Sunday, October 7, 2018

Mississippi Blues

Mississippi Blues
Sunday, October 7, 2018
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blur, branches, foliage



There’s an odd pain that stays with you long into adulthood when you grow up in a place that is the exact opposite of everything you represent.

There’s jealousy too, I think. Last March when I was back in Jackson, my dad and I went to the famous St Paddy’s Day parade. Rows and rows of white women in their college sweatshirts and fake Mardi Gras beads laughing with friends and yelling at their children with twice the syllables that need to be (“John” is “Joooohaaaaan” in the Deep South). I could have been one of them, I thought, walking past. if only I hadn’t wanted more. If only I hadn’t asked so many questions in Sunday school. If only I hadn’t reached my hand across the expanse of racial lines. If only I hadn’t winced walking into a room with mounted deer heads. I could have stayed in MS, married a lawyer from Ole Miss, started a family in a white flight neighborhood, made banana pudding for tailgating at football games, went to church every Sunday, stayed unwoke and unaware of the sufferings of the world around me Bc my world was jus’ fiiiine, praise the Lord. — maybe then those plastic shamrock cups with warm beer would taste like mother’s milk. And I would be happy and content and not a fuming mess waiting for Mango Dumptruck’s next tweet, waiting for the ground beneath to shake, for the familiar outrage to swell and take my breath away. 

I loved you, Mississippi. But you could never accept me. I didn’t fit into your mold. That’s why I had to go.
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

An Activist Delayed

An Activist Delayed
Tuesday, September 4, 2018
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Many years ago, a pious and well-meaning friend tried to introduce me to God. Without God, life has no meaning, she argued. I replied, “Then my life shall remain meaningless.”
Fortunately, it didn’t.
It’s almost cliché for a mother to write about the birth of her child as the miracle of her existence, the fons et origo, the event that cut a line down the spine of her life, dissecting her very existence into two separate but unequal halves.
Nevertheless, I echo these sentiments. I still remember the moment my eyes gazed upon the slimy, wiggling bundle of fat being transferred from the drop site between my legs to the clear plastic bassinet a few feet away.
“London,” I called to her, and her face jerked in my direction, her dark eyes searching the room before finding and resting on mine. She knew her mother’s voice. A cry escaped her lips, and my heart expanded.
I remember thinking, I did not know, I did not know… I did not know I was so empty, to be so full. My life took shape. Let others claim God, I thought; London was my meaning.
Not that my life completely lacked meaning before motherhood. In college, my philanthropist interests broadened and took off running, never stopping long at one cause. Every day, a different protest.
 Han Sen Must Step Down!
 Stop Bombing Innocent Serbian Children!
 Give Peas a Chance!
I held my signs high and shouted with the crowd—most of the time, anyway.
But if I’m being honest, the protests were more of a pastime than a serious consideration. They were thrown in between parties, scattered and stuffed between concerts and day drinking and boys.
The world’s needy and hungry, the suffering, the martyred, the refugee children weeping and weary and scarred by the face of war—they existed merely in the peripheral, acknowledged only when their plight peaked my interest and when the time and place to protest aligned comfortably within the confines of my convenience.
These days when I’m not working with other activists, I work on my own. I swap my protest sign for two thumbs and a cell phone. Representatives Lamar Smith and Roger Williams; Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn—I have those pasty, prehistoric shitbags on speed dial.
Is there a bill in Congress attempting to limit women’s health? They can expect a call.
Is there a bill in Congress that will negatively impact minorities or my brothers and sisters of a different faith or sexual orientation? They can expect a call.
Is there a bill trying to hammer another stake in the planet’s coffin? They can expect a call.
Sometimes I get my kids in on the action. I’ve taken London with me to protests organized by Planned Parenthood at the Capitol Building. I’ve watched with pride as she held her Women’s rights are human rights sign higher than anyone else.
My son Kaya called John McCain when Obamacare was on the chopping block. “Please, Senator McCain, you were a hero in World War II. Please be a hero again.” (It didn’t occur to me until after my son hung up that he had cited the wrong war. Oh well, the intention was good.)
Before, activism was a pastime. Now, it is my way of life. I don’t know if my kids—particularly my daughter—were the catalysts for igniting this defiance in me (I know plenty of childless Americans who are passionate and proud activists), but I do know that during every protest, march, or with every call I make or letter I sign—every time I raise my fist to the sky—it is their faces I see. My daughter, my son.
It is their lives I hope to save, their dreams I hope to salvage from the wrecking ball of the current administration—for they are my purpose, and without them, life has no meaning.

