Not looking away

Quick blog post so that I feel more centered. There is no way to catch up as everything is moving so fast.
I had trouble looking at news after the election until a week before the inauguration. I read a lot of books instead and spent time with my family. (Huge binge on novels by Margaret Oliphant and some re-reading of many books by Octavia Butler, among others.) Posting lazily on Facebook instead of here, which doesn’t make any sense…. I feel better posting here, because it fits my philosophies of open information and an open web, anyone can link to it and read it without any fuss, and I control it. Though I like the interactiveness of getting comments on FB and the relative ease of posting photos.

Last week I went with the kids to the women’s march in Oakland joining up with an informal “crip contingent” with many friends. It was beautiful and heartening. I have not made it out to many marches in the last few years, but tried to support Occupy and Black Lives Matter and other protests through sifting through information on Twitter and livestreams and news and so on, gathering, filtering, verifying, amplifying. Protests are exhausting but also energizing! I want to show up, represent, be there in solidarity.

Here I am with the big banner. I live tweeted the whole time with one hand while driving my scooter, except for when I was holding one side of the banner. It was challenging to scoot while balancing it and to keep in pace with whoever was on the other side, in the middle of a huge, often packed, crowd. Corbett brought the banners and signs with help from others (I can’t remember the name of the woman who made the banner.. Kathrine? Kathleen? starts with a K. ) As always, I felt this amazing glow of pride and love to be with a radical crip crew and other disability rights activists, advocates, writers, poets, gorgeous people! The march was huge. They said 80-100 thousand people were marching in downtown Oakland that day.

Womens march liz banner

Here’s Mariana and Ian with the banner, which reads “American Dream Must Be Accessible”. This photo got circulated a lot, as people liked the sign and it being carried by wheelchair users and I think also because of the dramatic arrow painted in the road in front of them, pointing forward.

Womens march banner

Both kids are in this too but they are holding the middle of the banner and a sign. I was so proud of the kids stepping up to help out in whatever ways were needed, taping or zip tying signs and banners, steadying the signs which was exhausting and needed constant attention, watching out for little kids, scouting ahead for our group and reporting back. As I told them before hand there is nothing like a bunch of radical crips for radicalness and not giving a fuck. TRUE.

Meanwhile I had to work pretty hard at work doing Firefox release stuff for two weeks solid along with the rest of my team and other teams. The week before a release is super intense and the week after that is also a bumpy unpredictable ride. If it goes smoothly you can relax a bit. If not then it’s more of the absorbing the firehose and figuring out what to do. The complexity is enjoyable. I also feel useful and responsible. Getting you the best possible browser that we can!

I went to Point Reyes with my sister on a day trip and had a great time driving around in the sun through the green hills. We saw baby (newborn) seals at Drake’s Beach. I also bought fancy beautiful scarves at the place next to Cowgirl Creamery, getting really into this middle aged lady scarf wearing thing, admiring other people’s clearly beloved fancy scarves and fiddling with my own (ideally warm, and beautiful, and with a texture nice to feel as I fidget a lot and like something in my hands)

I have also been doing senior tai chi classes since mid-December trying to work something local and easy to get to into my life. Danny has been walking a mile every day. In theory I will add in daily youtube video tai chi workouts even if it’s just 10 minutes. I can do the hour long one at the Bernal Heights senior center but cannot keep up with even 5 minutes of the one across the street at the Library. The one at the 30th St. center, I can do the first half but not the 2nd. (Yet).

Saturday my plans were to rest and write (exhausted from my tai-chi-ing, work, the march) but instead because of the “Muslim ban” I went out to the airport with Danny and we joined the protest there. I live-tweeted the SFO protest as is my habit, for the time that I was there, till around 5. It feels like the way I can contribute best, to report on things live, be amusing, fierce, convey the excitement and passion of the crowd and that I’m feeling. Next time I will try typing as I can do it much faster, write more liveblog style, and type without looking at a screen unlike using the phone to tweet. (I come with a built in desk, my lap, since i’m sitting in a wheelchair!) It is also very informative and mindblowing to look at others’ impressions and reporting in real time. Again suitable for my skills of fast reading and absorbing information.

The protest started small before the suggested time of 3pm with a few dozen to 150 or so people in a loose circle chanting with signs and a lot of news media hanging on the fringes interviewing people who looked like airport bureaucrats, and police of many stripes hanging back complacently. A little bit before three, crowds of people surged into the international terminal area! The crowd doubled in size fast and then grew to well over a thousand. Lots of families, small groups of people with homemade signs on cardboard boxes or paper plates or just pieces of paper. No Trump, No Pence, No Wall, No Fence was a good chant, also LET THEM GO, LET THEM GO and Move, Trump, Move out the way. We went into the street blocking it off for a while and then moved back onto the sidewalks. It became clear people were planning to stay all night. Until everyone detained was released, and until the new planes flew in and they make sure everyone gets out! The lawyers set up makeshift offices — people even brought printers! Lots of people brought food (my friend Heather baked cookies and brought them by to drop off). It was beautifully spontaneous! Keep in mind the entire thing was a surprise as Trump announced it the afternoon before and people all over the country had the idea to go do sit-ins at the airports. It is still going on.

People holding signs in the protest outside SFO’s International Terminal on Saturday:
Sfo protest saturday

Sunday I considered going back but exhaustion and pain made me think that was a bad idea. It’s not going to help anything if I go into a pain/inflammation flareup and am stuck in bed for days or weeks. So I stayed in bed and wrote. I was going to write this blog post, but instead had the urge to respond to what I thought was a very moving act of support from the guy who runs the SFBART social media accounts, and the SF airport officials announcing their own support of civic action of the protesters. So, I wrote a silly sweet fanfic of SFO and BART being roommates, having tea together and watching Doctor Who, discussing their political beliefs and their job as civic infrastructure. My feeling was that this would be emotionally supportive for many people, sort of comforting…. and my silly fiction impulse would be a form of activism, like when I pass out zines and stickers to make people feel happy at getting a random gift. (ZINE FAIRY!!!!) Then someone who had read my tweets asked me if I’d write up a description of the protest, for Crimethinc, “Don’t see what happens, be what happens“. Not the most shining example of writing but there it is.

