Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Bush/Cheney Memorial Sloganator

The email gave the backstory as follows:
Earlier this year, the web site for the Bush-Cheney campaign - the real one, paid for by MBNA America and Richard Scaife - featured a "create your own banner" tool, that allowed you to enter your own slogan and print out your own poster, with the Bush-Cheney logo. Democrats, of course, couldn't get enough of this. The original Sloganator accepted everything, then it started censoring profanity and words like "Hitler," "dictator" and "evil." Nevertheless, many clever folks exploited the Sloganator to their own ends before its sad demise only a couple of weeks after its birth. Its mourners assembled some of the best for a slide show. Click on the title of this posting. The show is best enjoyed with the sound on.

Help "Kerry" Bush Out of the White House

I don’t really know what has gotten into me this year. I started volunteering with the Kucinich campaign last fall motivated by nothing more than boredom and loneliness, and now I’ve taken on personal commitments to do whatever I can to get Bush out of the White House this November. Strange how these things go. I feel driven. And heck, I still have the free time, so why not?

So please indulge me as I share this information. I know we’re each working against the injustices of the Bush administration in our own way, and my ideas might not appeal to people who have already made their own commitments to change. But IN CASE you’re interested…

How you can help “Kerry” Bush out of the White House:

1) Write to Senator John Kerry about whatever issues feel important to you. If he moves towards the political center to win over conservative voters, he will lose the support of the demographic groups that can WIN us the election: single women, minorities, young people, etc. Now is the time for him to move left or he will lose the support he needs. You can write him at: Kerry For President, 901 15th St, NW, Floor 700, Wash DC, 20005. Or write Mr. Terry McAuliffe, Democratic National Committee, 430 S. Capitol St. SE, Wash, DC, 20003.

2) Remind any friends/neighbors who have recently moved to register to vote. Find out which of your friends is not registered and encourage them to register and vote. Go to the Chicago Elections website for information on voter registration, absentee ballots, etc.

3) Ask me for more ways to help get people registered and ways to make sure they get to the polls on Election Day.

4) Plan to take the day off of work on Election Day, Tuesday, November 2nd. First, go vote. Then volunteer to help get voters to the polls, especially if you have a car. Senior citizens need help. Busy mothers with children need help. You can think of more, I’m sure. Or volunteer to work at a precinct (see next suggestion).

5) Go to the Chicago Elections website for information on how to be a deputy registrar (registering people to vote), poll watcher (make sure voters’ rights are respected and look out for illegal precinct behavior), judge of election (actually be responsible for the conduct of the election in the precinct polling place), or a student judge (high school seniors only).

6) Contact the American Friends and Service Committee which is giving free voter registration training. It lasts about an hour and a half and then they provide opportunities for you to use those skills, or you can organize voter registration events in your neighborhood. NOTE: You must be registered to vote in Chicago or Cook County to become a deputy registrar in this area. Call Megan at 312-427-2533 ext. 34 or email her at mkoenig@afsc.org.

7) Rally against Bush and Company at the Republican National Convention on August 29th.

8) Edit this list to make the information relevant to people in other parts of the state/country and send it to friends/relatives there.

9) As always: donate money, if you can!. No one expected Kerry to be able to match Bush’s funds, swelled by “Bush Pioneers” who each raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from their wealthy friends. But hundreds of thousands of small donors have kept John Kerry’s campaign competitive and gotten a strong message to undecided voters. People giving as much as $25 or $50 are having a real impact on the campaign. After Kerry accepts the Democratic nomination on July 29th, his spending will be limited by the Presidential Public Funding. Give now to the Kerry campaign.

10) Lastly, please share this information with ANYONE who might want to work to get Bush out of office. Let me know what ideas you can add to the list.

The Republican Party stole the election in 2000 and they will do it again if they can. Let’s not let them! But Bush does have the bucks, so we need everyone to be a part of this effort.

RE-DEFEAT BUSH IN 2004!

