The Biggest Holiday of the Year

Are You Pumped?!
It’s the day everyone has been waiting all year for. The largest American holiday,
Our most Sacred and Solemn Tradition,
Decider of futures and Fates.
That’s right Campers, it’s Groundhog Day!

Make some Art,
Clear your Head,
Or just watch some mIllionaires,
Give each other concussions
For the Cheers and Jeers of Ourselves.

Do what You need to do
To sweep away the shadows.
Discard those pointless Resolutions We made a month ago
Those resolutions; designed by other People;
Built by our Enemies; orchestrated by the concert We can’t wait to embrace outside Our doors and cacophony We can’t wait to escape after a long hard day of whatever You call it.
All to make Our mothers, Our friends,
Our relatives Jealous and Proud.
Forget those promises of self-flagellation,
fasting, pulling muscles, straining tendons,
Crushing souls across rubber and steel.
Sacrifices for the gods of Cycling and Weight Watchers.
Forget all of those.
We were still drunk.

We were drunk on life. High on living.
That We survived another year.
Lived to see another day.
And no Gods, not even the Gods
of Wall Street or Christmas,
Could destroy us.

Today we splash cold water on our faces.
We don’t fear our shadows.
We don’t believe fear can change the weather.
We notice our winters have gotten warmer,
For some time now.
We notice our neighbors have gotten colder,
For some time now.
And we notice that we still feel the same
More or less
As we did when we first wished upon a
Whatever you call it.

Today is the day we dive cortex deep,
ready to Spring out.
We’ll make ourselves warmer,
We’ll follow our hearts and our passing
Time becomes making differences.
We build ourselves into the person we can be happy with,
or at least Love and Tolerate.
Someone who helps Us-all survive, if we can Believe it.
We embrace the hardest work we know,
Finishing ourselves to be
Less self-centered than we found ourselves
One Polished individual
of the humanity organism.
Not in six weeks, just


Because it’s a Sprint until Thanksgiving.

our Setting, because it’s all about what We put into our Selves
The food, the sunshine,
The air, the animals, the plants,
The water, fresh melting water,
The entertainment, the love,
The stories, the promises,
The playing pretend, the acting,
The effort, the suffering,
The palatives, the disease,
The compassion, the fresh nourishing compassion,
And the aching Truth that we
Never get all the choices we want.
We need all the help we can get to make the only resolution we’re afraid to make every single year.

Ready, Set,

On Your Word, we GO.

Fail Storm

Failstorm - copyright Eric Zim
Failstorm – copyright Eric Zim

It’s so hard to wake up.
Every muscle is sore.
Every neuron aches.
Just hit the snooze button. Any
Any any drop of eye-shut rest is cherished.
Let it seep quickly.

The sun is too fast.
The world is too fast.
Just slow them down. Any
Any any amount of warm-sheet rest is cherished.
The wheeling sky is making me dizzy.

Just let me rest.
Just let me fall up.
Just let me go. Every
Every every atom-bound electron is vanquished
Waking up into the same gravity vortex
That brings us all down.

Moods rain from the heavens
And hit the ground,
Filling a crater of entropy
Filling the sky with fiery
Fallout of discontent.

Fear of Equality

It all started with a simple truth.

I am special. You are special.

We are special. We are equals.

The math is simple.

Promotional image for Being John Malkovich, copyright Propaganda Films
Promotional image for Being John Malkovich, copyright Propaganda Films

But then we asked: what about them?

They don’t act like us, so they can’t be special.

They can’t speak our language, so they aren’t special. Are they nothing more soulless animals, or ignorant, lazy, and stupid kinds of human?

Put them in chains until they learn. Kidnap their children until they adapt. Take away their lands, dress them in our clothes. Sooner or later, there won’t be a them left. We’ll be one happy, equal family.

But then we realize, we still don’t understand them, and when they learn about us, the simple math no longer appeals. Were we that easy to figure out? We no longer feel so special.

Take a step back, and breathe.

Well now. They were born different. A shade too different. An attraction too queer. Maybe they’re special after all.

But, it’s a lesser kind of special. The math doesn’t come to the same total.

