An Embarrassed Apology for Our #ShitholePresident

Eight years ago, almost to the very day, I met an amazing young lady named Martine. She is a rare gift in my life, one of those instant connections. I knew right away that we would be friends.

The reason I know when we met is that a few days afterward, Haiti experienced its most devastating earthquake, from which it is still struggling to recover. I immediately contacted Martine, because she is Haitian-American. My heart broke for her as I watched her go for weeks not knowing whether her relatives were alive or dead.

She could have chosen to collapse under this pressure and do nothing. But I’ve since learned that that’s not who Martine is. She will always be part of the solution. She decided to raise funds for Haiti, and I am proud to say that I joined her in this effort. It was exhausting for me, so I still can’t imagine how she did it while going to college full time.

Since then, I’ve seen her graduate, and take on jobs of ever-greater responsibility. I’ve seen her prioritize her health, both physical and emotional. I’ve seen her make some pretty hard life choices. Martine is intelligent and strong and beautiful inside and out. She has integrity. She is one of the reasons I have hope for this country’s future.

If America were designed to Donald Trump’s sick, twisted specifications, I would never have met Martine. We wouldn’t have accepted immigrants from “shithole” countries like Haiti. And oh, we’d be much the poorer for it!

According to this article, were it not for Haiti, we would not have been able to make the Louisiana Purchase, and this country would be one third smaller. Haitians have also contributed to our culture through food, music, dance, and art. They’ve even provided us with our Major League baseballs, and what’s more American than baseball?

There’s a Haitian Scientist working at NASA. Haiti has also provided us with untold numbers of doctors, lawyers, and engineers. They fought beside us in our revolutionary war, and we left them to fend for themselves in theirs.

Today, more than ever, I am ashamed of America for allowing our current leader to represent us. I can think of few people that could symbolize this country in a more despicable way. I want to apologize to the entire world, and tell them that this racist, lying, misogynistic, semi-literate, war-mongering ignoramus is not who we are. I want to tell them that most of the American people would never presume to describe any country as a shithole. Most of us would never brag about grabbing pussies. Most of us care about the environment. Most of us care about the health of our fellow human beings.

And believe me, most of us wish this man had never been elected. I hope that some day we will look back at this administration, bow our heads in shame, and promise to never, ever sink so low again. As with the earthquake in Haiti, it will probably take many years to repair all the damage that Donald Trump has caused. But with Americans like Martine, I have hope that it will be not only possible, but highly probable.

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Cooperation

Once, I was crossing a very long bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway in Florida. Actually, I should say that I was trying to cross it. Traffic was backed up for miles. Ah well. At least I had a wonderful view.

And then I heard the sirens. An ambulance was attempting to get by. My heart went into my throat. I didn’t think this would end well for its occupant.

But an amazing thing happened. Every single car, and there were hundreds, all pulled over to both sides of the road as if they were acting as one. You would have sworn we had been working with a choreographer for months. It looked like the parting of the Red Sea or something. It was beautiful.

The ambulance blasted past on the center line without even having to hit the brakes. I was kind of proud of all of us that day. It’s probably why the memory has stayed with me.

In a society that is more and more polarized, it’s a rare thing when everyone comes together and cooperates without hesitation. We can’t even seem to agree on what constitutes a crisis these days. (In case you hadn’t noticed, global warming is an actual thing.)

It is interesting, though, to see how we come together in cases of emergency. Even neighbors who don’t particularly like each other will be there when the flood waters start to rise or the wind starts to blow. An earthquake is a great equalizer, destroying mansions and shanties alike. And during candlelight vigils we are united in our grief.

We need to figure out a way to show this same spirit of cooperation during times of feast as well as famine. Actually, we need to find a way to do it even during moments of routine. We don’t always have to agree, and I’m sure we never will, but when all is said and done, we’re all in this together.

