Thursday, January 18, 2018

Pull the Plug...

Two nights ago I was having a dream where I was fighting with someone. Like out of control yelling, angry, this isn't going to end well at all fight. In the middle of it I woke up. From dead asleep in the middle of a dream to waking up. And as I transitioned out of the dream I could literally feel the rage draining out of me. It was like I had been filled with a rage liquid and someone pulled the plug at my feet and it drained out of me. Started at my head and just lowered and away.

It was the oddest sensation.

As I started to drift back off to sleep I tried to hold on to that empty feeling. That no anger left, completely drained of it feeling. For one I didn't want to pop back in to the dream I was having and start the yelling match back up (it was about a wedding and planning and I think the woman I was yelling at was supposed to be my sister but wasn't? I don't know, but I was angry and didn't want to go back to it) and I also really liked that calm feeling. Drifting away very light and clean.

That feeling has stuck with me for the past two days. Not the empty one, but the feeling of the rage draining away. That sensation of rage being an actual thing that I was filled with instead of a metaphoric filled with rage. And there being a release valve someplace. A plug you could pull that would just get rid of it.

Wouldn't that be a great thing to find right about now? The world could use a good rage draining. Everyone is so Angry. Capital A angry. People are Angry. Political parties are Angry. Countries are Angry. Everyone has something that moves them from calm to pissed at the drop of a hat it seems. 

Yesterday I watched two friends post things on their Facebook walls and then have discussions with their friends about the post. One was from a liberal friend and one was from a conservative friend. And both of them were cool, calm and collected until someone posted an opposing political viewpoint. Then you could practically see the bristle. And the funny thing is both of them did the same thing. They went in to a defensive crouch. "I never..." "This wasn't..." "You did..." "You said..." Since I wasn't doing anything but stalking each conversation I was detached enough to see the similarities even though the original posts were nothing alike. 

This is our world right now. Everyone is braced and ready for a fight. 

I am. I admit it. We are coming up on a year since Trump's inauguration where he spoke about American Carnage and then went about creating it. And right now my conservative friends (the 5 I have left) are all bristling. They will say I hate him and so I won't give him a fair shake. I will say I would give him a pretty good shake if I could do it without the Secret Service getting upset. He fills me with rage. Every dismantling of an environmental protection, every utterance about good Nazis, every I didn't say shithole ask them they think I said shithouse, every tweet that undermines what he JUST FUCKING SAID IN A MEETING...yeah. He fills me with rage. And the fact that my conservative friends are willing to give it all a pass as long as the stock market goes up and their companies get tax breaks fills me with disappointment. And I have to take a deep breath and look for a way to not be that way.

So I would love to find the drain plug for the world. The one we could all get together and tug out. To feel that rage drain away. To have that void take its place. To feel that calm.

Middle East Peace Talks? Pull the plug first.

North and South Korea reconciling? Find that plug. 

ISIS? Wash them right down the drain.

Just less rage. Imagine that feeling. 

I'm going to find ways to find more of that. Like not engaging in the Facebook arguments. I will probably go back to not reading the public comments. I am torn on those things, I like to see what people are thinking, but the people who think are rarely the ones who post, if you know what I mean. I want my zen to be front and center, not my rage. And that means more thoughtful articles, fewer thoughtless comments. More books, fewer tweets. More righteous anger about things that matter, more getting a point across in a way that can be heard.

I mean, I'm not going to be quiet, god forfend, I am still going to talk about the things that matter to me. The things that make me angry. But I'm going to try my best to not let that anger build to rage. A little bit of anger gets shit done, rage shuts shit down.

Drain the rage.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Use Your Words...

You cannot smash the patriarchy by insisting it pay attention to your subtle nonverbal cues.

This is where the #metoo movement needs to watch out or it gets turned into a "bitches be crazy" tool for those that want to see it fail.

I'm talking about the anonymous story about Aziz Ansari that came out this weekend and the divided reaction it has had. You can tell from my intro where I fall in the continuum.

I didn't read the full story on babe for awhile, just the recaps. It was interesting the pieces that each side pulled to show that they were right. Either that Ansari was clearly a predator and deserves to lose every good thing in his life. Or that "Grace" was nuts and is seeking some sort of odd revenge for the date not being what she had wanted it to be.

