Sunday, June 28, 2020

"Why Now, White People?" The Real Reasons Whites Are Active Against Racism NOW


I'm a little late on this because the Code Switch episode Why Now, White People? came out on June 16th, but the question is still live: 

Why are so many white people currently involved in anti-racism protests and activities?

It's a fair question because racism was an equally hot issue with equally horrible murders of Black men in 2014 and 2016, but not so many whites joined Black people in protesting. I've been wondering this question myself and was so fascinated by this episode that this post will mostly be a summary of what hosts Shereen Marisol Meraji and Gene Demby presented.

The podcast starts with host Gene Demby saying he posted on Instagram Stories an invitation for white people to say why they're more active against racism now: "What makes this moment different?"

Some responses expressed embarassment that the white person hadn't been more aware of racism before this. A handful of people said they have more friends of color now. Three men said their women of color partners called them out for being silent. But Gene identified three main themes:

1. Other white people are motivating them. It's not just peer pressure or getting invited to protests, but feeling like it's safer to speak up against racism. Since 2016 there has been more support among white people for racial equity.

2. El Idiota, the 45th president of the United States. His election opened people's eyes to the reality that no one is going to save the country for them; they have to get active themselves. The shock of that election galvanized women's marches and other actions so that by the spring of 2020, people were more comfortable with the act of protesting.

On the podcast at this point, Shereen wonders if white anti-racist activity is really just white disgust with Trump. Gene says it must be part of it. (And I, Regina Rodríguez-Martin, think it's a LOT of it!)

3. The coronavirus. Economic fear and the pandemic lockdown have made people feel very vulnerable. Gene says one white person responded (to the Instagram prompt) by saying that being in lockdown took away the things they used to use to distract themselves from racism: they didn't have their nearly all-white workplace, time with their white family or leisure time with (presumably white) friends. They also said feeling physically vulnerable to the virus made them more empathetic to others and affected their priorities.

At this point in the discussion, Shereen wonders if we would be seeing this protest activity if people hadn't been locked up for two months, and Gene introduces a social psychologist who saw all this coming months ago. Nicole Fisher of Health and Human Strategies published an article on March 21, 2020 entitled History - And Psychology - Predict Riots And Protests Amid Coronavirus Pandemic Lockdowns

On the podcast, Fisher says that in stressful circumstances beyond our control -- such as the pandemic lockdown -- our fear kicks in and that leads to disorder. From the 1600s to the modern day, people have rioted after lockdowns for diseases such as the plague, cholera, smallpox and ebola. Apparently, it's just what we do: disease-motivated lockdowns lead to civil disobedience.

The necessary conditions for civil disobedience include:
Lack of trust in government
A common enemy
Shared grievances
Shared intensity

When everyone is all worked up and speaking out, speaking out isn't as risky. Even face masks have lent anonymity to public protestors, making even physical protesting safer. Fisher says, 

I think there are a lot of white people who -- whether it's that they didn't have free time off of work or they weren't really fired up or they didn't feel like they had permission, maybe they felt like it wasn't their space -- all of a sudden you have an introduction of a lot of white people who are also angry with the government or angry with authority. Now you're forced to wear a mask, you're anonymous, and away we go.

So at the end of May 2020 after three years of El Idiota, plus increasing space for whites to speak up about racism, and two months of pandemic lockdown, all the kindling was in place for the match to be thrown in. And that was the murder of George Floyd. Those are the reasons so many white people are active right now against racism.

Shereen then asks if the match could have been completely different and had nothing to do with race. Fisher seems to think it could have been and almost regretfully says that while she thinks racial injustice is part of white political activity right now, "...at the end of the day I really do believe it is the shared -- I feel like "anger" is too simple of a word, but I'm going to use it -- the shared anger of the collective. It really means something right now."

Then Gene says, "And anger is a really hard emotion to sustain for a long time."

And Shereen ends the show by saying, "Yeah, if the people we've been talking about in this episode go back to their jobs, they go back to their regular lives, they have their regular distractions and, you know, if they vote President Trump out of office, what then? Will they still be angry? Will they still want to fight racism?"