We are equal because the sum of our parts is greater, by a math we define. Too dark a shade is too much subtraction. An attraction in an unpopular direction is too much division. We develop a complex math.

With a math like that, they want us to show our work. And the more we show, the more it’s clear: there’s no work under the math, just word games.

Take a step back, and breathe.

Well now. It’s how you live your life that’s important. It’s how you fit in that’s important. A belt size too large. An emotion too large. Pursuing goals in other dimensions. Nurturing an ideal that challenges what we never thought to question. Maybe they’re special after all.

But it’s a frightening kind of special. One that reminds us that equality requires us to want the same answers.

We are equal because the sum of our actions is correct, by a math we define. Plus size clothing too large with remainders. Spartan living too small in its results. Pursuit of ideals that require new thinking undermining all that hard work we’ve learned. Progress in multiple directions prevents us from measuring our value in two dimensions.

With a math like that, we want to prove to ourselves it’s not just word games all over again. So we do the math, deeper and deeper. And we realize this time, the equations work out, but the solutions were the problem. Out of the infinite numbers, we made acceptable solutions out of an arbitrary subset. Our imagination is too big to put fences around us.

If we can’t measure us in contrast to them, how can we see equality? If we recognize the value in differences, how can we tell who is special? How can we tell who is a threat? Who deserves respect? Who deserves to live, and who deserves to die? How can we tell the good from the evil?

Take a step back.


Maybe we never wanted to be equal in the first place. Are we damned to live without equality?

Or maybe, when we stop measuring individuals by ourselves, by who we are, comparing to each other, or compared to an ideal, we find equality.

When each individual is divided by itself, we end up all being 1.

Take a step inside, and breathe.

Warwolves: First Round

Many of the exercises were typical.
Push ups. Pull ups.
Running. Obstacle courses. Weapons drills.
No different than “recess” or “summer camp” that Sarge kept calling boot camp.

But there was one exercise unique to the 13th Special Forces Group.
Changing from human to animal and back,
As quickly as possible.

Photo courtesy of bandita.
Photo courtesy of bandita.

Changing hurts. The first time is always the worst. But
It always hurts so much that it’s a fight to stay conscious through wrenching pain.
These kids were changing
And after every change, the body felt numb from exhaustion, unable to move,
Much less change again.
But they did change again,
Back and forth
Contracting and expanding
Twisting and twisting
Feverish and sweating in pulses and waves…
For four hours a day.
It was, in a word,

Imagine sore muscles from a work out.
Imagine working out by flexing your skeletal structure to the breaking point.
And instead of snapping they twist, implode, explode, and knit tendons.
Imagine your skin is raw from growing and reabsorbing lots and lots of fur over nearly every inch. Pores chafing.
Your jaw and teeth are sore from stretching and tugging.
Your entire head aches from the contortions of skull, eye sockets, ears;
Your brain throbs.
And you can’t feel your nose or lips from the numbness.
In eighty-six words, it was no morning workout.

But the first time they changed together, they just looked around.
Cooper Baker noticed that most of the others weren’t used to this.
How long had they been wolves? Yesterday?
And some of them turned into something other than a wolf.
There was him, Barb Pierce, Judd Surgeon, and three others who turn to wolves.
But the others now combined to create a strange zoo in the middle of the yard.
Two bears sat or stood, looking around at everyone else.
Three elk and the moose mostly narrowed their eyes at the predators.
The coyote was giving her ear a scratch and the fox looked ready to run around some legs.
The three mountain lions, spread across the square tried to catch each others’ eyes or memorize their location.
An actual lion seemed to be smirking while he looked around.
There were three birds: an eagle, a raven, and a hummingbird. The eagle was the only one who stayed standing on the ground, but she didn’t let her guard down.
And snorting majestically was a tall and broad horse.

Pierce and Surgeon looked around stunned, so did most of the rest of the troop.
They thought it was a small secret, something unique about them, and one or two others at most. They were still getting used to the idea of one kind of shapeshifting human-animal monster. Now they were surrounded by a menagerie.
Only Baker, a bears (Jordan), the lion (Jefferson), and the horse (Daltry) seemed to be looking around with curiosity instead of surprise.

