Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Inspired By Hillary Clinton For Good Reason

"The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!" Bernie Sanders said to Hillary Clinton back in the day when he also admitted, in reference to her now [in]famous speech-earning, that "everybody has the right to earn a living".

The New York Times reported Reince Priebus saying "Hillary Clinton seems incapable of telling the truth." Referring of course to the latest on her emails. It's rich, coming from him. The GOP is falling apart, as is Trump's campaign, and it's been recorded by Republican politicians struggling to survive, by Mitch McConnell even, and by Trump staff, but Priebus said on August 13 at a Pennsylvania rally that the "GOP is unified behind Donald Trump."

As for Trump, his modus operandi is to lie. And then lie again, saying he didn't say what he first said. Putting everything that America stands for, its democracy, its economy, the middle class, and world peace at tremendous risk. Because he lies.

Neither Trump nor Priebus has been subjected to the outrageous persecution and media distortion of every act, every word, for decades. Trump can't handle the media actually reporting the truth of what he says. These two cowards wouldn't last a day in Hillary Clinton's shoes. But they would never be there in the first place, because they don't have her work ethic, her commitment, her courage, her resilience.

The most important truth is that Hillary Clinton is winning despite the distortion of everything she does and says. Despite that many people believe the distortions. So one more won't make any difference. She's not a criminal. If she was, she'd have been found out by now, with all the scrutiny she's been subjected to. What Andra Day tweeted a week ago (below) still holds good. Perhaps even more so, as more and more accusations and recriminations are thrown at Hillary Clinton and she continues to plow straight ahead, working her ass off, as she always has. Never showing that this stuff gets to her, never letting it stop her or slow her down.

It's nothing short of remarkable. The more I see of her and learn about her the more I'm inspired by her.

Connect with me on Twitter: @JenniferJS_

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Hillary Clinton Climbs In The Polls, But Where Is Bernie Sanders' Help?

As the election heats up and Hillary Clinton gains at the national polls, I want to breathe a sigh of relief and let go of anxiety, but I tell myself "not yet."  Standing in the shower today, I thought, this wouldn’t be happening, it wouldn't even be a close contest, if Bernie Sanders and his supporters hadn't chosen to try and win by trashing Hillary Clinton. They lost anyway but they've done so much damage.

Anybody who has taken a side in the US election season is likely to have been insulted by somebody feeling equally passionately but on the other side.

I've had insults hurled at me from the left and the right. To my surprise, I haven't felt personally hurt. A comment I left on a New York Times article was published and I had over 450 comments, many from angry Bernie Sanders supporters  who actually didn't read what I said. I was even accused of being a $hillary Wall Street whore. I wish.

But what hurts my brain and my heart is the misinformation that's spread around so liberally and high-mindedly. Scapegoating. It gets all the molecules of my being vibrating madly, wildly and very noisily. Which probably means it scares me shitless.

I hated it when Barack and Michelle Obama were the targets, and I hated it just as much when Bernie Sanders was. So it's understandable that I'd it when Hillary Clinton is the target. 

When you scapegoat, two things happen. One, you don't perceive your victim to be a human being dealing with issues you probably will never have to. Two, it's never about them, it's about your frustration with yourself or your own life and your belief that you're powerless to change any of it. We've probably all scapegoated at some point. It feels very satisfying in the moment and makes you feel tremendously powerful, but you can't sustain that feeling, so you have to do it again. And again. Yeah, there's a word for that. Addiction.

Your own rage builds on itself and you get nastier and nastier. The more you do it the more you have to lock out good sense and real information. It achieves nothing, but it does a lot of damage, to you and the target.

It's a bit like the photo, which is of my apartment. There chair is facing inward but it's empty. The reflection of the chair faces out to the view and the open horizon. When you scapegoat you long to access what the horizon promises but until you choose to sit in that chair and face yourself and be real, only requiring culpability from people who actually are culpable, it will never happen for you. You'll always be facing away from the good stuff. The best part of you will always be the ghost. 

And if, in politics, the person you're rooting for can only win because his supporters trash the opposition, it's because his good points aren't strong enough to win with. But if he gets into power his weak points will override the strong and then everybody suffers. 