Tonight the ongoing struggles and constant flow of scary news of what Trump and co. are doing is tough but we are all very determined. I have read plenty of history of how dictatorships go down and have been worrying about this coming for a while. I thought during my lifetime I had a chance of not experiencing it super directly, dictatorship oppression and war and I still hope not. As my characters mention in the ridiculous infrastructure fic, obviously, not everyone is experiencing the safety and comfort I have been lucky enough to have so far in life, which makes the safetey and comfort less good to have, we can’t be unaware of injustice and inequality and suffering around us. As I see other very privileged people like myself shaken by fear since the elections and especially in the last week, it is also very clear that people experiencing worse oppression all around us, from racism, police violence and impunity, the experience of prison and poverty, justly feel angry and impatient to see middle class white people wake up… finally….. It is very annoying to know that our particular voices are not heard, believed, felt, to be real experiences worthy of action even if it is fairly natural for people not to act until they feel threatened. We have to look out for each other and please think on who is more vulnerable than you, if you can, around you in your community and find out what they need rather than worrying about your 401K or the dreaded knock on the door that might come from your imprudent tweets, coming back to bite you in the ass in our potential future under dictatorship. If you can’t I do think that’s understandable, but what is your comfort, even your survival, worth, under what conditions? Time to think about things on that level, very soon now if you haven’t yet.

The great injustice of this country has been for many years that we exist in comfort while people are incarcerated with the most ridiculous inequality and over-zealous application of law, law that should protect us all has been used to harm people in poverty and most deadly, harming people of color, black and latino people, black men in particular, and you can see from who gets shot by cops that a high proportion are disabled people of color. We need to support Black Lives Matter and fight against not only police shootings and violence but the extreme…. EXTREME violence of the state in locking people up for years, for their entire lives, for basing entire sections of the economy on exploiting their incarceration, making the prison industrial complex a true horror of our time in the United States. We live with this reality, to me, something just unbelieveable, unspeakable! You will, maybe, look back and wonder how this happpened, how we lived with it, how we were complicit, how we had jobs that others might have had but for the school to prison pipeline, the way it underpins our entire country. It is vile and it doesn’t have to be this way!

Still, I went out tonight to the Internet Archive to “Lost Landscapes of San Francisco,” a collection of film clips from the last century, very beautiful, lovely short introduction by Rick Prelinger speaking on the theater as commons and the ways that art and history that we make and participate in are a way of resistance in dark difficult times. I will keep doing my work, part of which is writing poetry and bits of ridiculousness, broadcasting enthusiasms, caring for people around me lovingly, making my ephemeral zines, and tweeting idealistically into the air.

Love,

Me.

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Inciting to protest

It’s hard to know how to describe how this looks to me, but I have read a fair amount of history and I don’t think it will go well here.

The President-Elect’s tweet today: “Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!”

Protesters incited

I’ve been a blogger for over 10 years, and as part of the media, I’d like to incite you all to protest anything you please, since that is a fundamental part of our rights in this country. Protest is an incredibly important way that we can drive political change. I believe in protest, and also in the power of civil disobedience. Not just laws but obviously, the principles behind creating laws are worth defending, and discussing, and protesting.

Maybe a more fair way to do things for the President-Elect would be for him to appoint an oversight board to tell the media what they can publish and also making not only protest but suggesting protest or covering protests as news into a federal crime. I can’t think where we have seen this idea before, maybe in various dictatorships over the years.

Failing that, maybe someone could tip off the President-Elect about the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States including our right to free speech and peaceful assembly. There is a nice explanation of it on some useful government web sites. Have a look!

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the United States Congress from enacting legislation that would abridge the right of the people to assemble peaceably. The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution makes this prohibition applicable to state governments”

So, anyway, sarcasm aside, looks like they gave the President-Elect his Twitter account back.

I am so proud of the protestors and especially of the San Francisco students who walked out of class and marched today in protest.

“More than 1,000 students left campuses across the city and marched toward Civic Center Plaza, according to the San Francisco Unified School District.”

I look forward to more protests, teach-ins and consciousness raising and whatever activism and political action comes from the protests.

I also look forward to reading and writing about the work of excellent journalists who will never be silenced . . .

4th of July parade ACLU

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Today’s small political actions

Today I am reaching out to my friends through chat and email, both hackerspaces I’m connected with (Noisebridge and Double Union), our various women in tech organizations, and in person. I woke up this morning (from my grief and disassociation last night) with staunch, fierce determination full of energy and fire and ideas.

I read through the President-Elect’s 100 day plan. Have a look. It’s quite scary. For instance how many people do you know who have health care through the Affordable Care Act, or who have it through their marriages to same sex partners — here we have a direct threat to their family health. Also deeply on my mind – what will happen with Sanctuary cities?

My friend hazelbroom and I met for coffee and discussed our lives, what we do to support others, what support we need, what we can change, what structurally we might be able to affect. A lot of my ideas are around mutual aid networks. How can we create them and make them sustainable? But here is a brief outline: better self care, mutual support for activists, support for others in our communities and beyond, political engagement with whatever politicians represent us. We try to move beyond a charity model and it is often not greatly successful.

For me, I have good mutual support with several friends for example I am around to help out if a friend is down on their luck and needs help with a medical bill, or getting a ride, or groceries during an illness, or wrapping your mind around a complicated legal or bureaucratic situation — and many friends have helped and visited me when I’ve been in difficulties. In those situations, boundaries are hard to negotiate and maintain – hard to even articulate. Learning to have that kind of conversation is likely part of the work we need to do. Hazelbroom pointed out that as queer folks we have more practice than many others with that kind of “chosen family” bond. Those bonds are something more like quasi-cousins, loose partnerships for emotional and economic support. I have many ideas here, and will be writing about them over the coming days and weeks.

Our first practical action was to leave the cafe and go a few blocks down the street to the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center. We signed up as volunteers and got some information from them and talked to Executive Director Gina Dacus, who super nicely took the time to give us an outline of what the BHNC does. I knew already they provide a lot of the low income housing support of our neighborhood and there is some sort of senior center. I found to my happy surprise that the senior services and classes are “senior and disabled” which means : Free senior/arthritis tai chi classes for me just a few blocks away, JUST what I need and have been wishing for!

We described some of our skills for Gina (Hazelbroom: she is an RN, so can give flu shots and that sort of thing! Me: some thoughts on helping with informational discussions of wheelchairs and scooters.) I am donating to the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center right now, online. Our next step is to pull in our local friends and neighbors (including all our energetic, healthy teenage children) to show up to the community engagement meeting, and listen to see if we get any immediate ideas where we might be needed and we can be helpful.

