Yielding Sweetness

On Tuesday I learned about a Christmas tradition that I absolutely could not believe was real, despite my source being someone that I trust to tell me the truth. In Catalonia, families decorate a log—the Tio de Nadal, or the log of Christmas–with a smiley face, a hat, and 2 short front legs. The children “feed” the log all December, and then on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day the adults place a blanket on the log’s back end and the children sing a song, Caga Tio, while they beat the log with sticks. To wit: You have no doubt noticed … Continue reading Yielding Sweetness

Imagine If It Were You

Texas Abortion Rights Protest

Imagine.

You’re a Roaring Twenties flapper. You like your jazz hot and your hootch cold. One morning after you had a few too many the night before you wake up and find yourself in bed with a man whose name you don’t remember. Thankful you woke up before him so you’re able to sneak out of his hotel room. Two months later you realize you haven’t had your period in, well, two months. You also have a burning sensation when you urinate. Sure enough you are pregnant. And you have syphilis. Both are courtesy of the man who is long gone. You can be treated for the syphilis but not while you’re pregnant, but if you wait to have the baby it’s likely to be too late to treat the syphilis. You need an abortion. With no safe place to go you turn to the local neighborhood woman who knows how to handle these things. She handles it so well you end up with a staph infection that ultimately makes the syphilis moot because you’re dead.

You’re a 16 year old girl in 1944. You’re a good girl, get good grades, honor your mother and father. You’ve always looked up to your big brother as your protector, but he’s off fighting Nazis now. One night you babysit for a neighbor down the street. After the couple come home, because your brother isn’t there to do it the husband walks you back home. On the walk home he violently begins to maul you. He’s an authority figure, you don’t know what to do. Finally he ferociously forces your legs apart and in just seconds your virginity is gone. His parting words to you are that if you tell anyone he’ll deny it and you’ll be branded a whore. Two months later you realize you haven’t had your period in two months. You’re too ashamed to tell your parents. You believe what he said. A girlfriend tells you there is a woman in the next town who can take care of it for you. She takes care of it so well you end up with septic shock syndrome and die on the bench outside the hospital where she dumped you.

You’re a 35 year old suburban matron in 1958. You have a husband with a well paying job, two kids under the age of ten, a neat split level three bedroom house with a girl who comes in twice a week to clean, a full social calendar, friends galore, and you even use (shhh!) birth control because sometimes the husband gets a bit randy after that post dinner martini. One night the condom fails. Two months later you realize you haven’t had a period in two months. You go to your family doctor and when he congratulates you on being pregnant you burst into tears. Your life is where you want it to be. You don’t want another child. Your husband’s job is good, but not great and another mouth means having to downgrade your lifestyle, maybe even move out of your three bedroom split level house. The doctor takes you into his private office where he hands you a slip of paper with a name and address on it. “He’s a doctor, well, sort of. He lost his license a few years ago. Now he takes care of things like this. But he’s really safe.” You get your best girlfriend to drive you to the address which is on the shadier side of town. His “office” is the backroom of a skanky looking storefront. He’s gentle and soothing and when you awaken he tells you everything is taken care of and that the bleeding is normal. But the bleeding doesn’t stop, even after your husband rushes you to the hospital in the middle of the night. The surgeon tells your widower that he was too late, there had been too much blood loss.

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Random Thoughts on Labor Hashanah

Jewish Women Labor Strikers

It’s always fun when a corporal holiday collides with a religious one.

I write this on Monday which is Labor Day here in the States as well as Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, around the world. It feels like we ought to be throwing confetti so long as it is union made confetti from a factory that practices profit sharing, respect for labor, and a low highest paid employee to lowest paid differential.

Those would all be very Jewish ideals and after all, isn’t New Year’s when we think about the ideal way in which to live?

By the way, while it is certainly fine and acceptable to wish your Jewish friends a “Happy New Year” keep in mind that the holiday to follow in a week or so, Yom Kippur, is officially the Day of Atonement when you ask forgiveness from all you may have hurt in the recently ended year. Don’t wish those same friends a “Happy Yom Kippur”, it’s bad form.  Kinda like sending your Catholic friends a sympathy card on Good Friday.

