Tag Archives: Pushing Buttons

I am NOT Joseph McCarthy. Really!

The history surrounding the history of Joseph McCarthy, the late Republican senator from Wisconsin, is enough to make a “freedom of speech” lovin’ woman like me shudder.  I’m sure it is no coincidence that Senator McCarthy died right after I was born.  He wouldn’t have stood a chance against me once I hit grade school.

Anyway, for my foreign readers, Senator McCarthy was a nasty, paranoid piece of work.  Here’s Wikipedia’s take on him:

Beginning in 1950, McCarthy became the most visible public face of a period in which Cold War tensions fueled fears of widespread Communist subversion.[1] He was noted for making claims that there were large numbers of Communists and Soviet spies and sympathizers inside the United States federal government and elsewhere. Ultimately, his tactics and inability to substantiate his claims led him to be censured by the United States Senate.

The term McCarthyism, coined in 1950 in reference to McCarthy’s practices, was soon applied to similar anti-communist activities. Today the term is used more generally in reference to demagogic, reckless, and unsubstantiated accusations, as well as public attacks on the character or patriotism of political opponents.[2]

I also learned that McCarthy was equally ruthless at “outing” gays.

Two peas? Google Image

Separated at Birth?
Google Image

When McCarthy claimed that someone was a communist, generally speaking, it ruined his/her life.  There were many innocent victims of McCarthyism, whose professional and private lives changed.  Folks were fired, not hired, scorned. It impacted people in government, industry and in the arts.  Many of us have heard of the folks in show business in particular who were charged.  And anybody who had had any dealings with the Soviets was fair game.

We all like to think that we would never cast spurious allegations against anyone or anything on our planet.  We all like to think that we are good, kind souls, who would never malign anyone unjustly.  That we would never spread rumors or false charges.

Friends, yesterday I learned that I had done just that.  I “red-baited.”  So while I can ‘splain, I must set the scene.

John’s sister sent us a link to a video:

Naturally I wrote back because I love animal videos, they make me smile.

It was only the next day, when deleting emails from my phone, that I learned of my crime.  Because instead of typing “He’s So Cute!” as I had intended, instead  I maligned that little guy.  Accused him unjustly.  Probably ruined his new life for ever:

“He’s a Soviet,” I, courtesy of spell check, responded.*

Fortunately, John’s sister does not succumb to hysterics.  Or to the politics of fear.  Or to spell check.  In fact, she gave me the benefit of the doubt when I confessed my crime to her.

I was scratching my head.  I thought, is this some old Russian film and Elyse recognized it?

For the record, please let me state that I have no inside knowledge of the political leanings of this moose, any members of the baby moose’s immediate family, or indeed, I have no information about moose politics in general.  May I also state, unequivocally, that I have never actually seen a moose in the wild.

Lastly, let me state that as a reasonably well-informed individual, I also know that the Soviet Union is no longer a union, and even the folks in the former Soviet Union are not soviets.

 *Clearly, there are communist infiltrators at work at spell check.  We must seek them out and destroy their lives.  Let’s get Ted Cruz on it.

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Not Our Heritage

Like many of us, I’ve been wondering what I should say since I woke up Thursday morning to the news of the latest gun massacre, this time, in Charleston, South Carolina.

I often feel like I’m beating a dead horse here at FiftyFourAndAHalf.  Do you really need me to go off on another rant about sensible gun laws?  I didn’t think so.

Still.

There is plenty of outrage on so many levels  with this latest shooter.  The deed itself.  The fact that he sat in church with his victims for an hour and then killed them.  The after-the-fact suspicions of his friends that he had been planning this for a while and nobody spoke up.

There is plenty of outrage with the idiotic reactions on the part of just about every member of the GOP, particularly their presidential candidates. They stammer.  They point the blame on other things — Rick Santorum says it’s a “War on Christians” (huh?); Rick Perry says it was the fault of Big Pharma (huh?).  Jeb! says he just doesn’t know if racism played a part — in spite of the words of the shooter that he wanted to start a race war.

But I save my greatest outrage for Senator Lindsay Graham.  He hemmed and hawed at first.  And then he said it.

“The Confederate Flag,” Senator Graham said,  “is who we are.”