Another next step, I am donating immediately to CARECEN SF, picked a bit randomly out of a list of community organizations in my neighborhood of Bernal Heights-Mission.

colorful mural at 26th and mission

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Happy National Coming Out Day!

It’s that day again! I wrote a coming-out story some years ago, and it’s in a book, Can I Sit With You?.

Here’s a link to the full story online if you’d like to read it. It’s called “The Sex Change of Zyax II“.

True story from my 5th grade life in Houston, Texas in 1980.

Here is a picture of me at around that time, in my big plastic glasses frame, slightly stringy brown hair, and a tshirt with an iron-on patch that says “Friends Are Forever”.

Liz 1981

While the legal and cultural situation for GLBT people has changed somewhat for the better in the U.S. since my coming out experience 35 years ago, I think that we can’t underestimate the damage that hateful bigots still do even with those changes taking place. LGBTQ youth are still at greatly increased risk of being targeted for violence, and at more risk for suicide, than straight kids.

I was pleased recently to see this new of a dude escaping from a bad situation from his family, and that he had good legal support: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2015/10/06/trans-man-trapped-in-india-by-parents-allowed-to-return-home/.

Anyway, keep speaking up and representing, because this battle isn’t over.

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On a ramble in the city in the sun

Up betimes and to the office, where I had a lively time in various conference rooms and having lunch. Milo brought Minecraft and a book; we hung out talking about role playing games and science fiction with my co-worker Marc and my team’s intern Kate; then had a strangely nice time (for a day when a lot of technical infrastructure broke and we had to flail around to get things to work). I remarked to Ritu and Kate in our free form working-on-things meeting that I was so happy they are both interrupters. If only one of us was, it would be awkward. But with three rapidly thinking juggernaut talkers we jostled ideas and work around them, getting a lot done and building a group understanding of how we’re reading bugs and documentation, looking at metrics, and making decisions. My other team members are also like this. We can listen too — it is a comfortable mosh pit.

As usual I am wildly impressed by the deep knowledge of so many engineers at work. Stuff breaks or we have conflict and yet so much happens. My goal in going after a job at Mozilla was to be in a huge collaboration to make things bigger than I would ever know how to make on my own (after years of mostly lone projects, from zines to book editing to being a lone developer grubbing away in a dark corner). I am still obsessed with what collaboration can be and how it can be structured, and see interesting traces of generations of idealism echoed in our tools. (insert imaginary digression into c2 and meatball wiki history and LambdaMOO…. ) The answer to “why can’t you delete your bugzilla comments?” is actually this giant wild ride into epistemology and communication and truth but you would not necessarily suspect that if you weren’t there. So many things are like this. You look at a bridge, and if you know what ideals inspired the engineers of the time you understand why it is the way it is. Looking at every object, you have to assume that may be the case, just as every person has a deep background from which they have constructed themselves and been constructed. I was feeling this a lot today. This engineering perspective is why I love reading Henry Petroski….

I did promise a ramble! Milo and I went out along the Embarcadero, playing Ingress. I wanted to go down to the end of the pier near the Ferry Building, on this rare warm day when I had the (faked) energy to be out of the house. The sun baked us, we looked at the painted tiles and poetry quotes along the pier, talked to fishermen (who were catching two foot long sharks) and watched a giant cargo ship (in real life and on MarineTraffic.com) go under the Bay Bridge. Oil tanker, Maltese flag, coming from Benicia. Without even trying, we spent an hour loafing around the pier. Pelicans were diving. People asked me about my mobility scooter. Water sparkling, ferries zooming around, someone in a bathing cap swimming around in the freezing ocean! I love waterfronts because they make me feel like I’m in a Richard Scarry Busy Busy World page!

San Francisco waterfront

My plan was then to adventurously take a MUNI train from underground instead of doubling back to get on the F, then transfer to the J to go home Instead, we braved the confusion of underground. The plan: go to the Castro for comic book shopping and dinner. Everything worked out. The train was crowded, but no one was awful. The smellavators, I mean elevators, all worked. We speculated on what it would be like if they just made the lifts into actual toilet stalls. Milo now unfazed by all this chaos while 5 years ago he would have been miserable to be dragged around, needing to check out and daydream or read in order to tolerate it.

I had never been in the Castro underground MUNI station. Weird huh? I knew abstractly that’s what those stairs must be for. But why would I ever go down them? I also have no clue how to get to the underground bit of the Church muni stop. Someday will pop out of it like a gopher and stitch those geographic manifolds.

Everything today was suffused with contentment. I could not stop just quietly enjoying the sunny warmness, the city, thinking on how we were in a place that other people around the world come to on purpose to enjoy.

Pain was terrible today honestly but I was in a state where I could ride it — And enjoy everything.

Liz on a pier in the sun

Cannot do that more than one day in a row. Tomorrow is for working from bed, ice packs on the ankles, and doing nothing more difficult than hobbling out to water the plants on the front porch.

I reminisced a bit to Milo about memories of past SF Pride parades and the Dyke March, and how I feel a little surge of the happiness of coming to SF every time I see the rainbow flags on Market Street. I said how the fact that I roller skated half naked down Market and the next year was in my manual wheelchair hanging onto the back of some strange guy’s motorcycle with my sister pulled along behind me, gives me this weird feeling of strength and history. And how I have been going since 1991, a long time now. We used to take Milo to the playground at Civic Center with my ex Nadine and her family and the kids would just be like, Mom… there is a guy dressed only in balloons. (Yes dear! He’s celebrating! How amusing! Many of the rules of life get broken today!) While I don’t often tell stories about my life to the kids I try to mention at least some of the facts or things that will make them think of their own experiences as existing in a story or history as well and to appreciate everyone around them has experiences as interesting to know as reading a good book. And, I think it would be weird to think of your parent as just your parent, and then 20 years later go, Oh, and by the way surprise she was flouncing around naked in the streets back in the day. Better to know up front so as to get used to the mildly scandalous facts. There is no need to go into details.

So our wandering around today was like my substitute pride weekend. I’ll be out of town this year for work, and anyway, have difficulty keeping up with the crowds. How much nicer to sit in Harvey’s on a mellow day like today — mediocre food but a nice spot to have a drink and gaze out at the rainbow crosswalks – people passing by in their shorts and tank tops. We read the little flyer about Harvey Milk while pondering injustice. Alas, the comic book store was closed on Monday.

