law enforcement officers arrest children in snowball fight; go on to shoot five citizens in brutal massacre

massacre1

The Boston Tea Party and all the riots leading up to it didn’t exactly occur in a vacuum. To really contextualize that history, you gotta back up a few years …

After the end of the French and Indian War, Parliament began to taxes the colonies for the war they’d kinda dragged England into, and the colonists reacted by, well, kicking up a fuss. Particularly in Boston.

Concerned about the protests and political dissent in Boston, the King and his cabinet decided to send some of their soldiers to Boston to protect their newly appointed Customs Commissioners and just, y’know, keep peace in the streets. Law and order and whatnot. Nothing major.

The colonists REALLY hated this idea. Maintaining a standing army? In a time of peace? In the middle of a major city? Barbarous! They saw it as clear proof of the erosion of civil liberties by the heavy hand of a corrupt and over-militarized government.

It totally didn’t matter that their king, governors, and official bodies all assured them the soldiers were only here to keep the peace and maintain law and order. It didn’t matter that this was the army (and in some cases, the same soldiers) who’d fought for their lives and safety in the French and Indian war—now they were the oppressors.

You might say a modern equivalent would be the Americans protesting the militarization of community police–the existence of police officers who execute citizens without concern for due process; or storm homes and attack citizens with no fear of punishment; or the police raids of private property which are used to appropriate personal valuables  for the profit and use of police.

Like modern Americans protesting police brutality and government overreach, the 1770 British colonists of Boston protested the redcoats sent by their government, and they made their outrage pretty freakin’ clear.

They started all peaceful and calm, just as modern critics did–just, like, Hey, this is a problem. We object. But that didn’t work, of course. No-one listened. The people in charge ignored them.

The citizens organized. Began to protest. Submitted petitions requesting the removal of the soldiers. They started harassing the soldiers, too–following them around the streets, and taunting them. Some shopkeepers would refuse to serve them. There’d be brawls, occasionally. Children were encouraged to throw rocks, sticks, and snowballs at them. At one point, Lt. Col. Maurice Carr even wrote the Governor complaining of the abuse his men were enduring at the hands of the colonists.

I guess the modern equivalent to #redcoatshavefeelingstoo is #bluelivesmatter, haha.

So it all came to a head in March, 1770. The British soldiers would sometimes augment their low wages through odd jobs, and a colonist asked a passing soldier if he was looking for work. The soldier was like, Yeah! and the colonist laughs and goes, Go clean my shithouse, then! 

The soldier got all butthurt, went and collected some friends for a beat-down, and returned to confront the guy … who (with his friends) soundly kicked ass. Humiliated, the soldiers went back to their fort, and tensions escalated over the next two days as little skirmishes and fights continue to break out, while insults were traded across the streets. British soldiers began patrolling the streets, armed with muskets, bayonets, clubs, and other weapons.

Then, on March 5, an apprentice by the name of Ed Garrick approached the Main Guard sentry box and began harassing Pvt. White, who was stationed there. White responded by hitting Garrick on the head with the butt of his musket, so Garrick’s friends began to yell insults and pelt White with snowballs.

Meanwhile, some patrolling soldiers arrested a group of kids involved in a nighttime snowball fight and marched them right to the barracks, where they ordered the junior officers to confine them. Some Boston citizens arrived, objecting to this overreaction, and a local merchant (police apologist) defended the soldiers’ attempts to keep the peace and told everyone to just go home.

Some did.

Others went to the Main Guard, where Pvt. White was stationed.

Meanwhile, about 200 angry protestors were gathering in Dock Square. They began marching toward the Main Guard, joined by more protestors from Boston’s North End. Some brought weapons with them—cudgels and knives—while others picked up whatever weapons they could find in the square.

At the Main Guard, faced by a seething mob of more than 300 colonists who were furious at the gall of British soldiers attempting to keep the King’s peace in their town, Pvt. White retreated from the sentry box to the steps of the Custom House. He began calling from assistance, and threatened the approaching crowd he would fire at them if they didn’t back off.

They responded with taunts and yells to fire.

A Cpt. Preston came to Pvt. White’s rescue … kinda. He led two columns of men from the 29th regiment through the mob, forcing a path with their bayonets to reach the Private. They got to him, but when they tried to retrace their route, found themselves penned in. So instead the men formed a defensive semicircle facing the crowd, and aimed their loaded muskets toward the mob.

More taunting. More daring the soldiers to fire.

Then someone in the mob threw a club, which hit one of the soldiers in the head and knocked him down. He clambered back to his feet, and as he did someone once again cried, Fire! and the soldier who’d been knocked down fired a shot.

By all accounts, a pause ensued—the two sides considered one another—and then the troops commenced firing on the citizens of Boston, in the event that would come to be known as the Boston Massacre.

They killed five total, including a 17 year old boy.

Governor Hutcheson promised the people of Boston a full inquiry into the events of the evening, saying, “The law shall have its course; I will live and die by the law.”

The inquiry followed an all-too-familiar template to those who call for justice and inquiries to police shootings in 2016. Basically, the captain and most of the soldiers were found not guilty by reason of self-defense, while the two soldiers who were found guilty of manslaughter were branded them on the thumbs.

Because, clearly, when armed and uniformed men face a mob of citizens irate at their decision to arrest children for a snowball fight, the only possible response is to shoot. Some things never change.

riots are just revolutions not yet validated by history

This meme is being shared around on social media.

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I find it amusing, personally. Rather on point.

I’m interested in the reactions to it on my various friends pages–some people respond very negatively, or with interesting interpretations of history!

For example, in one thread on the page of one of my meme-sharing friends, someone claimed it was different for two reasons:

  1. The patriots didn’t destroy anything but the tea, and they cleaned up afterward
  2. They never looted or set fire to anything

So obviously–just knowing mob mentality and how excited people in large groups work–that’s ridiculous on the face of it, and I kind of guffawed at that ridiculous statement. Then, me being me, I went to refresh my memory on the whole Boston Tea Party situation because wtf did happen with that, amiright?

