Parenting From Trauma

Raising my kids, I can’t help but think about all those in my past that I’m disappointing by treating my children as growing independent human beings. We communicate, work through our thoughts and feelings, we practice empathy, and we have both our good and bad days.

By removing the “I win, you lose” element practiced by my parents’ generation, acknowledging my failures and faults, and apologizing (I still suck at this) when I screw up, I find my children are learning how to both communicate and be empathetic towards others. They are growing up saying “asshole,” yes, but they are not growing up to be assholes.

And that, as far as I’m concerned, is holy.

LGBTQIA+ PRIDE FLAGS WANTED! Local Church Targeted for Theft Because of Flying PRIDE Flags on Their Property.

Episcopal Church of the Saviour (ECOS) is an LGBTQIA+ affirming church in Hanford, California–the only LGBTQIA+ affirming church within a 20-mile radius. For months ECOS has been flying PRIDE flags on their property to encourage, welcome, and show love to the marginalized community located in the conservative city of Hanford. Not only has ECOS provided a safe and inclusive space for all people–including BIPOC and LGBTQIA+–but they are also hosting the only PRIDE event in Hanford! The event promises to be an open and inclusive celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community.

For as long as they’ve flown the flags–specifically the inclusive LGBTQIA+ flagthey have been the target of theft. Local bigots have stolen PRIDE flag after PRIDE flag no matter where, or how secure, the flags have been placed. As of this weekend, they are down to their last flag.

As a sign of solidarity and to stand with queer affirming spaces located in hostile, conservative, bigoted little rural communities, I would like to challenge any who read this post to consider sending the church a PRIDE flag in order that they may continue to encourage and reach out to offer a safe and affirming space to all people.

If you can, and would like, to donate a PRIDE flag, please send them to:

Episcopal Church of the Saviour
c/o The Rev. Julie Kelly
519 N. Douty St.
Hanford, Ca 93230

It is 2022. It is time to let bigots and racists know they are no longer welcome to decide who is or is not worthy of being part of the public space!

Let Us Mourn; Let Us Grieve. Let Us Change the World. This is holy.

“A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” -Jeremiah 31:15

Litany of Lament
(Episcopal Church, Enhancing our Worship vol. 5)

God, hear our prayer
And let our cry come to you.
Merciful God, we come to you in sorrow. Help us to grieve; let our tears flow; and look upon our broken hearts. God, hear our prayer,
And let our cry come to you.
We have lost children. We have lost hope. We have lost our way. Consider our losses. God, hear our prayer,
And let our cry come to you.
Our faith has been shaken. We are haunted by memories and weighed down with guilt. We are sick with sadness, weak with despair. Help us know your presence. God, hear our prayer,
And let our cry come to you.
In our suffering, we turn away from those who suffer also. Our bonds have been strained, one with another. Show us your compassion and help us forgive others and feel their sorrows. God, hear our prayer,
And let our cry come to you.
[We longed for these children, but wickedness has betrayed our hopes. Help us to honor them, and trust in your faithfulness. God, hear our prayer,]
And let our cry come to you.
Help us envision a future filled with promise, even if we cannot know what lies in store for us. Help us have confidence in your love as we take each new step. God, hear our prayer,
And let our cry come to you.

“The families of those involved in the Texas school shooting were asked to give DNA swabs to help identify victims…”

It’s a headline no one should have to read, but every American must read. The title comes from a report written by Senior Breaking News Reporter for Insider, Cheryl Teh. The brutal and raw headline sums up the article succinctly. The first line reads:

Families of those involved in the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, were asked to give DNA samples to help investigators identify victims.

Cheryl Teh, “The families of those involved…,” Insider, May 2022.

The report discusses how the use of DNA to identify remains is generally reserved for incidents, such as natural disasters, when bodies are not easily identifiable. Gently put, it is safe to assume many victims of the recent elementary school massacre were unrecognizable.

