Sunday, June 24, 2018

Weekend Diversion: Years & Years

It’s not unusual for me to first hear some music that’s new to me on television. It could be on our free-to-air music video channel, background music on an ad, all of which I’ve shared on this blog. Today I’m sharing an artist I heard on a TV show this past Friday.

On Fridays I watch The Graham Norton Show on a free-to-air channel, and it turns out the episode I watched originally aired on Monday of that week (alternative video). I had no idea they aired so quickly in New Zealand. Each week there’s a musical act, and this week it was Years & Years performing “If You're Over Me” (official video up above). It’s from their new album, Palo Santo, to be released July 6.

The group formed in London in 2010, with Olly Alexander becoming the lead singer when he was 20. The group’s first album, Communion, went to number one in their native UK, and number 5 in Australia. The biggest selling single from that album, “King”, also hit number one in the UK, number nine in Australia, and number 14 on the US dance charts. I don’t know know whether their music has charted in New Zealand, but, regardless, I’d never heard of them or Olly until I watched The Graham Norton Show.

This is "King":

Finally, because I like to share three videos of an artist when I can, the last video for today is their second best-performing song from Communion, “Shine”. It reached number two in the UK, number fifteen in Australia, and number 45 on the US Dance Chart:

I like most pop music, at least a bit, and I like what I’ve heard of Years & Years. I of course like that Olly is out and proud as a gay man, and especially how that really doesn’t matter. So, really, I most of all like the fact we live in a world where Years & Years can be successful.

Opening doors

Many people on the Left are hailing the ad above as “the best political ad ever”. There’s no disputing that the ad is very, very well made. In that sense, yes, it IS among the best political ads. But is it effective?

This ad, “Doors”. is actually not so much an ad, in the traditional sense, as it is a long-form introduction to MJ Hegar, a Democrat running against an incumbent teabagger Republican Congressman. I have no idea what the politics of MJ (as she always calls herself) are, and the video doesn’t really tell us. But she certainly comes across as tough—“a badass”, as Democrats on social media put it.

It’s probable that later ads will flesh out the issues she’s running on, but these days style often wins out over substance, anyway, so shorter versions of this film as ads that can be shown on television may be enough to win support. I have no idea what that district is like or what would work there, after all. But if the ads are made as well as this long video was, that will be a good start.

There is a temptation to hail ANY Democrat as being better than ANY Republican, though our friends on the Leftward side of Left would never agree with that any more than any Republican would. I suspect, however, that Leftists are less of an issue in that district than in others.

What we need are Democrats who can take the battle directly to Republicans and defeat them on their own issues. A decorated combat veteran sounds like a good idea for a district in Texas, someone who, there, too, can open doors. I guess we’ll know soon enough.

MJ Hegar's YouTube Channel may eventually have more ads posted to it.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

'Faceversary' musing

Yesterday was my “Faceversary”, the name that Facebook gives for the anniversary of when someone first joined (June 22, 2007 was mine). The graphic above is the opening still from the video that Facebook makes for people’s Faceveraries, something that actually fascinates me because it automates what it picks up and puts into “slots” in the video format (in fact, it’s basically the same video as last year’s.

As it happens, the day before that I saw several Facebook friends complaining about “all the politics” on Facebook. Yesterday I got my usual email alert from Statista about the success of various Apps that Facebook owns (that graphic is below). Funny when worlds collide like that, no matter how slightly or unimportantly.

The reactions to “all the politics” varied from urging people to be kinder to each other right though to announcements of “muting” people (a way of hiding what friends post for a short time) to get away from political posts “from all sides”. I understand the impulses at play, but not completely.

First, and easiest, people really should be kinder to other people. Even when they know the person they’re being unkind to, and especially when they don’t, they don’t know what might be going on at that very moment with the person they’re being unkind to. I don’t think it’s worth it to run the risk of making things worse for someone by being unkind to them.