Would Bernie Sanders have gotten so much support if his movement hadn't relied on trashing Hillary Clinton? And if he was such a great leader, why not just promote his strength? His campaign started out that way. It was all about love and truth and honor. Now it's all about rage, scapegoating, hatred, misinformation and conspiracy theories. Bernie Sanders said he would do everything he could to prevent the GOP candidate from winning. But in effect he's done nothing. His endorsement of Hillary Clinton was lukewarm in intent and what is he doing now? A lot of his supporters have said they'll endorse Jill Stein. They just don't care that it could give the presidency to the GOP nominee.

Sanders said he fully understood the problem with Ralph Nader and he had no intention of repeating that mistake. But in truth he started a Ralph Nader movement and he's powerless to stop it. If he's trying he's being tremendously discreet. 

So, though I'm relieved that Hillary Clinton is climbing in the polls and the GOP candidate is dropping like a stone, I'm holding my breath. 

Connect with me on Twitter: @JenniferJS_

Thursday, July 21, 2016

#GOPConvention, Trump, Bigotry and Independence of Mind

One of the most alarming things Brexit and the US election and Donald Trump's popularity has lit up for me a la Broadway neon is the extent to which so many now have no capacity to think for themselves at all in. In a western culture that prides itself on independence of mind.

Leaving the UK and its bigoted Brexit/Grove & Johnson fiasco aside and focusing on the US, the thing is done. Trump is the official nominee. It didn't turn out the way he planned it, and there were a lot of empty seats, but if the polls are to be believed, a sector of America thinks he's entertaining—and the liberal media still insists on giving him that description—and is their savior. From? Take your pick, so long as it's non-white and pro-tolerance of human rights. The truth of Trump is that he's a liar, a bigot, a misogynist, a racist, a narcissist. Most of all he's a predator, whose primary skills are capacity to recognize mental weakness, to hone in on it and exploit it.

And another sector of America has spread so much hatred and misinformation about Hillary Clinton that they've convinced themselves they've been telling the truth. Now they're bragging about her unpopularity and how Bernie Sanders does better against Trump. Of course he does, they helped him along. Independence of mind? I don't think so. It's terrifying.

Burying your head in the sand now won't protect either the die-hard Sanders or the Trump supporters, or the rest of America and even the world from the consequences of their own recklessness. It's their choice.

And how many of Hillary Clinton's detractors are willing to pick apart the stories about her with open minds to see how much truth there is? Rhetorical question.

The people who consistently trash never have more than a few very skeletal ideas which they keep repeating over and over. There's some kind of addictive thing happening. They get their momentary fix, which lasts for a while, then they need another and they go for the same thing that got them high before. Because it works. They spew categorical and simplistic statements generated originally by the far right GOP and now illustrated with memes that can be disproved in seconds. It's mindless! These are the people who would control everybody's destiny? I hope not.

Liberal media such as the NYT call for the GOP to wake up to changed demographics but it's wasted breath and effort. In 2008 the GOP said they needed to change. In 2012 they said the same thing but instead of changing they gave Ted Cruz power in Congress and did more of what has made them unpopular with their own base—they didn't do their job. They're still not doing it.

Now they've endorsed a bigoted sociopath detested by the entire sane world. They're going in one direction and that's backwards. These guys are obviously not bright enough to understand that going backwards socially doesn't mean the demographics will follow them. The GOP won't change, because they're narcissists. Narcissists are detached from reality. I'm glad of it. I don't want them to change. I want them to disintegrate within themselves. America and the world will be a far better place for it.

It's strange; in other countries the far right is frighteningly well-organized. In the US it's a mess, and for that I'm supremely grateful. It's the ultimate irony. Because if the US falls totally into the hands of people who are essentially white supremacists we're done for. We won't just have one Hitler in one country to deal with.

Connect with me on Twitter: @JenniferJS_

Image from Wiki: Storm in the Sea of Galilee, Rembrandt 1632

Saturday, July 9, 2016

All The Lonely People

The other day I tweeted the above and also posted it to Facebook, Google Plus and LinkedIn. 

Ironically I got responses from a lot of FB friends (one of whom also responded on Twitter)! More ironically, I used a Tweet so couldn't say everything I wanted, which was that Facebook strikes me as being a lonely place for many.