When I finally read her account this morning I found I am in the middle on those accounts. Ansari doesn't come off well, but neither does she.

I think Ansari (if her account is completely accurate) is a bit of a boor. More than a little self absorbed. Imagine that. A famous actor who knows this woman is going out with him because he's a famous actor (she basically says it herself) expecting that the woman wants to have sex with him. Yes, he was aggressive. But wasn't she also passive?

She says that he ignored her nonverbal cues. The argument I keep seeing against him are that he didn't wait for an "enthusiastic yes" which is apparently the new standard. Yes isn't enough, it must be an enthusiastic yes. Okay, but what does that mean? Not everyone is a yeller. Does that make it not enthusiastic. Does a quiet response, a let's see how I feel about this kiss, this touch, this step mean it's not enthusiastic? Does every step have to be the "may I touch you here?" "may I now touch you here?" movement?

Do not get me wrong. A hard no is a no. A soft no is a hard no. As soon as you say no it's no. I don't care if you were enthusiastically saying yes! just a minute before as soon as you say no it's no. But say no. Don't think that a yes, okay is a no. Or a well I said yes, but I didn't use tongue so he should have known I meant no. Or, in this case, well, yes, I gave him a blow job after he performed oral sex on me but I didn't do it for long so he should have known I meant no.

If you mean no, say no. When she got up and said, no, I'm going home he called her an Uber. He texted her the next day saying how nice it was to see her and when she responded that she had not had a good time and he had made her feel taken advantage of and used, he said he hadn't realized and apologized. Pay attention to that. She told him she was upset, she told him she hadn't been having a good time and he responded by saying that he hadn't realized that and was sorry.

You cannot smash the patriarchy by giving subtle nonverbal cues and expecting it to smash itself.

Use your words. No means no but you have to say it. If you can help it, do not allow yourself to be in a sexual encounter you don't want to be in. Get out. If he is undressing you and you don't want to be undressed then leave. If you cannot leave and he forces you to stay, then press charges. I'm not victim blaming here, I'm saying take some steps to try not to be one. And try to see that many of us see what "Grace" described as a bad date with a lot of mixed signals, not a abusive situation, not a victimized moment. Don't send mixed signals and then be upset when someone doesn't understand what you are saying.

No.
I don't want to.
Stop that.
I'd rather not.
Put your penis away.
I'm not comfortable here and I'm going home.
Any of these phrases work, but especially no.
It's clear, simple and to the point. No.




Saturday, January 13, 2018

Making a List...

She needed salt. She knew that for sure. Did she have any sage? She would have to check the cupboard. She hadn't been shopping in awhile. When she did go out she bought everything in bulk and then broke it down in to smaller packages. Her shelf of empty containers let her know when it was time to shop again. But what all had she used up? Salt, always salt, but what else?

She was humming to herself, enjoying the empty house. The quiet. It had been so busy lately, so much to do, so many things to take care of. She had been so harried that just being by herself making a shopping list seemed like a small luxury.

The lights flickered. Candles. She needed candles.

As she made her list she thought about the past few months. One thing after another. As soon as she had finished one project it seemed another was banging on her door. Had she ever been so busy? Had there ever been a time she had been so tired? She didn't think so.

The wind rattled at the door. She should probably buy some aged wood as well.

A vacation would be lovely. Someplace warm. And sunny. With a beach. A calm beach. She'd had enough storms lately. She spent a few moments day dreaming about sunning herself in a lounge chair next to a calm ocean. The waves gently coming in and shushing their way back out. How long had it been since she had done something like that? How long had it been since anyone had been able to do something like that?

Thunder rolled and the house shook on its foundation. She needed to finish her list before the storm really got going.

Salt, sage, candles, aged wood, lavender, lemon grass, oak leaves, she still had a collection of various ashes. This should be enough to see her through again.

She tucked the list in to her pocket and reached for her cloak. Going out in to the storm was always the worst part, but if she didn't the storm would eventually find its way in to her.

She gathered her light. Calling it to her with the old words. Forming her own walking armor. She wasn't sure how much longer this would be enough. Opening the door to her cabin she stared out in to the darkness. She stepped over the salt threshold and set off for the store.


(Okay, as you can tell this is a piece of something else. But going with my theme for this year of just making sure I write I am putting it out there to breathe. Let's see where it goes.)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Missed Connections...