I say "no" and "no." This moment will pass. The white outrage and white guilt will subside and things will go on mostly as they did before. To believe we're at some kind of tipping point or are turning a corner is to deny how solidly racism is at the core of our culture.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Ozzie

Ozzie and Bob in 2012 (photo by me)
Okay, the big move hasn't happened yet and this post will tell one reason it's been slowed down. But first a story about the dog my ex-husband and I owned together for 18 months before my ex ended our marriage.

When Bob and I first got Ozzie (Sept. 2011) he was about three years old and full of puppyish energy. One day Ozzie and I were in an enclosed park that was two blocks from our building, so I let him off his leash. I didn't know the soil had eroded in one corner so there was a gap between the ground and the iron gate fencing. 

He found the hole and took off. I panicked and went after him, but he'd been running, so I didn't have a chance. After 30 minutes or so I got a call from Bob. A man had found Ozzie and called the number on the dog ID tag. Bob had directed him to our apartment, but I wasn't there, so I hurried over. 

He was a very neighborly Black man and he had Ozzie's collar attached to his own belt which he'd taken off his pants. He told me Ozzie had been on a street near our apartment, but it was one with heavy foot traffic. Because Ozzie was an energetic, black pit bull mix people were afraid and had started throwing things at him. This man told me he'd stepped in and said, "Hey, stop it! This is someone's pet." He alone had recognized that Ozzie was perfectly friendly, so he grabbed him and called Bob's number.

After I thanked him many times, I asked him to wait while I took Ozzie inside (damn dog). I was SO grateful that I came back with all the cash in my purse: $60. The man was happy and I was relieved and I imagine the dog enjoyed his run. Many times I wished we'd never gotten him and that was definitely one of them.

As much exasperation, exhaustion and pain as that dog has caused me, I very much regret to write that Ozzie is now dying. He's been weakening for over a year and stopped eating a week ago. Tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon Bob is taking him to the vet to be put down. 

Ozzie was "a runner" as they called him when we first got him. He was also a jumper and could reach shelves in our apartment that astonished me. We've never known what breeds he is; he looks like a pit bull mixed with Dog-knows-what. Ozzie looks like he might have labrador retriever in him, but he just gazes after anything you throw for him. He also has no hunting instinct as we can see from his indifference to mice and insects in the house. He used to pull at the leash for cats and racoons, but that didn't last long. Neither has he shown much interest in toys and he doesn't have any herding tendencies. Finally, Ozzie wouldn't do well as a guard dog because he dislikes being outside. He needs to be where the humans are. 

What is he good for? Well, Ozzie hasn't needed retrieving, hunting, herding or guarding skills because we really just got him to be Bob's companion and for that Ozzie has been perfect. From the beginning he was capable of giving and receiving any amount of affection. In that way he has earned his keep.

I was never a dog person, so when Bob ended our marriage in 2013 I was glad he kept the dog. My role in Ozzie's life has been small, but I have had him at my apartment many times over the past two years. I dog sit sometimes so he's not so alone (Bob works long restaurant hours). 

In fact, I'm visiting Ozzie as I blog this, while Bob's at work, but I need to leave soon. At the moment Ozzie lays on his dog bed, splayed and relaxed as if asleep but with his eyes open. He stares at I-don't-know-what. Can he see where he's going? 
June 21, 2020


I don't know how upset Bob is about losing his best friend because Bob doesn't share those emotions. All I can do is try to be there for him after Ozzie is gone. I offered to go with them to the vet tomorrow, but Bob declined.

Ozzie is the closest I've gotten to having a dog and I have had some good feelings for him. For those who've been reading this blog since 2011, you know my experiences with him have been good AND bad, but I'm still very sad to see him dying. Since the weekend, I've been grieving his death and doing a lot of crying. A LOT of crying. Jesus, is this really just about a dog?

