July 29, 2016
I’m not addressing this to Trump supporters. I don’t think there’s anything left I can say that I haven’t been saying that will matter to you.
I’m addressing this to mainstream moderates and conservatives who don’t like your options right now. This is brief, but something that I’ve been thinking for the past few weeks about how to say.
I will not ever tell someone to vote against their own conscience. I don’t think I have that right.
But…If we were in some kind of inverted situation from that in which we find ourselves presently, in which there were no viable liberal or progressive candidate, and Trump or someone much like him were running in the general election against a more traditional conservative or Republican… Just for instance, Jeb Bush or Lindsey Graham or someone much like them… Someone with whom I had really serious ideological disagreements, but someone who I thought had a basic core respect for the American democratic process, for Constitutional government, for civil rights… Someone who undoubtedly had the experience and temperament necessary to be President,
I would vote for that person.
Given the choice between a conservative with whom I had very deep political disagreements but who I believed, at the end of the day, had a conscience and an ability to govern, and an honest-to-God authoritarian with neither…
Not without a sense of conflict, but I’d vote for the person whose decisions on behalf of our country could even be subject to the effects of legislation, protest, advocacy, evidence, and rational debate.
Just… think about it, is all I’m asking.
July 9, 2016
View from the Ethan Allen Express, stuck just outside of Albany, NY earlier this week.
June 29, 2016
My current book list. It’s like a to-do list but worse in how it always gets longer but never shorter.
I think it’s hopeless, y’all.
The Quiet American—Graham Greene
The Jungle Book—Rudyard Kipling
Darwin’s Cathedral—David Sloan Wilson
Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay–Christopher Benfey
River Horse—William Least Heat-Moon
A Treatise on Atonement—Hosea Ballou
Art and Fear—David Bayles and Ted Orland
Gender Shock—Phyllis Burke
All the Light We Cannot See—Anthony Doerr
The Introvert’s Way—Sophia Dembling
Theater of the Mind—Neil Verma
The Last Days of Dogtown—Anita Diamant
Angelic Orders—TR Hummer
Black Hawk Down—Mark Bowden
Gay New York—George Chauncy
The Lost Estate—Alain-Fournier
The Cellist of Sarajevo–Steven Galloway
God Help the Child—Toni Morrison
Mapping Charlie—Jane Meyerding
Saga—Brian K. Vaughn
What We Have Done—Fred Pelka
River of Shadows—Rebecca Solnit
Saving Alex—Alex Cooper
Starvation Heights—Gregg Olsen
Burial Rites—Hannah Kent
Hugo & Rose—Bridget Foley
Cold Mountain—Charles Frazier
The Life of Elves—Muriel Barbery
The Lynching—Larry Leamer
Marrow Island—Alexis M. Smith
One Dead, Two To Go–Elena Hartwell
June 10, 2016
This article (content warning for literally every variety of abuse) is all over my news feed this week, and I’m not terribly close to the particular situation at hand, but I wanted to highlight something that was more obliquely addressed in the article than the acute issues of physical and sexual abuse. (This is adapted from a previous Facebook post of mine.)
And because people on the inside never talked to people who had left, and because they were so inexperienced themselves, they thought that the way things were done at Profiles was the way theater was supposed to be. They weren’t paid because young artists were supposed to suffer for their art. They stayed up all night painting sets because young artists were supposed to be devoted. The interns worked full-time hours because Cox and Jahraus told them they were the “lifeblood” of the theater. The theater didn’t provide safety goggles or other gear because in a gritty place like Profiles, doing things the proper way was a luxury.
I just really, really want to emphasize the above paragraph from the article to everyone who is a new graduate, who is new to their city, who is an intern or young performer or stage manager.