Like many Americans, I have wept and hurt for those lost and left behind. As a parent, I can’t imagine the horror of losing my children to gun violence. Especially so young and while at one of few places which should be safest for them. Regardless of how near or far I am from understanding the profound suffering of those parents who stare into empty bedrooms belonging to the children so cruelly ripped away from them, I am nevertheless filled with rage.

When is enough, enough? How many people–children–have to die before America can finally admit to its gun problem? This fetish has taken too many lives. How woeful and tragic it is that we have placed guns above the lives of our children. Dead. Never to dream or laugh or play or have hope in the future again.

Where is the outrage? Where is the outpouring of anger over the lies and propaganda that have led an entire segment of America to be okay with blood on their hands just as long as they don’t have to change–or, more importantly, think about what it is they stand with and for?

Midterm elections are drawing quickly upon us. Remember this horror. Remember your outrage. Remember who stood in the way of everything which could have prevented this tragedy. Let our vote be our voice. Let it speak our condemnation on those who sacrifice our children for profit.

But, most importantly, remember:

Families of those involved in the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, were asked to give DNA samples to help investigators identify victims.

Cheryl Teh, “The families of those involved…,” Insider, May 2022.

DISMANTLE THE GOP

Oklahoma stands poised to ban all forms of abortion—including ‘morning after pills.’ This is yet another example of the militant extremist measures perpetuated by the dying Republican Party in an attempt to steal power and enforce their white evangelical nationalism on the people of the United States. Worse, it echoes with the historic rise of the fascist Nazi party in pre-WWII Germany under the charismatic Adolf Hitler.

It is time to dismantle the GOP at every level. True conservatives (not this far-right, authoritarian, fascism-loving “Dark MAGA” posing as conservatism) need to form a new party. Trump has killed the GOP by empowering and emboldening bigots and racists to rise up and impose a theocracy as defined by their morals, values, and personal interests. The theocracy they push is identical to white nationalism wherein western anglo values are not just prioritized, but asserted as superior.

EVERY CONSERVATIVES ACCUSATION has turned out to be a projected confession. EVERYTHING from voter fraud to sexual perversion to pedophilia to social & religious indoctrination to racism and now this—an enforcement of religious-motivated law, aka the thing they accused Muslims of trying to establish in the U.S.

VOTE OUT EVERY Republican at the local, state, and federal level. They must be dismantled for the sake of democracy. Whatever it takes. No matter the hoops, get out and vote. The stakes have never been higher—even the 2020 election pales in comparison to what’s at stake for the country if Republicans regain power in the House and Senate.

PRIDE 2022: Affirming Humanity — An Open Letter to the Kingsburg City Council, CA

Introduction

“The Bible says…”

Last year, around this time, we heard this phrase during a good portion of a four-hour nightmare of public comments. Last council meeting, June Hess insisted Kingsburg was pro-God, pro-Life, and pro-America. In that same meeting, Councilman Pursell informed a group trying to take on the multi-faceted issue of homelessness, with regards to location, that Kingsburg was not a good candidate for the program because his constituents have made it clear it is not the kind of thing they want to see here. A bit ironic for an allegedly Christian prioritized community—it seems the least Christ-like thing. In fact, when I posed the question of Christ-likeness to an active community page online, I found some odd defenses for the seemingly contradictory behavior as well as those who perceived the general “Christian” nature of the town as a sort of ruse of hypocrisy.

I open by highlighting the way the Bible and Christianity have been used to oppress some things in this chamber while remaining silent on others where they ought to speak up. Inconsistency. None of us need hear what the Bible does or does not say on what I bring before the council today.

The Argument

According to an interview with Melissa Block, an NPR Special Correspondent who covers Gender Issues, there have been “more than 200 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in nearly 40 states.” Many states are taking their cues from Texas and Florida which have all but declared war on their LGBTQIA+ citizens—their fellow Americans. More than 58,000 youth will see a loss of necessary, and life-saving, medical care as a result of these bans (Williams Institute).

