It’s hard to say which I’ve been losing more of: my courage to write or my will to write. I can’t say it’s a lack of ideas, although writer’s block doesn’t necessarily mean a loss of ideas. In all my life, I’ve never been unable to generate ideas; my head is constantly filled with them. While overload of ideas might be a problem, I’m not sure that the case with me at this time. Thinking it over, I’ve narrowed it down to lack of courage and lack of willpower. They are subtle, but there are differences.

Courage is easier to define. It’s having the balls not just to write whatever comes to mind, damn the critics—both inner and outer—but also the balls to do it regularly. It’s not the same courage that it takes to put on a uniform, pick up a gun, and fight for your country; it’s the courage to put thoughts to paper or posts to prevent countries from going to war. That and every bit of sentiment and emotion from there on down. Willpower is the practice itself. It’s the daily effort to stare down a blank page or screen until your eyes bleed or you start writing, whichever comes first. The more often you do it the easier it gets and the more reflexive it becomes.

Mine has always been a struggle between courage and will. There are days I have the time and abililty to write, but my inner voices have me silenced. Other days I know exactly what to say, but get swamped, exhausted, distracted, or all three at once. The end result is the same: months without any writing output and occasionally forced to produce on a deadline. And all that while writing becomes fearful, less instinctive, and less productive.

It’s not effortless to write this, but it’s not easy. This isn’t what I should be writing now, but it’s what I can put out now. I’ve been underusing muscles, not only in the gym, but in my mind. My knees are bothering me, but that can be healed with rest and physical therapy. My stagnation is bothering, but the only way to fix that is to write a little bit at a time. Hopefully I can heal myself, body and mind, eventually.

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The scars of the 2016 presidential election will take a while to feel less tender and fade; right now they still hurt. During the summer, there was a lot of animosity on both sides leading up to the general, as well as a lot of backlash to anyone who wanted to vote third party. Or at least for anyone not one of the major two party candidates. Social media of all types was not a friendly place for a good 6 months. You post one meme or a photo and suddenly the comments become the Delta House food fight via the Algonquin Round Table. One meme I posted I actually didn’t get a lot of flack for, but it helped me talk to my now 14 year old daughter about the election.

This was one of those Harry Potter based memes saying “this is what our election is like” and displaying two of the Potter world characters. Usually it was Dolores Umbridge as a stand in for Clinton, and Voldemort for Trump; however this time it was Umbridge and Gilderoy Lockhart. I thought it was cute, but I knew my daughter would love it. She’s read all the Potter books and she can explain all the differences between the books and the movies to me (I never got into the books, but I like the movies). I showed the meme to here and broke out laughing, even more so than me.

“That’s so perfect,” she said. “Lockhart is kind of a blowhard who only thinks of himself, so that’s perfect for Trump.” Then she looked at me a bit quizically, and asked “How Clinton is like Umbridge again?”

I had to think about this for a minute. I know that Umbridge is hated in the Potterverse for good reason, and there are enough parallels to Clinton to make it awkward for me to watch “Order of the Phoenix” any time it came on. Translating what I knew about Clinton to the Potterverse is ticky, but I knew enough to try and explain it via the films.

“Remember how Umbridge was completely unwavering in her belief in what she was doing was right, even though the students and us viewers knew she was completely wrong? Well that’s how she’s like Clinton. They are very forceful advocates of what they think is right, even when it is wrong, and even to the point of being unable to admit it’s wrong.” She totally understood that when I explained it.

The main attack by Hillary supporters about why us progressives don’t support Hillary was sexism. Unfortunately this ignores the fact that many of us were hoping for a Elizabeth Warren run and after Bernie bowed out, many switched to Jill Stein. My issues wit Hillary Clinton, while often about political leanings (third-way democrats have always been far too conservative for my sensibilities), have always been policy based. Using Umbridge to explain Clinton makes it easier to explain. Hillary has always been a smart and fierce advocate for what she believes and champions, which is good if she’s on the right side of an issue; but when she is on the wrong side of an issue—like the Iraq war, the toppling of Libya’s government, the various trade agreements including the TPP, and not speaking out on behalf of activists like Black Lives Matter or the DAPL water protectors—she is a tough opponent, a great asset to the opposition, and makes the activist’s job twice as hard. And much like how Umbridge can do it with a smile makes that all the more frustrating.