But speaking of Labor Day, Delta Airlines and many other companies have decided the cost of insuring employees against COVID has gotten to the point where they will be imposing at $200 per month surcharge on the health care plans of any unvaccinated employee. In addition

in compliance with state and local laws, COVID pay protection will only be provided to fully vaccinated individuals who are experiencing a breakthrough infection.” Unvaccinated employees who contract Covid, without exemptions, will have to use their sick days after that.

I’m usually not in favor of large corporations picking out a minority of employees and targeting them with lower wages (deducting $200 from their paycheck makes their wages lower) but there are two mitigating factors here.

  1. It’s already being done for other health related matters. For instance, smokers pay a higher premium than non-smokers.
  2. GET THE FREAKING VACCINE. It’s not just about you. This is an airborne communicable disease that has killed 4.5 Million people worldwide and in this instance your “rights” are not greater than anyone else’s right to not be infected. Those same rights you claim come with responsibilities, to your fellow workers, your customers, to the world at large. Just as I have a right to free speech I also have a responsibility to not yell “There’s a gremlin on the wing of the plane trying to make it crash”. (The only time I will go with Shatner over Lithgow)

Back to Rosh Hashanah. I am what is referred to as a “Eating and Gifts” Jew as in I only celebrate the holidays that involve a big feast or presents. Rosh Hashanah is a big feast holiday. Besides looking forward to the new year it is a celebration of the fall harvest. The table groans with the weight of beef brisket, potato kugel, late summer vegetables, and sweets for as far as the eye can see. Not a one of them pumpkin spice flavored for which I am eternally grateful.

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Death Cults “R” Us

I’ve been referring to the GOP as a death cult for years now, but over the last few weeks it truly has completed its metamorphosis. Back in the early days of the madness that has now taken full control of the party, it only venerated the death of people it considered to be bad or evil, and this manifested itself in strong Republican positions favoring the death penalty and wars that killed people of color. But during Ronald Regan’s second presidential campaign, the conservative political movement decided to marry a conservative religious movement:  fundamentalist Christianity. The GOP promised this bigoted, … Continue reading Death Cults “R” Us

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

Last week the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops took a step toward publicly humiliating President Biden by denying him Holy Communion. This action is short-sighted, mean-spirited, and stupid, which means it’s completely on brand for the USCCB.

It’s no secret that the deeply misogynistic Roman Catholic Church is opposed to abortion. I was raised Catholic and had the full anti-abortion indoctrination of grotesque photos of purportedly aborted fetuses (who knows if any of that stuff was real or fake—propagandists use whatever they have available to push their message).

After I was free of parochial education, I started thinking for myself. As an adult, I saw the issue of abortion—and pregnancy—differently than I did as a teenager. I thought about what decision I would make if I found myself pregnant. And I had empathy for women who had to make that decision.

(I know that the anti-choice people love to yell “ADOPTION!!” when discussing abortion, but the reality is that many women just cannot afford to carry a child to term. In addition to the medical appointments, being pregnant still can get a woman fired, or cost her a promotion. If there are complications, it may require her taking unpaid leave.)

I don’t know what Joe Biden thinks deep in his heart about abortion. But I do know that as a politician he is supposed to represent the people who elected him. The Pew Forum says that 55% of people in Delaware support abortion being legal in all or most cases. And Pew also says that 59% of Americans support abortion being legal in all or most cases. And given the makeup of the electorate who elected him, there is a clear mandate for him to support women’s reproductive rights. That’s his job.

It’s ironic that the big fear about JFK’s Catholicism was that he’d be controlled by Rome. And now we have a bunch of Catholic bishops trying to act as if they were Rome to control Biden. This crazy plan might have worked, except that the Vatican has already weighed in on this issue and told the USCCB to back off.

In the end, the USCCB won’t explicitly say that pro-choice politicians must be denied Holy Communion. That’s not how Pharisees work. They’re cowards who hide behind a wall of words which they then twist to suit their purposes.

