Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hate Fatigue

I follow George Takei on Facebook.  I was a big fan of the Star Trek tv series as a kid, and now as an adult, I've enjoyed the interesting things that George digs up on the internet and adds to his Facebook site.  A little while ago, George posted something about a tragic situation in which a teacher went to the ER and was slapped with a bill for over $100,000 despite having health insurance.  Having many friends and family members with various health issues, and in my professional career working with healthcare-related nonprofit organizations, I am well aware of the crisis state our ineffective healthcare system is in.  I left, what I thought, was a pretty benign comment about how sad this situation was, and that it was my wish that the leadership of our country would find a healthcare system that would effectively insure all Americans, so no one has to go bankrupt just to receive care.

I checked my FB page later that night, and I had responses to my comment ranging from "thumbs up" positive to people calling me everything from a communist to a socialist traitor to a freeloader to a deadbeat whose health insurance they shouldn't have to pay.  No where did I say that I wanted my health insurance covered, I just presented a general idea.  As I was reading through the vitriol I realized that for the past three years, I have seen more hatred an animus hurled my way through social media than I have ever experienced in my life.

I was not a popular kid in school, and my middle school years were kind of a nightmare.  In the 6th grade, I sat across from a kid in math class who spent three months insulting my appearance leaving me with insecurity issues that would plague me for decades.  When I was in the 7th grade, for about a month straight, I was stalked on my walk home from school every day by two girls who threatened to kick my ass.  I've been in school yard fights, been punched in the face by a Nazi skinhead, and nearly had to physically take out a crazy former family member who decided she was going to try to get physically aggressive.  None of that compares to the hatred I have faced in online interactions, and frankly, I'm exhausted by it.

I was really excited when FB started, because it was such a nice and easy way to keep in touch with people who I loved and cared about.  There were friends who I cherished who I rarely had the chance to keep up with, because we were both busy parents and didn't have free time until the wee hours of the evening.  FB allowed us to share our lives, our photos, and interesting things we found amusing.  As FB added special interest pages, I followed those, because I liked keeping up on different topics, issues, artists, recipes, etc.  It was always fun to see what was in my feed.  Then it was 2015, and things took a bad turn.

I started to see a lot of hatred being spewed from everywhere.  There was an election coming up and those who were conservative felt like they needed to get revenge on those who were liberal.  Those who were liberal felt like those who were conservative were incapable of progress.  We had candidates who seemed to exploit our differences for their own gain, and a willing public who seemed to want to separate themselves into tribes rather than come together as one people.  It got so bad that there were even crazy talks about my state of California splitting into three separate states, because we were just too different to be one single state.

Here's the thing; we aren't that different.  Not at all.  If you go up to 98% of people on the street in any town in any state and ask them what they want this country to be, most will say that they want the U.S. to be a country of economic prosperity where they can have a good paying job that will support their family comfortably, they want good schools, low crime, and safe neighborhoods to raise their kids, they want good infrastructure so they don't sit in traffic forever and have nice parks and outdoor spaces for their families, and they want the country to be secure from any sort of physical and financial threats, so they can live comfortably and well for the longterm.  Conservative or liberal, this is what every American wants, we just might disagree on how to get there.

Given this reality, it's high time we end all of this ridiculous hate.  If you find yourself on the computer, late at night, calling someone something so vile that you would be absolutely embarrassed if anyone in your "real life" found out, then maybe you need to check yourself.  Perhaps you need to sit down and figure out what is going on with you, and where all this misguided anger is coming from, then do something about it.  Go out with some friends, get a puppy, have some nachos.  Do something to make yourself happy.

I get that it was cool a few years ago that we no longer had to be "PC", but unfortunately, there were a lot of people who took it as a license to become unabashedly racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, and just plain hateful.  We need to restore civility to our dialog, and it starts by not leaving hateful and insulting comments, not responding to hateful and insulting comments, and maybe grabbing a Krispy Kreme or two instead of berating one of your fellow Americans.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Mom Goals

It never fails, I'm sitting in front of the laptop scrolling through my Facebook feed when across my screen comes the story of that incredible mom who has, something like, 12 kids, but is showing off her 6-pack abs and laughing about being mistaken for her teenage daughter's sister all the time.  Hot Mommy says you just need to prioritize yourself, so that you can be a "better mom" for your family.  The article suggests that these should be your "mom goals."

