Men, we are the product of a society that, largely still, says it’s okay to coerce, harass, pressure and make women feel generally uncomfortable or afraid—but that’s not an excuse. This is the year the other half of the population takes back the power we’ve withheld in both passive and aggressive ways. As men, we can either acknowledge that, apologize and change how we treat women, or we can all die off. If we can’t give basic respect to each other, or better still, elevate others despite their gender, then we’re certainly not going to save our planet.
The French Revolution began with regressive tax reformation that burdened workers and lower classes. A few years later those workers guillotined Louis XVI. Forgive me for being heavyhanded. But, what does it take to get a very small group of assholes, who have all the money, to indulge a fucking history book?
Lately, I’ve made a much more conscious effort to treat people better. Not because it’s the holidays or to walk some “higher road”—I started thinking about how I treat people and why. I found myself running a marathon of thoughts. Decades of circumstances all dancing seamlessly, selfishly, and vastly out of my control. So it goes for us all, gears, pins, springs, dials, and hands in a clock without numbers, and in this I find the patience to treat others, and myself, well.
I have an awkward relationship with almost all of my family, my stepdad, in particular, and it hasn’t changed now that I’m 32 and he’s dying of heart failure.
He’s had heart problems for a long time. It never struck me as odd or out of the ordinary, even after they initially developed. I don’t remember if I called him after his first surgery.
I drop the “step” and call him “dad” because that’s the role he took. While my sperm donor (we don’t talk), John, was in Michigan (getting krunk), my dad was doing likewise while also providing barbequed ribs, AOL, cable, and a waterbed—you don’t hear much about waterbeds anymore—they’re not good for you.
Before I started Middle School we moved into a Pepto-pink house. Neither parent had no intention of repainting it. They worked too much and had their own priorities. For my dad, it was his prized hot tub, photojournalism (he worked for the Valley Morning Star, but his real passion was, and still is, animal photography), and weed.
Not long after we settled in he wanted me to do chores around the house like cleaning dishes, picking up his dogs’ shit, bathing his dogs, feeding his dogs, and picking up trash from our front lawn. I was paid for my work but criticized regularly for missing the occasional piece of trash or pile of shit.
He also insisted that I refer to him and other men as “Sir” and my mother and other women as, “Ma’am”. Binary. This was not a public formality, this was a general expectation along with holding doors, standing when a woman returned to her seat at the dinner table (so old-timey), and many more things nobody does as an adult (not even him). He threatened to spank me if I didn’t, which he only did on a couple of occasions when I was really young.
But that never stopped either from threatening to spank me—my mom was just as guilty. A lot of kids grow up and naturally realize their parents can’t just hit them anymore, but that line was blurred during that time of my life.
He’s laying in a hospital bed, eating hospital food, and making Facebook posts. A mid-century Texan born into a wealthy farm family, Smith. He was almost the Marlboro Man—another gem you don’t hear much about today. After his career in journalism was put to an abrupt end he started driving a Truck. Then came the pacemaker, and then, a decade later, a massive heart attack. Told me he didn’t even realize it. Said he felt off and drove home on a hunch. He was scheduled for a quadrupedal bypass the next morning.
I can’t remember if I called. I’ve always kept myself at a distance from my family, both literal and emotional. When I was 11 or 12 my parents separated. My mom and I lived together for about a year before we nearly got into an altercation over the amount of oil necessary to fry frozen chicken nuggets (our hands clutched each other’s shirts and our fists were drawn). A few weeks later I flew up to Michigan to live with John and my sister, Nicole.
A few months after I graduated from high school and turned 18, I moved to Las Vegas, and that’s about the time my dad started driving. A few months later Facebook launched. He didn’t discover it until much later (and I’m very grateful), he joined and now he’s posting selfies, sticking his tongue out and quoting the Borg, “resistance is futile”, while his heart is functioning at 20 percent. A thumb up, heart or any of the other fucking emojis just don’t articulate how I feel.
He also has to comment on every single thing I post that’s even slightly political. All he wanted to talk to me about after the recent Las Vegas mass-shooting was an article I posted about Australia’s gun buyback (which worked great). He wrote me via Messenger, “…left forearm that has an infection from iv in Tyler. A note on gun control. Ask the American Indians how allowing their guns collected worked out. A long list of nations fell to dictators and evil rule. I wouldn’t trust any country of individual who collected the firearms. Just food for thought.” And no, he didn’t spare me the cliché cherry on top: “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Then he ended with, “Long road to a heart transplant. Hard to wrap my head around it.”
He’s still in the hospital and he essentially has two options: heart pump or transplant. I talked to Nicole today and she tells me He’s leaning towards the pump, they have about the same life expectancy. He’ll have seven or eight more years to bitch about my Facebook posts and take pictures of hummingbirds.
The money controllers grant just enough privilege that we ignore our shared oppression.
Hey, folks, it’s been a minute! Sorry for the silent treatment, I haven’t had time to write. On June 2nd I turned 32 and decided this was going to be the year I drink fewer locally brewed IPAs and smoke less of that sweet, sweet, NW grown, recently legalized, weed.
Within a few days, a lot of stomach and sleep issues went away. I’ve lost nearly a pound every week. I know I sound like an AD in one of those cheap dieting magazines resting above the gum in checkout aisles, but I stand by my decision.
On July 7th, just after I started to feel like I had energy again, my union announced the nomination for officers and elections. So I initiated Phase Two of my quest to cut back on mindless bullshit and deleted all my social media accounts except Facebook (it’s an easy way to get info to a big group quickly), but I did take it off my phone (which merits its own essay).
