Am 8. November 2016 ist in den USA Donald Trump zum 45. Präsidenten der USA gewählt worden. Am 20. Januar 2017 wird er in das Amt eingeführt.
Für viele Menschen aus der LGBTI Community in den USA ist dies ein Worst Case Scenario. Die New York Times schreibt in einem Artikel vom 10. November 2016. “ Trump Victory Alarms Gay and Transgender Groups „.
Ed Wolf der seit 1983 in vielen Bereichen von HIV/AIDS tätig war und ist, Ed ist einer der Interviewpartner die in dem Dokumentarfilm “ We Were Here “ von David Weissmann mitwirkten und befragt wurden, teilt täglich auf seiner Facebook Seite in narrativer Form, seine persönlichen Gedanken und Erfahrungen, seine Ängste und Hoffnungen im Kontext zu der Wahl von Donald Trump 45. Präsident der USA, wie den „Challenges Ahead – den vor uns liegenden Herausforderungen“ zu begegnen sei.
Mit seiner freundlichen Genehmigung darf bzw werde ich seine täglichen „Gedanken“ in diesem Artikel übernehmen. Das Copyright der in den Texten erscheinenden Fotografien liegt bei © Ed Wolf. Der Artikel ist von der Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-ND) ausgenommen.
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Day 1 – 8. November 2016
I can’t tell if this night is killing me or making me stronger.
„We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world. „Helen Keller
We’ve been through dark nights of the soul. We’ve experienced painful realities that shattered our illusions. We’ve all lost. We know what it feels like to be afraid and disappointed and angry. We also know what it’s like to take deep breaths, to comfort each other, to get some rest and wake up tomorrow knowing we will find ways to move forward.
Day 3 – Finding this helpful today, by Norman Fischer of the Everyday Zen Foundation
I usually don’t completely believe what I think, so when Trump won the election I was, like everyone else, surprised, but not that surprised. Bodhisattvas are committed to their practice, which means to sit, to get up, and to sweep the garden — the whole world, close in and far away — every day, no matter what. They have always done this, they always will. Good times, bad times, they keep on going just the same. Bodhisattvas play the long game. They have confidence in the power of goodness over time. And they know that dark times bring out the heroic in us.
For those older among us who hold liberal and progressive political views, lets not forget we survived Nixon, Reagan, and Bush. It wasn’t pleasant but we survived. We will survive Trump. This is not to say that the policies of those presidents weren’t bad, and that they did not make any lasting impact. They were and they did. Still, we survived. We will survive Trump. As of today, we don’t really know what will happen under Trump because nothing he has said so far means much. He seems not to have much commitment to his own words.
We have been fortunate to have had eight years with a decent, intelligent, thoughtful and caring human being in the White House. This is more than we would have expected. Lets not forget that the same people who elected Obama elected Trump.
It’s OK to freak out, grieve, and vent for a while. Holds each others’ hands. Then we can get back to work, as always, for the good.
Day 4: Can’t hold no more.
Woke up with revulsion for any images of the Donald and the 10s of millions who didn’t vote. Made coffee and phone calls. So much focus and energy going outwards, so much discouragement coming in. No right way to do this, no wrong. Need to take action and feel inspired again. Here’s what some of you are doing:
1. Sending personal thank you notes to Barack, Michelle, Bernie, Hillary and Elizabeth. (Addresses below.)
2. Having a contact list of all the non-Trump senators nearby and calling them: http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/
3. Joining the ACLU; we need them now more than ever: https://action.aclu.org/…/our-civil-liberties-are-under-att…
4. Signing the Electoral College petition to vote for Hillary:
5. Circling with friends.
6. Figuring out how to approach Trump supporters in strategic ways.
— Michelle and Barack Obama, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC 20500
— Office of Hillary Rodham Clinton, 120 West 45th Street, Suite 2700, New York, NY 10036.
— Bernie Sanders, 1 Church St, 3rd Floor; Burlington, VT 05401
— Elizabeth Warren: 2400 JFK Federal Building, 15 New Sudbury Street, Boston, MA 02203
Experience is what we get when we don’t get what we want.
As many of you know, Buzz has been ill for quite a while now. Community activist, sex positive warrior, advocate for the erotic in public spaces, gentle heart . . . he sends us this blessing:
Three Minute Blessing: A Prayer for Those Who Feel Shunned
I have walked down the street feeling invisible.
I know you have too.
I have felt inadequate and ignored.
I can see it in your eyes.
The meat market is hard —
But if I can bless you and you can allow the forces of love
and the universe to come in,
you’ll find yourself sitting in a circle
being inspired and inspiring other people.
And know that this is where you belong.
Day 7. Responding to hate.