His flight had been cancelled. No warning. No delays giving you false hope. Just cancelled. So he sat at the airport bar trying to decide his next step. He was a frequent flier and as such had been assured they would take care of the situation and let him know what flight they could get him on. No long lines at customer service counters for him. At least he had that going for him. But he was still stuck in an airport with no flight home after a week away.

He knew the route well enough to know that he was most likely stuck here until tomorrow. Should he wait and collect a voucher for whatever hotel partner the airline was working with and stay in their crappiest room or book a room downtown and pretend that he meant to stay an extra day. Maybe go out for a nice steak dinner, see a movie no one at home was interested in? These are the things he liked to tell himself he could do. But he knew himself well enough to know that he would sit at this bar drinking until the airline came back to him with a plan and a hotel room. He had been traveling for work for decades now and the thrill of a night on the town was no longer there.

He signaled to the bartender for another round and checked his phone for the 30th time. No missed calls. He sent another text to his wife letting her know that he had no news but probably wouldn't be home until tomorrow. He was sorry he was going to be late. He knew she wouldn't mind. Or at least wouldn't say that she minded. He had been traveling for their entire marriage. This was not their first cancelled flight.

Maybe it was best he wasn't going to make it home today. He wasn't quite himself today. He had had a dream last night that was still holding him hostage. She had been in it. Or around it. Involved in it. He had heard her laugh. That's what did it. He had been dreaming about...something. He couldn't even remember the original dream and he heard her laugh. That high, clear, strong, laugh. He had turned around in his dream expecting to see her there and nothing. There had been a door so he was sure she must have just left. He had spent what seemed like hours wandering through rooms, and jungles, and movie theaters, and beaches, and restaurants looking for her. One place leading to another to another. He never found her but it felt like she had just been there. If he walked faster he could catch her. But all he ever found was the echo of her laughter.

He woke up tangled in the sheets. He must have been thrashing around in his sleep as he chased her laugh from place to place. He felt hollow. Missing a piece. Which was crazy considering he hadn't even thought of her in years. Not really. Maybe once or twice but never for long. Once on vacation his wife had given him a bite of Key Lime Pie that was incredibly sour. He told her, "That makes my teeth itch!" She had laughed at the expression. And for a minute he was confused, wasn't it her that had first said it? No, it wasn't his wife. It was someone else. But he didn't think of her often. And not for long.

The bartender finally brought him his drink. As he reached out for it he heard her laugh again. He turned slowly, part of his mind trying to work out if he had been sleeping all along. One of those weird dreams where you dream you woke up, but then you didn't. But no, he was awake. And she was laughing. He turned and saw her eyes. Her eyes were like the green of trees. Not the pale green that green eyes sometimes are or gold green or even the really those are hazel,who are you kidding green that people tried. But green, like a forest. So green they didn't seem real. In fact people usually thought she was wearing colored contacts, but they were really that green. And they were staring at him now. Puzzled.

"Yes?"

He continued to stare. These were her eyes looking at him. But this was not her face. But he had heard her laugh.So it was her. But it wasn't.

"I'm sorry." he stammered, "I'm staring. You just look very familiar."

She gave him a half smile and he realized how lame he sounded. An old man at the bar trying to pick up on the younger woman.

"You have very green eyes."

He realized this was not making it any better.

"I'm sorry. I'll leave you alone. I just thought..." he trailed off. How could he explain what he thought.

She smiled again. A little smile, a smile of reassurance maybe. Or of nervousness.

The bartender came to his rescue, taking the attention off of him. "What can I get you?"

"We just need our check." she motioned to a table filled with young men and women all laughing and drinking,"I think we might have scared our waitress off."

The bartender laughed and she laughed with him.

The hairs on the back of his neck stood up.

"Look, I know that this is going to sound weird, but did you stay at the Commodore last night?"

She took a step away from him and gave him a concerned look, "Why do you want to know where I stayed last night?"

"I know, it seems like I'm being creepy and odd and...it's just I think I heard your laugh earlier and..."

She relaxed a touch and laughed again, "Oh gosh! I am so sorry! Did we keep you up? I've been told that I have a laugh that can cut through concrete! I don't know why it carries like that, I don't think I'm being too loud but, Oh my gosh I am so embarrassed!"

"No, no, please don't be. It's a wonderful laugh. I just..."

