Donald Trump

That time I got Trump’d

Dubai.

When Teacher realized he would be unable to attend the festival, he told the organizer that one of his students was coming alone, and asked her to look after me. Which she did; not her fault I have a gift of finding myself in awkward situations. I told Teacher: he was happy that I was making friends and having a good time but, “Be careful, Vanilla. These guys can be trouble.” Which guys – there are two dozen instructors & DJs here? Trouble? What kind of trouble? Am I at risk of being drugged and date-raped? Finding myself arrested at the border for unwittingly smuggling cocaine? Having my identity stolen? Please elaborate. “Just trouble. Stay alert. Be careful around them.”


Last day of the festival.

At the end of the night, the festival photographer wanted a group pic. I clambered on stage so that I could be seen above the crowd. A few ppl climbed up with me, including a dancer called GLTW (*). As the photographer snapped away, GLTW came and stood behind me, pressed himself up against me and grabbed my ass – two solid handfulls, with a big squeeze for good measure. Not an accident. I tried elbowing him, discreetly, not wishing to cause a scene or disrupt the happy group picture. As soon as I could, I shoved him off of me, and gave him an withering look. GLTW laughed and smirked, before sauntering off.

Now. Butts are kinda public property – they get brushed accidentally, or not so accidentally, in public transportation, crowds, clubs… it happens. GLTW’s behaviour was inappropriate, definitely, but I did not feel violated. Merely irritated by his presumptious behaviour, especially since I’d had almost no contact with the dude: I had not danced with or talked to GLTW all festival.

After-party later that (very early) morning.

Energizer and I flirted away, outrageously. I was leaning against a table, and Energizer stood between my legs and the banter was lewd and hilarious. Soon after Energizer left, GLTW walked up to me, right between my legs, in the spot Energizer had just vacated. “Hi” and grabbed my crotch. Palm up, I could feel his fingers on my vagina, separated only by the material of my panties and the jumpsuit I was wearing.

In silence, I knocked his hand away. “No, but really?!” Once again, he smirked, “what?!” and walked away.

Just like that my enjoyment of the night evaporated. I sought out FroMan, and stayed close to him for the rest of the party, trying to absorb his safe, calming energy. I pretended to watch the beautiful sunrise over Dubai, smiling to cover my mild nausea. I took a shower when I got back to the hotel.

The next day, I quietly told Energizer, Sunshiney and FroMan what had happened, so they could warn any of their female students attending any future festivals where GLTW was present. Energizer was disgusted, FroMan looked grave and silent, and Sunshiney was outraged, “Why didn’t you punch him? If I had been you I would have yelled his ears off, that cocky bastard!” Yes, but you see, I am Vanilla, a nameless beginner dancer. Had I caused a scene, he would have denied it, and with his reputation as a rising star in the dance world, this would be a tiny blip in his career, forgotten immediately, whereas I would be branded a drama queen, forever held at arm’s length in any future dance festival. Should I, could I, have punched him? Maybe, but what purpose would that have served? I just would put myself at risk of being punched back since he clearly does not abide by the gentleman’s code of conduct. No. The only alternative for a nameless female nobody, alone in a foreign country, is to be quiet. Suck it up, because the costs of speaking up are not born equally between the alleged aggressor and victim: the costs would be mine alone.

It took me days to forget the feel of his strange fingers against that most private part of my body: the part I’ve shared only with a select few people that I’ve trusted to handle that intimacy with care. It took me weeks to stop feeling guilty, wondering if I somehow demonstrated cowardice by not publicly shaming him. For the endless dialogue to stop: what was it about me that made him feel that was ok – I wasn’t drunk, I hadn’t displayed lewd behaviour on or off the dance floor. Oh wait, that’s silly, that’s the same argument as “she deserved to get raped, she was wearing a mini-skirt”. This isn’t about me, its about him. But really tho, I do wonder why me?! Am I being dramatic? Maybe this wasn’t a big deal, maybe I shouldn’t care so much. Maybe it’s me. It took me months to accept the proper term: sexual assault.


While the world reacted to Trump’s twitter fight against Mika Brzezinski, actual real news was happening. The Supreme Court upheld part of the Muslim Ban. I get it. I get that we need to prioritize and fight the most pressing issues.

But.

I live in a world where pussy-grabbers like GLTW feel vindicated: afterall, the most powerful man in the world boasts of the same behaviour – and the WORLD REWARDS HIM. It is no wonder that, instinctively, I know there is no point in speaking up when I get assaulted. The evidence of that pointlessness has been in office for 5 months.

I feel defeated. I write this to remind myself I have a voice. Just that: a voice. When the world implies I should be silent, having a voice is a tiny act of courage.