The other issue is that too many people think that their ideological or political adversaries are the exact opposite of themselves. But most people share common concerns at the most basic level: Food, shelter, safety. We may see the problems and solutions completely differently, but we very often we start from a similar—possibly even the same—place. Yet we constantly lose sight of that.

People are people, and I doubt any human is capable of being kind 100% of the time. At any moment we might lose our patience for whatever reason, or just not have our rhetorical brakes engaged. The point is that we should strive to be kind to other people when we can, recognising it won’t happen all the time.

Being kind is how we ought to treat others in general, and not just when it comes to politics. Talking about sports, movies, TV shows, books, restaurants—literally anything can lead people to say unkind things to others. So, I don’t think it makes sense to talk about being kind to others only within the context of politics.

While I can understand exhortations to be kinder, I can’t really understand why people get so upset about what other people post. My own Facebook friends post all sorts of things, and if they post something I don’t like or disagree with (for whatever reason), I can “hide” that post and I won’t see it again. I’ve done that a lot over the years.

But “muting” someone means we don’t want to see the authentic person. What people post is an expression of what concerns them, and collectively posts show the current zeitgeist as well as history unfolding in real time. Hiding all posts from someone means we’re missing out on seeing and knowing what is important to the people we know.

To be clear, I’m not talking about people who are abusive or who say horrible things. For people like that, “unfriending” and blocking is always an option, but that’s a pretty brutal solution. Instead, we can unfollow their posts if we don’t want to see their stuff but don’t want to “unfriend” them (like because of some sort of close personal connection to us). And, if someone seems obsessed about a subject, one can still “mute” them temporarily.

What I don’t understand is the need some people have to publicly announce they’re doing that, even when they don’t mention names. While it might give a suggestion to someone else, it can also end up being a not-too-subtle warning to people to censor themselves so the same fate doesn’t happen to them.

Several years ago, something like that happened to me, and because of that, I all but stopped posting anything about politics on my personal Facebook. At the time, it was because I didn’t want to upset people who disagreed with me, but I've continued that. Anyone who wants to know what I think about political things can read this blog, the AmeriNZ Facebook Page (where I do share political things), or even send a message to ask me about something, as friends do from time to time. So, in my case, it wasn’t total self-censorship.

I still rarely post anything political on my personal Facebook. That self-censorship means that anyone reading what I post there, arguably, isn't seeing the authentic me because there’s so much more that they never see.

That’s been on my mind a lot lately because these days people I know feel very strongly about various current events (I do, too), and they need to post stuff expressing what they think and feel (I do, too). I think that’s great, regardless of whether I agree with them or not, and I get a chance to see where their passions are, and the issues that people are concerned about.

By leaving politics off my personal Facebook, I’ve created a (mostly) “politics free” zone for myself, and these days that’s kind of nice, especially considering how utterly toxic Twitter and the public parts of Facebook have become.

The problem is that in some ways I feel like I’m “cheating” by effectively hiding the real me and using my other outlets for politics, something those who disagree with me can completely ignore if they want to—and they probably do. Is my choosing to do that the same as someone “muting” my personal Facebook posts? Pretty much, yes. But in my case I’m making the choice, not letting them make it for me. I don’t know if I made the “right” choice, but, regardless, I made the choice.

Besides, for all I know, they may have already muted or unfollowed me for other reasons. It happens all the time and we usually have no idea.

When I joined Facebook 11 years ago, MySpace—which I was also on—was the biggest social network. In April 2008, however, Facebook pulled head, and MySpace began its fall. Nothing has emerged since to pose a threat to Facebook’s social media dominance, which is a problem. The chart below shows how much Facebook, as well as all its Apps, absolutely dwarf Twitter, Pinerest, and Snapchat. At the moment, that seems unlikely to change.

