Pride in London and 80’s nostalgia

 

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British Parliament in Rainbow Colors

I was in London on business last week, and by a happy coincidence was able to catch the tail end of the Pride in London Festivities on Saturday. I’m not sure if it was Pride, or simply my mood, but on this particular visit I was hit by a wave of nostalgia while listening to my 80’s mix on Spotify.

You see, I’ve been in love with England, and its central city London, ever since I was a preteen, and just figuring out that I was different than other girls. I was just getting into music and fashion and being “cool”, and there seemed to be so many English music groups to love: the Who, the Rolling Stones, Def Leppard, Pink Floyd, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Billy Idol, the Smiths, the Cure. British musicians, with their cool (to an American) accents and hip British style, were the people I wanted to emulate. To be more precise – male British musicians. I listened to the Clash singing “London Calling”, and wanted to be Joe Strummer, sounding the call to action. I would look at pictures of Led Zeppelin, and wanted to be like Robert Plant, with his mix of androgynous and masculine sensuality, and have Jimmy Page gazing at me with respect and affection (I used to ship those two before shipping was even a thing ….)

My first forays into the androgynous fashion of British pop stars were met by raised eyebrows at the hairdresser, when I asked for a “Rod Stewart” cut instead of my old standby, the “Dorothy Hamil” wedge, and ended up looking … well, even nerdier than usual, sad to say. It got easier as New Wave with its made for MTV pop icons came along – so many boys who looked like girls, and girls who looked like boys. Androgynous haircuts were now all the rage, so that no one thought too much about it when a girl asked for a step cut and a side part, bleached “Billy Idol white” (one of the few times I actually got the cut I wanted instead of the “feminine” version, come to think of it).

After New Wave, the rise of Glam Rock made things even easier for a genderbending DFAB, with only myself knowing that my long, shaggy spiral perm and leather pants were my personal tributes to Roger Daltrey and Robert Plant, my sleeveless Union Jack T-Shirt a tribute to Joe Elliot. Add Guyliner,  studded leather accessories, and minimal lipstick, and I could imagine myself as one of the pretty glam rock boys popular at the time, while still looking enough like a girl to fool everyone else.

Since then, and through the years, I’ve had phases of “trying to look like a woman” and periods of “I don’t care”.  These days I’ve gone over to the “I’m a frumpy, androgynously-dressed middle-aged woman with no makeup and man shoes and I don’t care what you think.” However, as I enjoyed the crowd at Pride, in the fabled city I have loved since my youth, surrounded by many wonderful people who were much more far-out than I could ever be, a part of me felt like I had finally come home.

 

 

Revision Blues

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I haven’t been blogging very faithfully lately. I promised to myself I’d try to do at least one post a month but it seems that things change so fast in the news these days that by the time I manage to write a reaction to something, it’s already obsolete, and to be honest some things have been so horrific that they don’t really need a blog reaction at all. I wish that there weren’t so many leaders determined to prove that there is evil in the world, but unfortunately they exist.

On a more positive note, I’m still in the middle of revision on Deviants, and have been doing Camp NaNoWriMo with a goal of at least 1 hour/day doing revision.  I made the decision to incorporate a lot of the backstory into the manuscript, so right now it looks like there are going to be at least two books following the adventures of Simon and Jamie from childhood through adolescence and early adulthood. I may also do a third, which will follow them into old age. So on that front things are shaping up nicely.

 

 

Being a refugee

There are a lot of white supremacists in the U.S. Not every white person is one, of course, and not every Trump voter or Republican is one, not by a long shot, but there are definitely a few of them out there, and some belong to organized groups that do recruitment, have weapons, and do “survival” training and that kind of thing. I have met American white supremacists before, and I found them creepy, scary, and disturbing, even though I am white. I am certain that people who are not white find them even more threatening and scary than I do.

If I lived in, say, Afghanistan, I would probably meet more radical islamic jihadists, and would feel the same way about them, but in the U.S. I think it’s safe to say that the white supremacists outnumber the radical islamic jihadists by a fairly large number.

White supremacists are not innocuous; they have engaged in significant terrorist activity over the years. In Europe, for instance, white supremacists were responsible for the deaths of millions of people, and have caused considerable terror in the U.S. with lynchings, cross-burnings, and worse over the years. There have also been more recent examples of white supremacist terrorism, in Quebec City, in Norway, in Germany, and in the U.S. Even today, people like Bannon and his Breitbart Media as well as Putin have been supporting far-right groups in Europe, fanning the flames, possibly with the goal of breaking up the EU. The side effect that stirring up these groups might cause some of their followers to commit violent acts – and they have. They tend to be against “the Government” – at least against established democratic government that allows everyone to vote.

Imagine what if …

one of these far-right white supremacist groups started a civil war in the U.S., maybe with support from the Russians or Chinese or both. If they were intent on destroying the government and taking over, they would attack some big U.S. cities in order to destabilize the country, making them unsafe to live in.

