I woke up in a cold sweat around 3:00 this morning.

I dreamed that the Man Who Would Be President™ did something spectacularly stupid that resulted in a stock market crash (I think the Dow plunged by about 4000 points), and that I was the last person in America to hear about it because I was taking a Twitter break.

I am not at all amused that I now have dreams of this sort.

America first (alternate interpretation)

As some of you may know, I was awarded Canadian permanent resident status several years ago. My ex and I had applied before we parted ways; he was granted status on points and I was approved as his common-law spouse (marriage not being an option in the US at that point). As Canada actually operates under a sane and rational immigration policy, my status was not affected by the fact that we subsequently ceased to be a couple.

I eventually opted against emigrating. There were several reasons. I had a very good job which I really loved (still have it and still love it) and I was unable to find anything remotely comparable in Canada. I had family commitments here. I also had a firm belief that, no matter how bad things got, America would ultimately end up on the right track. I felt it was important to stay here and be part of the process, and to lead by example–as presumptuous as that may sound. For many of the same reasons, I have stayed in North Carolina as the political climate here has grown increasingly grim in the past few years.

My faith has really been shaken since the election in November. As I’ve watched the horrors that have unfolded over the past few weeks, I’ve questioned by decision not to abandon my country many times. But I don’t regret my decision. I still believe that America will ultimately do the right thing, and I believe this will happen because reasonable people (the majority of Americans) will stay here, will speak up, will resist at what ever level they are able, and will remain visible and vigilant against a paranoid and exclusionary minority led by a very noisy sociopath

We are currently entering one of the darkest periods in American history. If any good can come from this, it will be that reasonable Americans (again, the majority of us) will recognize how important it is to participate in our governance, whether by active protest, by financial support for theguardians of freedom for all, or even just by becoming more actively involved in the electoral process

Not everyone has to march, but everyone has to do something if we’re going to get out of this with our country intact.

About 2016

A lot of people are celebrating the demise of 2016 as if an arbitrary calendar event were the root of all the world’s problems. I agree that it’s been a pretty rough year in many ways, but…

The fact that many well-known celebrities died this year is not really all that unusual. What is unusual is that a few of these deaths were perhaps more unexpected and higher profile than the norm, which resulted in very intense scrutiny not just of the “big and newsworthy” deaths but of all the celebrity deaths that took place this year. And the rock and roll generation is aging, which means that (surprise!) a lot of its members will be dying over the next few years. It’s sad, but it’s also statistically unavoidable.

All these deaths probably did not have anything to do with Brexit or the catastrophic shitshow that was the 2016 American election cycle. It’s tempting to believe this because of the current state of media in the U.S. and worldwide, where a 24-hour “news” cycle has led to a form of pseudojournalism that is more about hype and perceived outrage and “sharability” than about actual facts or (Great Pumpkin forbid) context.

All in all, was 2016 really any demonstrably “worse” than any other year?

For Americans and Brits, maybe (although it may pale in comparison with 2017), but for most of the rest of the world, probably not. Which is not to say that it was a good year (ask any Syrian you run across) but that it was maybe not all that much worse than its predecessors in most cases.

And for some of us, it was pretty good on a personal level–at least when we weren’t thinking about politics or dead people. I made tenure this year and accomplished quite a lot, both personally and professionally. I travelled a lot, read good books, and ate decent food. And 2016 marked for me the first time in many years that i really felt like I had my shit together pretty danged well. I like myself a lot better than I ever have before. And that’s what I plan to concentrate on.

A lot of things really sucked this year and will really suck next year. The task at hand is to do what you can about it. but also to find your happiness where you can. New Year’s resolutions are kind of stupid in my book, but if you have to have one, that might be a good example.

About that whole “passing” thing…

(Sorry. Another repurposed social media post.)

Even though I’ve pretty much been “out” (sometimes quite obnoxiously so) since I was about 17, there are a few people who have accused me of “not being gay enough” over the years. I assume it’s because I dress like a slob, because I like indie rock bands more than I like dance music, or because my personal obsessions often tend to be more geeky than “fabulous.” It bothers me that their definition of what a gay person can or should be is so narrow and limited.