No, it isn't. I'm also grieving the end of what Ozzie represents to me. I'm mourning all over again the failure of the marriage and the broken household. Bob and I believed getting married meant we'd never be alone again. But in 2013 the marriage was over and I moved out and we returned to solitary lives, after just an eight-year interruption. Ozzie's death reminds me of the things in my life that went completely wrong. It reminds me of how completely off track my personal life has become and how I just haven't been able to fix it.

I think Ozzie had a very good life for a shelter dog. He certainly couldn't have been more loved by Bob who completely spoiled him after I moved out. But I hope to never have a pet again. Millions of happy pet owners notwithstanding, for me a dog is a lot of stress and labor for not nearly a big enough payoff.

(P.S. At the age of 53 I'm finally, for the first time ever, feeling grief over the end of a life. So this is why so many people dislike death.)

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Chicana on the Edge Is MOVING


My heart is breaking a bit as I announce that Chicana on the Edge (CotE) is moving to a new home, which means a new URL, which means I'm creating a new website for it. Nothing will change about your access to the blog or how often I post, but for about ten years I've regretted creating CotE on Blogger.com and not WordPress.org so I'm finally moving it. All my links will stay on this site, but they'll direct you to the new website where you'll be able to read all of my posts - old and new. (By the way, "CotE" is pronounced with two syllables.)

The new blog address will be www.reginachicana.com, but if you go there today, you'll get a coming soon message. On that website I will have total control of the site, the content, the design and the comments. I've always felt nervous about all my original writing being on Blogger's platform. I'll also be able to build out my new site when I finish the book I'm working on. At that point I'll add a new page to promote it (some time in 2021? 2022?). The new site will simply have much more flexibility and it's time for that now that I'm expanding as a writer.

I'm very excited about moving into this new phase, yet I feel oddly sad about this. I started this blog in 2004 when I was 37 years old and I still felt like the important parts of my life were ahead of me. I had yet to find a husband or the job that would take me to retirement. On June 17, 2004 when I launched this blog, I still believed it was possible to cure my depression and get married forever and settle into a mostly contented life. And I was slim. Oh, I was slim...


Almost exactly sixteen years later I'm fat, divorced, no longer believe depression can be left behind and have no idea if I'll find a mostly contented life with anyone. But at least that last one might still be up to me, I hope.

So I finally step off the "starter" platform that has supported me all these years. On the 16-year anniversary of Chicana on the Edge (this Wednesday) I will migrate all the posts to the new website and we'll keep going. At least I hope I can successfully  migrate sixteen years of posts. I've been learning WordPress for the past month so I'm a little shaky on the migration, but I think I can do it.

Well, whether or not the migration this week is a success, once I've moved it all to www.reginachicana.com I plan to keep CotE going for at least another sixteen years. My next post should be at the new place. Good-bye, Blogger!

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Tamarindo - a podcast for thinking Latinos!

And their logo is my favorite color.

Brenda Gonzalez and Ana Sheila (pronounced "shay-la") Victorino host Tamarindo, a podcast targeted at Latino millennials. I'm part of Generation X, but I'm working on overcoming my bitterness about being in the overlooked generation. I like listening to Tamarindo and I recommend it to Chicanos of all ages.

According to Tamarindo's 2016 introduction (why haven't I been listening all along?), they named their show after the tamarindo fruit because their goal is to be a "flavorful" show for all Latinos, or as they put it, Latinex Millennials. Is it inevitable that Latino stuff gets associated with food and flavor? Is it our fixation, too? Maybe.

Ana Sheila and Brenda have excellent discussions on topics such as mental health, music, gay pride, racism, pop culture and -- one of my favorite topics -- whether or not to have children. Tamarindo features "politics, pop culture and how to balance it all con calma."

Although Tamarindo says its audience is Latinex, it seems very Mexican American to me. As much as I love NPR's Code Switch, Tamarindo feeds my desire for a show that doesn't translate anything and counts on listeners knowing who Dolores Huerta and Selena are and knowing words like Chicana, pocho and chola (on their very first show they interviewed someone from Chola Pinup who said, "You can't spell scholar without chola"). Code Switch is excellent for covering topics related to various people of color, but Tamarindo feels like the Chicana podcast I've been looking for: it's well-produced, relevant, covers topics I find very engaging and speaks to Chicanas.

