I was up at 4:30 AM this morning. When I bleerily began to check my social media feeds after trying to go back to sleep (and failing), I found two very strong and important statements that I feel moved to share.
The first statement is Misha Magdalene’s posting of The People Who Aren’t There: Closing Remarks, PantheaCon, from a presentation given this last Friday (Patheos, Feb. 15, 2020). It concerns the painful lack of inclusion of people of color, trans/non-binary people, and people with disabilities at PantheaCon and other neopagan gatherings. (Misha Magdalene is the author of Outside the Charmed Circle, which I recently reviewed.) Please read Misha’s statement at PantheaCon and then share it with others.
I was especially struck by Misha’s statement as I recently had an old-time pagan tell me about encountering a transgender woman and her mother at a public event. The old-time pagan recounted how the mother continuously misgendered her daughter in front of him and others. The old-time pagan kept saying, “but it was okay because it was her mother” and I said, “no, this is NOT okay, even if it IS her mother doing the misgendering.” Most people who are trans and/or non-binary emphatically do not want to be misgendered by their parents, family, and friends–but they may feel helpless, fearful, too triggered, or make a choice for other reasons to not speak up at a given moment, especially in public circumstances. It might not feel safe to do so. I felt furious at old-time pagan’s assumptions and could easily see how such ignorance has persisted in places like PatheaCon.
Before he told me this story, I had recommended this old-time pagan attend Misha’s presentation as he was going to PantheaCon. I wonder if he did, and I wonder what he made of it?
The second statement is below.
However, I may need to offer some explanation of terminology. In case you don’t know, “cis” and “cisgender” refers to people whose gender identities are congruent with the gender they were assigned at birth: an example of gender congruence would be someone born with “average” female genitals who has a corresponding internal sense of female gender. “Cis” is rooted in chemical terminology, and is not a perjorative. The use of “cisgender” alongside “transgender” and “non-binary” is more polite, as it helps to reduce the “othering” of trans and non-binary people, and also reduces the persistent positioning of cisgender people and socio-gender expectations as “the norm.”
P.S. The binary-esque categories of “transgender” and “cisgender” do not necessarily include people who are intersex. And some people are “gender diverse” and non-binary without considering themselves trans, though “trans” has become something of an umbrella term.
The author of the following statement wishes to remain anonymous. Here is the statement below:
OK so here’s the real tea: some of the things cis people don’t know
1. Everyone perceives gender differently. That person you think doesn’t “pass?” They may be “passing” just fine 90 percent of the time.
2. Therefore your “passing tips” suck. There’s a good chance that the thing you told your trans friend to do to seem more feminine, is the exact same thing some other cis person told them seems too masculine. That’s why we ignore you. You don’t know what you are talking about.
3. Your sexual arousal is not a magic gender detector. For example, if you are a straight dude feeling attracted to a trans man, surprise! Doesn’t magically mean he’s really a woman.
4. “Passing” is a bullshit concept that just means “looking cis.” Maybe we don’t all wanna look like you. Maybe you aren’t as great lookin’ as you thought. Maybe trans is beautiful.
5. Being trans means dealing with a ridiculous barrage of misgendering and dysphoria-triggering moments. It makes you want to die. You can’t help it. That’s just how fucking dysphoria works. (And you don’t even have to have body dysphoria, social dysphoria is just as real and awful.) So yes, someone slipping up on a pronoun may have just made an innocent mistake, but these are innocent mistakes that literally make you want to rip off your skin/never leave the house again/just die already. And also for every innocent mistake there’s some gaslighting motherfucker who is flubbing your pronoun to fuck with you. Why would you trust it’s innocent? Eventually you WILL snap.
6. As soon as you snap you will be labeled over-dramatic, triggered, a snowflake.
7. Eventually a lot of trans people learn to keep their mouths shut and just swallow all the horrible feelings. These are your “good trans friends” who don’t get upset with you for your bullshit. They are martyred goddamn saints and you have no idea.
