Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Disgusting Art of Appeasement

Not too many things in this world piss me off worse than appeasement.  Appeasement is the willful act of giving up on your wants, needs, and own best interests to try to please the other party in the naive belief that once you have given enough, the other party will be satisfied enough to treat you better or meet you halfway.  Appeasement, also, never works, and nowhere do we see the failure of appeasement more than when it is applied in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The demands for appeasement mostly come from the Left, which has a tendency to blame Israel for everything while framing the Palestinians as the constant victims.  In framing the Palestinians as constant victims this sets up a very unproductive dynamic in which Israel is always wrong and the Palestinians are always right, which becomes harder to explain when you see the leaders of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority absconding funds, cancelling elections, appointing leadership without the say of the people, and focusing their resources on destroying Israel rather than building industry and infrastructure for their own people.

Time after time, the Left demands that Israel appease the Palestinians by giving up land, safety, funds, and more.  Israel gives in and appeases only to be told that they haven't done enough, and this is usually followed by more demands for appeasement.

The Left's obsession with Palestinian sovereignty is perplexing, because it flies in the face of everything the Left supposedly stands for.  Under a sovereign Palestinian government, homosexuality would be outlawed and punishable by death, other religions would be illegal, women and minorities would be second class citizens, and the West would likely be targeted as enemies.

Israel, on the other hand, is the embodiment of Leftist ideals with universal healthcare and education. Women are full and equal participants, minorities are given equal status, other religions are accepted and welcome, and the only gay pride parade happening in the Middle East is in Tel Aviv.  Yet the Left can never be appeased enough.

Lest I focus my ire squarely on the appeasement demanded by the Left, there is a much quieter, sinister appeasement that is happening right now on the Right.  Lately, the Right has taken the reigns as the champions of Israel.  Jews all over the U.S. are flocking to vote for Right Wing candidates who, publicly, can't proclaim their love of Israel enough.  In voting for candidates on the Right, American Jews are engaging in a far more dangerous appeasement.

Aside from their proclamation of fiscal responsibility, which hasn't really been seen since prior to the Reagan era, the platform of the Right does not align with Jewish values.  They are not accepting of homosexuals, minorities, and women, they don't believe in providing healthcare, social security or a basic safety net, they are not champions of education, and are all about rewarding a vulture capitalist system that destroys communities and leaves the majority in the dust.  These are not Jewish values, yet time and time again, we watch leaders in the Jewish community embrace the Right in hopes that the U.S. will continue to support Israel.

This kowtowing appeasement has been particularly disgusting given who is in power and the actions of the new Trump Administration.  Steve Bannon gave the new Neo Nazi movement, revamped with the shiny, new name, Alt-Right, a strong presence on the internet.  He has also promoted fake news, and his political tactics seem to be borrowed straight from the Goebbels handbook.  The sweeping, and unAmerican travel ban, hit many people in the gut, especially Jews, because during WWII, we were the ones turned away from the safety offered in the U.S.  Of course those on the Right will rush in and say that the Administration is very Jew-friendly, because Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller are in top positions, but never forget there were many Jews in Germany during the late 1930s who believed their status and money would keep them safe.  They worked with Nazis believing that if they appeased the Nazi radicals, they would be spared.  Again, appeasement led to death.

The truth is that the Christian Evangelicals on the Right; the ones who are quick to point out the sin in others, but managed to look past the sinful life of Donald Trump, in order to seize power, are no friends to Israel.  In order for their messiah to come, all Jews have to return to Israel to die, so is this really a group we want to appease?

Negotiations with clear and objective goals, willful compromising on both sides, a mutual understanding of common interests, the elimination of extremists on all sides, all of those things are reasonable and should be the foundation for establishing peace and ending the conflict, but appeasement should be avoided at all costs, because, in the end, no one ever wins the appeasement game.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

The Lost 24 Years

A few years ago I contemplated heading back to work full-time, so I took a position that was temporary with the option of permanency.  I was there for about two months when I did a sit-down with the big boss and argued that my position should be eliminated right before turning in my notice.  In my other life as a do-gooder, honesty is always the policy I go with.