The desire to share is huge, but nobody has time to read everything everybody shares. I often see on friends' pages that they've shared stuff nobody has responded to. I know that for some, social media is a primary source of connection and for others it isn't, but still it's hard for me to believe that anybody shares anything without wanting it to lead to a connection of some sort. 

Maybe I'm wrong about that, though. Maybe it's just what I want. I guess I won't know until I ask people individually.

Facebook makes choices for us as to who we see on our pages. It can make you forget that others exist. And it only has buttons for support. What if I post something and you don't like it? You don't respond, so I think you've forgotten me. The logic seems right, but it actually isn't; non response can just be the result of algorithm control. Me, I prefer somebody to disagree than say nothing, but you might not be the same, so there's no way to connect.

It's a strange world, Facebook. Twitter can feel more immediate because you can find specific conversations with hashtags and join in. So if you have an interest, say, in politics you can find others with the same.

For me, Facebook takes more effort at conscious participation. Ultimately, real relationships take work, don't they? Social media ease of access doesn't save one from that.

Find me on Twitter and Facebook 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Bernie Sanders Gambling With America's Future

Yet again Bernie Sanders has said he will fight all the way to the nomination. Yesterday I saw a supporter claiming that he will be the Democratic nominee. It's kind of strange, given that he believes the Dem Party to be rigged and thoroughly corrupt. I guess the idea is to change it from within. And, in the name of democracy, over-ride millions of voters who don't believe it's rigged. 

On June 9 Politico ran an article saying "After meeting with Obama, Sanders gives strongest sign yet that he will soon bow out. But he's going to compete in D.C. primary first." That was understandable  in the light of how optimistic Sanders was that he could win D.C. by a large margin. However, he said after the meeting with President Obama that "Donald Trump would clearly, to my mind and I think the majority of Americans, be a disaster as president of the United States.

"It is unbelievable to me, and I say this in all sincerity, that the Republican Party would have a candidate for president who in the year 2016 makes bigotry and discrimination the cornerstone of his campaign.

"In my view, the American people will not vote for or tolerate a candidate who insults Mexicans and Latinos, who insults Muslims, who insults African-Americans and women.  Needless to say, I am going to do everything in my power, and I will work as hard as I can, to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States."

Sincerity is as sincerity does. He will work as hard as he can? He could if he wanted to but he didn't then and he still isn't. 

President Barack Obama. Joe Biden. Elizabeth Warren. Hillary Clinton. All of them passionate, courageous, supremely smart, knowledgeable, experienced, articulate, focused and able to maintain dignity and purpose in the face of huge challenge.

All of them aligned against a thin-skinned, misogynistic, racist, narcissistic bully addicted to power and adulation and getting his way by any means, unable to control his temper, his mouth or his fear of criticism, unable to take his head out of the sand or handle a simple press report. Backed by a party that despises him but has painted itself into a corner by supporting him and foolishly believing it could control him.

The absentee is, of course, Bernie Sanders who is in reality doing everything he can to promote his revolution no matter what the cost, with the occasional outburst against Donald Trump to keep up the myth that he's doing everything he can to make sure Trump doesn't win. The truth is that he's doing everything he can, short of articulating it openly, to make sure that Hillary Clinton doesn't win.

In June Sanders was convinced he would win D.C. and that was his rationalization for carrying on. He lost by one of the biggest margins in the Democratic primaries. And he carried on.

Now he's back to saying—again—that he will carry the fight all the way to the Democratic convention. The longer he refuses to endorse Hillary Clinton the more myths are perpetrated about her. Ultimately that will be what gives Donald Trump the edge. In a recent Bloomberg poll 22% of Sanders supporters said they'll vote for him. Their hero will have a Congress even more dominated by the GOP. He will be powerless to effect the slightest change. And the Supreme Court will be conservative by majority. So a minority of voters will make the decision for the majority and affect the lives of everybody's children for possibly decades.

It's impossible to entertain the idea that Sanders is unaware of that 22% or of how irrational they are. They keep repeating the same categorical statements generated originally by the far right GOP and now backed by memes that can be disproved in seconds. It's mindless! There are few things more dangerous to a healthy democracy than mindless rage. People consumed with it will avoid any truth that doesn't give them a justification for vitriol and punishing somebody.

