Stop Pulling Down Statues!

Disclosure:

I am a white woman whose father fled Cuba in 1959, so I have Latinx in me, but I grew up in a white culture. I acknowledge my white privilege and welcome others’ comments about this topic. Question: Does my being white completely discount my thoughts? Curious.

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While I despise many of the men (and they are all men so far) who are depicted in the statues being removed and what they have done to Indigenous People, Blacks, migrants, etc., I believe there is another way to handle this besides getting rid of them.

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History is Watching

From the beginning of time, when one culture takes over another, the new folks pillage and destroy the other people’s libraries, churches/mosques/temples/etc., statues, buildings and sometimes, whole civilizations.

Then a few hundred or thousand years go by and those looking back wonder what was in their heads that they destroyed these beautiful icons. How could someone throw that exquisite vase down? Why would all the stained glass have to be broken? What was the point of burning the books? Did they really have to bomb the thousand-year old building?

Navelgazing Writer
Bundesarchiv Bild 102 4597, Berlin, Opernplatz, Bücherverbrennung

Reasoning

While it seems a good idea at the time, to force people to change and teach them a lesson,  is it always right to force people to adhere to one religion, one belief system, one mindset? Eons of civilizations seem to believe it is.

I asked a history buff friend of mine how people can justify forcing others to convert, asking if they got bonus God points for nearly killing someone until they “confessed” and “converted.” How can that even count towards God being happy? Wouldn’t you want people to voluntarily change their religion/minds? Why not just let the heathens go to hell and suffer for their original religion? He told me many religions find it meritorious to have converts, no matter how they get there.

But I have to ask, don’t they know the “converts” are faking it to stay alive? I mean, if they were forced to convert themselves, they would hide their own true religion, practicing in darkness, wouldn’t they? How can they not think others are doing the same thing?

Navelgazing Writer
Spanish Inquisition (1478–1834)

History Comes Around Again

When I was in Humanities classes, looking at drawings of buildings that were destroyed by war and/or hate, it seemed absurd to have destroyed so much beauty.

And now, with the statues of Confederate soldiers, Presidents, Christopher Columbus and others being pulled down and destroyed, who will be looking back in 300 years wondering where the history went to. Did we totally ignore the Civil War? Why are there no markers of that tumultuous time?

Navelgazing Writer
Conventry Cathedral in England, built in 14-15th century, bombed on November 14th, 1940.

Alternatives to Destruction and Removal

I’ve wondered why we can’t leave the statues and have markers or co-statues that share the new attitudes of the day. New York City is doing just that:

For the Columbus statue, the city would add historical markers and commission a new monument to honor indigenous people. Other markers would be added elsewhere to give additional context for other statues and monuments.”

Art

Isn’t art all about the reaction to it? Loved or hated, art has had its share of controversy. Robert Mapplethorpe‘s works freaked plenty of folks out as he unveiled his X Portfolio male nudes and BDSM photos. When Michelangelo‘s Pietà was attacked with a hammer in 1972, controversy surrounded the decision to restore it.

After the attack, some art historians and restorers wanted the statue to remain as it was damaged as a sign of the violent times. Others said it should be restored but with clear marks delineating the damaged parts as a historical testament.”

Pieta Navelgazing Writer

The decision was made to restore the statue.

Artists

So what of the artists’ who created the statues being defaced and/or pulled down? Are we censoring their art? Aren’t we all about not censoring, but allowing freedom of expression?

Why isn’t this discussion more prevalent as the atmosphere becomes more politicized and beautiful works of art disappearing? Shouldn’t we be reminded of our history through statues? Can’t we find ways to honor both sides of the anger?

What happens when a George Floyd statue is erected and the winds of change are Trumpian 100 years from now. Should that statue be removed? Of course not! But there are people who would find it extremely controversial and offensive to be erected.

Which statues do we fight for?

BLM statue

 

 

 

 

“Why Should I Watch Hamilton July 3?”

I have swooned and oo’d and ah’d over Hamilton: An American Musical for a couple of years now (I know, I was late to the game). Now that it is streaming on Disney+ July 3, 2020, I have been asked why someone should watch the show.