I met a young gay man on the AIDS Unit at San Francisco General when I worked there in the 80s. He had just been diagnosed with KS lesions in his lungs and was told he had a short time to live. The medical team contacted his parents, who lived far away, and they came immediately. During a five-minute meeting with the doctor they found out their son was dying and also that he was gay. When I met the father he told me it was harder for him to find out his son was a fag than to hear that he would be dead soon. It took almost 3 weeks for their son to die; every day his parents watched as the nurses (primarily lesbians and gay men, some with AIDS themselves) continued to care for him, clean him, and lessen his pain as much as possible. I was there the morning he died. When the father stepped out of the room and saw me, he hugged me and cried and cried and cried. He was as tall as me and his grief was so vast; I remember thinking we were both going to fall down; he kept saying his boy was gone. The next day the parents returned to say good-bye. They thanked everyone for their love and care of their son. The mom took me aside and said she was going to miss me; she said, smiling, that she and her husband had talked and wished they could adopt me and bring me home with them. I kept in touch with them for a while; they started a support group for Parents of People with AIDS in their community.
Day 8. White water
“He will never be my president, we have to give him a chance, I can’t tolerate racists and homophobes, we have to engage with them, you should wear a safety pin on your pocket, take that safety pin off – what were you thinking, it’s the end of the world, it’s the beginning of the next chapter, I can’t bear to see his face or hear his voice, we have to listen and pay attention more than ever, I’m moving to Canada, now we need you more than ever.”
I was once in a raft that flipped over in a dangerous section of the Merced River outside Yosemite. There were 8 of us. Several clung to a rock until they were saved; others were helped into nearby rafts; some had safety lines tossed to them and were pulled to shore. I couldn’t get to a rock or into another raft and the safety lines couldn’t reach me; I was on my way into Quarter Mile Rapid with only a paddle. I was freezing, panicked and afraid, but I remembered what our guide had told us earlier: If you get tossed out, go with the current, your feet downstream, and use your paddle to steer. Keep your head above the white water and don’t struggle against the river; you will exhaust yourself and not be ready to swim ashore when the current slows down.
Day 9. Looking for a sign . . .
My car got broken into recently and I lost my un-backed up computer. One of the most painful losses was all my photos, gone forever. I made a final phone call to Apple just now for assistance and met Lynne from Fresno. I told her my break-in story and she was, miraculously, able to access my stolen computer from afar and started transferring all my photos to my new lap top. While we waited for this download to finish I found out she voted for Trump. She said if Hillary had won, she would’ve been terribly disappointed, but had decided to withhold judgement for the first 100 days and she hoped I would give Donald that courtesy. I shared my concerns about his recent nominations and what they portend. She said the thing about narrow minded people is that they exist in both parties, which made me angry, even as I watched her returning 1000s of treasured photos to me.
Day 12. Praise every bridge.
When I worked on the AIDS ward at San Francisco General in the mid-80s I was once asked to go to the locked unit, where patients with mental health issues were admitted. When I entered Roy’s room I saw a cast on his arm and he immediately started telling me his story, how he’d been kicked out by his Texas family for being gay and had taken a bus all the way to San Francisco, how he had nowhere to live once he arrived, no one to help him, how he had a terrible cough that wouldn’t go away, how he’d come to the hospital, was told he had AIDS, how he knew that meant his life was over, how he took another bus out to the Golden Gate Bridge, walked out to the middle and jumped off. He told me you don’t pass out before you hit the water, that you know all the way down what you’ve done, that as the water got closer and closer he wished he hadn’t jumped, and then he landed and passed out. When he opened his eyes his arm hurt really bad, he was laying on the deck of a boat and 4 guys in uniforms were leaning over him. It was the Coast Guard and they said he was really lucky that they were nearby when he landed, that he was only the sixth person they knew of that had jumped and lived. He told me he knew that this was a sign, a message to him from somewhere that no matter what happens, being alive was the most important thing.
I’ve punched one person in my life. It was in 1972 in a bar on Bleecker Street in New York City. It was the place that would eventually become Kenny’s Castaways, but when I worked there it was The Mod Scene. My boyfriend Alan was working the front door when a group of drunk guys pushed their way in. One of them called Alan a faggot, Alan told him to get out, the guy charged him. I stepped between them, made a fist, and aimed it at the drunkard’s jaw; it connected. He fell backwards, unconscious, with such force that the cigarette machine toppled over. I couldn’t believe what I’d done and neither could anybody else. The barmaid, Candy, said, “Wow! Big Bird got pissed off!”
I went to see my physical therapist this past Saturday. He said his good friend lives in the Mission with his mom; they’re both from Guatemala. His mother, a nanny for two children in Noe Valley, was walking down 24th Street with the kids last week when a white man came up to her and asked, “When are you going back to where you come from?” She replied, “Well, you could drive me; I live in the Mission.” He hit her twice in the face and then went on his way. I know I’m supposed to deescalate such an incident if I see it happening, talk to the victim, engage the perpetrator, step between them. I’m prepared to do that. But I also know that I can make a fist, a big one.