If you’re being yelled at all the time, if the way you’re being criticized is belittling or demeaning or condescending, if your ability to do your job is being constantly undermined, if your concerns about basic safety practices are mocked or brushed off, and someone tells you “That’s just the way it is in the real world” and that you just have to be able to deal with it, know that that is not true. In my experience, someone who says that–That’s just the way it is in the real world and you’re going to have to learn to deal with it–is almost always trying to take advantage of your inexperience to make their misbehavior or incompetence or just plain meanness seem normal. It isn’t. These things really are not normal or okay features of the professional world. Not being able to deal with them does not mean that you just can’t hack it.
If someone lies (to you or to the cast) and misrepresents what’s going on all the time…If someone expects you to help them ignore or break Equity rules…you are not too uptight or too scrupulous or too “by the book” for not being able to go along with that. (Young stage managers especially–your actual job is to uphold that rule book. Someone doesn’t get to hire you and then expect you not to fulfill the most basic requirements of your job so they can get away with whatever they’re trying to get away with. If the terms of the contract weren’t acceptable to them, they shouldn’t have signed it.)
You will always have to deal with conflict and criticism in theater, but that’s not what this is. All of these things do happen in the professional world, but that does not make them accepted or acceptable.
There will probably be times when these things will happen and your best bet is just to keep your head down and do your best and get through it. There may be a time when you decide you need to leave the situation.
But what that doesn’t mean is that you’re just not good enough or smart enough or tough enough to work in theater.
May 21, 2016
I know I’ve said this before, but every now and then I run across something that makes me feel the need to say it again, and today was one of those days in multiple ways.
I know that Dan Savage has said and done some outrageous and problematic things. But “It Gets Better” really, really isn’t one of the worser things he has ever done.
When I was a kid, no one told me it would get better.
Almost everyone told me that it would only get worse. Parents. Teachers. Adults of every stripe continually told me that adulthood was just awful boring drudgery where I’d have to be better at pretending to be someone more socially acceptable than who I was if I was ever going to make it, that the time I was living in was the best time of my life and I should learn to appreciate it.
Our guest speaker for Senior Week in high school actually, in fact, told us that “It’s all downhill from here.”
I was badly bullied at school and at home and no one did anything. I hated that other people controlled my life. I didn’t know I was queer yet, but in so many other ways, a lot of people were making sure I knew that the way I was was Not Okay.
I was supposed to believe that that was as good as it was ever going to get for me. That was the best I should expect. It would not get better.
And those were vicious, ugly lies.
No, it isn’t enough just to say it and not do anything to make it better now, but when the alternative to not even saying it is that a lot of kids are actively being told that it does not get better and no one is contradicting that message in any way?
If you have a choice between telling a kid who’s unhappy or having a hard time that it will get better, or that it won’t? Tell them that it will.
Like, dear lord.
April 27, 2016
As I’m finishing this post, it’s nearing the end of Autism Acceptance Month, and almost Blogging Against Disablism Day (which is officially May 1), and the more I thought about getting around to writing it, the more I thought that it kind of stands at the intersection of those two things… acceptance of autism and disability, and opposition to prejudice based on disability.
We talk a lot during Autism Acceptance Month about the rights of autistic and disabled people to education, to employment opportunities, to accommodation and acceptance in public spaces. We talk a lot about our capabilities, and about what we understand about our experiences.
But I think that there needs to be an understood right of people—particularly young people—to not understand. And to not have that impact their right to access and to information.
Here are some examples of how what I’m talking about plays out:
My most-shared post is one in which I ask parents to tell their autistic kids that they are autistic. And every time it goes around, a certain number of people respond, pretty predictably, “But what if he doesn’t understand?”
Or “He’s too young to understand.”
Or “She’s too much in her own little world to understand.”
Or “She doesn’t look like she even notices she’s different. She wouldn’t understand.”
Or when we weigh in on issues of language preferences or sexual orientation or gender identity among autistic people, people say “My child can’t dress himself; he would never even understand this debate.” Or “Well, you’re fortunate to be able to understand your experience this way, but my child wouldn’t.”
(Side note: There’s a lot I still don’t understand about gender identity. That doesn’t make discussion of it unimportant or useless to me. That would still be true if I couldn’t speak or type or dress myself…which I couldn’t when I was the age those kids are now.)