Then to avoid the horrors of the 24 at rush hour (always full, passes me up regularly from that direction, rage-inducing) we flaneured down 18th to look out over the park and take the J train. I felt happy thinking of the excellent punk band J Church. Lovely view over Dolores Park. Pointed at our history pet, the Golden Hydrant. (Also, it is a portal, so, hacked it.)

I feel lucky my son can enjoy my quiet pace of wandering around the city and that he is such a good companion for observing and talking, chilling out and reading books in random places. Not for the first or last time I thought of that kind of cheesy sentimental Juana de Ibarbourou prose poem Diary of a Young Mother.

I will be old when my son becomes a man. And when we go out to walk together, I will pretend to be hunchbacked, so that he will seem, at my side, to be more gallant. I will be a little old woman full of crafty tricks. I will learn to stumble once in a while, so that he can support me. I’ll have to feign exhaustion, so that he’ll give me his arm, saying:
          “You’re tired, Mom?”
          And the girls, who surely will all fall in love with him like fools, will say:
          “That crippled old lady on the arm of this handsome elegant man — it’s his mother.”
          And I’ll walk on secretly swelled with pride!

Unlike Juana I don’t have to pretend! And yet am more likely to be the support, open the door, carry his books (since I have this handy sturdy exoskeleton).

Part of a plan! Teen fantasy/sf book and comic book club at Borderlands. I will help Milo make it happen this summer. Isn’t it odd that the libraries, despite having a gazillionty kid/teen events, don’t have just like… a get together for kids who love to read? Not an improving aspirational reading list for the summer or a workshop on origami but … talk with people who love to read for fun, who are your age. Milo remarked how it took him until very recently to realize that most other people don’t read for fun but see it as this special educational activity. It’s good to find your people. It boggles his mind that people would consider one form of culture or art or writing to be somehow elite and high and others, not, when obviously that changes over time anyway and with every new art form! The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in this case! But it’s like he gets to avoid my horrible childhood snobbery!

I thought of my nice day yesterday going out with Danny to eat oysters and weird candy cap mushroom creme brulee. We had just a day to catch up between two of his work trips and a ton of ideas to talk about, his talk at PDF, the general odd zeitgeist, what will happen with the elections and disinformation and astroturfing (my code for this is just muttering “venezuela” which if you followed the last 10 years of politics there and online arguments you will know means, you can’t tell what the hell is going on and everything is fucked). (Obviously that political situation is not special to VZ; it’s just that I was paying attention to it at the time.) We talked about writing projects. Gossip — ranging far afield — the psychology of everyone — ourselves — etc.

So, meanwhile, I complain about spending a lot of time just being in bed or on the couch. And sometimes resent that going to the drugstore 3 blocks away is my outside of the house activity for the week. How pathetic that little bit of happiness seems when I feel down or when I’m wishing to travel all over the world. But it isn’t really a bad thing and I think never will be. When I’m 90 I’ll sit on a bench feeling the sun, taking pleasure in that. It will be just fine.

A small but determined ambition: have periodic short writing times, with many different people, including Milo and Danny…. Some sporadic instances of Writing Together but separately time and talking over projects, rather than a regular habit which none of us can stick to because of the structures of our lives. How will I model sustainable feminist activism? This question my therapist posed has been a fine mantra over the past 8 months or so.

This last week I thought a lot about my friends and people in my life, thinking of them with huge affection. I want to write letters to everyone. What if I just write nice letters to people over this next year? But not “just”. The idea I was ticking over at this time last year was to do an anthology that is exactly to my taste of memoir and essay. I want to pull people together to represent this moment as intensely as possible. I am picturing this process and this artifact and will make it happen. I want to get out a lot of my books and stuff about diaries, and memoir, and feminist ethics, and jump from thought to thought to see what gets thrown into the mix before this project coalesces. Last year’s events made it hard for me to settle. Now I think I know what to do here. Think on history and activism. Riot grrrl slips into the realm of the mythical past. Moments flame up like comets. Collisions are bright shining. You know the Combahee River Collective didn’t last forever. But the people carried on their work in different trajectories. What they built still stands. The effort to collaborate that intensely is not failure because it’s ephemeral – Like all relationships.

Anyway, back to the day.

I felt content and good today. The good wishes of hundreds of people casually on Facebook (that exploitable butterfly) made me think fondly of everyone and I felt loved and appreciated for whatever it is I’m doing now, though it isn’t splashy or what I had planned. People are cynical about that “shallow” social interaction but I do love it. What could be wrong about thinking of another person for a moment, even if you don’t have them in mind all the time, or even for years?

Going across town is still a big deal for me that makes me happy. I do miss being able to get in my car and drive around exploring waterfronts and going all the places possible from the map. Instead: this is the time I’m in this city, in this way, and I’m going to enjoy it.

Small ambition!! Friday I am thinking to get a tres leches cake with pineapple whipped cream from Lelenita’s and invite a few people over. Cake time! Maybe… cake and poetry? Salon time; small private spaces. My feeling of not being ready to write a new different (poetry) book solidified oddly while Danny and I talked at our fancy Sunday lunch. I begin to see the problem there. It is our view of the failures of our collectives. Returning to our romantic idea of the End of Greatness. To get there I need to look further somehow.

Obligatory mention of books: Cixin Liu – just read everything of his that you can lay your hands. The novellas and short stories are beautiful. Read many of them in a row! You won’t be sorry.

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And in undercurrents, violence against women

Some of the things I read today. Sometimes you look at the news and, damn.

Famous dude doxxes some trolls

* Former MLB pitcher, 38 Studios founder doxes his daughter’s online abusers
* Curt S.’s blog post about it all
* Daily mail article about the same thing

I would like to add to Gabby Schilling’s statement that ‘No one should be able to get away with saying those things to a father about his daughter.’ OK I can roll with that if I translate it 8 different ways in my head, but no one should get away with saying those things to anyone about anyone. And this should happen to exactly no one, nowhere, ever, in public or private.