It’s been two weeks now. You’ve been asked to sign petitions, make phone calls, read this, stay hopeful, let go, engage with the enemy, stop calling them enemy, organize, sympathize, realize, mobilize, neutralize, reorganize, criticize. It’s exhausting. I’m asking you to read one more thing. I find it helpful and clarifying and suggests ways to protest that makes sense. Here’s the core concept from the author Tina Rosenberg: “Protests can change policies, however — and often have. In other countries and throughout American history, ordinary citizens banding together have triumphed over governments, even when a single party holds sweeping control. Many of those protests used resources that the opposition to President-elect Trump enjoys today. They can learn from how those victories were won.”
And here are the talking points:
¥ Plan, plan, plan.
¥ Provoke your opponent, if necessary.
¥ Think national, act local.
¥ Use humor.
¥ When appropriate, be confrontational.
¥ Pull out the pillars.
¥ Exploit galvanizing events.
Please read this when you can:
Day 16. Thank You Note.
Dear Mr. Trump,
Thank you for helping me achieve something I’ve wanted for many many years: a daily writing practice.
A concerned citizen,
p.s. You won’t like what I write.
Day 17 Black Friday.
“’Black Friday‘ is the name that the Philadelphia Police Department gave to the Friday following Thanksgiving Day. It is not a term of endearment for them. ‚Black Friday‘ officially opens the Christmas shopping season in center city, and it usually brings massive traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks as the downtown stores are mobbed from opening to closing.“ The Chicago Tribune
I’m not much of a shopper and I’m finding it challenging to be out in crowds anyway. I want everything to stop because of the election, but of course it all keeps coming. We went to the beach yesterday with our friend Jasper; he’s almost 3. He pointed to a helicopter on the sand where a team of medics were reviving a father and daughter who’d gotten swept into the surf. Just beyond them was a large family having a picnic and further on were two lovers taking a selfie. Jasper suddenly laid down in the sand. Sometimes it’s just all too much; you gotta know when to lay your burden down.
I can feel my reluctance to hoping the election results could change. Even so, I’ve signed the petitions and made the phone calls and I’m following the stories as they unfold: the fundraising efforts to pay for the audit, the Wisconsin recount, the potential for an Electoral College surprise on December 19th. I do believe that hope is good and that sometimes it’s all we have, but expectations have also led me into serious hell realms.
Come and listen to a story ‚bout our group, (that’s us!)
We were feelin’ kinda confident ‘fore Hillary went bust,
And then that day when exception proved the rule,
And out of Trump Tower came that orange-headed fool.
Jerk that is, bully, bad news!
Well, the first thing you know the prezs’ a billionaire,
And some of us are thinkin’ to move away from here,
Sayin’ good old Canada’s the place we oughta be,
So we started packin’ up, to move to Calgary.
Maple syrup, hockey teams, rodeos!
Well, our group has reconsidered, though life seems upside-down,
By working hard together, we’ll turn it all around,
The world will be a better place for you and for me,
If we’re respectful of each other as true comrades oughta be!
Chums that is, friends, amigos!‘
Ya’ll come back now, hear?
Day 20. Sometimes the best strategy is to just say nothing.
Day 21. Precita Park
Donald’s cabinet picks, the attacks at Standing Rock, the water in Flint (it’s still brown 30 months later!); as I move through the world these days, I want to see the people around me being troubled by what is happening but life, it seems, just moves on. When I worked on the AIDS ward long ago I would head home to Bernal Heights, a nearby neighborhood, at the end of every shift and no matter what terrible death I had just witnessed, what grief stricken boyfriend I had hugged, no matter what awfulness I’d experienced there, I could almost always find comfort walking through Precita Park. I would leave the concrete and step onto the grass and often there would be a shift, even if only slight, that would help me get home. “The miracle,” Nhat Han says, “is not to walk on water; the miracle is to walk on earth.”
It’s been 3 weeks now since the Donald got voted in and I continue to be angry, disappointed and afraid. A friend said I need to lighten up, which does not sit well with me. He’s someone I used to work with back in the early days of the AIDS epidemic when so many young people were dying. It comforts him to collect the obituaries of people who have lived a long time. He told me he recently come across the obit of the creator of the Hokey Pokey, a man who lived to the wonderful age of 93. His family and friends were grateful for his long full life and only struggled when, on the day of his funeral, someone tried getting him into the coffin. They tried to put his left leg in, and then all the trouble started.