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Troops Out Now

Let's bring the troops home now. NOW. The U.S. was wrong to attack Iraq in the first place, it's not on its way to being a Western-style democracy and we're going to end up bringing our troops home in failure anyway, so let's leave now. The insurgents are beginning to align themselves with strong religious international organizations. The terrorist activity is becoming less of a local Iraqi protest to American occupation and more a part of an international movement to establish Iraq as a strict religious society (details). That's why the violence is getting worse instead of better. Iraq is nowhere near being a democracy and it's not going to be, so let's end the dying of our American military and the murder of Iraqi men, women and children. We've lost over 970 soldiers in Iraq as of today. 970. The Iraqi civilian casualties are over 11,000.


Saturday, June 26, 2004

What I Would Do (a one-act play)

LOCATION:  Nighttime, a bus stop in a large city.  One lamp post gives light. A woman in her mid-thirties sits on the bus shelter bench, reading a newspaper with a dire headline, perhaps, “War Expected to Worsen.”  She is maybe 5’2”, 130 pounds, a small woman.  She wears a nice coat and sensible shoes.

We watch her read, turn a page, look for the bus, go back to reading.  A man in his forties approaches and joins her at the bus stop.  He is an average height and weight and he, too, wears a nice coat and shoes.  The woman glances up at him, decides he doesn't look like a threat to her, and goes back to reading.  After a few more seconds, he speaks.

Man:  Do you know how often the bus runs at this time of night?

Woman: Um, I think about every 15 minutes?  Maybe 20?

Man (after another moment): It can feel like forever.

Woman: Yeah. (This time she keeps looking at him.  He smiles at her.  She smiles back.) Do you work downtown?

Man: My work takes me all over.

Woman:  So I might have seen you anywhere?

Man:  Yeah, you might have seen me anywhere.  Do I look familiar?

Woman: (squints or frowns) Kind of.  Do I look familiar to you?

Man: Oh, yeah. (He crosses and sits next to her during this next speech).  I’ve seen you.  I’ve seen everyone.  The pain, the anger, the celebration.  (She stares, mesmerized.) I’m sorry the world hurts you so much.  I’m sorry you can’t feel the love it also offers.  I can hear you right through the pillow.  You think no one can, but I do.

Woman (startled): What pillow?

Man: The red and black one. The one you scream into when you can’t stand it anymore.

(The woman gets up and moves a few feet downstage.  Her newspaper has dropped to the ground. She’s alarmed, vulnerable.)

Woman:  Who are you?

Man: I’m The One you think doesn’t exist.  The One you’ve stopped being open to.  The One you’ve been waiting for.

Woman (sarcastically):  Oh, let me guess. You’re, like, a prophet?  You think you’re a holy man?  You think you’re, like, linked to God, don’t you?

Man: Nicole -

Woman: How do you know my name?

Man: - you’re not alone.  The Universe is so much kinder than you want to believe. I'm here. I've always been with you.

Woman: Who are you?

Man: I think you know who I Am, Nicole. (Pause while the woman continues to stare and size him up) Tell your sister that her daughter’s okay.  Tell her to try Barbara’s house.  That’s where she is.

Woman:  What? (her cell phone rings.  She pulls it out and answers as she steps away stage left, turns her back to him and bends her head to talk.) Hello? (As she hears who it is, her head snaps up, snaps right to look at him, and snaps forward)  Yeah?  Uh…look, uh, Lisa, I’m sure she’s fine.  No, no, I’m sure she’s not.  She’s – (she looks at the man who nods at her) – um, Lisa, have you talked to Barbara?  Well, why don’t you try her?  Maybe Maddie’s there.  Okay, call me back, bye.

(The woman hangs up, puts the phone back in her purse, and stares at the man)

Man: Nicole, let me show you that the Universe is a loving, wonderful place.  You’re not alone.  You’ve never been alone.

Woman:  Is it really You?  I mean, are You really --?

Man: Yes.

(The woman moves towards Him and He holds out His arms for an embrace.  Instead, she slugs Him in the face)

Woman:  You Son of bitch!  (He staggers back, shocked)  You bastard! (another punch)

Man: Nicole!

Woman: Fuck You! (A punch in the gut.  He doubles over) Fuck You! (She shoves Him to the side of the stage. He pleads while she beats him up). 

Man: Nicole, please!

Woman: Fuck Your fucking world and Your fucking benevolent universe.  You son of a bitch, God damn You! 

