Waking Up America

Just finished reading an excellent diary over on Daily Kos on the biggest triumph of the banking industry,  and thinking about the country as it is today. (I am not going to link to it, as I don’t want to give him linkbacks.) I remember listening to NPR back in 2008, right after the economic crash, and someone was talking about how food was sitting on the docks, rotting, because the grocery stores couldn’t get the credit to pay for that food to be moved to their stores. And I still wonder what it would have looked like if the government hadn’t stepped in and bailed out the banks. Would we have had panic as the grocery stores emptied? Hording? Fighting over the basics?

Sadly, not many Americans listen to NPR, and Fox News didn’t tell them about this tragedy that was closely averted. They mostly went back to sleep, except the people who were losing their homes. They didn’t get the big bailout from the government that the banks did, which may have helped the economy by loosening up money that people would have actually spent, as opposed to the banks, sitting on their monies the last six  years.

So how do we wake up our fellow Americans to the fact that this government and economy are shell games? That few in government have the well being of their fellow man in mind when they legislate? That they need to not just vote for Democrats, but vote for populist Democrats, people who come from and understand the troubles that the “little guys” are having.

And what does being “awake” to all of this look like?

Due to the fact that I read dailykos well before 2008, I knew a crash was coming. I told a few broker friends, most of whom poo-poohed me. One smart guy agreed. But my husband and I didn’t know what to do about it. He took his retirement money out of the riskiest investments, and we just waited.

When it hit, I was amazed that most people didn’t get it. That the US economy was on the verge of actually collapsing. As in, no money to get food to stores, no money to move products to stores, a serious break in the way we view the world. I think it was too much for most people. As Neil Postman discusses in his book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death” and in the excerpt with the same name, Huxley was more right in his future predictions than Orwell was. Huxley said we won’t have to burn books, no one will want to read them. He said that the things that we love will destroy us. I see this all around me. An addiction to Facebook, games online, reality TV shows. All things that are easy to fall into, all things which distract us from seeing what is really going on. The anesthesiation of the masses. It’s really hard to believe it can all go away tomorrow when we see such abundance around us every day. But it can. This is not a conspiracy theory. It almost did in 2008.

So how do we wake our fellow Americans up? And what does it look like to be awake? Sadly, I don’t have many answers to the first question. I think that if anyone wanted to be awake, there is enough information out there for them to really look at who is benefitting from the laws that are made every year. Cui bono??  Not hard to see. I do try to talk to Republicans about the fact that in this economy, we are fighting each other for crumbs as the rich walk away with the bank, but of course, they blame Obama and won’t hear anything else. So I stick to talking to like minded folks about this.

Here are some things we have been thinking about what it means to be awake.  A few things, but please – suggestions welcome.

1. Be careful with money. My husband and I have been very careless with money in the past. I started a dog rescue and lost, literally, tens of thousands of dollars. Ditto for two businesses I started. Great ideas, just cost a fortune. Save instead of spend. How?

a. I have a very cheap car. A Honda Fit. Works just great, I love it, cost about 16K, and gets great gas mileage. My mother has a Prius, which is also good, but she pays almost $500 a month to lease it, and I find that a waste.

b. Cancel extras. We have no TV. We saved $120 cancelling it, and just have netflix now for about $7 a month. And you know what? Most TV is total crap. If I really want to see a show, I can usually pay $1.99 on amazon to see it. A huge savings and big time saver as well.

c. Put away a percentage of every penny we bring in, even when we can’t. If we had a bill, we would find a way to pay it, so I pay myself every time I get money. This has to be done. I need to be able to have a cushion, and something to help my own kids as they get married and have families. I think money is protection, and I want to feel safe in this economy that doesn’t give a damn about me.

d. Cut down on entertainment. I do go to local restaurants, but much less frequently that I used to. We used to eat out at least once a week. About $400 a month. Now it’s every other or third month. A huge savings. That money – into savings. We don’t like the movie theater, because I hate paying good money to listen to someone yakking behind me. So we rent a movie, saving about $16 after tickets and popcorn. I prefer the black raspberry ice cream I get on sale at Stewart’s anyway.

e. Grow what you can, recycle what you can. Lots of information out there.

f. Stop buying into the BS that your daughter needs a 15K party for her Sweet Sixteen. My kids had friends over and I bought a nice cake. They had a blast. Much more fun playing manhunt and having a bonfire than they would have at a stuffy party where they all had to be dressed up and on formal behavior. Kids love our parties. And we serve them BBQ food. You will never regret putting that 15K in the bank. (and I know, most people here probably don’t do that, but we are talking about what most Americans value, and this is a big one in the part of the country where I live. Conspicuous consumption at its most gruesome.)

g. Buy gold?? I am trying to find out more about this. My friend, who is very good with her money, has about 20K in the bank in gold and won’t cash it in. She says that if it ever hits the fan, gold is currency. This is true. I just was taking a jewelry class from a goldsmith who was living in Egypt when they had their revolution. He survived for two years on the gold he had in his shop. His money, he said, was worthless. This is anecdotal, but he seemed to be quite honest about this.

Other ideas? I don’t know. Just some musings. I truly think that all Americans who are not wealthy need to start seeing this as a Us vs.Them issue. They don’t care. Just saw a video of Wall Streeters mocking the peons, taken by a young man who snuck into their affair. It really irked me, although I knew this already. So money = security and I need to start putting more away. As much as I can, even though it seems impossible.