She shook her head, "I got it from my mother. She laughed..." and with that her green eyes clouded and she shook her head, "I'm sorry. I just. I'm sorry I bothered you last night. Good news is that we are on our way out of town and you should get a good night's sleep tonight!"

He was struck still for a moment. Everything after "laughed" had faded in to a low buzz. He looked up at the young woman's face again, "Laughed? You said you mother laughed? Does she not laugh anymore?" He realized as it was out of his mouth that it was incredibly rude to ask like that.

She shook her head again, "My mother died last year. That's actually why we are all taking this trip. They think it will keep me from spending the anniversary wallowing. Which she wouldn't have wanted. So we are going to go lay on the beach and drink more than we should and eat Key Lime Pie so sour..."

"...it will make your teeth itch." He finished.

She cocked her head to the side, "That's just what my mother would have said."

He nodded then turned to the bartender, "I've got their tab."

"Oh no! I couldn't possibly let you..."

"No, you can. I insist. Indulge me. Go catch your flight and enjoy your trip. And, you know what? If you want to wallow, you go right ahead and wallow as well, but I think they are right. She would want you to laugh more than cry."

She smiled again, "Thank you. I...well...just thank you."

She joined her table and he watched her explaining their good fortune to her friends. They all looked at him and smiled and waved. He waved back. Remembering a trip to the beach to drink more than he should have and eat Key Lime Pie and stare in to impossibly green eyes doing everything he could to make her laugh. But he didn't think of her often. And not for very long...



Thursday, January 11, 2018

Let Me Explain...

I'm an over explainer.

This shouldn't be shocking to any of you as you are all reading my blog where I spend 75% of my time explaining why I think the way I do.

But even with the fact that I am an over explainer I am misunderstood at times. I will post a blog and get feedback on it that puzzles me. "That wasn't what I said at all." I will go back and read it again to see where the misunderstanding happened. Then I make the decision on if I should explain a little bit more or just leave it be.

Often I leave it be.

That's part of writing. What I write is what I feel. What I think. What I am trying to convey. But every person who reads what I write has their own framework they are bringing to the process and at times what they get out of it is not what I thought I was putting in. If it's a strong misunderstanding, one that would leave the reader thinking I meant something totally different, I will try and clarify, but if it's just a point of view that is a little different I don't.

Which is really hard for an over explainer.

I find this happens in real world discussions as well. Sometimes you have to just walk away from a discussion knowing that the person is never going to understand what it is you are trying to say. Sometimes it's because you cannot find the right words to explain yourself and the more words you add the more convoluted your point becomes. Often it's because the person you are talking to isn't really listening to understand, they are listening to respond, so you never had a chance. And sometimes it's just that your point of view is so different from theirs that they don't have the head space to understand what you are saying. At least not right then.

When I took Kinesiology in school my instructor wanted us to read the chapters before she lectured on them. She would tell us, you aren't really going to understand what it is you are reading and that's okay, I just need you to have a folder to put all of this information in when I lecture on it. The first time you get new information your brain isn't entirely sure how to process it. But the next time it's somewhat familiar so it has a place to look. A folder of information. Then when we would go back and study again we could access all of this information that was all stored in memory much easier. So she wanted to make sure when she tossed out the words "gluteal cleft" or "olecranon process" in a lecture we weren't all staring at her blankly, instead our brains were going, "wait! I've heard this before!" And then we were able to tell our asses from our elbows. (SO FUNNY, GUYS!)

But we needed to have it over explained. New information needs time to be absorbed. So even if we are having a discussion with someone who just isn't able to hear us because their world view has never taken in the point of view we are sharing we are still doing something. We are laying the ground work for the next time they hear that information. Or sometimes offering a counter point to what they had always taken as the only way to see things. At the time you might think what you've said was rejected completely, but maybe a little piece stuck in that folder someplace. So the next time they are hearing the information they always viewed as the only way to see it, they think, well, actually this could be and they fill in what you were trying to explain before. Even a closed mind can sometimes be opened that way.

So I'm an over explainer. And I'm okay with that. I will let you know, when you try to tell me you understand what I am saying before I've finished saying it, that you might not so just let me finish. I will keep talking even when it seems like nobody is listening. And I will keep listening when people are talking so I can understand what they are trying to explain as well. That doesn't mean any of us have to change what we think, by the way, but we should try to understand why people think what they do. And sometimes that means listening to an over explainer, over explain.


