Meme’ing in the New Year


English: Fireworks over Reykjavik on New Year'...

Fireworks over Reykjavik on New Year’s Eve (Wikipedia)

 

Last New Year’s Eve, I stole a meme from my husband’s blog that proved to be quite an enjoyable retrospective in an end of the year sort of way. I was reminded of it as I browsed stats today and noted that the post had generated a bit of traffic. So because I don’t make resolutions or really do anything to commemorate the change over from one year to the next, I decided to haul this Q and A out and see how it applies to the year nearly past.

 

1.  What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?

 

I didn’t really write. I thought about it. Plotted. Vaguely outlined. Mused. But in the end, I didn’t write a single piece of fiction. A first in the entirety of my life really because I have always been a storyteller. Even when I was too wee to write them down – I told stories.

 

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

 

Again, I don’t make them and I wonder at people who do as they don’t seem to follow through on their self-promises much or at all. If you can’t even keep a promise to yourself, why bother?

 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

 

No. Rob’s niece by marriage and more marriage is expecting in the new year, but no one we know in person gave birth. Though a Facebook friend had a little boy on my birthday, I don’t think that counts. There are no flesh and blood babies in my life.

 

4. Did anyone close to you die?

 

No. Edie’s cat died not long ago. His name was Nike. 18 years old and with a personality and stories that have the potential to be a best-seller … in America anyway. They just love their feisty pets with personality plus adventures down there.

 

5. What countries did you visit?

Went to the States as we do at least once every year. Last time we will pull the holiday trailer however. Longest to and from ever. While we were there we did the tourist thing. Saw sites I hadn’t visited since I was a teen. House on the Rock for instances, which is a highly overrated hoarder’s heaven and Galena, which is little more than an arts and crafts sale masquerading as a hip artist enclave.

 

 

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?

I don’t lack. it would be awesome if we could finish the renovations we started in 2010, so we could think about selling and moving closer to, if not actually in, civilization, but it’s not the most pressing matter.

If I wanted at all, the want was a tablet and after much assessing and comparing – Rob’s boss gave him an iPad as a “thank you” for a job well done. Want granted.

Oh, I would like a new bike. My husband has an awesome bike. I ‘d like one like it. But again, not a burning in my soul desire.

 

 

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Um …. can’t think of one. Nothing really happened. Okay, things happened, but not events that impacted me in a way that would etch a date on my brain matter.

 

 

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I have cemented myself as a local teacher of yoga. I am surprised by how many people know of me or what I teach and when/where. I consider that an achievement.

 

 

9. What was your biggest failure?

 

Hmmmmmm. Failure? I would have said chocolate angel food cake because I haven’t been able to make one successfully from scratch, but I pulled that one off on Christmas Eve. So, no big failures this year.

 

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Well, if you want to think of perimenapause as an illness (which it is and isn’t depending) than that.

You know how some people are always laying blame for this or that malady on hormones being out of balance or something? Turns out mine actually are. Working on that.

 

 

11. What was the best thing you bought?

 

A pair of 1969 Curvy jeans from the Gap. Awesome. Also, a down filled winter jacket from Mark’s. Money well spent.

 

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

 

Well, my husband, Rob, continues to be fabulous. He re-roofed our house this summer, single-handedly, in spite of tornadic weather and gout in both of his ankles. Seriously impressive considering the rook is a 12/12 pitch that even had professional roofers bowing to him in homage.

 

13. Whose behavior appalled you?

The whole POTUS campaign in the US and pretty much everyone associated with it. The level of willful ignorance and appalling amount of disinformation on both sides decided me on whether or not to hang on to my US citizenship once I have become a Canadian citizenship, which will hopefully be in the coming year. I am just not like homelanders and I think that I never really did fit in down there.

 

 

14. Where did most of your money go?

Necessities and home improvement.15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

I let myself care too much about the outcome of the US POTUS race. Not that there was much of a choice between the resident evil or the evil wanna be. One of my Facebook “friends”, a blogger of some renown who doesn’t know as much about politics, or reality, as she thinks she does, replied to a comment I left about “lesser evils” to the effect that I was morally bankrupt for not realizing that Obama was clearly not the evil one. He’s a “nice” guy. After all, his wife and kids love him.

But that just prompted me to recall Sondheim’s use of the word “nice” in Into the Woods. Nice is a catch-all word that means nothing of the kind. It’s the word we apply to things when we don’t want to really say what we think for fear of what others will think about us.