The frightening thing is that Sanders isn't saying to this group "we'll fight to force Hillary Clinton into the most progressive agenda possible, but guys, we are going to vote for her because she is the only way to defeat Donald Trump."

He can't say it, can he? Because then he can't blackmail the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton. So he's taking a gamble. For it to succeed he needs to carry on whipping up the mindless rage, tacitly endorsing the stories that Clinton is a child-and-women hating, war-mongering monster who has been bought by Wall Street, large corporations and a thoroughly corrupt Democratic Party. Presumably his plan is that when he's got what he wants, he'll exert benevolent control over that mindless rage so ultimately all his supporters vote for Clinton.

Good luck with that, Bernie Sanders. We've just seen the centenary commemoration of the Battle of the Somme when a million men were wounded or killed. Two years later World War I was over. Never again, everybody swore. Twenty years later World War II broke out. After that war ended, everybody swore, never again would the world countenance another Hitler.

Now throughout the West the far right is rising in power. We don't learn from history. I wonder if we can even learn from history that happened a week ago when UK voters chose an option that had been driven by bigotry and that has plunged the country into disarray on every front.

And opened the door even wider for the far right. America faces the same dilemma. And Bernie Sanders is gambling?

Photograph: The Cardsharps by Carvaggio, c. 1594

Friday, June 24, 2016

Bernie Sanders: Saint or Sinner? Hero or Destroyer?

Bernie Sanders wrote a very erudite piece for the Washington Post about what he and his followers want for America. You would think that they're the only ones who care. I guess if you buy the story that Hillary Clinton is a Nazi-loving, corrupt oligarch slash Wall Street whore it must seem as if her supporters love Nazis, oligarchs and whores and positively salivate over the idea of the 1% getting richer.

It's a lovely, dramatic picture, one that gives anybody with unprocessed frustration and anger plenty to vent on. And naturally Sanders' opening paragraph talks about political revolution.

Boy, does Sanders love that word 'revolution'. And he has extraordinary skill in making it look as if he's the only politician in America with these aims. What about Barack Obama's almost eight years worth of contributions, that brought the country back from recession faster than any of the other countries affected by that recession? What about how hard and tirelessly he worked and still works towards building up the middle class and correcting the inequality?

For that matter, what about the work that Hillary Clinton has done in her political career? It's the easiest thing in the world to pick out the failures or mis-steps, grossly magnify them, and conveniently ignore when they've been corrected and when her steps achieved positive things for the country.

It's harder to go looking for truth. It's not so much fun, definitely; how can you vent on inconvenient truth?

And how, I wonder, does Bernie Sanders plan to turn any of his grand vision into reality when he openly refuses to endorse Hillary Clinton, unequivocally sending the message to his supporters not to vote for her? The more successful he is in that, the more likely it is that Donald Trump will be president and Congress will be in control of Republicans. That means the Supreme Court will be, too. It's pure logic. Unless Sanders has something else up his sleeve. Maybe he's hoping Hillary Clinton will be arrested.

I have a Facebook friend who was convinced about ten days ago that she was going to be arrested the next day, on the authority of an opinion blog. This is the same person who posted this meme:

The truth, which took me a few seconds to find via snopes.com, is that the photo is not of the girl, and that in 1975 Hillary Clinton was a young lawyer and had to take the case.

She did so reluctantly; successfully challenged the mismanaged evidence and the case didn't go to trial. Clinton didn't claim that the complainant fantasized about being raped by older men and she allegedly 'laughed' about the unreliable nature of polygraphs.

So Hillary Clinton is not an advocate for rapists. She is, however, and has always been, an advocate for women and children.

Even if she is arrested for something that Jeb Bush also did while Governor but isn't even being questioned on, why should Sanders be given her place when he didn't get the majority vote? And Clinton she isn't arrested? It's quite a gamble Sanders is taking. And he sure isn't being upfront about it. One minute he's standing next to Barack Obama, smiling and looking friendly and saying he will work with Hillary Clinton. Then the next thing he's giving a speech to his followers without mentioning her name.

He had a window of opportunity there and he chose to shut it. The fire of rage that he has fed and the  misinformation about Hillary Clinton that he's helped to grow like a cancer were already both getting dangerously close to being out of control.