The Human Rights Campaign reports there have been “at least 12 transgender people fatally shot or killed by other violent means” in 2022 so far (HRC Foundation). They emphasize “…’at least’ because too often these stories go unreported – or misreported” (HRC Foundation).

According to the Williams Institute School of Law, LGBTQIA+ individuals 16 years of age and older are “nearly 4 times more likely to experience violent victimizations, compared to non-[LGBTQ+] individuals” (Williams Institute).

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the LGBTQIA+ community is at a 3-6 times greater risk for suicide than non-LGBTQ individuals. While some may point to this to say, ‘hey! See! This is a mental health problem,’ I point them to the testimonies which demonstrate that the poor mental health statistics are a result of mistreatment, bullying, violence, and other forms of abuse used to marginalize these human beings—your fellow Americans.

Last year, in light of similar statistics and testimonies, we failed to assert that Kingsburg stands with the whole of its community. The motion to declare “Pride Month” died without a second. The traditionally marginalized community members were told: the sensitivities of a prioritized group within this same community were of far greater importance than their public existence.

In failing to approve the motion set forth by the youngest and, arguably, bravest councilmember, the council affirmed the message of the bigots who stood outside with the hate group, Proud Boys, along with those who represented the far-right “Three Percenters” ideology. Councilman Palomar went as far as to say “the city has spoken” referring to the few hundred—not thousands as some reported—making noise outside.

“The city has spoken?” White supremacy, fascism, bigotry—this is who and what speaks for our city?

Worst was the invocation of our nation’s flag. Often associated with our troops. As a retired United States Sailor who served a career in the Navy, it may come as a surprise for some of you to learn that 6.8% of our military identifies as LGBTQ. They serve openly and honorably. I served with them. They put on the uniform every day and fought for the country they love. Tell me, how are they not worthy of an act of solidarity—especially from a uniquely, military honoring, patriotic city?

The Request

We have an opportunity to assert that Kingsburg is a place that welcomes to the public spaces all its citizens as equal members. Last year we hid behind the matter of a flag because there were ‘other flags’ that should have been prioritized. It has been a year. No flag requests. It was never about the flag. There was fear of a Pride Event taking place. It happened. It was family-friendly, showcased the talents and skills of our LGBTQIA+ community, was attended by a number of outside dignitaries with zero incidents, and no one was made gay against their will. The surrounding communities saw our shame in the headlines and, as a result, passed their own Pride Month declarations without incident and without fear.

I implore this Council to consider declaring June 2022 as Pride Month. Let us send a clear message to our community that we stand with our LGBTQIA+ members and that we will not engage in, nor tolerate the same abuse and discrimination that is facing their communities across this nation.

Works Cited

Block, Melissa. “Hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills have already been introduced this year. Here may be why.” All Things Considered, NPR.org, 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/04/14/1092904560/hundreds-of-anti-lgbtq-bills-have-already-been-introduced-this-year-here-may-be-.

HRC Foundation. “Fatal Violence Against the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Community in 2022.” Human Rights Campaign, HRC.org, 2022, https://www.hrc.org/resources/fatal-violence-against-the-transgender-and-gender-non-conforming-community-in-2022.

Williams Institute. “Bans put more than 58,000 transgender youth at risk of losing access to gender-affirming care.” Press Release March 2022, UCLA Williams Institute School of Law, 2022, https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/press/ga-care-bans-press-release/.

Glimpsing Truth: A Critical Inspection of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands through Toni Morrison’s Site of Memory

In the fast paced environment of a first-person shooter (FPS) game, details are easily missed. The setting is often carefully rendered with masterful precision and full of wonderful surprises awaiting discovery by a player patient and curious enough to slowdown and explore. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, a recently released FPS action roleplaying game set in a post-apocalyptic world by 2K Games, offers a treasure trove of social criticism through comically inappropriate jokes, parody, and over the top dramatic storytelling. In line with Toni Morrison’s “Site of Memory,” Wonderlands functions as a compendium of facts presented in ways wherein the player might discover truths about their own world.