I am not a critical writer. I am not writing this like a critic would at all. I will share the parts that are fascinating to me that I’ve learned through reading the back stories of the writer, director, and lyricist, Pulitzer Prize winner, Tony and Grammy Award winner… and more, all for Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Alex Lacamoire, a musician, arranger, conductor, musical director, music copyist, and orchestrator, doing many of those duties with Hamilton, as well. There are a dozen more I have poked around learning about, but the show itself is what I will focus on.

Onward!

  • Lin-Manuel Miranda came across Ron Chernow’s book Hamilton in the airport on the way to a vacation. Within 2 chapters, still on the plane, the musical began formulating in Miranda’s brain.
  • Alexander Hamilton struggled to climb the ladder from poverty, through education, aching for recognition and a sustainable income for his family. He had many obstacles in his way and Miranda felt his path was similar to many Black and Latinx folks in the United States today. He felt Hamilton’s story was still our story.
  • There was never a question of the diversity of the cast. Miranda had already done In the Heights, another (mostly Latinx) diverse show that won him 3 Tony Awards in 2008. It seemed natural to create a cast that looked like America does now. In 1775, blacks were slaves; whites ruled and were soldiers (for the most part). In 2015 while blacks were (are) in too many ways still enslaved, the face of America has changed from primarily white to more brown and black.
  • Therefore, if your children are not white, this can be an eye-opening experience to see people of their color in an amazing award-winning production. Even 5 years ago, the theater and Broadway were blandly white. Thankfully, that is changing and Miranda leads the charge.
  • The music is the music of today. Hip-Hop, Rhythm & Blues, but also shades of jazz, British pop music and gods bless the Schuyler sisters and their Destiny’s Child sound.
  • I have heard the album at least 200 times and I am still catching puns, humorous connections and overtones of lyrics and music that run as threads through the show. The complexity of wit, rhyme, storytelling and musical history all combined really is genius.
  • Which makes the realization that “My Shot” took an entire year for Miranda to write. A. Year. One song. The entire show took 6 years. One song took one year.
  • When Alexander Hamilton talks about not throwing away his shot, he comes across many choices and is always wanting to move up the ladder. It is also double entendre for his final dual with Aaron Burr that (not giving away anything since more than 200 years have passed already) when Hamilton did, in fact, throw away his shot (pointing his gun upward) allowing Burr’s shot to kill him. The only shot he seemed to have tossed.
  • Costume Designer Paul Tazewell made a brilliant decision to have the costumes as traditional clothes of the time, but has asked the actors to wear their faces and hair however they want during the show.
  • History repeats itself. Again and again. Perhaps not with a duel, but with the arguments that, at that moment, seem life and death (and often are), but so far, our country has bounced back and learned new ways to function (and codified them in the laws) or have fallen back onto the Constitution of the United States.
  • Alexander Hamilton is not seen as perfect. He is a human being with odd foibles considering the man most likely had hypergraphia or a lot of mania in Bipolar Disorder. “Why do you write like you’re running out of time” is a thread throughout the musical (“Non-Stop“). Writers use this phrase as incentive to keep writing even when it is challenging. Write like you’re running out of time! WRITE!

Hamilton Navelgazing Writer

  • Dilemma for those with younger folks: I know an lot of younger kids who love Hamilton and can sing every word, even the F-word. Disney is deciding still what to do with the show… edit? or not edit with warnings. I am hoping they offer 2 choices; hope someone thinks of that. The F-word is said a couple of times, but there is a love affair with Maria Reynolds (pronounced Mariah), a brief side-step that leads to a great deal of strife that eventually rules Hamilton out of being a President in our history.
  • Schools are using the show as a backdrop to bring history to life. I will say I thought all that Constitution stuff was dry as toast. Until now. Once I learned the music, I read Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, then his Washington: A Life (which I actually loved more than Hamilton!) and that period in history is now ALIVE for me! I can “see” the war, I can “feel” the conflicts, I can “experience” a life I never would have been able to before. History has come to life for students with Hamilton! ALL of history should be taught this way!
  • Tickets to Hamilton have been so expensive, but Lin-Manuel Miranda has a serious need to serve and saves seats for students, some of whom pay $10 for what would go as a several hundred dollar seat on the open market. (I bought my mom a ticket for the Opening Night of the Orlando cast at $490.)
  • EduHam is a class Miranda has helped create that is free through August in response to the Pandemic at hand. It teaches this part of history in a way students can understand… recommended for grades 6-12, but clearly many younger folks participate. Watching kids singing, dancing, creating plays around Hamilton are magnificent teachers.