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People Who Go Poof

I don’t think I’ll respond well to my first serious earthquake. Of course I won’t. But it will hit me on a variety of levels because I take great comfort in thinking that things are unyielding. I like things that I can touch– things right before my eyes, and I like to be able to count on the fact that they are going to stay put.

The first time I feel the earth truly move and things begin to fall, it’s going to alter my sense of reality completely. Even though I can anticipate that in advance, it’s still going to happen. I can’t seem to help but rely on the solid.

I feel the same way about human beings. I like to believe that they’re not going to simply disappear on me. I suppose that’s because I can’t imagine disappearing on someone else. At least not without fair warning.

But people have definitely gone poof in my life, like that last flash of light you used to see when you’d turn off an old-style television set. My last boyfriend died so unexpectedly that I really don’t think I’ve properly processed it. One minute he was there, and the next he was gone. My life changed forever, in the space of that minute. That does not do good things to one’s sense of security and stability. Life is as fragile as a soap bubble. Pop.

And one of the things I hate most about changing jobs is saying good-bye to old work friends, friends who have been in the career foxhole with me, people that I think I’ve bonded with. Many of them say they’ll keep in touch, but it’s been my experience that the vast majority of them do not.

But by far the worst (yes, even worse than death, because death is inevitable and usually not intentional), is when people disappear for no known reason. My best friend in junior high school was in foster care, and one day, after many years, right in the middle of the school year, she was no longer there, and nobody could or would tell me what had happened. And I’ve had many friends in the virtual world of Second Life who have abruptly disappeared without saying good-bye. It feels like a death, and for all I know it could be, so it’s extremely upsetting.

My best friend for 14 years broke all ties with me based on a misunderstood sentence fragment as far as I can tell. It still causes me a great deal of pain. More horrible than the fact that I miss his presence in my life is that I’m now having to reconcile my sense of reality with the actual truth that our friendship must have been much more frail than I realized. That makes me wonder what that says about me and how I perceive the world.

Things fall apart. The center does not hold. I don’t like that. Not even a little bit.

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Saving the Animals of Fukushima

On March 11, 2011, an earthquake struck off the coast of Japan near Honshu Island. This quake set off a tsunami of 45 foot high waves crashing into the Japanese coast, at the very site of a very badly built and poorly situated nuclear power plant in Fukushima. As you can well imagine, things went rapidly downhill from there.

You can read about the nuclear meltdown in great detail on its Wikipedia page, but the final result was that approximately 500,000 people had to be evacuated from the 12.5 mile exclusion zone, never to return. Well… except for one man.

Naoto Matsumura could not bear the thought that in his rush to evacuate, he had to leave his pets behind, so he went back. And upon arriving he quickly discovered that all his neighbors had left their pets and farm animals behind as well. Thousands of dogs, cats, pigs, cows, even at least two ostriches had been left to fend for themselves, and many of them were locked up or chained, and would likely have died horrible deaths if not for this man’s intervention.

He freed them all, and has been living in the exclusion zone and caring for these animals ever since. The government has ordered him to leave, but he remains, despite the risk to his health. Here is a man who truly gives his life to do what he feels is right. While the world has moved happily onward, he struggles to feed these animals every day. He needs our help.

If you want to read an inspiring and yet heartbreaking blog about this man’s noble sacrifice, you can find it here. Naturally it isn’t in English, but I know that if you pull it up on Google Chrome, you can click the translate option. He also says this:

We’ll be very happy if you all support us. [Donations] ① The Toho Bank, Azumi branch, 644 994 (Futsu), Ganbaru Fukushima ② Japan Post Bank Company, Kigo-10270 , Bango-10419771, Ganbaru Fukushima ③ My Friends made ​​A Donation page for me.Http://Kizunafornaoto.Com/ Please push the yellow button on the left side of the top page. It IS in French. Thank you and look forward to Hearing from you!