Basically, Parliament passed the Tea Act on May 10, 1773, which pissed off politicians, patriots, merchants, and smugglers alike. After that, riots and demonstrations kinda broke out throughout the colonies in protest. People were all like, “No tea!” and England was like, “Yeah, tea!”

So when 600,000 lbs of tea showed up that October, shipped from the English-owned East India Company, the reception (to put it mildly) was not friendly. In New York and Philadelphia, angry mobs forced local officials to turn the ships away from the harbor without unloading their cargo..

In Annapolis, Maryland, rioting colonists boarded and burned one of the ships carrying East India Tea in their cargo–remember, mind you, that the ships themselves were not owned by the East India company, and they were likely carrying more than just tea in their cargo holds.

In New Jersey, the tea was unloaded and stored in a warehouse … which demonstrators torched.

I guess we can cross off the “didn’t destroy anything but tea,” and “never set fire to anything” claims, haha.

So that brings us so the actual event referenced in the meme, the Boston Tea Party. Basically, Governor Hutchinson was all like, These lawless rioters cannot intimidate me! I’m the governor of this town!, and he publicly made statements to that effect.

So when the tea ships arrived, Sam Adams went ahead and led a group of armed men down to the docks and basically told them–under threat of armed violence– Yeahhhhhh, you’re not gonna want to unload that tea. At which point Gov. H responds by calling in a freaking blockade of the harbor by the Royal Navy to prevent the ships from leaving with their cargo (presumably, it also prevented new ships from arriving with trade goods, thereby putting a temporary moratorium on trade?)

Basically, British law required ships to unload their cargo after 20 days in port. So if 20 days went by and the cargo remained unloaded, Gov. H would have an excuse to march his soldiers down and unload it under armed guard.

December 16 was the last day of the waiting period, and the colonists tried one last time to get their governor to let the ships leave harbor, but he was all, nah bitches. So all the fine British citizens of Boston went on home and covered their faces with ash and shoe-black, and dressed in buckskin and leathers.Around 9 pm, under cover of dark, 70 or so men marched to the wharf with tomahawks and clubs in order to board the ships, where they destroyed 342 chests of tea, which were worth an estimated £10,000 — £18,000 at the time.

Interestingly, this specific incident may be where people are getting the idea the patriots didn’t loot, and that they cleaned up after themselves–several accounts of the Boston Tea Party note that the organizers of the riot specifically ordered the participants not to take any of the precious tea, because it would undermine their cause, and at least one (from a children’s textbook, which also put the riot in the afternoon) claimed the patriots even swept and tidied the deck after they were done destroying the tea.

The eyewitness account of George Hewes, a participant in the evenings events, recollects seeing one man fill his pockets with tea. When the patriots attempted to apprehend the fellow, he jumped to the dock and escaped–which means there’s at least one documented incident of looting in relation to the Boston Tea Party riots … guess we can cross “never looted” off the list, too.

Which pretty much means that if the sanitized elementary-school version of patriot protesters neatly sweeping the deck post-riot is in any way accurate, (maybe just to make sure not a whit of tea could be saved?), it’s only one sad sliver of accuracy for one riot, because there doesn’t seem to have been any such clean up after the warehouse and ship arson tea riots which preceded the Boston Tea Party.

As punishment to this escalating series of event, culminating in the Boston Tea Party, Parliament passed the Coercive (aka Intolerable) Acts, which—among other things:

  • closed the port of Boston until all the destroyed tea was paid for
  • expanded the Governor’s powers as the King’s representative
  • made it more difficult to convict royal officials of crimes.

Less than a year and a half later, the Revolutionary War began.

What’s interesting to me is that it seems current historians estimate about 40 percent population support for the patriot cause in the colonies. Apparently, colonist-patriots were just successful at getting their message out via the use of protest tactics, vigilante justice, property destruction, and riots, which they used to harass, intimidate, and undermine the institutions of authority and those neutral or opposed to their cause.

I think the most interesting thing about reading history isn’t the differences, but the similarities.

 

unexpected events

Writing prompt: An unexpected event

This prompt is more stymying than expected. I’ve found myself turning it over in my head, trying to think of something unexpected which has recently occurred (besides my dog almost dying), and I can’t really think of anything. Nothing big, anyway—there are the usual small things. Coupons in the mail I didn’t expect, an unplanned-for phone call, a last-minute change of schedule. But those aren’t really “events”. Those are just … life. The heyday of the everyday.

I am a routine sort of person. I like routines; the predictability of them. I like schedules. I enjoy the soothing reliability of to-do lists, check boxes, and calendars breaking up the day’s hour-by-hour. I am the type of person who, when working, likes to leave the house at the same time each morning. I usually know what I want to order before I’ve ever looked at the menu—oftentimes before I’ve entered the restaurant.

It’s not that I’m unadventurous. Or maybe it is? I don’t see why that’s a bad thing, honestly. I enjoy stability and reliability. It’s not that I can’t handle surprises or I’m incapable of going with the flow. It’s more that … I guess it’s that I’ve had my fill of instability, and now I prefer the comfort and reassurance of a routine.

The result is a life with very few unexpected events. Over the past year, the most unexpected event that comes to mind is our dog almost dying.

The unexpected event of 2015 was … hmmmm. I guess our spur-of-the-moment trip to San Francisco? We were sitting in the living room talking about my husband’s upcoming weekend—I think it was a 3 or 4-day weekend—and he said he wanted to do something different, like drive straight to San Francisco. While he was talking, I started googling touristy stuff in San Francisco, and looked at Alcatraz. There were tickets available for Sunday afternoon, and I said, “Hey, we can buy tickets to Alcatraz.”