8. The “bad trans” are the ones who can’t or won’t shut up and swallow the pain. They will be punished forever.
9. There are a LOT of valid reasons why a trans person may not be transitioning in the way you as a cis person think they should. It may be money. It may be medical. It may be career-related. It may be simple lack of desire. You don’t know. All are equally valid and you are not allowed to have an opinion on how trans people manage our fucking bodies.
10. It’s none of your business. Whatever stupid crap you’re about to ask about, it’s none of your business. Just use the fucking pronouns. We are tired.
Whether you’re in service to spirit beings who dig it when you work for a good cause in their name or a kitchen witch with a soft spot for drag queens and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment–or any other witchy sort, actually–you might enjoy whipping up a nice prosperity spell for the sponsorship webpages of those who’ve pledged to ride in the upcoming AIDS/LifeCycle, which raises funds for the SF Aids Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. And these funds help sick and poor people get the life-saving help they need!
Disclaimer. I’m not writing as an expert in the craft! I’m a learner. What follows are merely ideas, with references to work by those who ARE well-respected experts.
A few days ago, I encouraged readers of this blog to sponsor Disasterina as she prepares to ride “545 fucking miles”–in drag!–from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. So go ahead, watch the video below and give money NOW by clicking this link to Disasterina’s fundraising page. And readers, do remember, this kind of sponsorship is not just a charitable gesture, it’s a gol-durn Act of Resistance! As Disaterina reminds us in the video below, this is the stuff of community here, and we sure do need to come together in this time of increasing fascism and brutal repression of all we hold most dear (more on that in an upcoming blog).
Honey Money Jars & Other Prosperity Spells
Use Your Western Witch Privilege To Help Others
In the U.S. and many other Western countries, we witches are no longer tortured, hung, or burned for our practices. (Let’s hope another “Satanic Panic” isn’t in the works–many lives were ruined.) However, people in many other countries ARE harmed, killed, or shunned for the kinds of things we gleefully post on Instagram. Plus, even if we are seldom destroyed or ruined for wearing a pentagram, other people in this here country experience injustice, neglect, bodily harm, and even torture and death for being gay, lesbian, trans and gender variant, intersex, black, indigenous, otherwise “of color,” immigrants, Muslims, and so forth. Even kids and old people are not protected. We can take our pentagrams off–or cover up tattoos–and go stealth if we must. Other people are not so fortunate. People with HIV/AIDS are still among the neglected, and must suffer and die if they cannot get help. (I watched my own uncle dying, in the days before retroviral drugs, and it was not a good death.) So nonprofits and community clinics are essential. They need our support. AIDS/LifeCycle is an important player.
In this spirit of using Western Witch Privilege as a form of allyship to this cause, I also asked my readers to consider using their witchy superpowers to charm Disasterina’s sponsorship page, to encourage even more donations to come pouring in. Of course, as a star of Dragula (a show with lots of witchy references), Disasterina has a large fan base and platform from which to draw support. I am sure she’ll reach her $10,000 goal. However, there’s nothing wrong with us witchy types adding a little extra plus plus, is there? But remember, folx, we’re charming the sponsorship page, not the person. Consensual magic is what it’s all about.
For a great discussion of queer magic, including the importance of consensuality, please visit your favorite independent bookstore and order a copy of Misha Magdalene’s Outside the Charmed Circle. (Chapter Seven is the specific chapter.)
In addition to Magdalene’s book, I’m basing this blog post on some of my other favorite books and sources. Let’s proceed.
Step One: “Get Help.”
If you work with one or more spirit beings, let them know what you’re doing. Get ’em on your side. I’m talking deities, land wights, ancestors, demons–whatever! Talk to them about why this particular cause and sponsorship is important to you and make the appropriate offerings. If you have a devotional practice, dedicate your magical efforts and spellwork as an act of service.
For example, the gendershifting, shapeshifting Norse god, Loki Laufeyjarson, aka the “mother of witches,” is my main focus, though I work with others too. I’ve already promised extra donuts on the altar to gain his assistance in this matter. And because he’s known to be a champion of outcasts, and is very LGBTQIA+ inclined, I am sure he’ll be delighted to help out.
