Could the internet please figure out what “free speech” means or STFU about it?

by renegademama

Did you see what I did there? I talked about free speech then asked people not to talk so I violated their First-Amendment free speech rights.

No, I fucking did not.

BECAUSE THAT IS NOT WHAT “FREE SPEECH” MEANS.

I know this may be rough and wild in the world of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” where apparently everybody goes around inventing information at random to suit political aspirations, but outside that special vortex, people try to use words according to their actual definitions.

In fact, some of us get super frisky and use the Google to research what a word means if somebody informs us we are using it incorrectly.

But you don’t. This is what you do, Candy. (I named you Candy.)

Candy: “Milo Yiannopoulos losing his book deal is a violation of free speech! Dangerous! Sad!”

Somebody on the internet: “Hey, hi. That’s not what free speech means.”

Candy: “Hillary Clinton is a crook!”

Somebody: “Okay but that’s still not what free speech means. Please look it up.”

Candy: “Politically correct snowflake liberals love to silence people like Milo!”

Somebody: “That’s probably true, but Milo’s free speech rights are intact nonetheless. Google it.”

But you don’t. Ever. I am convinced you’re not even trying.

But no worries. I am here for you. I googled “freedom of speech” (because that’s the official terminology –I’m not trying to be sneaky), and here is what I found for its definition (incidentally, all dictionaries say the same thing, which is how definitions work):

“the right of people to express their opinions publicly without governmental interference, subject to the laws against libel, incitement to violence or rebellion, etc.” (source)

Another: “the right to speak without censorship or restraint by the government. Freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.” (source)

Okay so this is not complicated, right? The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects our right to say virtually whatever the hell we want without fear of legally enacted censorship (although some speech acts are in fact illegal), meaning we can speak without fear of being thrown in prison, or killed by the government (although one may wonder what happened to some of those black Civil Rights activists of the 1960s and 70s who disappeared into thin air, but I digress.)

I can’t be thrown in jail for saying: “Our President acts like Caillou.”

Or “Gee I wish that Nazi was clocked 50 times instead of one.”

Americans get to burn flags, protest, rage, scream, sing, teach, write, and paint without getting chucked into the poky.

Melissa McCarthy gets to make fun of Spicey. Baldwin gets to mock Trump. Limbaugh gets to say women live longer because their lives are easier. Milo YiannoFuckYou gets to be the head gay spokesman for the racist, xenophobic, misogynistic “alt-right.” Bakeries get to gay-bash on Facebook.

IT DOES NOT MEAN THERE WON’T BE CONSEQUENCES FOR THOSE WORDS.

Please for the love of baby Jesus HEAR THIS:

It does not mean we won’t get fired, shunned, uninvited, criticized, kicked off Twitter, blocked, banned, dragged, mocked, and publicly ostracized. Why? Because other citizens get to exercise THEIR freedom of speech in response to ours, and those of us in the private sector get to fire or ban or drag your ass for being an asshole.

Once again just for fun: “Freedom of speech” does not mean “protection from the natural results of being a dick and/or sharing opinions the majority of Americans have progressed beyond because they result in the systematic dismantling of the civil rights of others.”

If I get mad at a coworker and yell that he’s a “washed-up piece of cow shit,” I can possibly get fired for violating a business policy of employing people with self-restraint and manners.

If I walk up to a gay bakery customer and start shouting: “You are evil in the eyes of Jesus and deserve no cake!” my boss can fire me because I am messing with business. Even beyond economics, businesses often have a mission statement, a corporate culture, and if my opinions are not in concert with that culture, I gotta go. 

It’s a condition of my employment. And whether you like it or not, if you believe gay people shouldn’t be allowed to marry, or women should stick with the kitchen gig, or all Muslims are terrorists, you are holding archaic beliefs many Americans do not support, so if you share those ideas, there may be repercussions.

This is called, “Being an adult.”

Feel free to hold and yell and cuddle those ideas like your fleece Nascar blanket, but be prepared for what follows.

Societal progress is a motherfucker, ain’t it?