First featured in  https://ourepicblog.com.

Friday, August 31, 2018

this is where hope lives

this is where hope lives
Friday, August 31, 2018
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Image result for beto

Dime con quién andas,
y te diré quién eres.
this is where hope lives,
in this riverbed of bone
in this wasteland of dust and tumbleweed roads,
in this weight tugging at america’s hips,
in this refugee sand trap strapped to a single star,
guiding weary travelers to the opposite of home.
this is where hope lives,
on burleson road,
where an apache warrior named joe dispenses water and free advice,
at least we’re luckier than those sons-of-bitches in California!
sonoma valley’s baked alive,
forest incinerated, property losses.
at least when trees die here, they die of natural causes.
but at the corner of capital and barton springs,
there’s a white cross where a young boy used to be that
heartily disagrees.
death is death, and whatever lives here, can die here too.
so hope roams.
it travels north to mount sinai church,
and for 2 hours, guides its people to the promise land,
microphone in hand,
a caravan departing from Galveston,
zig-zagging across the state
until it arrives in el paso via the rio grande.
for 180 minutes, hope wore a face and two ears,
it said, you belong here. don’t disparage.
its people lowered their guard and
stepped forward with their stories.
rosaria’s father was an immigrant and a veteran.
she buried him that morning.
(her body shook as she spoke
as if a geyser had exploded inside her
and her eyes were siphoning the burst.
hope thanked her father for his service,
and just that tiny gesture dried the
currents of her grief)
adam was the human embodiment of student loans.
(his arms thrusted outward as he spoke,
but by the time hope replied, the gesture died
and so had the weary look accompanying it.
it seemed the divine promise forgave mistakes that
texans made while attending college)
jolene lost her job to a company overseas.
(she moved side to side as she spoke,
dancing the broken two-step of the unemployed.
hope moved in and touched her shoulder.
her body stilled, and you could tell
it was the first time she’d exhaled in years)
hope wore a buttoned-down shirt
and by the time the second amendment reared its ugly head,
its entire front was wet with sweat
from the desperate requests of 1000 voters.
hope’s followers left with bags of buttons and barbed wire,
supplies for the long road ahead—
whispering, wouldn’t it be grand to make waves in a land
that rain has forgotten?
and will you tell them in california
when the smoke clears that they’re welcome here?
because if hope can live here, it can die here too,
amid yard signs of black and white desire.
even in the promise land
hope can’t make waves without water.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Father's Day

Father's Day
Monday, June 18, 2018
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He made me pick him up early from his friend’s house so we could buy you a Father’s Day gift

—you, the “noob” who arrived in his world when he was six.

Often you get upset because he doesn’t talk to you, or he only replies in one-word answers.

I never thought to question his curt; I was always taught men don’t say much because they don’t have much to say (you are an anomaly)

But you take his aloofness as not caring much.

And here I thought all Y chromosomes were shaped the same.

But you should have seen him picking out your tie.

We must have stopped in every shop.

He picked up one after the other,

examining each pattern for the correct answer,

not unlike you reviewing his math homework, every check-off a silent declaration of love.

Maybe that’s how men talk–soundless to the ear but amplified to the eye.

You should have seen him pick out your tie.

He asked the cashier if they had a box.

He carried the box throughout the mall and to the car,

I had never seen a head held so high

And when I dropped him off, he said don’t forget to give it to Doug and said I won’t.

You should have seen the way he smiled.
Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Mother's Day

Mother's Day
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
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Here’s to the woman who spent nine long months retaining water, growing and stretching into a living vessel.

Here’s to the woman who, years later, stares into the mirror of her former self and ties the knots of her body together, every inch of loose skin a physical reminder of love.