And it speaks to Chicanas who don't think like most other Americans (at least not like the Midwestern Americans I live around) For instance in one episode, Ana Sheila made the point that the word "lady" doesn't apply to everyone who presents as a woman, so we should avoid using it as a blanket term. I loved that! I can't stand the word "lady" although for different reasons than Ana Sheila's (you can read my reasons here and here). Brenda and Ana Sheila agreed that calling all women  "ladies" as a habit, is not a good idea and I was excited to hear actual Latinas make this point.  Thank you. (In the very first podcast of the show in April 2016, Brenda uses the word "ladies," but it's okay because I guess she doesn't do that anymore.) To everyone reading this right now: stop calling women "ladies" as if it's a polite honorific. It does not strike everyone that way.

Their most recent episode talked about racism against Latinas and how hiring staff can avoid it. They mentioned the recent protests in response to George Floyd's killing, but I wanted more. I especially hope they do an episode on Mexican or Latino prejudice against Black people. I know that's not cool to talk about, but we can't unite while we're still afraid of each other.

So there it is - Tamarindo. It's now among my podcast subscriptions. And the next time I'm in the Mexican market I'll have to see what the actual tamarind fruit is like...

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

What White People Can Do

ID 72991216 © Zeljko  Dangubic | Dreamstime.com

This post gives some backstory on my latest Medium post Here's What White People Can Do

On Monday I was on a Zoom call that featured a speaker on LGBT+ pride and activism because June is Pride Month. But of course she also addressed the racial shit going on. The host taped the call so I was able to watch it again Monday night.

The call was seven people: five white. At one point the speaker, who was white, mentioned how important it is for white queer people to be allies to Black people. The white host of the call asked her how he can do that.

It seemed to me that the speaker was surprisingly caught off guard by the question. How could she have brought up the subject without having clear ideas about it? After hesitating, she said, “Send a quick text.” She said has done this with Black friends and colleagues, texting "This sucks. I'm sorry. If you need to talk, I'm here for you."

Um, when white men have murdered another Black man and Black people are feeling rage and grief, why would they turn to a white friend to unload? I wouldn't. If I were feeling rage and grief about white people killing Black people and I got that text from a white friend, I'd think, "Can I talk to you to cuss you out on behalf of your people? Can I scream at you because I know you don't call out your friends and family when they say fucked up shit?"

But on the Zoom call, I politely didn't say what bad advice that was. Before the speaker could stammer that she didn't have any other ideas, I raised my hand. She actually looked relieved as she said, "Regina wants to chime in."

I said, "One thing white people can do is commit to calling out other white people when they make statements that are off. You know the statements I’m talking about and when they say 'They really should shoot all the looters,' speak up. Say why that’s wrong. I mean it would be such an incredible thing if every white person would commit to ‘From now on every time I hear other white people say anything that seems off to me, I’m going to call them out.’”

The speaker responded with enthusiasm, but also uncertainty. She said "I think that’s great. The challenge is: what are the conversation starters? Because we get sort of paralyzed by ‘I don’t know exactly how to respond.' So I think taking that one step further and providing white people, or me as a white person, providing conversation starters like how do you call someone out? How do you take that ‘Oh, something’s a little bit off’ and...actually...what are the words?"

It was as if she had never in her life interrupted a conversation to criticize someone! And maybe she hasn't, although if that's true I don't see how she can be an LGBT activist. From her talk, it seemed she’d gone through decades of calling people out on their homophobia. So do that for Black people! Fuck "conversation starters." 

I said, "I just say words like, 'Wow, Sandy, I’m getting to know you better right now'" (this got laughter) "and I’m disturbed that you think property is more important than lives.'" 

Why was she laughing? I guess it was nervous laughter. White people are experts at nervous laughter.

The speaker answered, "That’s great! I think that’s great. Absolutely."