 

Milo YainannaDoucheNozzleButNicePearls can say whatever the hell he wants, and indeed he was invited to UC Davis and UC Berkeley, but protestors created an environment that the university felt was unsafe, so he left. The government didn’t MAKE him leave or imprison him. They didn’t even threaten him. He said all kinds of racist and xenophobic and misogynistic neo-fascist shit, and still got invited places and published.

But then it came out that he stated pedophilia isn’t pedophilia if the kid has hit puberty, which apparently is JUST TOO FAR for Simon & Schuster and that Republican rally thing and Breitbart (who knew Breitbart had standards?!).

The rest though was no big deal for those guys, so not one deserves a cookie, not even stale ones with raisins in the back of grandma’s cupboard.

In short, Milo shares a message that many American citizens believe does not deserve a platform. So they did their best to assemble, and deny him that platform. We can argue over the goodness and sanctity of that act, but his freedom of speech is intact. We know this because he’s still walking around being a washed-up piece of cow shit.

 

Boycotts are not a violation of freedom of speech.

Protests are not a violation of freedom of speech.

Losing a book deal is not a violation of free speech.

Being uninvited from a speaking engagement is not a violation of free speech.

Milo’s career is smashed because of the choices he’s made within the context of the world he’s living in. Undoubtedly he will maintain a cult-following of alt-right worshippers, but the rest of us have no time for his bullshit, and kindly ask that you exit your unique snowflake word-definition vortex and figure out what “free speech” means, or shut the ever-loving fuck up.

Alright, not so kindly.

But this is America. Milo and I (I just threw up) and you and duck dynasty homophobe guy get to say what we want, and then, we get to deal with the consequences.

THAT IS OUR RIGHT.

 

Here. I made a handy guide the intended audience will never use.

It’s called “Is my right to free speech being violated?”

 

***

Speaking of saying whatever the hell we want,

you should join my April online writing workshop so we can

DO THAT TOGETHER.

“Write Anyway” begins April 5.

47 Comments | Posted in nothing to do with parenting., politics | February 22, 2017

Even in this dumpster fire, we’ve got power, and it may or may not be on Facebook.

by renegademama

Remember when we used to go on Facebook to see pictures of people’s kids, read amusing Buzzfeed listicles – did I just say “listicles” because if so I hate myself – and see what drunk Phyllis posted last night?

That was so fun.

Remember when we used to go on Facebook to read meaningless shit instead of discover new developments in the systematic dismantling of what was left of American democracy?

I loved that.

Now, people who don’t post about the proto-fascist authoritarian dicks in office stick out like devious outliers while I sit there scream-thinking: “I don’t give a fuck about your cat. BETSY DEVOS THINKS GUNS SHOULD BE IN SCHOOLS BECAUSE GRIZZLY BEARS.”

On the other hand, if we didn’t have an occasional cat thrown in – or, my personal favorite: frolicking river otters – this shit would be unbearable, and it’s already unbearable.

Endless streams of bad news, of people referencing “alternative facts” as if that’s a thing other than, um, falsehoods. Our President tweeting about TV show ratings and slamming our judicial system, the very balance created to save our country from the likes of him. Not to mention the whole Putin situation. Ummmmmmmm. FUCK.

I pick up my phone, scroll, feel flames rise through my body, a sense of panic and rage and sadness and hopelessness, then throw my phone. Pick it back up, Google: “Does Spain take Americans?,” “Is Trump going to nuke the world,” and “What does anxiety disorder feel like and do I have it?”

Swear I’m getting off social media for good. Realize it’s only been THREE GODDAMN WEEKS, feel a sense of hopelessness, wonder how the hell we’ll get through. Commit to no more news.

Ten minutes later, get back on my phone thinking fuck these assholes I’m not going down without a fight.

“Fake news” everywhere. Real news conveyed as “fake news” because it hurts Trump’s baby feelings. A top presidential adviser plugging Ivanka Trump’s products as if our government is some new branch of QVC. The White House getting filled with Wall Street executives even though Trump campaigned against exactly that, but now suddenly his supporters don’t seem to mind. HOW WHY WHAT FUCK AGAIN.

Where are we?

It’s a dizzying dystopian fiction. It’s a constant sense of “is anybody else seeing this? SOMEBODY SAVE US.”

