Snowing outside—bright, glazed white porcelain snow glinting diagonal streaks across the dull, matte white, horizontal blinds. Warm inside, light grey steamy mists rising perpendicular to darker grey, vertical heating pipes. Cold sunlight crosses hot lamp light, casting a lace collar on the faded, ash-blonde wood floor. A chiaroscuro painting.
My black hair drifts in clumps to the floor—point, counterpoint, snippets alternating with the white, old man’s hair falling outside. A mulch-covering ritual of renewal.
Clip, clip, snip scissors, the shears shearing. A perfect haiku: white spring snow and me, thick, black hair on a diminutive Japanese girl. Or, thick, harsh snow burning a cold January day and me, tall, heavy-boned black woman, crimps of wiry hair, hair in glassy, black waves—an ocean tangling into the African ivory coastline. The snow’s cruel light gleams, thick and gagging, a chalky milkshake, threatening to choke and kill. Or, a dense, onerous snow trudging across the Russian Steppes, asphyxiating the land, crushing the houses, and me, moon-faced, unblinking—staunch. And inside I am warm, surrounded by tufts of hair, molting clumps from a stuffed Panda Bear.
I tenderly collect hair to braid into a rug, to cover with dust, cover with cat hair, cover as it covers—to be worn down back into the elements. Or, this gathering of hair, I will weave as the bottom of a wicker chair, supporting friends that come and go, supporting dust, supporting cat hair, supporting as it is supported. Thus start the years of collecting hair, hair constantly pruned short to fulfill such purposes.
I beg (steal) hair. Rescued from lovers, from friends, from strangers, …. swept from beauty parlors finely stained wood, from barbershops dust-covered, dull linoleum floors, from waste baskets in bathrooms, from brushes and combs patiently culled without breaking the knots and tangles. Workrooms deep in drifting, shifting color-spectrumnal hair—cotton white to Tupelo honey, Poppy red to the deep purple of ripe plums, leisurely loops to ringlets, electric shock waves to water flows. A wondrous fey-lock palette.
Space and history, I weave, time and emotion, I weave—shirts, jackets, dresses, pants…. Chiaroscuro body maps lined with purple amethyst Chinese silk. Hair-knittes huggings holding humans against the cold, the dirt, the outside that sometimes taps, sometimes scratches against my windows. My closests spill stories of dead cells shorn to be renewed, journeys of celebrations and mournings, of beginnings, changes, and ends—people I have never met, people I thought I knew, people I knew for only a while, and the very few I knew forever in the rhythm of their heartbeat. No, they never stay….. But I have their hair—and all that encompasses.
by Riki Mathews. Check out her blog at The Trickster Tells.
Ye cravest certainty in a world
Ye knowest as boundless;
Thy dismay bleedest
Through the cracks in thy rusty and shackled armor
ye refuest to discard.
Thy time hast passed, yet ghostly ye cling, forlorn and lost.
Worn buckles fumbled shut,
Old steel boots mauled onto fungied feet,
Thou preparest thy latest onslaught.
Thou hast trodden into our minds for many a decade
Thy hatred for all;
Harvesting fear and frenzy, seeding anger to fester and explode.
In droves thy recruits swarm behind thee.
Proudly bannered in the American flag.
They slogan forth, fangs dripping Patriotism,
Death to terrorists,
Death to Muslims,
Death to the Other,
Death to all
that lights this wondrous world,
Death to it all
But your dictums.
Though thy faith leadest to the valley of death,
Though thy faith leadest to the Killing Fields,
Though thy faith
thou into befouled alleys,
Heaped in thy stinking deceipt,
Beset by bigotry, envy, grisly greed, lust, and dreadful deeds
that most surely will end in contrition,
Ye travelest it leaning on blind dogma—eschewest reason
and wonder not to justify the vile means nor the ends for that
which you seek.
Doest thou not thinkest of thy God thou invokest so facilely?
Doest thou truly believest thy God adorest thy offerings:
Did Christ not enjoin thy vows of love?
Methinks thou hast lost thy way,
To gather at the birthing of thine own making,
Yet not of the foretold nor desired Second Coming.