And Bernie is still talking about revolution. I think back to an interview when he gushed about Castro and said sure, there are problems but... Problems like mass murders, lock-down on the press, a society reduced to its lowest common denominator with that denominator in constant plummet. I wonder if his followers realize that that's what he's looking for; the revolution that destroys everything.

So he can be the hero who rebuilds? Talk about unprocessed frustration and anger. If he carries on down this road, refusing to help his followers get their head around Hillary Clinton, Trump could become president, and everybody, not just Sanders and his followers,  can kiss everything that's good about America goodbye and say hello to a Congress even more dominated by Republicans, a conservative Supreme Court that will roll back all the social progress on equality, American going back into economic disaster, and a world of more recession and ghastly wars.

It's your choice, Bernie Sanders. 

Brexit: David Cameron's Valiant Resignation Speech

"Good morning everyone, the country has just taken part in a giant democratic exercise, perhaps the biggest in our history. Over 33 million people from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar have all had their say.

We should be proud of the fact that in these islands we trust the people for these big decisions.
We not only have a parliamentary democracy, but on questions about the arrangements for how we've governed there are times when it is right to ask the people themselves and that is what we have done. The British people have voted to leave the European Union and their will must be respected.

I want to thank everyone who took part in the campaign on my side of the argument, including all those who put aside party differences to speak in what they believe was the national interest and let me congratulate all those who took part in the Leave campaign for the spirited and passionate case that they made.

The will of the British people is an instruction that must be delivered. It was not a decision that was taken lightly, not least because so many things were said by so many different organisations about the significance of this decision.

So there can be no doubt about the result.

Across the world people have been watching the choice that Britain has made. I would reassure those markets and investors that Britain's economy is fundamentally strong and I would also reassure Britons living in European countries and European citizens living here there will be no immediate changes in your circumstances. There will be no initial change in the way our people can travel, in the way our goods can move or the way our services can be sold.

We must now prepare for a negotiation with the European Union. This will need to involve the full engagement of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments to ensure that the interests of all parts of our United Kingdom are protected and advanced.

But above all this will require strong, determined and committed leadership. I'm very proud and very honoured to have been Prime Minister of this country for six years. I believe we've made great steps, with more people in work than ever before in our history, with reforms to welfare and education, increasing people's life chances, building a bigger and stronger society, keeping our promises to the poorest people in the world and enabling those who love each other to get married whatever their sexuality, but above all restoring Britain's economic strength.

And I'm grateful to everyone who's helped to make that happen. I have also always believed that we have to confront big decisions, not duck them. That is why we delivered the first coalition government in 70 years, to bring our economy back from the brink. It's why we delivered a fair, legal and decisive referendum in Scotland.

And it's why I made the pledge to renegotiate Britain's position in the European Union and to hold the referendum on our membership and have carried those things out.

I fought this campaign in the only way I know how, which is to say directly and passionately what I think and feel—head, heart and soul. I held nothing back, I was absolutely clear about my belief that Britain is stronger, safer and better off inside the European Union and I made clear the referendum was about this and this alone—not the future of any single politician including myself.

But the British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path and as such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction.

I will do everything I can as Prime Minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months but I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination. This is not a decision I've taken lightly but I do believe it's in the national interest to have a period of stability and then the new leadership required.

There is no need for a precise timetable today but in my view we should aim to have a new prime minister in place by the start of the conservative Party conference in October.

Delivering stability will be important and I will continue in post as Prime Minister with my Cabinet for the next three months.

The Cabinet will meet on Monday, the Governor of the Bank of England is making a statement about the steps that the Bank and the Treasury are taking to reassure financial markets. We will also continue taking forward the important legislation that we set before Parliament in the Queen's Speech. And I have spoken to Her Majesty the Queen this morning to advise her of the steps that I am taking.

A negotiation with the European Union will need to begin under a new prime minister and I think it's right that this new prime minister takes the decision about when to trigger Article 50 and start the formal and legal process of leaving the EU. 

I will attend the European Council next week to explain the decision the British people have taken and my own decision.

The British people have made a choice, that not only needs to be respected but those on the losing side of the argument—myself included—should help to make it work. Britain is a special country—we have so many great advantages—a parliamentary democracy where we resolve great issues about our future through peaceful debate, a great trading nation with our science and arts, our engineering and our creativity, respected the world over.