Plenty more to say about how Curt Schilling handled this. Short version: Compare what happens when this dude doxxes people who say misogynist shit, to what happens when women report harassment against themselves. Extra bonus, all the framing of ownership and protectiveness and patriarchy and threats and jokes just makes it worse in some ways, even though I appreciate anyone fighting misogyny and harassment, it’s like, oh did the entire history of women defending themselves and each other just never happen? And I’m supposed to care more about this girl more than other girls because she has a dad and a boyfriend? Oh ok. OK whatever man.

Oh also noting that news article give the real names of two of the harassers, and it should not be hard at all to find the names of the rest of them. It isn’t like they tried to be anonymous or anything, it was just routine behavior for the lot of them.

University health records aren’t private

* University of Oregon doubles down on a rape survivor who sued them for mishandling her case. Educational institution medical records aren’t covered by HIPAA. I had no idea. Horrible on top of horribleness.

Students: Don’t go to your college counseling center to seek therapy. Go to an off-site counseling center. If, God forbid, you’ve been sexually assaulted, try to find a rape-crisis center.

So that pissed me off.

Ferguson Police Department are horrible

* Surprising no one, Ferguson Police dept. shows some very racist patterns of behavior and sends some stupid racist emails.

Smokin’ in the Girl’s Room

Some a-hole named Michael Rosner (who has not heard of the Streisand Effect) in Baltimore has apparently started a civil liberties complaint. Not sure what this means. An actual lawsuit? If so then I look forward to reading this ridiculousness in PACER and putting it straight into RECAP. He seems to be part of Baltimore Node, a local hackerspace, and is one of those people who are the self-appointed photographers of tech events. In a sadly now deleted post on some Baltimore tech group’s Facebook page, he compared himself to Rosa Parks. A+ drama and ludicrousness.

The repugnant thing of course is the chilling effect this kind of thing can have on other groups who want to hold events. I have certainly spent years hearing people say in meetings, “Oh but what if someone sues us for being reverse sexist/racist” etc. and not only can they fuck off, the people who actually get to the point of litigation can fuck right off and go start their own damn coding club.

First prize for douchebaggery goes to a poet

You would think that is enough for one day. And yet we have more!
* Poet Greg Frankson sues peers for more than $300,000 for libel and defamation
Dude, Ritallin, this isn’t how it works. You aren’t supposed to piss off the bard because the bard can write a scornful poem about you. Go write a scathing spoken word piece! Lawyers? Really?! Weak. Oh well! This is why the 21 women wanted to be anonymous in the first place. So that your punitive and extra harassing lawsuits wouldn’t screw up their emails with subpoenas from now till forever. So, apparently he was banned from some poetry organizations and events because 21 different women reported incidents of sexual harassment and assault. Frankson is now suing some of the people involved, and they’re now fundraising for their legal defense.

Politics and policy

I strongly think that reporting and witnessing harassment and sexual assault is political speech and should be protected as such. Anti-SLAPP law should protect us from these punitive defamation lawsuits. At the least it seems a reasonable defense. There is a long history, not over obviously, of violence against women and in particular sexualized violence against women, and backlash against reporting it. (Or prior restraint stops anyone from publishing it for fear of being sued, even when it’s true.)

It is extremely important that we fight on a legal and policy level against chilling effects to our free speech. I also see these lawsuits as having an effect on our ability and right to organize politically. If we can’t tell each other who raped us, how can we fight? In order to protect that right I think we also will need organizations and legal help that will keep our right to communicate privileged information to each other. But that is not all since we also need public disclosure for our activism. The legal definitions of harassment are centered around work environments and the responsibilities of employers to protect their employees.

While I am ranting, I see this as part of a horrible trend to privatize all the functions of a civil society. Having a job in a particular way should not be the precondition for having health care, a hope of a sustainable life in old age aka “retirement”, other basic needs of life, or, legal protection from abusive behavior. Our right to participate in public spaces should be protected. Not just in “workplaces”.

India’s Daughter

Let us look at one more spectacularly hideous example of pushing women out of the right to public life. All the content warnings or trigger warnings possible on this one….

I also read Leslee Udwin’s statement about interviewing some of the men from Delhi who raped and murdered a woman on a bus. There is heartening protest and activism against this sort of attitude as you can see in the many other articles about “India’s Daughter” but it is clearly also not just the rapists who think this way about their right to do whatever they want to women.

I am not trying to equate harassing people on twitter with rape and murder, I am saying that they are facets of the same oppressive attitude and power dynamic reflected. And that one underpins the other. We need to fight all of it.

A good book if you like books

On that note I have a book recommendation: Framing the Rape Victim: Gender and Agency Reconsidered by Carine M. Mardorossian. About the book:

Contesting the notion that rape is the result of deviant behaviors of victims or perpetrators, Mardorossian argues that rape saturates our culture and defines masculinity’s relation to femininity, both of which are structural positions rather than biologically derived ones.

And a bit I highlighted from the book:

We need to understand that the will to dominate is not an expression of free will or of a subject bound to gendered expectations that have turned the will to dominate into identity itself. Indeed, the failure to dominate produces a “terror machine” because it threatens the subject with complete annihilation: once one subscribes to the tenets of this identity-making machine, one is nothing if one does not dominate.

This book connects and clarifies sexualized violence and its role in many forms of oppression. “All violence is sexualized violence.” Food for thought.

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Taxis who refuse wheelchairs

I enjoy coming to Portland and taking the awesomely accessible train from PDX airport to downtown, but I got in a little late for my conference dinner, so, figuring it would save time, I headed to the taxi dispatch line to get a cab. I was traveling by myself, with my manual Quickie Ti wheelchair and a backpack.

The taxis were about halfway up to the first taxi position, and the dispatcher motioned for me to get into the first one in line, a Union Cab. The driver shook his head at her, then at me as I asked him to open the trunk of the taxi. “I just need you to open the trunk, the wheelchair folds up and I will put it in.” He refused to take me as a passenger. The dispatcher was angry with him, but he ignored her and pulled up a few more feet, taking another passenger who arrived at the stand after me.

The second driver in line was in a Green Cab. He had a big white bushy beard and was wearing sunglasses and a large black floppy hat. He looked right into my eyes, shook his head, and waved his hand dismissively as I asked him to open the trunk of the taxi. The dispatcher also was unable to persuade him to open his doors or trunk. That guy pulled up and let someone else and their luggage into his cab.