I also got really jazzed up about the provincial election here in Alberta and was frustrated by my inability as a landed immigrant to vote. I am so glad that when the next federal election rolls around, I will be a Canadian proper and able to participate in the electoral process. Though I twisted my husband’s arm on voting the PC’s back in – because Wildrose was simply unacceptable – if Trudeau ends up leading the Liberals, I might have to change allegiance even though the Alberta Lib leader, Raj Sherman, is an utter nob.

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?

Goyte’s Someone that I Used to Know or anything by Fun.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder?  I continue to be remarkably happy.
b) thinner or fatter?  I am thinner and probably in better shape than I have been in years.
c) richer or poorer?  Personally, I am poorer because I have cut back on my self-employment, but on the whole, status remains quo.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Gotten away for short holidays. Especially over the summer. We were far too home bound this year.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?.

Wasted my time on US politics.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

With family. Children and Rob’s mom. Probably a bit more of the latter than we needed. There is a reason why after we’ve grown and moved out of our parents’ homes and on with our lives that we keep visits short and try to always stay in hotels when we do visit.

21. Did you fall in love in 2011?

I remained in love and blissfully so. I know that sounds unreal that approaching six years of marriage, I am still very much into it, but I am.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

Don’t watch actual broadcast tv. Don’t even have cable. We do have Netflix and I have tried to acquire a taste for tv shows ala carte, but tv is so boring. The acting is “meh” and the writing is generally atrocious.

If you like tv, nothing personal, but I have to wonder why and if something might be wrong with you.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No, I still have a general distaste for the same few. No outright hate but I wouldn’t shed tears if any of these people were to meet with an untimely demise.

24. What was the best book you read?

Hilary Mantel’s follow-up to Wolf Hall called Bring Up the Bodies was excellent, and Susanna Kearsley’s The Rose Garden was brilliant.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Discovered nothing.

26. What did you want and get?

I wanted a tablet and lo, one appeared.

27. What did you want and not get?

I kinda hoped that Obama wouldn’t get re-elected simply because a new POTUS takes time to get up and running. Anything that would slow the evil that emanates from down there would have been a good thing.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

 

Didn’t see a single film in the theatre. Can’t stand going to movies.

 

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

 

We went to this great Indian buffet in Sherwood Park called A Taste of India. Excellent food. And I turned 49. It really feels about the same as the last two or three-ish years.

 

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

 

If I had gotten my letter from Canadian immigration telling me when and where to come to take my citizenship test.

 

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

Still very yoga.

 

 

32. What kept you sane?

 

Rob, as always. Though I don’t know if I keep him sane, but that wasn’t the question, was it.

 

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

 

I don’t really do that.

 

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

 

The issues surrounding the extra-territoral taxation that the United States is attempting to foist upon Canada in contradiction of our Charter Rights. It’s clear over-reach and it threatens our sovereignty.

 

35. Who did you miss?

 

Not really sure what this question is asking, so I am going to ignore it again.

 

36. Who was the best new person you met?

Did I meet anyone new?

 

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.

If you can’t disagree without getting personal, foot-stomping or name-calling, you are probably not old enough to be allowed in a serious discussion.

 

 

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Some nights, I stay up cashing in my bad luck.
Some nights, I call it a draw.
Some nights, I wish that my lips could build a castle
Some nights, I wish they’d just fall off

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for oh
What do I stand for? What do I stand for?
Most nights, I don’t know anymore…

 

 

 

My Nephew, Alex P. Keaton


Sympathy card

Sympathy card (Photo credit: artnoose)

It’s no secret that my younger nephew, N2 is a Republican. During the election of 2008, he used to yell rebuttals at Obama signs as they drove by and while he has outgrown that, he took yesterday’s election results a bit hard.

“Who won?” he asked my sister when she roused him for school.

“Well, N2,” she said, gently, “Obama won.”

He was mute for a moment and then, “But how? Why? Don’t they understand?”

Because for N2, this election was about the economy. It was about taxes and the 53%, which is where he firmly plants himself and his parents.

There were no vagina politics or healthcare concerns for him. He doesn’t have a vagina, and healthcare for him is a moot point. His parents are middle-class and professionally white-collar.

More to the point, he lives in an area of the country that has an unemployment rate of less than 5%. Jobs actually go begging.

Oh, there is poverty. He’s never seen it himself though he’s driven past it on his way to his paternal grandmother’s. It exists just off the edge of the peripheral vision of the city.  Some endemic and some uprooted from Chicago when that city tore down its low income housing and the inhabitants fled to the river cities along the border Illinois and Iowa border.

Like a lot of people in my hometown, N2 has limited patience with those of the generational poverty crowd. Needing help and even taking it is fine but it isn’t a first resort and certainly isn’t something you do forever and then pass on to kids and grandkids.