Man: I know you’re angry –

Woman:  Big insight: I’m angry.  Yes I’m angry.  What the fuck kind of world are You running here?  What the fuck? (He’s down on the ground by now and she grabs Him by the lapels and shakes Him)

Man: (rapidly, desperately trying to get through to her) Nicole, I want to show you how good life can be –

Woman:  Shut up, Motherfucker!  Is this Your world?  Parents abusing their children and people in misery all over the world and stupid fucking leaders lying to their people and bombs dropping on people who never did anything wrong – is this Your world?  Why would a loving God create this?

Man: I didn’t create this, Nicole. God and man create together.  You all choose your paths –

Woman: Oh, shut UP! (she pushes Him back to the ground so His head strikes the pavement and then pulls Him back towards her.  She’s straddling His body, squatting on Him so His shoulders come up between her knees) Motherfucker, where the fuck have You been?  What the hell is this horrible nightmare of a world where some get to feel joy and light and the rest of us scrape – SCRAPE – burdened with fucked up lives and rotten childhoods and no control – NO CONTROL – over anything. What is this world where random chance determines who gets a shot at happiness and who gets to just tend to their own symptoms until finally death is our only escape? 

(The woman lets Him drop, gets off of Him, walks stage left)

Woman: You disgust me and Your world disgusts me.  Your world is a total failure with more misery than hope, more greed than mercy.  Life is a cruel series of sick punchlines for way too many people. Why the hell hasn’t the human race just died out yet?

(He opens His mouth to respond, then hesitates as He thinks better of it. He puts up His hands in a defensive gesture, hoping to avoid another attack. He glances warily at the audience, the woman, upstage.  Finally, feeling safe enough, He speaks.)

Man: (Sitting up, then standing) Man has self-destructive tendencies, but the survival instinct is strong and so is love.

(The woman balls her fists -- one last moment of fury as the man raises His hands in the defensive gesture again -- then drops them as her body sags. Emboldened, He presses forward.)

Man: Why do you think you’re still standing, Nicole?  As strong as your anger and pain is, your love force is stronger. That’s what has saved you.  That’s what keeps you going.  That’s what I Am. I’ve been with you all along.  You know I have been.

Woman:  Yes, I know.

Man (holding out His hand to her, arm straight): Let’s walk together, Nicole.

Woman:  No.  If this has been my life with You by my side, I think I’d rather try it without You for a while.

(She takes a few steps towards stage left, stops to make a sweeping “I’m through” gesture with her hands at him, and keeps walking, exiting.  The man’s holding-out-hand gesture has decayed into a plaintive, elbow-bent gesture of beseeching, almost begging.  Then He lets His hand drop in bewilderment. He sees her discarded newspaper, goes over and picks it up, scans it for a moment, then gazes forward, pensively. Fade to black.)

(c) Regina Rodriguez 2004

Friday, June 25, 2004

Go See Fahrenheit 9/11

Now.

Why is anyone still voting for George W?

Would someone please explain to me what the thinking is of the people who are still planning to vote for George W this November? Anybody? Anybody?

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Ray Waller

One of my best friends ever was Rayfield A. Waller, a prolific writer, agile intellectual and urban quick wit from Detroit. We met when we entered the Cornell English PhD program in 1988 and stuck together in the trenches of it for four years. He was my partner in crime, my war buddy, the one who understood my pain and alienation because he was feeling the same thing. I was a middle class Mexican American woman from the San Francisco Bay Area and he was a working class Black man from Detroit, but the psychic violence of Ivy League racism felt the same to both of us. We were as startled by our close friendship as we were committed to it. I won’t even consider what my experience at Cornell would have been like without him.

But when I moved to Chicago and he settled back into Detroit, we fell out of touch. I visited him once, soon after we’d left Cornell and we had a great visit, but Ray moved frequently and couldn’t always be found at the same place from month to month. I tried to stay in touch, but we spoke for the last time in 1994.

Of my Cornell memories, one of the most vivid is sitting with Ray under a tree one bright day on campus. I remember holding on to him tightly as I wept, great big out-loud sobs of fear and emotion. I don’t remember the trigger, but the constant stress of being a student of color in an intimidating Ivy League program often had me depressed. I clutched him as I let it out, and it felt so good to cry that way: not alone, but being held in a strong, warm embrace. I was comforted by his understanding, his love, and his strong, solid hug. He was my best friend.