I've been working out since I was 16 years old.  On a regular basis, I try to make it into the gym a minimum of twice a week and try to supplement my workouts with other things like walks, cardio classes, etc. as much as I can.  There has never been a time where any workout I did made me a better mom.  It made me healthier, it made me sleep a bit better at night, but there is zero correlation between the amount of stomach crunches I do and the quality of my parenting.

Also, I have a huge issue with parenting goals being tied to fitness.  Look, I believe in pursuing what makes you feel happy as much as the next gal, and if having a 6-pack makes you feel awesome, then go for it.  However, don't tell other moms that their goals should be the same.

On a regular basis, my "mom goals" are to get up at 6:45 am, make my kids their lunches, get my 8th grader out the door by 7:25 am, come back from dropping her off by 7:40-7:45 am, finish getting my 2nd grader ready, then pushing her and her dad out the door by 8:10 am.  After that, it's a full day for me, because I run my own business, and essentially, have to cram an entire 8-hour workday into 6 hours, because I pick both kids up after school.  From that point, it's homework and after school lessons/activities, and getting dinner ready, maybe sitting down as a family to watch a sitcom, then the kids are off to bed at a reasonable time, so I can have an hour or two to myself to watch a show, talk to my husband, hang out online, or plan for the next day.  It may sound boring, and it is, but those are the only things I have energy for at the end of the day.

Basically, my "mom goals" are to keep my family on track, so they succeed.  It's not glamorous, in fact, it's very routine.  No one is writing articles about me, or any other mom who does this, but this is the life of most moms, and our "mom goals" are to just make it through the day.  Also, there may be moms who are super obsessed with how they look, and are lucky enough to stay at home while having school aged children, so they have enough free time to hit the gym for two hours, but I, and most of the moms I know, aren't those moms.  Truthfully, if I have an extra hour in my day I'll probably take a nap or...never mind, I really can't think of anything beyond take a nap, because I usually never have something that doesn't need to be done.

Hey, if your "mom goals" are looking hot, and you do, then bravo.  You worked hard for it, and you deserve to enjoy it.  If your "mom goals" are to lean in at work and run the show, and you end up doing it, then I'm very happy for you.  Whatever your "mom goals" are, I whole-heartedly encourage every mom to reach them, but do not disguise shaming as empowerment or make yourself the subject of publications that push shaming as empowerment.  Most moms are doing their best and they don't need to be reminded of their shortcomings, because society reminds us all the time.

Mostly, don't tell me what my "mom goals" should be, because one of them was to never lose sight of the fact that I'm an introverted, cynical, rebellious, punk rock mama who hates being told what to do, and for the record, I am nailing that "mom goal".

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

We Aren't White

A few weeks ago, I had an interesting conversation with my 8 year old.  She was talking about the ethnic make up of the children in her class, and how many different ethnicities there were.  I felt grateful that I was raising my girls in a very diverse community.  The conversation was upbeat until she said, "Everyone is interesting, but we are just white."

I quickly corrected her, "We aren't white, we are Jewish."  She was confused, and held up her arm, "No, Mom, we are white."  By this time, my older daughter was chiming in siding with her sister about the fact that we are Caucasian.  From this point on, I had the very touchy task of explaining that, although we appear Caucasian, we are not accepted as Caucasian, simply because we are Jewish.

I completely understand their confusion.  Both of my daughters have sandy blonde hair, my older daughter has crystal blue eyes, and they have their dad's fair skin.  Their hair is thick and wavy, but not overly curly.  They don't look "traditionally Jewish".  If they didn't tell you they were Jewish or wear Star of David necklaces, you would never know that they were.