In my do-gooder life, I put together big fundraising events for worthy causes as a way to make the world a better place.  In my life as a punk, I relish watching certain segments of the world burn while I eat popcorn.  On some levels, I'm sure I'm a head shrinker's dream.

Getting back to the temporary position, while at the job I would talk myself out of, I worked with a woman who was about in her mid-50s, and had been doing events for years, and she was done.  It was the first time in my life that I realized there would come a day when I just didn't want to do events anymore.

Fast forward three years to this past Wednesday where I was sitting in Day 2 of a three-day grant writing class.  It was a small, nine person class for nonprofit professionals, so there was great shop talk, and schmoozing.  Everyone, except me, worked for a nonprofit organization, and I think they were a bit skeptical about who I was, because I was a dreaded "consultant".  By Day 2, they knew that, not only, did I know my stuff, I knew quite a bit about the nonprofit world, in general.

At the end of the class, a nice young man from a great organization came up and asked me why I wasn't in a director level position at a high profile nonprofit.  This is a question I have grappled with, and have asked myself several times.  I have the experience, the professional accomplishment, and sometimes, the desire, but there is one reason why I'm not at a major organization collecting a six-figure salary and doing million dollar events: my girls.

I told him that I choose to work as a consultant, because it affords me the freedom of schedule needed to pick my kids up everyday from school, schlep them to their activities, do all of the mom volunteering, and be there for them 95% of the time.  I told him that I had a 13 year old and a 7 year old, and he thought about it, and said, "that's a 24 year gap".

24 years seems like a very long time, and to this young man, who was unmarried with no kids, and likely in his mid-20s, the idea of suspending a career for 24 years is probably unimaginable.  What this young man doesn't understand is that, in the big scheme of things, spending 18 years raising a child doesn't seem like 18 years.  18 is a big number when thinking about years, but it flies by in the day-to-day of raising kids.  My oldest is 13, and in 5 years she will be heading off to college, and the major part of my job will be over.  5 years will fly by.

If someone would have told me when I was in my mid-20s that I would choose to forego a lucrative career to raise kids, I would have thought they were crazy, but here I am and this is what I'm doing.  Some days, particularly when my 7 year old is driving me up a wall, the years can't go by quick enough, then other days I pine for the times when my girls were babies, and I could snuggle them close while they slept in my arms.

I'm not an executive director or vice president of a high-level nonprofit organization, but my daughter told me today that she thinks I'm the bravest person she knows.  In 11 years, I will be 55 and an empty nester.  I could step back into the 9-to-5 world and run a prestigious nonprofit, but I think I'll transition into grant writing, because you can do that from anywhere.  I'll spend my precious years before the AARP card traveling and writing grants in the mornings on my laptop while dressed in a billowy, comfortable kaftan, sipping tea, and listening to the Misfits.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Food By The Bucket

Some days, I feel like dinner around my house has become a bit of a holy war.  On one side, the mom who wants to feed her family nutritious, vitamin-rich, locally grown organic food, on the other side, the family who would love to spend the entire meal eating processed, barely identifiable crap.

My children have accused me of taking away their childhood, because I won't buy them sugary cereal with cartoon characters parading across brightly colored boxes.  I have been told I am mean and terrible, because I don't buy Doritos, Lays, Cheetos, Twinkies, and Fruit by the Foot (which, upon reading the box, one would notice that the only mention of "fruit" is in the title).  I am the mean, non-fun mom, because I opt for the organic, healthy juice boxes instead of the watery, artificially flavored, corn syrup concoctions that pass as "fruit" drinks (there's that word again, in title only).

I'm not a complete stickler, we do make our way through a drive thru every now and again for burgers or donuts, but for the most part, I opt for healthy food.  About 3 years ago, I switched to organic meat, because I was tired of the headlines about the amount of hormones and additives that were being pumped into our meat supply.  My husband wasn't too happy at first, because organic meat is three times the price, but with the uptick in expense, I was forced to get real about portion size.  The average household throws away 30% of the food they bring into the house to consume, so buying something more expensive forced me to become more efficient.