When bullies are online

I have been going to the dailykos.com for a long time. I often find very reasoned, intelligent diaries there on matters of interest to me. I went there the other day, because they have a huge community, and a number of pilots and air traffic controllers who were weighing in on the missing Malaysian Airlines flight. After reading that, I came across a diary that had been called GBCW (Goodbye Cruel World) in which the diarist was leaving the site because of a rant by one of the prominently displayed front page writers.

Here is the original diary:


And here is his response


I was very surprised that a Front Page writer would write something so hateful, so divisive, basically claiming that believing that corporations are too powerful in the Democratic party is the same as being racist. I mean, come on. I labeled the diary absurd and a terrible piece of writing, and then came the bullying. Here is my response: they can censor me there, but they can’t censor me on my own blog.

This Crap Was Written by a Front Pager??

God, this site has gone downhill. I read the rant and was thinking what a crappy piece of writing it was.  I had no idea it was a front pager! I didn’t always agree with old front page writers, but at least they wrote thoughtful, intelligent pieces. This was just horrible! I thought it was just some angry person throwing crap against the wall to see what sticks!

 Hey, I would never leave this site when there are front pagers like that. This site needs intelligent people who can write and not rant like that. That diary served no useful purposes and until I found out it was a front page writer, I couldn’t figure out why it even had recommendations!

My comment was hidden by people giving it a down rating. Then I was called sexist (I don’t get that, I am a woman and have certainly never been sexist, but I disagreed with a woman writer, so there you go,) stupid, uneducated, and a few other things I can’t remember right now. And the thing is, I never would have guessed that the piece was written by a front page writer. They are usually very good writers. This writer’s name is Denise Oliver Velez, and while she may be a very good writer, I certainly will never read anything she writes, as this  was my first experience reading her writing and it wasn’t a good one. I put her in the category of Ann Coulter, who screeches, insults and lies, just to get attention. That’s what I thought this was: an attention getting piece of drivel, written to divide a community and chase people off.

But this is about bullying. Her sycophants piled onto anyone who had an issue with the diary. Which were many! And this goes on a lot on that site, as it does on many. Did you ever read the comments on almost any Yahoo story? The lack of nuanced thinking and the downright cruelty could make you weep. But since there are many conservatives on yahoo, that doesn’t surprise me as much as seeing it on a liberal website. Conservatives often mirror their gods, Limbaugh and Hannity, who have been calling Democrats the “enemy” and calling for war on the Democrats for years. But liberals!! They are supposed to be the kinder party, the sensitive bleeding hearts. Ha!! Not on dailykos.com!!

So how do you play and not get sucked into their hatred? Just walk away, is what I do. I don’t get involved with back and forths, as the other person is usually insulting and a lot younger than I am. It would be like fighting with one of my students. I just don’t go there.

I think bullying, sadly, is just part of the internet playground. Don’t take it personally and don’t engage. Don’t fed the trolls, as they say.  That is my best advice.

Lupita Nyong’o as Princess: An Anthropological Study

I have watched Lupita Nyong’o on the red carpet for the past 6 months or so and I have been struck at how strong her red carpet choices have been. She really is bold and takes chances, and 99% of them work. She has great coloring, a wonderful inner glow and great sense of self.

So I was really disappointed in her red carpet choice. I wasn’t sure until someone took umbrage with something I said on a fashion blog about how she looked just like Cinderella, a princess, and that I think she is a Queen, if you don’t mind the metaphors,  and shouldn’t have gone in that direction. The woman ranted that princesses can be strong, and I responded with this:

“I think Lupita bought into the idea of the American/Anglo Saxon princess with this almost exact replica of a Cinderella dress. That is what struck me. And in this country and other western coutries, the princess (Cinderella/Sleeping Beauty) has always been saved by a man. They are not Pocohantos. They are weak and need saving. Look at Princess Diana. Her downfall was blamed on Prince Charles, because he didn’t “protect” her. William is lauded for “shielding” Kate Middleton from the press. I never understood that. I was born the same year as Diana, and I am no shrinking violet. I can handle myself. My husband doesn’t have to shield me. And even more so with Kate – she is a well educated woman, from what seems to be a balanced family, and it seems as though she knew what she was getting into, in fact, welcomed it. So why does her husband need to protect her? 

In that context, seeing Lupita, a strong woman who doesn’t have an American background, dress herself like Cinderella made me sad.”

Why do we encourage our girls to become princesses? In the year 2014, why do we paint their rooms pink, and get they pink play dresses with crowns and feathers and frills? I loved clothes, I loved dress up as a kid, but I don’t remember being so hung on up on being “like a princess” when I got married, like 9 out of 1o women say on “Say Yes to the Dress.” One of the best dancers in the documentary “First Position” is obsessed with being a princess. She is 17 in the film. Is this culturally promoted?

Because traditionally, princesses are weak. They depend on a man to get them out of trouble, make them happy. Sound familiar? How many girls/women think they need a man to be happy?? I would say most, until women reach the age of about 50. Then, most of them swear that if anything happened to their husbands/marriages, they would never marry again. Why? I think because most of us realize that in any relationship, no matter how good, you have to give up things and parts of yourself. And once we are done raising our kids, many of us wouldn’t choose to do that again if our marriages ended.

Perhaps I am unusual with unusual friends. I do grant you that I like interesting, strong women. My favorite females on television are Brenda Lee Johnson, Captain Raydor and Bones. All strong,  “difficult” women, most would say. I love them. So I would have loved to see Lupita in a strong, feminine gown, one that said, “I am a woman, not a little girl with fairy tale dreams.” She talked about dreams, and that they are valid, but looked like a fairy tale.