For thoughtful and practical suggestions for magically cultivating and working with “invisible friends” of all kinds, I highly recommend Aidan Wachter’s book, Six Ways (see references below). It’s one of my favorite “go-to” books.
Step Two: Charming 101
A talented witchy educator, Ariel Gatoga, disappeared from internet land halfway through 2017. (His website was hacked and who knows what else was going on?) His Witches Primer podcasts were very important to me during a difficult time of my life, and I’ve also enjoyed many of his lectures for the Druidic Craft of the Wise, though his tradition is not my own. Though he has disappeared from the public eye for the time being, his podcast lectures are preserved in Google Docs.
His June 2, 2017 lecture, “A Charmed Life,” is one of my favorites. His main theme is if you want to live a charmed life, you actually work to charm your life. This means constant attention to the active practice of “charming,” spells throughout the course of the day, attached to everything from wallets to shoes and other objects.
The first eighteen minutes of this hour-long podcast episode concern a raffle and answering some online questions. You can skip that part. The latter portion lets you know how to charm everything–including money. This is solid theory and practice. You’ll want to add this understanding to your spell for Disasterina’s AIDS/LifeCycle sponsorship page.
One of the things Ariel emphasizes is the importance of saying things out loud as opposed to silently. So here’s an example of a spell for Disasterina’s sponsorship page that you can say out loud:
At h-t-t-p colon forward slash, forward slash: We ask all Powers to grant big cash.
At w-w-w dot fight HIV: We ask for ten thousand, three times three.
Dot org, forward slash, go to, forward slash: Sponsors contribute great gobs of cash!
Disastereeeena, the Qween of Flash, rides five forty five, on a Green Money Path!
To banish all AIDS & HIV, her page draws ten thousand, three times three!
Step Three: Elements of Spellcrafting
Jason Miller’s Elements of Spellcrafting book is a guide to “macro- and micro” enchantment. It’s another one of my favorite books–a great guide for beginners and experienced practitioners alike. The idea is to cast the big “macro” enchantment–in this case, “$10,000 three times three”–and then enchant every single element of the circumstance you want to influence, persuade, and charm. So as you create a nice, donor-boosting spell for Disaterina’s webpage, consider ways you might want to add a little more bang to your spells for sponsor bucks.
For example, if you feel increased media coverage for Disasterina’s efforts would bring more sponsors, and that this would be a great element to include in your own spell, you can: (1) take a practical action such as copying your social media signal boosting to major and minor media outlets on Twitter, such as @latimes, @sfchronicle, and other newspapers, television, and radio stations along the AIDS/LifeCycle route; (2) then include those twitter names in your spellwork via paper petitions and/or sigils. Skillful use of hashtags can also be incorporated of course. Any of our usual social media outlets can be worked in this manner. Other enchantable options might include the name of the newspaper ripped from an actual printed page, or a bit of soil from the media outlet’s parking lot (often there’s some vegetation somewhere!). You are not trying to enchant the actual media outlet here, just connect their energies to the sponsorship page.
Step Four: Set Your Intention with Visualization and Guided Imagery
When you go to Disasterina’s sponsorship page (and have donated something yourself), you’ll see the “Personal Progress” section on right side of the page. You can see the current amount and percentage of funds raised, along with a red bar that can expand from left to right as more funds come in. Visualize (or think or feel or simply imagine) that the red bar is growing quickly to the right (which unlike politics is a good thing), growing larger and longer and more robust, swelling with donations, bursting into a crescendo of a glorious 100% of the goal of $10,000 and more! Remember to bless the page as you click away.
And yeah, if you wanna do a little sex magic at this point, be my guest. (Solo is fine.) Just keep that visualization present as you reach your own thrilling crescendo. (Jason Miller has a good book on sex magic. See below.)
Step Five: What Kind of Spell?