A lot has happened to and on Facebook since I joined, including the fact that I now use it every day, and Twitter very seldom. Not so very long ago, it was the other way around. Since I joined Facebook, we’ve gone through three US Presidential elections, four New Zealand General Elections, four NZ local elections, four Australian federal elections, plus the Australian marriage equality postal survey, three UK General Elections, plus Brexit, the Irish marriage equality referendum, and so much more, including many things that weren’t at all political, of course—and people have talked about all of them.

Whatever we may think, that will continue for some time to come.

Infographic: Facebook Dominates Social Media | StatistaApplications left to right: Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram (all owned by Facebook), Twitter, Pinterest, and Snapchat. You will find more infographics at Statista.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Internet Wading: Devices, aliens, and a birth

Infographic: America's Smartphone Addiction | Statista

Time to wade into the wonderful warm waters of the Internet for some more interesting, quirky, or annoying things I ran across this month, things that would never make a blog post of their own. If, you know, I was actually blogging regularly. Still, here we go with anotgehr outbreak of worryitis.

There was a lot of hoopla in the news in NZ recently, as there is from time to time, about device addiction. Much of it comes across as the news media obsessing about some health condition they just heard about (or, maybe, made up?) or sinply forgot they already obsessed about that same topic many times before. The graphic up top about “America’s device addiction” clearly represents survey data, but it also nevertheless carries the feeling of the original survey’s silent handwringing and pearl-clutching, the sort of thing the newsmedia feeds off of.

The NZ Herald held up a moral champion in a story “Teen's smartphone addiction: 'I only slept three hours a night'”. The Herald gives us a warm, fuzzy anti-device ending to the story. Whew! But hey, we mustn’t worry about phones and tablets alone! “Gaming addiction declared a mental disorder”. The bottom line, though, is that some people do, indeed, struggle with over-dependence on electronic devices and technology of one sort or another. But the newsmedia seems incapable of separating them from people who may use technology “too much”, but who can just as easily move on. An honest discussion of the issues is good, moral panics are not, and neither is demonising people because someone somewhere thinks they use their electronic device “too much”.

Now on to some real science: “New Scientific Theory For Origin Of Octopuses: They’re Aliens”. Well, of course they are. Duh! Or, how about “NASA Releases 4K Video Of The Moon Ending The Moon Landing Conspiracy”, because nothing stops a conspiracy theory as effectively as facts and evidence, right?

On to the Arts! “21 Books You’ve Been Meaning To Read”, because who doesn’t need to feel inadequate about something else in their lives? On the other hand, “Ivan Albright’s meticulous attention to the human body continues to be an inspiration to young artists” talking about a painter and his works. Fascinating, even though I’d personally never heard of him before.

This one defies categories, really. It’s just kinda interesting-ish: “27 Perfect Coincidences That Were Luckily Captured on Camera”.

June is LGBT+ Pride Month in the Northern Hemisphere, with all the related talk about history and culture, such as this article about Baron Von Steuben: “The American Revolution’s Greatest Leader Was Openly Gay”. What fascinates me about such stories is the extent to which historians will work hard to downplay the reality of historic figures’ lives and the reality—or even possibility—of their homosexuality. I first became aware of that when I was reading about Walt Whitman and saw that historians denied the obvious homoeroticism in his poetry, or the evidence about Whitman’s sexuality.

There were others, too. For example, many years ago I saw a workshop of a play about England’s King Edward II and his relationship with Piers Gaveston. It was the first time I’d ever heard of any gay kings. Since then, I’ve read about King William II, King James I (who was also James VI of Scotland), and others. Related: “The secret history of the gay Kings and Queens of England”.

What all these people have in common is the need that some heterosexual scholars have to “de-gay” people in the past. It denies LGBT+ people our history and our culture, but, worse, by erasing us from history, it also perpetuates the political myth that LGBT+ people are something new, and it’s some sort of fad.