So we bought the tickets, packed the car, and drove down. It was about a 10 hour drive. We arrived shortly before a friend flying in from England to go to Burning Man landed, which was serendipitous. That first night, we ended up sleeping in the car (which was broken into on the street the next day). The following night, we stayed at a campsite a few miles outside the city, and the third night we camped at Crater Lake. It was a really fun trip.

No unexpected events come to mind for 2014 or 2013, happily.

2012 was the Year of the Psycho Neighbor– an unexpected and surreal situation which ended with physical assaults on our family, broken bones, and us having to a file a restraining order. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced—the more we tried to shut ourselves away from them and detach entirely, the more frothy-at-the-mouth this guy got. “Unexpected” somehow doesn’t seem strong enough for how baffling and unreal it was.

You hear about harassment situations, but it’s hard to comprehend how intensely off some people actually are until you actually have to deal with someone like that … there’s always some part of you that secretly, deep down, thinks, “Oh, I could’ve handled them. I could’ve talked ‘em down.” No. It turns out some people can’t be handled. Some people can’t be talked down. Some people are just unhinged.

Nothing unexpected in 2011 or 2010, happily.

In 2009, a family member passed away, beloved to those I love dearly. I was fond of the family member, but did not know them well, due to long illness and the nature of said illness. Even so, the actual death was a shock, and a devastation of grief crashed in the wake of it. The influence of their life, love, and childcare has rippled across our lives in countless ways large and small.

In 2008, I was in my first motorcycle accident. I’d had my learner’s permit for two months, and was riding my yellow Ninja 250 home from a practice ride. A white van ran a stop sign and t-boned me. It was a 45 mph street, but I was going a little under the speed limit. The white van left the scene. I came to surrounded by strangers, with a man asking if I could wiggle my toes. I asked where my motorcycle was, and he told me they were setting it upright—that it was unharmed. The police arrived before the ambulance. I had a mild concussion. The ambulance was blue instead of fire-truck red, so I refused a ride to the hospital. I found my helmet on the side of the road, and an officer asked if I was sure I could ride home. I explained my house was less than 5 minutes away, and I didn’t want to pay $1000 for an ambulance ride when my husband could just drive me to the hospital. They offered to escort me to the house, so I accepted, which is how I came to end one a practice ride with a police escort.

In 2007, my husband was riding his motorcycle to work on Black Friday when a car t-boned him. He had just come out of the 15 mph roundabout, and was in the straightaway heading toward the stoplight. There were two traffic lanes going the same direction and a single lane going the opposite, with businesses on either side. According to the witnesses/ police report, a car driver in the far-left lane saw a car waiting to leave a driveway exit on the left side of the road, so they stopped and politely waved them into traffic. The car took the invitation/ opening and darted forward to cross the two lanes of traffic to the driveway on the other side, ignoring the motorcyclist in the way.

A week later, our house was flooded in a natural disaster. It was especially unexpected because the last time the area had been hit with a 100 year flood (a decade earlier), our neighbors said the floodwaters had never even approached our house. This time, though, the dyke holding back the river broke. Apparently, it was in some amount of disrepair and with the pounding strain of rain and river, it just gave in a great gush of mud and water. Our house, despite being raised 18 inches off the ground, got a good 6 inches of flood water inside the house proper.

So 2007 had two unexpected events, which should be enough for any year. Except that was also the year my grandma died and I found out I had a small inheritance, so really it had four unexpected events.

In 2006 my husband brought me flowers for Mother’s Day. That was unexpected, because by then flowers were less common than arguments. I liked the flowers, though. Flowers are lovely. I can’t remember most of our arguments from that year, but I remember the flowers. The separation in September was not an unexpected event.

My grandpa died in 2005. That was the unexpected event of the year. I knew grandpa wouldn’t live forever, obviously, but I didn’t expect him to die while I was still in my 20s. He played golf and drove his Cadillac around right up until the last year or so of his life. I thought grandpa would live until his late 90s, still pulling wooden nickels out of my ear and dandling my son on his knee. They said at his funeral that when my mom died, all the fire went out from him.

Mom’s death was one of the unexpected events of 2003. I don’t have an unexpected event of 2004. I don’t remember 2004. It was a black hole. In 2003, two of the women I loved most dearly died by suicide. One in spring, one in fall. My best friend and my mom.

I cannot say my son’s birth in 2002 was unexpected, because it was not only expected, it was scheduled. He was induced. I could lie and say the emergency c-section which followed was a surprise, but somehow it wasn’t. It was definitely an emergency and not planned, but for some reason, I’d been expecting a c-section since the first trimester.

So when they told me he wasn’t turned right and his heart rate was dropping during labor, I didn’t feel panicked at the thought of a c-section. Just sort of calm. Like, all right, so this is happening, and I had this weird sensation I get sometimes that’s kind of like déjà vu, but not quite. Not like I’ve experienced it before, but more … as if events are unfolding exactly as they are supposed to. In retrospect, it was quite the curiosity. I can’t explain it. I have no idea why I was so full of conviction the birth would be a c-section, but I was.

In April of 2002, my husband woke up at dawn and collected armfuls of pussy willow buds and flowers, and covered every surface of our living room with chocolates and flora. That was unexpected.

The unexpected event of 2001 was probably the positive pregnancy test and my husband getting laid off a week later from the plant nursery, both occurring nearly two months after our wedding day. Wham-bam, one after the other. You know how people say bad things come in threes? Writing this out, I think they come in pairs.

Unplanned pregnancy + Layoff.

Suicide + suicide.

Accident + flood.

Reviewing this, I realize something else: apparently, I see unexpected events as emergencies or tragedies. When I think of the happy moments in my life, they were not unexpected, but worked toward and planned. Expected (except for, obviously, finding out we were pregnant—which, while happy, was complicated).