Day 23. World AIDS Day
There are things I can’t do without causing myself pain, like when I’ve strained my back and bend to tie my shoe. One of them is looking at Trump’s face or hearing his voice; the television is still off 23 days later. One of them is not understanding how people that I care about could vote for him; I know you’re reading this right now. The third is not knowing what to do about it all except to keep writing into it. I wish I’d kept a journal during the onset of the AIDS epidemic, so I could remember how it all unfolded, day by day, and how I finally found my way to action. What was the first moment that gave me a sense of direction? I think it was those Polaroid selfies that Bobby Campbell taped to the pharmacy window, his dark purple lesions telling me to be careful. Someday, when Trump and all his hateful awfulness are just a distant memory, I’m going to work on getting a plaque installed on the spot where so many of us were ignited.
Day 24. Indifference.
This is one of the main reasons Trump has gotten so far and we need to resist going in for a dip. No matter how strong a swimmer you are, the undertow here is fatal.
When I became a Shanti volunteer (an emotional support ‘buddy’ to a person with AIDS) in 1983, I had to successfully complete 6 days of training before I could be assigned to someone. Over the course of the training potential volunteers did everything from lay on the floor and visualize our deaths to listen to a panel of people with KS lesions talk about what it was like to walk through the world. There were numerous practice counseling sessions, where we took turns being the counselor and then the person with AIDS. These role-plays became increasingly more difficult as the training went on and culminated in the final two “graduate” level sessions. The first was having to say goodbye to your client and the other, in many ways the more difficult, was working with what was called the “client with the shattered belief system.” These were people for whom the AIDS epidemic (most of us) shattered their sense of the world and how it works. “How could this have happened? What are we going to do? What’s going to happen to me and all the people that I love?” The goal of this role-play was to assess whether the volunteer could avoid trying to “fix” the client, minimize their feelings, or say, “I know how you’re feeling” (because we didn’t). I remember how helpful it could be to sit with someone’s great concerns about how the world suddenly didn’t make sense anymore and I’m hoping we can all do that for one another now.
Day 26. Ghost Ship fire in Oakland.
May the missing be found and the found be comforted.
Day 27. Monday Monday
Oh, Monday morning, you gave me no warning
Of what was to be —
Oh, Monday, Monday
How could you leave and not take me?
Day 28. Forty-seven times
A month ago today I went to the supermarket, bought the makings for a celebration meal, cooked it, set the table and then, as the night unfolded, couldn’t eat it. Since then I’ve contributed to groups fighting the good fight, signed petitions, went to fundraisers, made phone calls, did my work, the laundry and the dishes. I stared at the super moon, changed my clothes, the sheets, the litter and my mind (about a number of things.) I took many power naps and photographs and the garbage out. I’ve told a number of people I loved them, listened to their stories, recounted mine. I removed the lint from the dryer vent (love to do that.) I saw my physical therapists, got an MRI, made soup and stew and spaghetti sauce and gluten-free dressing and a lot of lunch for Kirk. I’ve written every day, went to the beach and the movies and cried in the dark with strangers. I lit candles for the dead. There’s so much more I could’ve done and will do, and with some of you, but mostly I need to do this month again and again, 47 times exactly, until we vote him out of office on 11/3/20.
Day 29. Welcome to California
Forty years ago today I crossed the California state line with my sister and our friend, all the way from New York, in a car that was no bigger than your couch. I didn’t know that Harvey Milk and Dan White were coming, that AIDS and Rodney King and Yahoo and Google and global warming and cell phones and 9/11 and Kirk and Obama and gay marriage were all coming. I didn’t know that Hillary and Bernie and Trump were coming and I certainly didn’t know that, most wonderfully, you were coming too.
I’ve headed north for a weekend retreat called “Honoring Our Experience,“ three days with others who survived the early days of the AIDS epidemic, men and women, HIV positive and negative, long term survivors and those who’ve recently seroconverted. I’m looking forward to circling with others who’ve survived great hardship and continue to do so. I’m hoping some of the awfulness about Trump Inc. will be lessened, at least while I’m here. It feels like a spiritual crisis, this holding of so much contempt and anger. I’m remembering a gang member I worked with long ago. “People who are afraid of hell become religious,” he said. “But people who have been through hell become spiritual.”
Preparing the retreat center for those who are coming with the response that might be the most helpful of all.
We gather in circles to acknowledge our grief, witness our resilience, to sing and to breathe and to dance. Circles within circles within circles; they are stronger than any wall.
I drive home from the retreat center through a mountain pass already gray with shadows. I’ve been off the grid for 4 days and wonder what awfulness Trump has been up to. I decide to focus instead on the thank yous and good byes I’ve just shared with dozens of people; their stories of survival and perseverance accompany me through the spare winter light. As I head home, I can see that the rivers are flowing, filling the reservoirs for the dry months ahead.
