Friday, December 2, 2016

30 days of gratitude, the power of the word

Day 2: A friend of mine shared this gutwrenching poem on Facebook this morning.  And after verifying with the author that I could share it publicly... today's moment of gratitude was for the strength of this woman through the days, and the power in the word.


November 14th.
In the coffee shop,
the man in the
Make America Great Again hat
smiles at me, so I take this
as an invitation.

“Pardon me, but I have to ask—
do you think Trump’s
ideologies keep every person
in this country safe?"

He doesn’t hesitate.

“Ma’am, I can’t get wrapped up
in identity politics, all I can
worry about is how
I’m going to feed my girls.”


At my 40th birthday party,
an acquaintance asks
why we have “so much
Mexican art in the house.”
“It might be because I’m Mexican,” I say.
“No,” he laughs, “you’re not Mexican."
“Yes. I am.”
"No," he continues, reassuringly,
“and if you are, you’re only, maybe, 17%."
The winter air stiffens between us.
An old, familiar pain.


There was a time when I
would have thanked him.

The early years,
when I wanted only to pass,
to rid myself of my last name—
the dead giveaway,
its muddy lineage

crawl out from the burying shame
that held me down every time
my father picked me up
from school in our shitty car,
his bushy mustache
& brown face
magnified by the sun.


A local white woman
posts a photo of her new tattoo:
a Mayan god etched eternal
on her flesh. When I point out
the disrespect, she assures me
she speaks Spanish fluently,
spent three years
in South America.

For the next six hours,
I argue with her friends.
They demand I quit being so
divisive. Judgemental. Close-minded.

“We have a racist running for President,
and you’re complaining about a tattoo?”
asks the white boy, who spray paints
murals all over this city
with impunity.

O, to be permitted the luxury
of only worrying about one thing at a time.

O, to be white in America,
to wake up knowing every god is your god.


When you never see yourself,
you search for yourself all the time.

You know the white girl
in the sombrero isn’t you.
The bro dude in Calavera makeup
isn’t either, not the ponchos
and glued on mustaches,
not the lowrider Chevy
in the Disney movie
or the hoochie-coochie
sex pot on the Emmy
award-winning television show.

Maybe you are only this:

the scorched bird pulled
from the chimney,
covered in soot.
Not the actual bird,
its velvet sack
of jigsaw’d bones,
but the feeling
of recognition.

The ash of knowing.


A white comedian tells this joke:
“I used to date Hispanics,
but now I prefer consensual.”

The audience laughs.
And you do, too.
Until the punchline hardens,
translates into a stone
in your throat.

You swallow it, like you always do.

You don’t change the channel,
but you also can’t remember
a single joke she tells after that.

A few months later, the comedian's career
blows up. She’s so real. So edgy.
Such a hardcore feminist.
When someone writes an essay on
her old stand-up routines—
noting her blindspot when it comes to race,

her response is:

“It is a joke and it is funny.
I know that because people laugh at it.”


If two Mexicans are in a car, who is driving?
A police officer.

How do you starve a Mexican?
Put their food stamps in their work boots.

What’s the difference between a Mexican and an elevator?
One can raise a child.

What do you call a Mexican baptism?
Bean dip

How do you stop a Mexican from robbing your house?
Put a help wanted sign in the window.

What do you call a Mexican driving a BMW?
Grand theft auto

What do you call a Mexican without a lawnmower?

What do you call a building full of Mexicans?

How do you keep Mexicans from stealing?
Put everything of value on the top shelf.

What do you call a bunch of Mexicans running downhill?
A mudslide.

Why don’t Mexicans play Hide ’n Seek?
No one will look for them.

What does a Mexican get for Christmas?
Your TV.

What do you call the Arizona man shot to death
by his white neighbor, screaming, “Go back to Mexico!”
Juan Varela


November 29th.
For weeks, I’ve avoided
eye contact with strangers.
My face is a closed curtain.
My mouth, the most
decorated knife.
I pay for groceries,
grab the receipt &
let my half-hearted
thank yous trail like smoke.
I no longer want to see
who refuses to see me.

Anyone is everyone.


December 1st.
I keep waking up.
There isn’t anyone
white enough to stop me.

Pantomime the living until
the body remembers:
wicked bitch. Bloodwhirl.
Patron Saint of the Grab Back.

Still. Still. Still. Still. Still. Still here.


I etch my own face upon my wicked flesh.
I am my own devastating god.

- Rachel McKibbens, published December 1, 2016


Day 2: Fighting the good fight:  Support your local food bank.  Hunger in America is real.  

Thursday, December 1, 2016

30 days of gratitude, another year and outrage

I didn't finish last year's 30 days of Gratitude. A year later, I step back to this space. Jote's 30 Days  always makes me think,, makes me reflect.  I let this blog founder for the year, despite so many stories to tell.  The stories aren't necessarily relevant to anyone but me, anyway.  And so many other things eat my time and my energy and often falling on the sofa with a novel seems like the best way to end an evening.

Jote's invitation this year was the invocation I needed.  Because I am so angry and so despairing and so fundamentally sad about what the election says about where we're going and who we as a nation are and have chosen to be.  And I'm a lucky one. I'm a white woman in a progressive state.

I'm not sure if I can play along properly.  I'm not sure if I can really find the gratitude within myself.  I'm hoping that this will force me to, though.

Day 1:  Shared outrage.  That I'm not alone.

And also picking up Jote's lead:  people fighting the good fight.  I'm going to highlight in each of these blogposts, someone I think is doing something worthwhile in the world.  It may be a charity, it may be an individual, it may be a corporation.  It might be largescale, it might be a small kindness.  If you like it, pass along the URL or pay it forward.

Day 1:  -- yep, it's a clothing company.  But it's a clothing company that has made a point of trying to be ethical and to be a reasonable steward on this earth.  This year, they announced that 100% of their Black Friday sales would be donated to environmental charities. I #optedoutside instead, but I was amazed to read that they'd done $10MILLION in sales, rather than an anticipated $1-2 million. And that they were following through.