Some politicians clearly don’t get it. In New Zealand, Judith Collins, widely expected to challenge Simon Bridges for the leadership of the National Party sooner or later, got in trouble for “liking” a Tweet that mentioned gays as a negative thing: “Judith Collins apologises for liking 'hugely disappointing' tweet about Labour's 'gays'”. Thing is, Judith has a history: She voted in favour of marriage equality, but she also voted against all three readings of the Civil Unions Act in 2004. In March, 2005, she voted to re-legalise discrimination against LGBT+ New Zealanders. In December of that year, she voted to define marriage as being one man/one woman (I talked about the 2004/5 votes in a post in 2011). She appears to have evolved in recent years, which is great—sincerely. But this incident suggests she’s not all the way there yet.

But forget all that, the biggest news of the month (Year? Millennium?) is that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has had her baby! “'Welcome to our village wee one': PM Jacinda Ardern gives birth to a baby girl”. The way things are going in the world, and especially certain parts of it, it’s nice to have something nice to focus on, if only for a moment. [See also: “Birth of PM's baby makes international headlines”].

So, with the Prime Minster’s (and New Zealand’s) waiting over, that’s enough wading, too.

The graphic up top is a "Chart of the Day" infographic from Statista.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Maybe progress

On any health journey there may sometimes be good news, other times bad news, and lots of times deliver wait and see news. That’s what I have today, but, despite myself, I’m very hopeful. It could be that a truly awful year may soon end.

For the past year I’ve been struggling on beta blockers because of the often severe fatigue they cause, along with the problems with memory and focus/concentration. They’re the reason I haven’t been up to blogging or podcasting or any of the other things I want to do. Which is why I say it’s been a terrible year for me. Truth is, it’s been worse for Nigel who hasn’t had ME for the past year.

Today I saw a cardiologist in private practice, which, while expensive, was a very good move. Waiting for an appointment in the public system could take months, and this particular cardiologist is a specialist in heart rhythm.

This whole sub-journey began, as I explained last November, after a third tachycardia incident, which means I had an unusually fast heartbeat. The after-hours medical centre I went to put me on beta blockers, and everything started then.

Since then, I’ve changed drugs and dosage, with no real improvement in how I felt, even if the specific problem went away. After I saw my new GP back in March, I wrote:
I knew that people who’ve had a heart attack are put on the drug to help their heart heal. I didn't have a heart attack. I also knew that they’re used for irregular heatbeat (and migraines, even). But it turns out that when someone has a heart attack, part of their heart is damaged, as we all probably know, and when someone has a blockage like I did, part of their heart is weakened. As a result, one half of the heart isn’t strong enough and has trouble keeping up with the healthy part.

Beta blockers slow down the heart, ideally to no more than 70bpm or so, so that that weakened part can keep up with the strong part. This is almost certainly a permanent requirement (or until new treatments become available). So, she said, the trick is finding a beta blocker that balances the life-saving properties with having a life.
The problem with all that is that it robbed me of energy and mental focus, and when I did something that made my heartrate got up, I felt absolutely terrible afterward, almost anxious, even. It affected literally every aspect of my life.

Today the cardiologist explained that it is standard practice when someone has a heart attack, but I never had one. In my case, they wouldn’t necessarily prescribe beta blockers unless an ultrasound scan of my heart showed a problem. No scan was done when the stent was done, and I don’t know why it wasn’t. But because it wasn’t, there’s no proof that half my heart is weakened, particularly since my ECG shows normal heart rhythm.

The cardiologist also said that certain calcium channel blockers are good for my particular kind of tachycardia because, in addition to controlling the rhythm, the drugs have fewer side effects than beta blockers, and nothing as bad as they have. Based on the evidence, there doesn’t seem to be a reason why I have to be on beta blockers.

One can’t just stop beta blockers, though, so I’m to cut the dosage in half—to ¼ tablet—for two weeks, then start the calcium channel blocker. This may be manageable with drugs alone, but, if not, there’s a surgical option to fix the tachycardia, because, as he put it, it’s basically “a wiring problem”. However, right now there’s no reason to assume that will be necessary.