Day 34. The perfect part
Reentering the world after being away is a sobering act. The tales of those at the retreat who found their way back from AIDS had a common theme: there’s always something you can do, no matter how terrible the moment. I remember a patient from the AIDS ward long ago who was always angry and sarcastic. “I’m Joseph, not Joe, and don’t want a hug,” he would say. “I’m from New York.” His mother arrived and stood by the bed, perfectly dressed with a hat and gloves and matching bag. They didn’t talk to each other as he grew weaker, his KS lesions darkening on his face and arms. She’d stand in the hall and whisper, “I don’t know what to do.” The staff would make suggestions but nothing seemed to help. The day he died I stood on one side of the bed and she the other. “What will happen now?” she asked. I told her his body would be taken downstairs. She winced and asked if I would go down with him; I said I would. She began to cry and then opened her purse, took out a comb and moved it slowly, lovingly through his hair, over and over, until she’d made a perfect part.
Day 35. Marriage
Kirk and I got married 3 years ago today. We aren’t fans of the institution of marriage and all that it stands for but we also know how hard people fought for our right to reluctantly walk down the aisle. We did it very quickly, without a lot of fanfare; we didn’t even tell you. The county clerk who signed our certificate was Mr. Light and when he handed us the brown envelope he asked, “Do you want me to marry you?” We looked at each other; “I guess so.” He led us to a room with a beautiful view of the city painted on the wall and right before we said “I do” Kirk snatched a nearby sticky white plastic tablecloth to make the moment more festive. We love each other, and other people too. But there’s someone else I’m married to as well. I’ve known him for less than a year; it all happened so quickly my head still spins and leaves me slightly nauseous. He dyes his hair (which I can overlook) but he’s a boor and a bully and he stands for everything I detest. I hate him so much that he’s always on my mind. He’s beside me when I go to sleep, sits up half the night tweeting on his cell phone, and is right there when I wake up. I’m married to him through my hatred of him and I really really want a divorce.
Thirty-six days since the country got Trumped, thirty-six days of questions, over and over: What to do? How to hold up? When to let go? Where to push back? Who to read and listen to? And still the nagging Why did it happen? I walk the streets, looking for answers, and come across this Time Machine. I stop. Somebody put five cents down and jumped through. Where are they now? On hold somewhere, waiting? Already there, jubilant? So many streets still to walk; I keep my nickel in my pocket and move on.
Ugh! The winter cold, the awfulness of world events, Trump’s despicable appointees; it’s all too much. How can we find relief? I attended an AIDS conference in the 80s where the keynote speaker was a ‘laughter’ therapist. The audience was bored as she presented slides comparing the musculature of crying and laughing and the chemistry of tears. We sat and rolled our eyes; really? This was too California, even for us who lived here. She asked if someone with AIDS would come on stage and a thin young man joined her. She began to ask him questions and requested, at the end of each answer, that he add the words, “Tee hee.” We all crossed our arms; it was SO inappropriate. “I’m afraid I won’t live to see my twenty-ninth birthday . . . tee hee.” “I’m so lonely, my lesions scare people off . . . tee hee.” He smiled after that one and continued his sad litany, followed by “Tee hees,” and then began to laugh. I fought my laughter back until he said, “I had to give my sweet kitten away . . . tee hee!” The therapist asked the kitten’s name. “Little Polly,” he said, “Tee hee” and started laughing so hard he couldn’t breathe and then the audience burst into laughter too. It was all so appalling and so terribly funny, hundreds of us laughing with him about the dreadful things he was sharing. I never had so many tears in public or hugged so many people afterwards.
Day 38. Ow
I read that Obama’s last press conference is happening and I pick up the tv remote for the first time in 38 days. He looks good, he looks like my President, he looks like the man I didn’t always agree with but did respect. I feel like he respected me. He’ll be gone soon and I feel a sharp pain in my chest. Ow. I know a wonderful woman with a disease that causes her alot of pain. When she gets up, when sits down, when she lies still, whenever she tries to move. “Ow,” she says. “Ow,” but then quickly she adds, “Wow.” I asked her once why she did that. It hurts to move she says, „Ow“, but the pain reminds me that I am alive, „Wow.“ I thank her for this spell. Obama has finished. the tv is off. I sit in front of the darkened screen. “Ow,” I say. “Wow.” “Ow . . . wow . . . ow . . . wow.”
When phone calls and petitions and donations and smart reading and heated conversations don’t feel like enough to tip the scales, add magic to the mix. I’ve been looking for signs, portents and items to work with. We’ve been cleaning out decades of junk from our deep dark basement and found this. We stood on the street and examined it. Handmade wooden handle, 5 inches long. Metal end, 3 inches wide. We turned it over and over. One end cuts? The other hammers? A tiny meat cleaver? A man who collects old tools arrived. “Look what you’ve found,” he said. We tell him it’s something used in the kitchen, we tell him it’s something from the long ago past, we say we don’t know what it is, we say it’s a mystery. He holds it in his hands. “It’s a key.”