And you know what?  Lindsay Graham is nothing if not consistent.  Worse, he speaks for a whole swath of folks who still believe in the principles of the Confederacy.  Who believe in the symbol of the Confederacy, the Stars and Bars.  The symbol of slavery, of racism, of bigotry.  The symbol of resistance to integration.  The symbol of hate.

Senator Graham speaks for folks who didn’t get the news:

Google Image

Google Image

These folks have clung to their racist beliefs.  Their strong belief held fast in the 150 years since the Confederacy lost, in the mistaken idea that African-Americans, blacks, Negros, colored folks (depending on the era we’re talking about) weren’t “created equal.”

With all I’ve read in the last two days, one article, The Confederacy is Not Our Heritage, really struck home with me.

First, Mr. Sumner put to rest the lie that the states seceded over “States’ Rights”:

The Confederacy was launched not on a platform of slavery, but on a foundation of racism. That it maintained slavery as an institution was a feature. That it upheld racism was the design. Read the words of Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, speaking at the Athenaeum in Savannah, Georgia:

The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. … Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong.  They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races.  This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a Government built upon it—when the “storm came and the wind blew, it fell.”Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.

. . . look with confidence to the ultimate universal acknowledgement of the truths upon which our system rests? It is the first government ever instituted upon the principles in strict conformity to nature, and the ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human society. Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature’s laws.

So much for States’ Rights.  That, like the Glory of the South (and proclamation that “The South Shall Rise Again!”) is a myth, belied by these words.

The author grew up in Kentucky surrounded by the vestiges of the Civil War.  Here in my adopted state of Virginia, they surround me as well.  But they are not the vestiges of a defeat and the lessons that should have been learned from it.  No, they proclaim the heroism of the Generals, the glory of the battles, the fierceness of the Rebel yell.  Here in Virginia, there is a state holiday in January — Lee-Jackson Day.  A couple hours south of here is the Stonewall Jackson Shrine.  All proclaim the glory of the Civil War, as if it, and the reasons behind it, were — and still are — worth fighting for.

If you don’t know the history of who won and who lost, well, you’re not going to find it in the South.

As Mr. Sumner says:

The Confederacy is not my heritage. It’s not anyone’s heritage. The Confederacy is our shame.

[…]

Is it part of our history? Yes, it is, to our everlasting shame. It’s a part of our history the same way that the apartheid state is a part of South African history. It’s a part of our history the same way that the Nazi Reich is a part of German history. It’s a part of our history that should embarrass us.

It’s the part of our history in which traitors who not only didn’t believe in the American union, but also didn’t believe in the basic ideals of America, formed a state whose core was nothing less than pure racism.

It should be no more acceptable to wave a Confederate flag in the United States than it is to fly a swastika. No more acceptable to proclaim yourself sympathetic to the Confederate cause than to proclaim yourself a supporter of ISIS. There is no moral difference. None. These are the banners of the enemies of our nation and of our ideals—enemies whose existence is based on inequality and subjugation.

President Obama is right.  It’s time to put the Stars and Bars in a museum.  It’s time to end the hate.

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Do I Hear Five?

On May 29, 2011, I was fifty-four and a half years old.  And I was seriously irritated at the GOP in Congress.  You see, they had announced that they were going to take away Medicare from those then under 55 years old.  And that meant me.  I spouted off about it to anyone who would listen.

They’re gonna take Medicare from ME!  I’m 54-1/2!  That’s where they’re gonna start!

After the first 528 times I mentioned this fact to each and every person I could corner, I still felt unsated.  I wanted to tell more people of my irritation.  Whether or not I knew them.

And so I heard a voice inside my head (something I rarely admit to):

Go forth, it said,  and start a blog.

Oh and give it a stupid name to keep yourself humble.

And so I did.  Both of those things.  FiftyFourAndAHalf was born with this post.

Blogging has been a completely different experience than I expected.

My original plan was to do a political/humor blog.  But in spite of a never-ending source of fodder, I found that I wanted to write about other things, too.  That part didn’t really surprise me.

What surprised me was that blogging, and Word Press, became a place where I met new friends, discussed topics important to me.  Where I laughed and cried along with folks I will probably never meet.

