Welcome to the second installment of Harry Potter and the Future of America, where we ask ourselves this all-important question about scenarios taking place in American society:
If this were a Harry Potter book, what would happen next?
(The “we” is royal, by the way. I’m literally the only person in this room right now.)
Shall we get started?
SCENARIO: A Supreme Court nominee is accused of sexual assault, and a whooooole bunch of people who want him on the Supreme Court immediately decide the accusation must be a lie. Or at least not that big a deal.
PLEASE EXPLAIN: Donald Trump nominated a guy named Brett Kavanaugh to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. (That’s right: “lifetime” basically means for as long as he wants it or can physically keep his buttocks in the chair.) Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward to say that he sexually assaulted her when they were in high school. A lot of people are insinuating or outright saying that she is a liar, claiming that her accusation is just a political move to discredit Kavanaugh.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN NEXT IF THIS WERE HARRY POTTER? Remember when Harry saw Voldemort return and the Ministry of Magic didn’t want to believe him, so they spent an entire book trying to discredit him and destroy his reputation? They let the Daily Prophet malign him, basically called him unhinged, and did everything possible not to fully investigate or carefully consider his allegation that He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named had returned.
Well, we all know how that worked out for the Ministry. Harry was telling the truth, Voldemort was back, and they wasted so much energy fighting Harry instead of Voldemort that they didn’t even notice he was back in power until he was like five seconds away from destroying all of them in a battle so epic it required an extra movie. And honestly, would it have been that hard to investigate Harry's claims? If he turned out to be wrong, all they would have lost was a little effort and time. (And since half the Ministry appears to do nothing but sit around transmogrifying things all day, seems like they could have taken that hit.)
The lesson here is clear: when someone makes a serious allegation that will potentially do nothing but damage their own safety, security, and reputation, listen to them. Investigate fully. Take that allegation seriously. You have nothing to lose by doing so...and everything to gain.
Unfortunately, Harry's plight reminds us loudly and clearly that people in power don’t like to be told truths that are inconvenient for them. (Pun not intended.) Voldemort’s return was inconvenient for the Ministry. This accusation is inconvenient for all those who want Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. And so, if our Harry Potter palm reading is at all accurate, here’s what will happen next: those who want Kavanaugh will continue to malign his accuser and do a bare-bones investigation as best. Or they’ll brush off any potential wrongdoing as just “teenage boys being teenage boys.” (P.S., if you think sexual assault is normal teenage behavior, please do not raise children. In fact, please don’t go anywhere near any children. Ever.)
Worst case scenario? Someone who committed sexual assault and then spent twenty years hiding it will end up writing America’s most influential laws. That's not quite as bad as "Voldemort is back," but it sure isn't good.
So if you have a senator who isn’t calling for a complete investigation of these charges, you may want to call them and say the following: “Investigate these allegations. Don’t be like the Ministry of Magic.”
If your Senator doesn’t immediately know what you are talking about, they are obviously not fit to be in public office. Obviously.
We’ve clearly hit a tipping point in our country. Truth is constantly in question. Morality is debated the same way we debate Star Wars vs. Star Trek. (What, everybody doesn’t have that debate?) Fact is called opinion, and opinion is called fact. It’s a topsy-turvey world, that’s for sure.
It’s getting a little harder to see the forest of America through the trees. So I’ve decided that from now, every time we encounter a tense or difficult scenario in this country, I’m going to ask one question:
If this were a Harry Potter book, what would happen next?
Let’s try this thought experiment and see what happens.
SCENARIO: Host of second most-watched cable news show in America suggests that diversity isn't good for people.
PLEASE EXPLAIN: Tucker Carlson, the same dude who used to wear snappy bow ties and debate tax laws with Rachel Maddow, pontificated in front of an audience of almost three million people that maybe diversity is a bad thing. No, not in 1965. This happened just a few weeks ago, in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Eighteen.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN NEXT IF THIS WERE HARRY POTTER? Actually, this WAS Harry Potter. Remember Purebloods and Mudbloods? Voldemort tried to erase all Mudbloods from existence because he claimed they were too different from Purebloods and all that diversity of human blood and thought was ruining the wizarding world.
And we all know what happened next. Hermione Effing Granger came rolling along with all her Mudblood brilliance and helped blow them away into no existence at all. Diversity for the win, Death Eaters. They should have been so lucky to have Hermione on their team. Hopefully they all figured that out in Azkaban.