The last two months were spent driving, morning to night to grocery stores in Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA. To get nominated you have to collect signatures from members, then the campaign begins. There are roughly 24,000 members in our union split between hundreds of stores and shops. I ran for President on a slate with five others. It would have been impossible to do this without a group of like-minded, determined, and passionate members.
I’m still processing everything that’s happened. I’m working on an essay about the whole thing, the corruption, the complete abandon of ethics; all the bullshit at the highest level of government constantly filtering, trickling down to us on television exists in full force inside a humble grocery union.
I don’t want to give it all away, yet. Just wanted to give you all an update before the forest fires, hurricanes, and the children in government do us all in. The only way we’re going to get anything done now is by building community and taking direct action.
Good luck out there.
Hello, everyone. I haven’t been on Facebook much lately, not because the news is always bad, or that half the things I post don’t come up on anyone’s dashboard, but because I’ve been working on a huge project. And I’m going to burst if I don’t share it with you.
I’ve worked for Fred Meyer since May 2009 and have also been a member of UFCW Local 555. As years passed, as I moved from Seafood Clerk to Meat Cutter to my position now in Produce, it became obvious that there is something very wrong.
I haven’t seen a representative in months. I’ve been to ten different stores, they haven’t seen a representative in months. We’re paying dues to ghosts. In these past eight years, there has been just one who did more than sit and poke at their iPad in the deli, confront members about union dues, and just bend right over when the boss came to fire one of us.
And I understand that it’s hard to keep track of thousands of members. However, Laurie Kelly did all that and invested in us—she cared—and lost her job because of it, along with another who ceaselessly inspires, Ida Baumer. Laurie walked the entire store, both stories, and talked with anyone who’d listen. She inspired me to participate, to make time to meet and work with our current president, Dan Clay.
He had coffee with me on a few occasions, bought me books, and strung me along with prospects of a job for a few months. Laurie told me it was a job I didn’t want, and lost hers later that year, just before Christmas. And we’ve all watched as things continue to get worse and worse.
It’s not all bad news though. Over the last two years, our collective concern has blossomed into a cause, a community that holds to direct democracy and transparency, Retail Workers for a Democratic Union. As RWDU, we have tried to hold President Dan Clay and Treasurer Jeff Anderson accountable for their actions and use of our money.
These two can’t keep Journeypersons away from minimum wage. They lost track of 1.7 million in pension funds until a member spotted the error. And they refuse to help or even hear us and delete our questions and concerns on their Facebook posts. And on and on, and on.
Here’s what all this has to do with the project. Last week our Local announced the nominations and elections, and I’m collecting signatures to get nominated for president and fill the highest offices with five other excellent members from both Oregon and Washington.
We have until the 7th of August to collect the signatures needed, ballots are mailed out on the 18th and tallied on September 7th. I’m going to take as much time in August as possible to visit members in both states.
I’m incredibly grateful for all your support and patience and kind words. This is a huge opportunity and one I do not take lightly. Please let me know if you have any questions. If you’re a member and would like to learn more, help or get involved, let me know.
parents strike us and say, be kind
with hands, they shove and say, be patient
parents, a terror, teaching us to love
the howl fades and the soft sheet of night is yanked away
the wood’s whisper yields to the pink peddle anthesis
again our worn hands greet the sun
again our tired feet turn the earth
this is our stone
this is our hill
and then it isn’t anymore
I can’t help but feel a surge of hope. It’s counter-intuitive and admittedly, this nation looks like a kaleidoscope of flaming toilet water. That, however, is what it takes to get everyone to act and we have a big choice to make. Do we continue to wait on some higher power? A judge? Our state or D.C? The President? Or do we take back our labor, our place of business, our home, neighborhood, and city?
We’re made to think we can make we’ll find comfort in suburbia, that we’ll find fulfillment in mundane jobs, paying taxes and voting, reading the newspaper and attending church at least twice a year. But the bank owns our houses, the corporations own our apartments and utilities, and the government owns the land. Our powerlessness under the weight of this truth creates a void no chapel can fill.
Over-priced pop-up condos bloom from the overlooked debris of a what was once our neighborhood. The traffic trails like sloppy thick lipstick lines over the thin cracked lips we call streets. Gentrification has pushed once familiar faces away and replaced them with a rising tide of well-dressed strangers, and an increased number of houseless people. Does the mayor have a plan? I fucking doubt it. I’ve been renting in Portland, OR for ten years and only recently have our issues reached the ears of our representatives, and that’s only due to renters uprising and the formation of Portland Tenants United.
Families are spending winter without shelter while an abundance of dwellings just sits, empty, slowly dissolving from exposure. Electric lines, transit, sewers, the internet (it’s all in need of repair), all there waiting for us to claim it. Turn Private Property into Personal Property. Run the cash flow bottom-up instead of top-down. Transform our token democracy into a Direct Democracy and eliminate the electoral college and all other means by which voters are suppressed.
It feels like America’s as divided as a country can possibly be, and unfortunately, that’s exactly what the property holders and money-controllers want. But the reality is that we all want the same things: purpose, prosperity, and good health. And as long as we’re arguing, fighting, and killing each other the Monopoly Man is sneaking off with our money.
Money we could put into our crumbling infrastructure if we join hands and overthrown the racist capitalist patriarchal system designed to keep us sick and silent, tired and torn, angry, isolated, and shackled to debt. Consumerism has enchanted us into seeing our chains as gifts, our buying power as an extension, or even essence, of our character.
The community is our last stand against the powers that be, and a worthy last-ditch effort for the preservation the planet for future generations. We must all work together to finally lay the myths of the ruling class to rest. We don’t need representatives, presidents, or pastors sucking away our money for empty promises. The state lines of tomorrow must be drawn by the proletariat, not the power-hungry. Or we will never know freedom.