Weddings, births, graduations, parties, holidays, celebrations in general … we see them coming. We anticipate them, plan them, and, well, expect them. I had a surprise party once when I was 17, but since becoming mom of the house myself, those are sort of a thing of the past, haha. So I guess I do try to arrange my life to avoid the unexpected, as I associate unexpected events with tragedy, heartbreak, trauma, and instability.

caught in between 10 and 20

Kidling began high school this week.

It’s a strange moment. Weird to be the parent of a high schooler. He grew up really fast. They tell you that, when he’s a baby and toddler–everyone tells you that. “Treasure these years, they’ll go by so fast.”

And you’re thinking, one day at a time, 365 days a year. Diaper after diaper.

In the moment, it doesn’t feel fast. Dealing with midnight feedings and potty training and pooptastrophes and meltdowns. Soothing a hand across a sweaty brow after yet another nightmare. Listening to story after story about dinosaurs and robots and lasers and legos.

It doesn’t feel fast.

But then, somehow, 2 months has become 18 months has become 5 years has become 8 years, and I find myself blinking and rubbing my eyes as I peer backward through time, wondering if it was only three years hence he was starting kindergarten.

And now even that was 6 years ago.

When I was 14, I still thought parents knew what they were doing–that they at least had a clue on this whole “parenting” ride. That it wasn’t a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants gig. Now, of course, I know the deal.

Back then, I remember, I tended to group the adults around me roughly by age.

Youngish adults in their 20s were hard to take seriously, like too-old teenagers, just barely out of high school themselves. Too much my older brother, not enough my parents. When hired as teachers at my high school, I smirked and joked through their classes, viewing them less as authority figures and more as co-conspirators.

Adults between 30ish and 60ish had that parental vibe of authority, the automatic clip to their voice that adults with long practice dealing with recalcitrant youth acquire. I took them a little more seriously. I tended to like and respect them, and seek their approval.

Anyone over 60 was grandparent status in my eyes, and had a little extra bump of authority from the expectation of a lifetime of lived experience.

I remember disliking adults who made presumptions on me–who assumed I would follow their directions/ orders because they were the adult and I was the child, or thought they could get me to respond positively to them if they tried to talk to me “on my level,” or tried to be buddy-buddy with me. I didn’t like adults I perceived as being dishonest, unfair, or manipulative.

I didn’t mind rules or boundaries, so long as I  felt they were fair, clearly communicated, and fairly enforced.

I try to recall how I felt back then, how I related to adults, in raising and dealing with and talking to my son. But it’s a fine line to walk, because in the end, he’s not me. He’s similar to me in personality and interests in a lot of ways, but he’s not me, and it’s not fair to treat him like me.2 … I have to keep reminding myself of that.

I’m proud of him. He’s a really great kid. Polite, compassionate, intelligent, witty, good-tempered. We recently got his state test scores back, and he scored above-average for his grade level in the school, the school district, and the state in every subject.

I’m a little nervous about the next four years. For me, high school was not a good time. But then, public education in general was less of a learning experience and more of a prolonged bully gauntlet–my son doesn’t seem to be having the same experience. He’s run into a few bullies–the usual sort, projecting their misery from abusive homes outward–but has thus far handled them firmly and gracefully, with the support and advice of myself and other adults. I’ve been impressed by his composure and self-possession thus far, and I am more hopeful than concerned about his high school experiences.

another 30 days of prompts

I enjoyed that last 30 day prompt I did, last spring. It got me blogging again (in spurts) and using my scheduling tool so I didn’t feel so bad about a neglected blog in between times. So I looked for a few more to fill out over the next several months. See how it goes.

30 day writing challenge

Prompt: The furthest away from home you have ever been (~1000 words)

I think the furthest away from home I remember being is Hawaii, in 2007, as a sort of make-up honeymoon.

I’ve been in Germany, Paris, and Wales. But I don’t remember it. Frankly, I think my parents were being supremely unfair to even take an infant on such travels. It doesn’t count as traveling if you can’t remember it!

Anyway, back to the make-up honeymoon. It kind of begins in 2001, when we got married– a small ceremony and no honeymoon to speak of; partially due to finances and partially due to cultural pressure. We were mormon at the time, and not getting married in the temple had an element of shame attached to it.

Fast forward a few years, and in 2006 we were having some issues and separated. We reconciled a few months later. Shortly after my grandmother passed away. I was surprised to learn I would receive a small inheritance. Of course, the first thing we did was pay off several debts and put some money into savings—but I also wanted to treat my husband.

At the point we went on the trip, we’d moved back in together and been going to marriage counseling for almost 9 months—working on reconciliation for nearly 10 months. Some people said it was a bad idea to splurge the inheritance funds on a fancy trip when our reconciliation was still so “new,” but to me it seemed more than worthwhile.

Our separation wasn’t because of a difference in values, or because we fell out of love. It was communication issues, plain and simple. Both of us feeling unappreciated. For six years, he’d worked long and difficult hours at often thankless positions to keep a roof over our heads and food on our table.

And now, when it came time for it, he’d actually listened and gone to the effort of making the changes he could to improve our marriage. He’d communicated the changes he needed from me. Not many people do that, y’know. Not many people have the strength or willingness to lean into the discomfort of confronting their own biases, their own entrenched habits and bad behaviors. But my husband has that strength, because he’s awesome.

He found ways to show his appreciation for my contributions as a wife, mother, and life partner. On a daily basis, he made concerted efforts to be present, generous, respectful, compassionate, and thoughtful—to leave work at work, to develop good stress-resolution coping skills, to communicate his needs. We were working through our problems.

So as far as I was concerned, it wasn’t a risk or bad idea at all. It was an opportunity to take the honeymoon we never got to have. The only regret I have is that I didn’t buy the trip through Costco Travel—I used some online travel package place, and they kinda sucked in terms of price to value. I could have gotten a way better deal through Costco Travel. I know it sounds like I’m totally pimpin’ as a salesperson, but for real—I spent about $3.5k for about a week and a half on what was advertised as a 5 star hotel room (it really was not) on the beachfront (I guess three blocks away is kind of the beachfront).