Naturally the chance to flaunt misogyny under the guise of morality attracts a lot of fellow travelers, and conservative Catholics are out there making the most of it. And they’re being cowards about any challenges to their obvious hypocrisy:

Karen Tumulty is right—there is a monomaniacal focus on abortion, but no public shaming for Catholic politicians who gleefully support the death penalty, and the Vatican has been very clear about the stance of the RCC on that issue. (Also on display in that exchange—the typical shift to the demand of a public debate when a conservative “thinker” has been shown to be intellectually naked. Pharisees gonna Pharisee.)

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Good-Talking Candles

I thought I wanted to write something about the budget reconciliation process, but I’ve been feeling sad these last few days:  sad because a dear friend lost her mom on Friday, sad because that dear friend and her youngest son and her husband have COVID-19 and it involved a hospital stay, sad that 500,000 people have died from this disease, and sad that we have no organized communal mourning with its permission to just exist in the ever-present grief. Every year I drag my feet when it comes to taking down our Christmas decorations. I don’t really do a lot … Continue reading Good-Talking Candles

The Weary World

Two people I know, both health care workers, got the vaccine this week. They’re both fine, no side effects, and others are in line for it. I’ve been keeping a list, since this started, in my head, of people the world simply cannot exist without, and I am trying to keep everyone on it alive until this is over. You’re on that list, so if you need something, you ask. Don’t even think about it. Someone can help. Yesterday Kick and I packed up the car with presents and went around dropping them on friends’ porches to say Merry Christmas, … Continue reading The Weary World

I Am Running Out Of Patience With People Who Think God Needs Our Defense

This ulcer’s coming along nicely, thanks much: The Assembly GOP plan would also enact several restrictions on state and local governments when it comes to limiting crowds. It would: Restrict the power of local health officers from ordering the closure of a business unless it applies to all types of businesses. Similarly, a local health officer would be barred from restricting capacity at businesses unless those restrictions apply to all businesses. Prohibit state and local health departments from prohibiting gatherings in churches. Okay. Let’s ignore the obvious, which is that this entire bill is BUGBONKERS INSANE, punishing schools for offering … Continue reading I Am Running Out Of Patience With People Who Think God Needs Our Defense

To Argue My Faith

This asshole: NEW: A Mississippi venue allegedly cancelled a couple’s wedding plans after discovering the couple was a black man + a white woman. “We don’t do gay weddings or mixed race, because of our Christian race—I mean, our Christian belief,” a woman says. More: https://t.co/9P0ZjNu3M0 pic.twitter.com/XKlRRSL44B — Ashton Pittman (@ashtonpittman) September 1, 2019 Of course it’s just regular old white bigotry, and nothing to do with Christianity at all, but what interests me immensely is this woman’s all-too-common misconception that having “faith” in something means you’re above reproach, you don’t have to back your shit up, you you get … Continue reading To Argue My Faith

Our Commenters are AWESOME

Let’s just turn today over to JTO, from my Sunday post, reminding me to get off my ass, shall we?  The hour is running late, that is true, but it is also just as true that it is still early. It is true that this is a frustrating, infuriating fight – but it is the fight that we have always had. It was the fight for the recognition of every working man’s humanity, of every woman’s suffrage and every POC’s equality. And those we fight are never defeated, they simply retreat, regroup and try again – just like we do. … Continue reading Our Commenters are AWESOME

The First Church of David Milch

I’ve been trying to find a way to write about the Deadwood movie since I saw it, and Deadwood in general, and David Milch’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, which he talks about in this interview in the context of writing his memoir: 

Singer: Would you pick up a new novel and read it now?

Milch: It’s not likely.

Singer: Is that because the hours in the day you’re able to focus are diminished?

Milch: To some extent. But more so I feel the constriction of possibility, what I’m able to undertake responsibly. I have only a certain amount of energy.

Singer: Do you feel like you’re in a race?

Milch: Yes.

Singer: You’re racing to finish this memoir?