Thou hast abandoned thine children
Foresworn thy duteous caretaking,
Forgotten the words of thy Savior,
The meaning of
to woefully follow the
—a Pied Piper—
A Traitor Made in Thine Image,
A most private
Thou Designed for Thee.
By riki mathews
Just recently, a story hit the news about a D.C. MADAME that “threatened” a US senator, a deputy secretary of state, and the man who created the doctrine of “shock and awe.” And just how did this woman “threaten” these and other powerful men? She ran an escort service they used. Now, given the ignoramic double standard in this country—prostitutes go to jail and the johns go free—I have to cogitate very hard to understand in what way this woman was a threat. It was certainly in her best interests to keep the matter quiet, and as far as I can tell from the news coverage of the case, and as business sense would dictate, discretion would be an asset.
Now for some reason, this one was considered so dangerous, that despite the numerous other escort rings in the area, hers has been the only one prosecuted. And why? Supposedly, she was laundering money: a total of $2 million over 13 years. In an attempt to legitimize this courtroom theatre of the absurd, an IRS agent produced records of a lower than middle class lifestyle bought by this “high crime” Madame. Oh, please, give me a good production of Lysistrata any day!
And all of this supposedly required a full investigation into the sexual acts performed along with the release of 132 women’s names, some who hadn’t worked there for years, including being subjected to vituperative, fatuous questions demanding a need to know bodily-function-details such as, I kid you not, asked of a 63-year-old former escort by prosecutor Catherine Connelly, “Did you specifically discuss what happened when you went in the shower?”
The witness explained, “I was having sex.”
“What would happen if you were menstruating?” Connelly then asked.
A travesty of justice? A mockery of it? NO, that and a vilification of women.
X Does NOT Equal Y in this system:
These women, including a naval officer who worked there for only a few months and the now 63-year-old with a Ph.D. will lose their jobs, and according to most of the blogs I’ve seen, both men and women think they deserve it.
SEX….Euwww! Women having sex for money……….Euwww! And the men, or “johns,” including Senator Vitter, a GOP family values crusader, what happens to them? NOTHING. That’s right, nothing. No jail, NO names published, NO fines. Kinda warms the cockles of your heard, doesn’t it, to see the patriarchy in such great form protecting its own. But of course, we all know it’s the woman’s fault; she’s evil [Eve’s to blame]; men can’t help it; women ought to be pure. Or is it, how dare women have power over men; how dare men have to pay for sex; how dare women be able to decide what to do with their bodies when they are supposed to belong to men! I forget, is it the evil woman, sex is bad or the need to keep women in their place and control what they can and cannot do with their bodies or a mishmash of the two?
Gender inequality is an inescapable fact. I witnessed it firsthand only a few years ago as a teacher, as if the women’s movement had never taken place. My female students constantly worried about their looks, felt inadequate if they didn’t have a boyfriend, were made fun of by the males if they weren’t attractive, and were pressured by their peers to have sex to be cool, then labeled sluts, whores, bitches, tarts, teases, etc. And the boys, they bragged about having sex, were studs, operators, stud muffins, with not one bad word for one who slept around. While if a female tried to assert her own will, she was quickly cowed by being called a “feminazi.” In fact, none of them wanted to be associated with being a feminist—though they wanted all the rights from the fruits of the movement. Such a hatchet job the powers that be have done, once again, on women.
I could overwhelm you with stats that back up my assertions of discrimination women face, from studies done where the exact same paper got an A when signed by a male and a B or lower when signed with a female name to FBI Crime Statistics of 2003 where 63.2 in every 100,000 women were raped [and that’s only the reported ones] to the fact that we still do not receive equal pay for equal work. What I find most disturbing are the women who perpetrate 2nd class status onto their own daughters and other women, as in the treatment that Anita Hill received during Justice Thomas’ hearings; her information was not put on trial, but she most certainly was with such rabid emotional responses, giving immediate clues that a deeper issue has been triggered than innocence or guilt.
So let me leave you with what should be two troubling, thought provoking trends:
In India and China, where the status of females is at the level of about what it was in the 1800s here [remember, it took women over 100 years to get the vote and we didn’t get it until 1920; read about the political prisoners conveniently “lost” in women’s workhouses for protesting for the right to vote], 90% of known female fetuses are aborted or killed after they’re born, and in India, married women die in deliberate fires set by husbands rather than divorce and give back the dowry while the police look the other way.
