The mystery ship.

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Credit: Unknown photographer.  This haunting photo is very similar the way the old battleship appeared to me as a child.

I have a vivid memory of myself as a mosquito-bitten, golden-tanned and skinny little girl of seven and eight years old happily playing and exploring on the the tidal flats of  East Brewster, along Cape Cod Bay in Massachusetts, where my parents had rented a vacation beach cottage for two weeks during two consecutive summers in the late 1960s.

The sandbars and  network of warm tidal pools and rivulets left behind by the retreating tide stretched far, far into the distance–so far that the deeper water where the sand was never exposed was only a thin royal blue line against the horizon and sometimes was not visible at all  (I read recently that the Brewster tidal flats actually can extend up to two miles at low tide).

I played out on the flats for hours, collecting hermit crabs in my orange plastic bucket and then setting them free.  I marveled at how fast the incoming tide moved–so fast my friends and I used to try to race it in. I recalled sunsets seen from our screened in porch, painting the tidal pools pink and orange, and the smell of citronella and the sound of the bug zapper as the armies of mosquitoes dodged into it.

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Brewster tidal flats at sunset.

Way out on the horizon, so far away it appeared more like a mirage than a tangible thing, was the shadowy outline of a battleship.   I remember gazing out and wondering where it came from, why it never moved,  how far away it actually was, and even whether it was real at all.   It didn’t appear quite solid; I could see none of its details, and often it was shrouded in fog that was sometimes so thick I couldn’t see it at all.   Even on clear bright days, the ship seemed to shimmer in the sun like a mirage, or like the ghost of a ship that had foundered and sunk years earlier.

The ship seemed strangely alive though.  I was drawn to it.   I wanted to know its story.    I knew it had a story.  I remember asking my parents about it but they just said they had no idea.   The ship wasn’t important to them, but it was to me.   When we went to Provincetown one day, I looked out over the bay in the direction from which we had come to see if I could see my ship from a different perspective.  I was disappointed that I could not.   It was too far away and out of my line of vision.

My questions remained unanswered.   We had not taken any photos of that ship, so all I had was my memory of it.  After that second summer, we never returned to Cape Cod Bay.     Life went on, my parents divorced, we moved to the city,  school became more demanding, things like dating and making friends consumed my redirected adolescent attention.   Years and then decades passed by, and I never thought about the ship except as a random passing memory before turning my attention to more important things.

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Another ghostly image of the Target Ship in the far distance. (photographer unknown)

But about a month ago, that changed.  One day the memory again filtered through to my consciousness, as it sometimes does as a matter of course.   But so many decades had passed since those two distant summers that the memory itself has faded and I was no longer even sure it was an actual memory or perhaps just a dream or figment of childish imagination.

The Internet has made it possible to find the answers to obscure questions that in the recent past remained forever hidden in the darkness of the unknown.   So this last time I remembered the ship, I decided to Google it.   I didn’t expect to find anything.

So imagine my shock and delight when I typed in “abandoned battleship in Cape Cod Bay” and clicked on Images and saw THE SHIP almost exactly as I remembered it as a child standing out on those long-ago tidal flats gazing at the horizon.   There it was, right there on the screen of my laptop:  its ghostlike hulk like a mirage against the distant horizon, way out beyond the flats.  My jaw almost dropped to the floor.   Was my 50 year old question finally going to be answered?  Was my memory a real memory, and not just a dream?

My ship had a story, and she had a name:  The SS James Longstreet.  According to Google, she was a World War II battleship, constructed in 1942 by the Todd Houston Shipbuilding Company in Houston, Texas.  She measured 417 feet in length and 57 feet in breadth.  Her namesake, Major General James Longstreet, had been a hero of the Confederate Army and one of General Robert E. Lee’s top officers during the Civil War.   She was moored in the Cape Cod Bay off Eastham at the end of World War II and her remains can be found there today.

As per Wikipedia,

SS James Longstreet (Hull Number 112) was a Liberty ship [a cargo vessel built to carry supplies to Allied troops] built in the United States during World War II at a cost of $1,833,400. She was named after the Confederate general James Longstreet.

She was laid down on 3 December 1941, then launched on 2 April 1942. On 26 October 1943, she ran aground in a gale and was declared a total loss. Instead of being scrapped, she was acquired by the US Navy in June 1944 and used as a target ship for early air to surface guided missiles. Whilst under tow to and from the target areas, she once ran aground and on another occasion broke her anchor chain and drifted for ten days before being recovered.    She was then sunk and used for further experiments using missiles, before then being used for live ammunition target practice by Naval jets from nearby South Weymouth Naval Air Station and the Air Force from nearby Otis Air Force Base  until 1971. The ship is also referred to as the “target ship”.

The remains of James Longstreet lie approximately three and a half miles off  Eastham, Massachusetts in 20 to 25 feet (6.1 to 7.6 m) of water. The site is off limits to divers.

And there it was.   It was much more than I expected.

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Bombers drop missiles on the target ship at night (photographer unknown).  Going by the relatively intact look of the ship, I’m guessing this was taken earlier than the 1980s (most accounts say it was mostly disintegrated by 1982)

But that wasn’t all.  Another article, from The Cape Cod Times, said “The Target Ship” had become so badly rotted and damaged by rust and algae, and the constant bombardment by practice missiles, that in 1997 she finally broke apart and sank for good.  1997 was the last year she would have been visible to a child standing out on the tidal flats the way I had thirty years earlier.

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The “target ship” riddled with holes from years of attacks.

Of course I felt drawn to her.  Of course she haunted my dreams.   I related to her plight as an abuse survivor, as a child who constantly felt misunderstood and unappreciated by her own family, and unfairly maligned as a loser, a child who had opportunities ripped away, was used for emotional (and sometimes physical) target practice, and was finally emotionally abandoned by those who were supposed to always be there no matter what.   James Longstreet had been built, didn’t perform to standards, and was never given another chance to prove herself.  Instead, she was cruelly chained down where she couldn’t escape and used for target practice for half a century — only to be abandoned and left to rot and die where no one would ever see or remember her again.

Of course, intellectually, I knew the SS James Longstreet was just an object, a hunk of rusted iron manufactured by men for wartime.   She had no heart or brain or soul.  But in a sense, she was me, and for five decades she called out to me through my memory, yearning for her story to be told.

That’s the least SS James Longstreet deserves and so I have done this for her.

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View of the James Longstreet after she went under for good.

*****

Further reading:

Memories of the Target Ship in Cape Cod Bay 

 

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Bugs have terrible boundaries.

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I’m hooked on a blog I found a couple of months ago called WaitbutWhy.   It’s a blog for people who like science and geeky stuff and think about the same kinds of weird, random, shower-thought sort of things that I do.    Some of the stuff its author, Tim Urban, writes about will absolutely blow your mind, such as this incredible article about how to fit all 7.3 billion people on the planet into a building that would fit in a space smaller than Manhattan’s Central Park.  Yes, it can actually be done (but it would be terribly cruel!).