But I could tell she's never going to do this. White people like her smile and nod and say "That's great!" and admire those of us who speak up, but that doesn't mean shit unless they do it themselves. I was trying to show her how it's done. I wanted her to nod thoughtfully and say, "Oh, okay. I get it. I'm taking notes." Instead I got a grinning "That's great!" like she was cheering me on. That wasn't a performance to be applauded, White Woman! That was supposed to be instruction! Now you do it!

So I took that angrifying white encounter, since so many white people seem to be asking what they can do, and turned it into the Medium story Here's What White People Can Do

I've seen several articles and blog posts that list five or 20 or 75 anti-racism things white people can do, but they focus on traditional political activism and how to support anti-racism organizations. That's good, but I actually don't think any of those actions is as important as whites calling it out among their own people, whether that's friends, family, coworkers, strangers standing in line, people you just met at a social event, the check-out clerk, the person you're dating/engaged to, the electrician, etc. etc. 

Calling white people out on their prejudiced statements is the single, most tide-turning thing any white American can do. Yes, it's hard as fuck. Do it.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Meyers Is WAY Better than Colbert

Please take a look at the ways the host of The Late Show with Seth Meyers has adapted to the lockdown much better than the host of A Late Night Show with Stephen Colbert. This is my latest Medium.com story: Seth Meyers is THE Quarantine Late Night Host.

Memorial Day 2020 INSIDE

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

U.S. Gets Worse (Over Many Decades) Before Getting Better

ID 179551672 © Maen Zayyad | Dreamstime.com

In his Medium.com story Ninety Thousand Dead and Counting, Umair Haque points out that Americans don't seem to care how many Americans are dying of COVID-19. He writes that other countries tend to keep careful watch of how many deaths their governments cause, whether in war or peacetime, but the U.S. is unique in how little attention we're paying to the current death rate that was directly caused by our government. (Also, we're now at 92,000 Americans officially dead of COVID-19. Track it here.)

Haque started out years ago as a semi-conventional business blogger for the Harvard Business Review, but foresaw cracks in the capitalist edifice and predicted a rerun of the 1930s: the rise of authoritarianism and another economic depression. He also wrote about similarities between post-cold-war Russia and the U.S before it was fashionable to do so. These days he writes on Medium.com and he's the scariest writer I follow. 

It's hard to argue against his Ninety Thousand Dead assertion that Americans don't care about the COVID-19 death toll. Even if you're thinking, "I care about the American COVID death toll!" our news headlines show the truth. Do they scream every morning how many people died the day before or what the current total number of American COVID deaths is? No. Our headlines scream about El Idiota's latest buffoonery, what states are re-opening too soon, how badly the economy is doing, and the latest Supreme Court activity. Are any American death tolls in there? Not on the front page.
Armed protesters call for New Hampshire
Governor Chris Sununu to open the state 5/2/20.

JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

For a few weeks the top stories did include how many had tested positive and how many were dying, but then we apparently lost interest. Online news sites don't highlight the most urgent news. They highlight what gets the most clicks and that's how we know American death tolls no longer interest Americans. Those articles don't float to the top of curated news pages.

We also don't seem to care that these are deaths that could have been prevented if El Idiota and his administration had acted more responsibly. Thousands of people should be alive right now who aren't because this president fucked up.

Where's our outrage? Why have our daily conversations already turned to what the new normal will look like? Americans are still dying in shameful numbers and that's not going to stop, but we're more focused on re-opening businesseses and getting a haircut (I admit, I'd love a haircut).

Haque says we ignore the death toll because El Idiota keeps us distracted with his "press conferences" and daily stupidity (El Idiota is my nickname for our prez, not Haque's). Haque says El Idiota's apparent missteps are actually calculated to keep us from thinking about how many are dying horrible, suffocating deaths that he could have prevented.