You work hard. You follow the rules. Pay your taxes and save and you live a good life because you’ve done the things necessary to make it happen. That’s how his father does it. That’s how his grandfather did it. That’s how N2 plans to do it.

He doesn’t think it is fair that some people get to skirt around the self-restraint, work, sacrifice, and in a lot of ways, he is not wrong.

It’s like that bible story of the prodigal son, who demands his inheritance and then pisses it away, crawling back later when he has nothing left. His father, instead of taking the kid up on his offer of working to make it up, simply hands him more. When the prodigal’s older brother expresses some rightful resentment, he is told not to be such a jerk.

That’s how N2 sees it. The rules for him are different, more demanding and requiring that he shoulder his own weight and pony up for the slackers besides.

And while it is a little more complicated than that, he is just eleven. Life is concrete and nuance-less, and some of us never really leave the idea of middle school fairness behind. Which is also not all that bad a thing.

After his mother calmed him down and got him out the door to the bus stop, his dad joined him and N2 ranted himself up into a frenzy again.

“I just don’t get it.”

And though it’s tempting to try to explain the politics of social values, race, gender and those who consider themselves too educated and too far up the food chain to dirty themselves worrying about anything as grimy, slimy as economic realities, it would be a waste of time.

N2 is a simple guy in the making. Family first. Work ethic. Loyalty to friends and community. Politics is and always will be local for him.

And that’s not a terrible thing.

Those who puzzled along with N2 yesterday, maybe still today, are not concerned with the great social agenda as much as they are with impact of a sputtering economy on their families and communities. It’s not wrong to care about those things either.

I ran across FB updates and op-ed/blog posts reminding these people “hey, I lived under Bush and survived, so just shut the fuck up and do the same as I did”, which they’ve forgotten was whine and whinge and carry on like toddlers more often than not. Though they seem to think they were the Dalai Lama and Jon Stewart rolled into one during Bush/Cheney, I remember it differently.

“My condolences,” I said to N2 when he appeared in the background as I chatted to my sister and mother on FaceTime.

“Huh?”

“She’s saying she is sorry that Romney lost,” my sis translated.

“Oh, thanks,” he smiled.

That’s all people want. To know that you know their disappointment and respect their right to it. Saying, “I know you are disappointed just like the time I was but I wasn’t as big a baby as you are being” is not empathy. Just saying.

Pitfalls of Email, Snowpocalypse and the Fiscal Cliff


Red winter coat

Red winter coat (Photo credit: chlywhite)

Had hoped to avoid all US election related updates until at least this evening, but I was foiled by my gmail account of all things. It contained a less than subdued gloat headline from the Huffpo.

I hate Huffpo but I foolishly linked to it via Facebook once and now it spams my mailbox with its tripe. Not consistently though, so I don’t know if I am actually on its mailing list or if my sporadic following of links back to its equally vacuous Canadian version remind it that I exist now and again, and it feels obligated to send me a missive.

Anyway, four more years. Rah. Rah. Whatever. Nothing has changed. My course is set and at some point next year that course and the United States of America will part ways.

I did chuckle a bit when I read a post at ZeroHedge that noted the stock market reacted to the Obama win by promptly dropping.

Not because of Obama but because the odds of a fiscal cliff nightmare showdown went up and the odds of resolution went down quite a bit. Best advice I saw regarding the personal finance health of all US taxable persons came from Simon Black at Sovereign Man who said,

after December 31st,

- Income tax rates are going up
– Capital gains rates are going up
– Rates on dividends are going up
– Estate and gift tax exclusions are going down. Dramatically.

If you are a US taxpayer, you now have 53 days to get your tax affairs in order.

53 days left! It’s like the anti-Christmas.

Meanwhile, a snowstorm blasts it’s way through our neck of Canada. What began as “possibly 5 to 10 cms” has morphed into probably 25cms with a bit of freezing rain, blowing, drifting and shit for visibility.

Had I not desperately needed the massage I was scheduled for early this morning, I wouldn’t have ventured forth at all. But between allergies and hormonally driven semi-migraines, I was left with no choice.

Once in town, it seemed foolish not to stop at the fitness centre for a brisk walk. Here I found a semi pulling an empty flatbed jacked neatly between the curb and a lamppost and nicely impeding inflowing traffic.

It only got better.

At the Safeway, a young blond woman nearly smashed me flat in the pedestrian cross walk because I nearly slipped and she was driving far too fast for the condition of the pavement.

On the way back to our hamlet, I passed one semi in the ditch to next encounter an oversize cube van blocking the entire road. How he managed to get his back half dangling over the banked ditch and his front half at a diagonal cutting off the oncoming traffic almost completely, I still can’t work out in my mind’s eye. Some people are just very talented winter drivers.