The third driver was outraged at what he had just seen. He got out of the taxi, and helped me put my backpack into his trunk. I took apart my chair, which has quick release wheels like some bicycles, and folded down the seat back for us both to put the pieces into the trunk of the taxi. This driver asked the dispatcher from the airport taxi stand to report the first two drivers. I said that I would write down their information and report them. I got the cab companies and numbers, but not the license plates. As we pulled out of the airport, we actually caught up with the two cabs that had refused to take me as a passenger, so I was able to double check their cab numbers.

The nice driver was from Broadway Cab. He pointed out the phone number for the City of Portland complaint line, and was very supportive and helpful. He said that to his knowledge, the first two drivers have done this in the past because they think that wheelchairs will take too much time to deal with. Talking with him was so heartening, a good reminder that there are plain old decent human beings around who will treat me like a fellow person although we are strangers.

From my conversations with other cab drivers and bus drivers, there are other assumptions that they tend to make about wheelchair users or people who have a visible disability. Drivers may be angry at me before I even get into a cab or bus, because they are afraid I will take up their time, be unable to get in or out of the cab, may somehow injure myself and sue them, or whatever. If I try to hail a cab on the street, it usually doesn’t work. I have to ask someone else, even a total stranger, to hail the cab while I hide out of sight. This is part of why services like Uber and Lyft work well for me, while I’m lucky enough to be able to afford to use them. I can leave my house with my manual wheelchair, travel, and be confident that I won’t get stranded by bigotry.

As it was, I only had wait a few minutes for a nicer cab driver, and things turned out fine. However, I do get angry about cab drivers who won’t stop for me. The prejudice that I get isn’t going to get any easier for me as I get older, so I try to take the time now, while I have the energy (and the privilege) to report discriminatory behavior.

I just reported them through the City of Portland’s online complaint form and to the cab companies. The city emailed me back immediately to apologize and to let me know they were addressing the complaints. Both Green and Union took my phone complaint and said they would investigate and likely reprimand the drivers.

Since I benefit daily from the activism of people who hard core chained themselves to buses in the dead of winter in the 70s and 80s, I figure I can spare an hour to try to make sure that current ADA law is enforced. I also think of places like New York City where activists are fighting hard to get the city to make all taxis accessible to more wheelchair users.

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The Superfest Dissie Awards

I had a great time last night at the Dissie Awards, part of Superfest, a very long running disability community film festival! Lawrence Carter-Long MCed and presented 3 or 4 short clips for each category like Worst Portrayal of a Disabled Person by Non-Disabled Actor and The Worst Disabled Villain. It was nice to see a bunch of local community leaders get on stage to accept the awards — some of the fake acceptance speeches were hilarious! Audio Eyes did an outstanding job of funny, sarcastic description that felt like watching Rifftrax or Mystery Science Theater 3000 rather than a boring documentary narration. Would listen again. It was great.

Dissie acceptance speech

My favorite was definitely the “So Sweet” which was about cute little white girls sweetly helping disabled people so I got to give several hearty rounds of booing to Heidi and Pollyanna (who along with Katy from What Katy Did, take up way too much of my brain with their angel in the house internalized ableism).

The event started off with a cocktail hour which I missed and then Lawrence opened up with a charismatic speech about how we would discern, disrupt, display, and discover as we Dissed.

Lawrence MC-ing

I can’t remember all the nominations but I did tweet most of the award winners for posterity. The Worst Performance of Disability by a Non-disabled Actor Dissie went to the guy playing the blind old man in Young Frankenstein. Prof. Georgiana Kleege accepted the award. In the world of Young Frankenstein, apparently blind people cannot get anyone at all to come over and share their soup. So sad! It was lovely to feel the audience reaction all around me as we cheered and booed how bad all the performances were as they played off stereotypes and made disabled people the butt of humor. It was often a hard call which movie to boo the loudest for as the judges watched and listened to the crowd, because the spectrum of Hollywood badness was so vast!

Shirley Temple in Heidi as she teaches Klara how to walk and then ends up being more important to Klara’s family than she is, won out over Pollyanna. It was a very hard call for me. Was it worse for Heidi to be telling Klara she could walk if she just tried hard enough? Or worse that Pollyanna told her sick neighbor lady, the one disabled person in town, that she wouldn’t die if she wanted enough to live, and then stormed out in a huge ragequit? The deciding factor for me was that it was extra, extra horrible for Klara’s dad not to love her until she could walk! Christina Mills from the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers accepted the award pointedly remarking that ther are great organizations like California Youth Leadership Forum where Klara could hang out instead of being with that poisonous little brat Heidi.

Crowd for the Dissies

Joshua Miele then took the stage to accept the award for Worst Miracle for the actor playing the paralyzed guy in Monkey Shines. I think it was voted up because the movie’s badness outshone the actor’s bad portrayal! Personally I was rooting for Forrest Gump and the moment where his leg braces exploded off his legs as he ran like a world class athlete. But hey, we’re taking this super seriously, can you tell? Josh invited his alterego, or friend, Manny Zannasshole, to give a speech about his sensitive directing and producing of this miracle moment inspired by his knowledge of “the differently crippled, or whatever you people are called these days, people with crippledness” provoking a giant laugh from many of us in the audience.

Most Tragic was a painfully stupid display as we saw Clint Eastwood feel the terrible pain of the actor in Million Dollar Baby asking him to put her down like her family’s old dog because she could never be on TV again. Wow! It had to win for being most actually horrible and harmful to people’s lives. For me it is a matter of people telling me to my face that they think it is better to be dead than like me, that they would kill themselves, etc. But for many of us it is directly a life and death matter that threatens our survival as nurses caretakers or even family members decide to express their mercy or support a person’s suicidal thoughts instead of getting them help or fighting to change their situation and society at large. So Million Dollar Baby just had to win. Victor Pineda took the stage for the award and was super badass and funny as he told Clint Eastwood he might be better off dead than that ignorant and Hilary Swank’s character in the movie could totally have better friends if he would get out of her life. I’m paraphrasing but that was the gist of it.

Dr. Strangelove then beat out Mr. Glass from Unbreakable for Worst Villian. There are SO MANY. Strangelove has to win for popularity and for the thing that most people want to joke about when they want to joke about your wheelchair. But Mr. Glass was more truly the winner for his villainy being based on his internal bitterness over being disabled! Reverend Scott (?) went up on stage to take the award with his one black glove! You would almost think he had expected Dr. Strangelove to win. . . do I smell a fixed contest here?