But note how they are not all that similar.
The wolves have much different sizes and even shapes.
Judd’s ears are much larger as a wolf than others, but they are, if anything, smaller than average in his human form.
The lion’s fur seems to have a golden sheen, not the dusky matte that is normal.
Barb’s wolf head is intimidating, with large jaw and lamp eyes.
They are unique, as if their own bodies or minds or both shaped their form in accordance to some undiscovered law.

They all spent hours changing.
The grunts
And occasional cries,
Of humans and animals in pain, echoed
echoed into the unpopulated echoed woods around the base.

They felt like a beaten sack of flour. Though Pierce and Surgeon are slower to the bunks, the hard beds were a thin and welcome comfort to all.

Now imagine waking.
You don’t remember falling asleep,
You’re not even sure if there’s a world other than sleep, and if there is you want nothing to do with it.
It is 0400 hours and the aches from the day before have settled in your bones, muscles, teeth, skull, and heart overnight. These aches have established an empire of pain through your entire body. Even now, they spread their propaganda of agony to organs you didn’t know you could feel.

You do not wake up to this slowly. You wake up to Sarge, barking orders, earlier than normal, and you are required to do everything in your power to stand, immediately, at attention, regardless of your state of undress.
You only know it is 0400 hours because this inhuman man just shouted the time and something about sleeping in and how that isn’t going to be happening.

“Listen up, sheep!
We’re going to have ourselves a nice little jog and workout before breakfast, and then once your tea party is over, we are drilling for real this time.
This time, slacking off will be punished! Do you understand me? (Sir, yes, sir!)
You all will work until you can change four times in on hour. Do you understand me? (Sir, yes, sir!)
I suggest you get some sleep tonight, dismissed!”

Imagine the pain inside snapping to attention, begging that there isn’t going to be round 2.

Round 2 is right now.

Warwolves: Arrival at Boot Camp

There was discipline and punishment.
There were lockers and no privacy.
There was green and no crops.
There were men who were children the day before,
A reflection of the nation
They tremble to defend.
There was sweat and hidden tears.
There was the taste of metal
Deep in the throat.

Source unknown. Proceed with caution.
Source unknown. Proceed with caution.

Shouts of praise from gloriously
Frightened sergeants,
Turning terror
Into fuel.
Turning horror
Into rage.
Turning vengeance
Into vendetta.

Bonds of brotherhood were just beginning to form
When a captain showed up to escort Cooper Baker away
To a new squad. A small squad.
A special squad.

Straighten up soldier.
You look like your mommy didn’t finish weaning you. Is that right? I said, ‘Is that right?’!
You’re all shell and no shock, ain’t you boy?
Did you all think that boot camp was your training?
Mister, do you think her tits are more important that the words coming out of my mouth right now? Congratulations, you’re cleaning the toilets tonight. I hope you all came here with boot camp stew bubbling in your bellies, ready to give Eyeballs here a nice introduction.
What are you all looking at each other for, I asked you a question.
Did I get the only deaf force in Uncle Sam’s entire military command? Unless you shoved a screwdriver into your ears this morning, The next words I hear out of your mouths better be: ‘Sir, Yes sir!’
Did you all manage to hear that?
I said, ‘Did you think THAT was training?’
Running straight laced, lock step, singing songs.
Climbing walls. Crawling through mud. Playing with tires.
That is not grueling. Did you think that was grueling?
Sounds like a goddamn playground, to me! Well,
Recess is over, kittens!
The bell has rung and you’re in real school now.
Summer Camp may be tough enough for humans,
But my soldiers,
You don’t fit into that category.
Oh, you all look so shocked.
Each and every one of you assholes really thought you were more clever than the United States Armed Forces?
Woo-hee! I thought they were sending me smart soldiers.
I could smell you a mile away!
As soon as you got off that bus
Your tail was mine.
With fur, without, I am in charge here. I own you.
You will not eat without my say-so. You will not sleep without my say-so. You will not change, you will not howl, you will not piss, fuck, or fart without my say-so. Do I make myself clear.
Thank you for volunteering with the 13th Special Forces Group.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, you’ve just joined the real war.”