The bottom line is that I should soon start to get my life back, with more energy and better mental function. I have no idea how long that will take, but I’m more excited about that than worried about tachycardia returning. And if the new drug can keep that in check, then I’ll definitely have my life back.

For the past year, I’ve been completely aware of my age—and often feel older than I really am. That’s not because of actual age or ageing, it’s because of the prescriptions I’ve been on. But now it really feels possible this may be about to end.

Right now, having what may be progress is a very big deal.

Important note: This post is about my own personal health journey. My experiences are my own, and shouldn’t be taken as indicative for anyone else. Similarly, other people may have completely different reactions to the same medications I take—better or worse. I share my experiences because others may have the same or similar experiences, and I want them to know that they’re not alone. But, as always, discuss your situation and how you’re feeling openly, honestly, and clearly with your own doctor, and always feel free to seek a second opinion from another doctor.

Scheduled outage

Yesterday the electricity lines company had what they called a “scheduled power outage” in our area for an entire day. The fact that it was planned didn’t make it any easier to deal with, but I found ways to minimise the disruption.

We received a notice in the mail dated May 28, which was unusual in itself because we hardly ever get any mail. This actually made it more noticeable. The outage was to be from around 8am to 3pm, or the next day if weather didn’t cooperate.

Monday night, I double checked the letter. I was planning on making a trip to Pukekohe the next day to fill part of the time. Tuesday was also rubbish day, so I planned on getting up a little early yesterday morning to get it all together for Nigel to drop off at the kerb on his way to work.

So, Wednesday dawned, I got up and got the rubbish ready, then sent Nigel on his way. I came back into the house to feed the furbabies their breakfast, realised I needed to get some more dog food from downstairs, got back to the kitchen and the lights went out. It was 8:01am.

I’d forgotten all about the outage, so I hadn’t had my shower, and with no powere that meant no water. Uh oh. I fed the furbabies and tried to figure out what I was going to do.

A few household chores—emptying the dishwasher, taking recyclables out to the bin (that’s collected next week), and a little surfing the web on my phone (since we had no power, there was also no wifi).

I tried the tap, and there was water. I guessed that either they’d put a generator on the water pump for our area, or the shutdown was very specific to our area.

That meant I could have a cold water wash at the bathroom sink (being a cool day, I was confident this wasn’t too risky…), so I did that and off I went to Pukekohe.

When I got out on the road, I saw the workers, and that the work was related to the new subdivision, so it’s possible it was a very local outage.

In Pukekohe, my first objective was lunch because I didn’t have any before I left (I hadn’t wanted to open the fridge at home—that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). I picked up a tool for an upcoming project, then exchanged a couple things I picked up the other day, and then some things from the grocery store. That last one was related to the day because I bought a small bag of ice.

Once home, around 2pm, I put some of the ice in a bowl in the fridge, and the rest in the freezer, both to bump up the cold. Then—nothing. I had nothing else planned.

At 3:31 the power finally came back on.

Because there was no power, and so, no Internet, I nixed the idea of blogging in the day time (I wasn’t sure how much battery power my laptop had, and, anyway, I usually need to check something or other online. By the time evening rolled around, I just didn’t have it in me to do any posts.

This was a good thing. I’d written two posts the day before, neither of which I wanted to publish. They were too mean, too mocking, too pointless. But in light of some of my posts lately about LGBT+ people, the irritation bordering on anger was justified. I did a third post that was similarly too harsh, but that one may reappear in an edited/rewritten form at some point.

So, the power outage was planned, and so, too, was my blogging outage. I know the latter was for the best, and I presume the first was, too. Sometimes these things are necessary.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Is the end justified by the meanness?

The current occupant of the White House is dividing American families and friends in unprecedented ways, splintering and dividing the country to an extent it has never been before, with the possible exception of the US Civil War. Seventeen months after the current regime took power, and with no certain end to the growing bitter divisions since then, is it now time for people to dump family members and friends who support the current regime?