Shortly after the meat, I switched to organic fruits and veggies, again, becoming very conscious of how much we actually consumed versus what my perception of what was consumed.  I became a fierce reader of labels using the 5 ingredient rule; if there are more than 5 ingredients and most are unidentifiable and hard to pronounce, then you don't want it.  I made an initiative to cook at home more, and be the healthy example I never had growing up.

My mother did many things right, but the one thing she really nurtured in me and my siblings was an incredibly unhealthy relationship with food.  Mom taught us that food was a great activity when you were bored, food was a fantastic way to celebrate, food was good for when you had the blues, and that "you don't have to be hungry to eat" was more than a catchy phrase.  Tens of thousands of dollars wasted on weight loss and dieting and 32 years later, it's still a daily struggle.  A struggle that I do not want to pass on to my kids.

Yes, I'm the healthy mom, but I also let them have unhealthy food about 10% of the time.  I try to educate them about moderation, and teach them about reading food labels.  However, health is an uphill battle in a country that celebrates the "never ending pasta bowl".  The other night I asked my 7 year old what she wanted for dinner, and she enthusiastically told me about a magical place called KFC where they give you a whole bucket of chicken.  Her friends had told her how great it was, because the chicken comes in a real bucket.  A whole bucket of chicken!

Food, health, not consuming a whole bucket of chicken, all uphill battles that I hope I'm winning.  For my part I'm going to continue to be the healthy mom, the mom who opts for the organic over the chemical, the mom who reads the labels and says a lot of "no" at the grocery store.  I'm sure I'll get a fair amount of pushback, but to all of this I say; too freakin' bad!

Yes, I'm the mom who doesn't let you suck on GMO corn stick puffs flavored with cheese-like dust.  I'm the mom who cuts up watermelon after school instead of shoving a corn syrup popsicle colored with Red 40 dye in your face.  I'm the mom who gives your friends carrot sticks instead of candy, and I refuse to apologize for it.  And maybe, someday, when you and your friends don't have cancer, you will thank me.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

FACTS!?! Who the Hell Needs Facts!

I left Facebook nearly a week ago, but ventured back on while I was sitting on my laptop waiting to be called for jury duty.  I was hoping some ounce of sanity had returned, but, much like having coffee with an ex to reminisce about the old times, it took two seconds for me to realize why I left.

Just look.  Scroll down.  Keep scrolling.  Don't comment.  Seriously, do not comment.

What a bunch of crap!  Now, I have to comment.

It was an article by some Nooz site (I call it Nooz, because the news is still valid and these sites are anything but), that identified itself by the color of state it represented, which is usually the first hint that whatever is printed is going to be some bullshit.  This particular article talked about the good side of Trump's immigration ban; the fact that during the "extreme vetting" an immigrant would be questioned about whether or not they have participated in honor killings, and that thanks to this clause in the immigrant ban, the bad Muslims who harm women, would be kept away from our country.

Of course, I had to take the opportunity to comment about the fact that the countries with the highest rates of honor killings, Female Genital Mutilation, and forced underage marriage were not included in Trump's immigration ban.  Also, thanks to this immigration ban, NGOs and nonprofits who are actually on the ground helping women who are victims of this brutality, are now having to go back to the drawing board, in terms of implementing their program, because they aren't able to move their people as easily.

The moment I hit the "enter" key, I knew that I had been sucked down the rabbit hole, but it wasn't for long, because my comment was promptly deleted.  A few weeks ago, a friend of mine began purging her Facebook friends, and wiped out all of the Trumpsters.  It caused quite a stir amongst our common friends, and, at the time, I wondered if it was the right thing to do.  Now I know, I just hadn't gotten there yet.