-Naoto Matsumura

I donated, but it wasn’t easy. First of all, the pages aren’t in English and have to be translated. Next, you have to donate in euros instead of dollars, which is a pain. (Make sure your credit card doesn’t sock you with a harsh foreign currency fee.)

So yeah, helping this great man isn’t as simple as it ought to be, but think of all the effort he has to put forth on a daily basis, and you’ll realize that jumping through a few extra hoops for this cause is really not that big of a sacrifice. Please help all these animals that the world seems to have conveniently forgotten.

What follows are a couple inspiring photos from the boredpanda article about this fine man. Check it out to see more!

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The Big One

I wrote this entry before the devastating earthquake hit Nepal. It’s purely coincidence that it posted around the same time. My thoughts go out to the people of that country.

Sometime this week they’ll be doing an earthquake drill here at work. I’m glad to hear it, because I have never had to deal with this concept in my life. In Florida, we had hurricanes. You have to be completely helpless (such as those unfortunate victims who had no ability to leave prior to Katrina), or a total idiot, to not survive a hurricane. In the pantheon of natural disasters, the hurricane is the most polite. “Yes, I’m coming, and will most likely destroy your town, but I’d never show up unannounced. Here’s two days’ notice.”

Earthquakes, on the other hand, are just plain rude. Not only do they arrive without warning, but their aftershocks mean you can’t be certain when the trauma will be over. At least when a hurricane leaves, it has the decency to stay gone.

This exercise also makes me realize that my home disaster kit is woefully out of date and scattered amongst all the unpacked crap in my spare room. I really need to address that, and soon.

My biggest fear is that an earthquake will hit while I’m at work on the drawbridge. The first thing that will happen during a serious quake here is that both the approaches to this particular bridge will collapse, and I will be stranded in the middle of the canal. Also, my car will be in the drink, for sure. The phones will probably be down, and it will be an awfully long time before anyone comes to rescue me. When and if I finally get to leave, I’ll have to walk the 15 miles home, and meanwhile my dogs will be without food and possibly water, and they’ll be completely freaked out.

I honestly don’t know how to deal with all this. I’ll have to say a Unitarian prayer, light a candle, do a dance, and knock on wood that the situation never arises. That, and get off my lazy butt and fix my disaster kit.

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[Image credit: huffingtonpost.com]

Feeling the Earth Move

When I was 19 years old, I was sitting in my dorm room in North Carolina and the floor shook slightly. I assumed someone was running along the wooden balcony on the other side of the wall. I gave it no further thought until the next day, when I heard on the radio that we had had a minor earthquake. That is the extent of my earthquake experience.

Now I am in the Pacific Northwest, and I’ve been told by more than one person that we are overdue for a big one. One guy even said, “Always have a pair of comfortable shoes on hand, because if it happens, all the bridges will collapse and you’ll have to walk out of the city.”

First of all, I work on a bridge, so if it collapses, walking out of the city will probably be the least of my worries. Second, all the bridges around here have been retrofitted to withstand fairly powerful quakes. And third, if all the bridges are down, where, exactly, do you plan to walk?

I think one of the things I’ll have to get used to in this part of the world is the underlying fact that nature can kick your ass any time it wants to. I mean, in Florida we had hurricanes, but there’s plenty of warning for those. I suppose there was potential for a rogue tsunami or something. But here you know an earthquake is going to happen. You just don’t know when. And when it does, all you can do is stop, drop, and cover, and hope you survive to use your emergency supplies.

It’s a weird concept that the ground beneath your feet, which you have always counted on to be solid, can move and even liquify in extreme cases. That’s got to play with your head. I wonder how I’ll react.

And I hate the idea that when the time comes my dogs will have to fend for themselves. They’ll be terrified and confused. But there’s nothing I’ll be able to do about that until the earth goes back to sleep. At least temporarily.

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[Image credit: news.bbc.co.uk]

Have we Overstayed our Welcome?

