade, and he (virtually always a “he”) will have to aim for each shot, can shoot only one bullet at a time for most models, and must reload after each clip of 5-10 bullets. That gives time for people to get the hell out of the way.

A maniac with an AR-15, arguably the mass killer’s gun of choice, can shoot 30-100 shots without reloading and how fast is limited to how fast the shooter can pull the trigger. It is possible to achieve a “spray” of bullets that will pierce anyone in its path. (AR-15s are semiautomatic and thus its trigger speed is limited; an M-16, often carried by armed forces, is fully automatic.)

Why do I have to know this?

Because I must be prepared to run if I find myself confronting one of these maniacs. The only problem is, I can’t really run, due to disabilities. With even a repeating revolver, I might be lucky enough to hobble quickly away to hide somewhere. With an AR-15, I would have little to no chance.

Neither would your child. Or your elderly mother. Or a very pregnant woman. Or any person with mobility impairments.

This terror we feel from witnessing these incidents and putting ourselves in the place of those who lose loved ones, seems to be what the shooters want.

They are domestic terrorists. Why are they not treated as that?

Because we can’t distinguish them from a law-abiding citizen with an AR-15, and there are plenty of those.

There is much talk of mental illness, but we aren’t even close to being able to identify and treat the mentally I’ll among us, much less being able to separate the homicidal from the peaceful, though we know most mentally I’ll people are not violent. Although other countries have mentally ill people, domestic violence that often leads to shootings, and even hate-filled extremists, our gun violence rate is 26 times higher than other high-income countries.1

The difference is easy access to guns.

It’s indisputable. U.S. States with higher rates of gun ownership and weak laws (such as no registration, open carry, etc.,) have higher rates of mass shootings.2

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, since 2009, there have been 278 mass shootings in the United States, resulting in 1569 people shot and killed and 1000 people shot and wounded. (This total doesn’t include recent incidents.)

Not so many as it seems, you might think. True. More than 99 percent of all gun homicides are not mass killings. (Mass killings are generally defined as more than four deaths.) Most involve an irate employee, a pissed-off, controlling ex-husband, or someone else set out on revenge. Some include perfect strangers involved in road rage incidents. Or the horrible “prank” of shooting at the homeless.

So why are we so terrified? Most of us think we can avoid such incidents by not working in a sour environment, choosing the right partner, and controlling our own anger on the road. Or we just don’t think someone we know will pull the trigger.

One thing seems obvious to me: It’s not the people. Americans are no more violent, most likely, than people elsewhere, although I suppose it can be argued that we still have a “cowboy” and “Wild West” mentality. But most killers aren’t cowboys and one place you don’t see this many killings is in the former Wild West—Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, etc. Why? Maybe people there grow up with respect for guns and what they can do. But I suspect it’s simply because there are fewer people on those states.

It’s the guns. We have to ban the semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15 has been used in almost all recent incidents. The gun of choice of suicidal and homicidal young men 18-25 who want to take other people out with them.

We have to work harder at it. Because we don’t have to live like this. Because our children really, really deserve not to grow up accepting this as their reality. Because shoppers, celebrant, teachers, and students, damn it, deserve a chance.

And while we’re at it, we have to get some sense about guns in general. Most homicides in America don’t require an AR-15. Neither do most suicides by gun. We need fewer guns, period. We don’t need to carry them into public spaces like restaurants and movie theatres.

The Supreme Court, by the way, is wrong. If they’re truly going to apply the “originalist” argument to all decisions, they should have started not with abortion (which most certainly was legal in most of the original thirteen copies up to the point of quickening, i.e., the third trimester, as Roe decided) but with their bullshit decision that New York’s law banning guns in public places offended the Second Amendment. And what were the Founders thinking of when they proposed that amendment? Not AR-15s. Not even rifles or repeating revolvers.

You know the answer. With what did they fight the Revolution. With muskets. Which shot balls, not bullets. Which were notoriously inaccurate. Which took many seconds to load, giving the target time to run and hide.

I am perfectly okay with every home in America (except mine) having a musket for home defense. Although I do have a prime place for one over the fireplace. Like my ggggrandfather, William Parker, who fought in the Revolution, though he was a Quaker, and never killed another human for the rest of his life.

All the footnotes and other statistics used above come from the website

https://everytownresearch.org/maps/mass-shootings-in-america/

Please like, comment, and share with wild abandon! The buttons to do that are right down below.

Also, please sign the petitions, if you haven’t yet, for the Bkuebell Campaign to ban all assault-type weapons and require background checks for all gun purchases, in memory of the children and teachers killed in Uvalde, Texas. Here’s the link (Share it also with wild abandon, if you can. Just cut and paste the link below.):

https://www.change.org/BluebellCampaigntoEndGunViolence

Change, change, changes!

So much is going on around us that I can barely keep up with it, much less find time to condense my thoughts into a conversation with you, dear readers. Last week I found myself simply too overwhelmed to write. But that time is over! Ruling absorbed, Covid beaten back, J6 up to date. Now, what shall we do? I have a few suggestions:

1. Some writers are complaining too much there’s too much politics on Twitter and other social media. Good gosh, folks, we are in a Constitutional crisis only politics will resolve. Can’t write very well if you’re dead from an ectopic pregnancy that can’t be treated due to SC decision. Or feel self-actualized enough to set down your thoughts if you can’t vote, marry whom you want, or control your own body. Sit down, write quietly if you must. I plan on writing LOUDLY! Any way you can do it is fine. Just don’t jump on those of us who want to engage on the issues of our time. I mean, LOUDLY!!

2. Call your legislators! Go to scstatehouse.org and click on “Find your legislators” if in South Carolina or Google “who represents me” to find your reps and their contact info. Don’t wait until they start arresting women or women begin to die from ectopics pregnancies, delayed cancer treatments, etc. The time to save women’s lives is NOW. And, no, that is not hyperbole. As of my last count, thirteen states have enacted absolute bans on abortions—no exceptions!

3. The Dems need two more senators in order to end the filibuster (See more on that below) and enact legislation not just for women’s lives, bu5 also for voting rights, trans rights, marriage equality, and so on. Yes, I know we’re tired of giving money, but don’t tell me you’re tired of voting. Voting is our duty as citizens, part of our covenant with each other. I need to count on the fact that you will vote EVERY ELECTION. But don’t just vote for any old DEM. We need two Dem senators who will vote to void the filibuster. These Senate candidates have promised to vote to end the filibuster (so we can pass rights leg): Cherri Beasley (NC); John Fetterman (PA; Charles Booker (KY); Val Demings (FL); Tim Ryan (OH); and ALL the Dem candidates for Senate in the August 9 WI primary. Find one, donate, make calls, do what you can for them, even if you don’t live in their states. We all need them!

4. PlanB can be bought on Amazon and

delivered anywhere.

5. Want to help? Call your local Planned Parenthood office. Or visit wholewomanshealth.com.

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