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In season four of Friends, Phoebe, a vegetarian who’s pregnant with her brother’s babies (don’t worry, she’s a surrogate), starts to desperately crave meat.  Joey, known for his love of meatball subs and pepperoni pizza, offers a karmic, equal exchange with his friend; he’ll give up meat until the babies are born, so that Phoebe can satisfy her yearning. This way, no extra animals will die, and Phoebe can eat them without much guilt.

I’m proposing a similar exchange in our efforts to support each other as activists against most of what the new Republican administration in the United States is lodging. From banning refugees, to appointing incompetence, racists, and misogynists to key advisory and cabinet positions, to threatening to build billion dollar walls across our border, to the Dakota Pipeline, to impending LGBT discriminatory legislation, cuts to the arts, wiping of climate data from government sites, and on and on, this regime has come out with their guns blaring against progress and most of what makes being human have meaning. In states like New Hampshire, we also have new threats like “Right-to-Work (for less)” and our own version of Betsy DeVos pending.  Many are beginning to realize that this rapid on slaughter against all that we hold as valuable is no accident of trying to accomplish too much too soon. This is a calculated attempt to distract and wear down those of us committed to fight. We cannot let this happen.

But, we’re exhausted. So what can we do?

Last week, I had an appointment with my PCP. This was just a week or so after we’d glanced over and realized we were standing next to each other at the Women’s March in Concord. We knew each other’s politics and most of my visit was about how the current political climate was affecting my well-being. She reminded me to keep a slow, steady anger brewing, so that I do not fall into despair and inaction. I believe she was also giving this advice to herself. At the end of the visit, she  encouraged me to take occasional time off from news and prescribed Zoloft. She’s worried about my serotonin levels.

So, what does this all have to do with Joey, Phoebe, and Friends you may be asking? Well, let me tell you. We’ve all got to be willing to let someone else figuratively give up eating meat for us for a day or a week or maybe more, so that we can take care of ourselves.

As activists, let’s support each other by offering to hold up the torch for those who need a news-free weekend, or cannot take the day off to attend a deliberative session or a protest rally. I know that I can turn off news notifications for a day, if  I’ve got others paying attention while I’m not. And I, in turn, will do for others.

There is a post traveling around Facebook about how musicians carry a long note and cover for each other so that they have the chance to breath while singing. We must breath. We must support each other. We must persist and resist.

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Now I know, better

Than ever, why you exist.

(Tyranny, Militia, and the like)

 

So, my question becomes

What will be my weapon

Of choice: Poetry

or an AR-15?

 

This morning I laced-up

My Doc Martens.

Your mother wears combat boots.

Poets are the unacknowledged legislatures of the world.

~Percy Bysshe Shelley

 

Spray paint it on the wall, black

can and a stencil worthy

of the death penalty.

 

Art, when illegal, is the only force

that’ll get us through. Williams

and Shelley knew well the danger

 

of the word. When words

penetrate a scull

fortified by propaganda is

 

(lies, and repetition, and fallacies)

antipoetry. And

the men with the guns

 

and the butter

 

will clomp a menace up the stairs

to your carefully decorated apartment-

right out of an 80s music video on MTV.

 

Then, will you hide behind gauzy

drapes or greet them

with your machete of words

and watercolors?

All you have fought for is

Threatened by a choice.

I just keep thinking

Of Rome burning

 

While Nero played.

In history the little men –

The classic narcissists:

Hitler, Napoleon –

 

Could not understand public service

Means in the service

Of others.

 

Vanity leads

His followers to doom

As those who know

The past

Watch in terror;

Their cities spark and boom,

and flare and crackle,

As he throws  on gun powder

And lighter fluid.

 

Buildings lit with amber

Fold in on  themselves,

Towers crumble like we

Have seen before.

 

And the narcissist

plays his trumpet

and strokes his ego

like a pet.

In 1991 my husband, Doug,was enrolled as a Plant Science and Conservation major at the University of Maine in Orono. He walked into the first day of his Soils and Vegetation class that fall a little early. A few other male students had also arrived. When the professor, an older male, walked in he looked around the classroom noting that none of the female students on his roster had arrived yet and declared, “Oh good! No sluts here yet.”

Doug didn’t speak up at first, but sat in horror as each young woman entered the room, notebook and pen in hand, and ready to learn. When the class ended, he immediately went to the Dean of Life Science and Agriculture to report the incident. The Dean informed him that since the professor was close to retirement, they would take no action against him.  I would like to think that today, twenty-five years later, we have made enough progress that the school would do something when a young man steps forward as an ally to the young women with whom he is sharing an education, but I’m not so sure.

This fall my daughter, my niece, and many of my female students will start college in the United States where each of them will statistically have a  1 in 4 chance of being the victim of sexual assault while a student there.

When Donald Trump refers to his recently leaked remarks about women as “just words” or  simple locker-room talk and when others defend him and claim that all men talk like that, they are doing damage to more than the orange tyrant’s campaign. Words spoken from the podium have power not only over how young women view themselves, but  over how young men view them as well.

The other day in my high school English class, Hillary’s Mirrors ad started before a Youtube clip that I was about to show to my students. As the commercial played a few boys in the class said things like, “Yah, Trump’s the man.” As I tried to pause the commercial, I failed to address the incident in a meaningful, teachable moment sort of way; these days, the political realm is so contentious, teachers are afraid to discuss the election. I now realize, however, that not only did I let down every young woman in that room, I also let down those young Trump supporters as well.

When I return to school this week, I will address not only what happened in class, but the ways in which words like those spoken by Trump are harmful to our world and have long reaching effects on the ways that women and men view themselves and each other. They must understand that actions such as domestic violence and rape can result from such contempt. The Representation Project

We need to teach young men to not only respect women, but to stand up for them when they can. Each time a man nods and smiles or laughs at disparaging comments about women without speaking out against them, he’s condoning them.

Where I teach, our feminist club is advised by a cis-gender, straight, male teacher. What a wonderful modeling of allyship for the girls and boys we educate. As much as some are claiming it, it is false that all men talk like that. Some do. Others listen to it. And some speak out against it and work with us to make things better for the women of this world.

King

The universal blanket
stretches taught. How
can one thread diverge
like this? Pull

him from the weave,
as he snipped and tortured another.
In this jungle, we all sleep
a little colder tonight.

The world desires
justice over mercy. He gave
none. (Save that gunshot,
a beheading to end
a leaky 40-hour trek.)
Pose

with your kill; men
fall face down in our streets.
Their mothers are
howling. My baby, my

baby, my life
is what it is.

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