Some of his posts are hilarious because they’re so true and relatable.   In my last post I mentioned that bugs (ants, to be specific) can be beneficial to the environment because they help break down dead material, but let’s be honest here — Do any of us really LIKE bugs?

They invite themselves where they are not wanted.  They walk on our food and spit in it and lay their nasty eggs in it.   They violate our bodies without our permission, sometimes painfully or causing unbearable fits of itching.   They hide inside our bedcovers and crawl all over us when we’re trying to sleep.  Some bugs have an unsettling way of flying in your face repeatedly.    They won’t take no for an answer.  They look like microscopic monsters or aliens from another planet.   Their nasty dead carcasses can be found all over your windowsills, your floors, in your bed, inside your refrigerator. They are stupid (moths fly straight into electric lights — how have they not gone extinct yet?).  Moths burrow inside your clothing and chew holes in them.  Roaches and mosquitoes carry diseases.   Termites can bring down your home (and during their horrifying spring swarms, they obnoxiously drop their wings after having sex — all over your hardwood floors.  (I know, because this happened to me — I spent two hours vacuuming them all up while crying and whimpering in terror).  I wrote about that awful experience in detail in this post about my weird phobia.  Here is an excerpt.

The worst experience I ever had with my phobia was the time we had a termite infestation. I was home alone at the time, watching TV in the living room and something made me look across the room. Something weird was happening on the hardwood floor. It looked like it was sort of…undulating. I got up to investigate and saw what appeared to be THOUSANDS of ant-like insects walking, flying, and DROPPING THEIR WINGS ALL OVER THE FLOOR. I started shivering and crying as I frantically went to go find the vacuum cleaner. I couldn’t think straight. Whimpering in terror, I had trouble plugging the damn thing into the wall because my hands were shaking so badly. In a panic, I sucked up every last one I could see, but MORE KEPT COMING OUT OF THE WALL. I didn’t know they were termites–I didn’t know about the “swarmers” (the termites who mate in the spring and have temporary wings until they mate) until Terminex told me that’s what those were. THOSE UNHOLY FLYING FAKE ANTS WERE HAVING SEX ALL OVER MY LIVING ROOM FLOOR!

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Sorry.

Urban wrote a post about all these ways that bugs ruin everything, but what really stuck with me was his correct observation that —

Bugs have terrible boundaries.

They do, and maybe that’s why we hate them so much.  More than anything, I despise bugs (okay, I know technically most of them are insects, not true bugs) because they have zero sense of where you end and they begin.   Just like those predatory boundary-violating narcissists who make our lives a living hell and never seem to go away. 

In a post I’ll write later tonight or tomorrow, I’m going to describe the wonderful day I had tubing on a local river yesterday.   Everything was perfect — except for the hundreds of dragonflies swarming and hovering everywhere, persistently landing on our bare skin.   Swarming all around us — and mating in the air while they did so!  Do you have no sense of modesty,  Mr. and Ms. Dragonfly? Having sex in public.   In the air.  No shame, those dragonflies.   They all have abominable boundaries! So maybe I’m just jealous, because having sex while flying seems like it would be heavenly!

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I have nothing against dragonflies.  As far as insects go, they are generally pretty inoffensive.  Yes, they are big and kind of prehistoric looking (they scared the bejeebus out of me when I was younger).   The sight of their large outstretched transparent wings is slightly unsettling to me (though I have no idea why).  But I like them.   They don’t bite.  They eat mosquitoes and other annoying bugs that do bite.  They are also very pretty.   I have a love/hate relationship with dragonflies, and I guess the love wins out because I have a tattoo of one on my right shoulder.

I like dragonflies, but I like them from a distance and in limited numbers.  I don’t like swarms of them flying all around me, landing on me, and making love right in front of my face.

Good thing that didn’t happen when I was young, because I would have died from panic. Over the years, I overcame my phobia to the point where my feelings about dragonflies are mainly positive, although I’ve retained a bit of my old fear that snuck up on me yesterday when they were all around me and I couldn’t get away.  I dealt with it by pretending I was Spyro the Dragon with magical dragonflies protecting me.

Rethinking political correctness.

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Political correctness can definitely be taken to ridiculous extremes, as these cartoons show. 

In previous posts, I’ve sometimes criticized political correctness.  It’s true that in recent years, political correctness (PC-ness) has gone too far, and people are afraid to say what they mean because it might offend someone.    PC-ness can be taken to ridiculous extremes.  For example, a child today can get in a world of trouble — up to and including arrest — for something as innocent as drawing a picture of a gun.   Companies are afraid to hire a white person who may be a better fit for a job if a black candidate is also qualified.  People are afraid to say “Merry Christmas” because it might offend non-Christians, but they’re also afraid to say “Happy Holidays” because it might offend Christians (so what are you supposed to say??)  Parents are afraid to discipline their children because someone might call the authorities and their children could be taken away.   Of course, there are limits to what constitutes proper discipline of a child.  Obviously, if you see a parent beating their child or hurling insults at them, this is abuse, not just discipline, and there should be consequences.  But is it proper to report a parent for lightly slapping a toddler’s hand because she’s reaching for something that could hurt her or break?  Yet such actions are regularly reported as “abuse.”  Parents are afraid to be parents.   We can’t say what we mean because someone might be offended, even if no insult is intended.   During the holiday season, it might be better to just say nothing at all.

In spite of the problem of political correctness being taken to extremes, there is a place for it.  Political correctness is really nothing more sinister than showing respect for others.   It means practicing the Golden Rule, which we all learned in kindergarten and would behoove us to keep practicing as adults because it makes everyone’s lives so much easier and more pleasant, including our own.   Political correctness is about being a good neighbor and a good citizen.  It’s caring about the way others feel.    When it’s not taken to extremes, political correctness makes our relationships with others and within our communities a heck of a lot easier.   But people get all up in arms over the term itself.   Why is that?   I think the term “political correctness” irritates people more than the actual practice of it, because of its its associations with the “liberal elite,” a group that many conservatives distrust, dislike, and simply cannot relate to. But showing respect and empathy for others, even if they’re different than we are, is not about partisan politics.   The Golden Rule applies to everyone and benefits everyone, regardless of political party, economic status, race, religion, or creed.

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We have a president who takes pride in his lack of political correctness.  He insults people and calls them names and calls this behavior honesty.     Many of his followers think of Trump’s antipathy toward PC-ness as one of his greatest strengths, but the truth is, Trump’s version of “honesty” (something he definitely is not) is nothing more than schoolyard bullying, and most of what he says is not true anyway.     His language and bullying manner not only hurts people who have done nothing wrong (other than being critical of Trump or his policies), it also encourages hatred and intolerance among his followers.   Since Trump’s election, suddenly it’s okay for people to bully others who are not like them, since Trump does the same thing.    It’s okay to demean and insult Muslims, Mexicans, women, gays, Democrats, the liberal media, and other groups Trump looks down on because Trump does it and seems to think it’s okay.   It’s become okay to dehumanize and target people who aren’t the same as we are or who don’t agree with us.