We also got a rental car, luau night, and a magic show. After a few days, we realized the spare tire on our rental car had a rusted screw jammed into it (clearly not put in by us—the rust was old and spreading onto the tire rubber as well), so we took it back to the dealership. I’d specifically paid for a convertible, and they tried to push us into a sedan. We ended up getting the last convertible on the lot, a Sebring or something like that. While on the trip, I made the mistake of pricing out the exact same package through Costco Travel and found out we could have stayed in one of the super nice ocean view resorts right on the beach, gotten two extra days, and saved money.

Eeeeerrrrrghghhhhh.

So yeah, that’s the only thing I regret.

The rest of it was amazing, though. We had a really fantastic time, with just the right balance of touristy activities and self-guided island wandering. I tried sushi for the first time, and there was this one day when we rented mopeds and whizzed around Honolulu. As it turns out, they don’t have helmet laws on Oahu (which is utter insanity), and realistically speaking, all hours are kind of rush hour traffic in Honolulu, but we were literally riding through what is colloquially accepted as “rush hour traffic,” that is, 5 o’clock traffic. It was terrifying and exhilarating.

When I began riding motorcycle in 2008, I’d often think back to that experience and tell myself, “You survived riding a moped without any gear at all in rush-hour Honolulu traffic. You can do this.”

We drank pineapple juice every morning and ate mahi-mahi at the restaurant every night. We would get up early, just as the sun was rising, to walk or snorkel at the nearly deserted beaches. I guess the time of year we went was the off-season for Hawaiians to go to the beach, and no-one on vacation likes to get up at dawn. For Washington natives, sunrise in Hawaii in the fall is absolute perfection, though.

We visited historical sites and museums, Buddhist temples and gardens, and beautiful national parks. At the magic show, an illusionist made a helicopter appear on stage.

At the luau a woman in a grass skirt stood in front of the audience and gave a little speech about traditional Polynesian values and culture before launching into a blessing for the gathered attendees which sounded suspiciously similar to the typical mormon, “Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for everyone arriving safely this evening, and please guide everyone safely to their homes and families at the end of the night, in the name of Jesus Christ amen,” template. I choked on my Long Island Iced tea and met my husbands’ eyes across the table, smothering laughter as we shared silent merriment at the LDS prayer over our alcoholic drinks. Later, on the fake beach by the dugout canoes, I found BYU insignia painted on the wall, but I was too drunk to be indignant at my inability to escape the mormons even on vacation.

Near the end of the trip, we got tattoos to commemorate both the honeymoon and our renewed vows. I chose three plumeria blossoms, while my husband chose three sea turtles (each with a different design on the shell). Three to represent our family: Husband, self, and son. Plumeria and sea turtles to represent Hawaii, and new beginnings.

 

My phone sucks

I’d like to take a moment to register my dislike of my Galaxy Note 4, purchased a little over 18 months ago and already incapable of maintaining a charge for a full hour.

It also does not get data connectivity in the same places the phones of my husband and son do, although they also have Samsung phones from the Galaxy line, which are–naturally–utilizing the exact same network and plan mine does.

I loathe planned obsolescence.

Actually, I’d just like to register my distaste for the current dislike situation with cell phone companies and their plans and pricing structures altogether.

Back up a minute, and let’s examine how I got here, using this stupid fucking phone that randomly dies when it claims to have a 61% battery charge and can’t pick up a signal in the goddamn middle of town.

Back in 2003, as new parents/ newlyweds in our second apartment, we had a landline, cable tv, cable Internet, a netflix subscription, and a cell phone. At the time, we decided that on our limited single income of $10/hr, some of these were unnecessary luxuries. We cut out cable tv and the cell phone. Our in-laws–long-haul truckers–wanted to be able to stay in contact in case of emergencies, and provided us with a basic cell on their plan (Verizon).

Eventually we got our own cell through AT&T, and had both the cell and the landline. We stayed with them for a few years, then moved to a different company.

When we bought our house in 2005, we were very careful to make sure there was a cable modem hookup, but we were less careful to look for a landline phone hookup–as a result, we didn’t have a landline for about two years, and we just sort of got used to it. By the time we finally had a landline run to the house, the price of a landline was more than our cell plan, so we shrugged and said fuck it. Haven’t had a landline since.

Cell plans, however, have drastically increased in cost. I imagine they’re far more than a landline cost, at this point. Of course, a landline isn’t a mini-computer that fits in my pocket and allows me to play games, check my email, and surf the internet so … win some, lose some.

Now it’s over 15 years since I first started using a cell, and a decade since we switched 100% away from the landline. Our cell plan is a good contract that is no longer offered to new customers, which we grandfather into each upgrade by not changing our terms. The company is doing their damndest to force us to upgrade out of it because they want to phase it out. As far as I can tell it is one of the last plans available on the U.S market with uncapped data limits/ unlimited texts/ unlimited talk.

Once we’re finally forced off this contract, I don’t plan to sign another contract again, or even stay with the company, because honestly? I don’t think they’re worth the cost. All these companies promise “lightning fast data” or “high speed networks” or “coast to coast coverage,” and they’re all lying.

Just like how we haven’t invested in the necessary infrastructures or regulatory systems to provide quality public transport, high-speed rail, or maternity leave, the US has ended up just kind of lagging when it comes to high-speed cellular networks. Once again, corporations get to reap massive profits while providing substandard goods/ services to US consumers.

It doesn’t matter which company I’m with– high speed cellular service and reliable coverage is a myth in the US. It doesn’t exist. It’s a marketing ploy. It’s just something the companies say to sell their plans and phones, but in the end if you live in an urban area they’re all pretty much the same. So from where I’m standing, none of the companies are worth the cost. They’re all gouging the US consumers, and they’re doing it intentionally.