As if I can’t find reality. As if what I’m seeing before my eyes is not real, and yet it is real, and yet if it’s real, how the fuck are we expected to simply go on about our lives? WHY IS EVERYONE JUST SITTING HERE?

On the other hand, do we have a choice? Do we engage for knowledge or disengage for sanity? I go back and forth all day.

My go-to coping mechanism lately has been irate Facebook status updates. I guess it makes me think I’m doing something, while lying in bed naked at 2am.

I write some super brilliant (!) shit, then I reread it and add and subtract this and that, and then I hit “post” and wait…OMG will they like me!? A few likes come in, a couple comments. A share! Wheeee!

I am making fun of myself, but this is all real and true. True facts. Not alt-ones.

I’m a bit of child when it comes to this stuff and have no shame in admitting it. Welllll I have a little shame.

 

But what I’ve learned about social media is this: If not used thoughtfully, it engages my baser self. It engages the part of me that wants instant gratification, approval, and attention. It engages the part of me that wants to be RIGHT. It brings me fear and by the end of the day, I’m spinning in circles and essentially useless, mentally.

You know what? I’m tired of that shit. Now is not the time for me to run around trying to be right. Now is the time for me to run around trying to be helpful, trying to share what we know in a way that can be consumed, digested, and relatively useful for others. Now is the time that I ask myself how I’m using my time, voices, and commitment to resistance.

Look. You know me. You know my anger rants are like air to me, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to stop writing inappropriate, poorly thought out Facebook posts that strike me as amusing at the time but later seem irrational and somewhat unhinged.

I’m committed now. I’m all in.

I’m not writing some manifesto on social media behavior. I don’t care how people use it, and it takes all kinds of voices.

I simply just realized in a very real way that social media has to a large extent turned into a sort of self-congratulatory echo chamber for me: I throw out ideas and people who already agree with me respond with support, which makes me happy, and sometimes new people respond with dissent, which makes me mad.

WHEN DID I BECOME FIFTEEN AGAIN?

As the months (years? SHUT UP.) have passed– I realized I was completely swept away in anger and fear, and neither of those are particularly helpful to the world. Anger is an amazing fuel for action, but as an end in itself, it’s something of a dud. Also, it’s miserable. Like if I get mad only to get madder, I’m simply discontented. And useless.

The truth is I am a bit lost. A good portion of what I knew to be true about my personal life has crumbled in the past few months, and everything I knew to be true about my country and the people in it and the direction we’re capable of heading has also crumbled, and I feel a sense in me that I need to take a serious look at what I’m contributing to the world. You know? As a human being. As a writer. As a mother.

I’m questioning ALL OF IT.

 

I believe something fully though, and I believe it more every day: We already have what we need to make a real, clear, and vital difference in the community around us. We have what we need to survive, to get through this together as a fucking people. We have what we need to lift our voices and be drivers of change and hope rather than festering powerlessness and fear.

We make art. We write and we sing. We show up to school board meetings. We donate to the mission. We talk to our neighbors. We volunteer in schools. We rally. We march. We raise kids that love. We give money to the motherfucking ACLU.

And totally we post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, duh. And our blogs. Yeah dude, I get it. I get the hypocrisy.

I just wanted to remind you that she persisted, because I had to remind myself. I got a little lost in apathy and rage and generalized confusion. It’s easy to forget where you stand, who you are, and what you’re capable of.

This is a weird world right now, and it’s easy to get so overwhelmed we find ourselves recklessly spinning, forgetting perhaps that we will persist, even through this. Plus, if he nukes us we won’t be here to know the difference. Goddamnit I was trying to be positive.

For real: I see you. Your fucking talents and voice. And I hope you use them. And I hope you use them loud.

Because the world may be crumbling, rearranging, and exploding around us, but we are never powerless. They want us to believe that, they want us to get lost in restless anxiety and fear, but we persist by returning to the strength and creativity and fertile resistance we’ve got inside, and letting that run this fucking rodeo.

Also river otters. And each other.

Mac made me flowers out of scrap sheet metal. This is what I’m talking about. We gotta make flowers out of metal for no reason other than love.

***

I promise this post was not written for this moment, but I need to let you know I’m teaching the last two live sessions of my ONLINE “Write Anyway” workshop this April and June. April is the only evening workshop I’ll teach this year.