Recently, I read there’s even been an uptick in school bullying since Trump got elected.  Bullies everywhere and of all ages feel empowered because the president does it and seems to think there’s nothing wrong with it.   Some critics of political correctness think it means stuffing your feelings and wearing a fake smile all the time, but that is just not true.   We don’t have to go around grinning like idiots (was it un-PC to use that term?) and pretending to like people we don’t or be happy with situations that make us miserable, but that doesn’t give us the right to go around insulting and demeaning others for no reason other than that we find their differences offensive.

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Sadly, this attitude about political correctness is very widespread today.  

 

Trump is giving the world the wrong idea of what strength is all about.   In his strongman world, dictators and authoritarian leaders are admirable because they rule with an iron hand and victimize and punish those who oppose them.   Civilized discourse, peaceful negotiation, and compromise is seen as weakness.   This is why he’s the only president in living memory who has not included the opposing political party in his decision making.  In fact, all he does is insult Democrats (even though he used to be one himself), sabotages their efforts (as he is by refusing the pay Obamacare subsidies), and then blame them when things inevitably go wrong (“Obamacare is DEAD!”).    This is a divide-and-conquer strategy narcissists and sociopaths like Trump are infamous for.

Real strength means showing respect and compassion for others.    It means  refraining from calling people insulting names when someone says something critical of you (as long as the criticism isn’t abusive), and maybe even learning something from it.   It means lifting others up instead of working to oppress them and keep them down.  It means encouraging people instead of trying to sabotage or insult them.   It means being inclusive instead of exclusive.  It means working to find common ground instead of encouraging divisiveness.   And it means being PC sometimes too, if by political correctness we mean showing respect for our fellow human beings, regardless of how different from us they might be.    Granted, political correctness is sometimes taken too far, but Trump’s dangerous lack of it is off the rails, and is a threat to our democracy and to the world.  Civility is in short supply these days. If we really want to “make America great again,” we need to return to a culture of civility, common courtesy, and neighborliness.

Oh, to be a cat.

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I watch my cat Sheldon snoozing peacefully on the bed. He’s worn out after several hours exploring outside. His sharp black and white coat blends in with the black and white pattern of the blanket he’s splayed out on. It’s a good time for a photo, while he’s like this, because when he’s awake, he’s never still long enough to get his picture. I press the camera button on my phone but before I hear the snap and see the flash, he’s already up, peering at me with one eye, obviously annoyed I’ve woken him.

I woke up before dawn this morning because he was walking on my face, trilling loudly for attention. He was hungry, so I gave him some kibble. After he ate, he was still restless and made a beeline for the door. I don’t like letting him out at night, but the sky was a dark indigo blue, indicating the sun would be up within an hour. So I opened the door and off he ran.

I watched him as he stalked through the morning-damp grass. The “stalk walk” is a walk he reserves for the Great Outdoors. Sheldon’s a terrible hunter. He would never survive on his own if had to, but he likes to pretend he’s king of the jungle. The only thing he ever killed was a moth, and only because the moth was already half dead and twitching on the floor when he found it. I remember he batted it around for a bit, like a cheap cat toy, and when it stopped moving, he looked up at me imploringly. “Mrow?” he asked.

Sheldon can go on pretending he’s a badass, and I’ll keep pretending he is exactly that, every time he straggles back in the house after one of his jaunts. I’ll keep rewarding him with catnip, a rub on the belly, a scratch under the chin, or a bowl of Friskies.

I envy him sometimes. He is mindful by nature. He doesn’t worry. He doesn’t fret about the future or have regrets about the past. His needs are simple: a warm bed in a dark room, a full belly, a corrugated cardboard scratching pad, the occasional catnip treat, a rub on the belly, a beam of moving light he can chase, a catnap that lasts most of the day, the freedom to explore. He’s never worry about death or age, healthcare or taxes. His needs are few and all will be fulfilled as if by magic. He has no responsibilities but he gives back so much. When I watch him sleep, play, or stalk his imaginary prey in the jungle of my backyard, I feel at peace. I feel like the world is still a good place.

It’s time to stop blaming Trump supporters.

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Credit: Chicago Tribune

I consider myself progressive politically, but I have a bone to pick with some people on the left.    Unlike the modern GOP and their wealthy backers,  we’re supposed to care about the “little people” — the poor, disenfranchised and otherwise vulnerable.   Understandably, we are angered by the millions of working class red state voters who will be hurt by Trump’s draconian policies and cruel budget but voted for him anyway, because we will all suffer as a result of their ignorance too.      Those of us who aren’t swayed by Fox News and right-wing radio and are able to think critically have a hard time understanding why so many poor and working class whites would vote against their own interests and doggedly continue to support a man who is dead set on taking away the little they have.

I understand the anger.   It’s hard for me to wrap my brain around their ignorance — maybe even their willful ignorance.  But I’m seeing so many comments lately from people who consider themselves progressive, yet who not only blame working class Trump voters for the mess we’re in, but who seem to take pleasure in the prospect of seeing them suffer as a result of their folly.   They say things like, “They deserve to lose their healthcare for voting for a monster,” or “let them taste their own medicine,” or “I’ll laugh in their faces when they lose their healthcare and food stamps.”

It’s natural to be angry and even feel a bit of schadenfreude (even though we’re being hit too), but this attitude seems as heartless as the cruel budget and healthcare bill the GOP has unleashed.    How far a leap is it from “she made her bed, now she should lie in it” to the far-right refrain “if she had made better life choices, she wouldn’t be poor, sick, etc.”    Not much, if you ask me.

The country is deeply divided.  Things that were unthinkable in the past have become our new normal.   Mudslinging, namecalling, and even violence abounds on all sides.  This isn’t a left vs. right, GOP vs. Democrat issue.  It’s an all out war and it’s not normal.  Trump supporters hate “libruls” as much as they hate Muslim immigrants and Black Lives Matter — maybe more so.   They are encouraged at Trump rallies to physically attack and intimidate those who oppose them.   Reporters, in particular, are fair game.   But it’s not just on the Republican side we are seeing aggression and hatred.   Democrats who voted for Hillary hate hardcore Bernie supporters (“Berniebots”) who they blame for helping Trump win by refusing to vote for Hillary.   In turn, Hillary-hating Bernie supporters (in some cases they hate her even more than they hate Trump) blame the neoliberal “corporate shills” of the DNC who foisted such a terrible candidate on the nation.  Some even voted for Trump as a vote against Hillary.    I have seen them talk about violent revolution, even homegrown militias to overthrow the government.   Both the far left and traditional liberal Democrats blame working class Trump voters for what’s coming to them, even reveling in the prospect of seeing them suffer or even die when it happens.

