My Mother, My New Club, and the Swastika on my Shoes

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I first saw this picture through Natalie Laurel on Facebook.  She advocates turning the swastikas we are seeing into other things. 

It was 1978.  I was in fourth grade. I wanted to belong to something so badly. I was invited into my first club at school. Now, understand, our family had been Navy for 20 years, so in my young life, we moved around a lot–every year, sometimes. I had already lived 6 places on two coasts, and I was 9. So being invited into a club was a huge thing! It meant I was accepted–even as an outsider–even in a new small town in Missouri. A beautiful town.

I don’t know if it was a joke played on me, or not, this club–this acceptance. If it was real, then it gives me chills now. “Yes, you can be in our club,” an older boy said, someone who was in seventh grade, maybe. He was so tall. And I was so hungry for acceptance. He knelt down and he drew something on the front of my shoes. The new symbol for our club, he said.  When I went home that day, I said, “Mommy, I’m in a club! I’m in a club!” And I must have been beaming with that acceptance.

My mother took one look at my shoes–the only pair of shoes I had for school because we didn’t have a lot of money. And it was in ink, this thing. The boy had drawn a swastika on each of my shoes. I thought it was a cool club symbol because I was young, but my mother saw it for what it was.  She was shocked.  She knelt down to look at it.  She could not erase it–she must have known it would show up anyway. So she carefully made it a box, a four squared box. I was upset that she had done that–at first. I don’t remember if I cried, or tried to stop her–She was ruining the club symbol! She was marking on my shoes! — I’m sure I put up a little fight. “No honey. Not this symbol,” was what she said to me. “I don’t want you in that club.” I don’t know if she explained to me what that symbol meant–I think she must have tried.  But I can’t remember.  I did it for my mom more than for my fourth grade understanding of hate symbols.  It meant so much to my mom, that I didn’t pursue that club.  I don’t even remember if the club was really a club, or some cruel joke they were playing on me. I never saw any club meetings, any groups with swastikas on their arms or shoes. Never.

My shoes had a foursquare box on them for the rest of fourth grade. I made up a new club for people with glasses, and I forgot about the old club. We had three guys in the glasses club.

It’s our job to not let little children (or anyone) have to see that symbol everywhere.  Even if they don’t understand why.  This symbol is getting a revival.  If you see it, be vandals and change it.  Don’t let that symbol stay.  It’ll burn into the walls.  It’ll burn into our minds.  Turn the swastikas into boxes, Windows Logos, or brightly-colored boxes. Turn them into pinwheels, gift boxes, chessboards.

Turn them into windows that look out onto a better America.

*thank you, Mom.

 

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(this post was inspired by Natalie Laurel’s Facebook photo of the Windows logo shared by many. I know the original might be photoshopped, but buy a can a paint anyway, eh? )

Wealth has always been the greatest (unspoken) Superpower

money-superheroI just saw Doctor Strange in theatres.  It’s a good movie, but this is not a review.  I went into the movie not knowing much about Doctor Strange.  His was not one of the titles I followed in 80s.  But when I saw the movie, I recognized something familiar about his origin story: like most superheroes, he starts rich.

I guess I started to realize something was up with the economic distribution of superheroes when I thought about all the gadgets Iron Man and Batman both had.  Unlimited weaponry, endless supply of toys.  But it was when I was teaching a class on Superheroes, Social Justice, and the Principle of the Common Good (the kind of class you develop at a Catholic Marianist University like University of Dayton) and as a class we started to see a pattern in the heroes.  While each of them manifested different powers—most of them, most of the famous ones, had something each of us did not.  Most had sources of wealth and positions of elite privilege before they got superpowers.

This is important to think about when we think of Superheroes and Power—that power is often not given to those who have no power before, but is given to those who have always had power.   With a few notable exceptions, becoming a superhero requires money.  This means that the average person doesn’t become a superhero without money—just like they don’t become a lot of things in the real world without money.  And that is an interesting thing to think about when you think about superhero escapist fiction.  We have all these possibilities!  We can choose ANY storyline.  We think it’s about a redistribution of power—that ANYONE can become a superhero–but analyzing origin stories, the results say something different.

The Net Worth of Superheroes

Those who have power in the superhero universe and who have the job of protecting citizens are often unacquainted with most of the 99%, are used to being wealthy and powerful, and are often living far removed from common society in Fortresses of Solitude, atop penthouses, or in private academies on large estates, or in mansions or whole buildings in downtown NYC (there are exceptions—I can hear you already, bursting to say names—but I’m talking about a surprising majority of the major superheroes we have today).

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Some Peace and Community for Queer Ghosts: Queer Ghost Hunters Series

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I’ve been charmed by a Youtube docu-series: Queer Ghost Hunters. It is unlike anything else in the genre of ghost hunting reality series.

Yes, it’s remarkably well-produced and edited.  It’s funny, and it’s poignant, deeply moving at times.

The Stonewall Columbus Queer Ghost Hunters accomplishes these things because it’s doing everything so differently than other ghost hunter shows.