And while we are not perfect I do believe we can be a model for the multi-racial, multi-faith democracy, that people can come and make a contribution and rise to the very highest that their talent allows.

Although leaving Europe was not the path I recommended, I am the first to praise our incredible strengths. I said before that Britain can survive outside the European Union and indeed that we could find a way. Now the decision has been made to leave, we need to find the best way and I will do everything I can to help. I love this country and I feel honoured to have served it and I will do everything I can in future to help this great country succeed. Thank you very much."
Delivering stability will be important... Now the decision has been made to leave, we need to find the best way and I will do everything I can to help.
That's how you do it as a politician if you lose and you really do love your country. Take a leaf, Bernie Sanders.

The photo of David Cameron is from 10 Downing Street website

Brexit, Conservative Supreme Court, Xenophobia, Racism, Sexism…

I woke up this morning to the news that the majority in Britain voted to leave the EU, the British pound is plummeting, UK and US futures taking a dive.

This after the US Supreme Court blocked Barack Obama's Immigration reforms and after months and months and five more to go of rancid attacks on Hillary Clinton; years and years of vile trash thrown at Barack Obama, one of the best presidents America has ever had; the world's stupidest and nasty-ugliest man elevated to a position of power; the eruption to the surface of xenophobia, racism, homophobia, bigotry of every sort.

A mountain of misinformation fed into cyberspace, driven by rage and soaked up greedily until it has solidified in too many minds as truth.

A world of angry people justifying their vitriol with very flimsy excuses, but really just looking for something, somebody, to hurt. Basking in the paradise that social media is for them. That world, which we've lauded as being the platform for profound connection and shared information has turned into the world of bullshit and persecution.

Even on the home front I was excluded from my father's genealogy chart and family tree, dared to speak my mind and stand my ground and was iced out and ganged up against in a way that's reminiscent of mean children in the schoolyard but that didn't make it any less painful. 

The NYT featured something I wrote and I got 493 comments, 90% from Bernie Sanders supporters, many raging at me. For voicing my opinion. Some even friended me on FB—solely to attack me or my ideas.  

That reaction didn't actually bother me. But overall it's a bloody depressing picture. I sat down to have coffee and thought at times like this you have to remember that, personally and societally, the part of us that has the balls to carry on in the face of obstacles, determined to triumph, is more powerful than the part that gets discouraged when we falter, or the world around us does.

The immediate effects of Britain choosing to leave the EU are scary. Will they last, will Europe and Britain fall apart, will this decision trigger off a world recession? I don't think so, any more than I think Europe will suddenly stop trading with Britain. The trade is as important to Europe as it is to the UK. The EU has said if Britain chooses to leave it won't get another chance but I don't really believe that either. There were a lot of scare tactics used on both sides and the press is going to have perpetual orgasm on worst case scenarios for a while but they aren't necessarily a reflection of what's to come.

As I drank my coffee, thinking about my own life and the world around me, I felt grateful for my capacity to speak out even if it draws fire and not be demolished by it; grateful for the part of me that believes good triumphs over evil.

Very grateful for my coffee, that I have work, a roof over my head. I opened up the NYT. When headlines are raging about everything under the sun that is disgusting about humanity, there's one that shines. Led by a man of great stature, Representative John Lewis, US Democrats staged a passionate sit-in in the Senate to protest against Republican refusal to pass sane gun measures. I call that heroism. And it's enough to restore my belief in humanity.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father's Day Tribute to My Father Ian James Michael Stewart

Ian James Michael Stewart. My Dad. Although, apparently I was never born. I've often felt like a nonentity. Now I know why. It's official; I don't exist.

You know the poem Monday’s child is fair of face, Tuesday’s child is full of grace, Wednesday’s child is full of woe, Thursday’s child has far to go, Friday’s child is loving and giving, Saturday’s child works hard for a living, but the child that is born on the Sabbath day is bonnie and blithe and good and gay.

I was born on a Tuesday. I wanted to know what day my Dad was born on. Couldn’t remember his birth date so I went looking on Google. And found this:  
Huh. My Dad didn't have a face? And I’m pretty sure he had four children. I love a good mystery story so I clicked the link and got through to www.geni.com

Imagine my surprise. Dad didn't have a face and apparently only had three children after all. And I wasn’t one of them. Maybe my childhood fantasy of being a changeling was a reality. 