(For those of you that read my fiction and are like WAIT A MINUTE! YOU LEAVE SHIT OUT ALL THE TIME! Yeah...I do don't I? When I leave things out in those pieces it's because I think you have your own explanation for what has or is about to happen. Sure, I have an idea, but maybe yours is better so I want you to have that.)


Monday, January 8, 2018

Manners Matter...

"I'd rather not, thank you though for asking." Then she smiled and started to go on her way sure that that would be the end of the discussion.

Her mother had taught her that politeness mattered. Even in situations where you wouldn't think it would make a difference it really could. She remembered once as a young child she and her mother had been shopping in New York City, now this was the New York City of the 1980s not the clean and friendly Disney version of New York City she now quite enjoyed, but the grittier version from her childhood. Which to be perfectly frank, she had quite enjoyed as well.

But anyway, her mother and she had been shopping and were waiting for a cab when a man stepped out of an alley way and told her mother to give him her purse. "Oh, no dear, I don't think I will do that. I need my purse you see. But thank you for asking." The would be robber had stared at her mother.

"I wasn't asking, I was telling. Give me the bag!"

"Oh I know, but I was giving you a chance to correct yourself. I am sure your mother taught you better manners than that. You shouldn't tell people what to do, you should ask them politely."

He leaned forward a little, the puzzled look on his face increasing. "Give me the bag and nobody gets hurt."

Her mother had smiled again, "No thank you, really, I need my bag you see. It has my ID in it, and my house keys and the pictures of my children. It's very important to me to keep my bag. If you take it from me you will most likely just throw it away, correct? That doesn't do either one of us any good."

"LADY! GIVE ME THE BAG!"

"I'd rather not. Here, you can take this as I see it seems to be very important to you to get something out of this exchange." Her mother held out a $20 bill she had had tucked in to the edge of her glove to give to the cab driver. He reached out to snatch it from her and she pulled it back away from him, "What do you say?"

He stared at her again.

"Please? Thank you?" her mother prompted.

He shook his head at the crazy woman, "Please may I have the money?"

"Of course, dear, go get something to eat with it. I assume you have forgotten your manners because you are hungry."

He took the money and stared at them again. Her mother cocked her head and nodded a bit, "And?"

He stammered out, "Thank you."

Just then a cab pulled up and he actually reached out and opened the door for them. "Oh, thank you so much. That is very kind of you."

So you see, she had reason to believe that a firm politeness could make a difference. She preferred to use "I'd rather" and "Thank you" over almost any other tactic. She could be more forceful when needed, but it was rarely needed.

She had used it in job negotiations. "I'd rather I was payed more than that, I  am sure you can understand my point of view." She had used it more than once to correct bad behavior when she was working as a waitress, "I'd rather you didn't touch me when I walk past you. If you need my attention you can ask for me by name. Thank you so much." She had used it on her children when they were growing up, "I'd rather you put your clothes away than leave them on the bed, or in the dryer. Thank you." Always said with a smile on her face and a calm demeanor. She rarely had to state her preference twice.

Except this time.

"No really, I'd rather not. You see I have to be on my way. I have things I need to take care of today and this will not work for me at all." She smiled again to get her point across. Her very best firm smile. The one that showed she meant business.

This was a puzzling situation to be sure. A polite yet firm denial was not an option. They held out their hand again, this time shaking it a little to get the point across.

"I understand what you are asking. I'm not confused. I'd just rather not. But thank you for giving me the option."

There was no option. This was not a situation where options were considered. To think that there would be an option was puzzling. They held out their hand one more time. This time with a quick snap to the extension. Impatience was not something they normally felt, time was not usually a consideration.

She smiled and shook her head and turned once more to walk away. They stood in front of her again. "Oh, now that's a very fancy trick. You move very quickly, considering you don't seem to have any muscle mass. Quite impressive. But really, I am in a bit of a hurry here and I'd rather not go with you just now. Thank you, though."

They dropped their hood and stared at her through apparently empty eye sockets. It had been years since they had to speak to someone and they weren't even sure that there was a voice left in their form, "You don't get to choose." They rasped out.