  1.  They aren’t reacting to a disturbance or a sighting.  The ghost hunters don’t (so far) go to a place because they’ve been called by folks disturbed by ghost activity.  They are seeking out where they believe queers would have gone in cities and rural areas.  Theatres, prisons, convents.
  2.   The goal is not to get the ghost on tape, or to prove that ghosts exist.  The show takes as a premise that ghosts exist.  Their goal: to provide a safe space for queer ghosts to talk about what it was like living queer in different moments of history.
  3. They’re looking for QUEER ghosts specifically.  Their focus drives their narrative.  They are looking to bring a safe community to a group of queers who can’t move out of their places to find other queers. ( It’s not like ghosts can pack up and go to San Francisco or Greenwich Village.)  The show’s aim is to chat amiably with queer ghosts who may not have had anyone to talk to in their lives about being queer.
  4. All of the ghost hunters fall on the Queer spectrum: genderfluid, lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgendered, pansexual, even a bear.🙂   This is about diversity in the cast as well as diversity in the ghosts, but they are talking about LGBT issues.
  5. This is MORE than just ghost hunting: it is an examination of the history of LGBT people and, in some ways, how people lived, hid, coped with being queer in different places.  In that, it is a reflection–and a chance–for people to talk about what it is to live as queer in any time.

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The Book of Birmingham: Adding Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to the Bible

Minister Martin Luther King, Jr. preaching at an eventI would like to see Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (1963) added to all new Bibles.

I don’t propose this lightly.  Three times in the Bible, in three different places, listeners (and they wouldn’t have been readers) are exhorted not to add to, or take away, from specific books.  One is about Revelation, one is specifically to the Israelites in Deuteronomy to listen to the law, and the other is in Proverbs: “Every word of God is true….do not add to his words, lest you be proved a liar.”  I think it’s safe to say that I won’t propose adding any new words of God to the Bible.  I’m advocating something less radical.  If we can have letters from Paul, we can have letters from Martin.

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Pat Rousseau Fought Hard for Everyone

img_2912The woman in the middle is Pat Rousseau and this past Sunday, she died. This photo was our first, with Mary Malone, and only meeting of the Sunday Afternoon Neon Movies Watching Group, called The Neon Nexus, which was going to be a summer long movie watching group.  But Pat went in and out of the hospital for most of the summer, and then quite unexpectedly to me, and to many, she didn’t recover from this last trip. She’d come to me a month ago with her wishes for me to sing at her funeral, and I was appalled that she was talking like that, especially since she seemed fine after one of her hospital visits–but she said, “I just have a feeling.”

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Redecorating the Website and Bearing Witness

 

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Hello friends! You might notice a few things have changed on my website.  Actually, all the decor has changed, but the content really hasn’t.  It still has all the articles I’ve written before.

As I got closer to the release of my first collection, I thought my website could use a makeover, so I chose a new easier to read design.  The former white text on a slate blue background hurt my eyes—and was too small to read, so I’ve enlarged the font a bit (perhaps that a sign I’m getting old) and streamlined it, and put it on white.

It has a new title too, which I think you’ll notice first.  It used to say Yukon Science Fiction Writer and now it says Bearing Witness.  Quite simply I wanted to give the blog its own title, and not just reflect myself.  I’m a Yukon Science Fiction Writer, but the blog is not.

I lived in the Yukon for nearly 10 years and a part of me is still there and I will return many times and hopefully even stay one day soon.  I will always be a Yukoner.  I became a Canadian citizen there.  I climbed those hills and mountains and swam naked in those lakes (okay, in one lake–but it was very very cold).  I went on Moose hunts and sheep hunts and I laid on the dirt and collected low bush cranberries with friends.  I sang on cold cold nights with people who love the north, sometimes while sitting in a hot tub, watching our hair freeze, and I still have their songs in my heart.  But I needed a title for the page that said something about my whole work, not just about me, and I felt, too, like Science Fiction was only part of it.  My interest in faith and spirituality in both fiction and nonfiction should be in there too.

The former title of the page never really captured all that I was doing.  It didn’t tell you I’m gay, or that I write about faith sometimes, or that I’m an American transplant in the Yukon who went over the mountain back to Ohio.  It doesn’t tell you I’m a Navy brat, a Texas Tech grad, or adopted.  So I thought–instead of saying all the stuff I am, why not give the blog an identity?

So I did.  Bearing Witness is something you do for those who need to be seen.  It’s also a term used in faith, to bear witness to the things God has done, or to bear witness to each other through hard times.  It is about keeping our eyes open.  It’s also got “bear” in it, which winks to my love of the gay bear subculture, and the colours are pretty… cheerful, if you think about it.  The glass from the Chihuly exhibit feels like a nebula in space—and so it has a science fiction feel to it too.

Now the blog becomes it’s own collection of work, bearing witness to what I’m trying to do and what others are trying to do too.

So get ready, I’m about to start writing much more on this blog and the Wrestling with Gods blog too.  There are good things happening out there! We need to see them.

Write with Me at The BRAINERY workshop!

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Would you like to write a few stories this summer and work with me for ten weeks?  The Brainery Workshop has several spots still open to work with me or Valerie Valdes in times that are convenient for you!

EVERYTHING IS ONLINE.  So you can participate no matter WHERE you are in the world, as long as you have a good internet connection.

We get together once a week and work on your stories.  We also go through Ursula K. LeGuin’s workshop guide, Steering the Craft, and we use the Jeff VanderMeer and Jeremey Zerfoss’ Wonderbook.  We’ll also be reading stories from Lightspeed and other magazines.

Come join a small group online—using GoToMeeting and WetInk–to create a great place for writing!

Want to know more?:  Follow this link to the BRAINERY WORKSHOP.