With the grandfathered everything data plan, we’re getting gouged incrementally less, but eventually that will change.

Were we to switch to a capped data plan (data caps are, by the way, total and complete bullshit in all forms), we’d still be getting fucked as consumers, just without lube. I don’t know that the monthly cell phones will be much better, but at least I won’t be trapped by contract terms intentionally written and upgraded in small-print legalese meant to obfuscate, baffle, and confuse.

On top of shitty networks with shitty coverage, devices are built not to last, and built that way on purpose.

This is especially horrendous considering the 2016 investigations which uncovered the child labor mining operations used to source the cobalt for the lithium batteries in smartphones and laptops made by Samsung, Apple, and Sony. Children as young as 7 years old are working 12 hour days mining cobalt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for less than $2/ day, and the fucking devices aren’t even built to last?

That’s some sick shit right there. Like, everything about it is sick–CEO’s are throwing away lives to build throwaway devices, which they sell to an unwitting populace half a world away as cutting edge, all they can build and hoard more wealth. Like fucking Scrooge McDucks or some shit, utterly unconcerned with the losses of life and increasing environmental trauma which traces in a line of blood and pain directly to their door.

Gross.

I’m disgusted by the entire mess of the US cell phone industry. What on earth is this hot mess? Is there no regulation? Are the children running the schoolhouse? It is utter irrationality … but I guess that’s what happens when, “…economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.” (America is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy or a Republic)

dark humor and controversial comedy

I’ve been watching some comedy specials on Netflix, and I’ve seen a few comedians lately complaining about how they can’t joke about dark and complex topics anymore because people are too sensitive and stupid. This pretty much always precedes a rape joke or riff on language/ why we can’t say the n-word but should be allowed to.

It’s kinda starting to get on my nerves, because I’ll be liking the comedian and getting into his bit, and then all of a sudden this white guy is whining about how he can’t make jokes about race and rape, and it’s … dude, it’s just not a good look. It’s just not.

First off, I think all white guys need to stop with trying to reclaim the n-word. I saw that bit referenced in the linked article by Dave Foley on Netflix, and … yeah, no. It just doesn’t work. Yes, we’ve heard the arguments. Yes, you’ve made some interesting points with the, “it’s just a word,” and “we all think the slur when we read n-word anyway, so we should just say it,” arguments. But no.

It’s like the swastika, guys. The swastika is an Eastern religious symbol with a long and proud history meaning unity and peace, but Hitler fucked that shit up ’round our parts, and now in the West we look at it and immediately think, “Okay, racist shitheads.” So it isn’t getting reclaimed in the West any time soon. The Confederate flag isn’t getting reclaimed any time soon. And the n-word isn’t getting reclaimed (especially not by whites!) anytime soon.

Also, I’m kind of baffled as to why these guys are so adamant about trying to reclaim use of a recognized hate slur, anyway? What the fuck is that about? Like, black people said, “Hey. This term has historically been used to address our people in a really hateful, derogatory, vicious and demeaning manner, often tied to violence and humiliation. The history of that word is weighted with blood. Don’t call us that word,” and collectively, most people were like, “Okay. Gotcha. Fair point.”

I don’t think I’m alone in saying the majority of us are okay with it being absent from our vocabulary. So it’s really embarrassing when a few white guys keep insisting on using it, or trying to “reclaim” it. Like, why the fuck are you trying to reclaim a hate slur?! Stop trying to make it happen, you’re embarrassing the rest of us!

By the way, the arguments they always make? That it’s “just a word,” and that we “heard the word in our head when we read/ hear the n-word, anyway, so why not use the correct word”?

  1. It’s not “just a word”. It’s a hate slur. Words mean things. They communicate things, important things about our intentions and our values and our beliefs, and choosing to use a hate slur communicates something about you.
  2. I actually hear and read “n-word” when I see “n-word”. I can’t speak for how everyone else in the world hears and reads, but for me personally, I do not automatically substitute in the hate slur in question. Also, you could try … not using the slur and/ or substitutions for the slur?

There is one case where I think it might be okay for a white person to use the n-word in its original form, and that is when they are obviously quoting the work of a black artist who chose to use those words. I’ve gone back and forth on that stance, but I’ve landed on it being better to preserve the black artist’s voice than erasing it due to white discomfort.

By the way, there are hilarious comics who address issues of race in really funny, thought-provoking ways. Key & Peele’s Negrotown and Slave Auction (hell, all their stuff is worth watching). Hari Kondabolu on white privilege. Trevor Noah’s bit on how his race is perceived in America and Africa. And here is a list of badass female comedians of color.

The next point is the rape thing. So, again, this is a thing a lot of (white male) comics who are otherwise pretty funny seem to be offended they “can’t talk about.” Specifically, I was watching Netflix specials by Jim Jefferies and Pete Johansson, and they were both killing it, and then they both had this moment where they addressed like rape/ women’s rights issues as a whole, and it kind of hit a flat note.

Not because of their jokes, mind you, or because I thought for a moment either of them were actually condoning abuse or rape. They were both very clear about the fact that they did not condone violence against women or rape, and both came across as pretty feminist. Well, Pete Johansson moreso than Jim Jefferies … you did kind of get the sense from Jefferies bit that he could be a low-key misogynist, but the sort that gets a pass in our society.

By that I mean he’s not the disturbing extremist type of misogynist who wants to shoot up a campus full of women, or believes in biblical head of household/ leadership family structures.

I mean he’s the kind of mainstream misogynist–I guess “soft sexist” who kind of generally assumes the average women is less competent than the average man. Like, if a woman has proven she’s more competent than him, by means of acquiring some sort of accreditation or degree, then yeah. He’s fine agreeing she’s probably more knowledgeable or competent in that area. But from his set, I definitely got the vibe that he’s the type of guy who assumes if you take any average woman and any average guy and give them the same task to do, he thinks the guy will perform it better.