Herein lies the Catch 22 for most "passable" American Jews.  We look like any other Caucasian person.  While this has allowed us to assimilate comfortably, it has also made many Jews very complacent.  They have become so complacent that they forget, and sometimes, ignore blatant anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism is very much alive and thriving.  Hate crimes against Jewish people in the United States are at the highest levels they have been in decades, liberal groups that proclaim to champion inclusivity are hypocritically steadfast in their resolve to include everyone except Jews, and conservative groups still view us with an air of suspicion, if not, blatant open discrimination.  American anti-Semitism usually takes the form of anti-Israel bias, but, when allowed, can go from "Israel Should Not Exist" to "Jews to the Ovens" in 10 hot seconds.  We saw this a couple of years ago during the conflict with Gaza.

Last year, we saw American Nazis marching with torches yelling "Jews Will Not Replace Us".  I think this was a harsh wakeup call to many "passable" American Jews.  This hateful mob targeted two groups of people: African Americans and Jews, reminding us, once again, that we are not white.  We do not get the same privileges as actual Caucasians.  This is what I had to explain to my girls without scaring them, but had to explain it well enough to make them aware of the challenges they will soon face.

In four years, my older daughter will go to college.  Most college campuses, particularly in California, are not friendly places to Jews.  College students relish the fantasy of standing up for the underdog, and their naivety is often manipulated and misused by those with a political agenda, particularly an anti-Semitic one.  My daughters will have to face this.  They will have to face comments about the holidays they celebrate, the food that they eat, their support of Israel, and baseless assumptions that people will assign to them, simply because they are Jewish.

White people don't have to deal with all of this, but my Jewish girls will.  White people don't have to explain that they don't "hate" Jesus or that they aren't the natural enemies of Muslims.  White people don't have to go out of their way to comfort people who wish them a "Merry Christmas" then feel bad when they realize you're Jewish (seriously, we don't care, and we are just happy you said something nice to us).  White people don't have to constantly justify their support of their people's homeland, and have to look at how much they are despised in the Comments section of every news site that features a story about Israel or Jewish people.  White people don't have to deal with apathetic people in their own community who could care less about having an identity, and would rather assimilate at any cost.

I'm raising my daughters to be proud, to be Jewish, to be supporters of Israel, and will always tell them the hard truths, including letting them know that we aren't white.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Eric Michael Jantz

The other night I was up late after catching up on some work and took a stroll through Facebook.  I don't know what triggered it, but I decided to look up an old friend's obituary.  Instead of finding anything about him, I found that his dad had passed away just weeks ago.  I searched like a stalker through family members' Facebook pages hoping that one of them had posted a picture of my old friend.  Somewhere in a forgotten photo album, I'm sure I have one, but at that time, for some unknown reason, I just wanted to see my friend's face, again.  I never found the picture.

Three days later, I find myself still thinking of this friend who died a couple of years after I moved to Seattle the second time.  It was probably around 2003.  We had fallen out of touch, because I had moved, gotten married, and had my first child.  All of that upheaval in such a short time doesn't lend itself to being a good friend.  It is 14 years later, and I feel compelled to write his story.

I can't remember how I met Eric, but I'm sure it was during the time in college when I was writing for the Boise State University newspaper, The Arbiter, as an entertainment writer.  At that time, music was my passion, and I had big dreams of becoming a music journalist, going on the road with bands and writing about it, and never, ever settling down to a boring life in the suburbs.  **Cue the laughter**

I saw Eric's metal band onstage one night, although I don't remember the venue.  He was one of the most unique singers I had seen mainly due to the fact that he was wheelchair bound.  This was always a bit of a shocker to the crowd.  The equipment would be set up, the rest of the band would come out and grab their instruments, and Eric would roll out in front of the mic.  People would mumble in uncomfortable, hushed voices, and then the band would start playing.  Eric would start singing, whipping his long, black hair around and rocking out, and after a couple of minutes, no one watching would care about the wheelchair.  It was always an incredible sight to see.

I asked if I could interview him, and he jumped at the chance.  Eric had a great smile, fantastic taste in music, and was the primary songwriter for the band.  We had a great interview, until of course he broached the forbidden subject with such a magnificent nonchalance: "So, are you going to ask me how I ended up in the chair?".  I told him I hadn't intended to, but he assured me that it was all part of his story and wasn't ashamed.