Fake Nooz enables us to affirm everything we make up in our heads.  Obama is a Muslim who took the Oath of Office on a copy of the Koran?  Here's the fake Nooz site to confirm for you.  Hillary had over 50 people murdered?  Must be true if there are two fake Nooz sites and a Reddit feed that says so.  Trump orders the firing of all Muslim federal employees.  Of course, there's a fake Nooz site that has the story, so it must be true.

I get it.  There is nothing more awesome than the feeling of being right, and shoving the fact that you are right in someone else's face.  Even the most pious, humble person loves to be right.  However, we are in a very precarious time when everyone's need to be right is usurping reality, and that is dangerous.  I'm finding it more and more to be commonplace that when an honest news source prints an honest news story, those commenting accuse the news source of being "fake" and that the story is "not believable".  There is a rampant belief, instilled by the current administration, that credible news sources cannot be trusted, and this leads to the question, if we cannot trust credible news sources, then who can we trust.

I can get online right now and find over a dozen fake Nooz sites that will tell me exactly what I want to believe, but they are not right, and although it feels good to have my beliefs affirmed, I don't want to live in a world of "yes" men.  During my first venture into adulthood, I studied journalism.  I took hours of classes learning the history of journalism, studying ethics, pouring over hundreds of pages of legal rulings regarding stories, journalists, and how the news is made and covered.  I wrote for my college newspaper, I freelanced for other publications, I discussed real time news stories in a newsroom, I conducted interviews, and I copy edited articles for other writers.  I was a trained journalist.

There is a reason why journalism is a profession, and we need to stop this bleeding of the need to have our own theories affirmed through crap Nooz sites, and start doing due diligence.  Most of us take pride in the fact that we practice honesty with our friends and family.  We don't like lying to the people we love, so why do we share Nooz that we all know, deep down, is fake?  It is the same as spreading a lie, and it is causing our society to deteriorate.

When I left Facebook, I immediately subscribed to the New York Times.  I took my credit card and paid for a subscription, like back in the olden days when we got our news through papers.  The convenience of the online news is great, but the abundance of fake Nooz has become our country's most dangerous addiction, and it's time for us, as a nation, to break this addiction.  Sure, dessert is amazing, and we all love to eat it, but if we think we can keep eating nothing but dessert and not get fat, then we are not only delusional, we're just plain stupid.

Monday, January 30, 2017

From a Skype to a Skittle: We're Going to Be Okay

It's a weird feeling when you look around and wonder what happened to the country you've lived in all your life.  From the time we hit grade school in this country, we are told that we are a nation of immigrants, and that this is a source of pride for us.  We are told amazing tales about people traveling from all over the world on steamer ships and the joy they shared looking up at Lady Liberty welcoming them to a new land.

We have put ourselves out to the world as a place of opportunity, a place of safety, a place where someone can find peace, raise a family, start a business, and become part of the bigger dream of living in a place molded together from all cultures of the world.

I remember looking around my classroom when I was in the first grade, and thinking that I was so lucky, because everyone looked different.  Everyone had different things they did in their homes, everyone had different food, everyone was originally from somewhere else, and we all looked different and it was a good thing.

The most recent actions of this ridiculous president have ripped at the heart of most Americans.  Those of us who celebrate the fact that our parents, grandparents, great grandparents, or maybe, even, we are from somewhere else, yet we chose this country to make our life and livelihood felt a sickness in the pit of our stomachs when we heard about the banning of people from other countries.  This ignorant president, not only, shut the door on several nations to appease his nationalist supporters, continued to stoke fears of the "terrorist Muslim", but also was so very callous in cutting off opportunity to people experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world right now.

During our summer vacation, we saw Syrian women and children all over the streets and in the train stations in Paris.  We saw their pain and desperation, and my heart ached for every last one of them.  These are proud women forced by a ruthless war to beg and live on the streets, often with their children right beside them.  I explained it to my girls that a life on the streets was better than no life at all, and that these people were what desperation looks like.  These are the people that our country used to take in and give a new life and opportunity to, but our new president has ended that.