So I guess this makes Tucker Carlson Lucius Malfoy? Which also means that eventually the power he thought he wanted will become too much for him to control, and he’ll lose everything in a rather anticlimactic moment that only about half of his audience will remember.
And we’ll all kind of shrug as he disappears from our consciousness. Maybe some member of his family will appear in an Epilogue looking vaguely apologetic.
SCENARIO: President Trump says that 3,000 people who died in the aftermath of a hurricane didn’t really die because they were denied the resources and supports needed to stay alive. The whole thing is a lie, a conspiracy against him!
PLEASE EXPLAIN: It happened via tweet, as so much of our government communication does these days, despite the fact that the death toll after Hurricane Maria was calculated by a completely independent and unbiased group of people. Even Rick Scott was all "Dude, no, 3,000 people died."
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN NEXT IF THIS WERE HARRY POTTER? This is a Dolores Umbridge move. Her entire job was basically to claim that Hogwarts students were making up horrible things about the Ministry of Magic just to make them look bad. She’d call them all liars for saying that people died after Hurricane Maria and then make them all carve “I WILL NOT SAY 3,000 PEOPLE DIED” into their skin over and over for hours on end.
BUT OBVIOUSLY she would not break them. They would figure out a way to keep spreading the truth that actually, yes, people did die, and now their memories were being disrespected. Sure, some people would still believe Umbridge. Why? That's a mystery as old as Argus Finch. But Dumbledore’s Army would eventually get away from the blood-seeking quills and make sure the public saw that real truth does exist in this world, and real truth can be proven.
Anyone know where we can get a Room of Requirements? We should probably speed things up on creating that DA. Maybe it already exists over on Twitter. I’ll check.
My friend's son, H, stayed with us last week. He’s obsessed with all things Marvel, and his mother gave us permission to watch some of Thor: Ragnarok with him. You know, special treat, stay up late, see Thor shake his hair out of his ponytail a lot and lose his hammer.
At one point H looked up at us and asked, “But is Loki a good guy or a bad guy?”
I was tempted to whip out some fanfiction and go through all the tomes of creative work that have tried to answer that question. But the poor kid is still in pre-school, so I kept things a bit simpler. “Sometimes he makes good choices, and sometimes he makes bad choices,” I told him. I waited for the follow-up, but H became engrossed with an action scene. The conversation died there.
Then John McCain passed away yesterday, and the question of what makes someone a "good guy" or a "bad guy" is on my mind again.
John McCain has always been, from my perspective, a heroic figure fraught with complication. He was a war hero who was far, far braver than I could ever have imagined being. He put forward bills and government policies that I often admired and supported. In a political era where so many people seem unable to put the good of the country above their own power, he was frequently willing to do so. And, possibly most importantly, he was almost always able to work with those of other parties and other beliefs.
But there were also times when he seemed to make choices that were more in his own interest than the interest of the country. There were moments when he made choices that certainly hurt people, all in the name of supporting his own career or keeping his party in power.
Here I could start waxing poetic about how there are no good guys or bad guys and it’s all a matter of perspective, but I don’t believe that for a second. That type of thinking has always brought dangerous consequences to humanity. There is objective, moral truth in the world. Some choices Loki makes are objectively good, and some choices are objectively bad. Some choices John McCain made were good, and some were bad. Some choices I make each day are good, and some are bad. None of us are all one or the other, and none of our choices are exempt from being held to objective, moral standards.
Today I am very sad that John McCain is gone. I do believe he acted out of good intentions far more often than he acted out of bad or selfish intentions. When we look at the history of his record, that record reflects that he was a “good guy” more often than he was not. And I like to think that’s the measure we’re all judged on at the end. None of us will leave this world with perfect records. But what will our balance sheets look like? Which column will stack up higher? Loki will get to work on his balance sheet throughout the course of Marvel’s existence. (Unless Avengers: Infinity War never gets a sequel.) The rest of us only have a finite amount of time to work with. None of us will ever make all the right choices, and none of our heroes will either. But John McCain’s record shows, I think, that he was worthy of many of the capes people have placed on his memory.