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This isn’t an uncommon sentiment on the left.

Like the far right who blame the poor and immigrants for all the nation’s ills, when it’s really social Darwinist policies that target the vulnerable and reward the super-wealthy that are to blame (and create even more poverty in doing so),  some people on the left are just as guilty of blaming the victim.   I’m annoyed and tired of far left ideologues who say, “they made their bed, let them lie in it.”   No one deserves to suffer because they made a mistake — even if they still stick by their mistake.

Granted, some Trump supporters are racist, homophobic, intolerant, full of hate, and admire authoritarian leaders and a “strongman” approach to governing.  Some of them really are terrible people.   But not all of them are.  Most are just ignorant.  They’re not bad people and might even be kind and caring toward others in their daily lives, but they know no better.  Their minds can’t be changed because they have been lied to all their lives and their only point of reference is Fox News and whatever their churches and equally uninformed neighbors and families tell them.  Many lack the education and critical thinking skills to realize they have been misled and lied to.

In Trump, working class red state voters saw an anti-establishment,  colorful character who refused to be politically correct and who shared their their anger at the “liberal corporate elite” — well heeled granola crunching opera-attending types who drive foreign SUVs and seem to care more about Mexicans, Muslims, and blacks more than they care about them, and who look down their noses at their way of life and lack of education.     They heard Trump’s promises of  “healthcare for everybody” and “the Mexicans will pay for the wall” and “we are going to eradicate terror once and for all” and saw someone who would make their lives safer and more prosperous.  Finally, someone who seemed to care more about the white working class (and appealed to their religiosity even though Trump himself doesn’t seem to care much about God) than about immigrants, abortion rights,  and urban gays.

Trump is a swindler and a conman who promised them an easier life and assured them they would not be forgotten.  He played right into their fear and paranoia, and their anger at the corporate elite, who they understandably saw as the enemy.   Without the critical thinking skills or education to know better, how were they supposed to know they were being lied to?  It’s human nature to resolve cognitive dissonance by making excuses for an abuser who blatantly lies to you and is now targeting you.    It’s easier to say, “he doesn’t really mean it” or blame the “fake news” than to say “I was wrong,” especially when you were never trained to think critically about anything or were raised in a subculture that encourages or even celebrates authoritarianism.   Call it willful ignorance if you want, but it’s still ignorance.   As Jesus said in Luke 23: 34, “forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”

It’s not fair to place all the blame on the shoulders of ignorant Trump supporters because there were other factors at play in his winning the election.  These voters are a minority of Americans.   Trump did not win the popular vote, just the electoral college vote, but that’s the one that determines the outcome of our national elections.    We had the same problem in the 2000 election of George W. Bush, who also did not win the popular vote.    The electoral college is obsolete, even destructive, and needs to go.   Are Trump supporters to blame for an outdated and unfair system of counting votes?  No, they are not.

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Another factor — and it’s the one most in the news right now — is Russia’s infiltration into the election.   The far right media loves to target all the stories about Russian interference as fake news,  but there’s just too much evidence for anyone with a working brain to not see that Russia had a lot to do with why Trump won.   Are Trump supporters to blame for Russian interference?  No, of course they aren’t.

There’s also the propaganda pushed by right wing media outlets like Fox News.   People who don’t have much money who pay for cable usually will pick the most basic cable package.   Unfortunately, these bare bones packages often don’t include progressive or even centrist news channels.   So the only news they have access to, besides the local news (which is often conservative) is Fox News, which is included in every basic cable package.   Fox’s selling point is “fair and balanced” and Fox News watchers see (now fallen) pundits like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity as one of them.    Both O’Reilly and Hannity (as well as Rush Limbaugh from right wing radio) have a blue collar image and seem able to relate to their concerns and lifestyles better than a Rhodes scholar like Rachel Maddow ever could.    Is it working class Trump supporters’ fault that they are never exposed to the facts or more progressive viewpoints?  Is it their fault the left makes no effort to relate to their concerns, and seems to care more about immigrants and people of color (who they see as the enemy) more than them?    Is it their fault that well to do liberals very often blame them for their lot and look down on them as much or even more than Republicans do?  No, it isn’t.

Finally, there are the churches, especially the evangelical or fundamentalist variety so common in red states, especially the South. Organizations like the Southern Baptist Convention, which is notorious for mixing far right politics into religion, goes as far as warning their parishioners they will displease God if they do not support Trump.   These churches use talking points such as abortion or homosexuality, knowing their followers will vote based on these issues, regardless of where the candidate stands on other issues.  Because they cannot think critically or see the bigger picture, they can’t see that the “pro-life” candidate may actually not be pro-life at all, just pro-birth.   People who can think critically can see how out of touch and easily swayed they are, but to a less-educated person who has been programmed all their lives to believe whatever their pastor tells them and is accustomed to appeals to their primitive emotions rather than their intellect, can we really blame them for supporting he candidate their pastor tells them is “opening the door to Christ’s kingdom?”  Is it their fault they have been brainwashed into believing if they vote for anyone other than Donald Trump, they will make God mad and go to hell?   Again, no, it really isn’t.

It’s time to stop blaming poor and working class Trump supporters and start placing the blame on the real problem:  our broken political system where neither of the major parties addresses the needs and concerns of the average American and thus led to the rise of someone like Trump.

We have officially entered the Twilight Zone.

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Credit:  Stephen Crowley/The New York Times 

Only four months into the Trump presidency, and America feels like an alien planet occupied by tentacled overlords who have taken we, the people, hostage.  Yes, even Trump supporters, who seem to be suffering from a mass case of Stockholm Syndrome.  The horror author Stephen King probably summed up the situation most chillingly when he tweeted that no horror novel he ever wrote matched the horror of what is unfolding before us ever since Trump became our president.

Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, he tried to impose a ban on Muslims entering the country, which, like everything else he has tried to implement, ended in failure and the ever-growing ire of people who champion human rights and sanctuary for refugees escaping authoritarian regimes.    The crazy thing about the Muslim ban was that it did not ban any countries where Trump has business interests, and this includes Saudi Arabia, a country that Trump has himself criticized for its human rights abuses and the way they treat women, children, and gays.   Let’s also not forget the  fact that Saudi Arabia may also have been behind 9/11 — or at least Trump has said they were.  Donald Trump has denigrated Islam and promised to protect us from the “Islam takeover” that exists only in his own mind, which was his purported reasoning for the infamous Muslim ban.