At this point, as I was slowly turning myself around, I realized that Dee’s bus would have to travel this road home plus quite a few other back country roads that weren’t nearly as wide or snow cleared. I headed back into town, swung by school for her and took the very long way back home. Long because it involved using the highways and because the blowing made visibility even worse as town receded and was replaced by fields and little else.

Remarkably I am still maintaining a fair bit of zen about this early winter thing. I have considerably less zen about the gloating on my FB feed and I might need to hide more people. While my conservative friends have kept their disappoint largely under control, some liberal friends have been smug fucks for the most part, but I feel bad for people who are now having to resign themselves to another four years under the boot heel (their perspective) of a guy they loathe. I lived under Reagan, Bush I and Bush II, so I get that. Knowing also that there really is no difference in what now happens as opposed to what would have happened under a Romney win, I see little reason for happiness or sadness but I am inclined to be more tolerant of the sad. For now. I believe in a statue of limitations. A reasonable time frame but one that definitely is finite.

And nobody gloats as cattily or with as much “in your face assholes who disagreed with me!!” as a liberal does. Except maybe O’Reilly, Hannity and Rush – and they are entertainers who are paid to do it. My FB friends are just being mean girls for the mean girls in the choir.

I am tired of hearing about people’s vaginas though. And I don’t want to hear about the prepubescent vaginas of my friends’ daughters. Ewww.

Snow continues to pile as I type. Did we have a storm this bad last winter? Once possibly. I think it might be the norm this winter. Damn my sister and her prescient knees.

The winter that Rob and I met, it began snowing here in early November and just snowed like a bastard all winter long. Shoveled snow piled alongside roads and sidewalks until it was like going through tunnels.

I don’t recall what it was like in Iowa that winter. Not that bad because I was teaching at Hoover High in Des Moines, I am fairly certain I walked outdoors at lunch nearly everyday. It was an icy fucker of a winter though and led to a Noah’s Ark spring that nearly did me in with a basement flooding while I was trying to sell in a housing market with the bubble about to burst.

Memories of fun times. Sigh.

However, I am two for two on the “suck it up and drive; it’s just winter” meter. If a little snowstorm stops you in Alberta, you might as well just make like a bear.

That is Enough


English: Logo for the Our America Initiative

English: Logo for the Our America Initiative (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometime later today (except for this blog and photobombing my own FB feed), I head offline for a few days. I can pretty much count on no one around here feeding me POTUS election results because, frankly, no one in my neck of Canada really cares all that much. While the folks out East gobble up election coverage with the same hysteria that Americans do, we out here in the hinterlands just don’t dwell close enough (apart from Vancouver) to worry over much about the cry baby/sore loser fears, and we puzzle a bit about all the smug gloating. Canadians really don’t do either and consider it one of those undesirable American traits that feed our own sense of superiority – only quietly. Arched eyebrow, slight eye roll and maybe a slightly inaudible cluck of the tongue.

So, if I manage to avoid accidental contact with print media, I might be able to remain ignorant of who is POTUS until my mother arrives for her visit.

That’s my focus of the next several days. My mommy is coming to visit me. The only member of my family and friend set who will brave the trip up to bask in my company. No one else really loves me enough, which is why we trek down there once a year, enduring questionable sleep and GMO-laden foods.

I think my plan is a sound one. I stole it from another FB friend who is employing a similar tactic though she plans to be gone for weeks. Living in Michigan, I don’t know how she will manage blissful ignorance but I admire her spirit.

She is one of the few FB friends I have who didn’t either unfriend me or hide my feed during the last few months as I railed against the lack of fact, tact and general disregard for buying in totally to the age of soundbite and meme politics. One person even blocked me from posting on the blog s/he writes, which is interesting given how infrequently I comment anywhere in the blogosphere anymore.

It’s been an ugly wrap up to a interminably long POTUS cycle (two years and $6billion dollars – they should be asking for forgiveness for such a waste of time and resource), and in the end, nothing much will change. No Mayan end of the world. No zombies. No notably shifts in culture or socioeconomic levels.

When I compare it to a Canadian election cycle – six mercifully short weeks at the end of which politicians actually go back to work – I could weep.

Biggest awareness moment for me is that I have changed. Enough that I need to do some real thinking about quite a few things.

In the past reactionary, lesser evil politics worked well enough for me. Now? Not so much.

I used to be a big supporter of women’s rights but I see now that it is a distraction issue and that civil/human rights issues and laws that don’t distinguish gender, religion, or “race” is really where effort must be put. It only serves the masters when we scramble for scraps and fight amongst each other.