RIP, John McCain. Thank you for working across party lines. Thank you for fighting for this country in ways most of us can ever imagine doing. Thank you for reminding us that we all must grow out of the phase where we see “good guys” and “bad guys” so that we are able to see people for their individual choice and moments--for their actions taken and not taken. Thank you for all of the incredibly difficult actions you took on behalf of others during your life.
I hope John McCain, like Thor and Loki, gets his own sequel someday, somewhere. In fact, I hope all of us do.
I’m a teacher. I teach part-time in a community college and part-time in an elementary/middle school. This means I spend a lot of time practicing lockdown drills and watching safety videos. During our most recent video viewing, my college students decided the filing cabinet awkwardly placed in the middle of our classroom would be what they’d use to block to door should a shooter ever come through the school. Whenever someone in one of my classes says something like this, I imagine we’re all thinking the same thing: I know they’re joking, but let’s all make sure to remember that suggestion, okay?
Then another school shooting happens. And the next day we all look real hard at that filing cabinet in the corner of the room.
Every time another school shooting happens—and I can’t believe I even have to type out that phrase—people start talking about how teachers need to start carrying guns. But after the Florida shooting this past week, that suggestion seems to be coming up more than I’ve ever heard it before. Suddenly the whole internet wants me to bring my own AR-15 into my fifth grade reading class. I guess I’ll just keep it next to our copy of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
More than ever this sentiment—that I should be expected to arm myself in my own classrooms—is ratcheting up my blood pressure. I’ve written before about how I’m not anti-gun. Neither is my husband, an army vet and gun owner who now works in the same community college I do. Neither of us think the second amendment needs to be struck down. But both of us want reasonable gun control measures in place that would keep our students and our schools safe. Neither one of us understands why this country thinks that arming our teachers is somehow a better solution than keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists like the Parkland shooter. Neither of us understands why, instead, everyone want to talk about how teachers should carry semi-automatic weapons around with us while we try to teach things like Aristotelian appeals.
Here are just a few of the reasons my blood pressure is so high right now.
First. I am not a person you want carrying a loaded weapon around your children. I can spot a comma splice from a mile away, but I can barely tie my shoes without falling over. This plan likely won’t end well for any of us.
Second. There was an armed guard at Parkland. It didn’t make any difference. Every teacher in that school followed protocol and did everything right. They, like the rest of us teachers and students, have gone through hours of lockdown and shooter drills. They knew exactly what to do. But that shooter knew what their drills were, and like the terrorist that he was, he destroyed all their protocols and used them against his victims—because that’s what terrorists with deadly weapons do. That’s why we need to make it hard for terrorists to get access to deadly weapons.
Third. Don’t I get a say in this? You keep shouting about how I need to be armed and you’ve never even asked me if I want to be. I didn’t join the military or the police force, and neither of those decisions were by accident. And even my husband, who is trained in tactical maneuvers and very good with a weapon, wants nothing to do with bringing a gun into his classroom. YOU DIDN’T EVEN ASK US. Every day we go into classrooms and get paid basically in Monopoly money to potentially throw ourselves in front of your children should a shooter barge into a classroom—and a lot of us would probably do it in a heartbeat. But what the hell am I being asked to make that sacrifice for? What are you honestly asking me to die for here? My students and I are supposed to lay down our lives so that you can keep complete and total access to weapons that no hunter or sportsperson ever actually needs to own? So that you can pretend you have a means of fighting back against a government that has nuclear weapons? So that gun manufacturers can continue to disgustingly twist the second amendment in order to make as much money as possible? Or are you just asking us to sacrifice our lives so that you can keep your hobby?
Nope. Please stop asking me to die for that. Please stop asking my husband to die for that. Please stop asking my students to die for that.
Stop telling me I need a weapon in my classroom. I don’t. I need fellow Americans who care more about my students than they do about themselves and their gun collections. I need fellow Americans who will stop putting this problem onto me and put it back where it belongs: on the people in Washington, who are so bought and paid for by the NRA that they can’t even talk about gun violence without sounding like hostages. I need fellow Americans who aren’t so enchanted by gun manufacturers that they honestly think the solution here is putting a gun in the hands of an English teacher and asking her to train for days and weeks and months on how and when to use it as opposed to training on, I dunno, teaching reading.
And if you disagree with me, please don’t even comment on this article. I’m done with conversations on this topic, and I’m done with debate. I’m the one walking into my classroom every day, so I get the final say here. And you know what my answer is? NO. I will not arm myself in my classroom. And the day I’m forced to is the day I leave this profession for good.