If writing is your thing and you’re not doing it, I hope you’ll join us. We work through and deconstruct the fears blocking us, and I know there are many. I have them all.

We fucking need you. 

Please email me with any questions: info@renegademothering.com.

I found this a year after I named my workshop “write anyway,” which basically means I am Junot Diaz.

13 Comments | Posted in I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. | February 15, 2017

Dear PTA, why do you hate us?

by renegademama

Look, first of all, I realize you do all kinds of amazing things for the school that benefit the kids, and you do it on behalf of mothers like me, who would rather spend the rest of their lives naked in an arctic cave listening to Nickelback than do what you do.

I hate meetings. The only thing more horrifying to me than a meeting is the idea of a meeting involving parents trying to accomplish things for 50 billion children.

I think it’s actually my idea of hell. There’s always that Super Serious mom who does not think you’re funny and I always think I’m funny, so, anyway. Also ill-timed F-bombs. Plus it’s boring.

Meeting participation is not, shall we say, my forte. I’m better at standing back and whining about what other people do in meetings. It’s a talent I’ve developed over years of self-important apathy and needing to work to help support my family.

But seriously though, I have one request: Can you please stop making shit up at random and expecting all of us to participate?

This morning I’m sitting at work, minding my own business, procrastinating my writing, when I happen upon a thread in the first-grade classroom list-serve involving words like “twin day” and “positive shirt” and “size medium” and “Target is out.” Since I have no fucking clue what’s happening, I brilliantly surmise that I missed some sort of back story.

By now my heart is pounding because I’m sure my 6-year-old is standing at that very moment in a classroom full of “twins,” realizing she is a singleton, or, in other words, the loser with no friends.

SHE HAS NO TWIN BECAUSE HER MOTHER SUCKS.

Anyway, I scroll through a thread the length of Donald Trump’s list of lies only to find nothing. No date. No identifying information. Everybody’s in on “twin day” except me. I’m lost as usual. There’s no doubt in my mind there was an a handout I missed – or one of the 1900 emails I receive from my kids’ schools, 1885 of which aren’t important – but I’m stuck again with that old feeling of “How does everybody know this shit and will I ever improve?”

I check my email. Nothing. And then I literally Google: “What is twin day” in case it’s some sort of national holiday nobody cares about like “national sibling day.” I see a post somewhere saying it’s a “spirit week” thing put on by the PTA, which immediately clears shit up, because the PTA hates us.

Why do you hate us?

You don’t hate us. I know that. You love us. But you must sort of hate us. Because this isn’t right, man. It isn’t.

Finally I learn it’s on February 3rd, which is two days from now, so, PRAISE JESUS! I find the original thread on the classroom website, and figure out the shirt my kid is supposed to wear to match the teacher (because matching another kid is outta the fuckin question), and I order one from Target in a neighboring town because this town is sold out because the PTA hates us.

Here’s the thing: I have four kids spread across the age spectrum from 15 to 2. AND THEY ALL NEED THINGS. My husband works two hours away. I am a writer with a major fucking deadline in like five minutes, and, quite frankly, of all the interest I hold in my body, about 2% is directed to spirited school events.

This is not because I’m a monster. I mean, I may be a monster, but mostly I am simply not living a life that lends itself to sustained and directed attention to shit like “whacky hair day.” Alright. Whacky hair day is kinda fun.

BUT TWIN DAY? THAT INVOLVES A FRIEND CLOSE ENOUGH TO BE A “TWIN” AND PLANNING OF AN OUTFIT AND COORDINATION WITH OTHER PARENTS I MEAN MY GOD HAVE YE NO SOUL?

 

It’s fine. I’m okay. I took a breath.

And I’m lucky to have flexible self-employment. I have also worked full-time while going to graduate school with 3 kids. Deep and heartfelt apologies, but in that condition, I have a really hard time tracking every goddamn spirit day invention y’all concocted when nobody’s looking.

I know. I know. If I don’t like it, I should join the PTA and change it.

But really, is that how this works? No. Because I’m the asshole here and we both know it.

The underlying message is that inherent in motherhood is an interest and devotion to random shit people make up to “help make school more fun.”