One of my feed updates today said that I just don’t care about how anyone feels – good or bad – tomorrow in terms of the POTUS election aftermath. A friend noted that I seemed to care a lot, but she read it wrong. I care about all the issues that weren’t discussed as folks bought wholesale into the little details they think are at stake and about the continuing degradation of the voting process in the US, but the drama and the gloating tomorrow – because it will be out of proportion, mean-spirited in a personal way that will ruin friendships and hurt family relations – I don’t care about that.

This election isn’t personal in an intimate sense for me, but it is a watershed.

If your guy won, congrats though I still think that he will have no great impact on events to come. They are bigger than he is and the Europeans, Canadians, Chinese, Russians and all the rest have it right – America doesn’t matter as much as she thinks she does.

If your guy lost, I am sorry. Nothing bad is going to result though. Your life is going to be pretty much the same as it was last week and last year. A POTUS can’t really create jobs or fix economies or stop hurricanes from inundating neighborhoods that really just sit too close to the sea now that the climate is shifting (and he can’t do anything about that either). Chin up. People have lived under POTUS’s they didn’t vote for before and even believed was the anti-Christ. They survived without any visible scarring, so take heart.

I will cheer a bit in Gary Johnson gets enough votes to qualify the Libertarians as a real party with a right to federal funding for their candidates. A third-party emerging from this farce is a bright spot to be sure.

Enjoy the election theatre this evening. I am going to teach a yoga class , read a few chapters of The Mark of Athena to Dee before tucking her in. take a long shower with my husband and then curl up with my iPad to finish a book about Henry VII. Fascinatingly, we can virtually nowhere since the days when paranoid monarchs ruled us through fear and favoritism.

Tomorrow is another day for thinking about things. Scarlett may have been self-interested, but she had her priorities straight.

The Man Without a Country: Acts of the Ex-Patriot and other Vindictive American Ideas


Biometric United States passport issued in 2007

Biometric United States passport issued in 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was about the age of my daughter, I saw a television movie called The Man Without a Country with starring the late Cliff Robertson. A deadly dull teleplay in retrospect and I suspect wasn’t incredibly thrilling at the time, but it appealed and appalled my little girl sense of fairness in a way that I can still vividly recall today.

Cribbed from a short story written by Edward Everett Hale, who intended for it to stir patriotic fervor as the Civil War dragged on, it is a tale about a young Army officer, Nolan, caught in the treason trail of Arron Burr and impetuously shouts out at his trial, “Damn the United States! I wish I may never hear of the United States again!”

Maliciously, the sentencing judge grants the young man’s wish and effectively renders him stateless by ordering that he spend the rest of his days as a prisoner on various Navy vessels, forever deprived of his homeland by word or deed.

I remember the last scene of the movie vividly. A young officer finds the dying Nolan in a cabin decked out in United States flags, maps and other symbolism. He grants the old man the dying wish of hearing about “home”.

It was very sad but my ten-year old self as incensed by the cruelty of the sentence. One impetuous outburst during a treason trial that was more of a political witch hunt (though at the time I didn’t know enough about Burr to really understand the politics in play) and this man was banished from his home while people who bore more guilt were not.

I didn’t know the story was a fiction or that the fiction was a propaganda tool to ignite Union sentiment at a time with the United States was more a collection of states than a country. I just know that it wasn’t fair. Regardless of where a person choose to live or the criticism he/she might have for his/her government, depriving someone of the place where they were born as punishment was wrong.

Because I am currently in the process of becoming a Canadian citizen, the idea of “home” is much on my mind. How does one have two homes? When push comes to shove, where lies loyalty?

And then the news of Eduardo Saverin broke via the recent IPO unveiling of Facebook and the fact that Mr. Saverin, as a co-founder, stands to collect billions more in profit. Saverin is a Brasilian who became a U.S. citizen when  as a child – probably through his parents much as Dee will attain Canadian citizenship through my application. With news of the IPO, it came to light that Saverin, who hasn’t lived in the U.S. in several years and who has obtained citizenship in Singapore where he lives, had renounced this U.S. citizenship. For purposes of avoiding taxes was the media assumption though as any ex-pat knows, relinquishing citizenship can carry a hefty exit tax for those whose assets exceed specified amounts.

Given the bitter and unrelentingly negative press about ex-pats (American citizens who live abroad) of late, the outcry in the comment sections of news websites was predictably jingoistic and devoid of much by way of actual facts.

“Love it or leave it!”

“America doesn’t need traitors anyway!”

As if anyone who has ever left the U.S. has only done so because they are dodgers of some sort with a sketchy grasp of loyalty.