I wrote this post about sexual assault back in October 2016. All that rage. Its burned out now, replaced by hopelessness. That is his legacy.

(*) GLTW = Good-looking Trump Wannabe

Disclaimer:

That Dubai festival remains one of the most wonderful experiences of my life, and I will always encourage anyone to visit the city and attend that festival. Furthermore, to his credit (?) GLTW’s actions occurred after the end of the festival, and must not in any way be associated with what was a wonderful event filled with lovely, kind, generous ppl, talented instructors & DJs, and many many new friends. One bad apple does not make the whole thing rotten. Isn’t that so, America?

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I chose beauty

People more articulate than me have expressed their shock and sadness at the results of Tuesday’s elections. I wasn’t shocked, I saw it coming a mile away – Brexit turned my dread into conviction. Go me, I get to say “I told you so” to no one.

Grief. My overwhelming feeling is grief. Grief that the glass ceiling remains unshattered. Grief for the end of all hope that Obama’s presidency gave me; Brexit, Trump, Le Pen, Putin, Turkey… worldwide, the trend is towards explicit bigotry and isolationism. The liberal in me despairs. Grief for the wave of hate crimes that have started, and will turn into tsunamis before long. We might be a (not so) ways off from the socio-econo-political circumstances that contributed to WWII, but it definitely feels as though Trump was the latest in a long string of steps backwards. Grief for the inevitable hard times and suffering ahead. The stage has been set, and as an idiotic species that can never learn its lesson, we continue our inexorable march towards our next self-imposed horror.

My father, and many others like him, has said this is a test of his faith. That makes me laugh – I do not see anything about these times to make me doubt in His existence (more than I already do – but that is the topic of another post). Surely God, looking down at us, shakes His head in despair, “My children WHYYYYYYYY? I understand you are part animal and so do not have the same concept of eternity as I, but I promise you, WWII was really not that long ago. Europe barely freed itself of totalitarian regimes in the late 90s and early 2000s, and yet is sliding right back into them. I would have expected y’all to have a BIT longer memories than that!! I am too used to you repeating the same mistakes over and over again, just like fashion, to be surprised at your lack of wisdom, but really, this is exhausting to watch from up here in Heaven. I need a vacation. Next time, try wait at least 100 years before your next f*ck up!” (yes, my God says y’all and thou and uses swear words. My God is hip and ratchet when he is irritated.)

I joined in the collective hand-wringing on social media, and almost got myself into a few arguments with friends and family who do not share my point of view. Yup, I participated in all the noise. I shared some articles that had no value, and some that did. I looked at all of the memes of Obama and Biden. I read everything I could get my hands on. I laughed, was sarcastic, morally superior and smug. I listened to Dave Chappelle on SNL tell us white folks that we are freaking out because we might be at risk of witnessing and/or being subject to some injustices, whereas it is pretty much status quo for everyone else. Our hysteria is rather quaint.

Then I read this editorial.

Eugène Ionesco was French-Romanian. He wrote “Rhinoceros” in 1958 as a response to totalitarian movements in Europe, but he was influenced specifically by his experience of fascism in Romania in the 1930s. Ionesco wanted to know why so many people give in to these poisonous ideologies. How could so many get it so wrong? The play, an absurd farce, was one way he grappled with this problem.

(…)

Evil settles into everyday life when people are unable or unwilling to recognize it. It makes its home among us when we are keen to minimize it or describe it as something else.

I grieve, therefore, because of a loss of innocence: I can no longer hide from the evil around me. It has manifested itself, and the time will come where I, as we all, will be judged on how I respond to it. I grieve for the inevitable cowardice I will display, despite my best intentions.


It was a beautiful fall day today. I took a long walk, after my ballet class. Ballet’s history, its music and its dancers are steeped in suffering and horrors. Rudolph Nureyev, George Balanchine, Baryshnikov…to name but a few. The music for Cinderella as well as Romeo and Juliet was composed by Prokofiev who, along with Shostakovitch, suffered greatly because of the Soviet regime. The former chose to sell out and write commercially acceptable works and struggled terribly with his conscience whereas the latter was frequently imprisoned, exiled or blacklisted for refusing to submit to the Soviet’s propaganda requirements. Romeo and Juliet was written by Shakespeare, who did not exactly live in a democratic society, yet whose words still transport us today, 4 centuries later.

It occurred to me that every beautiful piece of music I can think of, and most works of art, is anchored in a place of suffering. Chopin, the king of slit-your-wrists music. Sibelius’ 5th symphony, a work of hope if there ever was one, was written in 1916. Elgar’s cello concerto, a tribute to WWI. Gorecki’s third symphony, the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, has an entire movement dedicated to an inscription found in a Gestapo cell. All these written close 100-200 years ago. All testament to the fact that even in times of great suffering, we are capable as a species of producing and recognizing great beauty. These moments do not wipe out the evil of those times, but they shine brightly against it. They remind that even as we are capable of pushing the boundary of unspeakable actions, we are capable of making the gods themselves weep with joy.