Day 40. Miracles
Tomorrow the Electoral College votes; will they follow their conscience and cast Donald out? Some say, “Impossible!” others, “Our only chance!” Some believe it can happen, others won’t go there. Most agree it will take a miracle. My father fought in World War II, in the Battle of the Bulge, operated a tank, saw terrible things he never revealed. We rarely heard a wartime story, but he did tell us one, the morning he watched several thousand paratroopers float down through early light, right before a major battle. One parachute didn’t open and the poor man’s arms and legs flailed all the way down. Just before he hit the earth, my father closed his eyes. When he opened them, he saw the soldier climbing out of a massive haystack in a French farmyard; he brushed his uniform off and then ran to join his comrades. My father said they all went on to win the battle that day. Miracles happen, over and over and over again. If we don’t get one tomorrow, we need to remember that.
Day 41. Disappointment’s a feeling denied to many.
Day 42. Follow the witches
The recount failed to stop him, the Electoral College raised our hopes, but the darkness of his presidency continues to descend. What can we do with the ache of it, the anger, the grief and the fear? Follow the witches! Go to the ocean, the plain, the mountain, any place you can watch the sun set into the longest night. Sing to it, cry to it, whisper to it, dance before it, ask it to return to help us through the darkening paths ahead. And then watch it rise tomorrow, climbing just a little higher, staying just a little longer each following day. The great wheel has been turning since the beginning and it will not stop now. Nor will we.
Day 43. The dollar and the penny
The dollar is the sun rising after the longest darkest night. The penny has dyed orange hair and is a mean-spirited bully. Happy Solstice to all!
How to release the anger, frustration, grief and fear that’s lodged in our bodies, flooding our dreams and our interactions with one another? In the years before HIV medications arrived and the dying wouldn’t stop, I attended an Elizabeth Kubler-Ross workshop. I arrived late to find a group, mostly men with AIDS, circled around a mattress. The facilitator was finishing her opening remarks and asked me to kneel on the mattress; she told me to put on some gloves before handing me a piece of garden hose. “Hit that,” she said, pointing at a telephone book laying on the mattress. I stared at her. “Just hit the book,” she whispered, “and say no!” I began slowly, but quickly I was screaming, tears pouring out, snot running down my shirt; “No! No! No! No!” over and over again. When I was done I felt incredibly open and lighter; I was able to continue working on the AIDS unit for another year. We need to find ways now to scream it out, cry it out, get it out, over and over and over, until we are emptied, and thus prepare for the big work that is coming.
Day 46. My Favorite Things
Whether you’re into Christmas Carols or not, it feels good to sing out loud! Here’s my updated version of “My Favorite Things” from “Sound of Music.” Find someone to sing with or just do it acapella right now! Guaranteed to raise your spirits!
My Favorite Things
Big dykes with small dogs and butches with kittens,
Diesels in tall boots with chains on their mittens,
Femmes in their lipstick with rings in their nose,
These are a few of the gays that I know.
Men who can cook and make great apple strudel,
Women who think and can sure use their noodle,
Some who like dressing in only black clothes,
These are a few of the gays that I know.
Men in tight dresses with gold lame sashes,
Make up and high heels and long false eyelashes
Men who have muscles and men who wear hose
These are a few of the gays that I know.
When the right
Spews its hatred
And it makes me sad;
I simply remember the gays that I know
And then I don’t f-e-e-e-e-e-l so bad!
Doctors and nurses and students and teachers
Soldiers and singers and actors and preachers,
Lawyers who fight in the courts with our foes
These are a few of the gays that I know.
Nieces and uncles and sisters and brothers,
Parents who live with significant others
Brave sons and daughters who let their love show,
These are a few of the gays that I know.
Young politicians with courage and vision,
Leaders with guts who can make a decision
Those in the closet and those on the go
These are a few of the gays that I know!
Now the Donald
It just makes you mad
But always remember the gays that you know
And then you won’t f-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-l so bad!
Day 48. See nurse before entering
We survived the longest night and forced holiday encounters with Trump voters, but January looms with the departure of the Obamas and the installation of His Awfulness. I’m being encouraged to expect the unexpected and I will. I remember a patient on the AIDS unit whose mother arrived too late; she was traveling by bus (afraid of planes) but he died before she could get to San Francisco. We put a sign on his door, “See nurse before entering.” When she arrived, a doctor took her into the room and sat with her and the body; we could hear her cries. Afterwards, she walked down to the visitor’s lounge. Ricky, homeless and only 18, was on the couch watching tv; he was the youngest patient with AIDS I’d ever met. The mom sat down next to him and they began to talk. After a few hours she left, but she returned the next day and the day after that. By the end of the week, funds had been raised for two airline tickets. Ricky had assured her that flying was safe and she was taking him home.
