capitalism

Stop This Tax Scam RIGHT NOW! Call, Email, and Tweet Your Senators!

unnamed.pngMany of you have been following the progress of this horrible tax bill. The vote is nearing, and we absolutely must put the pressure on Republican senators to not let this travesty pass. It’s not only a back-door ACA repeal but also a total scam, giving the uber rich a break while the working and middle class pay more. How long are we going to allow this corporatocracy to continue, at our expense no less??

Take five minutes right now, call 202-335-5529, and beg these Senators to VOTE NO on this tax bill! When your first call ends, press * to advance to the next call automatically.

I don’t agree with all of her views, but Senator Susan Collins has been a hero on the health care front so far. She has not confirmed her vote either way, but says she is hesitant because of the ACA repeal. Her vote is crucial, so CALL, EMAIL, TWEET HER RIGHT NOW! She knows what’s right, but her party is coming down hard on her. She needs our support. Thank her for supporting the ACA so far, and beg her to VOTE NO.

Senator Susan Collins
 – (207) 622-8414email contact form – Twitter: @SenatorCollins

Having trouble finding the energy to keep it up? From Senator Kamala Harris’s Twitter feed last night (Thurs, Nov 30): The Republicans had to delay votes on this tax bill until tomorrow. They’re rewriting it right now and we don’t even know what’s in it. This is no way to govern. We need you to keep up the pressure & keep up the calls.

Click here to tell your legislators, “Stop this devastating tax bill!”

Call 202-335-5529 and give your own explanation or use this sample script:

“Hello, my name is ____. This tax bill would repeal the ACA individual mandate and increase pressure to gut safety net programs like Ryan White in future budgets. I demand that you VOTE NO on this tax bill!”

It is on us to defend our country, and our work is paying off. Stay strong and pick up that phone RIGHT NOW! Resist!!

(Action alert courtesy of HIV Prevention Justice Alliance and AIDS Foundation of Chicago).

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“We Can Find the Way” – New Song from The BPRS!

I’m so pissed that our Representatives voted to screw us all over, to take away our access to affordable maternity care, mental health services, prescription drugs and oh so much more, all so that they and their rich friends can get a tax break. These are the people who turned their backs on us – make sure you remember their names in 2018.

Yes, I understand that the AHCA bill has many steps and changes to go through before it takes effect, I get that the Senate is “going to fix it,” but none of this changes the fact that these assholes let it pass through the House. The greed and selfishness is SO SICKENING.

But more and more of us are paying attention now. More and more of us are fed up. And more and more of us are taking action. I actually wrote the words to this new BPRS song during the Obama years and sadly, the angry parts about our capitalist society run amuck are even truer than ever. But you know what? So are the hopeful parts. We’ve got this, ya’ll. Don’t let your anger/sadness/fear negatively affect your day-to-day. Smile at people. Hold doors for them. Tell your friends and family you love them. Remind yourself of all the things you’re grateful for. Spreading love and building community are two powerful ways to resist. Stay strong.

Check out The Brooklyn Players Reading Society’s Bandcamp page to hear more of our music.

solidarity“International Women’s Day, Solidarity” by Giulia Forsythe / Creative Commons

Brain-Picking Becky #9: War

War. What is it good for? Making rich people richer.

I’ve been avoiding writing this piece. The topic of war has been swarming around my brain so much this past week but I can’t seem to organize my ideas. The task of putting my thoughts into a cohesive essay feels impossible. I’ve decided instead to free write for most of the two hours I allot for a Brain-Picking piece, leaving about 20 minutes at the end for some editing. We’ll see what comes out.

greed.jpg“Greed” by Liz West / Creative Commons

There are so many facets to war, it’s easy to get lost on a tangent and realize that I only brought up thousands of questions without any clear concept of how we can end war. And that’s the thing. I want to end war, but it seems like most people actually don’t. I’ve been thinking a lot about the military-industrial complex and feel myself roiling with so much anger that it’s difficult to breathe. I even hate the way we reference it – the military-industrial complex – like it’s some kind of academic topic fit for a text book as opposed to the horrible reality that a handful of rich people, including many of our elected government officials from the past many decades, get richer and richer off of killing children. The whole thing is a gross business, yet we talk about it like it’s some kind of cerebral debate.