Aw, jeez, I need to stop surfing the internet. I just came across a website called Recent Natural Disasters, and it gives you all the reported disasters all over the world, 24 hours a day. I have a hard enough time avoiding my tendency to anthropomorphize nature, especially when it seems as though the planet is becoming more and more pissed off.

Typhoon Haiyan has certainly displaced thousands of people, but it’s only the latest in what seems to be an increasing number of natural disasters, from the expected to the downright bizarre. I mean, who expects flooding in Saudi Arabia? But that’s been happening, too.

And I’m stunned by how many of these events have escaped my notice up to this point. Here are but a few of the headlines from the past few months:

Massive landslide in Denali National Park, Alaska – Could take 10 days to clear

Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung volcano eruption prompts evacuation of 3,300

Mudslide traps 20 in Cross Rivers, Nigeria

Very severe cyclonic storm Phailin: India’s biggest evacuation operation in 23 years, 43 killed

Eurasia’s highest volcano Klyuchevskoi spews ash up to 3.7 miles

40,000 evacuated amid Gujarat flooding

7.7 magnitude earthquake in Pakistan kills 400, Awaran declares emergency

Flooding in Bunkpurugu, Ghana kills 1, displaces 6,000

Shanghai heat wave 2013: Hottest temperature in 140 years!

Spanish Mallorca forest fire: Worst fire in 15 years evacuates 700

Namibia African Drought: Worst in 30 years

Yarnell, Arizona Wildfire 2013: 19 firefighters killed

Central African Republic gold mine collapse kills 37, national mourning declared

Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand flood 2013: At least 5,500 killed

Colorado wildfires destroy 360 plus homes, 38,000 evacuated

Whether you believe in Global Climate Change or not, don’t you sometimes get the feeling that we as a species are no longer wanted on this planet? And if so, who could blame Mother Nature? I mean, we take and take and take, and what we give in return is pollution, destruction, and devastation. If a guest in my home were behaving this badly, I’d kick him out, too.

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Fantasy Island

I just got through reading an article on the NPR website entitled, “Pacific Island, Bigger Than Manhattan, Vanishes.” I assumed it was going to be about global warming, and that maybe it had sunk below the rising sea level, but no. Based upon studies of the sea floor, this island never existed in the first place. Apparently this “island” has been on maps and charts since around 1772. And now they’re looking at other questionable islands in other parts of the world in order to update maps.

fantasy_island_by_tessig-d4w7qz5 (Credit: Tessig.deviantart.com)

Can we just take a second to absorb this? In this day and age, with all our global whosawhatsis, how does this happen? It makes you realize how vast the world is, and how much we want to believe what we’re told. But I still find it vaguely unsettling. If we can’t count on our geography, what can we count on?

Here’s the thing. When my mother died when I was 26, I felt as though there was no longer any solid foundation beneath my feet, as though everything that I counted on had suddenly vanished and I was adrift. It took me a long time to get over that. A very long time. I will never forget that feeling.

Without getting into a debate about quantum physics, we count on things to be solid, to have substance. And we expect islands the size of Manhattan to stick around. This is why I could never live in an earthquake zone. To have something solid suddenly start rippling like water? I’d have a nervous breakdown.

There has to be some fundamental…thing that you can hang your hat on, and build from there. Without that, how do you know what’s real? It reminds me of a quote from the Spanish dramatist Pedro Calderón de la Barca, which translates as, “Life is a dream, and even the dreams are dreams.”

Come the Apocalypse, I Want to be with my Dog.

I have a new theory. The best possible thing that can happen when you are searching for a mate is a horrible first date, because then you can see how that person reacts under pressure. Stress separates the men from the boys. It cuts through all the surface bs and shows you what someone is truly made of. There are all sorts of ways of dealing with negativity, as evidenced by nature. All of these ways are legitimate, but only a few of them are viable in terms of a life partner in this modern world. Here are a few examples.