You can find someone else to teach your kid how to read. I hope they’re willing to die for your love of that high-capacity magazine.
What follows is a letter I recently wrote to my senators, Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, regarding the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. I'm sharing it because I've heard from other teachers that they also have concerns about this appointment. I hope all of us make our voices heard and ensure our senators know where we stand on this apopintment.
I'll also add here that I've been in touch with both Senator Bennet and Senator Gardner's offices OFTEN lately, and both staffs deserve some serious shout-outs. Everyone I've talked to has been nothing but respectful, kind, and open to my thoughts. For all the staffers who've answers my calls: thanks for respecting my voice whether you agree with me or not.
Dear Mr. Bennet and Mr. Gardner:
I hope you are both well. I am a teacher in southern Colorado, and I am writing to ask that you oppose the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.
I have worked as a teacher and administrator in various charter and traditional public schools for over a decade. I’ve watched as politician after politician has attempted to create a “one size fits all” solution which would magically correct all the failings of America’s public school system. I have watched while corporations and individuals have made billions of dollars on the back of various educational reforms. And now I watch as a woman with no experience in teaching, school administration, or educational policy—a woman who herself attended private schools—is gifted the job of Secretary of Education.
Sirs, if there is one thing teachers in this state and country are tired of, it’s being told what to do by individuals who have never spent a day in front of a classroom. Everyone in America seems to have an opinion as to how our schools should be fixed, and most of those people will never actually teach a lesson. Thats fine. Everyone's entitled to their opinion, and I enjoy hearing these opinions during workout classes and over holiday dinners. That does not mean I believe anyone with an opinion should be eligible to run the Department of Education. Please, put this appointment in any other context. Would you allow someone who has never been to medical school to become the Chief of Surgery in a hospital? Would you encourage someone who never attended law school or passed the bar to suddenly take a spot on the Supreme Court?
The appointment of Mrs. DeVos is an insult to every trained educator in this country. There is no nicer way to say it. For every single one of us who put time and effort into actually studying educational pedagogy or policy, for every single one of us who has spent years in front of classrooms perfecting our practices and continually improving them, this appointment is simply more proof that our time and expertise is not valued. Why bother to get an advanced degree in education? Why bother to do the work of actually teaching children? You can become the Secretary of Education of America just by being a billionaire with an opinion!
Our students deserve better. They deserve a Secretary of Education who has worked in schools and studied things such as the complexities of brain development and how poverty affects education. They deserve someone who has done more for American education than simply have opinions and put money behind them.
I ask that you both firmly oppose the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. I ask that you demand, for the students and teachers of Colorado, a candidate who is qualified to do this work and truly understands the myriad problems facing our public school system.
Thank you for your time,
Someone contacted me and asked if I'd publish this anonymous guest post on my blog. The piece was so moving and real and important that of course I said yes. As a warning, this is a graphically honest story about the author's experience with rape. To the author of this piece: I am deeply humbled you shared this with me. Thank you for having the courage to share your story with the world.
I WASN'T RAPED, RIGHT? HOW BROCK TURNER REDEFINED MY NOT-RAPE
I have never been raped. Sort of.
My whole life I’d been told all the things to do to avoid being attacked. Don’t wear a skirt at night. Men are more likely to attack you if you wear a skirt, so always wear pants. Keep your keys in your hand in case you have to fight someone off. Yell “fire” and not “rape” or no one will come to help you. Don’t drink out of any glass that you took your eye off for an instant. I was totally prepared to go through my whole life without ever being raped. As women, we are told so many conflicting things about how to behave with men. We can’t flirt, or it’s our own fault that the men were so confused that they thought our no meant yes. We can’t be rude, because a lady is always gracious, even to the creeper who won’t leave her alone, then follows her home against her wishes. We can’t drink at a party, because we have to be on alert. We can’t avoid every party, because how else are we going to meet a guy and finally get married and validate our life choices? We can’t dress too provocatively or we’re asking for it. We should dress femininely, or we’re just not attractive. Right?