When Eric was in the 8th grade, he was going through a severe depression and decided he would end his life.  He took a shotgun and attempted to kill himself, but the shotgun slipped when it went off and the bullets lodged in his spine rendering him paralyzed from the waist down with only partial movement in his arms and hands.  When I met him, he was living with his roommate CJ in an apartment near BSU.  He had a care provider named Tammy who was always pushing him to be more independent.  He drove a converted Astro van, and had dreams of someday getting a car, which he said would be way cooler.

The interview was just the start of our friendship.  Eric would invite me to his band practices, parties, and just to hang out.  I had an apartment close to campus, but didn't drive, so I would always accept when the opportunity presented itself to leave the immediate area, particularly if it involved music or parties.  Eric and I would talk about our dreams for the future, bands we loved, and our mutual desire to get out of Idaho.

Eric was a bonafide metalhead, and some of his song titles were "God Bless You Dead" and "One More War".  I can't remember the name of his band, but he was the vocalist and played rhythm guitar sometimes, John was the guitarist, Trent played guitar, as well, David was the bass player, and I can't remember the drummer (which any drummer will find funny).  It was the age of grunge, which Eric liked to listen to, but had no desire to play.  He told me about a chance encounter with Nirvana during their In Utero tour when they played Boise.

He was going through a different entrance that was handicap accessible, and Courtney Love was smoking a cigarette in the hallway he was going through.  She saw him and invited him back stage.  He hung out with the Dave, Krist and Pat.  He said that Kurt was quiet and in the corner, not really interested in anything until one of the road guys asked Eric about how he ended up in the chair.  When Eric told him the story of his attempted suicide, Kurt came right over, listened intently and started asking a bunch of questions.  Eric said that Kurt asked him if it was easy to pull the trigger, if he felt any pain, did he remember what it was like when the bullet hit him.  Eric, being Eric, answered honestly, until Courtney exploded and started yelling at Kurt.  By then, it was showtime, so Eric and his friend went out to watch the show.  He said Dave gave him his phone number, and when Eric heard about Kurt committing suicide, he tried to call Dave just to apologize.  Eric always felt bad that he didn't emphasize enough how terrible attempting suicide was.  "I wish I would have told him it just isn't worth it."

When I met Eric, I was in a really bad relationship with a boyfriend who would constantly tear me down.  One of those awful, toxic people who gets you to believe that you are absolutely worthless.  One night, my boyfriend and I went to a party that Eric invited us to, and my boyfriend wanted to leave.  I didn't, so Eric said he would drive me home later.  I ended up staying at his house, and I'll never forget the moment he asked me, "Why are you with a guy who constantly tells you what a shitty person you are?  You are a really talented, incredible woman who could do so much better."  Sometimes in life, it takes hearing the obvious to lift the veil.  Within a couple of months, I broke up with my toxic boyfriend, moved out of our apartment, got my driver's license and a car.

By then, Eric had moved in with Tammy, her husband, Tony, and their children.  It was a bigger space and more convenient for him.  CJ had, unfortunately, been diagnosed HIV positive, and committed suicide after he found out.  I had a dream shortly after he died that I was coming out of a house that was supposed to be mine, but wasn't, and he was leaning against his car.  I asked him when he was coming back, he told me he wasn't.  "When will I see you again?"  He smiled and said, "Don't worry, you'll see me again someday."  Then he got in his car and drove off.  I'd like to think that dream was his way of saying, "Good bye."  I can't remember if I ever told Eric about it.

Around the mid-90s, I had a short-lived marriage that gave me the freedom to move away from my controlling parents.  I headed to Seattle, and after living there about a year, got a call from Eric out of the blue.  His mom had remarried, again, and her new husband was stationed at a Naval base in Western Washington.  He was going to be close and wanted to get together.  We had a wonderful time hanging out, and I realized that I really missed him.  He had decided to major in Psychology, his band had broken up, but he was still writing and recording music.  I can't remember everything about that visit, but I remember feeling really empty when he left.