In parenting books for Christians that have become quite popular, the advice given for parents of girls, honored for their ability to give birth and suckle the child, is to adamantly stress obedience, for they must learn to honor their fathers and then transfer that obedience to their husbands.
One last, but not to be overlooked nor forgotten, note; this “dangerous,” “powerful,” “threatening” Madame excoriated in our not so just justice system, committed suicide after her cold and wicked betrayal. For that is what it was, a betrayal. Legalize prostitution and regulate it, as is done in sane countries and parts of Nevada, and truly honor a woman’s right to control her body instead of giving the notion lip service. And please, spare me the moral outrage. Going out to dinner and a movie in which the man pays and then going to bed with him is prostitution. Negotiating the amount or time allotted for sex in a relationship is prostitution. Selling your body at a job every day IS prostitution. Capitalism is prostitution, and we’ve seen what unregulated capitalism looks like.
D.C. Madame, Ms. Deborah Jeane Palfrey, I promise I will not forget what you have suffered at the hands of an unjust society.
By riki mathews: The Trickster
Ah, just hearing Sarah Palin talk about good-old, small town values just warms the very cockles of my heart. I can see it now, a return to those idyllic days of small town idealization: the 1950s, when America was at its greatest. “Leave it to Beaver” ruled the airwaves, entering every middle-class home delivering the very fundamental values embodied by Mrs. Palin, her church, and the current Republican party. Nostalgic tears flood my cheeks—Ah yes, those were the days—and I most heartily look forward to reinstalling them.
Yes, the memories overwhelm me . . . . time spent watching those wise TV fathers instructing their raptly attentive wives fresh from doing their domestic chores dressed impeccably, high heels and tastefully coordinated jewelry, while happy children with perfect manners played harmoniously, then said their Christian prayers before meekly popping off to bed. The good old nuclear family.
Sure was dreamy baby, though it didn’t have an iota of similarity to any family I knew—families where fathers beat their children and mothers called them stupid morons. Disgruntled housewives and single women who’d gotten a taste for working during the war “let go” because the men needed the jobs more. The mommies on my block drug around unintended, unwanted children. Effective birth control wasn’t available and those who perhaps aborted, well, given the morality of the times, that would stay buried in the closet, so how would we know? Unless they died, of course. Even then, it’s amazing the secrets behind closed doors. Don’t know why they were so unhappy; after all, research back then showed that only 7% of Americans thought a single woman could ever be happy. Maybe they just didn’t know enough to know what was best for them.
And as for single moms? Why, I knew of one….but she was obviously immoral, so the entire community blackballed her, and everyone had someone they could gossip about. That’s always good for keeping cohesion in a small town. Yep, nothing like being the outcast, looked down on, unable to find work, having your child laughed at and called names to let everyone else know what they better not do. That went for divorce as well, rightfully scandalous among us average folk, a good cause for a lot of tongue wagging.
The home was a man’s undisputed castle, and his word ruled—we learned that from TV, from our teachers, from, well, from everywhere. Boy oh boy, my best friend’s dad knew that. Punishment meted out in the basement with PVC pipe against bare arms and legs, metal belt buckles across the butt till she couldn’t sit. One time, she got it so bad, she had to sleep on her stomach for a week. Of course I knew, but as far as I could figure, that’s what went on in every home. Even in “Father Knows Best” or “My Three Sons” or “Ozzie and Harriet.” Children were supposed to keep their mouths shut and show proper respect for grownups, and, well, basically, do everything they were told. Now how those parents got their kids to mind themt was the fuzzy part to us as w didn’t know any kid or parent that acted like those on TV. We couldn’t figure it out: were they just being mean like our parents were in private, or were we the only ones in America whose families didn’t look like theirs?
What with all the evidence—TV, Uncle Sam, our teachers and what they had to say about us….my best friend and I guessed we just had to be the sinful little boogers, the deviants, deserving of a good beating or some other torture. If I misbehaved, I got sent to my room without dinner—zip, nothing, even if I hadn’t gotten lunch either because some school bully had taken it. My own fault my parents said. And they never did explain what I’d done to not get dinner. I remember once going a whole week without. That time I collapsed, but no doctor visit; we couldn’t afford a doctor back then. They say we got what we deserved, and I guess we turned out the better for it.