I don’t understand the greed, the rampant, bipartisan greed that seems to be ever-present in our country’s (our world’s) leaders. How do these people live with themselves? I don’t believe that our current Administration actually cares about the recent events in Syria. Trump’s prepared lines about the “attack on children” having a “big impact” were useless. It doesn’t matter what he says anymore. A, we know he lies and changes his mind so frequently that we can’t trust a word of anything, and B, his actions speak louder. A Syrian refugee ban followed by dropping bombs on Syria? The lack of care for actual human life is sickening.

There’s always some self-serving, underlying motive, for Trump, Clinton, Obama, all of them. A small group of rich assholes are currently running the world, they’re exploiting, hurting, killing anyone so that they can get more money and power, our politicians are working for them, and it’s all going unchecked. I get that the situation in the Middle East is more complicated and involved than this, but if we were somehow able to stop these money-grubbing, war-mongering pricks, we’d see major changes right away.

So how many pictures of drowned children do we need to see before we demand that our leaders show some kind of consideration for human life and make a real attempt to end war? God, the image of that man wailing over his dead wife, the videos of him burying their dead twins. Can’t get it out of my head. Tears in my eyes right now.

What the fuck.

And do not throw the fake news argument back at me. Yes, fake news is a real problem. But all of our masters, no matter if they’re Democrat, Republican, or Independent, are using fake news to their advantage while denouncing the other side for doing it. It’s like our livelihoods and our lives are all one big game to them. So let’s please not argue with each other over this. Whether you believe the images you see and the journals you read or not, the fact is: Syrians are dying every day and our tax money goes toward bombing them, toward bombing Koreans, Somalis, Yemenis, Afghanis. That’s right – America conducted tens of thousands of airstrikes in dozens of different countries under Obama, and Trump has already demonstrated his desire to follow this example.

Interesting how all of these people in power decided to stop using the word “war,” decided to control how our so-called free media reports on these bombings, decided to feed us lines about how our government is protecting democracy and how we Americans simply can’t stand for these war crimes. You know what all of this translates to? BULLSHIT.

We Americans are the war criminals.

quitwar.jpgDavid Owen / Creative Commons

So let’s not argue with each over who is or isn’t using fake news; they all are. In fact, let’s please not argue over the vast majority of absolute ridiculous shit we keep arguing over. Our masters are so brilliant, they have us all staring at these tiny little devices that track our every move while stripping us of our ability to communicate face-to-face. Then they use these devices to thrust advertisements at us that tell us how badly we need more – more clothes, more electronics, more money, more youth. They have us competing over minimum/unlivable wage jobs, they’ve convinced us that immigrants are the enemy of the working class, that black people are criminals who are killing each other and should be feared, that education is not a right but is actually some hoity-toity liberal bubble elitism, when in reality, we’re all getting fucked and WE SHOULD ALL BE WORKING TOGETHER. We’re sitting here in the same boat competing over trite nonsense like wrinkles and weight and hairstyles, judging each other’s lifestyle choices as if any of it matters, staking out our tiny bit of space and jumping to aggression the second someone dares to “threaten” it, instead of talking, listening, accepting, sharing. We’re doing exactly what they want, we’re fighting each other instead of banding together to fight the CEOs who are stealing our wages, the real estate moguls who are destroying our neighborhoods, the war hawks who are denying us healthcare so that they can kill, kill, kill while putting more money in their own pockets. I wish we could come together better, that we could stop being so angry at each other and instead work together and direct that anger at our masters. If everyone in America who makes less than $100,000 a year refused to spend money for a day, just one single day, it would have such a strong impact that this whole rigged system would implode. We have power, we just don’t know how to organize and use it.