So here’s my experience with male privilege and my not-exactly-rape. I met a guy and he was good looking and sexy and I liked him and I liked having sex with him. Then I didn’t. He got weird and mean and creepy, and I stopped answering his calls. I told him not to come see me again, because I wasn’t feeling comfortable anymore. I specifically said I wanted to be left alone, and that I did not want to see him again. Imagine my surprise when he showed up at my house in the middle of the night. He had unzipped his pants and his dick was out as he stood on my front steps, banging on my door. I guess I could have called the cops. Instead, I told him to come inside, because I didn’t want my neighbors thinking I was the kind of girl who had men like that coming to her house. Once inside, I asked him to leave. I told him I wasn’t interested and reasserted that I wanted him to go away. Instead, he got aggressive with me. I distinctly remember thinking, “Oh my god, I’m about to be raped.” And then I decided, why not just go along with it? Why not just have sex with him, so he’d leave happy and I could say that I wasn’t raped? So I did. I let him fuck me and I hated every minute of it. When he was done, he left quietly. I congratulated myself of not being raped in my house or having to call the cops. I took a shower, then got dressed and walked (alone and in the dark) the six blocks to a bar where a friend of mine was having a birthday party. I did a shot of whiskey and drank a beer, wished him a happy birthday, then came home.
When I told a friend of mine about it the next day, she insisted I had been raped and should call the cops. And tell them what? That I willingly let him into my house and let him sex with me against my will? They wouldn’t take me seriously, and besides, it wasn’t rape. Sure, I had some panic attacks. And yeah, I did try to get a restraining order against him. (Didn’t work, though. I would have had to deliver the paperwork to him myself or hire someone to do it, and I couldn’t afford it.) I changed his number in my phone to “Danger” so that I would know not to answer it, and I went about my life. This was 10 years ago. This was before “victim blaming” was a term I had ever heard. I didn’t have a name for it, but I knew that if I told someone what happened that there was no way anyone would take me seriously, so why put myself through that? I mean, of course if it had been a “real” rape then things would be different. Then I’d call the cops and the guy would get arrested and it would have ended differently. If it had been a real rape.
And 10 years later, I see Brock Turner. A man who was literally caught in the act of assaulting an unconscious woman, who was chased down and attacked by onlookers who saw what happened. Who was found guilty of felony charges in court. Who then served a laughable three months of a pathetic six month sentence, because his “20 minutes of action” shouldn’t ruin the rest of his life. Wait, what? But this was a real rape. With cops and lawyers and a fucking conviction. And still nothing? What happened to me 10 years ago sucked. But I am very lucky, because I was not physically hurt, and because I have been able to dismiss it as a shitty night and move on (most of the time). I have a wonderful life now, and I am fortunate in all of that. What is not so fortunate is that a decade after I felt forced into a terrible, painful experience, which I then willingly blamed on myself with the hope that the system would work if I ever really needed it to, I see that the system didn’t work. It didn’t work at all. Instead, this woman was attacked over every choice she made that night. In 10 years, she will still be thinking about how she was failed by the system created to protect her, while Brock Turner will be God knows where, hurting God knows who.
I wish I had a strong finish here. Something about empowering women to stand up and fight against men like Brock Turner. I want to have something moving and inspirational about taking back our power from men like him and the disgusting people who enabled him and excused his behavior. I want to do all of that, but I’m too angry and too sad about it to come up with anything good. So in the absence of my big finish, let me just say to the women who have been hurt and abandoned by the system, you are not alone. There are women (and men) who hear you, and who believe you, and will keep fighting this stupid fight until it gets better. Because it has to get better.
While speaking at a press conference regarding Donald Trump’s call for Russia to engage in cyber espionage against the US, Paul Ryan acknowledged that he must have done something terrible in a past life to deserve becoming Donald Trump’s yes-man.
“I mean, I’m a good person,” Ryan said. “I go to church. I haven’t kicked a dog since I was a teenager. So there has to be something awful I did in a past life. Otherwise why am I stuck trying to normalize this guy’s insane statements every day?”
Ryan also indicated that trying to downplay Trump’s fascist rhetoric is starting to become his full-time job. “Honestly, I just need a nap,” he told one reporter. “The man never sleeps. He even stays up all night tweeting, so I constantly have to be on the lookout for what statement I need to justify next. It’s exhausting. I mean, could someone just lock him in a closet for a few hours? You know, so I could get in a little fishing?”
Long-time Republican voter Mel Sandford sympathized with Ryan’s plight. “It’s gotta be hard,” she said of Ryan’s situation. “Here he is, just trying to hold onto his own power and keep Republican voters from realizing they might be electing a dictator. That’s not easy.”