Thanks, everybody.  And while I’ve been writing less than usual and reading less than usual, I love the special place that is the ‘sphere.  So, yeah, thanks for being out there, for reading, and for giving me stuff to read too.

From Daily Kos.com

From Daily Kos.com

 

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My Life — It’s All Wrong — Again (Still?)

Somehow, I got the story of my life wrong.

I’m really not at all sure how it happened.   But apparently I did.  I don’t like to talk about it.  But I can feel you twisting my arm.  UNCLE!!!!

The thing is, I’ve been telling the story of my life for years.  For my whole life, in fact.  It’s fascinating.  Intriguing.  Hilarious.  Well, it is the way I tell it, anyhow.

It’s the stuff of legends.  Because like every good heroine in every good novel, I had a transformation.  A metamorphosis.  A change of life (no, not that kind).   I went from being a pathetic, shy, “please don’t notice me” sort of person into, well, me.  The person I am today.  And you will agree, that I am not shy, retiring or ashamed of breathing air.  But I used to be.  Really.  You can trust me on that. You see, I was there.

Besides, I can pinpoint the transformation.  I know exactly when the moth turned into the butterfly.  It happened on  January 22, 1977.

As it happened, I’d moved to Boston in October, and truth be told I was horribly lonely.  Living away from home was not the wild time I had dreamed of in my yearning to be an adult living in the big city away from my parents.  There I was living in Boston, a city filled to breaking point with people my age, but I didn’t know a soul.   I had no friends.  No one to talk to.  No one to go out with, and I hated going out by myself. I was miserable.

Actually, I was so painfully shy that I avoided talking to anyone I didn’t have to.  I didn’t know how to make friends.  I was afraid that if people knew the real me, they wouldn’t like me.  So I made sure that no one had any opinion of me at all.  I was pretty much invisible.

In fact, that’s how I had always lived my life.  In high school, I had a small group of close friends, and really didn’t ever try to go beyond them.  I was in Players, but there I could pretend to be someone else.  That’s what we were supposed to do.  But mostly, I was still friends with the folks I’d gone to junior high school with.  I didn’t branch out much.  I kept quiet, kept my head down.  Nobody knew me.  I always worried that if people knew what I was really like that they wouldn’t like me.  So I didn’t let anybody in.  Then if they didn’t like me, well, they didn’t know me.

My invisibility was confirmed a year or so after my transformation when I was parking my car at my hometown’s train station.  My boyfriend Erik was with me, when Kevin, the heart-throb of Players pulled up next to me.  I’d had a huge crush on Kevin all through school.  He played the lead in all the plays, could sing and dance and was incredibly handsome and talented.   In spite of that Kevin was always nice to me – in fact, he was one of the first people to seriously encourage me to sing.

(Google Image)

(Google Image)

I got out of the car, walked over to him and said:

“Hi Kevin, it’s Elyse.  How are you?”

“Ummm,” said Kevin, clearly not recognizing me.

“We went to high school together,” I reminded him.  I mentioned the plays we’d done together.  Erik stood next to me.

“Sorry,” he said.  “I don’t remember you.”  And he walked away.

Naturally, I was mortified.  It was proof positive, in front of a witness, that I had been invisible.  That nobody had noticed me.  That this guy who had really actually given me my first smidge of confidence on the stage didn’t remember me.  (And we won’t even get into the fact that he could have just said, ‘oh, yeah, how are you doing, it’s been a while.’)

Now, back to my transformation.

Being shy was fine as long as I was at home – my few friends were still nearby.  But when I moved?  I didn’t know a soul.  Worse, I didn’t know how to make friends.  And I had no idea how to learn a skill that I believed you either have or don’t have.  I didn’t have it.

In January 1977 I found myself in the hospital.  Sick, miserable, far from home and family.   My boss, on his way to visit a sick colleague, stopped in to say hello.  He was embarrassed as I was sitting in my hospital bed (appropriately) in my nightgown.  He didn’t stay long.    Nancy, my office mate, came too.  But she was older, married with kids.  She too could only stay a minute.   My parents came up over the weekend.   Otherwise, my only contact was with doctors and nurses.  People who got paid to talk to me.

Cambridge Hospital

(Google Image)

It was pathetic.  I was pathetic.  I had no friends.  Nobody cared.  I cried myself to sleep for the first two nights I was there.