And I’m not saying I know how to use it. I can organize on a small scale, and that feels good and rewarding, but I have no idea how I can convince people that race and ethnicity and whether you live in the city or on a farm shouldn’t be barriers, that we do have the ability to listen to each other, to heal wounds, to come together and demand something better. I also have no idea how to go about changing the capitalist greed that currently rules our world to a more compassionate form of ruling. Our election and voting systems seem set up against this, so while I do exercise my right to vote, I’m not positive it does much when I’m presented over and over with variations of the same shit. And I can’t just march into the president’s office, stomp my foot and say, “It’s time you give a damn!” Even if I did manage to get into that office, even if I were taken seriously, I’d just be given some lip service and sent home with no results.

We type our names into petitions. We post our repulsion on Facebook. We raise money for organizations that are doing good work (and this probably goes the farthest out of all these actions). But at the end of the day, we just don’t have the same level of power that the warmongers do. And this is the thing that really depresses me: good, honest people who want to end all of this killing don’t become President of the United States, of Russia, of Syria.

But this doesn’t mean we stop. We have to keep going. We have to make our small difference, for ourselves, our neighbors, our children, our future. Our small actions will spread and grow over time. They may never equal the actions of Trump or Putin, but that doesn’t make them any less important. In fact, that makes them even more important. And there are so many organizations and people doing good work. We have to support them, encourage them, let ourselves feel buoyed up by their existence.

Add this to your action list: call or email an organization or politician you support and let them know you’re grateful for their work. This is how we oppose war – through daily acts of kindness. Spread love. Put down your damn cell phone and smile at a stranger. Hug your friends. Tell them you love them. Thank your roommate or your mom or your husband for being around. Remind yourself every night of the good things you have.

gboweeLeymah Gbowee / Creative Commons

I’ve decided that I’m in it for the long haul. Like, the millions of years from now long haul. Those of us who support peace talks and compromise, empathy and compassion, building community and opening our borders to refugees, we’re the more evolved humans. I read an article recently about scientist Michael Wilson’s long-term study of chimpanzees, and it seems that human warfare actually isn’t a modern invention but rather goes back to our deepest ancestors. When I first learned in high school about the Locke vs Hobbes debate, I was immediately on Locke’s side. Of course people are born good, I thought. Babies don’t discriminate, they don’t care about race or religion, they say hi to everyone. They don’t use labels like rich or poor, they don’t pass judgment on others like we adults do. I believed that humans were taught to be evil, that badness came from our nurture as opposed to something in the fabric of our being. But now, I think it’s not even a matter of being inherently good or evil – this concept is yet another human construct that allows us to become too cerebral and judge each other. Humans are simply products of evolution, and it’s actually great progress that we’ve seen people like Martin Luther King Jr., Leymah Gbowee, Thich Nhat Hanh, it’s amazing that the UN exists and that so many people care enough to run organizations like the American Refugee Committee and the ACLU. When looking at the timeframe of the universe, maybe we humans are doing okay.

I’m reminded of a lesson my Granny taught me over and over: You always need to leave things cleaner than when you found them. She was talking about physical spaces, about cleaning up after yourself, but now I understand her deeper message and find great comfort in it. So, humanity, I’m going to try to leave you cleaner than when I found you, and that’s honestly the most any of us can strive to do.

granny-1My very wise Granny

Endnotes:
I edited for 45 minutes.

Regarding fake news, I sincerely hope you’ve done the research and can trust the sources you read.

When I say open our borders to refugees, I mean screened refugees. No one is saying, “Hey everybody in the world, it’s a free for all in America right now, run on in!” I hate how black and white these issues are often portrayed.

Click here to learn more about the ongoing column Brain-Picking Becky.

“The Way Is Already” – Lyrics to The Brooklyn Players Reading Society’s New Song

“Stop competing, start cooperating. Listen, compromise, try to empathize.” ~The Way Is Already

My band, The Brooklyn Players Reading Society, is in the process of mixing our newest tune to share with ya’ll next week. I wrote the words years ago and feel like the message is even more necessary today. Please take a moment to read over the full lyrics, accompanied by some pics from our recording process., and please also keep peace in the forefront of your minds whether you are protesting or celebrating this historic inauguration day. Stay tuned for the real deal coming at ya soon.