Now, imagine that you live in one of these cities under siege, with your family, with grandparents, parents, your siblings, and your children. Your children are afraid go to school, you can’t go to work, and even going to the grocery store risks your life if you run into a band of supremacists, or get caught between them and the remaining U.S. military or the militant left that sprung up to fight the white supremacists. You don’t care who is shooting at you, you don’t care about politics, you just want your family to be safe and live a normal life.

After your brother is killed while trying to find food, you decide to take your family out of the country and escape to somewhere else. The closest safe places are Mexico and Canada, and both countries are already so overrun by U.S. refugees that they have to house them in tents, and are reluctant to welcome more. Who could blame them? The refugees cause a great strain on their systems, and although they keep asking the rest of the world to share the burden, most countries are reluctant to do very much.

Adding to the resentment, Mexicans dislike Americans ever since the Wall was built, and Canada is not much better, you’ve heard, ever since some white supremacists groups based in the U.S. tried to take over the country. You know that whatever you decide, it will be miserable until you can get asylum somewhere else, but you don’t have much choice. You decide to chance Mexico because Canada can get pretty cold when you’re staying in a tent. So you and your family pack only the bare necessities, sell everything you can so have some cash for the trip, and make the dangerous journey to Mexico, dodging white supremacist strongholds and paying a coyote a big chunk of your cash to get you all over the Wall.

Once you are in Mexico, you and your family are detained in a camp with inadequate sanitation and little privacy while you wait for your family to be vetted and granted asylum somewhere. Some of the guards are compassionate, but others mistreat you for no other reason than being white. Still, at least you aren’t dodging bullets every day, so it’s an improvement and you are grateful to be alive.

You stay in the camp for many months, and finally, after more than a year of waiting, you are granted asylum in India, which has been known in recent years for welcoming immigrants and refugees to help with their economic expansion even though the recently voted President seems anti-white and promised during his campaign to ban white people from entering the country. You don’t really believe this will happen, since politicians from his party often use such rhetoric in their campaigns without acting on it. You pack up the little you have left, buy plane tickets for your family with the last of your cash, which you miraculously managed to hang on to, and go to the airport, excited and thrilled to be able to start a new life at last.

Just as you are about to board the plane, you are taken out of the line and told that you are not allowed to travel. Why? Well, India has suddenly decided to ban all travel from the U.S., citing national security concerns. You don’t understand; white supremacists have been more active in Europe lately, attacking targets in North Africa, but none of those attackers were Americans. The new president is simply making good on his campaign promise. They may eventually let some U.S. refugees in again, but non-whites and especially Asians will have preference, since they are more at risk from the white supremacists.

In the past, refugees like you would have been somewhat protected by international treaties such as the Geneva Refugee Conventions, but ever since the U.S. chose to withdraw from international cooperation in the first half of the 21st century, ignoring treaties and conventions, the leadership role in international relations ended up going to the Chinese and Russians. Without some of its strongest champions – for Europe and England fell to the white supremacists just like the U.S. did – the cause of human rights has become a footnote to history.

Imagine how you would feel if that happened to you. How do you feel about the refugee ban now?

George Orwell in 2017

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From Amazon.com, January 25 2017 11:45 CET

I was overjoyed yesterday to read an article in the Guardian about the surge in sales of George Orwell’s 1984, probably due to frequent mentions in social media and the press the last few daysAt the time the article was written, Orwell’s masterpiece from 1948 had reached sixth place in the bestseller lists at Amazon, and today it hit the number one spot.

Part of my pleasure comes from the fact that I am writing a dystopian novel, and this development gives me hope that the genre is still alive and well …but I also find it incredibly heartening to know that so many people are willing take the effort to read the book for themselves and form their own opinion about this work of classic literature.

I hope that some of the folks new to the genre continue their journey and seek out some of the other classic dystopian works, such as Brave New World by Aldous Huxley,  We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. One of my personal favorites is the short story “The Machine Stops” by E.M. Forster (which you can read for free online or download as pdf or epub from Goodreads ), written in 1909 and in many ways eerily prescient about the changes to modern culture and our daily lives due to technological advance.

One thing that Orwell and many other dystopian novelists missed is that subjugation to authority doesn’t necessarily have to be forced by the state, because we step into the trap willingly. How many of us have willingly given up our privacy to corporations in the name of convenience? Apple or Google or Microsoft can track our movements, know all of our families and friends, and know what we search for on the internet. Big brother is watching us, indeed, and unlike a nominally democratic government, corporations are by their very nature authoritarian.

As for news and the manipulation of truth … I was visiting family in the U.S. right before the Iraq war, and I was amazed how willing people on both sides of the political spectrum were to believe the “official” line, and quash any dissidence. What struck me the most at that time was that the censorship came not from the government, but from the people themselves, all in the interests of “unity”. So despite sanctimonious calls to unity and peace, just remember that dissidence can be a good thing, no matter which side you might be on.