Lindsey Graham, Republican senator from South Carolina, has no sympathy for Ryan. “Hey, if you back a despot, you spend a lot of time running around trying to convince people they’re not actually that scary,” he recently stated. “I thought about taking on a gig like Paul’s and backing Trump, but then I talked to this guy who tunneled out of North Korea. After hearing the hours he put in for Kim Jong-un, I knew that backing Trump wasn’t going to be for me. That guy had no work-life balance whatsoever.”
Lately I've spending a lot of time thinking about all the things in the world that are terrible. And if my newsfeed is any indication, I'm not the only one.
There are plenty of things that suck in the world right now, but there are also an awful lot of things that don’t, and I'm tired of spending so much time talking about the first category. So today I give you: FIVE THINGS THAT SUCK and FIVE THINGS THAT YOU DO NOT SUCK AT ALL. Choose your own adventure, if you will. Should you choose to be mired in depression and sadness, read the top section. Looking for a little more brightness in your day? Scroll on down.
Peace and love, everyone. Or hate and despair. Whatever floats your boat.
FIVE THINGS THAT SUCK
1. Rapists who get less jail time than a dude selling a bag of pot, just because they’re white and well-off and the judge apparently had some kind of mental breakdown that day and decided rape isn’t actually a crime, not really.
There’s not much more I can say on this that hasn’t already been said better or more acutely by others, but I’d very much like to repeat one particular point. It bears repeating everywhere and in all the places. This is from the Huffington Post article "I'm Not Defending Rape, But...." by Tawny Engleman. Well said, Tawny.
It’s the ultimate first-world problem, folks! Aw, shucks, I have enough money to buy a house. Woe is me! Seriously, though. Have you ever actually bought a house? You know, without a million dollars to spend in cash? Between securing pay stubs and worrying about basement flooding concerns and trying to figure out school systems for the children I don’t have but future buyers might, I’m starting to wonder why any of us own anything at all. Ever.
3. The last week of school.
If you’re a teacher, I mean. I don’t suspect students are all that about upset by the last week of school. And if you’re never been a teacher during a Last Week of School, I’ll just share this so you get a snapshot of what you’re missing.
4. This election.
Forever and always this entire election for all time until all human beings cease to exist. Even then, future species will find our remains and discuss how much this election must have sucked.
Recently, children's authors Kate Messer and Phil Bildner were both uninvited from school visits they were scheduled to do. In Kate's case, the school was concerned because her most recent book deals with drug abuse issues, and in Phil's case, it seems that he may have offended some people in the district when he recommended the book George, about a transgender child, to students in the district. In other words: adults have decided kids need to be sheltered from the world and are doing everything in their power to make that sheltering happen.
If this election has proved anything, it’s that the last thing we need to do is prevent our kids from seeing the world around them as it exists and thinking critically about what they see.
FIVE THINGS THAT DO NOT SUCK AT ALL
1. This view.
The husband found a new fishing spot, and last weekend I managed to proofread an entire manuscript there and re-outline another one. Because how could you not have fantastic productivity with this view in front of you? I love summer. Summer does not suck one bit. Nor does Colorado, and you should certainly visit if you never have.
2. #ReadProud month!
I love any excuse to find new books. If you’re looking for suggestions, check out Julia Ember’s blog, where she’s hosting a challenge and giving away prizes. I’m not participating because I can barely seem to remember to eat this month, but I’ll catch up with the rest of you in July.
And if you’re looking for #ReadProud suggestions, I’m currently giving high kudos to Stand Off by Andrew Smith. I actually thought it was better than the book it sequeled, Winger, and how often do you like the sequel more than the original? (And yes, “sequeled” is a verb. Because I want it to be.)
Love this #ReadProud badge from Julia's blog.
Cats do not suck at all. Especially mine
2. The Stanley Cup Finals!
What speed! What stamina! What rookies doing decidedly un-rookie-like things! I went into the playoffs fairly neutral, as neither the Avs nor Habs made it in this year (*sniff*), but these days I am completely on the Penguins bandwagon. You go, Phil Kessel. Get that Cup before some Toronto fan steals you back under the cover of night and you never see the likes of a playoff season again.