A setting within a setting, the playing field exists on a tabletop and in the imaginations of external characters in a Dungeons & Dragons parody. The setting itself functions as a kind of heterotopia where the external characters work through aspects of themselves often suppressed and resisted. Through their work, and the player’s often mindless acts of gratuitous violence, facts are captured, but truth is never given outright. The player is invited into the story, into the narrative, of the game to parse out what they find to be true “[because] facts can exist without human intelligence, but truth cannot” (Morrison 193).

Tiny Tina, Bunkermaster

Tiny Tina, the inappropriately young orphan filling the role of “Bunkermaster,” throws wave after wave of monsters, traps, and puzzles at the player to force the external characters directing the action from outside the tabletop into challenging positions. Tiny Tina appears to be working against the external playing characters at first glance. The player is made to face overwhelming odds that are difficult to overcome resulting in multiple deaths and resurrections throughout the entire campaign. As the narrative progresses and more facts about the world are revealed it becomes apparent that Tiny Tina isn’t working against the external characters or the player, but forcing them into great acts of heroism. Here it would be easy to assume that she wills those involved in her game to progress to higher levels and gain improved equipment and skill, but this, too, proves incorrect. She is processing the loss of her own playable character through whom she had experienced what it meant to be a hero.

Her initial understanding of heroism is defined by having power over one’s world to ensure the ‘good guys’ always triumph over the ‘bad.’ The young “Bunkermaster” believes being a hero means having power in a world where she—who has witnessed the murder of her parents by bandits, the death of her mentor by wicked oligarchs, and who continues to lose companions to tragedy—has had none. Loneliness and fear of abandonment surface as facts to a larger truth being revealed little by little. Through her narrative journey, and that of her companions Valentine and Frette, an agreement with Morrison arises. These characters “are my access to me; they are my entrance into my own interior life” (Morrison 195).

In the moment, in the heat of it all, when the virtual bullets are flying across the screen, the player is swept up in the action. They, we, are a part of something. Something big. Something epic. The player is in control of a world gone off course—what’s wrongs they alone can set right. Perhaps that’s both the alluring and damning part of the game. The modern world appears in many ways broken, or more honestly, the paradigm we have constructed and upheld appears broken. It is in need of heroes, but too many feel powerless. Like the many mindless sprites populating Wonderlands’ setting, we take care of our own and hope it is enough, but is it enough?

The facts about power structures, and the thrill experienced in the game’s action, archive for us facts about our own world. They lay the framework for truth to take shape. It might seem to be enough for us to take care of just our own, and we might believe ourselves powerless to change or move the world forward, but the thrill experienced specifically in setting right injustices, creating better paradigms between warring factions, and rebuilding communities in more beneficial ways—in game—seems to argue against this illusion of ‘enough.’ Truth appears to be more than we thought it to be. Maybe ‘enough’ is the conditioned response meant to keep us submissive—meant to keep us from moving the world forward?

Toni Morrison, Time magazine.

Wonderlands is incredibly strange and arguably more interesting than the world we inhabit, but the impressions left on a contemplative player are as facts resonating within their own reality. Power structures corrupt and are corrupted. They don’t have to be. They are not fictional elements meant to convey a story, but real and tangible things which have been constructed and thus can be deconstructed and shifted. They can be corrupt now, and after some work, be not corrupted—or at least be made better for everyone. Perhaps this is what Morrison meant by: “’Truth is stranger than fiction,’ . . . it doesn’t say truth is truer than fiction; just that it’s stranger, meaning that it’s odd. . . . It may be excessive . . . but the important thing is that it’s random—and fiction is not random” (193). Truth is random. What is today may be something completely other tomorrow, if we choose to act.