When I returned to Boise in the late '90s to work for a concert promoter, one of the first people I looked up was Eric.  He had had a tough go of things and was struggling to finish his degree.  For him, the biggest challenge was dealing with various illnesses and infections that came with paralysis. If a fully-mobile person gets a kidney infection, they feel the pain right away and get to the doctor, but by the time Eric would realize he had a kidney infection, it required hospitalization.  If you are in the hospital for a few weeks, you aren't attending classes, and by the time you are up to par, you end up dropping the class, because you're too far behind.  He was bummed out, but still optimistic for a bright future.

We would catch up on a regular basis when he wasn't in classes and I wasn't working, we'd head to the Outback Steakhouse, because he was addicted to the blooming onion.  We would talk about music, dreams, goals and getting out of Idaho.  Eric still wanted a cool car.  The thought of us getting together romantically had presented itself a few times, but when I was available, he wasn't and vice versa.  One of the last times I saw him, it was at one of our Outback dinners.  I was single, and he was off again with a relationship he was ready to give up on.  We entertained the thought of giving it a go, but it never happened.  A few weeks later, I would meet the love of my life, and within months, I would be back in Seattle, again.

Eric and I emailed each other, but we both became preoccupied with our lives.  It was shortly after Rachael was born that I got word that Eric had passed away.  It was one of those damn kidney infections.  By the time he realized one had come on, it had done significant damage.  He went to the hospital and didn't come back.  I had been in touch with his sister shortly after he passed.  She said Tammy had taken Eric's death really hard.  His sister had done a touching tribute online about lighting a candle for him.

I went to look for that tribute the other night when Eric crossed my mind after all these years, and I couldn't find it.  I thought it was sad that the only thing I can find about Eric is the mention of his name in his father's obituary.  I guess this is what compelled me to write about him.  His name was Eric Michael Jantz.  He had a terrific smile, long black hair, he loved heavy metal, listening to it, singing it, playing it on guitar, recording it, writing it, he loved concerts, the Outback Steakhouse blooming onion, cool cars, beautiful girls, and wanted to get out of Idaho someday.  His name was Eric Michael Jantz, and I miss him dearly.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Unfollowing for Mental Health and Happiness

I created a Facebook profile years ago and was delighted when I was able to reconnect with old friends.  It wasn't about reliving the past, these were people that I cared about, but had lost contact with through the many moves I made beyond my high school years.  I was happy to see the photos of their families and get a peek into their lives as adults and parents.

For years I have turned to Facebook as a way to kill time, keep up with friends, and at times, be my social outlet.  It's not that I am anti-social, it's just that I run my own business where I am, basically, the only full-time employee.  I am also a busy mom whose schedule gets crazy at 3:00 pm every day when I pick up the kids.  From school's out to bedtime, the hours evaporate.  My local social circle consists of other busy moms who have the same evaporating schedule, and can barely eek out a dinner and movie night with friends every three months.  It's life, and it is what it is.  Facebook allowed me to "socialize" in the after hours while wearing pajamas and slippers.  How great is that!

As I continued to have a presence on Facebook, I expanded from following friends to following news sources, special interest groups, humor pages, DIY sites, and other things I found interesting.  Without even being aware, I could spend hours on Facebook.  I was on there regularly, and for the most part, just saw it as a harmless hobby that I enjoyed.

All of this changed with the 2016 election.  I noticed that the Comments sections started bringing out the worst in people.  Although I'm a skeptic, I am also someone who has dedicated her life to nonprofit work believing that people are basically good.  Even being grounded in reality, I was taken aback that my country seemed to be becoming a haven for the most disgusting racism, was full of willful ignorance, and was occupied by people who were seething with hatred towards their fellow countrymen.

It has now come out that in St. Petersburg, Russia exists a building where hundreds of people are employed where the sole job is to be the worst face of America.  It was starting to make sense.  Last week, I posted a comment on one of the news sites I follow, and of the 28 responses, barely a dozen were from real people.  Most were extremely vile, and when I clicked on the profile, the "person" had one, maybe two profile pictures, which were not of themselves, but a meme or an image anyone can find on the internet.  They give a location that is usually in the Midwest, the South or Texas, and the account is only one or two years old.  It's very obviously a fake.