There are many kinds of prosperity spells. Ellen Dugan has an entire book of them. You can do candle magic and jar spells. You can charm objects. You can include planetary influences, moon phases, crystals, herbs, sigils, and yes, sex magic too. With regard to sigils, I’d like to become proficient, but I’m a rank beginner at present. But I do like Laura Tempest Zakroff’s book, Sigil Witchery, as a “how to” guide.
I really like jar spells. They are earth-friendly, since you are using a recycled object. The jars and their lids keep everything in one place. Jar spells are transportable–you can bury or carry them. The spells can be assembled on a kitchen counter, using many materials that are easily at hand. Glass, as an “amorphous solid,“ feels nicely liminal. And if you’re a hipster, you’re already deeply in love with Mason jars, so there’s that. You can also incorporate sigils or written petitions for money and burn green or gold candles on top of the lid, for more juice.
A “Honey Jar Spell for Love, Prosperity, and Protection” can be found in Besom, Stang & Sword on pages 74-76. Honey Jars can also use sugar or other sweet substances. I also like their “lucky nutmeg” spell on pages 76-77, and think a whole nutmeg might be a nice addition to a prosperity spell jar.
You’ll probably find yourself consulting the internet if you don’t own the above books. That’s fine. Know that you’re probably going to be working with some variation of these basic elements:
A glass jar with a lid; a candle (green or gold); paper and pen for writing a petition or sigil (in this case, the page URL: https://www.fighthiv.org/goto/disasterina); oil to dress the candle; honey or sugar (optional–use if you want this to be a “honey money” spell to attract donors to the sponsorship webpage); money attracting herbs and spices such as basil, cinnamon, bay leaves (such lists can be found in many magic books and websites), crystals (pyrite, peridot, malachite, etc.) and/or lodestones (along with metallic sand to “feed” the lodestone). However, you might want to check this article on the crystal mining industry and its adverse impact on the environment (including indigenous lands). Make sure your rocks are ethically sourced.
Ellen Dugan also likes using three different colored coins in her Lodestone Witch Jar Spell: gold, copper, silver. Duggan also recommends adding extra dollars or coins to the jar for a six month period (depends on the size of your jar, I guess).
Examples of Money Jar Spells on the internet can be found here and here, There are also merchants who make and sell special oils and ingredients for Money Jar Spells. You don’t actually need these, or you can find a way to make your own.
Step Six: Timing
Our next new moon is February 23rd. Our next full moon is March 9th. Between these two dates, or on March 9th, You’ll have plenty of time to research and gather materials for your magical workings. If you work in group rituals, that also gives you time to alert your colleagues. Some people also prefer various days of the week, or times of day.
Step Seven: The Actual Ritual
Do the usual: state your intention, ground and protect your space, build your energy, ritually add the ingredients to the jar, say your words of power, seal it (unless you plan to add more cash later), burn the candle, envision the spell having worked, and put the jar where you’d like to keep it. This link has a good set of basic instructions for jar spells.
Step Eight: Forget About It & Thank Your Helpers
Okay, you’re done. You just did a good thing. Thank your spirit helpers. And then put the spell–and the jar–out of your mind. Let your magic unfold as it will.
This is a signal boosting post to laud Disasterina’s commitment to raise $10,000 for the AIDS LifeCycle, riding a bicycle in drag for “545 fucking miles,” from San Francisco to Los Angeles, (May 31st to June 6th). The money she raises will ultimately go to the SF AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LBGT Center, via AIDS LifeCycle, to provide free HIV testing, medical care, and services.
So send your dollars, why doncha, to this link here and support/sponsor Disasterina in this epic fund-raising ride on California’s highways to hell, all in a good cause!
But dear witchy readers, I’m going to ask for something more from you–if you can’t spare the cash (and even if you can and do!) won’t you consider also casting a nice, fat, juicy Money Spell to charm and boost Disasterina’s fundraisingwebpage to attract more cash? You want the spell to be directed at the webpage, by the way, not at or on the person doing the fundraising (consent issues here.)