"Oh but I always get to choose. We all have choices. Even you have a choice. And right now I'd rather not, and you can choose to come back later. It will just be easier for all parties involved."

They shook their head, "No. There are no choices. Your time is over."

"No, no, it's not. It can't be because I have things left to do. I have a grandchild on the way, did you know that? How can my time possibly be over when I have that to come?"

Now they understood. Bargaining they had heard before. They shook their head, "The child will hear of you. But you can't stay any longer. Your time is over."

She shook her head again and in her sternest, yet still polite tone said, "No. I'd rather not leave right now, thank you."

They shook their head again. "You cannot decided. You are part of the wheel and your turn is over. It is time for someone else to take your place."

"Excuse me? What do you mean take my place?"

If they had eyes they would have rolled them. Nobody understood the ways of LIFE anymore, "Your force needs to leave this body, there is another body waiting for you to join. If you delay much longer that child will be born as only part of the whole it was intended to be."

"You mean reincarnation? I go again?"

They waved their hands back and forth a little, "Not entirely you. Part of you with part of another. Your force is part of a quilt. You all borrow from each other. Right now the you that you hold in this body is a collection of 4 different lives that came before. The next body you are destined for is 8. Unless you somehow make it only 7. Which would be disastrous."

"Why disastrous?"

"If the system doesn't work, which is rare, but it happens, the body that was designed to hold 4 only gets 3 or gets 5, for instance, the life they live will be chaotic and unhappy. Always searching for something they are missing, the need to fill an always empty space that they cannot possibly fill. Or always feeling as though they are too much, too full, too many voices. Chaotic and unhappy."

"Oh." She paused and thought for a moment. "So it would be rude of me to delay any longer."

They nodded, "Yes. That is one way to put it. It would be rude."

"Well why didn't you say so in the first place."

She reached out to Death and took hold of their bony hand. "No sense making everyone else wait. I'd rather we do this quickly, thank you."


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Questions...

Happy New Year!

Since I have a constant rotation of goals going on I don't generally do resolutions. I've always felt that resolutions seemed kind of negative. Fixing things that are wrong with you, while goals seemed more positive, striving toward bettering things. Probably just a framing thing. So in the spirit of re-framing I am going to put forward a few resolutions... 

I resolve to continue to be the best and most me me that I can be. I resolve to not only keep looking for answers but to keep looking for better questions. I resolve to keep making lists of goals and stretch goals and challenging myself to be more than I thought I could be. 

Happy New Year to you all! I hope that 2018 finds you being the best you that you can be and striving to be even more.

That was my New Year's Eve status this year on Facebook. I wanted to put it up here because what I'm about to talk about falls in to this resolution. Ask better questions.

I have been listening to a podcast from Scene on the Radio called Seeing White and it's been fascinating. Partly because it's exploring something that was actually new to me this year. The idea of when race became a thing. Specifically white. I think most of us just assume that it's always been this way. But when Brent and I were in Washington DC this year we toured the Smithsonian's newest museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture and I discovered that white as a construct was relatively new. And unsurprisingly it had to do with slavery.

(I highly recommend the museum, by the way, but it's not a frivolous trip, it's heavy. It makes you really think. Brent said he wasn't sure how any white person doesn't leave wanting to apologize and any black person doesn't leave really angry.)

So anyway, the concept of white as a race started in the 17th century. Before that people were defined by where they were from. And even after that there was a lot of that going on. Still is really, but even more so in the past, the Saxons hated the Celts for instance. And now we would never think to separate them from each other, just white. But it was used to "other" people so there could be less guilt about slavery. If there were white people and the white people were the best people then holding the others as slaves was a good idea and really was best for them, poor backward souls. Not even kidding, those were the rationalizations.

So back to the Seeing White podcast. It's talking about race and racism in the United States. And it's incredibly interesting. And I am learning a lot. There are things being covered that I had no idea about. Because we are really bad at teaching history in our country. We like to polish it up and spin it and make things tidy. History is never tidy. And our history, the history of our country, is really messy. But because we refuse to talk about it we can't move past it.

