Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Saturday, May 31, 2008

National Security

"We should cut our military budget by about 75%, withdraw our troops from most of the rest of the world, get out of Iraq, and start an Apollo-style project to change our energy use away from fossil and bio-fuels."

You may ask, how does cutting the military budget by 75% or more support national security?

It does because our current level of spending on the tools of war is unsustainable. Currently we spend about half of the entire world's so-called "defense" budget. If we cut our military budget 75%, we would still have the largest, best-equipped and best-trained military in the world, but we could divert $300 billion or so into balancing the budget and supporting our crumbling civil and civic infrastructures. Every day we continue to pour our wealth and resources into a well of international violence increases our negative karma, delays our transition to a more sustainable energy infrastructure, and makes such a transition less fiscally feasible.

A quote I read recently goes something like this: "I'd rather lose in service to a cause that will eventually win, than win in service to a cause that will eventually lose." I don't remember who said it, and I don't agree in all situations. (I'd rather be on the side that is ethically and morally right, in service to a cause that is just, regardless of who wins in the end.) However, that quote applies perfectly to my concern about national security. Our current course of imperial occupation and unrestrained military spending ensures that we will win any pitched battle against any military anywhere, but simultaneously ensures that we will eventually lose the occupation of Iraq, the "war on terror," and our place in the world.

Besides, it is morally and ethically wrong to dump that amount of resources into the weapons of war – ever – but particularly when children in our own country are going hungry and without health care, and homeless people clog the streets and crowd the bridges (many of them in dire need of mental and physical care), and our leaders are torturing folks they guess might be our enemies.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Uselessness of Internet Polls

Having an interest in Barak Obama, and not that shy about my support for his candidacy, I occasionally get emails from his campaign. A hazard of careless internet exploration, I suppose. One of these was a poll that indicated it was intended to discover what issues were of most concern to me. Well, fine. I don't have much time for these things, but do want to make my opinions known, probably just because I have a lot of them and people rarely ask what they are. So I cracked open the email and dived in.

A disappointment, to say the least. The poll included a list of issues, and you pick those that are most important to you. No room for comment or explanation. So I pick national security (among others). What does that mean? The campaign knows it's important to me, but they have no idea how. I guess they'll lump my response in with someone who thinks we should increase the size of the military and seal the borders, but what I mean is that we should cut our military budget by about 75 percent, withdraw our troops from most of the rest of the world, get out of Iraq, and start an Apollo-style project to change our energy use away from fossil and bio-fuels. In other words, I suspect the poll is actually more misleading than it is useful.

How do you put that into one stupid internet poll that gives you the option of clicking on a button?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Progress


My mom came to Oregon for a visit, and Kristin got a photo of us that shows… progress!




Undeniable. A celebration.


I guess a trach shave wouldn't hurt, though…

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Question of Privacy

In my work I view the plans of the houses that are soon to be built. I see about a fifth of the new houses built in my city, so I think I've got a pretty good idea of current housing trends. I've noticed, for instance, that almost every new full bath is designed with a little sub-room separating the toilet from the rest of the bathroom.

It's not a style I particularly care for. I find the use of materials for the extra room to be wasteful and unnecessary, and the tiny rooms so created to be claustrophobic and uncomfortable. Besides, I enjoy interacting with my family while one of us is sitting on the can, and when I want privacy, I can always ask for it. My boys aren't shy about that at all. They tell me in no uncertain terms when they want the bathroom to themselves, and for the most part, I find it easy to respect their desires. (I might not find it so easy if they were teenage girls.)

I can't imagine that it isn't even easier in these new houses, which all have two bathrooms, and more often than not, three or more.

It's not that I don't value privacy. Every time I use a public ladies' room, I'm very grateful for the privacy of the stalls – even as I frequently talk with friends on the other side.

The question that does interest me, though, is this: What does it say about our society that we have come to value a standard of privacy from our most intimate family members that is greater than the privacy we expect and ask for from the public at large?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How Much Is Enough?