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The Shark. In times of great tension, the shark will not only attack the source of the problem, but will also turn on anyone and anything that happens to be in his vicinity, even members of its own family. When in the midst of this feeding frenzy, the shark has absolutely no regard for loyalty, and does not care about who is on his side. When in the presence of this type of fury, there is nothing you can do except prepare to be eaten. Frankly, I find the shark to be tragic and self-destructive. And the most depressing thing about the shark is he cannot see why this type of behavior is a problem. Somehow being eaten will become your fault. You’ll never feel completely safe with a shark.

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The Fainting Goat. Also known as the Myotonic Goat, this poor creature freezes in times of panic and keels over, thus rendering him utterly useless to himself or anyone else. I used to date one of these. Don’t ask me why.

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The Turtle. When the sh*t comes down and you’re with a turtle, you are on your own. He will pull himself into his shell and wait for the boogeyman to go away. Oh, he’ll protect himself all right, but he won’t confront anyone or anything and prefers to live in a state of denial. He’s completely resistant to change, which makes improvement impossible. Also, if you come by his house and he doesn’t feel like talking, he simply won’t come to the door. Who needs that?

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The Badger. No need to wait for a crisis situation when on a date with a badger. He’s going to be in a foul mood regardless, even if you could potentially be the best thing that ever happened to him. He’s never going to see it.

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The Porcupine. Now, here’s a guy who is prepared. He doesn’t want to be messed with, and has made sure that he won’t be. The problem is, since all he wants is to be left alone, he’ll never let you in.

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The Octopus. I have to admire this guy’s ability to avoid conflict. I like his stealth and intelligence. But if none of that works, he shoots ink. Do you want someone who’s going to throw stuff at you? No. That, and he tends to be clingy.

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Frilled Lizard. You’ve probably seen one of these guys on the National Geographic channel. When you piss one of them off, the frill on their neck expands and they’ll chase you on two feet. Yes, they look intimidating and they get the job done for the most part, but honestly, what would happen if you stood your ground with them? Not too much, I suspect. I think you’d win that confrontation. These guys are all sizzle and no steak.

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The Rattlesnake. The rattler is sort of a first strike kind of guy. He prefers to be the aggressor in anticipation of any possible antagonism you may or may not have in mind. Don’t hang out with the rattlesnake if you’re hoping for cozy get togethers with groups of friends.

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The Praying Mantis. Honestly? Do you really want to hang out with a guy who is so desperate for sex that he’s willing to go there with you even though he knows he’s going to get his head bitten off for his troubles? This guy is so focused on what he wants that he has no concept of the consequences.

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The Meerkat. I have to admit that I have a certain fondness for meerkats. They’re loyal. They’re family oriented, they’re protective, they’re cautious. But they’re also an emotional drain. They’re constantly anticipating trouble. They’re always on the lookout. Their watchword is paranoia. They never seem to relax.

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The Benobo. Scientists have dedicated their lives to studying benobos, because these cousins of ours seem to be totally devoid of aggression. They’re the hippies of the primate world. They’re all about free love and live and let live. I could see myself getting caught up in this lifestyle, but I suspect I’d get fat and complacent, and years would go by without my realizing it.

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The Dog. Dogs don’t seek fights, and in fact try to avoid them, but if you eff with them, they’ll take you out. I can respect that. They tend to restrict their aggression to those that deserve it. They’re loyal and protective, and usually generous and kind unless they’ve been abused. They’d much rather cuddle with you than argue, but they’ll do what they have to in order to protect themselves and the ones they love. A dog will always have your back. They also know how to heave a heavy sigh and release all tension. This, to me, is a very healthy and well-balanced approach to life. Yup, I’ll take a dog every time.

So next time you’re thrust into the dating world, pray for a flash flood or an earthquake or an armed robbery, because then you’ll know exactly what you’ve got on your hands. Disaster can save you a lot of time and heartache.