Or we talk about the importance of learning-disabled kids having access to the same curriculum that their non-disabled classmates do, not only material judged to be on their own instructional level.
“But what if they don’t understand” the same books as their classmates are reading?
Well, so what if they don’t understand? How do you know if you don’t let them even try? Is it the end of the world if you give someone a chance to engage with the same material as their age-mates and they don’t understand?
They might not, but what if they did? What if they would, but you wouldn’t even give them a shot?
We have to be allowed to not necessarily understand perfectly, not understand everything, not understand right away, or to try and not understand at all, without being declared forever incapable of understanding, if we’re going to get a fair chance to understand. Those have to be acceptable possibilities.
We also might understand differently. We might understand something from an angle that you hadn’t considered. We might understand something later. It is actually pretty common that we understand something suddenly, but after it’s distilled for a long, long time.
That we have access to the information is important, the whole time, not only in the moment when we come to understand it. (Somebody tell me who here really understood, like, Huckleberry Finn, or A Wrinkle in Time, or To Kill a Mockingbird, the first time you read it? To say nothing of something like Hamlet? Here’s a great essay about how practically everyone has spent many decades misunderstanding a well-known poem. Yet we don’t preemptively decide of non-disabled students that they will not understand this poem, so they should not read it, even though chances are that they will not understand it. White people are famously having a hard time understanding Beyoncé’s “Formation.” In my elementary school, we were taught to sing “This Land Is Your Land” in kindergarten, “Erie Canal” in second or third grade. I guarantee you that we did not understand what those songs are really about when we were five or seven or eight years old. I saw Peter, Paul, and Mary perform when I was about that age, too, and I did not understand “Blowin’ in the Wind” or “We Shall Overcome.” Does that mean we should have been denied any knowledge of those works?)
And none of this means that it doesn’t matter if information is presented to someone in a form that they can understand whenever possible, whether that means in simplified language, with pictures, subtitles, or in whatever way increases its accessibility. It means that preemptive assumptions about what someone will or won’t understand aren’t a reason to not even present them with the information (or discussion, or work of art, or material that the rest of their class is learning).
How are we supposed to wrestle with information we’re not allowed access to? How are we supposed to ever understand if the fact that we don’t understand is reason enough to keep us from the tools of understanding? Like, do you see the trap?
It starts to look like you don’t, in fact, want us to understand.
Non-disabled people are presumed to be capable of learning from experience and becoming better informed over time. Part of that process is necessarily not understanding something at some point.
If the benchmark we have to meet to be given vital information about ourselves and our own lives is that there is no point at which we don’t or can’t understand it, that’s a game we can never win, because that’s not possible.
If whatever assumption somebody wants to make about whether we will or won’t understand is enough to deny us the information that would allow us to exercise more informed control over our own lives…how are we ever supposed to gain the rights to information, or to greater autonomy?
Just don’t be disabled?
And one major irony is that we write and write and write and write about the importance of knowing, of having language for our experiences, about what it means to be autistic, to be disabled, about the positives and the negatives, about the harm of compliance training, about the harm of indistinguishability as a therapy goal, about what acceptance does and doesn’t mean—and the majority of non-disabled parents and professionals persist in not understanding. Often sincerely. But often willfully. A lot of people just struggle with what we’re saying, but a lot of people keep intentionally twisting and misrepresenting what we say and hearing only what they’re determined to hear.
And no one says that for the crime of not understanding, you forfeit your right to new information, or to information presented differently, or to any access to information, about yourself or the world, or your right to keep trying to understand, or to take time to process unfamiliar concepts.
Why is that?
My high school math teacher would say to us periodically, “Kids are always asking me, ‘when am I ever gonna use this?’ And the answer is…probably never. But if you don’t know it, then you definitely won’t.”
If someone is given access to a discussion or a set of information, it’s true, they might not understand it. They also might not be able to express what they do or don’t understand. If they’re not given access at all, they definitely won’t.