Here to the women who teaches her sons to dance and her daughters to throw; who wears her heart on her sleeve and her courage in her convictions.

Here’s to the late nights and the early mornings, to the absence of sleep because the baby is crying or the teenager is out past curfew or the adult children are in places unknown, recapturing the dream that was once America.

Here’s to the working woman worried she’s not there enough for her children, and the stay-at-home mom who cleans diapers all day, fantasizing about adult conversations.

Here’s to the woman with a special needs child, who enters the delivery room a mortal and walks out a warrior. Here’s to the fierce kind of all-conquering love uniquely her own.

Here’s to the woman who traded her youth or postponed her retirement, who rinsed the dreams from her hair and the desire from her bones to spend her life raising a miracle all on her own.

Here’s to the miracle postponed. Here’s to the woman whose womb has only known winter. Here’s to the home she grows with life from the light of other women’s summers.

Here’s to the woman who loves her children too hard or too soft, who knows the terror of a speeding car or a sizzling plate, who lays down beside her frightened child and wipes the fear from their crying face.

Here’s to the woman who saw the speeding car too late.

Here’s to the woman whose child was a spark that flickered once, then surrendered. Here’s to the blankets that remain folded and the bottles that stay dry. Here’s to the could-have-beens and the should-have-beens. Here’s to the love that continues to burn long after the last ember of life has been extinguished.

Here’s to the woman sitting outside the clinic, diverting her eyes from the protest signs, promising the cells multiplying in her womb, “This isn’t a goodbye. This is a ‘see you later.’” Here’s to the promise kept.

Here’s to the woman who never wanted to be a mother, but welcomes other women’s children as her own.

Here’s to the woman who still dreams of the children she hasn’t spoken to in years, because love is a long, winding thread that fractures at times, but never severs.

Here’s to the Mother Marys and the Mary Magdalenes and the Mary Janes; here’s to the fertile and the fertile of heart and the unselfish and the brave, here’s to the generations of women who wrap their arms around our nation, whispering, “Shh. I’ll keep you safe.”
Wednesday, February 21, 2018

How to Identify Kremlin Trolls on Facebook

How to Identify Kremlin Trolls on Facebook
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
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After the 2016 election, I added over 2000 Facebook "friends"—most of whom I believed were fellow liberals—in the hopes of filling my feed with like-minded posts. Little did my new friends and I know, many of these accounts were actually Kremlin trolls. Over time, they slowly wedged more and more into our social circles.

Over the past four months, I have researched these accounts, looking for similar characteristics that I can share to help others identify these trolls. While no two trolls are exactly alike, they share two fundamental characteristics:


One: A Public Profile

There is no sense in spreading propaganda if no one can see it.


Two: “Post Blasting”

Do they post articles, memes, any type of political content, seconds, minutes apart, multiple times? Then you probably found a troll. (You may also have also found a bot, which is an account set up by Facebook pages to share their posts. Look at the posts they’re sharing—if it is only from one source, then they’re probably a bot.)


Okay, so you found a public account blasting a ridiculous amount of posts. Here’s some more signs to look for:


Employment is Listed as Unemployed or Retired

It makes it harder to verify the person’s authenticity if they don’t have a place of employment.

Profile Images

Kremlin trolls often use generic images related to their political affiliation, or those of famous people. Some will use images of regular people, and reuse the same image over and over cropped and panned out. Don’t try to Google Image these photos; the Kremlin is too smart to use an image that you can find via Google Images. Due to the poor quality of these images, my guess is that many of these are scanned.

Pages

Trolls are often recommissioned several times over. When a troll account is recommissioned, say, as a liberal troll, they clean up on their images and posts from when they were conservative trolls.
Pages, however, is a section of Facebook often ignored by trolls. They spend a lot of time “liking” pages that fit into the image they are trying to convey, but they forget to remove “likes’ from a previous personality. If you study their page “likes,” it’s quite possible you’ll find page “likes” for conflicting issues – such as a “like” for “Trump is a Big Orange Clown” and a like for “Trump for 2020.” Trolls will also forget that they are on their hacked accounts, and “like” pages in their native language, or a topic that is juxtaposed to the account’s identity—for example, a retired Presbyterian school teacher from Indiana “liking” a page for Ukrainian strippers.