I was bewildered when he faded to no presence at all in my life. He vanished as soon as I stopped hunting him down. I felt very hurt by it. I never understood how he and I could have been so tight, needing each other so much, and then be nothing at all. It made me wonder if the friendship hadn’t been real, but I knew it had been. It had helped keep me alive. It just didn’t make sense, so I added my experience with Ray to my compiling life experiences that indicated that friendship is impossible to hold on to, and nothing lasts. When I find myself becoming friends with someone, I enjoy and celebrate it, but I know better than to get used to it.

Recently, I received a stunning email. It was from Ray Waller. After our ten-year silence, it was like a resurrection from the dead, a Lazarus sighting. Ray Waller? Writing to me? Now? Yet through the shock, I knew this was an omigod miracle and the best thing I could ask for. His brief note made me happy and excited and not even hoping for a renewed bond, but just happy to be hearing from him at all. Yes, Ray Waller was writing to me and not only re-establishing contact, but letting me know that even though he left my life, I didn’t leave his. While I thought of him as a disappeared former friend, he wrote that he had maintained me as an influence in his life and his writing.

How I can have such an impact on someone who feels absent to me? What does this mean? I think it means there might be a whole other alchemy of friendship for me to discover. Ray’s re-appearance in my life suggests that maybe friendship can endure, maybe it’s there even when it seems gone. Maybe the existence of a friendship isn’t determined by my perception of it. Maybe instead of going dead, a friendship can go dormant, emitting a life force as constant as the refrigerator hum. And maybe it can spring back to life as soon as one of the friends says, tag I found you.

Ray’s reappearance in my life seems to mean that Ray and I are still friends, but I just didn’t know it. Maybe I have lots of friendships I count as dead and buried, but which abide unseen because those friends still think of me and feel me in their lives. If that’s true, I could have dozens and dozens of friends I thought I’d lost. These friendships might surround me like ghosts or luck or ideas, ready to take physical form if I accept their existence and summon them. Maybe I’m not as alone as I feel.

It’s an incredible idea. If countless others are feeling my impact on their lives, can’t I tap into that link and feel them in mine? Maybe I don’t have to feel lonely. Maybe all those crossed out names in my address book don’t condemn me as unlikeable, but are simply links I haven’t used in a while. Maybe I’m not alone. Maybe.

At any rate, Ray is still as incredible a writer as ever and I look forward to what he produces on his new blog. Check it out. That's my friend, Ray Waller.


Wednesday, June 23, 2004

An atheist's prayer

An atheist’s prayer

Free of god-guilt weight,
Free of what-Jesus-would-do worry,
I make my way in a world clear of angels
and clean of miracles
Longing replaces prayer

Gently now, gently
can I love?
Am I allowed?
Do I have to wait until the world has time,
has healed,
has room for it?

Maybe I start from a distance,
smiling at all my favorite parts,
noticing long enough to cherish,
enjoying just as is.

Can I love
without piercing hunger,
without aching need,
without the declaration that says MINE?

I blow you a silver dandelion
carefully imagine how we might begin
save the first-star-I-see for you
You take it.
No, you.
No, you.

Help me put all the monsters to bed.
Turn off the clock.
I’ll inhale your admiration

gently.

(c) Regina Rodriguez January, 2004


Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Catholic Atheism

Okay, I guess I can't just call myself a "Catholic atheist" in my last post and not explain it. I was raised Catholic. I actively and willingly attended church until I was 19. In my sophomore year of college I had a crisis of faith (I guess you'd call it) and decided I just couldn't swallow all the stuff the Catholic church seemed to demand of me, such as that homosexuality is wrong or women are inherently sinful because of Eve. So with great anxiety, I "left" the church.