So, why is Trump in Saudi Arabia before he’s made any visits to American allies like Canada, Europe, or Mexico?   Why is he kissing up to their high government officials and accepting medals, the royal treatment, and signing agreements? Most unfathomable of all, why do the Saudis seem to love Trump as much as he seems to love them now?  Why does he treat them with more respect than he treats Germany’s Andrea Merkel or Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull or Canada’s Justin Trudeau?

The easy answer to Trump’s stunning hypocrisy (and the seemingly only way to resolve our collective cognitive dissonance) is the adage “follow the money,” and obviously money is a big part of it.    Although Trump tweeted yesterday that his visit was to promote peace between the US and the Islamic world (yeah, right, I really believed that one), we now learn that he was really there to sell billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia.   That’s right — he’s selling weapons to a country he has himself said was behind the 9/11 attacks.   Whether they were or weren’t behind the attacks isn’t the point.    Signing a weapons treaty with Saudi Arabia proves he doesn’t really care about the well-being of Americans.  It’s always all about the money.    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

And yet his supporters scream and rant about people who protested against the Muslim ban.  They accuse us of helping give Islam a way to infiltrate our “Christian” and “democratic” way of life here.   They can’t think critically enough to understand that granting Muslim refugees (mostly women and children) sanctuary here doesn’t mean we sympathize with the jihadists or approve of fundamentalist Islam — in fact, it means we have compassion for the victims of fundamentalist Islam’s human rights abuses and recognize that these vulnerable people are human beings who need our help.   But they are perfectly okay with our Muslim-hating president who seems to be cozying up to the very people they fear the most.

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Credit:  N/A

It’s no different than his attitude toward the Russians.    While Russia is no longer a communist country and they haven’t been thought of as an enemy in many years, they aren’t exactly an ally either.   Or they never have been until this presidency.   Donald Trump seems to worship the Russians, even emulate them.  Last week, he held a secret meeting in the Oval Office with Russian officials where no American press was invited but Russian photographers were.    Trump supporters have resolved their cognitive dissonance over Trump’s inexplicable behavior by taking up his own attitudes — to the point of chanting “RUSSIA IS OUR FRIEND” at one of their protests.    They can’t think critically enough to see their hypocrisy.   No, to them, it’s the media that’s the enemy now — a beloved right protected under the 1st Amendment — because Trump has declared they are an enemy. Now those rights we take for granted are endangered.

Again, the easy explanation for the inexplicable is “follow the money.”  Like Saudi Arabia, Russia is a country where Trump has business interests.   If the investigation turns out to bear fruit (and I am certain it will if it isn’t stymied or somehow silenced), we will see that Russia at least partly financed his campaign, rigged the election, and has been funneling money to him and his far-right billionaire cronies all along.    Of course, if the investigation finds collusion with Russia, his supporters will still find a way to defend him, or cry “FAKE NEWS!”  They truly believe Trump is more trustworthy than the FBI.  What kind of crazyworld are we in when we actually start to look at the FBI as the heroes — and even the victims? We have really fallen down the rabbit hole into an alternate universe with an alternate reality where we doubt our own perceptions and the truth is no longer required.    It’s gaslighting writ large.

It’s much more than a money trail, though.    In fact, money may not even be the primary reason behind Trump’s love for Saudi Arabia and Russia.   Trump has shown an affinity for authoritarian leaders, regardless of their ideology or their religious beliefs.   We all know about his massive mancrush on Vladimir Putin and his minions, but he’s also praised North Korean president Kim Jong Un, one of the most fearsome — if not THE most fearsome — dictators in the modern world.  He seems to admire and emulate dictators, because he himself is an authoritarian personality who believes in a harsh, punishing, “strongman” approach to governing as opposed to the democratic, egalitarian one favored by the western world.   He insults and denigrates leaders who espouse fairness, equality, and compassion — or at the very least he ignores them as if they don’t matter.    His refusal to shake hands with Germany’s chancellor Andrea Merkel compared with the hearty slaps on the back and simpering secret-sharing with Putin is very telling.

I spent much of last night and this morning puzzling over why Saudi leaders seem to fawn all over Trump and have given him a red-carpet welcome to their country worthy of a king — in spite of the fact he has repeatedly insulted their religion and culture.  Of course, we can follow the money; with Trump, that’s a given.   But there’s another reason.   They love Trump because he is so much like them.   They can identify with a man who shares their own values of repression, sexism and authoritarianism.   A dictatorial approach to governing, in their minds, trumps religion (no pun intended).   And the same applies to Donald Trump.   Unlike our past presidents (even the most conservative among them), Trump has far more in common with King Salman or Putin than he does with Andrea Merkel or Justin Trudeau — and that should be a grave concern to anyone who calls themselves an American or who cherishes freedom and democracy.

There’s one other reason why Trump loves the Saudis and the Russians, which is perhaps the most important one of all: they give him the narcissistic supply he so craves.    They probably know how fragile his ego is — after all, they are not stupid.   Trump, like many narcissists, is naive enough to think they love him, they really, really love him, when in fact they are most likely laughing at him whenever he leaves the room.    The weird thing about narcissists like Trump is the paradox of power.  Narcissists, although predatory and dangerous to most, are also very emotionally needy.  That neediness makes them incredibly naive and therefore easily manipulated.   Their unreasonable demands for adulation may cause most people (who they see as beneath them) to cringe in fear, but they will gladly grovel before most psychopaths.   Thus they become putty in the hands of psychopathic or sociopathic leaders like Vladimir Putin, who appear far less insecure and requiring of worship than Trump does.   They will do anything they are asked and jettison any values they insist they have (which they really don’t) when they see that the tradeoff is a healthy dose of narcissistic supply.    They’re the ultimate sellouts. Trump pretends to have values but it’s all a sham.  The only thing he values (besides money and power) is being worshipped and adored.

And so now we are witnessing the spectacle of our president — who promised protection from terrorism — fawning all over Islamic jihadists in Saudi Arabia.   No, I realize most Muslims are not fundamentalist crazies or jihadists, but the sentiment on the far right is that all of them are (at least up until now).    As for Trump, he doesn’t care whether they are or not, as long as they’re giving him the praise and adulation he so craves.     In comparison, the freedoms we enjoy here in America are a threat to his ego and a painful reminder of the things he refuses to see in himself.  Here in America, instead of the red carpet treatment, bouquets of flowers, and medals of honor, he must face critics on Twitter who make memes poking fun at his hypocrisy and lies, angry protesters who force him to look in the mirror, bloggers and pundits calling him out on his duplicity,and now a high profile investigation into possible treason. But the biggest insult of all to Trump’s fragile sense of self is the evil media and “fake news” that has the temerity to shine a beacon of harsh white light on the truth which he so hates — the media that, for all its faults, is keeping most of us from slipping into into an inescapable abyss of alternative facts, twisted values, and rewritten history that would drive even George Orwell insane.

ALERT: TODAY’S ARMS DEAL MAY BE ILLEGAL!