Milch: More so a larger enterprise, of which this is just a part.

Singer: Can you be more specific?

Milch: I’m trying to make work, the undertaking in general, coherent. To restore a dignity to the way that I proceed, and it’s a demanding process. You’re tempted to . . . toss it in. Just to quit.

Singer: Before this, were you someone who had preoccupying fears?

Milch: No.

Singer: And now what is it you’re afraid of, if you could identify it?

Milch: I intuit the presence of a coherence in my life which I haven’t given expression to in an honorable fashion.

Singer: So this is an opportunity. Is that what you’re saying?

Milch: Yes.

Singer: The rush to get to work, that inner necessity to make something. You still have that? Do you wake up every day with that?

Milch: Yes.

Good God. And if there’s a parallel in Deadwood, which has always cast an unflinching gaze on both human suffering (the filth and the language) and human grace (the filth and the language as well), other than the above video, it’s this:

Sol Star: I’m guessing you’ve done things today you wish you could amend.
Seth Bullock: What kind of man have I become, Sol?
Sol Star: I don’t know. The day ain’t fucking over.

And:

Al Swearengen: Every fuckin’ beatin’ I’m grateful for. Every fuckin’ one of them. Get all the trust beat outta you. And you know what the fuckin’ world is.

There’s a moment in the movie (which if you’ve been putting off watching it because you loved the show and don’t want it “ruined” get thee to a TV, not only will it not ruin it, it will redeem the parts you didn’t like) that absolutely took me to church, baptized me in the waters and wrote my name in the holy book.

SPOILERS FOLLOW

Continue reading “The First Church of David Milch”

Joy is Part of the Fight

As we are all, rightly, quarreling over the defense of Rep. Ilhan Omar, a reminder that when we politicize people’s faith and make them symbols, we don’t just create misery. We poison ordinary human joy:  I wrote my second book because I wanted to read a story where a young queer Muslim girl’s story was not about pain or suffering. I wanted the things that got in the way of her love story to be the everyday kinds of things that get in the way of many of our own love stories. The misunderstandings. The fear of vulnerability. The aching … Continue reading Joy is Part of the Fight

Faith as an Endurance Test

Kick asked me what the ashes were for. I had them on my forehead, as did my mother who was visiting. They’re somewhat obvious, if done right. “It’s something grownups do to prepare for Easter,” I said, and changed the subject. I’ve always hated this part of the liturgical calendar, the emphasis on death and guilt, the insistence on prioritizing misery, the endurance test that is Passion Sunday, in which we read the entirety of Jesus’s horrific death. LOOK AT IT, with the presumption that if you turn away, you’re not worthy of that sacrifice:   After tweeting out a call … Continue reading Faith as an Endurance Test

It’s ALL About Money

I look forward to this explanation of how church and “civic life” are entirely divorced from economics because everyone knows you don’t need money to buy, say, land to build your sanctuary on, or textbooks:  Why do so many people believe that the American dream is no longer within reach? Growing inequality, stubborn pockets of immobility, rising rates of deadly addiction, the increasing and troubling fact that where you start determines where you end up, heightening political strife—these are the disturbing realities threatening ordinary American lives today. The standard accounts pointed to economic problems among the working class, but the … Continue reading It’s ALL About Money

It’s Not About the Manger

I read this over the weekend, as we were putting up our Christmas lights and Kick was asking easy-to-answer questions like, “What’s God?” and “WHEN was Jesus born exactly?” and other stuff Mom wasn’t real ready to talk about while shooing the cats off the weird evergreen bush we bought in 4 minutes because the tree lot was really really cold. I am sorry to spoil your preparations for Christmas before the Christmas lights have even gone up—though perhaps it is better to do this now than the week before Christmas, when everything has been carefully prepared. But Jesus wasn’t … Continue reading It’s Not About the Manger