However! I also recognize that might’ve just been his bit–maybe he was relying on stereotypical, gendered material because it gets big laughs from his usual audience. He did reference in the special that his audience was different from normal because of his gun bit, which had gotten him new fans after making the rounds on YouTube. So maybe he’s built his career mining gender jokes to appeal to/ build an audience who does believe women are, generally speaking, more incompetent than men, but he himself doesn’t think that way.

Would that be better, or worse? For a comedian who maybe personally believes that men and women are equally competent to mine gendered material for an audience who buys into the stereotypes? Is it still “just a joke” if they’re not laughing at it, but with it? Anyway, I guess it doesn’t matter, because the point is, whether or not Jefferies thinks women are generally slightly more incompetent than men, he’s also clearly against rape, against domestic violence, and okay with female professionals giving him advice.

Anyway, the thing is, both these comics did spent a fair amount of time complaining about not being able to make rape jokes. Like a good bit of their acts were structured around the rise of “p.c. culture” and how sensitive and whiny people were these days and how they couldn’t even say the word rape without people getting outraged and they’re just so stifling and annoying. This is nothing new. Comics, actors, authors, and artists have been complaining about censorship and critics since time immemorable.

I do think the internet has changed things, honestly. People seem to be whining a lot more about “pc culture” these days, and I suspect it has to do with the immediacy of the internet. A decade ago, when a comic did a piece or gave an interview, it could take hours or weeks for the response to filter in through the lens of critics. Now, comics perform a bit, air a show, or tweet something, and the response from their fans is immediate. Pete Johansson recounts a story about a (former) fan getting some geography wrong in a tweet, being teased by his other fans, and in anger calling them all rapists and flouncing out of the interaction.

I appreciate dark humor, I really do. I also get tired of people whining about pc culture, because, to me, pc culture basically comes down to this: A group of people who are, for whatever reason, a minority in our society, joined their voices and in majority said, “Yeah, could you stop with the thing? We’re really not liking it. It is super offensive for reasons x, y, and z.”

And the rest of us should have said, “Oh, what? We were being offensive with the thing? Fuck, sorry, I didn’t know. Man, I feel like a dick. My bad.” And then we stop.

But instead, as a culture, our response has collectively been something more like, what the fuck. We can’t have the Redskins?! What the fuuuuuuuuuck. Whhhhhyyyyyy. What the fuuuuuck. We can’t use diagnosable illnesses as verbs? You’re telling me mentally ill people have feelings now? Well fuck you, who cares about the crazies anyway? What the fuck. What the fuuuucckkkkkk. Ugh. You people are so unreasonable. 

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Granted, this reaction is probably exacerbated by people such as the former fan described by Johannson–apparently, she described herself as a progressive and feminist (which means, naturally, that people who dislike or are unfamiliar with feminism will slot her and her behavior in as representative of all of us). So there is, admittedly, a problem because:

  1. Minority communities who have experienced systemic discrimination and cultural appropriation at the hands of a dominating and colonizing culture should be respected when a majority of their community agrees, “That thing? Offensive. Stop it.”
  2. Easily offended people of all political stripes ruin things for everyone by being whiny and oversensitive. 

I think the conservative equivalent of the whiny “you can’t say that,” “trigger warning” reactionaries is probably the evangelical bible literalists who’ve got everyone convinced Christianity suuuuucks.

There’s a subtle nuance on the rape joke thing a lot of the comediens don’t seem to get for some reason, and I’m not really sure why.  

I was thinking about that watching Pete Johansson the other night, doing his hilarious bit where he talked about how he and his wife role-played a sexual fantasy. His wife asked him to “rape” her, which he found repellent, but for his wife’s safe agreed. The punchline was that he was an awful rapist.

After finishing the bit, he confessed that he was worried about telling the joke because people are stupid and have knee-jerk reactions, and he’s a white male, blah blah blah. 

I was rolling my eyes a bit, kinda amused at him insulting his audiences’ intelligence, but mostly irritated that he didn’t seem to realize it’s not some knee-jerk reaction to the word “rape”. 

It’s not like feminists react to the word “rape” like vampires do to garlic and religious artifacts. 

I know there are plenty of stupid people out there, but I think the majority of audiences do grasp “context.”

I know male comediens have been tying to “edgily” joke about rape for ages, but I think a lot of the current kerfluffle over “pc rape jokes” is still reverbrating from the Daniel Tosh comedy club moment a few years back, when he literally pointed at a girl heckling him about a rape joke and said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if she was raped by like five guys right now?”

He later tried to pass it off as a joke. Said he was trying to show anything can be funny. I suspect he was inspired by George Carlin, who did that bit about how rape jokes can be funny by telling the audience to imagine Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd. At the shocked/laughing reaction of the audience, Carlin mimes/vocalizes a moment of the imagined cartoon rape, rolling his eyes exaggeratedly, then drops the character to joke that “you know” Elmer Fudd “wanted it,” and he was “asking for it,” because of the way he dressed. 

It wasn’t particularly funny to me., personally. Not Tosh’s, not Carlins. I like both those comediens, normally. I “got” their rape jokes. 

I understood what they were trying to say–the dark humor of it, the juxtaposition of reality and expectation, what they thought was a subversion of expectations and witty commentary.  

I just didn’t find it funny, in large part because it wasn’t subversive, witty, or even original commentary. 

When Carlin joked about Elmer Fudd “asking for it” because of the way he was dressed, it’s not funny because this mindset is so deeply ingrained in our society that judges actually regularly blame pre-teen victims for being raped because of the way they were dressed. That’s not funny. That’s tragic. Oh, you say. That bit is 20, 30, 40 years old. 

That makes it, if anything, more tragic. That the same justifactions Carlin was using to defend rape jokes in the late 70s and early 80s are still in use. That he–an otherwise transfomative, great comedian who spoke to very complex and difficult issues–perpetuated through his humor a popular culture of victim blaming.