Last week I reviewed a plan set for a 7000+ square foot house, built across two lots amounting to over 16,000 square feet total. Stretched across the lot in a sprawling mess of gables and hips and intertwined trusses, the house extended from property line setback on one side almost to the setback on the other. It had seven toilets – and only four bedrooms. When I saw the extravagant wastefulness of it, I almost felt physically ill.

By contrast, we live on a 9400 square foot lot, in a 960 square foot house (including about 230 square feet of unheated garage). The house is a little undersized for the four of us, since K and I no longer share a bed – we have plans to add a room – but the house is comfortable and functional, and despite the occasional “pee-dance,” one toilet seems to be enough. Our lot functions beautifully – we have a big comfortable deck, a modest but functional front yard, and two small, functional sideyards (one of which, the “sanctuary garden” is very private and is currently alive with blue and white columbine, foxglove, a climbing rose, and native bleeding hearts, as well as other flowers). Our backyard is large, comfortable, and varied, with a pond, a chicken yard, a circle lawn, berries, fruit trees, and a plethora of garden beds. It seems to me that, despite the modest extent of our living conditions, we live more comfortably, and certainly in a richer environment, than the poor rich folks who will occupy this new monstrosity.

So I wonder – just how much is enough, and when, and how, do we recognize it? Does ‘enough’ meet human needs better than too much? What do we do with the surplus when we do have too much, and how, and why, do we make that decision? What are the moral implications of that decision, for our society and ourselves?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What’s in a Name?

Names have been of interest to me lately, as several people have mentioned mine in complimentary ways, while I've also encountered my former name in a way that was shocking. It got me thinking about what a name really means.

Usually, it's just treated as a generic label for individuals. Frequently those labels seem to fit the people who wear them, but often, they don't. In my case, my former name label was one that didn't fit me at all. Not my mother's fault. How was she to know what I would like or not? Even more, how could she ever predict that that baby boy snuggled to her breast was actually a girl? It certainly didn't show from the outside. The answer, of course, is that she couldn't predict it. She named me as best she could with almost no insight into my nature or personality, and none at all into my gender. How could she ever have the foresight to, as the song of the time suggested, "name me Sue?"

The truth is, a name is more than a generic label. It is an individual signifier, an emblem of a person's individuality that interfaces with the world and all society. It is a matter of considerable importance to a person's self-concept. But we've made it really hard to change, and socially, culturally, changing the name your parents gave you is not common or encouraged. Now, with the federal ID laws coming down the pike, more legal hurtles are being raised against changing names.

I think it's time for a change. Names are actually too important to leave entirely to uncertain prediction and the sometimes careless whims of parents. A better idea, I think, is to make a naming day or ceremony part of graduating from high school. Or maybe it should be something you do upon reaching majority (the age 18 majority), a sort of ritual to help initiate young people into the fullness of adult citizenship and responsibility; a way to mark their new role in society. On that day, each person could choose whether to label themselves with a new name that describes themselves more effectively, or keep their own. If associated with graduation, it could be a part of the packet – class ring, invitations, cap & gown, name change forms.

Important here, that their parents don't take it personally. Let's recognize that we're not perfect, and we really can't predict our child's path in life when we give them that first label to describe our hopes and beliefs about them. Let's just be grateful for the time we had, and let them go.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Best Things about Being a Woman

  1. Girlfriends. I'm finally able to relate to people in the way I want and that feels right, and the number and intimacy of my friendships is exploding as a consequence.
  2. Clothes. I get to wear what I want to wear. Yay!
  3. Peace. I no longer feel like I'm two people at war with each other.
  4. Sleep. No more of those awful, violent nightmares!
  5. Breasts. Oh, my god, yes! Breasts!
  6. Talking in the restroom – and they're usually clean, too!
  7. Integrity. Being myself, and being true to myself. So nice…
  8. Finally being able to cry.
  9. Female pronouns.
  10. Girlfriends.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Marriage for Everyone in California!

The California Supreme Court has ruled that gay marriage is legal in California. One of those "duh" moments, when they actually read the 14th Amendment and decided that it was - or should be - the law of the land.