Do I know who created this travesty? I do indeed, I’ve just blanked out their name. They aren’t a blood relative of either my father or me but they are a family member and as you can see, didn’t bother to find out my Dad’s birth date. They listed themselves, their parents and sibling & some of their extended family (43 in all) as Dad's descendants (54 in all) but not me, his own daughter. Ergo not my son either. And below is my family tree. The one that I and my son are not a part of. I know, it's confusing.

Is my Dad on the genealogy chart they created for their own father? I’m gonna let you guess the answer to that.

They created the chart and tree in 2010 and before you ask, yes we had met by then; they were very aware of my existence. I even remember a conversation a few years back when they enthusiastically told me about this site where you could create a family tree. You had to pay R1000 to join so I didn’t bother to go there. No mention that a tree had been created for Dad and that I wasn’t on it.

Who was it said “one may smile, and smile, and be a villain…”? Got that right, Bill. And according to another heritage site, my oldest sister had only two siblings. No prizes for guessing who the other one isn't.

I don’t know who created that public record, although I could hazard a guess. Feeling pretty desperate and deeply suspicious that I do actually exist I again turned to Google, this time to search my own name. Oh God. Top of the list of Jennifer Stewarts is a frigging porn star.

OK so I’m making a joke of it, but actually that I was excluded from a family tree created so casually for my father has left me feeling violated and outraged, not just for me but for how it dishonors him. When I first came across it I felt the proverbial knife in my heart. Funny how that actually is a real physical feeling. So it’s not funny and I’m not really laughing. And I can’t really get my head around the sheer arrogance—and cruelty—of it.

Words can do no harm? It’s not true. They do a lot of harm. They hurt. So do absence of words. Being discounted is one of the most painful things a human can experience.

I think about my Dad. I wonder what he would have said if he had miraculously come to life again. Would he have chuckled and patted the person who created the tree on the back and said “Stick it to the bitch. How else can we discount this child of mine?” Yeah. I don’t think so.

For the record, my father Ian James Michael Stewart was born on March 9, and I think it was 1923; I'm still waiting for a copy of his official birth certificate. He was married to Patricia Dolores Fitzgerald who was born on April 23 1928. According to my birth certificate they were lawfully married and judging by a silver heart my father had engraved for my mother on their 25th wedding anniversary, they were married on 2 May 1948. I was their third child and was born in Pretoria, South Africa on December 6, 1955. 

That was a Tuesday. Full of grace. I like that. I was baptized on the 17th of December 1955 at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church at what was then VoortrekkerHoogte in Pretoria.

VoortrekkerHoogte was a military base. So. Full of grace, baptized in a Church of Peace on a military base. No wonder I’m so conflicted. At least I would be if I existed.

If Dad was born on March 9 1923, it was a Friday. Friday's child is loving and giving. He was that. He's the only member of my primary family who was never once mean or jealous or spiteful or bullying towards me. And further for the record, Dad once said to me that I was his favorite child. I like that too. We had similar spirits.

The weirdest thing? Somebody in his immediate family put together a history of his mother's father. And Dad doesn't exist, according to it, or to a family tree put together by I don't know who. I don't get it. I just don't get it. 

Dad was real alright, and the nicest, most interesting, most decent out of that group of siblings. He and my mother left South Africa when I was a year old because they couldn't bear to live under the Apartheid regime. His older brother Ron voted for that regime.

Dad loved that I instinctively set my sights on something greater than I knew how to achieve. It resonated with him. He said “Dream as big as you can. If you reach for the stars you might get close. If you only try to reach for the ceiling you won’t get beyond it.” He also said “If you want to do something and you know you won’t get permission for it, do before you ask!” He had such a twinkle in his being every time he said it to me.

He always added “Don’t lie about it afterwards if you get caught.” I don't think that was about morality; it was more about courage. If you lie you do it because at some level you're afraid.

He was so honest. When he was a kid he lived on a farm and would ride his bike to a store that was a couple of hours away to buy sweets. One day he got home and realized he'd gotten too much change. He rode back to the store to give the change back. The day he told me that I thought I'm not that honest; I'd have kept the money. It really worried me for ages. Years later I realized that if I really had been dishonest by nature it wouldn't have bothered me...