1. A woman being nominated by a major party to be the president of this country.
I will never argue that Hillary Clinton is the perfect political candidate. Nor that Bernie Sanders is. But less than one hundred years ago, women in this country couldn’t even vote in a presidential election. Or any election.
This momentous occasion was brought to us by so many people throughout history who petitioned, thought, worked, and lived for the moment when a women could be considered as the next leader of the free world. This moment deserves to celebrated, regardless of your political opinion.
Whatever your summer plans, I hope they're filled with things that Do Not Suck At All. Happy June, everyone.
So! In relatively recent news, I’m a hockey fan now.
It all started a few years ago when I started writing the book that’s coming out with Harmony Ink Press this December. The book is a companion to Here’s to You, Zeb Pike, and NO, YOU CANNOT KNOW THE TITLE OR SEE THE COVER YET. But both are coming very soon—I absolutely promise. There are special announcement plans and possibly even fireworks involved. Get excited.
Anyway, this book is told from Emmitt’s point of view, and it takes place a few months after he and Dusty first meet. As you might have guessed, there is a LOT Of hockey in it. I’ve always liked hockey; I grew up in northern Vermont, where it’s practically illegal not to. Even so, I was certainly never an avid hockey fan. Like many Americans, I tended to give my best support to the sport in June. I was the quintessential Easter-and-Christmas person of hockey supporters.
Then this book came…and this book required that I watch hours and hours of hockey. Know the history of the sport, the culture of the sport, the rules of the sport. And because Emmitt is gay, this book also required that I research and fully understand the NHL’s relationship with the LGBTQ community.
For better or worse, two important things came out of me writing this book. One: I am now an Avs fan for life, even in sad years like this when we collapse tremendously in the last few games of the season. (It’s okay, Dutchy. I still love you.) Two: I understand why what Andrew Shaw said the other night mattered so much.
In case you missed it—or in case you’re also an Easter-and-Christmas hockey person—the other night the Chicago Blackhawks played the St. Louis Blues. It’s the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the Hawks have not always looked their best in this series. In this particular game, star player Andew Shaw—who up until this incident has always reminded me of a delightful puppy who happens to have tremendous stickhandling abilities—lost his cool. Not only did he flip off a ref, he also yelled a decidedly homophobic slur at the guy. I’m sure you can guess which slur.
And the cameras caught it.
Shaw’s apology later on was contrite and repentant. He said this wasn’t him, and he expressed regret multiple times to the entire gay and lesbian community. He said that after watching the video of himself he was horrified.
Either the guy’s an amazing actor, or he’s legitimately sorry. And I’m choosing to believe the latter.
I was proud of Shaw for apologizing. It’s never easy to stand up and admit when you’ve said something hurtful. He could have taken a path of denial or excuses, and he didn’t. That takes guts.
Because I was proud of Shaw, I read several articles covering his speech. Then I read the comments on the articles, and I sort of wanted to throw up.
This, people, is why you never read the comments.
Let’s set aside the Chicago fans who are clearly just upset one of their stars was suspended for a game. Multiple comments referenced how overly sensitive this world has become and how being politically correct is something horrible that we should all avoid. Free speech, several people shouted. He should be able to say whatever he wants! Sticks and stones and all that.
A common thread throughout several of the comments was this: They’re just words. Why does everyone care?
Writing a book about a gay teenager who desperately wants to play professional hockey had already answered that question for me.
Here’s the thing: despite things like the You Can Play project, which has its roots in the NHL and shares the important message that all people—regardless of sexual orientation—are welcome in pro leagues like the NHL, there are no current or former NHL players who have ever come out. Not one. Consider the math on that. Consider the hundreds of people who, statistically speaking, have likely spent years of their entire lives in the closet as they worked their way through the NHL and even after they retired.
I refuse to believe that’s some kind of accident. I do believe that the culture in the NHL is shifting to one of greater acceptance for all people…and that’s wonderful. That’s exactly what the NHL and this world needs.
You know what doesn’t breed acceptance? You know what doesn’t make teenage kids who play hockey or NHL players feel like they can come out to their teams? Professional athletes hurling homophobic slurs rooted in a deep history of vile hate and violence. Words matter. They send messages. They equally breed acceptance and discord.