For years I didn't think about god or religion or any of it. I guess I was agnostic: I didn't know and didn't care to decide. It was through a gospel choir and a synagogue that I re-approached spirituality. I really felt Spirit in those choir rehearsals and shabbot services, so I decided to reconsider the existence of a divine force. At Unity in Chicago, I spent several years crystallizing a personal conception of the divine. My very New Age approach included the presence of the Christ in all of us, Divine Spirit present in all things, a belief in the existence of angels and other spirit guides, the belief that there is a reason for everything, and the belief that the more difficult life seems, the more we must work to align ourselves with Divine order and trust that God/the Universe is teaching us lessons. Note: this is not meant to represent the teachings of Unity or Unity in Chicago. These beliefs were what I personally constructed over years of taking what worked for me and "leaving the rest."

Life seemed to make sense and I felt comforted by the idea of a benevolent Universe that never did anything that wasn't for our "highest good." I liked this spiritual practice.

Then one day I met a wonderful, loving, handsome, funny young man who romanced me and made me feel like the most beautiful woman on earth. I met him at bus stop, a bus stop I (and he) rarely used. Surely this was the Hand of God! In a world of missed opportunities and chance meetings, we had been led to each other. I felt so grateful to the Universe for leading this man into my life.

Then I found out he was married.

In my pain and despair, I cursed God, the angels, the world. How could a benevolent Universe do this to me? How could a loving God lead me to such humiliation, such pain, such feelings of darkness and hopelessness? I found intolerable the idea of a divine force that would purposefully do this. I found unacceptable the idea that a benevolent universe would lovingly and purposefully lead me into the worst depression of my life. So I rejected that idea and I rejected god.

All my carefully constructed spiritual beliefs went out the window. Unable to resolve a loving god with a world of pain, I decided to embrace atheism. It made sense that in a random, godless universe I had just happened to meet this man. No one and nothing "meant" for us to meet in such a disastrous way. It just happened. This view allowed me to let go of the feeling that I was being punished or with-held from. This view allowed me to let go of the possibility that God didn't think I was worthy of a good relationship. And this view allowed me to let go of the harsh idea that this pain was my latest "life lesson" and that it had been purposefully sent to me for my own good.

The world felt a lot emptier without a spiritual presence I could lean on in my daily life. But while I had sacrificed the sense of being divinely loved and cared for, I had also freed myself from the sense of being constantly watched and evaluated. For instance, previously I might have thought, "If I turn right will I be in alignment with Divine Order? Or maybe if I turn left I'll be in alignment with Divine Order. Which is the Divine right answer?" All that crap thinking was over with. Now I realize that at Unity I had simply replaced my childhood judgmental and capricious God with a New Age one. I had just used different language.

But even without a god, I still liked going to church on Sundays. I needed the community and the music. So as a born again atheist, I went back to attending a Catholic church for the first time in 16 years. I still attend and am active in the choir and other activities there. Why do I go to mass every week when I don't believe in god? Because I like to sing, I need community, and there is absolutely nothing in the Catholic mass that challenges my belief that we're really alone here. I have never felt Spirit in a Catholic church. The Catholic mass simply doesn't cause me to re-evaluate my stance the way that gospel choir and synagogue did so long ago. And none of my fellow parishioners questions why I never go to communion, or why I sing all the songs with such exuberance, but never participate in any prayers, responses or gestures. I am grateful for their indifference to the state of my soul. One thing I have been able to count on Catholics for: plenty of space and solitude in my own spiritual conflict.

It's a godless, random universe. And I am home.

Love In War

It was only a matter of time before the creation of an online dating service with a political emphasis. Love In War (click on link to the right, under my profile information) promises "Irreverent Politics. Political Personals. Dating for the Agitated." One of the things I like about it is the open-ended, free form way they let you fill in your profile. Other websites ask for your information (job, religion, etc.) by giving you a multiple choice form to fill out, and if none of the categories fit, your only option is "Other." Love In War gives more blank fields, allowing me -- for example -- to give my religion as "Catholic atheist." It just seems like a fun website and I can't take it seriously, which is good.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

My native language is English

Last night I went salsa dancing. I met an impossibly good-looking guy from Tunisia who was a great dancer. When we started talking, I told him I was a singer and he asked about my music. I was only a little surprised to hear his dismay and disapproval that I don't write songs in Spanish. I told him, "I really only write songs in English because my native tongue is English. My dominant language is English."
"That's too bad," he chided, "You have been colonized."
"No," I tried to reassure him, "I haven't been colonized. I'm an American. I was born here. I'm actually a colonizer."
"You cannot be a colonizer with that shirt on," he gestured at my GEORGE W. YOU'RE FIRED t-shirt. I was a bit relieved to hear his disapproval dissolve into a joke, but it's a point that comes up often in my life: since I am Mexican, I should use more Spanish.