A few days ago, Salon politics staff writer Chauncey DeVega published a blistering piece, “Cut Trump supporters off: The horror of migrant kids taken from parents demands personal action”. His argument is that anyone who supports the regime, for whatever reason, is complicit in the current regime’s forcibly removing children from their undocumented immigrant parents to put the children into prison camps. He writes:
Who we choose to include among our friends and associates — and yes, even kin — is a political statement because it reflects our values and beliefs. The personal is political in ways both obvious and subtle. This includes the quotidian as well as grand gestures and acts.

And so, a proposal.

If you have friends or relatives who support Donald Trump you should confront them. Explain to them that they are complicit with Trump's cruelty and sadism. Then communicate that you will no longer speak with them, nor will you offer them emotional, financial or other types of support until they denounce Donald Trump and what he represents — and make amends through speech and action.
DeVega goes on to counter several imagined arguments against his proposal, and also some whataboutisms, including:
How about the argument that by cutting Trump's supporters out of your life that you will actually make them support him even more? Thus removing any hope that they can be freed from his thrall? Because Trump's supporters retreat into shadows like political Nosferatus when exposed to the light is no reason for decent and good people to keep such people in their lives.
One can agree with him and his proposal or not, but it was this particular argument that I thought was flat out wrong. If some people are “lost causes”, then society can never grow and change, and we know that’s not true. As imperfect as the USA, and, indeed, most of the Western World is, it’s nevertheless true that our societies do grow and evolve, and that’s because of the people within them. If we “write off” people for whatever reason, we also dump any chance we might have of providing them with an example of how to grow and evolve.

There absolutely can be reasons, issues, that go too far. During the time of Bush the Second, progressives sometimes made much the same argument, like about the Iraq invasion, for example. Others made that argument about people who supported California’s anti-gay Proposition 8. Conservatives made the same argument about many different issues for the entire 8 years of the Obama Administration. In other words, it happens all the time, and whether any one issue is “too far” for someone is not for us to decide on their behalf.

So, apparently the imprisonment of children ripped from their parents is too far for DeVega. Theoretically, there are issues that could push me too far, too. I won’t comment on what they could be because they’re theoretical, and it’s not like I have a rule book that people must accept to be in my life. Similarly, I wouldn’t dream of telling DeVega what to think or do. I can only talk for myself.

I’ve never cut a family member or friend out of my life because of politics, but some have at least muffled me because of politics. That’s their right. I’m great at compartmentalising things, ignoring unfortunate things people say, and ignoring things I can’t change, but others need distance to keep their mental peace. To each their own.

But cutting people out of our lives completely because of political differences strikes me as surrender, that there can never be any meeting of the minds in the future, that whatever it was that bound us together in the first place is more insubstantial than we thought. Maybe it is. But what if we’re wrong? What if people change their minds later? What if we do?

I have no hard and fast answers here. Some may feel they have no choice but to cut friends and family members out of their lives because they support the current occupant of the White House—or, because they don’t. For me, it’s unlilkely that I’d even contemplate doing that. Sure, these days one can never say “never”, but it’s just not how I operate.

Arm the gays?

There have always been armed LGBT+ people, whether anyone who knew it or not. There have also always been openly gay people embracing guns. But with a rising tide of violent bigotry in the USA, is it now time for LGBT+ people to arm themselves in self-defence?

As a long time proponent of gun control, I’d be expected to find the question absurd. For pretty much as long as I can remember, I’ve felt that most people have no business having guns, and those who are allowed to own them should be well-regulated. Because of that, it has always been an article of faith for me that part of the answer to rising gun violence in the USA is to reduce the number of guns available.

What if I was wrong?

Okay, not wrong, exactly, but what if circumstances have changed so drastically that the answer must change, too? What if the proper answer in the face of rising hate-motivated violence is arming people?

According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), which compiles data from member organisations around the USA, 2016 was the deadliest year for anti-LGBT violence in US history. That was the year of the Pulse Nightclub massacre, at the time the USA’s worst-ever mass shooting. Overall, and excluding Pulse, there was a 17% increase in anti-LGBT+ murders that year [PDF of the report available online]. Following that year’s presidential election, the New York City Anti-Violence Project reported a 45% increase in calls to its violence hotline.