What Andrew Shaw said on the ice the other night was another sad reminder that the NHL still has a long way to go before it can be the accepting place people like the fictional Emmitt LaPoint so desperately need it to be. But Andew Shaw’s apology was also a reminder that we as a society have come a long way, and so has the NHL.
Andrew Shaw, wherever you are, thanks for standing up and doing the right thing. And for those of you who don’t understand why it was the right thing, do some research. I’d highly recommend the site OutSports; that’s where I did much of my research. This world isn’t getting any smaller, and staying closed-minded toward others’ feelings because you don’t like “political correctness” isn’t going to get you very far in the global community we live in now.
And go Avs. Next year, of course. For now I’ll just have to cheer on whoever Minnesota’s playing
I’m sure I’m not the first person writing to tell you that HB2 is a steaming pile of a horrible idea.
There are so many reasons why this bill steams with horribleness. There’s the fact that you’ve just removed local jurisdiction rights, or the fact that people in North Carolina can now easily be discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender. Really, there’s no shortage of things to complain about here. So let’s concentrate on one specific aspect of this bill which many of us suspect will be the most dangerous: your requirement that people use public bathrooms based on their biological sex.
Let’s start with why such a law cannot ever be truly enacted—from a biological standpoint.
I get that you want the world to be black and white. You want everyone born with a penis to be declared a boy and everyone born with a vagina to be declared a girl. The world is so much simpler in binaries, isn’t it? Cleaner. Easier to manage. If everyone uses bathrooms based on those norms, the world looks a whole lot more back and white, and people who love binaries get to sleep much more soundly at night.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in a binary world. Just ask athletes like female sprinter Dutee Chand, who was barred from competition when officials declared that her body produces levels of testosterone too high for a female. Or you could ask any of these ten intersex athletes who have had to deal with various levels of public scrutiny and dishonor as the world tried to determine exactly which biological box to push them into. And by the way, how will people born intersex fit into your bathroom laws? Will we soon see some arrested for using improper bathrooms when they don’t fall perfectly into the letter of this law, similar to how high jumper Heinrich Ratjen was arrested in Germany in 1936 when someone cried gender fraud?
Not only is our biology not as black and white as we’d like to think, our gender identity is even less simplistic. As this PBS report reminds us, gender identity isn’t something that fits nicely into binary boxes any more easily as human biology does. And by trying to squeeze gender identity into neat boxes, you are effectively telling the American public that you know who they are better than they do.
It’s precisely this human obsession with binaries that has created the serious danger to the trans community which this law will only perpetuate. I get it—you think you’re protecting Americans with this law. And in a world where biology was always simple and gender identity fit neatly into boxes alongside biology, perhaps you would be. But that isn’t the world we live in. In actuality? You’re putting a population that is already in grave danger in much, much deeper danger. As the PBS report mentioned above reminds us, “41 percent of transgender adults attempt suicide.” Just to make sure we’re clear on the math, that’s nearly half the population. In this country, the average life expectancy for a trans woman of color is 35 years. 35 YEARS. In other words: you have a better chance of surviving longer in some third world countries than you will as a trans woman of color in the United States.
Looking at these statistics makes it easy to see how the stigmatization of the trans community in America is making it impossible for many trans people to live happy and successful lives in this country. Laws such as this one only perpetuate stigmas and increase the vulnerability of an already vulnerable population. Whether or not you ever intend to actually enforce this law (and I have questions as to how you would, but I’ll leave those for others), the mere fact that this law is now on the books has sent a brutally important and disturbing message to the trans community: You do not fit into our binary boxes, so you are other. You are not normal. You will not be treated like everyone else and you will not be allowed to use the bathroom where you most feel comfortable.
As an educator, I can assure you that many of the people who will suffer most greatly at the hands of this law are the young people in this country. Imagine being a twelve-year-old transgender girl and suddenly being forced to change in a locker room full of boys. Imagine what that scenario would have done to your psyche at such an age.
I sincerely hope that by the time this letter sees the light of day, no one in North Carolina will need to read it. Perhaps by then you will have been so flooded with other letters, tweets, boycotts and messages that you will have begun to realize the utter absurdity and danger of this law. Perhaps you will have begun to understand that this world is not, and never will be, a black-and-white place. We all live between shades of gray--even you. Telling others what to call their shades of gray and how to live within them is the epitome of everything that is not American.
Me and Everyone Else Who Thinks This Law is a Steaming Pile of Horribleness