When Tosh stood on stage and looked down at a woman heckling him and said, in a roomful of men who admired him, “Wouldn’t it be funny if five guys raped her right now?” and everyone laughed in agreement, I bet it didn’t sound like a joke to her. I bet that sounded scary. Like a threat. Like predators. Like hyenas, cackling in the dark. 

When I watched the video, I felt ice run through my veins. I imagined being her, sitting in that room as a man on stage asks the men in the room how funny it would be if I was gang-raped and they laughed in response, and I would have been scared.

Btw, I’m not defending heckling for a moment. But a bouncer was the solution there, or hell, some cracks about kitchens and sandwiches. Not a rape threat.

When a man jokes about a woman being so attractive he wants to rape her, it’s not funny or a compliment. Phrases like, “I will rape you,” or, “She’s so hot I could rape her,” or, “Which one of these hotties would you rape tonight?” … those aren’t jokes. Those aren’t funny. Those aren’t “dark humor”. That’s the vein of “rape joke” I’m talking about–and I think most women are talking about–when it comes to rape jokes.

I’d add that prison and military rape jokes aren’t funny, either–these things are real, unaddressed, and happening. The attitudes of victim-blaming and silencing that perpetuate rape culture are deeply ingrained in our society and trying to pretend that “everyone accepts” rape is wrong and “everyone is disgusted by it,” when we live in a culture where people happily anticipate people getting raped in prison as “payback” for crimes? Like what the fuck?

Or where the potential of women being raped by their fellow soldiers was an actual argument used against putting them in combat, ignoring the facts that a) they’re already serving with these men, often in unauthorized combat roles, and b) way more men are raped in the military than women, because there are so many more men than women!

ALL THAT BEING SAID. People tell funny rape jokes all the time! The Nation article linked above gave some great examples. Pete Johansson and Jim Jefferies actually both told hilarious rape jokes in their bites, before they went on their whiny rants about how unfair it is that they can’t say rape.

Sarah Silverman, Wanda Sykes, even Louis C.K., after walking back his initial misstep of defending Tosh, have done some really great jokes about rape. Look at this!

Most rapes and sexual assaults are not violent assaults by strangers, but perpetuated by acquaintances, people known to the victim. Louis C.K. is right– statistically, a woman is far more likely to be hurt by a man she knows and trusts than a stranger. Men are more violent than women. We don’t know why, but they are. Is it nature, nurture, biology, socialization? Who knows? For some fuckin’ reason, we aren’t studying it. Sure, women murder and commit violence, but they do it at a fraction of the rate men do.

In the United States, 98% of those who commit mass shootings are male; 98% of the officers who have shot and killed civilians are male; 90% of those who commit homicide by any means are male; and 80% of those arrested for all violent crimes — murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault — are male. — One group is responsible for America’s culture of violence, and it isn’t cops, black Americans, Muslims or rednecks. It’s men (LA Times)

Mind you, I bring this up not because I’m anti-man, or because I think violence is inherent to the gender. I’m one of those who tends to believe the role of biology/ genetics is maybe 45%, 50% of the equation in our personality formation over a lifetime, while things like environment, social location, socialization, nurture/ discipline style, education, and neuroplasticity play the other half. It’s like … eh, basically I don’t really believe in binary sexualities or genders, right? Like, a lot of people seem to think biology is an exact science, like the ingredients mix the same every single time, which is obviously wrong–if that was the case, we wouldn’t have mutations and genetic illnesses and kids with different hair/ skin/ eye color than their parents. We’re not clones.

So sometimes–maybe because of diet or temperature, or stress, or age, or other factors we don’t even know–something happens during conception or pregnancy. Maybe it’s the sperm–maybe it develops a little slow or funny. Or maybe the mom’s body releases a certain hormone a little later or earlier than necessary, or in a higher or lower dose than needed. Whatever the case, something happens and the baby’s genitals form one way–BOY! and the brain another way-GIRL!

I think this is pretty much how it happens for both gender and sexual attraction, to be honest–though for sexual attraction, I tend to think most people are generally kind of capable of being fluid. I think the Kinsey scale has got the sexuality bit pretty well marked, but because humans like categories we tried to divide people into neat sections of “gay” and “straight,” then got really upset and confused when people kept stepping in and out of their boxes, and screaming, “So what are you? Gay? Straight? What? What?”

But people are just people, and sex is fun.

But I really do think it’s a balance. Biology isn’t an exact recipe, it’s a process with all these external factors influencing it, and the end result is influenced heavily by socialization. There was a time when pink and high heels and crying were all seen as manly, but at this particular social moment, they’re coded as effeminate and undesirable traits.

Culture and socialization is weird and complex, I agree, but for some reasons comedians don’t like to focus on those weirdnesses. Instead they want to talk about how weird it is that they can’t say the n-word and misconstrue the ways they’re allowed to talk about rape. I dunno, mang.

I suppose if these comedians really want to joke about rape that badly, they could trying writing their bits solely around male-on-male rape, like joking about how they would handle male rape in prison, or they could watch the video of the Navy guy who was dishonorably discharged for being raped and do a bit about how they would respond if they were the victim in that situation–how they would find the silver lining in being raped out of the military. Or talk about those humiliation rapes done to African men by guerilla troops, some bit about “getting out of the fighting, anyway,” and see how their jokes work then. I would guess they would be less funny to them and more deeply uncomfortable and upsetting, because these are actually happening to other men right now in the world, but maybe I’m wrong. I dunno.

I just feel like there’s a wealth fucked up, and uncomfortable material to mine in gender inequality, even for white men, and a wealth of ways to mine it without relying on tired, sexist stereotypes and victim-blaming, and then defending it as humor and getting angry because the audience didn’t “get the joke.” Maybe the audience got the joke, and it wasn’t very funny.