What do I say? You can argue all day long that Latinos should speak Spanish, that Latinos shouldn't abandon our culture, and that it's shameful when Latinos only know English. But you know what? Acculturation, or the uglier word assimilation, isn't always a choice. I didn't choose to be born in the United States, nor did I choose to grow up in an exclusively English-speaking suburb, attend English-speaking schools or have my parents speak only English to me my entire life. Those things just happened.

Decades before I was born, my parents ventured, as small, frightened, Spanish-speaking children, into the public schools of Texas in the 1940's. Neither of them knew a word of English. Unfortunately, Texas in the 1940's had little tolerance for what would later be called cultural diversity. No Spanish was allowed in school: not in the classroom, not on the playground, not in the bathroom, nowhere. No Spanish. What were my parents to do? It was the only language they knew. Well, inevitably the Mexican children would communicate in the only way they could and were strictly punished for it. Unfortunately, in Texas in the 1940's punishment in the public schools sometimes meant being beaten.

So my parents learned English the hard way. The joke I have heard is that one of my father's uncles, who must have gone to school in the unimaginable 1920's, had a teacher who was unable to pronouce his name, Asención, and whose name he was unable to pronounce: Schmidt. Mrs. Schmidt's solution to this cultural gap was to punish Asención for not saying her name correctly, and to change his name to "Willie."
I believe these early and violent lessons in the "inferiority" and inappropriateness of Spanish never left my parents' psyches. They both became strong political organizers in the Mexican American community of the San Francisco Bay Area, and they told my sister and me countless times to be proud of our heritage. They immersed us in Mexican culture as much as they could, even though they settled our family in a white suburb of San Francisco. I grew up with the food, music, holiday celebations and some of the cultural values and traditions of my parents and ancestors. But for all their efforts to preserve the culture and pass it on to us, my parents never spoke to us in Spanish. English was the language of our home. Sometimes they argued in Spanish and sometimes they scolded us in Spanish, but all daily conversation, ALL daily conversation, with us took place in English. I think my parents were never able to shake the cultural stigma they learned to attach to Spanish in that Texas environment of the 1940's. Surrounded by intense, and often violent, racism, my parents learned to speak English and only English. As many times as they voiced the desire that my sister and I speak fluent Spanish, they were never able to help us learn it by actually using it with us.

So MY English was perfect when I began public school. My parents prepared us very well for that environment and made sure their daughters were never punished for not knowing the appropriate language. But in an ironic over-correction, they left my sister and me with very little knowledge of Spanish at all, and I had to learn it later along with all the other Anglos, in high school.

Today I have little need to speak Spanish. English is the language of my environment and I would have to make a special effort to find places where I would use Spanish. Someone could argue that I should put in the effort to find places where I can speak Spanish, that I owe it to my culture and my people, but although it might sound ugly coming from the grand-daughter of Mexican immigrants, English is the language I love best. It's the language in which I thrive, write music, express emotions, make jokes. It's my best language and even if I were forced by circumstances (or a very unlikely set of political events) to function in Spanish, English would still be the language of my heart. It's just how I was raised.

Unfortunately, I have had so many Latinos (and white people) shake their heads disapprovingly at me that I have learned a deep shame for not speaking Spanish fluently. From a very young age, I was shamed for not knowing Spanish, despite such a decision being out of my hands until I could choose to learn Spanish in school. With this shame, I developed a psychological block against being able to speak Spanish. With such pressure on me to please "my people" and fulfill their demand that I know competent Spanish, I choke each time I try to speak it. For most of my life, even though I got straight A's in all those Spanish classes, my Spanish has not been good, not because I can't conjugate or remember the vocabulary, but because each time I open my mouth, I can already hear the scolding for my poor ability. The Spanish comes out hesitantly, hobbled and usually full of mistakes.