At least, four out of seven thought so. A little depressing to realize it was such a narrow victory for human rights and equal treatment under the law.

But not much. Mostly it's just an awesome, really cool time to celebrate!

I never understood why some people care who their neighbor marries, anyway. Maybe now they'll be able to see that allowing others full access to civil institutions doesn't take any of theirs away. I hope so!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Seven Freaks in a Bus

Six transpeople and a lesbian activist, traveling north to introduce a class of straight women to the freaks. Three transmen, three transwomen. Laughter, tears, sandwiches in brown bags.

Three hours sitting around a table, telling truths the media doesn't spread. A change. "How can we be allies?" Growing awareness. We are human. With loving families, with interesting, worthwhile, meaningful lives. Plenty of love to go around. "I think my grandchild may be going through this. How can I support him?" A generation to come with so much less pain.

Six transpeople and a lesbian activist, traveling south in a van in the dark. Laughter, tears, off-color jokes.

Bonding of the freaks. Out and proud.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gift Economy

One of the big things I want to explore, and haven't had much time to do so yet, is the concept of the "gift economy." Kristin got me started in it, and she's taking it to the next level with her NVC work. She put it very well in a recent blog entry: "Our cultural expectation of "what the Earth can do for us" reflects our transactional and monetary-based (time is money) [economy] rather than a need-based, giving economy which includes both short and long term needs of all species and the earth, to the best of our understanding." I've requested a book on it or something like it by a Chilean economist quoted in Marshall Rosenberg's work: , but the book hasn't arrived yet. In the meantime, Kristin pointed me to Tree Bressen's website: , where I found this quote: "According to "Wikipedia: " (which is a fine example itself) a gift economy is an economic system in which participants give away things of value to the shared benefit of the community. Examples include food banks, volunteer fire companies, and giving rides to hitchhikers."

Basically, the concept is that you give your services or goods away for free, from the heart. During the transaction, you point out that it takes an amount of your own energy to provide this, and, in order for it to be sustainable, you need to receive gifts in return. As Tree puts it, "I am currently operating on a gift economy basis, meaning i do not have any set fees for my work. I ask groups to pay me an amount that feels good and right and fair to them, that they can afford, and that they can give joyfully."

This flies in the face of our current economic model, which expends a great deal of energy to assign the price to goods and services that will produce the greatest profit to the producer, assuming in the process that a certain percentage of the people who want or need the product will then be unable to afford it. The implication is that it is not only acceptable, but good and moral, to accumulate far more than you need, and hoard that accumulation in the most wasteful way, if desired.

It seems to me that our current economic model is very self-centered, and in practice it tears at the fabric of our human community and society, while at the same time, it ignores the effects of our actions on the planet's web of life, which we depend on for everything. By placing greater value on competition (power-over) than on sharing, on accumulation than on need, it also encourages violence and frequently makes violence enjoyable. This is not the intent, but competition, but its nature, encourages actions that hurt the other players. It makes actions that provide a short-term advantage despite a long-term disadvantage look attractive. Besides, when one person has way more than she can use, and another person is starving, violence is easily seen as a convenient means to meet needs.

The success of capitalism is frequently seen as making the model of communism obsolete. Now, the gift economy shows real prospects of making the traditional capitalist model obsolete.




Saturday, May 10, 2008

Kitty Piercy vs. Jim Torrey

The last three years have been good ones here in Eugene, with the leadership of our mayor, Kitty Piercy. The atmosphere seems lighter, more easy and free. Kitty does a good job of balancing the needs of the economy and the environment. She has a pretty darn good sense of priorities. She's led us to some really good choices, in the Strategic Plans for sustainability, bicycle and pedestrian traffic, and so on. I haven't heard her speak of it, but I have the feeling that she understands Peak Oil.

In contrast, Jim Torrey stands as the tool of big developers. As far as I can tell, he wants government to help most those that need it least. He's shown no sign that he's ever even heard of Peak Oil, much less understands it. And his war chest shows it. Sure, he's a nice guy, but his policies benefit only the smallest, richest demographic.

