Dec. 6… On my way from San Francisco to Phoenix. we fly east of where Ventura County is burning. I can see at least four separate fires amidst the billowing whorls of grey smoke rising behind the mountain range. My sister and her family and 30 plus years of their friends and community live down there.
Leaning into the small airplane window, I snap inadequate pictures, recalling the words my nephew, raised in Oak View/Ojai/Ventura, now living in San Francisco, posted on Facebook this morning. I feel so helpless, he wrote. As I watched the smoke, my tears started flowing. I know the feeling.
A month earlier, there was Santa Rosa and all those crazy fires, and the smoke we choked on in San Francisco, while homes and lives were destroyed 50 miles north. Deja vu.
Dec. 9… Sometimes you want to change the channel of your mind but it’s not that easy. I woke up at 3am today thinking about all the animals trying to escape the fires. I wondered if there were ones that didn’t make it. Of course, there were. The sick or injured unable to run fast enough. I thought of baby birds who had not yet fledged, the desperation of their mother, maybe their father too. Stay with the babies? leave them? A devastating choice. Then, after the fire, no nests to return to. No baby bird bodies to recover. No twigs to make new nests. No where to place them.
Thinking of animal refugees sparked my memory of human refugees, especially those from Syria , wandering in Europe, un-welcomed in America. Shamefully, I’d almost forgotten them. The havoc in our own country has preoccupied me the last year, including the cruelty of widespread deportation of immigrants already here. Who would even want to come to this country now?
So many people everywhere must be shaking their heads, rolling their eyes, and wondering about American sanity or stupidity or meanness. They must wonder if we really support this tyrant-buffoon? The fact that some of us do continues to baffle and alarm me. I wonder about our similarity to the German people during Hitler… And, I see now, over time and the course of history, how our species gets swayed and manipulated by false prophets (read, sociopaths) to behave in fear-based hate-filled and destructive ways — Chile, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Cambodia, among others. And…how we may be complicit — by action or inaction.
The plight of the Syrian people had consumed me for some time, but now there is an endless litany of daily tragedies and egregious mis-uses of power here. Like the Syrians, we have our own form of tyrannical government and widespread destruction and suffering. I’m not comparing degrees of suffering between our two countries and peoples, but I am saying the danger in our country is very real, and present. There have already been massive war-like actions against people, institutions, and natural resources. My attention bounces… This issue, that. I try to land, to focus, absorb, comprehend, decide… whether there is something I can do, this time.
Rape and pillage is not new. But Trump and the Republicans’ version is grotesque, speedy, and highly efficient. I always used to associate rape and pillage with Ghengis Khan, and then with the white Russians in pogroms against the Jews living in shtetls. Rape and pillage. It’s why my grandparents came to America. Generally I’ve associated it with soldiers or vigilantes moving against groups of people they consider other.
Now I see it in its broader sense. Bill Clinton may have had exploitive, though consensual, sex with Monica Lewinsky, but it was America that raped and pillaged her identity. It was the Republican party and Fox news that for the last 3 decades has (with Putin’s able assist more recently) raped and pillaged Hillary Clinton’s reputation. The Trump administration and Republican party are raping and pillaging our health care, our school system, our environment, our national parks, the mental health of Americans and people everywhere. Do I overstate this? I think not. Do you see how this rape and pillage mentality is connected to many forms of violence and greed?
To a degree we are helpless in the face of natural calamities, though there are many who have been fighting the fires, and doing search and rescue, and helping displaced families in myriad ways. There are so many things to be done, though it is not always easy to see clearly exactly what. My sister has done some photo documentation of the situation which has brought a clearer picture and understanding to those not nearby.
for instance, this powerful image of two of her neighbors, masked, and sitting on rooftop keeping an eye out for newly blown embers and local fires…
We also can’t overlook the contribution of global warming to these recent natural disasters (fires, hurricanes). In this sense, we humans are not entirely helpless to change the degree of disasters. We can make an impact working for climate justice and to hold accountable those who lie, cheat, and obstruct our country from doing the right thing.
Many of us have felt helpless to fight effectively against the Trump regime. We bank on and pray for the Mueller investigation. But a funny thing happened in this year of feeling helpless. We weren’t. In our “#metoo campaign, we spoke out, started un-seating men who have abused their power, and won as the “Silence Breakers” the best person of the year from Time magazine.
I consider myself one of the winners of that award. Probably you were too. As Silence Breakers, we have opened the door to possibility.
The women’s movement is no longer the “fringe” it was when I was a girl. In the sixties, some of our “women’s consciousnesses” were raised but even we could not imagine the extent of the changes that would be required and how difficult those changes would be. Still, groundwork was laid, or rather built upon. With our voices alone, we let it be known the depth of our discontent with how things were. The Equal Rights Amendment never passed. Women have continued to be second class citizens, sexually objectified, exploited, under-paid, under-hired, dis-respected, demeaned, not to mention what the #metoo campaign brought to light — harassed, assaulted, and raped, on a shockingly widespread basis. Perhaps because we have a self-confessed predator arrogantly occupying the White House, and because no one in power is doing anything about that, the status of women and the behavior of too many men has become undeniably clear.
I, for one, am proud of myself and all the others who risked adding our voices. Maybe we just wrote hashtag, me too. Maybe we recounted terrible and compelling stories of assault(s). Doing this takes tremendous courage. First there was the violation, then the re-living of it while sharing it publicly. And, then, the risk of being trolled by the viciously misogynistic social network trolls, or by the lawyers-for-the-defendant-trolls (think Trump, Roy Moore, and Harvey Weinstein’s lawyers).
Despite the very real risks, I don’t think we’ll be willing to get back into that subservient box. I hope not.
I’ll be buying some pink yarn asap, knitting as many pussy hats as I can between now and January 20th. It’s a small thing, but powerfully symbolic because inspired by the pussy-grabber-in-chief. We take the infamy of his self-delusion and confession and make it spectacle, call attention to the disconnect. Likely, the vitality and determination of the Silence Breakers was fueled to no small degree by the crime of the Century — electing a known, publicly, self-confessed predator to the Presidency. Knitting symbolic hats I help end tyranny.
Nobody wanted this — having to be in warrior mode full-time. We wanted to tend to our nests and our babies (or grand babies) and our search for healthful food. And we wanted calm weather, not global warming, to live out our lives peacefully. But instead, like the birds in Ventura, we got fire. We can lament all we want. In the meantime, we are inhabiting a new reality. Like the Ventura fires, Trump’s is a scorched earth policy.
I’m glad that, in the face of the moral depravity and criminal mentality of our leadership, we are standing up and speaking truth. Let’s not be like too many of the German people were. Let us resist mightily.
I look forward to linking arms with you on January 20th. May we be fierce in our compassion and compassionate in our fierceness. May we never again be silent.
Dec. 15… The Thomas Fire in the Ventura & Santa Barbara area (as well as other fires in California) continues to rage. Here is today’s (Dec. 15th) latest news on the fires.
Amongst the other places I’m sure the Ventura/Ojai/Santa Barbara area needs all the help you can give. Here’s one website you can go to get or offer help. Thank you.