Accepting the Worst Villain Dissie for Peter Sellers

The Crips Gone Wild category for buffoonish portrayals of disabled people causing havoc (AS WE DO) gave us clips from Other Sister, Radio, and Blind Dating. They were all horrible. Blind Dating with a very extended scene of the guy trying to fake that he wasn’t blind on a date in a restaurant. Comedy gold!??? Aaaaagh! Then the last category was “Hey, Only We Can Laugh At That” for truly bad comedy that is “Satirization without representation”. They were all awful and I have forgotten which one won because by that time it was quite late and I was tired.

My teenage son came with me to the Dissies. He enjoyed it a lot. He laughed his head off and I was happy to share some good political awareness and humor with him. He gets enough of it from me day to day just doing things like riding the bus. How nice that he knows it isn’t just me making my usual sarcastic muttering comments. He will grow up knowing quite a lot and being a good ally for others, as well as having gotten all the awesome wheelchair and scooter rides possible.

I hope this event happens again! Thanks to the Longmore Institute and the SF Lighthouse for sponsoring Superfest! I hope I can come out to more events and meet people — I often feel totally disconnected from whatever Bay Area disability activist communities are out there as I flounce around in my own little world. I have the community feeling and solidarity online but not in person and hope to connect more in the future. Anyway, if this happens next year I will wear a sparkley tuxedo and do it up in real movie award style !!

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Noisebridge! Best thing ever!

On April 2nd and 3rd I am going to spend several hours teaching at least 70 high school physics students how to solder and some alluring information about contributing to open source software!

They are doing a project to design and build a solar home. If you know anything about electronics or solar energy cells please join us a do some teaching!

rowan learning to solder

I spent $250 of my own money to buy a crapload of little LED kits so they can have a conveniently teachable soldering project – that is how much I love Noisebridge, and geeky things, and teaching, and non hierarchical anarchist/mutualist community spaces!

I am thinking of the Hackability group that meets at Noisebridge to fix and mod their wheelchairs and mobility scooters! We take over a classroom, gank all the workshop tools, and get on the floor where none of us think it is weird that we scoot and crawl and roll across the floor to pick up a screwdriver just out of reach, laughing at all this solidarity! We bravely dismantle our cyborg leg-wheels and bolt them on again covered with LED lights, jazzed up with arduinos to measure battery voltage, then roll on out into the town!

potentiometer and its lever

And the fierce, fun feminist hacker hive that is a chaotic unstructured network of strength and curiosity and information sharing, that stretches from Noisebridge to sudo room and LOLSpace, and beyond!

Claudia

We need more paying affiliate members — we need you! We need your cold, hard bitcoins or your cash!

I am thinking of all the people I’ve given tours to who come in from out of town and are all starry-eyed and inspired, who meet people and go to Python and Ruby and web dev and Linux classes and eat the strange productions from the Vegan Hackers, the laptops that people at Noisebridge fix and give away, the cameraderie I always find there and the fabulous energy of young people just moving to San Francisco to do a startup or find some kind of freedom or empowerment and hope to find at least part of it at this weird ever changing junkyard coffeehouse-feeling co-op workshop. We made this place that isn’t anything like any other place and it can also be YOURS. Meddle in it!f

surface mount soldering

SUBSCRIBE to support Noisebridge’s rent, its freely provided wifi, its bins of electronics parts that anyone can rummage through and pillage, its beautiful giant robot, its classrooms and electricity, its ADA-compliant bathroom custom built specially by Noisebridge folk, its elevator, its devotion to support accessibility for all, all its copies of keys that I and others have distributed as Keys to the City, the library of excellent technical books, well used and loved and read!

Hacker moms visiting Noisebridge

Our rent went up this year, and our people’s job security and income went down. It’s exactly at that point, when the economy is hard on us all, that we need collectives and co-ops and hackerspaces. We have to band together in the best ways we can come up with.

me and maria zaghi at noisebridge

People visit Noisebridge and like it so much that they move to the Bay Area. They come to Noisebridge for education, to find peers and mentors, to teach, and sometimes to find as close as they can get to home and family when they are hackers down on their luck.

Noisebridge - looking west

They come to speak in public for the first time at 5 minutes of fame. They sound a little odd and then they turn out to be geniuses. They drudge to clean the floors and toilets and scrub the kitchen and buy toilet paper, doing the unglamorous physical domestic labor of maintaining this place that’s used heavily 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

noisebridge

We do good work together as best we can. We give a lot to our community! We give access, tools, skills, time, belief, trust, fantastic spectacles, beauty and humor and art. With a sense of wonder and playfulness people walk in and look around – I see it on their faces – like they have just had a million new ideas churn around in their heads – So many possibilities and they know they can be part of it.

Noisebridge table

circuit hacking monday

And we need widespread, ongoing support.

Donate, sign up for a monthly subscription, be a fabulous affiliate of Noisebridge!

If you can spare any, we need your exclamation points as I have used most of them in this post!!

Noisebridge tea cart

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Hurricane relief: Do something!

Aleja and I met online through GimpGirl years ago. I got to know Nick as well; we chat often about space exploration, writing, and comics. We have mutual friends like Jen Cole and Ron Sidell. We met in person in New York finally! Both at the BlogHer conference and then over Thanksgiving while I was in town for the Committee to Protect Journalists fundraiser.

aleja & me

nick working on his webcomic

On Monday I was asking Aleja and Nick if they had anyone with them. Akemi had come over to stay with them through the hurricane but they did not expect at all to lose power and water. I was on vacation in Mexico. My electric mobility scooter had broken, so I had limited ability to go places and was spending a lot of time online following the news and writing to friends.

From my work during and after Hurricane Katrina I know how fast situations can deteriorate and how important logistics are. Simply having people on the spot is amazingly useful. Once they are there, they can see what needs doing. I offered to reach out on my social networks to see if anyone near them might be able to come over and help out. At that point I began to realize the complexity of what support they might need, as well as many of the pressures against asking for help.