Earlier in the year, a friend of mine wrote two very heartfelt essays about her daughter and Hillary Clinton. One was how she wanted her daughter to hear the words “Madam President” and now was the time; the other was a plead asking how can she explain to her daughter what would it mean for her if Trump won the presidency. I don’t have an answer for her daughter except offering up what I told my daughter at different times in the year. I told my daughter I wouldn’t be voting for Hillary, even after Bernie Sanders lost the primaries, because as much as it is important to have a woman in the office of President, it is equally important to have a woman who has the history to back up her own convictions, and is on the right side of an issue more often than not. Yes I voted for Jill Stein in 2016. I am not ashamed of that vote, but I am sorry more people didn’t follow that example. And no, I’m not the reason Hillary Clinton lost the election to Donald Trump: I’m not one of the 46% or voters who left the presidential candidate blank; they cost the election for her. I am almost 48, work part-time, am still using food stamps to survive with my daughter, and the only thing I have to leave her if ever I should go are my values. That’s the only thing I currency I have in my life to fall back on and I’ll be damned if I can’t give that to my only child. If I give up my values I have nothing else. I’m sure I will feel the wrath of friends and trolls alike for this, but I will vote my values whenever given that choice.

When Trump won in the late morning hours of the day after the election, I told my daughter that no we won’t need to move to Canada, we’ll be fine and we’ll do our best to fight. Oddly, I still take comfort in words Dumbledore said at the end of another movie—“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”: “There will be a time when we must choose between what is right and what is easy.” I know I chose right for both me and my daughter.

Gifts to the Stranger

December 1, 2016

Sorry. I didn’t realize “Giving Tuesday” had become an actual thing. Maybe it’s because it’s tacked onto the end of a long weekend—Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday—of hyped consumerism run amok in different forms that it gets lost. Strangely that seems to be the only way to attract attention to philanthropy; we should always be giving of ourselves. But that’s a rant for a different blog. This one’s about Christmas giving.

A few years ago, I was near rock bottom. I had no money, some part-time work, some unemployment checks, was spending all the rest of my time looking for work, while still being a weekend father, and fending off attacks from my daughter’s mom to make this Christmas bigger and better than the last one as it has to be every year and expects me to pay for it all. At the time, I used to make slide productions of my daughter over the previous year in photographs set to music. But with all that was happening, I had no energy, time, or working equipment to do it. What I did was this: I wrote everyone to say that I had no money for myself much less for gifts to buy and/or mail to everyone, and because I couldn’t give anything I wanted nothing in return. Instead I took a page from my friend Reverend Hank Peirce (who got it from another minister) and asked my friends to please donate some money to their choice of a number of worthy causes (e.g. Doctors Without Borders, ACLU, Oxfam, etc). They could do it in my name or their own, but they should give to help others as more befitting the season. Do something nice instead of scrounging for perfect gifts.

This year I have a better part-time job, am a full time single father, have a decent cushion of funds (barring any serious emergencies) and am less panicked about the holiday. However with the way this year has gone and how events are turning out that are beyond our control, there are many who feel as scared as I was then (if for different reasons). So this year, I’m reaching back to that time to do something good. The gift I will be giving out are donations to charitable organizations—here and abroad—that help make life safer and possible for those who need it. I ask that if you wish to give a gift to me, donate to one of the groups listed below. It can be as little or as much as you want, but give to help others.

I was very proud of Sophia when she asked, quite sincerely, “it it’s Jesus’ birthday, why are we getting gifts?” It showed me that a lot of what I taught her had sunk in. With that in mind, remember that this season is about generosity to others and sharing with those in need. There are a lot of needy people out there, but the people generous spirit outnumber the needy. So give freely and make this a great holiday for you and yours, as well as the stranger whomever they are.

Click the name to go to their website:

ACLU

Standing Rock Sioux/NoDAPL

Southern Poverty Law Center

Planned Parenthood

Doctors Without Borders

Black and Pink

Heifer International

Oxfam

Amnesty International