With the anti-Semitic profiles, I have reported over a dozen to Facebook, and never once have they suspended the account claiming that the user does not violate their standards.  How can a site that has memes of Holocaust victims with the words "Next time, let's finish the job." not violate Facebook standards?  All Facebook ever gives me is the notice that the profile is okay with them, along with instructions about how to block that profile.  I guess Facebook figures that if I can't see it, then all will be okay, which is a shame considering their Jewish leadership.

Between the barrage of vile responses to comments, the revelation about Russia using Facebook to tear America apart, and Facebook's piss poor response, I decided that many places on Facebook have become toxic.  I began unfollowing everything from news sites to special interest pages, and even the humor and DIY sites.  I'm now back to the original reason I got on Facebook; to keep in touch with friends.

If I need news, I will log on to my subscription with the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and yes, I pay for these news sources, because they have actual newsrooms, trained journalists, and editors, which most of the Facebook "news sites" do not have.  During the investigation into the troll farm in St. Petersburg, they also discovered that Russia was creating many "news sites", both liberal and conservative and putting them out there as credible.  I'm done with that.  If I want to be active in causes that I believe in, I go to that group's website and join their email list, and if I need a recipe, want to see something humorous, or look at a DIY project, I will find it all in a Google search.

When innovators and manufacturers create a product that they want to sell to the public, there are regulations in place to make sure that the public is kept safe.  Although everyone loves the idea of a barrier-free internet, I don't like the irresponsibility on the part of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media groups that have allowed their product to be used to prey on the public at large.  Where is the protection for the users?

It might be a pipe dream, but I hope people start realizing they have been duped, and begin cutting social media back to its original purpose: to stay connected with people you actually know in person. We made social media sites our one stop shop, and now we are paying the price, but one by one, we can unfollow, stop commenting, recognize that a benign site may have a sinister foreign motive, and take our mental health back.  Years ago when my daughter first created an Instagram account, there were classmates who created posts that were meant to be very bragging and exclusionary.  She told me that looking at those posts made her feel bad, so I told her to just "unfriend" them.  She is not obligated to look at or follow anything that makes her feel bad, and with that advice, she unfollowed and instantly felt better.  Now, years later, I am finally taking my own advice.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

More Than Words

I really didn't think there was anything else that Donald Trump could say or do that could shock me, but as I listened to him defend American Nazis, I was sad and fearful of my and my family's safety and future.

Years ago, I watched a tv interview with shock talk show host Jerry Springer.  Jerry's parents were Holocaust survivors.  At some point, his mother pulled him aside and asked him to talk to his father about getting rid of the family car.  She was worried that the elder Mr. Springer was getting way too old to drive, and would get into an accident.  Jerry talked to his father, but the elder was adamant about keeping the vehicle.  After much prodding from his son, he finally told Jerry that he had to keep the car in case he ever had to get away.

This story is not an anomaly.  I've heard of many survivors who kept a packed suitcase in their closet containing cash, clothes, maps, and important phone numbers in case they, also, had to get away.  This is the long-standing trauma of anti-Semitism and fascism.  

I watched tv in horror on Friday night as angry men with torches screaming "Jews Will Not Replace Us", "You (African Americans) Will Not Replace Us", and "Blood and Soil" (which is a rally cry from the Third Reich).  It is 2017 and this is my country, and this should not be happening.  What happened the next day was far worse.  Violence, beatings, war cries, murder.

The next 24 hours brought no relief as I was inundated with comments about AntiFa and Black Lives Matter.  Many with Right-leaning beliefs claimed that both groups were there, and were just as violent.  I had to Google AntiFa, because I had never heard of this group prior to Sunday, as I suspect many hadn't either.  It turns out that AntiFa, which is short for anti-fascism, is mainly active in South America.  There are minimal chapters here in the U.S., but this movement in the U.S. is relatively small.