When I was about ten or eleven I was terrified that my parents would break up and I wouldn't know who to live with. I couldn't bear to lose either of them. Dad found me curled up on my bed, crying my heart out. He sat on the bed with me and held me so fiercely. He promised that he would never leave me. Never! 

Just before he died he came to visit my mother, who I was living with at the time. They were separated by then and I was 30. I walked Dad to the car. He worried that he hadn't been a good father. I hugged him and told him fiercely that he was a wonderful father, the best in the world. The memory of his face as it lit up with a relief that couldn't quite dispel the doubt is etched in my mind. Not too long after that I was house-sitting and I put on Faure's Requiem. The thought ran through my head "I'm playing this for somebody who's going to die." 

But I didn't know who. I invited Dad round and cooked him his favorite supper. He loved it and I told him again that I loved him. Within a few weeks he was dead. My world ground to a halt. I didn't know where he'd gone, I couldn't feel him. I thought I would never be happy again. Ever. Those were dark days. 

Then one sunny spring day I was riding my bike. Suddenly I felt a surge of joy. And just like that Dad was back. He's never left me since.  

Below is a photo of the plane he flew in World War II. He was a navigator. He loved flying! He would have been a pilot if his eyes had passed the test. Since he couldn't, he took the next best thing. The best lemonade-maker I've ever met. He was an accountant by trade and hated every minute of it but had too many commitments to study anything else.

He wanted to design and build bridges. Grand, graceful ones that spanned huge rivers and canyons. You'll do it, Dad. In another lifetime, and you'll get to be the pilot. And I plan to be there with you.  

We're similar in so many ways, except that I had a better father than he did. He was musical, loved singing and playing accordion, and was a truly brilliant cartoonist. He had such a big heart and pleasure in life! People liked him, but he was quite shy; terrified of women! He told me once that he never had a lot of close friends; one was always enough for him and sometimes he didn't have that either.

Me too, Dad. I beat myself up about it until I think of you and remember that in my eyes it doesn't make you a lesser person. 

I sit thinking about him and doing so fills me with an ache that’s hard to bear, but also with a gladness and a rejoicing. He was a beautiful man. A courageous one. That's my Dad! His family left him out of family history and his mother's family tree. Mine left me off his. But that isn't what determines the truth. He wasn't known and loved by many but that isn't what determines a person's stature. He honored me as his child. He would have been outraged at the cruelty, meanness, pettiness of me being excluded from the list of his descendants. He was my father and I was his daughter. He still is and I still am. And it will always be so.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Obama's Sane & Heartfelt Response to Orlando Shooting #LoveIsLove

In the aftermath of the awful, brutal massacre in Orlando it was a relief to see how many people responded with sanity. News outlets sensationalized sickeningly, capitalizing on fear, but from local LGBT leaders right up to President Obama, and including Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, who spoke independently of each other but were of one mind, the call has been to fight against hatred and to remember the power of love; to continue to work hard for inclusiveness and equality. And these voices of wisdom speak for LGBT communities around the world. 

Donald Trump was the lone voice exploiting the shock, pain, horror and sorrow for political gain, whipping up fear and making it all about Muslims and Islam. But for once his voice was drowned out. You can't fight hate and violence with more of the same. You fight it by reaching out to those who feel so isolated and misunderstood. It's the long road and the difficult one but it's the only one that can work, long term.

Below are extracts from Barack Obama's response.

 “What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred… The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub—it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights. 

“So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American—regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation—is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country.  And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans.

“Today marks the most deadly shooting in American history.  The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle.  This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.

“In the coming hours and days, we’ll learn about the victims of this tragedy. Their names. Their faces. Who they were. The joy that they brought to families and to friends, and the difference that they made in this world. Say a prayer for them and say a prayer for their families—that God give them the strength to bear the unbearable. And that he give us all the strength to be there for them, and the strength and courage to change. We need to demonstrate that we are defined more…by the way they lived their lives than by the hate of the man who took them from us.

“…In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another. We will not give in to fear or turn against each other. Instead, we will stand united, as Americans, to protect our people, and defend our nation, and to take action against those who threaten us. 

May God bless the Americans we lost this morning. May he comfort their families. May God continue to watch over this country that we love.”