Fake Christianity.

I have a problem.  I’m ashamed to admit I’m a Christian.    That’s because these days, open-minded, compassionate, tolerant people with a conscience give you side-eye if you tell them you’re a Christian.   They assume you embrace the far right values that many (if not most) churches today are teaching — values that embrace hatred, fear, paranoia, intolerance, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, racism, authoritarianism, nationalism (as opposed to true patriotism) and — incredibly — greed (according to many Calvinist teachings, God rewards those who “live good lives” — the select He has already chosen — financially and materially).   According to many fundamentalist and charismatic churches (especially of the Dominionist or prosperity-gospel type), if you’re poor or sick or aren’t “blessed” in this life, then you are not favored by God and will suffer eternal torment in Hell after living a life of hell.     It’s unbelievable they can worship a God who is that cruel.

I’ve doubted for a long time that the far right “Christians” who run the nation are actually Christian at all, because their values seem to be in direct opposition to anything Jesus taught.    They follow Ayn Rand’s teachings more closely than those of Christ.  The reality is that it’s simply not possible to embrace Ayn Rand’s philosophy of selfishness and also be a Christian.  They are diametrically opposed.

Last night my doubts turned to certainty, after I watched in horrified astonishment as the GOP held a party at the  White House’s Rose Garden to celebrate their “victory” — a victory that, if it passes Senate — will destroy the lives or bankrupt tens of millions of average Americans and kill many, including innocent children and people with pre-existing conditions.    I don’t have to go into everything that is wrong with this bill, because it would fill an entire page.  That information is readily available elsewhere.   But the spectacle of watching these rich white thugs drinking beer and partying after such a devastating bill passed the House, convinced me once and for all that these monsters are not only not Christian, they are absolutely, unapologetically evil.     They may quote from the Bible and go to church and bloviate on about abortion and homosexuality, but they worship the god of Mammon.   They have sold out the American people they are supposed to serve in exchange for even more tax breaks for themselves and those just like them.  They are relentless in their cruelty and their greed is never satiated.  No matter how wealthy they become, they want more and more and more.   Last night I sat, horrified, watching these — beings (I hesitate to call them human) — toast each other and laugh about how they had stuck it to the rest of us who don’t have a prayer of ever having their kind of power and material wealth.    They were celebrating the fact that they were placing real lives at risk.  I turned off the TV, sickened and enraged and terrified by what I had seen.

No matter what they say, these are not good people or Christian people.  They walk on the side of darkness and their hearts are black and empty.   You can see it in their cold, dead eyes and their cruel, twisted smiles.    They use Christianity as a way to cloak how dark their souls really are — and as a way to get even more power.  Over a period of several decades starting in the 1970s, they have systematically co-opted Christianity as a means to win gullible and less-educated people (mostly in red states) over to their side.  They have persuaded them their way is the only moral way, the only American way, the only Christian way.  But it’s all lies.  Using Christianity as a selling point is a brilliant tactic to gain even more money and power because it works like a charm.   Using Christianity this way, these conscienceless criminals and power brokers have been able to hijack a nation and now have complete control of every branch of government.   But still, it’s not enough.  They want more, and more, and more.

Now their real work begins:  dismantling everything good this nation ever stood for — discouraging and suppressing and ultimately destroying our freedoms and our  opportunities and our rights and our safety nets.    Their real goal is to create misery, chaos, despair, hopelessness, illness and suffering (both mental and physical — with no means to alleviate it), ignorance, poverty, strife, cruelty, slavery, and death.  Lots and lots of death.   It’s become increasingly obvious to me that their real agenda is to thin the herd.   They used to try to hide this ugly reality, but they don’t even try very hard anymore.   It’s all but out in the open for anyone who opens their eyes and ears.   Their excuses for the horrible things they do are transparent to all but the most obtuse (or brainwashed) person.  With every decision they have made, every executive order signed, every bill rammed through without ever asking once how the people feel about it, every lie they tell, they show their contempt for humanity, especially those who tell the truth or who are vulnerable and defenseless.

But it’s much more than just a show of contempt. They really are trying to kill off or silence the most vulnerable Americans — the poor (this includes the middle class and so their decimation will take a bit longer), the sick, the unwanted, the elderly, the disabled, the mentally ill (mental illness won’t be covered under this new bill but now the mentally ill can go out and buy guns — hmm, I wonder what message they are being sent?), immigrants, women, children, the unconventional, the artists, the dreamers, the truth-tellers, the whistle-blowers, and all the people who believe in justice and fairness and kindness and compassion and inclusion and opportunity and clean air and water and safe and healthy food.   They want us all gone, and as soon as possible.  Their “healthcare” bill is nothing less than slow mass genocide of those who aren’t useful to them.   They have even said so much.  If you protest against this mistreatment and yes, abuse — they scream about socialism and how the “liberal media” is destroying America.  Again, lies.   Under our new president, the lying and gaslighting has become so bad that lies are now facts, and facts are ‘fake news.’   Twisting the language and spinning lies into some kind of alternate reality is the way dictators gain their power — and it’s evil.  There’s nothing remotely Christian about what they do.

I saw this comment today under an article about the the cruel GOP healthcare bill that explains the fake “Christianity” behind such a move:

God sent Joshua to kill every man, woman, and child to take the land of the Canaanites.  The Bible is clear that sometimes God requires His people to commit genocide.

 

That’s the mentality we’re up against.  No mention of how Jesus healed the sick (without demanding payment or refusing due to inability to pay),  was friends with the downtrodden,  loved the poor and the disabled and the old and the ill, and warned about greed and what happens to those who worship money and power.    No, because all those things are “socialism” and to them, socialism is the greatest evil.     To them, socialism is “theft” from those who “earned” their riches — often through no effort of their own.

It wasn’t always this way.   There was once a time when Christianity leaned more to the left.   This used to be called the “social gospel,” something you rarely hear about anymore, though very recently there’s been a resurgence of left wing Christianity among those who can see through the false Christianity that’s pushed down our throats by the far right.  Peaceful Christian groups like the Quakers and Sojourners ministered to the poor, sick and others  in need — expecting nothing in return.  Mainstream Christian churches such as the Methodist or Episcopalian church held similar values.  Sure, things like abortion, homosexuality, and sex outside marriage were frowned upon or even forbidden, but the overall message of Christianity was one of love, compassion, and caring for those less fortunate.  Some Christians — and some (mostly mainstream) churches – still embrace this message, but the ones that were able to influence our current leaders are those that do not — and instead preach the prosperity gospel and a theology of exclusion (you’re going to hell if you are not “predestined” or chosen by God), fear (of hell and punishment on earth) and hatred (of anyone whose beliefs differ).