The Way Is Already

Prison yards in cultural centers
Benches packed with old forgotten men
run out of their homes by the big
corporations that wanted parking lots.

The only culture that they get here
is fast food, alcohol, and bein’ poor
’cause they followed glorified promises
of faulty jobs in the melting pot.

I say, We have lost the way

I confess, I’m just like everyone else, buying shit on Amazon
made by  Indonesian girls who can’t afford their own Barbie Dolls.
Yeah, I know, things are tough all over.
But I am living for a future.

A future where money doesn’t matter
as much as being kind and respectful
because we know that our own happiness 
depends on the happiness of our neighbors.

I say, We can find the way.

Protective parents rage over birth control
while their young daughters get STDs and pregnancies.
The politicians, mostly rich and male, agree.
“We need to keep our country moral!”

Yet they are hiding their true motives
behind the immoral masks of false morality.
Few of us actually seem to care
’cause corporate America’s so damn convenient.

I say, We have lost the way.

We all have to play the money game and fall victim
to materialism, consumerism and self obsession.
But if we continue to stay so separated,
we’ll lose our country and our humanity.

We’ve let go of our sense of community when really,
community is what we need the most.
Stop competing, start cooperating.
Listen, compromise, try to empathize.

I say, We can find the way.

dave

Brain-Picking Guest Spot: You Can’t Handle the Truth by M.M. De Voe

truth

You Can’t Handle the Truth
 M.M. De Voe

So I’m curious what will emerge in one hour of barely-edited thought process. Becky offered a guest-spot here, and I was intrigued. She told me that the blog idea came from her opinion that there isn’t enough truth in the world.

I agree.

Everyone seems to be lying, from memoirists (eye-roll, James Frey – but WTF? Go Ask Alice was also fake?? Horrible!) to politicians (insert any name). And from fake news (love the new huge disclaimer on the Borowitz Report) to real news (“It’s not fake! It’s just biased!”) –so where to do we turn when we really want the truth?

Or do we really want the truth at all?

I remember being a kid and telling my mother exactly what I thought she wanted to hear. I got very good at this. I didn’t lie, exactly, but I definitely omitted all the details that would upset her and focused only on those that would lead to a more peaceful existence for both of us. It was a decision born of a lot of strife – at first I naturally told her the exact truth with no filters – but it would lead to her telling me what to do, and then we would argue, and usually someone would cry. The next time a similar event rolled around, I would tell her a more modified truth, until finally the omissions outnumbered the facts. But here’s what’s remarkable: at this point, our relationship smoothed out entirely. She was able to accept me as the person I was presenting to her. I was able to live my life without feeling constantly criticized by the one person whose opinion (ridiculously) still mattered to me more than any other. I didn’t want to disappoint her. And she really didn’t want the truth – we both wanted reality to match our expectations of what reality should be: a decent mother/daughter relationship without too much arguing.

My mom’s name is Veronika – here’s a photo of her and me. Okay not really. But St. Veronica is a lot like how she always seemed to me.

A mother myself, I hope my kids find a more open mind in me than I did in my parents (though to be fair, I’m sure those opinions bent from whatever their initial standpoints were!) —but I am not sure anyone is ever cured of the desire to own a reality that matches their hopes and dreams. It is crushing to hear that someone you once idolized has done terrible things (thanks Bill Cosby).

But is it better not to know?

I don’t know. We want the pretty picture. We really do. We crave it. It hurts us to watch all our heroes get dragged through mud, either because someone else exposed them or because they themselves simply became too much of a mess to contain their own flaws.