Truth is elusive. This is why storytelling and art and literature matter. They shed light on facts which illuminate pathways towards truth. Even a video game such as Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands in its absurdity can cause one to pause and reflect on how many of our beliefs—especially about each other—have been conditioned in a specific manner. These glimpses, these facts, apply cracks along those things barring us from discovering truth.

And while it may be outside the scope of this work, perhaps these same glimpses leading to truth are really what’s behind the banning of books by authors and poets and artists of color, and of the same who identify as being part of the LGBTQIA+ community, from school libraries across the United States. Perhaps that is what has conservative white evangelical nationalists foaming and frothing at the mouth. Too many cracks exposing too many facts are drawing too many eyes to the truth.

Works Cited

Morrison, Toni. “The Site of Memory.” Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.

A Doorway

The veil between worlds unfurled itself and lay open like a door before him. Beyond was the grey space. A muted world where lost souls and marauding spirits linger or hope to find passage into the land of the living. Crudely, a place he called the Deadlands.

He had never come across a doorway through the veil before. The idea seemed impossible, but perhaps, if spirits and souls could slip between worlds, it might be feasible for the process to work the other way around.

There was a hesitation in drawing near the doorway. He had seen through the veil, communicated through it, even banished beings back into it, but never had he trespassed into the Deadlands. What would happen? To him? His physical form?

He took a step forward and paused.

Systemic Racism on Display: SCOTUS on Roe v. Wade

A very intelligent and wise woman, Dr. Wilson, pointed out a lack of citations to provide evidence for the loaded claims made by Supreme Court Justice Samuel “I Hate Women” Alito. I read the passage again with this insight in mind, and that is when I saw it. The old white supremacist language I was raised to speak and hear and understand.

For those who don’t speak fascism, racism, or bigotry in the deeply rooted systemic dialect, I would like to offer a translation.

-Justice Samuel Alito, Initial Draft: Majority Opinion courtesy of Politico.

The lack of citation to provide evidence for his claims is standard practice in the fascist dialect. It is often employed when in the act of committing or supporting evil. Simply, a claim is made and we’re supposed to assume it to be unerringly true—like they do with the Bible.

The phrase “enflamed debate” means their argument is inferior and the claim lacks the weight of merit. In short, they can’t get their way by reason or debate. This is where the phrase “deepened division” comes into play.

Division is a dog whistle to rally defense of something generally indefensible. We don’t call out Uncle-Brother Billy Joe Bob for his racism at Thanksgiving because it would cause division.

Division is the phrase pulled out when fascists no longer want to debate, they just want their way. An example of this is excusing grandma because she grew up in another time, and we can’t reason her out of it, so we just give her a pass so not to cause division.

Where else do you see this use of division to rob power from the people so that it may be used to uphold oppressive structures, systems, and institutions? If you guessed white evangelical churches, you would be solidly right.

Now why do you see that similarity? Well, it’s not coincidental. The relationship between the white evangelical church and white nationalism in America runs deep. While that goes beyond the scope of what I’m doing here, I would invite you to consider how many of these far right wing fascists claim to be Christians. Then, consider all the ways in which these Christians argue for legislation against abortion rights, the entire existence of the LGBTQIA+ community, the poor, and women.

I’m not proud that I can still read white supremacy, but I feel it imperative that I should make very plain what has actually been said here. I would also ask that we pay very close attention to which States enact bans on abortion, birth control, contraceptives, and abortion medication. They’ll probably be the same ones enacting legislation targeting the LGBTQIA+ community and their families. Probably the same ones that are Republican run. Probably the same ones that have a long history with racism/segregation/slavery/lynching. They will probably rank low in education and high in poverty. Probably have some voter suppression history there, too.

Again, this not the scope of this writing, but do take notice of the common connection. GOP, white supremacy, and white evangelical Christianity always seem to be found hanging out at all the same clubs together. Just saying.