Starting in the late 1970s, a group called the Moral Majority began to change the political landscape, which until that time worked for the most part.   They funneled money to the GOP and the GOP knew a good deal when they saw it.  They realized they had to use Christianity to win over more supporters and soon, politicians were spouting Bible verses and talking about how schools should stop teaching evolution (or any science at all) and railing about abortion, and later, blaming those afflicted by poverty or disease for their “bad choices” or immoral behavior that led to their problems.   They preached about America being a Christian nation — when it was becoming anything but.     At the same time, the churches that had influenced the GOP were now telling their members that if they didn’t vote for so-and-so GOP politician, they were going to hell.    I have no doubt that fear of eternal damnation being constantly drummed into their minds and hearts by their pastors had a lot to do with why so many religious red staters switched from Democrat to Republican, since most would never benefit from the policies they were voting for.

Make no mistake — although they may talk endlessly about their Christianity and be able to spout Bible verses, these compassionless rulers aren’t pro-life and they don’t care about family values.    Railing on about how horrible abortion is, but denying healthcare to low and middle income pregnant women (by making pregnancy a pre-existing condition and putting pregnant women in a “high risk pool” where premiums will be astronomical) is going to make it financially impossible for many women to afford prenatal care.   For many of these women, abortion (which is far less expensive than prenatal care and labor and delivery) may seem like their only choice, so the number of abortions will skyrocket.   For those who courageously opt to have their child without the benefit of healthcare,  they will run the risk of themselves or their babies dying in childbirth — it might as well be 1917, not 2017.

Their anti-life stance goes way beyond the abortion issue.   Many of the newly uninsured will include families with children.     Last week, Jimmy Kimmel gave an emotional speech about his newborn son who had a serious heart problem.   In his moving plea, he talked about the fact that, while he is wealthy enough to have afforded healthcare for his son, even under the GOP plan, taking away healthcare from average and poor families will cause many children and babies who are sick to die.   Any bill that will force a parent of average or low income to have to face their own child’s preventable death just because they can no longer afford healthcare is both cruel and evil.

Pro-life isn’t just about babies and children.   Pro-life means preserving and enhancing lives no matter what your age or income.   Forcing older people, the unemployed, the disabled, the poor, and the sick off healthcare is sentencing them to possible preventable illness, pain, and death.   The powerful “Christians” in charge of things now think nothing about bombing other countries regardless of whether innocent civilians — including women and children — are killed or maimed.  Free public education, organizations like the EPA that protect our air and water, arts and humanities programs, federal grant programs that help kids afford college, access to scientific information about our climate and environment, organizations that help families and children thrive, and numerous other organizations that preserve and promote quality of life are all being threatened.   Their deliberate destruction is nothing short of abuse, as is the suppression of freedom of speech and truth in reporting.    To be pro-life, you must care about all human life.  To care only about the unborn and then callously offer no support or help to the already born — or rip away what support systems they have — isn’t pro-life, it’s pro-birth and anti-life.    Unfortunately, many people who are less educated or lack critical thinking skills are one-issue voters, and always vote for the anti-abortion candidate no matter what their stance on other issues — even though the pro-choice candidate may actually be the more pro-life one when you step back and view the big picture.

We live in dark times, and whistleblowers and truth tellers are increasingly in danger because they threaten to expose the real agenda of the sociopaths and abusers who have hijacked our country and hold it hostage.    Lying is their specialty.  Why would they make an exception and tell the truth about Christianity?   Look at their actions, not their words. These are fake Christians who only worship money and power.  If it’s the Enemy who’s behind far right “Christianity,” then he’s giving it a very bad reputation, and that’s precisely his intention — and to create shame in the act of calling yourself a Christian, which is what I’m struggling with these days.

***

I want to share this article someone just shared with me.   It was written by a therapist who has many patients traumatized by this president. She uses DBT principles to help them cope.   I think people may find this article as helpful as I did.

How to Stay Sane if Trump is Driving You Insane.

I was an honorary furry for a few days last week.

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Me trying on one of my son’s fursuit heads during my August 2016 trip.

I completely forgot to mention this in my posts about my Florida trip.   I met a few of my son’s friends in the Tampa area furry community, and they are all awesome people — very chill, extremely friendly, and best of all, very supportive of each other.

I actually attended a furry party my son threw at his apartment.   I was an honorary furry for that night!   No, I did not wear a costume. In fact, no one did.  It was just good clean fun, nothing questionable or too weird going on.  We watched a furry dance competition on livestream on my son’s Mac, played Cards Against Humanity (it’s a hilarious game), and watched a couple of bad (non-furry) films.   (One of my son’s hobbies is throwing “bad movie” get-togethers for his friends — they watch these movies ironically and laugh at them — if you remember Mystery Science Theatre 3000, that’s the general idea here).  After all the silliness, we all headed down to the apartment complex’s pool and hot tub for an evening swim and relaxation.

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Two views of the bumper of the car that belongs to one of my son’s friends who was at the party.    She can’t get enough of ferrets and owns four of them.  It’s hard to see it here, but her car is a lovely frosted pink and is awesome.

Speaking of science, tomorrow is Earth Day, and I will be attending my second protest — a March for Science taking place here in my city.    I haven’t made a sign yet (and am not sure I’ll have the time), but I’ll be picking up a tee-shirt I paid for in advance (proceeds go to help the cause).    I’ll be wearing this tee-shirt along with the buttons I purchased at the last protest I attended about the ACA and healthcare.

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I’ll definitely post about my experience at the march tomorrow and will take pictures, as I did the last time.

The rest of the weekend I’ll probably be engaged in the tedious task of pulling posts from this blog I may want to use in my book.   That’s my intention anyway;  I can’t say I’ll actually commit to doing it.   Actual writing is so much more fun.

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Happy Earth Day 2017!

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About my book.

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For a couple of years now, I’ve talked about writing a book.    Writing and publishing a book has always been a dream of mine,  but getting motivated enough or knowing what I wanted to write about has always been an issue for me.

My book won’t be fiction because I’m really bad at fiction and can never seem to think of a viable beginning or end that doesn’t seem contrived.   My one attempt to write a book of fiction (in 2003) was a disaster and I hated all my characters.   It was self-indulgent, full of cliches, stilted dialogue, and uninteresting and unlikable characters who always seemed to be arguing about nothing.  To this day I can’t tell you what the book was about, because I don’t know.   I have no idea how to plot a novel, although I have read hundreds of novels by others who do know how to plot them.  It’s simply not something I have any talent for.

For some reason, I never threw that manuscript away (I spent too much time writing it) but I don’t look at it and never will again.  Its 300 plus pages sit in a tattered cardboard box in the farthest corner in the back of a closet.  The one time I tried to reread what I’d written, I cringed at how atrocious it was.    It was that bad.   I sent it to several publishers who also thought it was that bad – and sent it back to me with a polite rejection note.

The dilemma I’m facing (besides lack of time and drive) is what the topic of my book would be.    I think I’ve finally narrowed it down to two things.