So I thank all those Latinos (and white people) who thought they were doing their part to preserve the culture by shaming me for my lack of Spanish. Ustedes have really done me favor by giving me such a complex about the language that to this day I never claim to be able to speak it. In fact, I envy white Americans who learn Spanish and receive only congratulations for it. Their mistakes are not judged because it's so impressive that they can speak Spanish at all.

THAT'S ME, I want to say. I was a teenage white girl from the suburbs who had to learn her vocabulary and verb tenses off the page! My parents didn't give me any head start. Someone give ME credit for working hard to learn a "foreign" language and still being able to hold a conversation in it today. How many Americans, at the age of 37, can still hold a conversation in the language they took four years of in high school? Seriously, how many?

But no, I get no compliments, no credit. I'm Mexican and I "should" speak Spanish, so my Spanish gets judgment and head-shaking. And that is why, when someone asks, "Do you speak Spanish?" I answer, "Only in case of emergency."

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Cheering myself up with my favorite original poem

Spinster

Underneath piles of wedding lingerie,
dented brass dreams, rusted with disappointment,
Under faded images of strong, handsome men with
perfect teeth
and silvery lace dusted with loneliness,
I find
quivering flesh, new and wet,
excited to grow and stretch into its glory,
free of fingerprints, collars or gold-band chain links
free to spill wonderful, wingspan possibilities
all over the horizon,
leaving admirers behind.

(c) Regina Rodriguez, December 2003

T-Minus 11 Days...

We're eleven days away from the hand-over of power in Iraq and I feel new doubt about our -- the American people -- our decision-making ability. No, we didn't elect George W, but knowing what we know now, would we have allowed him to take office as easily as he did in January 2001? Knowing what we know now about how the Bush administration has handled everything from Abu Ghraib to the minimum wage still being at a shameful $5.15/hour, would we have let the counting in Florida stop so easily? I'd like to think we Gore voters would have fought harder to keep George W. out of office if we had known. Jesus, if we had known. But there's no way to say that now.

Can't think about these things for too long. They can cause a depressive episode..

Friday, June 18, 2004

Dating, Part One

I'm encouraged by the responses to yesterday's posting about America's foreign policy. Some responded here and some friends emailed me directly. Thank you for telling me you feel the same way. I feel less alone and I feel like a silence has been broken.

I'm lightening up the subject for today. Here's a posting about my dating life. It never ends.
And for those of you in Chicago, please "View My Complete Profile" (option on the right) and click on the link to "My Web Page" which has information about my performance this Sunday, June 20th at noon.

Glimpses of Too Many First Dates (each line describes a DIFFERENT first date)

I am -
on my 60-minute lunch break
moving slowly with all the time in the world
running late and out of breath trying to stay cool at the same time
hopeful that this will take all night.

I enter -
hoping that hair and lipstick are cooperating
hungry and ill-tempered as a two-year-old
gorgeous in vibrant color and planted confidence
knowing that the odds of this one being “it” suck.

We interact -
relaxed as two friends doing laundry
unable to figure each other out
with conversation as smooth as a balloon rising
with conversation as smooth as a wheelchair on gravel
determined as a plodding traveller
delighted as the color yellow.

The chemistry -
Sparkles
Sizzles
Fizzles
Drizzles.

We part -
smiling at the warmth inside
with self-loathing for a miserable display
intrigued and hopeful
wanting to email each other immediately
grateful for a good meal anyway
knowing we did our best
certain that it’s all hopeless.

(c) Regina Rodriguez, June 2003

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Ashamed to be American

The events themselves were horrifying and numbing at the same time. Constant reviewing of them, trying to determine how everything happened and why, keeps the events alive in my memory along with the pain and grieving I thought I had finished. There is no chance to heal when over and over again my attention is drawn to the hurting, angry families of the victims, the tape recordings documenting the stunning horror and the stories of common heroism. But we can’t stop reviewing it until we understand exactly what happened and why, even though it could be years or decades before all those questions are answered. Even though they might never be.

I feel grateful to have been too young to follow the Watergate crisis. Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal floored me, but at the age of 20, I didn’t have the depth of understanding that would have made me fear a government that would scheme like that behind the backs of its people. But unfortunately I was 34 when George W. Bush took office in 2001, so I have experienced all the horrors of the past few years wide awake, without any anesthesia -- emotional or mental.