Warwolves: First Change

Cooper woke in the middle of a warm spring night
Legs feeling like they were going to rip in two.
They might as well have.

Bones twist and muscles snap and retwine in the change.
The first time hurts like hell.
Then the beast takes over.
All hot breath and hunger. Eyes that slice into a soul.
The beast only knows two things in a situation like this
Thank God it chose flight.

Down the stairs, barely setting foot down,
Cooper ripped through the back door screen,
And out into the fields.

"The wolf's method of attack is from the rear, springing on its victim and hamstringing it and literally eating it alive"
“Wolves Killing a Deer.” from “Wolf and Coyote Trapping:
An Up-to-Date Wolf Hunter’s Guide, Giving the Most Successful Methods of Experienced Wolfers for Hunting and Trapping These Animals, Also Gives Their Habits in Detail.”
by A. R. Harding. 1909. Courtesy of Project Gutenburg.

Cooper’s dad found him about an hour later
Resting near a kill. A deer. Decent size.
His dad heard Cooper groaning in pain, and then go out the door.
He put two and two together, expecting this day would come,
Praying it wouldn’t.

As a wolf, Cooper was sandy blonde, like his mother.
He snarled as his dad approached. Stay away. My kill.
It was still the beast calling the shots.
His dad turned from a dark brown wolf into a man.
“Son,” he said firmly. Calmly. “Remember who you are.”
Coper growled.
“Remember who you are.” His father said louder.
Cooper leapt, and snapped.
His father fell back, holding Cooper by the throat and back of the head.
He had enough of the wolf in him to put up a struggle. And Cooper was under the thrall of the beast, so he had little control, just raw power.
His mother kept those snapping jaws away from her face and looked straight into Cooper’s eyes. “Remember who you are, son! You have to…”
Cooper caught his breath. Now fully aware, in an alien body.
The urge to kill the man in front of him was still there,
It’s always there,
But he fought back.
He tried to say something, but it just came out as a twisted and quiet howl.
His father talked with the same firm, calm voice.
“Feel your legs. Feel your mouth. Listen, smell, and touch. This is you.
This is you.
Don’t fear it. Control it.”

Cooper turned back into human shape, and then he understood the power.
When you first turn into a wolf, you feel the power. It’s too terrible and too terrifying. Some get lost into it.
They never understand. They never return.
It’s when you change back by force of will
Then you understand how terrible it is
And that you’re strong enough to control it.
And it’s liberating.

Changing the Problem with “Childhood Obesity”

There’s a group here in Oakland, ChangeLabs Solutions, a non-profit working on community focused changes.

ChangeLabs Solutions Logo.
ChangeLabs Solutions Logo used without permission for review purposes.

I love their focus on building communities. We’ve never had much community culture, and I believe that is a big part of our future. They work for better uses of public land, food access, affordability, health from the well known dangers of lead based paint to the harder to detect, but demonstrable problems of not getting enough fresh air circulating and sunlight.

There are few things I would change. I would want to educate my new coworkers on the latest science on food and body health. We need to remove prejudiced BMI language, like “underweight” and “obesity” from the way we discuss these matters, no matter how long that takes.

The voice of our community focused health plans must not treat fat children, or anyone, like problems that need to be fixed. Our obsession to fix a problem has created an eating disorder epidemic that is far more dangerous than even our worse fears of being fat.* It is holding us back. All of us.

The content we are producing must live up to our standards. I’ll use this article about Long Beach in their recent achievements as an example.

This article is nice and concise (a bit shorter than this one). The standards being supported aren’t perfect, but there are no serious problems. It is not directly promoting prejudice on individual behavior or body shape, it’s simply a city policy for city spending and inventory. Mostly harmless.

The article takes its time making clear what those standards are. We’re invited to get emotionally invested in “new” things that “quickly” became clear. Suddenly, there’s a very detailed exposition, which is difficult to “quickly” read, and doesn’t deliver on any of the previous promises.