The most disgusting thing about this action was that he did it on Holocaust Remembrance Day.  There were ships full of refugee Jews that were turned away, decades ago.  They were sent back and most of those Jews perished in the death camps.  To make such an action on this day when we remember a time when the world went mad is unforgivable.  Then again, with the president's Alt-Right capo writing the nationalist order, it doesn't surprise me.

What did surprise me was the incredible reaction.  I was very impressed and my heart filled with joy when I saw nearly 3 million women and men protesting the day after the inauguration.  I hoped with all my heart that it wouldn't be a one-off thing.  The growing protests at airports and all over the nation show me that this country, and this generation are finally woke.  I know I stand on a soapbox often, and for the past dozen years, I've felt like I've been yelling into the wind.  I thought this younger generation was apathetic and took all of the things that us Gen-Xers fought for for granted.  I  would get so enraged, and ask my husband where were they?  Where were the next generation that was supposed to take the baton?  Change.org petitions, social media boycotts, and bitching about issues online are all well and good, but the only thing that changes the world are feet to the street, and I wondered if this generation had it in them.

Now I see they are finally woke.  They aren't able, nor willing, to fulfill some mythical 1950s fantasy where white men are at the top of the food chain and everyone else has to grovel in 2nd place for the scraps kicked down from the Master's table.  When Kim Kardashian is woke enough to tweet against it, you know that the next generation is not going to sit by and let some old white guy dictate a future that they don't even recognize.

He may have the office, he may have a bunch of pussies in Congress and Senate who are walking lockstep with him, because they love power more than the foundations this country was built on, and he may have the vicious Alt-Right (i.e. Neo-Nazi) movement, but we have a whole country of people.  People who came from immigrants, have green card holders or naturalized citizens in their families, or are new to America or new Americans, and we aren't going to let our friends and loved ones go.  They can call us Skypes, Googles, Skittles, and Yahoos, but we call ourselves The People, and we are the ones in charge.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Lady in the Harbor is Crying

For over 100 years she has sat and watched as newcomers entered this fine land, but today the lady in the Harbor is crying.  She is crying, because, like so many women, she has been hurt by a callous man.  This man has questioned her very purpose.  He has told her that the words she carries around don't matter.  He has used her image to reach his goal, but now that he has his win, he is tarnishing her.

The lady in the Harbor is crying, because she's seen this before.  A time when others were turned away, sent back to a land that murdered them.  Her arms were forced closed by another man who misused her, and innocents died for it.

The lady in the Harbor is crying, because she is watching the land that she has symbolized, whose very essence she embodies, become something she does not recognize.   There has been division before, and suffering ensued.  There have been those opportunists who wanted to bring about the division of a nation to serve their selfish purpose, and it nearly destroyed her fair land.  Now, it is happening again.

The lady in the Harbor is crying, but this time, they may be tears of joy, because this time there are millions marching, millions resisting, millions of true patriots screaming "Not this time!  Not in this country!  Not in our country!".  

The lady in the Harbor is crying, and now it is our time to stand up, wipe her tears, become the embodiment of her dream by living her words:  

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Friday, January 27, 2017

When Did That Happen?: The Aging Trip

When I was in my 20s, I made the mistake of saying a lot of "I'd never"s.

"I'd never get plastic surgery.  Why alter your face or body?"

"I'd never retire.  I love what I do and I want to work until I die."

"I'd never hesitate before stating my age.  Age is just a number."

"I'd never skip the opportunity to go to a fun event or party."

Oh, the sea of "I'd never"s coming from the mouth of the 20-something.  Age has a funny way of catching up to you, and lately it has not only caught up to me, it has snared me in a net, and hung me 40 feet in the air before getting ready to drop me down a dark hatch.

The once vibrant girl who couldn't wait to dive into a crowd now does research on events of interest to find out how many people are going to be there.  If there might be huge crowds, and difficulty parking, then, screw it, I'll watch it on tv.  It's the Chinese New Year this weekend, and for about 30 seconds, I thought it might be fun to venture to Los Angeles and head to Chinatown to celebrate the incoming Year of the Rooster.  Then I did my research.