Wrap Up

All of this sounds so boring compared to the experience of Hamilton: An American Musical! The musical is picked apart in YouTube, high schools sing for us there, 3-year olds are singing “MY SHOT!”, the poetry of rap is examined as if we were looking at a miraculous artifact.

Which it is. All of it.

Even if you only watch it once, please watch it once. Open heart. Open mind. With joy for how our country was made.

We are amazing.

Checking My White Privilege

Repost from 10/29/18

My inner-racist/classist/transphobic/homophobic

(etc.)

Disclosure:

Even though I am a fat Latinx who has mental illness, am physically disabled and a sex worker on the LGBTQI spectrum, I have a massive slew of inner (and outer) work still to do. I was raised in the American-Anglo world… the middle-class, English-speaking, able-bodied, white world… with white privilege.check-privilege-gif

I so want to be helpful in the various “causes” going on in our world, around the world.

I do not want to be hurtful.

Not here in my Navelgazing Writer blog.

Not in my Tumblr blog…

And most especially, not in my life.

Where I know I still need work (and I acknowledge I surely have blind spots yet to be discovered):

(in no particular order)

#Black Lives Matter

I speak up for #BlackLivesMatter often, as often as I can in as many places as possible. I believe in the Movement with all my heart. I follow along, watching the debates between #AllLivesMatter, #BlueLivesMatter and even the dissension between the ranks about the Movement itself. I write about #BLM where I can, use the hashtags, engage family and friends and am seriously considering a #BLM tattoo. Yet it still isn’t remotely enough. I know that. I want to do something. Do something more. I keep looking for where I could be of more use. I will explore that here.

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Islamophobia

I have a really good friend who is Muslim. I am struggling with Islam in ways that make me cringe and hold my head in utter confusion. As an atheist, all religions are confounding to me, but at the moment, Islam stands front and center of my inner conflict. Separating Islam from Muslims seems daunting, as much as separating Islam from cultural beliefs that are Islamic. I am just beginning to figure this stuff out.

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Transphobia

I will write about this extensively, surely over a several year period, but it has to come out. My former partner of (then) 25 years, came out transgender, medically and surgically transitioning from female to male. From announcement to phalloplasty was a little over 3 years. About 6 months after the phalloplasty, we separated, then divorced. So very much to say about the myriad of emotions that transpired during our transition time together.

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Internalized Homophobia

Even though I initially came out lesbian when I was 18-years old and then again when I was 25, dating only women… and being in (what I thought was) a long-term lovership/marriage (off and on) with a (then presenting) woman for 28 years, I know there are still stereotypes and -isms I need to look at and work through.

internalized-homophobia

Racism

This topic is so broad, it will take many different posts to work through. Even my own inner-Racism as a Latinx will need to be worked through. But the stereotypes of different races and cultures jump to the forefront of my mind when I least expect it… and that shit needs to stop.

sp-end-racism

Xenophobia

Interestingly, I don’t feel I have a lot of xenophobia, but I could be deluding myself and need to work on it as well. I just don’t have issues with migrants, immigrants or refugees. I’ve worked with migrant Hispanic women (at the Farmworker Association of Florida and at Planned Parenthood as well as in midwifery school in El Paso, Texas), but that is a specific group of folks, leaving hundreds of other cultures and countries still mentally untouched.