You can do this. I know you can. Get yourself a green candle (don’t forget a match). Get yourself a jar. Throw in some basil and other prosperity herbs, lucky coins, a lodestone or other stones known to draw abundance, green edible glitter (not the ocean polluting kind), and/or any other magical element you like to use to bring in extra cash. Then write the words “AIDS LifeCycle 2020” and this URL: http://www.tofighthiv.org/goto/disasterina.
If you want to add a little picture of a bicycle, you can. Whatever! Then do your witchery! Get out there on the next full moon, make offerings, beseech support from your invisible friends, bury the jar, and visualize glorious abundance filling Disasterina’s fund-raising coffers via the above URL. Wouldn’t it be great to know your MagicQ is boosting this effort?
Speaking of “boosting,” signal boosting is also helpful. Use your social media superpowers to get the word out! Whip up support!
I know I’m going to be offering up a few extra donuts to Loki, on behalf of this good cause. And I’ll bring a request for cosmic support to our next group ritual, next time we gather.
But why is this cause important to me? And why am I so struck by this particular performer’s efforts on behalf of people vulnerable to HIV/Aids? Here’s why this cause is important to me:
Personal: I lived in San Francisco, in the Outer Mission and Castro, during those first years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. I saw many people learn their HIV-positive status, and some who died during the time I knew them: clients, co-workers, friends. My most beloved uncle, David Rath, was one of the early casualties. He was diagnosed a couple of weeks after I married and my new husband and I moved into the apartment below his to be close to him during that time. I was with him a lot and helped care for him during his last year. He left his affairs in my hands. During that time I also worked for a public opinion research company that developed the first AIDS surveys for the SF Department of Public Health. Some of my co-workers went on to help found and volunteer for the Stop AIDS Project in 1985.
Today, my oldest kid is in an “at risk” group. He is informed, aware, and I trust him to take steps to decrease his risk. Even so, any time he tells me he’s “been sick a lot lately” some part of me goes into a silent scream. (I’ve never told him that–I try to keep my alarmist fears out of his life as much as possible. I don’t always succeed.)
Professional: As a sexologist and sexuality counselor, I am utterly committed to supporting LGBTQIA+ people and issues. I care about this issue and try to stay current on such things as PrEP, safer sex practices, and who provides services in my community.
Donor: I’ve also donated money to past participants in the AIDS LifeCycle rides and to other organizations that deal with HIV/AIDS and sexual health.
Why I’m Supporting Disasterina in 2020: Gosh, that sounds awfully political, doesn’t it? Damn, now I’m having a presidential campaign fantasy. She would be the best person help us feckless “A-merkins” to throw off our chains (the non-consenual kind!) and to dismantle this pathetic and ruthless oligarchy! I can see the Boulet Brothers in her Cabinet (if there was one big enough for their hair) and a few other “Drag Super-Monster” appointments… However, I digress.
First of all, I love it when performers and artists I enjoy and admire reveal themselves to be people of compassion and conviction in their private lives. So, there’s that. How I enjoyed Disasterina, “LA’s Most Disasterous Drag Queen,” in Dragula Season 2 (now on Netflix)! Yeah, I’m a fan, but not in that weird fangirl-y sort of way (I save that for my main deity, Norse Loki) but as a mature former burlesque artiste/punk wearable-artist turned sexologist witch who deeply appreciates punk/goth drag laced with rapid-fire wit and visual puns. (This description of Disasterina’s artistry is not really adequate, I know. I know…) But for me, given my own unsavory past and off-beat cultural references, Disasterina serves it–hot! And now, riding from SF to LA to raise money for HIV/AIDS testing and treatment? How can I resist this? Big respect!