Day 50. The year that will not die
A friend says this is the year that won’t stop taking and I feel it too, a deep sadness, like more than just the year is ending. When I worked on the AIDS ward, I had a constant heaviness in the center of my chest; it was always there and difficult to know what to do, what to say, where to go. Sometimes, when patients were feeling it too, we’d go upstairs to Labor and Delivery. We’d stand outside the nursery window and watch the new arrivals. Years later, when AIDS finally came into my house and Bob had only a few months left, my nephew Tommy was born. We drove out to the East Bay so Bob could cradle him in his arms. On the way home Bob wept so deeply. “What is it?” I asked. “I wanted to hold someone,” he said, “who has just come from where I am going.”
Day 52. Back into the closet
It’s been 52 days since the election and the year is almost done. Donald is bringing his racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia to the White House; it’s all too much to comprehend. It leaves no other choice but return to the closet. Somewhere in mine are my old activist tee-shirts, left-over sign-making materials and my hiking boots. When I marched in the 60s I wore a size 15 boot. After I got Rolfed in 1981 I went to a 16. And now that I’ve had my knees replaced, I’m up to a 17. I won’t be able to go as far or as I quickly as I used to, but I’ll be there. Trump may bring out the narrow-minded hate in other people, but he’s bringing out the best in me. See you in the streets!
We’re not going to have to figure out how to resist Trump and his cronies by ourselves. We can always look back at the strategies women and men have used to get through difficult times before. One of my favorites is Woody Gutherie’s “New Years Rulin’s.” Taking number 17 and 33 to heart!
Day 56 Hope vs Despair
The wheel of the year has turned. November and December felt like a barrier against January and what is coming next. I’m feeling the roller-coaster, the up and down, the easy breath and then the tightening, waiting for what will unfold next, hoping it’s not the worst, despairing that it will be. How do I stay here, now, and not run too far ahead into worrisome expectation which drains and distracts? I remember a patient on the AIDS unit, admitted with PCP, the devastating AIDS-related pneumonia that killed so many. His breathing weakened and he was rushed into Intensive Care and put on a ventilator. Day after day, week after week, he lay there unconscious while the doctors tried Septra and Pentamidine to help him breathe again. Finally, almost 6 weeks later, they moved him back to the AIDS ward. We all hoped for signs that he’d make it. I was putting balm on his cracked lips one morning when he suddenly opened his eyes and looked at me. “Please,” he whispered. I couldn’t believe he was back and leaned over to hear him better. “Please,” he whispered again, “do you have a cigarette?”
Inauguration Day of His Awfulness approaches. I light a candle in the cold dark night and call out to our Ancestors for guidance, support and wisdom. I wait. It seems that no one is there until, through the ether, from the Other Side, I hear her voice loud and clear. It’s Joan Rivers and she has something to say.
“My darlings, don’t get too verklempt about Donald. He’s so dumb he couldn’t count to 21 unless he was naked. He gives narcissism a bad name. The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits. Once he gets into the White House, there’ll be Hell toupee. Hair Hitler! Oh come on! Donald Trump’s favorite chapter in the Bible is Chapter 11and he actually is going to make America great again by destroying the Republican Party. If minorities have the race card and women have the gender card, what do the deplorables have? The Trump Card! Oh come on! If you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention! Listen, the Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals and 362 admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love Donald Trump; it’s just that he’s going to need a lot more supervision. Now get to work!”
Day 60. The street artist
A few days after the election an artist set up his easel in a busy intersection near my apartment. The painting’s evolved slowly due to the cold and rain. I look over his shoulder when I pass by, not wanting to interrupt him. Yesterday he said hello and I stopped. I tell him I’ve walked through this intersection a thousand times but he’s got me seeing the beauty of it; the contrast of light and shadow in the street, the clouds floating above the barbershop, the green hill in the distance. He says it’s all about what the artist decides to include. I look into the painting again as he points out that there are no signs, no cars, no people. “This is my perspective,” he says. “I decide what’s important in the world I’m creating.”
Day 62. Self-care
January 9, 2017. Two months have passed since the election. I see and hear the warnings for what is coming, coming soon, a dangerous storm on the horizon, like the one that’s here in Northern California. The rivers and creeks are rising, sandbags are being placed, the supermarket aisles are packed, people storing up, getting ready, the power going out. How high will the river get today? And then the day after? Twenty-nine years ago today, deep into the AIDS epidemic and Ronald Reagan, working on the AIDS unit, life-saving HIV treatment still years away, friends, colleagues, coworkers dying, my partner moving out. January 9, 1988, so dark and cold and rainy; I knew I had to do something big, something that would be just for me to make it through that day. I placed one of my cigarettes in the rain and watched it, as the day progressed, disintegrate and disappear: I never smoked one again. I look around me, in the here and now, and look for something else to put outside.