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Fetishizing

Ugh. This one is going to be fucking difficult to work with since I am a sex worker who often creates scenarios and writes pornographic stories that specifically fetishize men and women… both cis and trans. I struggle with the line between attraction and fetishizing in my own mind. I adore black and Asian men. Love “Big Black Cock” and speak and write about it a lot. What are my values and am I contributing to the degradation of oppressed people by having my own desires and, more specifically, fetishizing it in my job.

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Reevaluating Law Enforcement

There have been police officers and Deputy Sheriffs in my family and friends since I was born. My disgusting police officer step-grandfather molested me (several times), in uniform once. My former partner was a Deputy Sheriff for 10 years of our relationship. I have been arrested and jailed twice, including being extradited back to San Diego, California from Orlando, Florida. Yet, my attitude towards law enforcement has generally remained one of a positive viewpoint.

And now, watching the videos of black men being killed for zero reason has jarred me into reevaluating my beliefs. And the really sucky part is until videos started being shown, I barely took notice of the mass of killings of black men, women and children. Even the mass incarceration of People of Color went over my head. I am horribly ashamed of this, but it’s the truth. This really, really is fucked up.

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Sex Workers

My sister was a dancer. I have several close friends and family members who were dancers as well. I am a Phone Sex Operator. One of my family members and I have discussed the inner confusion between feminism and sex work several times. I love what I do, but there are degrading moments that make me feel like I want to wash my mouth out with soap sometimes. Lots to think about.

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BDSM vs. Physical Abuse

I’ve been in the BDSM Scene since 1995, mostly as a submissive to my former partner Zack and now as a Domme in my sex work job. I consider myself somewhat of a pain slut, do bottom to others; much of my life is taken up in the Scene.

In 1990 or so, I wrote a piece in the San Diego Lesbian Press about how BDSM is nothing but a pretense for allowing/encouraging physical and mental abuse to vulnerable women (that was the angle; today I would say “people.”) For anyone following the Scene, this is a common argument and one I’ve considered (and reconsidered) over the years. There is ongoing inner discussion.

bdsmvsabusse

Visible Dis-Abilities/Challenges/Differences

I have mobility issues because of being fat (a separate obstacle all on its own) and having brittle bones. As I write, I can think of about 20 preconceived thoughts about physically challenged folks that need to be purged. And not just my own.

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Mental Health

I have Bipolar Disorder 1 with omnipresent hallucinations, more depression than (hypo)mania and have had other psychiatric issues (anxiety & agoraphobia) fluctuate over the years. I honestly think this will be the area where I have the fewest concerns to work with/through. Being in therapy since I was 18 and starting on medication not long after that, I left the stigmatizing beliefs behind long ago.

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Size-ism & Fat Phobia

This will, most assuredly, lead to the most emotional posts of all (that I can predict at the moment). Having been fat my whole life, a gastric bypass in 2001 that initially was awesome, but now 15 years later is fucking with my body’s health and continues fucking with my head. Once in the Fat Activist Movement and still believing in a fat positive outlook, I also believe much of today’s Fat Positive representatives are deluding themselves about the long-term effects of being fat. Lots and lots to say about this.

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Cultural Appropriation

I was a Japanese Geisha Girl for Halloween growing up. I wore cornrows in the 70’s. I wore a medicine bag with crystals and sage around my neck in the mid-80’s. I did mendhi in the early 2000’s. I’ve participated in Blessingways over 30 years as a midwife. I’ve made flower crowns, worn harem pants and love Disney movies.

All of this before I learned what Cultural Appropriation was. It mortifies me seeing how disrespectful I was to so many people over the years. I look around and wonder what I am doing now that I’ll recognize in 5, 10, 15 years that will equally mortify me.

Know better, do better.

My Plan for Continued Inner Work

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I will continue reading articles, books and essays by people of different races, religions, cultures, socio-economic statuses, genders, abilities, sizes, etc. I will believe what they say even if what they say is different from what I know, what my experiences are and what I learned in school and/or in my white culture.

I will delve more into the histories of the people I am not familiar with, learning the things I did not learn in school. Actually, un-learning the things I learned in school.