Strict rules were all part of family values back then. And it was the Dad’s job to enforce them. Men had it tough, for sure. You had to give them slack, coming back from the war and all, starting life again. So what if husbands cheated? Good, dutiful wives put up with it. Come to think of it, they never showed any of that on The Family Hour….but hard to believe it was only going on in our small town; whatever, we kept our mouths shut when it came to the men; what could you expect from men? It was in their nature after all; everyone said so. And those women still trying to keep their places in the workforce certainly didn’t help a man’s morale; they were just giving ‘em a reason to wander.
Uppity women. Selfish. Got a taste for working and now couldn’t let go, do the right thing for the country. Their place was in the home having babies—whether they wanted to or not. Uncle Sam knew best; the government made it very clear women owed it to our future to give the jobs back to the men, stay home and raise children—White children that is. I understood that some of my moms acquaintances were doing their civic duty when they told my mom she should give up the job she got during the war . . . . even . . . even if my dad wasn’t bringing home enough money to pay all the bills. I agreed with what they said behind her back, that by working my mom was undermining my dad’s ego, ‘cause her actions were making him think he couldn’t do it by himself; she was making him look bad in front of his buddies and, and, and . . . . that’s why he was running around. Yup. It was my mom’s fault for, now what was the word they used. . . for. . . for . . .I know—emasculating him.
She was white and Uncle Sam had said we needed white babies; he hadn’t said anything about the minority women that’d been working before, through, and after the war cleaning up after the rest; of course they were supposed to continue working, and be thankful they got paid at all. They needed to prove they deserved the American Dream—just like we already had.
And we had that dream, almost all that dream: we got a government loan to buy a home on Dad’s GI bill; he got a new Cadillac every year he never paid for thanks to bank credit; he was a salesman with a fine diamond pinkie ring—and it didn’t even matter that he never sold anything! We had the look of prosperity; that’s what mattered. That’s all that mattered when it came to the money game. And best of all back in the 1950s, we had the Cold War.
Now that pulled us together. A strong common enemy sure brings out true blue American patriotism, do or die, no questioning authority, no sir. Why, just like the beginning of the war in Iraq. It was that same thrill of fear, terror, panic, lashing out, and squashing anyone who spoke out against our government all rolled into one—and it lasted for years and years longer than the crap war we got going on now. Just nothing beat it for getting people all gung-ho and rah, rah, rah for the principles of the USA. I definitely know why folks want to go back to those simpler, halcyon days of yore.
We lived in the bosom of great faith we did, positive that could survive a direct nuclear attack. At my school we faithfully practiced duck and cover under our desks while those of us that lived within 20 minutes walking distance were sent home, the alarm sirens blaring from every corner, to take refuge in our basements, our storage bins, or if we had the dough, newly installed bomb shelters. With fear and pride mingling in our devoted hearts, we banded together behind the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, and Senator Joseph McCarthy—that fierce fighter of Godless Communism and minority groups trying to undermine us from within.
With our government’s encouragement, we spied on our neighbors, anonymously reported anything that looked suspicious to the authorities, rooted when the Rosenbergs were put to death, and couldn’t wait for the next round of so-called traitors to be thrown in jail or lose their jobs [sorry you were framed Ethel, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and there’s nothing like catching bad guys to keep morale up]. We felt awe and empowerment as Cold War bands of thugs channeled our fears for us, demanding blind loyalty tests from government employees, kicking out any who disagreed with any policy of President Truman and then Eisenhower, ruining careers and lives with a snap of their fingers. With total impunity, knowing what this country needed, they ignored the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, planted forged documents, leaked fake information to the press, accused and declared people enemies of the state in private trials.
They fueled the public’s rage and fear, and with pit bull McCarthy at the helm, we got to not only watch, but be co-conspirators in one of the greatest dramatic plays in America. Even though McCarthy was muzzled, we weren’t done expressing our unleashed passion; we stuck to our duty and joined The John Birch Society. Yes, we were the best Americans, finally able to overcome any family troubles and, instead, turn our righteous anger and suspicions on Semites, Blacks and any other minority that wanted to invade WASP America. Boy, oh, boy, those were the days of strong, single-minded conservative values alright.