Meanwhile, I’m over here like “You want to make school more fun? Why don’t you let them play outside more, burn the worksheets, and stop forcing them to line up by number twelve times a day like factory workers whose souls disintegrated years ago?”

You see? This is why I don’t go to meetings. My nihilism shines forth and frightens people.

Anyway I gotta go. I have to buy a fucking “twin shirt.”

Oh well, at least I didn’t blow it this time.

Maybe I’m improving. Oh come on.

 

me learning of “twin day”

*Note: PTA please do not go I LOVE YOU THANK YOU I MEAN IT DO NOT STOP EVER.

36 Comments | Posted in I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. | February 1, 2017

Slowly getting off this mountain

by renegademama

I’ve hesitated to write anything because I feel like I’m a walking cloud of BUMMER lately.

As in: “Heyyy hiiiiii, my grandpa died.”

And a month later, “Hey, what up, my grandma was murdered.”

And now, it’s “Hello. How are you? Our dog died in a freak accident in my daughter’s room.”

Yeah, we woke up on New Year’s Day to find our Labrador, Laser, had died during the night. In my daughter’s room. Just for added horror. Thankfully, the kids didn’t see because Mac and I got there first.

I’m telling you, friends, his death knocked the wind out of me. I spent an hour almost out of my mind, pacing the house yelling and whispering, “Not our dog, too!”

It simply couldn’t be. Not our dog, too.

It simply felt cruel. Mean. Like a few kicks to the ribs when I was already down. I didn’t even have it in me to sit my kids in a circle and give it to them gently. I simply said, “Laser has died” while crying in a doorway, and I let them cry and wail too.

I had no fight left.

Sweet Laser. How do we love them so? The grief is so real.

Our DOG? Our 4.5 year old ball of love and cuddles and warmth? He was the member of the family who was constant, the one who trotted around the house giving joy and hugs and asking for a pat on the head or a belly scratch – pure, uncomplicated love. He was the one who we held in all our grieving. He was the one who held us.

To have him suddenly ripped from our arms in a time when we were already desperate? Well, shit.

I got mad. And then I got really, really fucking sad.

When George found out, she screamed and cried for 15 minutes then crawled onto the couch, pulled a big blanket over her head and body, and stayed there, silently, immobile and non-responsive, for about 3 hours. I pulled the blanket back and saw tears falling from the bridge of her nose.

I patted her back. She pulled the blanket back up.

It was as if she had given up, as if she were saying, “You know what? If this world is like this, I’m fucking OUT.”

Forget all of you.

I could relate. That’s exactly how I felt.

How could they take our dog, too?  Who’s “they?” I don’t know. THEY. The ones who decide this sort of thing: who lives and dies.

God? Satan? The fates? Luck?

For the first time, I didn’t know if I was going to keep getting up and functioning, or if I was going to go to bed and stay there. My life felt pitch black all around me. Dark. I picked up my head and I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t see a way. I couldn’t see what to do next.

I didn’t want to talk to you. I didn’t want to see you. I didn’t want to discuss it. I wanted to pull a blanket over my head and stay there.

If this is the world, I’m fucking out. (And it sure doesn’t help that the outside world has turned into terrifying apocalyptic hell, either.)

 

And then a few nights ago, I was reading a story in one of George’s favorite books about a man who is walking alone over a huge mountain. He’s way up high among the rocks and trees when a storm comes, and it grows dark all around him, and he loses his way entirely. He can’t see to take a step, and he’s stuck up there, cold and lost, so he crouches behind a rock and starts praying. He asks life or god or whatever to help him, and just kind of trusts, and after a while, a light appears before him, a tiny lantern hovering just in front of him.

He gets up and begins to follow it, but he can only see the small circle of light right in front him.  He can’t see the path ahead of him, on the sides or behind, but he can see his footing for the next step. He can see just enough to take a single step safely into the dark, into the nothing, and know he won’t fall.

The light leads him off the mountain.

 

I cried as I read that story, because I realized I am that man, but I also have that light. I can’t see behind me, or above or beside. I can’t even see the path, but I can see enough to take one tiny step in the dark, and if I do that long enough, I’ll get off this fucking mountain.