Most of what has been written lately about those of us who make our homes outside the United States has been decidedly scathing and rather loose with the interpretations of why some of us seek citizenship in other places, often choose to never return and sometimes relinquish our accident of birth derived American citizenships.

America is and has been mostly always about money and the acquisition of it and the stuff that can accompany having wealth. Being so, it makes sense that those who buy whole-heartedly in the myth of the America Dream would see those of us who leave as being money/stuff traitors. What other reason than wealth would propel us to leave the richest most bestest nation on the planet? Nothing is as important as dinero and toys after all.

It could well be that Saverin was motivated to renounce because the hassle of yet another citizenship obligation – including taxes – got to be a bit much. My personal guess is that someone who has lived in more than one country has a world view that allows him to see that America is not the only desirable place in the world to call home and therefore doesn’t see the loss of legal status as a tragedy. It’s not like he is poor Nolan, stateless and barred from contact or news. I am sure he still has his Facebook account to keep him in touch and if not, there is always Twitter.

I have never been under the illusion that the United States is the only nice place in the world to live. It’s not the only democracy or the only place with indoor plumbing. Though some of those in my native land fervently believe otherwise. Canada is not the armpit of the Americas nor is it some red-haired step-child longing to be like its geographically smaller sibling to the south.

While I admit that those who renounce due to the onerous filing obligations to the IRS have a valid point, I am financially insignificant enough that my husband can still navigate my taxes every year, but that’s not the case for many others. It’s especially onerous, and not fair, to expect dual citizens to file taxes when they owe nothing – as is the case with many dual U.S./Canadians and the expectation that those who are married to non-U.S. citizens hand over their spouses private financial information can’t be considered okay no matter how the U.S. government tries to spin it.

Saverin’s case though prompted an additional slap at ex-pats in the form of a bill introduced by two Democrats called the Ex-Patriot Act, which would de facto label any U.S. citizen who renounces as a tax cheat and bar them from ever stepping foot on American soil again. The IRS will be the final arbitrator as to the whether or not the renunciate has a “good reason” for leaving (apparently marriage, children, having a life will not count) and everyone who lives in another country, whether as a permanent resident or a dual citizen will be treated as some sort of traitor to Uncle Sam. At least that’s my understanding. And given the comments of my fellow Americans, most of completely fine with this idea.

I came to Canadian because the man I loved, and was planning to marry and spend the rest of my life with, is a Canadian. Our life, quite frankly, trumps all other considerations including my birth on Plantation America.

I became a landed immigrant not quite four years ago and am eligible to apply for citizenship now. My reasons for becoming a Canadian came home to my quite clearly during the last provincial election here in Alberta. I want to vote. This is my home and I want to have a say in what happens. In fact, when I read about the special ward election coming up, due to our ward councillor being elected as an MLA, I realized that only my lack of citizenship stood in the way of my running for that office.

Not long after Dee started school, she asked me about a line in the anthem that they sing at the beginning of each new week.

“What does it mean to ‘stand on guard for thee’?”

I have known this was coming for a long time. A day when I felt my loyalty lay more with my adopted country than the one I was born in. It doesn’t pain me to begin to take the steps. It does irritate me that I am wrongly attributed base motivations for doing so. It probably pisses Eduardo Saverin off too, but as I don’t know him anymore than Sen Schumer does, I won’t cast him the villain. Of course, I don’t have a reason for grandstand pandering like Schumer does because I am not a politician. Yet.

Why Is It Still Okay to Call a Woman a Slut?


Call a gay person a faggot and it’s hateful. Sling the n-word at a black person and you are a racist. But call a woman a slut? Follow it up with slander about her sexual appetites and put in a request for YouTube videos of her “banging it five times a day”. That’s just …? What exactly is that in America? Business as usual? Lately it seems so. But whatever you call it, no one is likely to call if sexism – though clearly it is. Few will see it as hate speech though if you ask a woman how it feels to be called a slut for using birth control, she is likely to feel degraded and vilified for the “crime” of exercising her right to self-determination or merely just taking legally prescribed medication for a physical ailment.

Rush Limbaugh‘s recent slut problem is hardly the first time the shock jock has taken gratuitous pot shots at the female gender for the sake of pandering for a living. He’s a misogynist. A lot of men his age are. I would even go so far as to say that it would be difficult for men of a certain age to not take their preferred gender status for granted and have incorporated the tenets of sexism to such an extent that they truly don’t really most of the time that they really have no respect for women. That’s not to excuse them. Racists of the pre-Civil Rights era were blind to their racism to some extent as well, but it doesn’t make their participation in it innocent.