I also can’t resist the prankster-esque nature of her video appeal! Oathed as I am to a trickster god, I can’t help but see Disasterina (and the artist/performer behind her) as one of Loki’s ilk, if not one of Loki’s own. (I feel the same way about Nina Hagen.) I mean–bright red hair, clown glamour make-up, gender fuckery, and puce-colored fake fur!–the visuals in this particular video are all there for those of us who spend precious hours of social media time discussing “who reminds us of (Norse) Loki” when we should be looking for work in our serf/gig economy. Of course I shared the video in Loki’s Wyrdlings FB group, hoping others in my spiritual community would also be moved to support (in spite of the fact that many of us are, as I said, under-employed or in danger of losing our social security or SSI benefits). But there’s a bunch of witches there, so… prosperity spell jars, anyone?
I could go on, I suppose, dissecting the nuances of performance, and my giddy delight in them, which serve to motivate my enthusiasm. I will just end with a heart-felt “well done” to Disasterina and others who are making that ride later this year, and look forward to the accounts of this epic journey, as they are vlogged, blogged, tweeted, or whatever!
To Disasterina, best wishes for enduring make-up, a really good bicycle seat, inflated tires, an excellent adventure, and a sweet homecoming to your dear ones at the end!
Here it is, January 9, 2020 and our world is even more terrifying and dangerous than it was before the beginning of the new year. All my friends and several family members are depressed, experience panic and despair, and/or a lack of motivation in even the small matters of life. And yet here in the U.S., we’re not even the ones being bombed (yet)! We have it so fucking easy compared to others, and yet, life is not easy at all. The unrelenting tyranny of our current federal administration makes many of us–disabled, poor or poor(er), elderly, trans, otherwise gender variant, sexually variant, pagan, ill, immigrant or refugee, homeless or houseless, native, POC, female, millennial with college debt, working class, animal, tree, river, ocean…the list goes on!–feel we’re in the crosshairs of a group of entitled sociopaths who really, truly want us dead. Our bodies strewn on the pavements will mean nothing to them.
But we’re going to outsmart them. Yes, we are. And we will survive and even thrive. Brilliant acts of resistance, such as the Mauna Kea Protectors (Kia’i) who are still standing strong at Pu’uhonua o Pu’uhuluhulu on Hawai’i Island since July 15th, show us how we can come together. We can choose to share resources and food, share caring for each other, plant trees, rescue animals from fires, and repurpose, repair, or share the objects that clutter our lives. We can cahoot with our ancestors, spirits, plants, animals and yes, even other humans who are not in our social media networks.
And it’s strange that I am more motivated than ever, in spite of my sense of peril. I’m 65 years old and I’m not going down without flinging my defiance out where everyone can see it (those who care to look and read, anyway).
It’s a liminal time, but small actions sustain me.
I’m petting and hugging my six cats more than ever. These dear ones look to me to enable them to survive whatever comes next. As I write, one of the newer cats is doing his best to insert himself between me and this keyboard. If he’d only settle down and let me pet him, instead of walking to and fro (his tale brushing my face), I could have finished this blog several minutes ago. But I’m happy for these moments of affection. They are the only kind I receive.
I’m sorting end of the year/beginning of the year paperwork, putting things in order so that I can see them better.
I’m noticing the everyday beauties: wintering bird flocks–pelicans, egrets, so many that I don’t know or recognize. I’m noticing sunlight on water and the sound of the rain. I notice the comedies too, such as the flock of turkeys running down the road ahead of yesterday’s garbage truck, gobbling madly.
I’m bringing myself back to the daily spiritual practice I wobbled on the last couple of months. It’s not a time to neglect this kind of nourishment because I can’t do all of what I need to do on my own. I need my deities and ancestors with me.
Big tasks await me.
I’m strategizing for a major move, once again. No longer will I be a “Lady of the Lake” with the view of Mt. Konocti and Clearlake from my window. I plan to move as soon as I can this spring, to a small city in the north where a river flows.
And I am sadly preparing to de-commission the Lokabrenna Tiny Temple, hoping to re-establish it in my new home, wherever that may be. I suspect that Loki is okay with that, as he’s all for change. The next Tiny Temple might be even better.