My biggest concern, however, is not Jim's economic disabilities. It's more personal than that. It is that I really want to live in a welcoming, safe community.

You see, Jim Torrey has so little understanding of transgendered people that he opposes my right to use the women's restrooms. "What's to stop some young man in a high school from coming to school one day, and in his mind, his perception is today he thinks he's more female-oriented than male?" Excuse me? Gender identity isn't something you switch on and off at will. I wish it were – life would be a lot easier. Gender identity is who you are.

Meanwhile, if I wander into a men's room, I stand a significant chance of physical violence – not to mention the extreme discomfort of even being there.

Fortunately, Oregon state law provides some protection. Torrey's not going to make something like that happen in Eugene. And he certainly won't do anything to me directly, though he may try to get me fired from the city staff. So why should I fear for my safety?

It is because leadership has powerful influence on the people underneath. It is because leaders choose like-minded people to serve as their assistants. It is because, when the atmosphere shifts at the top from one of acceptance to barely tolerant or intolerant, it shifts beneath, as well. Not for everyone, of course, but enough to make my life, and the lives of my family, a little more uncomfortable, and perhaps enough that one person who lives at the edge of violence will choose to go over it, knowing that the victim of his anger is at best barely tolerated by the figurehead of the city.

Besides, a lack of understanding usually doesn't lead to greater understanding, and I'd like to be understood.

Please, everyone, vote for Kitty. She's the best choice for mayor of Eugene, no matter how you cut it.

Friday, May 9, 2008

She Should Write a Book...

Some blogs are better than others, and some blog entries really stand out. Okay, maybe I'm biased. And granted, she's preaching to the choir when I'm reading her stuff. Still, this one is profound in its compassion and meaning for our world. How grateful I am I live with her!

Part of me wishes I'd written this, or something like it; but it's her story, not mine. I have a different message, a different track, and as much as I respect and honor hers, I'll keep to mine. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Another MoveOn Move

Okay, here's another one of MoveOn.org's email links. This one's a little quiz to link McCain & Bush. The manipulation is blatant and irritating. Unfortunately, it also seems pretty much on the money. Not that McCain would be as bad as Bush – I think…

At least he's open about wanting to continue to occupy Iraq for the rest of all our lives.

Go, Obama!

2008 Oregon Primary Election Endorsements

Eugene City Mayor: Kitty Piercy. Easily the best choice. She has taken significant strides to start dealing with the major issues our city faces, such as Peak Oil – issues Jim Torrey hasn't paid much, if any, attention to in his former term(s). She also has a much better record on human rights.

Eugene City Council, Ward 7: Andrea Ortiz

Democrats:

Secretary of State: Kate Brown. Vicki Walker's good, too.

US Senator: Jeff Merkley. But it's close between him and Steve Novick. I almost want to do a co-endorsement for them.

President: Obama. Nice as it would be to see a woman in the White House, we really need some new thinking. Hillary's been hammered by the RSM for too long, and too hard. She needs some time to recover and adjust to a new role in the majority before she'll be ready to take on the office of presidency. Her experience as First Lady and in office is exactly what makes her unready at this time – contrary to her rhetoric. Obama has a much greater chance of uniting the country and formulating new strategies to deal with the crises at hand.

Republicans:

US Senator: Gordon Leitch. We really do need to get rid of Gordon Smith.

Mostly, I recommend that Republicans reconsider their positions. Read Unequal Protection, Screwed: the Undeclared War on the Middle Class, and What Would Jefferson Do?, by Thom Hartmann. Read about Gandhi. Learn about Nonviolent Communication. Forget hollow economic theory by folks such as Ayn Rand and Friedman, and learn how economics actually works by reading folks like Paul Krugman and Paul Omerud. Get to know some queer folks, and reflect on how much better it would be if none of us were oppressed. Meet some folks with dark skin, and reflect on how much closer in values and interests they are to you, compared to the filthy rich corporate lawyers and and multi-national oil and weapons executives who determine policies for the GOP. Learn to recognize the sly manipulation and divisive media tricks the RSM uses, so that you can join with the rest of us to create a new system that meets everyone's needs.