Official FBI statistics for 2016 showed a 5% increase in all hate crime incidents (not victims), with crimes against trans people rising 9%, as compared to a 2% increase for crimes motivated by anti-gay hatred. It’s important to note that the FBI statistics compile official data from police agencies, and as such, are known to undercount the actual number of anti-LGBT+ hate crimes, partly due to the reluctance of LGBT+ to report crimes to police. This, too, is especially true for trans people.

In 2017, over 100 anti-LGBT bills were introduced in state legislatures. At the same time, Mike Pence was leading the current American regime’s war on LGBT+ people. In February of that year, some 8 months after Pulse, the regime announced it was rescinding the Obama Administration’s orders that trans students must be allowed to use public restrooms that conformed with their gender identity. A month later, the current occupant of the White House signed an Executive Order rescinding President Obama’s Executive Order protecting the rights of LGBT+ federal workers. Two weeks later, the Department of Justice withdrew from a lawsuit against North Carlonia’s anti-trans HB 2, signalling it would not challenge any anti-LGBT+ state laws. In early April, the current occupant signed an Executive Order on “free speech” and “religious liberties” as part of the regime’s support for allowing rightwing religious people to legally discriminate against LGBT+ people.

The situation for LGBT+ people had deteriorated so badly by the end of 2017 that the NCAVP issued a report in January of this year [PDF available online] showing that 2017 had an 86% increase in homicides of LGBT+ people.

The current regime is hostile to LGBT+ people and has rescinded the few meagre federal protections that existed for LGBT+ people. They also want to install religious radicals on the Supreme Court, making it possible to overturn marriage equality, and possibly overturn Lawrence v. Texas and other Supreme Court rulings that have served to protect the human rights of LGBT+ people.

The current regime has also encouraged racist violence, not the least by the current occupant failing to strongly condemn neo-nazis, but also through his constant demonisation of “illegal immigrants” in vague language that also manages to stir hatred against all immigrants [For example, see: “Anti-immigrant graffiti found outside Brownes Irish Market”, KMBC News, June 11, 2018, and also “‘Immigrants Not Welcome.’ Vandals deface historic Irish Midtown storefront” by Aaron Randle, Kansas City Star, June 12, 2018].

So, the facts are that in the USA, violence against LGBT+ people is soaring. Also, the current regime controlling the White House is anti-LGBT+ and, in general, encourages violent bigots to act out. The first is a direct result of the second. So, what’s the solution?

Despite everything, I can’t YET advocate that LGBT+ people arm themselves, but I also cannot condemn any who choose to do so. The tide of hatred is rising, and self-defence may become the only defence. Holding on to one last shred of my convictions, I’d add that if LGBT+ people do arm themselves, it should be within the context of a group like Pink Pistols that can provide proper training and support.

If LGBT+ people do arm themselves for self defence, it won’t do anything to end anti-LGBT+ hate crimes. It also won’t do anything to turn back the general tide of white grievance-driven violent hate crimes. Both, especially the second, will require political solutions that don’t actually exist right now, and may not be possible in the future. If a more violent and repressive society is around the corner, then arming may be the only way for LGBT+ people to remain safe.

If the USA was still run in accordance with the US Constitution and the rule of law, I’d dismiss the idea of LGBT+ people arming themselves, probably derisively. But as we’ve all seen, the abnormal is now normal, and the unthinkable is now policy. Quite literally ANYTHING is possible while this regime is in power. I cannot in good conscience try to discourage LGBT+ people from protecting themselves, their families, and their communities from the armed thugs the current regime has encouraged. If that means arming themselves, so be it. I can live with that. More importantly, that may be the only way to ensure they can, too.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Getting to stay

Today is the anniversary of what was, in retrospect, probably the most important day I had as an immigrant to New Zealand. On June 16, 1999, I became a NZ permanent resident, and the stress and turmoil of being a temporary resident finally ended. More recently, it turned out that it also set me on a path that should keep me safe, which is even more important.