I believe this is what happens after decades of Americans becoming increasingly polarized, politically and culturally. Generations ago the right and left sides of Congress were able to put aside differences in crisis. Now they can't. Generations ago we were able to keep politics from getting personal. Now we can't. We on the left see those on the right as stupid and destructive. Those on the right see us on the left as stupid and destructive. We hate each other so much we can't take our eyes off each other. We are dying of the coronavirus, in numbers that would stagger us if we noticed them, while we're unable to tear our attention away from our judgment of and desire to destroy each other.

Maybe those of us on the left are more to blame since many idiots on the right don't even believe people are dying of COVID-19 (yes, I disrespectfully call them idiots because I'm no better than the people I'm writing about). We non-right-wing people know that tens of thousands have died. In fact, we know the stats leave out people who are dying from COVID at home, in prison, in shelters and on the street. Why aren't these facts at the center of our left-wing, educated, well-informed conversations? Why do we fixate on the daily tantrums and destructive ramblings of a baby-man instead of demanding accountability for the thousands who have died and keep dying?
White man in charge of people of color.
Image wasn't hard to find in stock photos.

ID 142076235 © Milkos | Dreamstime.com

I think it shows how jaded we left-leaning have become. I know I no longer see the point of political action. I've gotten out there, but I'm done. Also, I watched my parents pour themselves out for the Mexican American community when I was growing up. They fought the good fight and sure, it made a difference, but my dad is in his 80s and I don't know how he manages the disappointment of the world not being better than this. After the effort and hope of the 1960s and 70s  it was supposed to be better than this.

What happened is that all that hope and progress activated the worst of American white fear. White Americans became so frightened they elected a demogogue to save them from foreigners and communists, and they even accept a hideous death toll that includes their own friends and family. 

Also, keep in mind that there are countries and cultures that are thousands of years old. Thousands of years old. Now consider that many countries are at least several hundred years old, but the United States is going to be 244 years old in July. That's all: two hundred and fourty-four years. Compared to our Asian and European peers, we're a toddler nation. How can we be expected to behave well? How can we be expected to know who we are as a country and stand by each other in the worst times?

For all our hubris that we're the best country on earth, we do NOT stand by each other in the worst times. We actually treat each other like shit all the time. I believe we'll eventually go through a period of dictatorship, and it might be closer than we fear. We're already heading into an American apartheid: a majority of people of color will be governed by a minority of whites who will retain the most powerful government offices and industry positions. That will go on for generations because culture changes very slowly. 

But on the bright side...well, there isn't one. Americans were naive to think we could found a nation where all men are equal and have it become more fair and inclusive from there. We're a young country with centuries of growing pains ahead. The next pandemic might see us in an even worse political situation. We're going to have to figure out over hundreds of years what the United States really stands for, who we really want to be, and what it takes for us to feel like a cohesive society and not a patchwork of people who hate each other.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

COVID Movie Fatigue

Photo by my iPad

I posted on Facebook that I keep starting movies and abandoning them, never to return and finish, and my friend Jane called it "Covid movie fatigue." Is this a thing? Do others have this?


Maybe the Medium audience can answer me in the comment section of It's Very Hard to Leave My Apartment, which I just published. When I tweeted that Medium story, I created the hashtag #COVIDmoviefatigue. I'll see if it goes anywhere.

Another friend described starting a movie, falling asleep, coming back later to try again, forgetting what happened in the movie, etc. That could be a variation of the same disorder.

What's weird about this is that not being interested in movies is usually a depression symptom for me, but I'm not depressed. Apparently, I've gotten so far in healing my chronic depression that even the wearying conditions of the lockdown haven't sent my mood down. I'm just bored.

So! This is boredom in the absence of depression. Hmm. It's new for me. 

What I want right now is a good book, preferably an at-least-450-page horror novel with full characters and a riveting plotline. I want to lose myself in the medium that rescued me from a vulnerable childhood: books. I'll have to work harder on finding that so I can stop going through movies like a kid taking just one bite of a bunch of cookies because none satisfies. Let me know if you have recommendations or recommendations of good movies with death and destruction in them. 