You had me at “Big Brother” and I’m getting Terrence Malick. There’s no ad revenue on this page, so no need to trick people into staying longer than they want. We can relax and invite them to stay longer than they planned, with enough treats for other writers to quote and share.

It’s not until the middle of the article that we get the first morsel of nutrition: “The standards essentially eliminated sugar-sweetened beverages, limited artificially sweetened beverages, and limited the amount of sugar, fat, sodium, and calories in snacks.”

Pretty non-threatening stuff for a city to do. The use of the distancing phrase “essentially” is excellent. It subtly highlights what ChangeLabs found important about the initiative, but also doesn’t take too much ownership of the details or outcomes. This is appropriate. The specifics and results should be owned mostly by the councilors who need to be active in the community for success anyway. If they don’t feel empowered to do that, that’s a private discussion for them to seek out.

The way the article ends is heartbreaking. Ron Arias, the director of Long Beach’s Department of Health, is quoted relating the consumption of food and soda to smoking cigarettes. He claims that what you eat has an effect on other people, similar to second hand smoke. Although, he makes clear that he has no evidence for this belief, he stands by it, and supports new laws to enforce it.

What he said doesn’t bother me. It’s clear from other quotes he’s a bit of an authoritarian when it comes to his vision of things. I know many people, including myself, who get blinded by our own subjective perspectives. It happens to every human. He is probably just exaggerating for rhetorical effect. If I worked at ChangeLabs, I could help educate people like Ron. That’s not a big deal.

No, what worries me is that ChangeLabs decided to end their article with this quote. So people will walk away from the article with words “snacks” and “second hand smoke” and “cigarettes” and “smoking gun.” It’s a quote with power and emotion, probably why it was picked. I don’t think it’s the type of power and emotion ChangeLabs wants to promote. I would have definitely used the quote, but not as the final word.

The thought behind our articles and our mission needs to focus on valuing every human being, not just the thin ones. It doesn’t matter how we look or what we believe, but is shaped and guided by the best and most recent science. And always, always reality checks. We can’t lose sight that we are fighting for people, not science, not city governments, not companies, not even neighborhoods or communities. People come first. Those other things are tools we use or organizations that we ally with. People make those things happen.

*For more science on fatness and debunking popular misconceptions on dieting and weight loss, check out this excellent analysis of the research out there already:
Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift

Who Allies with the Allies?

I’ve admired Professor Banks for a while know. I discovered her through a game designer whose works I admire. She is, no fooling, a powerhouse of social justice and compassion.

So, I was a little surprised to see this article from her, claiming that she isn’t an ally. I posted on her husband’s G+ post sharing this that I disagreed, a lot.

Read on, and come back. There will be a test. Breaking the Alliance by Jessica Banks.

Hmm. Her reasons why she isn’t an ally is exactly why I think she is. So, why isn’t she an ally?

First, I think we should define what an ally is. Let’s look at the worse place to start: the dictionary! To ally means “To place in a friendly association” or “To unite or connect in a personal relationship.” So being an ally means a united relationship.

Shockingly, I think the dictionary is a good starting point for definitions of social change. Instead of putting it in the context of nations or individuals, we’re talking about subcultures. Let’s take the largest oppressed subculture: women. Individual women may make more than men, may have careers in places of power and authority and demand respect above the majority of men. But looking at the culture of women in, say, America, and the overwhelming message is that there is a place for women, and it’s not as wide open as the place men have.

In every state in America, a man can choose not to have a child by walking away from the woman he impregnated. In some states, the man has to pay a monthly fee to do this. For a woman not to have a child in many parts of this country, she has to abstain from sex. If a man is assaulted in his own home, courts are more likely to punish his assaulter. If a woman is assaulted in her own home, courts are more likely to say that she wasn’t really assaulted and she’s making up a story out of vengeance. It doesn’t get much better from there.