As a matter of self preservation and blatant curiosity, I keep tabs on many different underground groups.  I've sat across the table from a Confederate Hammerskin, I've had coffee with the LaRouche supporters, I've read extensively about the Weather Underground, I'm familiar with many groups on the Right, but even more on the Left, and until Sunday, I had never heard of AntiFa.  Could it be, because this group is merely an explain-away invented by the Alt-Right media to use as a false equivalency for the actions of their Nazi groups?  Now, more than ever, this appears to be the case.

The president's response to the crisis in Charlottesville was pathetic.  What came a couple of days later was too little, too late, but what happened today was inexcusable.  This president has two White Nationalist advisors who have, likely, been in his ear for the past 24 hours, and today's press conference was the result.  Never in my lifetime did I think I would hear an American president explain away the violent actions of Nazis.  He said that their gathering on Friday night was peaceful.  He said that some are very good people.  He said that their actions were no worse than anyone else's.

Johanna Altvater Zelle was known to Jews in the Vladimir-Volynsky ghetto in the Ukraine as "Fraulein Hanna".  She regularly went through the ghetto targeting Jewish children.  Survivors would tell stories about Fraulein Hanna beckoning a toddler to come to her, picking that toddler up and squeezing him tightly until he screamed.  She then grabbed him by the legs, and with full force, smashed the toddler into the ghetto wall killing him.  She would carry candy in one pocket and a pistol in the other.  She would tell the Jewish children to open their mouths for candy, then put the pistol in instead and pull the trigger.  She was tried twice, and acquitted for war crimes.

When I read about her, I was angry.  There were many, many others like her who got away with murder.  I wondered how others could stand by and watch this unfold and explain it away or do nothing.  This was, of course, before Saturday, and before the "AntiFa/BLM boogieman" comments on Sunday, and before 45 made his speech today.  Richard Spencer, one of the organizers of the "Unite the Right" hate rally and proud American Nazi, bragged that he and his Nazis could beat the counter protestors to death with their bare hands.  There is precedent for this, because others, like Fraulein Hanna, did.

There are many people of color, fellow Jews, LGBTQ people, and others feeling like they need a plan to get away.  When I first heard of the Holocaust survivors with their suitcases in their closets, my instinct was to want to take their hands, lean in and tell them that they don't need to worry about getting away, they are in America, they are safe, and this will never happen again.  Now, as I sit here, nervously typing, I'm wondering if I should pack a suitcase.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

No Such This as Frenemies

I am particularly disturbed by the term "frenemies".  Apparently these people are friends who are also enemies.  Aside from the fact that this makes absolutely no sense, as you can only be one or the other,  it seems that this contradictory moniker only applies to women and girls.

Girl bullying has always been different from boy bullying.  When boys want to bully one another they mainly use physical violence and intimidation, whereas girls use emotional and mental abuse.  Those of us gals who grew up before bullying became an issue of concern for adults know what it's like to be excluded by the group, called names like "slut" and "whore" behind our backs, and have judgement cast upon us for unfounded reasons.  The boys who grew up with us know what it's like to be slammed into lockers, punched in the face, or thrown down to the ground.

Boy bullying is very clear cut, and seems to have a finite end.  Once the male bully has shown dominance, much like in the animal kingdom, he seems to go away.  Girl bullying can last a lot longer and there may never be a real clear cut end.  This is my guess as to the origin of the term "frenemy".

She hangs around with you, is on your social media friends list, maybe throws a genuine compliment your way once in awhile.  Every time you see her, she seems pleasant enough, but smiles while giving backhanded compliments.  She also talks behind your back, messages your common friends encouraging them to get together without you, and, at worst, will catfish you just for fun.  If you confront her, she will never admit that she hates you or even dislikes you.  She is a "frenemy".

I'm not cool with this, and I'm prepared to call it what it was back when I was growing up; this is a two-faced bitch who hates you.  She is the fox in the henhouse, and her bullshit should not be tolerated.