Thanks to the recent Komen backlash and the even more recent birth control versus the Catholic Church and Rick Santorum uproar, women of social media means near instantly ignited the public’s fury, which has resulted in Limbaugh’s rather predictable non-apology and the less predictable disavowal of him by his advertising sponsors, who are dumping him in droves. It’s heartening to see women uniting and demanding that sexist rhetoric have consequences in the same way that anti-gay rhetoric provokes outrage or racist diatribe earns the rebuke it deserves.

But I fear, that gender slurs where females are concerned is still not seen as too big of a deal. It’s 2012 after all. Did women win their freedom back in the 1960’s? They got the pill and burned bras, right? Or maybe it was when the government deigned to allow us the vote barely 80 years ago and only after they bad publicity of beating suffragettes and force feeding women on hunger strikes made Uncle Sam look too evil to do anything else.

No, wait. It was in the 1970’s. There was Title IX, which allowed little girls to play school sports and the Equal Right’s Amendment. Didn’t Helen Reddy sing something about roaring women to celebrate that victory?

Except there was no victory. Female collaborators like Phyllis Schlafly barnstormed the country with stories about housewives turning lesbian and little baby fetuses piling up in the gutters and people like my Dad voted against ERA and the Constitution remained blissfully male oriented.

But man means “woman” too.

Except when it doesn’t and that’s most of the time.

When I graduated from college in 1987, North America was firmly entrenched in paying lip service to the notion that “women could have it all” but only the most foolish of my gender went out into the world and didn’t soon discover that to be completely untrue. And twenty-five years later, it’s just as untrue. Our so-called equality is as shallow as an episode of The Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Sure, we can have it all as long as we stay thin, don’t appear to age past 40, bring home our share of the household income and do more than our share of the housework and childcare. Be sexually attractive but never appear to enjoy sex or discuss it or anything else to do with our “naughty bits”. Don’t ask and don’t tell and if anything “down there” needs looking after, be prepared to cover the expense ourselves. At that includes pregnancy and wellness checks and contraception. Don’t ask and don’t tell. If you ask, we’ll know you are not a “good girl” and if you tell, we’ll know for sure you are a slut.

You can’t call a gay person a faggot or a black person the n-word. But you can call a woman a slut or a whore or cunt or a bitch. You can sing it even while barely clothed young women grind poles (or each other) in the background on a YouTube video. You can expect a woman to make a video of herself for your “entertainment”. You can do this because of men like Rush Limbaught and Rick Santorum. It’s possible because of collaborators like Pamela Gellar and Angela Morabito. You can do this because the Catholic Bishops have a long history of female suppression (almost as long as their support of priests who like little boys). You can do this because everywhere in the world, women are universally seated in the back of the metaphorically bus and we’ve accepted it or been brutally suppressed when we didn’t.

Rush is taking his lumps for being caught with his old school pants down, and it may or may not cost him his job – I’m going to say “not” – but the essence of the problem has not changed. Women stopped fighting for their rights much too soon. We settled for crumbs and we are paying the price of it.

Why is it still okay to call a woman a slut? Because we’ve allowed it to be.

America: Home of the Freely Intolerant and Bravely Prejudiced


Fair & Balanced graphic used in 2005

Image via Wikipedia

Last week my husband turned down a work opportunity that would have relocated us to the Gulf Coast in either Texas or Louisiana. Horrorifically hot, humid weather aside, what truly renders both locales less than optimum from a residential standpoint has far more to do with politics, religion and stupidity than anything else.

Having been born and raised in the Midwest, I find the US’s deep south perplexing and more than a bit backward redneck anyway. The East/West Coasters may make fun of those of us in the “fly-over” states, but we have more common sense than the rest of the country as a whole and though we aren’t as “cosmopolitian” we also aren’t as steeped in “isms” as they think. That distinction is reserved for The South.

Neither Rob nor I care much for the weather here. It’s too cold for too long and our summers are hit and miss. A warmer climate is a powerful attraction  and has a selling point, but after the last few weeks of observing the increasingly noxious Republican primary and its pungent political fallout – there is really no question of subjecting ourselves or our impressionable young daughter to the  sexism, racism and police state mentality that is rapidly filling in the empty core of  America’s values, which were of dubious quality to begin with.

First take the GOP mud match to the nomination. We actually watched a few of the debates, which always begin with the candidates introducing themselves as if they were on a game show. In their spiels they rattled off their religious credentials, martial status and ticked off progeny like contestants at a Mister or Missus America pageant. Only Ron Paul had the grace and sense to smile self-deprecatingly as he did so, but I got the feeling that he was the only one who realized just how meaningless the whole thing was in light of what is truly at stake.