Grammar & Punctuation

In My Fair Lady, Henry Higgins famously bemoaned, “There are even places where English completely disappears; in America they haven't used it for years.” Yeah, well, he had a point. Those who live outside English-speaking countries are taught proper, more formal English, and Russia is no exception. Look for posts with thoughtful, well-laid diatribes that read almost like term papers.

Trolls don’t often comment on their own posts, but when they do, look at their writing style in their responses. Their English is never quite as good because they have to make up sentences on the fly; look for stylistic discrepancies between their posts and their comments. Some don't even bother to reply, but use a meme or image instead.


The Space Between the Last Word and the Punctuation Mark

Although it’s technically punctuation, this deserves its own category. Trolls add spaces before a period. We don’t know why. A common thought is that it is done by the translating services that the trolls use.


Sharing of “Memories”

Trolls don’t post a lot of personal posts – although they have gotten better. They do looove to post memories on their wall as a way to validate their account. The thinking is, if it appears to be an old account that has been around awhile, it can’t be a troll. Wrong. Older accounts are used by trolls more than new accounts. Older accounts can actually be bought on the dark web, and the older the account, the more expensive.

Overuse of Divisive Nicknames

RepubiKKKan, Killary, tRUMP…


Shares an Overwhelming Amount of Image-Heavy Images

Let me explain. The typical meme created by an American relies on the language, not the image. The American sense of humor is different. We rely on more sarcasm and irony. Russian memes are heavily photoshopped –many skillfully so—and rely on the image itself to make an impact.


Share Ad Nauseum Content Related to the Most Divisive Topics in America

Usually this falls under racial tension. Starting last week, it switched to gun control.


Shares Fake or Overly Biased Articles

Think: Palmer Report


Signs Not to Look For

  • Relationships. Old hacked accounts come prepackaged with relationships, so if you think “oh, this person is not a troll, they have five cousins.” – think again.
  • Geotagging. Just because an account’s post is tagged in Trenton, New Jersey does not mean they were in New Jersey when it was posted. It is very, very easy to trick Facebook’s geotracker, and you better believe Kremlin trolls have the right tools for the job.
  • The fact that they share non-political posts, or posts about Russian hacking means nothing. It’s a ploy. They do that to throw you off their scent. In fact, trolls are usually the first to accuse others of being trolls.


Once you find a Russian Troll…

You’ll find a hundred more. Keep searching. Keep reporting. Go to the pages that they share from and look there too. Liberal and Conservative pages are plagued with troll accounts. Here are some of the pages that pop up over and over in my research:

The Palmer Report (if you want to the space before the punctuation mark in action, look no further)

Rachel Maddow Fans

Democratic Moms
https://www.facebook.com/Democraticmom/

Expose Trump
https://www.facebook.com/exposetrumpnews/
(Their website, learnprogress.org is no longer working. They haven’t posted in forever.)

Proud Liberals and Proud to be a Democrat are the same fucking people. There’s no information on who manages it.
https://www.facebook.com/Proud-Democrats-2021255211434727/
https://www.facebook.com/ProudToBeADemocrat/

Impeach Trump and Fight Trump are the same people.
https://www.facebook.com/impeachtrumpasap/
https://www.facebook.com/Fight-Trump-1876828232546679/

Same People, same shit:
https://www.facebook.com/We-Are-Liberal-1036841469686059/
https://www.facebook.com/Liberal-American-610045389164725/

Sketchy, divisive, clickbat promoting a blogsite called truthbait.com that has no contact information.
https://www.facebook.com/ILoveDemocrats/

I’m not implying these accounts are run by trolls; however, many pages are. Facebook pages was how Putin got his start in the Facebook game. Accounts were simply created to push the page posts.

Remember, you can also block from seeing Facebook pages, which is really your best recourse from being exposed to propaganda.

Continue to report troll accounts to Facebook, but do not expect a high success rate. Facebook keeps these accounts because, due their prolific posting habits, they increase engagement, and that makes Facebook money.
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