I live in a really white city in a really white state. When Brent and I first moved here were both noticed it, you can't help but notice it if you move from someplace else. He grew up in Michigan and I grew up in New Mexico. When he first moved to New Mexico from Michigan he noticed how few black people were around. I hadn't ever paid attention to that. We have a lot of shades of brown and white, hadn't realized how lacking in black we were. You don't notice what has always been. But Brent noticed that there was a lack of black and more shades of brown than he had been used to. When we moved up here we noticed that the shades of brown and black were lessened immensely. And you had to go to different neighborhoods to see any diversity at all. What variety we have here is pretty segregated. There are historically African American communities in Portland, Hillsboro has a higher Mexican population, and where Brent and I live we have a high Asian and Indian population, though that is growing and newer, but it's always been higher than the rest of Portland because of Intel and Nike, now it's just even higher. But even with that I can go most days and count the number of black or hispanic people I see on one hand. It's white around here.

And when I found out that it wasn't white by coincidence but by design I was shocked.

Portland? Liberal Portland?

Well, yeah. The KKK was huge here in the day. Our constitution had rules about no black people built in to it. It was a sundown state. As in you could work here, or travel through here, but if you were black you needed to be gone by sundown. You couldn't live here. That's why it's so white around here. The people that settled this state were white. The people that passed down their land passed it down to their white kids, who passed it down to white kids who....see where this is going? Even now it's got a really nasty racist underbelly that shows itself more and more these days.

These are the sorts of things you find out when you start asking questions. And we have a whole lot of these sorts of things in our history as a country. And we try and tidy them up. South Bad. North Good. Well, except for the fact that there were race riots in New York over the Civil War. White people beat up black people in the streets because they didn't want to go fight a war for "them." And the mayor of New York City wanted to succeed rather than be part of the Union. New York City. Our history is complicated. Abraham Lincoln would have kept slavery intact if he thought it would save the Union. Ralph Waldo Emerson who gets a lot lot of love for being anti-slavery wasn't anti-slavery because of the slaves, it was because he thought it wasn't good for white people. He didn't care about the slaves themselves, just thought the barbarism of holding slaves was beneath whites. Or more specifically Saxons. He hated the Celts as well. But we don't read those books by him. Only the ones we have polished and shined. History is messy, people are messy.

And we built our country on this foundation. And we don't want to deal with it still. The things that are left. The generations of head start that white people got with land and money. The way we still "other" anyone with different skin coloration. We say insane things like "I'm color blind." Well you only get to be color blind if you are white. Really. When you know you aren't going to be judged first by your skin it's easy to say that it shouldn't matter. But when you carry your difference on your face? Then it's not so easy. And we shouldn't be color blind anyway. We should respect the differences. Race doesn't really exist scientifically. We are all the human race, that's it. But culturally? There are differences. And differences upon differences. Where are you from? What part of the country? What traditions are passed down? What beliefs does your family hold? Culturally there are a lot of differences. So color blind is stupid. How about instead of saying you don't see color you see it and see if it's benefiting you while disadvantaging someone else?

Ask better questions.

What is the real problem with our race issues in this country? Why do we have them? And why can't we talk about them?

I'm a middle aged white woman. Trust me I know it's hard to have this discussion. I have black friends and their lives are different than mine. I know there are people out there that don't want to believe it but I've listened when they talk about their experiences and they are different than mine. I believe them when they talk about things that have happened to them because of the color of their skin. And I've seen it. I've talked about it before, my best friend and I had very different experiences in stores depending on if we were shopping with my mother or hers. Two black women and a white one or two white women and a black one. The math ratio made a difference. Don't be color blind. That doesn't help deal with those sorts of problems.

As I was listening today I was flashing back on arguments I've had with other white people over the years and thought, everyone should listen to this. And HEAR it. But the problem is, they won't. The people who do not want to recognize that our forefathers built the racism in to our system would never seek this out to listen to it. And if they did they would spend so much time getting defensive that they wouldn't be able to hear it. Because that's what happens. Defensive. "I'm not a racist!" You might not be, but you have benefited from a racist system. And because you have, it behooves you to try and fix it for the next generation coming up. If you want to be colorblind you need to make a system that is as well. But you don't. You want to stomp around and make clear that you aren't racist and everything you have you got on your own and there was no benefit and....

I don't know what will fix our issues. I don't know how to repair the foundation we were built on. I don't have any real answers. But I'm going to keep asking questions. I'm going to keep seeking out the messy history. I'm going to keep looking at what is there. Ask better questions and you'll learn so much more than you ever thought you needed to know.