My apparent gay culture deficiency notwithstanding, I have NEVER had much patience for closets or “passing.” I have always shuddered anytime someone said “I never would’ve guessed you were gay” as if that were some kind of compliment. (Clue: It’s not.) The fact that I don’t identify with the entire marketing campaign does not mean I am not happy with who I am.

This article addresses the issue of “passing” among Jewish people, but there are some significant lessons here for newly complacent LGBTQ people as well. Make no mistake about it. This is NOT the time for staying silent, for “passing”, or for staying in the closet. The next few years are maybe the most important time in recent history to be EXACTLY who you are, and also to assert both YOUR right to be that person and the rights of everyone ELSE in the room to do so as well. And if it makes some people uncomfortable? Tough.

Remembrance Day

(Apologies for another recycled social media post.)

I was sitting in a diner in Niagara Falls this morning having a late breakfast. The Remembrance Day ceremonies were playing on the TV, and when they came to the moment of silence, everyone in the restaurant, including the servers stopped in their tracks and silently looked up at the screen. 
It was not obnoxious or jingoistic, just a quiet and reflective display of respect. I found it quite moving. But it also made me worry that my fellow Americans might be losing the knack for such dignified displays, particularly in light of this week’s election.

But yeah, I’m still coming back…

Fixing the funk

I was in kind of of a post-election funk most of the morning (sort like everyone I know, not to mention the entire population of Canada) so I drove across the river to Gatineau, which allowed me to feel like I was in even more of a foreign country. Back to Ottawa for lunch and some exploration in Westboro and another stroll around By Ward Market. Meatloaf and pie in a diner, followed by “The Wrong Man” (the Hitchcock film, not the one we just elected) at the ByTowne Cnema, a 70-year-old theater that just happened to be right next door to my hotel. I was feeling better by the end of the day.

What the world needs now

The less said about the American election today the better. I spent the day in the warm, fuzzy embrace of the Canadian capital. Roamed around the Glebe, hit a few bookstores, took a very long stroll downtown by Parliament and by Library and Archives Canada, and had a lovely dinner at a Thai place on Bank Street. I swore I wasn’t going to watch the election returns, preferring to wake up on Wednesday with the outcome set, one way or another. That plan didn’t work, alas…

Election Day

Long Facebook post I’m repurposing here as well. Sorry if you’ve already read it…

On this U.S. Election Day, I am in Ottawa, the national capital of Canada (I voted early for the first time this year). People here are very apprehensive about what may happen today, me and so am I. If you have convinced yourself that one candidate is “no better” than the other, you clearly have not been paying attention. Perhaps more than in any recent election, there is a very clear choice here, between an America that is paranoid, racist, and governed by irrational fear, and one that is positive, inclusive, and will try to protect the basic rights of all its inhabitants. Is there a perfect candidate? No. There never is. But there is really only one candidate who is worthy of serious consideration by reasonable people.

And in North Carolina, the choice is just as clear. A vote for the current regime demonstrates that you do not care about me and other LGBT individuals in the state, about protecting the rights of other minority voters, about maintaining educational excellence, nor about attracting new businesses to the state.

The ball is in your court. Vote. Make the choice that suits your beliefs. But don’t let some stupid notion about there not being a real choice convince you that voting doesn’t matter (that’s just lazy) or that a “protest vote” helps anyone at a time like this.

Enough. I’m off to have a big Canadian breakfast and to enjoy a beautiful day in Ottawa.

The 8th of November, eh?

With my passport fail now in the process of being corrected, I have decided that I will indeed make my autumn excursion to Canada, even though it will be later in the season than I prefer, resulting in a cooler and darker journey than usual.

It will also mean I will be outside the country on Election Day, which seems like a really safe and sane option.