We surged in patriotism and fear thanks to the Cold War and, naturally, we surged with Christianity to emotionally bond Americans together to save us from hellfire and Godless Communism as well. Making an official Pledge of Allegiance, still itself brand new out of 1942, overtly religious by adding “under God” in 1954 sure helped send a message to any deviants here. And then adding “In God We Trust” onto all our paper money, thanks to an act of Congress in 1955, we magically became that Christian church-going nation the family values people always thought right.
Again we turned to our trusty TVs for the right message, adding Televangelists to our favorite family programs, eagerly soaking up Oral Roberts of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches who offered fake, I mean faith healing of the blind and crippled in front of thousands and directly into our living rooms through the TV screen, and the nation sure was in need of that to keep us strong in the face of our enemies. God spoke directly to him. Imagine how thrilling that was for us watching this movie star preacher getting divine revelations at the same time he spoke to us. Of course we sent him our money—isn’t that the American way? Don’t we get rich through the grace of God just like anyone can grow up to be President? You won’t find me faulting him for his $100 shoes or $500 suits or the $9 million we sent to save his life. He and so many others have taught us the true American virtues of capitalism, which he simply followed.
And we just had to watch Billy Graham as well with his own fiery fundamentalist/evangelical rhetoric. He explained it in terms we could all understand: war with Russia being the millennial Biblical showdown, God’s test of our goodness and strength. Like the great prophet Moses appearing before us on the Universal stage, God compelled us to follow him….we embraced him especially.
Blessed by God and Eisenhower, backed by Standard Oil and the precursor of Haliburton, he, like McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover—his personal friend—focused our rage on the correct targets, the unions, the traitor liberals in government, and anyone who was anti-big business. Yes, he showed us whose side God was on There we stood, the proud towns, nay, the proud nation composed of small towns and our small town American values.
“Gimme them old time values,
“Gimme them old time values,
“Gimme them old time values,
“They were good enough for my growing years, they’re good enough for me now
“They were good enough for my growing years, they’re good enough for me now
…..ah, actually, the more I think about it…. you know, they, they, you know, they look a lot like what we’ve had for the last eight years…..
By riki mathews: The Trickster
The following was written by Riki Mathews, our friend and mentor. Check out her blog, The Trickster Tells.
When I look at McCain’s advisors, the same ones that shaped the Bush/Cheney White House, I realize that nothing will change, only the top names stamped on the policies. And the more I watch the invectives spewing out of the GOP humanity grinder, as they count on us to mistake our baser selves for the best in us, I am sickened by the stench emanating from their lies, innuendoes, and true disgust for all of us who have tried to help each other through the catastrophes and hard times made worse by the Bush administration. McCain, Maverick no more, in 2007 voted for Bush-favored policies 95% of the time. Nor will I ever forget that as Katrina, at category 5-level hit, as people clung to rooftops, as governors from Louisiana and Mississippi pleaded for more government help, Bush and McCain orchestrated a madhatter’s tea party—with cake instead of jam. Forty Senators and 100 members of Congress visited New Orleans before McCain did; he finally got there in March 2006.
McCain voted against establishing a Congressional commission to examine the Federal, State, and local responses to Katrina in mid-September 2005. He repeated that vote in 2006. He voted against allowing up to 52 weeks of unemployment benefits to people affected by the hurricane, and in 2006 voted against appropriating $109 billion in supplemental emergency funding, including $28 billion for hurricane relief. Shortly after the disaster in New Orleans, McCain did introduce a bill that sought to improve communications mechanisms for first-responders and authorities. The bill failed to go anywhere, and McCain later voted against other bills that had similar provisions.
And McCain’s economic policy, which he tries so hard to hide—with good reason—is to eliminate ALL regulatory agencies along with unemployment benefits, Medicare and Medicaid while making tax cuts to the wealthy permanent and funding only the military industrial complex. Stripped to the minimum now, thanks to Republican ideology, the agencies that are there to come to our aid during natural disasters, to prevent food contamination, to research and contain disease, provide vaccines for our children, and so on, would be axed under the McCain/Palin administration. McCain claims country first, but I must ask whose country does he mean? Certainly not the country of the poor, the workers, single women, minorities, the sick, or those trying to get an education.