Monday, May 5, 2008

George Washington’s First Cherry Tree


Okay, so it wasn't George Washington, it was Trinidad. And it wasn't a cherry tree. If it was, we would have kept it. It was the tree out front that we've been planning on removing for some time, to make room for trees that grow nuts or fruit. It was also the only tree in the front yard that Trin likes to climb. He's been steadfastly and passionately opposed to cutting it down. In fact, he extracted a promise from me that I wouldn't cut it down without telling him, which kept the tree alive on at least two events and for well over six months.




Until now.


"Trin, we were thinking about chopping down that tree out front…"


Mutinous lower lip protrusion.


"… and we were wondering if you'd like to do it."


Lip retracts, thoughtful expression.


"Okay."


I was going to put if off, since it was getting late. Kristin, more wise, said, "There's enough light out still. Why don't you do it now?"


So out we went, newly-sharpened hatchet in hand. And Trinidad cut down his first tree, with half the neighborhood kids watching.


It took awhile.


Trin even allowed his little brother to take 17 chops, carefully counted, with the hatchet – which, believe me, didn't remove a whole lot of wood.


And the tree we wanted gone – is finally gone. No lies necessary.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Beltane

Yesterday was Beltane – mid-spring, halfway between the vernal equinox and the summer solstice. I took the day off work and celebrated.

Beltane is a pagan holiday, and I'm not really pagan, so we celebrated in our own quiet way. We went for a walk in the woods, bringing along lunch and some sacks to gather nettles in. Didn't find enough nettles to harvest any, but it was a great trip anyway. We wandered deep into the lush Northwestern forest, where Douglas fir and cedars towered high above, little birds singing in their branches. We walked on moss, among big sword ferns and fields of shamrocks dotted with blooming trillium. The boys and the dog ran wild, exploring the woods with eyes and nose full of wonder. When Sam ran out of steam, we made our way back to the highway and home.

By sheer luck, we got home just as the bus dropped off our neighbor's kid. The boys ran over to their house and Kristin and I went inside and had a nap.

Pure bliss.

We finished up the day with inviting some friends over for a feast – split pea soup over potatoes, kale flowers from our garden, asparagus, and pork ribs (Beeler's, not quite organic but hormone and anti-biotic free, raised not in tiny cages but in pens that are, hopefully, at least halfway decent places to live). Our friends brought wine, a Malbech from Italy – new, but good. It was all good.

There wasn't a Maypole, but, all in all, I'd say the goddess was pleased.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Jimi Hendrix as Moral Choice

"Authoritarian parents … not only offer minimal opportunities for children to choose, but tend to treat matters of taste or personal style as if they were moral issues with a single right answer – an answer that must, of course, be provided by the parent." Alfie Kohn, in Unconditional Parenting, p. 180.

When I read this, I felt a sudden hollow ache in my solar plexus. It went beyond emotional, to physical sensation. The pain that came up surprised me in its intensity. I hadn't realized how much hurt, how much resentment and anger and grief still remain, buried deep inside me.

When I first heard Jimi Hendrix's fantastical guitar licks, way back around 1971 or so, when I was 11, I was blown away. It touched my soul, and still resonates deep inside. (I'm listening to him now, as I have many times when emotional pain rears its ugly head.)

My dad viewed it as a personal affront, not just a difference in taste - a deeply immoral offense, perhaps akin to shoplifting, or giving drugs to children. He liked Hank Williams, Sr., and clearly expected me to do the same. The music that rocked my world was viewed as my choice to totally reject everything good and honest and pure.

I couldn't choose my clothes. My haircut. My glasses. If I resisted, it was not a matter of personal taste, but a moral decision akin to choosing evil.

He showed no sense of curiosity about who I was, no interest in me as my own person. I had the sense I was created to allow him to vicariously live the childhood he wished he'd had.

And my god, it hurt. It still hurts. It hurts with a deep dull ache that will not go away.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our
Beloved's.
~Hafiz