Personally, I have a ton of support and resources, yet it only takes a little change in my circumstances to unbalance the whole house of cards. When my needs change, or become more visible, other people sometimes then begin to treat me like I’ve crossed a line into complete loss of control of what happens. I didn’t want that to happen to Nick, as it so often does, and for him with life threatening consequences. And for Aleja who I love dearly I could picture how outsiders would not be able to see the level of work she does and how necessary it is. We value our independence, including our ability to plan and ask for help. But for me personally that comes with a confusing mix of pride and shame, fear and anger, for the times things don’t go as I had planned and predicted. I struggle with this. People are very, very disrespectful and I don’t like to be dehumanized. But to get along and survive, sometimes we have to just eat disrespect. For Nick and Aleja, crossing that line could mean someone would try to force Nick to evacuate without real infrastructure in place to support them and his health care, and his breathing. (And in fact, that just happened. TWICE.) Being evac-ed could kill him, but even if it didn’t, would it result in some bureaucrat or social worker deciding he should be incarcerated — forced into an institution? Would it disrupt their lives to the point where Nick and Aleja wouldn’t be able to come home together? (They already can’t get married.) When I’m casually dehumanized I lose a little dignity and I get mad. When Nick is, his life is on the line. William Peace describes the dangers of the medical model of disability very well in his blog Bad Cripple, which I recommend highly.

In this photo Aleja and I express our feelings about oppression and ableism by flipping them off with a smile:

aleja and liz express their feelings

Anyway, I worried that I was pressuring Aleja to consent to my sending in some stranger (though a friend of a friend) into their home whether to help with personal care or just to bring them food and water or try and find a way to get power to Nick’s breathing equipment. As soon as they said it was okay, I put out a call. It propagated quickly. Suddenly thousands of people were twittering to me or messaging me on Facebook. I was frantically trying to apologize to Aleja over IM for embarrassing them since my twittered request for help went way out of control. Over the next few hours it became apparent that a support network would have to mobilize. And it did! Three out of the thousands were able to offer practical help rather than just saying “Call 911! Call FEMA” (yeah right!!!), and they joined what was quickly organizing to be a team effort from people who hadn’t known each other before. I was glued to my computer talking with people, gathering information from many sources and redistributing it to others, trying to spare Alejandra’s and others’ limited cell phone batteries. Len Burns became my point of contact with Aleja. They needed sterile water, rides for their nursing/PCA staff because the subway was not running, cash for all sorts of things, drinking water, batteries for flashlights, and many more things that had to be brought up and down 12 flights of stairs. Leslie Freeman was the first to get there, I think, other than Akemi. They are both beyond awesome! My friend Lauren who is a journalist and feminist activist also made it there.

Then I began following Crystal and Sandi Yu’s epic road trip in the middle of the night driving from Boston to New York City, stopping at every Walmart, AutoZone, and truck stop on the way to get supplies. When I realized Crystal is also a wheelchair user and that she and Sandi had barely met, I was cheering them on so hard and felt a deep happiness to find these kindred spirits doing something I could at least support from a distance. I donated quickly over PayPal and Crystal was able to use the money right away with a PayPal debit card. Meanwhile, Amalle was coordinating an ever growing Google Doc of information about how to help and exactly what to do. There was a schedule of people volunteering for shifts and to drive Nick’s nurses back and forth from home to work.

Crystal and others also began, at some point, getting money from Portlight — where I am also now donating! Carrie Ann Lucas connected the group to Portlight. I really like getting cash directly to people in a crisis and to “unofficial first responders”, as I will never forget the amazingness of handing wads of 20 dollar bills (given to me by strangers who read my blog) directly into the hands of evacuees in the Houston Astrodome so they could get to their families, buy diapers and gas, and get the heck out of that refugee camp. Aside from the help…. they were fueled by trust. No fuss, no forms, no proving things to people behind desks, just direct practical help.

I love Crystal’s quick and detailed writeup of the history of how she became involved and what she and Sandi did, from Crystal’s blog LittleFreeRadical: UnconVENTional Aid: Helping Nick Dupree, Social Networking Style. I would love to hear the stories of others like Leslie and Amalle and Akemi who are doing so much as well as what this has been like for Aleja and Nick. It is important not to lose our history.

On Wednesday I started doing research on legal issues for Len Burns, to see what options existed for protecting Nick against other people’s non-helpful 911 calls on him, and discussed battery tech and power inverters with other people active in the efforts. At some point Tuesday or Wednesday I Facebook-friended and began talking with Leslie and then Crystal and others working to help; I could see their comments on Aleja and Nick’s and Len’s posts. Now I’m happy to know them and can tell we have a lot in common — our willingness to jump into a situation and improvise, for one! And I understood Bethany Stephens‘ use of the word “cripfam” a bit more deeply because I felt that recognition of friends who will go all out, who know what “solidarity” means…

Meanwhile this happened: Invalid New Yorker’s Pals Keep Life Saving Gear Running. While I can see the effort this reporter made to be helpful, the disrespectful language and the way the story frames Nick and Aleja both made me furious and sick to my stomach. The reporter couldn’t even be bothered to get a quote from Nick but described his very act of speaking as “burbling” etc, in ways that are classically dehumanizing… as non-speech, as non-human, as alien other. I can see reporters will think this an interesting story — and it is, but not like this, not this easy win at Disability Reporting Bingo. Most of the people helping here are also people with disabilities, for example. There are stories to tell about technology, the Internet, hardware, proprietary medical tech, the connections to OccupyWallStreet and activism, and many other complexities. I wrote to the reporter and his editor, and commented (mildly, for me, and without swearing) on the story.

My main usefulness has been to bring attention to the situation and get others involved. People pay attention to my thoughts on this because of my history of public speaking, and blogging; my involvement with hackerspaces, DIY technology, and activism; and because I did some useful on-the-spot work for Hurricane Katrina relief. I also was able to donate money directly to Crystal and to Portlight. Please pitch in if you can, to share resources and skills, because the situation over the East Coast and NYC in general is still deteriorating as gasoline and supplies run out across the area.

Here’s how to help right now: Lending a Hand

Big organizations like FEMA and the Red Cross do useful work, but usually not at this stage of chaos on this individual level. A week and a half from now they’ll be in charge whether they’re effective or not, but right now it’s anarchy, so we have a chance to be the most useful with direct action. Just go…right now while it’s crucial… go to wherever the problem is, LISTEN TO PEOPLE… and pitch in. Don’t just donate some old clothes or cans of food as if you can dump your trash on other people and it will magically make them middle class and give them all the infrastructure of your massive privilege! Go to gather information, find out what is needed, improvise, and DO SOME WORK.

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