On the 22nd, a light bulb went off.

Maybe if I talked to other people, if I took my nose out of my book, well then maybe, maybe I could make a friend or two.

And really at that moment I decided that being shy was stupid.  All it got me was loneliness.  And being lonely for life, well, that didn’t sound at all appealing.

So I forced myself to be not shy.  I made myself talk to people I didn’t know.  To let them get to know me and decide, based on knowing what I was really like, whether they liked me or didn’t.

But talking to strangers is really hard.  So I developed a fool-proof strategy.  Whenever I was with someone I didn’t know, I’d say to them:

“Don’t you hate trying to figure out what to say to people you don’t know?”

As it turns out, everybody hates trying to figure out what to say to people they don’t know.  And they all have something to say about just how hard it is!

I’d stumbled onto success.  And then I went further.  I was nice to people.  I made them laugh.  I asked them about their lives.  Let them tell me their stories.  Let them help me develop my own.

I was a different person.  A completely different person.

I even have a witness to this transformation.  You see, I was in a play that winter/spring.  Rehearsals started in January, just before I went into the hospital.  And at the first couple of rehearsals, I sat next to Howard.  Howard kept chatting me up, being friendly to me.  I had my nose in a book, grunted my answers and really was too shy to be more than polite.

OK, so I was a bitch to Howard.  He remembers.  He would testify to the existence of the shy Elyse.  After my metamorphosis, Howard became one of my closest friends.

It’s a great story isn’t it?

But, you ask, how did you get it wrong, Elyse?  You know I’m going to tell you.

You see, about 3 years ago, I went to a reunion of my high school acting group, the Players.  It was the 50th anniversary of the start of the group, which is well-known in Southern Connecticut.  There was to be a tour of the completely renovated school building, a review show starring Players from all the different eras who still lived in the area, a dinner and many, many drinks.

My old, close friend and fellow Player Sue and I decided to meet and share a hotel room.  I picked her up at the train station, and we drove through our memories together.  It was great – we caught up, laughed, acted like 16 year olds who were allowed to drink.  We had a blast.

At some point, I mentioned to her how shy I was in high school.

Shy kid

“You weren’t shy in high school.”

“Yes I was.  I was horribly shy.  Afraid of everyone.”

“No, you weren’t.”

“Well, you were one of my best friends,” I responded.  “Of course I wasn’t shy with you.”

Sue looked at me skeptically and the conversation went on to more interesting topics.

The next day, the day of the reunion, we linked up with other friends from our era.  Of course my close friends remembered me.  But so did people I didn’t remember.  In fact, most people from those days remembered me.  I was shocked.  How could people remember  invisible me?

I mentioned my surprise to Karen.  Now Karen was someone I looked up to.  She was (is) smart.  Funny.  Talented.  She’s someone I would have liked to have been close to in high school, but, really, I was way too shy.  And she was really cool.

“I would have had a lot more fun in high school if I hadn’t been so shy,” I said to Karen.

“Elyse, what are you talking about?” Karen said, her eyebrows furrowed and her entire body leaning towards me across the table.   “You were exactly like you are now back in high school.  Talkative.  Funny.  Vivacious.  You weren’t shy in the least.

Vivacious?  Me?

According to everybody there, which constituted most of my high school universe, the story I’d told for decades is wrong.  I was not shy.  I did not transform.  I am probably not even a damn butterfly.

I am so confused.  How do you get the story of your own life wrong?

*     *     *

I decided to re-post this piece from last year after a fun discussion about introverts and extroverts over at Gibber Jabber.

So what are you, an introvert, an extrovert, or as brilliantly suggested by Glazed suggested in yesterday’s comments, an ambivert?

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Everybody Hates Birthdays

It’s Duncan’s First Birthday!

There are presents!

There are treats!

There are new things that squeak!

And there are these damn hats.

What’s with these damn hats?

 

I am going to bite that woman.

I am going to you, Mom.  Hard.  Really, really hard.

 

Now that he’s a year old, Duncan is no longer a puppy.  So he has to behave.  Right?  Right?

Actually he’s started behaving better already.  He didn’t eat the hat.  That’s a start.