Let me say straight out that my book will not be about narcissistic abuse, narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, or anything related to personality disorders, C-PTSD, codependency, or dysfunctional families or relationships.   Although this blog has been primarily about those things (at least until recently), I don’t feel comfortable writing a book covering anything in this field for at least four reasons.

First, there are many bloggers who have already written books about narcissism and narcissistic abuse, and many have done it better than I think I could.    I don’t even think this is one of the best blogs that ever covered narcissistic abuse.   Second, since I’ve moved on in my recovery,  I’m less passionate about this problem than I used to be.   I feel like anything that needed to be said, I’ve already said — or others have said better.   That doesn’t mean it’s not an important issue — it definitely is, but I feel like my passion for it isn’t there anymore.   Third, I’m afraid that delving into a personal account of my own life with a narcissistic family and husband — or my mental disorders that were caused by that — will be too triggering and send me back down the rabbit hole, a place I’ve gratefully left behind.  At first, it helped me to talk about it, and to find that I wasn’t alone.   Without that outlet and this blog, I would never have discovered things about myself I needed to change.    So I’m grateful for that, but I’m not in the same head space I was two years ago.  Therapy is quite enough for me right now and is intense enough as it is.  I no longer have any desire to dwell on the trauma I had to deal with just to have something to write about.   There are other things I prefer to write about now that make me feel better.  Fourth, I’m not a mental health professional and would feel like something of a fraud were I to write a self-help book for others, even though I know quite a bit about personality disorders, enough to write such a book.

So, what would my book be about, if it’s not going to be a novel or a book about personality disorders or narcissistic abuse?

I feel like I’m strong at writing opinion and humor.  Short little essays and anecdotes that give readers a window into the way I look at life — both the big and small things.    I enjoy writing posts like these.  My last post, “My Problem With Pens,” was one of the most enjoyable posts I’ve written in a long time.    I like that kind of writing and I want to do more of it.   No, I’ll probably never be the next David Sedaris or Augusten Burroughs, but I love creative writing and I can write humor.   I think I’m good enough at it to compile my best essays (both humorous and more serious) into a small book.    I’ve written a number of those kind of posts on this blog already,  but I never realized until recently that was actually my strongest writing.  Because I never focused on those types of posts and never made a section for them in the header or compiled a list of links, it will take some time to go through this blog and pull out all the titles and then decide which ones to use (and probably add some new ones to flesh out the book and give readers of this blog something new to read).

The only problem with writing a book like that is I’m not already a “name” (unless you count blog ownership as a kind of qualification), and compilations of essays usually sell best when written by someone already well-known for something else.    But I’m not expecting to make a million dollars or for the book to catapult me to sudden fame and a review in the New York Times Review of Books.  Not even close.    I could probably make more money writing a book about having been raised by narcissists, having BPD or C-PTSD, or writing a self help book about how to deal with abusers.   I could probably even sell more books writing about mindfulness techniques and developing empathy for people with Cluster B disorders.  But I don’t want to write a book like that.   I want to have fun writing my book, and this is why I’ve decided to write a compilation of my observations, opinions, and humorous little anecdotes.

There’s another topic I’ve been thinking about writing a book about:  handling Internet trolls and bullies.   Obviously, that’s related to narcissistic abuse, but it’s a narrower and more focused topic and doesn’t require me to delve into my deep past and retrigger ancient memories.    I’ve definitely been a victim of Internet bullying (most of us bloggers have, unfortunately) and I have experience now in how to deal with them — enough experience to be able to help others.   Any book I write about Internet troublemakers would be mostly a compilation of some of the posts and numbered lists I’ve already written for this blog.    Someone told me I had one of the most comprehensive lists of articles about Internet trolls and how to handle them they’d ever seen, and that got me thinking that maybe I ought to publish an actual book about it.

Very soon, I will need to lay off blogging and start compiling posts and writing new ones for a book.  I wish I had time to do both, but the need to keep a roof over my head and food in my fridge makes doing both nearly impossible.

What would you rather see me write about first?  A book of observations, opinions, essays, and humor; or a book about handling trolls and online bullies?

My problem with pens.

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I have a house full of old, nonworking pens.  It’s not because I want them.   Keeping up with pens and throwing away old ones is one thing I never seem to bother keeping up with.    Whenever I need a pen, I can never, EVER find a working one.  I have dozens of old markers that no longer have any ink in them, tens of cheap ballpoints I got for free somewhere with no ink in them and non-working clickers; I even have dried up pen refills with no actual pen to cover them.  I have Sharpies with their nubs worn down to nothing.  They all sit forlornly in old coffee mugs around the house.

People can’t understand why I can’t find a working pen when I need one.  They look around at the mugs of pens in every room and on every available surface, and they also know I have drawers full of pens (as well as old phone chargers, paper clips, rubber bands, broken push pins, paid bills from 2003, business cards for businesses I’ll never use or have never heard of, a broken lighter with Y2K joke on it [no joke], and all the other detritus most of us wind up gathering somehow without any effort at all).   I almost always wind up having to borrow their pen — if they’re carrying one — and I can see them just shaking their heads in bemused amazement.

I have the same problem with pencils.  I have at least a hundred pencils — all with broken points or sharpened down to an inch or so (and still sporting broken points) — and not one sharpener.   So the pencils I own are utterly useless.   Maybe I should install a sharpener on the wall, like the one we kept on the basement stairs while I was growing up (I’ll never know why it was installed on the wall of the dark basement stairs, as if it was something to be embarrassed about).

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At least with the Internet, I rarely need a pen.  But sometimes I do.  There’s still the occasional form I need to fill out, or the birthday card I need to sign (I hate e-cards).  Sometimes I have to leave post-it notes to myself on the bathroom mirror that say things like:  BUY A PACK OF PENS TODAY!  Hah.  I never learn.   I never go out and buy a pack of pens for these moments.  The one time recently that I did buy a pack, I somehow lost all those pens.  But the old, dried up, broken ones stuck around like unwelcome guests.

And they MULTIPLY.  You know that portal that’s hidden in the back of your washer that sucks your socks into an alternate universe?    Well, I think there’s another portal — a reverse wormhole — from that same universe that spews broken old pens into ours.  Maybe it somehow transforms our socks into pens.  You never know.

Why don’t I just throw away all those broken and nonworking pens and pencils?  Honestly, I don’t know why.    It’s not sentimentality,  and it’s not because “maybe one day I will use them in a multi-media project where I can glue them to a board with all the other useless junk in my drawers and call it art.”  ” No, I think the reason I don’t weed out all the old pens and pencils is pure laziness.   The idea of going through all those mugs and drawers full of broken writing implements and testing them isn’t something I want to spend my day doing.

So the pens stay, and I continue to search in vain for a working pen when I need one.

Anyone want some of my old broken pens?