Partners in Change says to be an ally is to: “interrupt acts of oppression or discrimination.” And they go on to expand the definition to:

One can be an ally to [the LGBT community], people of color, Muslim people, etc.  It’s also important to recognize that we all have multiple identities that intersect in unique ways.  When we think about ‘allies’, we might consider ourselves to be allies to groups where two or more identities intersect, such as allying with ‘women who are not US citizens’, ‘lesbians of color’, ‘Jewish alcoholics’, etc.

So, allyship seems pretty complex. Not something I would reject lightly.

They also say: “Allyhood is a process, not an outcome.  One never reaches a space of optimal allyhood, but is rather constantly challenged by one’s own beliefs, bias, internationalization of previous experiences, and general stereotypes and resistance.”

I like this even more. Words are never things. We invent words to point to things. When we find a bunch of common things, we usually cover them all with one word. But no matter how alike a grove of oaks might look, those trees are all completely unique.

We can’t even be sure that the seed they drop is another tree. We can make a really, really educated guess thanks to centuries of objective research, but it’s like watching a cake bake. Come back after 100 million years, and the plants growing from those seeds may be quite far from anything you would call a tree. I would not want to be the guy that has to go through billions of generations and make the call about when those trees stopped being trees.

Being an ally is a process. Words are a process. Being an ally is more of an intentional process than the invention of words and the impact they have on our perceptions have ever been. So, I think if nothing else, we shouldn’t reject words just because they’re not good enough without making something better to replace them.

So, to begin, I admit, I can’t be sure what an ally is or isn’t. But the definitions above are pretty solid ground for me to start.

That’s where I’m coming from. Let’s explore where Professor Banks takes it.

First Claim: “See, if I were your ally, I wouldn’t have a stake in these fights. I’d only be working for others; that work would have no appreciable impact on my own life.”

First claim rephrased: an ally cannot have a stake in the fight.

Why can’t I have a stake in the fight? That doesn’t fit my definition of ally.

If I didn’t have any stakes in the struggle, how could I be an ally at all? Right now, me walking away from the struggles for feminism would require a complete and drastic change of character, the foundation of my spirituality, not to mention most of my beliefs in day to day life.

If I could walk away from the game, that means one of two things: I’ve placed horrible bets and need to get away, or I don’t need the money. None of those things would make me an ally to begin with. It’s only when I’ve placed my bets and I’m going to stand by them can I have a hope of becoming an ally.

And yet, if I was willing to take the costs (my character, my conscious, my marriage, my sense of right and wrong) I can walk away from the struggle of gender equality. If I was a woman, there is no place I could go to escape the oppression of my gender. The best I could do is find a community where people are trying to kill the inequality as quickly as possible.

However, Prof Banks goes on to explain her privilege, which as she says: “I am the veritable picture of privilege. So why can’t I be your ally?”

I don’t know why she can’t be your ally. In fact, her privilege makes being an ally the only positive thing she could do for you. So, I’m getting lost. Let’s go to the next claim.

Second Claim: “It suggests that I don’t benefit from the changes I help create.”

Second claim rephase: Allies cannot benefit from the change they help create.

Before I go on, I want to say that her reasonings and logic behind all this are wonderful (you’ve read her article, so you know). I will explain why I disagree, vehemently, with the idea that allies cannot benefit from each other. However, she is 100% spot on in her claims that everyone will benefit from a more just and equal society.

Fighting to remove oppression will benefit the whole of human society. However, getting something out of the bargain does not revoke an alliance. In fact, working towards mutual benefit reinforces alliances in all the histories and stories I’ve read only serves to strengthen alliances, compassion, and mutual understanding. I object to her rejecting the ally label. In my book, if every single person on this planet was an ally to everyone in their life, we would live in a world that is difficult to fully imagine.

Now, in some ways I agree that she is not an ally.

She mentions women’s rights and freedom. In these senses, she I could agree. She is not necessarily an ally. As a woman, she is fighting for her rights often in those cases. As a male who can profit from gender imbalance, I can only hope to be called an ally by someone of Professor Banks calibre in the struggle for gender equality. The best I can hope for is being an ally. Women fighting for their own rights don’t need to stop at being allies, they can be freedom fighters, pioneers, barrier breakers, revolutionaries. They can still be allies to other women, but that’s up to the other women.