 

 

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A Is For Algorithm

You will be surprised to learn that I didn’t plan on posting about this.

I figured that anybody who has ever read my blog knows precisely where I stand on this issue.  So I left it in that barren wasteland where all unused posts go — DRAFTS.

But then tonight I read a blog post that broke my heart.

Most of you know my bloggin’ buddy, TwinDaddy of Finding Twindaddy.  He has a new job doing tech-ie stuff at a school, and he wrote about ALICE at his school in a post called “A Sad State of Affairs.”

Alice?  Who’s ALICE?

Alice is an acronym that stands for:  Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.  The drills that students, teachers and administrators of our American — Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition — schools must perform periodically so that everybody is ready in the event that an active shooter comes to their school.

High School Students, Teachers and Administrators

Junior High School Students, Teachers and Administrators

Elementary School Students, Teachers and Administrators

Somehow, I don’t think this has gone down to the nursery school level.  Give it time.

Anyway, deleted what I had drafted because it was lame.  But after reading Twin Daddy’s post, I thought I’d show you the algorithm that one school in Michigan came up with.  It’s quite creative.

Because, you see,  not only do they (and folks in other states) have to worry about some nutcase coming through the door blasting, but they have to worry about other nutcases.  Yup, folks in many states need to figure out how to deal with potential crisis situations because of the folks who have been dubbed “ammosexuals.”   Ammosexuals are those particular nutcases who believe that their right to openly carry any fucking gun they please, and to waive it around, proclaiming their god-given/NRAsponsored right to bear arms, trumps your kids’ rights to, well, you know, breathe.

Because, of course, in states where it is legal to “open carry” guns, how can you tell the “good guys” from the “bad guys.”  So they had to come up with a decision tree:

Credit:  Americans for Responsible Solutions

Credit: Americans for Responsible Solutions

(Click to Enlarge)

Of course, by the time any school administrator could figure out that, well, that’s a bad guy, they’re probably dead.  Not a whole lot of help, then, is it?  Oh well, what’s a few more gun deaths in America?  It’s what we’re becoming famous for worldwide.  Once folks thought our streets were paved with gold — now they are paved with blood and bullet casings.

*      *     *

We really need to figure out, as a society, how to get a handle back on our brains, so that we can protect, at a minimum, our kids.

From my friend Father Kane at the Last of the Millenniums:  https://thelastofthemillenniums.wordpress.com/category/gun-control/

From my friend Father Kane at the Last of the Millenniums: https://thelastofthemillenniums.wordpress.com/category/gun-control/

 

ELECTIONS MATTER

Oh and as an aside, I passed through Newtown a few months ago.  I saw a pickup truck with this bumper sticker:

Assholes (Not Google Images who gave me this image)

Assholes (Not Google Images who gave me this image)

This is the ammosexuals’ response to the message that sane people in Sandy Hook put forth after the massacre:

Thanks, Google

Thanks, Google

 

And it made me realize just how important gun control laws are.  Because I wanted to shoot the asshole driving that truck.

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Learn and Live? A History Lesson

We all thought it would be different, didn’t we.  After Columbine.  After Aurora.  After Sandy Hook.

But no.  Nope.  Nada.  Didn’t happen

We’ve all gotten used to thinking the unthinkable:  Not a chance for change.  Not with the money the NRA has behind them.  Not with the gun folks getting progressively crazier.

So some creative thinking was called for.

BAM!

Right to the Heart!

 

Naturally, the gun nuts are going, well, nuts.  As reported in the Huffington Post where I found the video:

The National Rifle Association’s New York affiliate immediately condemned the stunt and called for an investigation into whether the organizers violated New York’s gun laws.

“[It is a] felony violation of the Sullivan Act for a person to possess a handgun anywhere in New York without a license. The video clearly shows individual ‘customers’ handling various handguns and doing so in an unsafe manner,” New York State Rifle and Pistol Association President Thomas King said in a press release.

Because, you see, it’s not OK to “handle” a gun, but the 2nd Amendment gives us all the right to own them.  And use them.

*     *     *

Timiny Cricket, a commenter, said that he’d

like to hear about some of the positive examples where a gun scared away someone about to commit a crime or even was used in self defense and saved the owner’s life.

10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down

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