Religion increasingly has become a cornerstone on which everything rests. Despite the fact the Founders specifically tried to avoid building a new country on any specific faith tenets, the US seems committed, at this point, to becoming some sort of theocracy, which wouldn’t be such a horrifying prospect if the proponents of the idea weren’t hell bent on embracing every archaic, intolerant and prejudiced idea ever written in the Old Testament. Their ideas on women are Medieval and I won’t be at all surprised, given their new strident opposition to contraception, if they don’t soon decide that each municipality set up red tents on the outskirts and insist that menstruating women start using them. I’m not kidding. That’s about the only aspect of femaleness that Conservatives haven’t voiced a bat-shit crazy opinion on and I am sure it’s coming. After all, the use of tampons is ripe for euphemism and condemnation, don’t you think?

And the racism thing. Back during the 2008 Democratic primary, I commented that Obama’s victory over Clinton was only proof that when faced with two “evils”, Americans would go with the lessor. Clearly they were less racist than sexist and given the recent Komen debacle followed by the Catholic Bishops’ hissy fit about contraception, sexism is still in the lead, but racism is not far behind.

The irrantional attacks on the President, which are based on nothing factual, are so obviously about his being black. And it’s not like the guy doesn’t have obvious and glaring flaws – his whole-hearted endorsement of the police state thing for starters – but his “critics” insist on concentrating their ire on issues that aren’t or issues that are the result of something the last President (or even the one before him) should own.

Over the weekend, singer Whitney Houston died. Poor thing. Why is it that the most fragile and least able to cope end up rich and famous? Drowned in a hotel bathtub, according to the speculation. Xanax, booze and hot water shouldn’t be mixed. Xanax is an evil little drug that really shouldn’t be as widely prescribed as it is. Incredibly addictive. Not something a “former” cokehead should be allowed to take unsupervised in any case.

But her death provides an excellent example of my point about racism in America being very much alive and probably as stinky as it ever was. The Fox News site posted a story on Houston’s death. Just the facts, m’am and oh my god, the comments. The “N” word abounds and any racial stereotype you care to recall spews forth in comment after comment. 5000 of them.

Because she was black, and because she was a “she” and not a “he”. I am sure Michael Jackson didn’t provoke as much prejudice ire, protected a bit more by his gender.

We can’t raise Dee in a country so openly hostile to women and minorities. Nor could either of us stomach living in areas of the country that are far more open with their contempt and close-minded attitudes.

Rob remembers vividly from their time living in Kansas in the early ’90’s, the difficulty of being open-minded and not particularly religious. Texas and Louisiana are a lot farther south. Texas couldn’t be less tolerant of equality and there is no way we could allow Dee to go to school in a state that doctors non-fiction textbooks with fiction. Louisiana is even worse. The public school system might as well be scrapped entirely as under-funded as it is. Rob knows no one at the plant there who sends their children to the local public schools*. Private schools flourish down there for good reason.

And Dee isn’t the slightest bit Christian. Which is a problem if we are looking to live in areas that are mindlessly so and rabid in their quest to convert the “heathens”. While Rob and I can easily withstand the pressure and even the disdain. It would be harder for Dee, who is quite stubborn but just as sensitive.

I find it all rather sad that my native land has become a place where I can’t raise my daughter, and it’s not that Canada is without issues. People here are prejudiced too and probably more so than they are sexist (that exists simply because we are humans in a world with a long history of sexism), but it doesn’t invade the politics to the same extent. It’s also actively frowned upon whereas in the US, anymore, that’s not really the case. Being anti-female, in fact, seems almost to be a prerequisite for public office and is certainly not discouraged among the Evangelical Christian set or the conservative minded where public policy is concerned.

I was raised small town Iowa Catholic. I was taught that as a girl I had “a place” in society and in my church. That place was one of subservience and I was mostly supposed to be silent and accepting because some things just were the way they were. God willed it so.

But I never accepted that and I was increasingly less silent as I grew up. Now, I am not silent at all. Men have no business or right mucking about in aspects of femaleness that they couldn’t understand even if they cared to try. Women should actively resent and rebel against this meddling and the mindset that implies that women are dirty in some unspeakable way and that we are too dumb to be left in charge of ourselves. Because that is what it gets down to. Religion long ago, and for purposes of control/power, deemed women dirty and dumb. The politics of contraception are just another avenue of this prejudice that evolved purely to benefit men and to allow them to be dominant at the expense of everything and everyone.

Poor America. The rest of the world is waking up and catching up. Soon the only countries it will have anything in common with will be third world theocracies and dictatorships and that will be a sad day indeed.

*Although I will grant you that some of the reason that the “elite” there send their kids to private school isn’t academically driven. They want better educational settings to be sure but they also don’t want their kids going to schools where black children are half or better of the student populations.