I think about how grateful I am to be sober. I think about a dear friend who relapsed recently, and wonder if he will survive, and I think about how much grace I live daily to breathe a sober breath. To be here for my family and kids and mom rather than in a street somewhere.

I think about my children, my few soul friends, my husband who crawls around the house on all fours so the kids can pretend he’s a horse. I think about my baby’s dimpled hand patting me as he falls asleep, whispering “my mama” over and over again. I think about the vital beauty of the earth around me, and how at the last, it’s really just nice to be alive, you know? Here. Even among the bullshit.

It really is fucking nice to be alive, with you, with the light and the mountain, and even the pain, because I know it’s from the depths of love. For my grandmother, for my friend Laser, for the uncomplicated devotion between a dog and his family, a grandmother and her grandchildren, and my mom and me.

So we’ll keep walking, and the trust is enough for me.

 

“Once in a while you get show the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.”

38 Comments | Posted in mental health mental non health | January 25, 2017

Alright, 2016. You gave me some love.

by renegademama

I learned that if you start doing something you love and keep doing it over and over, saying “fuck it” and doing it again, you may find yourself making a living doing what you love. And it will feel as good as you imagined.

But I learned too there is no arrival, and even as you meet the moments you were sure were going to eliminate the fear – “As soon as [this one thing] happens, I will feel confident and know what I’m doing.” – fear simply morphs into a new version of itself. But you can write anyway. And you grow bored of the motherfucker.

Get a new game, fear.

I learned that I can love a political candidate and get super into the primaries (Oh, Birdie), and that I can feel actual sadness when my guy loses. I also learned that the primaries are way. way. WAY too fucking long. Why do we hate ourselves?

I learned that the moment you realize you have three years left with your oldest child is an incomprehensible one, and you feel robbed and delighted all the same, and wonder if you loved her toddler years completely, and hold on to the time like glittering diamonds.

I learned two-year-olds are still pretty annoying.

And potty training is bullshit.

And snot is an asshole.

But the way they run in quick little steps still takes my breath away.

I learned my children will surpass me with their strength.

I learned I will miss my husband’s beard.

I learned a mini-van is the vehicle of the gods.

I learned my country can betray me. I learned it can elect a man of hate and authoritarian idiocy, and that some people aren’t bothered by a President using Twitter to discuss foreign policy.

I learned we need to improve the American education system.

I learned you’ll feel a little better the day after your country elects a barely literate bullying demagogue if you go over to your best friends’ house and sing old folks songs of resistance while she plays piano and your kids run in circles around the living room.

I learned you’ll feel better until you realize the next morning that at the very moment you sang and cried, your grandmother was bleeding on a kitchen floor 50 miles away, killed by the hand of your cousin.

You will wonder if you cried perhaps for her that night.

I learned grief is a physical agony.

I learned children sometimes face evil too young.

I learned I cannot protect any of us from either.

I learned silence surrounding mental illness kills people. I learned it shatters families and massacres the dignity of life, and death. I learned one hundred human lives can cripple under agony, diminish forever, weep simultaneously for the rest of their breathing days because of the silence surrounding mental illness.

I learned of the dignity of death. I learned you can die beautifully. I learned you can die with your hands held to the heart of your wife of 67 years and the eyes of your daughters and grandchildren surrounding you through their tears, bathing you in the sunlight warmth of a lifetime together.

I learned we all deserve the right to die like that.

I learned once again that the only way through it is to move right to the center, to throw yourself into the flames, let them leap and pull and tear to make you new, turn you to ash, trusting for some godforsaken reason that the embers will burn enough to light your way to the other side.

I learned there is no other side.

I learned this is it. I learned my family is all I have (and that some family isn’t blood). I learned there is more love for all of us in our pain. I learned this isn’t bullshit mind candy. It is the ultimate reality I will always be seeking.

I learned if your grandmother is killed, all the irritation you once felt toward your own mother will wash away like a pebble pulled into the ocean – all the tiny bothers tumbling into the blue – and you will rest easy, and grateful for that, as you hold her hand to your heart and pray it’s enough.

To tomorrow.

I learned we are still here.

And with all my heart, I’m still, I’m still just happy to be here.

my baby and my mom.

 

21 Comments | Posted in Sometimes, I'm all deep and shit..... | December 31, 2016