If there’s anything at all in “the stars” that can shift world conditions, perhaps tomorrow will be that time. The world expects a lunar eclipse in Cancer tomorrow, with Saturn and Pluto in opposition. Some say this is will spark changes for the better, the “real” Age of Aquarius and all that, and that would be welcome. I’m not holding my breath and waiting though–I want to get to a location where I can organize along with others, and make those substantial, necessary changes that will enable all of us to survive in spite of the moneyed mana-suckers who are striving for a fascist ascendancy over this planet.
Hail Loki! Liminal spirit and untiring muse, a force for change and a change for force.
Our would-be emperor, the self-inflated heir to all things Caligula, already given the “little boot” of impeachment, deserves a far greater political and legal check to his reckless proclivities and warmongering than he’s had so far. The world does not welcome what he’s foisted on us this month, in a fit of pique. His enablers are no better–mad to think they can manipulate this peevish man-child to their own ends. He’s got a finger that can press a certain button, and the supposed “grown-ups” in the room are not so grown up after all. Cowards all.
Something similar happened in Ancient Rome. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say (and yes, I know that Wikipedia is not the be-all and end-all of reliable historical sources):
“There are few surviving sources about the reign of Caligula, although he is described as a noble and moderate emperor during the first six months of his rule. After this, the sources focus upon his cruelty, sadism, extravagance, and sexual perversion, presenting him as an insane tyrant. While the reliability of these sources is questionable, it is known that during his brief reign, Caligula worked to increase the unconstrained personal power of the emperor, as opposed to countervailing powers within the principate. He directed much of his attention to ambitious construction projects and luxurious dwellings for himself, and initiated the construction of two aqueducts in Rome: the Aqua Claudia and the Anio Novus. During his reign, the empire annexed the client kingdom of Mauretania as a province.”
And here I note a physical resemblance. That’s Caligula on the left, with restored pigment on the marble. And that’s you know who on the right.
In one way, the Romans were luckier than we are. If the above is accurate, they had six months of reasonable leadership before their emperor went bonkers. But from January 2016 to present, we in the U.S. have never known a secure and untroubled moment. Like a child looking for a tower of blocks to smash and strew, 45 has wrecked, dismantled, and smugly destroyed a wide range of civil liberties, helpful government programs, our reasonable expectation of rational governance under our constitution, and has now embroiled us in a devasting war from the comfort of his golf game.
I am waiting for the day when an economic think tank takes stock of these years and issues a report on how much this man’s petulant reign of domestic and international terror has and will cost U.S. taxpayers–all of us, per citizen–and how much we’ll pay to undo the damage and reconstruct a civil society, over the span of our remaining lifetimes, and that of our children. The economic and human costs are already massive, and his failure to act on climate change is a tragedy of monumental proportions: “the biggest, the greatest” of his tawdry claims to undeserved fame.
I am writing this as a solitary person, an ordinary citizen, a mere blogger and writer of little note and very little influence. But I think it’s important for every single one of us speak out, to add our voices of opposition to a greater movement of resistance–especially on social media, which can amplify the smaller voices–to let the rest of the world know that the majority of people in this country did not vote for this maniac, that we do not agree with his policies of hate, and that we do not approve of his actions, but that we feel somewhat helpless to regain a semblance of democracy, as our votes are hijacked and our elections are rigged by a greedy oligarchy consisting irresponsible corporations, corrupt politicians, and religious extremists. But that even so, we oppose what is happening here: the rise of white supremacy, the jailing and mistreatment of immigrants and refugees, the jailing and mistreatment of children, the fact that many are now unaccounted for, the waste of the “wall” at the border, the lifting of regulations against pollution, rampant discrimination, and so no. And now, this war.
We do not want it. We can only take to the streets or post online to say we want it to stop, now. And we want the rest of the world to no longer dignify this man and his cronies with any credibility, with any recognition of “leadership.” He and his enablers are not worthy. We the people are hijacked. We know that our country’s disruptive actions in other nations did not begin with this administration, but this administration has made and is making our country’s impact a thousand times worse.