For instance, Professor Banks says “High-quality, truly accessible health care keeps me alive.” That is undoubtedly true, and yet, she has affordable health care right now which is a lot more than many can say. I’m in between jobs, and affordable health care would reduce stress for me, as I’m sure it would for her when in between jobs. But neither of us have to live chronically with a lack of health care. As far as I know, we don’t have to choose between food and a life saving operation, and hopefully never will. There are families with children who have no health care. They will benefit from her work more than she or I will.

And if I did struggle to keep my family healthy and make ends meet, I would be extremely put out if some privileged person with a great job that provides health care told me, “I don’t see myself as an ally, I see myself as sharing your struggle!”

It’s wonderful that she fights for affordable health care for more Americans, but she gets to do so from the comfort of having affordable health care. That is privilege and that makes her an ally in the health care struggle. Will quitting her job and losing her health care package make her more involved in the struggle? Maybe. It will definitely make the issue seem more urgent. Or maybe she would be unable to be in the fight at all until that problem is addressed. Either way, she would stop being an ally, but that’s not something to celebrate.

She is rejecting the term “ally” not because it’s misleading, but because: “your rights are my rights. Your liberation is my liberation. Your safety is my safety, and that of all I love.”

It sounds pretty, but it’s not truth. The truth is, I will never know what it’s like to be as oppressed you, because your oppression is not my oppression – even if you are a straight white American male just like me. Your experience is still completely unique. Your path to liberation is not my path to liberation.

Professor Banks seems to be claiming that she’s just as much involved in the struggle as those who desperately need a stronger society. Her skin color, her job, her health care, her hetero-normative family, her seamlessly integrated husband – all of these ensure that she is not that involved in the struggle. No matter how much our hearts bleed, no matter how expansive our compassion, people like us are not part of the same struggle for rights, liberation, or safety.

And no matter how urgently I understand the need to remove your oppression, I will never be more than an ally to you. That’s where I find common ground with Banks. I feel so deeply in what injustices are wrong and which are right that I wish I could be more. I wish I could do more. Nothing will ever be enough. I wish I could say that I’m just as much a part of the struggle as everyone else. But at the end of the day, I am not oppressed in the same way as you are. So if I am fighting for you, the benefits I will get will be different.

It’s obvious to anyone who cares to look that we’re in this together as fellow humans. I know it. Banks knows it. You probably know it. That’s not the problem. The problem is in the millions who still claim that we are divided in ways that are unreconcilable, despite all evidence indicating otherwise.

The problem is those assumptions in my mind that I absorbed over my life, assumptions that were presented as facts, and accepted as easily as “ice cream is good” and “my hands hurt when I fall on them.” These ideas, these memes, that came from my culture, my friends, my family that reinforce the idea that inequality is just the way things are, and that “those people” are just getting what they deserve, ask for, or work for. I need to be vigilant to recognize these. I need to try and be a part of the struggle, but always be mindful that my perspective is not the same perspective as people who have no choice but to be involved in the struggle.

Being an ally doesn’t mean “we’re not in this together,” it precisely means “we’re in this together!” more than almost any other word I can think of.

What we need is more words, not throw them away when the mood suits us. We need more words to teach and spread the truth that we are all in this together. We need more words to cherish our over 7 billion differences and counting.

I don’t know what Professor Banks is either, but I am with her in the fight all the same. Even if she doesn’t know what to call herself. However, if I go to just about any social justice community, link them to her work, and ask the entire community what she is, I believe one word that will come up a lot is “ally.”

Sometimes we don’t get to choose what we’re called. I’m sure the tree wanted to be called something else too.

One Year of Daily Haiku

I’m going to miss it. This really helped me.

It helped me create a writing habit.

It didn’t work alone, but it was a tool that worked for me.

Every day, to reflect. Reflect enough, often nothing more than a strong emotion, remembered, and feel it again, briefly, calmly, and more thoughtful. And turn that emotion into a poem.

And then again when I posted the poem, 52 days later.

I might do it again. Or maybe something like it, but with less structure. But I’m not rushing into anything, just yet. I’m working on bigger things now.