Our Ride’s Coming

I was driving through southeastern Wisconsin, past Walker and Steil and Vukmir signs, past “we back the badge” signs in front of subdivided former farmland, when I read the news about yesterday’s shooting. On top of the pipe bombs. On top of “lock her up” and “CNN sucks” and the mindset that anyone who supports the GOP is somehow under siege. I’ve been saying this for a while, and people keep deliberately not getting it: Wrong. I won’t be deterred by Trump-inspired terrorism. We will do what’s right for our country. If Donald Trump wants to foment violence in response, … Continue reading Our Ride’s Coming

If Jesus had been born in Wisconsin…

On this hallowed Christmas Eve, everyone in my house is pretty much asleep or trying to pretend to be in hopes of getting out of work in preparation for the Wigilla celebration tonight. As my wife and I kind of muttered our way awake, we ended up on a riff about traditions and food and Wisconsin and suddenly, we were into “What if Jesus were born here?” I did my best to document the answers (and augment with a few additional thoughts), so enjoy regardless of your faith, creed or lack thereof: If Jesus had been born in Wisconsin: He … Continue reading If Jesus had been born in Wisconsin…

My Hill

The plane touched down at O’Hare early Sunday morning, jolting me awake. I looked around to see other passengers in varying states of awareness. I flipped my phone off airplane mode and noticed I had no messages. I checked my email quickly. Same thing. Everything was quiet. What a difference two years makes. The last time I touched down on the first leg of a trip back from a college media convention in this metropolis, my life had gone from bad to worse. I had just traded some labor for airfare and a room so I could head to Austin, … Continue reading My Hill

I Swear to God We Need You Here

Okay, I’m done with it, Internet. I’m done yelling at people for promoting their books or celebrating their anniversaries while the world burns. I’m done telling people to speak up against the regime, against supremacy, against powerlessness, and then shitting on how they do it. I’m done auditing the marches and critiquing the protests and I’m done judging us for taking a break. I am done. There is a pool of water in my basement and Kick’s on a sleep strike and writer’s block, turns out, is just what happens when you look at your deadlines and your calendar and … Continue reading I Swear to God We Need You Here

Memento Mori

I was sitting in my basement early this week, sorting through the dozens of things I had to do when my wife came down to add one more: “Do you have anything you’re doing this weekend?” she asked. I tried not to flinch as I tried to answer in a vague way that would allow me somehow get out of whatever she was about to ask me to build, fix, move or buy while still not admitting I wanted a free weekend. “I’m not sure right now. Why?” “There’s that benefit at the park for Jacob…” Jacob is a 9-year-old … Continue reading Memento Mori

One more wedge play for Jerry Kramer

He had been screamed at by a relentless tyrant in front of his peers. All it did was make his mistakes multiply in hot August sun that burned brightly above the training camp field. The NFL was not a place for the weak back then, and coaches were gods among men, the deities who controlled the future of these mortals. This man in particular, Vince Lombardi, had gained near mythic status as he used a domineering style to reshape the failing Green Bay Packers into a winning machine. The player had jumped off sides during one drill and missed a … Continue reading One more wedge play for Jerry Kramer

A Golden Anniversary Explained

Fifty years ago tomorrow, two scared 20-somethings gathered with family and friends in a cathedral-esque church on the south side of Milwaukee to pledge their lives to one another. Her father thought the man wasn’t good enough for his daughter. His father thought the woman was far too strident and interested in a career to be a good wife. Nobody, least of all these two kids, knew if they’d make it, if they’d be OK. Still, there they were in front of a three story slab of pink and white marble with a giant crucifix, saying they would live together … Continue reading A Golden Anniversary Explained

Even For Politico This Is So Gross: Happy Easter!

This isn’t how God works:  President Donald Trump has increasingly infused references to God into his prepared remarks — calling on God to bless all the world after launching strikes in Syria, asking God to bless the newest Supreme Court Justice, invoking the Lord to argue in favor of a war on opioids. That … isn’t finding religion. It’s finding a sales pitch. For, let us be clear, war, war and more war. “I’ve always felt the need to pray,” Trump said in that late-January interview. “The office is so powerful that you need God even more because your decisions … Continue reading Even For Politico This Is So Gross: Happy Easter!