Day 64. Not because you must
We ask no promise of you,
no oaths bound up in words,
more than the earth, when summer’s through,
asks vows of parting birds.
We only trust, as earth must trust,
seeing the birds grow far and black,
that someday, not because you must,
you will come back. – Anonymous
Day 66. The worrying mind
Sixty-six days since the election and my worrying mind won’t leave me alone. Today it’s our health care and Planned Parenthood, yesterday a photo of a polar bear swimming in an iceless sea, tomorrow the Muslim Registry and nuclear codes; it’s all too much. Long ago I told a young man he was HIV positive. When I’d met with him two weeks before, he’d described sneaking into Folsom Street book stores and going from magazine racks to booths in back; now he wasn’t feeling well. He returned for his result in a high school uniform and when I told him the test was positive he took his backpack off and leaned forward. He lived with his parents, wasn’t out to anyone, had chosen to test anonymously so no one would know; he left all my referrals behind. I thought of him for weeks, for months, so hoping he was well. One day, riding on a crowded bus, I saw him standing with another student; they were laughing. He saw me, looked down, and then back. He nodded his head, a faint smile; he seemed okay. I stopped worrying about him and started believing instead that he found his way to the support he needed and, ultimately, the HIV meds that would keep him alive.
Day 68. Move along!
A difficult week approaches as the Obamas prepare to move out and the Trumps move in. But there will be the Women’s Marches too; it will feel great to be in the streets with you. I remember the massive protests after 9/11, thousands of us out on Market Street. I’d just met Kirk and it was our first march. We’d stopped for just a moment to have this photo taken (our first together) when a cop started yelling at us. “Keep moving,” he called out. “Move along!” It was such good advice; it’s served us well over the years. Whatever happens this week and the weeks and months ahead, we all need to continue calling out to each other: “Keep moving!”
Day 71. 14 things to do as Twitnit comes into power:
1. Know how to contact your senator and congressperson: http://uspolitics.about.com/…/usgover…/a/contact_congres.htm. Remember that face-to-face has more impact than a phone call, phone call is better than letter, letter better than text, etc. However you do it, be courteous, be brief (get to the point!), be specific, be calm.
2. Be calm.
3. Tell your comrades and loved ones how you’re dealing with the disbelief, disappointment, anger and fear about what’s happening and ask they how they are. Extra points if you can do this with a Trump voter.
4. Flashlights, batteries, first aid kit. (This is mostly in case of earthquake, flood or hurricane, but always good to be prepared.)
5. Stay informed. Read up on the latest stories and strategies about the most effective way to resist. There are many ways to use your voice, your money and your energy. Be selective and do what works for you.
6. Stay hopeful. Easy to say, I know. Sometimes the best I can do is to remind myself that this too will pass, as has every other challenging period in my lifetime.
7. Remember: impact with brevity. Nuff said.
8. Use humor. So good, so healthy, so important to laugh it out!
9. Be calm.
10. There used to be a poster that hung in all the public buildings in San Francisco. It was called “10 Things to do in a Disaster.” It depicted a series of stick figure drawings of what to do in case of catastrophe. The first one showed two stick figures, one standing, one kneeling, both tending to a stick figure laying on the ground. The caption underneath was, “Comfort the dying.” I appreciated the thought (and funding) that went into that kind of messaging. Let’s remember, first and foremost, to be comforting to one another.
11. If all the worst-case scenarios you can imagine about the Twitnit and his cronies come through: read the following poem. But first,
12. Be calm.
13. In Case Of Holocaust Open This Poem
You stand aboard the Titanic.
The boats have filled and pulled away.
The cries and running past,
a still night and no memories.
There is time for tea, a bit of honey,
a seat by the open porthole,
the evening air. —— Eric Kolvig
14. Stay calm.
Day 72. On this day!
On this day, we begin. On this day, our own inauguration. On this day, we mark the beginning of working together. On this day, we know we are part of communities who see each other with fresh eyes. On this day, we celebrate our common values and commit to creating new stories together. On this day, we acknowledge we won’t totally heal from the hurt and disappointment of Trump’s election. On this day, we proclaim that remembering this wound is how we will go about expressing our love and commitment to each other. On this day, we begin anew.
Day 73. Can’t lives on Won’t Street
At some point I’m going to have to start interacting with those who voted for him; it feels like a crucial part of the work we all have to do. But today I reject everything about him and what he stands for. Today I can’t. Today I won’t.
Day 73. Part 2
He wasn’t in the Oval Office 15 minutes before taking these down from the White House website:
1. The Department of Labor’s report on lesbians, bisexuals, gays and transgender people in the workplace? Gone
2. The White House’s exposition on the threat of climate change and efforts to combat it? Gone.
Shouting out to 2 of my sisters, 2 brothers-in-law, beloved high school friends and a bunch of cousins: Shame on you!
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