My defense against becoming a rhinoceros is to seek out examples of beauty.

Where I realise that Russell Brand is my soul mate

You know when you’ve said something like that, that’s it! It’s out in the world now, it’s part of your life, ain’t it? It’s with you, that’s it: you’ve said that thing. Humiliating, I’ve got to live with that knowledge. It’s not like I think about it all the time, I weren’t thinking about it when I was walking about earlier, or just now, or anything, but it’s sorta with me. And, mostly there is some part of me, some malevolent, cruel thing within me that won’t let me forget that. Some dark sprite of malevolence won’t never let me be free. Normally it strikes right when I am about to get to sleep- when I am all rested and peaceful. This cruel thing within me gets off on telling me stuff I’ve done that makes me look bad. – Russell Brand

That quote is the reason why I can claim with absolute certainty that Russell Brand is my soul mate. He gets me.


Donald Trump. Really, there isn’t much point in reading this post if you are a supporter of Trump. Or if you deny things like facts.

A Canadian friend of mine, a black dude who is making a name for himself in sports (let’s call him Sporty Spice) shared on Facebook this video of Trump’s latest Raleigh, NC rally, where 2 black Vloggers made a ludicrous speech supporting Trump. Sporty Spice wrote that these girls were modern day Uncle Toms: an opinion you may, or may not disagree with. Fine. I was going to move on with my life until my fingers decided to click on the comments: mistake #1. Reading those comments: mistake #2.

Bozo: Ok. Did you know? Fact: The Republican Party was founded primarily to oppose slavery, and Republicans eventually abolished slavery. The Democratic Party fought them and tried to maintain and expand slavery. The 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, passed in 1865 with 100% Republican support but only 23% Democrat support in Congress.

You know when you are drunk, and you think somethings gonna be a great idea, and of course it turns out to be a terrible idea? This was exactly like that except that I wasn’t drunk. Not being drunk: mistake #3.

Vanilla: Yes, and Lincoln was a Republican. So? Both parties have significantly changed platforms since then. The history of the party has nothing to do with Trump and his racist platform. Just because Republicans back in the day had some pretty solid ideas has NO correlation to the merit of the current candidates.

Some wise part of me tried to get me to move on with my life. Dignity – always worth striving for. The other part of me knew that a trainwreck was about to unfold, and forced me to stay glued to my phone, waiting for the inevitable response from Bozo. Willingly engaging with an unworthy opponent: mistake #4.

Bozo: Fact: in the 1950s, President Eisenhower, a Republican, integrated the US military and promoted civil rights for minorities. Eisenhower pushed through the Civil Rights Act of 1957. One of Eisenhower’s primary political opponents on civil rights prior to 1957 was non other than Lyndon Johnson, then the Democratic Senate Majority Leader. LBJ had voted the straight segregationist line until he changed his position and supported the 1957 Act.

Vanilla: Still nothing to do with Trump and his platform.

Bozo: Fact: Contrary to popular misconception, the parties never “switched” on racism. The Democrats just switched from overt racism to a subversive strategy of getting blacks as depending as possible on government to secure their votes. At the same time, they began a cynical smear campaign to label anyone who opposes their devious strategy as greedy racists.

Vanilla: STILL nothing to do with Trump and his platform.

At this point, I almost was enjoying myself. Thinking I was being clever when engaging in stupid non-debate: mistake #5. Bozo then shared this link: Herschel Walker says Donald Trump ‘is not a racist!’. The link includes a total of 101 words, including 34 used to explain who Herschel Walker is (a former football star who played for a team formerly owned by Trump) + 1 tweet from Walker: “I have personally known @realDonaldTrump for over 30 years and can confirm he is not a racist!!”. Compelling evidence right there. Thinking that such a thing as persuasive evidence would be relevant in this Fbk disaster: mistake #6.

Vanilla: Why don’t you define racism to make sure any discussion is not at cross purposes.

Pretending this interaction was a discussion: mistake #7. Pretending it wasn’t already at cross purposes: mistake #8.

Vanilla: Also, I don’t particularly find ONE tweet by an athlete to be convincing evidence. Not enough to outweigh the statements made by Trump itself.

Bozo: lol, on Sporty Spice’s Fbk page no less. So all he’s posting is, in your words, “I don’t particularly find ONE tweet by an athlete to be convincing evidence.”