They say you “can’t go home again,” and yet this last couple of days I’ve had the closest thing to a prodigal return, though I was staying in a place I have never and will never live. I came down to the SF Bay Area on X-mas eve to be with my youngest, flu-stricken kid: a millennial living in a household that includes his father, and in the apartment downstairs, his brother. But everyone was away traveling, and Paul was taking care of the upstairs dog and the downstairs cat. He’d tried to go to the doctor the day before I arrived, but a $135 co-pay was impossible and he left. It was only after I assured him I’d pay for the urgent care visit that he went back and got the requisite medications (another $60 plus). Yes, he’s feeling better now but he still feels like junk and will for another several days.
So I barreled down the freeway on X-mas eve, with only my computer and a toothbrush (mostly), and with a mixture of longing and dread, once again called into action as a useful parental person. But I was also aware that I was going to be spending a couple of days in a household where I am not exactly welcome. (My divorce, though outwardly civil, still holds deep trenches of sorrow, regret, and resentment on both sides).
It’s unusual for this particular kid to admit to vulnerability with me–even though I’ve never been one to shrink from that–but he did say he felt scared by being so sick and all alone. Having my children want me still forms the apex of my bliss and so, you can imagine…
The home of a person who is very ill will often not be “company ready” and so I spent a few hours doing dishes and cleaning the kitchen once I arrived. It was fine. I was there to do that, to do for my kid what he was too sick to do for himself (and to make numerous cups of Throat Coat tea). But what was one part amusing and two parts freaky was the realization that I was handling many humble household objects that are familiar to me and/or that I chose and bought myself.
I’ve lately begun to take photos of my objects, because I am planning a book which tells their stories, and when I do that, I can let many of them go. Here I am confronted with objects that I left behind: some records, books, cups, bowls, cutlery. The knives my brother gave me when I married. The champagne flutes bought early in the marriage. The wooden bowls I purchased in the Japan Center hardware store, in the days when my kids attended Waldorf School and wood and wool were social requirements. And if these things I was cleaning weren’t things I owned and left behind, there were others that I’ve washed, dusted, and arranged over the years. What is it like for him, I wonder, to make daily use of these objects? To see them in cupboards and on shelves?
Perhaps he performed exorcisms by dissociating them from me, but I am not that capable. Objects speak or scream at me, their stories and place in my life are always connected with their use. Our children, however, are living links and I suspect that some efforts of erasure have also come into play in the last four years, not about him, but about me.
Sleeping in my husband’s room was a challenge. That bed, that dresser, those paintings, that stuff, the odor of tobacco over all. The same mattress, pillow cases, bedspread. The first night, I couldn’t get to sleep for the longest time. I was buzzing with the physical rememberance and energies of past pleasures and past pains. The deepest sorrows, the pile of resentments soaked into the sheets and the stuffing, the sad memories of a once-great love sunk into a swamp of conflict avoidance.
The second night I was more at peace. I could bless the past, bless our mistakes, bless the beings we have each become–no longer having enough in common to even be friends except in the most casual exchanges. We went separate ways long ago.
What baffles me though is the tarnished metal and red-bead “bellydance” belt of mine (dating from my tantra days) that he’s hung on the curtain rod in his bedroom, next to his bed. What does it mean? He has been in haste, previously, to give me boxes of “my stuff” that I left behind. But the belt–does he even realize it was mine? Or does he think it belonged to another? I have no idea, but seeing it makes a deep mystery. I don’t know if I should feel touched or not. Is it a form of silent communication? Is it something like the hands we held during family mealtime grace–the only touch for many years?
Is that tarnished belt in its unpolished state a communication or a commentary like the two paintings of his that I keep in my bedroom: the “Shade Tree” and the blue butterfly? Is it like the way I always say “my husband” and then have to add the “ex?”
Or is it just an off-hand gesture, placed there and forgotten, like the towel thrown on the bedroom floor or like the “Christmas” plates that he insisted on using throughout the year, diminishing (for me) their ceremonial specialness at this time?
In any case, I have left the kitchen cleaner than I found it. And I hope he perceives that as a “thank you” and not as a rebuke.