However…

im-so-teribly-confused

Where I have an issue with exploring/learning on one’s own, is it requires some skills some/many people might not have or have access to:

  • Internet access
  • Ability to read
  • Ability to read English
  • Advanced English comprehension

I think there needs to be some alternative plans in place for those who need in-person learning/education of these social phenomena, especially when they are asked for.

Where I Struggle

strengh

Where I do struggle, however, is in how to learn from the communities and cultures themselves. I absolutely understand the reasoning behind not asking the oppressed to educate me/us about their issues/concerns/struggles. I do promise to do my best in educating myself, but the reality is, with some of the exploited/misunderstood/unheard people’s problems/concerns, I am clueless where to even begin.

And then the black holes. Even as I research, digging deeper and deeper into subjects, learning new words to Google and building on my knowledge, there are still going to be gaping black holes I won’t even see until someone points them out to me.

Are there whites that I should ask instead? Isn’t that similar to playing telephone, getting the information second-hand? Wouldn’t speaking to the actual source be more appropriate? Wouldn’t I learn more hearing it directly? I will keep looking for the answer to this puzzle.

bullshit-meter

If you see my bullshit, don’t hesitate to re-orient/correct/challenge me. (Without my expecting a lesson from you of any kind. I will be sure to research on my own and try again.)

I need to be more conscious. I promise to work on it every day.

if-it-doesnt

Figure It Out for Yourself: On Not Asking Marginalized People to Educate You

This is a repost from 10/29/18

From my Tumblr feed:

Privileged people who say they want marginalized people to educate them don’t really want to be educated. In my experience, people who want to be educated will seek out the information they want, without putting the onus on you.

When privileged people say they want to be educated, what they really want is for you to say no, so they can complain that if you really wanted change, you’d change them. I guarantee that even if you say yes, they will completely disregard everything you say and act like its your fault for somehow failing to change a mind that wasn’t ever going to change. (sic)

My Response

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I actually struggle with this.

My first issue is not everybody has access to the Internet/Google. Not everybody can read, has enough reading comprehension to understand the arguments or cannot read English at all. Some people simply do not learn well through reading, but are more aurel instead. These are not my issue, but I haven’t seen them addressed, so keep talking about them.

My own issue is who do I listen to? How do I know the arguments/pieces on the Net are giving the right information? I am reading and reading, trying to tease the “right” attitudes/ideas from writers, but it is very confusing. I do understand this can happen in real life, but I would much prefer to hear from those I know how I can be an active supporter (avoiding the word ally for the moment) without offending.

I also believe that learning from articles when this is SUCH a personal issue is almost like playing the Telephone Game, learning second-hand. I am well-schooled… learned from books my entire life… am not Not NOT shrugging off my own responsibility to educate myself. But as I grew older, I saw that much of what I learned through books was total bullshit lies. How do I know what I am reading isn’t that all over again?

(more below the horrifyingly, ever-growing, long list of names of blacks killed by police)

blacklivesmatter

Talking one-on-one is an augment to my learning style. It feels belittling when I am told I shouldn’t ask any POC anything about being helpful in the #BLM Movement. Latinx & LGBTQIA communities don’t seem as resistant to being asked questions of how to unpack White Cis-Able-bodied-etc. Privilege. I am a disabled, mentally ill Latinx  Sex Worker & a femme Dyke, and I’m working hard on this White Privilege I carry. I remain open to respectful questions from anywhere and anyone. It confuses me how others are not like me. (Privilege glaring; I see it.)

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Rachel Bostick

I am also quite uncomfortable hearing this:

When privileged people say they want to be educated, what they really want is for you to say no, so they can complain that if you really wanted change, you’d change them. I guarantee that even if you say yes, they will completely disregard everything you say and act like its your fault for somehow failing to change a mind that wasn’t ever going to change. (sic)

That is SO not me or many (most?) whites in my world. Maybe qualifier of “many/most privileged people”?

I acknowledge this is a forever process, but I am working on it. Daily. Want to offer my skills where they could be used… writing seems to be the place right now.

I really am trying.

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