Of course I will vote before I leave. But I will avoid the whole American scene the day and night of the election, and that makes me really happy. I can hear about the winner on the CBC, which makes things seem much more civilized. (You can rest assured that the Canadian media will cover the U.S. election far more completely than the U.S. media have ever covered a Canadian one.) And if the fires start, I’ll sit them out at a shawarma joint on Bloor Street somewhere.

Better still, if I’m in Canada and the unthinkable occurs, I will be better positioned to decide whether or not to come home.

So look for me in a Canada near you come early November.

Hard choices

The upcoming U.S. Presidential election is probably the most important vote most of us have faced in our lifetimes. The two candidates–and let’s be honest and admit that there are only two viable candidates–represent vastly different future paths for our country. If you want to have your say in which path we choose, making your choice is essential.

It is tempting for some people to vote for one of the alternate candidates (which in most states means Jill Stein or Gary Johnson) as a “protest” vote, or because of a sincere belief in their message. This is everyone’s right, but I would ask those of you who choose to exercise this right to be honest with yourselves. You are essentially choosing to abstain from the process. You are choosing not to make a choice at all until there is a “perfect” choice for you.

Let’s be honest here. Neither Gary Johnson nor Jill Stein will ever be elected President. Period. No matter how much you want it, no matter how much you complain about the structural inequities of the two-party system, no matter how much you blame the media, and no matter how unfair you think it is, it is not going to happen. If a third party ever emerges as a significant force in American politics, it will be because its builds support from the ground up through local and state elections, and not because it insists on pushing a spoiler Presidential candidate every four years. Do I hope this eventually happens? Yes. Has it happened yet? Clearly not.

Don’t want to limit yourself to a choice between the lesser or two evils? Tough. We all do it every day. We are all faced with choices where neither option is ideal. We either choose one or we don’t choose at all. The former requires some front-loaded effort and also carries the risk of being the wrong choice. The latter requires much less front-loaded effort and in most cases is always the wrong choice. “Benign neglect” is generally not the best option for most situations, and I argue that voting for a candidate with no chance of being elected is more or less a form of benign neglect. Except that it isn’t always so benign–by not making the choice between two electable candidates, you also cause damage to the one of these two who might be the best match for you.

A few years ago when my mom developed dementia and my dad was unable to care for her, we had several choices. The two realistic ones were that we could move her to a facility where she would be cared for or that we could get him some help to care for her at home. Neither choice was particularly palatable, both for financial and emotional reasons. But they were really the only two options that would effect any sort of result. That’s not to say there were no other options. We could, for example, have prayed and “put it in God’s hands.” A lot of people choose this option, and while it makes them feel morally satisfied that they’re “making a statement” of their faith, it generally does not produce any result at all, because it is a decision not to make a realistic choice.

We realized, however, that refusing to choose one of the viable options and waiting until there was some theoretical option we liked better would make things exponentially worse and would be a danger to all parties involved. So we chose from among two options that we didn’t like. We had to. We were not happy about it. But abstaining from this difficult decision was not a luxury we had.

If you’re being honest with yourself, a vote for Stein or Johnson is at best a statement that you are not satisfied with a flawed  process. Unfortunately, it is also a statement that you refuse to be a part of that flawed process by supporting whichever of the two electable candidates best matches your values. You essentially have chosen not to decide. Again, it’s your right, but I would argue that it is neither particularly courageous nor particularly principled. And it’s maybe just a little lazy because it involves making the easy choice that will have no effect rather than making the difficult choice that will have an effect one way or the other.

My perspective is, admittedly, that of someone who has made a choice between the two candidates and does not consider my choice “the lesser of two evils” in any way. Is my candidate a perfect match for me? No. Is any candidate ever a perfect match for anyone? Probably not, because that would pretty much require as many candidates as there are voters for each office. But I am happy with my choice and I know that my candidate also has a chance of actually being elected.

If you sincerely believe in you candidate, that’s great. It is your right to vote for whichever candidate you choose. But at least be honest enough to recognize and acknowledge the end result of your choice. Or lack thereof…