I’ll be honest. I LOST MY SHIT when I read that. Mistake #9. I could NOT believe he would try pit Sporty Spice against me, for the sake of scoring a few points in the STUPIDEST CONVERSATION EVER. I could NOT believe that he actually thought he was outsmarting me – I was insulted. Then I felt shame, because it was my fault Bozo thought he even had a chance at outsmarting me: I had engaged this stupid debate with HIM. ME. I DID THIS. Mistake #10.

Vanilla: Bozo, you make it hard to remain civil and not sink to your level of willful misunderstanding.

Barring the obvious fact that Sporty Spice actually supports his opinions and world views with videos/articles/other – some of which I deem legit sources, some of which I find subpar – vs a tweet, which by definition is 140 characters long and therefore typically has less content, the main difference between Sporty Spice’s page and that ONE tweet you provided to prove Trump ain’t a racist is that Sporty Spice isn’t asking ppl to simply trust his word, he is attempting to bring supporting evidence to the discussion.

Nice try though.

Re-reading that comment, it doesn’t even make much sense. Responding to a passive aggressive troll on Facebook while enraged: mistake #11.

Bozo: Nice try. In Québec, the verb “to skate” can mean avoiding questions, to find excuses and use diversion tactics. Most politicians know how to skate very well, but that doesn’t mean that they are any good on an ice rink.

That one had me genuinely confused. Was he trying to describe his own conversation tactics? Spending time trying to figure out Bozo’s thought process or lack thereof: mistake #12.

Vanilla: You sure showed me.

Bozo: You kinda made it easy.

Bozo: Listen, I’m sure you’re a nice person and even fun to hang around with. But here we’ll never get anywhere. I’m going to bow out. Cheers, no hard feelings.

WHADDYA MEAN YOU WILL BOW OUT?! HOW DID YOU END UP ON THE MORAL HIGH GROUND WITH DIGNITY?!?!?! Losing a Fbk meltdown to a twerp: mistake #13.


Ladies and gents, I have to live with the knowledge that I dedicated 45 minutes of MY LIFE to this. Sober. Willingly. It’s out there. The Universe knows that this was part of my life-story.

Cue: Russell Brand’s monologue.

As a parting gift, I leave y’all with a step-by-step guide on how to avoid such scenarios. The glorious Only Bad Chi’s “How to Talk To Republicans“. Read it, chuckle, and then study it attentively. May you avoid repeating the same mistakes I did. 

The Danger of a Single Story

Dynamo is my bestie. My boo. He is also Muslim. Worse, Syrian.

Call the cops, y’all.

Even in Canada, this wonderful country, the anti-muslim spirit is present. One of Dynamo’s friends got asked, following the Paris attacks, “Whaddya mean, you’re Muslim?! You look normal!” I saw this cartoon several times in my Facebook newsfeed by Canadian friends who deplored our new Prime Minister’s plan to welcome 10,000 Syrian Refugees into Canada in 2015.

I get it. Times are scary. Some threats are legitimate. But it FREAKS ME OUT when I hear some of the rhetoric out there. Donald Trump makes me nauseous. Most of the American media does too. I get anxiety attacks when I hear echoes of that hateful speech north of the border. Canadians, remember our heritage:

PETrudeau+All+Canadian

I leave you with a Ted Talk by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – The Danger of a Single Story.

What struck me was this: She had felt sorry for me even before she saw me. Her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning pity. My roommate had a single story of Africa: a single story of catastrophe. In this single story, there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in any way, no possibility of feelings more complex than pity, no possibility of a connection as human equals.

I can’t write down what I believe the current single-story about Muslims to be, in North-America. I will not. It is too upsetting. I come from a family, broken by WWII. Each of my grandparents lived through and witnessed horrors that forever maimed them, damaged my parents, who then influenced me & my cousins, because of a war started over a single story about Jews. Now, I look around me, and I fear the single-story growing about my best friend, his family, and so many others.

It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali.” It’s a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.” Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali: How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.

Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person. The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story and to start with, “secondly.” Start the story with the arrows of the Native Americans, and not with the arrival of the British, and you have an entirely different story. Start the story with the failure of the African state, and not with the colonial creation of the African state, and you have an entirely different story.

That is why the current American rhetoric is so dangerous. It doesn’t matter that Trump might never get elected. He is shaping a single story that will do damage.

I’ve always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person. The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.

Which is why the work being done by Humans of New York is so important. He finds the humanity of all people he interviews. He is telling their stories.

Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.

The American writer Alice Walker wrote this about her Southern relatives who had moved to the North. She introduced them to a book about the Southern life that they had left behind. “They sat around, reading the book themselves, listening to me read the book, and a kind of paradise was regained.”

I would like to end with this thought: That when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.

Wouldn’t a kind of paradise be nice?

#AllIWantForChristmasIsForTrumpToStop

#ImEndingThisPostWithSillyHashtagsBecauseThisTopicIsTooUpsetting