I'm always focused on death and destruction in my entertainment, but even more so now. I watched the HBO five-part series Chernobyl, which was excellent. I more recently finished AMC's first season of The Terror, which is a fictionalized account of a failed nineteenth-century attempt to sail through the Arctic. That was excellent, too (it's on Hulu). Both starred Jared Harris, on whom I'm a bit fixated right now. He portrays a great protagonist making the best of circumstances that are absolutely fucked. 
Jared Harris

Apparently I take a break from the horrific circumstances of the coronavirus by losing myself in someone else's doom and it's best if that doom actually happened in real life. AMC's anthology series seems perfect for me. The Terror fictionalizes historical events that were horrific. Too bad it's only produced two seasons so far.

I'm a great indoorswoman and never expected to reach the end of my patience with being inside my apartment, but I've finally gotten there. After seven weeks of the Chicago lockdown, I finally wish I could go out to eat even with someone I dislike at a restaurant with bad service. I didn't know I had this limit.

Well, maybe I'll go find a new snackfood at the grocery store. This is a boring blog post from a boring woman during a boring time.

Friday, May 08, 2020

Let Me Articulate Your Anxieties

I'm doing pretty well as a Medium writer, getting attention and earning a bit of money. I'm happy with how it's going. But I can't help but suspect that I'm doing well because I started publishing there during the coronavirus.

It's a good time to start publishing on Medium.com because there's a captive audience right now of people hungry for things to do watch, read and otherwise consume. But it's a very good time for a writer like me because while many might want inspiring or light content, a lot of people have fears and anxieties they can't name or talk about. They're open to pieces by someone who can put their fears in words.

I just happened to be born with a talent for words that I nurtured with journaling, English degrees, letter writing and emailing (once email was invented). Then I spent almost 16 years maintaining this blog. I also happened to be born into a household troubled by maternal anxiety, anger, fear and unpredicable rages. My struggles with depression started when I was in high school and my life has been marked by regular anxiety, fear, hopelessness and emotional paralysis, all supported by a firm foundation of self-hatred.

Writing things down in a journal helped, so I did that for decades. My writing talent developed along with my understanding of my emotions and internal mechanisms, and I became increasingly skilled at explaining what was going on inside me. Unfortunately being able to understand and explain my moods and self-destructive tendencies didn't lead to overcoming them. It just made me sound like I really knew what I was talking about on the subjects of mental illness, depression, low self-esteem, suicidal longing, and overwhelming emotions. At any rate, I've developed a real skill for articulating anxiety and fear.

You who have read my posts on depression and suicide have seen me function almost like a translator for people who don't have depression and who judge harshly people who kill themselves. I have taken seriously my self-appointed role as one who helps the non-depressed understand the depressed.

And lately I've developed a new role: putting into words some of the specific kinds of pain that many are going through with the coronavirus. My Medium article My Addictions Have Gotten Worse During Quarantine has gotten the most views of any of the 15 or so I've written since March 21st. Similarly to my writing on this blog, my Medium stories don't suffer from the optimism-bias that plagues many Americans. I give opinions about how self-isolation is affecting us, how long the virus will be around and how well we'll come out of this. For whatever reason, these pieces do all right, for now.

Now I drag out my old saw that people with depression often do better in crisis than people without depression, but I believe it. And I think others recognize when someone who isn't hampered by optimism is speaking truthfully. 

But I have to include that people with depression often don't do well when times are calm and pleasant. Right now I'm a Medium writer with a talent for articulating corona-related pain and fear. Maybe my stories won't be at all popular when things go well again. Fortunately/unfortunately, things probably won't go well again for a couple of years.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Cinco de Mayo - Don't Do It

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I suspect some white Americans might think they're honoring Mexican culture by having cinco de mayo parties, but they're not. Cinco de mayo has become another American-appropriated holiday that isn't really celebrated in its country of origin. If you want to celebrate a real Mexican holiday, celebrate Mexican Independence Day in September.

I lay out the details here, but basically I'm sick of white people putting on sombreros and sarapes and big moustaches and thinking they're having harmless fun. It's not harmless fun.