The truth is that all humans are flawed. We mess up. We make ridiculous, horrible decisions. We have skeletons in our closets. We sometimes LIKE the skeletons we have in our closets. But all of us ultimately want to be good people, don’t we? No matter our flaws, we try to balance things out. We try to atone for our weakness in one area by being strong in another. Isn’t this what humans do instinctively? We discover that the nasty cashier has forgotten to charge us for the milk and instead of telling her, we give a dollar to the next homeless guy we see? We are constantly readjusting our karma.

skeletonBut this post is supposed to be about telling the truth, not behaving in an honest way. (This hour-long limit is madness! You try it!) We want the truth while at the same time, we want the world to be a better place than it is.

So how can we get there without lying all the time?

Curated news feeds are not the answer. Deleting every Facebook friend or Tweep who ever disagreed with you politically isn’t a better answer than sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting La La La. We have to be better than that. But also: they have to behave like adults.

We have lost the skill of argument without attack. At a recent party, many of my friends were in a discussion about compromise and how instead of celebrating a hard-fought compromise, everyone from parents to politicians to corporate watchdogs denigrate the very idea of it. For some reason, instead of evolving as thoughtful adults, we are spiraling back into dichotomous thinkers, where there is no cooperation, there is only a winner and a loser, and heaven help you if you are perceived to be the loser.

We need to reestablish the value of negotiation, to raise the value of compromise.

How? Is there a solution? I don’t know. I just read all seven of the Laura Ingalls Wilder stories to my kids and I was struck again and again by how stoic the parents are in those books. Nothing causes drama. Not when their daughter goes blind. Not when they lose the farm to locusts. Never. They face things practically and they don’t get hyper about it. They marry as early as in their teens, they move without transition into adulthood and responsibility, and then they deal with nature for the rest of their lives. They never indulge, but they also do not judge others. They live simply and are content with what they have. They celebrate success as humbly as they accept failure. I am smitten by this unflappable adulthood. Faced with images of one red-faced talking head after another, one screeching angry parent after another, I ache for a real adult. Someone who is a rock, that waves can crash upon and who will still be standing there. A Margaret Thatcher. Someone solid.

Is it our constant American ambitious dream to “have more” that fosters the dissatisfaction that leads to the constant lying? I am reading Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down and in it, he says that the downfall of our generation (and this was written decades ago and about Great Britain not America) is that it is no longer enough to make something or do something—we have to also BE someone. How do you “be someone” without gently reinventing yourself, the way I used to do for my mother? For generations, all of our celebrities were inventions. None of them was real. Natalie Wood? Marilyn Monroe? Elvis? Our graveyards are littered with people who tried to be perfect for the sake of society.

elvis's grave

The grave of the King – Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee.

Didn’t work.

Humans are flawed. But humans also need heroes. A panicky thought: we as a culture have begun to celebrate flaws and horrifying actions and villainy, because there is no other way to find authentic heroes–? Is this possible?

Not only possible, but likely.

The truth is, we are all flawed and unless we celebrate the honest overcoming of those flaws, we will be duped into thinking that simply admitting those flaws is enough. I don’t think it is. Let’s look at children again. I want my children to trust me enough to tell me if they mess up, but I also then want them to be strong enough to try again, not just to wallow in their mess. I am there to support them in their attempts, and there for them when they fail. I would like our politicians to be equally honest: not to laugh off or celebrate their own wrongs, but to quietly face them and to actually try to be better next time. Carrie Fisher whose recent death hit so hard was a real hero: she never said overcoming her weaknesses was easy, but she did it anyway. And once done, she lived honestly both in and out of the spotlight.

At least as far as we know.

~

mmdevoeAbout the Author: M. M. De Voe’s short fiction has won or been shortlisted for more than 20 literary prizes including three Pushcart nominations and she has won multiple grants including the Manhattan Community Arts Fund, Fund for Creative Communities, Columbia Writing Fellowship, and an Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation Grant for Historical Fiction with Gay Positive Characters. Founder and Executive Director of Pen Parentis, she holds a Columbia University MFA, and is the Lithuanian voice of OnStar.

~

Click here to learn more about this column and to read previous entries.