Did my generation really inherit the most appallingly misguided, or maybe just incompetent, administration in U.S. history? Is the current state of international affairs the failure of a decision-making elite, or the fumbling of an untreated ex-alcoholic, driven by a need to prove himself in an arena he never stood a chance of understanding? Or maybe it’s just the inevitable consequences of a country that became too powerful too fast and is now perplexed by the small, dying animal in its well-intentioned, but destructive grasp.

My generation has inherited an international role as the bully of the playground, lumbering, arrogant and unstoppable, that wants to arrange the world according to its narrow vision. The world is afraid of us. The world hates us. America has made the hugest mess of Iraq we possibly could have, we got everything wrong and at the highest costs, and still we insist that if everyone would just let us do as we like, we’ll get it right. Eventually.

I am the daughter of community activists. I came of age in the cleared-smoke rubble of the women’s lib movement, the anti-war movement and all the grassroots organizing and leftist rabble-rousing that supposedly taught us that we can make a difference, that the country and the world are getting just a little bit better every day. How does the current state of affairs make me feel? I feel baffled. I feel stunned at how many people cling to the lies about why we began attacking Iraq in March 2003. I’m non-comprehending at the U.S. government’s assumption that we can suspend the rules of war just because we decided this war is different. I’m amazed at the breadth of President Bush’s incompetence and there’s no end of it in sight. I can’t believe where we stand as a nation, our international reputation in tatters, completely untrustworthy in the eyes of the world.

But underneath the numbing incredulity, is shame. I feel ashamed to be an American and to share the responsibility for all the bombed houses, all the dead and wounded soldiers, all the lives destroyed and all the unending grief of the survivors. I feel ashamed that children are being taught that Americans eat babies and take pleasure in torturing others, and that we deserve to die, every last one of us for the horrors we have committed. I’m ashamed.

Why has no one said it? The media spins and the pundits punt and Air America Radio rants self-righteously in between the wry satire and sophisticated humor. But I have neither heard of nor seen anyone say “I am ashamed to be an American today.” We all should be. How could we have let this happen? How could we have let this overgrown mouseketeer stand at the head of an administration driven by grandiose delusion and corporate greed? How could we have allowed the implementation of policies that kill and dehumanize the rest of the world and that only enable our freedom to indulge our darkest impulses? And how could we have allowed all this to happen after the Reagan scandals, after Watergate, after Viet Nam? How could we have let this happen? Where is our shame?

I think my generation gave up after we saw how little we can trust our highest officials, but giving up has obviously been the wrong thing to do. To the rest of the world I want to say that I am sorry for what my country has done and I am sorry for my apathetic part in it. In a culture that moralizes its politics and polarizes everything else, I am going to try to find my way through my own inertia to help change our direction. Giving up on American politics because it’s too corrupt is like giving up on driving the car because the steering wheel has stopped working. Ignoring the impending disaster won’t cushion the crash.

The last three years have left me with little to feel proud of as an American. If we the people are unable or unwilling to stop this kind of travesty of leadership, I hope the rest of the world does whatever is necessary to rein us in. Things really couldn’t be much more desperate than to have a fat, rich, stupid country in control, a country that’s too big for all the other countries to take down even if they combined all their military strength. We created this international crisis while some of us clutched our 9/11 flags and trumpeted our national pride, and others sat paralyzed by what’s-the-point after the 2000 election nullified our votes. And all of us tucked ourselves comfortably in with our certainty that the U.S. always does the right thing. I would plead for humility and downright shame to dissolve our self-deception, truly correct our course and begin the long, slow process of proving once again our worthiness to the international community.

Dawn of the Edge

What is this "edge" I refer to and what am I doing on it? Well, most days it's a hazy, far-off concept that doesn't concern me much. On bad days, it becomes the dividing point between sanity and delusion, the edge of my own reason, eh? And in my grandiose moments it refers to the cutting edge of creation and creativity, my unique vision that no one will ever fully understand or biologically inherit, god willing. Does mental instability have to accompany artistic ability? Answering that question won't make me any happier, so I leave it to those with mental energy to burn and research grants to spend.

Welcome to my world.