Considering how important the event was, it might seem surprising that I don’t observe it every year like I do so many other anniversaries, but the truth is that it got left behind because only three years later I became a citizen, and, after that, this particular anniversary didn’t seem to matter very much. Also, by the time I became a citizen, I’d been living in New Zealand for the better part of seven years, so Ī was well-settled by then.

Nevertheless, it WAS an important day because up until that 1999 day, I’d been able to stay in New Zealand only with a series of temporary visas and permits, the first of which bound me to a particular employer. When that company ceased trading, and I was made redundant, I needed to buy a one-way ticket the the USA—it couldn’t be an American territory, it had to be the USA itself. So, I bought a ticket to Hawaii for some $1200, I think it was. Only then was I granted a six month tourist visa so I could stay in New Zealand, and with Nigel. But, I couldn’t work or study. (I eventually got a partial refund of the ticket price).

At that time, I also couldn’t sponsor Nigel to live with me in the USA. So if my ability to get a temporary visa ran out, we’d have been separated. That all ended on June 16, 1999, and once I’d applied, I could get a work permit sponsored by Nigel.

When marriage equality finally arrived in the USA in 2012, there was finally a way for me to sponsor Nigel to live with me in the USA. By then it was too late: Our roots in New Zealand were way too deep to dig them up.

Last year, in talking about the day I became a citizen (June 10, 2002), I mentioned that “For the first time in my life, I’m profoundly grateful that I have a second passport.” That’s still true, but maybe a little bit more now than then: I have a measure of safety that folks in the USA don’t have, should everything descend into utter disaster. Unless a nativist wave sweeps the world, or some other international pressure arises, I should be safe here in New Zealand, no matter what happens in the USA.

Even so, and even though I’m extremely glad for that safety net, I remain hopeful that things in the USA will work out. As I said in that post last year:
Looking at the world as it is today, and comparing it to the one 15 years ago, it would be easy to be despondent or resigned or fatalistic. That’s not me. No matter how bad things may seem most days now, I choose to believe that they can get better, that they will get better, despite everything.

Hope is a powerful force: It’s what brought me to this country in the first place, and it’s what makes me continue to believe—no matter what—that the future will be better, even if there are a few bumps in that road along the way that make progress seem unlikely. Having hope is a sort of armour against all the bad. In my opinion, hope is not optional.
Honestly, it’s good that hope is so powerful, because every day that passes makes it harder to hold onto. I hope that I never lose hope, but more so, I hope that I never have reason to lose all hope.

Because of those June events, in both 1999 and 2002, I know I’ll be okay because I get to stay with my husband, who is, after all, the reason I came to New Zealand in the first place. That’s most important of all.

I guess I should be better about giving these June anniversaries the respect they deserve.

The photo above is a detail of my Residence Permit and my first Returning Resident’s Visa, which was good for two years, placed on facing pages of my US passport. I first used it in 2013.


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Winter resting

It wasn’t very cold today, but it was still a winter day, and when the sun shines that means one thing: The furbabies find a sunny spot to snooze. Oddly, they don’t do this in the heat of summer. While their winter sun-seeking ways are common enough, this is the first time I’ve seen these three do it together (there are, of course, other sunny spots in the house one or all of them could have chosen). Naturally, I had to share it to Instagram.

And, in the interest of equal time, below is a photo of Jake. He’s lying on the opposite side of the house—the shady side—near the window that looks out toward the front gate, where he and the others watch us leave the house and return. That's also their spot for barking at the neighbours, the postie, all sorts of people, too—even the construction workers at the nearby housing developement. Actually, Jake doesn’t bark all that much, because he’s a cool dude. In more ways than one, it turns out.

This was the highlight of my day today. I’ll take it.