I worked for 30 years teaching college and high school (recognized in Who’s Who for my contributions to the US, to education, to women) before I became disabled; now I depend on a poverty level pittance from Medicare to survive. Myself and others like me, despite what we have given to our country, would eventually be cut off with no government support under the McCain/Palin ideology, even veterans—as McCain has repeatedly voted against bills to help them, still, McCain runs on his story of being a POW as qualifying him to be president while denying veterans further benefits, and so I ask again, just what kind of country does he mean? Those willing to give their lives for this country get slaughtered or maimed for a pittance while those who got their money through inheritance or by investing, those living off the money others make …. get government subsidies.
Now McCain has chosen Sarah Palin for VP, the anathema of feminist and humanist values. As many before me have said, I yearn for qualified, independent, thinking women in all roles—but Palin has none of these qualities. A person, man or woman, with Palin’s record, being sheltered from the press, needing to be protected from questions crucial to the direction of this country, is not an appropriate candidate. We are told Palin’s religion, record, and family are off limits by the same people that demeaned Obama’s family, clamored he was racist, a sexist, that his religion was not the “right” kind of religion, even attacked his patriotism and his qualifications. That she should be held to an entirely different set of standards is despicable.
She has lied about lobbying congress for earmarks, for supporting the bridge to nowhere. She wants to force her beliefs upon the entire country, throwing out wholesale the concepts of liberty and freedom, ignoring the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Of course she is the darling of the extremist right; she believes that a grouping of undifferentiated embryonic cells is of more value than the living, breathing, thinking, laughing, crying female in which the cells reside. Make no mistake; she is not interested in educating women in order to reduce the need for abortion; she is against helping women make wise choices, helping them have the tools to prevent abortion, but when it comes to once the damage is done, she is all for forcing a woman to give birth even if the woman was raped, a victim of incest, or, yes, the woman will die from the pregnancy. I believe, as do all women, that abortion is tragic. But I do not see the extreme right taking on the burden of prenatal, natal, and postnatal care—including the millions of dollars it now costs to raise a child—due to their extremist, toxic mix of no education regarding birth control, no access to birth control, and then forcing a woman to give birth against her wishes. I simply cannot see that this helps women or children, and while[now wile] the majority of Americans are against it, the Federal government under the Republicans and the conservative judges they’ve gotten appointed, is forcing the rest of us against our will to follow.
And for the brave women raising their children alone, Palin’s brand of religion and GOP ideology has plenty of names for them: irresponsible, lazy, immoral, unworthy of help. But far be it for anyone to make a judgment about Palin’s family “choice.” Where I come from, that is called hypocritical, and it most certainly is not feminist, compassionate, or the type of country I want to live in. It is not a country that respects all women, that recognizes all women’s contributions to the fabric of this land.
In an age where anyone being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan makes you VP material and thus potential presidential material makes me cry for the future of this country. If I sent out a resume claiming I had foreign affairs experience because I lived “close to” Russia, I wouldn’t get even a first look from any capable business. In an age where the man running for President blatantly lies and when caught continues to lie (just like George Bush), who believes smearing his opponent with the most vile pejoratives passes for “straight talk” yet has the gall to talk about honor and duty to his country clarifies for me the problems we face: we can choose to descend back into the Middle Ages of chronic warfare (the cost of Iraq alone is clocking close to $545, no 6, billion as I write), abject poverty, financial ruin, pettiness, ignorance, narrow-minded hateful rage, and extremist religious rule—or we can choose to rise out of the muck, work together, and leave a better world for all.
Perhaps McCain’s contempt toward everyone but those who weave his webs of deceit comes through best in his exchange with a concerned citizen who asked him a legitimate question about his ability to lead given his age; McCain, rather than simply answering the question, called the man a “little jerk.” As a life-long educator, I know that there is a calling to become our better selves. Let this be the time that we realize it is critical to answer that call.
“All of us are in the gutter; only some of us are looking at the stars”-Oscar Wilde