A usual crowd is 110,000.

Tomorrow's temperature in Los Angeles is supposed to be 65 degrees (which is fantastic for everyone from anywhere else in the U.S. except Southern California).

Parking.  Parking in Los Angeles.  Parking in Los Angeles with at least 30,000-40,000 other cars.

Screw it!  I'll watch it on tv and get Chinese takeout tomorrow night for dinner.

When did I become such an old fogey?!?  I'm still an active person, and barring the average cold, usually given to me by one of my kids, I try to work out three to four days per week.  I like to take walks, go out with friends and family, and head to concerts when someone rolls into town that I want to see.  I guess I've just become more selective about where I go, when I go, and what I'm expecting when I get there.  If I'm going to have to deal with a huge amount of crap and aggravation, then it becomes a waste of my time.  Old fogey thinking.

Activities aren't the only kick in the ass that aging has been giving me lately.  I'm now far more obsessed with my appearance.  I've never been a vain person, but I've had the good fortune of decent looks no matter my age or weight at any given time.  I'm no incredible gorgeous beauty, but I'm good with that.  Incredible beauty comes with its own set of challenges.  I would say I'm decent in the looks department and have been very content with my face.  However, lately, I can't stop noticing that my face appears to be moving South at more of a rapid rate than ever before.  Next month I'm going to be 44, which means I am officially in my mid-40s, and I'm 6 years away from 50.

I've always had this crazy belief that I'll live to 92.  I have no idea why, but 92 has always stuck out in my mind, which means I'm 2 years away from the halfway mark.  The physical manifestation of coming close to the halfway mark is my Southern-moving face, and for those who have not experienced it, let me tell you, it fucks with your head.  Suddenly, you understand why people spend tens of thousands of dollars on plastic surgery.  Every wrinkle, every sag, the bags under your eyes all remind you that the inevitable will come, and because G-d has a sick sense of humor, this usually coincides with the dying off of your older generation of relatives.

All of the sudden, life just punches you in the face and everything gets more real.  You are not a kid anymore.  The world is still full of opportunity, but not all opportunities, because you are middle aged now.  You can alter your appearance, buy overpriced skin cream sold to you by 20-somethings with lab coats and empty promises, try to pretend to be into your teenager's music (much to their horror), but you're still middle aged.  Watching the texture of your skin change is extremely humbling.

And don't get me started on the drooping energy level.  In my 20s, I could party until 3:00 am, be back up at 8:00 am, and in the office at 9:00 am-ish, work a full day, grab a 30-minute nap after dinner then go out again.  Now, if I have to stay up past 9:00 pm to go to an event or a show, I'm going to need a 45-minute nap at around 3:00 pm, and a Venti dark roast just to make sure I'm most conscious.

Two years ago, I took a job at a nonprofit that was under consideration for a temp to permanent position.  It didn't work out, but while on that job I met a woman who was in her mid-50s.  She was looking to change departments, and when I asked her why, she told me that she had maybe about two more years of doing events before she just didn't have the energy anymore.  This was the first time in my life that it really hit me that there would come a time in my life where I just wouldn't have the energy to do events anymore.  My recuperation time post-event has been getting longer and longer as the years have passed.  This year, during my biggest event of the year, after a full day of doing much of the work solo, I was in a tremendous amount of pain for a couple of days, and ended up in the doctor's office, because I had pulled several muscles in my back.  Again, aging punches you in the face when you least expect it.

As a backup plan, I have registered for a grant writing certification class.  Thanks to modern technology all research and grant applications can be done online from anywhere in the world where a good Wifi exists.  I now see a day when I retire from events, travel the world, and spend morning hours composing grants while wearing breezy kaftans.

I guess the good part about aging is that you do become wiser, get more choosy about how you spend your time and who you spend it with.  You have zero fucks left to give when it comes to drama or dealing with people.  Sure, the older you get the worse your sight and hearing becomes, but at least you don't have to worry about forgetting your earplugs when you go to concerts.