1. They're promoting racist Mexican stereotypes.
2. They're adding to the already deadly American alcohol culture.
3. St. Patrick's Day uses stereotypes of a group that's no longer targeted by American bigotry, but cinco de mayo plays on American prejudices against Mexicans and Mexican Americans which are still very vulnerable populations.
4. It reduces Mexican and Mexican American cultures to a mixed drink, a beer and a few paper decorations. It's offensive.

I wish all white American cinco de mayo "festivities" would stop forever, and actually right now would be an excellent time.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Make New Friends Even During the Shutdown

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Feeling lonely and isolated? Who isn't! It's easy to feel all alone these days, especially those of us who live alone. Maybe you wish you could make some new friends, but have no idea how to do that when we're all isolating. Well, here are some ideas and you can adjust these for making friends even when we're past the coronavirus shutdown.

Facebook and Twitter?
NO. I'm talking about real life friends you have live conversations with and eventually meet face-to-face. So forget Facebook, Twitter and all the rest of it.

Start with your neighbors
The moment to knock on doors and introduce yourself is past, so create a note you'll duplicate and tape to doors or mailboxes. For example, if you're in an apartment, it might say: Hi. I live in apartment 3N and I'm reaching out to everyone in the building. Since we're all shut in these days, I thought I'd see if we can make connections and help each other out. I figure some of us have cars and some don't, some of us go out to a job regularly, others stay in. I'd like to build a contact info list for us. We can check in on each other, offer to get things from the store, etc. If you'd like to participate, please email me at XXXX or text me at XXXX. I'll get a list together and share all our contact info. At the very least, we won't feel as alone! 

Tailor this note so it's appropriate for you.

Best case scenario: You email or text your neighbors to see how they are, figure out who feels like they could be a friend and give them a little more attention to get to know them better. If they respond positively, you're on your way to making a new friend. At some point you can move that friendship to a phone call or FaceTime chat, etc. In the meantime, your neighbors develop a community of people who know each other's names and who can rely on each other. That will feel good even when we can all see each other in person without masks.

Worst case scenario: They think you're a big loser. Get over it. (It's also extremely unlikely they'll ALL think this.) Another problem could be maybe everyone has your personal contact info and you get email or texts you don't want. So you know what? You unsubscribe or write back with "Remove" in the subject line or block the number. The end. If you really feel horrified by the idea of giving out your info, even to people who live right near you, this strategy isn't for you.

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Join a Club

This is the same as during normal times, but it happens online. There are many clubs and organizations that meet online now and it's just a matter of finding ones that sound interesting. Meetup.com remains an excellent place to find clubs on whatever topic interests you, from knitting to politics to meditation. I run a Stephen King book club and a depression support group. The benefit of meeting online is that you can talk to people from far away. But if you want to make friends with people you'll eventually be real life friends with, focus on clubs in your area (my area is Chicago).

Ideally as you attend meetings, you'll identify people who you'd like to get to know better. Between meetings, contact them to engage them on the topic of the meeting (Hi. I was on the last book club Zoom call with you. Have you started reading the next book yet? I just noticed how long it is. Not that I don't have the time right now. Did you say you'd read it before?You can message people through the Meetup.com app and website. 

Best case scenario: Those messages about the club evolve into a texting/Zooming/etc. friendship. Then after the shutdown is over, you'll have in-person meetings to go to and a friend or two you can meet for face-to-face coffee.

Worst case scenario: They think you're a big loser. Get over it. 

Reach out to creators
There's a lot of blogging going on right now, along with article writing, video making, music production, etc. If you're following someone, there's probably a way to contact them published at the bottom of their articles, in their YouTube notes, on their homepage, and such. Send them a note about how their content affected you. Content creators love feedback. 

Best case scenario: They write back and start a dialogue.

Worse case scenario: They're too busy to write back, but I guarantee you they will NOT think you're a loser. Content creators appreciate everyone who pays attention to our stuff.

Try one of these ideas and let me know how it goes! Do you have ideas? Tell me in the comments.

Follow me on Medium.com where I write even MORE stuff.