I'm angry that the whole concept of a "frenemy" exists, because I'm having to deal with it right now with my younger daughter.  We have come to a point in our world where we try to teach children that everyone is their friend.  On paper, this sounds great.  In a perfect world, everyone would be friends with everyone else.  However, this is completely unrealistic.  Human beings have personality differences, they like different things, and forcing children to befriend each other results in bullshit like "frenemies".

When my older daughter was experiencing this, there was no such thing as a "frenemy".  My advice to her was to not put up with bullying and intimidation.  I taught her the incredible power of the bluff, how to violate personal space to catch your enemy off guard, and the spectacular tool of lowering the volume of your voice.  There is nothing more effective than getting 2-3 inches away from someone's face and quietly telling them that you've had enough of their shit.  It lets them know that you are done.

I told my older daughter that she didn't have to be friends with everyone, she just had to be polite and respectful.  If someone did not return the politeness and respect, she was not obligated to give them the time of day.  She didn't have to be mean or give them dirty looks or insult them behind their back, she could just pretend that they didn't exist.  This was such a liberating concept to her.

Last year, we had a similar discussion in relation to social media.  There were three girls from her school always bragging about their "wonderful" friendship, while specifically excluding and taunting others not in their petite circle.  It was making my daughter feel bad, so I told her to "unfriend" them. It was like this had never occurred to her.  I told her she was not obligated to follow people who make others, specifically her, feel like shit.  She didn't need that negativity in her life.  She unfollowed all three, and felt great about it.

Now, I'm trying to coach my little, 7 year old daughter out of the "frenemies" sinkhole.  The first thing I made clear was that there is no such thing as a "frenemy".  "Frenemies" do not exist.  Either someone is your friend, because they are nice and kind, they like to play with you, share your interests, say nice things to you, cooperate when it comes to playing or projects or actives you both like to do, and want to make you as happy as you make them, or they are your enemy, because they make you feel bad, they exclude you, they say nasty things about you behind your back, they try to turn your friends against you.  It doesn't matter if they are smiling while they are doing this, they are not your friend.

This is still a work in progress, and it seems like just one more thing that internalizes the misogyny that women always have to be pitted against one another, as I have never heard the term "frenemy" applied to a male relationship.  I get really sick of watching backbiting women on reality tv smiling with full veneers on display at their so-called friends while in the next scene scheming behind their supposed friend's back.  And I really hate that my girls see this on tv, too.

In the golden age of activism against bullying, we need to include the concept of "frenemy" and confront the misogyny that helped birth this bastard in the first place.  I tell my girls that other girls are not their competition, that they should only compare themselves to themselves and not to their friends, because their friends have different DNA therefore comparisons are ludicrous.

My older daughter tried comparing her body type and weight to one of her classmates the other day.  I listened then asked one simple question, "Who is the classmate?".  Turned out it was a Chinese girl who is a half a foot shorter, and a Size 0.  I explained to my daughter that her comparison was ridiculous, because her friend is of Chinese descent, therefore, she will likely take after her parents and grandparents and always be shorter in stature and never get above a Size 4.  I reminded my daughter that her own family was mostly Russian and Italian, her paternal grandfather was over 6' tall, and both sides of her family were not made up of slight-boned, skinny people.

I extend this philosophy of self-competition to everything from looks to academics to extra curricular activities with both of my girls.  The goal shouldn't be to single out another girl and be better than her, it should be to best whatever you did last time.  I tell my girls that there will always be others that are better than them at everything, and instead of envy, contempt and anger, your goal should be to find out what they do that is better than you and learn from it.

While this is a sensible solution, it is a very uphill battle, because the world wants to pit people, particularly girls, against each other.  They want to have the "frenemy" scenario become that pattern for female friendships, because when women get together, we know they are the most powerful force on Earth, and this threatens the patriarchy.  They know if they can keep girls constantly questioning themselves and never feeling like they are good enough, then girls will hold themselves back.  And the thing that pisses me off the most, is that they disguise this toxicity as a form of friendship, which internalizes the idea that other women cannot be trusted.

Well, there are no "frenemies" on my watch, and try hard as they may, I'm one riotmom who is willing to do the work to keep her daughters "frenemy"-free, and focused on self-improvement rather than petty competition.